Tuesday, September 11, 2012

If We Went on Forever

He doesn't want to spend money so he goes back home and cleans up, starts doing some laundry, that kind of stuff. He's too fast though, too organized, and it doesn't take long. There's not much. In every relationship he's been in he's the clean one, the tidy one. Girls have too many clothes, shoes, too much makeup, accessories, toiletries, vegetables and spices and snacks and magazines. Girls have gum wrappers and purses and trunks filled with pieces of paper that remind them of someone or something that happened some time ago, and these trunks and purses grow and grow until they're too heavy to move, and then the girls sit in front of them for hours with grey sunsets filling the window behind them, the lid of the trunk open, inspecting pieces of paper with a strange half-smile, and separating the different colored scraps into huge piles of importance and one small pile of trash, that they sift through at least twice before removing to a bin outside. If we went on forever, there'd be storage sheds of these memories.

Gunshots outside, three or four, though it's a few blocks away. He sits on the couch and surveys the cleanliness, inhales the fresh pine scented air. He tries not to look at the clock. All the motion has lifted dust particles into the air, which are moving every direction through the window light. What of those moving upward? How do they do it?

He peeks through the blinds; a police car is leaving the street, heading toward the sounds. The neighbor upstairs is moving furniture. He needs to leave the house.

It's not a house, it's an apartment.

Grabs a light jacket and gets out. It's cooled down, feels good. Walks up the street, gets food, eats it.

A woman comes up the sidewalk, dragging a leg. He can't tell if it's put on, but before she's there he's taken out a dollar she accepts with a God Bless and keeps moving on, crossing the street in the distance and holding up the cars, several of which honk, and soon she's faded from view. He's still sipping his soda from the food truck, sitting in their plastic chairs along the road, tonguing some piece of taco between his teeth.

He walks back home, kicking at pieces of trash, and after some TV on the couch his day off is over.


Up early because he fell asleep early, and it's nice to have some time to get his head together before he has to leave for work. Showers and then turns on the radio news while he shaves. There's an argument going on, about politics, but he can't follow it exactly, something to do with whether or not some senator's remarks about the President were unfair, and if this sort of “nasty behavior” should be allowed in our political arena, especially when televised. “You're missing the point,” says one man, “It's not just an issue of disrespect, or bad behavior. We have to consider the message this sort of conduct is sending not only to other politicians but to the American people themselves. If the people that represent us, that we look up to, speak this way, why shouldn't we? That's what I'm primarily concerned about here; their accountability as role models.”

“I'm not downplaying your concern on this angle,” says another man. “It's valid. But it goes hand-in-hand with what I'm saying, which I believe is far more significant, and that is whether or not the critique is true. All this talk of conduct is important, to some degree, but we can't let it obstruct our ability to see the bigger picture of the Senator's claim: is the President lying about his past relationships? And does this “divorce issue” imply a morally defunct commander in chief? That's the real pressing moral issue here, as far as I can see.”

The bus is relatively full, given the hour. He finds a clean seat near the back, above what must be the motor or something, because it's warmer than elsewhere. He likes the bus more than the train, especially during the morning, when it goes over the bridge and he can see the outline of the city in the early light. It's beautiful. It's hopeful and exciting and could be anything when you get there, though it never is. For the most part it's just like home, never better or worse. The skyline sure is beautiful, though.

From this bus he takes another bus, on which he has to stand, since the city is awake now and it's crowded. He doesn't mind too much, though. The morning crowded is different than the late night crowded. No one's drunk, no one's yelling. There's no vomit or piss or blood, no danger. The late night buses can be bad, and it's the real reason he keeps in shape. Health comes secondary. He feels bad for the skinny guys and mostly for the girls, though sometimes a young guy will see a bit of softness in his eyes and try to provoke him anyway. He lets them win, lets them feel big or whatever they need to feel. He knows not to start trouble on public transportation. Chance is he'll get arrested too, regardless of who said/did what. He's seen it happen.

Gets off and walks the last few blocks to the pier, then up it to the boat. It's colder out on the water, with the fog and all, which is usually thick in the morning, lifts during the afternoon, disappears altogether by sunset, and collects again overnight. Repeat. Repeat. It's only just ten, so he gets a coffee from the dining room and reads parts of one of the free weekly papers. The main story is about a farm nearby where they kill animals. Last week, someone burned their office down, and with the help of the wind it spread and burned down some other things too. No one got hurt, thank God, but it caused quite a buzz, especially when they caught the girl they think did it, a pretty twenty-five year old wrapping up her PhD in something environmental. Some people called her a terrorist and the paper's wondering if that's true or not. After a bit he checks his watch again and it's showtime, as they say.

He starts out the shift in the cabin's sound-room, where he checks the current weather report and tests the microphone, walking out onto the far end of the deck and testing the remote he uses to balance the volume. Both seem fine, but he puts an extra set of batteries in his pocket, just in case.

Back in the cabin he checks the day's schedule. Two tours for sure, at noon and three, with a possible six if he wants the overtime, which he does. With Jon on unpaid paternity leave he's the only guide, so not only is the six o’clock completely up to him, but if he keeps this shit up they'll have to give him a raise, or make him a senior guide. The drawback is a lot of hours pacing back and forth, telling the same story over and over, a story he can't care about anymore, a story that has nothing to do with him, or anyone like him. He his him. Calls the main office, tells Carrie to tell Bill he'll do the six. “Don't know how you do it,” says Carrie, and he can feel her shaking her head that way she does. He likes Carrie. She's a lot like him.

“I do it for the money,” says Donald, and he hangs up to finish his tasks.