Serial Installment- Part Deuex

The last week of staples, clips, collating and SIGN HERE tape marks for the foster kids transformed into a Bacchanalian free for all…  the last week of any job is difficult to focus in on… by the time I had sweated off my morning hangover I found myself within the rusted sick fuck walls of the Firehouse Pub, back again for lunch, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…asleep at my desk chair… my second floor, name-tagg’d-door closed and I displayed little concern as to whether my office mailbox was full of more and more and more copies to be filed away… I handed in my two week’s notice… maybe I’d stick around for one…I didn’t feel bad. I wanted a break from those client binders.

I wanted back my misdirected anger and rage and contempt and chip on my shoulder heartburn. It was time to chase down the big bucks every morning with the car and the commute and wind down each night in the safe plasticity of a bottle’s neck.

Verving women and smiley-face’d shoes and the television life. Who knows, maybe some ennui could be found along the corporate road of takeover and overhead and margin and upgrade…but…it was apparent from an early age that this kind of suffering bears no fruit…

It only constricts, and makes you put more in the basket.

“You’ll have to get a haircut. You look disheveled and on dope. Pass the bread to your brother. And why didn’t you cut the grass today?”

I picked up the fresh loaf and sent it clockwise around the table. I wasn’t sure what brother she wanted me to pass it to but they were both to my left and I ran my head through my hair with my eyes in the back of my brain while Devlin made an embellished imitation of her discontent. We laughed and she was eating her salad and oil and vinegar. She raised her wild countryside brown eyes, but they didn’t catch Devlin… that pair of earthen daggers.

I spoke up. “I had other things to do, like my other job (chew). And it was raining out (chew). I’ll cut it tomorrow. I have the day off.”

Joey kept his head down and didn’t seem for or against any of my answers and I didn’t want to give him any more reason to hide from this world of ours, analyzing and prodding and schadenfreuding, so I let him alone and persevered at my plate, mixing my lemon garnished green beans and sour cream’d baked potato… everyone chewing and chewing and chewing everything very delicious…especially being from the oven of an Irishwoman.

“The weather always seems to be blowing your way John. Make sure that car is in good shape. The 40 mile drive is going to take its toll, and if you want to use that jallopie a couple days out of the week then you had better take care of it.” She stopped eating and was now directing all her attention at my brow, requiring my furrowing in return. “You need to take this seriously. No fucking around on this one.”

“Ma, I know. I will. I’ll take care of it all tomorrow (chew). I have until Friday. Can you pass the cauliflower?” Only the ambrosia drunk gods were feasting better than the four of us… super-ego driven sensations of guilt, caused by Ma’s constant inquisition, were well worth the bounty provided for us on this humble folding table. I crunched into the golden brown head and kept nodding at her across the table…

I thought about our Friday pizza dinners, beers in hand, when the younger boys had practices or games or academic bowls or dances or church retreats or late nights of lying and cheap whisky swilling… the kind of regular things that teenage boys do…she’d have the television going and an anchorman would talk about a new county booze hike to balance congressional greed and I would cuss and drink faster. She would laugh at me, but the next story, one about a toddler-aged earthquake victim rescued days after the fallout, would brush smoky ether over her eyes and for a solid ten minutes the word “fuck” could not be heard in the house. The psychological swings were just what the producer was after…

She passed the glass serving platter piled with roast beef and gravy.”I’ll be pissed if you don’t John. We’re all working hard here. I want to see that we all do what we are supposed to be doing. Devlin go downstairs for the James’ bottle please, and Joey tell mommy something about your day.” Her brogue faded as I grew up, probably accelerated by her old man’s death… it waned completely when my old man walked.

