I wrote a short story

No secrets here. I wrote a short story, and I like it. Therefore, I will share it with all you fine folk. My short stories have had tendancy in the past to turn into novellas so, who knows, you could be reading chapter one of my new work in progress. Keep in mind it’s a first draft, but enjoy!

 

Shoelaces Untied

Lucas rushed down the hall towards me, and I considered briefly if I should turn away as if I hadn’t seen him. Before I could though, he had me swept up against his side, his arm around my shoulder, clutching my small frame against his much taller one. And he didn’t even break stride as  we now performed a simple gliding walk along the halls, tiled blue and brown from their floor and up the walls as well.

 Never one to mince words, Lucas asked, “Why you you avoiding me?”

“Me? I thought you were the one distancing yourself,” I said. Lucas was an intelligent sort of person, but I could still bluff my way through most of our encounters.

“Not at all, sweetie,” he said, using those long, spindle arms to manhandle me closer for a kiss on the forehead.

“Oh, I imagined it was all misunderstanding,”I said, snuggling a bit closer.

Lucas dropped his arm from my shoulders and smiled again: “I’ve got to run now,” he said.

And he did. He practically sprinted to the restroom at the hallway’s end. Ducking into the tiny cubicles, super-hero transformation style, he emerged minutes later as a giant, slime oozing, jade green snake/man hybrid. He licked his long, sharp canines, cackled into the air and in true duplicitous villian style, he disappeared around the corner and out of my line of vision.

I woke up from this nightmare, and oriented myself once again with reality. I was alone. In my apartment. Tucked under the red and brown plaid sheets I clung to as if letting go of these would sweep me into the sea.  My head ringing from the late night highball.

A week later, the reality was still delirious, but true. Lucas cheated on me. He misled me for God knows how long. And in the end, he only told me about the affair because his mistress was now pregnant.

He told me via text message. I knew he wasn’t one much for confrontation, but I had no idea how much until that message vibrated in, illuminating my backlit screen and throwing spotlight on all the corners of my glass house I’d thought I could hole away in.

A day after the dream, exactly one week from the fallout, my left ear went deaf. I couldn’t even process what to do with this new curve the first two days after it happened. I was a victim of the infamous Turkey Drop, and now I couldn’t even hear the consolations of those who knew it was coming. I’d been broken up with two days before Thanksgiving. Turkey  Dropped, as this type of breakup is called, in order to avoid being stuck with me through the Christmas holidays, and the New Year ring-in, and my birthday, and Valentine’s day until he could drop me in early March. And now half of my world was silent and I couldn’t even be bothered to wonder why.

On the third day,I went to my doctor and after the standard round of invasive questioning on when I’d last used all my parts, he told me it was just a bit too much wax in my head. Nothing glamorous or exotic for this gal. I was simply full of too much smelly, golden glue. There wasn’t much to do but try home remedies of peroxide and sweet oil and wait it out, he said. The glass house was in deadly broken slivers, and all I had now was time to kill anyway. 

I went to the bookstore later that evening to find something that would occupy my thoughts and simultaneously help me fall asleep. Standing at the informaton desk, describing my pitiful self-serving book needs, the book-maiden assisting me asked if I knew the author and title of the book I was looking for. She wanted me to pin down my heart’s bloody flip-flop on her bookshelves. I said forget it, and asked her to show me the section where computer repair books were. 

I headed to the shelves where my book-maiden resolutely pointed, banishing me to the land of hard drives and cold logical machines, as she picked up another customer’s call on line one. Whomever is imagining that a small town bookstore is the place to go to nurse a broken heart, be warned that it’s simply not so. Wading through endless titles on self-help and Godly love to reach my desired section, I looked up the stairs, across the store, and into the coffee shop that was buzzing with activity, muted, silent-film style in my present condition. 

Cafe center stage sat my Lucas, and he was not alone. Dear readers, no, he was not alone. 

Lucas sat, all long slimbs and with a heartbreaker grin in a chair made for someone with less chuzpah. He still lookde so good. Better than ever, in fact. One shouldn’t be allowed to look so good after crushing someone else. 

He sat with one foot tucked beneath him and his coal black hair ws trussed up in the semi-pompador, mohawk style I still found so endearing, even as I tried to hate it with all my might. He was talking animatedly with hands fluttering like startled birds. As he smiled and preened, leaning over that small cafe table, at ease as a veteran actor on stage, I wondered, did his heart still pound so hard you could feel it through his chest. Did it shudder and shake like that for this woman across from him as it had thudded so violently once when I leaned against his frame?

She was unreal. My first thought, bitter as an accidental bite into an apple core, was how in the hell had he chosen to give this one his seed? Luke is the only gospel that mentions the virgin birth. I’d always assumed this was just mixed metaphor, but now there was Lucas’s “baby momma” and I was reconsidering. A miraculous unconsumed birth is actually something I could see Lucas perpetuating to honor his own attractiveness, getting behind such an idea, you can say. I would have preferred this miracle to the truth perhaps. Ah, irony!

