Poster Man by E.E. King
His username is Monkeyballs69. Tammy knows it’s a crazy name but he looks kind of cute and she probably shouldn’t, but she swipes right. It turns out he’s studying for his doctorate in French Renaissance literature. Or he’s a guy who does sound effects for films.
A Foley artist, he says, but nobody ever knows what that is. He and his mom listened to old radio shows when he was a little kid. Clomping footsteps, creaking doors, phones ringing, the sounds filled him with awe. Or maybe Monkeyballs owns a fleet of ice cream trucks. They’re painted in pastel pictures of frozen treats, rainbows, bubbles. And happiness, he says. If a kid can’t pay he lets them have one for free.
He drives a truck himself when he has time, although, sadly, he says, most days he’s too busy with the business end of things. He studied engineering at MIT but gave it up after doing ayahuasca. No, not ayahuasca. That’s trite. He did shrooms with friends one weekend at a cabin in the mountains. Commonplace maybe, but not trite. After that he tried micro-dosing out of curiosity and rekindled his childhood love of the ice cream truck. He embraced his passion, he says. Opted for joy.
Tammy sits alone on her navy-blue Ikea pull-out couch in the living room that doubles as her bedroom. She lives in a studio apartment because rents are so high in the city. Other than the fact that she’s lonely, she wants a boyfriend to share expenses. And now, rather than simply say she’s lonely, I’m supposed to show how she’s lonely. Is it enough to mention her melancholy as she swipes left and right while idly eating the take-out salad she gets every evening on her way home from work? She notices the compostable cardboard bowl is empty and realizes she missed her dinner again. Damn, she thinks, I need to be more mindful, promising herself she’ll pay attention tomorrow. It’s dusk and the evening shadows slant into the room like a David Hockney painting. Trite, but true. Also, there’s supposed to be a theme and tension, leading to a climax and resolution. People are always asking, where’s the arc? What’s the purpose? Our lives often have no arc. Days, weeks can go by. Arcless days. Why does there have to be a big deal purpose? My purpose is to look gently into tensionless, resolution-devoid life. Modern takes on the mundane that teeter on poignant. Almost funny, but not quite. How, in a pinch, we grab a pair of pants from laundry mountain on the floor and we’re dressed. Or when we’re out of clean underwear we turn them inside out and give them life for one more day.
I imagine Monkeyballs69 would do that, the laundry mountain part. The underwear, not so much. He knows a lot of random facts. He shares them often, like one of those people who constantly comes up with puns. In the beginning, Tammy is charmed by his impromptu discussions about Asian giant hornets, immortal jellyfish, chickens’ earlobes. When they eat sushi, he points out that the wasabi is probably dyed green horseradish. When her friend has a baby, he shows her how much it looks like Danny DeVito and they laugh. One day Tammy will think his fun facts are weird segues, that everything he says is a non sequitur. She’ll ask him why the hell he named himself Monkeyballs69. There will be tension because that’s what happens in relationships. Maybe she’ll leave him. Maybe they’ll stay together, get an apartment with a bedroom, have a baby that looks like Danny DeVito. But today, they lean into each other on her navy-blue couch. She enjoys his facts, laughs at his jokes. They eat snacks, drink red wine and watch Grace and Frankie. That should be enough.
Riddled with Arrows 5.4: