When he got to Chicago he got lost. He took a different road and this took him far away from where he’d meant to be. In the parking lot of a car dealership he screamed his head off. His cellphone rang somewhere far away, under his seat. To reach his phone he had to climb into the backseat and fish around the floor. He screamed at the floor, at the phone, at the missed calls. His back hurt. He swore at his back. His voice went out. At work the next day he talked softly and economically. He coughed softly, his vocal cords red ribbons chewed on and frayed. His managers thought he was sick again. When he got off work and napped he dreamed about work, about yelling, about the food the night before—yellow curry. The city was a nebluous hell, every pocket full of boiling spoiled meats, the neighborhoods filthy with trash, pulsing with sirens wailing past gaping shop windows. Mr. Bender was in an unforgiving mood.
Goodness, he thought as he drank another. And another. And another! Mr. Bender, he said inside, you should really slow down!
Sitting on the couch there in his underwear in the cold, he found scissors under the rug. Now who left these under here? he thought.
Mr. Bender took his wedding band from his fourth finger. He took a scissor-blade and carefully sliced into the pale skin there. He cut away until he could see the bone, sucking the blood away every now and then, scraping the bits of viscera into his lap.
Now this, he thought, looking at his finger-bone, now this is my lazy bone. Systematically then he searched for others. That night he slept like a battered king.
Per her description:
Wow, Sarah, your wedding sounds awesome. My wedding, however, is a sunrise affair. Guests are required to smear themselves with ceramonial menstrual blood before entering the grotto, and the attendants will be wearing stormtrooper armor. Mark and I will ride up on wolfback, I in a clear body suit encrusted with diamonds at the collar and he in traditional Zulu attire. Kate Bush will perform our vows in Italian and there will be special music performed by a band made up of all of our mothers. Instead of flowers, I will be carrying a bucket full of corn. At the reception we will feast on stewed leather shoes and pineapples. Toasts will be given through charades only, and Mark and I will have our first dance to Justin Timberlake’s “Damn Gurl.” Thank you.
I will provide wedding updates on a day when work was not quite so exasperating. Sometimes you just gotta bust, knaw?
Is increasingly more violent, absurd, surreal. What is this. The zeitgeist? The Lonely Island Boys? The deferal of satire for morbidity…
Elsewhere, I hosted a dance party last night.
Mr. Bender brought home Celeste to watch Breathless with him. He only wanted to watch the movie. “No hanky-panky,” he said, “you got that?”
Celeste didn’t care either way. Mr. Bender was paying good money for her to pay attention to whatever he wanted her to. If he wanted her to watch some dumb French movie, by God she would, and she’d smile all through it. She’d smile until her face hurt if it meant he tipped.
“No hanky-panky,” he repeated as he started the film. “No hanky-panky.” He hadn’t said those words in decades. Just saying them seemed to release the vitality of jockish high school assholes, able to cum their buckets at the drop of a hat. He felt so virile, here beside Celeste, watching Breathless, repeating the sacred phrase: hanky-panky.
Celeste was transfixed. To her, actor Jean-Paul Belmondo was a revelation. Her face went slack with longing. She ached to kiss Michel, to taste the cigarrete on his full lips. Actress Jean Seberg baffled her. How did she get her hair so short and keep her face so pretty? Did it take having such a pretty face?
Mr. Bender wondered if to break his loves, he would ever inform on someone. He was no Stasi, sure, but this was different. No politics involved. Could he betray a lover to cleanse himself of love?
Celeste cried as Michel stumbled down the road. When his knees buckled she released an animal groan. “Why—why?” she sputtered. She turned to Mr. Bender. “Why?” she repeated.
Did other men still drink seltzer water? Or was that just classless—like lint-rollers. Mr. Bender sipped his seltzer water pouting. The arc of the continent below seemed pre-historic. No trace of mankind, only the vatic forests and the limbic rivers as still as lead. When the mountains came Mr. Bender fell into a deep sleep. He snored so softly in his sleep.
The lady sitting next to Mr. Bender pitied him. She had an idea that only acute anxiety or a slovenly character produced such low, careful snoring. Her husband was positively sonorous in his sleep. Cacaphonic. Her husband was quiet and focused during love-making but loud and sloppy in slumber, snarling and choking all through the night.
Mr. Bender woke to the evening’s meal. He had dreamed that he was a ball-turret gunner. There were no enemies in the sky. But he had a big gun, and there lived live-stock far far below, and he swept the fields to fell them all. The evening’s meal was steak and salad, with a roll and brie. As he cut into his steak he felt painfully responsible for the meat, as if he had killed the cow and carved the steak from it himself, although he could not fathom why.