Poem: What they Did

I don’t know what she’s thinking, circles and star wand

waving speaks volumes but not to me

because probably, I don’t know what it does

or did, garble roaring from beyond and behind recalling

poison prejudice and misting it around, but that’s only me

living in past fantasy short stories I scribbled

on bathroom walls, but prison shower brawls

are titilating so never mind because that’s what ignited

all of my phallus fulcrum tilting face first

into fantasy, so maybe that’s her too, maybe.

Her name was Samantha.

 

I describe what I am as parts and pieces missing,

that’s all there is really and you’re all just weird

about it, no never mind is more than I’ll go, thinking over

what quote unquote nature puts as my outline

in this reality but it’s only rules, so they can fuck me

over with a penis, but I am what I am and that’s all

that I am a woman is all that I know and I can’t

live this way anymore so I won’t, and that’s all they need

to know, is that I am a woman, and have ever been.

His name was Jeremy

 

Jeremy and Samantha burning lake of laughter

fuels a fire, an ignition inferno expanding and licking

all the lips, in and out shimmy shammy and they both loved

the inner body, licking his and her arteries exploring

each and every option of all possible permutations,

but then he discovered what she used to be and he laughed

and said that he knew, and that they should do

what they were made to do and so they did.

They made love and it was cool.

Poem: What they Did

Sylvester (Volume 3)

3.

I thought a lot about the moment when Sonia told me not to apologize.  It was assertively kind, forcefully soft, and incredibly sexy.  I thought about the way her nose had flared as she said “Stop it,” and the way her cheeks had been kinda flushed like she was excited too.

There was a dusk to her face, I guess I would say.  It was exotic smokiness.  Maybe one of her parents was an Arab, or an Ashkenazi Jew, or maybe even South American.  Her eyes were slightly almond shaped and her casual bob hairstyle was thrown apart, wavy and black.  Her eyes were a hazy brown and I could not help but notice the collar of her shirt was a bit undone, displaying a more-than healthy shock of cleavage.

In my life, I’ve found few things as provocative as cleavage.  Sonia’s cleavage was what I might’ve called “hot,” like two pillowy-soft pound cakes with a matt finish  As I followed her to her house, which she’d assured me was just a few blocks away, I thought about what was happening in an excitedly detached way.

An attractive woman who appeared to be in her late thirties was leading me to her dwelling, where the two of us would “party.”   First of all, this was absolutely unprecedented, and I needed to acclimate to this new social landscape immediately.  I wondered what the word “party” had meant, and every possibility excited me.

Had she meant to imply that we would have sex?  I had had sex before, a couple of times in college and a few times since, but it had been a very long time.  It had been so long I didn’t even think about it anymore, or anyway that’s what I told myself.  Sexual desire is such an unconscious thing that I have no way of knowing whether I thought about sex all the time or hardly at all.  The psychologists say all the time, and they’re probably right.

So I wondered, if I were called upon to perform, would I rise to the challenge?  The possibility that I would not be able perform sexually scared me enough that I decided I would not have sex that night, even if it were offered.

I would refuse sex once, however, if sex was offered a second time, I would give it a shot.  Imagining Sonia offering me sex not once but twice made a slow smile tickle across my lips.  It felt possible.

“You’re not gettin’ any,” Sonia said, making me slightly disappointed, and far more comfortable.  Her eyes beamed up at me, and noticed the growing grin on my lips.  “Of course, anything’s possible.”  She smiled wide, opening her mouth as wide as it would go as she guffawed.

I looked away from her and stared straight forward, thinking that I should say something.  I didn’t say anything for what felt like a long time, or anyway long enough that I thought Sonia might feel embarrassed.  “Uh, um, uh—“ searching for words and considering the possibilities rendered me mute, like a mumbling idiot.

“Relax, there’s no pressure.”  As Sonia said these heavenly words she grinned sweetly and leaned her shoulder against mine, nestling the crook of my elbow against her palm and fingers.  “We’re just gonna hang out, and maybe you’ll meet my roommates.”

Roommates?  I figured that I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was.  As I considered what this woman in her late thirties would be doing living with multiple people she called her roommates, I realized that I had one of my own.  Oh shit, mom!  “As soon as we get to your place, I gotta make a call real quick, if that’s okay.”

“Yeah that’s fine,” as Sonia paused before asking her next question, I realized what it was likely to be, and instantly dreaded it.  “Who ya gonna call?”

I knew I had to think fast, so I glanced at the catalog of references in my mind for a way to deflect the question without answering it.  I didn’t want to tell her so soon that I lived with my mother.  Luckily, I saw my best option instantly.  “GhostBUSTERS!

Sonia laughed for a while in a way that appeared genuine.  I figured it probably was, either in a genuine or an ironic way, real laughter.  As her laughter began to die down, she wiped her mouth with her forearm and chortled slightly, before returning to her question.  “No, seriously, who ya gonna call?  Your wife?”

“I don’t have a wife,” I responded instantly.  I considered briefly lying to her, saying that I should call my ex-wife to ask about our son or something, anything to avoid admitting to her that I still lived with my mother.  Thinking about it, though, I realized that Sonia’s situation seemed odd enough that I wouldn’t expect her to judge.  “I live with my mother, and she might get worried about me.”

I watched Sonia nervously out of the sides of my eyes, anticipating spirited chuckling or something, but I couldn’t detect any affect at all in her expression.  She just said “Okay,” but I wasn’t quite satisfied with that, and had to clarify Sonia’s understanding of the situation.

“She lives with me, I mean, I mean I look after her, I guess.”

