V4N1TY – Edinson Shane Tolley

          You’ve decided to pay the supplemental registration fee, and managed to find something capable of representing yourself, the individual, into the allotted eight-character limit. And what happens? Someone else is already out there, driving with your license plate. Even worse, when you attempt variations—replace the E’s and I’s with 3’s and 1’s, spell it phonetically, spell it flat-out incorrectly—and still, all taken, which means not only are you sharing an identity with an original thief, but several.
          You recoil upon seeing others wearing clothes you also own. “Those are my clothes,” you think, ignoring the knowledge that the item came from a rack with fifteen exact matches, no difference spare sizes.
          Decorate your messenger bag in pins and buttons with images from your favorite needlessly obscure bands, television shows, and the films of Federico Fellini that you haven’t seen from start to finish. Since you can’t get your license plate, cover the back of your car in bumper stickers to let everyone on the road know the issues that matter to you. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll inspire someone else to eat local, or read the Harry Potter series, but know that you are the genuine expert on such topics.
          Dye your hair blue, save green and purple for later when someone else goes blue, as they surely will.
          Take up smoking, but selectively. Don’t smoke around others who smoke, and if the people you’re with are non-smokers, chainsmoke. Reject the cigarette stigma while one hangs from your mouth, even when no one mentions it. Talk about how you smoke weed whenever the opportunity presents itself, but remind everyone it’s different when you smoke weed because you’re an artist. You’re complex. You’re different.
          You start wearing glasses despite your 20/20 vision, and, if anything, they impair your sight. Read in public. Let people see you reading. Buy Gravity’s Rainbow, buy Infinite Jest, buy J R, and watch people watching you read them in coffee shops and on park benches.
          Start saying things like I don’t even own a television. Be vegan in public, but not in private because it’s expensive.
          You’re white, but get dreadlocks, and continue your dying regimen. If anyone calls you out for appropriation, claim awareness of the social implications, say thank you for the insight, but don’t give up your dreads—or, as you call them, your locks—because you’re different from all the other white people with dreads.
          Buy a moleskin journal and start writing poetry, slam poetry specifically. More specifically, slam poetry on racism in America and the Black Lives Matter movement, once again ignoring your aforementioned white skin and European, slave owning ancestry. Tell everyone you’re writing a book that you’ll never actually sit down to write.
          Just remember, and make sure everyone else remembers: you’re different.
          You’re different.
          You’re different.

Edinson Shane TolleyEdinson Shane Tolley has a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Creative Writing from Virginia Tech and currently lives in Northern Virginia. His work is featured in Flash Fiction Magazine and The Allegheny Review.