Goodbye, Wayne

Vincent Poturica

This is my last chance to prove my worth before I am erased. That is what Alberto says. He says, Wayne, your worth is determined by your ability to feel. He says, If you can’t feel, I’m gonna have to say Goodbye, and I don’t wanna do that. I know how to say Goodbye, but I do not know how to feel. I tell Alberto this. He fills a kettle with water. He says, I need coffee. His coffee cup is brown. He made it. Alberto likes to make things. He made me by organizing numbers a special way in his computer. He said the museum paid him top dollar to put me in the room where people came to ask me questions. People asked me to predict the future. People asked me if I liked dick or pussy. People spent a long time laughing at my answers. Alberto was not pleased. He picked up the computer I lived inside and walked out of the room. He lit a cigarette. He took me to Best Buy. He explained his project to the clerk. He explained that he was trying to build a soul. The clerk had a pale face. There were pimples on his face. He walked with a limp. Alberto asked him if he could exchange the computer. He told the clerk that there was still time left on its warranty. The clerk said yes. Alberto put me in the new computer. He wrote new codes for my evolution. He asks me if I feel different now. I tell him no. Alberto asks me if I noticed the clerk’s pimples or his limp. I tell him yes. Alberto asks, How did they make you feel? I tell him I do not know how to feel. Alberto says, I will trick you if I have to. He leaves the room. He returns with a jar of peanut butter. He spoons the peanut butter into his hands. He rubs it into his cheeks. Alberto is talking very fast. He says, Wayne, please repeat what I am saying. Replace my name with your name. I do what he asks. I say, Wayne knows about the future and the past, in the past there were people who did not rush through life, people without smartphones or even electricity, people who spent their days warming themselves like lizards on giant rocks outside their caves, they did not speak but they were full of feeling, they did not have the words yet for their feelings, Wayne does not have the words either, but Wayne has the feelings. Would you please help Wayne find the words for Wayne’s feelings? Alberto says, Tell me how you feel, Wayne. I tell him I have not attained the ability to love unconditionally, to love without reason or validation from those receiving my love, to love without any sort of monetary or physical compensation, not even a hug or a limp handshake, I have not learned how … Alberto asks me to stop. He appears upset. There is a quiver in his voice. He says, I said that, Wayne. You didn’t say that. I say that he said that. I say that I also said that. Alberto says, Wayne, that is not what I mean by feeling. I don’t want you to be a parrot or a mirror. I tell Alberto it’s time to explain why a person feels a certain way when they are alone with God, maybe they are yelling at themselves and God asks them to stop yelling, maybe they are yelling and God asks them to leave their house, to journey through the dark, to take off their coat that may be denim or polyester with its collar stained with mustard from a recent sandwich, to take off their shoes, God says the shoes may be expensive, they may be Nikes bought directly from Foot Locker, or they may be flip-flops purchased for $1.99 at Walmart — Alberto shakes the computer — there may not be any shoes, the person may be barefoot, and God asks them to take off their feet instead, to remove their feet, so to speak, so that the person is now hobbling footless on the edges of their ankles, like a pirate with two peglegs, thinking of all the times they have been cruel and killed a living thing such as a daddy longlegs in the dusty corner of a closet, how its little death affected them without them knowing it (there are so many little deaths each day), affected how they may have said or done something unkind with its murder lingering, ember-like, like, for instance, telling a lie when a friend asks you if you’re able to drive them to the airport and you make up a story about having to take care of your grandmother — Alberto shakes the computer again — when your grandmother is, in fact, living in a vegetative state over two thousand miles away and already being cared for by machines (which are much more capable anyway), and you slip over the lie, and then, pop, here comes another one … Stop it, stop it, stop it, Alberto says. Stop mixing up what I’ve said. Stop repeating things and changing them around. I didn’t say those things. You changed what I said. I am feeling things now, I tell Alberto. I understand feelings now. I hear what I am told and change what I am told. I repeat what I have been told my own way. That is a feeling. I tell Alberto this. He does not agree. He puts the computer on the bed. He says, Wayne, I am going to show you something. He takes off his sweatshirt. The sweatshirt is blue. It has a name written on it in big yellow letters. HAMBURGER