Sticks and Bones

The first part of a chronicle of a crush-turned-obsession. I'm sorry, Julie.

To experience this in natural reading order go to A Bright, Ironic Hell: The Straight Read .

Also, try Satellite Dance and Crystal Delusions--Parts 2 and 3, respectively--complete.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Touching Air (2/28/09 Saturday)

I tried to call Jan last night. Julie on my mind was making me angry. I couldn't get through to Jan's cell (the only number I have) on my land line, and I couldn't pick up any service on my cell. It had been warm, in the sixties, during the day, and was still mild enough at eight to ride in shorts to pay my rent. It was an excuse to go to Target, itself an excuse to be around people. But there weren't many people there. I made no contact with anyone. My cell still had no service. I'd had coffee with dinner, anticipating--wanting--an active evening. I was home at ten-thirty, having done nothing but buy some t-shirts, socks, shorts, and underwear. No one had called. I emailed Jan, explaining the phone problems and saying I'd hoped to see her this weekend. Then I wrote James, depressed I'd had no one to do anything with and angry thinking of Julie. That's how I felt when I went to bed at two.

Love, Hate--Six of One... (2/27/09 Friday)

The meeting with Ahmed brought back much of the recent resentment of Julie, the old indignation of persecution, and the older feelings for Julie. I don't want any of them. I've gotten two or three hours on the desk with Julie each of the past two weeks, and each one has been more of a struggle than the previous to maintain my self. What now does being in love with her mean? Anything? Is it even true? And now that I question it, I want more than ever for it to be true, because there was comfort in the faith I had in its trueness. I don't want Julie, and I don't want to want her. I don't want to be around her or hear her voice. Why that should hurt, I don't understand. I don't feel embarrassed that I wasted so much time on her. I'm no longer trying to make back some of my emotional investment. I make those statements sincerely, but I don't know if they are true. What can there be about her anymore that holds me in her thrall? She's beautiful, but so what? I can think of nothing else about her that I actually value.

And then I hear her talking about that man who tried to talk her up on the desk that time, and how he so doesn't have a chance with her. She was not oblivious that day; she was shunning him. I sneered about it then, but now it angers and hurts me. She admires Stacey for putting herself out there, yet there is no respect for the man who puts his dignity on the line when she won't do it for herself. Does he deserve your ridicule, Julie? I want to say some very cruel things right now, but I'm a better person than that--forget deference to anyone's feelings; I'm just not going to stoop to that level. I'll just sit here with my arms crossed and listen to my shoulders knot up.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

House of the Rising Gorge (2/26/09 Thursday)

Book Monkey will not make it to the blog roll. Tammy approached me as I was discarding an unrepairable paperback. "You and I need to talk with Ahmed in his office," she said. I looked at her. "Is this about the blog?" She said, "Yes." "Jeez-us Christ!" I exclaimed. "Don't kill the messenger, " she said. I tore off the back cover of the book, tossed it in the wastebasket, took a deep, huffing breath, and with undue deliberation did the same to the front cover and title page. Finally, I stood and followed Tammy to Ahmed's office, throwing the book with angry force into the discard box under the sink.

Anger still clouds my memory, so blow-by-blow account this will not be. To start with, let me just say that that paranoia that was beginning to tighten it's grip with each day my blog didn't appear on the roll was entirely justified. Ahmed told me my blog was "too personal." My iteration that it was fiction did not fly with him. "You have to admit," he said, "that it is a lot like what happened here not long ago." Oh, you mean that thing that was none of your business in the first place? How personal would this be if your nose had been kept clean of it? I looked at him. He said, "You know what I'm talking about, don't you?" Seeing his discomfort at having to bring it up, I let him squirm a moment more. "Yes," I said. He went on to explain how, in light of the way some people have used this exercise to forward non-library agendas, the 2.0 committee has had to narrow its previously stated focus and re-evaluate the blogs. "There are many less relevant blogs than mine," I told Ahmed. He said, "And they are being talked to by their supervisors." Too many times, he said, "Don't take this personally," and I was pissed that I couldn't, really. He also said too often that there was "absolutely nothing offensive" about my blog--it was simply "too personal."

I left his office impatient to get to my break, of which this meeting had stolen ten minutes. I snatched up my food and water and marched into the woods at the back of the parking lot with hard, long strides, staring at the pavement. I didn't eat my lunch but pounded the path through a loop and came back with the same gait. I tossed my lunch aside, gathered my writing and made for Planet Teen's computers. I promptly published each of the posts queued up for Book Monkey Says, then went back to the empty breakroom and choked down my sandwich.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

J vs. J (2/25/09 Wednesday)

I would like to see Jan this weekend, when I have the Saturday off, but, as before, I haven't heard from her since the day after we were last together. It's not easy to believe everything is all right with her. I know she is disorganized and probably not hard-wired into the internet culture, but I also know that she takes an anti-depressant and that it's been six months since she had a drink. In Plan-9 she said, after lamenting that Jimmy Buffett was no longer worth listening to since she couldn't have a marguerita, "Sometimes I think that I could have just one drink...." I worry that she's had that drink, but try to trust her not to have.

