WOOHOO FOR STARTING WRITING PROJECTS I PROBABLY WON’T FINISH
Everything he did, he did with a flourish. It could be the most mundane activity, but there was always an audience, an invisible crowd that was scrutinizing his every motion, and for them he had to perform. It was the ultimate overcompensation for years of self-conscious youth. He still suffered from feeling as though he was being watched; it simply wasn’t crippling any more. Instead of paralyzing him, these omnipresent eyes prompted him to go on the offensive, to embrace and encourage judgment by making every action a performance.
Carefully, over years, he had crafted this false bravado. He had studied, by gauging audience reactions, what looked and didn’t look natural, until he had become the paragon of casual confidence. Aside from, of course, the fact that he was a fraud. But what of it? He was, after all, a professional fraud, a dignified charlatan. Every action was designed specifically to mislead, to give one impression while serving an ulterior, more sinister motive. Wasn’t it only natural that he would take this habit to its logical extreme, to adopt it as a lifestyle, allowing it to graduate beyond being a career?
These thoughts flurried in his mind, embodied by arguments and debates he had with himself, by altercations between he and him. As he walked, arguing for his cause against whom could very well be his worst critic, he reached into his inner jacket pocket and produced an ornate cigarette case. It was petite, holding only five cigarettes, in order originally to make him cut down. Shit lot of good that had done, though; whenever he ran out he stood no chance against the impulse to simply walk into a store and buy a new pack. It was easier, he mused as he peeled the spring-loaded clamp back and plucked a cigarette out, when he was young and broke. When he couldn’t afford a pack whenever he felt like one, when he wanted but never really needed to kill a craving. He popped the filter into his mouth, stabbed his hand into his pocket, and, with practiced dexterity, caught a hold of his Zippo on his first attempt. He held it by the lid, clasping it firmly between his index finger and thumb, with the hinge facing inward toward his palm. He brought the lighter out and flicked his wrist; the lighter made its characteristic, satisfying click as it swung open, the bottommost facet of the little prism landing square in the center of his palm. This rehearsed positioning allowed him to smoothly flip his hand around the brass box so he could comfortably place the pad of his thumb on the strikewheel. He flicked the wheel, striking the flint that sparked a fire in the lighter fluid-soaked wick, as his left hand came up to guard the flame from whipping around in the light breeze that he was walking through. He brought this contraption, this sculpture of flesh and metal, alive with fire, to the tip of his cigarette, inhaled, and pushed the lighter closed with his index finger. He dropped the Zippo back in his pocket, took a deep, slow first pull, and plucked the cigarette from between his lips as he inhaled.
As he passed a storefront, he looked to catch his reflection. A bad habit he’d picked up in his adolescence, when he wanted to make sure he wasn’t walking weird. He’d since practiced how to go about accomplishing the same goal without running the risk of being labeled vainglorious rather than self-conscious. It was important, you see, to make sure you were passing a store you might already have an interest in. It did him no good to check the reflection of his gait in the window of a medical supply store, for doing so created a new batch of complications. A passing stranger might wonder what he, a normal, healthy (aside from his unwaning nicotine addiction) man, could possibly be looking for in that window. No, he had to look in at stores that were innately eye-catching and, above all, normal to look at while passing by.
He brought the cigarette to his lips as he watched his reflection walk through the store, lightly clipping it between his index and middle fingers. Upon transferring ownership to his lips, his hand dropped slightly and slowly, a deliberate but short-lived retreat, while he took another drag. His elbow bent at his side, his hand at the ready to retrieve the cigarette when his mouth and lungs had decided they’d had enough. He’d learned from occasions when he had to smoke left-handed that leaving the hand too close to the mouth created too guarded an image, of an amateur smoker who was uncertain of where he should put his hand and therefore left it closest to where it needed to be, an insecure child too afraid to leave the spot he knew he’d soon return to, the spot that would assure him by giving a sense of purpose, of identity. Idle hands were not the devil’s plaything, unless the devil dealt in insecurities.
