Discover more from Garden of Anxiety
I've met someone else.
I just had the chance to open for David Sedaris’ audiences at a few of his different shows, which was awesome!
Here’s the audio from one of the nights with a version of this piece I read.
The full written piece is below.
Right now, my boyfriend Ben and I are boarding a Southwest flight.
We love Southwest, except for the part where there are no assigned seats, and you’re meant to quickly choose the ones you like before they’re taken by the other cattle biting at your heels.
“Is that one open?” I ask the blonde woman who is probably named Janine and works in HR at a 400-person consumer goods company.
“Yes!” Janine says, standing up so I can make my way to the window.
Ben also picks a window — same row but on the opposite side. We both need sleep.
I take out my laptop and place it on the tray table.
And then, “May I?” asks a handsome giant wearing a bright yellow jacket and a cowboy hat.
You never want someone large next to you.
Too tall or too wide, it doesn’t matter.
Your best bet is a petite woman who gives you her peanuts because “I’m so full. I could never.” Someone who can pull her legs onto the chair should you need to get to the bathroom. Someone who would never think about battling with you for the armrest, fearful her bird-like elbow might snap.
Not this guy.
This 6’7” monster of a man.
My boyfriend, on the other hand, is a frail man — like a nerdy Timothy Chalamet, which doesn’t bother me, but one can’t help the mind from wondering what it might be like — to be the one who’s always held.
“How’s it going?” I say to the handsome cowboy, attempting to come across as friendly but not desperate.
People hate desperate.
The cowboy looks at me with stark blue eyes and a leathered face but says nothing, and instead, repositions himself, wedging his treetrunk legs against the seat back pocket in front of him.
I try again in the more masculine voice I save for when I’m around my fraternity brothers, “You going home?”
“Mhm,” he says, looking down at his Android phone and scrolling through his contacts, leaving me discarded.
But then, “Was up here workin’” he says, and I sigh in relief at what might’ve otherwise been an entire flight of me sitting with loneliness and rejection.
He continues telling me, in a southern accent as if to highlight his cowboy hat, that he’s an electrical engineer and has been “fixin’ power grids for the city.”.
I spot his dirty fingernails.
THAT kind of engineer, I think to myself.
That must be why he’s so big.
From picking up building stuff.
Heavy wires. Pylons, whatever those are.
We’re en route to Austin, and I love Austin. I decide to share this.
“Not for me,” he says. “I’m quite far outside the city. Don’t really care for…Austin-people,” he finishes, in a way that sounds like “pussy-footin' liberals.”
Janine’s ears perk up, nervous about where this is about to go, and though the pit in my stomach tells me to shut my mouth, the sickness in my brain tells me to soldier on.
He says his name is Brady, that he’s not too fond of his engineering work, and that he’d like to spend more of his career doing what he loves.
“What is that?” I ask, imagining him responding with something like “Murdering fags.”
I cackle inside my head.
“Bounty huntin’,” he says.
“Wait,” my voice cracks, “Really?”
“Yes, sir,” Brady says. And then a small smile spreads across his face.
“Woahhhhh,” I say, pressing my fingers into my legs. “That’s craaaazy.”
Janine chuckles, and though I like idea of all three of us gabbing on for the remainder of the flight, I fear she will most likely end up distracting him from me and I am nothing if not needing of attention.
The flight attendant comes by.
She tells me that my laptop should be stowed for takeoff, and though I attempt to shove it in the seat back pocket, the pocket is too small.
“Ugh. It doesn’t fit,” I say, to which Brady responds “that’s what she said,” and I giggle because I want Brady to like me.
I place my laptop on the floor and wonder if Brady now thinks I’m gay, not because of how I handle my laptop but because I don’t know if I responded correctly to his TWSS comment and so now I’m nervous that he’s onto me and at the same time I notice myself staring at his thick legs.
The cabin door closes, and we taxi towards the runway.
I ask Brady about bounty hunting, and I learn that:
Bounty Hunting happens when someone (a defendant) is sentenced to appear in court in a few weeks, for literally anything. During that time, the defendant is stuck in jail, waiting for their court date.
A judge gives the defendant the right to leave jail and spend their pre-court time at home, in exchange for the defendant paying bail, which is a deposit that acts as a guarantee to the court, in case the defendant doesn’t show up.
If the defendant doesn’t have access to the amount of money that the court is requesting for bail, let’s say $200k, the defendant can get a loan from a bail bondsman, in exchange for paying…let’s say…a $15k deposit to the bondsman.
Okay. So, let’s assume they pay the deposit. Now, the bondsman really wants the defendant to show up to court because if the defendant flees, aka “skips bail” the bondsman loses their money — and so, if the amount of money to be lost is high enough, the bondsman will hire a bounty hunter on commission for 10-20% of the total bail amount, for the bounty hunter to go find the defendant and bring them to justice, usually, “by whatever means necessary, as long as the person comes back alive,” Brady says “and we don’t have to follow the usual rules.”
