WORK by Andy Tran

WORK by Andy Tran

Nobody really gave a damn about Peter. 

He was alone all the time. He took photos of his hands and thought about selling them on the internet. His phone was covered in hands. His hands. Long, tan, big hands. He kept getting distracted by Instagram, wanting to post stories of his hands. The narrative of his hand. The main character could be his hands. Left hand. Right hand. 

The town he grew up in was beginning to constrict his energy. He lived in a house blanketed in pollen with a backyard full of junk, and there was a big trash can in the center plot of land. Inside there were lamps, tables, mirrors, postcards, bottles, anything you could think of. 

He was cleaning up his mother’s house. She was moving to Tennessee to live with an Algebra II teacher. Mother was smoking a cigarette at the kitchen table. She smoked Reds. She drank some beer and took another drag from her cigarette. She thought her whole life was now in that big trash can, stewing inside. 

Peter drove a Chevy sedan. He picked up food from a Halal restaurant and went straight to the customer’s house. He left the food on the doorstep. Took a picture of it. Sent it to the Uber Eats App. 

The next day, Peter got a call from an unknown number. It was a woman who asked him why he sent her a picture of his hand. Peter didn’t remember sending a picture of his hand to anyone. He kept those pictures to himself, for now. The woman wanted more pictures of his hands. 

“They’re beautiful. Give me more,” she said. 

Peter threw old China plates into the trash can. The trash can was huge. It was bigger than his studio apartment. Probably 900 sq. ft. The trash can. Huge. He could live there. Pay rent every month and just hang out there until he dies. 

He climbed up a wall of the trash can. He dropped inside. He stepped on a crushed peach and slipped. He landed on a yellow bean bag chair. His hand braced against the ground. The sound of glass cutting flesh. He clutched his hand. It was bleeding. There were broken pieces of a lightbulb laying on the floor. He had a red hand now. His hand was no longer gorgeous. 

He took a picture of his red hand and sent it to the woman. 

“I want it inside of me,” she said. 

Peter went into his bedroom and jerked off into a white athletic sock. He took a nap on the floor with his sock over his dick. He dreamed about sheep who ate people. Blood stained the athletic sock.  

The Algebra II teacher came over to help Mother pack her bags. She had fifteen suitcases. He packed fifteen suitcases into the back of a tarnished U-Haul truck. He was about to shake Peter’s hand but then he noticed that it was red. 

He pointed at Peter’s red hand. “Your hand is red,” he said. 

Peter nodded. “I know. I need to wash it,” he said. 

In the bathroom, Peter washed his hand and hummed along to a John Coltrane song. He wished he could play the saxophone, wished he understood music, the complexities of the sound, how vast in scope it could all be. He wiped his hand on a bath towel. The music stopped playing. 

Mother was having an argument with the Algebra II teacher. She believed in abortions. He believed in God. Mother threw her bunny slipper at the Algebra II teacher. He ducked and went around the table and smacked her with his hairy hand. She clutched her face like a purse. He looked at his hand. It was shaking. 

Later that night, Peter met with the unknown-number woman. Her name was Tess. She gave him a hug. Peter got hard. They were sitting out on a patio that was basically a sidewalk, and they both had ordered whiskey & gingers. She had curly brown hair and green eyes. She was 5’4” and she liked Anime. She went to Johns Hopkins, but the classes met over Zoom and it was for Accounting. Her favorite football team was the Dallas Cowboys. Peter drank his whiskey & ginger and thought about Tess receiving the picture of his hand. He wondered if she loved his hand more than she would ever love him. Which was a weird thought, because they had just met. She touched his hand. It was still bruised and swollen. 

She gripped his fingers and smiled at him. “Why did you think nobody gave a damn about you?”

Peter didn’t know how to  answer the question. Peter knew the answer to the question, but he didn’t know how to articulate it. He smoked an e-cig which was CBD and it felt nice and smooth, and he felt like everything felt perfect, like nice-and-smooth times ten. Like exceptional. 

“I don’t like to talk much,” Peter said. Peter was shy. “I’m shy I guess.”

“But you’re six feet tall.”

“I know, but I’m just as afraid of death as the next person.”

They went back to her townhouse. She had a border collie named A Tribe Called Quest. Like, the whole fucking name. There was a poster of Juice WRLD hanging over the exposed brick. Tess put Peter’s hand in her mouth and sucked on his fingers, one by one, grabbing his hard-on. They fucked on her dilapidated wrap-around porch while “Bonita Applebum” played on her Spotify playlist.

