Tag Archives: schedule

“But You Know: It’s All in a Day’s Work.”

Oh, so it’s gonna be one of those:  A slowly crawling, rainy day best spent under the covers, with a book, after a rare discovery that today, you have absolutely nowhere to be.

You’ve gotta earn a day like that.  There is always too much work; work that often works  you — not the other way around.  The work of Gotta.  The work of Must.  The work that should not be rescheduled:  It could be delayed — but it’s gonna cost cha.  So, it’s always best to deal with the work now, for it might go away if you don’t.  People have choices, around here.  They might take their business elsewhere.  So, you say yes — and take the work.

I wish I knew it to be different, somewhere else in the world.  But I didn’t start working until I landed here:  In the Land of Work.  Some call it “Opportunity”.  Sure, it is.  The possibility of that opportunity tests the desire and sometimes pushes the limits of your capability.  But If you seize the opportunity, it becomes:  More work.  The work of Should.  The work of Must.

Perhaps, it’s more desirable work — work you wouldn’t mind doing for free.  Ask any artist:  an undercover poet or the girl musician with purple hair that works in the front of your office as a receptionist (but mostly, she makes your coffee and keep unjamming the copy machine).  Ask a cashier at a framing store or the teenager with dreamy eyes that bags your groceries at Trader Joe’s.  Ask anyone from the army of these tired kids working night shifts at your restaurants:  They know the drudgery of free work all to well.

Some may still have enough gratitude to go around.  If fuels them to keep showing up after a day spent chasing the work.  There is enough passion in them still — to find the reasons to peel on their hideous uniforms every day, right around three or four, when most people start watching the clock for the minute to call it quits.  But the tired kids report to work in which they rarely believe — but which they absolutely must accept until another “opportunity”, for work.

I know one.  I study her bounce around the narrow sushi joint I frequent weekly.  Every night, and sometimes during the weekend brunch, I can see her doing the work.

(Ugh, “brunch”!  If you’ve ever waited tables in Manhattan, for the rest of your life, there is no more dreaded word in your vocabulary.  It’s enough to lose your appetite for “brunches”.)

She’s got a regular name.  It’s sorta pretty, but I always forget it, and I want to call her Clementine, or Chloe, or Josephine.  She is perky, quick and funny, always ready for some improv with a willing customer.  When she appears at a booth, she tends to find a nook into which she fits her soft places like a kitten agreeing to your caress.  But you better know how to touch her:  A slight degree of nervousness or clumsy inexperience — and she bounces off, while waiving the tail of her gathered hair as a woman used to being watched every time she walks away.

Scarlett Johansson for Vogue

“You want — the salads?  Is that safe to say?”

I know for certain that just a register away, therein lies her bitchiness.  She is too tired from the work to tippy toe around me, for her tips.  And I bet she can tear into a man with eloquence and composure even grown women don’t have the courage to possess .  But she is always nice to me, at first; until she remembers my routine — and she begins to flirt.

“Are you an actress?” I hear the booth filled with older men ask her.

They look like they work in production:  There is a certain air of exhaustion, long hours, terrible diet and lack of exercise that I can smell on them.  There is always too much work, for these guys; so much of it, most end up childless or divorced. They are this city’s doctors:  Always on call.  Always ready to take the work.  Because if they don’t, the work might go away.  So, they say yes.

Clementine says yes.  But she shifts, from one foot to another.  The lines of her curves change in a warning that she may let ‘em have it, in case of their commentary about the work she doesn’t mind doing for free.  But thankfully, the men know better than to ask her the civilian cliches of:  “How is that going for you?” or “Have I seen you in anything?”

They do know better; for they have sacrificed their forming years on putting in the union hours — sometimes, for free — in a dangerous bet that the work would pay off later.

Later.  They would build their homes — later.  They would marry nice, patient, pretty girls — later.  

But the work may not have happened later.  The “opportunity” had to be seized right then.  So:  They said yes.  

Now, newly and happily married, or unhappily divorced, they still find themselves chasing the work.  And in the midst of their private miseries, they chase the fantasy of Chloe’s possibility.  Like me, they find her youth titillating.  But it is her fire — that formed in her pursuit of the work — that makes them hope she would stay by their table just a little bit longer.

But Josephine must go:  She must go do the work.  She has to earn herself the “opportunity” to do her other work, for free.  And she has to work enough to earn herself one of these:

A slow, crawling, rainy day best spent under the covers, in a tired body, with a book; after a rare discovery that today, she has absolutely nowhere to be, and that her conscience is finally at rest — from all the work.

“But When She Gets Weary — You Try A Little Tenderness.”

Woke up late:  A day off.  I planned it that way.

