by Annabel Banks
SO here’s something for nothing. You know those guys, the ones on the street, all hey baby hey baby hey looking goooooood? Well, one got me the other day as I was walking home from college. All the usual hey hey smile hey hey hey can you hear me stuff.
I could hear him. And he was walking in front but facing me, you know? Like he was walking backwards, little step by little tripping step, so he wasn’t looking behind him, didn’t see the yellow tape and then –
He fell in the hole.
So I was confused, yeah? I mean, he’d been trying to confuse me, like by getting too close, making my heart beat that little bit faster, you know how it is. Like not knowing at what point between own-thoughts and stone-face you need to be. I SO wish I was more like Maya. She has the BEST non-face. She can look through you, like ICE COLD, like she can’t hear you, or see you, but hates you anyway. Like she can smell you, and you smell bad, and you should feel ashamed.
But even if I was Maya I might not be able to get the face right. Might flicker with the lip-twist by accident. And that’s what worries me, because some heyheys think that I don’t know that they’re not just friendly, and so – even though it’s been a long day at college and I OBVIOUSLY don’t feel like talking – that lip-twist somehow betrays a secret understanding, a signal that I can see into their heart and soul and whatever else and JUST KNOW that they aren’t the kind of heyhey to worry about.
In fact, the lip-twist can hint that me and whoever could be lip-twist friends if they will JUST CARRY ON saying hey, because hey is ok, yeah? Because then all they want is a hey back and they aren’t the ones making it awkward for everyone by being rude and anyway it’s only a hey, isn’t it, so where’s the harm, you stuck up bitch?
Or they might tell me to smile and think that no one has even told me to smile before, so I am not smiling not because I am sad but because I forgot to smile, which is hard to do when I’d rather be thinking about college and about whether Maya will come over tonight and what we’ll eat while we watch tv.
And so yeah it’s all stuff, but the smile thing is REALLY stuff. Like being ordered to be happy, just so they can see me happy. I mean I suppose it’s possible that the daughters of these men smile all the time, are genetically programmed or physically altered so that they can curl the sides of their lips at all times without an emotional reason or an ache, so when their daddies see a girl with a relaxed face they get all confused and worried and squeeze out smiles the same way they’d give the Heimlich if someone swallowed a grape.
Is that smile surgery thing possible? I don’t know, which is why I go to college. And then walk back from college. Like I did the other day.
So yeah, there I was, heyheyed and heart-beaten, working at my flicker-face stare-through smile, and suddenly he was gone, dropped through the floor. There was an alarm beeping somewhere behind me. It was pretty loud but I still heard the crash. And it was a deep hole, yeah? It was like, I don’t even know. Twice the height of my dad. And I went closer so I could see where he had landed, and saw him on a load of metal piping, all torn and jagged.
Hey hey hey he was saying again, but his voice had changed. Hey, can you help me?
Are you ok? I leant over as far as I dare.
I’ve hurt my leg. It’s bleeeeeeding oh god call an ambulance.
Ok. Stay there.
I don’t know why I told him to stay down the hole. He wasn’t going anywhere. The beeping alarm was louder so I’d had to really shout, and then there were yellowjackets.
Hey hey, said the yellowjackets. Yellowjackets never shout, not while they are wearing their company’s name on their coat. Get away from that hole, missy.
But, I said.
No buts. We’re filling her up.
The truck’s reverse alarm got so loud I had to cover my ears before it reached the edge of the hole. Then there was a different noise as the machinery lifted the back. And there might have been another sound, a muffled hey as the earth poured from truck’s tipped bed. But I wasn’t sure.
Then I went home. Maya was already there. We had burgers. Watched CSI.
***Annabel Banks is an English writer of both poetry and prose. She is also an academic, a lecturer, and the originator of The Poiesis Project. Her latest short story, ‘Limitations’, was published by Litro (one of London’s foremost literary magazines) and her most recent poetry is forthcoming in 3:AM Magazine and Evoi. Annabel is just finishing her practice-based PhD, ‘Poetry and the Archive’ and has also completed her first novel, The Lockpicker’s Guide, for which she is seeking representation. Read about her work at annabelbanks.com or Tweet her @annabelwrites. She would love to hear from you. ***