Monday, May 14, 2012

“Working Title" 6-5-11 (second rewrite)

Well into my sixth year of my twenties, i found out that i’m truly more ridiculous than i gave myself credit for; a habit i was not really aware of, but had a small idea about. Much like the salt contained in those soft rubber noodles in the Styrofoam cup: i knew there was a lot, but not the true amount. If i knew how ridiculous i was and if i knew how much salt there is, i would’ve stopped. But let’s face it, those noodles are addicting as is being ridiculous.

In those days my afternoons were spent playing video games, reading anything that i had on me at the time, or even the little number of books my friend/roommate had in his possession. Which ranged from manuals on how to fix motorcycles, the teachings of zen, to a biography of a pro wrestler that died a long time ago. There was also drinking, and smoking cigarettes; these two i did while doing the other things i mentioned before. And lying on the floor in the living room and watch the few sun beams that reflected in from the neibors window slide and eventually fade out on the ceiling.

My nights were two sides of two different coins, when i wasn’t participating in one of my roommates parties with his friends, i would snuggle up to the arm rest of the over stuffed couch that served as my bed and watch tv to help me fall asleep.

The parties were always mild in comparison to the “straight out of high school” ones you’d see in movies or tv.  We were different, we were adults, we could drink, be marry and not have the police show up, it wasn’t that hard. Even though one out of every fifteen parties they would show up to ask us to keep it down. Jon and i tried our best to be crowd control on nights like those, but after 5 beers and half a bottle of whatever, whoever brought over for us to try, our attempts soon became lax then none existent all together.

My roommate Jon, was the type to love others, a trait that i thought was bothersome when i had a job and my own place to live; but once i lost both of those and the girl i was suppose to be dating, his trait for some reason didn’t bother me so much. Even though we weren’t that great of friends to begin with, when he heard i had gotten fired and was about to lose my apartment he called me and said i could stay with him. At first i wanted to reject his offer; it was too nice and too kind, plus i was having visions of sitcom scenarios where i was out of work for far too long and Jon being too saintly not to complain about my joblessness would eventually cause him to uncharacteristically explode into anger and ruin a fancy dinner party he was having. But i did understand that if i were to live with him, i would have to be actively search for work, it was his only demand.

The other plus side to living with Jon was not only did the parties serve as fantastic distractions of spending my day staring at reflections of sun beams, but they were (and i hate to refer to them as; a should be dead expression) girl magnets.

Jon had a charismatic, orthodontist smile that could win over even the coldest of ice queens, case in point: his current girlfriend, Cynthia or Sin if you were me and hated her. But this smile of his won over girls that would normally have nothing to do with me, but he’d invite them on a whim to one of his parties, give them directions and his phone number in case they got lost and then smile. Most of the time the girls frowned a little, perplexed by this socially awkward attempt to hit on them, but his smile killed their doubts in a flash of white teeth and they would offhandedly say, “We’ll think about it.” Which is proven female talk for: fuck off.
The success rate for Jon’s method: 89%

As soon as his smile disappeared and he was away from the girls he’d call everyone that usually came over and tell them he was having a party.

Once i had asked him, “Why invite girls then throw the party? Isn’t better to have a party then start to invite girls?”

His answer: “This way if no one else shows up, i can just party with the girls.”

“Okay,” i said pondering if their was some deeper meaning to his simple style of speech, “But what if the girls see no one else is there and they think it’s lame and then leave?”

He shrugged, “They never left before when no one else showed up.”

I chalked it up to his looks that they stuck around.

Given his incredible simple nature, Jon was also polite, respectable and not at all exclusive to Cynthia which didn’t seem to bother her, or maybe she didn’t know. But it was mostly Cynthia that pushed me to move out and get a job; after awhile it became clear that she wanted me out so she could move in, but Jon smiled at times like that and would say, “In due time.” A line i think he got from a movie.

Her heels clicking on the stairs as she came up to the front door of our apartment would send rage and chills up my spine. Then without knocking she’d open the door look around as if to inspect and search for something to complain about, if she didn't find anything she’d close the door and always with out looking at me ask as if Jon was home. Depending on my answer she’d leave in a huff slamming the door or quick step it to his room as if i were some beastly predator and her salvation laid in wait next to him.

