For four days I’ve embedded myself in a population that has only been previously viewed from the fringe.
For four days I’ve received criticism constructively, honed communication skills for the workplace, and chit-chatted with Cathy about her agreeably precious Terrier pups.
It’s taken half a life to become welcomed as a member among the indigenous people of Normality. It feels like being the first to colonize Mars, like life has made good on its promise.
On the fifth day I’m summonsed to a conference at noon and relayed the news of a sinking ship. The certificate of casualty comes complete with obit: Remembered kindly by a three-digit-figure, Patrick Sean Irving’s four-and-a half-day-effort.
I’m instantly traveled to the dark abyss, where a chambered echo finds me tunneling through visions of catastrophic failure. Adjusting the reverb to filter the sound…..it’s three very hospitable nerds politely asking for me to abandon the premises.
Compared to these heartless bastards, I feel like Mr. Rogers.
Escorted out of the building and onto the plank, the cold, choppy water is waiting. Why walk to the end when I can jump off the side, there’s no need to be melodramatic. ‘Succumb to the shock,’ my heart goes, numb. Empties the air from my lungs for no hope of flotation. Were the pavement a touch more viscous, success might find me attempting to drown.
I process the reasons I haven’t yet died: ‘It may be a problem of acceleration.’ The speed needed to break the parking lot’s surface should come with a launch from the top of the building. This deserves to be mulled over further while I kill what I brought for lunch.
A consolatory text vibrating my pocket interrupts my process of healing. It’s the team leader who discovered we share an associate, and he’s heard rumors of me and my off-time. He gives me privileged information to feed the competitor, who happens to work in our building. He’s also prepared me a sparkling reference. “Just let me know if you need anything else.”
I remove the device, shut the driver-side door and accept the assist like a gentleman.
Illegally reflecting in his car window’s tint, something needs done with my tie. While straightening up and figuring out, alarm bells ring in my image: The Shippy Eye Twitch, a precursor to chaos, known in my circle for saving six zeroes. Usually present in hostile situations, it forces the mind to wonder: ‘Is there is any length left on this maniac’s fuse?’ The thematic effect, alleviation of risk: Trepidation yields to Volatile in the game of high-stakes chicken.
Back to the building, my new form of hell. I’m fairly certain that’s what to expect. After following directions to the foot of the stairs, finding the place will be easy: “Go around. Two doors down. You’ll see the blonde and she’s bangin’.”
I discover a pond hidden behind the building and observe for a moment how it negotiates freeze. The slow bargain being driven is jet fuel for gossip, and I’m instantly fluent in Snowbird and Duck. “Would you believe who wants me to come for Thanksgiving?!”
With the office I want just a few feet away, I’m given plenty of time to be jealous. ‘Little birdie concern, little birdie concern…Please won’t you please be mine?’
The threshold before me, protected by glass, hides all but one indication of what I’m approaching.
The blonde I disarm from the doorway. A smile and wave is all that it takes. On the other side of the see-through entrance, she excites at the thought of inviting my breach.
The owner’s office isn’t very well guarded. I commandeer his time without seeing resistance. The information, good, it finds its target, and dare I say, I’ve made a new friend. But friendship comes with stipulations, and while he’d obviously appreciate my talents, he’d appreciate them more under the guise of a student intern making jack-shit wages. Because money’s not the issue, and method acting entertains me, I conform with a shake and sign the papers.
The desk I’m given is in the front room. It faces the desk of our Admin. Her job is to hang out on Social all day. Mine’s to nurse a stare and avoid intoxication.
The office layout provides an intimate setting: Three rooms plus the break make the space for four employees turning one nine-to-five. There are two closed doors — each section an office — one for a programmer, one for a boss, and me alone with one smoking-hot blonde.
Oh, my darling wicked temptations…
…She has no interest at all in our game.
I take my breaks with the kid who programs. He enjoys earning twice what I do. “$8.00 an hours makes me your superior.”
“Then why aren’t we smoking your superior weed?”
“Mine’s the same as yours, I bought it from you.”
“Agree to disagree. Narc again and I’ll bang your mom.”
I’m at our company meal for Thanksgiving when loose lips slip and spill tricks with the booze. The blonde brags about how she gets her ID’s while our boss reveals quick revenue for Search. Naturally intrigued by shortcut methods, their stone-cold tips pierce the warmth of my pocket.
When the blonde forgets to take me home, I ask the program kid if I can hitch his mom with a ride. I take the hit for his joint when she comes and he goes. Notch two more failed attempts to make family.
Weeks pass without significant incidence. But it would be weird for that to go on for long.
My vacation that started in Paradise, Bliss is brought to an end in Abrasion. It’s come to Management’s attention I’m taking my student responsibilities serious. Just not how they had it in mind. I blame the Ritalin for crossing our lines, but it’s Management’s fault for blurring expectations. They take my badge and my bulletproof desk. “Do I at least get to keep my pretend school credits?”
While there are things I can do in this office to relieve the business of value, weaponizing the Department of Labor requires creative potential. Thus my artistic heart files a complaint seeking minimum wage for predatory labor.
The complaint’s return disturbs me. I don’t remember the missing punctuation, or the incomplete sentences that complete psychotic ramblings. Though I know it’s an indication of something, I can’t muster the care for what. What is confirmed is arbitration failure. And a need for me to level-it-up.
Start the Rumble of Thoughts: A Fight for Space in My Brain. ‘No justice…no moral compass…no respect for people with toys…’
I encourage my grievance to be reconsidered. The government worker respectfully declines. “You’re holding the line. Fuck off and enjoy the holidays.”
I walk out of the building and that’s when I’m hit. Hit right in my entrepreneurial spirit. It’s a roundhouse kick that spins my mind into action. ‘When the eyes of the ranger are upon you…’
‘…I can do everything they do, only better, and without the need for direct supervision.’
That’s Step One thinking: common in all of my breakups. Nothing unusual here.
‘Because I spent two months in training at two different locations, from two separate businesses, learning from two failed approaches… my production from home should be exponential.’
Makes sense. Continue.
‘I can loose some change. Insomnia’s a bonus. The only risk here is no risk at all.’
Scanning for doubt in my razor-sharp mind.
‘I’m heavily armed with the tools for success…’
While checks and balances and minor progressions convince me I’m destined for greatness, my spastic eye measures make drastic my pleasures and calculate routes towards their anus.
‘…And the best success is always revenge.’