Keyed to my heart

(Cinnamon Girl by Neil Young, from the corporate-approved soundtrack I listen to at work.)

Well, work continues at the clothing outlet as the strange world of women’s fashion slowly turns more routine with time. At this point, I’m pretty sure the customers are more surprised to see me than I am to work with them, which isn’t a bad thing really (in fact, many customers comment that they like seeing a man working there).

One of the problems with working at a big mall is the parking on weekends. Sometimes we have satellite lots in a muddy weed-strewn field, or we have even ridden shuttles from nearby properties in the past. Anyhow, I was coming into work not long ago and I was fortunate enough to have someone back out of a space as I was coming along the flow of traffic. As I pulled into the space, two girls in a car honked at me, and then asked me after I got out of the car if they could pay me for my parking space. I told them I was already late and went on into work. The next day, I noticed my car had been keyed pretty badly, and I suspect it was the two of them (when I left work that night it was dark, so I could have easily missed it). Either way, that’s just not enough justification to key somebody’s car. I know, some people are just mean enough to do it at random with no motivation at all, but someone would have to seriously wrong me for me to consider property damage (such as, by keying my car when I don’t deserve it). I was mad for several hours at work that day, but fortunately my customer interactions were kept to a minimum and I sorted clothes and worked on the style guide (reorganizing how the store looks) for a while. Ultimately I’ve decided that, unless I should just so happen to see those girls again, I’m going to let this go (if I see them again, they should expect a visit from the police). I may look into an insurance claim and getting the car repainted, I’ll cross that bridge soon.

The moment I really started to calm down at work that day, though, is when one of my coworkers walked by and the scent of her perfume just seemed to sap the anger out of me and made me relax. My next thought was, “Oh shit, this is a real crush.” I won’t share her name, but I will say that she is one of my bosses, and the only one that is single. She’s not exactly my type: a little too trendy, a bit more extroverted than I’d like (she likes to party from what I gather), and definitely not up on her nerd culture. On the other hand, we have this amusing banter/witty repartee running while we’re at work, where it almost feels like we’re cautiously flirting all day. We have some background in common (we’re both only children, which means we understand the need for personal space and private time; and we seem to share some tastes in music and movies, not across the board but enough to meet halfway). She has lovely olive-colored skin (reminding me of Mediterranean tones, like someone native to Greece or Italy), brown hair, dark chocolate eyes and a curvaceous little body that she likes to dress up. Her smile and her laugh are really infectious though, and that’s probably part of what makes me strive to get a laugh out of her in our work conversations.

At this point I’ve been burned a lot though; and part of me wonders how much of this stems from my own innate loneliness. Do I really like her, or the idea of her? There are a lot of doubts in this case, doubts about our common interests and hobbies, concerns about the work environment (she is my boss, after all), and of course doubts about my personal situation. I may have money coming in now, but not exactly enough to live on and not really enough saved up yet. I’m not able (or ready) to move out unless I have roommates, and that brings issues of its own. Would an independent woman of 27 really want to date a guy who is 31 and still living with his parents? I would think that might feel like a step backwards for her, though maybe I’m selling myself short. I know I’m hardly alone, there are plenty of adults who still live with one or both parents for various reasons, but I can’t help feeling like I’ve still got a long way to go before I can offer someone, well, a life together. I KNOW, that’s thinking too far ahead, but I don’t feel… young anymore. I realize 31 is young and many people are still active in the dating scene in their 40’s, but I’m feeling the sensation now that I can’t get those years back. Can I afford to still ignore my future prospects and the long-term in order to enjoy the present? For that matter, can I set aside my haunting feeling of past failures to enjoy the present?

I’m in no hurry to ruin things at work, and I’ve already (subtly) indicated some interest, so the ball is in her court. Since it seems some stereotypes tend to hold true (men have to make the first move) this probably means nothing will change for now. I will bide my time, keep saving money, and potentially repaint my car if the insurance covers it without a premium hike. If nothing else, it’s nice to have another friend at work.

Scratches reveal
my thin outer battlements
prove no redoubt against
your glancing keys,
like chemical welfare
the scent you spray
diffuses my will
to fight the invisible;
a key wrought in anger
and leveled in hatred
has opened a breach
more poorly defended:
key on my car
has plainly told
that you now hold
the key to my heart.


Death (or, Why My Problems Aren’t So Bad)

So, it has recently come to my attention that my seventh-grade biology teacher has passed away. I learned this through a friend’s post on Facebook (actually, an old crush’s post who is now more like a stranger, but that’s a different tangent), and it has struck me a bit harder than I expected.

