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ADELAIDE Independent Bimonthly Literary Magazine / Revista Literária Independente Bimensal, New York / Lisboa, Online Edition  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NERVES
By Jon Benham

 

 

 

 

 

“Take your time,” she said. Her mouth looked so dishonest as it forced itself to create words she clearly didn’t mean. Patient? Having patience for one moment does not mean you’re patient.

“Okay, I know what I’m doing,” I replied. I did. That’s what they always told me at least. Every rebellion, thoughtful conversation, lie, breakdown. They told me I knew what I was doing. At the very least, they told me to stop doing that. As if I knew what I was doing in complete honesty.

The questions on the paper were there. Just waiting for me to answer. Why can’t she just ask me these questions? That would be easier, wouldn’t it? Instead of having twenty-five questions looking for one umbrella answer to the inquiry, “am I good enough for this?” Of course I am. Not. Of course I am something that they are looking for. A baseline. A success. A failure to determine the definition of the other two. Everything I am has a purpose. That’s also what they told me. Just not in those words.

“Sorry, I’m just a little nervous,” I said as my eyes darted from the paper to her symmetrical face. No, no. Those eyes keep changing sizes. I’m thinking too much.

“That’s okay!”

I smiled and went back to the paper. It was begging me to answer. Every question made me analyze myself, and because of that I had to lie.

I am an optimistic person. Strongly agree. Agree. I don’t know. Disagree. Strongly disagree.

I’ll just say agree. I filled in the bubble. But it didn’t look good enough. I colored it in again. It looks better, but still not perfect.

“This isn’t the whole interview, right?” I asked and immediately regretted it.

“No, no. You will give me the paper and I’ll proceed with the regular interview.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Do you want the order in reverse?”

Of course.

“No, this is okay.”

Why did I sound so rude? I guess I always do, huh? Quick… Look at her and smile. I did. She returned the smile. I’m okay. Unless, of course, she changed her mind and started frowning as my head went down. Stare at the paper. Stare at the paper. Why is she judging me so much?

I answered a few more questions. It took a short time. Maybe too short? No. It’s just right. I imagined what her face looked like. Staring at the wall so seriously, with so much intent. An intent to throw me out of the room while knowing she couldn’t legally do that. She’s also probably too weak. As she stared at the wall she probably thought of what she could say to make me leave. Her thinking that was all I needed.

I started to stop analyzing my answers. I started to give what my first thought was, and that first thought is probably the one I wasn’t lying about. There were two questions left.

I am a happy person…

I tend to work harder than my co-workers.

Well, I’ve never worked a day in my life. So how can I be happy? How can I be fulfilled? I looked up and she was in fact staring at the wall even though she had a computer right in front of her. If this test was to determine the ability to find fun stuff to do on the internet I would annihilate her. I would… Probably crack under the stress and get annihilated.

Why do I struggle?

It’s because I always know what to do.

She’s writing something down. I’m sure it’s nothing.

I answered the two questions and then gave it to her. I handed it in. I’ll probably get an F. No, no, I’ll get a C minus. They’re looking for A’s at this job.

She looked down the paper. I prepared for the next part of the interview.

“I’m sorry, you don’t seem like the right fit for this job. Going on to the next part of the interview won’t be necessary,” she said.

“Oh, okay, I’ll see myself out.”

“Good luck on your job search!” She said like she was actually excited for me. She probably was. She probably thinks I’m meant to have a cool job meant for the joke I am. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Being a joke means people like you even though it’s only for their own good. I’m not a good enough joke to actually be able to make other people’s lives easier.

I can’t even do that right.

I was already outside of the building. I had to call my mom to get me. God, how disappointed will she be? I’ll just lie. No big deal.

“Hey, can you come get me now?” I asked.

“Yeah, okay.”

I walked over to the bench and didn’t look where I was sitting and landed right in a puddle of water. It was the only puddle on the bench from the rain storm the previous night. I got up and decided not to sit anywhere else on the bench. Why? Why not? It’s a stupid bench.

The parking lot was mostly empty. There were only six cars in it. One of them must have been her car.

Her face wouldn’t get out of my mind. It was a look that just wanted you to succeed. That’s what it was. I had seen that enough in my life. I truly didn’t want that job from the moment I saw her. That’s why I didn’t really try. She was nice. I hate her for that. Can you really blame me? I’m twenty-one-years old and have never had a job.

The directions I go in may seem obviously wrong, but to me I am obviously right. I can do anything I see as right, is that not a decent standard to live by? It’s what everyone else does. Or am I just an idiot?

I looked again at the cars. A light blue car caught my attention because, who drives light blue cars rather than any other kind? Successful people who don’t want to look like everyone else, that’s who. And if it’s a shitty car, you will drive it just trying to not look as novel as you can be. Everything comes down to being you. And everyone is a hypocrite for trying so hard not to look like everyone else.

