Issue 9 :: Summer 2007 
 Avatar Review

Robert Lopez

Excerpt from
Part of the World

I’m not sure how I had the money to buy the car. Sometimes I know the particulars when asked but I just as often forget. I cannot recall having earned any money recently is the problem. When I say recently I mean time I can remember. Time I can’t remember doesn’t concern me. Most of the world doesn’t concern me. I have enough trouble maintaining a checkbook and dialing phone numbers. An account I opened years ago had the funds to obtain the vehicle is what I’m trying to say. At the bank I took my place in line behind an old woman with an egg-shaped body who was behind a man with a similar shape. Actually they were shaped more like teardrops. Many of the people here are shaped like this. It might have something to do with evolution or gluttony. Next to the bank was a delicatessen, where I imagined the both of them had either come from or were going to afterward. No one in line knew each other. Sometimes people recognize one another and talk so that everyone in line can hear. They will discuss children’s milestones, activities, traumas, diets. I’d listen to these conversations carefully. It was my way to keep up with what was going on in the community. Always I avoided making eye contact. This I was good at. And there was always a blonde woman with legs and toes in line or else at a window. Everyone in line would pay her particular attention whether talking to each other or not.

There were only two tellers on duty and six customers in the bank, including the two Teardrops. Three other tellers’ windows were closed and there were four empty desks on the other side of the lobby, where the serious banking took place. Mortgages, loans, financing, investments, individual retirement accounts, things you could roll over. Those people were almost never at their desks. Perhaps no one did serious banking anymore. Perhaps the people at those desks were fired because no one did serious banking anymore. Regardless, those people were gone and maybe the bank didn’t know what to do with the furniture.

I was surprised when the teller handed me the cash though I pretended otherwise. I looked around the room like this was a routine occurrence for me – transactions, withdrawals, officials in shirts and ties handing me money. I noticed security cameras placed strategically here and there, four in all. There might’ve been a blind spot in the middle of the lobby between the island with the umbilical pens and the velvet ropes. I’d always do this, look for the blind spot. I was never involved in a robbery, but I’d always look for the blind spot.

I cannot remember the last time I’d visited the bank. Should I look through the bankbook I’m certain the information would be there - provided I knew where the bankbook was. Normally I keep documents in a folder, which I keep in the top drawer of my bedroom dresser. The last time I had to look through the folder was when I noticed the bankbook missing. I forget why I was looking through the folder. I was always looking for something; keys, bottle openers, stamps, papers, medicine, blind spots. I think we misplace things so we can kill time looking for them. Otherwise there is too much time. Someone asked How can you kill time without injuring eternity? Eternity is unassailable. That’s how. There is time enough to live lives, commit wrongheaded profundities to paper, evolve into Teardrops and die horrible deaths. I never look through the folder without reason, without having a specific document to retrieve or reference. Lately, I have looked through the folder in an effort to locate the bankbook and after doing this I am certain the bankbook is not there. I cannot imagine what may have happened to it. The teller handling my account returned the bankbook to me after having stamped it with the appropriate figures. I remember checking the figures as I exited the bank. Before that he had asked me for identification while pointing to a sign. This was before any transacting took place. It was the first thing he said to me.

The bank might have to ask for identification if we do not recognize you. Please do not take it personally.

One of my best things is not taking things personally.

Almost nothing has anything to do with me.

