Today The Sky is Blue and White with
Bright Blue Spots and a Small Pale
Moon and I Will Destroy Our
Relationship Today

by Tao Lin >


Thursday night they kidnap me, my mom, and my dad. They put garbage bags over our heads and push us outside. Inside the garbage bag I think about my American History teacher. I think about what he said to me. He said, Richie, you better speak up, you better talk in class, be more confident. I think about what I do every day. How I slept the entire Summer vacation. I think about how much more I will sleep in my life. I think how I don’t like anything. How I don’t have anything. I think that something might be happening finally. Something other than school or sleep. I’m kicked in the back. I fall to the ground. I’m pulled up. I put my arms out, sweep them around. I touch someone’s face. I hear my dad’s voice. He makes a noise. I hear my mom. She says, Richie, it’s okay, just listen to these nice young men. We’re pushed into a van or something. I hear one of the kidnappers. I know the voice. It’s a boy from school. He says, Drive. The van starts. I say, I can’t breathe. The garbage bag sticks to my face. It gets humid. Someone rips a hole in my bag, scratches my lips. I feel my skin hanging off. I think I’m bleeding. But now there’s a hole in the bag, near my mouth, and I breathe through it. I look out it. I see my feet.

We’re in some kind of underground base. The walls are gray. We’re tied up, hands behind our backs. We’re tied in chairs. Side by side by side. My mom, me, my dad. Our necks are not tied. I glance at my mom. She says, Please don’t panic. I look at my dad. His face is intense, furious. He shakes his head. Slow and deliberate. He opens his mouth. But he doesn’t say anything. From behind us the kidnappers put garbage bags over our heads. My mom says, Thank you. I stay silent. My dad stays silent. I hear footsteps. The kidnappers walk in front of us. One of them says, There’s been a mistake. He says, We meant to kidnap only two of you but we kidnapped all three of you. He says, We need to release one of you. He says, After we release one of you, that one, whoever it is, will be sent a ransom note. He says, But we aren’t stupid. I hear coughs, murmurs. He says, We know if we release one of you then that one, whoever it is, will go to the police. He says, We don’t know what to do yet, we’re busy. He says, We have homework, we have to prepare our college applications. He says, We’ll keep you three down here until we have time to figure out what we should do. Another voice says, We have girlfriends. Another voice says, The first rule of fight club is. I hear someone being slapped in the head. I hear many kidnappers fighting, jumping on each other, rolling on the ground. I think about what if I was one of them. Playing, having fun. I think in my head that I wish I were one of them. My mom says, Don’t worry, Richie. The garbage bag sticks to my face. I writhe my neck. I bite the garbage bag. I bite a small hole out. I breathe in a scrap of garbage bag. I cough. I keep coughing. My mom says, Richie, what’s happening, what’s wrong?

A week passes. We’re moved to another location. We’re put in a cage. There’s a bathroom here, and a kitchen. Each day we are let out of the cage for one hour. To eat, use the bathroom. A group of kidnappers come down, let us out, come back in an hour, lock us up. Every day my dad is more still. His eyes do not move. His eyeballs are unmoving and unfocused. Every day the silence is worse. My mom tells me not to worry. She says, Richie, don’t worry. But that is all she says. And she has been saying it less each day. My mom and my dad do not talk to each other. They are angry with each other. They don’t talk. They never did. But there was always some place to go. Another room. Now there is no place to go. They don’t talk. They are angry. I close my eyes, try to sleep. Every day I try to sleep. I try to stop my brain. I try to stop it from working.

I dream I’m in American History class. The teacher calls on me. He says, How many Japanese were killed in the war? I don’t know what war he’s talking about. I say, Ten thousand. He says, What? What did you say? Speak up. I say, What war? He moves closer, like a monster. Everyone in class increases in size. I say, What, what war. I stutter. He says, What? I can’t hear you. I start crying. Everyone laughs at me. I wake up. I am not crying. My heart is beating very fast. I am in one corner. My mom is in another corner. My dad is in another corner. In the fourth corner there is no one. I stare at the fourth corner. My dad says, I’m worth $7,000 a day. It is the first time he has talked since the kidnapping. He says, I’m worth $291.60 an hour. He says, I can’t stay here, I’m worth too much. He says, I have to escape. My mom stares at my dad. My dad stares somewhere else. I stare at the ground. I try to keep my hands from tremoring. My neck is stiff. After a long time my mom says, You’ve been sitting there this entire time calculating in your head, haven’t you? My mom says, You never cared. My mom says, You never cared about me or Richie, just your money, your business. My dad says, I’m worth $4.86 a minute. He says, I need to escape. My mom is quiet. I don’t look at anyone. I go to the corner. I look at the corner of the cage. I stare until it’s blurry.

The kidnappers come to let us out for our daily hour. They have masks over their faces. They come to our cage. They put garbage bags over our heads. I hear my dad scream. He screams a primal scream. I hear the kidnappers falling to the ground. I hear my dad scream, You motherfucking kids. I hear people being punched. I hear my dad running up steps. I hear the kidnappers screaming. One screams, What the fuck? One screams, Holy shit. I hear the kidnappers on the ground, groaning. I hear a door slam. I feel my heart beating.

Two weeks pass. The kidnappers begin to let me and my mom out for up to five hours a day. My mom is not so angry anymore. But sometimes she is angry. She sits there and her face gets very tense. Her brows angle. When she is sleeping her face gets like she’s fighting a war. But sometimes she hugs me. She smiles. She asks how my life is. I say, Good. I say, Fine. But now she asks me again. She says, Richie, tell me about yourself. I look at her. I say, I don’t know. I say, I’m okay. She comes to me. She hugs me. She says, Richie, please, tell me how you really are, what your life is like. I stare at the ground. I open my mouth. Air goes in my mouth. I close my mouth. She hugs me closer. I say, I don’t know what is wrong with me. I say, It gets worse every day. My neck shakes a little. I say, I don’t know. My face twitches. She unhugs me and looks at me. I look at the ground. She hugs me. She says, Richie. She cries. I think, I shouldn’t have said anything. I think, What can she do about this? Sorry, I think.

More days pass. My mom doesn’t look angry anymore. Sometimes when asleep she cries very quietly. Her face is calm. When she wakes she wipes the tears. She looks at me. She smiles. I look at her. I think about smiling. I try to smile. But I can’t. I don’t know how. I feel strange. I look at the floor of the cage. I lie down. I go to sleep.

Today my mom wakes me. I sit up. She says, I remember when you were born. She says, I remember what your dad said to me. She says, After you were born your dad said, I’m very tired, I’m going home to sleep. She says, He never asked how I was. She says, He never asked if I was tired, if I was okay. She says, I was in labor more than 20 hours and he never asked how I was. She says, This is what I remember out of everything. She says, Richie. She says, I’m sorry, I’m sorry for telling you this. I look at her. She looks at me, starts crying. I look at the ground. I think about my life. I think about sleeping in class. I think about sleeping at home. I think about people. I start crying. She hugs me. She starts to say something, then stops. The kidnappers come down. They don’t wear masks anymore. I recognize one from school. I wipe my tears. I’m embarrassed. The kidnapper comes to the cage. He says, Hey, Richie. I look down. I wipe tears from my face. He says, We think we’re going to let you two go. He says, Your dad is gone, he went to Europe or something, he didn’t call the police. He says, But you two have to promise not to call the police. He says, We made a contract for you both to sign. I stare at the ground. My mom is silent. He says, Here’s the contract. I hear paper rustling into the cage. He says, Hey, do you want to leave or not? He says, Richie, hey, Richie’s mom, you two want to go back to the world or not?