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“Well, when you sign that bail agreement, you waive your Fourth Amendment rights.”
I don’t know what those are.
“If you’re at your house, we can enter your house without your permission. If you run to a hotel, we’ll follow and chase you down.”
The plane starts to take off, and it’s noisy, so we pause our conversation.
I look out the window at all the cars passing by and think about how many of the drivers are being hunted.
The jet engine roars for 25 seconds, which feels like a small enough amount of time for me to dive back in without having to fluff, though I am now nervous that he’s going to grow suspicious of why I’m still talking to him but, to me, that’s a better outcome than me not getting to talk to him at all.
“How do you find them?” I ask. “Like…the people who are on the run.”
He puts his phone in airplane mode and speaks to me without making eye contact.
“People are always leavin’ breadcrumbs,” he says. “Especially nowadays. Cell phone, credit cards. You can’t do much without someone knowin’ about it. Doesn’t really matter how far you try and go.”
“What’s the farthest you’ve ever had to go to get someone?”
“Mexico,” he says, proud. “A few times.”
“And then what? You just, put them in handcuffs and…walk them over the border?”
“I tell ’em,” he begins, lifting his chin as if he’s about to say a line from a movie. “You can walk back nicely, or I can drag you back, hogtied.’”
I pause to collect myself, and then I think about how weird it would be to be tied in the back of what I assume would be a pickup truck as it crosses the border.
“Don’t you need…a warrant to like…take people from Mexico?”
Brady hoists himself ever so slightly off the seat to reach for something. He flexes his beefy quads, stretching his jeans enough to reach inside his pants and whip out his ID Card. “National Fugitive Recovery Agent,” it says.
“That’s all you need?” I ask.
He smiles. “It’s not something most border patrol want to get involved in. They tend to…‘look the other way’.”
I then ask him why people skip bail, and he tells me that they’re scared of being in jail or they’re scared of losing their job or their kids. “Or…they think they’re innocent,” he says, “that the law’s out to get ‘em, and that they’re better off on the run.”
“They think they’ll actually be able to hide,” I say aloud.
He says people can’t hide though.
Everyone ends up needing to apply for a job or get on a plane, and “even if you have friends that’ll hide you, eventually you get pulled over for a traffic stop and you’re done.”
“Do people ever try and fight you?” I ask.
“Sometimes,” he says.
I can’t imagine ever trying to fight him.
I can’t even send back food.
Also, I’d be very confused to see him at my front door. My brain would think, ‘Are you actually here to take me in? And can you say hogtied again?’
I look out the window for a second.
Brady takes out his phone and starts playing a mobile game. It looks like Poker.
I take out my phone but put it on my right side so that Brady can’t see what I’m reading, and I learn that the U.S. and the Philippines are the only two countries in the world that have a for-profit bail industry, which makes me think there’s something strange about that, but then I never think about it ever again.
The flight attendant comes by and takes our drink orders.
Janine gets a Diet Coke, and Brady gets a Jack Daniels.
I order a hot water because sipping hot water helps me sleep, but after ordering, I think about how unmasculine that order just made me appear, and how I should have chosen something different.
“Beer,” I could have said. “The one with the most IPA.” That would’ve made Brady like me.
“Hey,” I say to him. “Can I ask more questions or is this annoying?”
He smirks. “It’s fine.”
And so I ask him how he got started bounty hunting, and then he tells me that he had a friend named Kyle who was doing pretty well huntin’ and one day Kyle asked Brady to tag along.
“But…why did you say yes?” I ask. “Did you play a lot of like…Call of Duty or something?” I say, before realizing that a 40-something year old wouldn’t have played COD and that I’m an IDIOT.
“Did karate as a kid,” he says. “And then got into shooting as I got older.”
“Do you own guns?” I ask, trying not to sound like ‘Do you do pot?’
“A lot,” he says.
“Do you fly with them?”
“Only smaller pieces.”
I see Janine shift her weight.
“Not at this moment,” he says. “And even when I am, I check ’em. No ammo though. You can’t check a gun with ammo — gotta buy that when I land.”
“I guess that makes sense,” I say, thinking about all the people on this plane who have AK47s checked below, though I have no idea what an AK47 looks like or how it’s different than any other gun not called AK47.
“Have you ever gotten hurt…hunting?” I ask.
“Shot at a few times. Stabbed at twice,” he says slyly.
“You’ve been STABBED?!”.
He laughs. So does Janine, which makes me want to yell “SHUT UP JANINE.”
“Here,” Brady says, using his large calloused finger to point to his thigh, “here,” to his shoulder, and then “here,” to his abdomen, his voice steady and strong.
I want to see his scars.
I want to touch them.
Maybe lick them.
Something’s wrong with me.
Must be the hot water.
“But usually, it doesn’t get that far,” Brady says. “We’ve got tasers and such.”
“Getting tased sounds terrible,” I say.
“Yeah. And people shit themselves,” he says, “that’s why they make you practice outdoors.”
