Broken sticks and broken stones
Will turn to dust just like our bones
It's words that hurt the most now isn't it
Are you sad inside, are you home alone
If I could just pick up the phone
Maybe you could see a better day
Again Today- Brandi Carlile
Ordinary: -adjective; of no special quality or interest; commonplace; unexceptional
There are no highlights in the story of my life, no cliff hangers, no nail biting moments. Everything drones on like the predictable beat of a metronome, no down beats or flourishes. My parents seem to think that this is the their ultimate gift to me. They call it comfort, stability. I call it hell.
It can't be completely blamed on them. I have been easily led down this path. Every time I had the chance to stick a toe out of line, I've gone chicken shit and recoiled back to the familiar. So, I've been the bystander. I watched as my friends took risks, stuck out their necks, handed out their hearts, all whileI seethed with jealousy.
I sigh as my pen taps out a simple beat against the cheap vinyl of my cubicle desk. At least I'm next to a window. Not something I fought for, just a simple coincidence that the lucky bastard I replaced passed down to me. My phone beeps incessantly at me and I exhale slowly, narrowing my eyes at the black box. I pull the receiver to my ear and try to sound awake.
"Good afternoon, I'm calling to tell you about the amazing results you can get with…." My voice drones on as I wait for the familiar dial tone. I am that person. The scum who calls at the worst time and tries to con you into signing up for a pill that will in no way make you look like Jennifer Aniston, but will be emptying your bank account slowly, as you forget you are being billed monthly.
The saddest part is that some people actually buy this. Most people hang up before the voice sensor can transfer them to my phone, and the people who wait long enough to hear my voice often hang up faster than I can get out the first sentence. But there are those people, those sad people who listen long enough to get pulled in. Thank God those people exist, because they pay my check, but still. Poor idiots.
This call is one of those people. I am already explaining the benefits of using the 'miracle pill' for the full 90 days and I can almost hear the cats meowing in the background. The woman is eager, spewing forth her credit card information willingly.
I stab the numbers into my ancient computer and when I hang up, a little victory screen appears, congratulating me on my sale. The last thing I feel is victorious.
This is what a college degree in art history gets you these days. I twist a strand of hair forcefully around my fingers and think back to a time when I was actually hopeful that I would use my degree to educate the masses on art. And then I started job hunting.
When ten percent of the population is looking for a job, there really isn't much of a demand for someone who knows the difference between Monet and Manet. My first job out of college was mixing ice cream at one of those obnoxious places where people get to build their own flavor. I try not to think of the sick shit people found appealing. When a friend of my mother's told her about my current job opening up, I actually thought it was an upgrade. How wrong I was. I would give a small toe to go back to ice cream, but I am now maddeningly dependant on the slightly higher pay check.
I take a quick look around to check that no one is paying any attention to me, they never are, before leaning towards the window. Three stories up is just high enough to watch without being caught, a small light in my day. My eyes scan the streets and watch as people pass, the warm sun causing people to slow their pace.
A woman is scolding her child for dropping an ice cream cone. The little boys head hangs in shame and I want to rush down the stairs and yell back at her. It's only ice cream. I've almost convinced myself to go, when a crash pulls my eyes away from the travesty.
My eyes search for the noise and when I find it, I'm frozen. A large truck is backed up into the dark storefront across the street. The back is open, revealing row upon rows of what I think are kegs. None of that is important. My eyes can't leave the man attempting to right a fallen keg which has somewhat exploded, soaking him in beer. His hair is matted to his forehead, his shirt suctioned to his body. My eyes wander, taking in the dark stains on his skin, which is all I can make out of what must be tattoos.
The oddest thing is that he's laughing. There's beer everywhere, spilling into the gutters and staining the sidewalk, and he's laughing. Head thrown back, mouth wide. My eyes flutter over to the driver who is yelling and running in a circle like a wind up toy.
Again, the urge to run down to the street tugs at me. But this time, for a very different reason. My phone rings shrilly and I look out the window one last time before turning back to my reality.
