Word Count 500
Not the Swearing Kind
By Sam McManus
He had Tourette’s, but not the swearing kind. In fact, if you didn’t know him very well you wouldn’t even suspect he had any issues. If you looked closely, however, you might notice the trembling in his right hand, the clicking of his tongue slamming repetitively against the back of his teeth, or even the twitching of his left eyebrow in time with some hidden drummer in his head. It was at once both familiar and reassuring, but also supremely frustrating to him. It had only caused him real trouble twice in his life: the one time when he accidentally voted for Jill Stein, and the other when he wet himself at the urinal at City Hall. Both times had been quite embarrassing. He had vowed not to let either one happen again.
He was a tour guide at the Museum of Modern Art, one of the fifty white-jacketed walking encyclopedias of the history of painting, with some sculptural knowledge on the side. When he was on his feet, using his hands to gesture at the works on the walls, he sometimes forgot the shaking that consumed him at all other times of the day. It was as if the motion lulled his brain into a sense of comfort that nothing else could. He wished he were able to bottle that feeling and keep it with him all day long, but he knew it was as impossible as Easter on the Fourth of July.
When he did swear, it was absolutely intentional, and with as much vitriol as possible. He figured if he was going to do it, he was going to do it right, just as if he were a normal person, with normal feelings. He knew others made fun of him. He heard it in their whispers, just loud enough for him to get the gist. He saw it in the shadows of their hands over their mouths when they thought he wasn’t looking. Or maybe they just didn’t care. So he swore with wild abandon, to himself, as he stared into the mirror above the sink in his postage stamp-sized bathroom. It didn’t make him feel any better. Especially when at the same time his toothbrush rattled in its holder because his hands wouldn’t stop vibrating.
His friend Kenny said it was all in his head. Kenny thought this lame joke was gold, and he told it about as often as they got together. But he forgave his friend because Kenny was his only friend, the one person outside of his own family who would tell him the god’s honest truth, no matter if it hurt. Everyone deserved a friend like that, he fervently believed. Of course, sometimes he would have preferred the lie, the friction of the half-truth rubbing against his conscience, but solid enough to give him some solace.
When he thought about it all, though, he still felt the worst when he thought back on how he could have ever voted for Jill Stein.