This story is by Erick Morin and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
When my intellectual aptitude is put into question, I realize it is difficult for me to voice a complete answer. I wouldn’t say I am mad nor would I say I am sane. Most people wouldn’t understand nor would they be quick to ride that ship with me, steering toward grey waters. The thoughts that pervade my mind are like a disease, creeping and eating away at any sense of morality, any sense of normalcy. I want people to know how I feel. I want them to hear my truth but I know it wouldn’t suffice. They just want a simple, easy to grasp recounting of what occurred the night of my unveiling.
I had been standing in line at the corner store for what seemed to have been over an hour, and I swear it had only moved two inches. “I can help out who’s next,” the clerk said rolling his eyes while smacking gum. He greeted every customer with that same disinterested phrase. I didn’t understand what was taking so long. I swear the clerks took forever on purpose. As I stood in the line of eternity, I did my best to keep my focus on getting home but the subtle lives of the surrounding people disturbed my repose.
“Tell me about it, girl,” said the woman yapping away on her silicon obsession standing two people in front of me. “I can’t believe Mandy would do that. Yea. I know. Right.” The blab of her mundane experiences made me roll my eyes back. The annoyance crept up like an old ache. I tried to will it away, but the guy behind me added to the pressure. I set my gaze on the hot dog roaster and did my best to focus on the rotating pieces of meat cooking, slowly darkening.
“Dude. Don’t tell me you didn’t. No, bro. You serious?” said the asshole behind me on his cellphone, smacking chips he had yet to pay for. I swear what person does that? Could he have been that hungry? I turned my head away from the roaster and looked outside. The fluorescent lights from the cars burned my eyes, and for a moment, they suppressed the creeping thoughts, but the crunch of sour cream and onion chips brought them back. Some people have no respect. I wanted to just smack the chips out of the guy’s hand and scream, “Pay for them first, asshole!” but I didn’t. I knew I shouldn’t, but it would have felt right. It would have felt justified.
I remember clenching my hand into a fist and doing my best to push the tension down but the voices became louder. People love to let others know what is going on in their lives; it’s not like anyone gives a damn. They invite you into their world unwillingly. This is one reason I got off social media, all the play-by-play of every minute of everyone’s life. It spews narcissism. It agitates me. I am sure you might have felt the same annoyance at least once. I don’t like getting agitated and I can assure you I do my best to keep compliant, and I tried that night.
All I wanted to do was go home and unwind. I didn’t plan on staying at the store as long as I did, but that wasn’t my fault. I will be honest and say I don’t like being around crowds of people, and not because of some disorder. I can assure you I can handle those situations. I just choose not to put myself in them because I don’t like the thoughts I get about people when I am around them.
I’m sure you’re familiar with those thoughts as well. Think about a time when someone cut you off on the road. You wish you could have pulled the person over and strangle them but, of course, you didn’t. You just let out the frustration by screaming at the windshield or driving away. That built up frustration terrifies me. I don’t like how those thoughts make my body feel. I’ve never hurt anyone intentionally and I tried my best to maintain that, but as for the night in question, I can only say I acted out of good sense.
I recall being in the line and hearing the stupid lady blab about something no one in the store gave two fucks about. She ignored the unenthusiastic clerk who, in hindsight, could have been a little more enthusiastic. I am sure he is now thinking about it now. People get so used to habitual behavior they don’t stop to think about their actions. They become slaves to the things around them. Slaves to their devices. Slaves to their work. Slaves to just about everything other than what matters the most.
So, yes, when that bitch wouldn’t move up after being called to the counter, I pushed through the two gentlemen in front of me, took her damn phone, and smashed it across her face. I knew everyone around me was thinking the same thing. I am certain someone cheered me on in silence. I felt this release, this euphoria, then a sense of dread. I knew my actions where irrational but my mind told me it was the most rational thing I did that evening.
“Someone, call the police!” the yapping lady said, shouting at the world. Her nose was a faucet streaming blood onto the floor. Tears surged down her face. “What the hell is wrong with you? Are you crazy?”
I had no response, my mind was trying to repress any more intrusive thoughts. I stood there in bewilderment staring at the carnage I started. I gathered my composure and turned towards the cashier. I didn’t have intentions to do what I did but his voice, his meekness, his unenthusiastic response pushed those thoughts forward.
“Whoa. Dude. If you want the money, you can have it,” he said with his eyes wide open. I can still hear his agony. I can still hear him shouting for help. His unenthusiastic greeting repeated in my mind over and over as I beat him. The infrared light scanned his forehead with the motion of every swing. I remember experiencing a release of tension, and then shame flooded my being. I held my breath, I felt a tug.
The asshole who was behind me earlier pulled me off of the clerk. I didn’t have time to catch my composure. I don’t know what was going through his mind. A wannabe hero trying to get his social points up ready to boast his heroics on whatever platform he chooses. My muscles tensed, and my flight-or-fight response kicked in, more fight and way less flight.
When I threw the guy off me, I didn’t think he would hit the counter the way he did. I saw his eyes roll back, but what caught my attention was the bag of chips in his jacket pocket. Not only did he not pay for them, he was going to use his heroics to take them. Total bullshit. I grabbed the bag and stuffed it down his mouth the best I could. I grabbed his wallet, took out two dollars he had, and threw them on the counter.
Now, you would think after all the brutality someone else would have stepped in other than the police. But no. No one did. Everyone else just stood by, gawking or taking video with their cell phones. No one helped. I don’t understand how people could just stand by at let me do what I am accused of doing. Can’t you see how crazy that is? I swear I didn’t have ill intentions. I swear I am not mad. I did what was necessary for the situation. If people want to crucify me for doing the right thing, then fine I will be their scapegoat. I can assure you some of my fellow citizens in the store were thinking of doing the same thing. I know they didn’t act but they should have. Everyone always complains, and everyone always says they would do this and that, but it is all talk.
Today, under oath, I am asserting to you I was afraid. I was afraid an incident like the one I recounted would happen. I did my best to suppress my thoughts and not act but, unfortunately, I did. These acts are being portrayed as heinous, but I shouldn’t be on trial for something people want to do on a daily basis. I was no more a monster that everyone else was that day.
There is silence after my plea. I rub an ache out of my hands. It spreads to my shoulders. I can feel it creeping up towards my head. I wish I could tell what everyone is thinking in this courtroom but all I see are hypocritical blank stares.