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The underworld is the place you go after you've inhaled 18 shovel-fulls of dirt. But she wrote me today. I wanted to move away, to get out of this stupid town, board a train, barter a ticket, break the bank but she wrote me today. I had eyed the razor, fingered the poison's metallic cap, thumbed the bottle lid open and rattled the contents but she wrote me today; the letter arrived in the post, metered three days ago. I wanted so much to shuffle off this mortal coil, dispensing with the fertile symbolism and religious fervor but she wrote.
He's cut like a gymnast; every other day he sneaks away for his lunch break and sweats it - curling ten pound barbells, lunging one hundred and forty pounds on his shoulders. In the mornings he smells of protein shakes and string cheese. It's fascinating and yet I'd never sign up to be on his boat. I can barely stand having a cube down the hall from him. The only thing making him tolerable is the fact that sometimes he returns from the gym in a wife-beater, and his biceps are turgid, groin twitching with tension, sternocleidomastoid pronounced from the strain.
He told me it was the last time he'd try to convince me. Now I feel totally depressed. What was I thinking? Why did I decline? It seems like someone should have pulled me aside and told me I was crazy, but isn't that what he tried to do? There's a point when you cut your losses. And my loss is that I didn't listen to him. Advice is just that, but neglecting to see your friends caring about you and stepping forward to say they care is just pathetic. I think I will spend all day in bed crying.
Oh my god, I can't believe I haven't gone there before. It's crazy good. The sauce is hot and whatever but it isn't that hot when mixed with the beans and rice. It's not a curry, I like curry, make curry chicken. I can't identify it, you might be able to identify it, but it's just really good. Like I love that Cuban place down the street - the one with the po'boy sandwiches and the lamb stew - oh man, that's good; I could eat out every day of the week. But then I have to save up for my vacation.
Strength and pragmatism and all those other nice words are in part derived from carefully placed mirrors and lumps of dry ice. I avoid many social situations and drape my personality with brightly patterned fabric so as to distract from all the scars. Call me the new David Copperfield. I lashed out on myself, too - cutting and picking. Physical pain distracts from the emotional pain, makes one feel 'in control' if not of the big issue(s) then at least of oneself. I think it's far too wonderful that I can step so perfectly out of it and analyze it.
The first test, wondering wordily how it comes about: How do you say, "I love you?"How do you say, "I do not understand?"What comes around goes around, they say. Furthermore, someone left the door open, or was it the cake out in the rain. Most people don't care. They have their own problems to worry about. It takes 65 repetitions before it sinks in. Ten times before you think you know it. One in 100 people are schizophrenic. Does that mean anything? How do you say, "I am confused?"How do you say, "Please speak slowly?"Think again.
Francine, no seriously, small caps, you know what small caps are right? I don't mean to be, the ones that I sent to you, I don't really care about the font size, I just want the font to be consistent and up till now they haven't been. And the ink color, did you guys get that worked out? Just that the ink is the same consistency and the font is too. So when are we expecting these cards? Okay. Okay. Meanwhile an email hits my inbox. Title: tragic news. Candice is dying of cancer. In the hospital, few days remain.
Candice: writer, inspiration, mother, friend, mover, divorcee. Meanwhile the woman across from me is a total bitch: arrogant, snob, stuck-up prude who backs out of agreements to suit her own needs and bristles at any conflict she perceives. The hem fell out of my pants. I got Bob to write a story. Perhaps the power of language will transfer from Candice to him. Perhaps he can pick up where she left off; a writer's colony, a mountain woman, a sojourner in to the right brain chaos of left brain language. God I'm going to miss her. The idea of her.
We sat in the lunchroom, the TV was on but neither of us was really watching. Sometimes her eyes strayed to the screen and flicked from edge to edge. I keep her face in my view, while she talked, occasionally lifting a rice cake heavy with tuna to my lips and crunching politely. She is spiritual but she never went to church. She believes in a higher power. She has faith. She told me about her ex and how they talked on the phone; seven hours until he admitted he only followed the Bible because he believes in rules, words.
Every morning something is broken at work. One day the coffee pot, the next day voicemail is inaccessible, following that the fan in the server gives up the battle or every spoon in the building has evacuated to unknown adventure. It makes completing 100words difficult. Still, valiantly, I strive for only the finest quality paragraph. Typically three or four people come to me demanding action but I wave them off and say I can't help because my knowledge is limited. It's sad really. If I picked up the sword I might actually get a raise and acknowledgement; I'd rather not.
I was upset two years ago when I heard the cancer was found. I asked about her every few weeks. And then there was hope, doctors thought she was kicking it, she returned to work, it was okay. I should have called her. I should have met her for lunch. We worked only a few blocks from each other; there was so much I could have done. Now she is my motivation, the force behind me that reminds me to not let time pass before expressing care, love. It's a six hour flight to where I want to be going.
