at work, celia, a coworker and one of our spanish translators, asked me about her. she was in my office as i called a client to discuss their case and what we needed from them. she was the best translator out of them all, so i always used her, and so we got to know each other well. after we finished up the call she walked up to my window and looked at the building across the street, glancing upward and then down below.
Tag: nanowrimo 2015
028: cal (nanowrimo #7)
problem was, kurt and i had very different lifestyles. kurt was outgoing and i wasn’t, and so once i moved here, he had already collected friends while i had not. this changed after i went to grad school, but for the time being, i ended up becoming homesick and lonely a lot of the time. didn’t help that kurt’s friends were all incredibly beautiful, interesting people, all dressed well and physical fit. meanwhile i would order pizza for delivery from a pizza hut that was literally three blocks away. i moved into kurt’s apartment for about eight months and during that time i was fraught with frustration about my life and my progress.
027: cal (nanowrimo #6)
i had the first “falling woman” nightmare that night. it was an amalgam of her death and 9/11, thanks to kurt’s story. the buildings were already on fire and the woman was standing at the edge of the roof, surrounded by flames. she wasn’t the suicide woman, though, she was kelsey, though she felt like the suicide woman, if that makes any sense. i never saw the suicide woman’s face so perhaps i was just projecting. she was at the top of the world trade center with the smoke and flames and i was the security guard, and i was running toward her but my feet were like molasses, i just kept trudging forward but gaining no momentum. i never even got near her. then the bottom gave out from under me as the building collapsed, and at the same time kelsey fell backwards, and i was running alone in the air like wile e coyote before he realizes he’s not on the earth. i looked down at the plumes of dust and debris and smoke billowing out over the city of new york. then i started falling, and that’s when i woke up.
i’ve spent roughly the entirety of my life feeling like i’m not worth a woman’s time. i think this stemmed from grade school, when i not-so-gradually ballooned into a chubby kid before growing six inches over a summer between seventh and eighth grade. my body was preparing me for my growth spurt but in that time i somehow got the sense that women weren’t attracted to me. i wish i could pinpoint how that result came about and i also wish i could travel back in time to tell my younger self that i’m actually not a bad looking dude. somehow, my self-esteem was whacked in the knees very early on in my life, leaving me rushing to catch up with all the other, more confident men.
kelsey was the second girl i met in portland. the first will probably never know how much she changed my life here. i moved here after graduating from boise state. i was looking for a new place to hang my hat; i had spent my entire life in boise up until that moment. kurt had moved here a year before me, as he did not take an extra year to graduate, and so after i did he offered to pick me up and move me out there. i took him up on it.
026: cal (nanowrimo #5)
every fiber of my being at that point just wanted to stay home and pretend i didn’t exist. i felt awash with an uneasy sadness that desperately wanted to topple me over into existential anguish and i remember my hand gripping the banister of the staircase so hard my knuckles were white, as if letting go would make me tumble off into ennuic infinity. i averted my eyes from kurt, staring at the ground. it felt like hours but was probably only a few seconds before i squeaked out, “yeah. okay. is that okay with ellen?”
kurt smiled. “yeah, let me text her, i’m sure she’ll be fine with it. we go on enough trips on our own, plus she hasn’t seen you in a while, i’m sure she’d love to catch up.” he pulled out his phone and started to text as i spun around and walked back up the stairs to shower and put on deodorant.
024: cal (nanowrimo #4)
my room consisted of a queen sized bed, a dresser, and a table on which my computer sat. it was essentially my bedroom, living room, and writing space, and once i was up there, i only came downstairs to feed my cat or buy more junk from the corner store. my cat, schuster, used to be one of two cats i owned, simon and schuster, brother and sister, but simon had some weird cat bone disease and died on my bed almost a year before this story began. schuster has been a husk of a cat since then, very depressed, very missing of her brother. hell, i’ve missed simon too. he was a loud, obnoxious son of a bitch who would always pee in the various corners of my house, never stopped eating the plants, and would always wake me up in the morning but sitting on my face so his butthole was over my eye, but he was a good cat. schuster was very timid comparatively, and spent most of her time napping or patting at me for food. she was really depressed after simon died and would just sleep constantly, wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t stare at the birds outside. she got better as time went on but it was really sad to see an animal acting like it had no agency anymore. she really loved her brother.
