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Tumescent Guise
by Uzodinma Okehi

BT by the microwave, laughing; some unlikely bit about Haitian dictators, or ancient Rome. Or lecturing me about my sweat glands. But laughing, always with that all-over, itchy laugh, so whimsical, and the worst part was I could see him in his own mind like some great raconteur. BT was one of those minefield guys, another one I had to tip-toe around in the warehouse to keep from going into a blinding rage. Not that I’d win a fight with that guy. He was maybe six-four, ugly, big too, missing teeth, and worse, one of those guys, he’d read a few books, and now, mid-life, he’d decided to become poetic. This of course made him a compulsive liar, he was always boring into me with some keenly pitched piece of nonsense, and always topped with some detail that would have me shrieking inside—for instance, the day he met the president, long before the election, before everything. Just two epic men, equal footing, sharing a laugh, having a smoke outside a Chicago office building one afternoon. Who would have thought, yet even then he could feel a kind of, magnetism—And not even the story itself! He’d say this while staring off out the window, into the distance, as if, what? Then right away he’d rush to the fountain, you’d have to watch him stand there gulping water in long, theatrical pulls . . .

What else?! Each morning, tying on his little filthy Jamaican do-rag, as if anointing himself with sacred oil . . . This in light of the fact we were all becoming caricatures, half-idiot men toiling year after year in that warehouse. I say this because of my own history of compulsive lying, which no doubt I’ve mentioned elsewhere. Because it’s hard to hate people, that’s the thing. I had a girlfriend in college, Elise, and for no real reason, with her I’d lie about everything. My exploits, or whatever, and not even believeable lies, just on and on, while she’d be getting pissed, nearly choking on her food, and I’d be sitting across from her at the kitchen table in her dorm, grinding away, and she’d never say much, barely a word, which is I guess is the way to handle it, to think about that feeling on the inside, reaching and rotting away, and I remember her giving me that withering smile.