Fictional Humans of New York (FHONY): Dusty

Dusty tucked a copy of The Village Voiceunder his arm while he maneuvered a key into the padlock that held the gate in place over the entrance to his bar, The Crooked Nail. After opening the gate, Rusty fumbled with his ring of keys until he found the one that unlocked the bar’s door. He was comforted by the familiar aromas of stale beer and cigarettes. Something small and furry – a large rat or a small cat – scurried between his feet into the dark bar.

“You filthy fuck,” Dusty yelled. The paper fell from under his arm, its pages scattering across the floor. He followed the creature into the darkness. As his eyes adjusted, he saw the animal dart behind the bar. “I gotchya now.” He ran behind the bar and grabbed the bat he kept there for the less ruly of his clientele. He squinted at the animal. It hissed. He saw it was a grey kitten, skinny and shivering.

“Shit.” Dusty put the bat back and crouched down. “Hey, c’mon out,” he said but the cat only squirmed further into the corner. Rusty opened the fridge and fished out a carton of cream. He took an Old Fashioned glass, filled it with cream, and set it on the floor between him and the cat. For a minute, neither of them moved. Then the cat twitched its nose and licked the fur around its mouth. “Go ‘head,” Rusty said softly.

The cat inched toward the glass but kept its weight on its back legs in anticipation of a quick getaway. As it got closer to the glass the movements of its nose intensified. The last thing it had eaten was the back half of a waterbug. If it was to be poisoned, or bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat, the cat decided it was going to go out with a bellyful of cream. Dusty attempted a stealthy move toward the intruder but his balance was not good in the best of times, and these were far from the best of times. He leaned forward too quickly and fell to his knees with a sharp thud. The cat froze, cream dripping from its fuzzy chin. Now that he’d tasted the cream, it was going to take more than a loud noise to chase him away. He resumed his wary lapping.

Dusty eased his ass onto the floor and stretched his legs. As he considered the additional expense of providing for such a tiny furry mouth he felt an oddly familiar tug on the sides of his lips.

Fictional Humans of New York (FHONY) – Rudy


I dreamed of her again last night. You tell me, is it fair for the elements of my subconscious to conspire against me? Forgetting should be the easiest thing in the world. I do it all the time. I forget important shit, but her? Never. She had a habit or rubbing her index finger across her lower lip when she was on the phone. She adjusted her glasses with her left hand, must’ve been a lefty. She pronounced delicious with a bit of a lisp, like ‘delisis.’ Is there any earthly reason for remembering that? It’s been years since I heard her say that, or anything else. At work today a guy asked for my phone number and I drew a complete blank. He must have thought I was a complete fucking moron, which I guess I am. My brain was too busy remembering the way she looked from behind, in jeans and boots leaning on a counter, to remember a random series of digits. 

One of her teeth was a little crooked.

When she was a little girl she had a pet bird named Herman. I don’t need information like that cluttering up my crumbling mind. What kind of bird? A cockatiel. I’m sure she only mentioned him once, in passing, but nothing passes where’s she’s concerned. Except, of course, for her. 

She must have been a delightful little girl.

What did I do last weekend? What was the last movie I saw? What did I have for dinner last night? No fucking clue. What was her major in college? Business administration with a minor in psychology. She let that slip over drinks one night, along with a host of other meaningless shit that’s engraved on the inside of my skull.

Her shoe size is 6 1/2. I don’t know mine.

A tear slides down my nose before my head hits the pillow because I know I’m going to dream of her again tonight.

The Surgeon

I have to go back in – there’s no way around it. I don’t know how it happened but I missed something.

I had that poor woman cut open on the table for more than three hours. I checked everything. But tests don’t lie. She’s still bleeding inside.

There aren’t a lot of people whose judgment I respect as much as my own and they all agree. She’s not going to make it unless we open her up again.

drawing by anthrpicdecadnce

It can’t be her heart. I held that fucking thing in my hand and inspected every centimeter. I checked ever vessel in and out. There were no leaks. I don’t know if that heart can survive another operation.

It’s her kidney, I’d bet anything. The blade must have grazed it. That’s the angle of the original wound.

I haven’t prayed in a long time and I’m not going to start now but I’m going to need more strength than I currently have to pull this off. And if I can’t…

Fictional Humans of NY – The Actor

In the first place, the actor looks nothing like me. But even if he did, I’m just not buying the performance. I don’t really act like that, do I? If I did, who would have anything to do with me? Maybe he’s doing some kind of subtle method acting that’s going over my head.

Maybe he’s playing it for laughs. That must be it. I hadn’t thought of it before but it makes sense. I can see the humor of the character’s situation from an objective perspective. That would explain why the actor is exaggerating my flaws in such grotesque fashion. It would also explain why the audience is unconcerned with his rapidly-accelerating downward spiral.

So he’s a comedian, this actor. I imagine it takes a unique skill set to be a comic actor. Maybe he has such compassion for his character that he invites humiliation so the audience can be manipulated into sympathy. Maybe this guy’s a better actor than I thought. 

But I still say he looks nothing like me.

Fictional Humans of New York (FHONY) – The Early Bird

If I just keep moving….Which way am I facing? West? If I keep moving westward, I’ll eventually fall off a cliff, or drown, or circumnavigate the globe. Or get tired and quit before I realize any of those lofty ambitions.

I could go east…just to be contrary. Eastern philosophy suits my state of mind. It’s gentler. Who couldn’t use a little tenderness? It’s an unforgiving world in every direction, one that forces even the strongest of us to beg for mercy. And I’m not the strongest. I’m barely strong enough to admit my weakness.

I can’t find a way up and I can’t imagine there’s much farther down I can go. I can’t go back. There’s no back I want to go to even if I hadn’t burned the bridges. I don’t see any tolerable way forward. It doesn’t look like there will ever be a way in for me and I can’t get any farther out.

If I turn myself inside out…

North is too cold, and south is too hot, and my current position is unsustainable, so I have to move. West makes the most sense, toward the sunset, toward the mountains, toward the monstrous Pacific. Maybe when I get there I’ll learn how to fly. I could build a nest in the rocks overlooking the waves. I bet I could even enjoy eating worms if it’s not too late to be the early bird.

Fictional Humans of New York – Liam

“That was your first mistake
You took your lucky break and broke it in two
Now what can be done for you?”
Paul McCartney – Too Many People

Sure, I’m a misanthrope now, but I wasn’t always like this. I generally liked people, and most of them seemed to genuinely like me. I was interested in other people’s thoughts and hopes and fears and dreams; I liked to know how we all got to be who and where we were. But something inside me is broken now. The rubber band that used to spin my propeller has snapped.

I started life as one of four, then five. Later, I was one of two (against the world!), then three, then back to two, and now just one. A rapidly eroding one.

Living and working in a city with 8.4 million other people (give or take) makes it almost impossible to be alone, but a man can try. Anonymity is easy in such a multitude. So is loneliness.

I don’t know how it started. No, I do. I was listening to Nat King Cole. Nobody else ever sounded like that. It started with cheating on Erin. Which, it turns out – since me and Erin were as close as two people can be – was also cheating on me. Not that I cared. I wanted someone younger. Juicier. Erin said I was like a dog running after a car: What did I think I was going to do with it if I caught it?

I caught more than I could handle. More than I could process. More than my feeble attempts at empathy could satisfy. I could never get enough. The whole idea of ‘enough’ seemed a perversion of the realities of desire.

In the course of pursuing ever more elusive prey, I turned my weapons on myself, and that’s where I found the juiciest target of all.