Sonia shot back almost immediately.  “It’s cool, there’s no judgements.”  We walked up the few steps to her front door she remarked flippantly, as if it meant nothing, “I have a ten-year-old son.”

I was taken aback by this information.  I stood behind her, stunned and still, as she unlocked her front door.  “Don’t worry,” she said glancing back at me with a devious grin, “The kids don’t usually bite, just don’t make any sudden moves.”  She cackled as she slid her key into the lock and turned it.

 

When I was walking up the stairs behind Sonia and she was looking back at me laughing, my heart started beating a little faster.  I mean it must have, because I was breathing much harder.  I focused, believing that this moment could become monumental to me in the future, either for good or ill.

This could be the moment I met her, the woman who could change my life.  As Sonia unlocked and opened her front door I thought about everything she had told me about her life.  There wasn’t really much to consider, I began to realize  She told me she had roommates, and that she had a ten year-old son.  Was her son being playfully referred to as a “roommate?”

Thinking of it, I wondered whether this decision I was making was a huge mistake.  Could I be walking into my own linoleum-sided mausoleum, acting like a new father or older-brother role model for some rugrat miscreants?  I thought that Sonia might be a harried single mother angling for domestic support, and if this were the case, It probably wouldn’t be all bad.

I could pal around with a little kid, I bet it would be fun.  And if a youngster came to look up to me, or rely on me for emotional support, it could conceivably be emotionally transformative.

But as soon as I entered Sonia’s front door, a puff of smoke floated into view above the couch opposite the TV.  On the couch were two young adults, whom I guessed were college students, and I could smell that they were smoking weed.

I detected the odor of marijuana as I followed Sonia into the house and it took me back to my college days.  I’d smoked a fair amount of what the adults used to call “dope,” but it had never really been my thing.  Seeing the smoke, she said, casually, “Oh goddamnit, guys, already?”

The one on the left giggled a bit, “Already.”  They simultaneously erupted into cackles of a kind I remembered from discussions of John Cale and The National Lampoon.

“These are my roommates,” Sonia said, walking past me into the house and opening a side door.  “Jacob and Jason, I call them the J’s.”

Jacob and Jason erupted into giggles when Sonia called them the J’s, which I suppose had been her plan, because as they giggled she tried to whisk me up to her room as fast as she could.  It wasn’t fast enough, as after us I heard her young “roommates hoot and holler, with one of them yelling “you go girl” at the top of his lungs.

Sonia was beat red, and she almost seemed as though she was having a breakdown.  I’m kind of ashamed to admit it, but the effect that this set-upon, untamed world seemed to be having on her was very alluring.  I imagined her as I saw her, all wide eyes and gasping, clutching at shining moist collar, her lips open slightly pushing the air out softly but as hard as she could.

“Kids, ya know?”  She said as she closed the door and turned into her front entrance way.  Sonia’s apartment seemed full and fully-appointed.  The couch and the chairs around the dining room table seemed lived in, as though they were often moved and sat upon.

I was waiting for her to tell me who the young adults smoking weed downstairs were, but she was just concerned with entertaining.  “Take a seat, I’ll get us a couple drinks, vodka-tonics good?”

“—Oh, uh, okay, thanks.”

Sonia turned and confidently stalked into the kitchen, allowing the door to swing closed behind her.  I sat on the couch, and having seen the cable remote on the coffee table adjacent, I reached for it.

It was a familiar remote to the one I had at home, so I turned the TV on and leaned back, staring into it.  I heard the familiar opening tones of The People’s Court’s theme song burst from the television’s speakers.  This reminded me that my mother was waiting for the cereal I’d said I would get a while ago, as well as any surprise liquor she might have assumed I would get for her.

This concern was was swept aside the moment Sonia burst back into the room holding two tall glasses of clear liquid, each filled with ice and holding a lime wedge on its rim.  “Here is yours and here is mine,” she said before sipping from her glass and holding my glass out for me.  “So, I saw you in the bar last night, why didn’t you just come over, I wanted you to.”

I sipped my drink and was caught by her eyes again.  She wanted me too?  I never would have guessed that.  I reminded myself to keep steady, and not to show her how exciting all this was to me.  “Oh well, I don’t know, I guess I was tired, musta been drunk.”

“Nah,” Sonia began, chuckling as she did.  “you weren’t drunk, you just left.  Sorry I insulted you.”

That Sonia remembered the insult she’d paid me and felt some regret meant a great deal to me, but I could never let her know.  Immediately, I said “It’s all right,” bringing the matter to a close, and allowing me space to change the topic of conversation.  “So what’s with those kids downstairs?”

She hung her head and sighed in an agonized fashion.  “Just some kids from DePaul renting the downstairs.”  She said this, and without any emotive aspect to her speech, she took another long sip.  “They rented it out during school for the last two years, then they graduated, now they just live here.”

“Oh,” I said, taking a deep pull from what I was beginning to realize was a very strong gin & tonic.  “So, um, what else do you do?”

Sonia seemed vaguely offended.  “What, what kind of question is that?”

“I don’t know, one of the normal-type questions ya ask people, I guess.”  I thought that my answer seemed satisfactory, and that she would understand, but Sonia seemed to be railing against social convention itself.

“Normal questions, I’m so sick of normal questions.”

I thought that maybe she was sick of questions about herself and her life because she didn’t like the answers she would give.  I could understand, having himself been familiar with this type of dark dissatisfaction.  “Alright then, how ‘bout you ask a question.”

“When did you lose your virginity?”

