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.

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.”

Dead Today

How long are we dead Missy? A moment, a flash of time that encompasses exquisite pain and then – what? Do we remain in a paroxysm of memory or do we go blank a sudden release?  And really, old friend, what is worse?

So I read today that you are dead.

Are dead, and were dead, and was dead. Ah the beauties of the English language, each statement reflects for the audience who I am…well to hell with them.

How long are we dead Missy? A moment, a flash of time that encompasses exquisite pain and then – what? Do we remain in a paroxysm of memory or do we go blank a sudden release?  And really, old friend, what is worse?

Your obituary was short and brief; no viewing, no opportunity to submit to your favorite charity – the abortion clinic, the woman’s homeless shelter or possibly the city’s club for user men. They put you in your grave and since weather permits a “brief” family ceremony is allowed, graveside, where the dirt hides their mess now. At last, my friend, your very own address.

And what dear, is the ceremony about? The children that don’t know you because you were unfit or broke or worse, deceived into believing you were too much of all the above?  What of the son who was raised by your parents, the same parents who smiled at our girl scout uniforms and told us both we were communists? What, would, will, shall, it be about?

And your “companions,” will they be there? Yeah, I know dear and so do you, if they slept with you then they loved you right? Tell me, did you ever get over that notion? You know, being able to brush your teeth, look in the mirror and say, ‘I am more than an easy lay’? Or did it ever occur to you that possibly sex, no matter how intense, is not love? Did they ever give you the time?

Maybe, I don’t know.

Missy, I always thought you pretty; your smoke-blue eyes and blemishless ivory skin, even young as we were, I thought you pretty. It was always you who ran from the boys on the playground — they showing you their crotch and yelling, “sharpen my pencil, Missy, sharpen it for me.” On the playground, God help the early-developed girl.

Later we watched the boys, who stood up straight for the blond prom queen’s father. While they fawned over future wives, they made sure you knew their intent; making you blush and me shudder. They snickered in their Christian youth groups and pondered you. We fooled ourselves into thinking that their gold crosses meant something to them. But they were raised right and condoms were always ready in their pockets and roomy back seats. For justice’s sake, I wish them daughters with large breasts and low self-esteems.

As for me, I wait for the dead to tap on my windowpane, and for someone else to tell me their name. Today it was yours and in a swirl of green girl scout uniforms, hobo Halloween costumes and trampled prom dresses your blank, smoke-blue eyes, look back at me, no more questions just perhaps surprise.

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Rock of Ages Light

Shipwreck and remembering the Great Lakes

Sounding Thunder,

Wind in our sails

Good sailing,

Economy counts

And always will.

We sailed the crew low-

A woman to cook, a boy to pray.

The wind in November there is

Nothing at all like her.

The ice encased the hatchways

Freshwater knives cut and

crack our skin.

The young men cry for mothers.

And one hundred years later, in safe harbor,

The generations etch our tomb in radar.

The sensitive woman may wonder

One hundred years from now

And tomorrow, they’ll forget

The waves that slide and take

Sounding Thunder down

To the Rock of Ages.

Never Mind

What do I tell my children?  What do I tell my aging parents, honest in that they
Do not envy me.

How can I convey to you the heaviness of my heart?

I’m sure you’ve felt it, experienced the physical weight of sadness.

That sudden drop which suspends inside.

Lead within the quasi-weightlessness of water.

Water, wrapped in flesh, encased in a mind that cannot lift the eyes to see the horizon.

Just take the moment of temporary lightness, the mire of reality is unfair.

No one can help me, so I look to the earth for inspiration

I look to words for hope

I look to art for some sign of sympathy.

Never mind.

The earth has become paved over with concrete without thought to next week.

The words are glossed over by Freudian overtones that mankind craves.

Art has become not the object but the person who renders nothing but style.

What do I tell my children?  What do I tell my aging parents, honest in that they do not envy me?

How do I keep from mourning the family given and then taken?

The lessons have stopped and I am now atop the tiny dynasty learning faith.

And even that the world insists gets in the way.

Never mind.

Mirror, Mirror, Mother

Okay, listen, let’s get one thing straight before we go on.  I loved my father.  He loved me.  I couldn’t help his natural appetites.  My step-mother was there, yes but if he would have said ‘hey, I’m tired tonight I’ll see you in the morning,’ he may have lived longer. 

It didn’t work, my Mother was right.

She isn’t my real Mother but she’s the only one I have.  I speak to her in the mirror and no, we don’t look anything alike.

She’s beautiful, I mean really beautiful and I’m pretty.  There is a large difference.

She told me that deceit only works if you want to be rich, it never works if you want to be in love.  I thought, (and naturally so) what the hell does she know?  She seduced my father and I’m not too sure if he died of natural causes or if she helped him die of natural causes.

Okay, listen, let’s get one thing straight before we go on.  I loved my father.  He loved me.  I couldn’t help his natural appetites.  My step-mother was there, yes but if he would have said ‘hey, I’m tired tonight I’ll see you in the morning,’ he may have lived longer.  I suppose he died of what we all die of; free will.

Anyway, I was up in the attic trying to figure out the spinning wheel and thinking of a guy I just met at the well.  Now, Mom always told me not to touch the point of the spinning wheel because if I got a drop of blood on the snowy white wool I was spinning I’d fall asleep for 100 years.

I believed her because she worked like a dog for that snowy white wool.  She said that with my dark complexion, big brown eyes and rosy glow I’d look fabulous in white.

She wanted to marry me off as soon as possible.  To her credit, she was sizing up a very rich baron with lots of lands and a modern manor house with water heat.  I think of what life may have been there every once in a while.

