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Stories

The Lonely Days

Many people have their own holidays—grandparents, secretaries, certain dead Presidents—but what about the ordinary man, lost in this modern world? BOB POWERS has researched a global brochure of holidays for men who are alone.

After an exhaustive study of sociology, anthropology, and modern geography, Bob Powers has compiled the definitive catalog of cultural and religious holidays observed around the world by men in a state of solitude. The following five holidays were created to honor and to celebrate men who are lonely, men who are alone, and men who are someplace where no one else is. Their respective dates, the locales to which they are indigenous, and the proper methods of observance are detailed below. There are five of them.

March 12: Gondola Ride Day!

(Venice)

When a young boy and girl in love solicit you for a ride in your gondola, tell them with a sigh that they are on. When they ask you how much the ride will cost, tell them that today, money cannot buy them a gondola ride. Today, if they simply allow their gondola conductor to ask them three questions over the course of the ride, and they answer these questions sincerely, their fare will be paid. Some couples will refuse and go to another gondola because their love depends upon certain questions never being asked. Others will agree to the arrangement, because they are low on money.

At the start of the ride, the couple will be afraid to start making out because their anticipation for the first question will be too great. Put them at ease by posing a very simple question right away. Ask them, ‘Where did the two of you meet?’ in an Italian accent.

They will excitedly recount the interminable tale of a mutual friend’s birthday party and both will say that they didn’t like each other very much at first but agreed to a date anyway and before they knew it, the world was new. Just pretend to listen while craning your neck to look up skirts as you pass under footbridges.

Once they finish their story, tell them ‘The next question will come in time. Enjoy the ride,’ in an Italian accent. Secure in the belief that they will not be made to answer anything very probing, the boy and the girl will begin making out furiously as the gondola passes through the city. Watch them.

After about 10 minutes, their desire will have reached a fever pitch. That’s when you should stab your gondola-stick into the bed of the canal. The couple will be flung forward from their seats, face-flat into the belly of the gondola. Say, ‘Next question,’ in an Italian accent.

The boy will help the girl into her seat and they will wait, annoyed. Employing an Italian accent, ask them how each would like to mourn the other, should the other die. The boy will react with indignation, but the girl will look startled, as if you’ve revealed a secret. The boy will protest that he would never think such a horrible thought. And the girl will say, ‘I’d like to disappear.’

Silenced, the boy will wait for the girl to continue. She’ll say to the boy, ‘I think about you dying every day. Not like I’m hoping for it. But not with dread either. Just to think about an event. A time when everyone is watching me, everyone is worrying about how I’m holding up. And if I disappear, which I’d like to do, a time when everyone will wonder where I am. When everyone will hope that I’ll come home.’

For the rest of the ride, the boy and the girl will look off away from each other at the walls of the canal. Avert your eyes from them. Simply pull the craft through the water with gentle pokes of your gondola-stick into the waterbed.

After a while, the boy will ask for the final question, saying that he would like to return to their hotel. Tell him, ‘the final question will come in time. Enjoy the ride,’ in an Italian accent. The boy will complain of fatigue and request to be brought to land. Using the Italian accent, say, ‘But I have not asked, and you have not answered, three questions. Therefore you have not paid. If you try to flee from my gondola without paying your fare, I will call the police.’ The boy will become irate, but don’t ask him anything. Don’t let them go.

Happy Gondola Ride Day!

Jan. 1: Become a Fashion Designer Day!

(Norway)

37 years ago, a fashion designer named Lemuel Florida went into the cliffs of Norway, built a hut out of dirt and sticks, and lived there in the freezing cold, determined not to return to society until he had dreamed up something fabulous for women to wear when they go outside. It took him sixteen hours, but inspiration struck like a thunderbolt and he ran back home to start sewing some pink pants.

Since then, aspiring fashion designers such as yourself have considered it a rite of passage to follow in Mr. Florida’s footsteps and retreat to those very same cliffs and think about clothes. Most die.

Happy Become a Fashion Designer Day!

Sept. 3: Bury Your Son Day!

(The Bahamas)

You and your son were inseparable. If anyone ever saw him in the passenger seat of a car, they’d say out loud to their friends, ‘I bet Jesse’s Dad’s in there with him.’ And sure enough, when the car would turn a corner and the glare would peel off the windshield, there you’d be behind the wheel. And you two even lived together in the same house, right?

