Friday, June 4, 2010

Gym Shorts

The recess was ending. Playing in the sandlot, you lost track of time. You were nine years old. You had to go to the bathroom really bad. The field cleared as the bell rang. Peeing in the corner of the building while no one was watching, at the time, seemed like a pretty logical thing to do in your mind. It was either that or wetting your gym shorts. You quickly looked around and pulled your shorts down. As you relieved yourself, someone tapped on your shoulder. It was a hall monitor. You knew you were in trouble. You were escorted to the teacher’s lounge, to Mr. Lee, who happened to be your favorite teacher. The hall monitor told him what you were up to. Mr. Lee dismissed the monitor and looked at you with a cigarette dangling in the corner of his mouth.
“Peed on the school property eh?” He tsked, shaking his head.
“Come closer,” You obliged.
“You pulled your wee-wee out in front of everyone?” You were too mortified and embarrassed to speak.
He took a deep drag from his cigarette. You remember the red hot of the cigarette to this day. He pulled the front of your gym shorts toward him. Then he flicked the ashes off his cigarette in to your pants. Snap.

Your wife left you. Took the kid too. Things weren’t going well for a while between you two. The love was gone if it was there in the first place. Business school, MBA, night classes, 2 years of out-of-state training, overtime, business trips, junior lender at 33, two cars, house, bigger house… for what, you thought. She left. With the kid. 35 years old. You are on meds. Clinically depressed. Bipolar. Whatever.

It’s Friday night. Here you are at the City Central, a bar near the office. Drinking with your so-called co-workers. Larry, your boss is talking with some skank on the other side of the bar. He throws glances at you and smiles. You smile back lifting your Chivas on the rocks. You haven’t told him about your wife leaving him. You haven’t told anyone. The glass is empty. Do you want another shot? The barkeep says. You nod, then shake, then nod again. Fuck it, you say.

Larry called you in to his office two weeks ago. You’ve known him for ten years. He took you with him from the previous job. Bigger company, better pay. Linda and Damien, you know the names of his kids. You drank his homebrew. You play with his dogs. You are forever grateful to him. But the current financial crisis made you jittery. Made everyone jittery. The company’s cutting back. That means your job is on the line too. “Jung-bum came to see me yesterday,” Larry said.
“You know what he said to me? He said you were on anti-depressants?”
That little shit backstabbed me, you thought.
Jung-bum is that ambitious Korean kid who just got out of his MBA. You liked him. You took him in under your wings. In private, he called you brother in Korean affectionately. Now he tells Larry, your boss, of your defects, your Achilles Heel so to speak.
“He wants your job. “Larry Said.
“I didn’t have to tell you this. But you and I go way back. I guess the kid didn’t know. All I’m saying is, get your shit together and trust no one.”

Jung-bum approaches you from the other side of the bar with a drink in his hand. Fuck it, you say as you down your fifth Chivas.
“Great crowd huh?”
“Yes.” It pains you to see the kid in the face.
“Something wrong? You look pale”.
You don’t answer him right away. You ask the barkeep for another shot.
“My wife left me. She took the kid. Soon she will take the house, cars and all my money. I’m a mess.” You gulp your drink down.
“I’m bipolar, too.” You let him have it all.
“I’m so sorry, bro.”
“No, you’re not. And don’t call me bro!” With that, you walk out of the Central Station.

You notice something in the alley as you look up from puking your guts out. It’s a homeless person sleeping. He’s an old Asian man. And he seems very familiar to you. Can it be Mr. Lee? You go closer to inspect. Certainly the man looks like him. You squat down next to him.
“Mr. Lee. Remember me?” No response.
“I didn’t expect to see you here today. A nice surprise.” The bum twitched in his sleep.
“You were my favorite teacher, you know?” Your smile is lost in the night.
“I don’t suppose you’ve ever thought I would turn out this way, have you, all broken and sad….” You sigh.
“I did everything by the book, everything I was supposed to do, studied hard, went to good school, worked hard, got a good job, got married, a house, kid, cars….” You fight tears welling up in your eyes. You lay yourself down next to the bum.
“Mr. Lee. I really don’t know what to do. And I’m scared.”
The bum opens his eyes and gets up, grunting. The man is too drunk to stand up straight by himself. You get up to help him. He touches his groin area, grunting.
“You have to go, is that it?” You ask him.
You undo his fly and get his penis out just in time for the bum to start urinating. The steam rises. The bum releases a sigh of relief. You feel better, standing next to him, holding his penis, looking out into the darkness.

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