The New Human Race by Phoebe Glick
You are part of a new human race. There are a lot of changes from the old one. Most of the changes have little to do with speed, survival, or intelligence. They are designed to improve human efficiency. Vestigial organs are dissolved. Like the appendix. Pinky toes have no toenails. Arms, when unneeded, can be willingly contracted into the body. All styes found in eyes are precious gems.
You are drinking coffee with a person you just met. His name is Paul. He tells you a story about rock climbing in Arizona. Paul has a prosthetic leg that starts right below the knee. You wait for him to allude to how he lost the leg, but he never does. You are forced to infer.
Paul says “So how do you know Nora again?” and it catches you off guard.
“Oh I know her from school. She’s of the few friends I have in the city I didn’t meet from work.” You finish your coffee. Because you now have nothing to do with your arms, they contract neatly into your body. Paul doesn’t notice. He says “Do you smoke?” and you say “Yes” and then you both go outside and light cigarettes. You take a few drags and think about why you are here. Paul asked you out at Nora’s party. That’s how you met. The first thing he said to you was “What’s your name?” and you said “Alexandra” even though everyone calls you “Alex.” Then Paul said a few things about himself, like his name and his major in school, which is Economics. You said “This party is good” because you like short, confident sentences. Later, after Paul drank a couple beers, he asked you to have coffee. You said yes because you don’t get asked to have coffee much.
You didn’t notice that Paul had a prosthetic leg until he showed up wearing shorts. The amount you thought about it made you feel embarrassed and anxious. You take another drag and think about how you and your sister sat next to an Olympic skier on a plane once. At first you thought he was an astronaut.
A homeless man asks you for money. Paul answers, instinctively saying “We don’t have any, sorry.” The homeless man asks “How did you buy that coffee then?” Paul doesn’t know what to say. He looks at the street, not focusing on anything. The man starts saying a bunch of stuff about Hell. You take a small handful of change from your pocket and put it in the man’s McDonald’s cup. He walks away and then Paul shakes his head and smiles a little. You feel embarrassed again. You wonder why you always feel embarrassed. You think maybe you don’t like Paul. You drop the cigarette and crush it with your foot, then contract your arms again.
The anxiety in your belly feels like a caged animal. Paul looks at your face and smiles.
You and Paul walk down the street. You tell him about a time when your mom walked you to the bus stop on the first day of second grade. She remembered halfway down the street that she forgot to put your lunch in your backpack. She said “Stay right here and don’t move” and then she ran back home. You slipped on a patch of black ice and fell, but didn’t try to get up until your mom came back to help you. You cried a lot. Paul says he imagines you floating in a black cloud with your eyes closed. You like this image. He points to a chain-link fence and says he used to climb over it with his friends and hang out in the warehouse behind it. You ask if the warehouse is cool. He says yes and that there is some leftover furniture from the 50’s. You say “Let’s climb the fence now.” Paul laughs and says “I don’t know, I haven’t tried it in a while.” You both impulsively look at his leg. This feels liberating. You approach the fence and begin to climb. It’s easier than you expected. You mount the fence, swing your leg over, look at the ground and jump. The landing hurts the bottoms of your feet a little but overall the fall was one of grace. Paul is climbing now. You can’t help but look at his left leg. It bends mechanically. You think about all the ways a human can bend. You imagine yourself bent around Paul, with his arm under your neck and his knees encircling your hips. You think about the old human race, and wasting polish on your pinky toenails.
The sun is in your eyes when you look upwards at Paul. His brow is scrunched up and he is focusing his eyes downwards. Directly below him is a dandelion coming up from a crack in the sidewalk. You wonder how a flower can push through concrete. You can see Paul’s muscles flexing inside his t-shirt. You call out to him.
He jumps down and lands with a noise that sounds like your sister’s head when it hit the corner of the sink. You were at a Bloc Party concert and she started to feel dizzy. You went to the bathroom with her and she looked at herself in the mirror and said “I am really pale” and then turned sideways a little and then fell. The anxiety in your belly feels like a caged animal. Paul looks at your face and smiles. He says your name. “Alex.” You smile too. You think about what his leg looks like when he takes off the prosthetic part. You imagine it smooth and soft, like the head of a penis. You feel color rushing to your face.
That night you dream that the air is the consistency of mist. Gravity has no bearing on humans, who see each other without judgments or inhibitions. You float everywhere. There are no limbs or digits. There are no skin casings. There are only the essential organs.
You wake up with a stye in your eye. Upon inspection in a make-up mirror you realize it’s a ruby. You use tweezers to extract it from the hot skin of your eyelid and it hurts more than anything ever has. You bleed. You forgot what it is like to bleed.
When you pull it out you feel lucky. You are so lucky to be part of the new human race.
© 2012, Metazen.