Happy Birthday, Mr. So&So

A fictional story

Do you remember the old church next to the school where I met you? I don’t go anymore, not for many years, but someone told me that there was a feast day celebration, and I realized it was your birthday. I thought to myself, well, if this isn’t auspicious, what is? So I decided to go and wish you happy birthday.

I get to church and sit way in the back, first because I don’t remember what to do, and secondly because I think I see someone I know. I don’t want her to see me and I don’t want to talk to her. Thank goodness I am wearing my sweatshirt. You know, the pink one that makes me invisible.

The children two pews up from me have the most evil, sly little faces I’ve ever seen. These are truly faces only a mother could love. A mother without eyes. My tummy tells me this is not auspicious.

When the service is over, the congregants stream over to the school gym across the parking lot and I blend in with them. No—that isn’t true. I don’t blend. I’m just invisible.

Once we’re in the building, I break off from the crowd and stop in the bathroom. I look in the mirror to see if my face is the same one that the door landed on that time, to see if there’s still a dent. I remember that it was orange back then. My face, I mean. That was the style. Orange faces.

But look at my hair now! My highlights! I didn’t have hair like this then.

I decide that I will use the toilet, and when I am done, I will study the door and compare my face.

While I’m sitting in the stall, I hear two girls come in. Damn them! Damn them to hell! I finish and come out to wash my hands. If you let go of the faucet while it’s running, it’ll shut off.

Now I can’t do what I intended to because of those damnable children. All I want to do is take a good look at the door, test the hinge, feel the grain, run my hand over the part that connected with my face.  

I am looking in the mirror, pretending to fish something out of my eye, and the girls are next to me taking too many paper towels. I can tell that their mother is the type to misconstrue a situation and cause me all kinds of trouble, so I leave.

Alright, so here’s my secret: It’s when I play with the drawstrings that my magic pink sweatshirt makes me invisible.

I stop when I enter the front of the gym and take the lay of the land. There are a couple dozen round tables along the perimeter and a long banquet table down the center covered with trays of salads, pastas, fruit, and cold-cuts. Another table has an ice cream bar. Throughout the gym, people of all ages are standing in groups or seated at tables. Obnoxious children chase each other in between them.

I play with my strings. Do they see my highlights? Of course not. I’m playing with my strings.

I stop playing. I have always been petrified of standing in front of crowds. But with this hair? No, they need to see this. Their day is not complete without seeing my hair.

Look at my highlights! No frizz, so much body, so shiny. And look how cute my bangs are. I pull them over one eye and chew the ends. I didn’t have bangs then. Or highlights. I had lots of frizz though. Is that why the door hit my face?

See that woman with the coiffure and the big brooch with all the sequins—I think I will choose her table. I shuffle over and sit down in such a way that they’ll all think that this is originally my table and it is out of my kindness that I let them sit there.

I can’t remember if I had presented my face to you as a birthday gift to push the door into it or if you treated yourself.

All I know is, I didn’t have highlights then. And they have fixed everything. If I had known, I would have done this much sooner.

That, of course, and my magic sweatshirt. I am not invisible anymore with the highlights (is that why you shoved the door? Because you thought no one was there?) so I need the sweatshirt to become invisible again.

Turning to the lady with the coiffure and big brooch, I ask her where you, Mr. So&So, are.

“Who’s Mr. So&So?”

A crusty old woman to the other side of me leans towards her. “Don’t you remember Mr. So&So? He taught math.”

“No.” I shake my head. “Mr. So&So teaches English.”

The crusty old woman sits back and shakes her head. “Mr. So&So hasn’t worked here in twenty years.”

“Oh, twenty years, you say?” I rub the plastic tip of the drawstring around my lips. “Wow. Twenty years. Time certainly flies, doesn’t it?”

The conversation turns, as it always does, to grandchildren.

“Say, why’d he leave anyway?” I ask the crusty old woman.

“How should I remember?”

“Probably you shouldn’t. I’m getting some ice cream,” I announce to the entire table.

I slide between some people talking to the ancient priest. What a sharp blazer he’s wearing. Must be very expensive.

