Poem: Fateful Founders

What if my girlfriend felt perfunctory

and like it was meant to be

a thousand times a thousand, that would be awful

certainty, certainly

measuring the prose to fold the flow

so small it disappears

into nothing, dull as a watchword

lesson over what, would I finally be

happy?  Hell no, says the green-eyed

taxman flicking his tail and scarring

the children mentally at least, you would be bored

as fuck all useless, so praise the horizon

storm when it comes especially crushing

the sky light, forming a fiberglass

cocoon like a butterfly, evolving you

gradually infinite pacing slowly

conversation masks abound, revealing that

we were meant to be regardless

unavoidable futures, dead end craving

a conclusion of the heart, roasting in the sun

salutatorian shimmer, so sharply it bites

off the end, leaving a single sculpture

of the two of us together, fighting the predetermined

fate written on leaves of grass

tornado turning, we are invention of art

constructing fate, desire incarnated beautifully

fragile fortunes favor, made only of our

own effort, deciding what was meant.

Poem: Fateful Founders

Poem: The Future

A recording, unfamiliar, pleading

pathetic parasite, phone booth floor-dwelling

cur, do sixteen pushups and hit the rowing

machine like you used to, it won’t make any

difference in the run, because you fell

in love, and now you know such joy

as you could not have imagined, unless

you were in the middle of a fit or something,

in a paranoid fantasy you may have dreamt up

a story like this, where all you could need

is nearness, getting to know yourself is hard.

 

Because I’ve never experienced a feeling

like this before, and to have it all the time zapping me

to my reaching out, and to feel a yipe

singe, ya know, so I get over it but goddamn

it feels like a hell bite, like oh shit what did

I do?  To let this crazy bitch, with more baggage

than a freight train, into my brain bleeding

ecstasy, making me drunk on it, and I forget

that I sound like a retard, it’s disgusting.

 

It’s not terrible, I know, and I understand

that you know what I’m saying, but goodamn it

I know what it sounds like, it sounds like

a grocer thinking “oh boy, now I gotta deal with this

shit I don’t need,” but that’s not even accurate,

it can’t be expressed in words because

it is so subtle I can’t really be sure I’ve ever seen it,

the genuine reaction to my glorious voice,

but I am sure, because I feel it the same way you do

staring into space, when you’re shadow is

a lamppost, I can go nowhere but straight

forward, into your arms a thankful grin.

 

Knowing yourself is worth nothing, for your love

is not you, holding reins with orders

barking, your champion is the spirit of dawn

and dusk, pulling you on chains to the dawning

adventure burning into the sky with a singeing

tail, chattering wordlessly with your old friend

in the darkness, passing out on Theta house lawn

where they don’t talk to you anymore, opening

the door to a knife cut horizon, carving you

a path, downward through time and space.

Poem: The Future

Sylvester (Volume 9)

When I arrived at Harvest Time that day at one thirty I was surprised to find Boss Jorge standing in front of the entrance holding his arms open.  “Your ma was a wonderful lady,” he boomed as he grabbed my shoulders and held me at arms length.  I could tell by his expression that he was squeezing me as hard as he could, and he was very weak.

He was trying to pull me in closer, so I opened my arms and hugged him back.

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” he spoke with compassion.

I hugged him tight, which I assume he took to mean I was trying to stifle a sob, but actually meant that I was suppressing a giggle.  I’d heard Boss Jorge say these exact words in the exact same tone of voice at many times in the past, but now they were slower, and it was funny.  It was the type of funny you can’t admit to anyone, but he sounded like Mr. Rodgers now.

I worked hard to successfully stifle my laughter, because I didn’t want to laugh at the way Boss Jorge spoke.  Boss Jorge had a minor stroke only eighteen months previous, after which he’d been back to work in just four weeks.  I told him it was too soon to come back, but he said he would “die on his feet.”  In the time since I heard him say this, I had often thought that his vertical death was immediately imminent.

Though he’d been a whirling dervish of a man in his younger days, he was 68 years old now, and he seemed to be melting.  The skin over his eyebrows appeared loose and his jowls were so long they looked like mud flaps.  His signature black curls had been growing lighter since 1995, and now they were white, which made him appear far gentler.  Guadeloupe had even remarked that he was “handsomer” now.

Guadeloupe and I agreed that he no longer looked like a computer or a communist overlord, now he looked like a very old tree; specifically a Weeping Willow.  We’d chuckled to each other when things were slow that the pockmarks and crags that decorated his checks looked like bird’s nests.  There was a boil on the tip of his nose that had grown so large and jagged we called it Widow’s Peak.

For all the nicknames and private jokes we shared amongst each other, all those well acquainted with Boss Jorge held him in the highest esteem.  Many of his employees loved him, I’m sure, I know I did.

So Boss Jorge, placing his hand on my shoulder, ushered me into the store as smoothly as he could manage.  Harvest Time was mostly empty, which was normal for a Tuesday afternoon, and Guadeloupe was the only cashier working.  I stood at her side as she checked out her last few customers, and she gave me a doleful look, grimacing and shaking her head slowly.  This indicated that she’d heard of my mothers death, but didn’t really feel like offering any condolences out loud, which I appreciated.

Boss Jorge’s meaty yet soft hands directed me to my office in the back of the store.  “We need to talk,” he said, “this might not be the correct time, but we have business.”

This was a phrase I’d heard Jorge say many times before, and based on the inflection he used, I could usually tell what we would talk about.  If he said the word “Talk” short and sharp, it meant I was about to be reprimanded; if he emphasized “We,” it meant I would have to fire someone; and if he pronounced “Business” more loudly than any of the other words, it meant I was getting an “Atta Boy,” and maybe even a raise.  This time, however, I couldn’t tell.