Obviously, she was one of my more favorite teachers (I won’t say she was #1 because I was lucky enough to have several very excellent teachers over the years, but she is right up there on the list). I guess I’m feeling an echo of my own mortality and the limited time I have to accomplish something in this life, let me explain why: I remember that this teacher told me (on more than one occasion) that she knew I was destined for great things, and that she would be reading my name in the newspaper someday (it was not widely known back in 1995 that the newspaper industry was doomed to morph or die). I hadn’t tried to visit or talk to her over the years because I didn’t want to disappoint her. I wanted to be able to say to her, “Here, see? Look at the great things I’ve accomplished!” and let her know that way that she was right, and that her hard work teaching paid off. Now that moment will never come, and I won’t catch up with her and compare notes about our lives over the years, and tell her what a great teacher she was.

They haven’t released the cause of death yet, but it seems likely to be suicide (they probably would have said something already if foul play was suspected). She was relatively young still (early 50’s), far too young to be dying of natural causes one would think. Perhaps I shouldn’t jump to such conclusions, but it makes me wonder: why would someone so well-loved, good at their job, surrounded by family, and in good health choose to take their own life? I mean, I toyed with the idea of suicide at a younger age, but I ultimately came to the conclusion that fantasizing about my own funeral and people’s reactions to my passing was just indicative of a desire to live (and a desire for more attention). Obviously, I chose to persist on this mortal coil despite my depression and continual problems moving forward with life. It always seemed to me that she had all the good things you would want from life, and not the silly ones like wealth or fame. There might have been problems that stayed more secret, and I guess its not impossible she could have had a heart attack or something.

It gives me pause to consider all of this, and in my own modest way I really do mourn her passing, I feel it like a pressing sadness in my chest. As death has a tendency to do though, it reminds me once more that I am still alive for the moment and ought to accomplish something with said life. I might not win the Nobel Prize or any great accolades, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try.

…I’m trying to decide if I should go to the funeral or not, it seems to be listed as a private affair.

Death comes
not like some blushing boy
here to escort my sister by
but rather a thief
who snatches away
the yet unwritten
A million lines of dialogue
and every dream under the sun
abruptly breaks within his bony
and I am left to ponder
why she should drift on Charon’s voyage
while I remain in relevant

Dressing the Mannequins

So, I find myself working at a women’s clothing outlet now. A female friend from high school called, and while I started out working in the stock room they quickly switched me over to the sales floor. I quickly got over what little self-consciousness I had left working for – and with – women all the time, and slowly I have been learning the fashion trade (I find this very amusing since I have spent so many years doggedly going against the grain and ignoring fashion). I now know that a “shell” is nearly synonymous with “tank” and “cami,” and once I can tell you what the difference is, I think I’ll have reached a new level of mastery.

I’ve managed to avoid going in head-over-feet for any of my coworkers, although I am building rapport (and there is one who is single, pretty, close to my age, and liked me enough to buy me some fancy ice cream… but I try not to read too much into things; besides, she’s one of my bosses). There has only been one customer who came off as genuinely flirtatious, but she was a hoot and she made the whole retail process fun. Aside from that it’s nothing but pure professionalism, which is as it should be. I don’t want a factor like gender to make life any harder than it has to be, and I don’t want to embrace any stereotypes if I don’t have to.

About the only time I feel self-conscious at work is when I dress the mannequins/bust-forms (torso only), and then it’s usually just a fleeting bit of silliness. It’s easy to anthropomorphize an object that is shaped like a person, so there’s a split-second when I suddenly feel that I’m being too publicly intimate and familiar with the mannequin/bust-form as I peel off a tank top or button up a blouse. Ridiculous, of course, but there it is. I swiftly quash the feeling and get on with my work, shaking off the sensation and telling myself there’s no reason to feel that way.

The moment comes
to change our cares
to strip away yesterday’s wares
naked canvas, Beauty more shallow than skin:
we’ve come to dress the mannequins.

This one gets silver,
This one gets gold,
This one gets scarf’d;
all are camisole’d.
Her size always fits
We Make It So;
there’s only Glamour,
it has to show.

We clip her back
crinkle the waist
use every trick to stay in taste
roll up her hollow sleeves and tilt back
only the Look must stay intact.

We gird her loins
straighten the seams
and fill our stalls with rayon dreams:
they aren’t afraid of leopard spots,
sequins, paisley or polka dots.

They stand in the breach
hearts on display
get called to judgment every day
for last week’s style,
for fear to die,
they follow when we say, “Come buy!”

Fill up the arms,
empty the heads,
send plebe and provost off to bed.
The next day starts, begin, begin!
We’ve come to dress the mannequins.