I always finished our little encounters with a joy filled, “Good talking with you Cynthia.” Something she hated so much she had Jon repeatedly asked me to stop saying it. Needless to say i didn’t and made my voice even more jovial the next time, that high pitched baby talk one hears when an owner tells their favorite dog that their a “Good boy”. It was my second favorite pastime.

My first favorite was Mona Zenella. She was the girl i found on the fridge.

Jon and i had always liked the idea of people expressing themselves in artistic ways when they knew they would be anonymous. His apartment in particular was made to be the landlords residents so it was twice as spacious as the rest and also had more storage room for the landlords file cabinets. i guess the architect never thought in a few years all that info would be stored into a single computer. So with the space Jon and i put an extra refrigerator in the only storage room that had a lock. We did so to A) keep from people getting to our private stock of our personal favorite beers and B) when the beer was gone give people a place to go into the room and do whatever. Mainly it was to keep the friskier couples from doing stuff on either the couch (i.e. my bed) or sneaking off into Jon’s room. We left a note on top of the fridge saying for whoever was in there to clean up after themselves and to leave a message on the fridge with either a dry-erase marker or how ever they saw fit.

This method proved to be both disgusting but hilariously forthcoming. People left poems or just signed their names, some took advantage of the markers and drew large murals tattooing the white surface with drawings of planets, minotaurs or giant penises ejaculating on crudely shappened breasts. A few times we would find posters of bands tapped to the sides or even stickers of movie quotes. At the end of each month Jon would bring out his uncharacteristically expensive camera and take pictures of all four sides, save them on the computer and then mark them with the month and year. Saving them for whatever reason he had, i never asked. After word we would clean it all off and wait for the next month to end.

This act became so routine if Jon was at work on the last day of the month i would take the pictures and save them for him and clean off the fridge.

A year into living with Jon and still being jobless; a end of the month party had just finished for the night and before i went to sleep i wanted to clean the fridge. Jon had left the party early so he could sleep before work, even though the party was his idea. I asked him way he wanted a party if he had to sleep so early to go to work.

“Tradition,” he shouted and lifted his Clydesdale covered beerstein filled with vodka and orange juice in salute.

So with the place now empty i pulled the key from the hook next to the toaster and made my way into the hallway with a rag and some glass cleaner. After opening the closet the first thing i noticed even with the light off was the stark white rectangle looming in the murky dark. Usually it was easy to tell when i opened the door that it was covered in stuff, but now only a black square sat in the middle of the white. I flicked on the light keeping my eyes on the square to have a pair of dark, dark blue eyes fixed to my own.

A picture of a women with black hair over one bear shoulder and lipstick so red it was nearly purple stared at me. She was dressed in a classic fifties black cocktail dress with gloves of the same color that came up to her elbows. In one hand was a rocks glass filled with, what i guessed, was scotch; an imprint of her lips left on the edge of the glass and in her other hand that her chin was resting in was a cigarette, the smoke from the end trailing upwards her face. Her lips were parted as if she was speaking when the picture was taken, revealing an even row of small pearl white teeth. The gentle hook of her nose spoke volumes of a women not of any Irish or German decent, her cheekbones also had an exotic air to them. All of these features were arrange in a way to give her both the appearance of the cute, shyness of a young girl and that of a woman that knew what she liked and she wanted out of the world around her.

She was the single most gorgeous thing i had ever seen.

Gingerly i took off the magnet and held the picture by the corner; i studied all her features once again, but those oddly dark blue eyes were what i marveled. I turned the picture over to see if there was anything on the back for any evidence to who she was, because i didn’t remember anyone like her at the party last night. Words covered the back, perfectly spaced and sized, the kind one would see in a magazine article, i read them but it was just broken sentences about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But one name appeared in the jumble of words: Mona Zenella. It clearly had nothing to do with the girl on the front, it could have been the name of the person who wrote the article or someone the writer had interviewed or a specialist on the mechanics of oil in water. But it was the name i decided to give her.

