Monday, October 26, 2009
The sun is up, it is bright and almost warm outside- a suitable morning for watching ambulances as they navigate improvised slalom runs through the lines of orange safety cones temporarily blocking the traffic on my street.
Steel Plates Ahead...ka-thnk.
For an hour or so I sat drinking coffee, staring at blue jumpsuits as they unloaded their damaged human cargo at the hospital across the road. There are always patients being brought in but I rarely see them leaving, which reminded me of something...but my reverie was interrupted by an unwelcome voice and I lost that thought.
The voice repeated itself several more times. I ignored it and reached for my coffee- but my mug was gone.
Peeved, I looked up and saw my imaginary friend Fancy. She was clutching my mug and grinning madly, waving her phantom hands crazily back and forth at me as if I were a flame to be fanned -or a bad smell to be dissipated.
"Hey! Hey!", she yelped, "I thought that would get your attention. If I didn't know better, I'd say that you were trying to ignore me. Are you?"
"I was succeeding until you took my coffee...move a bit to the side, you are blocking my view of the ambulances. I'm trying to diagnose the patients as they arrive across the street- it helps intensify my brooding...oooh, look- that one isn't moving at all. I wonder if he's dead? No...the fingers are twitching- that's good, I hope. Unless it's a stroke. Or worse."
"Well, pardon me...sheesh...the last thing that I want to do is de-intensify your morbid brooding. What, if I may ask, are you brooding about, anyway? Besides ambulances,that is."
Her question made me pause. It is a long list, I thought.
"Well", I finally replied, " I guess right now it would be mortality...but that is probably because my front yard is an ambulance loading zone and I've been watching paramedics push gurneys all morning. And my tooth hurts, which will probably lead to a heart attack. Or cancer."
"Mmmm", she muttered, "living across the street from a hospital is bad Fung Choo. Plus, it is kinda depressing. And very loud."
"I agree with you about the noise and depression, but I think you mean Feng Shui...it's a Chinese thing-"
"Damn you", she snapped angrily, " I said Feng Shui! You never listen to me! I thought you were different, but you are just like the rest- no one listens to me, you included ! Ever!
Nobody. Ever. Listens. To. Me! "
"Ah...I'm sorry. It's just that I thought that you said Fung Ch-"
"Goddamn it! That is what I mean! You don't listen to anything I say!"
"Um, but, er ", I protested and fell silent, unable to continue after noticing Fancy was bent forward, arms folded, barely able to contain her laughter. It made me angry to witness this hilarity and I found my voice rising despite my feeble attempt at self-control.
"Damn it! Stop laughing! You are not the slightest bit funny."
"Pft. Suit yourself. Seriously, though- what's the matter? You look like your best friend just died."
My sub-conscious is a real bitch, I thought.
"Hey! Don't call me a bitch", said my sub-conscious.
"This argument is so dumb and futile that it is giving me Bureau flashbacks", said I.
"Yeah...what happened to that job,anyway?"
"I got laid-off again. Three times in one year...first I was demoted and shuffled from one department to another, finally I was laid off entirely. Since then, I have been called back to work twice: once for seventeen hours (spread over four days) and again for eighty-eight hours (spread over ten consecutive days, including Saturday and Sunday). After the office crawled out of the statistical hole it was in, I was released into the wild. I expect it to happen again, too- unless I can find a real job somewhere else."
"A real job? I thought you told me to stop laughing."
"Jerk. By the way, do you really want to get into a name-calling contest with me? I live inside your head and I'm not afraid to fight dirty. Do you want me to bring up your latest tale of woe?*"
"What? That the IRS wants money from me now for a mistake I made years ago and that I will go to jail if I don't give them money that I don't have? Go ahead and blab it- it is my fault, after all. I should have known that refund was too large and given it back...being drunk was no excuse. Make sure you include the special ironic twist, though."
"Yeah, the twist...as in a knife stabbing Oliver in the back. I have no job and I am waiting to see if I qualify for an extension on my expired unemployment benefits, so this is an especially bad time for the IRS to ask for money. I can't wait to see what the holidays bring."
"But... don't they have a 'payment plan'? "
"Yes. But if I take that option, I have to acknowledge it on Federal job applications...it is usually a disqualification, regardless of what the 'policy statement' says. It is not a lot of money- I could pay it with a single paycheck if I was working- but if I take the payment option, I will be ineligible to work at the Bureau".
"The same Bureau that keeps firing you? You would work there again?"
"Yes. It beats homelessness. I've never been afraid of becoming homeless before. I've been sober for years and done good work at the jobs I've had, yet I'm 40 days away from having nowhere to live...I thought I had an extra month of rent, but now the IRS gets it...fuck. Homeless and sober...that possibility freaks me out. A lot. I mean a whole lot," I said, stretching out my arms for emphasis before continuing.
"As it stands, I will borrow the money from my brother and hopefully pay him back with my tax refund from this year...a fuckload of trouble, but better than going to jail. I've long since abandoned any vestige of pride, so borrowing isn't a problem. Much of one, anyway."
"Hmmm, yeah, I can tell that it doesn't bother you from the way you grind your teeth- so what's your plan?"
"Plan? I'm going to play guitar and wait for World War Four to start or for super-heroes to rescue me, whichever happens first. I'd prefer a steady job but I'm trying to be realistic."
* latest tale of woe not pictured here.