fiction15 Sep 2008 08:03 pm

Adam Rurik is a Canadian author and serial procrastinator with a fascination for the dark side of human nature, as he shows in this story. When I first read this story, I felt guilty that I liked it. But, er, like it I did. Maybe this means I’m a bad person.

You’re not going to have a heart attack, you’re not gonna have a stroke, you’re not gonna have a heart attack, you’re not g—

Bang! The bus hits a pothole which is, if the force of the jolt is any indication, roughly the size of Meteor Crater in Arizona. My mantra is cut off in mid-though, and this plus the adrenal rush from the unexpected, badly-absorbed shock/noise of our encounter with the pothole raises my heart rate to about ten thousand beats per minute from its previous leisurely pace of around 7,500. I’m already having my worst anxiety attack in three months, and the little Demon inside my head is carrying me off toward full-blown panic much faster than this damn bus is carrying me home.

You’re not gonna have a heart attack, you’re not gonna have —

The slut at the front of the bus drops something which makes a clattering sound as it hits the hard plastic of her seat. The little brat she’s got with her scoops it up before I can see what it is. He’s been squirming around like a fucking eel for the past ten minutes, forcing me to look out the window as I try to do my mantra, which of course brings its own distractions: streetlights, passing cars, gawking pedestrians. But fuck! We’re outside the city now, there’s nothing but trees on either side of the road, no lights, no buildings, no nothing till we get to Martinville, the bedroom community where I live, if you can call spending every waking moment struggling for control of your own mind living. And Jesus Christ! There are only five goddamn people on the bus: the driver, the slut, the fat guy in the back, and me. But can I get ten fucking seconds of peace so I can perform my little mental procedure?

“No!” barks the brat in response to his mother’s attempts to retrieve the item that he picked up off the seat. The word is yelled not plaintively, but imperiously, the way a Nazi guard at Auschwitz might’ve responded to some poor hebe’s pleas for food or water. The little cocksucker looks the part, too: blond, blue-eyed, fair-skinned, a pint-sized Aryan despot ordering his bimbo slut mother around, no doubt in emulation of his strutting, beer-swilling, habitually violent asshole of a father. I can just picture the guy now: blond like the kid ’cause the slut looks Italian, big droopy mustache, tattoos on both arms (naturally), not all that big but hard-bodied, despite all the six-packs he drinks. The type of guy who walks with a slow swagger, the cords of his neck perpetually taut, lips drawn back and front teeth bared as he snarls his Grand Pronouncements on Manhood at guys like me. And the kid is following proudly in Daddy’s footsteps: now he’s got his lower jaw protruding and his lips compressed tightly in an exaggerated frown. Behold, America! A bold new generation of Macho Posturers is ready to carry on the grand tradition, progressing from Lords of the Mommy, to Rulers of the Schoolyard, to Kings of the Street Corner, to Masters of the Wet Pussy, to Caesars of the Hick Bar, to Frequent Residents of the Nearest Penal Facility. Glory, glory hallelujah!

My ruminations about the kid have taken my mind off my state of anxiety, so now I can forget about the mantra and let myself wind gradually down from agitation to relative calm, right? Ekkkk! The Demon demands that all protocols be observed, all procedures performed, even when they’re totally unnecessary. (Hell, they’re always unnecessary: I know that I’m not going to have a heart attack or stroke, I know that I’m not going to commit suicide, I know that I’m not going to fall up into a clear blue sky as I walk sweating and palpitating through an open field. It’s just that when there’s something in your head that knows exactly what you’re most afraid of and then uses those fears to bombard your thoughts with a frequency and precision that would make a Serbian artilleryman green with envy, you learn fast that resistance if futile.)

You’re not going to have a heart attack, you’re not gonna have a stroke, you’re not gonna have a heart attack, you’re not going to have a stroke. There. Two of each, a total of four. Symmetrical, just the way the demon likes it. Procedure completed.

Except it isn’t and I know it immediately. When I’m trying to do a mantra and get interrupted repeatedly, then a four-count won’t bring resolution, won’t “take”. The Demon is demanding an eight-count before he’ll leave me the fuck alone. (Ha! For five seconds maybe. Then another vitally desperately important piece of utter nonsense will float into my mind demanding immediate attention.) Now I have to figure out if that means another four-count added to the one I just did or if I should start over and do an eight-count in one swoop. Jesus, Jesus, why do I have to be like this? Why isn’t the Anafranil helping me? I’m up to 175 milligrams a day now and it still isn’t doing a fucking thing. Dear God, isn’t there something that’ll make this just go away?