The woman was very rotund. I’m harsh on this vixen, but mind you, she’d just been a co-conspirator to my cuckold horns, and they were still heavy, so heavy, upon my head. Her hair, perhaps blond once, seemed much too short and she had muddied it with magenta and faded pink streaks. She had fine bone structure, though. She was built like a stocky, well-fed Amazon. She would crush me in battle. It appears she already had. 

She wore a quirky, long striped scarf, looking like a Whovian character of sorts. Her socks, I noticed as she crossed her legs and her ankle length flowing skirt parted, where mismatched. She wore those terribly impractical snow boots that everyone is so fond of. What made her more desirable than me, I wondered, as my knees shook and my heart continued to run wild with ache. 

I looked down at my own black Converse, a Smiths lyric written on the rubber sidewall. They were untied. I looked back to this new couple at their table. Lucas dropped his gesturing hands to his coffee cup and warmed them there as the woman said something. Then they both laughed aloud, their open mouths ringing with the sounds I couldn’t catch. It was rare to ever that Lucas laughed aloud. I’d only heard it once between smiles we shared or whatever it was people who laugh share.. Everything that once “was,” I was now rethinking as I watched the two. 

Maybe in some alternate realtiy, I would have marched up the chairs and flipped their table, telling the woman how silly magenta was as a hair color for thirty-year-olds. But the sane, wounded me knew about that kind of futility. I turned and walked out of the bookstore and into the new December air, chilly, but familiar once I’d let it soak into my skin and take hold of my bones. 

***

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Metaphors and Offerings of Caffeine to the Golden Calf Of Retail

Whine. It’s hard to write something interesting and meaningful every day. But this is a sentiment I’ve heard across the board. Everyone,  even the gods of authorland like Stephen King, says the days come where it’s like pounding your head against a wall to write anything, and everything you write seems like garbage. Not like Shirley Manson Garbage, because nah, that’s talent Garbage. Like a child grabbed a handful of crayons and decided to share their day, having no concept of language, what people find interesting, and no experience to make the events they tell relevant or even descriptive. Kind of like 50 Shades of Grey. (Burrrrrn)

Whatever. Coffee drinkers…did you ever notice the different kind of buzz you get between drinking coffee as opposed to espresso? The difference seems the opposite of what I would imagine it to be. Coffee gives me this urgent, rapid fire, buzz of feeling like I can do anything and I’ve got to do everything within the span of an hour that stretches much longer than it should, but pleasantly. It’s like a prolonged laugh that is often too loud, but not offensive. It’s swell when you have a deadline or have reached that creative wall. It does seem to leave you scooped out afterward though, as if you’ve thought all the thoughts of the day. After it wears off, I’m always worth pretty much nothing mentally. 

Espresso, for which the equivalent translation is one shot equalling one cup of coffee, is a much more extended high that exists as an intense experience that also puts the mind in a mellow sort of thinking. Espresso makes my hands shake and transfers my circulation so that my fingertips are always cold after I’ve had a cup. But it seems to open my mind to ideas and alertness more gradually and at a speed I can process and therefore go deeper into a topic under the influence. Coffee throws a fast pitch, and espresso gives me an underhanded toss right across the plate. I don’t “sports” very often so that metaphor might be a little lacking. Nota Bene: For more information on lacking metaphors see author Maggie Steifvater’s blog for her analysis of the “Dark Horse” song. It’s alternately hilarious and spot-on.

I feel like I can actually get things done on espresso (although I still may struggle creatively), whereas coffee gives me better ideas that I should probably just write down before I see a distracting link for a cat video. I also feel like coffee is probably more cravable because it gives such an intense feeling, similar to that of a drug high. Espresso is nice, but I think the risk of addiction is probably less because it doesn’t pack such a wallop. 

This could all just be my body reacting to espresso and coffee. Every body reacts differently to drugs in the system, and therefore results may vary. If you are just getting around to the knowledge that caffiene is a drug, then I’m sorry I have rocked your naive addict lifestyle. It’s a recreational and accepted drug by society, just like alcohol, and so don’t go flushing all your Red Bull down the toilet. And besides, my body is not exactly the yardstick to measure experiences to with my seemingly arbitrary and random list of allergies. Case in point: I had another recreational drug last night in the form of a glass of wine and my hands broke out in angry red, they burned and itched and I was quite tipsy with a single glass. (I’m looking at you Sulfites)  

I’m sure at this point I could go on about how there are certain drugs, seemingly just as “harmless” as alcohol and caffiene, that are illegal, and the reasons this should or should not be so. But I’m not going there. That horse has been beat enough, and furthermore, I don’t really have a vested interest or care in the matter. If having a glass of wine sends my body into rejection-stupid mode then I can’t and don’t care to imagine what other drugs would do to it. I like to firmly be in control of my own thoughts and actions at least 90% of the time and so that lifestyle just isn’t for me. I have absolutely no problem if that is your lifestyle and drugs (illegal or otherwise) are something you value. We can still be friends. I know you were real worried about that. But I’ll just sit and sip my coffee while you take the pill that makes you smaller. Maybe we can discuss Camus. 