You know full well that 75% of party goers have some crazy agenda, political stance or self promotion their blathering on about. Then 10% want to die and will drink until they think they have. And another 10% want to live extremely to the fullest and will drink until it feels like the mountaintops are conquered. That leaves one or two people there for inexplicable reasons - they got roped in somehow. Alone, they are those who press into the sofa with a watered down drink, eyes pleading for earnest conversation. They are the few that the majority fervently ignores.
So tired today, emotional melt-down, feeling dripped with fat, confused, pork sausage and polenta, pickled pigs feet, instant potatoes and the inability to roll out of bed, plant the feet and move forward. I feel lost, like someone shut all the doors and turned out the lights, it'll be okay sweetie, just go to sleep, but I can't sleep, my eyes are dry and open, searching for a speck of familiar; none to be found. Ridiculous, ridiculed, alone with so many people; the TV is on and characters are jawing, audience participation, just add water. I am staring at air.
The dog gallops, long legs kicking front and rear, jaws open catching breeze and anticipating the ball. I lean back and crank my arm, the ball damp with saliva, sticks to my fingers, furry and atomic gold. The dog stumbles and pauses, flinching, every muscle taunt for the leap. I let loose the ball; it arches gracefully and bounces to the grass. The dog leaps after it, mouth snapping right and left until his jaws land with a pock sound around the orb. Satisfied, the dog chews the ball, compressing it with might, breaking down the rubber composition; loosening skin.
Oh how I hate my job. I am wasting my time. My life is frittering away, I can see it wing left, looping back around and cawing indiscreetly as it flaps to the horizon. I can not reach that far. What I wanted seems impossible, improbable, and yet I could just quit. I could find a job like my dreams, more suiting my interests. Some days I can see it, so close, waiting on a limb, picking worms from the yard. I smile knowing it's still around, hasn't fled for warmer weather. Today, though, I think it might not return.
He was following me with two large boxes, his head craning over to see me walking down the hall. "Uh, hello!"he called out. I turned around, annoyed. It was 7:30 am, I was a half hour early for work so I could check my personal email and noodle around on the internet. "I've got your coffee order here."I scowled, "You're quite a bit early. You should show up after 8.""Oh,"he said, continuing to follow me. I let him in after I entered the pass-code. As he shadowed me his knuckles knocked the door and split open.
I never thought I'd say, "Balls."But there it is. I said it. I said, "Balls out, boys. We've got a long line ahead of us; nothing to do but break through."I was coaching ten year-olds, baseball just one step above wiffle ball, and all the boys looked at me, the bills of their hats shading their eyes, blinking, smirking, a couple of them nudged each other knowingly. I could see them later jeering each other. "Balls out, Reggie. You expect to get anywhere with balls like that?"Suddenly size mattered. Suddenly the pecking order filtered wheat from chaff.
My office is hosting a "Baseball Party" that starts at 4 so around 1:00 most work will cease and arranging tables, bottles, etc will begin. Fortunately I have to go to the Opera (some times you just can't make this stuff up) so will leave shortly after downing a bottle of wine and a handful of cheese. There is a woman here who would fire me if she could. My head is never on task. She asks me to alert someone that she needs them, I forget. She directs me to assist her, I put it off. I'm so dead.
I feel like I'm always ragging on my work. Every morning I sit down to write my 100 words and I have all these angry feelings towards my office or some person in my office. My focus varies, shifts over the horizon, dappling here grass, now tree, exposing blemish and lies. Some people are equal only to cynicism and snarky attitude. Others exposed as big kids misplaced behind heaps of reports and forms. I don't wonder any more about hierarchy. There is nothing to be done about it. The only way up for me is out. So, out I go.
I've got a book called How to Read Literature like a Professor, a knife, plate, tab of butter, powdered sugar, and the sound of Mick O'Grady accenting my movements. The tab of butter is melted on the plate. I pour powdered sugar over it and mix the two with the knife, forming a frosting. The book is open to page 1 and Mick O'Grady chants "a moonlight drive"backwards and forwards. I consider adding more sugar when I lick the knife and can still taste butter. Twiddle dum, Twaddle dum. I deem the fatty mix rich enough. Who needs seconds?
I finally wrote him an email. And he responded almost immediately. I pretended to be busy. I told myself that I don't check my email over the weekend. I spent hours re-reading what he wrote. And I told myself it was okay to sit on my response; to weigh it, to knead it, to let it rise. I imagined him busily clacking away on some project, red pen cruising the text of another hair-brained student; a student too preoccupied to slate time for editing. It must be a mix of discouraging and thrill - the irregular shining star dimming the others.
