Lunch in the Basement

Carly is different.  Carly wants.  Carly wants to know where he is, what he’s thinking about, what he’s planning to do.  Who is “he?”  He is the latest poor slob who thinks he can fix Carly. 

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I think wanting is a sign of a weak mind.  I think that wanting, desiring, longing for someone is akin to slavery.

Listen, we work in cubicles and it’s a lonely job.  I’ve seen my co-workers plaster one wall with all sorts of memorabilia to help them get through the day.  You know what I mean–the picture of the cute kid stuck in daycare while they are in the cubical. The picture of the loving dogs packed in their kennels while they are in the cubical. The picture of  aging parents, stuck in Florida who are thankful their kids have a job so as to keep funneling money into the “system.”

Now most of us cubical workers just want to get through the day.  Most of us want to do a decent job, answer the phone be the well-oiled and sharp cog in the works.  I know men and women both who take the bus to their downtown jobs, eat a simple lunch and take the bus back to their sanctuary apartments.  They have no presumption; they want to pay their way and that’s it.

Carly is different.  Carly wants.  Carly wants to know where he is, what he’s thinking about, what he’s planning to do.  Who is “he?”  He is the latest poor slob who thinks he can fix Carly.

After sitting next to Carly’s cubical all day and listening to her smartphone softly ding messages, causing her to sigh, squeak, and giggle like a school girl, I imagine myself becoming a liquid human, stealthily creeping over our shared cubical wall.  I see my own eyes in deadly, wide-eyed intent seeking out the unsuspecting Carly.  She sits, back to me, cooing over the words the latest “he,” texted her (he is still unaware she is a maniac ball, and chain) while I, an insane look on my face, my eyes shining red would slide over the cubical wall, a seething sheet of menace.  I would do the deed quietly.   Marge, in the next aisle, may pause over her keyboard and ponder the small squeak of alarm and surprise from Carly’s cubical but would soon be back to work due to the deadly silence.

Carly is a favorite employee of the boss, you know.  The boss is ten years younger than me and fifteen years younger than Marge.  The boss received her Master’s in organizational skills online.  Yes, you’re right I don’t respect that but she isn’t all bad.  She likes Carly because Carly is a demon on the keyboard and resolves client issues quick as lightning after she breaks up with a boyfriend.  She breaks up a lot.  He doesn’t call, he doesn’t text, he doesn’t show up for lunch or he doesn’t feel like picking daisies with her on a Saturday afternoon when the game’s on.  Whatever.  Her thick, coiling, ever demanding attention seeking personality warrants yet another dump.  She then becomes this skinny, large fanged, red-eyed fiend.  It’s good for business.

I prefer the raving demon to the “in-love,” Carly.  Carly in love is the world in all its political correctness.  Once I day-dreamed that I could grab her smartphone while she “tripping along,” to the “little girls room” to “freshen-up” and tweet on her twitter account her confession of the night before what her present lover’s name was.  I imagined the text going around the world in a few hours and her puzzled face when the sickos on the world wide web whoop it up on her behalf.  I know it’s vindictive, but I didn’t do it, just dreamed it.

“What sort of guy falls that head over heels in love with her in like a week and then dumps her inside a month?”  Marge was staring up at the dingy hung ceiling in the downstairs break room.  We break in the basement because there is a large truck dock on the east side of the building and you have to be ready for terrorist attacks at noon.  We had just finished our lunch.

“He tells her what she wants to hear until football season, then he dumps her–there are lots of guys like that.”  Rich was a young man working his internship out of the way, in the mail room.  He knew a myriad of facts about the world of demanding, emotional and life force sucking young women who worked in cubicles.

“I saw her the other afternoon, when the latest “he,” had dumped her.  She was down the block leaning up against a lamp post.  Slumped up there pulling hard on a cigarette and some old guy walked up to her, looked like he was lost, and she flipped him off,” I said to Marge and Rich.   I was trying to remember what I had for lunch but I still had a fixed picture, in my mind’s eye, of Carly flipping off some lost guy in the big city.

“Maybe he mistook her for a prostitute,” said Rich.

“Maybe, but I thought she looked like she needed a wooden stake driven through her heart.  She looked like the walking dead,” I said.  Marge nodded her agreement.

