I Give ‘Calling-In-Sick’ A Whole Other Meaning (aka If You Don’t Like What You Do, That’s Why They Pay You For It)

To: Margaret.Steeler@theacademyschool.gov
Cc: HR; Jack Stiller;
Bcc: YourMom; WhyHaventIQuitThisJob
Subject: RE: Security Staffing Issues Update

Good morning Margaret.

As per our discussion, I’ve reached out to the upper management of Secure Staffing Inc. I had a lengthy discussion with their senior manager Greg Philmoore, who voiced some concerns regarding our decision to relocate one security guard from our secondary school location. He divulged feelings that this was done out of spite, and referenced what I can only describe as a ‘vague friction’ between The Academy School and Secure Staffing Inc.

In addition, he said this was very much a bitch move, which went directly against an earlier conversation I was not a part of. In fact, I wasn’t a part of any of the conversations until now, as I stumble to pick up the pieces to a mess you’ve left behind to attend your daughters recital concert. While I smoked a cigarette and listened to Greg’s incessant whining our employee-client relation, a part of me kept wondering how the hell this was my problem. There was a circle tar of gum pasted onto the sidewalk, and for a moment I felt a terrible connection between myself and that black blotch on the floor. You see, that glued and trampled dot was once something pristine- sitting neatly in a wrapper, complete and minding it’s business on some shelf or deli counter in upper west side Manhattan. Perfectly made. Whole. Un-bothered by the world and all it’s problems. Just as I was, before this job.  I used to go to the gym on Wednesdays and call my friends to see how they were doing. Occasionally I would even have sex. And now I’m  melded into this 9 to 9 job, endlessly answering e-mails that keep popping up like weeds or your mistakes. Marooned in Microsoft Outlook, stranded in half assed meetings about meetings that amount to nothing. Sealed in necessity and welded to the sun.

I explained to Greg this was not the case, and that this decision was in no way done to go around his authority, but rather, was in collusion with our ideals of “School First.” Management came together to assess how we can best support our vision, and after careful deliberation, this was decided to be the best alternative.

Which is some cult shit, really. Why would I ever possibly put you strangers above myself? I’ve got a family, friends and growing nephews that need me, and I need them, much more than this false-family-narrative you’re trying to spin. Why does a job even have to be more than a paycheck? When did being good at a job not become enough? What kind of lunatic doesn’t work for his pay, but because he wants to be there? We aren’t artist, we’re talking deskjobs and dealing with other peoples gross children. It’s a brand of psychological slavery I can pretend to go along with, but laugh tragically over as I’m getting plastered in my condo Monday through Thursday. The stupid, arrogant naivety of it all. Trying to force a man to forsake himself  for the sake of establishing a “job culture.” You’re tools, all of you, trying to make a wrench out of me. But I’ve been sharpening my resume along with every fake smile.

In conclusion, I believe a best practice would be to be more honest as to why we’re here; understand that what we’re asking for is unreasonable. The Academy School and Secure Staffing are not places we should aspire to, just names and LLC’s trying to make us think we owe them something.  We should do our best to be better people, and a better person doesn’t succumb to cultural brainwashing. He or she should work hard because that’s what they’re paid to, and working hard doesn’t require the buy-in of pretending their job is a family. It only needs a decent pay, sincerity, and you handling your own damn problems so that I don’t have to.

Also, your daughters shit at the flute.

Always,

Noel Edwards
District Manager
The Academy Schools
8042 Netherland Boulevard
New York, NY 10033

PS – I quit.

Leave Her Johnny, Leave Her (aka A Broken Heart’s A Heavy Bar Tab)

Even when I’m not a vagrant there are days I get the taste of gin and cinders on my tongue again. Waking up skeletal, bare as bone, with nothing but a name. Veins poking from a sleeve, revealing what I’m made of, like wires from old headphones you get ashamed to pull out in public. Some days leave me feeling ends-less, frigid and grey as the clouds I’m blowing smoke circles at from the balcony of my house. The air feels wet, the grass shimmers just a little greener, and as I take a breath I’m thrown to somewhere that isn’t here. Smell, they say, is most directly linked to memory, so there must been a scent of the early 2000’s perspiring in the grass of Trump’s America.