The headache debilitated me. Mike's band was performing and I couldn't go with my head so peeled, my eyes feeling swollen as though some villain shoved his thumbs into them and was rattling my head like a maraca. I swooned into bed, ruffled blankets over my clothes and prayed for the pain to go away. I couldn't stop thinking about Candice being dead; how her brother broke up during his memorial speech; how Simon seemed to talk more about him self than her; how I looked at the stained glass to keep from crying. I will miss her great potential.
Professional grade products at student discount prices make me happy. 2006: the year to bulk up my software, hardware and spare time. Joe thinks I'm crazy. He has been operating with the previous package but he has a newer model computer. I used to have these programs, would cut and paste together promo for spoken word and musical performances. Then my computer crashed and I didn't think to pull the programs off for reloading. I figured I'd start from scratch. Scratch indeed, it's been too many years. So many I will have to re-learn everything. My life is already different.
Doodled on the internet looking at books; titles indicate contents clearly when non-fiction but usually are mysterious otherwise. It becomes a 6th sense, a sniffing over the artwork and quoted bragging on the backside, to tell if a book will actually be good. Unlike genre writing I prefer the works that attempt for greatness, works that reference the Western Canon and nod to my sense of humor. These are often poorly wrought, problems with tense and flashy, annoying characters ruining any hopes for lasting interest. When the author is young every dialogue is peppered with curses. When old, characters sigh.
Molly gets all the love. I sit at reception and cue up Rachel's computer, logging on long enough to bruise through my favorite sites. Kathy asks me if I remember a copy job from last year and I immediately admit I don't. My mind is else where, thinking about Joyce's Ulysses and the 3-day novel contest. Who'd want to remember a copy job when there is a whole world to ponder? Molly emailed, excited to be featured. She always used to talk about writing, abandoned journals piled beside her double-stacked bookshelf. Work wears her out, everyday the journals remain unopened.
Back when one was supposed to be happy and carefree but was actually confused and withdrawn. Baseball in particular was the most hellish sport imaginable. I remember standing in a lineup and begging the others to let me switch with them in hopes that I could maneuver my way to the end of the line and perhaps not have to go to bat; the spectacle of the tee. Some of those people I never interfaced with outside of pleading for safe harbor. Capture the Flag was about lingering in the background, watching others skid into the grass, lunging and giggling.
Jean Arthur sits poised, hat tilted like a Robin Hood's cap, her nose is cubed in a way no actress would allow after the year 2000 and though her eyebrows are plucked they haven't been moved higher or frozen still with collagen. She starred with the greats for forty years. Naturally blond, playing the squeaky dumb-one, she was shy and wanted only to play her parts to the best of her ability; could have been a star, retired to teach acting. Married twice, she was cute and the industry wrung her out, extracting the joy; finally, her voice gave out.
That was the longest half hour trying to write since I was in school staring at the essay question of a math quiz. What math teacher puts an essay question on a test? What the hell is a person supposed to say about problem solving that either hasn't been said before or clearly shows disinterest? Back then I would hold my forehead in one palm, drop my pencil from the other and drum those fingers until they began wearing a groove into the table top. Now I clack the symbols on a keyboard, waiting for my fingers to find inspiration.
We were at the dinner table: my father and his wife, aunt and her best friend, my friend from years ago newly reconnected. We'd eaten fatty fresh salmon and brown rice and were contented to chew on the skin left behind. The question came up: Where is this quote from, "The bride was led to the alter like a hooded falcon."Speculations begat laughter, the computer was brought to the table and a search revealed the picture of the newly wed Ms. Falcon. She is obese, cheap white dress with calla lily bouquet. Him: lawn mower of the country club.
My back aches. Possibly because he is back; he hogs the bed, lets his German Shepard sleep with him - shoving me close to the edge. Or perhaps it is that he detaches, he wants me but he doesn't, he touches but distantly, not lingering like one expects, like I do when I reach out. I've dwelled on this, on his pacing forward without me, on his speeches of devotion, and I wonder if he sneaks away in the night. Does he collect women on the side? Is his disinterest derived from denial? He's a soft man and generous with money.
The 3-day novel contest spun my head and I wrote adequate amounts of text about the new program they set up for this year - lodging a dozen Canadian writers in a crazy-busy bookstore and surrounding them with video cameras, photographers, and publicity. I wanted to go. I wanted to be a contestant for the live broadcast. I clamored to the website and looked at the entry rules: Canadians Only. I thought about lying. I thought about twisting Laurel's arm into letting me borrow her identity. Then I gave in, realizing the futility. Perhaps make my own movie? Who has equipment...?
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