He set the cigarette down in the divot that broke the plateau of the rim of the ashtray and walked to the table. He eyed up where he was, what he had been left with, and set about slowly lapping the table, his eyes darting from place to place, marking invisibly the places that mattered and the angles that he needed to remember. Finally they came back on the white, glossy orb that represented him. It was a funny frame he’d created, making the table an allegory for competition, each ball representing a different obstacle or opponent, himself white, pure, powerful, carrying within himself the ability, when subjected to the right impetus, to make all of the others disappear. And here, now, looking at where he was, he placed himself in that role of being the one solely responsibly, capable, of clearing out the dross that deserved no name other than an arbitrary number. He’d have to spin the ball, throw it in, to avoid running into traffic. He was left just a few inches from the rail, so he’d have to bridge along the lacquered wood and choke up a little on the cue. The running english would take the ball for a bit of a ride, so he’d have to temper his speed a little, keep himself, the cue ball, on a short leash so as not to overrun his shape and end up awkward on the three. He didn’t like blind cuts, and if he could pull himself into a slight cut that would allow him to punch the red in, he could just float the cue ball across the table to get shape on the four that sat along the opposite long rail. He’d have to get pretty straight on the four, just enough angle to get off the rail for the six, since it didn’t pass into the same pocket as the four. From there he was out; one rail to the seven, which was the obstacle he was facing with shape off the two, another one rail to get shape on the eight in the same pocket, and then a little draw to get closer to the nine, which currently blocked the six from getting to one of the corner pockets. But all of this thought was nothing more than a formality until he made the two, the blue orb that taunted him no less than eight feet away from where he, the white, the cue ball, sat atop its own shadow, cast by the overhanging lights onto the sea of green baize, edged by rubber rails coated in the same slightly coarse cover and only broken by six carefully measured holes, six portals to victory, that mirrored in function the rut in which his cigarette was resting, its flame burning slowly down the paper and tobacco but waning without a pair of lungs to help facilitate its life. Placeholders. That’s what they were: little pockets that were designed to hold something you weren’t using at that particular moment but that you’d go back to when the time was right, when the conditions, be they the beginnings of new racks or the imperatives of nicotine addiction, were appropriate.
He rested the shaft of his cue behind the cue ball, standing upright and placing both it and the target squarely in his line of sight, shifting slightly to the left until he knew that where he was aiming was right. He slid his left hand under the cue, his thumb and the side of his index finger cradling it while his other digits found stable resting places on the edge of the table. He bent until the whiskers on his chin found wood, and his right arm took its familiar position, elbow bent and fingers loose. His grip shimmied up a little higher, moving in accordance with a trick he’d initially taught himself and later confirmed the validity of after hearing some pros say the same thing, before tightening up just enough to force the cue to move. The amplitude of his warm up strokes dampened with each repetition until finally he felt settled in; there was no other way to describe than feeling settled. His arm became temporarily inanimate, a dangling pendulum mounted at the elbow that wanted only to rest in that neutral position, holding the tip of the cue just a hair away from the cue ball, pressed against an invisible wall that kept him from bumping the ball prematurely, but that was forced out of that repose by his desire to check his motion, his alignment. And so his pendulum arm was thrown back and then fell back to the neutral position, too quickly this first time and therefore bouncing back out, a little less the second time, and even less the third, until it found again that comfortable resting place. He performed this motion twice and only twice, no more and no less, for ritual was a key tenet of effective pool, before drawing his arm slowly back one last time, not dissimilar to the way an archer pulled his bow back, and smoothly pushing the cue through the barrier that had moments ago defined that neutral point. The wall no longer provided any resistance and the leather tip flowed through the air unimpeded until, for only a moment, it met with the phenolic curve of the cue ball and sent it on its way. His arm, undeterred, continued smoothly through its motion, coming to rest only when his anatomy created a limit to his movement.