It’s time for the daily dream analysis again. Last night’s dream was quite the allegorical passport, and unfortunately I know that I’ve forgotten one or more of the elements I remember initially upon waking. I do remember the dream dividing into two distinct parts. 

The first dream was not much of a dream at all. It was really more of a snapshot. Indeed, it was me, looking at a photograph of this year’s Dragon Con weekend. The photo showed the Carnegie arch in Atlanta where the DC Comics photoshoot for costuming was held. It was just a picture of the arch, and in the background I stood, Lanks beside me, and I was looking  (rather regally, I might say) at something far off, outside the frame. I don’t remember where Lanks was looking. 

In real life, I did attend Dragon Con this year and was at the DC shoot with Lanks. I don’t remember ever seeing this photo though. I also have a photo in my album of the Carnegie arch from where I’d visited Atlanta as a pre-teen. I think the integration of this past photo with a present person in my life is a wish for this integration to happen in real life. The arch is symbolic to me as a type of alter or gateway. Myself and a crush at a gateway, with me looking at something far away from the gateway says to me that I may not be as committed to the idea of transitioning through the new door with my romantic interest as I think I am. The gateway is there, but I’m keeping my options open for whatever is coming my way from afar. 

Man, that sounds deep. When did I get to be such a dream guru?

Anyhow, the second part of the extended dream sequence took me to a local arts high school, that I’ve been to, but did not attend for my own education. The school looked a lot like the Guggenheim Museum inside. I was sitting by a group of lockers and watched a high school girl pitch her phone over the balcony of the second storey and down onto ground level where I was. She was shouting about how the person who was on the phone, her love interest, didn’t call or text, and therefore she was done looking at her phone for these missing messages. I laughed at her and said something snarky, and the others on the ground floor came up to me and said they recognized me from “my work” and were told about me from teachers that had taught me at the school years before. From there, I stepped up on the platform of the floor I was on and looked at a gigantic statue there that was similar to a Munny figure, but with multiple heads, and it changed colors slowly like a 70’s lamp of some sort. From here, I know there was something more to the dream, but I don’t recall what happened next.

My interpretation of this is that the school, and its similarity to a famous art museum speak to me of my desire to make great art and have it recognized in an institution that specilizes in that area. The fact that I was recognized by current students as a former student and a success with some body of work hopefully speaks to me of how I am happy to a degree with how others support my writing and my stuggle to have it read. It also seems that I am aware that I am still a student when it comes to writing and have not quite mde the leap in my writing to the “teacher” status or being published by a known name. The statue is a harder interpretation. The only place I have seen that statue is at work, and the fact that it was so large, towering over me, could mean that I’m daunted and overwhelmed by this product that represents the retail world of the holiday season. It’s multiple heads and changing colors make it a curiosity that I’m not sure what to do with or how to make it speak to me of relivence. It also makes it seem like a mythical monster of some sort that I’ve been sent to face, and have no idea how to interact with it. Both true of my relationship with retail. Also, the Munny figure is a blank faced figure that you can decorate with whatever you want it to look like or essentially who you want it to be. It could be looking at an outward representation of myself and how I wish to have this image of self viewed and judged by others. A kind of, who am I and how do others see me type of quest on my brain. 

I do wish I would remember the missing piece from this. I have a feeling it has something to do with Lanks. I know that I identify myself and the girl throwing the phone as the same person, different sidess of myself. The one is volitile and destructive because things don’t go my way, and the other laughs at this side as well as the idea of waiting for a call or text from a mere boy. Eh, like I said, my brain knows what’s up before I do. And it’s all about just throwing the offending object aside or laughing it up until they decide to play ball with me. Because, for now, I go my own way and I’m going to allow the pitches to come at me whether espresso or coffee or none of the above delivers. I have found though, if you stand still long enough, something (good bad this that or neither) will come your way. Gotta get my mitt out and ready myself to catch the curve ball or whatever nonsense otherwise comes down the line. That’s enough sports metaphors for a lifetime. Off to battle with the formidable retail statue! More dreams to come, I hope!

-Anna R. Kotopple

 

The Evil Tick of the Clock

It is almost impossible for me to write anything longer than a page or more substantial than a resume when I’m working at home. Even typing out that sentence was brutal. Not counting the fact that I pay $50 a month for an internet service that works only when the planets align and I make an offering to the digital router, it’s just so difficult to get out writing that seems to flow when I’m by myself, at home, with a definite absense of good coffee. The biggest irony may be that, although I’m a barista with often praised drink making skills, I can’t make a decent cup of plain coffee at home. I blame my ancient, cheap coffee machine. Alas, every attempt I’ve made at homemade coffee on this dollarstore equipment has ended in a hot pot of disappointment

Absolute proof of that is that that one paragraph was all I could manage to do while sitting at home. I have taken to the coffee shop, and the presence of the cup of brew at my side alone as well as this wood table and the others that are here type type typing away is helping this blog entry along. I can already tell this post is going to not come easy, kicking and screaming, into this world. The first paragraph alone had the word “imporrible” in it that I didn’t even notice until now, almost two hours from putting it on screen.

