More Stories!!

I’ve posted my two latest stories on doublemuse!! go check ’em out sometime.

and Merry Christmas, everyone!! I pondered yesterday what I might say to a jew, should I accidentally wish him/her a Merry Christmas, and be met with “I’m Jewish.”

“Well,” I would answer, “Tomorrow’s still Christmas—a national holiday—so it really doesn’t make much difference what your religious persuasions might be. Would you rather I told you have a shitty day tomorrow?”

How many of the people who celebrate Christmas actually are Christian, anyway? it’s really much more a materialist/capitalist holiday, anymore. I would think the Christians should be offended as the jews, ’cause “merry Christmas” is more atheist/pagan than Christian.

anyway, had a good scare this week. my computer started acting up on the night of the 23rd, and windows wouldn’t load. I was terrified, I hadn’t backed up my files and had a great deal of material that was never saved anywhere but on my laptop. after hours upon hours of trying to get the damned machine to work, I finally managed to get it running again. needless to say, I’ve made sure to back my work up again. no more of that bullshit!

Spirituality and Politics

I’ve published more non-fiction material on the “words” section of the page. it’s an essay-like email that I sent to a friend who suggested I might wake up one day and realize that I’m a conservative. not likely ;) I might completely disown liberal politics at some point, but I won’t kid myself and pretend that conservatives are any better, or even as good :) I do believe that we must be willing to engage in exchange of ideas if we are to work toward solutions. sometimes I’m inclined to just not talk to people who don’t share my views, but that is counter-productive and lazy. anyway…I’ve also posted a disclaimer about my writing here. please read that and let me know if you have any thoughts/suggestions about it.

I should have the stories “under attack” and “oblivion” posted fairly soon….and hopefully “giving up” not long after that. check back soon, and have happy holidays!!

hello….hello.

finals are over! I’ve finished my portfolio pieces, but I might put a few more finishing touches on the stories before posting them online. also, soon I hope to write a couple of new essay type things: one political and one religious ;) one will be a response to the suggestion that, if I continue on my spiritual path, I will become a conservative; the other, further argument against atheism, in particular an argument against atheism on scientific grounds (physics tells us that we cannot know what’s really going on). so that’s about it. . . gonna try to get some stuff done over break. we’ll see how that works out. and by the way, for all of you who know what it means: I don’t kill kittens in december.

Under Attack

I really prefer to avoid being around people if it’s at all possible. I’ve been working a second-shift job for the last three years, so I’ve found that it gets easier to avoid people all of the time. “Open Late” drive-thrus are really great, even better than twenty-four hour department stores. When Meijer’s first came to town, people were surprised that it was open all night, and a lot of people seemed to go there just for the novelty of it. There was a lull when the novelty had worn off, but lately the number of late-night shoppers has been slowly growing. It’s probably a lot of people like me, who get uncomfortable when there are lots of people milling around, giving weird looks and buying stupid shit. It’s a college town, so during the school year, there are quite a few students around doing shopping for their dorms and frat parties and shit, but just as many people leave town for the summer as stay, so it gets easier to shop then. And there are like three of the twenty-four hour stores in town now, so I usually just go to whichever one has the fewest cars in the lot. Sometimes that means driving through the lots of all three, only to go back to the first, but it’s not too bad. I’m sure all of the stores don’t hire union labor and buy a lot of their shit from sweatshops or whatever, but if that’s what it takes so I can avoid all the people who are out during the day, I guess I can get over it.

I went to the Super Wal-Mart one night after driving through the parking lots of the other two stores. The one I ended up going to was pretty far out of the way, a mile or two south of the main part of the city. There wasn’t more than a half dozen cars in the lot; there had been somewhere between ten and twenty cars at Meijer’s and Super K-Mart. Of course, it still would’ve been nothing like going to one of those stores during the day, when people stand around and give you funny looks. I don’t like it when people watch me. I got inside Wal-Mart and tried to remember what I needed to buy. I always start off by going to the electronics section to see what sorts of DVDs and CDs they have. I would have time to think about what I needed while I looked around there. Just as I was walking through the scanners at the electronics section, sure as shit, I had to pee. It happens every time I come into these places. It’s better than going to a bookstore or library, where I always end up having to take a shit. Public restrooms are the worst, but I just had to pee and there weren’t too many people around. I’d probably have the bathroom to myself. I walked down the aisles wondering if the guys watching the security cameras at night sit around and talk shit about the customers. They’re probably sitting back there right now, I thought, laughing at me for walking all the way to the electronics section only to turn around and go back to the bathrooms. I was tempted to flip the bird to one of the black plastic globes on the ceiling. I wonder if those guys even really watch the cameras at night. They sure did during the day; I had come to one of these stores with some friends in high school to steal CDs and shit, and just as we got to the door, a couple of guys grabbed my friends and searched them. I was lucky—they didn’t have the CD I wanted.

I walked into the bathroom and headed for the urinals. Making my way to the last urinal, I saw someone’s feet, pants around the ankles, under the first stall. I was screwed. If I could pee fast, I would be able to get out of there before the dude even made it out of the stall, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I took the middle urinal so the guy wouldn’t be able to see my feet, and I stood there, waiting. Come on, pee, I commanded myself. It wasn’t working. The guy in the stall grunted. Motherfucker, I just want to pee and get out of here. I wondered if he heard me walk in. Maybe I should just go out and wait for him to leave. I stood there, trying to concentrate, when I heard him flush. Great, he’s going to walk out and see me standing here at the urinal, not peeing. He walked out and I stared at the wall in front of me. Don’t look over; don’t look over. I looked over when he got to the sink. He nodded at me. I mumbled an attempt at “how you doing,” but it probably just sounded like I was coughing or something. God, he probably thought I was a fucking idiot. Just wash your hands and leave, goddammit. He finally left and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to pee. I flushed the urinal anyway and just left. Whatever I needed, cat food probably, was going to have to wait. Motherfucking public restroom. I didn’t even feel like I had to pee anymore.

I went ahead and stopped at the McDonald’s drive-thru on the way home. I just get their double cheeseburgers most of the time. They screwed up bad when they put them on the dollar menu. I could go there with four dollars and get three plain double cheeseburgers—a satisfying meal. I don’t like getting all of the other crap on there, and I don’t like drinking soda with them. The burgers have a good flavor, and all of that extra stuff ruins it. Sometimes the cheeseburgers are a little too greasy; other times they put too much of the seasoning on them. If I go to the same McDonald’s at the same time of the night, they’re usually just right. Enough grease so that it drips on the paper, but not so much that it drips on my pants. And enough of the seasoning that I can taste it, but not too much so I feel like I need something to drink afterwards.