023: cal (nanowrimo #3)
after a couple of drinks i left b-side and my nearly passed out drunken companion and caught the bus back to my house. the bus is a fantastic conduit for keeping you humble, because no matter how arrogant or self-centered you might feel, if you get on a bus that feeling will disappear. for a moment you are trapped in a giant steel box with a variety of people, and somebody in this new group will stand out like a sore thumb. for this bus ride it was a drunk or high guy arguing with the driver, or rather, he wasn’t arguing so much as agreeing with her, but she seemed to have had enough of his bullshit and kept telling him to mind his own business. the bus was about half-full and everyone was tired due to getting out of work. people were silent, scrolling through their smartphones and listening to music through their earbuds and, for some insane reason, not listening to this bus driver give the business to this guy. i’ve had this driver before, she’s kind of butch looking, maybe in her 50s, white hair, tough as nails but always willing to shoot the shit with you on the bus. she once gave me and my roommates day passes just because. that was back when bus passes were on what looked like newspaper and every day had a different code. the drivers would stamp the code onto each ticket with a hole puncher. one of my roommates was a nanny for a trimet driver and he would give her a big stack of unstamped tickets, and whoever left for work first would buy a day pass, get the code, text the other roommates, and we would either make a new day pass or just keep the old ones. we even made a board with little pockets on it to keep all of our day passes. it was great. i really miss scamming the system like that; nowadays it’s all computers and it prints a pass with the date and time on it.
022: cal (nanowrimo #2)
[it’s a long one]
so, the office. i don’t like to brag but i spent my adult life in dorm rooms and a cold farmhouse so let me brag for a bit. it’s not a corner office but it faces two parks with a gorgeous canopy of trees that are beginning to turn all types of colors for fall. these parks used to be segregated for men and women back in the 40s. not entirely sure why, but at least it wasn’t segregated by color. now they serve as a little respite for people who don’t mind eating their jimmy johns sandwiches around homeless and destitute people.
021: cal (nanowrimo #1)
well, i got the new office. took me three years of hard work and dedication for less-than-stellar pay, but i got it. now gary gets to sit by himself in that stuffy old cubicle, the little shit. two years ago i would’ve felt bad for him, but the guy’s nothing but a bunch of body odor and strange throat-clearing noises, so fuck him. now i get an office with a window view, and don’t feel like an asshole when i’m talking to clients about their traumatic lives in the midst of a group of dumbfuck twentysomethings.
my name’s cal. i have a master’s degree in creative writing, can you believe that? people still give degrees for useless talents. after graduating at the ripe young age of 25, i spent the next five years attempting to start a career writing poetry in chapbooks. do you know what a chapbook is? of course you don’t, you’re not a poet, nor do you care about poetry. (i’m kind of wondering why you’re even reading this, to be honest.) chapbooks are little poetry anthologies, usually self-published by poets. they’re the zines of the poet world. poets compile them and then sneak into their kinkos job after hours and make a thousand copies, which they hand staple into little books that they then convince some dopey used bookseller to sell at the front of their dilapidated store. right next to the cash register from 1975 and the odd european chocolate bars they imported for some completely oblivious reason.
i have two such chapbooks sitting unread at abigail’s books, a used bookstore located in abigail’s old house, effectively turning said house into a creepy manor and a boring stuffy mess simultaneously. “goat notes” was the first one: 25 poems about or inspired by goats. i wrote it because i was working part time at a farm in troutdale and i spent a lot of time with goats. i spent a lot of time with cows, pigs, and a llama named steve, but this farmer had a lot of goats, and every morning my job was to sit beside a couple of lady goats and pull on their tits until a bucket filled up with milk. these kinds of jobs seemed “below me” at the time, but in the grand scheme of things, pulling on animal tits is what made us human. once i realized this, i started writing gems of poetry that my publisher has asked me again and again to reprint in this book. unfortunately i will not do this. if you really want to read them, travel to abigail’s books in the heart of darkness that is outer southeast portland. i’m sure they still exist, swathed in dust.
anyway, i worked as a farmhand and wrote poetry on the side, “published” a couple of chapbooks and then decided it was a fool’s errand to try to be an artist in the world. the united states is not a country that breeds artists, but it likes to make you think that. truth is, most artists are from harvard and their parents bought them everything they needed in order to succeed. people like me who get master’s degrees in art are basically buying a piece of paper guaranteeing the government that i am going to pay 6.8% interest on $75,000 worth of student loans for the rest of my life. it’s sad, when you really think about it — america is feeding off of these people who really believe they’re going to be rich and/or famous. instead we have frustrated artists roaming the streets looking for anything that resembles a job. they’re like the entitled dust bowl travelers of the depression, only more depressing.
i was one of those guys, but i acted like my farmhand work was building my writing character. i’d wake up at 4:30 every morning, milk the hell out of some goat tits, bundle hay, take a nap, and my pay would be a place to live, a small stipend, and a shitload of eggs. i’ve never eaten so many eggs in my life. i don’t think i can ever again. my girlfriend rosie tried to make me eggs the first morning i stayed over at her place and i told her to throw them out of the window before i puked. but i kept working there because i thought the experience would get some really good material out of me. and it did, i guess, but certainly not enough to warrant a book deal or anything. after a couple of years of milking goats i decided to quit and find full time work, and now, here i am, three years later, with my own office at a law firm. my roommates in college would call me a sellout, but at least i can afford to live and eat and go out with friends. art is good and fun but so is being alive and eating steak every once and a while. plus, arguably my coworkers at the firm are much more … normal, than artists. they’re more normal but they screw up more often, whereas all my writing friends seemed flawless but were batshit crazy. me, i’m probably somewhere in between.