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A couple of months ago, I was wheezing and gasping. Lots of ums and ahs. At one point, I was angering some people. And then there was that incident. The one that set a lead foot on the gas pedal and insincerely told me it was the brake. No wonder people say I have two left feet.
I’m not huffing or panting anymore. No ums and ahs. I’m not irritating anyone, or listening to a rant. I don’t even feel threatened.
Please sit. Relax. I have a joke to tell. It’s a bit lengthy. But I promise it’ll be worth your while. Before you swipe left on this screen, take a few minutes to read my diary. This phone doesn’t get a signal in the basement so if you’re someone I know; no, the phone wasn’t turned off, and no, I wasn’t ignoring you. In fact, I was most likely doing quite the opposite. Now go ahead and get to the diary on the table there, would you? Though if you must attend to something else first, go ahead. I’m not going anywhere.
I forgot what I was going to do. I was a little annoyed. There’s the clock, ticking away. And I was stuck remembering. Then it came to me. I had to prepare a groceries list. I checked the fridge and rummaged through the clutter in the pantry. I didn’t have milk or beans or meat or bread. I didn’t have cereal. I didn’t have anything. I started jotting. The pen nib pulled away from the paper rather than pushed into it. “Ah,” I said aloud. Eagerly I unraveled the dressing around my other hand, sorely missing the vigor in effective everyday use. Opening the door felt invigorating, for trivial example. And the driving to the market was breezy. The air conditioning, in particular, felt breezy through my unraveled fingers.
My body leaned right as I hoisted the considerably loaded bags of groceries back to the car. A bottle of salad dressing fell out on the way. It smashed. I don’t eat salad anyways. I switched hands on the load. I moved on. Pickup baseball time. But it disappointed. Yes, pickup baseball disappointed. My buddies told me I shouldn’t put stress on my right hand just yet, for fear it might still be tender. No matter, I thought, what’s another day? But then there was a catch. Well, technically it was the glove with which to catch. There is always one smelly, unrecognizably disfigured lefty glove. There is always one smelly downside to this. My buddies laughed as I put it on. And then, as I fumbled with it. But the tables quickly turned. I warmed up. I had gotten the hang of it. All this practice on my opposite side doesn’t just let me reach the toilet paper more easily. I’ve adapted quite well. I learned how to sign with it. I mean, there’s nothing left to learn after that. Ha, there’s nothing ‘left.’
Don’t I feel like an idiot? The fingerprint scanner wouldn’t recognize me. I must’ve tried for half an hour before realizing I was using my left finger. How dumb of me. In any case, I was $40 heavier now, the only kind of weight gain that is flattering, so it was all well and good. Besides, it isn’t like my buddies to know anything about timeliness. I’d probably still be early by their standards.
Yup. Earliest bird in the wormhole. I know. It sounds wrong. So the movie was good. Had a sweet line in it that made me think. A woman says to another, “Many internet icons are famous for no talent whatsoever. It’s the teen fanbase. And once they’re at the top, they can put out any bad product or push uneducated statements about society, and they’ll be quoted like philosophers. This is how it goes.” And the other woman sighs in angst and goes, “I can see now how the word ‘culture’ can come from a play of letters on cult.”
By the way, my left hand was hurting throughout the movie so I stepped out for a minute to have a look. In the light outside the theater, I noticed all these smudges from when I dragged my hand across my notes in class. Also, the damn spiral notebooks we use pinch the bottom edge of the palm. I haven’t been able to shake the habit of writing with the left hand. I need to stop. I’m healed. I’m a righty.
Franko lost my external hard drive. I’m never lending expensive things to people again. “Calm down with your material comfort,” he admonished. “That’s the prob—you know, that’s the bone of contention here. You keep pushing me even though I already told you I’ll get you a new one.” I almost told him I would break his bones of contention for taking this long to get me the thing. Sure, patience. That’s my problem. Not the fact that it’s been two days. Two whole days. He thinks I’m paranoid he’d run out on me. I’m not. But I am clouded from that quarreltine. That’s a new word I invented. Anyway, quarreltines make me tired. So I went outside to get some fresh air.