“I am going back to Mexico,” Boss Jorge said, glancing at the floor underneath drooping eyelids.  “I don’t want to, but the doctors—“

As his speech cut out, he landed heavily in the armchair before my computer, emitting an audible “Oof” as he did so.  Automatically, or rather instinctively, I bent over, clutching at his shoulder as he landed with a type of thud that shook the chair.  I said “Whoa,” as if he would somehow fall through his seat to the ground.

He took his right hand and placed it over mine, so that my knuckles could feel the thin rough skin of his palms. He cackled bitterly.  “The doctors tell me I need to stay home and drink tea on a porch swing all day, and you know,” he looked up into my eyes, before sputtering into hacking coughs and covering his mouth with a handkerchief.  He looked at the ground, and his voice softened as he clearly felt defeated.  “I am retiring this year and going back home to spend time with my family, and I want to put you in charge.”

He was staring at me as he told me this news, so I smiled, acting as excited as I could.  “In charge of the store?”

“In charge of everything,” he said, glancing at the floor.  “My son don’t care.”

Jorge brought his wrist down on to the table slowly, letting his hands lay on their palms, limp.  Boss Jorge’s son, Eduardo, had been someone I’d liked the few times I’d met him.  There was once at what I think was probably a new year’s eve party we were introduced.  Eduardo had gone to a good college and was by all accounts a well-liked and productive member of society, but he did not have the passion for retail that his father did.  We talked about “The grind,” as we called it; that is, dealing with the daily ins and outs of dealing with even a small retail conglomerate, and he said it made him feel like he was dead.  This was heartbreaking for Boss Jorge.

“Your son,” I said the only thing that I could think of to say, because it was exactly the same as what he’d just said, “Don’t care?”

I could hear the air whistle out of his nose as he exhaled, and I could hear it trail off into silence.  The whistle sounded like a strong breeze zipping through abandoned railroad ties in a wasteland.  “No, my son, my son don’t care.”

“Well that can’t be all bad,” I began, automatically, because it was the kind of thing I’d thought a father would want to hear.  It was an insensitive thing to say, I realized then because Boss Jorge reacted with rage.  I’d seen his rages countless times in the past, and when he was younger it seemed like anything could make it bubble in him, but this was different.

He stood up, looking me straight in the eyes, and punched the top of his desk as hard as he could.  “He is supposed to have pride in us, what our family has created.”  He raised his fist and slammed it knuckles first, onto the surface of his desk.  The pain must have been tremendous, because when he next looked up at me his eyes were full of mist.

I didn’t know what to do.  Thank god, at that exact moment, my cell phone rang.  At times, I’d considered downloading various joke ringtones, like the opening lines of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony played in belches, and at that moment I was very glad I’d never done that.

I pulled the phone out of my pocket and stepped outside the office, holding one finger up to indicate I’d only be a moment.  As I did, I could hear Boss Jorge land heavily on his chair as both his palms slapped the top of his desk at the same time.

“What happened, are you okay?”  The moment I heard Sonia’s voice crack through the phone an inappropriate smile broke over my face.

I suddenly was wracked by guilt, realizing how quickly and without warning I’d left Sonia’s house, I thought about what I could say to gloss over my actions.  I searched my mind, trying to think of some explanation, before realizing the perfect response had already been dropped into my lap.  “My mom is dead.”

Sonia responded at first with what felt to me like a long lingering silence.  The longer the silence became the more comfortable I was with it.  The quiet stretched for what seemed like minutes, and I languished in it, happy for the respite.  “I’m, uh, sorry,” she said first, before realizing what may have been a faux pas and restating her assertion.  “I’m so sorry.”

“Thank you, but I’m fine.”  I responded, automatically.  I didn’t know if I really was fine, but it seemed like the right thing to say so I said it.  “What’d you want?”

She seemed taken aback at first,  “Uh, I’m—uh, and, um, I’m—” she sputtered and coughed while she tried to arrive at her first word.  When it finally came, her words flew easily.  “I just wanted to tell you that I really liked our time together, and if you still wanted to you could come over tonight and we could work on my material before my show at Gallery Cabaret tonight, that’s all. But I understand, you probably have other things to do, tonight.”

“No I don’t actually, and I’d love to come.”  This sentiment spilled out of my mouth before I had a chance to think about it.  When I did think about, I realized why it had.  “After I wrap up here and call some people I need to call, I’ll be at your place, and we can write some comedy.”

As soon as I finished speaking, Sonia’s thunderous laugh burst through the phone.  I’d heard it many times since I’d been getting to know her, and I wasn’t getting tired of it.  “Write some comedy, sounds like a good euphemism for sex.”

I guffawed, doubling over with laughter that shook me from the spine.  Embarrassed, I peered up at Guadeloupe and the customer she was serving, peering at me with one eyebrow raised higher than its partner.  “Yeah,” I spoke softly, embarrassed now, “I’ll see you soon.”

In a voice more tender than I’d heard from her before, Sonia said, “Looking forward to it,” and hung up.  Walking back to my office, ready to tell Boss Jorge, as quickly as I could manage, that I had to go home and deal with funeral arrangements.  I felt like I was floating.

As soon as I opened the door Boss Jorge asked me what the call was about.  “Nothing really, or nothing—“ I suddenly realized that my most pressing concern was to get out of the door, so I changed tactics.  “It’s just family stuff, so you think I could go home?”

Boss Jorge looked disappointed, though resigned to the fact I was dealing with the death of my mother.  “Oh okay, yes,” he said, watching the ground.

I felt for Boss Jorge, as it seemed like the aspirations he had for the the future were likely crumbling to dust, but I had my own hopes.  If I’d had the presence of mind to consider it, I’d have realized that he was trying to hand me the reigns of his business empire, but my mind was elsewhere.  “We will discuss it soon, but—“ it seemed cold, then, even to me, but I could not deny the strength of my own desire.  “I have to go and figure out funeral arrangements.”

