New Short Story: “Day Job”

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Waiting for the moment.

 

Happy Summer, all!

To beat the heat, I decided to knuckle down with the AC on and finish a story I’ve been kicking around for a few months. It’s a brief bit of a contradiction: realistic, yet outlandish; a joke, yet serious; autobiographical, yet anything but.

In any event, I had fun teasing it out, and I hope you do as well! So grab a coffee, get a seat with a good view of your surroundings, and swipe right to hear about a city kid’s trouble with balancing his passion for writing and his, well…

Day Job

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Poem: “Last Night”

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Room with one heck of a view.

As a prequel of sorts to yesterday’s post, “First, World,” here’s a poem I put together the evening before the first day of my first “real job” at the end of August. I purposely didn’t post it back then because… well, I just didn’t want to sound like a total pessimist. I figured I’d keep that bittersweet moment’s frustrations to myself, head into the office the next morning with an open mind, and then return to the words with fresh eyes after some time.

And now here we are, in October! Following a review and some light linguistic/structural tweaks, I was pleased to confirm to myself that this piece was still potent as a reflection–that crystallization of thoughts and feelings in a specific time and space, for which I so treasure poetry’s power. It may not be any cheerier than my last upload, but nights inside before big life moments tend to skew nerve-wracking.

How’s work? Well, definitely demanding–and only set to get more so–but I’m pleased to report it’s not yet as dreadful as it felt…

 

Last Night

This is my last night.

Convalescent in comfort:

Ice cream, action scenes, and domino rows of daydreams.

I stand before the mirror on mental razor’s edge,

precipice between pissing around and

the 9-to-5am.

Anything is subsistence living if your standards are high

and your hopes humble.

 

Dinner sits half-dismissed by a tallboy, equally chilled.

This is the free man’s last meal

before prison, isn’t it?

The couch a coffin, the TV’s digital dim a cell door’s welcoming creak.

On the glass tabletop, I envision a prism of discontent:

to family, fractured; to friends, indifferent.

To the ladies, the lawyers? A-okay.

Take it day by day, I say

to myself.

Let no one know how many hours I bought,

least of all me.

 

Because concentration disintegrated seasons ago.

Now, it’s a task to even finish a thriller without

tapping a foot, typing a tweet, rethinking my five-year plan.

That can’t bode well for Day One on the job.

 

So, for now, let me bask in it:

the angular eggshell glow of a lone wall-lamp,

the muffled rumble of rusty Sunday traffic through thick headphones,

the blue hue of my modem, glowering in the media center’s corner

like a punished pupil.

 

If I didn’t listen before it was too late, at least I only missed my own advice.

So little time, so much to waste,

and every second must be accounted for:

what I did, or why I didn’t.

How much longer can I pretend to enjoy my colleagues’ company?

So far, so good, I once smirked,

but likeless Facebook posts speak louder than words.

 

It doesn’t matter now.

That’s how I’ll play the first morning.

Present. Able. Presentable.

Ready and dead, by necessity.

Isn’t that what independence is all about?

Always down,

but never out.

Poem: “First, World”

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So, little over a month to the day since my last post! Couple of factors there: getting a sense of a good work/life balance with the new job, taking a breather from story-writing to just study the craft (finally finished Joseph Cambell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces!), and… well, who am I kidding, that Netflix queue isn’t going to empty itself.

With poems in particular, though, I realized that–for better or worse–I’d hit a dry spell of personal ponderings to get off my chest. On one hand, I wanted to keep to the “Poem of the Week” goal I’d set in the Spring, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to sit around wondering and worrying just so I’d have something meaningful to write about on schedule. But when fresh doubts, deliberations, and stirring turns of phrase arise naturally over time? Well, I’d certainly rather serve them than let them stew.

It’s in that initial mindset of wanting to take a break and figure things out (how and what, exactly, is always the question) that I slowly composed this poem. I’m feeling better than when I wrote my last handful, personally and professionally. But, am I feeling content? Well…

 

First, World

I need a breather, a lever

to clearly crank between work and play.

Extra time in space.

The news is tightening, see:

word spreads like wine stains

of longer hours, shorter deadlines, higher expectations.

Dark, aged anxieties redden White naiveté.

 

So I need a scene

that stays in the director’s cut, unbundled.

Scifi conventions by weekend.

Mangled, NSFW memes in my phone’s feeds.

Dark, droning ambient music to massage the ears

over dishwashing and staring down a hollow closet.

Secretly, I’d like having part of me that makes my colleagues uncomfortable,

an edge to sand by day and sharpen by night.

I mean, the moral turpentine of eye contact and shaky small talk

can burn as well as cleanse,

and the scars aren’t far from madness, in a vacuum.

 
And I need a reason to pay attention

on schedule, with minimum interest.

Like a kid to cod liver oil, I to others’ identities.

It’s humorous and horrifying to see

how high I can climb without knowing

or caring who’s right

alongside me.

But my fear of looking stupid is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Just once, I want two-way understanding in a conversation

instead of this tin-can-and-string bonding

between flitted grins and the absence of a face-to-face disgrace

(If something was wrong, they’d tell me).

Responsibility respawns ability

to be concerned, concerted, and make aces out of jokers—

when the fact is I can’t tell poker from solitaire.

 

Because my default is deprecation:

self-, else-, just for the sake of it—

an optimist’s façade, casting over

what luck! the shadow of oh fuck.

If doubt is universal, then mine’s infinitely expanding:

A demanding unhanding of double-edged words

from the same fist that clutches, unbudging,

every off-the-cuff criticism or compliment.

Damn wrist, trembling—figurative caffeine from within,

and I’ve blinked maybe five times today.

I need weaning off the sense of winning

when I intend to succeed and do.

That’s baseline, basically.

 

And so I need the curvature of my life,

a hidden horizon—a point past which no sight goes.

Certain uncertainty.

With every year, another throughline grows:

pallid strands, like taut dental floss, stretch into the yon,

today to tombstone.

I need that chance, that could-still-be and there’s-hope-yet,

to pat my back like an autumn sunbeam, assuaging

ailing ambitions in thinning air.

Because either way—a 401k and vacant trophy case

or canned beans over Hollywood contracts—

the captain goes down with the shit

he keeps onboard, and mine’s not hitting port any time soon.

A hoard of hoary motivations and vague concepts, outlines

sketched in the cobwebbed corners of a mind palace

long since repo’d by the state?

Not inaccurate,

but also not positive.

I’d say I didn’t come this far by being a downer,

but then I never pulled out a history book

for rulers to measure the distance.

 

Maybe it’s privilege

to shelve a dream and still smile at night,

to keep a whole ‘nother life on the back burner.

It can wait, most days. It’ll have to.

 

But first, world, I need the hours

to know what’s ours and what’s just mine—

how to tell when time’s running out

or just getting its second wind to lap back ‘round.

Everything I do, it’s to check off a list

that exists half in my heart and half on a Word doc.

‘Cause otherwise, with pen in breast pocket,

timesheet in tow,

and notepad gathering coffee stains,

we’ll just have to wait and see

which gets deleted first.