Less of Everything by Dave Shaw copyright 2012 by Dave Shaw NAP CHAP 8 NAP MAGAZINE & BOOKS NAPLITMAG.COM Cover: Chad Redden
S S LE G N I F H O ERYT EV E V DA W A H S
1. Anxiety sits in a partially renovated hallway in St. John’s College and listens to music by Ducktails though headphones. He texts 2008 and says “you weren’t on the bus today. I was all by myself.” A lady outside the window is either singing or mouthing the words to a song that only she can hear. 2008 texts back saying she is sorry and she’ll maybe be on the bus Friday. A group of six Korean boys walk by excitedly speaking a language that Anxiety assumes is Korean. Anxiety texts 2008 a string of seven exclamation marks and an emoticon representing a sad face. ‘I always see so many Koreans on campus but I don’t ever see them in any of my
classes,” thinks Anxiety, “what do they do here all day.” Anxiety reads about thirty lines of The Canterbury Tales for his next class and then stops to think “fuck” in all capital letters. A very tall girl sits on the bench next to Anxiety’s bench. She is talking on her cellphone and is telling a story that involves how she spent the weekend at a hospital. anxiety considers grabbing the cellphone out of her hands and telling her to stop what she is doing because no matter what she does nothing will ever change. Anxiety imagines the tall girl next to him stabbing him to death with a knife. He considers what people would say about him if he died. He considers what the tall girl beside him would do after she had finished stabbing him. How would she feel. What would she do if someone had noticed. What would she do if no one had noticed.
Anxiety stands up and puts The Canterbury Tales back into his book bag and looks at the tall girl, collecting the muscles in his face into a polite smile. He wants to say something like ‘I’m ready’. The tall girl does not look towards Anxiety and keeps talking into her cell phone and Anxiety walks for about five minutes to his class on Chaucer and feels absolutely nothing and says absolutely nothing for fifty minutes. Later, Anxiety is waiting in line at Subway. The man in front of him is asked what kind of cheese he would like and he responds “I’ll think about it.” Anxiety turns to face the man and smiles. “Ma’am,” says the man, “ma’am put the mustard on the meat please. Then you can add whatever cheese you like.”
Anxiety considers what life must be like for this man. Anxiety decides that if he is ever diagnosed with O.C.D. he will make a shirt that says ‘Sorry, I Just Have O.C.D.; I Don’t Mean To Be Such A Dick.’ Anxiety considers just making this shirt anyways and wearing it just because. “Is that okay,” thinks Anxiety, “can a person just morally do that.” “It seems like at this point in the game everyone knows how Subway works; they’re not going to ask you anything you haven’t been asked before,” Anxiety imagines saying this at a comedy club doing a Jerry Seinfeld impression. “Subway isn’t going to throw any curve-balls at you; take comfort in this reality.” “I watched a documentary where there was a guy that pierced his dick like five times,” Anxiety’s friend Emma tells him, “he said he wanted to do more but there
was no more room on his dick.” Emma and Anxiety are sitting in a booth in the lobby of the Park Theatre. “That is fucked. Why would you watch something like that.” Anxiety stares over Emma’s head at a mural on the wall. He tries to think of the name of the band that is onstage. It sounds like they are playing a cover of a Pink Floyd song except with a very intense metal drummer. Anxiety asks if his set was okay and Emma says it was better than his sound-check. “What does that even mean,” Anxiety thinks, “for my sound-check I mumbled ‘Barack Obama’ into the microphone about twenty times and asked the sound guy for less of everything in my monitor, how can she qualitatively gauge that.” Three teen girls approach the booth that Emma and Anxiety are sitting in and the
shortest one says that she liked Anxiety’s songs and that he shouldn’t look so nervous. Anxiety says thank you and that he doesn’t mean to look the way he does but that is just what his face and body do naturally. The three girls smile and walk away, probably to where the stage is. Later Anxiety shakes hands with Jared who organized the show and says he’s leaving. On the way out he sees the band that played after him and badly pronounces the lead singers name and says their set was cool. On the way out the door a man in a leather jacket calls Anxiety ‘bro’ and said he liked his ‘bit’ and Anxiety grins and says thank you. Anxiety loads his guitar into his car and drives home, listening to a french radio station. The host of the program speaks rapidly in french and Anxiety gathers that he is discussing politics because he can recognize the names of Canadian political figures. When Anxiety arrives home he unloads his guitar and checks his email. He has an email from a
poet in Chicago. The email is links to various E-how pages, including ‘How To Make a Two-Man Horse Costume’ and ‘How To Maintain A Zucchini Garden’. Anxiety smiles and replies to the email with some links to Yahoo Answers pages. Anxiety reads some blogs and then reads a summery of ‘The Knights Tale’ on Wikipedia. Anxiety goes to sleep.