“Those are zombies, not vampires,” corrected Rich.

“The term, ‘the walking dead,’ has been around long before it became the title of a TV show,” I said

“How long before she gets another one, a boyfriend I mean, not some confused old man,” asked Marge.

“Usually takes about three weeks,” I said

Rich looked from me to Marge.  “What do you think, should I ask her out?”

“You may be the only one in this city who hasn’t asked her out,” said Marge looking mildly curious at the young man.

“Well, you know, nothing serious, she’s at a low spot, maybe if she had dinner with me she might perk up a bit.”

“You’re a sick man, Rich,” I said.  Besides, she won’t let you be a one-night stand.  You two work in the same building.  You’ll both be out panhandling in a month because she’ll follow you around, stalk you, text you; she’ll be that skeleton in the shadows, staring at you when you least expected it.”

“Okay, okay, that’s enough and creepy,” said Rich.  “You two are worse than my mother.”

Marge stood up and grabbed her lunch box.  “Better three mothers in your life than one psychotic ex-lover.  Don’t you watch the movies?”

“No,” said Rich, “I have lunch once a week with you two.

It Wasn’t My Fault

He was an awkwardly beautiful man.   I couldn’t call him shy, there may have been some hesitation in him but not shyness. 

It wasn’t my fault.  I know that it is petty, but it’s true–it wasn’t my fault.

He was an awkwardly splendid man.   I couldn’t call him shy, there may have been hesitation in him but not shyness.  He was tall and broad-shouldered.  He looked very proud of his Harley Davidson motorcycle.  I for one dislike motorcycles and I was not tempted to ask for “a ride.”  However, I admired how he straddled the machine and I had wild ideas regarding him so I did my best to suppress those thoughts from my mind.

That’s why the dark conclusion to this small story isn’t my fault.  Yes, I looked at him.  Yes, I stopped to look at him.  No, I didn’t tell him to go away and yes, he knew how to shake hands with a woman in a way that was open and honest.  Did he work at being open and honest?  Well with me, I hope he had to work at it.  I hope he wanted to take my hand, pull me forward and wrap those big, fine, strong arms around me and kiss me until my knees went weak.  In my opinion, he was open and honest by natural disposition yet shy around me.

It still wasn’t my fault.  I did not play coy, I looked him in the eye and did my best to just keep walking whenever he happened past me.

I think men demand too much, I understand their need, and I understand the chase but enough is enough.  A pity I didn’t walk away.

Heaven above help me, those narrow hips, those soft denim shirts and in the summer those tight t-shirts.  Now, the tight t-shirts were a turnoff after the initial view.  Total vanity.  Total.  When I saw the tight t-shirt, I could turn off the heart palpitations, and he didn’t get it.  He could sense it too–and I could sense his confusion.  The “what,” expression on a man is similar to a salient mark on a treasure map.

“Turn right at Mount Everest, you can’t miss it.”  That’s the “what,” expression on a man.  What?  Don’t you like it?  Do you know how I’ve worked for these arms, this chest, and hey I’m not a young man?  On and on the “what,” expressions go.

So you can see, it wasn’t my fault.  I wasn’t out to distract him.  I wasn’t out to gain his attention.  I found him attractive, sure but I didn’t flash my eyes at him and beg him to chase me down.  I’m just not that kind of… person.

Do you know a spider won’t eat its prey unless said prey is alive?

That’s how spider webs work you know.  Invisibility and then trapped.  Spider webs work because so much of life doesn’t believe in death; especially their own.

He was strong, he still twitches now and then but it won’t be long until I must ignore another one and build yet another web.

That Something

He started to breathe normally, hanging on to the light post, his nose red and his hair sort of flying about his head in a weird halo. 

It was his birthday.  Of all days, right?  When I see people out and about now after I met him, I want to tell them don’t be so happy, don’t have so much fun on your birthday.

Minutes before his birthday is when I met him.  He seemed sad, and his body jerked about in an unhinged manner; his walk seemed in control as he hitched along and into the coffee shop.

Though I’m alone in this world I’m careful.  I’m not one of those nut jobs who despair and do crazy things to herself.  My little job and a little apartment in a dingy part of Indianapolis keep me busy and for the most part content. Indianapolis better than Chicago where I grew up.  Though I live in a dingy, cheap, part of Indy, the city is a bright place where people live, rather than parade around.

