“And where did you meet Gerald Reeves?”
We sat in a booth, on strawberry clouds with form after form and my driver’s license littering the table, speckled with dry tea. Placemats for coloring. Coloring for postgrads.
I adjusted the lining of my ruched black skirt. “You look quite nice.” “Thanks, James.” Previously I made another “last” visit to my place of study, to sign yet another form. Hopped on the bus with Jim’s last dime, waited in their marble suite with a raspberry soda in hand, and said goodbye to another prospect as a legal assistant in the antiquated convenience they call Downtown. My favorite work shirt hasn’t been ironed since.
“We met on the bus.”
Keeth chuckles in Irish mirth, motions to the Oreo Crumble and asks me how I like it. Applying for serving and barista positions certainly carries its perks. Peppermint mochas, green tea lattes, milkshakes and slices of mousse cake. On the house, as I scrambled for cash to stay in the laundry room of a friend’s.
Gerald convinced me serving was an art, that rewards follow refinement. Humanities degrees aren’t useless. They supply fodder for conversation. And this clientele, they’ll pay for fodder. Most are cops who come for the free coffee anyway.
He was only thirty-eight and claimed to work six days a week, seven if lucky. $500 a night since age seventeen at the same place. A different picture on the wall for twenty-four months straight. Two dozens’ worth of the “greatest employee we ever had.”
“He’s full of shit.”
I folded my hands over my apron, still boxy with tucked away tips. This was reprieve from the usual talk with disgruntled aunts at call centers. But a date would soon follow. “To be fair, you meet ’em on the bus.” “Thanks, James.” My disappointments with men aren’t worth speaking of as of today. Probably a good thing.
“You can really make good money, if you work the long hours and are fine with kissing ass. I mean, Gerald is going to retire. He put a good deal into an IRA Roth and some other stuff. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
“Must be nice to live at home. What kind of parents charge rent nowadays?”
“Well, that’s you.”
Presumptions flutter and stand by our doors. The easy-to-access two-by-four they say to beat intruders with if you don’t have a gun. People you don’t know.
It’s very much like saying only dirty kids get lice, and I’m only reminded of a bubbly cop I really enjoyed pouring sweet tea for, until he offhandedly said that people get arrested for a reason, that trials were a waste of time. Yes, if they’re prolonged. “Innocent until proven guilty?” I quipped. “The arrest indicates guilt. Nine times out of ten.” “So what about that ten percent?” “Well, they sure did something.”
Sometime in 2010, or 2011, Justin Bieber told Rolling Stone that rape was a sad thing. Something along the lines of not liking abortion, that yeah, it’s really sad when a woman has a baby by rape, but “everything happens for a reason.” Well, yes. But what are you implying about the rationale? Is every reason justified?
Three weeks ago it was asked if I had an eating disorder. Anyone who lives with me would laugh at the question. I think Ren would be pissed. And today it was asked just how much I allocate for groceries. “How do you afford to get everything from Whole Foods?”
For the past five days, I’ve brought quinoa in a Tupperware, a bag of avocados, and mangos to spare. Put these together, glaze it with salsa, and you’ve created a filling salad.
All from an inner-city grocery store for less than fifteen bucks. And there’s enough to last for the week ahead.
Not that Whole Foods is bad. I love salmon jerky and matcha green tea powder. And if I can’t get matcha online, I’ll go to Whole Foods.
Perhaps I am oversensitive. But after a while, comments like this are no more grating than belittling someone for moving to Austin, “where affluent students panhandle.” Bring up the beauty of Portland, OR to hear similar scoldings from neighbors and friends. “A better Austin. Richer people.”
Today we sat through a sales pitch. Another local wholesale store hosting a membership drive, wedding cake, cookies, and photo packages lined on a table, set to tempt. They praised this part of town for its spending potential, family needs, consumers aplenty. And I turned to a coworker and whispered,
“Most people can’t afford to live here!”
“And really, he hasn’t done his research. Look at the study that made the paper. Where I grew up, you’ll find the greatest disposable income. It also costs the least to live there.”
“Sorry. Just proud of my South Side is all.”
Turns out I’m already a member. Welcome to Costco. Not certain if I love you.
