The Most Cliche Moment in History

They are walking in near-darkness, following the sinuous path the park offers to them. He walks with his hands buried deep in his coat pocket. HE keeps stride with him, hands wrapped around a bottle of vermouth ensconced in a plastic bag.

“It’s so cold,” he says. It is not so much a blanket statement about a mundane, worn-out topic as it is a verbal filler. They are still in the stage where a silence is not comfortable—a silence demands to be filled with words, however matter-of-fact they might be.

“Right?” HE says. “Like, what happened to the nice weather we had earlier?”

“Tell me about it—the other week I was in the park with a friend in shorts, and now I’m fucking freezing.”

HE takes a drink from the bottle. “Well, this’ll warm you up.”

“If I’d known, I’d’ve brought something, too.”

“No worries, I just took this from the wine cellar. I’m basically trying to come off as someone who doesn’t have an alcohol problem, which is actually a fairly accurate portrayal of my life.” HE says this last part in a jocular fashion, the kind of tone one uses when saying that they’re a horrible person, when in fact they think the total opposite. HE hands it to him. “Live it up.”

“Here’s to cheap-ass alcohol,” he says before taking a swig. “Not bad.” Examining the bottle, he says, “15%? It doesn’t taste that strong.”

“I know, right?”

The road bends to the right, vanishing into the darkness. The occasional street lamps can provide only so many pools of light. The wind whistles, a long, piercing note. Their sneakers slap against the pavement.

“I need to sit,” he says. “It’s been a long, long day.”

“I feel you,” HE says. “I wash 3D glasses at the theatre.”

“Wait, is that like, an actual thing? I thought you got to keep the glasses. I still have mine.”

“Not at like, the movie theatre. Like, where they show plays and shit. You know, Anne Frank and all that. You return them at the end and I wash them and make them shiny for the next batch of customers.”

“An endless cycle.” He takes another sip, then intones, “From dust to dust, as the Preacher says.”

“Oooh, quote that Scripture,” HE says, laughing a little. “But if you want to sit, there’s a bench right there.”

He raises his eyebrows. “Seek and ye shall find, am I right?”

They sit.

They drink.

“It’s just, I’ve been on my feet for, what, ten hours?” he says. It’s nice to just . . . do this. Be here. Feel this. You know?”

HE nods. “Right? It’s funny to think that like, a few hundred meters away is the nightlife center of the city. It’s like some magical place out here.”

“Isn’t it?” he says. Then there is silence, but it is not an uncomfortable silence like before. Perhaps it is the alcohol; perhaps something else. But the creek behind them chuckles and the wind howls. And they are silent.

By the time the bottle is empty, it has been at least thirty minutes. “Do we carry this back with us and dispose of it like responsible human beings?” he asks.

HE pauses for a moment. “Fuck responsibility,” HE says eloquently. Then HE takes the bottle-in-the-bag and chucks it into the creek. A splash. It is enveloped in the darkness. “Shall we?” HE says.

“We shall,” he says, getting up. “Oooh, I can feel that.”

“Right?” HE says. “Almost mitigates the cold.”

“Ooh, ‘mitigate.’ You don’t hear that word much often.” He breaks into a little jog, a wavering, lurching half-run/half-trot thing. “Oh, god, I can’t even walk straight.”

“That went straight to your head.”

“Didn’t it?”

They walk.

“I have like, no idea where we are,” he says. “Like, I think some of this looks familiar, but not really?”

HE makes a weird, breathy sound. “Just keep walking.” He also lurches a little. Their arms bump, once. It’s quick, ethereal—then again. This time it is more deliberate. Or perhaps it is just the alcohol. Their hands are deep in their pockets, protecting their fingers from the cold.

They walk.

“I really need to pee,” he announces suddenly, coming to a halt at the same time.

“Same, though,” HE says. “I take the left side of the road, you take the right?”

“Done,” he says, and they go about their business. They meet again, in the middle of the path, neither of them moving. In the near-darkness, he can see HIS hair: short, buzzcut; his eyes: gray-blue; his smile: barely-existent. They are close, so very close. He can no longer just see HIM, he can feel HIM. There is an almost palpable current in the air, and he knows that HE can also feel it. But they just stand there for a second, anyways. Because maybe it is the most cliche moment in history, in literature, in television, that moment, but it suddenly opens a world of opportunity, a nascent universe bursting into existence, full of endless possibility and infinite choices; of unfathomable openness and potential hurt; of everything and nothing all at once.

And then—

And then—

And then.

THE END

Dear Ted (An Excerpt)

The following is an excerpt from a semi-autobiographical epistolary novel dealing with a plethora of contemporay issues, written from the perspective of a somewhat snarky, bumbling everyday teenager in a small, no-name town in the middle of somewhere. 

Dear Ted,

So, what is it with the patriarchal paradigm? I mean, come on. It’s effing ridiculous. (By the way, the phrase “patriarchal paradigm” is not my own invention; I actually saw it in a book somewhere.) I might be a guy, but there’s something vastly unfair about the societal norms in regards to the sexualization of women. It’s like, if girls sleep around a lot, they’re called sluts, but if guys do it, for some reason it gives them more points to put on their man card. I fail to see the logic in this. (Also, if you were wondering what my man card score is, it’s somewhere in the negatives. Most of the activities I enjoy are apparently not manly enough.)

So let’s say a girl wears skinny jeans. You can see the outline of her legs, right? But no! We’re not allowed to see that she actually—gasp—has a butt, calves, and thighs. The anatomy of the female body must never be revealed, and if it is—even if just the outline, mind you—I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that at any given moment, at least a dozen people will be mentally judging her and assuming the worst about her. And I find that to be utterly ridiculous.

It’s all about the extremes, isn’t it? Either you’ve got naked women in magazines who get objectified and treated like fucking playthings.  And like, it’s not like that’s . . . wrong, especially if and when it’s entirely consensual and a well-informed decision. BUT (and there’s usually a but(t), my dear Ted), sometimes they’re no longer an actual person, but just an abstraction in like, the concept of money. It’s a bloody equation, if you think about it. (Don’t ask me to actually formulate it; I think that you’re really good at math[s], so you can do it for me.) So now that the woman’s gotten her humanity stripped away, all that’s left is an objectified concept that turns horny men into bestial animals fulfilling their sex drive. Ergo, it equals exploitation. (HA. Two equations right after each other. I’m practically a genius, no?) So it looks like on this end of the spectrum, sex loses any intimacy it might have had and becomes a purely biological function. Nobody really wins. Damn.

But if we travel in the opposite direction, instead of a stark-naked woman, you get a woman wearing a potato sack. Because, you know, you might see…the outline of a woman’s legs and butt if she wears jeans. And that’s like, really wrong. Don’t ask why. So is any makeup. And anything besides your natural hair, which you’re allowed to cut only once every six years or so.

Look, Ted, we’re both for equality, aren’t we? But for me, it’s like we need to figure out what’s the trade-off between treating women like sex toys or animals. There should be respect coming and going both ways, and there should be a way that we can do that without screwing up everything as we seem to do with everything else. Because I’m sure that we’re bigger than that.

As soon as I come up with a viable solution, I shall let you know posthaste.

With regards,

Josh