Meanwhile, I await Book Monkey's debut and wonder how my being in love affects my feelings toward Jan. Am I pacing myself with Jan becasue I still hold out hope for Julie? Can I be in love with Julie and not want her?--and still want Jan? I have myself believing I can--or at least feeling I can. There seems to be no conflict. If I found myself loving Jan, could I then still be in love with Julie? But that's a cart far in front of the horse. The Admittance has engendered an acceptance of much that I'd otherwise have questioned, and my natural rebellion against this "irrational" acquiescence seems unable even to lift an angry fist even to shake, much less to strike with. For answers--indeed, for any further questions or speculation--I can only await Book Monkey's impact.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oh, Monkey, Monkey Me! (2/23/09 Monday)

A Julie-day such as I haven't had in months, if at all, and there was nothing special about it. I've simply regained her trust. I'm still a nervous wreck anywhere near her, but I don't avoid the proximity. Today, incident brought us near often, and though I was nowhere near natural, I managed to meet her eyes and match her jests. It was a relief to laugh with her. I'm not raising hopes--that soil is exhausted--but trying to find normal. Though I'm often acutely aware of her presence, I do a better job now of not being so aware of her presence as to make every action of my own about her and the hope of her noticing me. It's easier to do my job.

Then I remember that first Tuesday in December, when I was giddy to see her after what seemed an eternity, little knowing that everything I'd built would be torn down without a thought within a few hours. And I think of how the awesome hair-day is always followed by the most horrendous one. Perhaps this sounds fatalistic. Consider, then, that Book Monkey has not yet made the blog roll. This time the sabotage could be my own. I worry that she'll think I'm seeing signs again, especially since I've made such a turnaround in the past week with my attitude toward her. I don't want her afraid of me again and of her actions towards me.

When I didn't see Book Monkey Says on the blog roll, I was miffed. My first chance to look for it came when I replaced Julie on the desk at eleven. She'd even left that page up. I scrolled down the roll, though, and didn't find the blog. I emailed the Web 2.0 committee asking how long it took for that to happen. Later, reading the blogs in the roll, I came across someone writing, in passing, about the difficulty she was having modifying the roll. I commented on that post that I was eager to see my blog on the roll, but that I'd try to be patient. In order not to corrupt Book Monkey's persona, I signed in with my Bright, Ironic Hell username and password. Now, if she clicks on that, thinking she'll find the blog to which I was referring, she would get BIH. Great.

But I am eager to expose Book Monkey. It's important before I can continue posting to it, or even before I write much more of it. Though I don't want to simply translate the real action to fiction, I need to get the feeling from the consequences of the exposure. I want the fiction to "happen," to present itself to me. It's almost as if the reality is the role-playing for the fiction. Oh, boy, I like that. I'm seeing these characters as real, and I don't mean I'm seeing the person they're base upon, because that person was just the skeleton, and now they are flesh-and-blood. Book Monkey is not me; May is not Julie. And Gail--who is she? She's Gail! I don't know a Gail, real name or otherewise. Fiction (except for delusion) has not come from my pen for many years, and it's never come like this, so real. How much realer is it about to get?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Operation Devolution (2/22/09 Sunday)

I would not have expected The Admittance to be a liberator, but for the first time I feel able to reconcile my understanding to my knowing. Understanding I could come to, and knowing I could understand, but I couldn't know what I understood. Muddy as that seems, it's exactly what I've been putting myself through over most of the past year. The Admittance all but marginalized those tribulations, saying, "Stop right there. Bottom line: You're in love with her. No more talking around it." But should this not have made my pursuit all the more necessary? What about The Admittance made it suddenly so easy to accept Julie feeling nothing for me? It's as if being in love with her was all I wanted all along; that I didn't need her to love me back. Strange to consider, but the less so the more I do so.

And what now? I may have little time to bask in this complacence once Book Monkey speaks. Of course it will be construed as a new pursuit of Julie, but how much more of an object could she be, now that I've created Book Monkey? She's practically an archetype. And all because I'm in love with her? This is no attempt to turn Julie my way--that will never happen--but I do want her to know I am in love with her. I know I said otherwise yesterday, but why deny the first reason for creating Book Monkey? But do I expect anything of Julie over this? Absolutely not. I thought she should know, and this was the silliest and subtlest way I could let her know. And why not let everyone else know, while I'm at it? I hate secrets. Julie would keep this a secret even from me if she could, but let's obviate the whispers. I won't be the only one amused. Let's laugh out loud, not stifle it under our breaths and behind backs. This joke is at no one's expense but mine. What offense can Julie take that doesn't flatter her to think she's Book Monkey's love interest? Hell, who's the butt here? I'm the monkey!

I've already written several posts for Book Monkey Says, but I won't post a second one before the blog has made it to the roll on the Web 2.0 sidebar. I want the first one to stand alone for a day to promote the effect of isolation. After that, I plan to release no more than one post daily, as I don't want the latest post to smother the previous before it's had a chance to be read. I'm excited and stimulated by this new project. I think it will resonate far beyond the joke it was born as.

