fiction

We Are All Complex Characters

In a world bustling with digital content, especially sitcoms and dramas available on both mainstream television and a number of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, etc., it’s safe to say we’ve been introduced to a wide variety of characters in recent years. Some we can relate to, some we can’t; some we love, some we hate. Regardless, we feel like we get a sense of who these characters are, and depending on how long we binge their show on the couch, we sometimes even forget they’re not actually a part of our lives.

I have this problem constantly. When I watch a show I get completely attached to the characters and I talk about them as if they’re my friends or family rather than fictional characters created for entertainment purposes. It’s even worse when I read books.

One thing, perhaps, that makes these characters so real, is a show or book’s ability to give us a nearly 360-degree view of who they are and why they are the way that they are. We can sympathize with decisions they make because we know what’s going on in every facet of their life. And we can root for them because we know the inner workings of their hopes and dreams.

In real life, it’s often hard to remember that we and the people around us are just as three dimensional as fictional characters. We are what they are based on! We, like them,  are all complex and constantly changing and adapting, sometimes to seemingly unbelievable circumstances. We all have individual whys that define who we are and what we do, even if not everyone will be able to see them, or if we are never able to fully identify them within ourselves.

As we go through our day-to-day lives, we will often come into contact with people who rub us the wrong way. And while it’s important to stand up for ourselves and stand firm in what we believe in, I also think it’s important to remember that we don’t know anyone’s “whole story.” We don’t have the 360-degree view. We don’t know how their morning went or how their yesterday treated them and they are equally as ignorant to our lives. So before we jump to conclusions, it couldn’t hurt to give them a little patience.

The truth is, we are all complex characters plodding through our own unique, sometimes over dramatic sitcoms. Some episodes will be good, some will be bad. And just like any multi-season series, you can’t start in the middle and assume you know everything. You have to appreciate that just like you, they’ve probably gone through a lot to get where they are and still have a long road to get where they’re going, and we could all use a little help along the way.

Waiting (A Short Story About My Time in an Underground Drug Ring.)

I make deliveries for my job. No, I’m not a mail carrier, and no, I’m not a hooker. (Although that would make a great dual profession. Just think of all the shameless puns you could make as a hooker dressed as a mail carrier.) My dad owns a machine shop and I’m the runner.  I pick up and deliver aerospace machining parts. Did I just see your jaw drop in awe and jealousy? Thought so.

Right now I’m sitting in a waiting room, waiting—what?!—for a plug gage that we ordered. Valuable information to you. I assume everyone here knows what a plug gage does about as much as everyone remembers high school geometry. Regardless, I’m waiting. I’m sitting in a black leather chair that leans a little too far back and doesn’t have enough padding. Behind me is the staircase I climbed to get here. The weird thing about this particular company is that when you walk into the building, all you see is a table, a telephone and a staircase. The telephone has a note that says “Dial 0 before proceeding upstairs. Don’t hang up.” As you can imagine, the first time I came here I assumed I stepped into a drug ring…

Dial 0 and Jeff, whose actual name is King Pin—whose actual name is probably Marian—will answer the phone and ask you what you’re here for. After stuttering, you tell him you’re here to pick up a gage—which actually means a kilo of cocaine—and he says to come on up.  As you ascend the stairs you start to wonder if this is such a good idea, but before you can rethink it, there’s “Jeff.” He’s wearing a button down shirt with a tie, but you can see his tattoos peeking out on his neck and hands. There is also a scar right below his left eye and three piercings in his chin. He welcomes you and tells you to take a seat. You take a look around the room and see two black leather chairs and start towards them when you hear chatter from a distant end of the room.  With Jeff no longer in sight, you poke your head over the counter to see two women at a desk, laughing as they try to spin black Evian bottles as fast as they can. You smile and think what a nice place to work this must be. They have so much fun here.

Wait.

Those are not Evian bottles.

Those are definitely hand guns.

THEY ARE SPINNING HAND GUNS….AND LAUGHING.

One of them catches your eye and winks, and you cower into one of the “waiting room” chairs. Your knees start to shake and you start daydreaming about your future prison roommate, T/Jay. (It’s a slash, not a dash, GET IT RIGHT, she’ll say.) Jeff emerges with a box and asks you to sign your name on the white sheet attached to the clipboard on the counter. You hesitantly nod and grab the clipboard and attached pen. As you scroll down the page to find the next open signature line, you glance at the names signed in the weeks past. “Dynamo”, “S-Train”, and “Tito G” are the 3 most recent customers, all of whom wrote “your mom” in the “Reason for Visit” column. Tito G even included a sketch of male genetalia in the date column. Classic Tito G.

You sign your name neatly, fill out all the required columns, and hand the clipboard back to Jeff. Jeff then takes you in with his eyes. He looks at your body, your hair, your face, your hands, and you begin to wonder if he’s never going to let you leave.

No, you think. This is your life now. In a few weeks’ time you will forget everything you once knew and you will be sitting across from those girls playing spin the boom stick.

Jeff doesn’t make you stay though, in fact, after a long, horrifying look he thanks you, and tells you to exit the way to entered. You take the box, not daring to shake it whilst still in the building, and hastily make your way down the steps and out the door. You pass a woman on the street walking her dog and you bark at her, you don’t know why, but you don’t care. All you care about is getting back to work, dropping off the smack and driving as far away as fast as you can….

I’m still waiting. Nancy, the nice woman behind the counter, says it’s going to be just a few more minutes. I smile at her and tell her it’s no problem, that I’ve got time, that I’ll keep waiting.

So here I sit.