My plastic spoon sifts through quinoa in ways Rocky Road could never allow. But mousse-filled cake is always nice, chocolate chip and oatmeal comforts waiting in a brown paper bag should I seek them during break.
Another coworker apologizes for not inviting me to lunch.
“It’s okay.” I point to my empty tupperware. “Maybe next Friday.”
“I admire your discipline.”
Less than two years from my interview with Keeth, I’m finally working Downtown. Restaurants scream with specials and an authenticity I don’t entirely doubt. But even the doors of McDonald’s and Whataburger stand ajar and aloof, as lines stretch on and I only wonder how everyone dines inside and returns in due time.
Maybe I’m not so disciplined.
Perception reflects off each of our eyes. Myopia, astigmatism, and more. Not everyone needs glasses, but no one peers through a magnifying glass impervious to the drawbacks of subjectivity.
Interesting read. I have a pet peeve about the Beiber comment. The entire “Everything happens for a reason…” is usually said to comfort people into believing that “God” is still watching over you and it’s for the greater good. This is grade A bullshit and I would never insult the intelligence of a rape victim or any other victim of a senseless crime by telling them said bullshit. Everything bad that happens does happen for a reason…and it when comes to crimes it’s because someone had the unfortunate run in with someone that is sick in the mind or just in general a asshole. Personally I don’t follow any organized religion although I do know a good bit about them. I’m not one to say there is or isn’t a “Maker” because no one can prove it scientifically or out of faith. I do believe however if a God does exist from one of the many religions on this planet….It doesn’t go out of it’s way to make 30 children get shot by a classmate or have a mother of 3 get raped in a back alley somewhere to make a point. For anyone to say that is beyond ignorant in my mind and should recheck who or what they are worshipping.
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Thank you for your response. I hope I did not exceedingly offend you, and this was the exact sentiment I was trying to illustrate. Well, on a personal level, I’ve heard this said as a sort of “shaming.” Like, “if only your faith was stronger, this wouldn’t have happened to you.”
I used to be so afraid of someone I knew (from college or real life) finding this blog because a lot of what I write is based off people I know and interact with. Frankly, regarding this entry, I don’t care who I offend. I used to go these bible studies. Then I got uncomfortable all of a sudden. I was a self-proclaimed agnostic at the time, got my feelings hurt way too easily, and when I learned that the girls I interacted with in an office where I was a “work-study” said stuff about my being “stuck up” and “unable to engage with people,” I went to these studies. I tried to be openminded, I read the Bible, and I’m not quite sure if there’s absolutely nothing out there, but there was a night that left me very uncomfortable.
So, there was a child who went to the bible studies. He went with his brother. The child was rumored to have schizophrenia. After most everyone left, they were talking about the boy and his odd mannerisms. They then tried to make this fate-directed connection with the fact that the boy’s mother and father were going through a divorce and that this may be “God’s will.” One of the girls turned to me and said, “You have nothing.” I have issues of my own I don’t really feel like discussing in detail here (so I comment on blogs relating to my issues but I feel no need to repeat myself), but the issues are apparent to a lot of people who interact with me. She told me that all I needed to do was “pray more,” and “maybe God will be favorable towards you.”
Mind you, this was the same person who’d make jokes about my donating money to send her kids to college if I got into law school and went through with being a lawyer. She’d say, “Oh, my friend’s gonna be soooo rich!” The lack of congruency bothered me. She’d also tell me, as if I were a baby, “Oh, honey, you’re not smart enough for that. It’s not the school for you. God will pick the law school for you.”
I made a mistake mentioning I was considering applying to Harvard (I didn’t think I would have gotten in, but I like to at least try). But at the time I was an overly sensitive person and deleted my application because of shit she’d say. “Everything happens for a reason.” I’ll stop now. I’m getting petty.
She preached tolerance and kindness until women at church “got friendly” with her husband. She also emailed me work-related assignments hoping I’d do them for her. Because I somehow owed her for the friendship and the wonderful Bible studies.
Eventually the sessions devolved into “Catholics aren’t Christians” and other shit when all I really wanted to do was discuss scripture.
I go to church and it doesn’t really matter what church you go to. If you invite me, I’ll go. I respect people of faith. But it’s that kind of stuff that gets to me. It strikes me of things people say to feel they are superior to others, and I hate that.