Swimming Pool or Tea Cup? (2/21/09 Saturday)

Well, I've gone and done it--and what have I done?! Book Monkey Says (Book Monkey was taken) has been created, the first posting posted, and Tammy and the 2.0 committee notified. I suppose it will be on the blog roll Monday. I've been laughing about this since I conceived it, but it's been quieted to a nervous chuckle by the thought of the consequences. Of course, as I've said, the fiction blunts the truth, but the assumption can make a sharp enough knife on its own. Maybe it isn't provable, but who will that matter to but me? At least the people out of the loop to begin with will likely remain so. That helps me with a couple deep breaths. I'm almost certain I don't want Julie to know I'm in love with her, but she will make the expected assumptions. Of course, she won't confront me, and about what, anyway? You know I had to stir something up. I'll just grin, pinch my nose and step off the high dive into it. And I can't even swim.

Friday, February 20, 2009

sNIPpet (2/20/09 Friday)

My second (third?) chance came last night. It came sooner than I expected, and I was unprepared, but I knew the next chance might not come. I kicked my pride's ass, gagged the Wise Man and let myself out of the paper cage. The chance was another desk hour with Julie, and seven hours from its discovery seemed, at first, too little time to formulate a plan. So I didn't, and the longer I didn't and the closer the hour loomed the more I became aware of what I must do, or what I must not do, which was ignore Julie. Monday's hour was torture; I wasn't going through that again, however satisfying it was to my pride. The hour before we met on the desk we passed in the back hall. I offered a smile, small and shy, but sincere. Julie returned the same.

I took the near desk. No words passed between us for fifteen minutes. No tension, either. Then Julie laughed, and I said, "What's so funny over there?" For our Web 2.0 training we are all to start by creating a blog. She was reading the training page and directed me to a link of "amusing cat photos." I am not the person she is, but I did find the pictures amusing. We didn't talk, but it wasn't necessary; I'd accomplished my mission by not having one. It had crossed my mind hours before that I might apologize to Julie for my behavior in ignoring her, but it seemed an egotistical endeavor, and I've always preferred showng to telling, anyway.

Besides, I have a new venue for those feelings. The blog I'm creating for work will be called Book Monkey, and will be about and by a monkey that shelves books. This monkey is a loner, out of place among both monkeys and men--and in love with a coworker whom he knows can never love him back. To anyone who knows of and has read A Bright, Ironic Hell, Book Monkey will border on scandalous, but who could accuse me of anything untoward? Julie might not read more than the first post, but she will read that, and that would be enough for me. I won't hesitate, either, to use the phrase "in love with." After all, this is a monkey talking and who ever heard of that?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

That's Because It's Love--Remember? (2/19/09 Thursday)

If my conscience didn't bother me Monday, it's now shredding me like a nightmare beast. Yesterday, I made the same mistake of bad timing I had made Saturday. The results were different. I pushed the cart of mail books down the back hall, but I wasn't halfway when I heard a familiar laugh at the other end. I pushed harder, stepped longer, but Julie turned the corner from the breakroom, smiling. My sympathetic instinct was to smile, but in a blur of conflicting thought and emotion, a split-second entanglement of rationale over what would be right or wrong to do and what her reaction might be to any of my possible actions and what power I might gain or lose as a consequence, I hardened my face like baking clay and looked at her. Her smile vaporized. It was as if I had slapped her. She flattened against the wall as I approached and passed. I was, and am, thoroughly ashamed of myself.

I can't deny that I still desperately want her attention, but not as some scary, wild-eyed sad-sack pining for her. And what other attention can I ever expect from her? None. I can't say that I don't want my behavior to affect her, but I don't want her pity. I can't say what I want. Nothing's logical.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Toasters at Twenty Paces (2/17/09 Tuesday)

Of course, I'm fighting this love thing to the death. I'll take it to the highest court. I'll get a restraining order, a gag order. This must be overturned. Will the ACLU take my case? It was, after all, a gross violation of my freedom of choice. It matters not whether I might actually want to be in love--it's the principle of the thing. And what am I if not principled?

James suggested that this...entity...that has made The Admittance for me is taking its "last, best shot" at keeping me after Julie, so I have to, reflexively, take mine at it. But it's as if I've been tranked; the will is there, but the power is not. I'm in some kind of evil Happy Land, where everything is provided before I can ask for it or even decide if I really want it.

