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>

 

The Wedding

“Do you remember our wedding?”

“Do you want to dance?”

“No”

“Why not?”

“I’ve asked you a question do you remember our wedding?”

“Do you remember our wedding?”

“Do you want to dance?”

“No”

“Why not?”

“I’ve asked you a question do you remember our wedding?”

“Honey, of course, I remember our wedding. You wore white, I was in a rented suit and the man who married us hated me.”

“My Grandfather married us.”

“Exactly.”

“Really, you are sure Grandpa hated you.”

“Pretty sure.”

“Nonsense!”

“No, no, it’s okay. I wouldn’t want to marry off my daughter or granddaughters.”

“But if you were marrying off our son?”

“Well…every son should eventually be married.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Do you want to dance?”

“No, I’m pretty much danced out.”

“Don’t want to dance with an old man.”

“No, I just don’t want to dance.”

“Well, at least you will be seen with an old man.”

“I’m sitting here.”

“Ah thank you. Especially for sitting next to me for nearly 25 years. “

“You’re welcome.”

“Woman, has it been that bad?”

“Being married to you?”

“Yes, being married to me.”

“No.”

“No…and what else?”

“Did you expect more?”

“Frankly, yes.”

“Well you don’t remember our wedding so why should I expound upon our marriage?”

“For the love of God…I remember our wedding. Your Grandfather married us and your Father gave you away. All three of your brothers were either ushers or standing next to me. And we all knew that before that night was over I’d convince you to step out of that frilly white dress you wore.”

“My dress was not frilly!”

“God help me.”

“Were you really that nervous? I would have thought you would have been over that. I already said yes.”

“Yes dear, you said yes. They didn’t.”

“Well for Pete’s sake, they didn’t threaten you or anything.”

“How do you know?”

“All right that’s enough.”

“Well, you won’t dance with me and you won’t tell me how you feel being married to me so what am I suppose to do?”

“Hmm. You are at a disadvantage aren’t you?”

“How do you mean?”

“You actually have to speak to me, sitting here, don’t you?”

“Now what is that suppose to mean?”

“Well after 25 years you’ve become accustomed to being around me. Relaxed enough to spend hours in your books, write, putter in the garage with your wood working…it’s been some time since you’ve asked me my opinion…well on you.”

“Oh, I see so I’ve become a bore.”

“I don’t recall calling you a bore.”

“I sound boring.”

“You may sound boring but not necessarily to me.”

“Okay, I’m a little confused.”

“Did my Grandfather wear a rented suit or his black suit?”

“His black suit with that white color of his.”

“Did my Mother wear the lavender suit?”

“No, she wore that apricot looking thing – your Father was furious at her for buying two dresses for one wedding.”

“Do you really want to know what it’s like being married to you?”

“Yes…really I want to know.”

“I like being married to you.”

“Well, that’s a relief, why?”

“Because when I walk by you while you are reading, you’ll gently take my hand and pull me to a stop and say “listen to this.””

“Any book you prefer over another?”

“No – I prefer the sound of your voice.”

“Oh.”

“And lately I’ve come to appreciate that you don’t shave on Saturdays. And you don’t seem to mind that most of your beard has turned white. I kind of like the way it feels when you kiss me.”

“Really? I can probably manage that a few more times a week…”

“No, once a week is fine but I appreciate your quick response and willingness to expand.”

“Oh, well anytime. Anything else?”

“I appreciate you cleaning out the cat box every Saturday.”

“The cat box? You witch! You had me hook, line and sinker.”

“No, really you have me hook, line and sinker.”

“Really?

“Really.”

“And when did that happen – I mean when you decided you loved me?”

“I don’t know it just happened sometime between year one and 25.”

“Not before?”

“Possibly.”

“Hmm… And no regrets about Jeff Smith?”

“What do you know about him?”

“That I had a pretty close call with you, because of him.”

“Robert, when did you decide you loved me?”

“The night you put your suitcase in Jeff Smith’s Chevy.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The night you ran away. You were sick of this town, your over protective family and terrified you would work the soda fountain at the pharmacy for the rest of your life.”

