Shallow

by Michael George

Paul comes back from work to his 3rd floor apartment in Baton Rouge. He enters his apartment with a sigh as he ruminates over the day's tasks. He cuts the light on at the entrance to reveal his dimly lit, one bedroom apartment. Once again, he knows he will likely spend the rest of his evening alone in front of the T.V. He feels a general disdain towards this activity, and he hopes he will find something more interesting to do tonight.

He is content with the work he does, and works hard at it. Yet, he has developed an apathy towards it and does not force himself to press harder than he needs to for a promotion or any other kind of advancement. He switches on the light to his living room where the T.V. is, sets down his laptop bag, and thinks of what to do next. He does not follow a particular plan in his daily routine but often finds himself repeating the same actions out of habit. He grunts as he hears the steady drone of cars outside his apartment knowing that this is likely the cause of his dreamless, sleepless nights. Despite all this, he is neither sad in life nor particularly happy.

At times, he sees the world around him only as objects organized in space. He finds that he sometimes has to force objects to be meaningful to him. He suspects that his lack of sleep may be a contributor to this recurring mindset. "My life is so dull" He thinks to himself. "I'm tired of wandering through fog. ". He spends several minutes deliberating what it is he should do next. With a certain amount of fear, he decides he will do the bravest thing he can do at that moment to break up his mundane rituals. He will walk out of his apartment and do something he has never done.

He steps out of his apartment in a hot muggy corridor, and looks around. "This is new", he think, "I've never just walked out of my apartment so spontaneously". "This is my first step. I'm out and I can move through space in any way I want". "What should I do now?". He proceeds to walk down the corridor towards the exit stairs. The first thing he thinks of while he's walking is sex. "I absolve myself of all fear" he says to himself. "There are no consequences to my actions. I will do whatever I want. I will knock on this door here. I know that there is a girl in this apartment that I briefly met one time. She wanted to use my wifi one night because her's had not been set up. I want to walk in her apartment and talk to her, so that's what I'll do. She will definitely not want me to come in, but I will walk in uninvited because that's what I want to do at this moment in time. I also want to have sex with her and that is actually all I want. I'm not particularly interested in her as a person. I will not force her into sex because I want the sex to be consensual "

He knocks on the door where this girl lives. After a minute or two she half opens the door and looks at him with a pasted smile and wide eyes with a hint of surprise or maybe fear. She looks at him expectantly waiting for him to state his purpose. He immediately says to her, "Hi good evening. I plan on watching Inception in my apartment. I hate watching alone and wanted to see if you wanted to join me.". As might be expected, he couldn't state his true desires at that moment. In his mind he was angered by the look of surprise on her face and the fact that she had only opened the door halfway. He understood and respected her reaction to the random visit. But in his thoughts he wanted to act on his anger. He wanted to push the door open, and hear her scream in surprise. He wanted her to fall over, and he wanted to kick her while she was down. He wanted complete power over her. He wanted to hear her cry, and then he wanted to help her back up and comfort her despite his previous actions. In a way he wanted to hurt her so that he can then help her. Then he wanted to hurt her again.

            She looked at him through the door with the same expression. Her eyes were fixed in space. They were vacant to him, and the anger passed as he became aware of the absurdity of his anger. She replied, "Oh, Sorry, I'm busy with homework, but Thanks!! Have fun watching the movie!" Paul knew what she meant. The message was very clear: "I do not give a shit about you. Leave me the fuck alone." Of course, this was no surprise. He was some what rattled nonetheless. He had never done something like that before. He was generally used to negative reactions from women he approached, on account of the way he looked and his melancholy demeanor. Those reactions give him a burning sensation inside his head: the sting of a damaged ego. He did not expect to get anywhere with this girl and continued to walk down the hallway wondering what to do next.

            He wanted some excitement. For a moment he wanted to instantly achieve everything. He wanted to be a distinguished commander in an army. He wanted to be an actor. He wanted to be a politician. He wanted to be a comedian, and he wanted it all before midnight today. As he stood in the hallway he immediately knew that this wasn't achievable in 6 hours. He stood there in his own sweat in the hot muggy corridor wondering what he was doing. He decided he will walk down the steps into the street. "Something needs to happen" He thought to himself "I don't know what it is. But something needs to happen. This is ridiculous".

            He climbed down the steps of his apartment and out to the gate entrance to the apartment. Cars were flying by and he instantly felt self-conscience. "Here I am standing out here in the parking lot with nothing to do and people are watching me as they drive by". He began walking across the parking lot towards the road. He continued walking down Perkins road along the side walk in the direction of traffic. "This is what I'll do" he thought, "I'll knock on doors until something interesting happens or until I get shot? That doesn't sound like a good idea actually. Nothing good can come out of that, but what else can I do in this moment? I'll keep walking down the street. It'd be nice if I could fly, or had some kind of super power". He kept walking into what he felt was an empty meaningless abyss; into oblivion. "I don't want to walk through space. I want to walk outside of space. I know that if I keep walking, I'll just see another road, and then there will be another road. There will be trees, and also bushes along the way. There will be trash. There will be sidewalks and there will a river eventually. Walking like this is not getting me anywhere. I'm so frustrated. What do I want? What is my problem? There is nothing out here around me. Just things everywhere. Cars here, roads here, trees there. This is so pointless. I want another dimension. I can't stand this. Everything here is meaningless"

He continued walking down the street and eventually took a left into a residential area. He looked through people's windows as he walked by curious to see what people should normally be doing on Tuesday evening. He reached a dead end. Their were no houses built in this area. In front of him was only foliage. He opened up google maps on his phone to get an idea of where he was. When he opened the app, he saw that the woods in front of him extended for miles. He noticed a path to his right that led into the woods. Maybe the path is an access point for utilities services, he thought to himself. He decided that he'd walk down the path. It was getting late and he was getting bored with his outing so he figured this would be his last foray before turning back to his apartment. He traversed the path for about 20 minutes until he came to a large opening in the woods. He reached the bank of a very large pond; probably the size of a football field and completely surrounded by foliage. Halfway in the pond he noticed something that caught his eye. It looked like a plastic race car floating over the surface. "How strange" he thought. He stepped into the pond and the water rose a few inches above his shoe. He took another step and again the water rose only a few inches . He walked in further and saw that the pond was not deepening. He had now already walked about 10 feet across the pond and the water only went 3 inches up to his shoe. He continued to walk and found that it was indeed a race car toy not floating over the water but rather sitting in the mud of this shallow pond.

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