I sat for about an hour at the entrance of the campus’s dining hall, pretending to be engrossed in my phone. But why would my phone be so high up and not down in my lap, and tilted so unnaturally parallel to my face as if I were using the camera? Because, have you been to my college in summertime? The scenery is divine. Naked legs everywhere. Legs leading up to buoyant frames and bouncy hairs. My flow was interrupted only by someone sitting next to me, with whom I kept bonking elbows. “Sorry,” I said, and switched the phone to my right hand.
My college advisor called me in her office today. Dumbly enough, I had overwritten my signature thrice on a financial document in an attempt to ‘fix’ it, since the pen stopped up a lot the first time and the ink never flowed as well the second. To boot, I tried to shake her hand with my left after apologizing for my blunder. Then she had to do the quick shuffle to accommodate, while I did the same. And we ended up switching sides a couple more times until we achieved synchronicity. Way to set an impression.
The reason I haven’t mailed my transfer letter is because I haven’t put the correct postage on it. That is the short version. I keep putting it off. The full version is complicated. The last time I went to the post office, I caught myself writing the address with the left hand again. And when I asked for a pair of scissors to cut the old stamps off the letter for future use, they told me they only had a lefty pair. I refused on principle and didn’t mail the stupid letter.
I knocked Franko out cold today. The external hard drive remained external and had nothing to do with this. He gave me a present. “August 13. Happy sinistrality.” A smudge guard. You know, that queer thing that fits around your wrist and up to your pinky? Yes, yes. We’re all laughing. So what did I do? I went and gave him a smudge across his face. Anyway, I kept the stupid thing. I thought the friction would remind me to use the smart hand and not the stupid hand. Should have seen the way they looked at me after the scuffle. I can get a glimpse of myself through their eyes, an over-the-shoulder shot that’s slowly zooming out. A brooding figure standing over this drooling mess, with half of my face showing. Now I am that guy. I am the incriminating guy with the weird glove.
Got more groceries today. Signing the merchant copy struck me on an emotional level. The stylus on the counter is always on the right. I reached across my chest and signed it with my left. Apparently I go out of my way for it.
I apologized to Franko and told him he didn’t have to buy me a new hard drive anymore. He took it surprisingly well, given the humiliation. But I doubt we’ll hang the same way anymore. And to think, I knocked him out with my left. I would’ve been in for murder if it were my hand of preference.
Earlier today, on the drive to the campus I stopped for a coffee. I put it in the cup-holder and drove on. At an intersection, I tried to outdo myself by reaching for the coffee and making a turn at the same time. I groped thin air as I continued to miss the cup, and at this point, my arms were crossed. I didn’t want to remove my vision of the road, and for whatever reason, the exertion made me crumple the cup in my hand and spill scalding hot coffee into my lap. I freaked out and parked up a light post on the side of the street. The engine block caught fire. The siren squad arrived. Never in my life could I have fathomed how stressful it is to watch your car burn to the ground right in front of your eyes. My mind melted trying to make out why my arms had to cross and why it had to be an unnecessary gymnastic stunt. I figured it out. I tried to grab the coffee with my left when my right was free on the wheel. I am broken up. This is not a habit anymore. It’s something else. Something sinister.
“What were you doing there? Turning left or going straight?” a police officer asked me. My arms were wrapped high around my chest as if I had an invisible straitjacket on.
“Yeah,” I remarked somberly, “I’m turning left.”
I caught myself using the numerical keys on the top of the keyboard instead of the numpad on the right side. So I tied my left hand to the back with a piece of string. I’ve read everything there is to do with mixed-handedness. Lefties are supposed to be able to multitask really well. As I write this, I am watching my favorite show, talking to a buddy of mine on the phone and looking at pornographic material all at once. However, I am a righty so this is a downright disaster. I’m glad. Ambidexterity on the other hand was quite interesting. Dexter means ‘right’. Ambi-dexter? Get it? Such preferential treatment–everything is either right, or just plain wrong. Oh well, mixed-handedness it is—I just prefer to do certain tasks with one hand and others with the other. Nothing to worry, says the internet. But the hand is staying tied for now.
