Job

All posts tagged Job

On being random, dismantling and finally updating.

Published June 27, 2016 by mandileighbean

It’s been over two months since the last time I posted, and there’s nothing I want more than to tell you I’ve been doing wonderfully interesting things, that I’ve been really and truly living. But that would be a hyperbole. I’ve been alive, yes, and I’ve done some fun things, yes, but nothing that should keep me from writing.

So let’s catch up, shall we?

I haven’t lost any weight, but I have gained some. I haven’t really been trying, as I’ve felt mostly unmotivated and uninspired lately. Is this summertime sadness? Is this some looming emotional, existential crisis that has finally landed? Am I just melodramatic? Rather than answer these questions, I usually eat a bag of potato chips (the ones that say “Family Size”) and fall asleep on my couch.

I think I’ve identified one behavior that needs to change.

I wish I had a camera that could take quality pictures of the moon and do its beauty justice.

“A heart that hurts is heart that works.”

I don’t fantasize about sex. I fantasize about intimacy; how sad is that?

I think a duck must have a perfect life. They just float on, no matter if the water is calm or choppy. They can take off and fly whenever they want. If the only dunk their heads in the water, they have food. It’s simple and free, and I am envious.

I am done romanticizing broken men, as if loving them adds something noble to my character.

“I don’t hold grudges. I believe that’s the shit that leads to cancer.”

The school year ended on a high note. The senior events I was charged with helping to plan (Mr. Manchester, Senior Prom, graduation) all went off without a hitch. I am proud of the work I’ve done.

“Nothing is ever over.”

I really need to use my upstairs more. I don’t have central air though, so during the summer, the temperature is almost unbearable up there. So I’m in pretentiously self-proclaimed “office,” but it’s dark in here. It’s really dark in my house. I’ll say it’s to keep it cool, since I don’t have central air, but in all honesty, it’s because I’ve been too broke to afford light bulbs and now that I do have money, I’m simply too lazy to buy some and replaced the old ones.

“I know what I want, and I don’t mind being alone.”

It’s really dark in my house. I’ll say it’s to keep it cool, since I don’t have central air, but in all honesty, it’s because I’ve been too broke to afford light bulbs and now that I do have money, I’m simply too lazy to buy some and replaced the old ones.

This is what a successful adult looks like, no?

The literary agent who requested the first fifty pages rejected me, but my original publisher is still thinking about it. What’s that saying, when God closes a door, He opens a window? I’m feeling ambivalent to everything, mostly because I’m sunburned and it hurts so I’m cranky.

I like collecting little, seemingly unimportant details of the people in my life to better craft my characters.

When school was in session, I realized that the worst thing about leaving my house each weekday morning wasn’t having to bid adieu to my comfortable bed and its cozy covers, but that I miss the early sunlight streaming through the windows and lighting the wooden floors. It’s beautiful, and I was sad I could never just sit and admire it. But now I can. I think that’s how life is supposed to work.

I do this thing sometimes where I just sit in my car. I might leave the engine running, or I might shut it off, but either way, I sit in the driver’s seat, scrolling through the social media garbage on my phone or playing Tetris. It’s wasting time, one of the most precious gifts, and I hate it. I don’t know why I do it. Is it exhaustion? Is it moodiness? I abhor how lazy I am. I had an idea for a scene for my third novel, but the details have faded. I remember it had something to do with a modest, upstairs library and someone watching on anxiously as someone else carefully surveyed the titles. I wanted to throw in visiting a favorite author’s grave, but there was definitely more to it, like dancing or something? I need to write things down more often … obviously.

“Wanting it doesn’t make you the monster, taking it does.”

Some days, I just waste the hours until I can go back to sleep.

“You can fail at what you don’t want to do, so you might as well do what you love.”

I’ve been in a miserable sort of funk, so I’m endeavoring to change my life. My friend thinks I need to be comfortable alone before I can be comfortable with someone. She recommended hiking, picnicking, wine on the beach, seeing movies, and getting coffee. I also think I should leave the state. I’ve been dying to go to Key West in Florida. This summer, I’ve decided to dismantle myself from the inside out, rebuilding to be more carefree, more creative, more in love with myself and less dependent on others. Some days, I have to talk myself into getting out of the shower, and even then, I change into pajamas.

But I’m trying to be positive, I swear. I’ve begun keeping a running list of things that make me happy to be alive (in no particular order).

  • fireworks on a summer night
  • driving my Jeep without its roof and doors
  • sunburn (as long as it turns tan)
  • books (even the shitty ones because they’re non-examples for my career)
  • clean sheets
  • hot showers
  • food, glorious food!
  • running and being sweaty after a run because it helps me to love my body
  • good movies
  • laughing
  • the national pride fearlessly displayed by soccer fans

“The effect you have on others is the greatest currency you’ll ever have.”

I recently lost a banana for 24 hours.

“I’m ripe with things to say. The words rot and fall away.”

So, here’s an excerpt from the novel I’m working on. You should hit “play” on the video that follows now, so you can have a soundtrack. Ironically, the song playing is not the one I quote in the paragraph that follows. I wish I knew why I do the things that I do.

