Slice of Write

stories & jibber-jabber

I close my eyes and anxiously wait to hear my name.  My appointment time was 20 minutes ago, but I’m still sitting in this brown, uncomfortable chair.  The empty chair next to me has a gigantic dark stain on the back and on the seat.  I am curious, yet mortified, thinking who or what caused it.  The woman sitting across from me is scanning Facebook on her phone.  A couple sitting a few chairs down from me are softly chatting about what they are going to plant in their garden this spring.  The receptionist is on the phone trying to reschedule an appointment for a difficult patient. 

Despite the large window looking down from the second floor, into the parking lot, it still feels dark and stale in the room.  The window is completely useless.  Barely allowing any light in, and no foreseeable way to open the damn thing, I just want to scream.  I want to grab that disgusting chair next to me and throw it through the window.  I want to watch the chair fly through the air and quickly drop into the parking lot onto the gigantic Cadillac Escalade that is illegally parked in the first handicap parking spot in the front of the building.  The chair would make a large sound as it crashes through the windshield.  The jerk who parked there will come out of the building, start yelling and pointing up towards the broken window on the second floor. 

As I stand there, smiling, I take a deep breath, and then faintly hear my name being called.     

Marilyn lays in bed as she looks out the bedroom window.  She watches a pair of hummingbirds fly past the big oak tree.  Another beautiful morning, she thinks to herself as Anna enters the room.  Marilyn and Anna have shared a room at an assisted care facility for just over 8 months. 

“Nice of you to finally join the living,” Anna said as she sat down on her bed and placed her cane against the nightstand.

“I didn’t see you in bed, so thought you might have died last night,” Marilyn grinned.

“In your dreams,” Anna said.

“Maybe tomorrow,” Marilyn smirked.  “Why do you wake up so damn early anyway?  There’s nothing going on at 5 am in this place, except all of the other old geezers wandering the halls.”

“Habit, I guess.  Anyways, it’s quiet and I can hear myself think.”

“Why would you want to do that?”

“Hell, if I know, but you should try it some time.”

“Anna the Thinker, Jesus Christ, what is this world coming to?  Oh, Great One, what’s for breakfast?”

“Cold eggs and hot milk.”

“Oh, good.  I wouldn’t want it the other way around for Christ’s sake.”

“At least they are consistent.  I’ll give them that,” Anna said as she started thumbing through a magazine. 

Marilyn slowly got up, grabbed her walker, and headed towards the bathroom.

“Make sure to use that febreze.  Yesterday it smelled like a dairy farm in there,” Anna shouted as Marilyn shut the bathroom door.  Marilyn slightly opened the door, just enough to give Anna the middle finger, and then slammed the door shut.

About twenty minutes later, Marilyn came out of the bathroom dressed in her day clothes. 

“I was getting ready to call the nurse on you.  I thought you might have fallen in there,” Anna said as she changed the stations on the tv remote.

“I told you, don’t call the nurse unless it’s Jackson.  I don’t like the other ones.”

“Ok, so if you are laying on the floor, and Jackson is not around, you want me to leave you on the floor until he clocks in?”

“You know what I want.  Don’t play dumb like my children.”

“Are they coming to visit tomorrow?”  Anna asked gently.

“I haven’t heard from them so I’m not sure,” Marilyn said as she slowly sat on the chair near her bed and started digging in her purse.

“Screw ‘em,” Anna smiled.  “That’s why I never had any.  Ungrateful bastards.  All they do is take.  You give up your body, the prime of your life for them, and then when you need them, those assholes are too busy to stop by for an hour to see you.”

“You didn’t have any kids because your husband was smart enough not to let you procreate.  And for your information, it’s not like that.  They are busy.  I know they love me.”

“I still say screw ‘em,” Anna grabbed her cane, got up from her bed, and walked over to Marilyn.  “Do you want to get some breakfast?  They are getting ready to shut it down in 15 minutes.”

“Sure.” 

Anna carefully helped Marilyn up from the chair and onto her walker, using her cane to stable her.  They walk slowly down the long hallway, saying hello to other residents and facility staff along the way.  Anna doesn’t remove her hand from Marilyn’s back until they enter the dining room. 

Why did I drink that large iced tea at lunch?  I knew I had this staff meeting right after, and they can drone on for up to two hours.  We were about an hour in when I started to feel that all too familiar urge to flee to the restroom.  I normally would just get up and leave the meeting, but I came in right before it started, and got stuck in a seat near the front, next to my boss.  I would have to climb over him and the other five people around me.  Our conference room is not big enough for all of us, so it’s always hot and overcrowded during these meetings.  People sweating and fanning themselves like it’s a fourth of July picnic in the there. 

