Digital Frames of Violence

The cold was like eyes closing, and I sat waiting to make a left through the leaves changing.  I could see violence on a flat-screen inside the house kitty corner.  Hitting and throwing.  Body crashing.  I wondered if it was Kill Bill, but it wasn’t.  It was just images of violence, there inside anonymous domestic space that I could see.  Just violence there.  Violence inside somebody’s household at 8:52 on a Sunday morning.

I gripped the steering wheel hard with violent roar too.  We put these scenes on for entertainment, I thought.  Seeing this random visual through windows like lenses, like two-way mirrors, where I could see in, but the inhabitants can’t see out.  They don’t know the minds inside the cars idling outside.  Bloodlust just below the surface.  Provoked by impulse on my way for donuts, which would be this morning’s offering if I could get a hold of my brother.  I pressed the call button on my steering wheel again and listened to the robot voice give me instructions.

“Say a command.  Available commands are call-”

“Call,” I said.

“Say a name or numb-”


“Calling, Lester.”

Meanwhile, my car moved.  I watched blank faces cut their yards during this psychodynamic interaction with my car.  Reading bumper stickers that said, “Make it Easy.”  Shifting billboards smiled at me.  I was my life in the middle of this life.

I got voicemail.  “This is Lester,” said the recording, “leave a message and let it fester.”

“Lester, it’s me,” I said into nowhere.  “I’m getting donuts for the offering.  I can pick you up if you want.  Give me a call back.”

I offer you a thousand chances, I offer you a thousand years, I thought.  Lester wasn’t calling back.  I sat in traffic, a pinnacle, a prophet.  I’d have to drive by his house.  I pressed down on the gas and felt a surge of speed limit speed.  Thirty-five miles per hour, just five over at a steady pace through tree lined streets that would explode if I clipped the wrong wire.  Soon I would be at his house to pick him up to go make a donut offering that doesn’t make any sense because I haven’t explained in any way what an offering actually is.

An offering is when you give something as a gesture of surrender.  In some cases an offering may be made in hope of achieving redemption.  I really needed redemption, because without it I was just a tight ball of unfortunate irresolution.

I was following the donut trend.  This was trending on social media, leaving donuts at the base of a tree and filming a short video.  Then leave another video of a person sneaking up and eating the donuts.  The effect was comical and, more importantly, gave those who committed the act redemption for the flaws in their character.  It was the new digital sacrament.  Those who generated virtual buzz said so.

I just had to get Lester to be my wingman.  I had to get him to be my donut sneaker.

Let’s be explicit about my need.  I carried so much weight of innate pain, and the pain was due to something inherent about myself that I couldn’t explain.  Compulsively watching the donut offerings gave some relief, but I knew making my own offering and video, enacting and sharing the sacrament, would be the cure.

There, in front of Lester’s house, I stood with silent respect, gawking at his gnomes.  Gnomes enacting various facsimiles of real life, at least they were placed in various scenarios, but then they had stopped and stared at the road with their arms at their sides.  Lester had placed two gnomes in a makeshift kitchen, except neither of them was cooking.  They weren’t even looking at each other as people might do in an actual kitchen.  In fact, they’d stopped, turned, and faced the street with their buddha grins.

I knocked at the door and this scene was playing out particularly slow and boring.  What?  Is he home?  This is the part of my story that’s a knock knock joke.  The punchline is that he wasn’t home.  There was absolutely no answer.  It was the opposite of an answer.  I turned with my back to his front door and tried to figure out what to do.  I had my need.  I could still get donuts and give them to the tree.  Where was he?  We’d planned the whole thing out.  The tree in Aldeen Park.

I’d do it anyway.  Alone.

Half an hour later, I was a man holding a dozen donuts in my hands.  Perfectly still for minutes.  Stop motion clouds moved behind me across the sun.  Green grass, splendid grass.  Now I’d do this selfie filming with my camera as I placed the donuts at the base of a tree taller than the wealth of the sky.

“Look at me, social media public, placing these donuts at the base of this tree,” I said into my phone, the whole universe.

When the deed was done, I stood melancholy.  The ceremony had not been completed because no one snuck the donuts.  I turned to walk away with my shoulders hunched like a character in an Edward Gorey illustration, to wander with no social media to determine me.

Then I heard the shuffling and the eating.

I looked back and who did I see?  My brother Lester eating the donuts and staring at me.

His every feature took on new significance.  His tweed jacket and frayed penny-loafers.  His hair pre-maturely gray hair, growing over his ears, and his John Lennon glasses.  His button that read, “Listen.”  The glazed look in his eyes as he devoured a glazed donut.  The glazed look we all get when giving in to donuts, when we ravenously stuff our faces with them and let their sweet taste absorb our underlying anguish. 

Watching him, I felt okay finally.

“I went to your house,” I said.

He paused, holding a rainbow sprinkled donut in his hand.  “I realized it had to be a surprise,” he said.  “And it couldn’t be taped.  That was the only way for it to work.”

No one was anywhere, us neither.  The houses lining the edge of the park were just fuzzy, like they were the night sky in a strange way, a bleary magnificence you could ignore.

“Now I understand,” I said.  

My pain was gone.  The offering had done its job.  Doing the action and then the surprise.  Lester in the correct place.  

Only eventually now I might finally be correct too.