Stupid thoughts pass through: Your Friend is Uncomfortably Similar to Fish, You Were Royalty in a Past Life, Quantum Physics Will Solve Your Problems. They drift as teenagers in the museum of your brain, bored and chewing gum. You Should Buy a Sports Car gawks at your childhood phase of asceticism, reads the plaque below. His girlfriend, You Are Not Small Enough to Be Sexy, is tense about his rapture. She tugs at his denim shirt, wants him to go back to wanting to kiss her, to anything but staring at these dinosaur bones of long-dead convictions, from humming the anthem of your misguided youth.
They grow up before they know what hit them, in their stupid thought way. They forge closed circuits in their synaptic cities; they live in the shadow of the forgetting of their friends. Not like Mom Has a Mustache, who made it big. They remember when she walked among them, smirking to herself like she already knew. They hate her, every last one of them. They hate that they didn’t connect themselves, didn’t realize how powerful she would be. There are rumors that she met I Love You once, unconfirmed.
You Should Buy a Sports Car gets You Are Not Small Enough to Be Sexy pregnant. They have the abortion talk with their eyes, because once they say it it’s already decided, one way or another. Or at least, she has it with hers. He still has that goddamn faraway look, that reflective pointed stare. They marry and settle down next door to You Will Eat Ice Cream Every Day, who talks loudly on his cell phone to his inner city friends and laughs like a banshee.
They love their baby, stupidly. They love him even on that one night, the night that You Are Not Small Enough to Be Sexy blows her shot, has an internship with some powerful anxieties. She gets three missed calls from You Should Buy a Sports Car before hiding out in the bathroom to respond. The baby’s hand is stuck, he says, and he’s really concerned. She hasn’t heard him this concerned in years. The baby’s hand is stuck in a half-opened can of tuna, pinned by its razor lid. And she imagines him there, little You Are the Sum of Your Habits, imagines his father bent over him, and goes home early. They both love him even then, even the morning after when she is not invited back to work, when they both realize that they will always be poor. They make him hot cereal and trade smiles over the bowl, letting their sloppy dreams seep behind his eyes.
You Are the Sum of Your Habits is a holy terror. He rides a skateboard and loses track of time. He is terrified of being forgotten, terrified of becoming his parents who love only him, he who is no longer small but too big for this tiny house, too big for this city, too big, he dares to dread, for everything under the skull. He is arrested for graffiti, picked up from the police station by You Should Buy a Sports Car. He wears his best suit to come post bail, for reasons quite mysterious. Neither says a word on the bus ride home.
Years after his parents have been forgotten, You Are the Sum of Your Habits loses his edge. Gone are his dreams of fame, of private meetings with I Love You and other choice abstractions. He gets a job mixing metaphors, hard work but he enjoys it. Every now and then he has a shift confusing tenses, and hopes they would be proud of how he changed.
Justis Mills edits First Stop Fiction. He recently graduated from college. He’s tall. Deep in his hard drive rests a softcore fantasy trilogy about business suits. Find him at www.justisdevanmills.com.
Photo by Claudia Porta, used by permission. View more of her work on DeviantArt.