*This story previously appeared in Ken*Again Literary Journal.
Every day on my way to work I catch a glimpse of her. At the counter she wears her purple hair and dark lip gloss proudly accentuating what would otherwise be a conservative work uniform. In her finest moments, as I walk past, I see her left eyebrow rise ever so slightly, the menacing look of a trained killer, perhaps, just before her customer service oriented smile appears. If her face had a genre it would be purple geek destroyer. For a brief moment in my day she exists, and the rest of the day she lingers in my imagination.
She is the lovely and dangerous face of the Sunville Shopping Mall’s finest bakery, the terrorizer of my imagination, and the undeniable queen of my heart.
In that dangerous space between her two dark eyes and my imagination a living, breathing persona emerges. She is an anti-establishment take-no-guff goddess with a lifestyle fueled by caffeine drinks, Insomniac Machine Gun Monkey comics, and angry punk rock. This much is obvious to any casual observer of purple geek destroyer. In the more complete version, she is a dedicated pulp fiction addict with a goth aesthetic through which she works out her rage. Out of anger, pushing at the limits of class and gender, she studies at night school in the hopes of someday becoming a lawyer.
Considering success the ultimate affront to the system, she looks forward to the day she can rub hers in the face of every cocaine snorting friend she once had and every hypocrite teacher who lectured her while trying to make a grab for her butt.
Though the familiarity of her face had in no way dimmed my love for her, it did make every look her way less immediate than it should have been.
I realize that now.
In truth, an everyday love affair with a face you could never talk to is better than a dream-filled, unfaithful, you’re my everything, break-up, make-up, won’t you please give up reading comics, no never, nail-pulling reality of a relationship. But the everydayness of her features, the purple hair, nose ring, I hate everyone, going to kill Congress sensibility she manages to pull off working a customer service job blinds me to an approaching future where she’ll be gone.
She’ll be gone or I’ll be gone, which in the universe of our relationship means she’ll be gone — because to her I don’t really exist. I realize one day that through an unknown progression of tragicomic events out of the corner of my imagination she’ll finish night school, marry the handsome quarterback from high school she never really realized she loved until now, find a better paying job or go crazy trying and end up attempting to blow up the bakery.
One way or another, the face of purple geek destroyer will be gone.
It’s a horrible morning the morning these thoughts pass through my head. I’ll have my shoes on. I’ll be on my way to work. I’ll take the bus to the commercial district, a business suit molding protectively to my body. Palm pilot and cellphone at the ready. When I get off the bus I’ll take the long way, not so casually, but this time desperately. I’ll go through the mall, look into the chain bakery shop with eyes sharp like laser pointers. Sniper eyes, tense muscles—and the whole of me will shake, quiver.
My mornings for as long as she’s there will be a miserable desperate wish.
But no, not today. Today, I take the short way. I finish what already began so long ago. The quiet lease over that bit of reality need not be fixed to her palpable image, I realize. Instead, I sell her sweet image to my imagination, where the purple geek destroyer, who wants to kill congress with poison-tipped swords, kiss girls just for me, and raise insomniac machine gun-toting babies with my nose will remain safe forever.
(If you like this story, you may like my short story collection “Something to Stem the Diminishing.” If you’re interested in a review copy, feel free to contact me at ghostsofnagasaki [at] gmail dot com . )