I tried to casually glance at my watch…again.  Damn, it had only been 3 minutes from the last time I checked it.  How is that possible?  Nancy was still talking about development mailers that nobody cared about except their department.  I uncrossed and then crossed my legs again.  I nodded and smiled at Nancy.  She smiled back at me.  This half-listening thing really works.  No wonder my husband does it to me.  Gary, sitting 2 people down the table from me, is tapping his stupid pen on the table again.  I want to grab his pen and throw it across the room.  How can he not know how annoying that sound is? 

My boss says something and then calls my name.  It’s my turn to bore my co-workers with the status of my projects.  I list off the top 3 things I’m working on, all while trying not to show I’m holding in a liter of iced tea, and that I may explode at any moment.  I finish talking and check my watch again.  We are going on an hour and 45 minutes at this point.  Ten minutes later the meeting finally ends, and people start unfolding themselves from the conference room.  My boss stops me for a minute to tell me about some stupid email he received and how he is going to forward it to me.  Blah Blah Blah.  I smile and run out of the room like a crazy lady in my bathrobe pushing into a Wal-Mart on Black Friday. 

I slip my cell phone into my notebook and throw the notebook on the bathroom counter to save it from sitting on the ground.  Just the thought of leaving it on the bathroom floor grosses me out.  I run to the closest stall, slam the door, and undress.  Just as I was about to release this horrific liquid from my body, I hear a voice.  “Hello, Hello,” it took me only two seconds to realize it was my mom’s voice.  What is she doing in the restroom?  Oh crap, it’s coming from the cell phone!  “Hello.  Anyone there?”  Oh my God!  I must have butt dialed her when I threw my phone in the notebook.  I hear someone enter the bathroom and go into a stall a few doors down.  My mom is still bellowing “Hello!”  Jesus Christ, please hang up! 

I finally make the decision to quickly reassemble myself, run to the notebook, and hang up on my poor mom.   I run back into the restroom and start the routine all over again.  I finally relieve myself.  In mid-stream I hear my phone ring.  I’m sure it is my mom calling to ask if I butt dialed her.  When I finally finish my business, I wash my hands, and take my notebook and phone back to my cubicle.  I text my mom back, told her I’m sorry, and that I would call her after work.  I sit down at my desk and throw the styrofoam cup that held the evil, delicious iced tea into the trash can.  I completely miss.  I chuckle to myself as I stand up, pick the cup off of the ground, and throw it away. 

It was a bright afternoon on a Sunday.  Today was the first weekend in April and the sun was shining.  It made the 62-degree weather feel like 80.  I stopped at the bodega near my house for a pack of cigarettes.  I was determined to quit…tomorrow.  I have failed many times before, but my fiancé told me she is pregnant, so I promised I would really quit.  I am stuck in line behind 3 light-skinned guys in their 20’s making stupid jokes about some girls they supposedly partied with last night.  I pretend not to hear them and focus on the cigarettes behind Jakob, the owner of this store since I can remember.  A minute later they finally leave and we each breathe a sigh of relief. 

After a few moments of pleasantries, while I buy my pack of cigarettes, I walk out the door and towards the subway about three blocks north.  I see the guys from the bodega jay walk across the street.  I wonder where they are going.  I hope not to the subway station.  I look further down the street and notice a dark-skinned man, probably in his 20’s, walking in the same direction as me.  He is carrying a gray colored messenger or computer bag.  Even from across the street I can hear those three guys talking and laughing.  I can’t make out what they are saying, but they seem to be gaining on the guy with the messenger bag.  I keep heading in the same direction.  Every few seconds I glance across the street to check on the guy being followed by those loud-mouthed idiots. 

A minute later my cell phone rings.  It’s my brother.  We chat for about 30 seconds and then I look across the street.  The three guys are now talking to the messenger bag guy.  I tell my brother I have to go and abruptly hang up the phone.  They don’t seem to be friends or know each other.  The guy with the messenger bag seems to be walking faster now, probably trying to get away from them. 

Should I turn around and just find a cab?  I don’t want to get involved in this, but that guy could be in trouble.  Three against one isn’t fair.  What am I going to do?  I’m an out of shape, project manager at an architecture firm.  I stop in the middle of the sidewalk.  Why is it my responsibility to do something?  There are other people on the street walking, riding their bikes, going about their day.  If they noticed anything out of the ordinary, they would do something, right?  Maybe I am overreacting. 