It takes ten minutes to explain that I want one scoop of each flavor and extra marshmallows, but I finally return in triumph to my seat. I look around while I eat.

Well, well. This isn’t good. You know that person in church I thought I knew? It’s her. She’s waving. And she’s coming closer.

“Hey!” She holds the back of my chair and bends her head close to mine. “How have you been doing?”

She’s the mother of those two execrable girls from the bathroom. But we’re not old enough to have children that age! How early did she get started? I do the math: not that early.

“Oh, pretty good… pretty good.”

I look down at her feet and compare them to mine. So what if I am wearing socks and sandals? It is a sign of my decency that I wear socks. Her, she’s wearing—some strappy thing—I see her toenail. And her toenail makes me queasy and I don’t know why. There’s nothing technically wrong with it. And I know that my real sin is not the socks and the sandals, but that my socks are stretched out and falling down in my sandals. And she knows all this. I’m sure she knows.

I nod and smile, playing with my strings while she talks.

“Husband—Manhattan—banking—private school—blah blah blah—”  

They’re not working. I’m still visible. Well, I reason, if I must be visible, at least she can see my highlights. She doesn’t have highlights, so I reckon that I am better than she is. 

“—apartment—Upper East Side—Venice—blah blah blah—”

“Hey,” I cut in, “do you remember the time you got caught in the boys’ bathroom giving that kid a blow job?”

I look around and the scales have fallen from all their eyes. They know me now. My history teacher, the crusty old principal.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

The gathered crowd parts and the ancient priest in the expensive blazer appears. He shakingly raises his cane and points it at me. 

“I know that voice! The things you said in that confessional! I should have known it was you! I don’t feel bad anymore that I crossed my fingers when I absolved you!”

“Well, Padre,” I say, “I crossed my fingers when I said I was sorry, so I guess we’re even.”

“You! You—”  He lifts his cane one more time, spins around, and collapses. 

I tug the string. Nothing happens.

“Well, I guess it’s time for me to go, then.” I stand up and push in my chair. “Time for me to go.” I am aware that they are watching me go, and I am flattered that they are more interested in me than in the man collapsed on the floor.

But I don’t really care. Out in the parking lot, I breathe in the cold air. The night is very clear. Yet not so clear—I can’t see the curb and I trip. I fall but I stay down. I used to sit there after detention.

So the door isn’t dented, my head isn’t dented—yet I am dented. I am clearly dented.

I guess I won’t be wishing you happy birthday tonight, Mr. So&So, you bastard.

57 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Mr. So&So

  1. An excellent story.

    Leaves many questions unanswered but if the reader is alert, they’d be able to answer the questions for themselves.

    Bergoglio would be left scratching his head after reading this.

    His only question would be, “Do girls give blow jobs as well?”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In my distant youth I knew two people with dents. One took a head shot from a teeter totter, the other kicked in the face by a horse. Both ended up functionally batshit until they got older. One blew her brains out at 50, but according to family it had been coming for 40 years. The other is still alive, more irrationally batshit than functional.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s a sad story. This line is classified under what you’d never hear from a priest: ““I know that voice! The things you said in that confessional! ” Being Catholic, I know. This line, ““do you remember the time you got caught in the boys’ bathroom giving that kid a blow job?” could be classified as an all-time cult classic. And finally, all the dialogue under this category is the most realistic, honest dialogue I’ve ever read: ” “Husband—Manhattan—banking—private school—blah blah blah—” This is exactly how we listen to each other and what we hear! I may borrow this technique! LOL!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In real life, as opposed to the control we have in fiction, no one is listening. Instead we are all thinking about what we’ll say next. In fiction you can constrict time, make sense and follow a logical construct. If we actually listened to and replicated what other people are saying we’d um, but um, um, take take take take up, um, another… ha ha hobby.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh, I can attest to the truth of that… I had to do a deposition for my car accident lawsuit, and when I got the transcript to look over, every other word was “like.” It could have been edited down from thirty pages to seven. It was quite embarrassing actually.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. “Hey,” I cut in, “do you remember the time you got caught in the boys’ bathroom giving that kid a blow job?”