“The thing about things is that they can start meaning things nobody actually said, and if he couldn’t make something mean something for me, I had to make up what it meant.”
– Amanda Palmer

Kelly dropped the box filled with odds and ends concerning the kitchen with an exaggerated, dramatic sigh of relief. The box landed on Charlotte’s tiny, cheaply and poorly made kitchen table, a piece of furniture she had salvaged from her grandmother’s home, a piece that had likely been in the home for forty years – a horrible blend of Formica and putrid pastels. For a moment, Charlotte had been hopeful the weight of the box would crush the table and put the ugly thing out of its misery, but she had no such luck. She watched Kelly similarly drop herself into a chair, sweaty and tired from a day spent moving, a day of manual labor. “I don’t want to do this anymore,” she whined.

Charlotte offered a grin of commiseration. “I know, me neither.” She moved a few steps closer, resting against the back of a chair.

“Then let’s call it quits and do something better.”

“Like what? As you can tell, I haven’t got much of anything.”

Kelly thought for a moment. “You got playing cards?”

“I think so,” Charlotte said. She knew damn well that she did, but she was playing it cool for no other reason than it was a habit turned instinct. It was irrational – there was no way Kelly would give a shit about how those cards came to be in Charlotte’s possession, or how seeing those cards made Charlotte’s dumb heart skip a beat even now, even though she was nearly 1,000 miles away.

Kelly’s face of thoughtful concentration broke into a youthful smile of excitement. “Well, shoot – I’ve got beer and some of them crisps. How’s ’bout you and me play us a few rounds of cards?”

“Sure,” Charlotte smiled. Kelly scurried back to her neighboring apartment to scrounge up some beer and some snacks, and Charlotte headed to her bedroom. At the foot of her bed, upon the creaky floor, sat a box labeled, “PERSONAL.” It had been the only box Charlotte had personally moved, had tucked discreetly in her car and carried hurriedly across the threshold of her new apartment, lest anyone should see and ask about the contents, most of which meant absolutely nothing to anyone except Charlotte (hence the label). It wasn’t filled with lingerie or vibrators or dirty pictures or anything like that. The contents only embarrassed Charlotte because of their innocence, because only a prude would cling to a random assortment of objects that reminded her of people who had long since removed themselves from her life, or had been removed for any number of offenses. The items in the box would mean nothing to a passerby and that embarrassed Charlotte, like there was something shameful and almost juvenile about being anything but obvious.

She squatted somewhat uncomfortably to delicately open the box, lovingly unfold the flaps so that she had complete access to some of her memories, so that the majority of the contents were visible. Charlotte only needed to scan the contents for a few seconds before she found the deck of cards, quaintly contained in cardboard, beaten up from a few years of handling. A smile splayed itself unabashedly upon her lips as she reached into the box the same way a heart surgeon would reach into her patient’s chest cavity. With the same kind of epic patience, she removed the playing cards from the box and began walking back to the kitchen. The youthful, exuberant smile quickly became nostalgic and sad.

The playing cards were white with silver, loopy hearts decorating their backs. The hearts were cute, sure, but there was nothing remarkable about their appearance. They were a treasured item for Charlotte only because of the way the cards came to be in her possession. A few years ago, Charlotte had fallen in love with a beautiful, brilliant, and broken man. As a result, she had developed a constant need to be around him, to be close to him, and so, she invited him everywhere.

One night, she invited him back to her hotel room after a work conference. She and her colleagues had all been drinking for quite some time, right up until the lights came up for last call. The beautiful, broken man had joined them at the bar, at Charlotte’s request, of course. Charlotte had always envied the sort of effortless grace that surrounded him, the way he could suddenly appear anywhere at anytime and be welcomed and accepted. When he strolled into the bar without fanfare or pomp and circumstance, without having attended any of the conference because of a prior commitment, Charlotte was breathless with awe. It was like something of a horribly cheesy and romantic movie made for network television; he could have been walking in slow motion beneath a burning spotlight towards a strategically placed wind machine. The fact that he was walking towards Charlotte smiling was wonderful and she was so happy she could burst apart. She never ever wanted her time with him to end, and her colleagues and friends didn’t want to stop drinking, so a select few decided to buy some beer and return to Charlotte’s room. She turned to her beautiful, broken man and invited him. He played it cool – he was always so goddamn cool – and didn’t really answer one way of the other. Even when they were walking back to the hotel, just across the street, he wouldn’t accept or outright reject the invitation. When he climbed into his car, a lump formed in Charlotte’s throat. She would let him go and hide her disappointment, try and play it cool, so her parting words asked that if he did come, to bring playing cards. He waved somewhat dismissively and drove away. The copious amounts of alcohol she had consumed kept Charlotte’s mood from dipping too low and she scampered back to the hotel among friends, arm in arm, with high spirits.

He sent her a text later saying he couldn’t find playing cards and was just going home. Charlotte sighed heavily and thought her best recourse was to just keep drinking.