“I told no one about that.”

“You lied to your mother, told her you were with Lydia that weekend. You’d see her at church.”

“Robert, I told no one about that.”

“I watched you leave and about cried in my hymnal Sunday morning when I saw you in your usual spot.”

“You saw me leave. Knew I was gone. You asked me to marry you not too long after that.”

“I really didn’t want to watch another Exodus.”

“You fool!”

“Why?”

“Well – how did you know – well nothing happened?”

“I didn’t. And frankly, I was a little shocked on our wedding night – well when everything was intact.”

“Robert!”

“I was pleasantly shocked.”

“Robert!”

“Why did you come back?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know.”

“Really. I cried like a baby 20 miles from town. I remember he tried his best to convince me I was doing the right thing…but I couldn’t stop crying.”

“It took him a full 24 hours to get you back 20 miles from town?”

“He dropped me at my Grandfather’s.”

“I thought you said you didn’t tell anyone.”

“And I didn’t. Grandfather never asked. I fell asleep, exhausted on his couch and he fixed me scrambled eggs and sausage the next morning.”

“Hmm”

“Yeah, hmm.”

“Listen we are at this wedding, there is dancing. We don’t do much of that sort of thing, so would you like to dance with me?”

“No…I want to go home.”

“Why?”

“Because today is Saturday and you had to shave.”

“So?”

“Well, I think tomorrow the world can wonder where we are for a day and you can catch up on your reading.”

“What else can we catch up on?”

“You’ll just have to wait and see.”

Immortal Spaniels

The spaniel was immortal and sighed often.

Maudlin music and less than red linen made for soft people she felt, yes felt, which was beyond knew and just before faith –

In oneself.

Her red was of the blackish kind and her curtains blocked out the sunlight and opened to the rain of days- she was content.

She knew that was it.  She knew.  The world bloomed red in small startling places and she searches for the sear and pucker of it in the dead of winter

This proved effective to draw her attention away from the doggish way he looked upon her.  He had a spaniel that she liked and wished was hers

But he wasn’t.

They were well sheltered within the stonewalled cottages that were between a farm house and just shy of a manor house — and the walls encompassed them and there they lived.

Her looking for scarlet and he looking at her.

The spaniel was immortal and sighed often.

Magicians were not allowed through the gates and witches could fly over but the breeze was constant and she could not tempt fate with this or that bauble of love.

A nod, not even a sur name offered when they met upon the cobbled street, she always with her eye on the corner of a stone building looking for red.

What could he do?  Learn to dance?  Pray for drought? He walked the dog and they spied her over the scarlet rose of autumn.  Embolden he walked to the place and bent his head to smell the flower.

He looked back up to see her gazing out upon the horizon.

“Stay,” he said, “and the dog will dance until you see the famous scarlet sunset.”

She stayed and as the sun played out the light of evening he whirled her round and the dog barked and gamboled about their feet.

And the scarlet of sunset reflected against the once stone walls of their lives.

Alone Too Long

God help me it was the books, the books, the books that went about and about and about my head and in my hands the weight of words, the smell of dust upon yellow pages that crumbled and revived my heart.  My heart that no one noticed but him.

I’ve been alone too long.  I have become the silence, the shuffle, the witness of depthlessness and to invite you in would build walls of contentment that, though pleasant, would stifle me.

Me.  Sounds so selfish and unreasonable.  For most of my life, I felt the weight of wanting to be alone but hating the loneliness.  I spent my nights dreaming of being beautiful and spent my days close to the walls trying to obtain invisibility.

My clothes were always tight or loose or scratched or were too soft or revealing or concealing or…wrong.  I would feel myself burn into embarrassment and would cry alone.  I listened to music with whispering wind and blowing trumpets and voices that rose to clouds and cathedral buttresses.  I cringed at drums and guitars and lyrics that repeated.

I met a gentle stranger.