“What!?”  I was surprised to the point of jolting my head back like I was dodging something.  The question seemed to come at me like a blow, but considering that Sonia seemed to be playing a different game from the one I thought myself familiar with.  I knew than that I had simply to let go, and a wide grin broke across my lips.  “Leela Heathcoat, freshman year of college.”

Sonia rocked back in her seat, rolling with laughter.  She slapped her thigh as she spoke, “Okay, now ask me a question.”

I dropped into my own mind, considering what my question would be.  For a moment I considered asking something general like “What is your favorite color?”  Then I considered briefly making a Monty Pyrhon reference, “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?”  In the end I came up with a question I’d been dying to know the answer to.  “Why did you bring me here?”

She smirked shyly.  “I don’t know, I’ve been noticing you around, and I saw you at Harvest Time and . . .”  She trailed off as she lowered her chin to her chest as she beamed up at me with Kilowatt eyes.  “I kind of wanted to have sex with you, I guess.”

Sylvester (Volume 3)

Poem: Bro’s

More like pus than a river, at a steady bearing

beating two knots, bopping paddle bills on beat

with drunk chicks by the LCD, gridding ducklings,

cracking comrades on the back or, over the head

with a balloon bat, tickle tack, cuddles all round

filled with bile, for friends are all false

around a sun circuit, in the dark time, on the cold side.

 

The sky is knives out of nowhere, I’m told is falling

but who knows?  Rudimence is not a word,

I get it but I’m bloodying the ground with my fists

because I’m not with your music, the attune anymore,

to the kids, but gridding isn’t a word, either, asshole.

 

See the how you get?  Filling space like gas

masks, blustering bullshit, flying and sticking

like wet leaves, so my friend is dead, clearly.

 

Fuck you, skip class and die in a ditch, prick.

 

Thus is just the way, youth reacts to change

with falling, shards of the past, shearing folks halfway

down the middle, cleaving past from future,

and eyes are all dry, because this is just the way.

Poem: Bro’s

Sylvester (Volume 2)

I woke up the next morning with a headache, which told me that I’d drunk a lot.  Also there was an empty bottle of vodka on the kitchen table and my mom was passed out on the couch, so those were more clues.  I could only guess at the events of the previous night, but it was an educated guess.  II took what evidence I had and pieced the night together as best I could.

I figured I’d probably rolled in around 1 a.m., found my mother passed out on the couch next to a partially drunk liter of vodka on the table, and then finished the liter.

Or that’s what I allowed myself to believe had happened, because it delayed the realization that my mother probably drank the entire bottle.  If she had drunk the entire bottle she probably wouldn’t remember.  If she didn’t remember drinking the bottle she may demand that I go get her more.  This was a regular occurrence.  Sometimes I would fight her about it, refusing to get the vodka, sometimes I would fold.

These arguments, the craziness in them, made me chuckle to myself on a regular basis.  I would categorize these chuckles under the word ‘bitter.’  The worst chuckles came when she said that she had finally kicked it, meaning her alcoholism, and poured out all the vodka in a flash of self-righteous masochism.  “I poured it all out because I know that I deserve the pain of withdrawal, but now in the harsh light of day, I realize that I could sure use a drink.”

I chuckle when I think about it, and imagine I could write a funny sitcom about an adult son living with his alcoholic mother.  Maybe I could call it “Beans and the Wheeze.”  “Oh mom, you’re such a drunk bitch!” (laugh track).

If I showed her the receipt proving that I had indeed purchased vodka for her just two days previous, she would either call me a liar and a forger, or start sobbing and promise never to drink again.  Living with an alcoholic is a bizarre experience.

Years ago, I remember thinking that my mom was probably an alcoholic, but I wasn’t gonna say or do anything about it, probably because I was scared.  I told myself that she felt it was her life, and she was seventy-eight, so what business did I have telling her anything?  That was what I told myself, but I think the real reason I turned a blind eye to my mother’s alcohol abuse was sadder and more troubling than that.

Honestly, it’s sad to say, but I probably figured it was as good a way out as any for her.  I know it sounds cold, and it is cold, but she didn’t have much to live for at the time.  I mean whenever the two of us were alone together talking seriously, which happened rarely in those days thank god, she would launch into wailing and gnashing her teeth about this or that.

Sometimes I got really mad at her because she was such a bummer to me.  If she wasn’t a generator of constant trouble in my life she was certainly a beacon to it.  Trouble constantly patrolled her sphere of influence, but I couldn’t be anywhere else because she was my mother and I loved her.

Even then though in many ways our mother/son relationship had flipped over on itself, she still held a lot of authority over my emotional life.  I wanted her to be okay, all the time, and when she wasn’t it pained me.  Paradoxically, it seemed before the drinking took hold, anyway, she was likewise emotionally chained to me.  If I was sad she was sad, so I preferred to gloss over my fits of loneliness.

Sometimes I would lie to her about some new gal from Ohio I’d met at the library and had a date with that night, but then I’d just go see a movie or something.  There were even a few times when there’d not been a movie I wanted to see, so I just went home, saying that she stood me up.  My mom would hug me and say “At least you’re trying,” which was the most depressing thing for me to hear for a variety of reasons.

“HuhWHOA!” through the wall I heard my mother’s morning groan, followed by a series of thuds indicating that she was clumsily pulling herself together.  Her bedroom door flew open, making the doorknob slam into the indented section of drywall behind it.  “Bright in here, huh?”

She was still drunk, it seemed, but barely.  She opened her door with enough gusto to slam it into the adjacent wall when she was tipsy, a level of intoxication that indicated she was either on her way to or coming from a full drunk stupor.