My brother, the vegan, always gives me a lot of shit for eating at those places. He tells me that I’d probably lose weight if I didn’t eat garbage all the time, but if it means not being a self-righteous prick like him, I’ll stay fat. He went vegan when he was a sophomore in college, and we were about the same size back then, each weighing in around two-twenty. I’d been a senior in high school then, and I didn’t end up going to college for long. I took classes at the University for like three semesters before deciding that I wasn’t all that into it. I hadn’t picked a major and I was getting really tired of all the classes that would never have anything to do with whatever I want to do with my life. Anyway, he just graduated with a degree in plant biology, and all he does is work at a stupid organic co-op, and he doesn’t seem to want to look for a real job. Good thing he took out so many student loans, asshole. He probably weighs like one-sixty or one-seventy now, and I’m up to two-sixty, but I’m a good five or six inches taller, too.

I’m sure I’d lose some of this weight if I wasn’t working with SEO marketing, but it pays the bills okay, so I’m gonna stick with it for now. Especially since I don’t have to deal with people face-to-face. People are so much easier to deal with over the phone. Sometimes people cop an attitude about being called in the middle of the evening, but if I get straight into telling them why I’m calling, they usually come around. I wouldn’t want to be the type of telemarketer who sells magazines or other garbage. We call and solicit contributions to charitable organizations, and people usually like the idea of trying to help out. The ones who don’t want to give anything feel bad enough about it that they don’t want to give me a hard time for calling them during dinner.

My co-workers can’t fuck with me too much because we have separated cubicles. All I have to do is call the numbers on my screen and talk people out of their credit card numbers. I even get to smoke a cigarette every hour by giving up my lunch break, and the supervisors are lenient about letting me smoke two if I want to. I usually wait until I see people coming back from cigarette breaks before I go out. Once in a while someone comes out when I’m smoking and I have to make small talk with them. One of the guys who’s come out a couple of times is pretty nice, but he’s always pressuring me to take my cigarette breaks with everyone else or come to some of the parties they have on weekends. A lot of the people who work there are college students and only work two or three days a week. I know that if I went out with all of them, people would just push for personal information or make smart-ass comments about my weight or the fact that I’m not in school. I don’t want to deal with that shit.

I was ready to pee by the time I made it home with my McDonald’s, and I pressed the play button on the answering machine as I danced my way into the bathroom, trying to hold it until I got my pants unzipped. I sighed in relief as I try to hear the answering machine. It sounded like my brother Will. We were supposed to go to lunch with Mom the next day. There was really only one place where he could get his vegan garbage and I could dine on seared mammal flesh. It’s a pain in the ass to go there, but I know Mom gets worried about us if she doesn’t have lunch with us once a month. I set my alarm for eleven in the morning and went to bed, experiencing the monthly frustration of knowing that I’d have to get out of bed early.

***

“What’s up, Curt,” he greeted me getting into my car. “Where are we having lunch?”

“Where else,” I mumbled, looking to the left to see if I was good to pull out of the parking lot and onto the street. I drove toward the “Smart Heart Café.” I never would’ve thought that I’d find something good to eat in a place with a name like that, but I found something that would work for me when Will forced me to go there with him a year or two ago. They serve omelets made with low-cholesterol egg-substitute, but it turns out that you can get real eggs by request. The waitresses there always give me dirty looks, because I ask for the real eggs, and I ask them to use real butter to cook the omelet instead of cooking spray. If that wasn’t enough, I always have to ask for butter too, so that I can choke down their dry-ass “extra-lean low-cholesterol” sausage links. I sometimes ask if the sausages are tofu, just to see if one of them will slip up and admit that real meat couldn’t taste that bad. They keep their stories straight and always give me their spiel about free-range pigs that do cardiovascular exercises, or whatever it is they say to justify serving sausage links in a heart-friendly restaurant.

“You know, you could be a little more open-minded about taking care of yourself. You could end up like Grandpa or Uncle Jeff, if you’re not careful,” he started. I’d heard the same lecture half a dozen times in as many months. “Our family doesn’t have the kind of hearts that can take the way you eat.” At least he was coming up with new ways to say the same old shit.

“Come on, man. None of them probably had a heart as big as mine,” I joked. It was true; they were a lot smaller than I am. “Besides, they drank all the time. I probably haven’t been drunk twice since my twenty-first.” I’m twenty-three now, and I’m sure that getting drunk once a year isn’t going to do any harm that my body won’t overcome. “Besides, it’s not like it makes that big a difference, anymore, whether you’re fit or not. Unless you’re trying to hook up with someone. Strippers and porn are happy to take my money no matter how much I weigh, so why would I want to go to all the trouble to lose a hundred pounds to give my money to some chick who’d probably dump me if I forgot to buy her flowers?”

“Strippers and porn don’t put someone in your bed with you at night, do they?” he asked. He knew plenty about having people in his bed, ever since he’d been working at that co-op full-time, he’d been on and off with all sorts of hippy girls.

“Why, so they can steal the covers and kick me and leave my pillow smelling like patchouli? No thanks, Will. I’ll do the job just as good, or better, myself, and then I don’t gotta worry about making breakfast for anyone,” I fired back. I was starting to get mad. He can’t get over this idea that everybody wants to have somebody. He tried for a couple of months to get me to go out with some girl he worked with, probably a fatty, and I tried to get it into his head that I couldn’t give a shit less about hooking up, whether it was for twenty minutes or twenty years. I have a hard enough time dealing with him, Mom, and the people I work with, let alone some companion who’d want all sorts of shit from me.

“Whatever, Curt. Don’t miss the turn,” he said.

“Yeah, I see it. You wanna drive, buy a car,” I said, pulling into the lot. I parked next to Mom’s car and we walked into the restaurant together.

We spotted Mom sitting at a table on the right side of the restaurant, toward the back. The place was pretty busy, and I had to walk past all of these tables of people, squeezing in between chairs and brushing up against people. I must’ve said “excuse me” seven or eight times before I finally made it to my seat. The fucking people were probably looking at me as I walked past, but I kept my eyes on our table. Will had a smirk on his face when I sat down, and I wasn’t sure why, but I mouthed “fuck you” to him when Mom wasn’t looking.

“The waitress was just here; I hope she doesn’t take a long time to come back,” Mom said, trying to spot our waitress. “How are you boys doing?”

“Work’s been crazy-busy, lately,” Will said. I knew I could count on him to take care of the conversation. I looked through the menu to see if I’d missed something before, or if maybe they’d added some dish with substance to it since the last time I’d come. I was disappointed as usual, and geared myself up to explain the order to the waitress. Mom and Will were talking about the co-op still, and I looked around, trying to figure out if we were going to have a waitress who’d served us before or somebody new. I hated trying to explain my order to new waitresses; they would raise their eyebrows at me while I explained things, and they wouldn’t bother writing any of it down. They’d look around the restaurant after I finished my order, like they were looking for someone who would come tell me to fuck off. I’d have to explain nicely that I placed the same order all the time; I knew they could do it my way. I was relieved when one of our regular waitresses approached the table.

