Sunday, January 28, 2007

12 O'Clock Orange Juice

I have begun dabbling in fiction and creative writing. This is an excerpt from a story I have been working on. It is completely fictional and none of the characters are based on any individual in my life. I'd love to hear feedback.

"Matty! Get out here and help your mother."

"Jesus," I heard her grumble under her breath. Always something with Jesus, even when she brought in the groceries.

Helping my mother with the groceries would be a reasonable request if I was twelve years old, but I'm six months out of college with a liberal arts degree, working at a fucking grocery store. It's twenty minutes to noon and I'm just now rolling out of bed. It rained last night, thank God, and for that I don't feel quite as guilty about my late start. The fact that I made it out from between the sheets before midday I consider a small victory, even if it is just to bring in the groceries.

My mother’s was the first human voice I'd heard since late last night when I turned off the History Channel at 3:00 and put myself to sleep with a doubled-up scotch, thirty-two pages of Dostoevsky and four cigarettes. It was some show about the fall of Troy, I dunno.

By four o'clock I'll probably have three drinks in me and will have finished nearly half a pack of cigarettes. It’s been like that since September. An hour later my mother will be returning from her second trip to the store. Things could always be worse. Just last week when, having nothing else to do and racked with the recurring suspicion that I was getting sick, I decided to "push myself" and stay in bed as long I could last - 2:26PM.

My life, these days, is a concoction of guilt and possibility and the battles they'll have with one another. I run from the shame of not having a job and sucking my parents dry for cash to the few fleeting moments of creativity and optimism that tell me that in ten years I'll be able to look back and laugh. It never lasts, though. Today, I live with my mother. Today I'm pulling in about $40 a week at a part-time job that I'll only keep to keep her off my back. And today won’t be any different than any other since the day I graduated.

I'll probably head into the gym at about one-thirty. After forty-five minutes spent wandering around the Cybex machines like I'm in an obstacle course and wondering if the girl at the desk wants me, I'll probably take off at right about the time the hot brunette in the black spandies heads to her car. I'm always trying to manipulate timing. I'm such a skeeze. But the fact that I went to the gym will allow me approximately two hours of relief to think that maybe I'm not completely worthless.

Showered by three and dressed in something other than cut-off sweats and a v-neck I'll be ready for the day by the time most of my friends have been in the office for seven hours. Jesus, seven hours.

That's my problem and my blessing; I’ve always hated being put on a program. And I despise predictability. I think it kills people, really, and I see most of the friends I grew up with dying slowly.

The typical post-college routine for my old pals has been to take a job with whatever company they puckered-up enough to during their junior year internship. I can just hear the voice of some asshole on the phone, giving them the “offer of a lifetime."

You made the best damned coffee on the third floor and we’re bringing you back to make some more! Just kidding. But seriously, you ran papers and took phone calls twice as fast as that woman down the hall – Carol, or whatever her name is. You know her, she drove that purple Chevy Cavalier, too much eye shadow, always bitching about child-support or whatever. Real pain in the ass but I kinda liked her in a skirt. Anyway, you're a part of the corporate fabric now with all the benefits and a 401k. Carol is on her way home to break the news to her kids. But you’ll save us a shitload of money next quarter so I’m not gonna sweat that. Remember, lots of cream lots of sugar!

“Yes sir," they’d say, after a few nervous “haha's and okay's." And with that their fate will more or less be sealed. But at least they’ll have a paycheck and their own apartment. I forfeited those amenities when I decided to forget about law school in favor of pursuing something I love. That was about eight months ago.

I’ve made it a habit, lately, of avoiding anyone close to my age who has enjoyed any type of success that wasn’t entirely unique in its creation or 100 percent a product of their own ingenuity. Difficult, I know. And while I keep saying that this is because I can’t handle the pathetic inevitability of their situation, lately I think that it has a lot more to do with the fact that I live with my mother; who right now is downstairs throwing dishes into the sink, yelling obscenities because some woman at the grocery store told her she bore a faint resemblance to Republican senator, Elizabeth Dole. This is a customary, mid-afternoon thing for my mother. She took a twenty-minute trip to the store for a gallon of milk and some dish soap and this is what happens. As far as I can tell, nobody else has a mother capable of this sort of behavior; but I’m beginning to see its merits.

It isn’t the first time my mother has gotten the Liz Dole thing, either. Nor is her reaction at all out of the ordinary. She’s been getting that for some time now - I think since the ’96 election. On the night of the Republican convention that year I remember my mother yelling, “whoring bitch!" in the direction of our television when Mrs. Dole made her way to the podium. Through a cloud of cigarette smoke, she watched the business wing of America talk of their plans for increasing the GOP take over. I think she broke a cereal bowl by the time Bob said something about privatizing social security. But my how she was elated by mid-November when Clinton trounced the old man from Kansas. The kitchen had never been so calm.

I have always thought there was something about the kitchen that could bring out the best and the worst in people. Back in college I used to clean the kitchen compulsively on any morning following a random hookup. This is something that would happen with some regularity and it was terrific yet depressing all the while. Freud would probably say something about the kitchen being a place of comfort and some hokey shit about refilling your ego or whatever but I just think it’s a good place to get yourself back on an even keel with, well, yourself. I still couldn’t see any of my friends’ mothers breaking dishes after being recognized – accused, in her mind – as looking like a renowned politician. But that isn't the first part of my upbringing that instilled in me a deep distrust of the sublime and ordinary.