who used to be my roman

The monster rattles on down its path, smoke fuming, great rumblings erupting from its insides. It slithers on as the sun rises further into the morning sky, jerking to a stop every so often, thrusting its bowels against its metallic stomach. I have been swallowed up by this creature, along with a number of other victims. Somehow, despite its lack of natural vision, it always knows when humans are in its vicinity and quietly and stealthily rolls up, jaw folding open and snatches its prey like the great tiger of the Amazon. And oh, do we pay to enter the creature. $1.75 for students and $2.75 for anyone else, to be exact. I have entered the stomach of government consumerism in order to avoid other types of consumerism, such as the gas market. I am being eco-friendly, as we call it. Public transport is my monster that I have tamed. I know the single seats are most comfortable when not taken, which they usually are by elderly folk who falter onto the bus not without wincing and groaning, earning the winning seats. The inner window seats at the back are preferable since you can lean on the cold heavily violated glass and avoid falling asleep on stiff, crew cut sporting business men wearing too much cologne. Today I was lucky and scored a seat adjacent to a window and not any window, the one next to the four seaters, leaving me to face the chafing, bustling crowd of people. Here I perch like a hawk and observe, watch, scrutinize my fellow victims of the 21st century.

Roman Petrov, or whatever your name is, why do you keep your wool gloves on in the sweltering bus? Don’t you have trouble flipping the pages of your Russian medieval Excalibur novel? Your blue eyes blink frequently – at least eighteen times faster than you can turn the pages of your illegible book. Perhaps as a child you dreamt of finding that power-granting, shining weapon and smoothly, effortlessly gliding it out of the ancient druid boulder as your reflective armour captured and froze the sun in time for those few precious moments. It would have been glorious, life changing, crucial. These were the dreams you cherished and were left with after your father had confiscated your book collection claiming it poisoned your mind with useless stories and distracted you from the ultimate goal: real life. Of course you grew up being told that “just like your father, grandfather and great grandfather” you would need to get your hands dirty and work hard at life to support yourself and your eventual family. Working hard didn’t mean reading pictures books and day dreaming (you couldn’t have been writing since you were six years old when you were first told off and had only just memorised the alphabet). It meant manual labour and being a real man. You would watch your father chop wood outside from the kitchen window where your mother would be slaving over beetroot borsht and beef stroganoff. Sweat glistened on his temples and he barely grunted as the swinging axe came crashing down on the logs with such force you thought you felt the window ledge tremble. As he pursed his lips and narrowed his hard eyes to center in on the next target, your six year old blue doe eyes knew you would end up being forced to start growing. Now however, you are free to read your Excalibur novel, thousands of miles away from frail, sallow skinned, bed ridden, whining Papa Petrov.

The gnawed red patch on your neck gives everything away. Have you made sure the bruises are tidily tucked away in folded up patches of silk skin? Are you the handyman of more than woodworks and electrical wiring? Or should we call you the deconstructor, is Jacques Derrida your best friend? You must see a hierarchy of value in your opposite. What is it about her that makes you feel inferior, makes you ache to shove your chest in her face, silencing her forever? Let us hope the rule of indeterminacy applies.

You tap your steel toe boot against the base of the bus bench and I wonder, would you kick your dog in the ribs after he’s shat on your convex mattress? Your mattress is yellowing and clouded with stains anyway, why should you care? Or despite your steel toe boot are you tender and soft, even though your bramble bush beard may scratch and burn a woman’s cream canvas skin? Was it your woman who brought you shopping, that time that you bought that military flag and badge patched jacket that I’ve seen boys at electronica shows wear while tripping on pills and chemical snow? Were you embarrassed and uncomfortable among the hip, young and tattooed sales clerks? It suits you though even if you’ve tucked it in to your belted paint stained work pants, which accentuate your slightly bulging waist line. Sadly you inherited your father’s genes in the width department, something which you feel highly insecure about. So do you discard your life in a toilette bowl after every meal or are you more subtle than that in your insecurities? Anyone could tell by the way you shift from foot to foot and how your chest swells as you desperately try to suck in your stomach, drawing in your breath sharply every so often. Perhaps you believe your protruding chest translates into a sign of self-importance and assurance, fooling everyone.

The moment has come. You gather your wreath of electrical wires, fold the upper left corner of page 236, tug at your belt while taking a sharp breath inwards and finally your eyes meet mine. And all I can do is look away hastily, afraid you may discover the life I have created for you. I’m not entirely sure I wish this world for you, you see. You pull the yellow surrender bell. You must have a tender and persuading touch for the monster responds to you and you march right up to its mouth, shoulders square, your big boots weighing heavily against the monster’s stomach and without a word you take your leave, valiantly and resolutely; curiously in a way that reminds me of Arthur.

A couple minutes later it is my turn to break out. I wonder who has been observing, constructing, forcing, re-creating my life for me. I wonder what this alternate universe would be, what they wish for me. Do they know what I wish for? Did I know what Petrov wished for? I pull my hood over my mop of hair as it has started to rain and pull the yellow bell. Tugging at my sleeves, I remember I have to rush home, do reading for my creative writing class and go to the gym. The weather is certainly a deterrent but that dress has to fit for the party next week. As for my reading let’s hope it has some effect on my ability to let loose and write something somewhat appealing, something my critical, artsy parents might appreciate. All these thoughts floating around almost prevent my escape from consumerism’s bowels and I dive out of the mouth into freedom, only to be attacked by hundreds, thousands of plummeting raindrops. I put on a stern face as I walk down a cement slick path, braving the other civilians trekking home. They don’t know where my home is, or what I’ll be doing when I get there. They don’t know that my father hasn’t spoken to me in weeks for reasons too complicated to explain or that I crawl and shrink uncomfortably in my own skin and that fitting into that dress has been pressuring me for weeks. To them I am Petrov, slightly struggling just like anyone else to end the day without calamity. Do they wonder about me or do I pass right by undetected? I walk on, not afraid to be watched, to watch others go by, looking for another Petrov to re-create and mould.

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