“How ‘bout for you, hon,” she asked when she’d taken down Mom’s and Will’s orders. “You get that special order, don’t you,” she smiled.

“Um, yeah. The ham omelet. Extra portion of ham and cheddar cheese, with real eggs, not the fake ones. And make sure they use three eggs? Cook it in butter, not spray. An order of sausage links on the side, and can you make sure they aren’t too dried-out?”

“Did you want that with the toast, or some granola?”

“Oh yeah, toast, please. White, buttered.” This was the only restaurant that I’d ever been in that didn’t butter your toast unless you asked.

“Something to drink, doll?” she asked, still scribbling furiously on her notebook.

“A glass of whole milk with the meal, please, and some coffee right now.”

“I might have to check on the milk, okay? But I’ll be right back with your coffee,” she smiled. She sure was a nice waitress, one of the few in the place.

“You know, it’d make lot more sense if you had breakfast before meeting with us,” Will said, “it’d make it a lot easier for you, and you could eat all of the real meat you wanted. You know that stuff they’re giving you isn’t real meat, right?” he chided.

“Fuck you. And it is real, they just take all of the good stuff out of it.”

“We don’t need that language here, Curt,” Mom said casually, taking a drink of her orange juice.

“I mean it, those sausages are soy-based,” he went on. “We started getting them at the co-op. And they’re organic, too, so you’re not even getting any of those pesticides or preservatives you love so much,” he said, grinning wide. I stood up and he flinched a bit, so I faked like I was going to throw a punch before walking past him to a little stand where people put their newspapers when they were done with them. He held out his hand, middle finger extended, as I walked past. I returned to my seat and looked through the front page as the two of them talked about family or politics, or family politics. Mom always ends up talking about the same things, and Will knows everything about everything, so I don’t even pretend to be interested in the conversation anymore.

Once or twice, when Will couldn’t make it for lunch with us, Mom and I went out by ourselves. She did most of the talking, but she’d also ask me how things were going. She liked to ask when I would be signing up for classes again and whether or not I still wanted to go into medicine. I tell her every time she asks me; I haven’t wanted to go into medicine since I was seven. I asked for a Fisher-Price medicine kit and she’s thought I wanted to be a doctor ever since. Sometimes she talks about what Dad was like before he left. Apparently he thought a lot about going into medicine when he and Mom met in college. She was studying nursing and graduated the same year they started dating. He ended up moving in with her and then dropped out of school. She worked full-time and he smoked a lot of pot and partied with his college buddies. They graduated and moved away, so he started driving a truck. They never got married, and when I was eight, Dad left for a run to Ohio and didn’t come back. Mom always seemed so sad after that, and anymore she just seems disconnected. The last time we ate lunch together, she asked if I still wanted a class ring. I’d been out of high school for at least three years.

I considered going outside for a cigarette, but the last time we’d come, one of the waitresses came out and asked me to go stand in front of the neighboring store because I was “offending” the customers. They can’t stand to see someone enjoying themselves, I responded, dropping the cigarette on the sidewalk and stepping on it. Usually I put the cigarette out and put the butt in the trash somewhere, but I wanted to leave them a reminder that they’d spoiled my few moments of pleasure. I wouldn’t even bother trying to smoke here anymore.

I glanced through the obituaries in the local section, checking the ages. I liked to speculate about how people had died, but old people were no fun for that. They died because they were old. I’d always find the youngest person and try to see if there were any clues in the obituary. Sometimes they would say that donations could be made in the name of the deceased to the leukemia foundation, the motocross club, or the skydiver’s association. Those were easy ones. I took a drink of my coffee and realized I’d forgotten to add cream. Er. CreamER they had here. Goddammit.

After lunch, we walked Mom slowly back to her car, listening to her talk about the cats as we did. Her silly cats…she had like eight of them or something. And there was always some sort of drama between them. I hugged her good-bye before Will and I walked back to my car. I lit a cigarette before starting the car.

“Fucking smoker,” he said, rolling his window halfway down. “Let me get a couple of drags,” he added, after a pause. I passed him the cigarette and he took a couple of slow drags. He gave a little cough as he handed the cigarette back to me. We arrived at the co-op a few minutes later. “Alright dude, take it easy, huh?” he said, holding out his fist. I made a fist and hit his.

“Yeah, man. Have fun with your hairy-pit bitches,” I laughed.

“Whatever dude, I make them shave that shit if they’re gonna get with me! Peace.”

“Peace.”

I put in Nine Inch Nails’ “Downward Spiral” when he got out, cranking the volume for track one. The track has great heavy riffs. I jammed out on the way back to the apartment.

When I made it back to my apartment, I started quickly up the wooden stairs. It was the type of staircase that they put on the side of a house when they split it up into apartments. They were a little rickety, but not too bad, though I had to be careful when it was wet, ‘cause they’d get pretty slippery. I was going up them pretty quickly that day, until I got about three-quarters up. I had to stop. Then I started to feel it. Thud. Thud. I could feel my heartbeats just behind my ears. They were far apart, and my fingers went numb. The edges of my vision were fluttering, closing in. My skin was cold, all of a sudden, but it felt like I was sweating. I tried to squeeze the railing as hard as I could, but I felt like my hand wasn’t closing. My mind was racing. Could this be it? It was as though I could feel myself being pulled away from my body. I was terrified, but it was invigorating. I felt like my entire body was going numb, so I might not have been able to tell, but I would swear that I nearly got a hard-on when I felt like I was just about to blink out. I could still see, though, I was staring at a cigarette butt at the top of the steps. I couldn’t see anything else, but I was concentrating on keeping that in my vision. Thud. Thud. Thud. It started to pick up pace again, each beat feeling like it could make my neck burst. I closed my eyes slowly, opening them again to see that my vision was coming back. I turned myself around, still gripping the railing, and set myself down gently on the step I was on. I took my hand off the railing and held it out in front of me. I was getting back to normal. I looked out at the street and watched the cars pass by. I pulled out my cigarettes and lit one up as I soaked up the afternoon sun.

Oblivion

The best sort of hitchhiker, I’ve found, is the guy who asks for rides at the truck stop. They’re a little smarter than the ones who get out on the road and walk for a while, first. I’ve heard some folks complain when they see someone standing around with a sign like that, saying if the guy really wanted to get there, he’d be on the road walking until he caught his ride. I see what they’re saying with that, but it’s a lot easier picking a guy up when you’re already stopped.