    That’s certainly one way to stop the bragging about stuff the other person has accomplished in their life.

    By the way, what do you say to an interview for my blog?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A ha! Just because you disabled comments for your last post doesn’t mean I can’t terrorise you here instead.

    Just thought to check in on you and to see if you’re okay. We have a couple more days till the new year, and I just wanted to drop a note saying that you have a friend in me if you ever need an extra ear.

    Also, don’t feel obligated to reply to this. Take care, Hetty!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Hetty or Hot as I used to say,

    So I’ve been reading a lot of Sartre lately and let’s face it, he is not the greatest writer of fiction, far from it, even on the existential spectrum. (People might dispute this judgment based upon The Road to Freedom. Fine.) I prefer Camus, Faulkner, Dick, and Rilke to name a few. What you have written here qualifies for existentialism (in my fucking humble opinion). I enjoyed the tight structure of the three and four sentence paragraphs. It is almost poem-like, if I can use that term. You touch all of the interior thinking, the self-doubt, the angst, plus it is funny and interesting. Of course, the format of WordPress lends itself to these short bursts and I’ve told you before, I have lost a step or two and find it difficult to write something long (300 + pages, WTF). But perhaps you have what it takes, even though you continually put yourself down. In fact, you can use this doubt and depression to your advantage if you will only see your conditions as positive in the process of writing. I rely upon melancholia, which is a consequence of depression. It works for me, but leaves my writing scattered, sequestered, unfinished, close, but no duck. So, please take a moment to consider your answer to this comment. Please try to be agreeable. Think about it. Humor me. Good luck with your life. Love. Duke P.S. I look at this and think, but wait a minute, it’s the end of the world. Probably, but what better way to go out then putting your final thoughts down on electronic paper? Alone, with the animals and the fire and the snow. It seems very fitting. Standing, always so quiet, they’re like elevators filled up with strangers. Lyric of our time.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Hetty, I’ve enjoyed your commentary on Dracul Van Helsing’s blog. We’re vampire blogoteer friends along with Sherrielock Holmes our beloved Vampiress sister who spends a great deal of her immortal time keeping our Head Elves out of trouble. Chris is the smart one. I am not smart, so I settled for naughty. This was a great read. You cover real experiences of social anxiety within the introverted highly intelligent population with wit and humor second to none. I get you. You might be my long lost little sister or maybe a first cousin my dad never told me about. Hopefully that news about probable common DNA isn’t a new trauma you have to work through. Serious now, I find your writing unique in its conversational style richly layered with wisdom, confession, and significant humor. I’m a bit random and do hope you don’t mind me dropping by for a bit of fan boy blah blah blah snort laughed blah blah.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so very much, Hyperion! It’s very cool to see you here because I always read your comments on Christopher’s blog with interest. I appreciate every kind word you say about my writing and I am in no way traumatized by our possible connection. Confession, humor, anxiety–those are indeed some of my favorite things.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s my pleasure to read your blog. I find it captivating and relatable. I have formed some tight friendships here on WP. Like souls find each other through their works and commentary. I think that is the best part.

        Liked by 1 person

                  1. Oh, now that’s how it gets done. I’ve always felt like those black grease stains from the chain on a naughty and deserving rear end was a symbol of good over evil. There is definitely a place for you on the Set Enterprise Team (SET). 😁

                    Liked by 1 person

      1. Sadly, Hetty, I did delete my blog to reset my head and take a hiatus from blogging. After 8 years I was struggling to keep the content scheduled regularly enough to hold my readers together. I am still posting on Apple Rae’s site. I was writing a sci-fi story for her and posting it. It’s called Tribal. The latest short story is called The Stranger. Here is the link if you want to check it out.
        AppleRaeTrinidad.WordPress.com. I plan to join the work exit crowd in June and then I can devote time to writing and blogging.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes that is true, Hetty, and It’s think I will be opening up shop again soon. Hmmmm…that first grand opening blog needs to be a good one. Maybe I should tell the story about when my mother found my plumb brandy still when I was 15. I was going to sell it to my friends to save up for a car. I hadn’t worked out the liquor tax and social responsibility part when the bust went down.

            Liked by 1 person

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