The drink grew. Irish…

The meat was cooked evenly pink and wonderful (not Irish) … soon enough Joey recanted a story about a girl pissing her shorts during phys-ed class earlier in the week… afriad of the mile run. We all laughed and I took the plates to the table, smiling…

The evening, filled with itches at ankles and stares at ceilings and cursing at God through self-taught prayers in the dark, it was enough to bring me to the basement… sleep was an uncatchable forest hare tunneling through my bed sheets under the night’s black. And when you start to sweat and itch and run numbers and toss and turn and roll your eyes insanely around the walls searching for an antidote, you stick to your guns… in the past a full bodied helping of tannins spelled nothing but REM sleep for me…a gallon and a half of tannins, however, spelled an opaque and damp fog that lingered into the morning next.

Tannins and gulping and turning and wanting more… the day fell into the next.

I stumbled about in the wetness and concrete cloud haze but when I came to I was face down, drool pooling on my pillow. I lurched over my mattress and rolled onto the floor. I had taken the frame off the bed so I could sleep more simply: on top of the mattress, on top of the box spring, on top of the earth… the foot and a half drop jarred my bladder enough to force me into the bathroom where I remembered to wash my face and brush the purple off of my tongue. The sink looked like it had served a Heavyweight brute after a 15 round ‘come back to Jesus’ kind of brawl. Maroon and burgundy streaks everywhere…  I felt like a Sandinista and vowed to take one healthy, ‘damn glad to see you world’ slug of wine after my sputum turned clear and I had combed my hair.

This self reflective monkey had to rev up the engines and blow out the spider webs before battle…

It would have been the ideal drive to work, about 20 minutes, enough time for a thin joint to fit into my cigarette pack… suburban three lane highways allowing for breakneck acceleration and sharp passes past white WASPy faces turning sick with fear as they merge onto the Tri-State… rural roads without speed limits posted where the only officer on duty is a gin swilling, skeet shooting sheriff… a pantheon of fast food huts and diners and gas stations for cigarettes and coffee and half pints along the way…but today there were too many variables waiting for me at the other end of my hour and a half dash to corporate destiny. Good thing this self reflective monkey felt more comfortable starting a fresh job assignment with a hangover than without one.

I pulled into the guest parking lot by the front gate and put out my cigarette. A six by six foot sign, almost as big as the company logo, was posted on the guard shack and read NO SMOKING ON CAMPUS. Campus? Where the hell was I?

Outside of the car I tucked myself up and buttoned a stray button, stopping in front of a large blue tinted glass panel that covered the outside of BUILDING- TECHNOLOGY 1. My feet dragged.  The red wine turned my cheeks white but the anxious nervousness that comes with new faces and new places donated enough sanguinity to my complexion, enough to stave the desk secretary from asking anything off-putting… so I thought.

I explained I was one of the new hires and she, of course, knew that already. I quickly remembered my grave disdain for vitriolic remarks received in the office before noontime but the sip(s) of wine (or couple glasses) this morning helped and I smiled and politely put on my laminated name tag and sat on a couch waiting for one of the supervisors to walk through the security door.

“John O’Reily?” The gentleman stood five foot five wearing sole inserts and he sounded it, squeaking. Bearded, he smelled like he had a Napoleonic complex… what did he want?

“That’s me. You can call me Mac, one of those ‘the middle one’s better than the first’ situations.” I let out an awkward laugh.

He extended out his stubby finger’d hand and continued in his procedural tone. “Pete. Pete Leech.  I decided to stick with the first one. Come on and follow me. Let’s move, you’re a minute or two late and everyone is already in the cafeteria.”

Couldn’t people save the intonations until after lunch…I followed him down a hall surrounded by more halls that opened up into a wider hallway. That wider hallway brought me to a doorway which transported me back in time to my high school lunch room…everything was set in its right place, the food court, the soda dispensers, the Hispanic chefs and check out women… the only difference in the corporate recreation was that a section of fake walls, arranged to create a presentation center for our orientation sessions, now stood where the vending machines used to be. Approaching the temporary meeting space I caught a glimpse between the plastic partitions and noticed the chairs had been arranged in a giant square and that most were occupied…with each step towards the entranceway my face regained its glow.