2. Anxiety’s cell phone rings. His ring-tone is a song by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. Paul says what the fuck and tells Anxiety that his ring-tone is brutal. They argue about this for about two minutes and the phone stops ringing. “that solves that problem.” Jordan smiles and reaches across the table for his beer. Indifference texts Anxiety and says she made him a painting, to which Anxiety responds “thank you, I finished reading that Tao Lin book if you want to borrow it still.” Anxiety drinks from a glass that is mostly vodka and ice. “I feel sort of fucked. I think I am experiencing anhedonia.” Paul tells him to shut up and throws a cigarette butt at him. later Anxiety is in the back of a car that he does not recognize with a girl that he only
vaguely recognizes from facebook. He is not wearing a shirt. The girl he is with is also not wearing a shirt. Anxiety feels confused and says “fuck” and then tells the girl he is sorry but he needs to go make a phone call. He notices his shirt and his sweater draped over the passengers headrest and grabs them and opens the door to the car. “You’re like actually leaving,” asks the girl, who looks sad and confused. Anxiety says he is sorry but it is important that he leaves because of a phone call he needs to make. He gets out of the car and he is in the parking lot of a bank near his house. He assumes his bike is probably near by so he looks around and finds it on the ground next to the back entrance of the bank. He puts on his shirt and sweater and gets on his bike. The electronic sign on the front of the bank says it is 23 degrees Celsius and 0430h. Anxiety feels embarrassed and drunk. He bikes home and
tries to sleep for about seven hours and then drives to a walk-in barber shop and pays a girl eighteen dollars to cut off all of his hair. “I thought I would feel like Luke Wilson in The Royal Tennenbaums; I felt more like I was joining the army.” Anxiety and Indifference sit on the steps of a clothing store in Osborne Village. Indifference smokes a cigarette and periodically jabs Anxiety’s knee with her knee. “I think it looks nice. You have really small ears,” Indifference says, “You look older or something.” “My scalp is so bad. I felt bad making that girl touch my head. I don’t think I had washed my hair in a month.” Indifference said that that is gross and rubbed his head a little bit with her hand. Later Indifference and Anxiety are watching a movie and lying on Indifference’s bed.
The movie is from 1935 and is supposed to be a horror movie. Indifference moves her head so it is touching Anxiety’s head and Anxiety traces the tips of his fingers down Indifference’s arm. An actress in the movie says “I’ve been up all night... With dead people!” They laugh and Anxiety says he is going to say that on Twitter later. “This is good,” says Indifference, “I like this.” Later Anxiety and Indifference kiss and listen to songs by Whitest Boy Alive. Indifference asks if Anxiety is okay and he says yes. Anxiety asks her if she is okay with him touching her hips because of how she was hit by a car earlier that week and Indifference says she didn’t really get hit that bad and that she is just a little sore. They laugh and kiss and say lines from the movie. “Are you telling me he is a murderer AND a horticulturalist?”
“This is fun,” says Anxiety, “but I am going to leave now I think. I have to work in the morning. I’m sorry.” Indifference walks Anxiety to the door and kisses him goodnight and says drive safe. He says goodnight and smiles. He walks to his car and drives home listening to M83 really loud and feeling a little confused about what he is doing. Anxiety gets home and reads blogs on the Internet and checks his Tumblr and responds to some emails and feels calm. An image poem he made was reblogged by Pop Serial. Anxiety thinks the word ‘relevant’ in capital letters. He reads a few poems from a book he received in the mail a few weeks ago and falls asleep. Later, Anxiety wakes up and writes down a dream that he had. He thinks about the book on lucid dreaming he bought from a
used book store for three dollars. There is a buzzing sound coming from the floor. Anxiety checks his cell phone and sees he has a text from 2008. It reads ‘I just feel shitty. Bring me chocolate.’ Anxiety replies, “okay if it will make you feel better.” Anxiety smiles and checks his email. Later Anxiety is sitting in Subway and reading a book of short stories by Breece D’J Pancake. He texts Indifference and says he is looking forward to tonight. Indifference texts back lyrics to a song by Pepper Rabbit. The employees at Subway speak to each other in Spanish. Anxiety thinks about maybe buying a new sweater. Subway is almost entirely empty. Anxiety rubs his head absently and flips a page of his book. Later, Anxiety sends 2008 a text message saying “I am in a Walmart; what kind of chocolate do you like.” and stands against a wall of televisions. He feels good. 2008 sends a text saying thank you and what kind
she wanted. Anxiety puts a Caramilk in his pocket and leaves Walmart quickly. He walks to a near-by mall and finds a bookstore and flips through pages of a book of poems by K. Silem Mohammed, thinking about 2008. He feels a little confused but mostly good, in a very abstract way that he cannot quite articulate.