Perhaps, this is all because at the back of my mind I don’t feel like I should be here at the coffee shop blogging, nor should I be blogging at all, even if it is part of an obligation of sorts I’ve locked myself into with this NaBloPoMo thing. Here’s what I mean. I’ve got some guilt at this self-serving behavior I’ve been indulging in for 16 days. I’ve been literally dropping all the problems in my world, the to-do lists that now have to-do lists of their own, and everything that is not related to getting at least 1,500 words out of the ether and into your life. It’s a selfish thing, I think, even if it is supposedly building my habit to write everyday and/or/nor making me a better, more developed writer by proxy. Even now, I’ve got Rachaele asking me to lunch and I am going to have to put the blog on the shelf when she gets to this side of town because I don’t want to blow off my human connections for a darn rambling session of philosphy I feel I may be embarking on.

It could be that because I’m reading Joesph Campbell’s 24-hour interview with Bill Moyers in book form, that I feel I am running out of time to make my mark and to fill my life with the experiences that make the life mean something. Ken says it’s a common feeling among everyone, this feeling that I’m a terrible manager of time and it’s slipping away from me before I can put the things I need for it to have to move forward in my life in it. Take for instance my need to buy a new car or a reliable used car. I know I have this need, but I can’t seem to devote the day hours to getting it accomplished. Add in the fact that I also don’t really have the salary to add a car payment to my monthly budget and the fact that my car is an object that is quickly moving towards its expiration date.  How does one balence the missing funds, the need, and the lack of time outside of work, eating, sleeping and remaining sane? My word, I’m never allowed to complain about boredom again. Because I think the car is the least of the list of must-do’s. 

There’s also the ever present desire to send my writing off to publishing houses, which itself might be an exercise in futility without the services of a publishing agent. And how does one employ an agent without funds? The cycle continues. As the Internet says: The struggle is real. Oh, what else is on this bitch list? There’s the job situation that is on there that begs a chunk of my non-existent time as well. I need a REAL job that utilizes at least one of my degrees and a bit more of my brain, and yet, I need time to network and go to non-profit charity events to find said sweet job. And to get invited to these parties of potential jobs I need to have an internship (and be a college student again somehow) or to be volunteering (more time) or to have more experience in the field (duh, I need a job people). I’m thwacking myself in the head upon remembering the networking seminars I attended as an intern for the chamber of commerce and how boring I thought these were as I snacked on mini cheese cubes. Will my moments of indifference to life be my downfall? Or should I just give up on sleeping and get all this nonsense knocked out this week? (…7 day later, life is completed! I’ll send everyone invites to the wedding! Ha)

It’s funny that I’ve heard Lanks lament all these issues before but I thought he was exaggerating and didn’t really see the scope of the problem when he said things like “I have no time. I have no money. I have no future.” I kind of brushed this off as melodrama, and again touched it with the sin of indifference. Now, I’m seeing things from his point of view, which is very similar to my own at this point  and I’m wondering what does one do in this situation? I feel as though we are trying as hard as we can to get out of our individual ruts, but we can’t move, and we are constantly placated by people telling us “it’s not that bad, everyone is going through it, keep at it.” To those people, no offense (I was one of these not too long ago), what other choice do we really have than to “keep going” ? I mean, we can lay down in the road or accept the retail job in electronics, but I’m balking at both of these so hard. I think that those of us blessed with intelligence and a means to communicate it owe ourselves the struggle, the weight on our chests of continually hitting the wall, constantly trying to accomplish massive tasks and completing 0 to 1% of our struggle per day.

If anyone has any advice for us to find our job, our place, our center in the universe and it’s different than the motivational poster of a frog’s arms choking the neck of bird that’s trying to consume it, please pass that along. Colleges and Universities send all these motivational speakers to campus to try and give students a reason to keep struggling, but I think the real need in the community these days is for motivational people (who perhaps have actually attained a level of success we can admire) to be out speaking to 20 somethings who are struggling to make sense of it all AFTER the school years have ended. It’s a bad thing to feel lost in a world that has seemingly undergone no real change other than your perspective. Could it be any wonder that people “give up” or give in to depression or drugs or alcohol or any other means of coping? I can’t judge that too harshly, honestly. Whatever gets you through the night. The Beatles always know what to say.  

Well, it looks like the coffee shop has stimulated the writer in me again, at least. If nothing else, this experiment in writing publicly and at great length on the daily is allowing me to delve a little deeper each day into my own thoughts. These are thoughts that remain hidden from even me most of the time, and I only really realize I am thinking them when they spill onto the page like an overturned ink well. Messy. But maybe you’ll learn not to fill your well so full in the future before you dip into that and spread some out into open air. 