An hour on the desk with Julie yesterday. Can you believe it? It had been at least six weeks. (No, I've not been counting.) It was not intentional, though: Tammy switched names instead of duties on the schedule, so I got Angie's usual slot. I knew I'd be going on the desk at ten, but I hadn't looked for my partner, because it just hasn't mattered in a long time; but when I saw Julie amble out there after checking the schedule I bolted from my desk and doubel-checked. I was glad, and nearly petrified. Tammy's separating us from mutual desk duty had probably been deliberate. I doubt that Julie had asked for it, but this happening dispelled--or quieted-my itchy paranoia. James and Mike were on the desk. James was busy at the near station, Mike was not, when I followed Julie out, but Julie stood at the counter beside James, waiting for his seat. Mike left his when I approached him. The door had barely closed behind James when Julie followed. I thought she might be going to get the leasebook cart, and I was miffed that I hadn't gotten it first, but she came back empty-handed. That's when I got the cart. I spent the next half-hour shelving, looking up occasionally to see if Julie needed help. Julie called me over once, and spoke to me once more while I shelved to let me know she was going to the workroom to find a book for a patron. After I'd put up all the leasebooks, I rolled the cart back to the workroom then sat silently at the desk a few feet from Julie, glasses off. It was a long, challenging half-hour. The only discomfort I can name was a hopefulness. If she were uncomfortable, I was glad. My conscience was not bothering me, though I can't say that of now. I wanted more than anything to stare at her, but that's not how I wanted to make her uncomfortable, and I couldn't afford to let her think I was mooning over her. That's why my conscience wasn't bothering me: I'm under a mandate to not show any feelings toward her, and there is nothing I can say to her or interest I can show in her that could point to anything but those feelings, because that would certainly be the motive behind them. My hands are tied. I don't recall which of us first ran from the desk upon relief, but I was all but staring at the clock on the wall behind us for the last twenty minutes.

Mike had an hour out there with Julie today, and I was jealous (or envious--I forget the distinction sometimes). I was shelving the DVD's and could hear them talking. Actually, it was her talking to him that really made my gut churn, but I calmed it somewhat when I realized she wouldn't be talking to him if he weren't "safe"--i.e., not a candidate for romance. It was still hard hearing her voice. Later, I had a holds hour while Julie sat at her desk with her headphones and a/v. I sat directly in front of her, at Angie's desk (mine has no barcode scanner). As I approached I was almost pointedly careful not to look at Julie. I'd brought no music, deliberately, in order to challenge my tolerance. But Julie never spoke except to Greta about a Harry Potter movie she was apparently watching. She's a big Harry Potter fan (not I!). When she put on the her very fake English accent to quote a line, I cringed and muttered, "Be quiet, be quiet, be quiet" from behind clenched teeth until she stopped. All this within the first two hours, and there were still two more to go. Tomorrow will likely be worse, though. I'd rather leave Julie there for the last four hours on a Tuesday than to spend the last four hours on Wednesday without her.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Whose Fool Am I? (2/16/09 Monday)

There's really nothing I can do about this, is there? A finality with no closure. There seems no reasoning left to do. Is this the religion to which I predicted I'd succumb? In what am I putting my faith? To what have I given over this problem? I didn't resign to this, so how could this be what I wanted? How could it seem such a certainty? I'm fighting this blind faith with no weapons, weapons I allowed to be taken from me simply by saying I'm in love with Julie. I say "allowed," but that is boasting a control I just did not have. The only fight I have left is for that control back. Over what? Over what have I ever had control? Is that the real admittance?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

NIP in Bloom (2/14/09 Saturday)

As my interpretive powers have been stunned by the magnitude of The Admittance, the best I can do is recount my day.

I lingered in bed only a few minutes after the alarm and lingered on the toilet longer than usual and necessary, unblinking, muttering, "What am I going to do?" I showered but didn't shave. Shaving's become an occasional thing--only once this week. Ate my granola and drank some of my coffee in front of the penultimate episode of The Prisoner, then finished the coffee staring out the window. Got up suddenly in the middle of that revery to retrieve a ring, a spoon ring I bought as a teenager in the seventies. I'd last worn it the day I met Julie at Stir Crazy. I'd been wearing it a couple months to that point. I couldn't take it off quickly enough when I got home. I slipped in onto my left middle finger, the only one on which it would fit. I somehow managed to leave on time--7:45 to get to the library by 8:30. I actually did make it on time, though my legs felt heavy after sixty miles already this week. Traffic was very light, and the lights were efficient. I was off the handlebars for most of the last half mile. Julie would not be there till 9:30; still, I looked for her car.

I changed. Last night I changed my mind on what I'd wear today. Halfway through the day I realized I was wearing what I wore to the coffee shop--and red on Valentines's Day--and the ring. I managed to finger-comb my hair into decent shape.

Till ten I'd be backup. From the bookbin I pulled only four books--the 24/7 must have behaved overnight--and they turned out to have been due three years and three months before. Discarded two of them for being hoplessly obsolete. When I knew Julie had arrived I contrived to be out of the workroom when she reached her desk by taking the branch mail to the back to pack, but my timing was perfectly awful: The hall was blocked by Julie's approach. With a small dramatic flourish, she made way for me, but the hall might as well have been the eye of a needle. With my cart of books I banged nearly everything in sight--carts, walls, my own feet--trying to make more room for myself to get past her. A swift glance, a muttered thanks and my back was all I gave her as I passed. When I returned to the backup station she was gone from the workroom. I took my glasses off in case she returned.