But before that, I woke up every hour, on the hour, jumping up in bed and staring at the clock with the anxiety of someone whose memory was escaping her.  And I would decipher the neon red numbers of the alarm, as if among them, I could find reminders of my missed appointments or, god forbid, any broken promises.

I swore I was forgetting something.  But then, I would remember:

A day off.   I planned it that way.

Exhale.

I would recline back into the stupor of my dreams, just to leap up again, in bed, an hour and a few dreams later, and stretch the memory for the things I was forgetting.

When I finally got up — late, on my day off — I made it over to the journal I used as a calendar (this year, I had refused to get myself a planner — a giant fuck you to my memory); and I stared at its pages for any suggestions of things I was forgetting.  The coffee drip was already spitting at intervals; and truth be told, beginning a day — had never been my problem.

I remembered that, while staring at my handwriting and inhaling the first aromas of caffeine.  The disorientation by dreams began to fade away.  In my mind, in my memory, I could see the trajectory toward my desk:  That’s where I start, every day, habitually.

Yet, I continued to stare at the pages — and at my handwriting; and I swore I was forgetting something.

I sensed my face:  I was pouting.  I don’t own big lips on me, but the lower one always insists on rolling out in my sleep, and it stays this way for the first hour of the day.

“Your grandfather always woke up like that,” my motha once told me, over a decade ago, while she could still witness my waking up, in her house.  And after I had moved out for good, into my own adulthood — however untimely, every morning motha would find me waking up in her house, she would tell me again and again:

“Your grandfather — my daddy — always woke up like that.”

And I would find it amusing, the way genetic inheritance worked.  We are talking eight decades now:  six of his and three — of my own.  He died too young and tragically.  Yet, still, he showed up on my face.  I guess, that’s one way to matter, in the chronology of the human race:  on the faces of humans that follow our deaths.  (But first, I would find it amusing that a grown woman would call her father “daddy”.)

Motha and I had both been the only children in our families.  Her situation was a bit more tragic than mine:  She had a younger brother.  He died, and in the worst of ways:  too young and tragically; without any witnesses — or even a body to bury after.  No closure.  And with him — seemingly went her memory.

Motha’s memory would begin to malfunction soon after her brother’s death.  The first thing — was to block all matters related to the loss.  It was a coping thing, most certainly:  These brain synapses collapsing on themselves for the sake of further survival.  Or, how else could one carry on, past such tragedy?  How else — to persevere?

Surely, she would still remember the general story of his life, its chronology.  But the details would be blocked out forever.

“My memory escapes me,” she would answer to all my inquiries.  “I was too young.  He was too young.”

I would stop asking.

But the second thing that changed — and that equated us, after my own birth — was the lack of opportunities to rerun mutual memories with her now missing sibling.  No longer could she turn to him and say:

“Remember that one time…”

Somewhere, I once heard that repetition matters to children.  That’s why they must ask the same questions over and over; or to provoke the adults to retell them the stories of their own short lives — their chronologies.  So, for those with siblings, memory becomes easier to train; because one could always turn to a brother and say:

“Remember that one time…”

I’ve never had that:  After my birth, motha decided, on my behalf, to never have another child.  Just in case anything would happen to him or her — she wasn’t sure I could survive it.  So, in her way, she was protecting me from my own possible tragic memories.

But any time she would find me waking up in her house, stumbling out into her kitchen for the first aromas of caffeine, she would study my face and say:

“My daddy always woke up like that.”

And she would wander off into a story — a story I most likely have already heard a dozen times before.  Still, I would let her retell it — and I would listen — because repetition matters to memory.  Repetition matters to children; and her brain synapses, collapsing on themselves, retracted my motha back to the little girl, with a younger sibling.  So, I would become her equal — someone she could turn to and say:

“Remember that one time…”

Agreeably, I would behold.  I would never embarrass her by interrupting the flow of her memory and say:

“You’ve already told me that!”

Or:  “I’ve heard that one before!”

And neither would I ever embarrass others if I caught them in the midst of repeating a story, for the dozenth time.  Because I could never predict the tragedy they may have had to survive, in their own chronologies, interrupted by bad memories.  (And chances are, there is always a tragedy — such is the human statistic.)

Instead, I would behold.  I would listen.  And I would try to commit their stories to memory — my memory with its own collapsed synapses, from years of tiny tragedies I myself was trying to forget.

“I’m Outta Time, And All I Got — Is Four Minutes, Four Minutes! Yeah.”

Another day spent in infinite bouncing between two self-disciplines:  hard work and running.  Because what else IS there?

Well, there is also eating, which I sometimes forget to do.  And sleep.

And then, there is the less disciplined pursuit of making a living.  It’s fine, really:  I’m one of the lucky ones, I continue reminding myself; because most of the time, I get to shuffle my schedule around as if my hours were those shiny marble pieces on a backgammon board.  And it’s an ancient game:  this pursuit of an artist’s life.  Too many have done it before me, but only some have succeeded.  I want to be one of the some; so, I’ve narrowed my days down to two infinite self-disciplines:  hard work and running.

