Friday, August 21, 2009


"Bowl, please. For here."
"What kind of beans?"
"Black, please."
"Mild, please."
"Sour cream and cheese?"
"Yes, please. Could I get a little more sour cream please? That’s great! Thank you."
"Anything to drink today?"
"Just water, please."

I pay the smiley Hispanic lady behind the register (who can’t be taller than 4’10") for my Chipotle burrito bol, fill my cup with ice and water, grab a fork and some napkins, sprinkle some green Tabasco sauce on my meal and head up the ramp toward the upper seating area. I like to sit in the upper area because it gives me a clear view of the entrance, the ordering counter and the cashier. I like to have a clear sight line of these areas because it gives me a chance to scope out any hungry, attractive girls. What can I say? I like to take time out to appreciate beauty in the world. And the Chipotle in my office park has more than it’s fair share of beauty.

But the pickings are slim today. Whenever I glance up from taking a bite or take stock of things after finishing a chapter of my book, the newest patrons all seem to be men. This is slightly disappointing. Not that I look forward to a lunch hour full of ogling opportunities. I’ve got my food, I’ve got my book; I can keep myself entertained quite well, thank you. But there’s something pleasant about looking up and seeing a pretty face. And, unfortunately, dudes just don’t evoke the same reaction.

Today’s dudes are different, though. They seem lost, without purpose. They’re going through the motions, ordering their burritos, collecting their change, dispensing their ice. But they often seem to be looking in a different direction while they’re doing it. Not looks of anticipation, scouting out a place to sit or looking for a co-worker; just random staring at no one and nothing in particular. Their eyes are glazed. No, not glazed; empty. Like failed clones.

And none of them are leaving.

They’re filling up all the available seating and it seems as if no one is taking anything to go. The line to order is now wrapped around the lower seating area, past the door and starting to creep up the ramp to the upper seating area. And there’s not a girl to be found in the entire line.

As I look around, I realize that all the seats in the restaurant are filled up. All except for the three available seats in my booth. When I turn my head back to the left, I’m somewhat startled to see two dudes have approached my booth and are now sliding themselves into the empty bench in front of me without saying a word.

In fact, no one is saying a word. The place is full of people and yet the only audible voice is the quirky, French-techno interpretation of "It’s Raining Men" playing over the speakers. I’m still in shock to the degree that I can’t muster any words after two strangers have interjected themselves into my booth.

I try to reassess the situation and notice that guys are now entering through the patio door in a steady stream. And they’re still coming in through the front doors, although there are so many guys coming in that both of the double-doors are open to accommodate them. The line has become indecipherable from the rest of the crowd, so the new arrivals are now just finding any open space that they can occupy. Dudes are standing everywhere; in the aisles, crowded around occupied tables, in the gaps between barstools.

I’m starting to wonder if this is some sort of prank or publicity stunt or something when I get bumped. I look to my left to see a guy has found a few inches of my bench to sit on and is now nudging me further into the booth toward the half-wall that overlooks the kitchen and lower seating area. At this point, I’m too stunned to voice my displeasure and when I look in the direction of the kitchen, I notice that it is now full of men, too. I can’t even see any Chipotle employees anymore.

There is now an unbroken but roiling sea of shiftless men covering every square inch of floor space. But somehow, the dudes just keep rolling in the doors. I begin to figure out how this is possible when I notice that guys are starting to climb up on tables and counters and half-walls. Some of them have resorted to jumping from these elevated surfaces to reach for the rafters in the trendy unfinished ceiling. So now there are men climbing into and hanging from the rafters while other men take their places on the tables and counters. The restaurant is now crawling with men that seem more like rodents than human beings. There is hardly room for one more breath, much less one more dude.

I manage to break out of my stupor and start thinking of ways to get out. I push the stranger sitting next to me but he’s pinned in by the wall of guys to his left. The surface of my table is now the home of five dudes standing and staring which leaves me no apparent option. There are guys lined up and standing along the half-wall to my right at eye-level and I decide that this will be my path.

I grab my book and knock the legs out from under one guy and send him sprawling onto the heads of those in the lower seating area. I get to my feet on the bench of my booth and pull two more guys from the half-wall into booths that are now behind me. I step up onto the half-wall myself and survey my surroundings. The volume of men is so dense that I decide to try to go over the tops of them. Going against my inner decency, I step out onto the bald pate of the guy standing just below me. From there, I step quickly, but unsteadily, onto the next guy’s shoulder. He crumples a bit under my weight and sends me stumbling. My knee catches the dreadlocked head of another dude and I start to fall, dropping my book. I flip myself over to my back, expecting to slide through the mass and hit the floor but, instead, I am buoyed like a rock star in a mosh pit.