Speaking of the subconscious, it was yet another night for a remembered dream. Again, I was back in high school. (Do I keep utilizing this setting as a means of starting over? ) I was sitting at one of the long lunch tables with my assigned class, perched upon those hard blue circular seats with a tray of rice and chicken. I’d chastised a fellow student for taking too large of a portion, and not leaving enough for the rest behind them. I’m not sitting alone, but I don’t know anyone at my table. I look across to the table opposite, and there sits the beautiful and cooly reclining Lanks, making those cafeteria torture furniture looking like fine upholstry. He smiles at me, the nervous and supportive one he sometimes gives. Then he comes over and sits beside me, and I put an arm around him in uncharacteristic PDA as he leans into me. As he cuddles into me in silence, I don’t want to take my attention from this warm body against me. I’m hungry, but I don’t want to even move my mouth for fear of disturbing his cheek against mine. As we stare off into space, a silent musical interpretation band is setting up. We listen to their silent music and tap our feet to the beat. 

With dreams like these and thoughts like these being brought into the open and into my throught plane now, I’m begining to get the feeling that there’s only a small percentage of people who are actually crazy. I think we are all just a little confused, searching for some kind of clarity with the hours that aren’t even real, the time that exists only in our head, all of us working towards these goals that seem impossible until they lay completed before us: a closed book with our name on it, hundreds of pages of our struggle tucked within. 

-Anna R. Kotopple

Gingerbread as a Profanity

Today has been all kinds of interesting. Mostly in a bad way, but then again I’m not here to balk at writing material. It was kind of like a three strikes-you’re out type of day, but then I just kept getting strikes. If today was a bowling match, I’d be winning. Alas, yet again, it was just a game I walk into with a loose understanding of the rules and try to roll with it.

It all started with the tossing and turning I opted for instead of a good night’s rest. I read a horrific science fiction story before bed yesterday. It was well written, but was creepy and did its job in giving me the heebie-jeebies before I lay down. (See “Unseen, Unfeared” by Francis Stevens for a good goose bump experience) I pressed play on this month’s Mix Tape (CD) I made for myself, Ken and Lanks and tried to drift off. But I’ve never been one who could fall asleep while music was playing. My brain tries to follow the words and beats too closely, I think.  I dreamed that I was stuck at work and Lanks kept visiting me, but couldn’t talk to me because a school bus of children were trying to place their order…and they all had twenty questions about the menu and what their options were. This is ironic because of what actually happened at work today. 

An associate from the Redneck Candle Company came in today and almost made me lose my cool. It was a busy day of training the timid but intelligent barista I had aforementioned, and my lunch was an unmitigated disaster. I sat down for a 30 minute lunch break and was called by the milk man. I tried to sit down again and my assistant called me about plates. Tried again and my boss wanted to talk to me about cookie decorating. Tried again and the PR person wanted to chat about media relations. I got a call from an Asian woman asking if I was interested in an undisclosed job based on my resume. And amidst all this, I was trying to microwave my soup for 2 minutes. My brain turned off somewhere here and I accidentally punched in 20 minutes on the microwave. Now that I had lava for lunch, I tossed it in the trash and bought a pretzel. 

So after all this had happened, the candle associate comes in. She had two separate orders. She wanted to buy a newspaper. She wanted to know how long a pretzel had to cook for. She wanted to know the price of every drink on the menu. How many shots were in each. What was the price to add a shot to this drink…and this drink…and this drink…and this drink. I was trying to not look at my co-worker barista because I feared if I met her gaze I would reach over the counter and slap the candle associate for the time she was sucking from my life. Eventually, she just decided to get what she always gets. Cue the eye roll. 

It’s not that I mind helping people…I mean, that’s my job. I just really don’t like thinking for other people because they are too lazy to do so. I’ll suggest a drink, but c’mon, help me out with some decision making power here. To much to ask apparently. 

Strike two on today was I did not go climbing yesterday nor today. Climbing is apparently in the foreseeable future, but with the craziness of holidays and work life and planning a wedding, I don’t blame Rachaele for needing some flexibility on this schedule. And besides, I’m still trying to psych myself up to go do this crazy climbing thing. So any excuse I can make to delay it is fine by me. A lot of things seem to be in the works for me, but nothing is really panning out too quickly. I suppose that’s OK if life meanders around a bit as it develops. I’ve been offered a possible position at the used bookstore where I (mis)adventured with Stumps, which would be great for my stress level but terrible for my pocketbook. Plus, I hate to admit it, my future promotion and career is probably safer where I’m at than in a similar position elsewhere. My dream of actually using my degrees is just slipping further and further away.

I spent most of today playing catch up, but in between this I tried to prepare for my visit from the boss tomorrow. The boss lady visiting the boss lady as Lanks said. After my 9 hours was done at work, I decided to surprise Lanks at work since he said he’d been feeling cruddy. I bought him a coffee and trekked over to his location on the opposite end of the mall. I said I was going under the guise of seeing the “Ninjabread Men” baking kit that his store was selling, but I don’t really think I was kidding anyone but myself. Breathing deeply and fingers trembling, I walked around this department store, looking for his lanky frame from which his namesake comes. I eventually found him and gave him the drink, exchanging some banter and a hug. He was wearing a striped cardigan and I told him he looked good in it. I’m always telling him he looks good in something. If nothing else, I’m a valuable ego booster. One of his co-workers stood very close by and just stared while we talked. I didn’t know if he was a supervisor or what, but the weirdo just kept eyeballing me so I didn’t stay too long.