About twenty minutes later, there was a booming knock at the hotel room door. It sounded particularly authoritative and Charlotte was worried it was the cops. Were they being too loud? Her one friend raced to the bathroom to hide while the other pressed herself further into the bed, as if the mattress could swallow her whole and conceal her. They had left Charlotte to answer the door and so she did, despite feeling suddenly and incredibly nauseous. She opened it and saw no one. No one was there.

She whipped her head to the right and gazed down an empty hallway.

Looking to the left revealed her beautiful, broken man. He was leaning against the hallway wall like some leading man from Hollywood. His arm was bent at the elbow so he had one hand behind his head and rested his weight against the wall through the point of that bent elbow. His right leg was crossed behind the left one and the toes were pointed down at the plush carpet. In his other hand, he twirled a pack of playing cards. He was smiling, quite pleased with himself and the effect it all had on Charlotte. There was certainly something gorgeous about him, something more than his appearance. His demeanor drove her wild – she would never able to pull off such an entrance, but he had.

And it had been for her. What more could a girl possibly ask for?

But nothing had come of it. He was with some woman with a checkered past and too much makeup. Charlotte’s grandma was worsening, and so she had left it all, run away. But she kept the playing cards to remind herself that for one night, she had gotten exactly what she had wanted, that she had been perfectly happy. The cards symbolized possibility – if it happened once, couldn’t it happen again?

 

On the point being to keep trying.

Published March 21, 2016 by mandileighbean

nevergiveup

“In the stories, though, it’s worth it. Always worth it to have tried, even if you fail, even if you fall like a meteor forever. Better to have flamed in the darkness, to have inspired others, to have lived, than to have sat in the darkness, cursing the people who borrowed, but did not return, your candle.”
– Neil Gaiman, The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a terrible adult. It seems that I never fold laundry, I owe everyone money, I always forgot to check the mail, and I’m constantly drinking spoiled milk. On good days, I am able to convince myself that these minor defeats give me character and make me interesting; they give me something to write about.

And I keep trying, because that’s the point, right? The point is to keep trying.

My author page on Facebook has been experiencing more activity than usual, and I want to capitalize by composing a riveting, engaging blog post, but I’ve been lacking inspiration. I’ve also been lacking motivation. I haven’t written anything. I haven’t graded anything.

Last week was rough.

My twin sister returned to rehab a week ago today. I try to remind myself that relapse, whether or not anyone likes it, is a part of recovery. I force myself to consider the alternative, about where else she’d be if she wasn’t trying to get help. Neither scenario does much to lessen the disappointment, the frustration, the anger, or the sadness. It’s a gross, turbulent mess of emotions that I’m trying to compartmentalize and shrink so that they can be better processed and dealt with appropriately. But it’s hard; it’s so hard.

But I keep trying, because that’s the point, right? The point is to keep trying.

“Because, perhaps, if this works, they will remember him. All of them will remember him. His name will … become synonymous with … love. And my name will be forgotten. I am willing to pay that price ….”
– Neil Gaiman, The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury

That wasn’t entirely true, what I said earlier, about not having written anything. I’ve written some things, but nothing I’ve been thrilled with or necessarily proud of. I worry my writing – the themes, the characters, the dialogue – is repetitive. I worry I’ve written all of this before, and that might be because the object of my affection is every character I’ve ever written, is the epitome of every romantic fantasy I’ve ever had, and so it all comes back to him in one way or another. What’s especially troubling, and simultaneously amazing about being a writer, is that I invented this man before he appeared before me in the flesh (talk about a god complex, huh?). In college, before I had ever met this man, I started a novel and wrote, “He couldn’t watch her fawn over another man, couldn’t tell her how he felt because it was too late and he’d ruin it for her.” Swap the genders of the pronouns and I am my own prophet. It’s crazy; I said everything I should have said to him years before I met him. How depressing.

I wrote a poem, too.

I put the kettle on for tea
and pulled my leggings from the dryer
I hope there’s time for breakfast
before I go about setting the world on fire

Burning devastation – turn it all to heat and ash
There’s something freeing about going mad
To face the world with wild, reckless abandon
To give in, to be selfish, to be ignorant and bad

Consequences will come swift and sure
Rolling quickly like so many rocks downhill
But it could absolutely all be worth it
For the liberation that accompanies the kill

What does being so reserved get you,
maybe a curtsy and a smile?
None of the mystery, intrigue and danger
that can go along with being vile

But I don’t think I’d really go so dark. It’s easy to not consider anyone or anything else other than my own wants and desires, but that doesn’t make it right. It’s difficult to do what is right, at least sometimes.

But I keep trying, because that’s the point, right? The point is to keep trying.

On shredding it all.