I placed her on the floor away from the spray as i wiped down the fridge even though there was nothing else on it. As i finished dusting the top i thought about throwing the picture away, but i didn’t. I kept it in my draw in the kitchen that had all my utensils in it, Jon liked his spoons and forks separate from mine so we wouldn’t mix them up. When i told him i only had two pairs of butter knifes, forks and spoons, he still asked that i leave mine in a drawer all my own. It ended up being a collection drawer for stuff i wanted to save, like bills from my old place i still needed to pay, and my check book to an account that had $.86 in it. I placed her in between the pages of a book i had in there so she wouldn’t get wrinkled.

For the rest of the day i ran theater plays in my head about meeting Mona in a classy restrauant not eating anything just talking over low light and drinking top shelf booze. She was mysteriously charming much like the women from the old black and white movies. She liked me, she didn’t mind i was only average height, although she didn’t laugh at my jokes she would giggle. In my little fantasies i wasn't suave, i was borderline smooth, just enough so that it made up for my lack of looks. I maybe ridiculous day dreaming at that age but i understood my limitations even in my imagination.

I thought how she would give me a wry smile if i said some clever sexual pun. But all the while i imagined those eyes on me.

When i woke up, night had already come, Jon had come home from work and was sleep again, i knew because the TV was turned off. The street lamp from outside gave me enough light to see the clock hanging above the TV say 2:39am. I had slept for nearly 15 hours and i still felt exhausted.

“You’re exhausted because you slept for 15 hours, moron,” said my dad’s voice in my head. I giggled as i sat up and stretched my arms, it was the first time i thought about my old man in a long while. A shudder ran through me as i thought about how disappointed he must be at me for being jobless and only nearly homeless.

I stood up and stayed there letting the feeling seep back into my legs, as the pins and needles begun to vanish i thought about Mona again and her lipstick.

“Jesus, are you still asleep?” i asked myself, angry that i was getting tired again standing in the living room. Grabbing my cigarettes from the coffee table i stepped out onto the balcony and welcomed the warm summer air on my skin; flicked my lighter and inhaled the smoke. I watched as the fumes drifted out of my mouth and mix with the orange light of the street lamp, it gave the impression of swimming under water at dusk. A light from inside turned on ruining the illusion, i turned to see Cynthia walking around in the kitchen getting a glass of water. As she tilted her head back to drink she saw me and placed the glass down. “Oh, you’re awake.” Her tone of a disapproving mother. “So what made you so tired you had to sleep all day?” She elongated the “O” of “so” giving it that extra punch of no matter what i said next would not justify why i slept for so long.

“You want a cigarette?” I said, i really didn’t want to have that conversation with her. She finished the rest of the water, frowned a little and thought about my offer. “I promise i won’t talk to you as you smoke.”

“Fine,” she said and checked to see if her shirt was long enough to not reveal her underwear as she walked.

“Good god, like i want to check out your under garments,” i said. “Save your modesty for someone that finds you attractive.”

She glared and i’m sure if it wasn’t for the temptation of the cigarette she would’ve stormed off back into Jon’s room.

“Oh shut the hell up,” she snapped and stepped outside and took the smoke i was holding out to her.

“Warm night, huh?” i said lighting her smoke.

“I thought you weren’t going to talk to me?”

I rolled my eyes and turned back to the street lamp, i thought about how much better Mona was than her. Easier to talk to and not wound tight like the notches of a used noose. If Mona were here she would tell this poor excuse of a woman to get off her high horse and that she wasn’t as important as she believed herself to be. I then thought on how i could say all those things myself, i didn’t need some imaginary theatrical play doing my dirty work, but i knew that Jon would be upset, plus it was comforting having a girl care about my feelings. I shook my head, embarrassed at myself for that last thought. "Hey, retard did you forget that she doesn't exist?"

“Something on your mind?”

“Huh?” i turned to Cynthia astonished by the concern in her voice. “Why do you say that?”

“The only time i’ve seen people sleep as much as you did today is when they are depressed or sick. I figured being a jobless, hopeless, freeloading asshole had finally gotten to your nearly dead conscience.”

With a scoff i turned back to the street lamp and found myself truly thinking about what she said. “Yeah, maybe.” I said.