I was nostalgic, I guess. Remiss of the past, the way a particular type of weather reminds you of that time in third grade when it was raining, the day you saw Samantha scrape her knee in the PS 143 playground. A gash so long you couldn’t tell where it began or ended. You can’t even remember what it looked like, just the sensation of black tar and plasma. And while some kids ran for the nurse she just sat there, no crying, not shedding a damn tear, staring into that cut the way adults look at sunsets or somebody they used love. Almost hopeful, like waiting long enough might make something jump out of all that velvet. Make it more than just colors and blood.

I think that’s when it started for us, really. Fifth grade, Ms. Turmiski’s class. She made an impact on me that day, and no matter where she sat I had my eyes on her ever since. Even if she was in another room. Feelings I denied vehemently until sexuality amplified too high to be tucked away in an Ew-Girls. Samantha had came back from Summer damn near 5’5, towered above the rest of us with her home-cut bobbed hair and thick black rimmed glasses (before that fad came in, you hacks.) The only girl in class who had a binder when all the rest of us were early-primming into drawstring Nike bags and spiral notebooks. Come junior high she started keeping a deck of cards on the sleeves, and I’d make it a point to always sit across from her on the other team when we played spade or casino. Took the usual route of juvenile affections, found it easier to make her an enemy than admit her face made me want to do things with her I didn’t understand yet. Bluffed through boyfriends like Troy, Elijah, and Anthony like a champ. Fake-It-Til-You-Can’t-Take-It was the name of the game, and I was good.

Kept it cool until that one long walk home Sophmore year, hit a slump I couldn’t manage to flash a smile and hump over. Told her what I always felt, even mentioned that thing about her knee in fifth grade, and she said “I always knew, dummy.” Kissed me on the corner of Taylor Avenue, deli lights flashing above our stupid little heads. A world on the verge of conquering us at sixteen, and a universe of intimacy opening the floodgates. Going at it like jackrabbits and a lot of arguments over silly things. I wanted to make the world laugh, and she wanted me to study and make something out of me. She had kisses made of phosphene, I still remember the way her lips against mine would make my head melt. The only girl I ever suffered the dilemma – kiss her, and feel that bliss of touch and sexuality, but miss out on all the lovely things she could have said.

“i want to see your face. send me a photo.”
Her text read at four in the morning, and so I did.
“no. a real one. something I can hold and write your name.
scribble the date and the way you make me feel on.”

Her love was comforting, the way a light from another room is when you’re trying to fall asleep but afraid of the dark. Or yourself. When I couldn’t bare to go down a street because it looked so lonely, she’d remind me what I was scared of wasn’t outside. But in. And I loved her terribly, but only in retrospect. Spent more time dreary eyed with the boys on Amsterdam when I should have been watching Samantha color code her study binders. A realization I wasn’t able to see or understand until long after it happened, and honestly, only because it was gone. Like suddenly missing a limb or finger, or admitting you were an asshole to somebody that didn’t deserve it. There’s a learning curve to gratitude and I was on the verge of overcoming the anchor line. Which is no excuse, I guess. Hindsight is 20-20 and not having regrets just means having things you haven’t thought of enough yet.

“So just like that, you’d leave New York,” I said. Unable to admit by ‘New York’ I meant me.

“It’s a scholarship. Why wouldn’t I?” She said.

And I think we could have made it work, past the slammed doors and distance. Rebuilding trust from where there was none over jokes I shouldn’t be making. Six month breaks that break easy over the holidays, and all the blood we’ve tried to draw from one another wiped clean with something as simple as an I-Miss-You text. Enough distance that makes us wonder what we were so angry about anyway, two weekends into Lets-Just-Be-Friends that ends the moment we notice its 5 am and the bar is closing. Goodbyes and lonely train rides home that turn the world into a stranger, that make us pull the breaks and reverse into each other. Is it still falling if its the fifth time in love? Why are we so surprised to be veering off the side of the road because Why-The-Fuck-Does-Everything-Have-To-Be-A-Joke-With-You? A phone call slammed, and I don’t call back, because I’m tired and her birthday is right around the corner. I’ll take six months off before I start rolling the boulder of our love up over and over again, like Sisyphus. Glossing over our past in grey, summer weather. Sitting there not shedding a damn tear, staring at the sunrise like somebody I used to love. Hopeful, like waiting long enough might make something jump out of all that rosy velvet. Make it more than just the colors and blood we shed to each other.