“Yes, yes, we will talk,” I could hear his bones creak and his tendons stretch as he collapsed back onto the seat.  “Sorry for your loss.”

His shoulders and arms were held in a posture indicating he intended to hug me again, but I turned from him and left the office, saying “Thanks for your concern.”  I didn’t know and hadn’t considered whether I was being rude or not, as I figured that any slight I gave would be quickly forgiven.

 

I arrived at Sonia’s house roughly twenty-five minutes after I left Harvest time, having stopped at Walgreens for a small bottle of brandy.  It had already been kind of a heavy period of drinking for me, so I figured it was as good a time as any to give myself over to the Beast.  The Beast, a term I’d used at times for my mother’s alcoholism, was now an umbrella term for many different things.

The Beast was compulsion itself, and it had me.

I knew I should’ve been calling my aunts and uncles, and cousins and their kids, but the Beast told me it could wait.  I didn’t feel like I needed their tones of voice right now, angry at me for “enabling” my mother, as they’d been before and I assumed they would be again.  I could just imagine what they’d say when they find out my mother died of alcohol poisoning, which is what I assumed to be the case.  Their half-heartedly hidden smiles would make me gag every second, like they know they could’ve saved her if it wasn’t for me.

I trotted chirpily up the front steps to Sonia’s door.  I knocked on the wood with a smile, but my offer of brandy ran into a block of concrete.  “What, you think I’m a drunk?”

Her voice was flat and her finger outstretched toward the bottle I’d brought.  Her eyes told me she was not kidding, so I thought fast.  “No this is for me, you think there’s enough for you, too?”  I smiled, trying to create a funny moment.

Her expression, which had been a grim scowl, softened into spongecake.  I felt an instant wave of relief as she stepped forward and hugged me.  “I’m sorry for your loss,” she spoke softly, pressing herself into me.

I could tell from the way her eyes had been downcast that she wasn’t so open to joking as she had been the night before, so I tried to speak seriously.  I held her shoulders at arms length.  “She’d been on her way out for a long time, good a time as any, I guess,” I said, attempting to quickly indicate that I wasn’t really all that sad.

This statement may seem cold to some, I know, to say that your mother’s death didn’t really bum you out much, but I think it’s a good goal to strive for.  Ideally, after you die, those whom you loved when alive will remember you fondly for just a moment, everyday when they wake up, and then forget you.

I think it’s a good goal to strive for, not being a burden on the hearts of those you leave behind.  After I’m dead, I don’t want the work of being someone else’s baggage.

“Yeah I guess,” she said, picking up an empty glass off of her front room table.  “I didn’t really know my mom, so, I guess it was really—“

“Yeah I know, I guess I didn’t really know mine either, towards the end.”  I said, realizing how drunk I was, I thought that I might be getting away from myself.  I poured another glass of cheap brandy.  “She was so drunk all the time,” my head dropped as I whimpered faintly, “I didn’t even know her those last years.”

I dropped my head, bringing my chin to meet my chest.  I walked out of her kitchen and took my shoes off before laying down on the couch resting head face first on the couch cushion.

I realized something the moment my face hit the couch.  I was mourning my mother, who died decades ago, not the drunk who died in my house that morning.  I wept, but not for my mother, the alcoholic co-dependent, why did it have to be my responsibility to see her well?

I cried, sobbing tears like I hadn’t in years.  This sobbing lasted only seconds, as I collected myself “—but you said you didn’t really know your mom?  Why was she real distant?”

“She died when I was eight.”

I laughed.  It was an automatic reaction at first, but  when I saw her lips start to curve into a grin, we both laughed without shame.  “My father died when I was two!”

That was when, for the first time, Sonia asked me a question about my life.  “How’d he die?”

I grinned as I chirped back right away, “I don’t know!”

We screamed with joy into each others faces, just laughing.  We have reflected on this time, each remarking to the other about how odd it was.  Eventually the laughter died down and the room was filled with a pause.  “My mom killed herself.”

After Sonia revealed this piece of information, the room was silent.  “So, we both have dead parents.”

Sonia looked back at me curiously, “Yup.”

“Maybe we can write some jokes about dead parents.”

I listened as she made ticking noises with her tongue against her teeth.  Eventually she answered calmly and confidently.  “Yeah okay.”

Sylvester (Volume 9)

Sylvester (Volume 8)

All right, when did she die?  This was the first calm thing I thought to myself after I found my mother dead, because I couldn’t remember her groaning or stirring as I lifted her to the couch, so she might have already been dead.  I might have lifted my mother’s corpse over my shoulder and dumped it on her bed, or she might have been unconsciously hanging on when I’d moved her.  It didn’t make any difference to me.

It was 11:13 PM when I checked on my mother for the first time since I dumped her on her bed, and I found a dead body.  Upon discovering the death of my mother, I gasped and fell into the wall behind me, striking it with my shoulders at the same time and forcefully enough that I knocked the wind out of myself.  The sensation of it was nostalgic, calling to my mind instances from childhood when I’d felt the same thing.  I’d often slipped off the swing set in the backyard and landed painfully on my back; I remembered staring up at the sky watching the empty swing I’d been riding twist in the wind, gulping air to fill my empty chest.

I’d just lay there for what felt like fifteen minutes, waiting for my mother, who I knew had been watching me, to come to my rescue.  When she didn’t, I flipped over, erecting myself and hurrying back to Mom in a huff.  “Why didn’t you help me?”

She picked up the pitcher of tea from the table in front of her, retrieved her cup of ice cubes, and slowly began to fill it.  She tipped the pitcher as gradually as she could, and I watched the level of liquid in the glass rise gradually while she peered up at me and smiled.  When it was full she lifted the glass to her lips and took a pirate captain’s swig of it, sighing loudly after she did.  “You’re ten, you had a good run.”

