Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sold for endless rue

Written on the wall above my favorite urinal at work are some words that I enjoy staring at.

For the first few weeks, I thought they said, "hanging out of my snot."

Though there is nothing particularly funny or clever about that fragmentary line, it was somehow pleasing to me.

After studying this graffiti for awhile (I go to the bathroom constantly; it's like my secret garden), I realized my interpretation was wrong. Someone, long ago, had attempted to erase what had been inscribed there. They managed to scrub off the tops of many of the letters, but under careful analysis, the original message became clear: "My wang is hanging out of my shorts."

This discovery strangely disappointed me. Oh. A penis reference. By a urinal. Who would have thought.

Now it was just any old graffiti, on the same prurient level as the one scribbled much further down, carved by a pencil between lines of small white tile: ANAL GROUT. I guess that one makes a certain amount of sense.

The urinal in the cafeteria is a bit better. Someone wrote "BRAVO" in thick black marker, right on the metal near the flush lever. It makes me feel really good about myself when I use it, like I am doing a fine job at this thing called 'life' after all. It feels good to pee there; it feels like a victory.

And victories are hard to come by these days.

We were at the big carnival that one of the local private schools puts on every year for all the special needs clients in town. I was standing in the Dance Party room.

The lights were low; there were glow stick necklaces and glittering hula hoops, high school girls in circles shuffling from foot to foot, occasionally shaking their mid-backs in hopes that their bottoms would rhythmically follow. They did not.

One of my students galloped around the room in a perfect square. He kept careening in to people.

The DJ, a lean kid in a flannel and tight dark jeans, flipped switches and pressed the 'enter' key on his Macbook Pro many times. 

Why is it that whenever I linger on the periphery of a dance floor, I long to go out there and do incredible moves?

If only I could break dance, or spasm about in frenzied krumpings, or maybe get cerebral with an uncanny display of robotic pop and locking.

This thought comes to me often, but it seemed especially ridiculous in this situation. Did I want this small room of seven or so high school girls and fifteen special needs adults to be impressed with me? To tell their friends, take pictures, even....fall in love?

It's not about the joy of the dance; I am not even sure that I have that. I guess it's from the primitive, universal desire to be amazing.

It's why we buy so many magic sets, or spend hours trying to do the splits.

I hate to think it, but maybe the path of the average American white male's life is a slow, painful recognition of their ordinariness. We're just middle people. Not leggy enough to be models, or ethnic enough to be mistaken for black, we spend our years prying our fingers, one by one, off of any claims we might have had to greatness.

Let go, my inner voice tells me. You keep clinging to things and soon enough the rest of your life is going to pass you up. 

Hey inner voice, do you remember that song by The Outfield, "For You"?

Dammit, Body, you never listen!

Tee hee-remember how I used to lip sync to my cassette single of it?

Are you singing into a pickle?
It's a hairbrush. Be quiet, I'm doing some nostalgic waxing. Remember that trench coat?

Ah yes, thick, black, and woolly; you thought it made you look like Lloyd Dobler. You put it on over your shirtless torso....

Yes, I was proud of my naked body back then. Except the legs; they looked like string cheese wearing shoes. Though a roomy pair of pegged khakis covered that up.

Gripping the hairbrush, fear hidden behind shades, I would push 'play' and disappear into the song.

I pointed, clutched my head in grief, did c'mere wiggly fingers; I even spun. I did not rely on choreography. I relied on my certainty that I was the coolest and most broken-hearted person in the world right then.

BAH HA HA! Good heavens you were a jackass.

Maybe so. 

"Are you the bouncer?" an older woman asked me. She had just entered the Dance Party, and was eating popcorn from her palm with thick flaps of her tongue.

I gave her a courtesy laugh and wandered off to roam the school.

It was the kind of place that funnels its students directly into great things: Ivy League universities, cableknit sweaters, teams of crew.

The teachers there were annoyingly beautiful. The women looked like Dance majors and the men could comfortably pose for pictures in only their whitey-tighties. They made our staff look like a shuffling, leprous rabble.