I’m staring out the window again, I don’t know what for. At night you can’t see a damn thing along this stretch of road. I find the impenetrable blackness a little intimidating, but I still prefer taking the bus at night: if you freak out there are less people on board to stare at you, laugh at you, less people to feel so fucking superior to that poor man. I read in the paper that the city is considering discontinuing night service on this route. Thinking about it just now brings a bitter little grin to my face.

But these thoughts are nothing more than delaying tactics. Time to genuflect.

Eight-count to go.

You’re not going to have a heart attack, you’re not gonna have a stroke, you’re not gonna have a heart attack, you’re not going to have a stroke. You’re not going to have a heart attack, you’re not gonna have a stroke, you’re—

“I want to drain my bladdar!” declares the brat loudly, in that same The-World-Will-Now-Drop-Whatever-It’s Doing-And-Obey-Me-Immediately tone. The slut responds with a half-hearted “Shhh.”

“I want to drain my bladdar!” the kid repeats. For some reason, his choice of phrase enrages me. Why can’t the little bastard say “I want to pee” or “I have to piss” or even “I gotta take a leak?”

“Shhh,” repeats the slut. Gee, hon, that’s really effective. If I’m still sane when I get home I’ll have to call the American Pediatric Association and inform them that the next fucking Dr. Spock is riding the Walker County Public Transit System.

This last thought causes me to chuckle, prompting the driver to shoot me a glance via the big rearview mirror. Perfect. Just perfect. We’ve got this fucking little anti-christ bleating up front, but is that any reason to be annoyed? Noooo. Let’s focus our reproach on the weirdo who chuckled. My God, you could actually hear him chuckling! Jesus H. Christ, what kind of sick fucker is this guy? Why are people like him even allowed to walk around free in this great nation?

“I want to drain my bladdar!” The little prick can’t even talk properly. He keeps pronouncing the “e” in “bladder” as though it were an “a.” Bladdar. His illiteracy makes the brat that much more annoying but it’s not all that surprising coming from a kid whose parents probably think that thesaurus is a type of dinosaur and dictionary is a long word for penis.

“Excuse me.” It’s the slut, speaking to the driver. “I was wondering if —”

At this point, the bus hits three or four shallow potholes in quick succession, so I don’t hear the rest of what she’s saying. The driver obviously does hear, because he nods and — and begins pulling the bus over to the side of the road! I don’t believe this! He’s going to stop the fucking bus so Jake Studd Jr can piss! My heart rate returns to the stratosphere as the bus loses speed, three or four beats for each flicker of the vehicles right turn signal. Sweet Jesus, what if he turns off the engine and then can’t start it again? We’re still about five miles from the outskirts of Martinsville. Five miles from the nearest house, the nearest phone, five miles from being able to call my psychiatrist, my sister Ruth, somebody, anybody, to calm me down. And I’ve only seen one car since we got outside the city, which is not unusual: It’s around 10:30 on a Wednesday night, and this road leads only to Martinville, a town of about nine thousand people. And this is the last bus of the night, so if we get stranded we could be here for hours. Jesus! Why the hell don’t they have a goddamn radio in this thing?

We came to a stop on the gravel shoulder, and the driver — Thank God! — leaves the engine running as the front doors open and the slut leads the brat out into the cool night air. The bus, like most vehicles that pull over the side of the road, is angled slightly towards the right, and the twin beams of the headlights illuminate the tree line about fifteen feet away. Apparently, this isn’t close enough for His Little Majesty. I can see him off to the right, bathed in the glow cast by the interior florescents, stomping his feet and shaking his head in great 180-degree left-right sweeps, all the while wearing that fucking rictus of a frown. The slut crouches down and whispers something in his ear, His Lordship says something back, the slut smiles and nods rapidly like the pathetic sycophant she is, and the two of them walk off into the darkness.