I walked into the restaurant with a bold set of shoulders. As I waited for someone to seat me, I examined carefully the right-angled arrangement of utensils on tabletops. I waved hello at the receptionist with my right. I was kindly seated near a window at a table of my choice. It is worthy of note that I pulled the chair out with my right. A waitress attended to me with the most delightful smile, obliging one in return. I asked for a glass of water and made up my mind about lunch. She returned and set the glass down with her left. I smiled. I thanked her. I told her what kind of meal I was craving. She nodded and left.
Meanwhile, I mused in the thought of how insane I’d become lately. Getting in fights over trivial joshing; going ape over what hand I hold my toothbrush in; whispering cusses at the smudge guard in class. I decided I was done thinking about it. I needed the time off. No smudge guard, no worries, just rest. A short break later, the food arrived. Again, she served with her left. I grinned and thanked her. The cutlery on the right fitted conveniently into my hand. I carefully ate my food, basking in the liberation of my left hand from the restrictive smudge guard. You know, in ancient desert cultures, the shortage of water makes people economical in their usage. They would clean themselves after a nature’s call with their left, minimizing water consumption. They’d eat from a communal plate where the use of the left hand would be a sin of the highest order.
But those were ancient times, we (rightly) assert. We’re far past that now. We occupy our minds with much more prosperous things. There is little of the old dirt that we track back with us. Right? The communal plates are history, and so is shortage of water. Only the stigma remains. All the materialistic inadequacies have subsided, leaving only patchy sediments behind. These cobbles and sticks don’t hurt me. See? It’s not stopping me from using both of my hands right now. It was never about resentment for the left side. It’s not even the higher risk of psychosis recorded among the lefties that compels me. After all, I think I’ve fallen in love with my waitress in a matter of three short encounters. It’s about the right-hander culture I’m in. This is a silly subject. But since my knowledge has been broadened by my recent ‘episodes’, I’ll indulge in my newfound sympathy for my cousins on the left. They are a significant part of society that the world seems to have forgotten about. All the tools are right-handed. All the guns are right handed. The languages and cultures disfavor the left. And as an added bit of fun, all the binders have their rings in the middle and we write left to right. Go figure. Who cares what my strong hand is? The rightness of east and the
wrongness leftness of west.
Who cares? Who cares?
I sat there amused by my own cerebral soliloquy, and out of pure subconscious, began testing my ocular dominance. From all the reading, I discovered that mixed-handedness might have effect on brain laterality, whatever that is. What I was interested in was to find out which side eye of mine is dominant. So I sat alone like a total eccentric dolt, aiming a finger-gun in front of me at arm’s length and testing my natural preference. I think the fact that I was aware of what I was trying to achieve was getting in the way of producing a natural result. So I dropped the finger-gun. But the eyes blinked on until I had approximated my level of comfort.
“Are you seriously that shameless?” questioned a strident female voice. I turned to find an angry face cocked down upon me like the long barrel of a gun. The restaurant staff was with her. I struggled to grasp at any semblance of thought within the outburst. Soon a security man joined in. I was being accused. “He’s been winking at me and my 16 year old daughter for the past half hour. I am going to call the police on you, pervert.”
I tried defending myself. It got heated. Apparently the calmest, most diplomatic voice of mine is a sign of ‘retaliatory conduct.’ All the public needs is a woman in some measure of visible, preferably audible distress, and ‘oh my lord, what has that ghastly man done to that poor woman!’ No amount of protest was enough. They seemed to have made up their mind. Checking for ocular dominance was too bizarre of an idea to digest. I was promptly escorted out of the premise. I sat in my car as distraught as one can be. I waited for a break in the clouded state of my head. It didn’t let up. Instead, a new irritation spawned. I needed closure. I needed to absolve myself. I didn’t get to speak my mind back there. I needed to tell her what I had to say. So I waited. I waited for her and her daughter to exit the establishment and enter her car. A deep blue Toyota Avalon. They left in such a hurry I couldn’t find a suitable window to engage them. So I followed them. Out of town. Into the suburbs. For forty minutes.