I was stopped at a truck stop just inside Iowa when I saw a guy holding a sign that said Council Bluffs. I was taking a load out to Omaha, so I could get him all the way without going out of my way. I went inside the truck stop and picked up a few things for the road—two-liter of soda, couple packs of crackers with peanut butter, pack of Lucky Strikes, and a Snickers bar—and went back outside to see if my guy was still there. Sure enough, there he was waiting, so I headed over to him.

“Tryin’ to get to Council Bluffs, are ya?” I took a look at the guy’s shoes. Sometimes you can figure out what sort of guy you’re working with when you check out his shoes. He had on a pair of some tennis shoes that looked like they had a real flat bottom. They were real low cut, looked almost like slippers. They were pretty clean, and his pant legs rested on the tongues and covered up the back of the shoe. I couldn’t see a brand name on the shoe anywhere, but then I took notice of those jeans. They weren’t denim, but a dark-colored canvas, or something like that. Hadn’t really seen pants like that. They were pretty clean, but looked like they had been around for a while. They were in that good phase in between the time when pants are too new and stiff and the time they start falling apart and getting holes. If I had to guess by his pants and shoes, I’d say this guy wasn’t a bum—he’s got some idea of the value of a dollar and isn’t a stranger to work—but he seemed like the kind of guy who works real hard at doing jobs that don’t break your back, something like managing a record store or a mom-and-pop restaurant. I couldn’t see him working in some chain place.

“Yeah, trying to get out and see family.” He lifted his bag and let his sign drop beside him. “Are you going that way?”

I told him I was going that way. I could get off I-80 early and go right through Council Bluffs. We walked over to the truck and I climbed in my side and unlocked his door. I’ve got some nice air-ride seats and a sleeper in the back, so it’s a pretty comfortable rig. We didn’t say anything as I got the truck fired up and made my way back onto the interstate. I turned on the radio, to a classic rock station that I thought might be agreeable. We rode along for an hour or so before I decided to pull out a joint to loosen things up a bit. It was seven o’clock or so when we left the truck stop, so it was just starting to get dark, and I didn’t want him falling asleep on me. That’s always uncomfortable. “You wanna burn one with me?” I held it up so he could get a look. He stared at the joint for a moment and looked up at my face. I caught a look on his face and knew I’d made him uncomfortable. I looked at the road ahead. “It’s alright if you don’t want to, but do you mind if I do?” I looked at him again. He sat up in his seat and breathed in deeply.

“Well, I guess I’d rather you didn’t, if that’s okay,” he said after a pause. “See, I am trying to get clean.”

“Yeah? From pot?”

“Yeah. I’m an addict. It doesn’t really matter what drug it is for addicts, but pot was my drug of choice.”

“I guess I hadn’t ever really thought somebody would get so out of hand with pot that they had to quit.” And I hadn’t. I was kinda thinking that this guy might just be melodramatic or something. “You had a pretty big problem with it?”

“Well, all I did after I graduated high school was smoke pot. That’s been about ten years ago. I went to the community college where I lived for a couple semesters.” He took out a pack of cigarettes and pulled one out. I handed him my lighter, the Zippo instead of the Bic, and he lit it before he continued talking. “I just never wanted to do anything but smoke though. That second semester, I just stayed around in Mom’s house playing video games and getting high all day. I missed a lot of classes and ended up flunking out.” He took a long drag from his cigarette.

“That sucks,” I said. I still didn’t think it meant he was a drug addict. School isn’t for everyone. “What were you studying?”

“That’s just it; I didn’t even know. I started by getting the basic classes out of the way, but I didn’t even know what I wanted to get into. I was a decent student through high school, but nothing ever really stuck out to me that I liked. So it didn’t seem like a big deal to me that I flunked out. I just figured I’d find a job and eventually move out of Mom’s place.”

“Can I get one of those cigarettes?” I couldn’t smoke my joint; I might as well smoke something. “Thanks, man. So did you get a job?”

“Yeah, I ended up getting an assistant manager job at the video store where I always went to rent games.”

“Ha! I had you pegged for a record store guy! Video store isn’t far off!”

“No, guess it isn’t,” he responded, a smile briefly interrupting the thoughtful look on his face. He finished the rest of his cigarette without talking. I was kinda interested in his story, but I figured he was lost in reflection, so I left him alone for a while. Forty-five minutes passed before he started talking again.

“Want another cigarette?” he asked, holding his pack out to me after pulling one out for himself. He looked around the cab like he was waking up from a dream, trying to remember where he was. He glanced back at the sleeper.

“Don’t mind if I do,” I said, taking one of the cigarettes. I told him how comfortable that sleeper could be after driving for hours on end and he nodded.

“I was actually doing pretty well for myself for a while, after I got that job at the video store, that is,” he went back into his story as if we’d been talking all along. “There was this girl working there when I started, Katie. She was really something special. Light brown hair, shoulder-length, dazzling green eyes. I was in love with her the moment I saw her—my first day on the job. Her shift ended just as mine began. I knew it would’ve been too much to hope for that we would work the same shift. And I was surprised that I’d never seen her before, since I went there to get games all the time. She always worked the same shift, though, and I never got there that early in the day. Funny how six in the evening can seem so early when you’re up playing video games until three or four every night.”

“I know what you mean,” I said, not wanting him to feel like I wasn’t interested in the conversation. I wasn’t saying much, after all. “My sleep schedule is never the same working this job. Sometimes it seems like the middle of the day to me when people are just getting up in the morning. Other times, it’s hard to imagine that people have put in a full day of work by the time I’m getting my first coffee of the day.” I watched as a sporty-looking car zipped by on my left.

“Yeah, exactly. I liked that about working at the video store—I could sleep until three or four in the afternoon and still have a few hours to kill before going to work. The best thing was always rolling in ten or fifteen minutes early to make small-talk with Katie. She was there every time I came to work for like the first two weeks. I just started to assume she’d be there every day. Then I came in and some guy was working. He was a guy who’d worked my hours before I started; I used to rent games from him. I asked him where Katie was, and he said she didn’t work Wednesday afternoons, usually. ‘She kinda digs you,’ he told me. I asked him if she’d said something, and he told me that she’d said something about a little crush she had on the new guy. I was floored. I mean, this girl was really a catch. What would she want with me?”

“Hey, give yourself some credit; you seem like a good-lookin’ kid. And you seem pretty charismatic, too.” I hoped he didn’t think I was trying to hit on him. Everybody’s heard at least one creepy story about truck drivers, but I don’t swing that way. He didn’t seem worried.

“Thanks, I appreciate that. I sure didn’t think that at the time. I was sorta awkward in high school, you know, and I didn’t do much afterwards but hang out and play video games. Even my pals who smoked pot with me and played video games were either putting more time into school or getting some kind of real jobs. I kinda felt like they were abandoning me because they were tired of my shit or something. I was pretty surprised when Katie asked me out.”