That kind of chemistry can become exhausting, so her walking out for good was a victory, really.

Even if it doesn’t feel like it.

 

Items In The Rearview May Appear Larger Than They Really Are (and who says they aren’t even bigger?)

Not much to show for the boys who grew up the way I did. Juveniles only in it for the thrills, no arrest record, money piles or illegitimate children this side east of the Hudson. All we’ve got to show for broken windows and slammed doors are vague drug-laced memories and Instagram photos. (Profile private, because we did it for us, not the for the likes.)

Ivan’s doing pretty alright last I checked. Moved in with a thick thighed prize this past Spring.  I could tell he was in love because the club pics started coming in less and less, replaced with vacation snaps with Lo-Fi filters and her big hair on that thin body waving like the palm trees behind them.  I like to see my people doing well, even if it isn’t with me.  The last time I tried to get Ive on a plane he called out broke, then bought the Pathfinder he’s been shining on ever since. Caught an attitude when me and the boys mentioned all the Island-Girls he missed. Said a bunch of guys going overseas is some…well, let’s just say he didn’t agree.

I think it takes a woman to make a man do all the things he’s afraid to. Peer pressure has never put someone they don’t want to be. We’re cowards, really. Crowded around a blunt, six pack, video game or sports bullshit. Children wrestling in verbal warfare with manhood and ourselves. Too silly to be serious. It takes a woman to make a man do things he isn’t prepared to. Crimes of passion are just another way of saying Her-Sex-Was-Good-Enough-To-Make-Him-Do-That.

Joe’s struggling with a baby and a mortgage, same man that swore any girl trying to tie him down better have some strong ass rope. I like his son, David, for weird reasons. Nothing special about the little herb, but he’s the first born of our generation. When I see him chasing fireworks I wonder if he’ll chase lows the way we did. Monkey room looming with too much hookah in our system. Fistfights and Miller Lights coursing through our blood. Dangerous as bulls, hungry, like wolves. Amsterdam avenue thugging, but not really. The college boys were afraid of us being the darkest thing besides the sofas or bouncers. We just needed somewhere to wander until the night or some girls bed could cool our blood.

Not much to show for the boys who grew up the way I did. Just pockets full of memories and the good kind of regret.

 

To Rank The Effort Above The Prize May Be Called Love (aka You Don’t Always Get Brownie Points For Trying)

My mother used to always warn me about people and their gossip. Before she died I’d get so tired of her telling me not to trust people, waning from one story to the next on friends and family that committed horrible atrocities for the sake of their self interest. Worn and bent over a rocking chair, four red checkered playing cards in her hand as we played Casino. Those are my fondest memories of her, before she died. A time when she spilt her wisdom over diamond nines and clubbed jacks. Always hiding an ace around her bed gown for an extra point I never counted.

“They’re animals,” She would say. “Will eat you alive if you give let them. Before we had to fight for food, now we fight for work. They used to kill you with their hands, now they do it with words. Nothing but хуйло́.”

Something about Casino brought out the worst and best of her. I think the game reminded her of earlier times, and she talked so freely and removed from now that she wouldn’t mention my gambling or weed addictions. I made 18 points last hand, she was one spade short of 21. A long sigh leaked from her lips as her wrinkled hands took up the table to shuffle.

“But we have to love them anyway, I guess.” Words I nodded and said goodnight to, not knowing they were her last.

But they remained with me, and I thought of them constantly whenever work became something more than a job. In 2016 I was caught between the animals and a hard place thanks to the dangerous and heartless parfait of teachers in a charter school.

It was called The Faculties Wall. Nobody knew when or how it started, but it was maintained for years as a well kept secret and dishonored tradition. Located in the staff restroom of the fourth floor, securely tucked away from student eyes, hidden behind a loose and shoddy ceramic wall tile in the third stall. Fifth tile up from the toilet handle, perpendicular to the coat hanger of the stall- here you would find a list of names, impressively almost alphabetized,  of teachers and what others thought of them in an old wooden plank. Written in a thin black marker, kept scouts honor on the ceiling tile, with a precise and poignant naming convention. A name, an underline, and a series of adjectives would follow. A simple but effective way to wound somebody, to see the dark thoughts of the mob make a grocery list of all your faults.