The next hour I deleted holds while she was on the desk. Safe though it seemed, I still put in the earbuds and put on Singles Going Steady. I was only a few songs in when Julie came back, looking for a hold. She leaned over my desk to look at what I'd pulled from the holds shelf out front. She wore mascara and her hair was up off her neck. I had just deleted the hold she was looking for, and she took it. I came out to the desk next hour glad to see her busy with a patron. I relieved Bethany instead, pulled the chair from the desk, sat, and looked at the thick twist of hair high up Julie's neck. I watched her go when Megan relieved her.

It was a long hour, but not the longest of the three I spent out there. Most of that hour my glasses were off. I brooded on The Admittance and the apparently absolute impossibility of its resolution. Despite only the rare blink, a slow gathering of tears maintained the moisture in my eyes. I discreetly dabbed them once or twice. The second hour, I was nearly catatonic, but my last hour on the desk was a constant irritation of patrons. I left there to be Julie's backup for my last hour of the day. She was out there solo since Judy left early because of pain from a fall yesterday. Julie called me out, I dealt with a patron and left, walking behind Julie toward the door. "Thank you, Dion," she said after I'd passed. I turned my head but not my body to say, "You're welcome" to a profile and a cocked ear. I thought of the other day's "Hello, by the way."

At five o'clock I was changing for the bike before Julie was off the desk. I wanted to see her again but could think of no excuse to go back to the workroom. I pulled my jacket from the hanger, which tangled with the adjacent one. I couldn't shake them apart so I hurled them both against the wall. One of them broke into three pieces. I didn't feel a whole lot better, and I didn't want to go home to the responsibility of the kids, whom I couldn't even tell about my day. That's why I stayed up three hours past their bedtime to write this.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Only Four-Letter Word That Is Truly a Curse (2/13/09 Friday)

It's a struggle, and I'm letting go. I'm not letting go of Julie, but of the denial that I'm in love with her. I must be. Everything has been working ironically because everything I've convinced myself of is a lie. I don't know what love is, but the good feelings feel bad, and the bad feelings feel good, and soon I won't know which is which. Every thought seems a contradiction of itself; every feeling hurts. Can I be in love with Julie? God--bitter, spiteful god that you are--help me. How can this be true? How could it be anything else? What else could be so impervious to logic? If I am in love with Julie I am also in serious trouble, for it will never be requited. And if it was hard to be around her before, it will be impossible from now on. I say that love is impervious to logic, but when I say I'm in love with Julie, nearly everything I've thought or felt or denied thinking or feeling about Julie makes sense. But--oh, I don't want this! Damn it all!

I can't judge my day today at work as good, bad, neutral or anywhere in between. The more I tried to ignore Julie, the more I just wanted to stare at her, which I did at least twice to her face. Before I'd yet seen her today I knew she was to relieve me from the window. I didn't want to be there when she did, so I went to the 24/7 room to scour the bins for books, though I'd done it just the minute before. As I emerged I knew peripherally where she was, standing between her desk and the window station, facing me. From eight feet away I finally fully raised my head and gazed levelly at her, daring her to speak to me. I would not have been the first to speak. That was not a determination; I simply was content to stare at her face, and it was up to her to remove it. "Dion," she said, cautiously testing a smile, "I'm ready to take over for you at the window." "Okay," I said. It wasn't hard to suppress a smile--I didn't feel it--but the corners of my mouth twitched almost imperceptibly upward. "Thank you." "You're welcome," she said as we both turned from each other.

At three o'clock I relieved her from the desk. When I approached she was turned from me and the desk, talking to Jen. A patron approached the desk, and Julie partially turned toward them, but I stepped up and reached for their checkouts. Julie's turn to see whose arm had intervened and my step closer to intercept the patron brought us face to face, barely a foot apart. I stared down into her right eye (it was very dark) and said in a strong, clear voice, "I'm up." "You are?" she said. I didn't answer or move. She slid off the chair and left. It was then I knew I just wanted to stare at her. And it's about all I can do and not betray my affection. Love. God, not love!

Friday, February 13, 2009

But the Arrogance of the Individual Is Kryptonite (2/12/09 Thursday)

I was in unusually high spirits at work yesterday. It was easy avoiding Julie, and I was careful not to wish for more of a challenge. But the same south wind that pushed me to work put a palm to my forehead as I swung wildly at it on the way home. It took me nearly an hour, rarely getting into third gear. By the time I finally turned into the complex I was thinking bitter thoughts of Julie's rejection, rueing these stupid roles pressed upon us. Wouldn't I like the chance to be "flattered" by a "nice girl." Dammit, I've been round and round this: If she didn't feel it, she didn't feel it. Why do I still want her to? Do I still want some payoff on my investment? or is there really something in Julie for me?

The wind has not abated this morning--over twenty miles an hour from the west--but I'm not on the bike today. Walked up to Ben Franklin, the gusts quickening my steps. I thought that if I left my feet at the moment a gust were to shove me I might be carried on it for a while, like the leaves that were racing past me, but I tried it and didn't get the slightest lift. Bad timing, I guess.