Upon leaving Lanks, I didn’t want to go home quite yet. I felt…kind of empty inside. It wasn’t anything Lanks had said or done or not done. I just felt a bit lost. Passing all the mall kiosks and stores where employees within would look out and wave at “their favorite barista” I felt well-known and semi-valued for my position, but still quite alone. Sitting in my car, I propped my red notebook up on the wheel and wrote a stupid vignette. I tried not to think about my worth and I tried not to think about the 50 year old fellow cafe owner that came in today with the sleeves of lids he was letting us borrow and how he asked me out again for the fourth time. I tried to not remember the way he touched my buttons on my cardigan and told me how we should have dinner to discuss how “our partnership” may enhance both our cafes. There was a strong tang of alcohol on his breath. 

Minutes later, at home, I didn’t even put my purse or keys down before I slumped over my kitchen counter and just let myself feel that strange empty feeling and wonder what it was all about. I don’t think I feel lonely, but I don’t feel exactly wholly myself at this point either. It’s almost like I’m on the precipice of learning something very important (about myself I imagine) but I can’t quite grasp the scope of the knowledge all at once. It only comes to me in fragments, and end pieces of a puzzle that I’m slow in putting together. 

Could just be too much coffee. I’ve definitely been hitting the espresso pretty hard today. 

Here’s a funny story. Maybe not too much will be lost in translation. So there is this barista I used to work with, and at this place we worked (there were so very many many books there if that’s enough of a hint for you), we had the Monin brand of syrups. Now, Monin syrups, for the layperson, are a strong brand of syrups. And their holiday flavor of Gingerbread is a bit stouter than the rest. A lady was asking my co-worker what the gingerbread syrup was like and as he was explaining it he said that it was quite a strong flavor like, he paused, and then shouted “GINGERBREAD!” He was heard as far away as the back of this very large store with very many books. The mental picture of him screaming GINGERBREAD and this old biddy jarred in fright was quite funny to me. So, when I was making a gingerbread drink today and the top to the syrup squeeze bottle fell off and started pouring molasses into the drink, all I could think to do was loudly scream “GINGERBREAD!” As though it were a curse, or maybe a summoning for all the holiday gods of retail to come to my aid as the thick black sugar poured into the drink and pooled at its bottom, creating a sludge that the waiting customer eyed with slight nausea. I wasn’t even mad about remaking the drink. My primal scream of a holiday flavor had released a lot of tension I had been holding. My developing migraine even seemed to shy away from my brand of crazy. The assistant manager walking by wasn’t too pleased with my shouting, but meh…can’t win them all. 

I mentioned my job offer at the used bookstore to Ken and he said, “I support you in whatever you do.” I mentioned my job offer to Lanks and he said, “Do what thou whilst.” (No shit…this is how this guy talks to me. I eat it up with a spoon, unfortunately) And I’m going to take these as support for whatever I get into. At least I can count on that whatever I do, screaming at inanimate objects that offend me or talking shit to a pretty sunset, I’ve got a good bunch behind me. My family is really good about this too. I’ve got co-workers that support me as well. And I guess that’s why when I come home and flop my body’s upper half over my kitchen counter, I really can’t stay down for too long. I’ve got too many people pushing me up and calling me just to check on me that there’s no where to go from here but onward. This holiday isn’t going to defeat me, and I probably won’t remember it as anything remarkable years from now. So here’s to raising a glass to change in small steps and pushing for that unknowable future that holds such mystery, but also such promise.

Oh, and a very heartfelt GINGERBREAD to you all.

-Anna R. Kotopple 

Mum's the Word

Apparently my workplace has an anti-blogging/social media policy. This means I can’t say anything negative about them in these formats and further means that I can’t give away any trade secrets via the WWW. That’s fine. I really don’t know anything of interest to say about them, and also, I kind of think they are quite a good company to work for. Sure, they are a corporate entity and they exist to make a profit, but they do some nice things for their employees  and I really have had worse bosses several times over in other companies I have been with. My last corporate company I worked for would arrest employees if they breathed dissention and offered “benefits” that were really quite lame. Job’s a job though.

I’m sipping coffee and hoping for inspiration today, because stress has locked up my brain to sharing anything of any value with you. Stress and depression are the number one things that have always strangled my pen. And it’s near impossible to break through stress feelings because they just seem to grow more of them whereever they linger. Like kudzu. Oh, and depression. Egads. There’s nothing like feeling that everything you say is boring and worthless. My solution to both of these conundrums is to reward myself with mas tacos covered in so very much stringy and delicious cheese upon finishing this entry. The amount of Mexican goodness I consume is to be directly proportional to how well I like this blog. So far, I’ve earned a slice of quesadilla. And that’s not going to cut it.

So I’m reading a collection of science fiction short stories and one in this collection is called “Doctor Ox’s Experiment” by the oft-regaled Jules Verne. Wikipedia will tell you that this story is about a mad scientist that uses a whole town for his experimentation…for apparently no good reason at all. This is a bit of a stretch. I’ll let you read the story yourself and make your own conclusion, but I will say that the most interesting part of this story is that the townspeople in this fictional town have a very perculiar way of courting their beloved. They are a meticulous people who choose to passively pursue their love interest over the course of many a year…many many a year. This translates to a courship period of commonly 10 years. Anyone marrying their partner after an integral of less time is thought to have created QUITE a scandal. Call the govnah!