The birthday man, he staggered into the little coffee shop I was working at and he said he spilled bourbon on his trousers.  He used the word trousers, and I tried not to laugh.  His eyes were big and blue and his fading red hair looked blond.  I was certain that all the bourbon he had that night had gone into him and not on his “trousers.”

It was 30 minutes until closing and I glanced over at Joe.  Correct, at the coffee shop, my boss’ name is Joe.  His actual name is Herbert Lloyd, but he likes Joe.  Joe shrugged at me and that was my signal to turn the “open,” sign off and pour this guy a deep, dark, cup of black coffee.  Joe swept the floor and clattered the dishes in the steel sink in the back.

“Listen,” I said to the guy who used the word trousers for the word pants, “listen, you are drunk and this is downtown Indianapolis.  You will get put away for public intoxication if you go out there again.”

“I realize that,” his voice sounded sort of choppy.  He was broad-shouldered, and he spread his arms across the black round table, lowering his chin almost to the table top.  “I came in here because I was afraid of just that.  I’m not from around here and I’ve heard of American jails.”

“Finish your coffee,” I said.

Joe rolled his eyes at me when I stepped behind the counter and washed the dishes.  “What are you going to do with the guy?  You gonna take him home?  He’ll puke all over the bus, you know he will.  The guy smells like a Kentucky brewery.”

“Do you think he’s from Kentucky?  He sounds funny.”

“You’re hopeless.  He’s not from the US, okay.”

That fascinated me more.  An actual foreigner.  I finished cleaning the kitchen, and I swept the floor again because Joe doesn’t always do a good job.  Joe and I placed the chairs on the tables all around the man who smelled like bourbon.  I thought when I was getting my purse from under the counter that the man in trousers looked as if he was in jail; all the chair legs serving as bars.

“Come on.  I’ll get you to where you need to be.”

“My hotel is somewhere around here, I’m sure.  I’m feeling better. “He stood and his reddish, thin, eyebrows wrinkled into a worried look.

We walked toward the center of town and he faltered just beyond a well-lit parking lot, coughed and then heaved coffee and bourbon all over a good portion of Indianapolis.  He hung on to a lamp post and it seemed he tried to stretch his neck out to avoid splattering his suit.  I didn’t blame him.  That suit looked expensive.

After launching out what bothered him he breathed in a steady manner but still clung to the light post, his nose red and his hair sort of flying about his head in a weird halo.

“What time is it?

“12:30 AM,”

“Today is my birthday.”

“Happy Birthday.”

“I’m 60 today.”

I didn’t know what to say.  He seemed way too old to be vomiting bourbon and coffee in a foreign city but I didn’t want to seem rude.

“I wanted to come to an out of the way city, buy a prostitute, have incredible sex and get drunk.”

“Well, you seem to have done well.”

“No, I’ve only got sick drunk.”

“I’m not a prostitute.”

He looked at me with steady bright blue eyes.  “I am aware of that.  I would not take you for a prostitute.”  I felt better about him.  He took a deep breath “I guess I’m not one either.” He frowned, leaned over, gripping the street light pole and puked again.

“Listen, it’s late but people are still around.  This is Indianapolis and they will call the police.”

“People in Indianapolis don’t like drunks?”

“No.”

“Good.” He pushed himself off the lamp post and staggered backward.  I grabbed his arm and kept him steady.

“Is that your hotel?”

“Yes, how did you know?”

“It’s the best one down here.”

“Oh, I see. That obvious am I?”

I wasn’t sure what obvious meant, but I pulled him forward and we walked into the side of the hotel where I knew someone would help us.

“There you are, you bastard.”

She was beautiful.  She wore black and high heels and her hair was long and shiny.  “And with a prostitute too.  You pathetic bastard.”

Hotel management gathered around us and asked the lady with the same choppy voice as the man who said “trousers,” to be quiet.

“Ha, I’ll be quiet.  After I take him for all he’s worth.”

“You can’t Mabel (Mable? I’m still shocked at such a name) you signed a prenuptial.”  He laughed into Mabel’s face.  She turned a little green.

“You pig, you smell awful.”

I backed away, but he grabbed my arm.  “Call this young girl a cab, she saved me from jail tonight.”