The work has become an anti-anxiety prescription of my own invention.  I hold it up, against my griefs — with time or other people, or even against my departing loves — and I say, “What else IS there?”  But even though I’ve learned to shuffle my hours, when it comes to success — or accomplishment, at least — they still don’t move fast enough.

And I’ve heard it all:  “Impatience is a lack of self-love.”  “Impatience is just energy:  Use it!”  “Meditation!  That’s what you need!”  But when actually in the midst of the hours, with nothing but hard work in sight, these opinions fail to give me any consolation.  So, I wrap up the work — and I go running.

And that’s just another bargain:  running.  Just another bargain I had made with time, so that I can continue doing the hard work, for a little bit longer — after the success happens, or my accomplishment, at least.

And so, the infinite bouncing continues:  I work in order to stop flaunting my impatience toward time and I run — to speed it up.

And in the mean time, there is life, happening in between.  I am not idiotically blind to that.  I see it.  I chip in.  I participate:  in friendships, loves; in my tiny adventures I can afford for very short periods of time (because I always must come back to the less disciplined pursuit of making a living).  But as soon as I am alone again, the infinite bouncing resumes.  And if it weren’t for my comrades — in the midst of their own living, always somehow committed with a lot more patience than I myself can manufacture — it seems I could easily forget about all that life, happening in between.

The other night, one of them had dragged me out:

“I bet you haven’t eaten today,” he said.

“You’re crazy,” I began whining, listing all the work I still had to do.  I’m a pain in the ass:  always hoping for my loves to distract me from my stubborn disciplines; to convince me that there is way too much life, happening in between — and that it’s worth putting the breaks on my infinite bouncing.

“It’s Saturday night,” I carried on.  “Everything is already booked.”

“So, we’ll get take-out!” he said.

I considered.

“Good.  That way, I can get back to work.”

My comrade chuckled and knowingly shook his head:  What a pain in the ass!

We walked into the nearest sushi joint, already packed to the brim.

“See,” I began whining.  “Everything is booked.”

The waitress who got stuck at the host stand that evening, looked up at us, past a million fly-aways in front of her face, and said, “Did you have a reservation?”

I slid out of the way and let my comrade handle that little situation.  I, instead, began studying the floor filled to the brim with families, lovers and comrades.  There were four sushi chefs behind the packed bar, and they seemed to have figured out some sort of a time-traveling trick:  They were moving so fast, the snapping of bamboo rollers in their hands, in between each order, sounded like an orchestra of quirky percussions.  And they were all so serious, in a typical sushi chef fashion:  serious but graceful — total zen masters! — finding the time to answer endless questions from the mesmerized clientele at the bar.

My comrade came up from behind me.

“Would you look at those guys?” I said.

“Zen masters,” he responded and stuffed me under his wing.  Suddenly, my endless bouncing seemed to let up, and I fully surrendered to the temptation to lose track of time.

“How long — is the WAIT?!”

The shrill noise came from the packed lobby.  It echoed past the bar, above the heads of the four serious, graceful sushi chefs, and onto the floor, jolting the first half of the restaurant to pay attention.

I looked back.  She was chubby, with a face full of make-up.  I bet on any other day, I would find her pretty; but the shrill noise made by her lipsticked mouth shocked the shit out of my kindness.  Her man hung back:  Tall, portly, he had crossed his arms and took on what seemed like a habitual expression of resignation.

The waitress looked up past the million fly-aways in front of her face and calmly said:  “Thirty to thirty five…”

She didn’t get a chance to finish:  The shrill noise interrupted her verdict, and jolted the other half of the restaurant to pay attention:

“I CAN’T WAIT THAT LONG!”

She stared at the waitress.  The waitress stared back at her, calmly, past the million fly-aways in front of her face.  The shrill noise-maker turned on her heels and made it over to her man who by now was attempting to camouflage himself into the corner.  He’s no use, she seemed to decide, half-way across the lobby — and marched back over to the waitress, at the host stand.

“Is there another sushi restaurant here?”

“Are you fucking kidding me?!”  I finally uttered from underneath my comrade’s wing.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” was what the waitress’s face seemed to say as well, from underneath the million fly-aways, in front of her face.

The shrill noise-maker scoffed, turned on her heels again and, again, made it over to her man.  By this point, the camouflaged portly creature stuck in his predicament of a relationship seemed to want to vanish.  Loudly, his woman did the negotiation to which the entire restaurant was meant to pay attention.  And when she marched out, into the night, followed by her defeated man, he gently caught the door she meant to slam shut and closed it, apologetically.