She seemed that way. She seemed like someone who wanted to be original. She certainly had the money to have a choice in a car. Not like anyone my age, and unfortunately, not like a lot of people older. She has a good job. She surely must have a good life.

I walked over to the car and looked inside. There were magazines on yoga in the backseat. Maybe she was trying to calm herself down when she was looking at the wall. Maybe that’s why she got angry when I interrupted. Because you know she did. I really made her angry for messing with her zen.

She likes to think she’s important. Like she makes a difference. If she really wants to make a difference, why did she turn away someone who obviously needs help? Yeah, I’m a joke. An unfunny one on top of that. I deserve nothing but courtesy from people who want to help others. Everyone deserves that, I think.

Did I have to cry? Would that make her feel so compelled that she would give in? She wants to make a difference. She hires people to go out and make a difference for her. She hasn’t struggled enough to know how to help kids who are going through what they go through. She faked her way to the top so she won’t have to worry. Why the hell did she ask me if I was happy? Do they just wait for you to become unhappy after dealing with the job for a while and is that how they manipulate you into thinking that nothing has changed?
 
Do they put words in your mouth?

I realized my Mom couldn’t be that far away. But I couldn’t just leave the car like this. I couldn’t leave this situation just like this. I’m irrelevant, and in that moment I was sick of it. I’d been looking for a job for two months, they all seemed idiotic. I would quit within two months. I didn’t need them and they didn’t need me.

God forbid I look for something I can tolerate and get it. I’m an idiot but I can talk to people about their problems. I can get people through anything. No one was there for me, but that wouldn’t stop me.

Am I happy?

Would I be in this predicament if I was?

She’s looking in the wrong places for someone who is right. She’s not a good person. She took the job because it’s all she could lie about being good at.

It’s kinda easy.

“Oh yeah, I love people and I care about their happiness. All my friends tell me I’m good to talk to.”
Sure, I’d be lying even if I said that. But I have no friends. I can be a great one to people who need it. They will reciprocate only with their happiness. At least I think.

She should have talked to me. How many times do I have to lie about happiness before I get anything out of it?

She would leave work and get into this car, drive home. Get her life handed to her. She will go to bed thinking not about me, but about how easy it is lying to people about how much you care.

I was so done.

I took out my house keys and keyed the car on the driver’s side. I didn’t care if the alarm would go off. She fucking deserves it. I could have written something.

Fuck you.

            Hypocrite.
            Liar.
            Fake.

But I didn’t. I wasn’t thinking about how to punish. I just knew I had to do something in order to feel better.

I saw my Mom’s car coming. I ran away. I didn’t even get a chance to look at the damage to the lady’s car I caused. I got into my Mom’s car and we drove off. I saw another car park right next to the car I keyed, and the alarm went off. Finally. The guy driving looked afraid. So he drove to the other end of the parking lot even though the walk to the building was farther.

“How did it go?” My Mom asked.

“Oh, you know. I think I did well.”

“That’s good. We have a surprise for you since you if you don’t get the job.”

“What is it?”

“You’ll see.”

I doubted what it could be. It couldn’t be something that would make people see me differently. Something told me it would be nice, something sweet, something…

“Why can’t you just tell me?”

“Alright, Mrs. Sagan wants some yardwork done this summer,” she said. “She’s gonna give you her old car for it plus forty dollars a day,” she said. “Sounds good, huh?”

“I’ll think about it.”

I never wanted to be one of those kids who only works during the summer. They’re the ones with absolutely no future. They’re just looking for weed money, aren’t they? Unless they’re going to college, and they usually are. Well, they’re also looking for weed money.

“No, I don’t want to,” I said.

“You have to do something,” she said. “This is a good opportunity.”

“But I don’t want to subject myself to that.”

I put my arm out the opened window and touched the side of the car. I started to scratch it so hard that I forgot I was even scratching it. I wasn’t making any marks of course. I’m not that much of an ass-hole.

“You need to do something.”

“I know, but not that.”

We pulled into my driveway and Mrs. Sagan was walking around in her yard. She looked so content with what she was doing. It was kinda very annoying. I hate people who don’t worry about every little thing they should worry about.

“Did your mother tell you about my offer?” Mrs. Sagan asked as I walked out.

“Yeah, I’ll think about it.”

“No rush,” she said.

I walked into my house and then my room. What if I did that? What if I finally got a car and could hang out with people. I have no one to hang out with now, but that will change. I promise that will change.

Am I Happy

Will a car make me change my answer to that? Will subjecting myself to that kind of work change that? Will anything?

Sometimes I feel like I’m doomed, and what is more of a dead-end than that? I looked out my window and got a glimpse of the car she was willing to give me in her garage. It was blue. I guessed that would be perfect for me.

I will only find happiness if I get a car, get successful, and have someone else be the one to scratch my car. I’d be fulfilled.

 

 

 

About the Author:

Jon

Jon Benham is a twenty-year-old writer from Connecticut. He focuses heavily on realism and the drama that comes with it. This is his first published story.


 

 

 

 

     
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