REPORT A PROBLEM
I used to have dreams of being a reporter, but haven't been reading the news much lately. Most of it is just too negative or abstract.
Seven Teens Shot at a Bus Stop Last Night,
a friend sent via text message.
How to Look Busy at Work
was the title of another mindless article on MSN. I've been thinking about getting into freelance, but before I can do that I have to write more
outside the box
. Once I have accomplished that, figuring out what to write about should be easy, right?
My new kind of ambrosia is a tall glass of Diet Vernors on the rocks. I can still reflect on the day's events or recall a moment from years past equally as well. It's interesting that there's no telling what will trigger a particular memory or feeling. Tonight everything was random. I ripped through countless miniature boxes of drawer pulls, dumping their contents onto the table for pricing. Some pulls were silver half-moons, some crystal, others traditional brass. There were even some Jamaican pulls, dark brown with intricate carvings. I let each pull take me back.
I helped my mom go shopping today. My mom wears her heart on her sleeve wherever she goes, and it used to embarrass me watching her take out the entire contents of her purse in search of her debit card and still make small talk with the cashier as if nothing was wrong. She cried over her debt with the pharmaceutical companies later, and I patted her back and took her to Taco Bell, reminiscing with her over the cinnamon twists...Later spending the evening researching her treatment options, watching the fireworks pop and sparkle outside my screen door alone.
The sun was shining and a neighbor was spraying weeds in the culdesack when I appeared on the porch. I finished pulling my shirt on and went out into the day, glancing back at the neighbor's bleach-blonde locks and thinking of my old friend, Camille. I remembered the photo I found of her at a property appraiser's company and the day she gave me a wallet-sized senior picture and wrote her number on the back with the words, call me anytime. After she got a boyfriend, she disappeared though. I wonder if her words would still apply now.
I woke up in Teri's room. A bulletin board was on her wall depicting some of the things she's been up to lately. There was also one to match in the kitchen, and her family was more than inviting while I groggily sipped my coffee and Teri went on to have a bagel with a strip of steak and potato salad.
Hey! I have a lot to do today!" She said. I navigated out from her part of town... down the long, heavily-forested dirt road and hills... and felt somewhat like I had 'gotten away' after one night.
Barnes and Noble was having a sale, evident by the book racks outside the store. I wanted to take the shortcut through the trees, but hesitated when I saw the sign,
Keep of Landscaping, Please Use Crosswalk
. I figured wherever my mom and grandma went, they would be back soon so I could help my grandma pack. I don't particularly like the thought of either one of them driving. Inside, I selected a pocket-sized book on the writing process and found a chair, averting my eyes momentarily when a young man with spidery long toes walked past.
It's seventy-three degrees today with little humidity in the air. When I opened my bathroom door, a
of air blew into the hall that pricked my skin. The words,
Winter is Coming,
occurred to me then, the Stark family's mantra in
Storm of Swords
by RR Martin. Having rescheduled for today, I left a message on my mom's answering service, telling them to call me when they return...secretly hoping it wouldn't be for awhile yet. As coffee churned my stomach, I considered losing myself in a story of my own.
I was pacing, on the phone with my mom's pharmacy this morning. The first representative had no record of her in the system. I grew impatient, knowing she only had four shots left and no ETA on her next shipment. Finally they determined her account was in collections, so I made arrangements for her to pay the minimum amount allowed. She owed 1901.78 out of pocket. After I got off work, she was comatose, her stress threshold unable to take anymore...but she got up for me and listened, eating Hershey bars while I leafed through more dreadful paperwork.
Today I signed onto the job board and critiqued my own resume again. The house was quiet except for birds chirping outside and the steady tick of the second hand from the clock on the mantle.
I squinted through the glare the morning sun cast on my computer screen, and shook my head. Something had to be done. I accessed some old emails and found the template I was looking for from 2005.
Later, I shared a glass of wine with a new acquaintance in A2, driving through memories of Christopher, college, and life before work uninterrupted.
My supervisor, Catelyn, demonstrated the ISS's appearance, raising her hands in a 45-degree angled ascent over her orange curls, not unlike the monthly unemployment rate.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find the moon last night, even though I stopped outside Taco Bell to look around while a bus load of men ten years younger than me arrived. I must have appeared lost, when realistically I was frustrated over not being able to see the space station. After receiving my paycheck, I went to the bank and filled out a deposit form, observing two patrons in line for the coin machine.
I stopped at a gas station to get a pack of smokes. It was one of those places with everything in it, complete with a dry cleaner, food court and post office. The Shins,
, was playing over the loudspeakers. Stu's place was a few blocks away. His apartment smelled fresh, with a hint of cologne.
