|Posted on 2004-06-06 12:47:43 by Denver|
|It is Mother's day on Sunday and I haven't sent my Mom anything and I am|
late for work because of the train malfunction at Times Square and there
are demons buzzing in my head and so as I try to nonchalantly stroll by
her desk I barely notice that Rachel is wearing hot pink glittery lipstick.
"You're late" she coos.
I ignore this and keep moving.
"Oh, I'm so sorry for observing the obvious."
I enter my cubicle, boot up my computer and stare at my bosses unfinished
expense reports pinned to the wall. I can hear the click of her nails on
the keyboard fastidiously answering an email from one of her colleagues,
punctuated by an occasional spooning and swallowing of her Raisin Bran
with sliced banana. I think about her lips. Her smile. What a joy it would
be to wake up each morning and have those teeth, that nose, those eyes,
that visage, smiling at me across heavy cotton sheets.
"Rachel?" I whisper over the walls of our diagonally adjoining cubes.
"Did you know that raisin brain you're eating requires more nutrients and
energy to chew and digest than you're actually taking into your body in
those highly processed ingredients?"
"No," she answers with what I imagine is a roll of her eyes, "But thanks
for the information."
She is thirty-two, African-American, married.
I click on my outlook program. Ten new messages. On the Citigroup home
page the headline reads-
Mexico City - Citigroup's Mexican banking arm is on track to issue 1
million new credit cards this year, and is taking advantage of a growing
"credit culture" in Mexico, a company official said on Thursday.
Great. More Mexicans getting into credit card debt. I type Rachel a quick
you look so good in pink.
I take the expense report off the wall and prepare to retrieve an invoice
that our T&E office in Florida is requesting. The woman I've been speaking
with on the phone at the Office Depot Accounts Receivable Office in
Lynwood New Jersey, Lydia, is either schizophrenic or has recently been
inhabited by aliens. I've been asking her for the same invoice for two
weeks. Last week she told me-
"oh yeah I faxed that invoice to you yesterday. You didn't get it?"
So I call her up yesterday and she tells me- "Oh, I don't have that on my computer."
"Okay Lydia, well you said you faxed it to me Friday but I never got it."
"Well, I don't have it."
"Uh huh." (Are you completely f#%**ng crazy?) "Well, is there someone else who might?" I ask.
"You can try Anna, but she won't be back until next week."
I step off this coiling road to nowhere and decide to write my mother a
belated Mother's Day letter.
I know I'm late with this missive but it does not reflect the true level
of gratitude or appreciation that I have -
And then I hear a voice coming from the south side of my cubicle-
"Hi, yeah, um, yeah, noxious as shit from taking that morning after
pill...it wasn't in there. no. Delphine was like, are you gonna call him?
and it wasn't like he was some jerk off that just took it off, it was an
accident. i'm not gonna call him, but next time I see him. yeah, i'm gonna
This is not a voice I recognize. The air conditioning vent above my head
puffs hard and then, like a plane propeller coming to life, jerks, and then
hums and begins blowing a steady steam of super cooled air over my desk.
This chills the perspiration on my shoulders and I put my suit coat on. I
think about Armando and the physical assault last night. Should I tell my
mother about what happened? She's gonna tell me to stop drinking and then
worry about me. But she already does this and I feel like I need to share
this information with her because this is the kind of information that is
crucial to making the life decisions that I discuss with her. Based on an
informal survey of my male friends and associates, information such as
being sexually assaulted by another man does not get shared with their
best friends much less their mother. We have an unusual relationship.
Perhaps my mother is my best friend. I don't like to make these
distinctions. I don't find them useful.
I hear that voice again.
"Hi, I'm calling because I was in yesterday and I was given a prescription
for Previn. I took it at 7:30 this morning and I think I'm going to throw
up in the next ten minutes. My question is, will that be ok? Will it still
be in my body?"
The depth of this mystery woman's tone and the clarity with which she
articulates this calamity arouse my curiosity. I imagine a mature,
voluptuous woman in a business suit; she temps during the day and acts or
sings at night, works out at the gym, drinks at bars, has careful,
premeditated sexual encounters with handsome men.
Meanwhile, Marcia, a forty year old mother from Queens, has arrived at her
cubicle along my western wall. She sets down her bran muffin and her iced
coffee, turns on her AM radio to the station that plays "Hotel California"
once every three and half hours, boots up her computer, and starts dialing
her cabal of associates in the Citigroup secretarial pool.
