I consider my room a cradle. Yes, a cradle, because it is here that an infant sleeps. I refer to myself, of course; I could never share a room with a child, vile things that they are. Why do I consider myself an infant, you ask? A pertinent question, but one to which the answer is obvious: In order to mature, one must develop. And I will be the first to admit a marked lack of development throughout the course of my life. I like to be this way, though - it makes things much easier. No one ever blames an infant for anything; he doesn’t know any better. I’ve not been taught the difference between right and wrong, nor have I been instilled with a conscience; no one ever bothered. Such things don’t spontaneously come into being, like suns. A sun can appear out of nowhere, a fluke, an aberration of fate. Morals and good sense, on the other hand, take cultivation and a caring hand. Mine are like stunted little weeds, forced to subsist and grow only on the occasional passing rain-shower, which often is too much, a deluge that my shallow roots can’t handle. So I just shrivel a little more, day by day, week by week, and year by year.
When I’m in my cradle, I’m warm and safe, swaddled against chills and prying eyes. Instead of a mobile, I’ve got a computer, which I think is much better, though the effect is the same. In my reflection upon the screen, I’m often struck by how much my glazed stare resembles a placated baby, idly watching the turning of shapes. I can even rock myself to sleep, a benefit my size grants me over other infants. I curl up in bed and rock myself back and forth, back and forth; it’s a good thing I’ve got my privacy, otherwise you might think this strange. Yes, my cradle is very nice indeed, and I treasure it above all things.
It is a sad fact that I am occasionally obliged to leave. I work at a technical support center near the campus where I’m a student, which is quite convenient, since I don’t think I would be capable of venturing any farther into the world. People, mostly students, will call in with their computer problems, and I’m supposed to give them answers. Everyday I serve dozens of disembodied voices solutions to idiotic questions. I find it hard to restrain my laughter in the face of commonplace ignorance, and normally I don’t; my supervisor, the blind old badger, has gotten on my case any number of times for this. I don’t care, I laugh even at him, in my mind. He’s even more helpless than the rest, not being able to see. They’re cripples, compared to me, and he’s the worst; the callers might not be able to turn their computers on, but at least they can see the screen and know there’s a problem! (You might not think that’s funny, but right now I’m chortling. That’s right, chortling! It’s a funny word, and I don’t expect you to know it. Maybe later you can call and ask me for a definition.)
I especially like it when girls call - I really cut loose with them. After they pose their query, I’m silent for a moment, letting it hang in the air as if I’m struck speechless by their imbecility. When I do reply, it’s as if to a child; sometimes, when I’m feeling par-tic-ularly devilish, I use a mocking, sing-song tone of voice. This makes them self-conscious, and usually they’ll apologize, which they should, for wasting my time! Although, who am I kidding? I love it. I love how timid and embarrassed they become, though I could never say so to their faces. I enjoy it so much, I sometimes blush while talking to a girl-caller; the anticipation of showcasing my superior intelligence actually makes me blush! At least, I think that’s why I blush.
It can be forgiven if you think me a boogeyman, the type that spends his free time throwing rocks at sparrows. I will not lie, the ruffling of feathers gives me great satisfaction, but only because mine have been plucked already. How can I be faulted for trying a tweeze a few off the backs of others when I am as naked as a Thanksgiving turkey? Men are not meant to run around unclothed. There are things in all of us that we do not wish others to see. For some, it may be a dark deed commited in the past - the intentional killing of a cat, or a falsehood told that brought with it great gains. I can honestly say that I’ve never done anything wrong, however. My life has been one long, unabridged script of mundanity. The thing is, it is not the warts that I hide; I walk with my warts proudly displayed. The purpose is to draw attention away from what truly leaves me ashamed: my meek nature.