“Wow, she asked you out? Sounds like some kinda girl!” I really hated that when I was younger, the girls who played coy and waited for the guy to do the asking.

“Yeah, I’m telling you. I came in for work one day, early as usual, and just before she left, she asked me if I’d be up for going out sometime. ‘You mean like go out with some friends to a bar, or like go out to dinner and maybe a movie,’ I asked. I didn’t want to get the wrong impression. She laughed at me and said ‘dinner, silly.’ I told her I’d love to. Neither of us had to work that following Saturday, so we made it a date.”

“Cool. Did you go someplace nice?” I asked.

“Yeah, a really nice place. French-Vietnamese place called ‘Le Mekong.’ It was great. We agreed when we first sat down that we would go see a movie after dinner, but we ended up having such great conversation that we sat around drinking the Vietnamese coffee until the place almost closed. We didn’t want to leave. We drove there separately, and I walked her to her car, where we stood talking for another half hour or so. Before she got in her car, I kissed her. I’d had a few girlfriends before that, but no kiss was ever like that one. It left me speechless.”

“I know the type,” I said. I’ve had week-long affairs with women that weren’t half as exciting as a three-second kiss with the right girl.

“I knew I had it bad after that,” he went on. I took out the two-liter and offered him a drink before taking a swig myself. “We ended up dating for six months or so before getting an apartment together. I’d been itching to get out of Mom’s place for a while, and Katie’s lease was ending. We found a cozy little place not too far from the video store and got settled in. She was going to school during the day and working afternoons, and I was still working four evenings a week and like one or two afternoons. We didn’t get to spend a lot of time together. It’s weird, ‘cause it was like we were spending less time together after moving in than when we lived in different places. I’d cut down on my pot smoking during those first six months, but when we moved in together, I started smoking more again. We’d talked about me getting into classes again, but I began to doubt it a few months in. Long story short, after we’d been living together for six months, she told me that she didn’t think that things were going to work out. ‘You smoke too much,’ she said, ‘and you don’t seem to want to do anything with your life.’ I tried to talk her out of going, telling her that I’d really get involved in school, and I wouldn’t have time to smoke so much once that happened, but she knew that it wasn’t true. She went and stayed with a friend for a few weeks until she found a new apartment for herself. She told me that if she couldn’t help me up, she’d have to help me down.”

That’s pretty cold, I told him. She must’ve cared a lot about him or a lot about herself. Probably herself.

“I went on working at the video store—she apparently found another job right before she broke up with me—and stayed in that apartment, smoking day-in day-out. Eventually I got behind on rent, and my landlord called and threatened to evict me. I only had two months left on the lease, so I went ahead and moved back into Mom’s. I think he must’ve figured that it wouldn’t have been worth the time to sue me, ‘cause I never heard from him again.”

“That’s a lucky thing. That looks really bad on your credit.” So he wasn’t cut out for school and couldn’t handle paying bills. I still wasn’t sure about the drug addict thing, I’ve known plenty of lazy bastards in my time. I asked him what his mom thought.

“Mom always really liked Katie,” he told me. “She either didn’t know that I smoked so much pot, or was too timid to say anything, ‘cause all she ever told me was that I should try to work things out with Katie. ‘You were doing so well for a while.’ I didn’t have the heart to tell her that Katie couldn’t stand it that all I ever did was smoke pot. Anyway, that was all like eight years ago. Things stayed the same—me living at Mom’s and smoking all the time—until about a year ago. I had seen Katie walking down the street one day, looking just as good as I remember her, if not better. I just kept driving, but thought about her a lot for the next few days. I was in the Laundromat that weekend and saw a poster on the bulletin board. ‘Do you use drugs,’ it said. ‘If you do, that’s your business. But if you want to stop and can’t, maybe we can help.’ It had a phone number on the bottom. It had a symbol on it, but nothing that said who it was or anything. I kept thinking about it. I decided later that I would just see how long I could go without smoking on my own.”

I’d done that a few times, myself. I obviously hadn’t quit, but that was always a good way to cut down when I felt like I was smoking too much. I asked him how well it worked for him.

“Horribly. That first night, I only played video games for like half an hour before I couldn’t even pay attention to what I was doing. I just wanted to smoke. It was all I could think of. I think I actually made it forty-five minutes before breaking down.”

“That’s pretty bad,” I said. I can usually go a week or two before I break down.

“Yeah, I thought maybe I’d give it a few more tries. I did the same thing every night, holding out as long as possible. I made it an hour and a half on the second night, two on the third, and three on the fourth. When I got home from work on the fifth day, I started right back in again. Smoked from the time I got home until I went to bed. It stayed like that for the next two weeks, and I’d almost forgotten that I even tried to quit. I had to do laundry again and Mom still hadn’t gotten the machines fixed. I saw the sign again and it really freaked me out that I hardly remembered trying to quit at all. I couldn’t think of how long ago it had been. I wrote the number down before leaving and went home and got high.”

“Sounds like you did have a bit of a problem, huh?” I was figuring that he just didn’t have much will power.

“That’s for sure. I sat there playing my games all night without even thinking of the phone number. When I got ready for bed, I took all the shit outta my pockets and found the number again. I looked at it for a bit, thinking that if I didn’t call then, I probably never would. I looked at my alarm clock. It was three-thirty. The number was an eight-hundred number, though. Might as well give it a shot. You want another cigarette?”

“Sure, man.” We lit our cigarettes and didn’t do much talking as we drove through the city. We were going through Des Moines, a little more than halfway through the trip, and the city lights lit the dark cab off-and-on like a strobe light. We got through the city and finished our cigarettes. I asked him about the phone number he called.

“Well, it was one of those twelve-step programs. They had an answering service to answer questions about the program and put drug addicts in touch with other drug addicts who’d quit using. They told me when I could go to one of their meetings. I had to wait around for my next evening off, and I made a note and left it on my coffee table.”

Nothing’s better than potheads leaving notes for themselves. True comedy.

“I kept smoking on the nights until that meeting, but I ended up remembering the meeting and went to check it out. They all seemed to have their shit together, and a lot of them were saying that the only reason they were able to do anything with their lives was because they got clean and ‘worked a program.’ After the meeting, I went up to one of the guys who seemed to know what was going on. I asked him how I was supposed to ‘work the program.’ He told me that I should get a sponsor. I asked him if that meant that I should have companies pay me to stay clean. I knew that wasn’t what he meant, I was just trying to be funny. He laughed and said he could sponsor me for a while, if I wanted. I said sure and asked him what that meant. He said we should get together sometime to talk about recovery. I told him that I usually only had two days off each week, and he told me I should meet him at the noon meeting the next day, that we could go out for coffee afterwards. Noon seemed awfully early to be doing anything, but I knew I wasn’t going to kick this habit myself. I said I’d do it. I went home and went straight to bed.”

“No smoking?”