Published September 22, 2013 by mandileighbean

As of late, this blog has become less and less about me flexing my writing muscle and promoting my literary talent, and more and more about litanies of complaints about my life.  It has become embarrassingly juvenile and pointless.  This post is the first of many to remedy the issue.  Anecdotes and information about my writing process and career are clearly valid fodder for entries, but all of the other nonsense has been sound and fury, signifying nothing.  So, please enjoy this short story, as I am writing again. 🙂

DAILY PROMPT #1: “You inadvertently run an important paper through the shredder.”

watercoolerromance1The Shredder

The pulse of any office is the mechanical hum that constitutes the daily, incessant white noise.  The thrumming electricity of the air conditioning, an illicit and discreet mini fridge, any number of computers and copiers and scanners and shredders and telephones, is the background to one thousand and one inane conversations, small heart attacks, hurried and hushed exchanges of gossip, and angry and bitter disappointments.  Human society is merely comprised of many micro chasms of itself, linked intrinsically by human dramas resulting from the human condition; that is, a shared experience in which humans are defeated or victorious against a myriad of trials and tribulations and triumphs, all varying in degrees of difficulty and delight.

Allison often congratulated herself on how profound she could be standing before one the aforementioned pieces of office machinery, completing menial task after menial task, and feeling her brain go numb and die one precious cell at a time.  If she was not constantly thinking of other things, thinking of things other than memos, customer complaints, returns, exchanges, and minimum wage, then she was sure to lose whatever intellectual prowess that had remained but was surely fading since college graduation.  She had graduated magna cum laude, which was impressive, but had done so with a B.A. in English, which now seemed foolish because it did little to no good as she dealt with petty customer complaints for an embarrassingly shady online retailer, who really only acted as a third party and had no warehouse of its own from which to ship goods.  Her passion for the English language was now limited to pretentiously polite e-mails to customers who ordered a 50-lb. bag of peanuts not intended for human consumption but for livestock, but ate some anyway and now demanded a full refund as compensation for any future illness.  She composed not for literary greatness or analysis, but for customers who sent along a strongly worded e-mail insisting an item description is wrong and that the Santa suit pictured is not actually flame retardant.  All her literary gifts and breathless wonder at the majesty of the written words lay dormant and spoiling within her.

Allison had understood as a freshman that earning a B.A. in English did not guarantee a glamorous occupation that garnered a six-figure paycheck, so she had done the responsible thing and received her teaching certificate.  The economy was so horrible upon the completion of her four years at an accredited university that even finding a job that would supposedly always be in demand, like teaching, proved difficult.  The wide-eyed and optimistic smile that had shone upon the newly conferred degree in May was now distinctly dimmed at the end of August, as aspiring author and academic analyst of literature Allison Wyke mindlessly made copies that had no consequence on the greater truths of the universe.

It was bad enough that she held a degree and was making just ten dollars per hour of work with no benefits to speak of at a dead end job she only found through a temp agency, but Allison was still living at home with no boyfriend and a car that only started on warmer days and if she whispered loving phrases against the dashboard as she turned the key in the ignition.  The car barely rolled along to the less than impressive office building in the middle of a dangerous eyesore of a neighborhood.  Coming for the interview, Allison had traveled with the windows rolled up and with the doors locked tight, even though the air conditioning did not work.  Deep down, Allison understood she was being somewhat ridiculous and buying into stereotypes proliferated by urban legends more than anything else.  Although, she certainly raised eyebrows when, in preparing for the interview, she had been advised to not be offended when her possible future employer refused to shake her hand as it was for a religious reason.  Allison was a Roman Catholic born and raised among many other Roman Catholics in a white bread community, so differing religious customs and practices greatly intrigued her, almost like instead of traversing a town or two, she was traipsing across continents.

When Allison left the stifling safety of her barely operational Ford Explorer, and found cover from the blazing August sun, and entered the cool, dark and somewhat barren and disappointing retail space, her sense of adventure vanished.  Seated at the reception desk was just another white girl.  While it was far from scintillating, it was familiar and did make the situation more comfortable, so Allison smiled politely, gave her name and the reason for her appearance, and she did as she was told and had a seat.

The office was an appreciated contrast to the summer heat, but it was also exceedingly simple and plain and bare.  Aside from the uncomfortable and unfashionable chair Allison was now seated in, there wasn’t much else to be entertained by.  Her chair was one of three, pushed against the far, wood paneled wall beside a massive copy machine.  To her left was a coffee table, upon which rested a cheap and dusty plastic plant in an equally cheap and dusty plastic vase.  Everything was a dark brown, even the carpet, so the room clearly strived for comfy but came off as antiquated.  Everything also seemed used and worn and long past its prime, other than the technology.  Allison’s eyes, bored and therefore remarkably observant, roamed over the large space, dubiously regarded the various certificates and accreditations hung crookedly on the walls in expensive frames.  There was nothing remarkable or personable about the room, not a single hint of personality.  Allison was thinking about cold consumerism and wondering about her future happiness when a door somewhere off to her right opened.  “Allison?” called a rather generic male voice.