I roll over onto my hands and knees and try to crawl to the front door. Suddenly, the entire crowd shudders simultaneously and I slide to the floor. Somehow, I manage to gain my feet but the crowd is now moving. I feel like I’m back on Bourbon Street in New Orleans during Mardi Gras; I’m no longer controlling where I move, I am completely at the mercy of the masses. I am shuffled toward a chair that I can’t avoid and fall over. I’m now on the ground and in very real danger of being trampled to death. I try to use the chair as a shield and manage to hold off the surge enough to weasel my way under a table. The otherwise silent mob drains out the doors with an ominous rumble reminiscent of an avalanche. Guys jump from the rafters and land on the floor with sickening thuds but pick themselves up without a peep or grimace and make their way out.

I wait for the lower seating area to clear before I poke my head out. I notice my book lying on the floor a few steps in front of me. I crawl out from underneath the table and dust myself off. The last strains of the French-techno cover of "It’s Raining Men" fades out over the speakers as I bend over to pick up my book and head for the exit. When I look up, the diminutive Hispanic lady that usually mans the cash register is stationed at the bottom of the ramp, sweeping the floor. When she sees me, her eyes light up and, through her perma-smile, she says, "Thank you, sir! Please come and see us again!" I give her a confused smile and head back to work.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Typical Morning At The Office

After driving through a torrential downpour, I got into the office today around 7:15am. I’m not required to be in the office before 8:00, but I’ve found that it is generally quieter before the rest of the office moseys in. I say “generally” because there are usually between three and five other people that follow a similar schedule. Most of them respect the fact that I’m not particularly chipper in the morning. I prefer not to talk to anyone and that no one talks to me until 7:45 or 8:00. After I’m fully awake I’m happy to socialize, but I’m pretty gruff and curt until then. So, I wasn’t terribly pleased when Janey volleyed this at me before I could even sit down at my desk:

“Boy, it really is a monsoon out there, huh, Nick?”

“Mmmmmmhmmmmm…” I submitted, gutturally, without turning around.

She turned back toward her desk and I sat down at mine, hoping I could get some work done without any more interaction. Within about 30 seconds, Janey started up a conversation about healthy eating with Pearl, the lady that sits next to her. Pearl nodded politely while Janey rambled on in her outside voice despite the fact that there is absolutely no other noise that would cause her to speak so loudly.

“Well…you know…so, I tried the, um…lighter salad dressing…and…you know…well, I’ve been taking the, um…salmon oil..which is supposed to be really good for you…but, well, I tried eating more…um…garlic…but, um…it kind of made me vomit………”

At this point, Reid had come around the corner from his cubicle to pick something up from the printer. Just as he was looking up in my direction, I pointed my index finger at my temple and pulled the trigger. He smiled, grabbed his papers and started walking over toward my desk. I picked up the bottle of Tabasco sauce I keep on my desk and pretended I was pouring it in my eye. He laughed, picked up my scissors and acted like he was ramming them into his chest. After he put the scissors down, I picked them up and mimicked slicing open my wrists. There’s no better way to start the day than listening to inane chit-chat that inspires you to shuffle off your mortal coil.

After fifteen minutes of trying to block out the rest of the chatter, Lee arrived.

“Good morning.”

“Hullo,” I responded.

“Well, the eldest daughter is a champion! Her team won the Chicago Roller Derby title!”

“Wow, that’s great,” I replied, mustering very little enthusiasm.

“Yep, now I’ve got a new bumper sticker for my car: ‘Proud Father of a Roller Derby Girl’.”

“Well done,” I said and chuckled.

As this highly-enlightening discussion took place, Josh walked in, dragging his briefcase-on-wheels behind him. About the time the Roller Derby conversation ended, Josh was walking back across the office bellowing about hail to what seemed like no one in particular.

“Yeah, so Eddie calls me and says that the hail they’re getting is just nuts. He says that he went out in his yard and picked up this one piece that was totally spherical…Yeah, so he cracks it in half and sees that it has rings like a tree…Yeah, so he says that the hail jumps up and down in the atmosphere and picks up more moisture and that’s what creates the rings…”

Josh adjusted the Bluetooth earpiece that was stuffed in his ear and moved on to the kitchen where his severed conversation continued in a pleasantly muffled state.