3. “Why are we here so early. Shows always start so late here,” Indifference nudges Anxieties foot with her foot. They are sitting on the same side of a square table at the Lo Pub. “Yeah. This is dumb; I hate having to sit and talk with you.” Anxiety says, and smiles. Indifference smiles and nudges his foot with her foot again, but a little harder. She traces some letters onto Anxiety’s forearm with her index finger. A girl Anxiety recognizes from school is standing onstage testing microphones. The lead singer of a band kneels beside her and adjusts knobs on a pedalboard. “I watched a YouTube video of that guy yesterday,” thinks Anxiety, “he used to have a mustache.” “let’s go outside for a fag.” says Indifference. Anxiety remembers that Indifference’s family lived in New Zealand for ten years. They walk
outside and Indifference lights a cigarette. A girl that looks about twenty-five walks over to Anxiety and Indifference and asks if she can borrow a lighter. She flirts with Indifference and asks her name. Indifference says her name and the girl says her name is Amanda and that it is nice to meet them. Amanda walks away and Indifference and Anxiety smile at each other. “She seems friendly,” said Anxiety, “I think she said the word ‘lesbian’ like six times.” Indifference and Anxiety sit on a ledge outside the Lo Pub. Indifference says she thought of a good line for a story she is working on and shows Anxiety her notebook. Anxiety smiles and feels good. He tells her it is a good line and means it. “I was really worried that she was going to show me something stupid,” thinks Anxiety, “why did I assume she would want to show me something that was stupid. I don’t think I give her very much credit.”
Later Anxiety and Indifference are back inside watching Pepper Rabbit. Indifference is standing up against the railing separating the stage from the crowd and Anxiety is standing behind her with his hands on her waist. The lead singer of Pepper Rabbit points them out and asks if they’re in love. Indifference turns her head and kisses Anxiety on the cheek. “Look at those guys! So much love.” The lead singer of Pepper Rabbit smiles and then asks for more vocals in his monitor. Indifference puts her hand behind her and touches Anxiety’s leg. Indifference has the word ‘isolation’ tattooed on her neck. Later Anxiety drives Indifference home and she kisses him goodnight.
4. Anyways. Anxiety bikes to Lukas’ garage, where Lukas and Paul are. they watch different parts of three different movies. Anxiety tries to remember the name of the movie about animated robots with Robin Williams and Ewan McGregor. Anxiety searches ‘Robin Williams Robot Film’ in google and says “Bicentennial Man” out loud. Lukas says, “fuck. I love this part.” Anxiety says, “is that ‘The Rock’?” Paul says, “you’re wrong. That movie was called ‘Robots’”. They laugh and it is good. Later Paul and Anxiety drive to a casino. Anxiety spends about twenty minutes looking at different types of fish in the large tunnel aquarium and listening to music by Tame Impala through headphones.
“Do I look suspicious,” thinks Anxiety, “is this suspicious behavior.” Two security guards walk though the tunnel. Anxiety checks his phone. It is roughly 0200h. Anxiety looks at a group of three grey fish swimming in semiunison. “Fuck that,” thinks Anxiety, “being a fish would be fucked.” Anxiety smiles and rubs absently at the top of his head. Paul calls Anxiety and they meet up by some coffee machines. Anxiety inserts his Casino Card into one of the machines and gets a free paper cup of coffee. Paul says he was up ten dollars at one point but ended up down thirty. Anxiety says he watched the fish and still has the exact same amount of money he started with, and now coffee. “Just shitty deals man, shitty deals,” Paul says as he and Anxiety walk to Paul’s car, “I’m pissed.” Paul looks disappointed. Later, Anxiety is ridding his bike home. He texts Eden and asks if she has a sweater he could borrow. She texts back saying “Yes
but Iâ€™m not home yet.â€? Anxiety bikes past her street and feels a little disappointed.