“What’s it say for Karen?” I asked.

“Snob. Princess. Stank.” Matthew replied.

“Well it isn’t wrong, I guess.”

“Somebody needs to give that stick up her ass a little twist.” He said. “Then take it out. Then put it back in again. Then take it out. Then put-”

“Yours is probably pretty harmless,” I interrupted, because otherwise the loop would be endless. “Since everyone thinks you’re some prince.”

“I did get one Perv. A few Asshole’s. Two or three somethings about being cocky.”

“I’m so happy for you,” I replied dryly.

“Know what would make me happy? Putting it in Karen’s cooterrrrrrrrrrrr”

“You’re aware shes pregnant.”

“And are you aware that can’t happen twice at the same time.”

The Faculties Wall- an outlet for the adults to finally act as cruel as school children, anonymously and as deprived as chat rooms. But worse, somehow. Internet bullying can all seem the same. They’re just digitized letters. But a hand written Douchebag has something terribly intimate about it. The slant of the d, dashing of the i. it makes it much more personal than some 13 year old having a field day in the YouTube comments.

“You still haven’t checked yours huh?”

“I’m not interested.”

“Good for you man. Way to take the high road so the rest of us dont have to. Now I can keep using this as an excuse to just insult you. Like I personally would never have called you frumpy.”

“Shouldn’t you be working on whatever that is?” I asked, waving generally at the copier.

“Fucking finals week is killing me,” He said, reaching in his pocket for a portabalized bottle of aspirin. He popped one with a swig of mineral water, and added, “But not as much as Karen’s-….”

I didn’t care what anyone thought about me. I was more curious of what they thought of each other. Karen wasn’t all bad behind her resting bitch face. Her husband was this stubby and horrible looking Irish kid, so I knew she wasn’t as superficial as everyone thought. Matthews women mania was a well guarded secret. To everyone else he was just the funny man, and I knew all about his 4 episodes of depression and mild pill addiction. Jessie was the last of four, only one to go to college, the prodigal child. Wanting to make her family proud but side-lining her desires to go back to school and be a social worker.

I liked to know these things as a sort of social empathy.  Like how watching someone yawn almost makes you want to do it as well. The Faculties Wall was a passive interest, like boxing, or passing car accidents on the highway. But I couldn’t bare to look myself. To put on the gloves I knew full well that I wouldn’t be able resist and take whatever I saw scribbled too personally. And not knowing where it was from, I’d place a wall to my back and turn everyone into an enemy.

“And hey man, I know I usually joke about this stuff but this time its serious with the Tee Eff Dubbs.”

“I don’t care if my shirt is wrinkled.”

“It totally is, but this is not about that. Somebody signed their name on the The Faculties Wall. A major no no.”

“So?”

“It’s got us Tee Eff Dubbers talking. That’s some bold shit to do man.”

“Basically saying they don’t care who knows they feel that way. I get it.”

“Might bring us some heat. I can’t believe Jessie would do that.”

“…to who?” I asked, already knowing.

Matthew placed a cold hand on my shoulder.

“It is so much more worse than frumpy.”

——————————————————————————————————————-

The mind is a terrible muscle. Unreliable, prone to forget or exaggeration. It plays tricks and can’t be trusted to even decide if a dress is blue or not. For the weeks that followed, mine played a terrible game against itself. A Daredevil sort of hyper-awareness overcame my senses with every interaction I had with Jessie. I felt lingering eyes sometimes where there were none, as if other staff members were waiting for some eruption or subtle gesture. Some tell to discover the way Jessie truly felt about me under the nuance of office politeness.

That moment never came, I don’t think, but I began to treat Jessie the way the instinct of the healthy treat the sick – kindly, but over-protectively and from a distance. I went so far as to change our bi-weekly meeting to only once, and if possible, I would have had that interaction over dixie cups or a recording device. Before then, I had little to think or say about her. She was not outstanding or a terribly awful receptionist. She was just all right, bland in all the right places that make for terrible conversation and an excellent first line for the waves and waves of parents that came in on a daily.

