Food for Thought
Remember how I told you that I have a box of writing in my closet. Well, I lied. I have three. They are large cardboard boxes for storing business records, a little bit smaller than a box that contains a carton of paper. There is a copious amount of my life kept therein.
This evening I made a point of leaving work at a reasonable hour, came home, turned on the stereo and leafed through one box. Well, almost one box. I stopped two-thirds of the way through. Anyway, I found some cool things. A few that I had not even recalled writing.
Tonight I will transcribe from the back of four diner placemats a story written the summer after I graduated from college. Context - I was working at a condo parking cars for the summer. I had parked cars at this condo for about four summers between my many years of college. There was a cement wall separating the driveway from the next lot. The wall was about one foot wide and varied in height from three to twenty feet high. The nameless girl turned out to be called Nicole. She had just finished nursing school and was providing home care for the elderly and infirmed. We would have a short-lived and passionate relationship that spanned a total of three weeks, two coffee shops, a diner forty miles from the city and my bed. She had the nicest lips.
And my brother has grown up to be a very interesting and cool guy.
I'm pacing again. Pacing the wall. The light's fading and tendrils of darkness slither out from every shadow to cover the land. The nameless girl has just left. She stilled my pacing and sat down on my wall to talk of menial things. We talked of jobs and cities and the problems that we both have paying bills. She smiled at me and my bills drifted away.
I told her of the delivery man from the drug store. Her eyes followed my lips, her breath caught on my pauses and the orange lights in the driveway danced on the wire rims of glasses and frosted her hair. I told her how Bill, the medicine man, druglord to our city's senior citizens, said that I looked like a sentry on my wall patrolling against the forces of evil and protecting his sick.
I told her that the city was safe and the elderly sedated and her car awaited her return. And her smile said to me that she felt safe, and her eyes asked me things that she never would, and my blood danced when our fingers paused briefly to mingle in each other's warmth as I passed the keys to her hand.
Her taillights fled the driveway and headed left through the intersection without warning - her driving was as reckless as her affections. And I should have told her things. I should have asked her name and played with its sound in my mouth. I should have told her that I was in the most dangerous profession in the world - opening eyes and freeing minds. I should have told her that I was a wild creator, fabricator of worlds, a spender of words. I should have offered her eternal life on the page, beauty by definition and sex by connotation. I should have turned her ear to my stories and taken her heart unaware, leaving her to search her pockets for a week and a day until I saw her again.
How long could it last? How far could we go before she discovers that language is my concubine? How soon would she see those mental orgasms and know that I was keeping her heart in my study behind the milk crates engorged with paperbacks? When would she finally go for it, toppling my crates in a flood of Fitzgeralds, and upheaval of Updikes, Volumes of Vonneguts and a helping of Hemingway? She would place her heart in the same pocket from which she would take her keys, and she would drive recklessly out of my life.
The moon is low and locusts sing and I wonder how she really looks upon me - a lowly garage attendant complacent in my earnings, sedate in my reading? Or does she see me as a purveyor of parking and star jockey waiting patiently for my moment to shine so bright that I'll drive the moon from her dark throne with jealousy. The world sees me in and out of cars, constantly wading through a book. And time sees me through as my spouse in sickness and health, poor and poorer, the best of times and the rest of the time. My youth is an ailing friend who's hoping to cash in on my golden years early before I die, like Mr. Rosencrans in apartment eighty-five.
His friends and relatives have gathered here this evening to honor the fine memories he has left them with. They stream from their Cadillacs and Volvos and Nissans and Lincolns and ask me to take care of their cars while they usher themselves to his apartment to pummel Mr. Rosencrans' new widow with sentimental tidings. I park their cars and guard their keys. And when they return, tired and feeling as though they have performed some sacred ritual of love, I'll return their cars to their person. I'll rise from the seat and hold the door as they stuff dollar bills into my hands. They will maintain eye contact, searching out my hand without looking, and mumble something of thanks before sliding through the open door. And when I try to thank them they will brush my words aside quickly, trying desperately not to have their actions acknowledged, like a dealer trying to pass his goods unnoticed. My pockets grow heavier than their hearts, and my youth now has the chance to cash in on someone else's golden time.
In light of the source I feel a responsibility not to waste this money on senseless things, so after work I take my fourteen year old brother to an all-night diner that is frequented at this hour by the runoff from the local universities. We'll sit in our booth, awash in an assortment of dyed hair, tattoos and body piercings and I'll invest this guilty money in the most important thing I know. He'll ask me about college, and where I think he should go. He'll tell me about the girls he talks to in school. He'll tell me all manner of things that he's done that should never come to light at the dinner table at home. And he'll ask me how work was, and why I decided to go out to eat with him so late at night when I look tired enough to be in bed. And over his half-full cups of coffee I'll marvel at how much he understands, and the fact that he stands as tall as me, and I'll try to explain why I find it fascinating that someone else's grief can fill our stomachs.