Come on, you little dickhead, do your business and get back on the fucking bus. I’m so wrapped up in my agitated state that half a minute goes by before I realize that this is my chance! The kid is off the bus! Now I can do my eight-count. I take a deep breath and then let it out slowly. Okay, let’s go.

You’re not going to have a heart attack, you’re not gonna have a stroke, you’re not going to have a heart attack, you’re not gonna have a stroke, you’re not going to have a heart attack — the driver is looking at me again, staring at me, like I was fondling myself of something. What the fuck is this guy’s problem, anyway? Why the hell is he keeping on me? What’s the matter, asshole, does my physical appearance offend you or something? Tell you what. Maybe tomorrow I’ll call the Walker County Public Transit Authority and inform them that one of their drivers stopped a bus in the middle of nowhere so that a menace to future society could take a leak. But don’t worry, shithead: I’ll make sure to tell them that the cantaloupe sized tits of the boy’s mother probably had nothing to do with it.

He finally looks away, and the anxiety returns full-force. Too many interruptions, too many distractions, too many climbs and dives for my besieged mind to handle.

No, says a tiny little voice in my head. Reason. The problem is that you suffer from Obsessive-compulsive Disorder. The problem is that you have to perform these psychogymnastics in the first place. True. And irrelevant. I breathe in, exhale, and begin once again. You’re not going to have a heart attack, you’re not gonna —

The slut and the brat emerge from blackness into the faint blueish nimbus surrounding the bus. As they mount the steps, the driver smiles much too broadly at the woman and asks, “How’d it go?”

“It didn’t,” replies the slut. “He’s afraid of bears, and when we heard an owl hooting he froze and couldn’t pee, even though I told him it was just an owl.”

Oooooo, so little Mr. Macho can actually feel fear, huh? Better watch that kid. You might get booted out of the Fraternity of the Outthrust Chin and have to rely on your intellect. And let me respectfully suggest that if you can’t tell the difference between the hoot of an owl and the growl of a bear, then intellect is not going to be your cutting edge.

The bus is moving again, picking up speed, but not nearly as rapidly as the jackhammer in my ribcage. I’m breathing in short near-gasps now, palms covered with cold sweat, ninety percent of the way to panic. The Demon is demanding the mantra, NOW! But you’ll only get cut off again, warns Reason. But I have to do it. The kid will interrupt again. But I’ll go crazy if I don’t do it! No, you won’t. But I don’t WANT to freak out! You’ll still be sane. Oh Jesus, help me! Forget the mantra. I can’t! Yes, you can. I can’t! I can’t! I can’t! Oh fuck fuck fuck FUCK!

Using every ounce of will that I possess, I force my mind to focus on the task at hand. I suck in what feels like the deepest breath I’ve ever taken and hold it in for about ten seconds. Dear Jesus, let me get through this eight-count. If this one gets interrupted I won’t have a mind left to try again. Exhale. My concentration is so intense, so absolutely fixated on what I’m doing, that I can actually hear the mental voice which counts off my progress towards release.

You’re not going to have a heart attack —


—you’re not gonna have a stroke—


—you’re not going to have a heart attack —


—you’re not gonna have a stroke—

Four. Halfway there.

You’re not going to have a heart attack —


—you’re not gonna have a stroke—

Six. Three quarters.

you’re not going to have a heart attack —

Seven. Seven! I’m gonna make it!

—you’re not gonna have a str—


The second part of Adam’s story will be here September 29th. See you then.


4 Responses to “Transit, Part I, by Adam Rurik”

  1. on 27 Sep 2008 at 6:32 pm Pepperh

    Oooooh!!! I’m glad I didn’t get to this until the 27th. I won’t have to wait too long to find out if our manic hero kills the little beast! NIce writing. An awful lot of typos, though, which are distracting from the exquisite tone of this piece. Our hero would NOT put up with it.


  2. on 28 Sep 2008 at 7:55 am admin

    Thanks for the tip — typos corrected.

  3. on 28 Sep 2008 at 3:32 pm Labayou1953

    This is fantastic… I have had Anxiety Panic Attacks for 25 years. It stops me from doing a lot of things I would love to do. But this is the first time I have seen this PROBLEM put into words sooooo well… thank you fantastic

  4. […] Part II, by Adam Rurik (continued from last week. This week, the warning about language is joined by one for over the top violence, pardon the […]

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