Alex by Jan Váňa

Behind every name, there is a unique and complex tale, with society looming over it, saturating it, overwhelming it.  My short story explores how names are embodied, how names are flesh and blood buffeted by social norms.

1.

Prologue:

At the beginning of all things were muscles. Distinctive charismatic chin. Proud forehead and bulky eyebrows. Correction: they should have been. “How sweet! What a lovely girl you have! What is your name, little angel?” You are nothing but a human scum!

As far as I remember, you have always been obsessed with your bodily proportions. There has not been a day you did not try to grow your muscles and gain at least a bit of a manly mass. Even a slight growth you would have celebrated as a great success.

Growing up in Brno, you went to gym almost every day. Then in the evenings you attended kickboxing training classes. Three, four, even five times a week.

You were eating like crazy. You were unstoppable. In the end, your body always consumed all the calories like some kind of a super strong acid. Instantly and completely. You would never get an extra gram of weight.

But you never gave up. First, you came up with a theory that you could get some mass if you ate a lot of fatty food right before going to sleep, as the digestion gets slower and the food would have better chance to get transformed into muscles. You would be eating handfuls of salty pistachios, cashew nuts and peanuts as we were watching late night shows in our bedroom. Your hand would strike into a bag of salted chips or popcorn bathing in a pond of fatty butter like an automated robotic arm, filling your mouth just like a sweaty worker would throw shovelfuls of coal into the boiler of a steam locomotive. It was outrageous and hilarious at the same time. When I recollect those times, I have to laugh out loud. I mean, you were just a dumb kid, after all.

Then someone in our old neighborhood in “König” told you that you would get nothing from such a diet than ulcers and diabetes. Thus came the “cottage cheese” period. This special diet was recommended to you by your kickboxing instructor, who suddenly began to see your slender delicate body as an investment for the sport club. He started to take a proper care of his assets. He prescribed you to eat big packages of cottage cheese several times a day at exact time periods. He even managed a special permission, so you could eat right in the middle of a school class. If any teacher complained about your behavior, you would accuse them of threatening your healthy bodily development. You would often do it without any reason, just to tease the teachers and show them your privilege. To show them that rules are not meant for you.

When you were fourteen, you invented a new game. You founded your own “School of Martial Arts”, hoping that the boys from the “hood” around Šelepka park would follow you in exchange for the feeling, however fake, of a physical superiority. All of us, who never attended any proper fighting lesson, were practicing our grips and moves from the Jackie Chan and Van Damme movies. If someone could stand in an appropriate Van Damme-like position, with his hands reminiscing of Jackie Chan’s deadly posture of Asian tiger ready to snap, others should beyond all doubts worship him.

But there was this older bulky kid called Deedee the Beef, who saw her chance and made her own “Martial Arts Club”. Deedee the Beef had a long-term reputation of a “girl hidden in the boy’s body”, which secured her relatively high esteem of the boys, even despite the fact that she was chubby and, in terms of normative beauty measurements, not particularly nice-looking. She was fairly smart, i.e. smarter than most of the other kids, so she studied martial arts basics just enough to pretend she could make the others look cool and dangerous. Her skillful promotion far exceeded your faint effort to become a martial-arts authority. Also, she had an older brother who was of a service to her, now and then buying a pack of cheap cigarettes which she would distribute among her gang of followers in exchange for their loyalty. Soon, one could see a numerous crowd of teenagers hanging around in the corner of the inner-yard playground behind the dormitory Listovky, sharing a puff and talking about how awesome would it be when they would start with the training.

Give it to them John Rambo. Kick their queer little assess Conan. If they don’t know what is good for them, they only deserve your loathing, Bruce Lee. That and some proper beating.

“You lazy bunch of fags!” you shouted as you approached the loitering group. I had never heard such words from you before. “If you are looking for a REAL martial art, you should join me and not this miserable party of feckless cripples!” you were shouting furiously.

The thing was, that it was also about the time your voice was mutating. Moreover, it was just in the middle of the summer and your blond hair went even brighter than usual, almost golden under the tirelessly glowing sun. There was no way your strenuous fighter-like posture would intimidate anyone.

I watched the whole scene with my breath held, almost as kind of a biblical parable. Your sensational face often made me wonder about the existence of a transcendental power which must have had created it. Such a delicacy was meant for cover pages of a celebrity fashion magazine and not for a street brawl.

Then, as you noticed a glimpse of contemptuous sneer in the Beef’s greasy face, you lost last bits of control over your body. You yelled and attacked Beef with your tiny fists. Although it looked rather comically, some guys knew about your advanced fighting skills so they better jumped on your back and stopped you before you could cause serious injuries to her.

From that moment on, no one in the whole König called you otherwise than a “hysterical girl”. A girl who fights other girls.

Thus began the years of solitude. It was difficult, but after some time you found activities which gave you a new sense of being and you resorted to them. Most of all, it meant to stay in your inner sanctuary, in the safe world separated from the hostility of everyday social ties. Later on, you constructed a similar sanctuary in a worldly, material way. You cleared out the space in the cellar of the house on Klatovská and made it your new “lair”. You put a sound isolation on the walls, so no one could hear loud rhytmical music you listened to.

Heavy metal.

Your mouth sucked it in. Your lungs were breathing it. Your heart was pumping it into the veins where it roared and rumbled like a fierce underground river. Deeper and deeper to the core of the earth, to the moment of creation, to the very essence of a human-MAN.

You watched a set of exercises called “Prisoner’s workout” on YouTube and learned how to practice it on your own. Your lair literally became a prison. Even though you were never really kept in there by a physical force, the force that made you not to come out was no less strong than the power of a thousand jail locks.