This was my mother’s sense of humor, and thinking of it my eyes started to water.  I had laughed, and she’d responded by grabbing my rib cage with both hands and tickling me furiously.  I remembered pleading for her to stop, knowing that she wouldn’t right away, at least until we’d both had our fill.  I remembered looking up at her, watching as her smile became wider and madder.  Her pudgy face lit up, and her teeth glowed bright white as she cackled.

I fell against the wall staring at the dead body on my mother’s bed, and a single sob almost burst through my lips and seeped out of my eyes, but I strangled it down.  I made two solitary yelping sounds back to back, like a rim shot, and put my hand over my mouth.  I looked at the ground as my wrist hit the front of my chest and I crossed the fingers of my hands so hard that it hurt.

I grimaced as my back slid downward against the wall, and my ass landed on the floor with a painful thump.  I sat there for a period of indeterminate length, remaining still and allowing sadness to fill me like water fills a balloon.

My Mom was dead, finally, and all I wanted was to play Scrabble with her.  The guilt I felt, that I’d not made it back sooner almost bowled me over.  What if she’d been waiting by the game board for hours, praying that I’d burst through the door, and I never had?  Would that, I wondered, have given her the motivation to drink herself to death?

I started to hit myself, pounding my fist into my right thigh and left shoulder, and then turned around to face the wall.  I put my palms up to it, as if testing that the wall were really solid, and began to strike it with my forehead.  Steadily and rhythmically I met the wall with my face, forcefully enough to create a large divot in the drywall.

You idiot, you idiot, how could you?  My head started to hurt, not just from the outside, the pain spread out from the center of my head in waves, bringing me to my knees.  This too had been a childhood habit of mine, and one that mom hated with a passion.  “If you keep doing that,” she’d begun, I’m sure intending to threaten me with something.  When there wasn’t even hesitation in my masochism, she’d just scream “Stop it!” and run out of the room.

This occurred at a consistent rate for the first sixteen years of my life.  I’d do something wrong, like spill pop all over the living room carpet or fill my desk with incomplete homework assignments, and then punish myself in this way.  This continued until my Sophomore year of high school, when mom finally put a stop to it.

It was after I’d spent a weekend at my friends’ parents’ summer house in Michigan, without telling her beforehand.  When I called from Michigan to tell her where I was, she screamed at me.  When I got home I was ready to handle her anger, and sought to diffuse it by head butting the wall.  After putting my head into the wall four times, I turned around and saw her.

Tears were falling down her cheeks, “I won’t tell you to stop anymore, just know that when you do that it hurts me too.”  As I recalled this moment, I felt a pain in my head that was a lot worse than I remembered, so I stopped.  I turned to look at my mother’s cadaver, fell over her, and wept.

 

Eventually I called the police, and people in uniforms started filing in and out of my house, taking care of all the necessaries.  I told them with a twinge of pride that I’d spent the previous night at my girlfriend’s house, and had come home around four in the afternoon that day, at which point my Mom had been alive though passed out.

I told them my mother was an alcoholic, and that I had no idea how much she’d drunk that day.  One officer, a not-unattractive woman with pockmarks on her left cheek and her hair in a tight auburn bun scribbled on a clipboard as I answered her questions.  I think she was probably conciliatory, but I hardly noticed, distracted by the war raging in my own head.

I grappled with a deep sense of guilt, but of a different kind than I’d ever felt before.  This guilt was not the result of anything I’d said or done.  This guilt came from knowledge of the fact that within myself, deep down, I was joyful.

Ding dong, the witch is dead.  Which old witch?  The drunken witch!  As I considered that now I could bring my new girlfriend Sonia to my house, fuck her as loud as I wanted, and that she might even want to move in, a grin unfurled on my face.  As soon as this smile revealed itself my face instantly transformed into an expression of horror.  This isn’t fun, your mom is dead.

While I watched the sky turn powder blue, and the coroner carried my mother’s carcass away, I sat on my couch and turned on the TV.  SportCenter was on, and as I watched it I realized that I could use a drink.  I checked what had been my mother’s regular hiding places and found a half-full liter of vodka in the bucket of supplies under the sink in the bathroom, and I used it to make a drink.

I sipped my mixture of two parts Coke and one part vodka, followed by another, and still another.  I was woken at 10:30 AM by my phone vibrating in my pocket.  After a few moments of half-drunk contemplation, I reached my hand down and retrieved it.

It was Boss Jorge calling.  I looked at the name on my phone and remembered that I hadn’t been to work in two days. I poured myself another drink and immediately returned the call.  “Boss Jorge?”

“Where are you?  What are you doing?”  Boss Jorge sounded angry, but more than that he sounded worried.  “You missed two days in a row, were you attacked?”

I smiled, feeling an almost familial closeness with my boss of twenty years.  “My mom died last night, I’ll be in after lunch.”

Sylvester (Volume 8)

Poem: Forever

Roller coaster, slog along, like a tick or tock

up a pole, make a mountain, swallow the sky,

pulling at the sea, daunting a tidal

wave looming overhead, once more to the breach

dear friends depart and spirit the place

today tomorrow and yesterday, smoothing the vibes

of unmet yearning, of which is a healthy stock,

you and me, fight and fuck, one more

but who’s to say, a coaster called, “forever yours”

Poem: Forever

Sylvester (Volume 6)

I walked behind Sonia all the way to her house, and my eyes traced the lines of her back.  She chattered idly about this or that, as I responded drunkenly to every point she raised.  “Do you know any constellations?” she asked.

“No,” I said, because I’d barely seen the stars in my city-boy life.  “Why, do you?”

“No, I’m like you,” she paused, craning her neck as she inspected the sky.  “I’m a city girl, but I just kind of like the idea of it.”

