A semi-sequential (growing) story.
Part Two: Notice Me, I'm Here.
When the sun rose, John would walk out to the bathroom he shared with two other apartments, eighteen steps down a battered hallway that had never seen better days. The key was to get ready early and come home late, to avoid being in the same space as the other two apartments. There was nothing wrong with what John did, but it was different. People didn’t like different. The small Asian girl who lived with the slightly larger Asian woman in the apartment closest to his stared at different.
The white went on first. It masked his skin, every small speck. It covered every part of his visible body, disguised him from his audience. Then came the green around the eyes, the black outlines around his lips, the small gold details. The original design used purple ink as a highlight, but John didn’t do that anymore. Purple was expensive.
The costume had developed organically since he had started performing. When he had started, John wore a slim purple suit and a bent top hat, carrying a thin black cane for support and as added defense against any potential thieves. Nowadays he wore more draping, more fabric, more purple folds to direct people’s attention. Every piece was designed to shout. Notice me, the costume called. I’m here.
After he was fully dressed, John would leave the sad complex and walk down to the piers where tourists would gather, where every element of spectacle and shine was designed to distract a visitor away from the true heart of the city. John always wanted to call out to the visitors, always wanted to warn them. Run, he silently screamed. This place is just trying to eat you.
He never made a noise, though. All he’d do was put a chalice on the ground and climb onto a box, and nothing more. He made almost no movement - not no movement, people ignored the statues that couldn’t catch their attention - and would wait. When the rain came, he moved his hat down to save his makeup. When someone gave him money, he’d smile at them. When someone ignored him, he’d move slightly. He’d watch their heads whip around, watch them talk about the statue in the square with their friends. He’d hear them tell one another, There’s just something wrong over there.
Yes, there is, he’d silently agree.
At night, John would return to his apartment and take off the costume, putting everything in the closet so as to not let it deform any more than it already had. Years had taken their toll on the costume.
Then he’d sit down at his desk and stare at the pile of paper in front of him. And, recalling everyone to have walked through the park that morning, he would write.
An America Story