The Tape-Recorded Man

© copyright 1996-2009 by Michael G. Breece



FROM A PARK BENCH...TO AN ALLEY WAY

The setting is an empty park on a sunny blue sky day. Nydia enters the view at the same time as a male stranger.

"Birds never understand me."
"Talk louder."
"Fuck you! I mean, what the hell would you know about it. YOU can't even communicate to yourself."
"That may be but…you won't find me talking to birds."

Nydia agrily walks away. The strange man falls to the ground and begins to convulse. A woman approaches Nydia.

"Do you have the time?"
"It is 3:33."
"Do you feel like a bird?" Nydia says, feeling awkward. "I mean...I do. They're so free, but yet...they remain prisoners of the earth. A bittersweet reminder of..."
"God. Our warden."
"The birds duty is to watch us. God's roving surveillance."
"Do you hate me?"
"Hate is love in disguise..."
"Kiss me..."

The strange woman slaps Nydia across the face. Nydia walks, only a short distance before falling to her knees. Hands over her eyes. A flock of birds fly up from the ground beside her. Riordan enters the view and looks over at Nydia. She drops her hands. Their eyes lock. Riordan quickly walks away upon her looking at him. Riordan walks fourteen steps then, turns back around to Nydia. He turns back ahead and finds himself on the front lawn of his house. He tilts his head to the side and locks eyes with a naked woman. She stands upright, emotionless face. Riordan enters the house and is greeted by Ginger, the woman with a demented smile plastered on her face. She sticks a large steak, dangling from a long thin fork, in the face of Riordan. His face, as always, is cut of stone. He walks away from this meat madness.
"Hey, Danny!" Steven, Riordan's brother, waves his head as if to say 'come here' with contorted lips. "I think... I saw..." with teeth showing, he shakes his head up and down.

Riordan enters the bathroom. A candle sits in the sink, a small amount of water surrounds it. Riordan pulls a lighter out from his jacket pocket and flames the wick. With the bathroom light off, the candle and he reflect from the bathroom mirror.

“is it my destiny
is it a curse
or a blessing”

Riordan exits, than enters his bedroom. He sits in his room. He watches a fly circling around in desperation, a suicidal fly, at that. Like a prisoner of some sort, ready to end it all. Riordan gives a thought to squashing the disturbed fly with the heal of his shoe, but no...maybe there is a divine point for his suffering. The fly starts from the furthest corner of the bedroom, with all it's might the fly builds steam, then smashes into the glass of a closed window. Motionless, he falls to the floor. Riordan, with shoe in hand, looks on in deep concentration. Without seeing the suicide. 'Maybe it's a divine action for me to put the poor fly out of its misery' he thought as he looks around for the fly. After giving up the search, he lays on the bed. Then, falls asleep.

The telephone rings, waking him from a deep sleep. He picks up the receiver. "Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello?" is all he could hear. Ginger asking 'hello?' as the caller continued to speak as if nothing out of the ordinary was taking place, as if Ginger were actually listening and comprehending the words that he spoke. Riordan hangs up the telephone and lifts a small recorder from his desk.

"I am doing quite nicely...thank you."
"Really...I always thought of God as a woman."
"I'm sorry...I do not speak your language."
"Besides...I hardly think that either of us would fully appreciate one another’s company at any rate."

Riordan changes his clothes. And after placing his derby onto his head, he slips past the few people downstairs and exits the house. He’s stopped at a light, after reaching the main avenue. He stands in a semi-comatose state as cars and people pass. Then, Nydia appears at the corner-cross walk. She notices Riordan, stares at him from the corner of her eye. Green light, the other pedestrians walk forward, Riordan remains frozen. Nydia mimics him, ever checking from the corner of her eye. After repeating the same scene, Riordan has now noticed her. And he, now, mimics her mimicking him. She walks forward with the greening of the light. He follows her every move.

After a while, she begins to wonder just how long the charade will last. She bows out of the game by taking a sharp left into an alley, he continues to walk straight ahead as if nothing occurred. Nydia poke her head out from the corner of the alley to watch him from behind. He enters a cafe. Nydia contemplates, before hurriedly walking forward to catch the correct cafe he had entered. She dips into a small bar of 'pick-ups', the men in the bar raise their heads from their beers and the counter-corner television set that’s playing an old movie from the ‘70’s in a pathetic yet eager puppy dog desperation, some flash a schmoozy smile at her. With a god-awful expression on her face, she understands that this was a very sad mistake.

Nydia travels one door down. She scans the atmosphere, at first to get a feel for the place, then to find Riordan. She does, she reserves a seat at a table across the cafe from him, a clear shot of vision she has. Riordan smokes a cigarette. He watches the others in the café in a ghost-like state, occasionally smiling to himself. Dropping his eyes down to fiddle with his cigarette with every smile. "Some coffee?" a waitress butts. "What! Yes... double espresso please thanx." Nydia replies.

She raises her head to find him, his eyes already there with her. "…shiiiit..." seaps through the opening of her mouth. Riordan stands to his feet, puts his cigarette out, drops a dollar bill on the table and exits the cafe. As he placed the bill, Nydia notices a small cassette tape on the table. In a paranoid manner, she gawkily walks over to the table. After scanning the wreckage, she sneaks the micro-tape into her pant pocket. She shoots her espresso and exits the cafe.