I look over one more time and can’t believe my eyes.  This is happening in my neighborhood.  This has to stop.  My adrenaline and common sense kick in and I yell the fiercest and the loudest roar I have ever heard come out of my body.  I run between cars on the road.  I have no idea what I am going to do when I make it to the other side of the street, but I have to do something.  Enough is enough!

It was another 100+ degree day in July on the 10 freeway somewhere between Arizona and New Mexico.  Alex was driving his 2008 Honda civic, while his girlfriend of 3 years, Abby, attempted to find a radio station that would come in clearly.

“I give up,” Abby leaned back in the passenger seat.  “We must literally be in the middle of nowhere,” she snickered.

“There are worse places we could be,” Alex smiled.

“Oh yeah, where?  The Bermuda triangle?” Abby asked as she fumbled to find her water bottle that had fallen under the seat.  “Well, I guess it would be cooler there.”

“I was thinking more along the lines of being at work, or your mom’s house,” Alex chuckled.

“At least we would be well fed at my mom’s house.  I can never find anything to eat at your parent’s house.  I don’t think they eat anything except wheat thins and yogurt.”

“The diet of champions,” Alex said as he wiped his brow.

“Can we turn up the air conditioning yet?” Abby asked.

“I don’t want the car to overheat.”

“Why are Manny and Jes getting married in the middle of July?  It’s like hell out here.”

“Maybe it’s cheaper to get married in hell in the summertime.”  They laughed.

“Hmm, kind of like having a January wedding in Wisconsin,” Abby smiled.

“Can you grab me a soda?” Alex asked as he tried to readjust himself in the seat.

“Sure,” Abby said as she unbuckled her seat belt and maneuvered herself to the cooler sitting behind Alex’s seat.  Alex smiled and playfully slapped Abby’s butt.

“What the hell?” Abby scolded.  She sat back in her seat and put the soda in the middle cup holder.

“Alex wiped his hand on his pants.  “You must be hot.  Your ass is sweaty!”  He laughed.

“Shut up!”  Abby laughed as she lightly punched Alex on the arm.

“Are you going to open the can?”  Alex asked sweetly.

“Oh my God, seriously?”

“Hey, I’m driving.  You’re the passenger and it’s your job to ensure my needs are met so we can arrive at our destination safely,” Alex grinned knowing what Abby’s reaction would be.

Abby rolled her eyes and opened the can.

“Thank you,” Alex smiled.

“I’m starving.”  Abby started fumbling in her purse looking for any signs of food.  She normally keeps snacks in her purse, but has a habit of not replacing them after she has finished the last one.

“We had breakfast 2 hours ago.  How can you be starving?” Alex asked.

“It’s a lot of work meeting your every need,” Abby smirked.  She pulled a package of peanut m&ms from her purse.  “Yes!” She softly yelled.  Abby carefully opened the bag to ensure no little chocolate goodies escaped.  Abby fed Alex the green ones she came across.  Alex wasn’t much of a chocolate fan, but for some reason he had an obsession with green peanut m&ms. 

“You’re the best,” he said as he chomped down.

“I know,” Abby said as she started fumbling with the radio dial again.

The Mask:

Wow, did she really have to add extra onions for lunch?  It’s bad enough she is constantly spitting, talking, breathing into me with her normal, hot breath, but the ungodly smell of leftovers is killing me.  I wish the pack of masks that I came with included a bottle of mints.  Ouch, stop pulling, lady!  She is always tugging at my strings or readjusting me.  She can’t just leave me alone!  I scan the other masks in the office.

“Hey, what’s up patty?”  I ask the green bandana attached to some old guy’s face.

“Not much.  This fool finally washed me last night,” Patty scoffed.

“Aw lucky.  I was washed two days ago and already have a lipstick stain on me again,” I said as Patty abruptly left the room.

I count the hours until we get to go home and she can take me off.  She’ll throw me on the counter, next to her keys and wallet, and all three of us will breathe a sigh of relief that we get a break from her.

The Lady:

This mask is so annoying.  Sometimes it feels so loose, like it’s going to slip off my face, and other times I swear it’s choking me.  I think it has a mind of its own.  The mask makes my body temperature rise another 20 degrees, so I am always sweating and breathing hard.

“Hey, Jeff.  How’s it going?” I ask as I make my way to the supply closet.

“Did you see Trisha’s email?”  Jeff asked.

“Yes, I’ll respond and let her know I am working on it,” I said politely as I grimaced under the mask.

“Good,” Jeff said as he abruptly walked out of the room.

Jerk!  I scream in my head as I wipe the sweat pooling at my mouth.  I count the hours until I get to go home.  I can’t wait to tear this thing off my face and be able to breathe again. 