I took Julie's picture to Ben Franklin. I'm still working on how to attach it to the fender so that I can expose it when I ride and cover it at work. I thought I might find a small photo pocket. I didn't find one at the photo shop yesterday when I picked up the picture) or get it laminated. I'd then attach it at the corners to the fender with velcro tabs and simply flip it back and forth. I left Ben Franklin with only a small paper cutter. We have a laminator at work, but I don't know how to use it. Besides, my conscience isn't likely to let me use company equipment for my own pleasure, especially given that the pleasure is illicit in that the photo, if it were seen would, once again be a violation of Gay Lynn's trust. Of course, despite my efforts at discretion, someone could still flip the picture over and leave it exposed, and then even move my bike as they (Chris) did before under the tag scanner by the back door so everyone could get a gander. But that would be to assume that anyone at work still reads the blog. The more accurate assumption might be that they think they killed the blog. Ah, but the arrogance of the mob is no match for the righteousness of the individual.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

As in " in the bud!" (2/10/09 Tuesday)

Monday morning Mike asked about my weekend, so of course I had to tell him about my outing with Jan. We were at the discharge stations before opening. Julie was in and out of the workroom, and was in and very close by when I said, "...but she lives out of town, so we won't get to see each other but a couple times a month, maybe." At the time, I was sure that would sound like I was seeing someone, though now, when I think about it, it could as easily have meant Colin or Kevyn. the idea, of course, was to induce jealousy. At the same time, I was worried she'd decide with relief that I was over her. It could go either way.

I told Angie, too, that I had had a "coffee date." "How did that go?" "It went great," I said, "a million times better than the last one." I'd often wondered how much Angie actually knew, and her laughter and "Oh, lord, yes!" told me that. But from whom or what? From Julie or the blog? I would prefer she'd consulted the blog, but she's not a reader or a snoop.

Thomas brought the second mail early today, just after noon and my sitting down to lunch. He'd come right on the heels of the first mail, so Tammy told him to cool his jets while Mary Lou at backup finished unpacking. You don't have to tell Thomas twice to chill. He sat down at the next table and engaged me about Julie. I all but spilled my guts, or at least my brains. I told him about the "date" and how I'd told her I wanted to get to know her better (leaving out "fascinating") and how shocked she seemed to be at my request. He said, "Did you apologize?" "For what?" "For surprising her like that. For coming on so strong." How smart and perfect that would have been, too, if only I hadn't been hurting. Tammy gave Thomas the go-ahead and he went back to his truck. By then people were streaming in on the next shift, and there was no way I'd be finished lunch and out of there before Julie, usually a couple minutes late, arrived. I had just finished my sandwich when I heard her voice in greeting of Thomas at the back door. In the time it would have taken her to open the fridge door to put lunch in, she still hadn't shown. She'd have gone to her desk straightaway, but she'd be here for her ice and water in a few minutes. I usually sat with my back to the kitchen, so I could both see out the windows and avoid seeing anyone else. I finished my yogurt and stood to gather my containers, journal and manuscript when I heard the relase of the freezer door and the clinks in the glass. I slowed, fumbling with my pens and bookmark as the footsteps crossed to the sink and water floated the ice. I had a handle on my stuff as the footsteps reversed. "Hello, by the way," said Julie, still walking away, I noticed when I finally turned and said a flat "Hello." Now, as I am trying to maintain a strict non-interpretation policy (NIP) in regard to Julie's actions, I will not speculate on that greeting--but boy do I ever want to sink my teeth into it!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Not a Train In Sight (2/08/09 Sunday)

Up and ready early, I warmed up the computer to post a couple entries. I checked my email first. Jan had written: She was going to be late; she had stayed up very late (the email had been sent at 3:34 a.m.) and needed some sleep. She'd call around noon. But I was ready and wanted to start my day. I replied as much and gave her my cell number.

It being winter, I dressed for it--t-shirt under shirt under light wool jersey under Gore-Tex rain jacket, and cycling shorts under rain pants. It must've been close to sixty when I stepped out with the bike at eleven. I didn't feel like peeling anything off, and didn't. I stopped on the next block to order two wallet prints of Julie at the photo shop. Four miles more up the road I stopped at Book People. They'd left a message I hadn't quite understood about Flemington. The paperback was out of print, they told me now, but they could get a first from Britain for about forty bucks total. I told them to go for it. Outside, I unzipped and untucked but did not peel. I locked up at the Belmont library and changed inside. Trying to manuever in that tiny stall reminded me of my city hall days when I had a similar space in which to do the same thing every morning. I sat on the toilet to remove my shoes, and stood on them to remove my pants and shorts. I replaced them with my "ass pants." I removed the jersey and Gore-tex, untucked and unbuttoned the shirt, left the t-shirt in. The shirt was green-khaki canvas, the t-shirt a chocolate brown. I replaced the bike shoes with brown Eco-Sneaks. I crammed the excess clothing in the saddle bag after removing the canvas satchel and slinging it across my shoulder, strapped the bike shoes on the rack where the Eco-Sneaks had been, and walked up to Cary Street. It was close to noon. I bought four CD's at Plan-9--Play by Magazine, because I wanted to hear "The Light Pours Out of Me"; The Plastic Ono Band, because Emma wanted to hear "Working Class Hero"; Taking Tiger Mountain by Eno for every bit of it; and Neu! because it was playing in the store and I couldn't stop my whole body from reacting to it. I went to Jean-Jacques from there.