A small crowd of onlookers pooled in the far corner of the marble lobby gazing at us.

I looked at Mabel, frightened, I wanted no one to think I was a prostitute.

“This young lady works at the coffee shop down the road and she saved me from the prying eyes of Indianapolis,” said the birthday man in a loud strident voice.

I felt my heart drop, no one would believe I wasn’t a prostitute now. “Please fetch her a cab.”

I pulled my arm free from his grasp and he staggered and fell.  I reached out for him as did the night porter.  In helping him up, he looked at me, his eyes bleary and bloodshot.  “I’m so sorry, please forgive me, Mabel, but it’s my birthday, and I wanted, I wanted something.  I don’t know.”

Pulling myself away I left him to the porter and hotel management and Mabel.  He’d never find it, that “something,” I was certain of that.

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash</p>

 

Dead

Intuition.  Bohemians, outsiders, cherish intuition.  That insight, that awareness, that…knowing.  I knew when I saw him.  I knew I loved him.  He wasn’t shy of the other women in the gallery and he wasn’t disdainful.  He was watching people look at art which was so evocative.  He saw me and I forced myself not to turn away.  I wanted him to know that I was staring.  Staring right at him.

Intuition.  Bohemians, outsiders, cherish intuition.  That insight, that awareness, that… knowing.  I realized when I looked at him that loved him.  His mannerisms did not indicate shyness regarding the other women in the gallery nor did his features let slip any thoughts of disdain.  The man watched people look at art, his obvious curiosity regarding other people’s reactions filled me with a longing hard to suppress, even harder to hide. Noticing my stare or rather acknowledging my star by turning toward me, for I felt certain he knew I had been staring for some time, he smiled slightly.   I willed myself not to turn away from his gaze. I felt a desire to challenge him in some manner yet I wanted to run.

“So how often does he brush his teeth in a day do you suppose?”

My mother’s voice.  My dead mother’s voice.  She died seven years ago, but she has never left me.  I loved my mother and I love my mother but her interference at the moment I was staring at the man who intrigued me flustered me to near tears.  My shoulders tensed, waiting for my mother’s voice to sound in my ears again.  I wanted, needed, the deep background music of love to sweep over me as I looked at this tall, slender man, dressed in a somber dark suit.  I needed a moment without questions.  I wanted to plead with my mother.

“I suppose he reads in the bathroom.  He looks the intellectual type…”

“Mother,” I hissed and stepped away from no one.  A few people looked my way.  Did he notice me talking to myself?  I took a deep breath willing my shoulders down and imagining my face serene and unhampered by anything but the art surrounding me.  I wandered in an aimless relaxed manner, at least I hoped I was wandering in an aimless relaxed manner.  I was urging the tall slender man to approach me.  I wanted to him to compel him to approach me.

“Well, he is a tall drink of water, isn’t he?  Your father was so short, God bless him.  He would provide the tall gene our family so needs.  Your kids would come up to his navel.  Wouldn’t matter if you had girls.”

I whirled around infuriated with my mother.  She was dead.  Dead.  She needed to get out of my head.  I stomped back to my chair the man of my dreams forgotten and grabbed my hand knitted alpaca wrap.  Swinging it around my head and letting it float gently down upon my shoulders, closing my eyes and breathing deeply as the light but ever warming shawl gently floated down upon my shoulders I willed some calmness into my body; leaving was my best option.

“You haven’t even looked at the exhibit.”

I didn’t turn around, anger and frustration bristled out in rudeness.  “I know,” I said, defeated and humiliated.  “A friend of mine is the artist.”  I suddenly had no strength to explain.  My voice tightened in a sobbing disappointment.  I had so looked forward to the evening.  Great, I was going to cry over my dead mother’s assessment of an attractive man; she always brought men down to mud level.

“I suppose your mother is a little jealous of anyone who connects mentally with you.”

“She’s not a bad person,” I said quickly and in defense of my mother.  “She worries about me.” I felt a sudden chill.  Turning I was face to face with a light blue silk shirt neatly sheathed by a dark suit.  He stood before me, his expression kind but his features set and his skin an icy hue.

“Hmm.  Yes.  Most mothers worry and not without reason.  Your mother worries you will do something rash.”

