Cold Dinner

 

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He vehemently stared at the screen.

Technopathy failed. Nothing creative or profound had materialized in his thoughts or Word Processor. His muse was an unsurprising no-show. Why waste inspiration on atrocious writers like him? Right?

“What’s up?” She asked.

“Suffering.” He typed a paragraph.

“Food’s getting cold.”

“Cool.” He deleted everything.

“Hurry… Eat.” She rested a full plate between them. “You’re probably hungry.”

“Probably am…”  He reached for the plate.

Stomach’s tight. Extremely lethargic.

He hadn’t eaten sinc-

Pap!

She slapped the biscuit out of his hand. “Food’s on the stove.”

Seriously?” He asked.

“Grab yourself a plate.”

Well, damn.

The Penalty for honesty… at work.

What’s the penalty for honesty at work? I wondered as I pretended to work.

I stared out the window for a moment.

My heart skipped a beat when my boss entered the room. I froze.

Gotta look busy. Look valuable. 

She quietly entered her office and shut the door.

What’s the penalty for my honesty? I pondered at I scrolled desperately through my social media feed for good news, a motivational post, or photographs of the nieces, nephews, and godchildren I never get to see.

There’s a seemingly immovable forty hour a week boulder in the middle of my existence. Unshakable. Immovable. Virtually unbreakable. Boulder.

I yawned. I stretched. I checked my text messages as I stretched.

I wondered. If I revealed to them… I’m overwhelmed. Can’t seem to get a foothold on the work. Can’t seem to get it together. Can’t tell whether its boredom or incompetence on my part. 

My stomach hurt. Terrible gas.

I skipped breakfast. Late for work again. So much to think about. So much to do. So little time. Vacation was nothing more than the space between misery. Like work release or yard time. I was being melodramatic.

What if I revealed to them that they need not smile in my direction. I know you don’t like me. I know you think I’m incompetent– when I make a mistake– and beneath you. I know you think I was hired to work under you and serve you– which I probably was. 

I stood. Stretch my legs.

What if I was honest with them about myself? What if I admitted to myself and to them that I was equally as fake? I don’t like you either. But I return your illusion with one of my own. Because I understand my role is to make them comfortable. And how crucial it is to the job, and my livelihood, 

I sat. Powered the scanner.

Error.

I restarted the machine.

Same results.

I softly pounded my fist on the desk.

I’m the only tool in the office not allowed to malfunction. And, the easiest to replace.

I slumped in my chair.

Can they tell I dig my nails into my forearms when they dress me down in front of my peers? Can they read in my eyes how much sleep I lose thinking about all the stuff I have to do the next day? Or the people I have to deal with. Or, how I can’t handle the amount of work they are tossing my way Probably not.

“Good Morning,” One of my smiley supervisors greeted.

“Good Morning,” I replied with a smile bright enough to overload a solar powered city.

“How’s everything going?” Smiley Supervisor asked.

“Excellent!” I replied as my face started to get sore from smiling. “Working on this and then I’ll head back and work on your stuff.”

“Okay, great!” Smiley Supervisor said, returning to her office.

Couldn’t afford to be honest. No matter how hard I crunched the numbers, I just couldn’t afford it.

Addicted to Headphones

headphone sketch

INT. HOUSE – DAY

MAN seated at TABLE.  Listening to HEADPHONES. Drinking COFFEE from MUG.

Sound bleeds from MAN’s headphones. Indecipherable talking. Sound effects from headphones. Screams. Lasers. Swords.

WOMAN seated across from MAN. Staring intently at LAPTOP. Drinking COFFEE from MUG which has BRIDE boldly inscribed on its face.

 

WOMAN

You’re addicted to headphones.

 

WOMAN looks up. Intensely stares at man. Awaiting an answer. Slightly irritated expression.

MAN looks up. Matches eyes with WOMAN. Removes headphones.

 

MAN

(puzzled look)

Huh?

 

WOMAN stares for a beat.