I always carried my driver’s license and social security card and handed both to the teller along with the bankbook, which was to go missing. I’ve had the social security card in my wallet since childhood. I have changed wallets several times, but never the card. The first wallet I ever had, which I carried all through school, was Velcro and beige colored. Almost everyone in school had one. I can’t remember if this was a communal decision or if someone got one first and everyone followed monkey see monkey do. As youths, we’d stick an unfortunate between two of us, toss a ball back and forth just over his head and taunt, Monkey in the Middle. We’d call these unfortunates names, too, which was part of our heritage. We’d do this during recess to the children who didn’t have Velcro wallets. We were all horrible children in my school. I don’t know why this was. I also don’t know if someone was horrible first and we monkey saw and did after them or if it was a communal decision. When the sound of the Velcro became intolerable was when I retired it. I think I still have that wallet tucked away in a dresser drawer. I have seen it recently. Since, I have owned only leather wallets, three in all. I manage to keep wallets in good shape or else the wallets I have owned are durable regardless of how one keeps them. There was a time when I kept an Emergency Medic Alert card tucked within an obscure fold of one wallet. This particular wallet had something like a secret compartment. There I stored the Emergency Medic Alert card indicating an allergy to penicillin. As a child I had an adverse reaction to penicillin once. I forget what infection the penicillin was prescribed to combat. Probably it was an upper respiratory infection. I used to have trouble breathing. I’m not sure how the reaction manifested itself but I think I almost died. They may have had to resuscitate or put me on a ventilator and I may’ve had to stay that way in the hospital for weeks. I don’t remember this happening to me but I think it did happen this way. The pediatricians diagnosed the allergy at once and I have not taken the drug since. For years I wore a bracelet but discarded that in favor of the card. The bracelet was conspicuous, like a scarlet letter. Bracelets are for diabetics, epileptics, etc, the seriously afflicted. I was not one of those. The card, though, was lost sometime before the last transfer. There was no occasion for me to present the card to anyone, I don’t think. The only times I’ve ever handled the card was to transfer it from one wallet to the next. The signature on my social security card looks funny - like it was the first words I ever wrote in script and was using a ruler to keep the lines straight. Although, perhaps rulers are only used for printing, I can’t remember. As a schoolboy my penmanship was shoddy. I was envious of the students with good penmanship. We’d stick the students with good penmanship in between us to taunt with the ball the same as the ones without wallets. To this day I am sometimes unable to read my own handwriting. The signature on my social security card is a constant reminder of those troubles. Although I rarely have to look at my social security card so it is more of an occasional reminder. I no longer sign my name like that and wondered if it would be a problem. Perhaps the bank officials would think I was an imposter. I’ve been imposing for years. I’ve also been mistaken for other people more than once. People have approached me with outstretched arms and smiles, calling out strange names. I’ve never played along. I’ve never taken the imposition that far. My signature these days is an indecipherable configuration of berserk lines. I remember someone advising me to sign my name in this fashion to discourage forgery. I forgot who it was that said this but I was inclined to believe them. I can recall parts of the conversation, even the time of day. It was late afternoon. The sun was that shade of orange when it is about to plunge into the horizon for good. I was someplace unfamiliar, someone’s home, or else a bar or restaurant. I am uncomfortable when I haven’t been somewhere before. I do recall being uncomfortable and I’m sure it was for this reason. I remember the person saying an indecipherable configuration of berserk lines is best for signing documents so as to discourage forgery. I’m not certain but that might be the only reason. The person who spoke of the importance of an inimitable signature mentioned no other benefits and I have employed such a signature ever since. The teller did not mention the signature or my imposition and handed me the money.

I looked around the bank and tucked the envelope into my coat pocket. There was a young woman filling out forms at the island with an umbilical pen. There was nothing noteworthy about her shape. She was shapeless, if such a thing is possible. She was shapeless and standing a few feet from the blind spot. There were four people standing between the velvet ropes waiting to be called to a window. The old woman with the teardrop body was still at a window asking questions. There is no need to speculate as to why she was shaped like a Teardrop. The whys and wherefores mean nothing here. Whenever someone tries to explain something to me I get lightheaded and fall down. This is why I had trouble in school and why I’ve had trouble working, too. I imagine I’m not the only one this happens to. There is probably a word for this condition because there are words for everything now. This is part of what’s wrong with living in a world gone to the Teardrops. The Teardrop people, as people, are not to be pitied, shunned, examined, discussed, etc. We will let them be like words of wisdom, like the proverbial elephant in the room. I’ve seen dogs and cats in rooms, and fish and maybe a turtle once or twice, but never an elephant. Not even Teardrops have elephants, I don’t think. I did beat her, though, the Teardrop. She was unaware I’d beaten her; unaware she was in a competition at all. Sometimes I make up games to keep myself amused when I’m in banks, streets, restaurants, highways, etc. This was a race game and I probably had an unfair advantage but someone always has an unfair advantage so that too means nothing. I glanced up at one of the cameras on my way out and winked like I was a winner.


Avatar Review 9 Contents
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