Three weeks had past since Matthew shared the news, and I was on the verge of forgetting it altogether.

“I don’t know how you play nice with someone like that,” Shi said. Shilynn was a parent, my confidant and one of the few people who I sincerely enjoyed. Five minutes with Shi and you would learn her nickname is an antonym, as she was anything but. Loud, honest, playful and forward. Gorgeously stacked six feet high with hoop earrings and a smile that almost made me as manic as Matthew.

“Don’t tell me you know about the wall too,” I asked. And Shi only made a face with a sardonic and closed lip Mmm-Hmph.

“I haven’t seen it yet. But I’ve heard.” Shi shot me a quizzed look, shaking her head with that brilliant and toothy smile.

“That’s what I love about you Noel. Don’t give a shit about what other people have to say, all about your business. Keep that focus on Finals Week baby.”

The copy machine roared softly in the background, and from the distance I could see two teachers talking laxly in loud whispers. Was it about me? I couldn’t tell. They never looked my way but gave shamed nods and gestures that made me think it was. The way you close your eyes on a train and can swear someone is looking at you, but when you open them, there’s nobody there.

“But you need to check that girl. And don’t even stress,” She clicked, placing a warm hand against my cheek. “I think you look cute frumpy.”
————————————–
The mind is a terrible machine. Always functioning, always turning, even in sleep. I started to have awful dreams. An auditorium full of people I didn’t recognize. Their faces blurred by the spotlight as I stood by the curtain, watching their shapes shift and jiggle in Ooh’s and Aah’s as Jessie stood speaking angrily into the microphone on the stage. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but I knew it was about me. Or did I merely think it? Dreams are funny that way. Even what you’re not sure of tends to be the gist of it. It’s all your imagination – there is no stage, no crowd, no curtain, no Jessie. It was only my own subconscious rebelling against my self esteem.

At one point, Jessie pointed, and a hundred dark shapes jerked to look at me. A sea of black silhouettes staring mercilessly without eyes. And when I thought to run or stand out for myself – the alarm clock jerked me to my bedroom. No stage, no crowd, no curtain or Jessie. Just a mattress and a cat whining for his feed.

That morning I moved purposefully straight to the fourth floor staff bathroom. Something in my expression must have gave me away, because passing Matthew up the staircase he only winced and muttered some nonsense along the lines of I-Knew-You’d-Break. I hung my satchel in the door, third stall. Stood on the slippery sheen of the porcelain toilet, nearly breaking my neck for the pen faithfully kept in the ceiling. I remember the way it felt so different from the others I’ve held. A bit old and watery from years of wear, but powerful. How many hands had gripped this instrument only to gripe their grievances onto a wooden board. How much history of hate was confined into a sharpie, made boringly in some factory by some machine and people with their own sighs and Faculties Wall.

I stared into the ceramic tile, fifth up from the toilet handle, perpendicular to the stall coat rack. I felt an odd touch of destiny that moment, as if I was taking my life and name back from the phantoms behind the wall. But there was a hesitance. I was afraid, I think, or maybe something more. Anger was what anchored me that entire car ride. It was all I could think about past every exit, speeding towards reaching this place I knew, deep down, I never wanted to be a part of. There was a sweat in my palm as I gripped the marker, and I consciously felt myself at a crossroad. Behind the tile, the curtain, was Matthew and Jessie, and even Shi. Two thoughtless movements and I’d be plunged behind the ugly truth behind How-Was-Your-Weekend, weak weather whatever’s and a void of restraint the social contract binds us to.

I took a deep breath.
——————————————————————–

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, but I don’t think they’ve ever heard of abandonment.  Jessie was drowning, as far as I could tell because Finals Week is a killer. My third year of it caused some pre-planning I neglected to include her with. There aren’t enough hours in the day, so the trick is to come in an hour earlier when nobody is here and focus on those intricate but easy pieces that need to be done. Bubbling spreadsheets, preparing envelopes. Easy stuff that gets difficult once the rush of parents hits you.

“Goodnight Jessie,” I said on my way out. “Don’t let the rain catch you.”

