Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Story of Laken

In college, I knew a wrestler named Laken.

Laken was 6 foot 3 with a shock of red hair that he wore long over his eyes, down to the unnervingly triangular soul patch underneath his lower lip. His skin had the alabaster tone and clarity of a Greek statue. His head alone must have weighed 18 pounds and his eyes were steely gray. His nose was too small for his face. He grunted.

He looked like he belonged on a Viking ship in some far off Nordic land.

And that's how he acted.

Laken wore skirts. Black wool pleated skirts. He didn't wear them as a joke, he just wore them. He also wore a pair of severe-looking black and red striped knee socks. The stripes distorted over his massive, knotty calves in bent curves. He sported necklaces and bracelets made of sharp punctures, some turned outwards to the world, readied for jabbing, and others turned on his own flesh, reddening his creamy skin. He liked that people were frightened by him. He encouraged it.

He enjoyed a hidden handicap, all too ready to share it with the skittish world. If you were to glance in his direction, you might doubletake because he was so huge and so odd, but not necessarily stare. Until he rolled up one of his long black sleeves and uncovered one of the most mangled arms ever seen.

The arm was almost normal if you squinted and it was that which made it so jarring, much like how The Elephant Man's one beautiful arm, no stronger and no less delicate than a ten year old's, would have looked usual and ordinary on someone else. As for Laken's, you would think for a moment that your eyes weren't properly relaying the shadows, then after a pregnant pause and a re-focus, you'd know. It was pinched in at the elbow so much that it was only about three inches wide, which wouldn't have been so bad if his other arm wasn't so gigantic with rippled muscle. The arm caved at his shoulder as well, giving him the appearance of having not only a flattened arm made of plastic, but a girlish one at that. The icing was a thick scar that roped down his bicep and then splayed out into a network of curving webbed lines.

He told one girl that he had been attacked by a shark while surfing the Pacific. That made him quite endearing to the sororities. We found out later that the rumor about the Great White wasn't true, but we didn't press it. There was no point in asking him what the real story was, we'd never be able to get it out of him.

Laken once approached me at a bonfire when the school was celebrating Wednesday, his massive chest covered in a delicate steel sheath and his face obscured with black paint. We chatted about how he was, the fact that his girlfriend had just gotten our school's mascot tattooed on her left ass cheek, how the History of Dinosaurs midterms were. Perhaps invigorated by the lukewarm beer, I ventured something that I never would have asked otherwise.

Disregarding his demeanor as best I could, I rubbed his mesh lightly between my palm and asked, ever so nonchalantly, "So...what's this? Chain mail?"

Laken drew his large face close to mine and I momentarily prepared for the passing of a dark secret between us. The whites of his eyes had spidery red lines.

"Yes. It's chain mail." He drew back, eyeing me. I took another sip from my cracked red cup, gulping it a bit too fast.

"Oh. I see." I knew full well not to ask what he was wearing it for. That's just what Laken stood for, and I wasn't about to indulge his little game of wreaking havoc on people's comfort levels. The best course of action, I figured, was to act as though this was the most normal of conversations and that his outfit, though interesting, was nothing out of the ordinary.

"So," I ventured with a grin, "Where did you get it? It's so cool." I looked into his eyes, waiting. He again leaned closer and I shuffled forward to meet him, sloshing beer over my cupped hand.

"I spent the last 40 hours making it." Laken righted himself and stood with his fists at his sides.

I sipped again. "You spent 40 hours making that?" I suddenly envisioned Laken hunched over, huddled in bearskins, crafting each tiny clip by light of dying embers.

Laken didn't move, didn't blink. "Not 40 hours. The last 40 hours."

It was then that, without so much as a goodbye, Laken turned away from me and began stomping towards the dining hall. He was a large man and he needed to eat. Suddenly he stopped, realizing that he had rudely interrupted our conversation, and turned around, waved his mangled arm goodbye, and with his skirt blowing in the wind, went inside.


Anonymous said...

Holy crap--this guy sounds scary!

d34dpuppy said...

do u know wot he's doin now?

drawdawn said...

oooh! Great story!

Fuckkit said...

Will he be my friend?

Oob said...

Intriguing character study. One has to wonder, though... how was he as a wrestler with said handicap? Regardless, great writing.

K said...

oob--you are so right--that was something I pondered when I first met him--but even though the arm looked the way it did, it was unbearably strong (and the forearm and upper arm aside from where it caved in was muscular, but paled in comparison to his other). Those wrestlers, they really overcame...

Oob said...

Ah, I see. Very interesting. Thanks for indulging my curiosity!

bt said...

there really arent enough opportunities in life to wear bearskins. what is it with redheads.

Loralee Choate said...

Hmmm...I am always intrigued by people who go out of their way to draw attention to themselves and then are offended if people are curious.

Human being should question, ponder...whatever.

Well written story. I have a bizarre fondness for both wrestlers and "skirts".

I thought you were gracious about the chain mail. I would have probably salivated and asked what he was wearing undeneath the kilt. ;D

Sober In the City said...

Great writing. You have a wonderful way with description.

Sober In the City said...

This one is my favorite.

Cheetarah1980 said...

I want to meet Laken. You made him sound THAT intriguing.

Anonymous said...

my name is laken and im far from a guy....and it kinds funny when i read my name and you like make him sounds like some kind of beast or something...none the less i love my name even if some guys with the name are freaks