I sat back and wondered why I continue to entertain the notion that an office with only a handful of people present should be a peaceful, productive work environment.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Illusion Dissolution

Red stars in a tiny black universe. Feet tingling. Adrenaline flowing beneath the surface of my chest like an underground river. Excited. Nervous. Immunity dissolves.

Why is fire so captivating? Why is music so powerful? Why is The Pick of Destiny so hilarious? Why is Miller the “Champagne of Beers”?

Boston’s “Foreplay” wails on the iPod. Alternating waves of curiosity and disappointment and coherence and bliss. Moronically obvious observations. Theoretical one-block journeys ending abruptly. Intermittent confusion.

Sweaty friends. Relaxed friends. Alert friends. Content friends. Asleep friends.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Whirlwind, Part Ten

(Continued from Whirlwind, Part Nine)

I probably went too far. But I meant it. Maybe I shouldn't have told her that I love her. Maybe I shouldn't have said that I would marry her. Maybe I shouldn't have said what a wonderful team I thought we would be, accomplishing great things together. Maybe I should have explained that by valuing her above my kids, it didn't mean that I valued the kids less, it just emphasized my choice to love her; I don't have a choice in loving my kids, I couldn't NOT love them.

It was probably all said too quickly. What if I hadn't said those things? Would we still be spending all our free time together? Would she still feel the same? Would I?

I know I would. There hasn't been a day that's gone by since I met her that I haven't thought about her.

I've sought out advice from every direction. "Play it cool." "Don't be too intense." "Check in with her occasionally, but not too often." "Move on." "Be patient."

"Cut it off completely. Stop all contact. She knows where to find you. If she values you, she'll figure it out and come back."

This is the best advice I've received yet. Also, it's the worst.

It absolutely frightens me to refrain from texting her. Maybe she'll forget about me. Maybe she'll be relieved that I finally quit bugging her. Of course, if she really feels that way, it's probably for the best. That doesn't make it hurt any less, though. But what if she forgets about what great times we had together? What if she forgets about what a great guy I am?

Still, I trusted God up to this point and everything went well. I told her how much I cared about her numerous times and she didn't run. I gave all the credit to God. But just as I trusted God's plan in what I viewed as success, I realize I need to trust God's plan in what I view as failure or disappointment. It kind of annoys me when athletes make a great play and then point their hands to God, giving Him the credit. Actually, that doesn't really annoy me so much as the fact that nobody reaches their hands to the sky when they make a bad play. There may be a greater purpose in that bad play or that bad game or in that bad season. Just as I'm sure there is a greater purpose in how things have worked out with us so far. There is obviously a reason that things have transpired in this way. I just don't understand why.

x x x

Remember, all of this happened within the span of about six weeks. It seems like at least a season’s worth of activity, probably more. Certainly much more than what would typically transpire in a conventional dating situation. Which is why I still hold out hope. There was definitely a connection there. Not just a couple of people awkwardly feeling each other out, but people who definitely clicked on multiple levels. Maybe things moved too fast. Maybe the timing was all wrong. Either way, the speed and timing happened for a reason. I just hope it’s not one more lesson in the never-ending curriculum of life, that my experiences with Stacie are supposed to teach me something for the next person I get involved with. Because I don’t really have a desire to be involved with anyone else. And I don’t want the lessons to go to waste.

x x x

When I first started this series, I made a flip remark in the comments section about how I didn't really care how things worked out because, at the very least, I had some amazing writing material.

I couldn't have been more wrong about anything.

I would trade in every single word, every bit of inspiration just for the chance to be with her again.

It has been such a strange experience of contradictions. She inspires me more than anything or anyone, yet when we were together, I didn't write a word. I wanted to soak in every minute of our time together. I didn't want to waste precious minutes banging away on a keyboard. I wanted to spend those minutes with her or daydreaming of her or thinking about the next time we would be together. And now that I'm not with her, the only thing I can do is write. And it doesn't seem to help. It just churns up anxiety within my chest. Though, sometimes, it's worth having that, if nothing else.

x x x

For the longest time, I didn't really know what I was looking for in a girl. It was easy to see what I didn't want. As time went by, I would discover an attribute or two that I preferred. And after meeting Stacie, I now know everything that I want in a girl and I won't settle for less.

x x x

I thought going in that I wasn't really risking much. I acted confidently because I didn't really expect much. She told me she didn't want to break my heart.

'Tis better to have loved and lost...Bullshit.

The best laid plans...blah, blah, blah...

x x x

I guess my biggest mistake was telling her that I love her.

(To Be Continued...???)