I was laying on the couch watching a political roundtable, paying no attention, of course.  “Sure is, Mom.  Whattya want for breakfast?”

Her eyes softened, “Oh I couldn’t put ya’ out, I’ll just have a bowl a’ cereal.”

There wasn’t any cereal, and I knew there wasn’t any cereal, but I preferred for my mother to figure that out on her own.  After hearing drawers open and close through the wall separating the kitchen from the living room for what felt like long enough, I finally spoke.  “Find the cereal?”

“No, I guess we’re out,” before she spoke her next words I could see the game she was playing.  She was gonna find that we didn’t have any cereal, and she would need to make a quick trip to Dominick’s to pick up some more.

Along with cereal, the Dominick’s near our house also sold vodka, which I assumed was her true aim.  I knew that if I let her go for cereal, and even if she promised not to, she would also get vodka.  So before she even suggested it, I jumped up.  “Yeah I was gonna go anyway,” I said pulling my shoes on and heading out the door.  “Goin’ to Dominick’s, I’ll be back soon.”

Whenever I went anywhere I once felt an intense need to tell someone where I was going and when I’d be back.  I used to tell a lot of people these pieces of information all the time.  It had even become sort of an inside joke some of my close friends had with one another.

They’d get up to go to the bathroom and they’d say “Hittin’ the shitter, be back in five,” and everyone would laugh.

The thing that’s kinda weird about this, I guess, is that I only actually did this when I was a little kid.  When I was a teenager I was just doing it because it made people laugh.  It got embarrassing though, so I stopped.

After my dad died I started telling my mom where I was going and when I’d be back every time I left the house, just to remind her of something cute I used to do when I was little.  I think it helped us through a difficult time, or I like to think that, anyway.

It was a behavior pattern my mother had instilled in me starting from a very young age, though she didn’t pay much attention to my announcements anymore.  I can’t exactly remember her telling me to always keep her informed of my plans, but I imagine she began this tradition from the first words I spoke.

Things between us had devolved quite a bit since then.  Thee to five days a week she just drank and sat in silence all day.  It was definitely unsettling, and probably would have been fully disturbing if it happened less often than it did.

When it did happen, she’d fix herself a few stiff screwdrivers, drink them, and sit on the couch staring at the wall for as long as two or three hours.  When she’d stared at nothing for what I supposed was long enough, she’d lie on her side and close her eyes.  Living with my mom while she was spiraling downward wasn’t really any fun.

That’s not to say there weren’t positives to my mother’s drinking, because there were.  Sunday mornings had become considerably more pleasant for me since my mother didn’t bother so much with church anymore.  There were no more shaming glances at me as I stretched out on the couch instead of praising His name and begging forgiveness.  Forgiveness for what?  For acting just as He designed me to act?  Fuck that.

Anyway that’s the point I came to way back in 6th grade, and I’ve never looked back.  Whenever people talk about the heavenly father or the way they are imbued with celestial purpose, I roll my eyes and make the ‘jack off’ motion with my right hand.  Like get a load a’ this guy, you believe this?

I had to stay stealthy about my agnosticism all through grade school and the start of high school, just to keep the status quo stable.  Eventually I told my mother that I no longer believed, and her response was less negative than I had anticipated.  My my mother held out hope that I would come back to the church on my own.

Sunday afternoons were quiet in my neighborhood, most people are in church.  Outside it was pretty sunny, pleasant and empty.  It was the type of day I might have enjoyed had I been in a better mood, but I wasn’t.  All noises were annoying and light pulsed in from every angle.  I just wanted to go to the store to get cereal, probably a little candy, and maybe a little vodka.

I was gonna get Raisin Bran Crunch but I got distracted by all the options, so I just stood and stared.  As I stood still in the grocery store, I heard a familiar, unexpectedly timid voice.  “Um, hi, I don’t know if you remember me but. . .” her voice shrunk and disappeared as she approached me.  It was Sonia, from the night before, and she held her hand out fearfully as if warding off an aggressive dog.

I wanted her to go away.  “Listen I’m sorry, but—“

“You’ve got nothing to be sorry for, really, I—“ she seemed to be considering what to say next, silently mouthing some words and rolling her eyes to the back of her head.  “—I was just such a bitch, and I’m so sorry, you don’t deserve that.”

Now that she seemed to have pulled herself together, or maybe I was just seeing her through sober eyes, she was cute.  She had thick, soft, curly black hair.  Her eyes were shiny and soft, and through her smile I could see all the sweetness that had ever existed or would ever exist.

Oh shit, I thought silently to myself, here we go.  I had a crush on Sonia.  “It’s no problem, I don’t even remember anyway.”

This was a lie of course, as I did remember and had been thinking about the insult she’d paid me the previous evening, but she apologized, so why should I tell her that I’d been insulted?  She hadn’t requested that information and I didn’t feel like providing it.

Sonia rocked back on her heels slightly as she kept her hands in her pockets and looked at the ground.  “O—okay.  I’ll see you around, buy you a drink.”

I raised my hand just above eye level as I smiled and nodded slightly.  I then hurried away in a way that I tried to make not look like hurrying, over to the candy aisle.  As I looked over the candy deliberately not looking behind me, I was very curious about what Sonia was doing back there.

Sonia had probably gone on to whatever she had to do next in her day.  I always reminded myself that other people’s lives do not revolve around me, and everyone’s got their own stuff to deal with.  I turned around just to reassure myself that she wasn’t there, and she wasn’t.

