Benjamin Franklin invented America. It might not have been the famous Benjamin Franklin, but a man named Benjamin who lives on my street and calls himself Benjamin Franklin tells me that he invented America because he was an inventor and he needed someplace to live and inventing a country sounded like a good idea to him at the time. Benjamin Franklin laughs when he says it, when tells me that he’s not so happy with how it’s turned out. I look around and have to agree. Our street is tired. It sags at the corners and buckles in the middle.
“You did a shitty job,” I say.
“Yeah? What the fuck you invent?”
I say, “Nothing,” and go home.
My apartment is wet—sometimes from rain, sometimes from the leaking pipes of the unit above mine. Sometimes the air is so thick with humidity that my couch feels soppy. My apartment is America except no other people live here. There are only mice and ants. I worry about bed bugs ruining my mattress, which is the most expensive thing I own.
When I see him the next day, I don’t give Benjamin Franklin money because he drinks and he tells me that all he wants money for is to buy something to drink. I think he means something to drink, and I offer to go get him a soda. He says no and wags a finger at me. It’s brown—his finger. I buy him a soda from the gas station anyway and watch him sip it as I wait for the bus.
“I invent nothing,” I say but, he’s too far away to hear and I don’t repeat myself.
Later when I’m on my way home from work, Benjamin Franklin tells me that Benjamin Franklin invented the idea of refrigeration. He has a wet T-shirt wrapped around his head. “This is refrigeration,” he says and points at it.
My shirt is wet too. My lower back is a pond, and I felt the individual drops falling from my armpits for the whole bus ride home.
“Say, you got something with my name on it?” he asks me, and I don’t get that he means money until rubs his fingers together as a hint.
“Is that a one?”
I say no, go home, and start working on my resume. I do that until I mash the keyboard with my hand so much that Ks and Js pepper my “Education” and “Professional Appointments.”
Finding all the errant letters takes time, but when I’m done, I check—because I’m curious—and find that Benjamin Franklin did invent refrigeration by wearing a damp shirt in the breeze. At least that’s what Wikipedia says, and I don’t bother to look at anything beyond that because even if it’s not true, I want it to be.