Peter’s hands were leaked on the internet on a website called Good Hands. His hand was a meme. He looked embarrassed. But he didn’t feel embarrassed; he just felt exposed. But he knew that was kind of the point, right? Knowing that you’ll be perceived. It’s not a good feeling. But we go through it. You couldn’t back out once your hands were out there, online, endless, forever.  

Mother was riding the Algebra II teacher on the couch while K-Pop played from the TV speakers. He kept staring at her tits. There was a tiny smiley face tattoo to the right side of her nipple, on her left tit. The Algebra II teacher started locking eyes with the eyes of the tiny smiley face. He was losing focus. Mother punched him in the nose. 

Tess and Peter started a situation-ship. It felt good. It felt messy. It seemed to be like one long moment that just coasted along on the sea of time and space. 

Peter was sweeping the debris inside of the huge trash can. He did long brushing motions as though he were painting with a gigantic paintbrush on a dirty canvas. He thought he could resemble an Asian-American Jackson Pollock. If there was a film made about him, he hoped Steven Yeun would play him. He swept up the dirty debris into a smaller trash can and put it in the corner of the huge trash can. It felt meta to him, how the trash can was inside of a trash can. Like how you could drink from a cup of water, and your body was made out of water, so it was like two cups connecting to each other. He didn’t know if that made sense. He no longer knew what was happening anymore. 

When Mother told the Algebra II teacher that she was becoming an atheist, he tried to hang himself with his brown belt over a wooden rafter in the basement. He was too heavy and the knot had not been tied properly, so he collapsed on the concrete floor, and cried until night became day. Mother wanted to break up with the Algebra II teacher, but she was afraid for his safety. She drank a gin & tonic at a local bar in downtown Fairfax, Virginia, and when she saw a brunette throw a drink into a frat boy’s face, she filmed it on her phone. Her video went viral on TikTok, with views in the tens of thousands. Her username was Nguyen876. Her caption for the video was: Feminism Viewed from an Immigrant’s Lens. 

Peter had gone to the doctor who told him to go to the Emergency Room, and it was there that a couple of nurses gave him bandages, gauze, and a large, thick cast for his hand. The spot below his wrist kept itching, and he would use the bottom of a pen to scratch until it stopped itching for a few seconds. 

When Tess came over to see him, Peter was kicking a deflated soccer ball into the huge trash can. It ricocheted off the edge of the trash can and hit Tess in the face. Her lip was swollen and red. Peter ran over to her and caught Tess before she fell to the ground. 

“Are you okay?” he asked Tess.

“I’ve never been okay,” she said. 

Mother handed Tess a slim bag of frozen peas and frowned at Peter. Tess pressed the bag of frozen peas against her mouth and imagined feeling this cold all the time. “I know I feel awful. I have bad hand-eye coordination,” Peter said, making an I’m sorry face. 

Mother and Tess shared a cigarette and took turns blowing smoke into Peter’s face. The smoke felt like a soft breeze in the summertime. Despite Tess being injured, Peter thought his day was going better than most days. He had his Mother. He had Tess. He had his health. 

When Peter went to take a shit, Mother took a nap on the couch, and the Algebra II teacher ran into Tess. She dropped the bag of frozen peas on the granite floor. The bag broke and peas scattered across the tiles. The Algebra II teacher’s face turned red as he got on his hands and knees and cleaned up the peas. He looked up and saw Tess staring at him. 

“Is there something on my face?” he asked. 

There was a Band-Aid on his nose, but he was actually genuinely curious to know if she’d been looking at him. 

“I’m looking at your hands. They’re quintessentially masculine,” she said, sliding her thumb against his right palm. 

Peter was watching them from the top of the staircase. He didn’t say a word. He was livid, but he didn’t say a word. 

The Algebra II teacher stood up with his hands full of frozen peas. “I don’t know what to say. But thank you,” he said. 

A pea dropped from his hand. 

Tess moaned. 

Peter came downstairs stomping his feet and fake-grinning. 

“Everything alright down here?” he asked. 

He looked at the Algebra II teacher. He looked at Tess. He looked at the cast on his hand. In that moment, Peter knew he was no longer beautiful; he was no longer perfect. 

Andy Tran is a writer from Virginia.

Art by Levi Abadilla