"Cindy? Howareya? You can't believe it, you know that giant screen TV I
ordered for our den? Well, I made certain I was ordering an "in stock"
item so that the television would be shipped to our home within three days
and lo and behold, the three days are up and no TV. Now I have no recourse
but to call and harass these people."
I have a pair of earplugs but I always hesitate to use them in the
workplace. I can't hear my boss's phone and they're like clamping
seashells on my ears. Sometimes the air conditioning is so loud that it
actually drowns out the down wind customer service complaints and vacation
planning going on in the secretarial pool.
"Does anyone know if they're doing the no tax on clothes week next month?"
someone calls out.
"I hope so."
"It's been too long."
"My god, they should do it for more than a week."
Linda Ronkowski makes this final pronouncement. She is the administrative assistant to one of the M&A Vice-Presidents and is a clothes horse whose favorite holiday is the day after thanksgiving. Single and in her early twenties, she is often late for work due to elevator malfunctions and other mechanical difficulties en route. She has a sick mother in Texas and a coterie of friends on the floor who like to compare the sticker prices on their lunch meals each day. She is possibly the most nervous person in New York City. She sits with her back to the hallway and I have inadvertently scared the hell out of her several times by announcing my arrival at her cubicle with a cough or other unannounced knocking-like noise. Our heads are directly across the wall from each other and I am privy to her most intimate phone conversations with her mother, who seems to have raised her daughter like a house plant, burying her self esteem under layers of guilt and self hatred.
As Marcia and the air conditioning drone on, my eyelids become heavy and I
feel the pulse of my day becoming suspended in a cloud of customer service
anguish. I close my eyes.
Joe Kerman is galloping toward me on a grassy field in the central valley of northern California, and I am a five foot ten inch scarecrow strapped to the earth with cleats playing center fullback for the Rogues in the Chico Youth Soccer League playoffs- Joe is a six foot, two hundred pound fifteen year old Bull Man- running, no, snarling straight at me. I am the last thing between him and our goalie and as he closes the fifteen yard distance between us in mid-field, I wait. Joe has forced me off the
walkways at junior high school, cut in front of me in lunch lines, banged
me against lockers, sneered at my friends. This is where intelligence will
triumph over brawn because this is not the lunch line or a tank battle, it
is a game of skill and intelligence and I will step aside and elude this
charge and poke the ball away from his trampling feet. Twelve yards, ten,
five, two, and then he crushes the ball with his right foot and I wince as
it explodes toward my groin and spurts right through my winnowy legs and
then he grunts and flings me aside and bears down on the goalie. He roars
as he casually smashes a shot into the right corner of the net for the
"I'm so sick of these pigeons that sit on my windowsill. They poop all
over my car, my backyard, my deck, my driveway. My pool. They oughta be
shot. If my husband wasn't so lazy."
Marcia's voice, her catalog of afflictions, is interrupted as my boss
opens his office door. A telephone intercom blares on his desk as a young
associate enters and sits across from him; they are flipping through notes
on an international merger deal.
"I checked with Bob on the assets point," the voice booms, "six billion is
with the acquisition, the number you have in mind was organic, right?"
"Right" my boss says as they close the door. Now a temp in the Legal Zone
is cutting his nails. Cubicle life stops as the unmistakable sound of his
fingernails snap off, fall, and land into a wastebasket.
This finally ends and I resume the letter to my mother.
it does not reflect the true level of gratitude or appreciation that I
have for you and I feel certain that-
I stop. It sounds like a business letter. I have lost the ability
to express myself sincerely to my own mother. It has become like a will or
a merger contract.
Happy Mother's Day. You're not gonna believe this but I got drunk last
night and somehow this guy named Armando tried to put his dick in my
mouth. I know. I know. I shouldn't have gotten drunk. But I did, okay?
Well maybe you can find some kind of balance, huh D?
Some kind of balance between frightening your mother with true tales of terror on one hand and on the other writing her a letter of sterile hallmark sentiment from your office phone personality.
I exert so much effort countering the bob and weave of other people's
hollow communication that I often deliver blunt observation as casually as
a remark about the weather. Not surprisingly this tends to surprise and,
occasionally, offend. Take for example, the next moment in time, where I
get out of my seat and walk over to Rachel, who is innocently typing out
an strategic business development contact list and smiles at me when I
approach her desk.
"You know," I say, "There's something about that top."
"What about it?" she asks, her fingers paused over the keys.
