Blank Sexzra is a superhero with a cape no one can see. He works under a secret identity at a bank in Manhattan. He uses a pseudonym by day and at night he finds patterns. Patterns are in traffic lights, doorbells, coin rolls, and the bag of Scrabble tiles he sorts through every night. He plays a game of Scrabble alone in his kitchen, sorting through letters, finding words in jumbles. On a good night he scores 600 against the opponent who isn’t there.
Blank Sexzra stands in line at the DMV like anyone else. He taps one foot and folds his arms, staring at the numbers above him. E21. A36. Vowels, multiples of three. Order in chaos, even at the DMV–he must find the patterns and understand them. If there are no patterns then he is just an ordinary man, like any other. This idea frightens him. When the blue-haired matron renews his driver’s license he signs as Blank Sexra without the Z. For him, it’s a protest against government privacy invasions. For her, it’s another meaningless scrawl and it looks like any other name so it’s fine, stamp stamp. That night he hides the Z tile in a shoebox under his bed.
Blank Sexzra gets lonely sometimes in ways a superhero shouldn’t. He dated two women from the newspaper office down the street. The first one giggled a lot during dinner. She talked all the way back to his apartment, then fell silent when he unzipped his pants. She said nothing as she left. Two days later her friend from the office called him up and said she wanted to see for herself. She came over and when he unzipped his pants she said, “Oh, that’s just average.” She left, and he never heard from her again. He thinks that she and her friend giggle about him in the office. He would like to explain to her that Blank Sexzra is not about sex. His name is the set of Scrabble tiles most likely to score points in actual play (not the highest value tiles, which would be Zqjxk or Qzxjk and a terrible name). He would like to tell her that sex can also be a sextant or a sextet and not be dirty at all. He doesn’t think he will ever tell her that.
Blank Sexzra wishes that people weren’t made of minerals and water–mounds of swampy chemical waste. He goes to his mother’s funeral where she’s laid out like a board. He thinks that if everyone died at the same time, they could be lined up neatly in crosswords. They could be bleached or dyed to mark the black and white patterns. They’d read from left to right or top to bottom. Maybe the graves wouldn’t need to be underground, where microbes eat the flesh and break it down. After the funeral, the last two tiles he draws are the blanks. He rolls them over in his fingers and touches their smooth bodies. All the other tiles are committed to letters, pre-printed with their fates. The blank tiles could be anything.
Blank Sexzra is struck by a taxi on his way home from work. He’s crossing the street when the taxi swerves. Its bumper grazes his knee and knocks him back into a puddle. He lies in the water, staring at the sky. What if he had taken a different way home, or stopped at the store? What if he had been one step further when it struck him? It’s random, all random. Even the blank has only twenty-six possibilities. He doesn’t play Scrabble that night.
Blank Sexzra is tired of living like this. He stays home from work and marks the tiles with a Sharpie. The K becomes B, the O becomes Q. He lodges the blanks under the short leg of the dish rack. He calls the girl from the newspaper office, but she hangs up on him. He holds the phone lightly in one hand, thinking that this is what happens to ordinary men. They call up girls and get rejected.
Blank Sexzra wants to find truth but he knows it’s elusive. He ties a noose to the ceiling and sets a stool beneath it. He puts his head through the loop. He holds it in place, thinking about what it’s like to die, and then cuts the rope so the noose hangs like a necklace. If gravity reversed, he could tie the rope to the floor and hang himself. He stares at the plain square tiles, seeing how they spread across the kitchen. No one has written on them, nor will they.
Blank Sexzra takes off his cape and tucks it under his arm. He climbs down the rope, slips between the floor tiles, and vanishes. The blanks accept him into the unwritten pattern. He reads from bottom to top, in a direction words can’t go.
Originally published in Trabuco Road (Dec. 2006).
Copyright © 2006 by Vylar Kaftan. All rights reserved.