We stood there awhile longer in silence, smoking until she cleared her throat and said, “How long has it been since you’ve been out of work?”

My shoulders slumped, “Come on, don’t start.”

“I’m not trying to bust your balls, i’m honestly curious. I’ve talked to Jon and he’s said once you get going you’re actually a hard worker. Maybe i can get you a job with my dad. Summer is almost here and he always needs more help this time of year.”

“What’s the job?”

“Moving produce at the outdoor market at the end of Avand street near the gas station out there.”

“ Oh, okay, yeah, i’ve been there a few times,” i said. I wasn’t interested at all, but i figured if Cynthia of all people was being kind enough to pull the stick out of herself, then i might as well be polite and go along with it.

A week later i was working for her dad; it was hot, dumb and mindless work. Basically move item from point A to point B in different fashions. Sometimes with a forklift, or a hand-trunk, or most often by hand. The only customers i saw were families stopping by for a healthy snack for their kids, or the hardcore of the hardcore Vegians; this group of people i hated the most. I always tried my best to avoid them at all cost, they would stop me so they could complain about something such as how the oranges shouldn’t be just sitting out under an umbrella, that they should also be on ice to save them from going bad. But most of the time they would stop to ask me if we had fruit or vegetables i never even heard of and if i told them as much they frown as if i were some backwards country stooge.

I got by in those days under the tiresome sun thinking of Mona and having different conversations with her in different fantastic settings, as my body carted various things to and fro. It was sometime during those days i had the picture of Mona laminated, i used the machine in the bosses office to do it as i was delivering one of his early morning grapefruits that he eat everyday. i started to carry her with me in my wallet. Most of the time i ran on auto pilot letting my hands do their thing as i let my mind drift to thoughts of the girl in my pocket.

Happy that i finally got a job Jon and i celebrated my first month of work by him throwing one of his usual parties and informing me that i start playing rent the next day. I nodded in agreement and handed him the money right then and there, he laughed and folded it into his back pocket and let me drink from his favorite beerstein and bellowed to the rest of the room that he was proud of this son of a bitch and clapped me on the shoulder. Even Cynthia managed to smirk and nod at me. I nodded back.

Sometime during the party a girl started to talk to me, by this time i was swimming in my fun, just drinks after drinks and then i found myself outside with her smoking. She explained that she had been to one of these parties before and that she thought i seemed fun. I smiled and listened to her. Her voice was too husky, her teeth a tad crooked. Her hair a hideous bleach blond, and i had grown instantly uninterested in her talking but was still willing to see where this was leading.

“You ain’t no Mona,” i said out loud interrupting her.

“What?” she said. There was no anger in her tone.

Realizing i just said that out loud i became sober at the thought i was going to spoil my end to my nearly a year of sexual drought.

“Is Mona your girlfriend?”

“No,” i said, now stumbling to find the select words to right this vagina robbing mistake. I foolishly began to explain who Mona was and what she meant to me; all the while hoping this pretty but imperfect girl before me would take pity on my crushed and pathetic life. The more i talked and tried to explain the more her eyes became distant. I knew that this wasn’t going to work but the drunken words kept spilling out of me like a kicked bucket. I even went as far as showing her the crinkled free picture of Mona Zenella.

“So why are you comparing me to this Mona?” Now a tone was there, not so much anger but disgust which somehow seemed worse. “Whatever.” With that she walked back inside.

“Dammit,” i said to myself and watched as the girl picked up her purse from the kitchen table and briefly spoke to Cynthia. As they exchanged words Cynthia’s eyes traveled around the room until they fell on mine, i stared back. I could feel embarrassment fill me. The girl hugged her and then Jon, who stopped for a second  what he was doing. Even though i couldn’t hear him over the hundred other conversations or the music, i knew what he was saying: “You’re leaving so soon?” As the girl spoke Jon’s expression cleared and he nodded.

The girl hugged them both again and left.

Jon went back to his friends, unfazed by my stupidity.

Cynthia stared at me for a few more seconds, disgusted.

Mona sat in my back pocket and for once had nothing to say.

And I felt ridiculous.

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