Lesli Cougar had worked on her look so much it was effortless now when she woke out of bed with bedhead, which is what she was going for. androgynous, he-she, freak, labels were limiting, that's what she always said, after hearing that on tv. she preferred to think of herself not as a she or a he, but a person, a human being. she figured it was the only way she could think, for she had a human brain.
Lesli loved her work, or rather it was the other way around. her work had found her, because she was penniless and needed to do something. she lucked out as it turns out because she was meant to be a profiler. she could study people and instantly tell who they were, their likes and dislikes, but more importantly, their middle-of-the-roads. the FBI wanted her. the CIA wanted her. but she associated those two three-letter agencies with another letter-jumble: CNN. and war. she wanted no part of war and horrific senseless conflict, Lesli was peaceful through and through. she didn't want to think about the enemy, she wanted to think about the friend.
instead, she did freelance work. off-off-off-Broadway freelance work. so out of the mainstream the indie hipsters gasped. so out of the loop her bosses never knew where she was, she never reported back, her office was still spotless from two years ago when they first hired her.
in her Sunday best on a Wednesday, Lesli entered the airport ready to work. her tiny frame in that long black tux slipped her easily into the bustling angry crowd gathered at the baggage-claim carousel, so striking was her presence that her every saunter was gasped at by hipsters and non-hipsters alike. her essence oozed essence, like she knew the answers before she asked the questions. that is the sign of a good profiler. that is the sign of an impossible character.
the grey planked steel carousel conveyer belt whirled and twirled and turned turned turned. it was hypnotic. Lesli crouched into a ball and stared at it. turn turn turn, she closed her eyes. she opened them again up only slightly to let in a bit of light and a bit of the turn, then closed them again.
"am i still me?" she whispered out loud. "yes, i guess so, i didn't turn into anyone else by closing my eyes. it wasn't all a dream. that settles it. i can't ever change."
the drumbeat of the din of folks scrambling to get their lost bags and scurry on the next taxi to the next parking lot full of taxis was palpable, but it wasn't danceable. Lesli had to close her eyes again to add a coherent rhythm to it all:
CLICK HERE, RIGHT HERE AT THIS LINK.
"that's the ticket," she thought to herself loudly. "Tickets!" intoned someone. she hadn't noticed that she wasn't meditating in the lotus position on the dirty airport floor, she had been sitting on the conveyer belt of the carousel this whole time, going round and round and round. that's why those turns seemed particularly lifelike. that's really why the hipsters were oohing and aahing.
she sauntered over to the airport coffee shop for some state-of-the-art inexpensive coffee. she asked the harried pimply nerd without glasses and pimples to pour her a cup of his finest. he thought she didn't mean coffee, but she did.
"black, straight-up black, no cream, no sugar this time, i'm a man," Lesli explained.
"okay," the poor boy responded meekly, "but you look like Ellen."
"i'll take that, i like her dancing. but please, no more, i'm my own person. i really am a man, can't you tell by my face? i look like a man. i mean, i am a man...too."
Lesli took one sip of the black coffee and realized it wasn't for her. "you drink this stuff straight to prove your manhood, but why does it taste so disgusting?" she relented and tore and scooped and spilled in as much sugar packets and salt packets and real cream and artificial cream pellets as she could into her cold drink. "FLAVOR!" she sighed orgasmically after swigging down the last of it.
across from the hustle of the conveyer belts were the relative calm of the padded waiting benches and husband chairs. there today at this moment sat Tonia Johnson, a heavyset woman with a gleam in her eye and a quick step to her fingers. she was constanly typing on her laptop, furiously. her furrowed brow was never not furrowed, her gaze glued to her tiny screen. whenever she sent something, she didn't just push the send button, she crashed down on that send button with glee and determination. it was a miracle that key didn't break. perhaps that was the miracle. perhaps that was the key, Lesli thought, staring at her next mark for change.
Lesli: you must change. everyone has to change.
Tonia: excuse me? busy here, i'm in the middle of crucifying this brony a new one! ha! ha! and fucking SEND! yes, pwned, got you, pore over that detailed paragraph i sent you, idiot! mull that over in your basement. you can't deny me now, that was thought-out, that wasn't a troll. i made sense, it's incontrovertible. i win! i win! i am noticed as the winner!
Lesli (sighing): incontrovertible. if only you used your gift for good, not evil.
Tonia: what? wait, i got a reply back.
Lesli: of course you do, but what if you decided not to reply back?