“Thanks,” Jessie groaned behind a stack of paperwork. Hunched, tired eyes resisting the allure of her cell phone vibrating wildly on the counter.

I stood at the door for a second and thunder cracked. A storm was brewing outside, and a really brilliant one. I’ve always loved rainy and cloudy days. The sun bothers me being so obnoxious and glaring. Staring, demanding to be observed or enjoyed in some lackluster restaurant with outside awnings. Gloomy days fits everyone else in my default mood, and it added to the haggrid state I saw Jessie in. Defenseless, piled behind a desk job not feeding her interest. Welded to the sun without an ounce of strength to call and register for classes next semester.  Doomed to the high life of 9 to 5, no recourse except a wooden board on the third floor of the building.

“Do you want help?” I asked, flatly. Her tired eyes contorted to an emotion I couldn’t place, but she didn’t respond.

I placed my satchel on an empty chair and took a stack of papers. Made some joke about how this work was even bigger than Karen’s belly. Jessie laughed, or at least pretended to, and we twiddled through hours of end-of-day deliverables with nothing but placid politeness. The only highlight was a picture of her mom, decked glamorously in a bathrobe throwing a piece sign in a rocking chair. Cigarette pack on her bedside and a deck of cards half opened. A sweet looking old thing ancient as the highways and just as racist.

“She’s cute,” I said, politely. “You have her eyes.”

“She wants me to go back to school, but right now I just can’t because-” Jessie stopped, some subconscious halt to whatever was about spill a terrible honesty.

“You should go back to school,” I said. “Or you should stay here and work. You’re good at either, but nobody wants to be a receptionist forever. Eventually you’ll get tired of this place, because you’ll ask What-If? And that kind of hate festers. It turns you to an animal, and angry, and just…I don’t know. It’s terrible. You start to look at everything around you as a sort of resentment. Like it’s their fault you aren’t where you want to be. Matthew didn’t plan to be a music teacher, he wanted to be a rock star. He tried for years, and he landed here. Which is great, I guess, and is he happy? I think so. Maybe. But more than anything I think he tried his best, and even if this isn’t what he wanted, he’s okay with it, because he pursued his dream.”

Jessie stared into her phone screen, nodding absently. She rolled up her sleeveless blouse, taking the rest of my Finals Week stack into her own.

“Thanks, I’ll take care of the rest,” She said. The drip of rain was deafening outside. A long and soaking bus ride my reward.

I gathered my things and said goodnight, paused at the double doors, wanting and wishing to say more, but unable to make available what words to say.

“By the way,” Jessie chimed. “You shouldn’t wear blue, it makes you look frumpy.”

I nodded and laughed, a little too honestly, and walked wrinkled into the rain.

I Only Give Up My Seat To The Elderly If There’s A Cute Girl Nearby (aka The Height of Injustice Is To Seem Just Without Being So)

Matthew meandered through the office full of a fools intention, playing at conversation and ‘none-the-wiser’ to his demeanor. The music teacher; relax, cool and making faces with a tongue in cheek, hovering with a cup of Starbucks green tea and handing out rehearsed dad jokes to anyone willing to listen. A soft and puffy beard behind two warm and sun-strained eyes, a smile wide and duplicated as the photocopies he came to make but wasn’t minding or paying attention to.

The copier tends to crash and there’s signs all around it – asking everybody to please be mindful of the environment and not leave papers jammed or unattended.

“I don’t live by the rules, the rules live by me!” He said, pretending to throw something on the floor before picking it up a minute after.

That Matthew, so carefree. So whimsical. He liked to purposefully be distracting no matter how focused you were on spreadsheets. The company clown quite proud to make the mood a little lighter, the type of guy that always has something sly to say, a compliment or awkward comment that was boring as hell but work appropriate. Loaded, in a sense, because if you didn’t nod or pretend to laugh at all his jolly empty sentences, well then, What-The-Heck’s-Your-Problem-Grinch, It-Isn’t-Even-Christmas.

(I swear to God, his words, not mine.)

“Anybody want to hear a joke about a piece of paper?” Matthew’s low baritone donged out loud, to no one in particular.
“Sure,” Jessica dinged, ignoring the loud ring of the office telephone.
“Never mind, it’s tearable.”

