Saturday morning I got back from Seoul. As I do. That homeless guy with the cane was on the bus bench like always. Maybe he’s a Korean War vet. He never begs. Naps upright for hours. He’ll die on that bench and the rats will be the first to notice. I stalked past in my suit. Pissed that I didn’t get laid. Just got some clothed friendzone spooning all night like I was one of her eunuchs. She was younger than me but her last boyfriend was like 55. His doofy white face looks like cheese melted by a heat lamp. Like Old Biff Tannen but paler. But he’s a poet. Ergo vagina on demand. He dumped her. To her I was a little boy playing dress-up. Hey at least someday I’ll be 55 with a cheese face too. Bright future.
Before I was out with her I was out with my friends. I hate my friends. With them my job is to provide the laugh track for the alpha dogs. Pose incisive Howard Stern questions to them and thoughtfully parse their answers. Ask them a follow-up and then they’re checking their phones. These goddamn cunts. I am always looking for a window to jump out of.
I didn’t get laid because I kept slipping out of character. Didn’t prep enough. Banter isn’t a strength. I have to memorize shit and then pretend I’m firing off the top. I’m three different people. Our voices are different. We lead with different parts of our bodies and are motivated by different memories. At school I’m in shirtsleeves and they call me Fred Teacher. I go in two hours early to prep for the song-and-dance. Quietly edit and test all the PowerPoints. Ten minutes before showtime I wash my face and look in the mirror and become someone capable.
After school I wear a Patriots hat and I’m Fred from Boston. I do sprints on Hell Hill by the water park to this song. At the top I wheeze and wobble and bare my stupid coffee-yellowed teeth. From up there I see the hunched ajummas by the driving range fighting over cardboard scraps to sell. I watch them and somehow don’t feel lucky.
On weekends I’m (REDACTED). His pocket squares match his socks. His tie bar matches the watch. Like a true asshole. Soldiers hit him for this reason. Other people meet him and don’t realize he’s also Fred from Boston. He has the most fun but he spends all my money. So I have to work. So I have to keep being Fred Teacher.
I like the process. The rituals of transformation. Keeps the mind from flatlining. The guy on the bench sees me. All three of me. Just sits there as an eternal witness to our little street by the mountain. I wonder what he thinks of me. He probably doesn’t. He used to be three people before. Husband, salaryman, father. Now he’s bench guy. He’s still, quiet, slowly fading out of here. And he’s probably happier than I am.