Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Think of this as a pre-first post since I don't have everything together yet.
Heard this on the radio last night, and loved it - particularly the characters relationship with food and how it seems like the office environment and social connection revolves around it.
Pardon in advance for length. I want to do illustrations for this, maybe tonight.


From Wiretap, Man Vs. Himself - 10-18-2006:

In the bathroom at the office, he places his hands under the faucet. The water is supposed to start automatically, but no water comes.
He switches to another sink, but still, nothing.
Finally, at the third sink, he succeeds at convincing the water faucet that he exists.
He washes his hands, and goes over to the dryer.
Again, nothing.
It’s like I’m a Hologram, he thinks.
He fears that the automatic hand-dryer in his office bathroom understands him better than anyone else.
You’re not really here, it is saying to him.
You may think you are – but you aren’t.
On the way back to his desk, wiping his hands against his pants, he repeats to himself:
I am. I am. I am.

One of her favorite things to do at the office is to spend the morning drinking so much coffee
that by lunchtime she is shaky and weak as possible.
She feels it brings a new dimension into her day, because she cannot be both physically uncomfortable and bored at the same time.
At the coffee machine, she tries to sell her friend Erica on the technique.
Taking messages, she says, and just holding a conversation become really challenging.
It pulls you in to everything, and it makes you so hungry that eating lunch becomes a deeply satisfying experience.
In the afternoon, she pulls cat hair from her skirt and puts one into each envelope she stuffs.
She takes her shoes off under her desk, and kneads the carpeting with her toes.

At the office, he used to check his email about every half hour or so.
But then, he started checking it every fifteen minutes.
Then, every five.
Then he started checking it every two minutes.
Then one minute.
And now, lately, he checks his email every ten seconds.
He has no idea what he is hoping to find in there. What could he possibly find?
He knows that no matter the message, it will not be enough.
An email from a long lost girlfriend,
His real father,
A dead grandmother?

He knows it would not make a difference if he received an email from God Himself – a subject line that read, You Must Change Your Life.
He would open God’s email, read it, and check again for something new
Ten seconds later.

On Tuesday, she eats lunch at a cafeteria-style deli, two blocks from the office.
She shares a table with two well groomed and conservatively dressed female professionals.
Although the seating area is packed, and they are surrounded by strangers, one of the women complains openly about her husband’s growing disintrest in her body.
I’ve been afraid this would happen ever since we started going out, the woman says. Barry used to be a total animal. Now he hardly knows I’m around.
She tries to picture Barry in her mind. She imagines him in a pink polo shirt, penny loafers, and a gold bracelet with the name ‘Barry’ engraved on it.
She imagines him avoiding his wife by spending long hours in the garage, gluing childhood toys together.
She looks from one woman to the other, as she picks walnuts out of her salad.
Then she thinks, I can’t imagine that happening to me.
I mean, I’m sure it will happen. Someday.
But I just can’t imagine it.

Like always, he eats his lunch at his cubicle, looking at his favorite websites.
He imagines what it might be like to go to some pornographic website, just as a joke.
He imagines looking at the naked pictures while eating his turkey sandwich.
He imagines the look on the faces of his co-workers, as they see what he is doing.
He imagines the sound of his managers voice, asking him what was going on, and being completely unable to answer him.

Thursday, there is a party for someone leaving the office.
She always goes to all the office parties she can, even when she hardly knows anyone.
She enjoys trying to determine how well-liked the guest of honor is, by the turnout, quality of food,
Number of signatures and personalize messages on the card,
And overall party vibe.
She also enjoys eavesdropping on the most socially awkward looking employees.
As she serves herself a dollop of ice cream, she overhears two guys talking about watching old seasons of TV shows on DVD,
how fantastic it is to enjoy a whole season in one shot.
They make it sound like opium.
She thinks about telling them she just got a great one –
A DVD of a shortly-ran TV show, about a woman who has a rare condition that forces her
To laugh when she’s sad, and cry when she’s happy.
But she says nothing.
As always, she keeps her best and brightest thoughts to herself.

He’s gotten into the habit of getting a muffin at three o’clock.
He leaves the office and goes to a little place in the food court.
The teenage girls who work there wear bonnets.
The bonnets make them look like depressed sunflowers.
He has never been the kind of guy to eat muffins,
But he finds himself looking forward to them, all morning and afternoon.
Muffins are like cake, he thinks, but without any of the festiveness.
You don’t need an occasion, or a companion, to eat a muffin.
I am becoming a Muffin Man, he thinks.