Rising to stand, Allison smoothed her pencil skirt and turned.  She began walking towards the voice, which belonged to an equally generic-looking man.  He wore black trousers with black boots that offered no shine whatsoever.  His button down shirt was an immaculate shade of white and his sleeves were very neatly rolled just above his elbows.  His hair was an interesting shade of brown, looking as if it was flecked with rust and was probably more copper than it was brown.  His eyes were dark and round and boring but kind.  That being said, his features were utterly forgettable, other than the dark prayer sash hanging from his back pocket and his yarmulke.  Allison smiled, shading her surprise, and said, “Hello, how are you?”  She had to fight hard against her instinct to stretch her hand out towards her potential future employer.  Not being able to shake hands made an already nerve-wracking introduction even more frustrating.

The man stepped back and held the door open wide, clearing the threshold and inviting Allison in.  “Hello Allison; I’m Jacob.  Come on in and have a seat.”  Allison did as she was told and was decidedly unimpressed with the mundane office, with crooked and cheap frames, worn carpet, and distinct lack of any personality or human touch.  She did not particularly care for the way Jacob lounged in his fancy office chair during the interview, reclining as if he were completely disinterested and utterly bored.  But what could she do?  Times were hard and she desperately needed the job, so Allison plastered a smile upon her face and did her best to be as charming as possible.

It worked apparently, because here Allison was five months later, mindless and miserable.  She was now shredding useless documents, rapping her fingernails with their chipped polish in a surprisingly cheery rhythm.  It was 11:00AM on Wednesday; not quite halfway through the day, but at least it was halfway through the week.  A dreamy smile lit upon her face whenever she thought about 5:00PM or the weekend.  The reverie that was just beginning was mercilessly cut short, well before its prime, by Jacob’s voice.  “Allison, review this purchase order, have the sales office sign off on it, and then place it in my inbox by 2:30, okay?  Thanks,” Jacob said, not waiting for a reply, expecting and accepting only complete compliance, and practically throwing the sheet of paper at Allison.  Carefully, she placed the paper to the side of the others, not wanting to accidentally send it through the shredder.  She worried about Jacob’s wrath were that to happen.

With the interruption over, Allison resumed sliding sheets of paper into the machine to meet their sharp demise, and she was anxious to resume creating fantastical plans for the weekend, which was a source of comfort even if the plans never came to fruition.  What if she decided to join Melanie on a trip to that seaside bar where all those scruffy-looking guys in fashionable flannel shirts gathered?  Would she meet a handsome musician with gauged ears and many tattoos?  She wouldn’t know yet because her daydream was cut short for the second time that day.

But this interruption was welcomed.  “Hey Allison,” said Eli, the only good-looking male in the whole office.  More than that, he was the only friendly male in the whole office, not allowing his religious beliefs to completely segregate and alienate himself from the female gentiles.  His face was sweet and innocent with an enviable clear complexion.  He had dark hair and dark eyes and thin, pink lips.  He was thin but was not frail by any means.  Allison knew it must have been awkward and uncomfortable for Eli being eye candy for an office filled to the brim with women, so she always did her best to play it cool.  It wasn’t like there would ever be anything to build on anyway because she was not Jewish and Eli was married.  Still, it was the only mildly entertaining encounter with a male she would have all day.  So she smiled and slanted her eyes ever so slightly before returning the greeting.

Oh, Eli ….  Allison remembered the first time she had met him.  She had been in a different office, in a different part of the building, and the room had been incredibly small – no bigger than a glorified closet, really – but Eli had done his best to turn it into a comfortable, let alone decent office.  But the room was so small that if the door swung open, it would smack against Allison’s desk and most likely bruise her elbow.  It was definitely crowded, but Allison was lucky enough to share the close quarters with Shannon, who was incredibly kind and empathetic; she too was a single, young woman who had recently graduated and was now being taken advantage of by brutal bosses in a bruising economy.  They would often share harmless water cooler gossip in the tiny room, separated from the others and just across the narrow hall from the actual water cooler, and dissolve into girlish giggles at the thought of Eli and his good looks and his sweet manner, wondering if he would kiss Allison’s bruised elbow and make it all better.  They had gone silent when Eli had entered the room, following the installation of an air conditioner, to hook up a second computer – Allison’s computer – with all the necessary software to make the machine productive.  It was her second day and already, management had shoved her into cramped quarters.  Eli had wondered if the new environment made Allison nervous, and if she wondered if the move mad some menacing ulterior motive.  Allison had no such worries, and had been making idle and safe conversation with Shannon to pretend Eli’s proximity was not as titillating as it was.  She did not notice the quick glance Eli stole before bending over the desk to check the wires in the back of the tower.  As usually happened when among the women of the office, Eli felt eyes roaming over his behind and he surprised himself by hoping the eyes belonged to the new girl.  They did; Allison had indeed checked him out, but Eli had missed it by not turning around in time.  He had stayed still until the sudden heat that struck his cheeks had dissipated.  Eli could not remember the last time he had blushed.  He would never admit aloud or to anyone but himself that he found the new girl attractive.  It wouldn’t be right – he’d be shunned and ashamed because she wasn’t like them.  Straightening up, Eli turned to face Allison with blank eyes.

Suddenly, he couldn’t remember name.  “Uh, um … ah …” he stuttered.