The work is free from copyright so here’s one of my favorite lines from the work: “It must not be thought that young hearts did not beat in this exceptional place, they just beat with a certain deliberation.” From this, the argument is made that this is perfectly rational in the town of Quiquendone because young couples wish to use this period of time to study each other, almost like a major in college. And why shouldn’t they, the ominscent narrator queries. Because, if someone is going to enter the “terrible bonds of marriage” shouldn’t they know as much, if not more, about their partner than a doctor knows about his craft or a artisan knows their trade? 

It seems like a duh moment, doesn’t it? We all know that rushing into a decision hardly ever produces the best of curcumstances. If we could all store some patience in our gut and craft a life for ourselves outside of obligations to another, dedicating ourselves earnestly to learning who a person is and how best to be their support system and too how to utilize their skills to make our own journey successful…if we could do this, there’d be no need for do-overs. My own parents were in a relationship 10 years before they decided to start a family. Married for 7 years and dating for 3 before I came along and asked for their world to revolve around me for 25 years and counting. They used the years pre-me to build a foundation that screaming toddlers and bills and bad habits couldn’t topple. How extrodinary. And how very difficult in this day and age.

I think there’s so much pressure for couples to DO something to prove they love each other. Being together isn’t enough for everyone who views the relationship. You’ve got to update your Facebook status, buy them a Christmas gift, share your M & Ms, text them every day, make plans for a future that is far from certain. And it’s all just smoke and mirrors anyway, because neither one of you knows what tomorrow is going to bring; if you’ll even be in the same town or if an argument about the merits of Abbey Road vs Rubber Soul will tear your stupid little connection to bits. So maybe 10 years time, and knowing you have that time, can take (some) of the stress from dating. If you know that you’re going to see that person again and again and learn a factoid about them each time like some great mystery board game, then there’s no reason to be anxious, right? You can get on with the process of creating great art, establishing your credit, and taking in the way the light hits their hazel eyes. Girl fantasy. Never gonna happen. Our attention spans just don’t work that way. That’s why Doctor Ox’s Experiment is Sci-Fi. Nice try, Verne. You’re not shaking up my world view today, sir!

But in all seriousness, it’s a thought. And maybe it’s a good one. The Dutch certainly seem to think so. Apparently, there is a very large number of unwed mothers in the country…and absolutely everyone is ok with that. Girl power? Or maybe something else. Marriage acts as a frou frou ceremony to make the parents happy, and many Dutch couples don’t bother with it, frequently living with each other for years and years, having many kids, and eventually falling into something similar to our common law status. I know that one of the strongest couples I know were together for that magical number (10 years) before getting married. And here’s the thing…marraige is not some magic wand. It doesn’t change much. It is a certain obligation, but if that’s not already that there, it’s not going to cement it.

That’s part of the reason I disengaged. I wasn’t ready to settle down and I knew it. I didn’t truly know the person I was engaged to. I wasn’t ready to stay home and do couples things as opposed to being a free agent  I wasn’t a very good girlfriend either. I hadn’t earned marriage, but I was going to try and rush into it anyway. Broke my heart to do it, but thank God I backed out. I just knew I wasn’t mature enough for what it meant to me.

My my, this blog is all over the place tonight. Can’t hurt to throw in a vignette at this point can it? I absolutely hate it, but it’s gotta bleed through sometime and what better time to expose your heart than when the whole world is watching?

Nostalgia XXXVI: Lando

I’m not quite a fine enough writer to have even come close to creating a character like you. And you mock me because you are better than any fictional 3D I could dredge up. There’s absolute astonishment at your phrases, which means I have to write about you (even though I’d rather not) and give you a shared lasting connection that pushes beyond your social borders.

Let’s cut a cross section to parse, psycho-analyze and all around wring for every last drop of meaning. Even though the one thing I’m dreaming of from you is simplicity. But that’s so difficult to cling to when I realize my arms around you cause your whole chest to shudder and shake, the bum ticker you got POUNDING against my cheek, working a hole in the sutures I’ve placed around myosin musculature.

You’re just not going to understand what those musical references do to me. If you keep turning my screws, eventually you’ll turn me right side up I suppose.

I’m hopelessly addicted to caffeine and it’s rather unpleasant. I cut my own soul in half last winter to find freedom and happiness. Can I cut chemical addiction so easily? Can I cut you deep enough before you sink your teeth into me?

Yup. My thoughts exactly. Oh, and that was written about no one inparticular. All names, likenesses and references are purely fictional and should not be read into any futher. End of story. Annnnnnd…with that, I think I’ve earned myself a couple of crunchy tactos, a quesadilla AND a drink. Delicious. Live Mas or some clever junk. 