“No smoking. I met him the next day, and kept going to that noon meeting every day. He told me I should go to ninety meetings in ninety days. It sounded bad at first, but I realized quickly that I would have to be doing something to keep my mind off smoking pot.”

“Wow. So how long you been clean?”

“About three days.”

“But that was like a year ago, right?”

“Yeah. I did good for like six months. That’s when Mom died. It was so out of the blue. And she was all the family I had. Some of the people from the meetings were kinda cool, and my sponsor was always willing to bend over backwards to help me out, but I didn’t tell him that she died. I didn’t want sympathy or anything like that. I went to her funeral by myself and went and got a bag when it was over. My old dealer was happy to see me again!”

I bet he was, too. This kid was gonna be back to smoking an eighth every night and playing video games until all hours of the morning. I don’t know how these kids do it. I played some space invaders years ago, and I couldn’t stand the shit.

“And that’s what I’ve been doing the last six months. My sponsor left me a handful of messages that first week, but he must’ve gotten the hint after that.”

“So you do smoke or you don’t?” I was curious; he’d declined my joint. Why wouldn’t he want to smoke it if he wasn’t in the program anymore? I opened my pack of crackers and held them out to him.

“No, thanks. Here’s the thing: I changed jobs when I got clean that first time, and I was having a lot of problems being a librarian after I started smoking again. For the last week or two, I’ve really been considering trying to quit again or going to see if the video store has any open positions. I figured going back to the video store would be easier. I was going to tell my boss at the library the other day, but then I got a letter. It was addressed to my mom. It was a regular old first-class mail, not an ad or anything, so I went ahead and opened it up. It was from some girl who said that she’d been given up for adoption years ago. I’d heard Mom and Grandma talking about something like that twelve or thirteen years ago. The dates matched up for when Mom lived in Indiana, sometime after she got out of high school, she’d told me about it when we were driving out to Cleveland a long time ago. She asked if I knew that she’d lived in Gary, and when I told her I didn’t, she just said, ‘Well, I did, a long time ago.’ She seemed really sad and quiet for the next few hours. The evidence really seems to add up, so I think I have some family left, after all.” His voice cracked on those last few words.

“Can I get another one of those cigarettes,” I asked. We smoked in silence. Council Bluffs was only another forty-five minutes or so. “So she’s in Council Bluffs?”

“Yep. Letter said she’d been living there all her life. She’s married and has two sons. After I read the letter the other day, I called my sponsor up. We got together and I told him about how Mom had died and that I’d been back to the pipe. He said that he figured I was back on the pipe, but had no idea that my mother had died. I told him about how I felt, having no family. I just couldn’t deal with both having no family and being such a worthless person. He said that after being in the program for ten years, he considered the people in the program more his family than his regular family. ‘There’s a part of me that my family just won’t ever get. It’s something that only people in the program will ever understand. It’s this disease.’ I know what he means. That’s why I decided to give this getting clean thing another chance. I have blood family, again, and if I get back into the program, I’ll make a new family for myself there.”

“So what do you mean by disease?” I had kinda heard this terminology before, but I’d never wanted to look like a dumb-ass asking about it. Who better to ask than somebody who has it? I put my turn signal on and got into the left lane, passing some little Honda that seemed to be having a hard time keeping up.

“Well, I guess what I mean by disease is that I can’t control my use of any mind- or mood-altering substance. Sure, pot was my particular flavor, but I know that when I was in high school, partying with the guys and that sort of thing, I always just did as much as I could of whatever we had. When I was clean before, I started to realize that my disease wasn’t just about using drugs. They say ignorance is bliss, right? Well, that was what I wanted. I wanted bliss. I couldn’t just un-think and un-feel all of the thoughts and feelings I had, so ignorance wasn’t really an option anymore. The first time I got high, I became oblivious to shit. Being oblivious is the next best thing to being ignorant. When I was high, I didn’t have to think about the fact that my dad deserted us when I was five. I didn’t have to think about how terrified I was of women. I didn’t have to think about how Katie had proved that I would never have a successful relationship. I didn’t have to think about Mom being dead and me being all alone. I just sat for hours in front of the TV screen, playing RPGs and ripping bongs.”

What’s the difference? I had to wonder, clean or using drugs, you still got all of the same problems. Using drugs might not make those problems go away, but getting clean doesn’t, either.

“The biggest thing that changes is my attitude. They say that the core of the disease is self-centeredness. I was always so worried about myself that I couldn’t handle my thoughts and feelings. Everything was always about what was going my way and what wasn’t going my way. In recovery, my goal is to just see how things are going, and go with them. That way I don’t get so worried about me and how I’m going to get what I want or need.”

“I guess that makes good sense,” I said. “But if you know that, then why not go ahead and smoke? Your attitude was your problem, right? Couldn’t you just keep on smoking weed and try to keep a better attitude—you know, smoke weed every now and then, but try to make a life for yourself in the meantime?”

“That’s just the thing. I don’t know if I’ve always had this disease, or if it was something that came on over a period of time, but I can’t make it go away. I know that any time that I use, weed or anything else, I can’t predict how I’m going to act. Maybe it’d go well for a while; I could smoke two or three times a week and be responsible and productive the rest of the time. But eventually I’d get tired of dealing with real life and just want to go back to smoking non-stop. I already know that drugs will give me that oblivion…” He trailed off for a moment. “Oblivion. That’s what it is. I want to be oblivious to things, and I end up numbing myself to oblivion.” He looked over at me and smiled. “I want to have a life. And I know I can’t handle it if I smoke.”

“I’m glad for you, man. I hope you can keep on with it.”

“Long as I stick with the meetings, I think I got a shot.”

We rode along quietly for a while longer. Only about fifteen minutes to Council Bluffs. I got this habit of speeding up when I get closer to the destination, so I picked it up a little bit and got in the left lane to pass a couple of the trucks I was rolling with.

“So your sister knows you’re coming?”

“No. This trip was really an impulsive thing. After I talked to my sponsor, I decided to do this. Just seems like it will make a nice way to get my new beginning rolling. I didn’t want to tell her over the phone that her mom, our mom, is dead. I’ve never even met her. I could’ve planned this out a little more, taken the time to make sure I had a ride and all of that, but I just want to get things moving.”

“What are you going to do when you get to town?”

“I figure I’ll get a room in a motel and stay the night. Tomorrow I’ll give her a call and see if she’d like to get together. I have enough money for a cheap room, a decent meal for two, and a bus ride home. After that, I’ll go home and get back into this recovery thing.”

I told him it sounded like a good plan. I liked this kid. I hoped he could take care of himself.

It was eleven-thirty or so when I took the exit to 24th Street. I knew a hotel in Council Bluffs with a restaurant built-in. I told him I’d drop him off there so he could get himself a good breakfast before taking off. We didn’t say anything else as I made my way to the hotel.

