This is Act IV in a five-act fiction story: The Tragedy of Gerald Neesh.
Editor’s note: The following article contains references to suicide that some readers may find troubling.
“Maria Stone,” he said as he read her insurance card. “That’s a cool name.”
“Thanks,” Maria said, as she scanned the room with its leguminous entrails and empty cases of peanuts strewn around the home, a marriage of bizarre unitary taste and chaos. Her legs shivered slightly from the shock of the accident. “What’s with all the peanuts?”
Gerald stopped reading. He turned his head to her, then to the various remnants of peanuts and peanut accessories in his domicile. His former life of carefully constructed nuance had been betrayed. He thought of an answer, anything that could hide the desperate truth. He decided on audacity, quite unlike his natural state.
“It’s a … fetish.” He turned his back to her to hide the embarrassment of such a statement, but relished in his quick-witted elision. Maria was unfazed.
“So, you make peanut butter with all this stuff and rub it on somebody or something? You put peanuts in dark places? I’m curious.” Her mouth slanted on one side to hide her smile.
Shocked by her casual manner, he blushed. His eyes unable to focus on the paper slips in front of him, he blurted, “I was lying. It’s not a fetish.”
Gerald noticed a steadiness in Maria. She no longer seemed shaken by the accident. The stumbling middle-aged man in front of her seemed to worry her no more than an old hound dog too lazy to bare its teeth, too distracted by dreams of raccoons, himself too distracted by death.
“I’m not judging you. About the fetish thing. People all have their things they’re into. Who am I to judge?” Gerald could no longer keep his focus on her identification. This woman was nobody, he thought. He didn’t know her, and he had no connection to her. It didn’t matter if she knew what it was all about. His careful construction had been quaked by the unnatural disaster of this woman.
“I’m trying to die from them.” He nodded at the containers.
“From the peanuts?” she asked. “What do you mean?”
“I mean what I say. I’m trying to die from eating the peanuts.” She looked to him, scrunched her face, then looked out the window.
“Do you have an allergy or something?” She asked.
“No, not yet.” He faced away from her, trying to write down her insurance number, date of birth, license plate number and vin number.
“What do you mean ‘not yet?’”
“I mean ‘not yet.’ I don’t have a peanut allergy. I hope to develop one, because I want to die from it.”
Maria shook her head, her eyes wide.
“Why peanuts? Why don’t you just do it like everyone else? A rope or a bullet or some pills? Aren’t those a lot easier?” Gerald’s shoulders tightened towards his neck. This young woman had crashed into his life, challenged his intention, and ridiculed his final wish.
“Because I believe in subtlety!”
Maria looked around the room, at the empty containers, at the foil wrappers lying on surfaces like molted skins of blue metallic serpents. “Clearly,” she said, mocking.
Gerald turned from the counter. He walked past Maria and opened the door as a sign for her to leave. She grabbed the papers from his hand as she walked past him.
“Thank you for hitting my car,” said Gerald. “I’ll be in touch with your insurance. Have a nice night.”
Contact Jake Zawlacki at jazawlacki ‘at’ stanford.edu.