“Breaking from the Blerd”
by OJ Patterson
My father and I are simultaneously too similar and too dissimilar. As if by some self-fulfilling design we are the same, divided; opposites of a double-sided coin. I’m the first, the heir, coming into idiosyncrasies and ideologies rather than homes, haunts, and heirlooms. I am my father’s son, and maybe therein is the problem.
The first paycheck of my second job was entirely eaten by a trip to the Baltimore Convention Center for Otakon, a weekend of awkward revelry. The trip introduced to me, a melanin-rich man, the existence of an obsidian otaku community, far surpassing my coming-of-age as a token, hulking bookworm, and a convergence with dreamers at “nerd school”. From a small smattering to a high score, precessions of “blerds”, black nerds”, engulfed and exhilarated; they illuminated a new, amorphous ambiguity rising from unspoken anonymity. A confluence of coincidences and conditions created a culture for satellites, perchance a solution.
Everything I am, my dearest proclivities, is paternally gleaned. Everything my source discovered was the genuine article. A network of shortcuts and hallmarks was inconceivable. The support of common-minded cohorts was idyllically absent. My father would never fit the mold of “nerd”, “geek”, “hipster”, “dork”, “blerd”, “blipster” or any other neologism to denote a curio-intellectual. The first Charles Patterson, as a matter of fact, was a “square”, and a pendulum of defining defiance. An admiration of ballplayers and steppers, the cream of the cool, kept him in the common. An observance of “Truth, Justice and the American Way”, and science fiction’s social allegories pegged him as a proxy pariah. He shifted, moved by an internal enticement, left to right, an innate happenstance, right to left. My father became “blerd prime”, without pretense or pretending; an estranged innovator that I often fail to relate to.
The convention floor inspired similar ambivalence. Among the black, happy, comforting faces, there was underlining unease. I didn’t know these people, probably didn’t like most of them. Nuance, a nuisance, is like a funhouse mirror, highlighting the benefits/detriments and crystalizing a distorted version of oneself. Every blerd, every person, no matter how accurate, is a reflection of me with vast emotional consequences. Maybe the “brotha” in a Naruto outfit inspired unwarranted annoyance, maybe a “sistah”, bespectacled and shuffling about, elicited empathy or longing. Regardless, the universal charm of potential uniformity dissipated quickly. I knew I had a place, and a people, yet, I was just as foreign as my father, constantly shifting to be myself.
“Her, Him, Us”
by Lucille Bellucci
My husband’s secretary laughs at his jokes, worries when he looks tired, shares a secret language with him that nobody else knows, and still calls him “Mister.”
In no small measure due to her, he comes home merely tired instead of brain-damaged. With the two of them as a team, he gets through each day at his finest, strong and fresh. He drags the dregs home to me.
Right after he has come home from work he telephones her to make sure she has arrived home safely. He does this because four years ago she had a bad experience on a bus. I turn down the CD player so they can hear each other. I have made progress and become a nicer person. I used to turn up the volume and rattle the crockery.
On weekends he telephones her at 10 A.M. and they discuss her plans for the day. If she is going to be out before 10, she telephones to let him know. If I happen to answer that call I take the message. We both pretend that talking to me achieves the same purpose as talking to him. She reports back when she returns, whatever time that may be. Sometimes she arrives home safely three times a day.
Some evenings after work she may telephone once or twice after their initial chat. When he finally comes back to his cold dinner he explains that she was nervous about something. She’s nervous?
She can’t drive, and as we live on a hill near no bus route, we always go to get her for her visits. I’d let him go by himself, but for the rare opportunity of being alone with him. Also, we have no car phone. I keep losing every one he buys.
Romance in our home is tied to a timetable. Is it safe to schedule passion before the week-night eight o’clock call or the 10 A.M. call or the pre- or post-shopping check-in times of our friend? Sometimes he will telephone and tell her we are going to be out for a couple of hours. This is the best solution. It’s helpful knowing that limits will be placed on any useless lolling around after our two hours are up.
I know my husband cares, but not in that way, about her. The man–who in one sentence can demolish his company president, or thrust straight to the core of a managerial problem–cannot figure out how to handle the problem of his secretary. Mostly, he is sorry for her. Since I reason that she cannot be feeling sorry for him, unless it is because he is married to me, I have to wonder about her motives in time-sharing my husband.
Sooner or later, she will quit or retire, or maybe he will. I wish I could. Do either, I mean. Naturally, several alternative solutions have occurred to me. They are really fantasies, but you cannot deny that having fantasies are better than leaving a perfectly good husband whom I love and who I know loves me. I have several ideas. This is my favorite one:
It involves hiring a strapping young lad to help me with my chores: as my husband leaves for work in the morning, he will meet my husky helper, shirtsleeves rolled up over rippling biceps, arriving at our home to walk the dog, take out the lamb chops to thaw, dust and vacuum, rake leaves and whatnot because I’m too wrapped up working on a book. I’ll say to my husband, When I’m stuck on a paragraph I talk it over with Buddy. He’s terrific, has clever insights, and guess what, we’re excited about an idea for working on a book together. Since the story involves a rock band, we may have to take in a few rock shows, then go around backstage to meet the artists. Maybe they’ll show us how they live in their world. Research doesn’t pay off unless you do the real thing. No need to worry. Buddy will look after me.
I like this plan. Yes. No more Mrs. Good Sport. No more Christmases like the last, when the three of us stood around, sipping our eggnog and exchanging inside jokes about everyone there. I noticed the executive vice president standing nearby with his wife and secretary. After a bit, I reached up to my husband’s ear and whispered, “Ours is better.”