“Oh, of course that happens, yes,” I say, nodding affirmatively. “Do you call for backup ever? Maybe with Kyle? Like two friends going out…for a hunt?”
Brady’s smile fades. He looks past me. “Not anymore.”
“Oh. Okay,” I say, wondering if Kyle is dead.
“Kyle’s dead,” Brady says. “Got shot on a job.”
“Ah. That sucks,” I say. “Sorry.”
“It’s part of it,” he says. And then he takes a sip of whiskey.
I bet Brady’s lonely.
When he texted someone at the start of the flight, he just scrolled through his contacts and then clicked the one he wanted. He might’ve had 45 contacts, in total. He didn’t even type their name.
Being a bounty hunter must eat at you.
It must be hard to have to come home and pretend you didn’t just spend a week chasing down someone who believes you ruined their entire life.
“Is it…hard?” I ask him. “Like…the arresting people? Are they sad when you eventually find them?”
“Mm. Sometimes,” he says. “Once. I had to go after a friend of mine. She was also a bounty hunter, actually.”
“Woah. But she probably knew how to get away, right?”
“Well,” he says. “Funny thing is that…when I came to her house…she was all wide-eyed — just totally forgot about showin’ up to court.”
I think about getting arrested.
And about how I should have gone to jail a couple of times.
That one time I got caught driving 105 MPH in a 65 and how I started crying so the cop wrote down that I was only going 86. And how, in college, when weed was still illegal, I accidentally flew with a bunch of weed brownies. And then, once at Target, how I walked out with gum in my pocket that I forgot to pay for.
I pour the last drop of hot water from the tiny paper cup into my mouth, and I notice myself getting tired, so I bundle up my hoodie as a pillow, put on my eye mask, and lean into the right window. I allow my left arm to settle by my side, nestling in between my small ribcage and Brady’s large elbow, which firmly holds court on the armrest, and though I wish there were room on the armrest for my tiny, bird-like arm, I concede.
I drift off to dream a dream of Brady, and before it gets too interesting, I hear the fasten seatbelt sign turn on, shaking me from my slumber.
I feel Brady’s right elbow touching my left and it feels like home and so I force my left arm to stay where it is while using my right hand to take off my eye mask because this one-way intimacy hinges on the 2.5 square inches of skin conjoining our elbows.
I think about how this will probably be the last time I see Brady.
Maybe in some other reality, things would be different.
In some other world, he and I would walk off the plane together, my dainty hand placed in his enormous one, and we’d leave the terminal via horseback, galloping out to his ranch outside of Austin where we’d grow maize and tobacco, and tell people that we “live off the land.”
“Muther,” one of our three muscular kids would say to me, “you’re so frail and delicate, like a reed in the wind.”
“I know, Wyatt,” I’d say, smiling, readjusting my thin, blue bonnet, “you and Clayton are also so burly and strong. One day, you’ll grow up to be great big hunters, just like your dad!”
And then I’d look over to Darlene, who wasn’t able to escape the inheritance of her father’s broad shoulders, and I’d pray she finds herself a lesbian.
“Flight attendants, prepare for landing,” says the PA, snapping me out of visions of a better life.
I see Brady texting.
It’s a selfie from someone named Tricia.
She sits in the driver’s seat of a minivan, and though I want her to look like a whore, she seems warm.
A small smile spreads across Brady’s face, which stirs something deep inside me called betrayal.
As we touch down, Janine stands, followed by Brady, who doesn’t say goodbye, and instead, I accidentally catch the eyes of a miniature man who calls himself Ben.
“You didn’t even look at me!” my boyfriend snaps as we meet in the aisle. “I kept looking over at you the whole flight and all you did was talk to that hot cowboy!”
“Bounty hunter,” I say.
“He’s a bounty hunter,” I say, stepping into the terminal.
As Ben’s hand reaches for mine, I notice how small it is, and in the far distance, amongst of sea of bobbing heads, I spot a cowboy hat bouncing high above the rest, and I think about a different existence: one with a giant muscle-for-hire husband, on a farm outside the city — a better life.
Yay! You read the whole piece even though it was really long. Good job, you!
Okay. So…..questions for you guys (please answer below in the comments):
How does this style compare to other stuff of mine you’ve read? For example, this piece was similar to Witch, where it’s not really about me at all. In both pieces, I just sort of sit there as a framing device for comic relief. Wondering if you would have wanted: A) More of Alex, B) More of Brady C) More of Bounty Hunter Industry (more like…$ and taxpayers burden of holding people in jail [I had a whole bit about this that I cut from the piece because it felt too drawn out])
Would you rather this have been shorter? The world is changing. We’re used to TikTok. How do I possibly get distribution on TikTok when my style is so long-form? Should I cut it up? Should I look into the microphone and put the camera close to my face and just try reading 1-2 minutes of this? All suggestions are helpful!
If I turned my writing into audio (and I narrated all of my pieces), is that something any of you would ever want to listen to?
xo tysm etc.