I had other plans.  He was fair, noble, handsome and brave, the guy at the well. So I pricked my finger and dropped my own blood on the snowy white wool.  As I tumbled into that deep, deep sleep my Mother warned me about I heard her yelling my name from the basement.  Something about being an idiot.

I think if she would have just left well enough alone she wouldn’t be talking to me through the mirror.  She could have stayed in my father’s castle and lead a normal albeit rather evil life making her poison apples and scaring little kids.

“Did you have to lock your door again last night?” asked the mirror.

“Yes, and you don’t have to tell me I told you so.”

“Move up into the tower, with that game leg of his he won’t follow you up there.”

“He won’t let me cut my hair.”

“Let your hair grow.  It’s always grown fast and thick; you might be able to escape by it in a year or two.”

“That’s ridiculous!”

“So is being married to that frog of a man you waited to kiss on your wedding night.”

The Driftwood Gatherer

I looked up in hope at my father. His hair was gray and his eyes a sharp sky blue. He seemed tall to me but not so tall among other men at church. Until that moment, I was not sure that I was even noticed by my father — ever.

I never said much, being the youngest and being the youngest it was best that I stay as still as possible.  There is hard labor for those of us who do not understand the art of silence.

Yes, the art of silence.  Do not hide, for when you are among siblings, out of sight does not mean out of mind, especially when an order is easily delegated.  Prepare to be busy, not look busy, this is essential to survival.  Plan your day do not hope for the best.  So among my chores, the major one being the gathering of driftwood – no matter what the weather –I became the driftwood gatherer, and my days were planned.

The weather made me I’m sure; wind blowing, cutting sleet, rain in deluges, and heat that baked the sand to almost dead white kept me in one piece.  Never once did I ever hear an anxious voice from the house as I drug the driftwood from the shore to the door.  This was my job, the others had theirs.

No one wanted driftwood gathering.

Annie, bless her heart wasn’t up too much.  She was always sickly and kept close to Mother.  Mother was harried and busied and spent most her life, it seemed to me, scolding my brothers and clucking over Annie, who stood still for Mother to wipe her tears away in a sort of rough but tender way.

I hated school but loved to read – as most readers discover.  School distracts.

I was shunned for the books I read, but I read them anyway.  I was the driftwood gatherer, I could face the disdain of any long nosed librarian.  When we went once a week to the library (my fellow classmates in purgatory), I felt at times she only pretended to put on her worst face for me.  I do not know to this day if it was my selection of books or my designation as family driftwood gatherer that sparked a look of possible admiration in her face, possible disdain.

As driftwood gatherer I felt it incumbent upon myself to be observant.  There were several old Bibles in the library – thus and so Bible donated by Captain Daniel McGuire and thus and so Bible donated in the memory of Captain Joseph Benton.  On and on I could go.  After my selection of books by George Elliot, Jane Austen, or any of the Bronte sisters, I would go along the long low shelf of Bibles and touch each one.  I was the only one allowed to touch them, because in my family, I was the driftwood gatherer and in the library I was sneaky, or prized.  I touched them because for those who donated the personal or family Bible to the local library usually meant shipwreck, leaving the big lakes that took down their loved ones and frankly being sickened by the whole idea of setting sail.  I felt that I was connecting to the driftwood I found along our shores by touching those Bibles.

I was very young when I was first sent out to gather driftwood.  The shoreline to Huron was close to our house, and it was cold in the morning, any time of year. The mist was often low to the ground.

One October morning I was lost for some time, trying to find my way back with driftwood.  The driftwood was water logged and worn smooth by the roughness of the fresh water waves.  You see, so many don’t understand that fresh water has no plashy, saltwater softness to it – ever.  The ships wooden and even the new long boats take a beating within the sharp and harden waves of Huron, Superior, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario.

My father found me first.

“Well, at last I find my daughter hard at her chore.  What has become of you?”

“Huron was in every direction,” I sniffed a little hardened in attitude due to the heaviness of my load and the ache in my shoulders.  “Even on shore Huron mists up and hides shelter.”

“Naw, not true.  Huron is only along the east here.  She sent the mist to confuse you.  She didn’t want you to leave.  There is no harm in her.”

“Why doesn’t she want me to leave?” I felt little regard for her at the moment and I felt myself struggling not to pee.

“Well, Huron loves all lovely young maidens.”

I looked up in hope at my father.  His hair was gray and his eyes a sharp sky blue.  He seemed tall to me but not so tall among other men at church.  Until that moment, I was not sure that I was even noticed by my father — ever.  I could feel a thin mucus crust along the edge of my nose and my eyes felt swollen and my shoulders ached with pulling the driftwood beside me, in what seemed to be all day.

“Now let’s see what you have here.”  My father pulled up the driftwood that I had gathered; gray and black, heavy and long.  “Yes, yes, I knew you had it in you.  This is from my ship I’m sure.  Don’t you see pretty maiden, Huron loves you and wants to keep you near, and has given you a piece of what I worked so long and hard for.”

“I think I should find Mother.”  I told him.  His fine blue eyes stared long and hard at the driftwood I had drug along behind me; he said nothing.  So I started off again, away from Huron’s shore, my shoulder’s aching and my legs dragging deep within the sand.  When I looked up again, the house was in view and I felt like weeping.

“Where have you been, you dolt, looking at rocks again?” asked my Mother.

“No,” I said, “ “looking for driftwood like you said.”

“I’ve told you not to be so long — what would your father say if he could see you?”

I thought of the Bibles in the Library and how ours remained on the shelf.  I shrugged and went into the warm kitchen.

Nearly every day, I look for driftwood and wonder which sailors clung to the edges and then let slip away and which Bibles are donated, which remain.