5. Anxiety wakes up in his bed. He checks the time on his phone and notices a missed call from a number in Mexico City. He gets out of bed and checks his email. A guy named Gabe from a local band emailed to see if Anxiety wanted to open for them at VP Nites in two weeks. Anxiety emails back saying yes probably he will do that. He sends an email to a girl who lives in Mexico City, and sends her a screenshot of the two of them on skype from a few weeks ago. Anxiety thinks about the girl who lives in Mexico City, and the way she looked at the airport. Anxiety makes coffee. Anxiety lays in the grass outside his house and reads a book of short stories by Tolstoy for school. He writes â€˜tolsty=sexist?â€™ in the margin of a story about two Russian soldiers taken hostage by Muslims. Indifference sends Anxiety a text saying she just bought the tickets for the show tonight. Anxiety texts back saying thank you for doing that and good morning. They text more things to each other.
Anxiety sits on a bus going to his afternoon classes at the university. 2008 is sitting next to him. They talk about her current boyfriend. 2008 tells Anxiety about why they are fighting and it secretly makes Anxiety feel good to know that she is having the same issues with other guys as she did with him. “She was the problem, “ thinks Anxiety, “I am okay.” He immediately feels embarrassed that he allowed these thoughts to form. 2008 presses her shoulder into his shoulder. Anxiety is amazed at how comfortably he is able to talk with her. He feels calm and confident and a little confused. He flirts with her a little and steers the conversation away from himself. She asks him if he is still with the girl who lives in Mexico City and he tells her no, she moved to Mexico City. He asks her about her plans for the weekend. She said she was going to go for dinner with her boyfriend but she thinks that is not happening anymore. Anxiety tells her she should just go for dinner by herself out of spite. She smiles and he smiles. The bus is almost entirely silent.
Later Anxiety is in a class and 2008 texts him saying thank you for the chocolate and that she wants to die. Anxiety feels good thy she is texting him. He feels embarrassed at how good 2008 makes him feel about basically anything. He feels confident and confused and nervous. After the class he texts 2008 saying it will all be okay and if she wants to talk he is there. Later Indifference and Anxiety are sitting outside the Lo Pub. After that they sit inside the Lo Pub. Anxiety sees a girl that he and the girl who lives in Mexico City saw at a music festival last summer. Anxiety thinks about how much he wishes the girl who lives in Mexico City were here. He feels depressed at himself for thinking this. Indifference asks him if he is okay and he says yes and he doesn’t know. “I think I will always compare Indifference to her,” thinks Anxiety, “I think I need to stop seeing girls that are anything like her. maybe I should just stop seeing people for a bit.”
Indifference puts her nose against Anxiety’s chin. She smiles and says she wants to go out and have a cigarette. They go outside and Indifference asks a large man with a beard and well maintained hair if she can borrow a lighter. The large man leans over and lights her cigarette for her. The large man addresses Anxiety as ‘son’ and tells him he should always carry a lighter. The large man asks if Indifference and Anxiety are together or what. Anxiety says ‘noooo?’ and Indifference makes a noise and looks at Anxiety and Anxiety feels a little confused and embarrassed. “Always carry a lighter, brother,” says the large man, as he walks away. Anxiety worries that Indifference will ask a question but she does not. She finishes her cigarette and they go back inside. ‘I think I want to see no one,” thinks Anxiety, “I think I am not liking this situation. This is dumb.”
Anxiety considers that he might just be trying to sabotage what is otherwise a healthy and nice friendship with Indifference. The band starts and Anxiety stops thinking about anything and just feels detached. Anxiety smiles to himself. Later Anxiety drives Indifference to a party for one of her friend’s birthday. She kisses him goodnight and asks if he is okay. He says yes and says goodnight. Anxiety drives home with the windows down and no music on. His ears are ringing from the concert and it feels good. Anxiety drives home and watches a video of a poet he knows in Chicago reading part of a poem by Walt Whitman. Anxiety goes on Amazon and buys a copy of ‘Leaves of Grass’ for four dollars. He goes outside and lies on the grass on his back. Anxiety lets his ears ring and lets his back get wet from the ground. Anxiety thinks about Tolstoy and about a very small boat on the ocean. It is calm and it is loud and it is good.