 

WOMAN

Never mind.

 

MAN

Cool.

 

MAN smiles at WOMAN. Returns headphones to ears. Increases VOLUME.

 

 

 

 

A real man would…

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He remembered quietly leaving his seat, pretending the next stop was his. He remembered wanting to be subtle. Not wanting it to seem to the young mother as if he was offering his seat her. He didn’t want the attention. Especially since the young mother’s husband -or boyfriend- called out all men on the train for not giving his wife and daughter their seat. Didn’t want it to seem he gave up the seat on account of the guy.

He left the conference room.

He wanted to speak freely.

Nosey coworkers lurking.

“Is it a man’s responsibility?” He asked Marcey over the phone.

How old’s the child?” Marcey asked.

“About five,” He replied.

Hmmmm… I’d give them the seat,” Marcey declared.

He clasped his eyes.

“Hold on a sec,” He lowered his phone and walked further up the hall.

He was hungry and felt a headache forming.

He hadn’t gotten a break since he sat down to log into his desktop. It was the day of the Christmas party. He wondered how the hell he got caught up in coordinating the event. Especially before he drank his morning coffee. Sure, it was nice to be away from his work, even though he knew dam well it was all piling up as he decorated the cheese and cracker tray. But being away from his desk didn’t mean he was away from hard labor. All so his coworkers could show up, eat, and leave him and a few others to clean up the mess.

He yawned.

He was just cranky. And tired from the six miles he ran that morning. From the Wing Chun class the night prior. And he was even crankier and more tired on the train. He needed the seat, but he gave it up to the woman and child anyway.

“I don’t know that I would,” He told Marcey. “Is that bad? I guess if the kid can’t stand on their own. What do you think?”

What do you think?” Marcey asked.

“I don’t know,” He replied. “The woman’s guy declared men should stand for mothers.”

Okay,” Marcey said.

“Makes sense right?” He said “Women have the children. Its the least a man can do.”

I guess.” Marcey sounded uncertain. “Eat anything?”

“I’ll eat something at the party,” He replied.

“Okay dear… Talk later?” Marcey said .

“Sure, talk later,” He ended the call.

He wondered…  Does or should a real man give up his seat for a woman with a child? A woman with child? An older woman. He would. He should. As long as he could. But is that something he should do as a man? Or is it a societal construct weaved into basic human decency. Or was he thinking too much?

He rejoined his coworkers in the conference room.

More work to be done. An hour until party time. He decided he’d have to ponder the idea of what it meant to be a man later. After coffee. Whence cleaned up after his adult coworkers.

 

 

 

Applications are a drag. (Thank goodness the apocalypse is coming).

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He knew they made the application process mind-numbing-ly long and tedious on purpose. It was to scare away unqualified applicants and people who did not truly give a flying shit about working there. People like him. Unqualified. Not unqualified because they could not do the work. Unqualified because they didn’t give a shit about doing the work.

He squirmed in his seat.

It’d been an hour but it felt like longer.

Why the hell would they ask him to input his full job history and upload his resume. Seemed redundant to him considering everything they needed and asked for was included on his resume. What a drag, he thought.

“What?” Marcey asked him.

“Boring,” He replied. “And a waste of time.”

“Everything bores you.”

“Just this… this  worthless piece of shit process.”

“Well, its the process.”

He wondered why Marcey put up with his impatience. His immaturity. His stubbornness. His questionable attention span.

He completed his work history and saved his progress before moving onto the next section.

Training and Education. 

He took a deep breath.

Almost complete. Or so he believed. Or so he hoped.

He finished his wine.

If she could put up with him and his attitude for years then he could put up with filling out a single stupid application for a night. It was only fair. Though, the idea of sacrificing the few waking hours he had to himself to complete some stupid application for a job he didn’t want anyway filled him with dread. So much dread. Feelings threatened to cripple the application process.

“Shit.” He sank in his chair.

“Language,” Marcey warned.

