Genuflect faster. Whenever my boss speaks with me this is what I hear. I had hoped they had hired me for my mind, and I realized it was for the combination of obedience, authority, and bursts of obsequious toadying that I displayed during the interview. I suppose that does constitute my mind. It was late in the day when they interviewed me. At 4:30 p.m. the place was silent. It was the waterfront office of a regional shipping company with vast swaths of real estate holdings, shipping terminals, oil wells, old -time resource wealth. It displayed its old-style resource wealth in a massive office building full of richly appointed resources — marble floors, burnished oak desks, recessed lights, vast abstract expressionist paintings, and inexplicable bronze shapes that I suppose were supposed to represent sculpture. Work for me had become about becoming good at doing the work — and in the interview I forgot the other aspects of work, that a job was less about doing work and more about working for. They didn’t know what I did, but they knew what I was capable of: rapid genuflection. I found at Big 5 sporting supply some very thin soccer kneepads. In the morning before work, I sprinkled my knees with Johnson and Johnson’s Baby Powder and carefully place the kneepads into place. I thought my knees would give out before my Old Navy trousers, but I can see that my trousers, surprising resilient, will last long enough that they will realize a suitable ROI. I will invest in some new trousers immediately after the thread wears down from my continual popping to the floor.
I envy your work arrangement although I imagine that the grass is, as they say, always a more suitable color from the point of view of someone looking from across the street at you standing on your own plot of grass. In turn I suspect you would envy my plot of patchy, weed choked grass. I marvel at the effort expended to keep lawns short in my neighborhood. They, however, have not perfected the art of removing weeds. My streets lack the bright green and white trucks named ChemGreen I see trolling in the well-to-do neighborhood with old shade trades, wrought iron fences, and patches of neatly edged grass that like massive flaps of green fur.
I would have to kill you to be you, but then you would be dead. I suppose if you were dead, I could get you stuffed or make a custom out of you. If I looked like you, I think that would go a long way toward being you.
I called around to find out who could do this sort of thing. They are all in jail. I typed the phrase, ” a person suit” in Google to find if there was a company or artist that could make a suit from a person who I had killed — that person being you because I would like to be you — and I found this sentence, ” Each person is provided with a bed, desk, chair, ladder, wardrobe, and chest of drawers as shown.” However, there wasn’t a picture.
I also discovered that, ” A part of the family budget was set aside to buy birthday garlands and animals for sacrifice, just as we might plan to spend a certain sum for balloons, party hats, and an ice cream cake.” I have never, though, made plans for birthday expenses.
I don’t know when my birthday is. I had my birth certificate, but the date was merely 1/1/1970. I know I wasn’t born at that day because it was the habit of the poor house to give all children born unobserved within the chambers a birth date beginning with the year discovered. I was most likely born in the later part of 1969 — but I am guessing. My mother lived there, but the poor house respects the privacy of those who end up there and fastidiously destroyed records in order to preserve an appropriate secrecy.
If I was you, then maybe you wouldn’t be dead. You would be me.
My boss became agitated by something while she was talking to me. It wasn’t something I said because I hadn’t said anything. I didn’t think of her as my boss until I began to write this, and I didn’t know what to call her. She wasn’t merely a person I knew, because in her role she could tell me what to do and in my role I would try as well as I could do as she bid. I do not know myself unless I am told what to do. I was confused about what I was supposed to do, though, because her instructions were garbled by pleasantries and a piece of string that become stuck in her throat. I busied myself during the day making charts and tables and then filling them in with data. I wanted to contribute something to the enterprise, but then I realized no one knew what they were doing. In fact, they were irritated by the obligations of coming to work and coming into existence by being told what to do. Someone needed bodies sitting in the cubicles acting out the parts of people at work. I didn’t believe it was possible to spend my days asleep. There was a vast fountain in the middle of the working place. Water ran in a three-inch deep trench from one side of the building to the other. The fountain made a gurgling sound all day long so that when conversations were held their voices would not carry. In the babbling white noise, I would drift into a slumber with my eyes open. I struggled against the slumber. My head nodded, and then I found myself snapping up and trying to look like I was awake. The other people watching me chuckled because for the first several months they too had suffered from the babbling of the fountain, and gradually they had discovered that a regime of coffee, standing, and stretching, and sleeping at home would keep them from falling asleep. I spent long hours at home sleeping then I had the routine down. I would work during the day on whatever it was that seemed sensible to work on — it didn’t really matter what it might be as no one would complain if I worked on something that had already been done or something no one had instructed me to work on because they didn’t want to admit they had long ago failed to remember the purpose of that place. And so I would work on the work that I infused with seriousness although I knew, really, it didn’t matter. I would not fall asleep, and I regarded each day I didn’t pass out cold as success. I came home and lay down in my bed and fell into a deep, undisturbed slumber.
I woke because my boss had become agitated while speaking to me. Maybe it was something I had not done rather than something I had done? Work itself was about things done, lists checked, paper documents printed, and shredded in the industrial shredders. I didn’t pick a boogie even though my nasal passage has been blocked all week. At one private moment listening to the burble of the fountain, I caught the edge of a buried chunk of something solid in my nasal passage and yanked it free, sending a cascade of warm, salty nose juice tumbling down my throat. The simultaneous feeling of something breaking fee and opening hidden sockets of congestion combined with the sense of drowning was overwhelming. I had not performed this trick in front of my boss but rather within the confines of my cubicle where I could only been seen whether someone was looking at me. This is far preferable to my normal state where I am visible to anyone who happens to be looking at anything.
I was out drinking with a man who used to live near me. We became friends when he lost his cat, and we spent an afternoon combing the neighborhood looking for the tabby. I became accustomed to seeing the tabby coming home from my job then. I worked in a building that has since been torn down, turned into a parking lot, and is now a new mix-used building where there is a jazz club and the people in the audience, sitting out on the sidewalk are younger than I was when I first worked in the building. I remember being that young, but at that age I didn’t own a pair of leather shoes much less one of their stringy ties or sharp suits. The girls wore beautiful floral print dresses and thin silver necklaces. The music itself was a variant of cool jazz infused with some recent stylistic innovation, still nostalgic, but cool. I stopped to look at the crowd with envy. The man and I never found his cat. I missed the cat with a pattern like someone drawing a circle around a circle around a circle the kind of doodle that I might draw in math class. I used to keep my doodles. I was more interested in my doodles than the lecture and homework I was supposed to be doing — but I have long since lost the file with my doodles. Sometimes in a meeting I will try to recreate them. Yesterday when I came home from work, I passed the man who had lost his cat, and he was yelling at the sky, ” kittie kittie kittie.” I just want to join him because there is chance that we will be greeted by the response of the cat bell as the kittie returns from the dark green wood.
I have this image of myself sitting on a balcony overlooking the ocean, maybe it isn’t really an ocean. Maybe it is Puget Sound. Maybe it is a vast lake such as Lake Michigan. A water surrounded by land is a pretty color, blue shot through with grey and green. In clothing, blue and green will never be seen. In nature, however, blue and green are amiable neighbors.
The table is wood. The chairs are metal. The brick is red and was fired in kilns ages ago. It has been washed a thousand times. I order sangria, and it comes with a side of chips and I am going to order but instead of ordering I drink my sangria and order some more and then finally I order food and the day has vanished and I don’t care because by this time I am drunk and do not exist, as nature intended.