“She’s been dead seven years,” I said gazing up at him, his bright blue eyes clear and without judgment.

“Your wrap is beautiful.  Did you make it yourself?”

I nodded

“Did your mother teach you to knit?”

“Yes,” I said quietly.

“Have a glass of wine with me and let’s walk the gallery. Your friend will want to know why you don’t walk the gallery. We can’t explain your dead mother.”

“How do you know about my mother?”

“Intuition,” he smiled down at me, handed me a glass of red wine, his hand was blue-ice cold yet lovely.  “Intuition is ingrained in bohemians and outsiders, we cherish the ability.”

The Nervous Kid

He scared easily.  He had always been nervous and when his “friends,” needed to feel superior (which was often) they would devise ways to scare him.  You know the usual stuff.  Keep him distracted and then one of them would fall asleep with the inability to wake up. 

He had always been nervous and when his “friends,” needed to feel superior (which was often) they would devise ways to scare him. The usual stuff; keep him distracted and then one of them would fall asleep with the inability to wake up.  The nervous kid would panic after telling them to stop it and quit screwing around.  They knew the nervous kid would always succumb because hey it could happen.  One of them might fall asleep and one of them might not wake up.

The usual scenario; one would slump over, pretend to sleep but fall asleep while the others distracted the nervous sidekick.  Perhaps the sleeper wrapped himself up too tightly or became too warm or board and fell asleep, it happens.  So, the nervous kid is running around and when he has his back turned the others are sniggering and the guy who is pretending isn’t pretending anymore.

It’s like all the guys are sitting around and yakin’ it up eating the nervous guy’s snacks while he’s sneaking around his parent’s house looking for contraband.  Yeah, that’s the way all pranks happen.  The nervous kid is searching his parent’s house looking for odds and ends of booze he knows his parents don’t have the money to buy.  He might find his grandfather’s bottle of bourbon from 100 years ago but the seal is still on it, so no way can he take that down to them.  Or he might find cooking sherry that his mother thought she might need for a recipe for a bunch of snooty ladies.  That small little party where she planned to get to know his friend’s parents.  They showed up, but it was real stiff.  None of the other moms invited the nervous kid’s mom to the garden club or to tennis lessons–not that she’d take the time off work and go, right?

So anyway, here’s this kid, he’s sneaking around the house and his buddies are like snickering and laughing and then take a swing at the sleeping guy and the sleeping guy just sort of falls over,  wooden-like.  They laugh and tell the guy–hey he’s in the house looking over his lousy parent’s cheap stash of booze so knock it off but the sleeping guy’s expression is like frozen on his face.  He’s like looking at the person who sees hell coming.

The nervous kid’s buddies sort of sober up but still knock the sleeping kid about a little.  What happened, they joke with the sleeping guy, did the nervous kid’s snacks harden your arteries, or did they like numb every nerve ending in your body?  What crappy food where do they shop the dollar store?  Still nothing but a blank terrified stare from the sleeping guy.  The sleeping guy is like looking but his eyes are not moving but you get the impression he is seeing and hearing everything but he can’t move.

Then there’s that moment when everything is silent, all the guys say nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  The house is creepy quiet, not even the sound of the nervous kid shuffling around in his parent’s dusty cupboards looking for something that is not there.

What the hell, right?

So, these guys they whisper all at once and calling the sleeping guy by name and they notice their voices don’t sound like a bunch of rich smart asses in a middle-class home.  Yeah, now they sort of sound like a bunch of whiny, tall skinny guys in a shit load of trouble.  Did he have drugs, what’s his parents going to say?  Hey, man I didn’t give him shit.  Should we go, crawl out the window and blame it on the nervous kid–hey where the hell is he, anyway?   Yeah, that’s what they’d do, ditch the sleeping guy and blame it on the nervous kid–he can explain an overdose, he has nothing to lose.

So, they gather all their stuff and wondering how they will make it look like they were never there and then they think about a plan they left early.  That the nervous kid and the sleeping kid hung out after they left.  Yeah, that’s what they’d say.  The nervous kid he had some wicked stuff and these pristine assholes didn’t want any part of that because what would their well-to-do parents say to that?  Yeah, so they left, maybe it was wrong, they should have called the cops right away but hey they were friends.  Friends don’t do that.  Right?