All right, I told myself, that’s fine.  I didn’t even care, and it just would have made me scared anyway, if she’d been back there waiting for me.  I picked up a little bottle of vodka, just in case my mom got really crazy that night, I’d have something, at least, to soothe her.

I did a complex set of moral gymnastics for me to justify buying my mother vodka on Sunday morning.  In the end I landed on a simple reason to buy the alcohol: it is necessary.

It was necessary for me to get vodka because if I didn’t there was a chance I wouldn’t have any when my mother wanted some, and that would spell trouble.

So I got the liquor, and I was feeling pretty guilty about that as I stomped away from Dominick’s in a huff.  When I was about to get to the corner where I’d make my turn for home, next to the turquoise Abraham Lincoln statue, I heard Sonia’s voice call after me.  “Havin’ a party?”

I startled so sharply I almost fell down, and raised my arms up as if to defend myself.  “W-what?”

“Are you having a party?”  She advanced on me, “I mean vodka, candy, cereal, kinda weird.”

I was stunned for a long moment.  It took me a while to turn around because I wasn’t sure how I should react.  I was supposed to get back to the house soon with the cereal, and mom would probably demand liquor once I got there.  On the other hand, Sonia was intriguing.

Sonia waited near the exit of the Dominick’s, having come out of the store just after I did.  “Oh-oh I don’t mean to insult you.”  I stopped and turned around to see Sonia looking very embarrassed and holding her hand in front of her mouth.  “Sorry I just overheard the cashier tell you your order.  Maybe I was following you a little too close in there, and, I don’t know, I’m an asshole I guess, sorry, ignore me.”

When she spoke her last two words I wondered if she realized how ridiculous they were.  I couldn’t ignore her anyway, if I tried.  “No no, I just—you surprised me is all.”

“Didn’t mean to,” she said, letting her hands drop toward her sides.   “I just wanted to apologize, for the way I acted the other night, It was just—“

“—no I don’t, there’s no need.  Sorry, I—”  I raised my hands up, palms forward, and shook them left to right, warding away Sonia’s embarrassment.

She coughed with purpose, just to shut me up.  “Don’t apologize, stop it.”  As she spoke these short, crisp words, her aspect seemed to soften.  Her left hand slowly wrapped its fingers around my right elbow and held them there, not grasping my arm but hovering near it, touching it only lightly.  “I’m trying to say that I liked you, and I know that I was weird about it, but I saw you bought some vodka, do you wanna party?”

I was terrified, horrified, and more excited than I’d been in years.

Sylvester (Volume 2)

Poem: Awareness

I’m a rebound master creep magnet, truth be told,

I guess, it’s rubix to me, ya see too, rolling phantasmagorial

over and over.  And so we all, in time

mind you, in time,

we all do what we all do and no one will

remember anyways.  History is an Ungerer panorama,

Underground Sketchbook collections

don’t have the room, no one does

for somber predictions either, and a microscope eye backwards

is all we have.  Zoom fully and everything is pixel corners,

adding up, to a lie, probably.  This is the red corner,

sitting in like protestors, vacuum pores, all over

friends and faces, expressing a viral soul,

Fela Kuti fanfare, virtual connection flows

my nerves through you, too.  We are one,

so let’s come, together.

Poem: Awareness

Sylvester Volume 2

Chapter 1

I woke up in my heaven-feel of a bed, feeling like it was heaven.   But then inevitably I gotta pee, and that’s when I pry myself into the harsh morning air.  Harsh as the sky is blue; harsh as water is wet.  I love sleeping so much that for me all morning air is inhospitable.

Anyway I’m not a morning person, but there I am up at the crack of dawn, daily, and there’s nothing I can do about it.  Even on my days off, the instant sunlight hits my eyelids I’m up.  As soon as I’m up, the TV goes on

I love TV, and whenever anyone says there’s nothing on or that TV sucks now anyway, I just can’t relate.  In recent years the internet and Netflix have made it so that a lot of people just don’t have a TV anymore, but the TV has always been my light in the storm.  I don’t wanna say it’s always been my best friend because that’s weird and it hasn’t, but whenever the problems keep piling up faster than I know how to handle them, television’s there.  I guess that probably sounds weird too, but I don’t care.

With the TV muted I stick to watching Top Plays on SportCenter or seeing what they’re talking about on CNN, whatever I can stare at and lose myself for a couple of hours before I go to work.  On the morning in question SportCenter was just talking about the NBA finals which were going on at the time and CNN was showing President Obama talking into a microphone about the “significant progress” made against ISIS.  I rolled my eyes and went hunting for something more interesting to watch.

How It’s Made was on, showing an umbrella being fashioned by hand, so I stopped my flipping to watch it happen.  It turned out that making an umbrella by hand, one uses a sewing machine an awful lot, and I began to wonder if sewing machine use and maintenance would be a good skill to add to my set.  I thought to myself about everything I could do; I could repair ripped clothes, stitch disparate items together like parachutes and floatation devices, the possibilities were literally endless.  I often have thoughts like these, none of which have ever come to anything, but I don’t really expect them to.  I just like considering options.

Anyway eventually my eyes wandered onto a clock as it said 8:47 AM, so I had to leave for Harvest Time, my place of employment.  As much as I enjoy relaxing in the morning, when I finally rouse myself it’s also it’s own kind of joy.  I went with a smile to open the grocery store.

When I got there a few people are normally already there getting things ready, and everyday roughly a block from the entrance I find Guadeloupe chain smoking.  I like Guadeloupe, or anyway I like to maintain a cordial relationship with my senior register attendant, so I normally open with a joke.