I said earlier that I am still an infant, and like an infant I’m weak, easily bothered and incapable of helping myself. If I were stronger, I would not get such a cheap thrill from the faceless confrontations I’m involved in at work; I would go out and find real confrontations, real struggle! As it is, if someone cuts in front of me in the deli-line, or a store-clerk gives me the incorrect change, I whimper and walk away, head bowed. It is not my fault, though; I was never taught to stand up for myself. I can barely walk, and even that was self-learned. My steps are slow and shuffling, and to this day, I have to concentrate to put one foot in front of the other. Otherwise, the smallest crack will cause me to trip and fall. People used to do everything for me, carry me around, wipe my mouth, cover my eyes during the scary parts of movies. If I wanted something, I only had to ask. There were never any trials or tribulations, because the moment an obstacle presented itself, someone would come and knock it down for me. I used to fantasize about what it would be like to take control. My dreams were filled with visions of how I would demand satisfaction for some playground slight, not allowing my mother to call the principal the day after I came home with tears in my eyes and grass in my hair. I’d be thrilled with thoughts of driving my father’s car, or playing football without the fear of admonitions for a scraped knee. God forbid the little baby hurt himself, we can’t have him hurt himself, what would we do? He needs to be smothered, crushed on all sides by protective padding from the horrors of the outside world, blindfolded and handcuffed so he can’t see or touch anything that isn’t white-washed, homogenized, disinfected, and approved with a PG rating by the Cosmogonic Suburbanital Association of Scared Mother Hens. Good Lord, how I even yearned to fail, if only so I could say that I did something, of my own volition! If the homework was too hard, it was done for me, if the science project broke, it was soldered back. All I wanted was some freedom; gimme some truth, dammit! The outside world looked so inviting, and I was kept from it, under lock and key. And now, when I finally have access, I hide in my cradle. Because now the world really is a scary place. I can’t imagine how people deal with it.
They’re funny to watch, though, these people. When I walk around the campus, I always make sure to sweep my eyes quickly from side to side. I know what you’re thinking too, and let me tell you, you’re wrong; it’s not just so I can make sure no one is giggling at my unkempt appearance or shuffling gait. That’s only part of it. The main reason is so I can take it all in, the human parade. I hate it, let me tell you, hate it down to the marrow in my bones. They’re all so characterless, so bland! That’s what it takes, I’ve decided, to navigate the choppy seas of life. The world has been tailor-made for these automatons to succeed. They stay abreast of fashion so they won’t stick out in a crowd; if a name-brand shirt is the standard mark of excellence, then you’d better have it on, by God! Anything less and you are less, too. Their personalities are served up to them, everything from their opinions on world politics to what kind of music they like. Not to say that everyone falls into the same category. I’m merely saying that no one thinks, really thinks about the choices they make. They pick a platform, usually around the age of sixteen, and hang onto it for the rest of their life, tooth and nail. The status quo and the counter-culture are different sides of the same currency, just clubs for people to belong to.
I, on the other hand, am different. I’ve got plenty of time to think for myself and think for myself I have. Some of my opinions are quite original, some, I would even daresay, radical and remarkable! For example, I never go to parties or clubs; why should I? I’m not like the people that do, I don’t seek their approval, and the last thing I want to do is associate with them. They’d probably end up making fun of me, goes to reason, since I’m making fun of them, right? I console myself on lonely weekend nights by sitting and thinking, the fruits of which you’re enjoying as you read this. You are enjoying this, right? It’d kill me if you weren’t. Wait, no, what am I saying? I don’t care, not one whit what you think about me. That’s why I always dress so shabbily, because I don’t care. What do you think about that? My overly large shirts and stained jeans are good enough for me. They may not be the paragon of fashion, but who has the time to follow fashion, anyway? I’m always so busy, and quite frankly, I have better things to do than to keep up with the latest vogue, I assure you! Some people might understand how to dress, but I understand much more. Which do you think is the true mark of superiority?
I said earlier that I hate my peers, but that isn’t so. If anything, I feel no connection towards them. We could be different species, they and I, and the situation would be no different. My character is what sets me apart - suffering breeds it, you know.
I hope you haven’t gotten the impression that I want to belong. I wouldn’t change a thing, if given a second chance. I’m proud of my emotional disfigurement. Are you surprised that I recognize it as such? It sets me apart, it’s what makes me unique. A freak is someone different from the norm, be they an athletically blessed quarterback or a beautiful model. I equate myself with this sort of person and treasure my spite the same way they treasure their arm or face. It’s all I’ve got, after all. What does this make me, then? Am I a nihilist, an existentialist? Perhaps an egoist? I’ve said before that I have no use for such labels, that I needn’t be a member of any club. I subscribe only to the way accorded me by my upbringing. I have ceased to fight against it. Come to think of it, I guess that makes me a realist. You see how easily I contradict myself? The truth is, I don’t know what I am. Perhaps that’s the problem.