I watched Sonia while she paused, with her hands in her lap, staring up into the sky.  “The idea of it?”

“I like the idea that the cave people were looking up at the sky,” she raised her hand above her head, pointing to a plot of imaginary dots in the sky.  “And they told each other, like, ooh, that’s a bear, that’s a deer.”

“I think people told ‘em to each other,” I paused for effect, “like a around the campfire and, I bet there were a lot of dirty ones.”

She laughed explosively, and I could feel my penis respond as it rubbed up against the inside of my underpants.  I knew she liked jokes, and the jokes I told especially, but I couldn’t believe that I really turned her on.  She slapped her own thighs as she nodded up and down like a metronome.  “Yup!” she said, patting herself lightly on the chest, “I bet there are a lot of dick constellations.”

We laughed and laughed, picking imaginary constellations out of the starless sky, pretending we saw vulgar forms.  Sonia pointed up at nothing above, “Look, there’s a constellation of a prostitute pleasing a man orally.”

“That one’s called Vicensia the Whore,” I said, keeping our game of dirty constellations going.

Sonia smiled and giggled as she continued the joke.  “Over there is Trompo, or man with anal beads.”

Her line caught me, as many of her previous lines had, just right, and I guffawed powerfully slapping myself on the knees.  “I see it!”  I pointed my finger up at the sky, tracing an imaginary figure.  “That’s where the legs come together, and then there’s a line going down the middle.”  I stood with her head next to mine, pointing up at nothing above us as our eyes followed my finger.  When our cheeks touched, I turned my head, waited for Sonia to look into my eyes, and planted another kiss on her lips.

She pushed me away, ending our kiss and holding me at arms length.  “I don’t know,” Sonia glanced at the ground.  “Don’t you have work tomorrow?”

She enfolded her left wrist in her right hand, waiting for me to answer.

Is this moving too fast for her now?  I didn’t know if I could interpret romantic signals, and I thought I might have skipped a step.  Is she worrying about whether I’m gonna spend the night?  Would she like me too?  “Do I have work tomorrow?  I don’t know.”  I trailed off, raising my knuckle to my chin in consideration.  “Whatta you think?”

It was the best thing I could think of, leaving it up to her.  Sonia clapped, and brightened with a smile that showed her teeth.  “I think you can call in sick tomorrow, that’s what I think.”

She folded her arms over her chest and mimicked a schoolmarm stalking the grounds during curfew-check.  Her pace quickened and she kept her eyes forward, anxious, I assumed, to get me back to her place and have her way with me.   All my sexual fantasies of powerful women leapt into my mind at once, from the hot teacher to the stepmom and the babysitter.  I searched the catalog of masturbatory tableaus in my mind, and selected one of my favorites: the hot nurse.

I imagined Sonia, wearing a wispy paper apron, stopping by my room, saying it was time for a sponge bath.  It was only a moment before my penis was fully erect.

I guess it had been a while since I’d had an accidental erection because when I first felt my penis stiffen I had the thought that something was wrong with my pants.  It’s an odd sensation, the feel of a boner on the inside of a pair of jeans.  At first this sensation made me reflexively nervous, but then I beamed with pride and excitement.  I could still get an incidental boner, and I was about to use this one for its intended purpose.

“Okay,” Sonia said, clapping her hands together as if to clean her hands of chalk.  “Well after we fuck, you can go, but I’ll ask you to be quiet, my tenants get pissy if you wake them up.”  I grinned

Sonia turned up the sidewalk heading to her front door, but before she reached her front step I reached my hand out and grabbed at her left shoulder.  “Listen, I. . .” I don’t know exactly what it had been my intention to say.  I was going to say that I could call in sick the next day, and that her face had awakened in me a passion that had long been dormant, but instead I just pulled her in and gave her a long kiss.  I believe my point came across.

This kiss was not nervous, as the peck I’d given her in the bar had been.  I closed my eyes and attempted to feel her heartbeat through the skin on her cheeks.  My right hand felt the coarseness of her hair as my palm rotated around the back of her head.  I remembered all the romantic stories I’d known, and thought that this was the start of our own narrative.

I held the kiss for as long as I could, forcing her to bring it to a stop, which she did.

When I gradually opened my eyelids, I could see that Sonia’s eyes were already wide open, and the expression on her face was one of bemused curiosity.  “Well, okay,” she grinned and chuckled briefly.  “Okay fine you don’t have to go after you’re done, I was just saying—“  I kissed her again, I might even have opened my mouth a little towards the end of it.  In response to this expression of passion, I felt her hands press on my shoulders and push me to an arms length away from her.  “Okay now, let’s save it till we get inside yeah?”

She seemed to respond positively to the attention I was giving her, so I kept at her as she opened the door, kissing her neck and pawing at her limbs.  She chuckled, half heartedly keeping me at a distance until she entered her home.  I followed, pursuing her and kissing her deeply.  It is no mystery what came over me, but still I was surprised by its insistent power.

We worked our way up the stairs and into bed, wasting no time getting to it.  We had sex, and it was in a word awesome.  I mean awesome not in the sense that it was simply fantastic, but in the sense that it inspired awe in me.  I marveled at every sensation, enthralled at the way I could feel myself lost.

This was the first time I’d had sex in several years, so as it began, though I was rapturous, I was also extremely nervous.  What if any of the myriad things that could go wrong went wrong?  I thought about all these terrible things that could happen, from premature ejaculation to erectile disfunction, and when none of them did happen, I lost myself in pleasure.

Sex had always appeared in my life thus far as an unpleasant memory.  I could not relive any of the times I’d had sex without also remembering the pain it had brought with it.  I couldn’t remember my first time, a fumbling piece of ecstatic excitement I’d experienced with Lee-Ha, the Korean exchange student I’d known in college, without also remembering the moment in front of her dorm just two days later when she told me she’d prefer to stay friends.

