Keeping Up Appearances

Light and Dark, Grace Long

Harold Orwin was well respected in the anarcho-punk community.

And understandably so.

He wore black denim jackets with anti-government patches, beaten boots with worn cotton laces, and a DIY flannel bumflap. Each of these pieces of clothing, on their own, would have given Harold some merit in the antiestablishmentarianist world, but together, they marked him as exceptional. He was accepted enthusiastically.

Now, Harold didn’t truly believe in anarchism, of course. That would be crazy. Yes, he believed that the current political climate was toxic, but he didn’t honestly think that the government should be disbanded all together. It would just lead to chaos. People killing one another and such.

Harold shuddered to think what would happen if people had no rules.

The truth was, Harold just liked how the music sounded. 

At least, that’s how it had started. Harold had, several years ago, stumbled upon a thrashing and crashing album about rebellion and righteous anger, and he had felt whole. He had connected with it. He hadn’t particularly cared for the message itself, but he loved the sound. So Harold began listening to more and more angry music that spouted about the evils of bureaucracy until he built up the courage to go to one of their shows. He purchased a singular ticket from an acquaintance at school for a group that called themselves “The Ungodlies.” Superimposed on the ticket was a skull. Harold thought that this was quite neat. 

Once the day finally came and Harold arrived at the seedy venue, he saw the audience filled with black-clad warriors shrouded in leather and safety pins, all with messages painted on their jackets and sneers on their faces. These, Harold learned, were punks.

They immediately became his aesthetic heroes. More than anything, he wanted to look like and be welcomed by them. As such, Harold made it a mission to join their numbers. He began putting fake, magnetized piercings in his lips and crispy, cheap gel in his hair. He purchased secondhand combat boots and ripped, black jeans. As he adorned himself with these punkian pieces, Harold began his metamorphosis.

Much to Harold’s surprise, it worked. In no time at all, others wearing similar garb were minaciously nodding at him and giving him sinister smiles. He would always nod back and do his best to bare his teeth in a similar way. 

Harold would later learn that these odd head bobs and grins were to silently assure one another that the eventual revolution was just around the corner, just as it had been since the 1980s. Either way, Harold was just glad that his response had been appropriate.

And so Harold had quickly found respect, simply by dressing like these punks and shouting. He had been accepted into the inner circle of genuine, real, true punks. And Harold loved it. He loved the righteous feeling in his chest. He loved moshing. He loved calling kids in jeans “posers” and people on their way to work “suits.” He loved going to rallies, and being praised for the creatively aggressive messages he wrote on signs.

But alas, Harold still could not bring himself to believe what they believed. He tried to convince himself many a time, but it never worked. He still, in private, craved law and order. However, if Harold was going to continue to be a recognized and admired audience member at the weekly punk gigs in the crusty basements, backyards, and bars of the neighboring city, he had to keep up his charade. He had to continue to hold a middle finger at politicians and capitalist pigs. Harold had to keep up appearances.

So he continued to hold up his fist and shout profanities over injustices and government control, avoiding anything of substance.

All the while, Harold planned in his head. What would he do after high school? Move away, certainly. Perhaps he would get a corporate law degree. That always seemed like a lucrative field. More likely, Harold would go into business.

Either way, the future was bright.

About the Author

Mark Elgersma · Central Michigan University

Mark Elgersma studies at Central Michigan University and works at the writing center on campus. He is also an intern to the Isabella County Human Rights Committee. In his little free time, Mark loves to read, play Euchre, and sew patches onto his jackets.

About the Artist

Grace Long · Central Michigan University

Grace Long is a senior at Central Michigan University and is pursuing her undergraduate degree in Public Relations with a minor in Multimedia Design. She is passionate about design and photography and loves being able to create something beautiful and her own. This piece first appeared in The Central Review.

No Comments

Leave a Reply