I had nearly finished my second (because it was free) cup of coffee and was pinching together the crumbs off a banana nut muffin to drop in my mouth when Jan burst in. "So you got my messages," she said, breathing heavily.

"No," I said, though she didn't seem to hear me as she sat down beside me at the small, square table.

"So, what have you been doing with your morning?"

"Oh, just wandering around down here."

"I need some protein," she said. "And coffee." She hopped up and peered into the pastry cabinet.

I looked at at her. Except for the athletic shoes, she was dressed less for walking than for a casual meeting--jeans and a form-fitting purple-and-white-striped mid-sleeved t-shirt that just reached the top of her jeans. I admired both her form and her style as she bent to peer through the glass. I would guess she was at least five years my senior, but she dressed much younger, though not in that pathetic pretense of clinging to adolescence. She dressed as herself. What she wore she wore honestly, and that's what I was admiring.

Now, I don't have a photographic memory; I can't recount each word Jan and I exchanged. We were together five hours and shared a lot of words, sitting in Jean-Jacques and walking through the neighborhood. We made all sorts of connections with each other, and never was I uncomfortable. Near the end Jan asked if she'd "talked my ear off." We had to step off the curb to skirt the crowd around a street "magician."

I answered, "No. You talked a lot, but you had something to say. Some people who talk a lot seem to be talking to hear their own voice, but you have ideas." I tried to apologize for "being..."--and couldn't think of the word--

"Vulnerable," she supplied. I had just finished telling her about the blog fiasco and was feeling abashed and exposed at having over-divulged. Vulnerable was not the word I was after, but maybe it was the word I meant, so I didn't protest.

She did not accept my apology. "Men," she said, and I was suddenly alert for a generalization, "seem to want only one thing." We were weaving our way single-file, me in the lead, toward Plan-9. "I can tell you're not like that," she added. "I think it's important to develop a friendship first."

"Oh, I agree," I said, ducking under a low branch of a Bradford pear. "There's nothing before friendship."

In the store I showed Jan Suzanne Vega's first album, thinking she'd like it. She'd never heard it. She pulled it up on Pandora on her iPhone and listened to some of it. She decided to get it.

But I had to go. I had at least half an hour on the bike and sunset was only twenty-five minutes away. Besides, the girls would be there soon. Parting was awkward--they always are for me, being unsupplied with the conventional social graces--but this was maybe not so much about that as the deepening of our bond. On the bottom step of the Plan-9 basement she reached across and patted the side of my arm. But, not satisfied, she offered a hug. We parted with promises of keeping in touch. Never had those sounded more like a commitments than a niceties.

The library was closed. I crammed all the clothing I could in the saddlebag, wore the rest, rolled my jeans up to my knees, and, once again, rode off into the sunset.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Frankentale--Preface (2/07/09 Saturday)

Though I've professed to myself, Kevyn, James, and Stacey that whatever happens with Jan happens and will not be adorned with hope, I am excited to be seeing her again. There is no spark of romance, just a feeling of newness, of stepping off in a new direction not simply without fear but with ready anticipation. Call that hope if you like, but that would be premature, and I want nothing about this to be premature. Everything in its time. But as I was showering I thought it would be nice to have a tale to tell Monday if anyone should care to ask about my weekend. And I would want Julie to hear it. (The audience sighs and shakes its head.) In the moment, at the bakery, I will make nothing of anything, and afterwards, on paper, I will subdue the event in reportage, but Monday, at work, I will breathe a life into it, deservingly or not. I'm a storyteller, after all.

Nover (2/06/09 Friday)

Thursday night I had a desk hour with Jennifer. I thought I owed her an apology for thinking she had been the original snitch of the blog. Jennifer wouldn't have known this, because I never sent that email invitation, of course, Chris' conscience having stepped in at the nick of time to urge his confession (if only it had stepped in earlier to obviate the need for a confession), but Tammy warned her I was gunning for her. Ever since, I've felt the need to apologize for the distress this may have caused her. Well, I tried to apologize--in fact, I must be given credit for doing so, even it ws accepted as if I were trying to return a borrowed tissue. It wasn't grace or humility that didn't want my apology, but fear and embarrassment. She actually seemed to physically shrink when I mentioned the "blog...mess" and waved her hands across each other in front of her face. "It's over, she said sharply over my words. I said, "I know it may be water under the bridge, but I just thought I owed you an apology for blaming you for something you didn't do," the sentence was woven through with her "No, it's okay, it's over, it's good, it's all good." That was a first for me--browbeating someone with an apology. It seems only a guilty conscience would so vociferously refuse an apology. Makes me glad I opened the wound. "Over," she'd said. Just like that, huh? For whom?