She smiled kindly.  “Allison,” she reminded him.  There was something like a hint of laughter in her voice.

“Right,” he breathed.  “Allison, you’re all set up with the e-mails, programs and everything.”  He leaned over her, careful not to touch her, to show her what he was talking about on the monitor.  “If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.  He smiled brightly and risked making direct eye contact.  Allison’s eyes were wide, dark and deep, and her lashes and brows framed them elegantly.  Feeling a few, tiny beads of sweat gather at the back of his neck, Eli knew he had to leave.

“Thanks,” said Allison.  She was still smiling.  “Thanks a lot.”

Eli had nodded and fled the room.

In setting up Allison’s e-mail, Eli had sent her a message to a) make sure it worked and b) to send her a username and password for one of the programs.  He had kept it short and professional.  Returning to his desk later that day, he saw he had a new e-mail.  Instinctively, he opened it and he read it without much thought.  The message was simple enough; “Thanks a lot!”  Upon checking who the message was from, Eli’s face flushed.  It was from Allison.

Still later that day, Allison’s second day, one of the ladies from accounting complained that the water cooler was out of water.  Sighing heavily, Eli wheeled his chair back from his desk and headed to retrieve a full water jug.  The jugs were kept neatly in rows of rounded cubbies beside the vending machine…and directly across from the office Allison shared with Shannon.  Eli did his best to ignore this fact, especially since none of it meant anything anyway.  However, as he slid the jug onto his shoulder from the cubby, Eli couldn’t help but notice the open door and saw Allison at her desk.  Eye contact was made, but it was fleeting; he wasn’t even sure if it really happened, but he smiled anyway, to be polite.  Allison smiled back, and the jug on Eli’s shoulder abruptly felt very heavy so he hurried back down the hall to the water cooler.

On Allison’s third day, Eli had walked into the lobby of the office and found her in front of the clock-in machine, anxiously bouncing from foot to foot.  Her eyes shifted from side to side, like she was discreetly pleading for help.  Cue the theme music for the conquering hero – he walked beside her.  “Are you having trouble?”

Allison shot him a muted smile; the worry lines etched on her face robbed it of its normal brilliance.  “Yeah, every time I try to use this thing,” indicating the electronic key clutched angrily in her hand, “the screen says, ‘Invalid Entry.’  Jacob just gave it to me yesterday before I left, but my ride was already here because my car crapped out on me.”  Most likely stressed from trying to make the perfect first impression, this simple problem had developed into something like a thorn in Allison’s side.

Eli’s face fell.  Sure, he was good with electronics and technology and whatever, but this was Jacob’s department; Jacob would be the conquering hero.  Eli heard his theme music end abruptly.  “Jacob will be in the office in an hour or so.  I’d talk to him.”

Allison tried smiling brightly again, but this second attempt was even more pathetic than the first.  “Okay, thanks.”

Eli gave her a small smile and slowly shuffled into his office.

For the next month or so, things had continued in the same vein for Allison and Eli.  They shared small and polite smiles, and only spoke to inquire about the weather and the mornings.  Eventually, Allison moved into a larger room with Shannon and other female employees and though she made friends, she felt unfulfilled and missed being intellectually challenged.  Eli spent the majority of his time in the office with Jacob, arguing about this and that and trying to make important decisions as a team, while Allison sent out her resume and looked for any other job.  Business was slow for Allison and Eli, and Jacob and everyone else, so many fell into the habit of checking for e-mail every five minutes or so to help pass the time and to create the illusion of appearing busy.  Nothing new or interesting ever seemed to show up, other than right before quitting time, so Eli was shocked to discover an e-mail from Shannon.  Quickly, his shock transformed into shock and awe when he realized the e-mail was about Allison.  It read, “Hey Eli.  Allison isn’t able to receive any e-mails.  Please consult when you get a chance.”  In the back of Eli’s mind, he could hear that theme music from long ago beginning again, and rising to a powerful crescendo.  His chance had finally arrived.  He did his absolute best to contain his nervous excitement and tentatively poked his head in the doorway (after sprinting down the hallway, of course).

If only Eli had known how long it had taken Shannon to compose the short, innocuous message.  Allison had insisted on reading it over and making it as platonic and professional as possible to best conceal the giddy excitement at the mere prospect of seeing Eli inside their office.  Allison was terrified all would be revealed the moment he walked in, but couldn’t keep from meeting his eyes almost instantly.  Allison smiled and released a breath.  “Hey.”

“Hi,” Eli squeaked.  Clearing his throat, he blushed for only a moment before asking, “Are you still having problems with your e-mail?”

“Yeah,” Allison answered.  She stood before him.  “I can send messages fine, but I don’t seem to be getting any.  Messages, I mean,” Allison said, blushing and laughing like a complete idiot.  Eli smiled.  They stayed still, exactly where they were, for just a moment before Allison stepped to the side, moving farther from the desk to allow Eli better access to the computer.  “I even tried sending myself an e-mail.”  Allison laughed and the adorable sound made the corners of Eli’s lips lift instantly.

