“The Rising Failure”
The Rising Failure By Desmond Rhae Harris
Content Warnings: Trauma, drug use
All he wanted to do, after being pushed so much as a child, was to fail.
He wanted to spite them all–everyone who had told him that he had to “be somebody,” that he had to “excel”.
“I never even asked to be born,” he said. “Why should I have to demonstrate or prove or earn my place in this world? I don’t even feel like a person.”
And so he set out to do nothing but fail. He welcomed each new impossible task with galaxy-wide arms, and would do nothing but joyously fail.
He tried learning to draw architecture and it came out looking wrong and imperfect–perfect!
With a flicked wrist, he threw the papers down an alleyway.
He slammed the strings of a guitar to create discordant sounds of scraping and flaws–flawless!
He recorded it, listened to it on loop, and nodded with an approving smile at how wretched it sounded before throwing it out the window.
He plucked bricks from crumbling buildings and used clay with river pebbles to cement them into a twisted tower with a roof too short for him to step under and stand–outstanding!
He kicked half of it down and left it, abandoned by the riverside.
Ravenously, with a wicked smile, he continuously attempted nothing but failures.
“This is who I am,” he said, “The Rising Failure.”
People began to know him.
“What a failure,” they said, shaking their heads. “Could have been somebody.”
“Good,” he spat with victorious venom. “And I am No One.”
A destitute street-wanderer staggered through the alleyway, dreading the oncoming bout of shakes.
She dug through the dumpster for something, anything, to sustain herself. Her attention shifted and her hand jerked towards an unusually white scramble of papers, swept up by someone or another.
The building drawn on the ripped paper was warped, distorted. She looked at the drawing, then up at the city before her, and wept–for this was how she saw the world.
“It’s so twisted. So wrong. How did I get here?”
She looked down the street towards the help center that she’d bypassed, head tucked down, a thousand times. Reluctantly, cautiously, she stepped forward.
A clumsy teenager tripped on a CD case, discarded in the street and unmarked by any symbol besides a giant, scribbled “X”. They tilted their head to one side, rubbing at the itch of a growing-back undercut in thought.
They took the disc home, asking their mom to borrow the old boom box that could play it.
It sounded horrible.
The teen, already tired beyond their years, brimmed at the eyes and smiled.
They touched their keyboard gently, its notes fuzzy with dust.
“That sounded so shitty,” they said . . . “And so do I.”
For the first time in months, they turned on their keyboard with confidence and rolled up a chair.
“You can’t be serious.”
“I am!” the photographer objected to his partner, snapping another photo. “Imagine this in the gallery–imagine it anywhere. Who would build this just to leave it here?”
With a shake of his head, the man adjusted his backpack.
“Whatever. Let’s keep going. But if you actually caption that as a ‘Gnome Hut,’ I’m going to be literally embarrassed.”
The photographer, finally lowering his lens after kneeling to nail the perfect shot against a background of mountains, smiled with a spark he hadn’t felt in ages.
“What, is ‘Gnome Home’ better? Brace yourself, my dear.”
With a scoff and the exchange of a smirk, they walked on.
Red clouded his vision as he saw the photograph in the window: His abandoned sculpture of Nothing, positioned beautifully in the composition of a photograph that depicted the landscape he’d wandered so many times.
It was so good they put it in the ad for the art exhibit–and they’d even made something of it! They called it “Gnome Hut”!
“What is this?!” he demanded, ripping down yet another flyer of the thing from a nearby phone pole. “Who would photograph this garbage?!”
Scanning his surroundings at the speed of light, he spotted the door and shoved through it like a storm.
“What is-” he stopped short, watching countless different people carefully contemplating a photographic amalgamation of his failed sculptures, his piles of garbage, his shitty splatters of paint against brick.
His creations were far from the only ones in the photo exhibit, but they were enough.
Enough to make red turn to white.
Enough to make his blood boil and sputter like the paint he’d thrown against the side of the rehab center.
Enough to piss him right the fuck off.
“What the hell do you like this for?!” he demanded, yanking the photo of his riverside sculpture off the wall and holding it aloft as heads turned, eyes wide. “This is complete shit! Garbage! My sculpture is a failure! Why would you treat it like anything? Who the fuck photographed this?!”
He furiously scanned the flyer, crumpled in his hand, for the answer.
“Wait, this was yours? Are you the one they call ‘No One’? The guy who did that street piece–what was it–‘Rising Failure’? That one was amazing! Could I contract your work?”
The photographer standing before him looked excited and amazed–almost as amazed as The Rising Failure felt. His furious face twisted and his anger warped into a horrifying laugh.
He laughed all the way through the door.
He laughed as he sat down on the curb.
He laughed as he saw flyers of his garbage creations tacked to everything around him.
He laughed as a homeless woman smiled at the sight of his “Gnome Hut,” musing to herself:
“I wish I could be successful like that.” She rubbed the healing track marks on her arm. “Maybe I could finally be somebody. Somebody successful.”
He laughed, and laughed, and fucking laughed.
He laughed, and he wept.
He had done what he never wanted to do.
He had succeeded.
He had failed.