“Browser froze.” He tried returning to the previous form. “Didn’t save nothing.”

“Oh man,” She replied. “Do it over.”

“Can’t,” He panicked. “Won’t let me.”

His blood started to boil

A whole hour of his life, potentially wasted. There was no way in hades he would waste another doing another application.

“No way,” He said. “I’ll wait til it thaws.”

“What?” Marcey asked.

“Thaws… Unfreezes,” He replied.

Marcey shook her head. “Strange man.”

He threw his head back against his chair.

“Could have been halfway done with a new one,” Marcey said.

Of course, Marcey was correct. He could have halfway completed another application in the time he was waiting for the window to unfreeze.

“Damn.” He closed the browser.

“That computer is trash,” Marcey said.

He restarted his trash portable laptop.

“So stupid,” He said to himself.

“Sorry, babe,” Marcey said.

“Didn’t want to start over.”

He was furious but kept how he felt to himself.

He restarted the browser.

None of that nine to five plantation bullcrap was going to matter soon anyway. He planned to be self employed. No more putting in stupid applications and begging people for work. He’d rather be homeless or die than to spend the little youth he had left than taking peoples orders. And those horrible commutes… If he wasn’t so afraid of Marcey, he’d pound his fist on the table in disgust.

He entered his username and password.  Logged into the job site. Returned to the application.

A newsfeed window popped up on the bottom corner of his screen. Something about a conflict. Threats of nuclear war.

Soon that nine to five torture wasn’t going to matter. The direction the world was heading, the apocalypse was going to wipe out everything anyway. And only people like him were going to survive. People who understood how fragile and volatile the illusion of living a responsible adult life really was. One nuke. One meteor collision. One caldera eruption. One viral or zombie outbreak away from total anarchy. From wiping away the illusion. Christ will return Oh… he thought in his best Yoruba accent. The thought of judgment day and the impending doom filled him with joy. After the application he’d search Amazon for early Black Friday deals on survival gear and a crossbow.

His application loaded. Everything he’d input…. was…. there.

No survival gear or crossbow shopping now, he thought. The apocalypse would have to wait until after his interview. Marcey tweaked his resume. He was confident there would be an interview in the coming weeks.

“Hey.” He scrolled through his application. “Looks like it saved.”

“Great,” Marcey said.

“Yeah,” He replied. “All there.”

Marcey blew him a kiss.

“Thanks,” He said.

He wondered why she put up with him. But knew why he was able to be an adult and put up with another job application…. For her. Marcey was all the reason he needed.

 

 

You’re the distraction. SMH.

Finger

He added a resource to shared spreadsheet.

This was their first meeting. First week of their weekly conference call. Something he’d been waiting for since he started that literary project so many months ago. Since he decided he wanted to write stories for a living. To be a part of an actual team full of people who shared his literary goals.

Marcey was looking in his direction. Not only looking but staring.

He tried to ignore her but couldn’t.

“Yes?” He asked Marcey.

“Nothing,” She kept staring.

It was something. He knew it was something.

“What is it?” He asked.

The kitchen was cold. Definitely a draft coming from the window.

“You cold?” He asked.

“No, you?”

He shook his head.

He considered asking adjusting the temperature. Changed his mind when he remembered Marcey’s sixty six degree rule. Heat only goes on  when temperature drops below sixty six degrees. The thermostat read seventy degrees last time he checked.

It felt colder than seventy. At least ten degrees colder.

He caught Marcey staring again.

He groaned. “Stop staring.”

“Sorry,” Marcey said. “Your hair.”

“What about it?

“Your hair’s distracting.”

“Oh lord.”

“You need a cut.”

He’d heard that distraction talk before and promised himself he wouldn’t take the bait.

“Not doing this tonight,” He said.

“Guys? You there?” Stacey asked on the phone.

He almost forgot Stacey, third writing partner and Marcey’s sibling, was on the phone. Ready to work.

“Sorry.” He raised the volume on the phone. “No more distractions.”