Everybody groaned and somebody sucked their teeth. Matthew was finger-pistoling the air and I was glaring out the window, looking for some rope and the highest tree. The copier made a screech, three beeps and a high pitched Danger Will Robinson kind of tone. There’s a jam, that sound is unmistakable. We’ve heard it a million times but somehow it goes unnoticed.

“Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week, be sure to tip your waitresses.” Matthew Bogart-ed across the office like a stage, blew his fingers and put them in his ripped jeans like holster. Cocky, but in a fun way.

Office glee is a cancer, I think, but the necessary kind. People need to feel comfortable at work, and while I can’t relate, I can understand that. The world would be a dark place if everyone had my “Let’s just get this done well so we can all go home,” mentality. But the act of half-assed trivialities, conversation solely for the sake of pretending to have a good time, has a Facebook/Instagram quality that I cannot abide by. An air of ‘Things-Couldn’t-Be-Better!’ when they really could be. The lies we try at exes that call back when Winter melts and they wander back home with tails between their legs. Not because they miss us, but because they miss what is familiar. They miss what is comfortable.

But sometimes there is no solace. Occasionally things just suck, and the glass doesn’t exist, let alone be half full. Bottom line – I don’t trust a somebody who doesn’t have a dark side. That endless happiness is either arrogant, naively misplaced, or a colossal facade worn socially well. Typically the third. They’re after something- a bias I admit is bordering on paranoia, but I can’t resist or shake. And if anybody asks me how my day was, I will always answer- Why?

“Jessica gets it. What’s up with your cereal today Grinchmas?”
“Nothing,” I replied. “Weird dream last night, has me a little out of it.”
“Oh,” Matthew replied, shoulders on the verge of moon-walking back outside from where I would ground him.

“Dreamt I was here at work,” I pressed, before he had the chance to leave. “Trying to find a piece of loose leaf paper, but each one I took from notebooks or the copier had stuff written on it. It always looked important so I’d leave it and look elsewhere. And I remember, there was a hippo in the lunch room which was really weird now that I think about it, but at the time felt pretty normal. And when I almost had a baby about it, thought about asking why is there wildlife on the premise, you said to me, Hey-Don’t-Worry-About-It-Grinchmas, and did that pistol thing you always do. Then my alarm went off and I woke up feeling pretty exhausted, because I woke up from work…to go to work? So it feels like I’ve been here for like two days straight. Isn’t that weird?”

“Sure bud,” Matthew replied, casually cooling his Earl Grey. Unsure of what to say or how to work in a work appropriate response.

And That’s the thing about the dad jokes; they don’t mean much except filling silence for the sake of it. It’s pretending at friendly without ever having to actually be it. Practiced and monotonous antics, the kind the worst of guys can learn the rhythm and vocabulary to. Life is full of landmines, and some people learn to practice office friendly as a type of Minesweeper with cheat codes.

To hop and skip across coming across like an asshole, but being one.

“You ever have weird dreams like that?” I asked.
“I think so, but gotta go, class is starting.” He said, darting.

Jessica settled into her Facebook, everyone else starts banging onto their keyboards. Trying to drown out the loud and endless rounds of beeping from the copier. Words glaring from a Lanier, music stanzas dripping from the feed.

JAM – SERVICE NECESSRY.

 

Landmines Are Inherently Self Destructive (So Watch Your Step Around Me)

A breath full of ash that reeks of rum and cigarette butts all pointed the same direction. I don’t know the way home, and if I did, I’d follow the opposite road like a north star. The night is young and cruel as school children- crashing continuously against the dawn, trying desperately to be Erebus, the who will woo and suffuse the night.

I am intimately familiar with the immature inability to count your losses and call it quits. Hope’s kind of a dick that way, a flame of stubborn faith that burns so bright so long as the sky is navy blue. Every lark is actually sprinting towards an escape that doesn’t exist, and I wish I could have told myself back then, this obvious truth I was to stupid to realize or admit: that really, the day never ends, it only goes away for a while. And no matter how fast you run, eventually, the morning and all her responsibilities will catch up to you.

It’s the four o’ clock crowd loud and happy hour just kicking off, pleasant as a post 9 to 5 allows you to be. Yuppie caustic kindness, Can-You-Believe’s echoing down seventh avenue. Hardly the place to start a Monday bender, but I’d be damned if I let some calendar decide if the weekend was over or not.

