Excerpt from A Work in Progress

My old girlfriend Laura used to say that Charlie Cross was just an idiot. Not even worth a thought.

“When you say someone is just dumb, that is what I think you are. Why couldn’t he just be a lazy thinker?” I said.

“What’s that then, you probably think Charlie is just like, a lazy thinker then? Isn’t that some sort of PC bull like calling… fat people big-boned and like you know, midgets like vertically-challenged? Isn’t that just some way to dodge the subject?”

“No.”

“Or calling the dead like…spiritually-deprived or challenged or something.”

“No, see this is just what I meant when I said,”

“Well what is it then? Or are you just like, sobriety-intolerant? Is it not your fault? Are you just like, some victim?” I couldn’t help but flinch.

Laura never gave anyone enough credit – Laura, herself, Laura, the seemingly gentle angel with glee-club and fencing extracurricular, five-foot-ten brunette with no patience and a stutter (perfectly suited for each other) who showed me photographs of her house in West Chester, with the type of dining room table that can sit both first units from a football team, she was the composed, mostly-well read girl from The Right Kind of Family, as in she couldn’t never do whatever it was she wanted, which was something I understood in her, because I understood in myself, so I smiled internally when I realized the inverse applied, she never did what she didn’t want to do, so she never learned how to drive, never learned how to fill out a W-2 for her part time jobs, but thankfully she wanted to do good at school, giving whatever desirable ammunition to her desire to remain upon a superior plane, aware and triangulated: an obtuse agent here to collect data but never feel what we felt. When she met someone, she observed every busy scrap of evidence, conditional, mitigated or not, collecting grocery store and ATM receipts from peoples wallets and purses, rifling through glove compartments of other peoples cars (something Laura never understood was tactless and obnoxious, due to her never driving, this also involved her pinching and punching the driver and pointing out things in front of their field of vision, but that’s another matter entirely) and she would stand in front of bookshelves at new places and bead her eyes over each title slowly, like she was taking a photograph of each one for her catalog, checking expiration dates in refrigerators, informing people of the damaging consequences of not buying local or consuming the smallest amounts of high-fructose corn syrup, retrieving a ladder from somewhere to get a better look at the shingles because when pressed, the homeowner feigning casualness, she was simple “interested” and claimed she studied weather systems and asked when the roof was last reshingled. She was Gods one own vigilant accountant, who watched you smoke a cigarette in the gazebo or outside of your car through her bedroom window after you left and coded it as integral personal data regarding what you can do, and what you might do, how you will die and what that says about your character “if you’ll lie to me about a cigarette, why wouldn’t you lie about where you were Friday night?” and this accumulated data was sufficient for an individual snapshot, the width of this snapshot determined by the amount of interest/attraction she has in you, and correspondingly how much time she will give you before you fail in her eyes, but since she isn’t interested or attracted to practically anyone, Laura cedes lifetime’s volume towards first impressions and then frames every further point within that box. It was either discouraging or indefinitely rewarding, given the context. This type of idyllic posturing and finger-pointing only happens in college. The lingering tense of whatever she took from an encounter, would trickle into the next one like a fungus, or an especially creepy anecdote. The unjudgeable are always judging. She never got to know Charlie Cross.

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