“Shit’ll kill ya, ya know, I saw it on the news.”  She didn’t laugh, as she’d heard exactly the same quip from me countless times before, and she didn’t seem to be in the mood.

As I approached her, Guadeloupe flicked her cigarette onto the ground and stamped it with the heel of her boot.  “Fuck you Sil,” she said with a disdain in her voice that I preferred to assume was meant mockingly.  “We’re still waiting on the first truck, I called ‘em and they don’t know what’s goin’ on.”

My brow was furrowed, as this wasn’t the first time our produce shipment had been delayed, and it would mean that they would probably need my help setting it out as soon as it got there.  “Shit, we’re good for the morning though right?”

“Yeah, but not if people want fresh fruit.”

Just as Guadeloupe answered my question I saw the produce truck turn off Western on to Lawrence a couple blocks from the store.  I motioned toward it with my left hand saying “there it is, we just gotta tell ‘em again not to take Western.”

She took out another cigarette, lit it and began to puff away.  “They won’t listen.  They never listen.”  As she discarded her cigarette and stomped it into the ground, I could almost see the hate pour out of her nose as she exhaled, Guadeloupe hated truck drivers.  As she turned around and headed to the store’s back entrance, she spit on the ground.

“Just go to the loading bay, I’ll open up the store.”  I went to turn on the lights and unlock the door rather than load the produce because, in the off chance that it was her husband driving the produce truck, I didn’t want to bear witness to the verbal and physical beating that was sure to take place.

She hated truck drivers primarily, I figured, because she was married to one, and she claimed to have a full understanding of just how lazy they were.  As she was my oldest and most trusted employee, the forty-five year-old housewife-turned general manager Guadeloupe Izquierda and I had something of a friendship, which meant that I was her main sounding board for complaints about her husband Saul (pronounced Sa-ool).  She said that truck drivers never really kept to a schedule because they didn’t care to, and since most people can’t drive a big rig truck, “They got us by the balls.”

When I was first getting to know Guadeloupe 15 years earlier, I’d found it ironic that she harbored a resentment towards the trucking industry, as she was married to a trucker, but the more I got to know her the more it made sense.  Saul was never home, she said, always claiming to be stuck running long hauls at all hours of the day and night.  Her tangled, greasy hair fell over her face and stuck to her back, led by the mean scowl on her lips and the dark tension in her eyes.

As I watched the produce truck near and unlocked the front entrance of Harvest Time Grocery & Produce, I silently prayed to myself that Saul wasn’t driving it.  If Guadeloupe saw her husband at the wheel of the truck that was then a full half hour late, she would certainly end up beating him about the head and back with her meaty hands.  I’ve often felt compassion for Saul as I’ve watched Guadeloupe stock 25 pound bags of potatoes like they were nothing, and knowing that she was a terrifying and aggressive presence.  The few times I’ve actually seen and communed with Saul, the stick-thin six foot spectacled victim of his wife’s frequent and unexpected rages, he’s seemed like a fearful puppy.

 

As the truck neared Harvest Time thirty minutes after its expected arrival time, I turned the lights on and started the low rumble of Spanish-Language elevator music that was the store’s regular soundtrack.  Harvest Time was not an independent operation, but rather the largest part of a network of laundromat’s, corner stores, and bodegas owned by Jorge Garcia, wealthy Mexican immigrant and owner of what I considered the world’s worst haircut.

Garcia’s portrait, which held a wall space of prominence in each of his 8 businesses located in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago, made me at least chuckle silently to myself every time I saw it.  His hair was black and so greasy-smooth on top that it appeared like a helmet, which combined with the thick curls at either side of his head to frame his face perfectly.  It was like he was a robot with wires coming out of the screen that displayed his face.

I’d had a monthly meeting with boss Jorge (as he preferred to be called), and in the countless number of these meetings we’d had he always seemed like a paragon of management expertise.  I can only say that, I guess, because he owns so many businesses and they all seem to make money.

Anyway as I booted up the computer in my office, a cubicle-sized room in the back of the store I don’t really spend that much time working in, it occurred to me that I might need to intervene on Saul’s behalf once he got to the store, as a bloodbath would be bad for business.  Guadeloupe had anger problems, and if she took the opportunity to beat her husband in full view of any curious would-be customers, it might make things awkward, which could potentially lose us business.

I went out behind the store to rescue Guadeloupe’s husband from her clutches if need be, but she was just yelling at some new young truck driver I’d never seen before.  I sighed, relieved as I was not just on behalf of Saul, but also on my own behalf, as it was an unpleasant thing to see a grown man dressed down and humiliated.  I guess that might seem kind of selfish, at least to me, but I just don’t wanna be there for the uncomfortable sound of another man’s ego being pounded into dust.

Anyway me and Guadeloupe were the only people at the store upon opening at 9:07, ready to greet the flood of customer that poured through the front door.  I say flood of customer and not customers because just like normal, my first customer is a single man, and I call him a flood because he’s roughly six feet tall weighing three hundred and fifty pounds.  Those measurements are just my best guess, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he, Douglas Krandall, actually weighs more than four hundred pounds.  Every time I see him I remember the beginning Raiders of the Lost Arc and imagine him chasing me out of a cave, but he’s a really nice guy, and whip smart too.

“Hey Doug, the produce was a little late today, so it’ll be a few minutes before Guadeloupe sets it all out.”

