Soylent Green Isn't People, it's the Color of Leisure Suits 13-Year-Old Boys Wear on the Bar Mitzvah Circuit, c. 1975
Hey Bar Mitzvah Boy, we say from the cheap seats at Congregation Beth Israel, “we” being John, Scott, Zev, Devin and me. We being the Leisure Suit League.
Bar Mitzvah Boy is our friend, the also-leisure-suited Todd.
We’re green, all of us. Blue green, forest green, lime green, yellow green, Lucky Charms green, Kermit green, super polyester green.
Al Green, John says.
Ha! we say.
It's not easy, bein’ Al Green, Scott says.
Ha! we say.
Boys! shushes Bar Mitvah Boy Todd’s Uncle Morty from the next table down: Think Myron Cohen with mutton chops, Todd told us.
You can see this guy doing stand-up, John says.
Just flew in from New York and boy are my jokes tired, Scott says.
Ha! we say.
The carpeting in the congregation is dirty orange, like a cat. It feels cloudy in here. Like when you’re looking at baseball cards and your favorite player’s hair curls out from under his cap and your frowning grandfather says In my day … and when he says this, it sounds so not like summer.
“Baruch atah adonai…eloheinu melech ha'olam…” Todd says into the mic, which squeaks. Or Todd’s squeaking, squeaking out words that are stuck on his tongue or maybe in his throat. Words that seem — no, feel — so hard to say out loud in front of these people. People who aren’t us.
He’s squeaking and he’s looking down down down like he’s thinking about disappearing. Down like a lie that is really the truth. Down like maybe he’ll pretend to re-tie his indignity loafers. Down like, you know, Get Down, Get Down (Get on the Floor).
Keep your eyes on the page! Uncle Morty whisper-shouts to Todd.
Hey, Todd didn’t say gifelte fish, Devin says.
He did — you just missed it, John says. Dammit! Devin says. You didn’t miss anything, I say. Except the scream in the Love Rollercoaster song. You ALWAYS miss that.
I don’t! I don’t miss it because it isn’t there! Devin says.
Well then you DID miss it because it is there, I say. One of the guys from the Ohio Players said some guy in the alley behind the recording studio got knifed.
BOYS! Uncle Morty whisper-shouts.
Hey there’s Marcy, Devin says.
Marcy looks uncomfortable in a dress, a white one with colors and things on the sleeves that look like the bottom of a fishbowl.
Marcy looks uncomfortable. And nice.
Marcy doesn’t not like me, I think.
Hey Paul, Marcy’s here, John says.
Come on, Todd’s still Bar Mitzvah-ing! I say. Todd’s also still looking down, still talking, still squeaking.
Uncle Morty is shushing and staring. Marcy is staring, too. Staring with her pale green eyes. They’re transparent, her eyes. But I can see them and they’re pale and they’re staring and they’re not looking at me, I don’t think.
Ain’t this temple a swelligant ballroom, John says.
Ballroom Blitz! Scott says.
Don’t Rock the Boat, Zev says.
One of These Nights, I say.
Listen to What the Man Said, John says.
Do the Hustle! Scott says.
Have You Never Been Mellow? Zev says.
I’m Not in Love, I say.
Soylent Green is People! Devin says.
No no no NO, we say.
I’ll never get it right, Devin says.
We’ve come to count on it, John says.
This day is supposed to be about becoming, Todd told me, careful not to use the “m” word, the “m” word that is man. A shitty word, Todd says. I agree. Especially now, when they shower Todd with candy at the end of Todd’s time talking. Mazal Tov, they’re saying. Mazal Tov, young man.
On the other hand, there is no other hand, says John, doing his impression of Topol from Fiddler on the Roof. Topol — the Smoker’s Tooth Polish, Scott says. Ha! we say.
Boys! Uncle Morty shouts.
We can’t hear Uncle Morty. Todd’s looking at us, he’s no longer reading, no longer squeaking. In his spring green suit, his hair curling over the collar, he’s smiling. Not at the people who aren’t us, and not at us. Just smiling.
To the Leisure Suit League! Todd says into the mic.
Ha! we say.
Hi, Leisure Suit League, Marcy says, taking the seat across from me.
Afternoon, miss — you the new schoolmarm? John says.
Ha! Marcy says.
Do you guys think Beth Israel is here? Devin asks as John, Scott and Zev get up from the table.
There is no Beth, dickweed, John says, grabbing Devin by the polyester and pulling him into a leisure suit conga line. I knew that, Devin says, trailing off the way the light in the room seems to be, like a disappearing sun on a Saturday. Like people you know, but don’t know. People you know, but don’t trust. People who aren’t us.
I look down down down at the floor. I think about disappearing. About becoming. Someone else, maybe.
I look up. And up. Sort of up.
I see Marcy, her white dress and her pale green eyes, becoming as they are, becoming is what they will be. Marcy, looking and looking and looking in the direction of me, me in the sea greenest of leisure suits.
Mazal Tov, Kermit, Marcy says. Mazal Tov.
Pat Foran sells leisure suits by the seashore. His work has appeared in Tahoma Literary Review, Milk Candy Review, MoonPark Review and elsewhere. Find him at http://neutralspaces.co/your_patforan/ and on Twitter at @pdforan.