I first noticed it in the bathroom mirror.  No, this can’t be happening.  It must be the lighting.  I leaned in closer to the mirror as a predator ready to hunt its prey, just as I have seen my cat, Snake, do so many times before.  Maybe my eyes were getting bad.  The thought of having to increase my eye glass prescription soothed my quick beating heart.  There, in my mother’s dimly lit, pepto-bismol colored cell, I accepted my defeat.  The victor was a small gray hair sticking out of my right eyebrow.  “Son of a bitch,” I whispered intently at the little menace.  It didn’t speak back.  It didn’t have to.  Its presence alone did all of the talking.  The transformation of myself into my father had officially begun.

After a few moments of just staring at each other, I decided it was time to take action.  I wasn’t going to succumb so easily to fate.  I fumbled through my travel bag for my weapon of choice.  I started to panic when I couldn’t find anything to use against this horrid villain.  Finally, I felt my tweezers at the bottom of the bag and positioned them instinctively.  I was a man on a mission – the gray beast must die!  I yanked the monster from the forest with a sense of awe, and a rush of extreme pain.  “Son of a bitch!” I exclaimed again as I gasped in pain.  I leaned in to take a look at the aftermath of my killing spree. 

I noticed it right away.  The gray hair smiling back at me.  His arrogance mocking me.  I examined my weapon.  In its claw of destruction lay a black, perfect eyebrow hair.  A causality of war.  Sorry, my dear friend.  The anger bubbled inside of me.  Not only did I fail to destroy the gray beast; I accidentally killed an ally in the process.  Revenge set in as I grabbed the tweezers and leaned in once again for the kill.  Seconds of fumbling, positioning the weapon in its place, felt like weeks.  I started sweating.  This gray monster was a good warrior, which is why I had to be a great one. 

The second pluck didn’t hurt as much as the first.  I quickly stared at my face in the mirror.  I didn’t see the gray beast hiding among my comrades.  I jerk the tweezers to eye level and there it was, the gray beast, laying still and hopeless in its claws.  My worthy opponent now dead.  I celebrate with a quiet yell and pump my fists into the air.  The party is cut short as I realize there will be others that follow.  His comrades will seek revenge.  They may strike hard and fast at any time.  I must be ready.  We must be ready.  I clean the tweezers and carefully put them back in my travel pouch.  “Sleep well, my friend,” I whisper as I gently close the zipper.

It was one of those weird days in March where you could sit outside and enjoy the sun without freezing to death.  I was sitting on the patio of my favorite café, enjoying the 60-degree heat wave sweeping the Midwest, while catching up on the news on my phone.  I deliberately ordered my Americano iced this morning to keep the spring feeling alive.  I couldn’t help but smile as I took turns drinking my coffee and eating my delicious piece of coffee cake.  This is the life.  Saturday morning and nowhere specific to be.  No work today, laundry is pretty much done, and the grocery store is tomorrow’s problem. 

A good- looking guy in his mid-to-late 40’s sits at a nearby table.  He pulls out a laptop from his computer bag and begins to set up.  He is dressed in jeans and a nice black button-down jacket.  I try to see if he has a wedding ring, but it’s not possible at this angleThe last date I had been on was about a month ago and I’m still recovering.  I met Jared at a mutual friend’s party and we hit it off.  He was one of those guys that seemed great in one setting, but completely different in another.  I couldn’t even believe that I had liked this guy.  During the party, he had a good sense of humor, and made me laugh.  During our date, all he talked about was himself. 

Specifically, he talked about how he had a picturesque childhood, and a wonderful New England upbringing.  He explained how it was always his dream to go to Harvard, and when he got accepted, he knew he was destined for greatness.  At this point in the date, I was frantically searching for the waiter to bring me a second glass of wine before we started the college years portion of his autobiography.  Needless to say, by dessert, he was just finishing up on how he ended up here to run his Uncle’s PR firm.  I was so buzzed I couldn’t stop myself from smiling, even though showing him any signs of encouragement was the furthest thing I had wanted to do.  As I had foreseen, he interpreted my crazy grin as flirting, and asked if I wanted to go back to his place.  I started giggling uncontrollably and said no because I had to wake up early.  He asked why since tomorrow is Sunday.  I imagine from the deadly silent ride home, and awkward hug goodnight at my door, that my excuse of having to wake up early to get to the bank did not fly. 