You are nothing. Zero. Less then that. You’re a shit on the shoe of the most zero-est nothing. I am sick just from looking at you. Go off my way, I am throwing up. You little swine.

Soon you became a junior kickboxing champion of the Czech Republic. You made it to the international junior championship. Other fighters nicknamed you the “Furious Mary”. More successful you were in the discipline, more you hated and cursed your own body for what it looked like. Your body played against you. It defied your own will. You looked like a sissy.

I think it was about that time when there appeared an incestuous tension between us. You, deeply hurt and frustrated creature, could never show your feelings to anyone. Anyone except of me. We could have been the best girlfriends ever. Or the most passionate lovers.

You would never do it in a direct way. To be honest, I am quite sure that even you did not know what you were doing. It was that deep troubled voice inside of you that talked to me without you knowing it. But I knew. I knew well and I answered. I came to the door of your lair. I knocked silently, sure that you already knew about me coming.

That was the last time I saw a daily light. I remember a scant sound of spring raindrops gently splashing the porch of our house, calling upon an impression of something distant and fresh. Like a new start of something somewhere far far away.

2.

I was not surprised you came. In fact, it was only a matter of time until you would hit the final line, since you had always been crossing the boundaries between us. The lair was my ultimate hideout. By coming to the lair, you irreversibly transgressed the normal and the deviant, the accepted and the forbidden, the sacred and the profane. You knew that no one entered this place before. And yet you were here.

I opened the door half naked. Streams of sweat were running down my bony chest. My ribs were glimmering in the dim artificial light like an ancient musical instrument, crafted from the bones of a primaeval beast. There was not much to say. You did your part. Now it was my turn.

But I did not know. I hesitated. My heart, still wildly beating after the exercise I was just doing, pulsated with a long gathered passion. It drove me towards you. My eyes were greedily feasting upon the fragile feminine aura stemming out of your etheric, almost translucent body, as it filled the surroundings with an exciting raw energy.

Suddenly, my mouth got eager to suck the salt from your cheeks and forehead. My lips were conquered by desire to embrace your tongue and your nose and your ears and to cover them with a moist film of saliva. My fingers wanted to penetrate the skin on your back and your buttocks. My chest craved to be pressed upon your breasts, to coalesce with your physical existence and to become a single compound of living tissue.

The way you stood there in the narrow basement corridor, shy and provocative, was the best strategic choice a beautiful woman can ever make. A weapon that turns the imaginatory capacities of the enemy against himself. The almighty passive aggressivity. Doing nothing, while expecting everything.

Then my arm moved quickly forward and harshly grabbed your shoulder. None of us expected that.

“You filthy little bitch!” my mouth uttered with an unexpected strength and steadiness. “So you finally came? After all those years of humiliating me you finally came to ask for forgiveness?”

As if a voice inside me was citing a replica from a mediocre crime series.

My grip forced you on your knees. Though using the word “force” was not really the case, since you succumbed voluntarily, almost as if you wanted it. My hand seized your long blond hair and turned your head up, so your eyes had to follow the fierceful expression in my face.

“After all those years, are you coming to beg me for a quick ending? Is that what you want?” my voice thundered again. “But I will not give you that! Not until you suffer as long as I did. You will taste your own medicine, baby girl.”

At times I had a feeling that someone speaks through my mouth with an unknown affected voice.

My arm pulled you into the room. You fell onwards on your hands and tried to prevent the rugged concrete floor from hurting you. Yet after a few meters of being dragged, the blood appeared on your knees and finger joints. Interestingly, you had not uttered a single sound of dislike.

My hand lifted you up on your knees and positioned along the brick wall covered with scratches I made during the years. One scratch for every winning fight. My hand released the grip. You kneeled still. My hands took the jumping-rope I was using for the exercise and tied your wrists tightly together. My arms embraced my big boxing bag hanging from the ceiling and took it off the hook. My hands disconnected the bag from the chain and pushed your skinny puppet-like body up, so soon it would be you who was hanging from the ceiling.

“Tell me, how do you like this?” I heard my voice rumbling. “Would you like to become my new boxing bag? Would you like to get beaten? Because that is what you did to ME. Hit after hit, scar after scar, year after year, you made me an emotional cripple! A nameless creature, a weirdo with no friends and no place in the society. Am I a girl? Or am I a boy? What freak am I? The most charming woman you ever seen with a penis hidden in her lingerie! But that is over. What you did to me mentally, I will now repay in a physical pain. And maybe I will even have some fun torturing you. I am not quite sure yet, but maybe. We will see.”

3.

Maybe it was not a sport championship we won a thousand times. Maybe it was a beauty contest. We felt so fragile. So helpless. What only were we thinking! We felt obliged. We did what they told us. It did not matter whether we wanted to or not. Our gorgeous body always played against us. It was so beautiful. We were so beautiful. So beautiful that everyone desired us. That everyone believed in the existence of a transcendental power which must have had created us. Such a delicacy of ours was meant for cover pages of a celebrity fashion magazine and not a street brawl.

Three days later they found our body in the cellar, hanging by one hand from the ceiling, while the other was clenching a lock of glimmering blond hair. We had adorable black lace bra and a very stylish semi-transparent white top. We were damn hot! Ah! We were so beautiful when they found us. No wonder they wanted to screw us. No wonder they wanted to control us, to possess us, to enslave us.

I would die for you.

I would die four me.

I would die for us.

Now it was us who held the power. Us and no one else.

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