“Hey, I appreciate the ride, man. And thanks for listening. I feel like I talked your ear off.”

“No worries, pal. Anything to break the monotony of being on the road alone all the time. Tell you what, man. Take this money,” I said, pulling a fifty-dollar bill out of my pocket. “Make sure you take your sister someplace nice, and maybe try to get out and buy her something nice.” He looked at me and down at the bill I held out to him and started to shake his head. “Take it, I’m serious,” I told him. He looked ahead. I forced it into his hand.

“Are you sure, man?” he asked.

“You got it,” I said. “Now go on, get yourself some sleep.” He thanked me and I told him to get going. He walked up to the motel, turning to wave good-bye as he opened the door to the office. I gave the air-horn a little pull and got back on the road. I shook my head and made a little wish for him that things would go well with his sister. Then I pulled out my joint.

Oblivion. I like it.

End of Semester

not much new to say here. just trying to wrap up the semester. my final projects for my two writing classes are portfolios, so you can expect the stories for narrative class to be posted, probably in less than a month. as for the advanced expository class—memoir writing—I’ll probably send the manuscript to a publisher to see if I’ve got a shot. hell, even if it involved a year of editing/re-writing, I’d be up for it! I’d just have to check and see if the publishers think there’s anything about my story that would sell. we’ll see what happens. anyway. . . good luck on finals to all you students. and have fun not doing anything, to everyone else.

The Bike Trip

I should tell you about the trip I took on my motorcycle a few summers back. You know I don’t like to work too much if I don’t have to, and at the time, I’d set enough money aside from helping assemble those modular homes for about a year. I stuck with the guy until his business folded, which I thought it was gonna do, and made a lot of good money doing that work. That’s the nice thing about working really long hours—you don’t end up having much time to spend the money. Usually the women I’m with help spend it for me, but being married to a woman who works changes that, too. Lori sure wasn’t the type of woman I usually got involved with, but our relationship was much more practical than any that I’d been in before. And she knew that it’s good for couples to spend some time apart now and then to keep from getting sick of each other. So when I’d been out of work for a month or two, not only did she not mind that I wanted to take a trip on my bike, she encouraged it. Maybe she just didn’t like cooking for me every night after she got back from work. So I set out on the new Harley with about a thousand in cash and some camping gear. No map, no plan. I had enough pipe tobacco to last me about two weeks; I’d probably turn around after the first week to head back.

I take the back-roads when it’s possible, taking part in the scenery. I must’ve picked the perfect time of summer for my trip, because the weather was beautiful. The sky was bright blue with sparse fluffy white clouds and the plains and woods were thick and green. The wind was nice against my face, not too cool, and the sun warmed me, but not too hot. I enjoyed the ride, feeling all the while like a part of the world around me. I popped onto the interstate in Colorado somewhere after about five days of aimless riding, wanting to speed the trip up a bit so I could go through Taos. I’d been through a number of times in the first years that I was riding bikes, so I didn’t want to miss out on it this time. Maybe I was just feeling nostalgic.

I got on the interstate near a city, and apparently there was some kind of accident or construction slowing things down. Traffic was merging from the left lane to the right, but there was a whole lot more traffic than there was road. I was on a westbound road and looking for the southbound connection, so I’d already been in the right lane for a while. As I got closer to the bottleneck, I ran into more and more people who weren’t looking out for me, trying to roll into my lane because they didn’t see me. Nothing pisses me off like people in cars who aren’t looking out for motorcyclists. The sun beat down a little harder when the wind wasn’t blowing through my hair, and I must’ve avoided half dozen collisions in the space of a half mile. I was getting close to my exit, so hope was in sight. Then I saw that the left lane ended just where the exit began. People were still squeezing in, showing no regard for those of us who were already in the right lane. When I came within ten or fifteen yards of the exit, I could see that a jeep on my left side was going to try to edge into my lane. They pulled ahead of me by a bumper and then I pulled ahead of them by a fender, and we took turns being ahead until right when we got to the bottleneck. The last of the cars ahead of the jeep merged into my lane ahead of me. It was down to the two of us and I was clearly ahead of their front bumper by a full front tire. I looked over at the driver for the first time; he was looking back at me. His girlfriend looked at me, then at him. She rolled her eyes at him and folded her arms over her chest. He accelerated, edging into my lane. I pulled forward to keep him from getting in front, but he wasn’t stopping. He tried to get around and I continued rolling forward, and soon his bumper was within a foot of my bike. I stopped and looked over at him. He looked pissed off and threw his hands up as if to say that I should have let him in. He started to creep forward, getting even closer, so I reached into my vest for the gun I keep in a shoulder holster. As soon as he saw me reaching for it, his eyes got really big. He cranked the steering wheel to the left and hit the gas, driving over road cones into the closed lane. I could hear his passenger screaming as they headed down the closed lane of the highway, probably looking for a spot where they might be able to try again to merge. I edged forward in my lane until I was clear to exit to the right.

Aside from that little moment of excitement, the trip to Taos was pretty relaxing. The heat got worse as I continued south from Colorado and became unbearable in the last stretch before Taos. I stopped under an overpass at one point and sat in the shade, no breeze to cool me off, and drank some water. I took off my shirt and put it into my saddlebag, content to drive down the highway with only my vest on. When I rolled into Taos, I stopped at the first little bar I passed. I had quit drinking years before, but I am usually more apt to run into my types of people in little bars like that. Even if there weren’t any people to talk shit with, I could get a burger and a coke and enjoy the air conditioning. There was only a car and a bike in front of the place, and I looked forward to some peaceful relaxation, not always possible at seven o’clock in a bar.

The cool air hit me like a city bus when I opened the door. The sweat on my face and arms felt like it froze on contact. I went in and found myself a comfortable seat, tossing my vest on the booth before pulling on my t-shirt. I walked up to the bar and ordered my coke and asked for an ashtray. I glanced over at the three people sitting at a table on the other side of the bar, a man and a woman sitting close to each other with their back to me and a woman opposite them who smiled at me when I looked over. Right after smiling at me, she looked down at her drink, which she was stirring slowly with a straw. I recognized that quick smile; I’d seen it hundreds of times before. When I’d been a drinker, those looks were sure signs that I’d be going home with someone that night, or fighting someone’s boyfriend or husband, anyway. I didn’t seen that look nearly as often when I stopped drinking, and it felt good to see it again. Some of my tension and frustration from the heat and the highway wore off, my shoulders loosened up and I walked back to my seat with a newspaper I’d found on the bar. I sat and smoked my pipe, reading through the paper to see what was going on in the world. Every once in a while I’d look up when I went for a drink of my coke and meet eyes with the girl on the other side of the room. She smiled every time. I did my best to smile back without giving her the “I’m gonna take you home” look. After half an hour or so, I walked back up to the counter and asked what kind of food they offered. The bartender let me look at a menu and I picked out a sandwich. I went back to my seat to wait for the food.

