1: Raymond Gelding

Drawing by Bex Freund

Raymond Gelding has a face full of wrinkles, but not the ordinary, logical assortment you see in most people his age. What I mean is, whereas some people’s wrinkles suggest a lifetime of smiling, or of frowning, or of grimacing in pain, Raymond Gelding’s wrinkles betray nothing. They are evenly distributed across all sectors of his face with an exactitude that is not accidental. Every morning, Raymond stands in front of his bathroom mirror and smiles exactly one hundred times. He then frowns twenty-five times so as not to become asymmetrical. He’s done this every morning since his twenty-fifth birthday. He is sixty-three now. He believes that by maintaining a tension balance between smiles and frowns, he can stave off the visible signs of aging. If anything, it has only brought them on more quickly.

In his closet, Raymond has nothing but a dull spectrum of business suits and a single red speedo. Every once in a while he resolves to go swimming, but the sight of himself bulging out of the speedo quickly banishes the thought from his mind. He wears suits to the office, where he works as a claims adjuster for an insurance company, but he also wears suits on his days off, and when he gets home from work he wears his suit until it is time to put on pajamas. He never lets his bare feet touch the ground.

Raymond Gelding is not an unhappy man, nor is he particularly happy. His internal world is more or less the same as his face. He is not unhappy because he has never allowed himself to experience anything that would make his current life seem unsatisfactory. He is not particularly happy, because any great joy would run the risk of destabilizing the compromise he has created for himself. Still, for a hundred little moments at the beginning of each day, Raymond Gelding really is uncompromisingly happy.

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