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SCRAMBLER presents

02 | 01.2017

Fun on the Run
by Richard Chiem

BEING ABLE TO handle rejection is sexy. Being able to multi-task and productively detach through your day is sexy. Being driven and quiet and mysterious and a little cold to people is sexy. Since I was young, I’ve always had a crush on a boy, Chloe says. I am not ashamed to say. First grade through college, I’ve always had one boy that was mine. She droops in her chair and looks defeated with nearly unfocused eyes: her heart softens like noodles in a pot. She is having pho with Mary at an old Vietnamese place called Jimmy’s overlooking the water, drinking tea and feeling empty, watching patches of rain and slow boats. Weak sunlight makes pyramids and stripes on their bodies beaming through thick blinds and glimmering floating lanterns.

Mary touches her arm and swirls her tea, not yet saying anything. They like this place because no one comes here, and they joke that it’s a front for something. There are regulars like older couples and single white men scattered around but it’s mostly spare empty tables, mixed-use chairs tucked underneath them all, and rows of gorgeous oil paintings of rivers and lakes decorated all over the walls. It’s kitty corner from Chloe’s favorite bar, Bar One of One, where she met Elliott Wicker, the dead fuck boy.

Chloe says, I’ve always had one boy that was my best friend, my entourage, my confession hole in a great tree in a sacred forest. First grade through college. But I don’t really have that anymore.

Mary asks, Is that why you’re obsessed with a dead fuck boy?

I didn’t sleep last night.

You didn’t even really know him, Mary says. She sips and finishes her tea and takes a moment to watch a boat. You spent one night together, honey.

I was up all night reading about the story on the Internet, Chloe says. I am a fucking mess.

I thought drugs helped you sleep.

I’ve been trying to smoke less weed lately.

Is that true?

No, it’s not true. But I still can’t sleep, Chloe says. I couldn’t really find anything about him specially though. Just that he used to work at this warehouse.

I wish I could help you feel better about this, Mary says.

It’s not just Elliott.

Who is Elliott?

The dead fuckboy. That’s his name. But it’s not just him, you know. I’ve been in a weird funk rut thing for a long time now. For a long time now. I don’t need people around me to validate me. But I need my person. I haven’t had a person to call my person for a while now, and that was fine. But meeting that dude fucked me up. His messed up death really fucked me up.

Mary nods without speaking, and quietly pays for the bill. She signs for the tip and keeps nodding: 20 percent easy.

I used to be convinced that dying doesn’t end consciousness, Chloe says. Now I’m certain that dying ends everything.

Damn, that’s bleak, Mary says.

It’s other things too, I’m not feeling tapped into anything lately, I’m not looking forward to anything. I don’t feel any progress in what I’m doing in life. I don’t feel happy lately and I’m not doing anything differently. Work fucking sucks.

The server, an older gorgeous Vietnamese woman with a peg leg, comes over to pick up the check and smiles at Mary and Chloe, making soft eye contact before starting to bus the table. She knocks on the table and says, Work sucks, yes. Work sucks.

The woman walks away with all the bowls and dishes handled gracefully in her arms, her peg leg not making a sound as she makes her way for the back kitchen.

Chloe whispers, I need to shut up. My life isn’t so bad.

Mary says, No, you’re allowed to suffer. You always do this.

Come on, though. I have a job and an apartment. I haven’t known hunger in a long time.

True, Mary says. Mary picks up her pho bowl and drinks a little broth. She says, Recognize your privilege, but you’re still allowed to suffer. True, there are people homeless and death and cancer, but you can still feel your pain. This shit isn’t a competition.

You’re so sweet to me, Mary, Chloe says. She reaches out to touch her arm. Chloe does the same thing and drinks a little broth from her pho bowl, smiling after each sip. Chloe says, Pain, pain, pain.

The clouds move and the water is brighter. All the smooth surfaces at Jimmy’s, the polish wood tables, the bar stools, and the liquor bottles, all shine and reflect afternoon sunlight. Chloe thinks, If the light was a guillotine, Mary’s head would be cut in half.

It’s beautiful now, she says. The light.

What do you want to do now, Mary asks? The zoo?

No. No, I need a little break from the zoo. I don’t like that the employees there recognize me now. It bothers me.

Mary laughs and snickers and nearly falls from her chair, which causes every one else at Jimmy’s to look at them, only about three other people. Her chair screeches the cheap floor when she moves.

Chloe smiles too and watches Mary, feeling so comfortable yet still very distant. They have known each other for what it feels like to be forever, for many lifetimes and timelines, through all the underworlds and ghost worlds, but it’s only been about three years or so since they’ve first met. Something begins to wane though, the returns diminish. The escape, the high is gone, and Chloe starts to retreat in this way, as though something is being asked of her that she doesn’t want to do. Not having a real reason to go, Chloe just wants to be alone now and to be alone for a long time. She imagines her bed and the soft light of her bedroom. All the blood stirs, the bones in her ears hum in place.

Are you okay?

I think I’m just going to walk home, if that’s okay with you, Chloe says.

Are you sure, Mary asks? I can give you a ride.

I feel like walking, Chloe says. I want to feel the day.

You want to feel the day, Mary asks?

Chloe says, I want to feel the day.

You want to destroy something beautiful, Mary asks?

Chloe says, Yeah, I want to destroy something beautiful. Like, yesterday.

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