Mr. Krandall nodded slightly looking me in the eyes and apprehended a shopping cart from the row of them adjacent to the store’s entrance.  Immediately after I told him that the produce was late, I wondered why I’d done so, as I knew well that the greens would not be his first stop.  His first stop that day, as it was roughly every other day, was the cereal aisle.  In the cereal aisle he normally retrieved at least four boxes of sugary cereal.

Though exactly which boxes he attained differed from day to day, they always included at least two, and as many as nine of the following cereals: Honey Nut Cheerios, Frosted Cheerios, Reece’s Puffs, Cocoa Puffs, Sugar Smacks, Raisin Bran Crunch, Frosted Flakes, Life Cereal, and Froot Loops.  Whenever he went through checkout with his collection, I found myself fantasizing about what he would have for breakfast that day.  Would he eat a normal-sized bowl of just one cereal?  No, I was sure he’d have a heaping bowl of a combination of at least two of them, but which ones and how much of each?  The most obvious combinations seemed to be both types of Cheerios and both Types of Puffs, but what were his final choices?

I didn’t dare ask, of course, as it seemed likely this man had likely fought a losing battle with his weight for his entire life, and he didn’t need me reminding him that he was essentially buying a lot of boxes of candy.  I’ve long figured that the fat guy who buys too much cereal probably has a sad life, and that he seems to be filling his mornings with a variety of cereal to quell a sickening loneliness.  Or, come to think of it, he could have children, and the cereal could be for his large family that loves him very much.

I don’t think he has a family though.  I think that these boxes of cereal are not purchased for anything but his own addiction, as he seems to have a real problem with self control.  I’m overweight, and I’m very sensitive to the stigma this brings, so I watch what I eat, or try to.  Mr. Krandall seems to have given up.  He must purchase boxes of powdered donuts, set them on their kitchen table and stare at them, overcome by the inevitability of it.  He must look at those donuts thinking to himself that he cannot resist them, and any effort spent combatting the desire to taste the donuts will surely be wasted.

I suppose we all have our addictions, though.  After I’d made sure all the produce was laid out and Guadeloupe had given the trucker whatever tongue lashing he’d had coming, she fumed to her spot behind the cash register nearest the door.

As I’d known for a long time, Guadeloupe had a big problem with rage, and it often expressed itself in her interactions with customers.  Saturday, June 13, 2015, was a day when Guadeloupe’s rage problem showed itself.

Around 4:15, which is normally the time when I have the largest solid force of customers coming through the door, Guadaloupe’s rage made itself known.  I like to say that when a large enough group of customers is attempting to enter the store at the same time, they’re a lot like water, in that they will press the door with the entirety of their being, and nothing can possibly get through them.  And then, if in front of such a crush of people, there is a single customer having an argument with a cashier, all hell’s liable to break loose.

This day, a customer was unsatisfied with the quality of our produce and went to the cashiers to lodge a complaint, and it was his bad luck that his cashier was Guadeloupe.  “Excuse me!?” she asked, with fire in her eyes and acid on her breath.  “You don’t want the fruit than don’t buy it, that’s it!”

She slammed her palms on the flat surface before the cash register, creating a sound not unlike a gunshot.  As the customer wavered backwards Guadeloupe pushed her face towards him, and his brusque manner withered into a warbling apology.  “Sorry it’s, just, I have a—“

“I know!  Go!”  Guadeloupe yelped as she gestured wildly and aggressively.  At that point the customer turned tail and scampered back into the produce section, concluding the most memorable event of the day.  I should say now that as you can see that though I enjoy my job very much, and it pays well enough, it is mostly all the time unbelievably boring.

When I was running a cash register, that was boring, but not as emotionally draining.  Being the manager of a grocery store is just like being a cashier, but oftentimes you have to fire people.  I mean it’s like being a cashier in that one day kind of melds into the next.  It’s incredibly boring because you’re doing the same kinds of things every day, and you don’t even get to deal with customers.  Don’t get me wrong, dealing with customers isn’t always peachy, but I prefer it to solitary confinement.

Customers at least have some variety to them, as a group.  They can at least give your days some color, like “remember when that lady with the crazy orange afro started screaming?”  “Yeah, I remember that, there was sugar everywhere.”  I actually used to have stories like that, but now I just deal with suppliers and logistics all day.  Since I became manager I just deal with a bunch a’ starched white shirts passing each other folders in a warehouse.  I don’t wanna say that the people I deal with on a daily basis can kinda seem to coalesce into a stream of reasoned decision making and managed expectations, and sometimes it kinda gets to me.

So as the clock ticked to 9, closing time, I started to pack the store up for the night.  I like working opening-to-close, for mostly reasons that aren’t “I can get more work done.”  For one, I’m the manager, I have an office, and it allows me to get a1-4 hour nap in the middle of most days.  I pretty much set my own schedule, which gets more filled than I expect most days, but on some days, I’d say at least once a week, I get to pretty much watch everything take care of itself.

At 9:13, another of my coworkers Halley Oldman and I locked up the store, said our goodbyes, and said we’d see each other again after the weekend.  At the end of every work week, I stand out by the backdoor for a while looking up at the night sky.  I don’t know why, I can’t see any stars ‘cause it’s the city and I can’t say for sure what really I’ve been thinking about any of the times I’ve performed this ritual, but I’m out there every Saturday it’s not raining.

 

I’m a casual drinker, I might even call myself a “social drinker,” but the society of fellow drinkers is not really what keeps me coming back to the bar.  I enjoy having my composure slightly impaired in the evening from time to time, and that’s the long and short of it.  For instance, Saturday night, at the bowling alley above the hardware store, there’s always a party going on.  By “party,” I mean mostly regulars sitting around drinking, and sometimes someone plays Prince on the Jukebox (it’s often me).  But they know me by name, so it’s a little like Cheers I guess.