God help me it was the books, the books, the books that went about and about and about my head and in my hands the weight of words, the smell of dust upon yellow pages that crumbled and revived my heart.  My heart that no one noticed but him.

I had no one to lean upon, don’t you see?  I had no one except my faith in the words a stranger left for me.  I was fucked and dumped and left to care for someone so much like me.  That gave me the determination to hurt anyone and carry on and write the hammer that comes down on the hands that reached out to me.

I had one to protect and I did and I have and I will.  Alone.

The stranger still gentle has opened up for me the library walls and laughed at my perplexity.  All the languages of history do not mock me anymore; I have all the time of eternity to learn.  I have come full circle.

I am still alone and cradle the feeling of lonely as my very own.  I have been alone too long.

 

Photo by Elisabetta Foco on Unsplash

Marrying a Friend

“Dude, are you in love with this chic?”

“No, no.  I’m not.  We’ve been friends since our freshman year in college.  We were paired up together in Spanish class.

“So, then I asked for some guacamole.”

“Why?”

“Because I was hot.  Hot.  You have no idea how hot it was in there. “

“But…guacamole?”

“It was a Mexican restaurant and I needed something to cool me down, so naturally I ordered some guacamole.”

“Naturally.”

“So, this waitress, she asks all sweet like if I want chunky or smooth.  Now, I’m hot and the thought of anything chunky made me wince, so I said smooth.”

“Wait a minute, why didn’t you just get up and leave?”

“I couldn’t, I didn’t pick the restaurant.  While I was begging for smooth, cold guacamole and sweating into my clothes, she is sitting across from me as cool as a cucumber and happy as can be that she only spent $10 on her dinner.  I shared my guacamole.”

“Why did you share your guacamole?”

“Because it was room temperature warm and tasted like they opened it from a glass jar.”

“Well, they probably did.  How many times do I have to tell you not to go to a cheap restaurant and especially on a week night?  If you want to go cheap go on the weekends, at least the microwaves are in good order. “

“I’m telling you I didn’t pick out the restaurant I had nothing to do with it.”

“Dude, are you in love with this chic?”

“No, no.  I’m not.  We’ve been friends since our freshman year in college.  We were paired up together in Spanish class. “

“Spanish class.”

“Yeah, we needed to learn as partners.”

“Man, you are monkey shit crazy. “

“Why?”

“You’ve been putting up with a friend who gets happy over spending only $10 for a meal?  This is a friend?  Someone you are supposed to be happy to see.”

“Well, I was sort of happy to see her.  She actually spent $10.18”

“Okay, I’m leaving. “

“No.  No.  Don’t leave me, man.  I told her I was with you tonight and couldn’t meet for coffee.”

“Coffee?  Checkin’ out the coffee at McDonald’s?”

“It’s not bad.”

“I’m gone. “

“Listen, don’t leave me.  I’ll buy the next brew, not a problem.”

“One’s my limit on a week night, you know that.”

“Then help me forget about that meal, I would do the same for you.”

“Dude, how do you want me to help you forget a meal?  I have no words to describe the idea of you sitting there in the blazing sun, expecting guacamole to help your predicament and you eating a quasi-cold Mexican meal that probably came out of a box.”

“I’m scared of her man.  She orders water with lemon and no ice.  No ice.  Then she had a plate full of food and I spent $17.58 plus a four-dollar tip because I had lemon aid and guacamole.  What if we get married.  I’ll have to retire early with a woman like that.”

“You just told me you didn’t love her.”

“Yeah, but I’ve got to marry someone one.”

“Okay, this is what I’m gonna do.  For you, I’m going to have another beer and I’m going to pay for it.  Then I’m going to take my time drinking it while I describe for you the excruciating torture I will put you through if you ever propose to that woman.  They’ll never pin your disappearance on me man because your Mom loves me more than she loves you.  Then we are going to get up from these chairs and go make idiots out of ourselves with that group of women over there as a sort of cure by fire; a cure for picking terrible dates and for even considering marrying a friend.  You got me?”

“I got it.  Thanks, man.”

Photo by Pawel Kadysz on Unsplash