They stopped. They entered what must be their house. Then I saw them no more.
Seconds away from knocking on their front door, I sank. What would she think if she saw me here? How would I tell her I just wanted to talk about it, at her doorstep? She’d call the police for sure. I stopped. I doubled back. It wasn’t meant to happen after all, I thought. But then, I heard a slam. A door slammed shut somewhere. I went across the lawn and around the left of the house to a window. Before I even got close, I heard a muffled rummaging noise, like that of foraging around in a narrow drawer. Some clothing flew across the window pane as I approached. Then, a pair of jeans soared across. I peered in as far as one could through a closed window, the angle worked to the point my face was pressed up against the glass. My eyes scanned for movement, my dominant eye more than my recessive one, and caught sight of a familiar shape. I paused and reexamined. The unmistakable color of a naked body became apparent. Brown hair clocked left and right as the 16 year-old pranced about fully nude, her blonde skin glowing golden in the indoors ambience. She moved about agilely and her flexible breasts sympathized on instinct. She dithered before a floor length mirror, posing and deliberating, sometimes turning at tricky angles to micromanage her image. She made stroppy faces through some of them, and her teeth twinkled at others. How fickle, how bipolar, the achy, restless teenage days. Her body gently throbbed as she stroked her long hair with a brush, her ribcage softly prodding in the mirror, and then as she pulled the hair over her left shoulder, she exposed her lustrous back in full. The moderate crests of her rear complemented her frame exquisitely. I could not contain myself any longer.
My grip tightened. I wanted to leave but I couldn’t make myself, even after her sensual figure disappeared behind her bathroom door for a good 15 minutes.
When she returned, she was visibly glistening with moisture. The towel that enveloped her supple body slid off. I caressed the window pane almost uncontrollably, and as I began masturbating, the caressing turned to relentless scraping. I couldn’t stop now. It was the lesser of the two evils in my mind. She should thank me for my relative kindness. She continued to thump about in her carefree demeanor, not that I needed her to anymore. In fact, she was fully clothed by the time I climaxed. By the time she left her room, I was warmed up for the much dreaded comedown.
The unwinding of hormones proved too sudden for the conscience. As the stimulation subsided, I was left to tinker with my enormous shame, and I couldn’t stay there a second longer. Without knowing it, I had deliberately committed the most deviant sin of a lifetime. I could only shudder in fear of what protracted torture machine my brain had in store for me for this. I got in my car and bulleted off without delay.
Then came the kicker, the greatest shocker of my life. I felt semen under my left palm, and by the time I investigated, it had laced the entire left side of the steering wheel. I pulled over on the street shoulder. I splayed both my hands flat in front of me. I cringed. I quaked. My eyes developed a film of water as I strained. I had pleasured myself with my left.
I was shaking when he opened the door. He was much too self-absorbed to notice, however, probably minding his toolbox full of what I imagine were custom tools, at least in part. He invited me in following a shoulder bump. “That was weak, cuz,” he commented. “Yeah, broke my wrist off the bike,” I explained, swiveling my right hand. “It’s not all there yet.” Then he raised an inquiry about the ‘thing’ that was on my left hand. “Ah, it’s a story.” He expressed momentary concern before delving into his daze. Inside I found a wide array of tools scattered all across the hardwood floor. A greasy smell suffused. He was deep in work. Among the clutter I also sighted a lefty student desk. Needless to say, my eyes promptly scurried off.
I told him I had a question for him. But before that, I needed to explain where I was coming from. That in itself led to complications between us. I told him about my issue, and though at first he ridiculed me for thinking it was possible, he was quieted when I confided in him about the bad and ugly. It wasn’t easy. I had never shared something so treacherous with anyone without being at least partly frivolous about it to lighten the perspective. “People don’t just turn lefty, you dunce,” he abruptly blathered. I ran a nervous eye over the desk in the room, and it had somehow adopted a new, stranger look over the last few minutes. “Oh yea? How did you get that stutter?”