So, the nervous kid comes down to a trashed basement and a wooden looking guy curled up on his parent’s couch and the back windows open where his “friends,” scurried out the window.  The nervous kid shuts the windows, cleans up the mess, even sweeps the floor.  The nervous kid’s mom comes down and check’s the sleeping kid’s pulse and looks into his eyes.

“It should wear off by morning.”

“Did you call his mom?”

“Yeah, told her he was staying over tonight, that you were playing video games.”

“So Mom, what would you have done if they’d had not tried to stiff me?”

“Oh I was sure they would run like scared rabbits but if they had tried to do the right thing I’d have slipped him the quick cure.  He’d have puked and shat for a few hours but they’d have blamed it on our ‘crappy food.’

“Look, I think he’s actually falling asleep.”

“He won’t remember a thing in the morning, might have a slight headache.  Do you think we should tattoo something on his ass?”

“Nah, I prefer the subtle dump.”

Sing and Paint For Me

The world is crowded, striving and loveless.  I see the nakedness of the children and the despair of their mothers and do not wonder but grieve at their demand for death.

Paint for me, my love,

the sky a deep sapphire blue

smudge the blackest blue about the rounded horizon.

Be frantic in your work

sing to me at times while praying that the stars shine

upon the patch of open forest,

I sit upon while watching you.

Sing away the fear that night brings to me

remind me that the darkness is sacred even now,

fallen as we are, sing while painting the sky.

I will pull out of my cocoon that I had shaped just for me,

me alone.

I will spread the heat of my body upon the ground enough for two.

Along the edge of the forest, I will build a hearth of stone.

From deep within me call up a cool, hot-blue fire

my mothers left for me to share with you.

The world is crowded, striving and loveless.

I see the nakedness of the children, the despair of their mothers

do not wonder but grieve at their demand for death.

Won’t you pray for the stars to shine a burning hope within the darkness you paint?

Won’t you sing to me of stories of hope rather than the obvious pain?

Look, I’ve stretched out what is left of me here,

upon this patch of open forest floor know

God sings over my faith.

Bring your talents to me.

Sing and paint.

EVIL

It’s just the high cost of maintenance, ya know?

The color, man you would not believe the color.  I know that red is red but red is not red in nature.  The almost white pink that defines what must be the lack of oxygen and the deep scarlet that means the screams of down and out terror.  I knew a woman once who, when really afraid, would try to scream and nothing would come out but this raspy, I’m-gonna-die sorta sob.

Then you have deep red.  That almost beautiful black, bottomless red that exemplifies eternity.

Eternity man, eternity.

And it is swirling around my head like music you used to like but now hate because like anything good, I mean sound busting good, they end up playing too loud and too often.

The high cost of maintenance in livin’ too long.  When will you live within our means?  I need a pulpit, I need a stage, I need a spotlight and I need to cry it out: “when will YOU live within your means?”  I’m not talking money.  Money is something that will be here when you are dead.  And dead.  Money can be earned, stolen, begged or inherited.  In whatever way you have it, you don’t have enough and your pissed-off about it because that’s how people are.  What I’m talking about is living within your means.  Your means.  Your means.

Can’t you live with what you’ve got the backbone to take?  Can’t you look at the woman across from you and say, hey, I love her because I don’t have the guts to go ask that beauty queen for a date.  You know that’s what women want.  I mean real women, they want you to ask and ask politely.  Why do you think you see couples that are all wrong together.  Well, I’ll tell you.  Some fast talking, skinny, sweaty guy hit the girl up just when she thought she’d die alone.  So she grabbed up what she thought was her last chance when all along there were men that would have died for her if they had had enough backbone to tell her so.

What the hell does this have to do with several shades of red?

Let me tell you.

I’m the son of a bitch who doesn’t care about you or the girl or if you live happily ever after.  I’m the guy you hate forever because I live forever.  I’m the guy that your sweet girl longs for but realizes that when I take the living force right out of her I’m evil.  I’m not romantic, I’m not misunderstood, I’m evil and that’s what makes the taking so good.

But the maintenance is high.  It’s very high because I have to keep moving, I have to stay out of the sun and I have to put up with the slow-witted and the whining world that doesn’t believe in evil until they meet me.  I guess it’s just become too easy.