He stayed, staid, frozen as he watched the cue ball, himself, journey across the table. This moment of stillness was shortlived, though, simply a habit picked up from being told that jumping up on a shot was the surest way to miss. He knew once he’d gone no more than a foot that his path was to a successful shot. Waiting to see his confidence become justified, to see the blue two suddenly come to life before vanishing from the table, was not necessary. He slowly began walking to where he knew he’d come to rest, already eyeing up his next shot. His rotund self came to rest before his feet could get to where they were supposed to be, but there were no surprises; everything landed exactly where it needed to be. He felt the edges of his lips curl up a little, for just a moment, an evanescent indicator of why he loved this game, before he got ready to do it all again.
that’s what i would call it. it would describe the mindset of finding someone who can fit you in the most complete way possible, quirks and idiosyncrasies all, complete the unique puzzle piece that is the self. it would go so much further than the jerry maguire line; it would not only include but emphasize the strange individuality that truly defines a person. it would focus on the singular nature of what many refer to as a soulmate, highlighting the respective but complementary personalities of the people who simply belong together.
the name comes from the unique pistachio, with its distinct color and flavor. it’s alone amidst a sea of other nuts, standing out in all its green, pistachio-y glory. however, even with its unique and special qualities, a pistachio is still very natural, and certainly in this world there are many of them. but the rare pistachicorn is the unique among the unique, the special among the special, the weird among the weird, the unnatural among the natural. there is only one designated pistachicorn for each of us, one perfectly just-the-right-amount-of-weird person that can not only fit us but also find in ourselves a mutually proper match. a pistachicorn looks back at you and in you sees the same perfection you see in her (or him).
at its core the pistachicorn philosophy would be a doctrine that preaches the value of open exploration as a refining tool but concurrently warns against the dangers of settling. taste of the almonds, it would proclaim, and of the cashews and walnuts and macadamias; but seek always that elusive pistachicorn, constantly searching long after logic tells you the endeavor is a fruitless (nutless?) one, because the prospect alone of finding something so astonishingly, perfectly, beautifully strange is enough to keep trekking.
“be interesting!” she had yelled, as though she were commanding him to do something simple and therefore was frustrated at his incompetent inability to do it. it was at the climax of the fight that she had said that, and now he sat on the train, eyes fixed on the passing scenery and a blank expression, a staid mask, keeping his thoughts concealed.
what a curious thing, he thought to himself, that the most impactful words are said always during those most climactic moments. did people simply have a good sense of timing, knowing the exact moment to unleash their most caustic remarks? or was it only in retrospect, after the emotions had settled and the yelling silenced, when everything was put into context, that the climax was established, set at a given time by the words spoken and not the other way around?
and what did that even mean, “be interesting”? why did those words sting so much, bruise his ego to such a degree? she had found him interesting enough at the beginning, when it seemed clear enough that he could do no wrong. back then every misstep, no matter how grievous, had been met with good humor or at least acceptance. and now… now it seemed that, at least in her eyes, he could do no right. he felt his face contort slightly, betraying the emotionless mask that had been formed over years of taking public transportation. for a brief instant his feelings were broadcasted, his anger and discontent on display for all of nobody to see. that was the great thing about trains in new york: everybody was too busy being self-conscious to pass any kind of judgment on anyone but the most conspicuous. and it was ruthless that way too; this city, these people, nobody cared if you were having a bad day. instead they all trudged forward at the same rate, unaware of or perhaps spitefully inattentive to your problems.
but that was what a significant other was for, offering a reprieve from the cold, unfeeling, unsympathetic city. the couples on the train, they were in their own world in a way that was different from the personal spheres of the sad and single folk. they were with someone, either in person or, if in one of the outer boroughs, by way of cell phone. they had another human being for attention, both in getting and in giving. one really is the loneliest number, he thought as he guided his key into the outer door of his building. he’d realize, as he always did when he was lost in thought on the subway, how muscle memory had allowed him to disembark from the train at the right stop and navigate the streets, with their constantly shifting traffic lights, to his apartment without having to devote but the bare minimum of conscious attention. but for now he could think only about how he’d left a trainful of loneliest numbers, passed so many of them on the sidewalk, walked down a hallway lined with doors leading to single-capacity coffins, and took his place among them, surrounded by millions just like himself yet tragically alone.
another fresh start