His eyes went thin and small. He asked what I was getting at. I repeated the question. He asked if I was stammering in my sentences just to taunt him. I told him it was the latest development in whatever was happening to me. “What do you mean?” he then answered. “I’ve had it since we wha-were kids.”
Finally, he relented. He briefly opened up about his childhood issue, of how he was taught to write with the right at school by a teacher who appeared to hold superstitious beliefs. He explained that his stutter magically went away when his parents found out about his predicament and reverted him to the left.
“But it never went away, did it?” I said cuttingly, in these exact words.
“Well, n-no-not entirely.”
I probed further. I inquired if he was ever confused about his failure to fully convert to the right. “I was 9. Of course I was confused.” Then, I asked him if he would mix his hands up when performing other menial tasks. He raised his eyebrow and irritably repeated himself, “I was 9.” I suggested that he might have been undergoing a physiological change that affected his psyche. He stopped me in my tracks. “You’re not saying I…are you?”
I told him not without a fair share of pauses, rewinds and stutters, about how they did a survey of people with psychosis and the patients ran a 20 percent likelihood of being left-handed. He blew raspberries at the notion and replied, “And what, 80 percent are right-handed?” “Brain laterality plays a role,” I extrapolated. “Buzz off, bro. That’s just wrong.” He turned his attention to his tools again, engaged in a pondering pose, disinterested entirely in the subject at hand. I gave the lefty desk another look from the corner of my eye. There was an eerie vibe about it. The way it just sat there, wrapping around from the left so resolutely—I shivered away.
“It’s normal for the subconscious to attack itself when you mess with it like that,” he uttered without context, without eye contact. I told him I had no cause for this distress, only that the biking injury temporarily put my right out of commission. It should not matter that much, I insisted. “I didn’t mean that. I meant your conscience.” He turned it on me. He thought it was a pattern of unsavory things I was ashamed of from my past that were manifesting in the corruption of my ethos, some physical outcome of repressed guilt or the like. I got inflamed. I demanded he came clean with what he implied. He simply requested I calmed down and went to a clinic. In my rage, I skidded overboard, doing away with the surreptitious hints and brazenly accusing him of feigning the left-handedness. “It was a bad habit and you embraced it until you couldn’t go back anymore. That’s how you got the stutter! You still have it too, no thanks to your parents. Your teacher tried helping you. All you had to do was ride it out!” It was not the best thing to do. He withdrew entirely and began to walk off to another room. Out of a darkening mood, I grabbed hold of his left forearm and imparted, “Don’t hide it. Same thing that’s happening to me, it happened to you as a kid, didn’t it?” He struggled to slip free of my grip but the smudge guard would not allow it. “No, how about, next time, you don’t stalk a minor to her house and just watch porn like everybody else, you weird creep!”
I spiraled beyond the point of return. I stepped once to the side and kicked the wretched desk over and let the crash set the mood. He shouted to be let go. He yelled profanities. I disparaged his lack of conviction to his natural fundamental condition and chastised him for fooling himself into being otherwise. “How could you let it take you?!” At this point, he was so desperate to be set free that he screamed, “If you hate it so much, just cut it off!”
And I let him go.
I haven’t left the house today. It feels as though the weather has waned but I’m sure that’s not the case. I’ve spent most of the day slashing it. By it, I mean ‘it’. It started with poking and prodding. At one point I accidentally drew blood. It felt so good. So cathartic. I am using a new set of shaving razors, and I even dipped them in spirit beforehand for insurance. So rest assured there’s no risk of infection. What I have in mind is rather oblique by anatomical standards, but I believe there might be some nerve or vein or distention in here—just something—that I could snip, and I’d be all well and good. The enemy is the psychology, for which there is no sound footing, so I’ll fight this my way. The arm has gone numb. But I attribute that to the overtight rag around my bicep. I’m not worried about the scars. I’ll just get a tattoo over it once I’m better. Honestly, I cannot wait for the day I finally get to burn this weird glove. I have missed pickup baseball like anything.