I walked in, signed a sheet handed to me by a nice old short looking woman and sat down between two girls who had obviously done very little troublemaking in the backs of classrooms… I tried to acknowledge both of them discreetly (everyone else was completely silent) but only the stocky red head sort of nodded back (it wasn’t that friendly of a reply) and the other one looked away completely and I think she flashed me her wedding ring…whether conscious or sub-, I picked up the stimulus just the same.

It was too early for assembling the scraps from this three social car pile-up, so I closed my eyes and waited for Leech to uncork the bubbly…

General introductions, power point presentations, disjointed icebreaker (aka the standard name, birthplace, undergraduate degree major, favorite sports team, one interesting fact about yourself…ad nauseam), break up into various teams to meet individual supervisors, regroup together to hear from project director…it all warbled to and fro and the director finished his slides and pronounced lunch would be served. I looked up and couldn’t remember the last time a morning had moved with such trepidation.

The pallid tones had returned to my countenance and when the nice old short looking lady tip toed in with a tray of sub sandwiches I could’ve kissed her on the forehead. Instead I ate four of the free offerings and stuffed two in my tattered back pack while all the other tyros around the table punched at their cell phones and ranted about their favorite movies of the summer and what trendy downtown bars they knew… most of them barely touching the food on their plates, stomachs turned and mentally shitting themselves over the potentiality of making any sort of wrong move…

These kids were hopeless, but I sure as hell wasn’t rooting for them.

In my group, Phase I of the Federal Regulation ReadyFlo Remediation Project, there was Scotty Blatzman, a Zeta Beta hero down at State school whose first question to every girl, at least that I heard, was, wearing a rapist’s smirk, “So, uh, do you have a boyfriend?”  He was about the same height as Leech and shook with the same sort of hands. Next to him you had Nicolette DeAngelo, who introduced herself as Coley (presumably the first 5 characters of her screen name) and told us, eating a Swiss and turkey sandwich, that she couldn’t drink milkshakes because she was lactose intolerant. Another Greek hero back at State, she was a teeny Alpha Phi princess with a siren’s complexion but a mind full of sawdust and dried vomit. And by the way, she majored in Nutritional Studies… These two were by no means the pledge class’ finest, however. Sri Sam Tamdulam, a fuzzy bush baby looking stooge with sprouting jet black eyebrows, explained over a plate of lettuce shards and cucumbers and tomatoes that he had just finished his master’s of genetics in a southern India university and had been sent over by his grandfather to become “Americanized” (online shopping jags, tableside silicone breasts, food court mall paradises, scotch on some real rocks, designer drugs that made white women want to dance) before he came back to the patria for his arranged marriage. It was impossible not to squint your face when he talked, trying to decipher the main verbs in his run-on sentences. At least he was a vegetarian who didn’t eat meat… Three quiet girls, clearly intimidated by ColeysWorld.com, kind of huddled into a corner (difficult considering table was round) and whispered about some rural town in Arkansas where the married girl was from (she told an irrelevant story about “my husband” during one of the icebreakers after her ring wave to me) and how it was going to be a tough adjustment to these northern winters. North of what? Is Mason Dixon still running across the terrain down there, indelible and patriotic, a bright fantastic red line across the hills and plains of the fine south, protecting them from the godless north? Her accent was cute enough but nothing else about her was going to be redeeming. The other two were unnoticeable and I assumed I would never talk to either of them. More unnoticeable people in another supervisor’s group were getting it off just great and it put extra pressure on Coley to incorporate everyone in her conversation on how cool it would be to live in Jamaica…

I finished the free lunch counting out my breaths like a fourth and goal-eighth grade quarterback fighting for the conference title… a Buddhist monk bent over the precipice… I smiled when smiled at and cursed at myself all the way through the remainder of the afternoon for not having rolled that joint into the goddamn cigarette case. If only I would’ve known…

 I don’t think I would’ve ever shown up.

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