Rahn saw him across the street – in his rolled up blue jorns and classic band shirt. His whiskers were exquisitely groomed into a decorative fan, and his tentacles glided smoothly into a pair of Dr. Maartax’s. He eclipsed his friends, and even their phog; he was something.
He was what Rahn could be if he tried. Even a little, he found himself thinking – from which place he tumbled into a round of opposing self-critiques.
Jealousy is a sin and a vice, he thought. God loves me no matter how I dress, he winced, looking down at his gray shirt and milk-mottled black work pants. The black ones from MmmMart, just two handful of kringek.
“You should go back and get at least one more pair,” Uubi had told him the morning they weren’t dry in time for work. It was hard to argue; the pants would serve him well.
Who I could be if I had more money is more like it, he thought, considering that he had never had a pair of boots that cost that much or jeans that fit that well.
“Just get things tailored!” everyone says, expensive derdap drink and latest EM in hand. Rahn nods at people like this and smiles, like the only reason he doesn’t get things tailored is he’s never heard of tailoring.
Rahn turned a cold, rough blue as he suddenly recalled an event from last cycle. Two men had pulled alongside him at a stop sign as he was walking home after getting off the city bus.
“Why you got those pants so tight?” the passenger asked him boldly, with a hint of laughter and as though it were an accusation.
Rahn was blown back. He didn’t know what to say.
“They’re secondhand, man, I don’t know what to say. You get what you get when you’re poor.”
The man turned to his friend and nodded. He looked back to see Rahn walking quickly away; “I’m poor, too,” Rahn heard him say, and Rahn took this to mean the man understood.
But maybe, Rahn thought. Maybe he meant, I’m poor, too, and I still manage to have cool pants. The distinction gnawed at him for some reason. The embarrassed flush stayed with him for days, and now he found it returning as a memory.
“Neither regard thy neighbor, nor thy neighbor’s wife, nor his nardu with envy in thy spleen; for the Master thy God appoints His blessings in order, and the world is not His only realm.” This was the verse Rahn was searching his spleen for. He was also mixing it up with another:
“Concern thyself neither with alimentation nor raiment, for the Master provideth abundantly for thee; he provideth for thee as for the gzora of the air, and even more abundantly still.”
He liked those pants. Uubi liked those pants, and he doesn’t like anything. Rahn was really crushed; scared, even. What else could be a lie? Did people really think about others like that?
Of course they did – he already knew that. He had thoughts like this, or even more unkind, about others. But I hold them in, he told himself, and I feel bad after. Isn’t the whole thing about adulthood keeping your shit to yourself?
He grew to hate those pants, to feel embarrassed when he put them on. Where once he was proud of how they hugged his shapely tentacles, he now felt hot, burning regret. Soon after, they wore out in the crotch, and he replaced them with the shapeless black sporting pants from MmmMart.
It could always be something – how somebody dyed their suckers or painted their beak, a well chosen accessory or a more professional-looking bag. Inside Rahn felt that almost everyone looked better than him – more comfortable and essential. More stylish than him, and more effortlessly so. More at home. Better.
Rahn realized at some point he was afraid to go outside because he was reflexively measuring himself against every passerby, and he almost always came out the loser. The hate he bore for himself spoiled his impression of other people, and most especially his impression of their impression of him.
The easiest way to never feel seen is to never be seen. Rahn often hid in his basement from…well, everything, he imagined. He smoked balibanaa and listened to music on his digital assistant. He colored and painted. He prayed to Shvuulo and Narmkra, depending on the cycle. He stretched his tentacles into increasingly bizarre shapes, gleaned from northern krrmnandakek. He emerged to get more bali, do the washing or make meals.
How has jealousy taken me this far? Rahn wondered, coming to on the bus, halfway to the station. I was lost in a jealous revery, Rahn thought. I blacked out and suddenly I was in my basement a year ago, hiding from the world.
Jealousy is a trap, Rahn thought, bringing a tentacle to his face to smooth his whiskers. It can trap you inside yourself all for nothing.
Let the story end on a happy note, Rahn thought, reaching for his EM to turn the music up higher.