As the bartender was getting my plate together, the woman from across the room walked up to the bar. She spoke briefly with the bartender, turning to look in my direction after a few words. The bartender looked at me too, and then nodded to her before she walked back over to her seat. He brought me my sandwich and asked me if I wanted something to drink, “on the lady.” I told him that I was okay with the coke and looked over at her, holding up my drink and nodding as the bartender walked away. She smiled. When I’d finished my sandwich, she walked over to my table.

“Hey there,” she said. “You didn’t want a drink?”

“No, but thank you,” I said, “I just don’t drink anymore, is all. I appreciate the gesture.”

“You seem like you’re a long way from home. You need somewhere to stay tonight?”

“Well…I appreciate that offer, too,” I said, showing her the backside of my left hand, wiggling my ring finger, “but I’m married.”

“If you change your mind, handsome, this is where you can find me.” She placed a napkin on the table before walking away. “Have a good night, either way.”

She and her friends left the bar, but business had started to pick up while I was eating, so there were a few handfuls of people for me to sit and watch as I smoked another pipe. I looked at the address written on the napkin a few times, contemplating the whole thing. As it was right now, I’d have to go find a spot somewhere and set up the tent. I usually didn’t have a problem finding places to set up where I wouldn’t be bothered, it was just a little one-man pup tent that fit into my saddlebag when it was all wrapped up. I stayed in the bar for the rest of the night, sipping coke and occasionally talking with people about the weather and my trip and bikes. When the bar closed at one in the morning, I walked out the front door and thought about what I’d do with myself. I decided to at least go see what the woman’s house looked like.

I pulled up in front of the house, which hadn’t been too hard to find, and looked it over. It was a small ranch-style home and the porch light seemed to be the only light in the place that was on. I sat on my bike for a few minutes, thinking about my wife and our marriage. I couldn’t ask for a better wife. I thought about the little tent and sleeping alone, and I thought about the woman who’d been so bold as to invite me to stay in her house. I got off my bike and walked up to the door.

After a few sharp knocks at the door, I heard stirring inside. She pulled open the main door slowly, peeking out at me with sleepy eyes.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I didn’t want to wake you.”

“No, no, it’s okay,” she said. “I told you to come if you changed your mind.” She closed the door and undid the security chain. She opened it again and opened the screen door. “Come on in,” she said, “the bedroom’s this way.”

“Uh, before we go there,” I said, “I want to let you know, I don’t want to take advantage of this situation.”

She gave me a funny look and then motioned to the seats in the living room. I took a seat as she wandered off. I thought she might be telling me to sleep on the couch, but soon she came out with a can of coke and a glass of water.

“You’re probably one of the strangest guys I’ve ever met,” she said, taking a seat next to me as she handed me the coke. “You want to just talk?”

“Sure,” I said, not sure where to begin. She started, though, telling me that she didn’t usually ask random guys to come stay the night at her house. She explained that she’d been divorced for about three months and knew most of the guys that lived in the area, especially the ones who went to that bar. She didn’t want to have anything to do with any of them. The loneliness of the divorce really began to set in during the last week or so, and when she saw me walk into the bar, she knew that it might be her only chance for an indefinite amount of time to meet a new guy. I talked to her about my marriage and what my life had been like before, when I was still drinking. I told her that she might’ve had me for a lover if she’d met me three or four years before. She laughed and said it was nice just having some good conversation. We talked about other things, sitting up together for at least an hour or two before it was obvious that both of us were growing tired.

“You can still sleep with me,” she said after I yawned in the middle of something I was saying, my yawn causing me to forget what I was talking about. “I think you’re about ready to get some sleep, and I am too.” I looked at her, amazed that I was at the same time more and less inclined to sleep with her then than I had been when I first arrived. I’d gotten to know her and cared about her feelings, so I didn’t want to sleep with her, but I’d also grown to like her and felt reassured that she wasn’t crazy or clingy, and felt more attraction because of that.

“I don’t know. . .” I said.

“I don’t mean have sex, either,” she said. “Lay in my bed; hold me; sleep. That’s it. Even if I wasn’t too tired for sex, your wife sounds too cool. I would kick your ass for her if you cheated on her,” she said, laughing. I smiled and she led me to the bedroom. We got into bed, she in pajamas and me with nothing but jeans. It felt good to hold her, new and exciting, and I could imagine how easy it would be to start having sex. It’s so natural; it was a conscious effort to keep myself from going there. I did, though, and soon I found myself dripping into a soft, relaxing sleep.

In the morning, I woke to the smell of bacon and pancakes. Soon the woman, I’d rather not say her name just to be safe, came into the bedroom.

“Rise and shine,” she said in a harmonious voice. “I’ve made some breakfast for you!” I smiled at her and sat up in bed. She went back out to the dining room, where I joined her after splashing some water on my face in the bathroom. We ate a nice breakfast and drank some coffee. I smoked a pipe and we talked a bit more. Soon it would be ten in the morning, and I wanted to get on the road before it started to get too hot outside.

“Meeting you has been interesting,” I told her as we walked to the front door together. “I’m really glad that we didn’t do anything stupid.”

“Me too,” she smiled. “I think that I liked sleeping with you more than anyone else I’ve ever slept with!” We laughed for a moment, but soon fell silent, smiling as we looked into each other’s eyes. She leaned forward and kissed me on the cheek. “Drive safely,” she said, letting the screen door close in between us. I stood and looked at her for a minute before turning to walk out to my bike. I climbed on and started it, looking back up at the door one last time. The main door was closed; she was nowhere to be seen. I rode off, eager to make it back to my beautiful wife.

First Snow

The flakes fall, large and overpowering
unexpectedly
a little black kitten named Schnee, German for snow,
peaks out the window, baffled by the blankets covering the area where he usually plays.

He hesitates, momentarily intimidated,
but just as quickly he is out the window, running and rolling.

dell didn’t sell

I listed the axim on ebay and only got two bids, falling roughly $70 short of the reserve. so I’ve listed it again, and I put the closing time on the auction at a more viable time of day. the last auction ended near 2am, which is just a bit late for some people. I’m hoping that if the auction ends at 9:30pm, more people will be willing to go online and make a bid. anyway…

I’m considering doing a study abroad course in summer session one. http://www.las.uiuc.edu/coursesabroad/greatbritain.html

it would be neat to visit london and stratford, but it seems like a lot of money. just so all of you know, you can make donations to my study abroad fund by going to paypal.com and listing my email address as a recipient. it’s either that or I’m going to have steal money, and the statute of limitations on felony theft is five years, so I’d have to hide out.