Tell Us Stories

by Sudip Bhattacharya

Posted April 28, 2021

I will begin with the story of Rosa rushing from one aisle to the next for the exact type of chicken tenders the consumer ordered, sweat stinging their eyes,
their Instacart app not updating,
all the while a cough is crawling up her throat,
an internal scream.
Karl, a few miles away seeking out the perfect pack of celery and updating that into the app as fast he could, trembling hands rattling within, nights spent scrolling through YouTube for cats that could distract, and yet,
Rosa would reach out, ideas zooming, red blood flowing, muttering, murmuring, stitching rants into discussions,
concluding they needed to talk to more of their coworkers,
albeit the process would take time,
it would require time,
time they may not have, Rosa would say,
we can’t rush this, Karl would respond,
Rosa agreed, to a limit, though there were days when she too would pace, would feel her sweat burning down her face, would throw open her soul and down drink after drink,
until all that made sense was falling asleep on the couch she pulled in from the street months ago, a show tracing silhouette over her eyes and cheeks,
she insisted, however,
fighting the internal scream.

I will begin with the story of Ida conveying the street battle between law enforcement and
young men and women pushing against the barricades,
a part of Ida understands that what she will try and express will be looked over and neutralized
her editor will seek to create a “level playing field” between men with shields and guns and people gasping.
a part knows that to keep going one needs to pay their bills or otherwise the Four Horsemen are just around the corner,
plotting and cloying,
and she takes a few snaps, finds a few to talk to, tells them she is there for a purpose,
she knows,
she knows very well,
about the rot
about the reality
the stench,
gritting one’s teeth, smearing on a smile,
she knows,
they know,
enough people know,
yes.
Ida takes in a deep breath as she washes out her eyes over the sink,
Ida takes in a deep gulp of air,
yes.
Fingers typing like on a piano,
the final form emerging like a silhouette through the fog,
still,
yes,
people know.

I will begin with the story of Hosea, the imagination sparking, lurching too,
Hosea spends time thinking through whether to take the Advil now or later,
as boxes line the floor, as packages filled to the brim with computer parts, new pieces of a sofa, whatever else people need when the world is a 1/4th of what we knew.
his nerves are stretched, to their brink, his arms shaking, the muscles in his back ready to pop from their sockets, to spring back like puddy,
Hosea glances at his coworkers stacking boxes on the conveyor belt,
he dropped his, and yet, he sees clearly,
and, he melts and reemerges in the center of the room,
thinking about friends who he’d never see, cause they’re so far away now,
up in the sky,
especially his buddy who held his hand while collapsed on the floor, choking back coughs,
heart pounding,
pleading for Hosea to take him to the hospital, while everyone watched,
trying to keep their distance of course.
technically, the man wasn’t a friend. he was someone he worked with and knew some things about, like he had a wife and some kids, not sure how many, and that he also grew up in the suburbs right outside the city, where you could have a view of the Manhattan skyline and yet, be living in a tiny box home, where the grass is brown, where the weeds look green at least.
still, days after, Hosea’s heart would race and he’d flinch in the middle of dreams,
one day, he heard word that his friend/acquaintance/fellow working person who had no choice but to spend days in a crowded warehouse was in recovery but still having to drag in air, and,
Hosea woke up when it was still pitch black
and, he wandered over to the window, and look across and see someone’s silhouette in a window across the street, looking back at him, like some spectral figure, like somebody in a portal,
but they weren’t someone special,
they were him, also, up, wondering and wandering and searching,
yearning and flinching,
and then, there is a fear and frustration and fear that grips him, that mounts an attack,
he has the urge to vomit on the floor, he is dizzy and has the urge to vomit on the floor,
like he knew he would if he pushed himself so hard,
he needed to call on someone he could trust but his friend is in the hospital,
and he’s in his apartment on his knees dragging in air,
he feels the need to vomit, but he doesn’t want to and grips the carpet and moans,

I will begin with the story of
I will begin with the story of
I will begin with the story of
I will begin
I will begin
I will

Sudip Bhattacharya has been published at Current Affairs, Reappropriate, The Aerogram, and local newspapers across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. He is also an organizer with the Central Jersey DSA, and is pursuing a PhD in Political Science at Rutgers University.

Illustration: “Capitalist Culture,” November 1930, Cover of Bezbozhnik, 1920s-1930s Soviet magazine

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