And it gets worse: these privileged wunderbarrs were incredibly nice to the crowds of impaired people that invaded their school. They were patient, courteous, and unstoppably helpful.

I wanted to upend them and shake all the money and goodness out, because in my broke, petty little way, it bothered me that the two things could coexist so happily.

Bet you've never been sad a day in your life, I thought, staring at the group of girls running the cake walk. They wore black leggings and short grey sweatshirts. The female population of the entire earth seems to be dressing in this way.

What am I saying; I was the boy version of a teenage girl once. That's all they are is sad. Sad or psychopathically happy. 

It was then that I saw him, coming down the hall in a long procession of former students and group home residents. It was Jeffrey.

A little chubbier, brown hair thinning in front, but everything else about him was unchanged.

"Jeffrey! Hi buddy!" I shouted. Normally when I run into former students, I could kind of take it or leave it. I am not a big of fan of the whole "recognize someone from your past and say hello" phenomenon. In fact, my ideal society would be a faceless one, where the act of recognition would be impossible. Everyones' heads would just be kind of smooth all over. You could pee on your family so you could tell them apart from strangers, or spray them with some kind of internally generated musk, but that would be it. 

But I spent two years or something with Jeffrey, and I genuinely liked him.

Jeffrey looked up as I greeted him, and got a big smile on his face. He made his hand into a gun and pointed it at me in the classic "hey there, big guy" fashion, only he made the chick chick with his mouth well after dropping the hammer down. 

 As he passed by, I heard one of his staff ask him a question.

"Did you know that man, Jeffrey?"

"Oh yeah," he said enthusiastically, "that guy graduated with me."

Sigh. So that was that then. Jeffrey thought I was one of the students for the entire two years I worked with him.

I turned my attention back to the cakewalk. Its sole participant was a short, chubby Down Syndrome boy in a white cowboy hat. He had a huge chrome belt buckle, and his name tag identified him only as "Jimmy." 

The radio was blasting "22" by Taylor Swift, and the teen girls were clapping and cheering as Jimmy, slowly, and with great concentration, made his way around, careful to place both booted feet on each paper number lying on the floor.

At a random moment, one of the girls cut the music.

"7! Jimmy wins again!" They seemed genuinely excited for him, even though the results were obviously fixed.

Jimmy claimed his prize: a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies. He walked to a corner where a small mound of similar treats were sitting in stacks of four plates each. The cookies joined them, and when he had settled his newest acquisition just so, Jimmy patted all the desserts, turned on his heel, and began the cakewalk again.

There goes a victorious person, I thought bitterly to myself. But only because I wanted to tie this in to all the other stuff I wrote about the urinals.


  1. I find it eXtremely funny that you have a favorite urinal.

    1. I have a long heavy dress coat but I only wear it to funerals on eXtremely cold winter days.

    2. " I was the boy version of a teenage girl once. " laugh in loud,

    3. I have one of those weird disorders where I have a "favorite" everything. I think it's called obsessive compulsive

  2. Always so much to think about. I may have to ponder this awhile before I can comment appropriately. Or I could just say, Yay You! (My inner voice is a little off today.)

    1. Oh don't ponder it-it was not supposed to be serious just silly. I can't figure out why everything I write takes these weird gloomy dips so I force ridiculous back into it as best I can-the end result being a muddle that does not want to be taken seriously

  3. He thought you were a student? hehe...but hey - that could be a compliment on your ability to communicate with and relate to your charges...?...

    1. It COULD be I suppose, but with Jeffrey, it was more likely he just really thought I had been a student-his view of the world was very skewed

  4. Where the heck is your "search" button??? Trying to link to the one where you do the insulation.

  5. Hi Marianne
    I just read your post about the passive aggressive letter-I liked his drawing on the note
    anyways, here is the link to that old thing http://www.gweenbrick.com/2012/02/nail-that-sticks-up-is-batted-at-by.html