Suddenly, my coffee cake had disappeared, and all that was left were a few random crumbs on the paper bag.  If the cute guy in his 40’s wasn’t here, I probably would have carefully swept the remnants of the sweet breakfast cake into my hands and devoured them.  Sigh.  I could always get another piece.  Better not.  I have been down that road before and it’s not pretty.  I have to save some calories for eating later.  It’s only breakfast and I am sure I am already over the allotted 500 calories a day allowed by celebrities and super models.  I read these diets online and in magazines of what stars eat on a daily basis.  Fresh fruit for breakfast, slices of avocado and salad with no dressing for lunch, celery sticks and yogurt for a snack, and then a chicken breast with tomato slices for dinner.  Oh no.  How are people able to function on that type of diet?  I could eat all of that in a normal sitting and still feel hungry.  Do the women on these diets have a period?  If you are pmsing, you must add an additional 500 calories of chocolate and/or peanut butter to your diet to compensate.  It is the only thing that will get you through that long day at work of cramps, popping advil, and running to the bathroom every hour. 

I work as an office manager at a large IT firm downtown.  It’s a great job and I enjoy the people I work with for the most part.  The Human Resources Director I could live without, but she treats everyone badly, so I can’t complain.  She is like a villain in a movie.  You always need an antagonist for a good story line.  Carly fills that role perfectly.  She is very by-the-book, rarely laughs, let alone smiles, and enjoys walking the halls in search of someone or something to complain about at the next management meeting.  Whether it be too much talking by the water cooler, the receptionist trying to get away with wearing Birkenstocks again, or Debbie, one of the project managers, taking one of her “Debbie lunches.”  The term is lovingly defined as Debbie leaving the office by 11:55 a.m. and then reappearing somewhere around 1:30 p.m. 

That’s not even the best part.  The funniest thing about Debbie is that she’ll be the first one out of her seat when the clock strikes 5:00 p.m.  You better not be standing in her path or you’ll regret it.  She’s like a tornado swirling in the office and knocking everyone and everything out of her way.  We always try and guess where she is running off to because she is divorced, and her two grown children do not live in the area, so the grandchildren are not around. My favorite deduction comes from Mary.  She thinks Debbie goes to salsa dancing lessons.  It would explain why Debbie is so quick on her feet. Glen thinks it’s for shooting practice.  I think it’s so she can go home, feed her five cats, and watch Ellen on her dvr.  We threaten that one day we will follow Debbie and see which one of us is right.  Although that would ruin the fun of guessing, and then what would we talk about?

The cute guy stands up, gathers his stuff, and is on his way.  Oh well, maybe I will grab that second piece of coffee cake after all. 

“Calvin: It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy…Let’s go exploring!”

– Bill Watterson

I took a deep breath as I shut the dressing room door.  It takes the heart of a saint and the gusto of a warrior to thumb through the endless racks of clothes in hopes of finding that perfect fit, color, and size.  The door wouldn’t fully close, so I opened it up again, and slammed it shut.  I jumped back as I startled myself with the loud noise.  The dressing rooms on each side of me shook like an earthquake.  I slid the cheap lock into place, hoping that it remained secure against any overzealous soccer moms or teenagers anxious to try on their own armful of clothing.  I put the potential purchases on the hook and quickly removed my shoes, jeans, and sweater. 

I sneak a quick glance of myself in the mirror.  I was reminded of the 20 pounds I had promised myself I was going to lose before my birthday next month.  The navy suit pants felt nice until I started pulling them over my hips.  The pants betrayed me and suddenly they were squeezing the life out of my soul.  The tussle continued and I finally got the exasperated material above my waist.  Before the pants could retaliate, I quickly and forcefully buttoned them.  I looked in the mirror and saw that my face was flushed, I was sweating, and my hair was a mess.  I composed myself and slipped on the white blouse with blue flowers I had chosen to pair with the pants.  It fit perfectly if my boobs were the size of watermelons.  Apparently, wearing size large means I should I have breasts to account for my stature.  I am a size 10 with average breasts.  Or, at least, I thought they were average.  In this shirt, they looked like peanuts floating in an Olympic size swimming pool.   

I took the blouse off and hung it back up.  I looked down at the pants glued to the bottom half of my body.  The slow removal of the enemy quickly turned into a pulling and kicking match to get him off of me.  Moments later I let out a sigh of relief as I pulled the last inch of fabric from my body and threw him across the dressing room.  Oh, sweet victory is mine!  I sat down on the tiny chair in the dressing room to catch my breath and celebrate my win.  My waist and legs were covered in red.  Collateral damage.  I looked at the remaining clothes on the hook.  I put my mangled hair into a ponytail and wiped the sweat from my brow.  I gracefully stood up, and whispered to myself, “let’s do this,” as I grabbed the next potential threat off the hanger.