Sure, lots of people share houses and carpool and whatnot. But between you and your son, there was something a little more than that. It’s hard to explain. But that extra-special something might be what you miss now that he’s dead. And it’s that extra-special something you should honor today with a ceremonial burial on the beach.

The location of his gravesite is important because he’ll be there forever and there might be times when you want to go to the beach without feeling the ache of your loss. But then you’ll look over and see his grave marker and think, ‘Oh right,’ and your beach day will be shot to hell. But then again, you also don’t want to bury him way the hell down on the other side of the jetty.

Why not pick his favorite spot on the beach? And if that’s too close to your favorite spot, go a hundred yards away and put him behind a palm tree so that from some angles, you won’t be able to spot his grave marker.

Get some friends to help you dig the grave because it’s difficult. After you lower your son in the grave, and before everyone starts shoveling the sand back over him, say a few words. These:

‘Jesse, I don’t get it. We had a lot of good times together. It was fun teaching you the difference between right and wrong and buying you food, so it makes sense that I’d feel a little bummed that I don’t get to do that anymore. But Jesse, I don’t know. I don’t get it. It’s like, now that you’re dead, someone came up and stole the breath right outta my chest. I don’t see any reason to ever do anything ever again. I just want to lay down on the floor of the closet and howl. Or drive my car into a schoolbus to take away all those kids who get to keep living while you’re dead. This blows, kiddo.’

Next, fill the hole with the sand that was emptied from it, then put up the marker. Make sure you write your son’s name on it so you don’t get confused. And don’t forget about September 24th, when you should come back to the grave and say, ‘It’s been three weeks, boy, and it’s only getting worse. I’m so sad.’

Happy Bury Your Son Day!

Nov. 18: Background Day!

(Canada)

You’ve managed to push away everyone who has ever known you either casually or intimately. It appears that you have no one left. Where do you look to find a relationship that can still be salvaged?

How about looking for the ones that never had the chance to begin? You’ve been in crowds before and you’ve probably been photographed at least once or twice when surrounded by a bunch of strangers. Well today’s the day to pick up that photo of you in the bleachers at the Maple Leafs game and seek out those people in the background. The people who might have become your very best friends had you simply looked to your right and said, ‘Hey, what’s your name?’

Just walk around the city and hold the photo up to people’s faces to compare theirs to the faces in the photo. When you find a potential match, show the person the photo and say, ‘This you? Were you there? Do you remember?’ If the person says, ‘Wow that’s me at that game. What an odd–’ Grab him by the collar and say, ‘I know it’s been a while, and I probably seemed a bit cold that day, but I wanna try to make this work. I’m Brian.’

Happy Background Day!

July 29: Spraypaint a Smiley Face on the Wall and Talk to It Day!

(Tibet)

The men of Tibet meditate at all times and they neither speak nor eat. Except for one day a year, July 29th, when all 50,000 Tibetan males jump out of bed, grab a can of black or red spraypaint and spray a big round smiley face on the bedroom wall. Just a circle with two dots for eyes, a curvy line for a smile, and the patient silence of a father confessor.

Tibetan Male: Hi Smiley Face. I’m still in love with Wei Ming. The one I told you about last year. Remember?

Smiley Face remembers.


Tibetan Male: I would’ve thought I’d be over her by now, what with doing nothing but sitting around and thinking about the oneness of everything and shit. But eventually a bird sings, and I remember her laugh. Or it starts to rain, and I remember how she looked when her hair was wet against her cheek. Or the wind blows, and I remember the way her dresses would hug her thighs. All this time has passed and my love only grows stronger. What should I do?

Smiley Face doesn’t offer any suggestions. He just smiles and looks fun.

Tibetan Male: I was really looking forward to being able to talk to you again Smiley Face, and I’ve prepared this list of ten-thousand ways that Wei Ming is pretty. Number one…

Smiley Face doesn’t groan or say, ‘Oh for fuck’s sake.’ He just smiles. Up there on the wall there.

Happy Spraypaint a Smiley Face on the Wall and Talk to It Day!

Bob Powers is the author of several humor books, including Happy Cruelty Day! and You Are A Miserable Excuse For A Hero. Visit his blog at girlsarepretty.com. More by Bob Powers