Spilling out into the street, Riordan is not to be seen. Nydia leisurely strolls home, past all her acquaintances drenched with joy. At her one room apartment, she puzzles over the micro-cassette. "The answering machine." she thinks aloud. She wrestles the tape into the machine. The play/rewind button is pushed, silence, slight rewind to find:

"If there were ever a time to talk...it was at the red light... she is my future... it was evident at first glance..."



DO YOU HAVE THE TIME?

Leaning against the wall of a small boutique, Riordan begins to light a cigarette. "Excuse me man..." interrupts, "Do you have a cigarette?" Riordan looks up. 'can he sense my agitation' he thinks as he fumbles, Riordan hands a cigarette to Mr. Perturbation. "You! Are a life saver. Serious." A long awkward pause is wedged between them. "I've seen you around. You have a really cool air about you, you know? Sort of...untouchable." Mr. Perturbation continues, "Your clothes and shit...your demeanor. Cool. You live around here? I've only lived here for about four or five months. I've been going out two or three times a week the past couple of months... haven't met too many people, really. There are some HOT chicks though...you know. You’re not… gay...are you? I mean it's cool, and all, if you are. I'm not...but, hey. Are you?"

Riordan exhales the last of a cigarette, drops, then rubs the life out of it. "I didn't mean to offend you or anything." Perturbation has finally sensed Riordan's agitation as their eyes become fixed on it. "Well...hey! It's cool meeting you finally. I've gotta meet up with friends. You wouldn't happen to have another cigarette I could bum, do you?" Riordan answers by handing him another. The stranger has enough gull to also motion for a light. Exhalation, the cloud vanishes along with the stranger. Just as Riordan gathers himself... "Excuse me...do you have a cigarette?" says another. Riordan walks off as if nothing were said.



THE DARKNESS OF DUSK

"Danny boy. Danny boy, wake-up," slithers into Riordan's ear. The smell of dead flesh stuffs his nose. Eyes pop open to the nightmare, Steven and Ginger hovering of him. Ginger holding a steak fork with meat dangling from it, pointing like a finger, toward his face. "You have a visitor waiting at the door," Steven says as he exits the bedroom. Smile in place, Ginger still hovers. Even after Riordan sets up, stands to his feet, and leaves the room, still she hovers. After urination, Riordan approaches the front door to find no-one. A deep sigh follows. He closes the door only to immediately re-open it again, he walks out into the front yard. He turns his head to the side and locks eyes with the same naked woman as before. Without hesitation, he re-enters the house and closes the door behind him.

"Nadia, jesus! Is it really too hard to bring fresh water? Bread? Clean silverware? Christ!" a man's voice ushers, while he hurriedly pieces together three lunch plates. Nydia stands, slumped, against the wall that separates the kitchen, the cooks and the dishwashers. "Get with it, huh, hon." he sarcastically finishes as he walks back into the proximity of the customers. One of the cooks approach Nydia, "What an asshole. Don't pay attention to him. Why don't me and you go out tonight. Or we could pick something up and hang-out at my place," he says with a corrupt look in his eyes. She takes a deep breath then exhales a silent answer while shaking her head in a negative motion.

"He doesn't talk." two co-workers converse behind Riordan as he feverishly works. "He can etch like a motherfucker, though. He works his ass off," matter of fact the other states, "What's his name?" one to the other. "Rory or some shit,” the other listens, but only partially comprehends. "What's the new glasses…Joe Cool?"

"Hang in there, Nydia." an effeminate voice glides by. "Nydia? That table in the corner is still waiting for a fresh loaf of bread. And three coffees, many...MANY more creamers. In fact, use the real cream not the packets." The second he disappears, another replaces with, "Di, follow me." Nydia follows. "O' kay Nydia. See that couple over there?" she shakes her head in a positive motion. "They skipped out on us...stiffed us...last week. Peter wants you to tell them that they're no longer welcomed here. And that they must leave immediately." Nydia, "Why me? Why don't you tell them?" He slithers, "Because Peter wants you to know how to handle situations like this for when your ready to move up." Nydia, "Fine..."

She approaches the table. Nervously looks around, before becoming comatose. Like a deer caught in the headlights, her eyes are fixed on the couple. Finally, after an eternity, the man and woman look up at Nydia with a question in their eyes. "I've been asked...to tell you...that… You both have to leave." she answers. "We...just sat down!" the woman says. Then, the man continues, "What is the problem?" Nydia, "Well, it appears that you didn't pay...the last time you were here." The couple stand to their feet. The woman clears the table into her purse leaving only salt and pepper shakers. The man lifts the shakers, then leaves a dash of each on the table. Yin/Yang...cycles of life. Collected and dignified, they exit the restaurant.

Riordan sits in his car eating a burrito. Co-workers are on a picnic table, loudly they converse. Every now and then, they would turn the volume down to a whisper. This, Riordan knew, was when they turned their ever fleeting attention to him. Even though he could only image what words they spoke, he was sure that those words were quite vile by the bursts of laughter and howls that would always follow. Also, the passing of whispers around the circle afterwards. Despite all of this, while on the clock, they all could only respect his work rate.