Friday morning she realizes that if she doesn’t do something drastic, she’s going to lose her mind.
She’s hung over and hungry, and shaky from coffee,
And slowly the idea comes to her that she has this job because this is the job she deserves.
She has no real talents.
To make herself feel better, she take several pens from her desk drawer and puts them in her bag.
She digs around and finds a ruler, and steals that too.
Then she fantasizes about eating one of the lunches she’s always asked to order for the executives.
She’ll tell whoever it’s for that the delivery guy never showed;
Then she’ll take it to the food court
And spend about forty-five minutes slowly savoring their lunch.
Or she’ll eat it at her desk, so that maybe someone will notice.
And fire her.

When he walks into the office lunchroom and goes to pour himself a cup of coffee,
And sees that the communal coffee machine is empty,
He knows that the next seven minutes of his life will be accounted for.
He throws out the old filter, and gets a new one.
He gets the scoop,
And scoops out the beans from the bag in the bottom cupboard.
And he grinds the beans, puts in the fresh filter,
Pours the water, and turns the machine on.
It is the most socially mindful and satisfying part of his day.
He believes that actually admitting this to himself is meaningful.
It either means that he is finally becoming more honest with himself, about his feelings,
Or that he has entirely abandoned his own sense of pride.
He brews the coffee,
Vacillating between the two.

After lunch, which she’s eaten alone at the deli near the office,
She goes to a liquor store and buys a little airline-sized bottle of Early Times bourbon.
She doesn’t feel like drinking so much as she feels like drinking on the job,
As a way of asserting to the job her freedom.
You cannot make me not do what I want to do.
You cannot make me not have fun.
Once back at her desk, she slips the little bottle into her pocket, and walks to the lunchroom for coffee to mix with.
She enters hurriedly, but stops short a few steps in.
There is a man at the coffee machine, bent with his hands on his knees, watching the coffee filter into the pot.
For a moment, she has no idea what to do next.

Usually, when he makes coffee, his co-workers walk in and engage him in conversation.
Fillin’ up the old coffee machine, someone says.
Yes, he answers.
Good stuff, they say.
Sometimes, they lean against the counter, and wait for him to finish preparing the coffee,
Their empty mugs dangling in their hands like begging bowls.
He feels like the center of attention, the man of the house.
Out of the silence they will say,
Brewing the Elixir of Life.
And he never has any idea how to respond.
But today,
Out of the silence,
There is only silence.
He sees her standing in the doorway, quietly,

The first thing he notices about her is that she has a large forehead.
It reminds him of Frankenstein, but in a really nice way.
Like a pretty Frankenstein.
He’s known many intelligent people who have had large foreheads,
And he’s always imagined that it’s because their brains are too big for their heads to contain.

She is looking at him.
He looks like the kind of guy her mother would like her to be interested in,
The kind of guy whose pleasure in stability borders on perverse,
Like a well-organized sock drawer really lights his fire.
He is at home in himself and in this office,
And she wonders if at the end of the day, the janitors open up a panel in his back and power him down,
Then put him in the utility closet next to the copy toner.
But she almost envies him;
She thinks, at least someone is happy here.

It isn’t like he decides that he’s going to say something that he actually means.
Something true, and even vaguely embarrassing. It just happens.
It’s the kind of thing that only happens to him once in a while,
Say, once every three years or so.
Most of the time, he says things that he only half believes,
And more often than that, he says things that he doesn’t believe at all.
He looks at her, and out it comes:
Sometimes, he says, there’s a certain way that coffee can hit you that really makes you feel that anything can happen.
Like the thoughts you have are very important, somehow.

She understands.
She says, I understand.
When I drink a lot of coffee, I have to keep a pen around, because I feel if I don’t write down a thought, It’ll disappear forever.
She pulls a scrap of paper out of her back pocket, and unfolds it.

“One of my Favorite Things,” she reads, ” is to pretend when I’m on a down escalator,
That the person passing me on the up escalator is actually my grandchild, visiting me from the future.”

The way her face looks when she reads is like the way children’s faces look.
Her eyebrows are arched up high, her mouth is a perfect circle.
He is so excited to be spoken to the way she is speaking to him
That he can hardly even hear what she is actually speaking.

She finishes reading to him, and then feels embarrassed,
But when she looks up from her paper, he’s smiling.
Not really smiling, but smiling with his eyes.
She thinks about how smiling with your mouth is nothing, but smiling with your eyes comes from someplace deep.

He doesn’t know what to say next.
Can I pour you a coffee, he asks.

She holds out her cup, and he pours.

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