"I, I, think it makes you look older than you are."
Somewhere in the back of my mind a question is growing like a bacteria in
the mud. This is your way of flirting?
"It's not ugly. I love the roses. But the cut. It's a little old fashioned."
"Is that right? Well, I won't be wearing this again."
"I don't mean to say it's ugly."
"Yes you do."
"I know what you mean to say. It makes me look old. I'm never gonna wear
it here again."
"No. It's okay."
But it's clearly not OK. At this point it is time for me to leave her
presence and staunch the open wound I have created. I go back to the
cubicle and hear Rachel leave her desk and walk over to Linda.
"Did you hear what Denver said to me?" Rachel asks Linda.
"He said this top made me look old."
"I can't believe he said that."
"Well, it doesn't. It's a beautiful top. I love the roses."
"That's what he said. He said it was the cut."
"It's a great cut."
I can visualize the headshaking as they move to a different subject.
"How much was your lunch yesterday?" Rachel asks her.
"Mine was five. And my salad was good."
"Yeah? Did you get a drink?"
"That's it. That's the difference."
"I like the fountain soda. That's the problem."
The door to my bosses office opens again. The phone voice is still blaring.
"I don't see any growth!"
"I think there are several indicators here-" says the Associate.
"Doesn't sound like enough fertile ground to us to proceed. I don't like
it. I've got an idea, let's rework the numbers and meet again on this
tomorrow afternoon. I'll call you."
There is the sound of a dial tone. The associate sighs and closes the
door. I can see him gesticulating dramatically through the glass and then
his hands come crashing down on my bosses desk. I dial Rachel's extension.
"I am so sorry."
"Oh. Is this the man who thinks I am an old maid?"
"I don't think that. I really don't. I think you are such a beautiful woman."
Oh god, you are committing sexual harassment in the workplace.
"Come on, Denver."
"No really, I was just trying to be honest. I love your clothes. Don't you
see? The next time I give you a compliment on your top you will know that
I'm not just blowing smoke up your, uh, you know what."
"I'm gonna tell my husband what you said."
"Oh please don't." There is a buzzing on her other line.
"I have to get this," she says, "Goodbye."
I am distraught. She is not only the shining star in my otherwise bleak
romantic constellation but the only permanent, senior level secretary on
the floor and thus my supervisor. Lunchtime arrives and I am still
fretting and pacing in my cube. These are the things I don't have:
1. Job security
2. A love life
3. Hope for either one of these
4. A sense of control over my alcoholic intake
5. Certainty that I have not been penetrated by a drunk male stranger the prior evening.
I decide to call my friend Anya at work. She is my best friend and a
border-line alcoholic herself. I trust her intelligence and the amount of
psychological study she has done on me.
"Hey" I ask, quietly, "How's it goin'?"
"Well, I uh, I had a horrible thing happen last night."
"I can barely hear you Denver."
"I said I had a horrible thing happen last night."
"I had a HORRIBLE THING HAPPEN-" Now I am shouting so loud the whole floor
can hear me - "Forget it. I'll call you from my cell phone outside."
I am standing on the corner of 55th and Park Avenue. Men with grey hair in
dark blue suits weave down the sidewalk with their colleagues, on their
cellphones, discussing technology derivatives. The light changes. Two
black nannies wheeling rich, white, upper eastside babies in strollers
almost collide with me as I stand on the corner obliviously blocking
everyone from walking across the street. The nannies are cursing at me but
I can't hear it.
"Listen Anya, I might've got penetrated by this guy."
"Well does your asshole hurt?"
"Was there blood?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"You better get tested."
"Maybe it's time to put down the bottle."
I get off the phone and go over and buy one of those huge greasy sausage
sandwiches on a pita from one of the carts at 54th and Park. I am sweating
through the armpits of a hundred dollar suit I bought at Daffy's -the
discount Manhattan fashion chain that sells knock off Italian couture. I
remember the dead stray cat lying on my rooftop crawling with flies and
vermin that are feasting right now on its flesh in the May heat.
I should have thrown that cat away this morning.
I should just call my mother and tell her I love her.
I put my hand in my pocket to make sure the phone is turned off and feel a
piece of paper folded over. I take it out and read the red ink. It is a
note from Armando.
Armando was here although you didn't notice. Give me a call 646.567.8934
P.S. I think my pen leaked on your bed. Sorry.
I squeeze the note into a lump.
I know what I should do.
I should call Armando.
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