Nydia has survived another seven hours of modern slavery. Her time card is punched, she hurries past the grabbling attempts for her free-time. All but two of the straight men working at the restaurant have made an attempt at filling this free-time and one of the remaining two has begun the introduction period of "I was only trying to be nice" she senses. After a deep sigh, she lights a cigarette and enters the avenue.

"You were on fire today. How many glasses you etch?" the co-conspirator receives no reply. "I keep forgetting, you’re not much of a talker. Oh well...doesn't matter. See you tomorrow, 'Dan'." Riordan reaches the clock, punches out, and enters the avenue.



HORSES, IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT, DRAG MY TIRED BODY TO THE PLACE I LONG TO BE...
WHERE THE MIND CAN WONDER FREE... AND THE EYE IS NO LONGER NEEDED TO SEE...

Riordan awakes to find Ginger curled up beside him in fetal position. He makes a quick bodily jerk of surprise, which in turn pries her eyes wide open. In one co-ordinated swoop, she pulls his paisley-print pajama bottoms to knee level and wraps her lips around his penis. Her head desperately bobs. So quick, the motion, Riordan can merely see a blurred mass of hair. Un-able to stop her, he's caught in a vortex.

Minutes pass like a broken record until, without warning, the future leaps to it's death. Ginger's face sours as the discharge swims down her throat and gathers in her stomach. "I miss you Danny. Let me cook you some sausage." she hops out of bed with enthusiasm. Then, after a long silent pause, Ginger lowers her head and sullenly limps her body back onto the bed. "I...I just want to keep you. Deep inside of me. I! ...am you. You! ...are me. Damn it! Danny, I love you. I need you. And...you need me." Riordan stares blankly at Ginger's dramatics. "And you look at me like that..." Her shoulders relax as her lips attack his face. She traces down to his neck. Caress', tenderises, then pauses...opens her mouth and bites down on the left side. Riordan inhales deeply with a wheeze and grunts loudly. Holding his breath prisoner, his head quivers, his eyes bulge. Red slithers from the middle of Ginger's lower lip, down her chin. She arches her neck, blood runs. The stream descends, fondles her pale breasts, before marching across the terrain and resting inside her moistened cave. Ginger's body tightens, she pulsates. Orgasmic, is her breathing. She gently weeps. "Damn it! Was it me? Did I steal your voice? Let me cook you some hamburger."

Again, Ginger leaps out of bed. Riordan shows nothing but disconcerted sentiment as his hand brushes the small breaks in his neck. Ginger leaves the bedroom. Riordan sits upright with his right hand suspended before him, the color red blinds. By the time Ginger re-appears with the animal flesh wrapped in bun, Riordan had regained his clarity. Day clothes, he hurries past her reach. A small chunk of hamburger falls from her prepared sandwich that she holds towards the ceiling. "You ARE meeeeee! MEEEEEE!" She hollers past the closing of the front door.

Riordan closes his eyes, a sharp pain is still being sensed and absorbed from his neck. Quickly, he turns his head and opens his eyes. There stands the naked woman. Perfectly still and emotionless, she stands starring at him. Riordan rushes up to her. Nose nearly touching nose, he circles. Stops! Looks directly into her eyes. Leaves, shaking his head. She remains, like a statue, in the middle of the sidewalk square just before the houses driveway. He doesn't question her existence. A bird falls to it's death at her feet.

Riordan walks further into the city, goes into a gas station in order to buy cigarettes and some gum. Upon exiting the gas station, with nothing in his hand nor pockets but what he was after, he is accused of stealing as he doges a car pulling into the station.

"Hey asshole?! Cha' ever think to look?!"

“cha' ever think to look... the scent of a rosary catches my eye...”

"What is your name?"

“the sound of blithering life surrounds... today... my thoughts are carried in by wheelchairs... I shall sit cross-legged in the parking space marked handicapped...”

"Hey asshole! Cha' think your doin'?"

“cha' think your doin'... serene... I witness a parade of shadows... a ballet of epic proportions... tip-toeing against the cross-traffic of leaves... the life of a painted yellow line...”

'Oh my!' Nydia thinks as she leaves her lunch stranded for the confessional. She lifts the receiver, three rings and the answering machine kicks in.

"Hello..."
"What!"
"Goodbye..."
"Goodbye!"

Nydia pierces glass as the telephone becomes limp. She re-introduces herself to the seat, then table. 'Insanity at it's finest' she romanticises. Riordan remains seated in the handicapped parking space. His head tilted downward, legs crossed, hands loosely locked. The shuffling of feet...

“coming closer... closer... so close that they must be directed at me...”

The feet have stopped, but he feels a presence hovering over him.

“maybe it's a mistake”

Riordan waits... waits... waits... He lifts his head from the depths.

“a vision... a figment of my delusions...”

Nydia portrays a statue, she remains silent and still. They look into each other's eyes. Riordan, again, closes his. Stone faced...the foot prints ride off into the distance.