I trudge up the dark stairs to my loft, stopping at every landing to lean heavily on the painted concrete walls, my soul and energy drained from sucking away people's hard earned money. When I reach my door, I shove my hand deep in my bag, searching for the familiar cool metal keys. The key slides in easily, marking the first thing to go my way today
The door swings open slowly, revealing the single room that is my sanctuary. Carefully placed sheets, fail at creating a sense of walls. I let my bag slide from my shoulder onto the floor, taking up its designated space in the room. My shoes quickly find their place next to my bag as I stumble towards my futon.
I fall face first into the well-worn blankets and smile. Turning over, I curl around my prized possession. I pull my my Mac into me and flip it open, happy to be bathed in its light. My fingers dance over the keys and open the familiar page quickly. I smile as it greets me and announces what is my whole social network. 'You have 378 friends'.
I never get sick of seeing that number and still get a little giddy every time it rises. Never mind that I may not actually know half the people who make up the number. It's proof. An undeniable fact that I do in fact have a life. My eyes scan over the updates and I begin what is my nightly social interaction.
'Laura Simms hates everyone who owns a digital camera'
'Marc Hawkins now owns a pair of vintage Nike's'
'Alice Brandon wishes she knew how to make cheesecake.'
I read each update, feeling more and more connected to a world where I belong. I take my time, savoring each posting on my wall, typing out careful replies. The computer warms up my bed and I draw in closer to its heat. I move only to make a box of Mac and Cheese and change from my stifling work clothes into sweats.
The hours push past me and my fingers keep busy. I smile and laugh at words I don't actually hear, only read. My eyes drop and the red numbers on my digital clock starts to taunt me. Six hours until I have to get up, then five. At four and a quarter, I finally relent and pluck out my final words. I push the lid closed and fall into a quick sleep, feeling full and needed.
When the sun flickers across my eyes and the piercing beep of my alarm pulls me from sleep, I fight back the urge to lift the top of my computer and forgo making money for the day. Gritting my teeth, I pull myself from my cocoon. I hate being an adult.
The requisite black pants and white blouse are pulled from the closet, not caring about the combination. Nothing clashes, its all simple, stale. My ear buds are pushed into place as I hit the street. The walks to and from work are the only times I feel completely centered. The notes and words swirling in my head taunt me with the idea of possibility and change. My wistfulness gets me through the first hour.
The phone rings often throughout the morning, a time when people obviously feeling more inclined to try futile attempts at self improvement. The words come easily and having a script doesn't hurt. Several of the idiots around me are trashing on the women we are catering to, and I want to chuck my pencil cup at them.
Lunch hits and I glance at the bag I brought with me and then back out to the street. The black storefront catches my eye as I rise from my seat. I tell myself it's to try the new deli, but the lie is useless when not used on anyone else. I wind my way through the office, nodding at the people I can't avoid making eye contact with.
Another benefit of being mundane is how easily I slip into the background. Be a face that never stops a wandering eye. I could try harder, be louder, but it would be asking a lot. It would be pushing my toe past that rutted line. I push my thick glasses up my nose and sigh.
The air outside is thick with moisture, and it clings to my skin like a layer I wish I could peel off. The taste clings to me and as I lick my lips I swear I can taste it. I push through the heat and people to the deli. The line is long and the air is out, but it doesn't really matter. This step is a means to an end really. When my turn comes, I order the first sandwich I can read off the board and rush out doors.
My thumb makes it way into my mouth as I trudge slowly towards my real destination. I chew on the nail and slow my feet. It seemed like such a good idea three stories above the ground. Now I feel silly, and strange, and a little idiotic. What could be the possible point of this?
My head whirls with possibly scenarios. What would I do if I actually saw him? There's no way on God's green earth that I could speak to him. What could I possibly have to say? He would take one look at me and mistake me for scenery. Suddenly, this seems like a very bad idea. Something quite similar to pushing that invisible line.
That thought stops me in my tracks. I feel the restraint so carefully built up inside of me stretch. I take one step and then another. Getting closer to more than just a bar and an enigma of a man, but to breaking free just a little. My heart beats frantically against my ribs and I'm sure at any moment, my thumb nail will be gone due to the efforts of my nervous biting.
