Karl looked out the window of his parents’ suburban dwelling. It was a modestly appealing August day; sparse clouds drifted casually over the sky, bushes outside shimmied occasionally by force of wind, and birds flittered between branches, fornicating or communicating food sources to one another. Karl was a man in his late twenties who had a thick, elongated forehead and had been held back twice in elementary school. His hair was blond, his eyes were piercingly blue (and far more astounding than anything behind them), and his nose was long. He was more proud of his Aryan features than he would publicly admit to, but they didn’t do him much good either way. His staring forward suited him; he was generally staring forward, his dead eyes fixed on either nothing or something of very little consequence. Whatever he was really processing was forever a mystery, and anyone who truly knew him was grateful for it. He sat on a brown, wooden chair in his parents’ living room. It was that sort of chair which, in its flat, hard seat, possessed an astonishing level of discomfort that could only truly be appreciated by giving it a good, long sit. He wore cargo shorts and a t-shirt that clung tightly to his chest, and dead skin cells gathered in the corners of his nose. He had the sort of legs that were hairy and made people aware of them, and he stared forward, vacantly, all his senses dull from years of beatings and drugs, him never quite being wherever he was until he was disturbed.
There were two women, each in their early twenties, walking down the street in front of Karl’s parents’ suburban dwelling. They spoke endlessly of something young and exciting in a way that provoked their observers to an irredeemable jealousy, so long as their observers were neither young nor exciting. They each had long hair of separate colors that reached down to the smalls of their backs. They looked and smelled like life; members of the elite ruling class whose small, homey lives were miraculously never tainted with cynicism. They never worked, and if they ever cried, it was over something stupid. Karl saw this in them, and immediately despised them for it. This was not the only aspect of these women that disturbed Karl, however, as these women possessed more things which Karl did not, other than mere pleasantness. These women possessed young, fertile figures, sloping hips, jeans that clung tightly to their buttocks and cut-off at their upper thighs. They were images of something which Karl had never had, or, if he had ever had it, had never felt he was able to have properly enjoyed it the way he felt he was intended to. The feeling this provoked in Karl was more immense than most things Karl ever felt, and he immediately needed to do something with it. His nose curled-up into a snarl, and the muscles in his arms tensed under his skin. His jaw lowered and his tongue flicked outward, ready to profess whatever poison Karl felt it was necessary to lay onto the world. “Women, nowadays,” he spoke with eyebrows sloping downward. He had determined to shove the emotion as deep down within him as he possibly could, to punish it with a lifetime sentence in a little box he held somewhere in the gurgling bellows of his stomach. Karl’s father, who was washing a small drinking glass in the adjacent kitchen, chimed in “You betcha”.
Karl’s father was proud of his son for noticing womens’ bodies, and was seldom proud of him for anything else. The faith Karl’s father had in his son’s masculinity had declined over time; Karl had never been very successful with women, having never brought any semblance of a girlfriend home, and had chosen not to stick with sports as he developed into his teen years, choosing to instead pursue an interest in video games which baffled his father. Karl’s father had tried to introduce his son to the standard practices of men; he had once, when Karl was very young, tried to develop in him an interest in hunting, but after a couple of shots, he had noticed that Karl’s aim was not very good and had decided it was best to not have him firing a rifle. Over time, Karl’s father’s attempts to relate to his son stopped, and he instead settled to drink in front of a television.
“Its disgusting,” Karl said, “That there are so many women out there who have no respect for themselves.” This was a diagnosis which Karl had heard for people caught under the influence of youth and freedom. He had first heard it years ago, found no qualms with or instability in the argument, and had been repeating it as a mantra ever since. Karl’s mother sat several feet away on a separate, but equally comfortless chair* .
Karl’s mother, like her son, was often staring vacantly forward, but was, by contrast, thinking of entirely different things. Currently, she was thinking about the time she was eighteen and pregnant with Karl, and how she didn’t get an abortion, but did marry the man Karl would come to know as his dad. Karl’s mother thought about how this was now nearing an entire thirty years ago, and how she had been living in this same house, with these same people (and the same chairs) for almost thirty years. Karl’s mother thought about the time when Karl was a baby and she’d thought about dropping him into a pot of boiling water, or about the time when Karl was eight and wouldn’t stop screaming and how she’d thought about picking him up and throwing him against a wall. Karl’s mother thought about these things, and they made her feel angry. So, like Karl’s mother often did when she felt angry, she resolved to sit there, feeling a sharp pain from the wooden chair driving into her aging and brittle tailbone, and to stare forward.
“Honestly,” Karl went on unnecessarily, “I would probably want to find a girl and settle down, but I can’t trust any of these women today to not be loose.” Karl’s parents were very conscious of how much Karl believed he could easily find a woman to settle down with.
“I hear ya, son,” Karl’s father responded with, now done cleaning the glass in the kitchen and approaching the familial center of the house with a prepackaged pastry in his hand, “I hear ya.” Karl’s father plopped his expansive rear end into the living room couch**, which sat between Karl and his mother and sank graciously to accommodate his frame. He removed the thin, plastic encasing of his pastry of choice, setting the refuse down on the coffee table in front of him. Karl’s mother stared at the discarded wrapper intently, thinking of the small quantity of residual glaze which was now smooshed between the plastic and the glass surface it rested on, leaving a smudge which she would later have to clean.
Karl, flattered that his father was at least engaged in what he was saying enough to acknowledge it with words, felt emboldened to continue, though he had little else to add. “Yeah, these women,” he said, shaking his head as though he had been personally disgraced, “These women. . .” His voice trailed off, being swallowed by the carpet as his father shoved the last morsels of his pastry into his mouth, crumbs falling down to his chest. A car was heard passing their house outside, going nowhere in particular but knowing it to be the right direction.
Meanwhile, the neurons in the lump of gray matter in Karl’s mother’s head were firing away, disassociating her from the noontime conversation continuing in her living room and transporting her to an alternate space. Here, she was young and ravishing again, just as the two young women who had sparked Karl’s initial proclamation were. She laid bare in a comfortably unkempt field on a similarly blue and promising day, being ravished and worshiped by a seemingly endless stream of faceless men. The men were all youthful, strong, virile, full of life, and all grasped and groped at her, totally fixated on her corporeal form, firm hands sliding up her arms to her wrists and down her back to her buttocks. They had no minds; even their needs were strictly physical. In this part of Karl’s mother’s mind, which even she herself hardly grasped the significance of, this was all that she wanted; to go as she pleased, to be stuck to nothing, and to take what she wanted in the exact same moment in which she wanted it. But this world was not her reality. In the real world, the tasty foods always made you fat, and the sex eventually gave you children.
* The two flat-seated, wooden chairs in Karl’s parents’ house had been purchased at a thrift store the better half of a decade ago for $10 each. Passing the twin economic seating arrangement in the aisle, Karl’s mother unemphatically called attention to the chairs, half-sighing that their living room could use more seating in the case that they might have company over. Karl’s father responded with a word which easily could have been misheard as a grunt, and the matter was settled. The chairs were famously unaccommodating and mostly got in the way, but their place in Karl’s household had never been called into question, and they had remained there ever since.
** The couch, on the other hand, was a hand-me-down, factory-made in the seventies.