“Alright,” Eli said and squatted in front of Allison’s desk where the chair would normally go.  It had been wheeled next to Shannon’s desk, most likely for training purposes.  Clicking around, Eli found the problem easily enough.  He rectified the issue fast and explained it to Allison.  “You’re good to go now,” he finished.

“Oh, thanks, thanks a lot.”  Eli wondered if she’d reach out and touch his arm and couldn’t readily decide if that would be catastrophic or not.

“Oh, also, I should have your phone ready either by the end of today, or first thing tomorrow.”

“I really, really appreciate all of this and all of your help.”  Every time Allison smiled, Eli smile – he couldn’t help it, but he didn’t want to give her the wrong idea.  As discreetly as he could, Eli left the room and shuffled back down the hallway.  He missed Allison share a look with Shannon and then dissolve into a fit of giggles.  He missed Allison check her e-mail and the expression that passed across her face when she read his e-mail from yesterday that simple said, “You’re welcome.”

Essentially, he missed everything.

Allison remembered a Friday some time later.  It was the much beloved end of the work week.  As an added bonus, everyone got to go home an hour earlier since the vast majority of the office had to be home before the sun fell below the horizon.  Eli had been early that day – maybe because he was anxious to end the work week – so he hadn’t seen Allison come in.  He confirmed her presence in other ways, like when he had to exchange the empty water jug on the water cooler for a new one and shot her a friendly smile from just outside the door.  On the pretense of making sure her phone was installed properly, Eli found himself brazen enough to also linger in her doorway and exchange incredibly brief pleasantries.  Eli knew damn well that what he was doing was dangerous, that he was most assuredly playing with fire, but in the secret, intimate recesses of his beating heart, he didn’t care – at least, not on such a glorious Friday.  Allison did her part by always allowing him to use the sink in the kitchen first, by feigning complete and utter ignorance whenever her computer malfunctioned (and pretended to be impressed when Eli simply restarted the machine, which she always knew would solve the issue), and by always requesting to be shown how to use any program or complete any troubleshooting.  In fact, whenever one wanted to be sure to crack the other up, Shannon and Allison would say “Can you show me” in a breathy whisper.

One day, Allison was gushing about how attractive Eli was without realizing he had been behind the opened door, fussing with a water jug, the entire time.  After that, conversation between the two had become easier and more genuine, as if refraining from simply admitting the mutual attraction had been insulting.  So here they were, five months later, discussing their weekends like old friends.

“Are you still looking for a new job?” Eli asked.

“Absolutely,” Allison answered without even the pretense of a thoughtful hesitation.  “I’ve been looking at publishing companies in the city.”

Eli grinned.  “What about teaching?  You have your certificate, don’t you?”

Allison sucked in air between her teeth.  “Eli, please; I’m much too glamorous and passionate and wildly romantic for that.”  She laughed softly to show she had only been kidding.

Eli had continued to grin, but his tone was serious when he said, “You’re right.  You’re all of those things.”

Allison’s jaw dropped.  Urges to say things and to do things to Eli and with Eli all came rushing upward and nearly outward.  She needed to do something with her bothersome and troublesome hands, which now felt enlarged and tingly, but she had run out of paper to shred, meaning that she had shredded that incredibly important purchase order for Jacob.  “Shit,” she said.

The color fled from Eli’s face.  “Allison, what’s wrong?”

Allison covered her face with her hands.  “I’m not going to have to quit, Eli.”

“Well, that makes me happy,” Eli admitted with a fairly troubled countenance.

“I’m going to get fired,” Allison groaned.

watercoolerromance2 watercoolerromance

On romanticizing roadkill.

Published October 11, 2012 by mandileighbean

Today was not such a good day.  For the majority of it, I felt overwhelmed and underwhelming.  It was an awful, complicated contradiction in emotion where I was frantic for perfection but fell short of the mark every time, so in turn, I became angry and defensive.  During my prep period, I truly had a strong desire to sit by myself and cry – to just let it all out.  I behaved like an adult and held it together, but I am still on the fence as to whether or not I did myself any favors.

When I was running, I saw a possum lying in the road.  Clearly, the creature had been struck by an automobile and that happens time and time again so in all actuality, there was nothing remarkable about the scene.  However, I could not turn my eyes away.  It’s dark, beady eyes were still open, looking out at nothing and offering nothing.  Similarly, its mouth was still open and I could see sharp, tiny, pointed teeth, as if the poor beast had gone down fighting, teeth bared and snarling against the metal contraption hurtling towards it impossibly fast.  Are possums classified as sentient beings?  Would it have been horrified to see the headlights bearing down upon him, or would there have been just a moment of simple curiosity?  It made me sad to think like that, so I tried to alter my train of thought, but that became impossible when I saw the pavement stained red with blood and realized that somehow, by some scientific logic, the entrails of the animal had exited his frame from the back end and lay whole in the road.  It took a moment for my mind to comprehend precisely what it was that my eyes were viewing, but there was no denying the veins, the tissue and the matter that had once been a stomach or a kidney or something important, something that worked to keep the possum alive.  I felt nauseous and finally, I was able to look away.

