The Boy Who Said Sorry
When he smoked cigarettes he was afraid. Where he’d hold the butt was far too close to the cherry to not burn his fingers but that was only because he didn’t want to touch his mouth. So he was afraid of both of those things happening. More afraid that it would be against his will.
He had a habit of smoking them, the cigarettes, down to his yellow-tip finger until the passing cherry impolitely reminded him that it was time to move his fingers up. This wasn’t always a comfortable moment. Rarely, if ever, if he’s being quite honest.
He would look around and see if anyone had seen him give out his small yelp of agony as the bits of young flesh sang for their mistreatment. He’d look around and see someone standing there watching him. This time presented a greasy man with an overinflated birthday balloon belly, the string dangling unapologetically from his tracksuit trousers. Grease looked at him while nonchalantly managing to smoke his little fag without hindrance, and not giving any notice to virginal or homoerotic language that kept appearing to our man in his head.
Maybe it was all the ironic gay jokes he made in grammar school, the other boys laughing nervously. Or maybe it was just the fact that the cigarette had somehow retained a weighty few hundred years of transient terminology that bore down on its faggy end until it couldn’t hold any longer.
Grease stood there waiting for something, looking back occasionally, not really knowing what he was watching while sucking on his butt.
Quiet burn: The cherry knocked on his middle finger gingerly. No yelp this time. Just a look down at his fingers.
Hello, sir. Just passing through.
Oh, sorry certainly, certainly.
Then our man would slide his gentleman fingers down, with a chivalrous thumb tilted at the filter for added comfort.
It was obvious to him that he had a thing about touching his mouth. Couldn’t be any other way. He tried to hide it but he couldn’t. It had become conscious and gnawing. There was this miniature Woody Allen housed in his brain that warned him of myriad germs and corrosive substances that would find themselves silently painted on door handles, buttons, elevator keys, drawer knobs, hands, that he could only bare to touch with his skin if no one was around looking to see his mental incapacity at work. Or was it play. Either way, he didn’t like Woody Allen.
So as we’ve noticed, our man, we’ll call him Ray, just happened to be outside by this point. Sounds like a train platform.
Grease approached him and looked him up and down, the string wriggling from under his belly swung like a pendulum counting waddled steps.
Woss wrong with you lad?
No, there’s summink wrong with you ain’t there. Why’d’you keep screamin?
I’m not screaming, sir. I’m sorry but I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Grease had turned so his hair faced Ray. It was soaked with fat. A train went by, single carriage, and Grease watched it. One carriage. Limited capacity. Ray looked back to the fat-soaked head. He felt sorry for thinking that.
Yeah I’ve heard you screamin. What is it? You a ponce or something?
Ray wasn’t surprised by the hostility, the honesty. He edged his way off as Grease looked across the platforms while awaiting a reply to his enquiry. Ray didn’t like the way things were headed at this point. He didn’t even say sorry before he walked off, which he was known to do.
Seemingly, Grease wasn’t too concerned about the situation or Ray’s exit as he looked back to see him go and let him leave without any more questions. He did say one thing, it was: Ponce.
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If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”