I cursed myself all the way home after that.  Raging against myself and the entire world.  But all that pain was forgotten the instant I could feel Sonia’s skin, energized with life as we surged together into an active bliss.

In the middle of it, the part of my brain that constantly chirps at me with all-consuming criticism shut off.  Immediately afterwards, I was blissful as I lay next to Sonia, closing my eyes and drifting away on wings of gratification.

 

It wasn’t until long afterwards, when we were lying next to each other, that she spoke to me again.  “You gonna call in sick?”

“Oh, yeah I should,” I groaned, coughing through the end of my sentence.  “But I haven’t missed a day in a couple years, it should be fine.”  As I said the word “fine,” an enormous grin broke over my lips, and I felt truly happy.

“Yeah me too,” Sonia said, “I don’t have any pressing appointments this morning.”  She beamed at me.

“Good,” I said, stretching my arm over her chest and letting it lay.  Something about the way Sonia said “morning,” caught me, and I sat up like lightning.  I suddenly realized that my mother might be dead.  “Oh shit, I gotta make a call.”

“What?  Why?”  Sonia asked these questions in a way that seemed aggressive rather than inquisitive.  Though I might have been offended by the brusk directness of her questions, but I wasn’t.

This was excellent, or at least I considered it such, as this meant that Sonia had forgotten I live with my mother.  I realized that this fact would allow me to construct whatever reality I wanted for myself.  I thought about what would be most endearing and least pathetic.  “I gotta walk my dog.”  It wasn’t until I said this that I realized it made no sense.

“Dogs can’t answer phones,” Sonia said, cocking her eyebrow up suspiciously.  “You’re married, aren’t you?  I won’t be mad.”  The look on her face was disappointed, and as I looked on it I recalled from my own past what it had felt like to carry such an expression.

“No, I just, um—“

“I remember, you live with your mother, I’m just asking’ why you need to make a call.”  Sonia cackled at me, and it warmed my heart.  That she remembered such a piddling detail from our prior conversation boded well, I thought, and it further indicated she didn’t mind my living situation.

She’d asked why I wanted to call my mother, and the truth was that I didn’t, but I felt like it was something I should do.  “I don’t know, I guess I was worried.”

She beamed very slightly.  “Worried about your mom?”  She looked up at me, stunning me with her eyes as a full smile plastered on her lips.  “That’s sweet, wanna go home?”

I didn’t want to go home, at least not yet.  I looked around Sonia’s bedroom thinking about where I was and how I’d gotten there.  I pulled the phone out of my pocket and held it up to my ear.  As I selected “Home” from the contacts list and pressed call, raising the phone to my ear.  I heard three monotonous, long, chiming tones before I heard the answering machine message.

“This is the Forsyte residence, leave your name and number.”  Hearing my mother’s voice, recorded in the machine’s database, made me wish that she didn’t drink as much as she did.  I had forgotten how she could sound.  “Hey mom, I spent the night at Sonia’s and I think I’ll call in sick today, so I’ll see you in the early afternoon.  Love you, maybe we can play Scrabble later like old times.”

Sonia chortled, mockingly.  “Gonna play Scrabble with your mommy later?”

“Yeah, yeah I might.”  The moment I spoke this, I realized what a laughable concept it was.  To think that my mom would be cogent enough to play a game of Scrabble, and willing to play a game of Scrabble, was a laughable presumption.  “Ever since I was a little kid, we’ve always liked Scrabble.”

Sonia lay her hand over my shoulder, “Aww, that’s sweet.”  This judgement of Sonia’s, for once, did not seem mocking.  It seemed like she actually thought it was touchingly adorable, which may have made her envious of my relationship with my mom.  This prediction that the two of us would join in a game of Scrabble was a lie, as I assumed she would likely be passed out.

I don’t know why I lied in this way.  I had nothing to gain by convincing Sonia that my relationship with my mother was healthy, but still I attempted to do just that.  I scanned her bedroom with a cursory glance, and could not find a picture of either of her parents.  “How is your relationship with your parents?”

Immediately after I had asked this question I regretted it.  Her eyebrows were knit hard above her eyes as they stared at me.  “Why?”

I stumbled, struggling to quickly decide what I would say.  “Uh—um,” Sonia seemed annoyed.  “I don’t know, curious I guess.”

“Bullshit,” she said, leaving her mouth hanging open after she did.  “That’s a weird question to ask, you gotta know.”  She sat up on the bed, swung her legs over the side, and wordlessly stepped from her bedroom into her kitchen.  I followed her with my eyes, and I could watch from my position on the bed as she opened the fridge and took out a bottle of clear liquid.  She poured a bit of the clear liquid into a glass and then coupled it with the best part of a can of RC Cola.

“Hey could you make me one too?”  She looked back through the doorway at me on the bed and flashed me a grin.  As she poured my drink, I called Harvest Time and told Guadeloupe I wouldn’t make it to work that day.  As I hung up the phone and slid it back into my pocket.  Sonia walked back into the room and handed me a glass of black liquid.

“Calling in sick?”

“Yeah,” I said, pausing as I sipped my very strong drink.  It only took a second for the drink to give me the courage I needed to dig deeper into my inquiries.  “So what’s up with you and your parents?”

“I don’t know, fuck, they’re dead.”  After she spoke, Sonia pulled deeply from her own glass, gulping as she did.  After she pulled the glass until it was empty, then lifted it from her lips and placed it on the kitchen table.  She stood leaning against the table with both her palms, then looked at me and changed the subject.  “So you wanna fuck again, or not?”

I was shocked, as I thought I’d been at least annoying her, and may have been insulting her, but before I even realized what she asked I responded: “Sure I do.”

