Russ Bickerstaff is a professional theatre critic and aspiring author living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his wife and two daughters. Last year his short fictions have appeared in over 30 different publications including Hypertext Magazine, Pulp Metal Magazine, Sein und Werden, andBeyond Imagination. His Internarrational Where Port can be found at: http://ru3935.wix.com/russ-bickerstaff.
ONE-PERSON DEMOGRAPHIC by Russ Bickerstaff
She was lugging a very heavy suitcase. She wasn’t making much progress down that sidewalk. There was the suitcase she was trying to pull. There was the heavy backpack over her shoulder. Dozens of people were passing her by on the busy sidewalk without even giving her so much as a glance. No one seemed to want to help her out. Could it have been the fact that she was covered in tattoos? Possibly. I don’t think that’s what attracted me to her, though. I don’t know why I thought she was beautiful. It’s difficult to define that sort of thing. There was something about her, though. Anyone would have seen it had they bothered to spend more than a couple of moments passing her by.
Muscles tensed beneath the tattoos covering her arms. There was the hazy wobble of fatigue in those arms. She seemed just as likely to fall over from the weight in her backpack as she was from the weight that she had been trying to pull along on reluctant wheels beneath the base of the suitcase. I kept looking for others to try to help her out and I kept finding myself disappointed by everyone’s obliviousness to her struggle.
Determined eyes looked ahead at the path that lay before her from beneath low-lying bangs as black as night. She clearly needed help with her things and clearly she wasn’t going to ask for it. She would do this on her own even if it took her all night. That much was clear. I wanted to do something for her. I wanted to at least offer her some words of encouragement, but it was difficult to tell exactly how she would take the only thing that I could really say to her under the circumstances.
Casual onlookers between myself and the woman in question might have a tendency to be very cynical about the whole situation what with me being what I am and she being who she is. She’s young. She’s clearly moving into the area, which means that she’s probably in the market for new things. She’s got disposable income. She fights perfectly into my target demographic. It’s hard to deny that interacting with her would be well within my line of work. I can’t deny that I would be perceived as approaching her no different than I would approach anyone else within my target demographic. I guess that’s probably why I find it so difficult to approach her at all.
Scanning the faces of those who are passing by, I spot a young man who doesn’t appear to be in any kind of a serious hurry right at the moment. I consider briefly whether or not it might be a good idea to do what I’m thinking of doing. Then I go ahead and do it anyway. I approach him and begin my thing. Naturally he’s put off by it. I want to think that I’m doing my thing in a way that maximizes irritation, but I know better. I know that I’m just being myself and it’s repulsing him, causing him to veer over into her direction.
He stumbles into her. She stumbles into him. They’re both on the floor. His bag. Her bag. her suitcase. People veer out of the way of each other and her and things collide as they roll over to right themselves. There are a few things that are said that aren’t entirely warranted. Before long he’s yelling at her and she’s yelling at him. I’m looking on trying not to look like a billboard as things progress. To keep myself occupied, I approached a couple of other 18-34s with my work. It has the added bonus of getting people to move away from the two of them.
When the commotion dies down between the two of them, I glance behind me surreptitiously to find that they are uttering their final curses to each other as the move away from each other. He rushes away and she finishes collecting her things. I feel the need to sigh but find myself incapable of being able to do so. I’m just not made to do that sort of thing. I am simply not that kind of ad. I want to be that kind of ad, but I’m really not. I draw-in another sharp inhale and try to allow myself to move on. Clearly there really isn’t anything that I can do here.
I begin a long, slow trudge away from the immediate surroundings. I will be off to increase brand awareness in man and woman ages 18 - 34 elsewhere. I feel a longing to stay with her and do something, but I must move on. I cannot afford to get distracted. My primary function must continue even as I feel the need to be able to do other things.
That’s when I feel the twinge of a pair of eyes on me from behind. I would be a poor ad indeed if I didn’t turn and offer myself to a fresh pair of eyes. Female. Roughly 18 -20. She’s sitting on the sidewalk with elaborately tattoo-bedecked arms folded. There’s a sense of exhaustion in deep, blue eyes peering out into me from beneath a curtain of bangs as black as night. I’m trembling inside as I walk forward and present myself to her. I’m telling her about a product. I’m delivering my presentation. I’m delivering mood and image and brand awareness that’s been painstakingly designed to maximize product affinity but I really just want to tell her that I care. I really just want to tell her that I wish I had the arms to help her out right now. She smiles and gazes into me. I feel the need to say something, but I have no idea what I’d say. I want to tell her that I love her. Instead we share a moment together. I am an ad. She is my one-person demographic. This moment is all that exists.