An essay by Riley, as provided by Eddie Newton
Art by America Jones
Waiting. Always something difficult for me. I am more of an instant gratification kind of personality. But I learned a long time ago that there are some things worth waiting for.
All sorts of people waited. A septuagenarian with a deviated septum sniffed as she sat in a seedy settee. A garrulous gentleman going on and on about the impending elections offered her a crimson kerchief. Three little sisters that may have been separated by only a year sat in a neat row, blonde, blonder, and blondest in order of age, still and silent as they waited for a name to be called. The mother was pale as paste, hair sculpted from gray clay, attire a collage of contrasting colors like some demented diorama: chartreuse shirt, cerulean scarf, scarlet satchel, indigo earrings.
There were looks. Always looks. From the first time that I stepped out the door on Winston’s arm, we garnered looks. Sidelong glances, muttered opinions, insinuated insults, even overt invectives. We weathered withering vilification because at the end of every day, love wins.
Until it doesn’t.
A nurse came into the waiting room and called a name. A thin middle-aged man with a massive mustache and silver sideburns and only thin strands on his skull answered, stood. As he passed us, he made a face of disgust. We were a progressive couple, and the balding man was traditional from his khaki trousers to his brown bowtie. Winston shrugged off the sanctimonious sneer, but as always, it made me fidget and wane.
“We’re next, Riley,” Winston observed, taking my hand.
Colors collided. His skin was light and bright against my dark complexion, like the interior of a peach holding the brown pit at its center. Winston was beautiful: every freckle one I knew by heart, each imperfection evidence of an ever-changing appearance, new scars simply accentuation of experience.
“Are you sure about this?” I asked.
Winston nodded without hesitation. “They say it is the only way we can be together. I would do anything to make that happen, Riley.”
“I know,” I said.
The world was not ready for couples like Winston and me. Shunned, shamed, accused of immorality, our love was a precarious predicament, something natural that had become a trial. We were judged injuriously, accused unjustly, and suffered unsolicited scorn. Just because we did not fit the mold. Ever something different, the world always searched out new subjects for subjugation. Once upon a time, the public would have declared deliberated disdain due to differences in race. As America moved on, mixed marriages became commonplace and society looked for someone else to eschew.
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Spring 2017 collection.
Riley has never really fit in. Years spent at university were like lessons on how to be the same as everyone else, how to group-think, how to suppress differences and join the collective. Riley would never be like anyone else. Then Winston came along and the world changed. The things that always kept Riley apart from everyone made no difference to Winston. They fell in love. Now they enjoy midnight walks along the river and sitting along the shores staring up at the stars. But something still keeps them from being truly together.
Eddie Newton was awarded the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for the Best First American Mystery Short Story of the Year. His short story, “White,” is presented in the anthology Snowpocalypse. He is the author of the political thriller e-novel, American Herstory. He lives in North Dakota with his wife Treina and his four children: Kobe, Gage, Oliver, and Bennett. He has never been called a mad scientist, although he did get really angry at a test tube once. And like most of us, he is still waiting…
AJ is an illustrator and comic artist with a passion for neon colors and queer culture. Catch them being antisocial on social media @thehauntedboy.
“Waiting” is © 2017 Eddie Newton
Art accompanying story is © 2017 America Jones