Though perhaps not as entrancing as the first, the second time I fucked Sonia was at least as rapturous as the first.  Twice in one day?  I was amazed by my own sexual prowess, and after a time both of us drifted back to sleep.

Sylvester (Volume 6)

Poem: Debutante Ball

The day of the tournament Fat Eddie woke up

on some drunks passed out in a pile, squeezing his head

he felt more rested than ever that day.  “Laying on life!”

Shouted a shot up target that fanned cards in circles

at his sides, “Bet on yourself!” he flung down a board

with pieces and winning potential, but the game was slanted

and tricky, because money taken and offered spends alike.

 

As Fat Eddie would say, “Dumb is all the rage”

and he was right more often than not by far,

so suckers dropped shekels by the boatload

at harvest time, but in the interim he walked around open

to the long con, risky back-table hoodlums

offering nothing for nothing, but she was a dainty

taunt at a ball, and his hands were awful sticky.

 

Thin Lizzie was a whisp, foil for breezy whims

to claim with a backhand, wound tight like a clock

sprung up and over, she knew fat Eddie

was false in his play, that he had no money

just like her, but they play-acted all week

spending their charm, losing in the fantasy

making love all day, then they went home.

Poem: Debutante Ball

Sylvester (Volume 4)

“What!?” I coughed theatrically, almost like a rim shot, in response to Sonia’s proposal.  After my mind cleared the initial shock, I remembered my mother, and that she was most likely waiting for my call.  “Oh I almost forgot, I have to call my mom.”

Sonia’s face drooped and her eyes sunk.  “Oh o-okay um, you can use the kitchen.”  She pointed to the room with white walls.

Immediately I realized how disappointing my response to her proposition must have been, and I felt really bad about it for both of us.  Sex was right in front of me, all I needed to do was step forward and take this opportunity to have it.  Instead I stalked to the kitchen.

I was kicking myself, for I knew the only thing for me to do would be to walk back over to Sonia and kiss her.  As the kitchen door closed behind me and I heard it latch shut, I slid the phone from my pocket and called my mom.

After a few rings, she answered.  “What!?”  Mom was drunk, she probably had hidden liquor in the house and tricked me into leaving so that she could drink it alone.  This wasn’t a new trick for her.

I could hear her anger in response to my call, and it made me far angrier than she had been.  I was calling for her, because she wanted cereal, so what right did she have getting pissed?  I indicated my frustration with my tone.  “What!?  What, you wanted cereal right?  I didn’t come back yet, it’s been like two hours, aren’t you worried?”

I waited for her to say something, but the next thing I heard was a long, faint groan.  She followed the groan with a pause that drew on.  “I-I-I, um. . ..”

I hung up the phone.  I felt a rush of anger flow down my arm and into my right fist, and I drove it as hard as I could into my left thigh, bending over slightly as I did.  This was a habit I’d gained in childhood, and it was a good way to release frustration.

The pain in my leg allowed me to focus myself and calm down.  I considered where I was and what was going on.  I settled my mind and my body.  I realized that I could hear laughter coming from the other room.  Sonia’s laugh was distinctive and percussive.

The kitchen door opened into a living room with a dining table that flowed directly into a small breakfast nook.  The breakfast nook consisted of a large couch opposite a flat-screen TV, where we had just been talking.  The couch was now occupied by Jason and Jacob, Sonia’s young tenants, as well as a large blue bong.

Okay, fine.  It’s Sunday, Mom’s already drunk, I can spare a couple hours.  So, using this reasoning to draw me, I decided to get high with Sonia and her tenants.

So we got high, and it was great.  It was the most fun I’d had in a long time, and I don’t regret it a bit.  That said, I was kicking myself for hours, having whiffed on the opportunity for sex.  She had actually said, ‘I kind of wanted to have sex with you,’ and I whiffed.  It was privately humiliating.  I told her that I had to call my mom “real quick.”  I suppose I did have an excuse that would have made my behavior less perplexing had I given it:  “I’m sorry, my mom’s an alcoholic and I’m co-dependent.”  I’ve sometimes thought that a line like this might actually be alluring to certain types of females, but I’ve never had the balls to test this hypothesis.

It is best for all relationships to begin as honestly as is comfortable, and legal.  This means no questions that denote how far you’ve “Come” in your life.  Questions like “What do you do?” or “How many children do you have?” are absolutely banned.  Sonia made this very clear, however I was able to gather some information.

A few things I learned about Sonia Esposa when I got high with her and her tenants: First: She is a stand-up comedian.  This could mean a lot of things, some of them good, some of them bad.  As she put it to me, “[she’s] kinda new but [she’s] starting to get a little known by some.”

Second: She is divorced, and she does have a child she doesn’t know or live with, but gave it up for adoption when she was an unwed teen mother.  The divorce came several decades later, and their were no children involved.

Third: She is intensely focused on truth.  Focused, not necessarily on honesty, but on truth.  She said she hated the way there is a set of standard social behaviors that everyone is expected to participate in, and a set of behaviors that put people off and make them uncomfortable.  Sonia hated any and all “social contracts,” and thought them wastes of time.

Fourth: She is extremely sexy.  To see her bright teeth flash under her smooth upper lip as it expands up and out is incredibly alluring.  Her body is a delicious collection of circles; neither too many nor too few.

I was most interested in her stand-up comedy.

What I found out from Sonia about it is that though it sometimes is a nightmare, stand up comedy is one of the most exhilarating things a person can do.  She claimed to love stand up, and that she was hosting an open mic that night.  The open mic was to take place at Lincoln Square Lanes, the same bar/bowling alley where we’d met the night before.

“Isn’t that place a bowling alley?”  I asked, before instantly regretting the directness of my question, as though she would be embarrassed.

Instead, she slapped her left thigh with her right hand, laughing.  “You should come by, mic starts as 9:00 but I’m usually there by 7:30 to set up.