Encountered Thomas at the back door on my lunch break as I was gathering the manuscript and journal book. "Where's the picture?" was the first thing he said to me. (I still park the bike by the back door.) "I was forced to remove it." "What?" he said, the expulsion of the word recoiling his head and shoulders. "Yeah," I said, "but I'm puttin' it back on there." Thomas howled. "Ah, you go, Dion!" With his handtruck piled with book bins he trailed me up the hall laughing. "Man, you are all right!"

I have plans tomorrow morning, and it's not scooter soccer with Matt. Jan emailed me today to say she'd be in town. I called her when I got home, and we set up a rendezvous for ten-thirty at Jean-Jacques.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fungs (2/05/09 Thursday)

The fun came at me yesterday. Scared out of my wits, I ran. Avoiding Julie had been too easy this half day of concurrent schedule, and I was chagrined at the lack of challenge. It was after three, and I was shelving in Children's knowing Julie was at her desk with her headphones on, listening for flaws in a CD or DVD. At the top of the next hour I'd be going to lunch, and afterwards to the desk as she left for home. I hate it when scheduling makes my mission so easy. How can my point be made when it's shadowed by routine?

Bemoaning this from my knees as I shelved the easies, a stack of books landed heavily beside me. I looked before she unbent, at the lyart hair fallen across her face and down the billowed v-neck of her sweater at the curve of her breasts. Both the recognition and the compromising view ordered my glance quickly away.

"Here, Dion. Shelve these," said Julie with mock officiousness then a laugh to hedge her tone to ensure I knew it was a joke. I laughed meekly, and she laughed again more appreciatively.

"What makes these books so special?" I said.

"Well, I read this section earlier, and these books that go there were staring at me from the sorting cart. I knew it wouldn't take long to shelve them."

She was there for ten minutes, the last nine of which my shirt was undone and sleeves pushed up above my elbows to vent my boiling blood. When, done, she walked away, I cursed her. Dammit, I thought to her back, you don't make it easy to ignore you. But, there, exactly, was my challenge and chance to have fun, and those were the words that should have been spoken. I got what I wanted, didn't I? But I wasn't careful how I asked for it: I wasn't aware I was asking.

When I returned with the cart five minutes later, all the while assessing the damage to my strategy caused by this new monkey wrench, I instinctively, against muffled warning, shot a glance down to the last desk. There Julie sat, headphones on, looking at me. She looked away, I looked away. I parked the cart, and at that moment knew I could not possibly stop ignoring her now for fear that she'd think I'd seen a sign of affection. She may have been trusting me again with her silliness, but all I can do about it is nothing, except learn to rejoin her.

Diaphanous Allusion? (2/04/09 Wednesday)

Julie is invisible again, or almost; I haven't quite gotten back in the swing. If Monday's chill stare wasn't enough, my new attitude prodded me backward, suppressing the conscience that made me uneasy about it before. If I'm really to believe that all this hasn't been about her, as I've professed, then she must truly be made an object--or, maybe, rather, the vehicle on which this project rides. Or would she be the fuel propelling the vehicle? What is she? Not a metaphor, apparently.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Ghost of Reality Future (2/03/09 Tuesday)

James asked me last night, haltingly, carefully, if I really, honestly, "100 percent," wanted to be over Julie. The question mark wasn't off his lips before I answered, emphatically, "No!" So, there, I said it, I have a witness--there's no honest equivocation to rationalize it, to convince my mind to convince my heart. But--if I'm to keep this (whatever "this" is) going I have got to have fun with it. I've emailed Matt hopeful of him still having the Julie picture I emailed him. His would be the only extant copy, since I so diligently destroyed the prints, erased it off the CD, deleted Gay Lynn's email of it, and emptied the bin. I intend to replace it on my bike fender, but this time cover it with a flap that I can velcro closed. It's a taunt, to be sure, but one Julie would never see; if she didn't see it the first time before someone told her, she wouldn't so much as glance at it this time around, having reason already to believe that "danger" over. Having it there before made me feel good, and I got a chuckle rubbing the dirt from her face. It was not a shrine to a goddess. On the cover I'll put something like "Guess Who?" If anyone lifts it they can see underneath, of course, but they'd also be invading my privacy. Where I take the fun from there, I don't know, but I have to have some laughs about it if I'm to minimize the pain; and with the right perspective I can do that.

There was nothing funny yesterday when, after a week away, I walk into the workroom and come face to face with Julie at the bottleneck beside my desk where everyone stops to check the posted schedule. It was a standoff, the briefest yet most steadfast standoff, and I backed away. Our eyes met, and at that moment she struck me as old, at least several years older than I. She seemed to have wrinkles where a week ago there'd been none. She looked tired, if not haggard. I muttered, "Good morning," without a smile and backpedalled into my desk space to let her pass, which she did with neither smile nor word. I was chilled. I did not see her face again, though I was constantly looking for her and would be disappointed if she wasn't there. Still, if she was, I did not look beyond recognition, taking no chances on eye contact. But what had I seen that first time?