They don’t have Heineken but I’m recommended something called “beer blanc,” by a casually well dressed gauge wearing douchebag. He’s wearing a hat indoors and what I can only assume is a flavor t-shirt whose irony is lost only on me.

“No thanks, just a double shot of Jack then,” I said.
“Is Evan Williams okay?” He asks, already pouring the damn thing.

I should have gone home then, but being surrounded by noise helps me focus. Silence is too distracting. Inevitably my mind starts to fill the gaps, and the thoughts that inhabit me are grotesque and overcrowded. A royal rumble of awful notions I need to bury in absent-minded conversations  or else be consumed by them.

“What’s that blanc thing you recommended?” I asked, and Douchebags eyes darted sideways, halfway to a roll.
“It’s a milk stout,” He droned, wanting out but not pouring fast enough to.
“I’m sorry what?”
“A milk stout.”
“Beer? And milk? That’s gross. What if I’m lactose?”
“Then you shouldn’t have had a Guinness.” He said, a tastefully and casually bored retort I simultaneously loathed and admired too much to take personal. Because I had a Guinness some hour earlier, and the idiot succeeded in making me feel quite stupid, enough to not even bother Wiki-ing if he was right. (Because he was.)

Hard cut, five hours later- the place has become a loose tie affair, full of tastefully popped derrieres and half baked conversation. Bars are a miracle, let me tell you. Nobody really feels like friends but nobody wants to drink alone, so they meander to where the wood is dark, the space is small, all for the sake of feigning company. And I’m with them, terribly, still trying to make friends with gauged Douchebag.

But by now the musics too loud and he can casually wave whatever I try to investigate into the milk and beer dichotomy. There’s darlings out in tube tops and muscle tee’s the hour finds appealing. A pretty little thing called Esmeralda parks beside me, the beautiful tired eyed of a forty something trying to make the best out of what she spent on a baby sitter.

“Your eyes” She says. “Are so sad.”
“Because they’ve been waiting to look at you.”

It’s not a good joke, but she laughs, strokes my hand and offers me a drink. I look at her, cute, veins of her crows feet I’m reading like palms of possibilities. I like the simplicity, the lull of alcohol that’s made us get along so lovely. Her smile so easy and my faux confidence almost bordering on real. She is an option, an alternative to the dark and lonely road. All it would take is a yes to tomorrow, a letting go of yesterday. To take her hand in mind and measure the hum of her pulse and cherry lips against my own.

“So what do you want?” She asks, eyes lean and suggestive. I felt the warmth of her look, the gentle in the wordless caress. Elevator eyes, meaning all I had to do was play it cool and avoid any touchy subjects like religion, politics, or anything stupid as thoughtful. Something light, like what she likes to do on the weekends and favorite Youtube videos. We could go somewhere after, I could tell by the way our knees touched and hands found each other.

So I pointed to the guy in gauges.

“Tell him I want a Guinness.”

Hardly A Harlequin (aka I’m Casper, The Friendly Ghost’n)

Honesty is empty, like pouring a glass of wine into a shot. Glass breaks the same way night does – beautifully, at first, but come morning what’s jagged and terrible stabs into view. “I like you,” Quotes and women you pretend weren’t ever an occurrence as you gracefully stutter awake to the alarm clock. 5 : 00 A M . Man, those red lines glaring could make anyone think they were walking towards a death sentence.

But not you.

The window is ajar in the bathroom, and as your shower the feint aroma of 7th grade reminds you of cafeterias and handball courts you haven’t visited in ages. Nostalgia (hyphen) catalyzed by the way the air felt September 3rd. when you were thirteen with nothing but snug tees and a Reddit account you barely visited, acknowledging that never went beyond an appreciation of memes. Hashtag #I-Like-This-If-You-Like-Me, making friends against your belt that don’t end well.

But you’re bored and he’s cute.

Long drives and short sighs trying to trigger where the lust and listless began. The gorgeous eyes that gorge us guys drifting to Elysium (and molly if he’s down to party, so long as he’s paying for that too.) Ooh, never mind. It’s late and I have to-

Good night.