Immediately I said “Yeah, I’ll see you there.”  It was almost magical, the way nothing will happen for a long long time, until you start to wonder whether anything romantic will ever happen in your life again.  And I didn’t dwell on the grand opportunity for sex that I’d squandered, because I knew I was nervous, and for the first time in a long while, it appeared there would be more opportunities.

Anyway that was what I assumed, leaving Sonia’s house for home around 4:30, having laughed and rejoiced with these new people I now considered my friends.  The exhilaration of new friends, as well as the sexual proposition I’d nonsensically turned down each had me bouncing my way home.

I felt like I was riding on top of a huge rubber ball, skipping along the ground as it went.  Suddenly it dawned on me, I hadn’t spoken to my mom since I’d hung up on her, and what if our conversation had driven her to drink beyond her limit?  I didn’t know what her limit was, but I hoped my rudeness had not caused her to push past it.

The closer I got to my house the greater my dread became.  Imagining that my mother was at that moment either succumbing to alcohol poisoning or hanging herself in a closet, I sprinted the final half-block leading up to the door.  Before I even got there, I was kicking myself for being so selfish as to leave my mother alone for so long in the middle of the day.

pe

“Mom!  Mom?”  I slammed the door open, driving the doorknob into the wall.  Seeing nothing in the entranceway, I rushed into the living room.  The TV was on, showing the end of Judge Judy as it led into the local news, and my mother was lifeless on the couch.  Lifeless, except for the fact that she was snoring loudly.

Anger shot through me with instantaneous pain, and I almost lashed out at my mother, as I wanted to scream at her for ruining my opportunity with Sonia.  Of course she hadn’t ruined anything.  Clearly I’d screwed up my own opportunity for sex, and I couldn’t blame anyone.

Anyway that wouldn’t have been a good way to start a relationship, or so I’ve been told, so I told myself I was fine with it.  As I plopped into the recliner next to the couch, my mother’s pleasant, droning snore caused a faint smile to break across my lips.  For the next several hours, I watched TV while my mother lay passed out on the couch.

This was something that had happened many times before, me watching TV with my mom passed out on the couch, almost like it was some kind of sick tradition.  But this time, my mind was alive and excited.  I ran through all the possibilities for the future that I could think of.

I thought about the fact that me and Sonia had been hitting it off, and every conversation that we had left me wanting more.  When she’d told me not to apologize for something that wasn’t my fault, I’d felt blood rush up into my penis.  I don’t intend to be vulgar, but facts are facts.  Blood rushed into my penis and it became erect.

The fact is that I sat for a solid hour and a half with a raging boner, thinking of the way she’d cut through the bullshit and made that magical Sunday afternoon happen.  It wasn’t magical, really, and I might have really screwed up when I reacted to Sonia’s proposition the way that I did.

I hoped I hadn’t screwed up, and I didn’t think I had screwed it up, but I knew that just considering the outcome implies its potentiality, so I might have screwed it up.  But then I remembered that for the last three hours or more, me and Sonia had been hanging out as friends, and from friend to lover was an easy jump to make, in some cases at least.

I think me and Sonia’s was a case in which shifting from friend to intimate lover happens quickly and easily, or could.  And I’d missed my opportunity.  I raised my fist and crumpled it again painfully into my left thigh.  An involuntary groan slipped out of my mouth, and in that moment my mom began to stir.

She inhaled sharply and repeatedly, snorting and honking in between.  This was a pattern of behavior she repeated every time she woke up, and though I had once found it funny, it bored me now.  I rolled my eyes.  “Hey Mom,” I paused waiting to see if she’d opened her eyes.  She opened her eyes and smiled, “How’a you doin’?”

I tried to make my words slip out syrupy and sickeningly sweet, emphasizing their sarcasm with every overemphasized syllable.  Of course, my mom just groaned and gurgled, belching just for good measure before speaking.  “Sylvester,” she stood before me, blocking my view of the TV from the recliner.  “Whatta you want to eat tonight?  I’ve got some macaroni.”

“Yeah macaroni’ed be great, I’m goin’ out tonight.”  I was proud of myself, as I had cool news my mom was sure to enjoy.  My mother was very interested in my romantic life, and I was sure she would be delighted to hear about Sonia, but I didn’t feel like she’d earned details.

“Oh-you goin out?”  As she asked me about my plans in her own way, she kept busy heating up the macaroni.  “Who’re ya going out with?”

“This girl Sonia I met today at Dominick’s.  We talked a little then I spent a few hours at her house.  She lives over on Gunnison, I think.”

I tensed, forcing myself not to laugh thinking about the hurricane that must have been going on in my mother’s head, trying to remember if she’d ever met a Sonia.  I glanced up at my mother as she put shredded taco cheese on cold macaroni and heated it up in the skillet for me.

I knew, once I’d glanced at her, that she wasn’t going to ask me any questions.  I thought about it, and I realized that she’d spent the whole day drunk, basically, and she couldn’t really hear me at all.  She was either smashed and only barely noticing what was going on around her, or she was sober and pissed.

As selfish as I know the sentiment is, I sometimes think I’d prefer if she just got drunk every night.  If she did that I could feel free to stop worrying about her because there’d be no point.

Instead the two of us sat and stared at the TV for a couple hours.  Sitting right next to each other as I flipped from channel to channel, I had no idea whether she was awake or asleep.  I became part of the couch until 7:45, when I put on my shoes and left for the bowling alley.

Just before I left I glanced back at my mother, slumbering peacefully as the light from the TV made shapes on her face.

 

https://andrewhalteromniblog.com/2016/05/30/sylvester-volume-3/

https://andrewhalteromniblog.com/2016/05/16/sylvester-volume-2/

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

Sylvester (Volume 4)

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