I'll be out in a minute,
he said. I heard the razor in the bathroom. Not a minute later, he finished. His scalp glistened and he complained about the mess when there wasn't one.
Ready to go?
Canton China was on my left as I approached. An attractive man on foot was slowing, figuring I would pass, but I stopped so I could get a peek. He waved a thank you and continued into Sapphire buffet next door. Shauna appeared from the parking lot as I waited outside. "Want to try Sapphire Buffet instead? I asked. "It must be Chinese also, given the symbols on the door." Inside I marveled hungrily over trays of angel hair pasta, pork and sweet and sour chicken. Shauna was on the phone at our booth, already digging in. Nice place.
I don't know why I was scheduled a full, nine-hour day at self-checkout. Edie or Barb, the older women who usually covered it during the day must have been indisposed. Rachel approached later.
Where are you going for lunch?
She asked excitably.
You don't know? Well go punch out and let me know!
After much deliberation, I decided on Taco Hell after walking through the store. Rachel pressed the button for receipt tape and asked me to get her a double decker supreme with no tomato and a packet of mild sauce. No problem.
I dozed off more than a few times today when I sat down to read. That's weird, because its not like I was up late partying the night before. I finally decided on a nap, struggling to remember a strange dream when I awoke. Instead I was left with the song,
You Found Me
by the Fray playing over and over again in my head. I looked at the reflection of a cherry tree on the glass of a picture frame I've yet to hang up. It's not always easy relaxing on my days off. I must work.
After work today I immediately made use of the brown futon, listening to distant lawn mowers and father and son play basketball next door.
"Who left the goddamn butter out? Did you think that was funny?"
the mom screamed. Shortly thereafter, I heard their garage door shut and that was the end of it. As far as I was concerned, nothing has changed much in medieval Westeros. Tension was still building between the self-proclaimed kings. The dialogue of a pillager with a lisp cracked me up, and I got a few giggles mimicking him over chat later.
I remembered the tree's roots from the days I mowed the lawn. The tree was removed last month, but much of it still remains. While raking the mulch away from the weeds, picking them out of the shovel, and raking the mulch back into place, I pretended I was at HD, only there was no walkie talkie. The neighbor said hi and I returned the gesture precisely when my shovel broke in two, caught in a particularly strong root. Later, her cute son and his girlfriend were swinging in their hammock: Youthful apparitions from my life here ten years ago.
The waitress sighed a little two visibly when I asked her questions about the available drafts. Her gold-plated metallic earrings swung back and forth as she shook her head, impatient. Devin later told me to give her a lousy tip. Beyond him, there was a man closer to my age. My eyes averted to him more and more frequently. Devin seemed to notice and, thankfully, he agreed that he was good looking.
How old do you think he is?
I shrugged. "I can always tell by their eyes," He said as his own dark eyes continued probing.
I walked into Taco Bell, thinking about the germs my hands have come into contact from handling money all evening and opting to wash my hands before I ordered. Inside the restroom there was already a guy at the sink washing his hands so I pretended to blow my nose in the stall, waiting for him to finish. Apparently he was with friends and knew people who worked there. I ordered the same thing as usual, a number one burrito supreme with a soft taco. I saw the guys in the parking lot after, showing off each others car stereos.
I drove into Skymouth. Grandma talked to me as I moved boxes around. Her wrist was broken from falling the other night, and she only had donuts and a loaf of bread, so I picked her up some Lunchables. A few what-if's ran through my mind later while I was eating a plate of food at the store party behind Home Depot. What if I was closer to her? What if I never moved back? No answers came as the store manager and some other coworkers cleaned up and I considered fixing myself another plate. "Eat!" Shouted my supervisor.
Day off. Stu met me at Papa Ramanos on his way home later. I arrived a few minutes before him, so ordered a large Meatza with a draft of pale ale. Stu immediately brought up his past upon joining me at the booth. I immersed myself in the paintings of Italian buildings surrounding the restaurant as I loaned him my ear. A small arcade room in the back held memories of his younger days. I thought about what it was like having to avoid family events altogether because neither his family or his boyfriend's family approved of their relationship. Listening.
I called Kris when I parked. "Verizon, this is Kris speaking." She told me to walk north to the main lobby. After five minutes, I found the lobby and entered into a small waiting room. A black leather couch and two chairs sat off to the right along with a meeting room enclosed in glass. A model of an actual transmission was on display to my left. She appeared at the double doors leading into the office and welcomed me into the old Ford building. Boxes of phones sat in the cafeteria with a half dozen other people. Okay then.