6. Anxiety writes a long email to Indifference that ends with ‘I’m sorry’. He feels shitty and tired. Indifference responds with an email saying ‘okay’. Anxiety thinks, “she still has my copy of ‘The Pale King’. I wonder how much time has to elapse before I can ask for that back.” Anxiety checks his Tumblr and goes on Facebook and posts links to pages called ‘Goth Dad’ and ‘Goth Family’ on the facebook wall of a poet from New York City. The girl who lives in Mexico City sends him a message saying that she is going to a Gang Gang Dance concert tonight. Anxiety thinks about listening to Eye Contact with the girl who lives in Mexico City in her bedroom when she lived here. Anxiety messages her back telling her he is jealous and that he hopes she has fun. “I’ll take a video for you,” she says, “I’ll try and video Romance Lawyers.” Anxiety thanks her and says he needs to
go. He writes two paragraphs of a paper on Tolstoy’s Death Of Ivan Ilych. Later Anxiety rides his bike to his mailbox and then bikes to a Tim Horton’s with a small package from Arkansas. Anxiety buys a medium green tea and opens the package. Inside is a book and a photograph and some artwork. The book is covered in glitter and is stitched together by hand. Anxiety reads the book and feels good. Anxiety remembers the three separate nights that he had kissed the girl currently behind the counter at Tim Horton’s. He thinks, “Her name is...Autumn?” Anxiety’s hands are covered in glitter. Anxiety feels an intense urge to tell someone they are beautiful. He bikes home and tapes the photograph from the package onto his wall. Anxiety feels inspired to create something that is meaningful. He reads blogs and checks his email. He lies on his bed and listens to Titus Andronicus through the speakers on his computer. He sends an
email to Gabe and tells him he is sorry but he can’t do the show. Anxiety drinks from the flask that the girl who lives in Mexico City left him and writes a very long poem and submits it to a literary journal. He compiles a list of all of his published poems and makes a page for them on his website. He creates several image poems and posts them on the facebook walls of several poets he knows. He thinks the word ‘rebrand’ in capital letters. He goes outside and walks around for about thirty minutes and thinks about the Internet. “I need to have an epiphany,” thinks Anxiety, “I need to give myself a new direction I think. I don’t think I like what I am doing.” That night Anxiety bikes to Lukas’ garage and meets up with Paul, Lukas, and Aaron. They listen to classic rock radio and talk about the Beatles. Aaron and Paul each smoke a cigarette. Anxiety texts Eden and asks if she is okay. Aaron goes around the
table asking everyone how their days were. Anxiety smiles. “Aaron seems to just understand life. He is always in a good mood,” thinks Anxiety, “how does he do that.” They watch an episode of ‘Pawn Stars’ and Lukas and Paul talk about football. Anxiety gets a text from Eden. Aaron opens his third beer. Paul leaves for about fifteen minutes with his bag and comes back. No one asks Paul where he went. Anxiety puts on a sweater and says he is probably going to leave. He drinks a bit more from his flask. He gets on his bike and rides to Eden’s house. Anxiety and Eden sit on Eden’s driveway and lean on each other. Eden says she has taken a lot of sleeping pills and only slept for three of the last forty-eight hours. Anxiety says she should sleep more. Later they are sitting on Eden’s bed. Anxiety helps Eden put on her wristbands. Eden talks about the guy she has been seeing lately.
Anxiety holds her wrists and tells her he’s going to leave so she can get some sleep. Eden tells him to stay and he stays. Eden and Anxiety lay on Eden’s bed. Anxiety’s left hand and Eden’s right hand are touching but not holding. Anxiety lays quietly until he feels like Eden is asleep when he sits up and starts to leave. Eden says wait and pulls him back. They kiss. Later Anxiety says goodnight and leaves. Eden mumbles something about Antarctica. Anxiety bikes home and does not sleep. He goes on Facebook and Facebook Chats with a girl from his work. He has never spoken to this girl before. She tells him she likes his songs and he says thank you. He asks if she likes music and she says yes, and says that she named her son after Hawksley Workman. She sends Anxiety a picture of her and Hawksley Workman, and says she met him once when she won tickets to a meetand-greet from a radio station her friend works at. In the picture she looks wide-eyed
and happy. She looks happier than Anxiety has ever seen her at work. She looks happier than Anxiety can logically conceive looking himself. He feels envious of her. He feels embarrassed with himself for his ignorance of Hawksley Workman. He tells her he is happy for her. He says that must have been a very intense life experience and she says yes. Later Anxiety puts on a windbreaker and goes outside. It is roughly 0400h. Anxiety walks down his street and out into a farmers field. He walks across the unmaintained earth until the only relevant light is the moon. He says some things aloud and looks up to the sky. He yells some things aloud and feels good. He walks back in the direction of some house lights in the distance.
Dave Shaw is a writer from somewhere in Canada. His work has been featured on Temporary Infinity, Coffinmouth, Internet Poetry, and other online sources. He curates the website 'Lit Mixtapes'. You can visit his personal website at http://daveisok.tumblr.com