Running clears my mind.  It helps me to think and it helps me to be creative.  I know I can describe the scene in more detail, and that will most likely be my assignment for the next few days.  I want to be a horror writer.  I want to be able to create lasting and almost tangible images using only words.  The sight of a possum lying dead in the read is not extraordinary or uncommon, but how can it become grotesque so that a reader can perfectly see it to the point of becoming physically uncomfortable?  That is what I long to discover, and I suppose that will come in time with patience and practice.

Maybe the devil really is in the details.

On cautiously communicating.

Published July 12, 2012 by mandileighbean

Today was completely enjoyable. Jimmy and I slept late, then Mimi brought us to the park. It was fascinating to watch children interact – there was little to no hesitation in making introductions and starting games. They behaved as if no one was watching and if someone was, then who cared? It was freeing.

My heart broke a little when I saw a little boy wander off behind the swings, pull of his shorts, remove his diaper, and just relieve himself.  He couldn’t have been older than two years old, and his father couldn’t see him from his perch on a bench on the completely other side of the park. He was chatting up a single mother beside him and screaming obscenities into a smart phone. The neglect was obvious and yet unavoidable – who were any of us to give a lecture? We didn’t know the man or the child or what they may have been through. But still – isn’t it common sense, isn’t it decent to love your child enough so that they aren’t whispered about, so that they are clean and children want to befriend them, not ridicule them and think them gross?

I have a second interview at a high school in Oakland, New Jersey. It’s about two hours away, and I’m teaching a twenty-minute mock lesson that introduces The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I am tremendously excited because not only is The Great Gatsby my favorite novel of all time, but I think my introductory lesson is innovative. I’m having the “students” free associate with images that represent the novel, the author and the time period. Each student will compose a list of five to seven words, and then the class will come together to share the words and create a class-generated word web. Hopefully my interviewers will find it impressive as well.

I’ve been incredibly stressed about my work situation as of late. I need a full-time teaching job, but do not really have the resources to relocate. I’m happy about the second interview in Oakland, but I worry that it isn’t practical. Besides, the high school I was employed by last year and which is close to my current residence should be conducting interviews soon. I just wish I could know for sure. It’d make decision making so much easier.

PROMPT: “I just had the weirdest dream about you.”

PIECE:

John stood back, in a far corner of the bookstore.  He had strategically positioned himself between the aisle filled with paperback novels about robust men and busty women, and the aisle filled with books about travel and cooking.  He believed such a position showcased his interests nicely, and he didn’t have to say a word.  It was subtle – more subconscious than anything else – and he thought it was working.  A couple of attractive men had walked by once or twice, stealing glances from between shelves, offering smiles that appeared harmless enough, but John knew better.  He was feeling confident, pretending to leaf through a popular novel about a brooding and noble vampire doing his utmost to woo a young woman whom was seemingly plain to the untrained eye but in reality, she was everything.  As juvenile and feminine as the material was, John enjoyed it.  It made for great material when he wanted to live vicariously in a melodramatic, whirlwind romance – all he was ever searching for.

Suddenly, a tall, cool glass of water swept gracefully into John’s peripheral and he was thirsty.  Dark hair that was longer than what was fashionable because this man was too cool to care; dark eyes that always seemed constricted so that he was either constantly thinking or constantly about to burst into uncontrollable laughter; lips that were fuller than those commonly found on a man and that seemed completely kissable, like they were made for no other reason than to be kissed; and a thin build that implied he was too independent and too much of a free-thinker to go to the gym, but that he cared about his bodily appearance all the same.  He was perfect; exactly what John had walked in looking for.

But was this stranger looking?  He looked the part of an intelligent, young man in genuine search for a book to consume his spare time – or his lonely nights.  What if John approached him, only to be greeted by a cold shoulder?  John could be persistent and at least give it a try – he had to.  He was reminded of the ancient mantra of “if you don’t try, you’ll never know.”  He committed himself to talking to the beautiful man before he left, but that was the easy part.  The hard part was figuring out how to try.

John supposed he could casually stroll over and inform the man that he would find nothing of interest upon the shelf he was currently perusing.  He could pretend to be some literary buff and lead the man to the classics aisle, with names like Hemingway, Faulkner and Fitzgerald emblazoned upon the spines.  If the man was a literary buff, he’d have a common interest (which John would have to quickly develop and authenticate).  If he was not, he’d most likely be impressed.  John considered the approach, but felt uneasy.

Wasn’t the general rule of thumb to be yourself?  If that was so, then John needed to deliver a witty line – he prized himself on his cleverness and his ability to turn a phrase.  But John did not prize himself on his ability to work under pressure – he needed time to prepare.  Smoothing the hair daring to be unkempt at the sides of his head, John deliberated as to whether or not he should go with a time-honored pickup line.

“Are your legs tired? Because you’ve been running through my mind.”

“I just had the weirdest dream about you.”

Furious with himself, John slammed his book and exited the store.  The young man looked after him.

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