The king’s advisor. He sits on the right. The angel of good. He sits on the right. The angel of death. He rhymes with left. Raise your right hand. Swear by the good book. Put your right foot first. Sit upright. The right way. Not the left, the wicked way. Cunning and shifty, the crafty devil. The ugly orphan, he’s got two left hands. The left-handed assassins, they killed with them. That man over there, the one with the glove. The unforgettable left-handed one. The natural evil. The major’s lieutenant, he’s righteous. The criminal’s right hand, he’s loyal. The good, the bad, and the left. The words, the words. They speak of the true. The righteous sheep. The fallen goats. No one trusts the goats on the left. No one trusts the goats on the left. The sun, the sun. It rises in the east. Bringing light to all. The sun, the sun. It sets in the left. Leaving for darkness fall.
So you swiped over to the next screen. Did you read the diary? I told you it was lengthy. Now that you’re caught up (hopefully), allow me to paint one last picture. It’s been a week since I wrote in the last journal entry. You’re wondering how come. It’s because—and I’m not exaggerating—I can no longer write with my right. Fine motor tasks are beyond me now. I could, I suppose, have continued writing with the left, but that would not be me talking. Before you make up your mind about me, believe me that I’m truly at peace now. I’m not huffing or panting anymore. No ums and ahs. I’m not irritating anyone, or listening to a rant. I don’t even feel threatened. You’re wondering how it came to this.
Well, the short version is not worth telling, so the long version is this: I tried sleeping it off. In my sleep, I dreamed that my right hand was well again. Do you know the first thing I did when I was normal again? I went back to the restaurant with the lefty waitress again. I asked her what made her so. “Surgery,” she replied. She didn’t say where, but since she had both arms on her body, I’m assuming it was her brain. I asked what she needed the surgery for. She replied, “My left hand wanted to murder me in my sleep.”
She didn’t have the dream time to elaborate further, because I am fairly certain the 16-year old girl and her obnoxious mother had started approaching me at the last second—I wonder what it could’ve been this time–but this offensive condition was only going to get worse, this much I concluded.
I know it’s demented, but I figured I’d try to back out in some trice of self-pity. I’ve already done it once. The nap I took; that was me putting it off. This time, I’ve trapped my arm in the heating vents of the boiler in my basement. The slant, funnel-like fins have tightened around my arm and—if I’m seeing this right—cut into it. I thrashed about at first, but now I’m determined. That initial struggling was the change of heart I was trying to avoid. I even managed to use it to my advantage. The struggle caused the fins to cut deeper in and my arm’s swollen. There’s no sleeping on it now. Before you think of the aftermath, yes, I did research arm prosthetics and can surely afford one—I’m not dumb.
Before you get quick to judge me irrational and obsessed, try having an arm that effectively has a will of its own. Try having it when you’ve designed your entire life around the other side. I’m a unique case of crazy, because I know it’s not right. It’s depraved. But it really isn’t about the right versus the left. It’s about preserving an identity. Something about who I was seems to matter more than who I might become. Who I was shapes who I am, and who I am will dictate who I’ll become. And I am a righter.
Now, this joke is nearing an end. I’ve set it up sufficiently I believe. I might have even overindulged at points. I apologize. I just didn’t want to be the kind of joke you’d forget the next minute. So here it goes. I bought a circular saw before I put myself here. You might find it lying by my side. Electric. I figured it would remove the hesitation that comes in between, say, hacks. When I was just ready, I realized the damn thing was left-handed, the cord kept slithering under the motor, interfering, and, let’s just say, it complicated the positioning. I decided to wrap the cord around my back to get rid of all the extra slack. But the silly thing is, and I’m laughing so hard I can barely type, the cord ran short on slack and came off the wall socket.
The socket’s across the room!
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