A Vignette Concerning Socialists for Good Measure

I like Cat the storyteller.  It may be that the narrative bits are just infrequently enough represented that they seem somehow more vital.  But I think we live in stories to begin with, and it makes me feel better that Cat may think the same.  I’m no more wont now than previously to offer much further comment.  It seems like a corner of this box took on water at some point, leaving the lined stenographer’s paper wrinkled and the lines themselves blown out into thick pinstripes, though the handwritten ink itself is unmarred.  There is no title per se, but like a good executor (how else would you describe my work at this point?), I’ve offered one of my own above.

It could not have been here forever, this cell.  The building is too new, which makes it perfect for hiding old ideas about new problems which are just reborn versions of eternal anxieties and antagonisms.  They come out against HORIZONTAL HOSTILITIES, which must be very serious, but it just makes me think of dirty jokes.  All of my hostilities have been very much vertical.  Pressing down from above, or up from below.  But I understand the idea, I think.  You know where the enemy is if you look upward, and you know who is hurting when you look down.  But if the hostile party is beside you, that is real trouble.  They talk about INTERSECTIONS.  This revolution is to be built at an intersection.  People who do not understand can only think that at the intersection is where you are more likely to be run over.  Which in some cases is true.  But it is also where unstoppable forces might meet immovable objects.  And level them.  You can be immovable, like a bank or a government office or a jail, and still be leveled by an unstoppable force, like hunger.  The point is that the brick seems too clean, but that is a good thing.  They are less likely to break down the door of a nice brick building with a shady overhang.

The place itself could have held an airplane at one point, or many smaller vehicles.  They might call it a bookstore, though there is very little buying or selling going on.  People drink coffee, as you would expect, but they drink other things from jars as well, huddled in twos and threes around various corners and between shelves.  They really seem to have everything one could need, from bomb making to the theory of bomb making to the historical results of bomb making.  There is even a small section against bomb making under the label “JUST FOR BALANCE.”   The drinking people all look like they are doing something important but against the law, which is often the same thing.

After a few minutes inside, I see the first one.  He is a little shorter than me, very skinny, with a beard and a rolled up black working shirt.  It is the kind of shirt the paramilitaries would wear back home, which would have made me uneasy there.  Here it is just strange, and I am probably staring at him because I feel safe here.  He walks down the long aisle, which is wide enough for three men, and does not deviate from his path, which is straight through me.  I am generally ready for confrontation when it is likely, and here it did not seem likely, and so I was not ready and he pushed me aside with his shoulder, barely breaking stride.  I was a bit stunned, I did not have anything to say back to him, and I do not know anything about him, and I did not see where he went.  All of this is fine.  Not everyone needs to be aware of his surroundings, especially at home.  But I turned the opposite direction and the next one tried to do the same thing.  He was my height and could not grow as proper a beard as his friend, but he passed so close by me that I could feel his whiskers against my own.  This I did not care for.  If I am to touch whiskers, I must know why I am doing it.  For him, I had a word.  For me, he had none.  When I felt something brush against my legs around the corner, I was ready to pounce on someone’s child at the offense.  The socialists were unperturbed.  The child was also not bothered.  I know they were socialists, because they told me so when I asked.  But that does not explain the strange behavior of these black shirted men.

I thought it best to get into the center, where it was more open, but I could see another coming right for me.  He at least had an expression on his face, it was smug and certain, which is the way people who look like him, with Lenin cap, groomed mustache, groomed sideburns, pointed nose, act in places like this.  I figured I was swifter than he was and perhaps more imposing as well.  He had a small red star on his shirt, but I do not think it meant anything to him.  But he looked right through me as well!  I hopped out of the way at the last second, only to be blindsided by another!  These are absurd people, and even my desire to strike one of them was being dulled by the onslaught.  I did not want to be run into yet again, and so took the opposite approach, to head all the way to the corner, just past the sign “CLOSET TO COME OUT OF” and the toilet, which was full of travel books and statues of Tito.  Five statues to Tito, to be exact.  Unbelievable.

Around this corner I myself nearly fell upon a young woman in a white dress covered in large blue flower print.  She had a red star also, but this one was tattooed on her exposed shoulder, so I believe it did mean something to her.  She asked if I needed any help, and I told her I needed an escort so that I was not run aground!  She smiled at me, genuinely, it seemed, and said she could safely show me whatever I needed to see.  She was barefoot.  This was a big boast, to show me whatever I needed, but it is always at moments such as these that I am uncertain how best to take advantage.  I did not know what I wanted to see, so I simply said “cats,” and she immediately stood up, walked me through a back door and down cellar steps to an even more labyrinthine basement, this one with arrows painted on the floor to indicate directions of some kind, and will corridors so thin you had to turn sideways to let anyone past.  There were fewer people down here, but this was where the really detailed books were.  And of course, there were books on bomb making for cats, by cats, and with cats, or at least that is what they looked like to me.  The young woman pointed me to the back if I needed something to eat, and reminded me she would be back upstairs if I needed anything else.  I felt a bit out of place in the basement, and the food looked good, but I had no appetite.  I did noticed the person behind the counter moving around a variety of spices and boxes between high shelves in the tiny kitchen.  They told me they were “just organizing the garbage,” and that it was “part of the vegan lifestyle.”  This seemed complicated but neat, and I was satisfied I had seen about all this place had to offer and so walked up another flight of stairs to return to the surface.

Naturally, I was bumped into on the staircase, but this time I was ready, and the long haired socialist simply deflected off of me and continued on his path.  I considered as I reemerged upstairs how much I wanted to discover why these men could not or would not deviate from their paths.  I watched a pair of them shoulder past each other in the more open middle of the place, shake hands, and continue on.  I never stay in one place very long, and this would not be an exception.  I wanted the smug man because I figured he would be honest with me, and so I waited until his path could be discerned and I could get in front of it.  Something about the place, filled with what appeared to be dormant revolutionaries, did not suggest to my instincts that they should stay sharp and I was contacted from behind by the first man, who had gotten quicker and I could not swing around fast enough to make him my quarry.  When I turned back, I had lost sight of the smug man, but now the instincts were piqued, and I darted past two aisles and located him, recognizing his hat and long neck from behind.  But he was approaching a fork, and I guessed he would turn right with the handful of books he carried, which was correct.  He walked right at me down the last aisle, same smug smile painted on his mug, and I gripped both shoulders, thinking he would be awakened from a trance or simply attempt to push through me.  He did neither.  The socialist gripped my left arm with both of his hands, firmly but not aggressively, and told me: “We are having to move soon.”  I looked straight back into his eyes and the smugness seemed to fade away, this was just the way his face looked, and if anything, he seemed to be pleading with me.  He may not have wanted to move, soon or at all.  I myself had to leave so I released him and he me, and he fell forward into my chest, so I held him, like a child, and we walked away, in opposite directions.  The socialists raised their jars as I left, and I bowed to the girl in the white dress.  There was nothing personal in any of these encounters, and I am frustrated now that I did not learn more then.