Johnny America


Vine Street


When Chester Barn­a­by reached Vine Street, he re­al­ized he was stand­ing on an
ax­is. Not a re­al ax­is, but a vir­tu­al one… a men­tal one… one that told him
every­thing about his life was not quite wrong, but not quite right ei­ther — his
re­la­tion­ship hinged on a pro­pos­al he didn’t want to of­fer; there was a
pro­mo­tion that could be his, but maybe wasn’t; he was fif­teen pounds away from
his goal weight; he need­ed to quit smok­ing, but couldn’t; he need­ed to start
drink­ing, but didn’t have the time. Un­read books col­lect­ed dust on his nightstand.
Un­watched shows lin­gered on his DVR. A dis­tinct feel­ing of incompleteness
nes­tled in his bel­ly and now it was time to wait for the bus.

He nor­mal­ly didn’t take the bus, but he want­ed to do some­thing different
to­day, just be­cause it was some­thing. He lit a cig­a­rette to pass the time. The
woman to his right gri­maced and stepped away. The man to his left asked if he
could bum a smoke. Chester rarely gave out cig­a­rettes, but he was stand­ing on
an ax­is and this man was some­thing, just as the bus was some­thing. So he handed
one over.

The man was wear­ing two jack­ets, gray sweat­pants, a pair of Adi­das, and a
cap that said M.G. Pound on it. Chester had no idea who or what M.G. Pound was,
so he asked the man. He didn’t know either.

“Hel­li­fI­know,” he said.

“I got an­oth­er ques­tion for you,” Chester said, be­cause they were
now bond­ed over cig­a­rettes and M.G. Pound. He took a drag. “Do you ever
feel like you’re stand­ing on an axis?”

M.G. Pound looked at the ground. “Why? We stand­ing on one?”

“No, no. Not lit­er­al­ly. Fig­u­ra­tive­ly.” Chester took a longer drag this time
and thought of an­oth­er way to put it: “Do you ever feel like your life is just
about ready to be­gin, but you’ve been stuck in a wait­ing room? And all you need
is for that nurse to call your name, and all of it can start?”

M.G. Pound con­sid­ered this. “I get what you mean. You mean, like a waiting
room for life.”

“Yeah. Ex­act­ly. A wait­ing room for life.”

M.G. Pound nod­ded en­thu­si­as­ti­cal­ly as he blew smoke in­to air al­ready heavy
with traf­fic ex­haust. He shook his head. “I hate wait­ing rooms. Prob­a­bly more
than any­thing else. Hate them.” He paused. “One time I was in a wait­ing room
and I’d been sit­ting there for two hours. Two hours. Can you be­lieve? Like my
time doesn’t mat­ter? Like I have two hours to just sit around and wait for
oth­er peo­ple to get their shit to­geth­er? It was this dark lit­tle room, full of
sick peo­ple. Felt like a god­damn cell. Just like a cell. I couldn’t stand being
in that dark lit­tle room, just wait­ing. So you know what I did? I stood up, after
two hours and thir­ty min­utes, and I said, ‘It’s been two fuck­ing hours and I
refuse to wait any­more! If you don’t let me in, I’m gonna fuck­ing lose it, I
swear to God!’” His reen­act­ment alarmed some of the peo­ple at the bus stop.
They took distance.

Chester’s eyes widened. “So what hap­pened? Did they let you in?”

“Hell no. They kicked me out,” he said. He took a long drag. “But then I was
out­side again, and I got to see the sun.”

Filed under Fiction on August 2nd, 2013

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