Fragments of Self by William Lemon

The Writer saw many different people in the mirror. Each of them had the same face, but their eyes were individual, demonstrating a specific level of happiness, sadness, et cetera. Most days he would ignore these people, since it was his duty to observe others, rather than the characters populating his imagination. This became an impossible feat. The Writer developed an obsession with these individuals, even though they were ethereal beings trapped inside his head. He hoped others would find them interesting, so they might disappear, or, at the very least, become real.

After several failed attempts, The Writer indulged this habit of imagining others. He pawed the mirror, observing William12, who had light blue eyes when he was still alive. He had died in W.W. III, sometime after the big invasion. A squadron shot him twice behind enemy lines, then buried his body in Chinese soil days later. He now rested in the Nei Shan Ravine, his limbs twisted with other young men, nearly indistinguishable from the solider next to him. William12’s uniform became a dark charcoal once the pollution soaked the fabric, covering up the American flags sewn into the arm. His family received a gift certificate to Applebee’s, where they purchased an Extreme Quesadilla, along with several rounds of beer.

The next night, he noted William42’s emerald iris. This version of himself hadn’t ever been to China, since, in his universe, the country was nothing but ash. Each time he imagined a blackened China, it gave him nightmares, along with a breathing problem, which made him sound like a Labrador. This issue didn’t stop until his doctor prescribed an inhaler and several vials of Xanax. Despite the mood altering drugs, William42 spent most days with his head underneath a pillow, attempting to focus on the infomercials, rather than on the outside. And why not? The Writer agreed this was a sensible plan. The infomercials always sold such nice things, with warranties that backed up their longevity. The operators were friendly, too. Most talked to him about his anxiety, assuring him this country would never turn to ash, despite what Fox news said.

Days later, The Writer found that in William98’s world, no country had even been turned to ash, not even when tensions ran high. The Spanish Inquisition hadn’t ever stopped their terror, but rather continued it throughout the ages, preventing violence with even more violence. This made it so countries no longer needed to fight each other, since the Church took out that bloodlust on individuals. For instance, William98 was hung at age thirteen after masturbating with homemade porn. Most agreed the punishment was harsh, given that the pictures were only crude stick figures, who had big circles for boobs and squiggly lines for pubic hair. Yet nobody mentioned this at his execution. They ate popcorn and posted pictures of his death online.

The Writer also felt sympathy for William34 Jr., who had a similar rough go of it, especially in regards to his father. William34, the aforementioned asshole, believed that children should not only respect their elders, but repeat their life verbatim. During adolescence, he dressed 34 Jr. in replica clothing from his childhood, a vintage collection of 70’s staples, such as a jean-jacket with Emerson, Lake & Palmer embroidered into the fabric. Family members tolerated this strange behavior until Senior forced Jr. to make love to his high school sweetheart, who was, at that point, in her late seventies. The two no longer speak to one another, not even on holidays.

The Writer soon found that both he and William99 spoke to their fathers quite often, but they normally only discussed films, rather than talking about the divorce, which would actually elicit real emotions. This caused William99 to drink alone, hiding deep within in the suburbs, filled with cheap American lager. Each empty beer can somehow reminded him that life couldn’t ever be truly authentic, especially when you wrote about yourself all the time. The Writer agreed with that sentiment, yet couldn’t stop drinking or writing fiction about himself.

William Lemon received his M.A. in Literature and Writing at California State University San Marcos, then began teaching English at the Community College level. For the past several years, he has taught at Santa Monica College and Irvine Valley College. He has been published in Bartleby Snopes, BlazeVOX, Drunk Monkeys, and the Eunoia Review.