Millions of Americans do strange or extreme things without quite being able to articulate why. Gary can’t quite articulate why he does a lot of things. When George ties Gary to the chair, he promises Gary he won’t get bored. On the phone, George reassures his former lover Allen that their breakup had nothing to do with Allen never wanting to go anywhere or do anything. Allen is an agoraphobic. Agoraphobia is a condition that can be debilitating and affects millions of Americans. Sometimes people from all walks of life can be afraid that if they go out into the throng they might somehow vanish. Millions of Americans disappear every year and are never found and after long periods are presumed dead. Hannah has a suitcase with some clothes and documents and her passport in it under her bed but always decides to wait. Hannah always waits to disappear because she wants to take care of Hank. Hank is a functional alcoholic.
Ramon and Walter are stiff from being tied to chairs for so long.
Millions of Americans die each year from complications from alcoholism. Derek is an alcoholic whose favorite cover song is Jeff Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and when he gets drunk he sometimes asks Kelly to tie him to a kitchen chair and break his phone and cut his hair. Ramon and Walter are stiff from being tied to chairs for so long. When you are tied to a chair, your arms can be tied in front of you, down at your sides, or behind the chair back, which is the most uncomfortable for the person being tied, but is the most common technique because it is the most difficult to escape from. Frank is a heating and cooling sales rep with an unknowing wife and daughter. Frank pays John to meet him at a hotel when Frank is in town so John can tie him up and leave him alone like that for eight to ten hours. Frank knows John from bumping into him a few times at sales strategies seminars and then talking a little bit over drinks. John lives with his boyfriend, Frederick. Frederick is strikingly handsome. Men who are strikingly handsome have been found to be more financially successful at work than plain or ugly men. Harold is a plain man who invests a lot of money in clothing, including tailored suits, shirts, ties, pocket squares, tie bars and cuff links, as well as shoes and socks. After a period during which formal business wear was on the wane, millions of Americans are returning to suits and ties in an effort to look more polished and confident. James makes an effort to look polished and confident, though he isn’t very successful at it. James lives alone. Millions of Americans live alone. Sometimes this is by choice and sometimes it is because a loved one has died or children have moved out, for example. Sandra lives just with her cats Whiskers and Riley. Both of her children moved out when they went to college out of state, but Jane leaves their bedrooms as they were when her daughters Ella and Ava left because she knows in the current economic climate they may have to return. In the current economic climate, millions of Americans are without jobs. Lisa doesn’t have a job. Lisa went to school for marketing but lost her job when the corporation told its workers it had to make cuts because of the current economic climate. Millions of Americans are suffering due to the current economic climate. Sometimes persons without jobs receive unemployment insurance while they look for new jobs. Jason receives unemployment insurance because he was laid off when the plant closed.
Millions of Americans are three years old.
Jason lives with his wife, Carol, and his son, Jack. Jack is three years old. Millions of Americans are three years old. Three-year-olds are still too socially and mentally underdeveloped to be capable of making moral judgments. When you make a moral judgment, you have to decide not just what’s best for you but what’s right and wrong for you and the people around you, either people you know or strangers or both. Millions of Americans are strangers. Lily and Uta are strangers to each other even though they live in the same apartment complex. Uta plays bass in a punk-funk band called The Watchtower. The Watchtower is a tract delivered door to door by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that millions now living will never die. Millions of Americans die every year. Ellen dies of heart failure. Ellen’s cousin Kenneth almost dies of lymphoma. Lymphoma is a form of cancer that affects the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are parts of the human body that help the body ward off infection. Because Olivia’s tonsils become infected so frequently, she decides to have them surgically removed. Millions of Americans have surgery each year. Richard has surgery to repair his left inguinal hernia that occurred after he tried to lift a divan so he could drag it to the Dumpster. Millions of Americans use Dumpsters as convenient means of trash disposal. Victor mixes his shredded bank statements with old pasta sauce and puts all of it in the Dumpster. Shredding documents is a means of protecting against identity theft. Millions of Americans’ identities are stolen every year. Kevin’s identity was stolen and it is taking him almost two years to recover money lost from all the fraudulent uses of his debit card. Millions of Americans now use debit cards instead of checks as a means of making payments. Each year, Drake pays Alan and his team 750 dollars to kidnap him, drive him to a remote motel room, take away his phone and wallet and clothing, and leave him stranded there, bound, gagged, blindfolded, and naked. Millions of Americans are kidnapped every year. Millions of Americans are naked. Millions of Americans get tied to chairs at some point in their lives. Doug gets duct-taped to an office chair as a frat house prank. Millions of Americans are members of college fraternities. Hector wants to pledge to become a brother at a fraternity at his university but decides it isn’t worth the hassle or harassment.
Millions of Americans try to connect the dots but can’t.
Millions of Americans get harassed each year. Harassed people like Sandra often have to change their plans. Sandra sits on her bed very still and decides she’s not going to buy the rifle after all. When Allen fires his rifle skyward at the shopping mall it ruins many people’s plans. Millions of Americans try their hardest to plan for the future, but things fall apart. Millions of Americans fall apart each year. Millions of Americans can’t quite explain how they feel or why and don’t know what to do about it. Millions of Americans try to connect the dots but can’t. Millions of Americans have stopped trying. Millions of Americans don’t give a shit. Millions of Americans cry quietly in the kitchen. Millions of Americans are still waiting. Millions of Americans just want to know what it feels like. Millions of Americans spend money on goods and services they keep secret. Millions of Americans keep secrets. Millions of Americans want clear instructions. Millions of Americans are afraid things are just going to go on like this forever. Millions of Americans are afraid. Millions of Americans want to say yes. Millions of Americans say yes. Millions of Americans wander out into the dark to stare at the night sky and wonder why. Millions of Americans will never know why what happens happens. Millions of Americans feel completely anonymous. Millions of Americans get so far away from themselves they can’t find their way back. Millions of Americans hyperventilate in parked cars on sunny days. Millions of Americans just want an answer. Millions of Americans can’t wait anymore. Millions of Americans tilt their heads back and close their eyes and scream. Millions of Americans don’t even have a reason. Millions of Americans do.
Nicholas Grider is a writer and artist living in Milwaukee. He received an interschool MFA from California Institute of the Arts. His photography has been exhibited internationally, and his writing has appeared in Caketrain, the Collagist, Conjunctions, and Hobart, among others. “Millions of Americans Are Strange” appears in Nicholas’s forthcoming debut collection, Misadventure, which will be released in February 2014 by A Strange Object.