As the bar looms closer, I have to push harder for each step. When I stand in front of the simple, battered exterior, I feel victory surge through me. The simple white sign reads 'here' and I smirk at the simplicity of it. I stand in front of the door and wait for I don't know what.
What are the chances that I would see him again? Especially in the middle of the day. I sigh and begin to turn towards the office, when the hinges creak and groan, signaling their opening. My sandwich falls to the ground and I scurry around the side of the building.
I lean my head against the heated brick and pull it away and press back several times. And then I feel the itch creep back into me. I pull myself along the brick, enough to peer around the corner. I watch the retreating form with a sense of safety. With his back to me, I am free to let my eyes trace the width of his shoulders and the tension of his arm, as he attempts to hold back what appears to be a monster of a dog.
I soak in the ink that litters his arms and peaks out under his collar. Before I can think to stop myself, I am slowly following his retreating steps, wanting to be closer. He turns suddenly and I almost hit the deck. Instead, I press myself against the nearest building and hope to fade away. I clench my eyes shut and hold my breath.
I open my eyes and free my lungs when I'm sure I'll pass out from the efforts otherwise. When I glance back up the sidewalk, he's gone. It's useless to try to fight off the battling relief and disappointment. I swallow down both emotions and cross the street.
The stairs serve as my last chance at figuring this out. This is not me. I'm vanilla and predictable. I do not ogle men with dark bars and tattoos. I date boys with polo shirts and video game addictions. He's the kind of man my father wants me to stay away from. The kind of man that my mother sees and steers me in the opposite direction.
I take the stairs slowly, giving this stranger a story in my mind. A story filled with things I've only seen in movies. Things like drugs, strip clubs, and fight clubs. The last image causes my whole body to heat a little. Doesn't every girl love a broken man?
My bravery doesn't return for a while. I live pressed up against my window, my phone cord stretched to its limit so I don't miss one entry or exit. Mostly, it's just him and the beast of a dog, but occasionally other people make appearances. I fill my days spinning stories about him and the people I see walk in and out of his door. The beautiful women are pole dancers and struggling European models, and the men are rough around the edges, looking for redemption in a bottle.
I try to focus on Mrs. Hamilton, who is currently overjoyed about her pill purchase, when he exits the building. I all but drop the call and roll myself closer to the glass. He lingers outside for a moment, taking in the exterior of the building and kicking at a loose piece of paneling.
"What the hell are you gawking at?" The voice breaks me from my daze and my forehead smacks the glass. I rub the tender skin and scowl as Mike laughs. I roll reluctantly back to my desk, not wanting to share my voyeurism. Mike lingers by the window and I wish I could see what he was seeing.
"You ever been there?" he asks. I ignore his question and will the phone to ring. He reaches over and tugs on my ponytail.
"To 'Here'. You ever been to the bar?" he pushes. I sigh and shake my head. I don't think I've ever actually been in a bar. The closest thing to that was being in Sharon Finks parent's basement in high school. Drinks were easy to find in college and I didn't have time to devote a night to going out when I was focused on being the next thing the Metropolitan Museum recruited.
"It's a pretty decent place," he mutters, before rushing off to answer the shrill ring of his phone. Once he leaves, I bask in the silence before rushing back to the window. He's gone and I don't understand the tug I feel because of it.
I roll back to my desk and fiddle with my stapler until my phone rings again. I resist the call of the window for the rest of the day, frustrated with the sheer possibility of the man I saw knowing more about the world than I do. Even his ink tells stories. And I have nothing to tell. No occasion worth documenting on my skin. I'm jealous. I want those kinds of memories. I want to steal the stories on his skin.
The sun sinks in the sky and before I leave, I let myself have one last look. The tug returns and it clouds my mind and kicks up an idea I should toss aside. I'm going to go in. The idea roots itself in my mind and oddly calms the tug.
I pull on my cardigan and smile a little to myself. Wait til I tell the girls on my wall…