I sat down to wait for my bus and a Samoan woman approached me. She kept staring at me and I was getting nervous about it because she was intimidating like she could squash me like a grape. She waited till everyone around us seemed occupied with other things before she spoke to me.
“You know, in my village you would be considered a holy man because of your facial tattoos. The fact that you got facial tatts that reflect something about you makes you a wise man in my eyes.”
I smiled and thanked her for the compliment and we started talking about her tribal tattoos. The bus came and we both got on continuing the conversation. We sat down next to a black woman who looked upset about something. The black woman’s 16 year old son was yelling and goofin with his friends in the back of the bus. He came up front and started going off yelling at his mother and calling her a bitch because she would not give him five dollars. The Samoan woman got up and told him to back off. He gave his mother a dirty look and called her a bitch again. He then went back to his friends. The mother looked frightened and embarrassed.
Lewis Arnold had always hated his father’s name. Not his father. No other trait of his ever bothered Lewis; just his name, which in most cases is decided by forces distant to the person who is to don said name. Lewis knew this and held no grudge towards his father.
Yet if there had been anything he could have changed about his old man, it was his name. Arnold. Lewis couldn’t ever justify his dislike with a specific reason, and truth be told, he probably didn’t even have a good reason. It was like a bad taste or a rancid smell, a base reaction to something foul. Something foul sat in front of Lewis, and Lewis displayed his disgust like a mask.
Sitting across the kitchen table was Lewis’s father. His skin was drawn tight around his face, his teeth peeking through his slit of a mouth. He was wearing a black suit, a suit that looked like a good one to be buried in. A red tie and white undershirt complimented the rich darkness of the coat. Through decayed lips and teeth like gravestones, his father started singing, and from somewhere nearby a band struck up, accompanying the dead man’s vocals.
Brenda looked forward into the mirror with all of her vigor and intensity. Apparently, she possessed her own personal self bias because the convoluted figure standing before was not what she thought she resembled. This past year had been the year which defined her life. She had been diagnosed with ALS and subsequently entered into the severe stages warranting complete body paralysis. The myelin isolating her axons was deteriorating with every passing second of each day and there was not a thing she could do to stop this indelible force. Even if she desired to form a plan of attack there would be not a soul willing to help her, but just a hearth to surrender her fight on.
When she was first diagnosed she strategically placed a picture of herself when she was twenty-five years old and she was in her prime on her wall so the spirit of her pat would still remain inside her even through the worst of times. Right beside her picture was her PhD in Biotechnology from Columbia University. Before the onset of her ALS she ranked among the five most successful scientists manipulating stem cells to cure neurodegenerative conditions in the U.S. She once again turned her attention toward the mirror which reflected not herself, but a victim who society had failed. She had lost her identity and ultimately herself worth in this colossal pool of wires and tubes which extended her life. They would not extend her life to the point where she could execute municipal activities, but she survived only to remain trapped in the hellish vessel of her body until the next day. She intensely eyed her voluptuous figure underneath her black satin dress which was very risqué. That Satin dress despite being overzealous beat the hell out of the flowing white spotted gown which probably could have been uncovered in a junkyard for all she knew.
His right hand strums out a complicated rhythm while his left dances up and down the neck, forming complex shapes. A low hum rumbles up from his throat, a counter-melody to the throbbing voice of the guitar. Eyes closed, he sits cross-legged on the moist grass, rocking back and forth, trying to give birth to the melody rolling through him.
The instrument screams in dismay. Sorely taxed by the man, it fights the strain of the contorted chording. The pick in his hand ravages the wooden body, making it shake, bend, and fall out of tune.
When the two first met, the man had been a young boy. His lap had been much smaller, and the stroke of his fingers had been soft and clumsy. In those days the guitar had been placed carefully on a stand when not in use, frequently re-stringed, polished and buffed daily. The boy had loved the instrument, had treated it gently, with care and respect.