Tonia: i never thought of that before. it's just a natural reaction. i've been doing this for ten years. whenever i fuck someone up online, i hit send and glue my eyes to the screen waiting for the reply which always comes within a second or two, always. i then reply back, i have to or i lose. i can never let them have the last word.
Lesli: yes, but this can't continue forever. everyone needs to eat, sleep, and use the ladies/men's/or other room. i use the other room. i mean, who exactly has the last word? how is that determined? no one really has the very last final last totally last-typed word until one or the other of you dies.
Tonia: you look like David Bowie.
Lesli: thank you! thank you so much for saying that! finally! okay. this is coming from a stranger so it's accurate and verified. you don't know how long...*hehe*...i like Ellen, but, y'know...
Tonia: you oldfag! you newfag! i got you in my clutches. you picked the wrong one to mess with. i'm a bitch? fuck you, you're the bitch. yeah, well, i went to college for a year, do you know how smart i am? i don't choose to use big words like you because i'm not a showoff. what do you mean? i have a life. my life is better than yours. yeah, well, fuck you. were you saying something, lady?
Lesli: lady, huh? i'm trying to be both, or neither. oh well, gotta work on that some more, i want to be the transcendent third gender, the genderless gender. the alpha female. see, everyone has problems, but none of them ever get solved online.
Tonia: this is all i know. i barely speak anymore, i only type, this is how i communicate.
Lesli: this is how you troll. you have a lovely voice, you should use it more often to speak to strangers.
Tonia: i don't have any friends.
Tonia begins to cry, her large tears roll down her large cheeks and onto her fingers which enjoy a much-needed rest, though they look weird motionless like that. Tonia is completely motionless in fact, she is a stoic statue, she's not looking at the screen anymore, she is closing her eyes, but the salty tears still stream through. after several tense moments, she opens them again. apparently she couldn't change who she was, either.
Lesli: i don't have any friends. i've never had any.
and with that, Lesli hugged Tonia. it was tough getting Lesli's slender arms completely around Tonia's giant frame, but she did it, and that hug lasted forever.
Tonia (still with a broken voice): shit, though, some anonymous moron just called me fat on imdb.
Lesli decided to gently close the screen of the laptop as she guided Tonia soothingly. that was the only way this would stop.
Lesli: it's okay, honey, i'm here, this is real, the stuff online isn't, it never will be.
Tonia (opening up the screen again): another one just called me a dyke.
Lesli: well, do you like women?
Tonia thought about this forever.
Tonia: i don't know.
Lesli: insults are like labels. they're lame and tired and worn-out and are a sign of a weak mind. dumb people use names that are already invented, they can't come up with their own. words have power, they have immense power. imagine how the right words can lift someone's day, make them feel good about themselves. a single word can cut someone off, cut them down, fix them to a box. a compliment or word of praise can elevate a bum to become the manager at his local McDonald's finally.
Tonia wipes away her red swollen eyes, her voice gains a bit of tenor.
Tonia: i have some original words i'm thinking about right now.
Lesli: i hope they're good words, healing words. now do come up with a few quips, also. keep them in your backpocket. let's not get sappy here, the world is a rough place.
Lesli smiled. Tonia smiled.
Lesli: let me show you something.
Lesli unplugged the silver wire from the side of Tonia's laptop. she then gave a whimsical look to Tonia's pink eyes and "plugged" the wire back into the air. Tonia began to convulse, she was being electrocuted.
Tonia: bitch, what's happening to me?
Lesli: don't worry, it's just a small static shock, the type you get when you rub your funky-material shoes against the shag carpet and touch someone on the elbow. you never did that in elementary school in the '70s?
Tonia: i'm okay.
Lesli: it's magic, huh? that electricity is but a taste. you have the power with this little computer and screen to connect to the entire world. what you felt right then is the energy of the collective energy of every single fellow human using the same lines you do to connect with a computer. why waste all of this beautiful potential energy with stupid trolling? connect fruitfully, add your immense energy to the immense energy out there until you become a neverending ball of shining light and heat and electricity and lightning and activity and activism.
Tonia: i understand, but i have a feeling this is gonna take some time.
Lesli: it will. it will take a lifetime. you can't change people in a day. you have to accept them for who they are. you can't change yourself in a day. it won't happen until after your death.
Tonia finally works up a grin.
Lesli and Tonia spend the rest of the afternoon in a hard embrace. their hug swallows up the energy of the dying embers of the sun. it uses so much potential energy and activated energy that it drains the entire power grid of the airport, leaving the airport darkened at night.
PART 2 ARRIVES ON SCHEDULE, NOT DELAYED, NEXT WEEK. WON'T YOU JOIN ME?