At the corner of Lincoln and Argyle, roughly a block away from Harvest Time, is Lincoln Square Lanes, my bar of preference.  I like it because it’s a bowling alley, and I enjoy the sound of pins tumbling down.  After work I moseyed over to the alley (as I refer to it) and parked myself at the usual station.  I signaled by raising my hand to eye level for an instant.  Raymond, the bartender who’s last name I don’t know, pulled a cold can of Coors and planted it in front of me.

I looked around the bar, trying to see if there was some cleavage to lear at, and saw no faces I recognized.  The moss colored carpet had some new stains by the door indicating that someone had likely vomited while leaving or arriving at the establishment, and staff had lacked what it took to clean it up.  I looked at the stain and thought to myself: “charming.”  I’m still a sarcastic little asshole just like I used to be, only now I do it silently.

Just then, or several minutes later, Simon Despereau, one of my good buddies, busted through the door caterwauling like usual.  “Sil!  I knew I could count on you.”

“Count on me?”

“No one else is here tonight, man.”  Simon slapped my back between the shoulder blades, hard enough to make a sound.  “Look around man, no one’s here, where’s Heath?  Where’s Marge?  Where’s Jojo?  I feel like I’m losing friends every day.”

I suspected from Simon’s aspect while speaking that he was kidding, but I also sensed an edge of regret.  I know that Heath was one of the regular drinkers at Lincoln Square Lanes once upon a time, and I may have at some point known a Marge to come around on occasion, but Jojo was a name Simon definitely made up.  Being the funny guy I am, I felt like continuing the game.  “Yeah man, and where’s Lavondrias?  Crystal Cypher?  Alexander Hamilton?”

Simon collapsed into guffaws while remaining upright as he leaned against the bar.  Simon was a tall, thin man with a handsome face and darting eyes, a little like Peter Lorre in Casablanca.  He might’ve been a ladies man if he’d ever learnt how to speak to them, but he never bothered.  “Crystal Cypher murdered his family and ate them, then shot himself in the head.”

This man was a friend of mine, so though I felt Edgar might have just gone a smidgeon too far, I laughed as I shook my head and clapped Simon on the shoulder.  “I miss you during the week, want a beer?”  Though I did eventually buy Simon a drink, laughing and carrying on like I was having a wonderful time.  I guess I was having a nice time, come to think of it, as I enjoy moderate drinking and cracking jokes with people.

“I miss you too man, bring it in,” Simon declared as he pulled me in for an aggressive hug.  These type of gruff hugs were not uncommon for me and Simon.  I wondered sometimes how much this contact meant to each of us.  I don’t know how much it meant to Simon, as he seemed quite drunk, but for me they comprised the entirety of my physical human contact for the week.  I know there are people who just don’t like to touch other people at all, be it germaphobia or whatever, but I think I need some sort of physical contact.

Though I would never admit it out loud, and I would caution you, dear reader, from attributing any homosexual meaning to it, I felt a rush from Simon’s hug.  As he grabbed me and pulled me close, I clutched Simon in return, shaking slowly from side to side.  “So what’s up tonight man?  Seen any movies lately?”

This was a standard question shared between us, to be met with a standard response.  “Yeah man, tons of ‘em, they all sucked though.”

“Too bad man, maybe next week.”  Both I and Simon are movie lovers and each quite hard to please, so one of our main traditions is declaring our dissatisfaction with the current cinematic landscape.  I suppose I would prefer, given the choice, to have a friend with whom I could speak seriously, but to get one I’d have to open myself up, and I can’t do that first.  I guess this is a problem with being a funny guy, which I am, it sometimes seems like that’s all people want from me.  Maybe humor is all people want from me, or maybe it’s just all I give them.  This, like so many concepts in my life, presents itself as a type of chicken/egg scenario.

That’s not to say that my relationship with Simon is completely superficial and based on taste in films, but as soon as we’re drinking it starts to seem that way.  And anyway Saturdays at the bar all start to run together after a while, until I can’t tell one from the other.  There was one exception, the first time I met Sonia.

It was quite late, say around 12:30, right around the time I normally leave for home, and she came through the door looking thirsty and inquisitive.  She was short, five foot even, and displayed her pot belly proudly in a tight pink dress.  I thought it was fearless and sexy.  She wasn’t blind, and mirrors are plentiful, but she just knew that a belly suited her well.  Sonia’s comfort with herself was so sexy, in fact, that I was drawn into actually introducing myself to her.

“Hi, my name’s Sil, what’s yours?”

“Sonia, but I’m gay.”

Saying just these four words and than turning her back to me, Sonia seemed to me a fine example of pitiless directness.  I laughed aloud, and treated the dialog as if it were a game.  “That’s cool, I’m gay too, that’s my man by the pool table.”

I signaled over to Simon, hunched over the pool table lining up a shot.  Sonia laughed aloud, looking Simon up and down.  She responded, waving her hand as if she was slowly shooing my words away.  “Whatever man, I’ll see ya later.”

From there, Sonia stood, walked over to Simon, and draped her arm over his shoulders.  Simon, though initially startled, returned the favor by winding his own elbow around Sonia’s neck.  Having been suitably humiliated, I went home, concluding another night at Lincoln Square Lanes.  I don’t remember if I cried on the way home, but since I was a little drunk and very lonely, it wouldn’t surprise me to find that I had.

https://andrewhalteromniblog.com/2016/05/09/sylvester-volume-1/

Sylvester Volume 2