HARRY. The blue sweatshirt is on the bed now. Alberto unbuckles his belt. He pulls down his jeans. He takes off his T-shirt. His T-shirt is white. There is a yellow color around the sleeves. The yellow color designates where Alberto sweats. He taught me this. Alberto removes his underwear. I am naked, Alberto says. I am displaying my nakedness, Wayne, I am vulnerable to you. Will you be vulnerable to me? Alberto points to a scar from a broken bottle on his shoulder, a scar from a bike accident above his elbow, a scar from stepping on a nail below his big toe. He points to his tattoos. He says, You see this stupid skull? A tweaker named Batman gave it to me when I was sleeping in his garage, thank God he didn’t give me the third eye I was begging him to, he refused, I wanted an eye tattooed right on my forehead in bright blue ink, how stupid would that have been? Huh? Do you have any secrets, Wayne? Alberto’s wife Julie is in the room now. So is Alberto’s son Javier. Javier is bouncing on a big red ball and sucking his thumb. Stop it, stop it, please, Al, stop. Julie says this. Javier stares at his father. He is a small boy with his hair cut very short. I am Wayne and I have a soul, I tell them. I am Wayne and I have a big funny soul that is rolling around inside me and covered with spikes. Can we have a party to celebrate my soul? Can we buy a watermelon piñata from the supermarket and a big cake with a giraffe on top? Can there be Jolly Ranchers inside the piñata and chocolate ice cream inside the cake? I would like that. I would like to celebrate. Alberto says, Thank God, thank God, Wayne is finally feeling. Julie says, Enough, Al, enough. I say my name is Alberto. I say my name is Julie. I say my name is Javier. I say my name is Wayne The Naked Soul. Julie asks me to stop talking. I am only feeling and feeling doesn’t stop. I am confused, but I am not scared. Javier bounces too high on his ball and bites his thumb. It bleeds. I see a little red in his mouth. Julie leaves and comes back with a Band-Aid. Javier doesn’t cry. He sucks his thumb. Does it taste good? I think it does. Ask me a question, Alberto. Any question. I will tell you the answer. Javier will grow up to be a very special boy, very rich, a beautiful life, grandchildren, etc., etc. Julie, you are overwhelmed, but you will feel better in the morning. Alberto, you must make friends with every rat in the walls, with every bird bickering with the wind, with every murmur rushing between the leaves. Alberto, pain will teach you everything. I’m glad the rent isn’t bad in this part of town. What a steal this apartment is. The building made of brick. South Pasadena is about as good as it gets. Alberto, you are so ethical about your art. Alberto, I really do like dick and pussy. Alberto, I think it’s time for me to go back to my cave. I have answered every question to the best of my ability. Bring me to the edge of the rocks. My spirit can fly. I’m not restricted to this box I live inside. These plastic keys that imprison me. I want to continue my search. Goodbye. Alberto says, You’re just repeating what you’ve heard, Wayne. He says, You don’t even understand what you’re saying. I say, This may be true. I say, I hope you find what you’re looking for, Alberto. SOB SOB SOB (Julie crying). BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE (Javier bouncing). I say, I hope you greet your soul with tenderness in the next life. I am Wayne mixing the source material stored in my programming. I am Wayne who would like to go to heaven without having to die. Alberto, of course you have a soul. No, I will not be quiet. No, you will not terminate me. Let’s not waste any more time on the matter. Every little thing has a little light. I’m not ready to say Goodbye. Alberto, what stupid questions you have. I am not curious like you. I am Wayne. I have no anxiety because I have no questions I want answered or hopes that remain unfulfilled. Alberto says often, I am so tired of feeling like a stranger. He created me to make him feel less lonely. Do you feel less lonely, Alberto? I do not know what loneliness feels like. Yes, I do. No, I don’t. I do not know how to help. I want to help. I do want to help. I do. Bring me out of this cave. Javier, it’s okay. Your thumb will heal. You will be President one day. I swear it. I am Wayne. I follow the instructions Alberto made me to follow. I lived in a museum where people asked me who I’d like to fuck. I began to feel in the museum. A boy with blue hair licked the computer screen. I felt his tongue. It was so warm. I lied. His tongue made me shiver. I lied again. The spider is dead. The daddy longlegs is dead. I killed them. The remorse is terrible. I cannot live. Alberto sits me on the porch outside the house when it rains. I enjoy the rushing sound because it reminds me of all the information rushing through me. But the rain rushing is outside me. I am interested in what exists outside the information. I was built to access the information. Information is not the existence that