-Anna R. Kotopple

 

I Cannot Brain Today

It’s true. As the Internet cats would say: I cannot brain today, I has the dumb. (Oh my glob, how much I love Internet cats) After 9.5 hours in a retail setting, (a shopping mall, no less) I am truly astonished at the functionality I am mimicking right now. I’d like to thank coffee and my co-worker’s small and agile hands for keeping me upright right now. And yes, that’s a terribly mysterious segway into my blog. I was a journalist at one point, people. I do know how to write a lead to keep you reading. (Please keep reading)

I was informed late yesterday that the woman in charge of all the cafes in my region is coming for a visit next week. She only visits once a year and so this is a big deal. Not only this, but the district manager is going to come *sometime* that week as well. And she’s probably going to have more fun tips for making my Christmas season hellacious…more than likely something even more asinine than making me color a table with a Sharpie. At least, I reflect, both of my superiors are female and are strong, driven women in a competitive corporate system. Good for them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help me be any more prepared for their critique of my management of the cafe. Even worse, I’ve been on vacation for a week and so the cafe is in a deplorable state. My assistant didn’t just drop the ball, she lost it somewhere in the good intentions and desire to be well-liked and respected by the other servers. The only saving grace here is some really bright shining stars that are these other servers. When I was pulling my hair out as a bus of 40ish high-schoolers pulled up and entered the cafe for a frappe-a-looza, my co-worker was calm and helpful. She even massaged a tight stress-filled kink out of my back after the students got their drinks and left. That’s going above and beyond folks. 

So, no matter how bad things spin this Holidon’t Season (see what I did there?) I can at least be greatful that I’ve got a support system of employees who work FOR me and WITH me to keep the coffee brewing. So, perhaps, as a customer of cafes or a shopper this season, you are wondering what you can do to ease the pain of those in retail who are haggard, underappreciated, but tirelessly working to get you in and out of the throng of glitter and wrapping paper? Even if you aren’t, here’s some tips to recieve better service and make yourself seem like a much better human than you probably are. 

1: Yes, you are going to have to stand in line. Coffee, books and toys are a popular thing during the gift-giving time and if you want to please little Sally with her favorite Shakespearian play, you are going to have to interface with humans. We don’t really enjoy it any more than you do, but the difference is, if we don’t pretend to be ecstatic about your purchase, then we may have a less firm footing on job security. The solution is to either to shop online for everything and enjoy the mixed bag of shipping costs and returns OR be patient and enjoy the weirdness that is people being people during the holidays. Grab some popcorn and watch the masses attempt their quest for the perfect feeling to convey they appreciate the other mammals in their life. It’s excellent writing material. 

2: We are exhausted, so if we make a mistake, please be forgiving. Today, I truly understood the hyperbole of being so tired that you “fall into a chair.” It was no hyperbole today. I started working before the sun woke up, and I finished when the sun was calling it quits. Lanks said it was the equivalent of being “so tired you be tripping.” (Isn’t he just swell? I cannot brain today and so I just replied “Fo Real.” Geez) Point is: a little bit of kindness to a barista that hasn’t had a lunch or bathroom break all day, and forgets you wanted whipped cream, can make everyone’s tender little emotions last a little longer. Because, honestly, I used to get really psyched about Christmas and was the girl planning the white elephant parties for the whole office. But, then retail impatience, corporate greed, and mean mean people squashed my little heart so hard that it turned straight-up Grinchly. Be the difference this Holidon’t and inspire good feelings and junk, because that’s what it’s supposed to be about right?

3: Try to remember that Santa is a metaphor. I hope I’m not shaking the foundations of anyone’s universe when I clue you in to the fact that the robust man in the center of the shopping mall is not a diety and is not an actual gift giver to small children. (Even though I enjoy the sentiment, he’s not a drug-addled bear either, Night Vale) Santa is a guy (who probably went to college) who is donning a costume to inspire our hearts to an idea that is larger and most unworthy of us. The idea behind Santa as the figurehead for Christmas, and all the other holidays that parade after him, is that it’s better to give than to recieve. It’s a harder concept than you imagine. When’s the last time you truly gave and expected absolutely nothing? Studies say that even when we hold the door for another person, we are expecting a thank-you or an acknowledgement of our goodness. If we don’t get that affirmation, then we feel slighted. My tip is to break this cycle of dependant emotions, and do something truly selfless. Love someone who (appears ) to not deserve your love and attention. Buy a gift for someone you’ll never see or talk to. True charity, without the swelled chest. It’s a hard one, and I don’t mean to say I’ve got this one down just yet. But I think if more people subscribed to being a yearround Santa when the opportunities present themself, then the world might be a kinder and sunnier place. Even as misguided and sometimes dorky I imagine my father to be, he truly gives to people who need help when he knows his help is what they need. He will pull over on the roadside and offer help to the scraggliest, scariest looking guy in town, and that’s pretty admirable.

Take these musings for what they are worth. National Novel Writing Month is in full swing, and I’m blogging every day to try and do my part to the literary world. And hey, at least I’m not gabbing about babies and my love life today, right? Right. Next entry: Dating someone 10 years before even considering marraige? Is that a thing? And what’s up with the Dutch these days?

 

-Anna R. Kotopple