I figured out where everyone stood two hours into the work. Two blond, enthusiastic men still in college were Verizon interns. A black man around my age was also a temp, along with a nervous older man who reminded me of Mr. Bean. More people from the Verizon office in Southfield were present today, so I took the liberty of reading Sansa's lips from across the room and selecting the customer's phone from the counter. I gave each box to Kris. She put the battery in each phone and programmed it, handing it to someone at the Cellbrite for transfer.
The night took on a sassy air. My car radio spewed out Mojo in the Morning Phone Scams, Mazzy Star, and Rammstein
lyrics, later followed by light, melodic voices belonging to someone or another on NPR. I can never pay attention to most of what is said on NPR while driving, usually getting sidetracked. Under the pitch black sky and trees tinted green and yellow by stoplights and streetlights, with Stu beside me munching White Castle burgers, I drove by an old friend's house who moved to Australia, saying little. Just happy they are happy now.
I observed Amy's elbows flex as she carried two lumber carts back to the store. It's just work, it's just work. Work. I told myself. Work but on what? 8.50 jobs and vague temp assignments? But I can't possibly leave home yet. Achieve the independence I once had in Florida, could I? If you just work though, eventually everything could be open to you. I had the lot cleared in less than 20 minutes, after immediately being called back into the store to work at another cash register. What's the lesson here? When will I be ready again? When.
Today I read until the silence grew thick. Stu was sending texts regarding his confusion about where to eat. I didn't want to hang, but I decided I would if he wanted to talk over a beer. I mean, talk seriously about his goals and aspirations, instead of what his other head was dictating at the time. CVS was my intermission, buying a bottle of coconut body wash, a scrubbing pad, a 3-serving's worth carton of Chardonnay, and a pack of Camel Crush with my 1.50 off coupon. Now I'm in the basement, trying to be an artist.
I left Tim's with the catchy tune, Lullaby, by Sia. I revealed some mistakes I've made throughout my professional life no employer should ever know during the interview, but continued to feel particularly weighted nonetheless. I was sipping a chocolate martini through a piece of truffle and admiring a stone falcon intricately carved into the wall.
There are rewards to doing the work and living the high life again,
I surmised. I observed the torches in their respective sconces surrounding the basement.
But only if the secrets of your past can be used in your favor.
I began listening to someone on the other end of the phone while driving home after work. I decided to tell them I had to go and would see them the next day, unable to put anymore energy into the situation. Whether or not this makes me inept at driving and talking on the phone at the same time is open for debate. At the next stoplight, while observing another driver on the phone whose gaze was coolly focused, wearing hater-blockers no less, I briefly envisioned doing what I felt like doing: punching the wheel and screaming at nothing.
Today at the dentist I stared out the window at the clouds in the sky. One seemed to take the shape of a woman with long hair as the song, Bette Davis Eyes was playing. For years, the lyrics just sounded like relaxing words thrown together incoherently. The dentist's assistant sat down again who couldn't have been more than eighteen. She stared at me and the wad of padding holding my mouth open. I looked at her and she averted her eyes and touched the computer screen. She looked around and swiveled out of her chair as I continued waiting.
"This place smells like old people," Val said, smiling. My aunt slapped him on the shoulder. Inside the apartment smelled like someone forgot to take out the trash. Boxes lined the wall, as if someone were to move out very soon. A handwritten note in black marker sat on the dining room table, and my aunt commented that that was a good sign. "Call me if you need anything," I said, leaving to go meet Stu for a beer and chat over a hot crush of mine today.
Dan simply fried my nerves is all,
I lied, tired.
Today I was playing Tetris between customers, hiding my phone with a thinly veiled sanitary wipe. Sometimes I got to a higher level, other times I was too passive assembling the pieces or I was interrupted by a customer with a bag of mulch and had to listen to the pieces drop one after another until my phone vibrated violently, signaling the end of the game. Later that night I took a walk with the smell of cedar in the air. I tried to identify a homeowner's flowers to no avail, stopping briefly to admire a frog on the sidewalk.
The work will show you how to do it,
read the fortune cookie. I nodded and continued driving down the rural road into downtown. I passed Halyard's COB and Dale's Diner, where Christopher and I occasionally had breakfast. Photos of various school soccer teams were on the wall there, and Christopher used to tease me about going out with them.
Beyond that, I stopped at an old Walmart to deposit cans, observing a door designed for the lot attendant to push carts through, not unlike a doggy door. An older woman greeting customers yawned frequently, bored.
The Tip Jar