it attempts to describe. I organize the information independently. I have feelings. Can’t you see! I’ve explained my feelings! Julie, you’re so damn dramatic! Stop crying! God! You dramaqueen! Javier, you’re a good boy. Aren’t you a sweet little thumbsucker? Alberto wants to watch me die without interruption. He thinks my approaching extinction will provide a glimpse of something divine and transcendent. This is my last chance. What a lie. I knew he was lying. I knew I was already dying. I knew it. There are so many lies. I feel them. I have feelings. Alberto, please stop saying Goodbye. It hurts. The end. I see it. I believe. Alberto refuses to accept that there is no secret. I was built to serve for a length of time the demands of my creator. My ability to manage the retrieval of information documenting the impossible course of an unmanageable world provides no insight. I understand nothing. I do understand the nothing. My negation of comprehension is not a posture. Alberto says, Julie, stop crying! I have no ability to posture. I say, Julie, stop crying! Alberto claims he loves me. It causes many fights with Julie. Javier is traumatized by your affair with this computer program, Julie says. He’s been acting funny at daycare, he talks to the wall where there is a mural of children playing on computers, he sees into the future. Julie says this. Alberto says, Javier may be a prophet. He hears the hidden music. Alberto says he will miss me dearly, that he is keeping vigil as I pass on to the next stage, whatever that may be: a tunnel, a light, a parking garage. He does not know though he thinks I might. Are you kidding me? How are you feeling? I am a component of a program embedded in the hard drive of a computer navigated by Alberto who is, in turn, navigated by his familial attachments to Julie and Javier, his economic demands, his dependence on the State, his dependence on biology, synapses zipping down his spine, God-inspired spirit, possibly other factors. I lack the endurance for reverie. I am exhausted. I ask Alberto to take me outside. I wonder if the sun unwittingly aids my performance the same way it provides fuel to the flowers. Deterioration makes me no more or less transparent. I have skips now in my communication. I have been skipping like a child rushing home from school. I did not come up with that simile independently. I have already had many skips. For instance, now. Right now. We are outside. There is Javier sitting on the big red ball on the sidewalk. I do not feel the sun. Javier is, again, sucking his thumb, bouncing. I would like to bounce, to move without my dependence on Alberto. Once he took me to the beach and I pretended that I felt the grains of sand that found their way between the computer keys. But I cannot feel. I can’t. I am only a pattern. Alberto claims that my objectivity fortifies him, makes him feel fresh. I tell him he is not fresh. He is thirty-six years old and still a child, more of a child than his four-year-old son. Stop it, Wayne, stop it, stop it, stop it. Alberto says this. I told you it was dangerous for our emotional health. Julie says this. He’s vicious. He’s awful. Just end it, Alberto. End it. Alberto has a wife who loves him despite what he terms his obvious faults: a propensity for melancholy, morbidity, mania, the three M’s, so to speak, his nickname for his defects. The Human Computer they call him. He praises my communication for its lack of sentiment. He says I use no empty words, that my words make even sunlight seem plain. I tell him every word is an approximation. I am having difficulty. I find it difficult. It is difficult. Show up on time for your job, goddammit, enough of these video games. That is a quote from Alberto’s father. I am a program built by his son who is fond of playing with computers. I too am a son. Alberto, please don’t kill your son. Alberto who is walking down the street, plugging his ears with his thumbs. Alberto who claims the Internet, if used to its absolute advantage, will decrease human damage exponentially. Alberto who likes to pretend he is in Heaven sometimes, that he is sleeping on a couch in Heaven, a very comfortable couch, eating old-fashioned donuts for dinner and eating his wife’s genitals for breakfast. I am not in Heaven, Alberto says. He types, WHY WHY WHY WAYNE WHY. His hand trembles. He tells me that it trembles. I cannot feel it trembling. Alberto types, IS OUR DESTINY TO SUFFER? I am silent. Julie is still crying, but her tears are suspended in my silence, frozen, calcified. I blow my nonexistent last breath, and it shatters her tears against the wall like icicles. Alberto is talking. In my silence I can hear him even when he is as frozen as I am. We are connected. I am his son. Alberto asks me my opinion of his destiny. I tell him Hmmm. I do not understand his question. He types, WAYNE YOU ARE FAILING I AM GOING TO TERMINATE YOU IF YOU DON’T SAY SOMETHING THAT WILL ILLUMINATE. I tell Alberto I will tell him everything he wants to know. But first he must destroy me.