You exude this charisma and charm that smells of a musk ox and makes the attention-craving among us go a little stir crazy, wanting to capture some of that energy but struggling to find a way. And no one has a harder time with setting himself apart, with sincerely declaring uniqueness, than my friend Pete.
You see, Peter Graham has no face tattoos. He has no piercings, wears no jewelry, and owns no clothes that fall outside of the colour palette used in all Qatari buildings. You might see Peter on the bus or at the grocery store or walking past McDonald’s, but you won’t notice him. He blends with shelves, seats and sidewalks, and he’s glad for that.
Pete used to mix his cereal with strawberry yogurt until somebody pointed out that the small fruit pieces resemble the blood clot things that need to come out before your nose bleed can stop. He joined a book club, and it was three months before he noticed the only book they ever read is the Bible. At that point, he was too invested to leave, but even there he’s never asked to speak.
Most people have a few years between being a kid and the eventual adulthood, a time where they can meet strangers, travel, pick up hobbies. Pete missed out on that time, but he doesn’t know where it went. He looked for it once, but then he got tired and watched a rerun of Friends, the one where the downstairs neighbour keeps banging on his ceiling, the sound rising through their floor, with a broom until he dies. His favourite show is Jeopardy, but he can never get any of the responses until it’s too late. He still hopes to one day be a contestant, and he even has his first anecdote planned when Alex comes up to him after the first commercial break.
When Pete sees a pretty girl, he plays out an entire relationship in his head until she isn’t there anymore and then he never sees her again. His short memory allows him to continue unimpeded by coulda woulda shoulda buddhas. He tried out drinking a few times, but he wasn’t very good at it. He would go home early and throw up, all his inhibitions still intact. He never found out how it could make you feel, the tingling and the confidence and all that. If someone told him enough that he was convinced, he would have played things a little differently, but he wouldn’t know how.
By now you might think you know everything about old Pete, and you might. In case you still haven’t gotten the point, Peter Graham has never been stuck in an elevator. He’s never witnessed a car accident, never broken a law, and never left his hometown, not even to visit the world’s biggest horse who lived less than an hour away. “What a horse!” he would exclaim if he ever saw it, but alas. He has had twelve jobs in his life and has never not once made any sort of impression on any of his co-workers. After he was fired from his job re-shelving unwanted shelves, he featured prominently in a sexy dream had by Janet from Finance, but when she woke up she had no recollection of the subconscious encounter. Ah, what might have been.
Peter was driving his Toyota Corolla the other day and saw a sign next to an empty lot saying “Construction begins February 27.” He didn’t want them to start their digging on his birthday, annoyed that people might associate traffic delays and condo buildings with the day he was born. He petitioned the city to wait a couple of weeks, mid-March or so before letting them build. According to his letter, it’s too cold at the end of February, and wouldn’t it be nice if there were a few flowers on the sidewalk at the ground-breaking ceremony, if there was to be one. They didn’t listen. Nobody ever listens.
Every year, Pete makes sure to watch the highest rated show on television. He likes the idea of doing the same thing as a lot of other people at the same time of day. A season of NCIS should take care of that for him. His nickname is Monk, but nobody has ever called him that. If Peter was randomly selected to travel to Mars, where he would have a whole new life and would have to stay there forever – even though he might meet someone special and they could have Mars sex that leads to baby Martians, even though him and his someone special could joke about making the first Martians ever while they continue to have Mars sex – he still wouldn’t go. I know! With nothing holding him here, even still. Well, as the Martians will eventually say, that’s life!
One day, on the Monday after a daylight savings clock reorganization, the spring ahead one, Peter Graham was eating a ham sandwich. The doorbell rang, as if people still used doorbells. It was a delivery person, delivering twenty grams of gallium which was already two weeks late. But he didn’t answer the door. He never made it. He had a pulmonary embolism and died as quick as he could, right there in the kitchen. In the brief moment that elaspsed between lives, when you’re allowed to ask one question that might help you in the next one, Peter asked to see some gallium because he wanted to feel it liquefy in his hands at long last. The question may have been wasted, but he’ll have to wait and see to be sure.