Monday, August 26, 2013

A Day in a Life

A Day in a Life

The man sits on the sidewalk.  Face down. Palm no longer outstretched.
His old and worn hand no longer has the energy to beg for money.
His tired, lined face focuses on his lap, silently pleading not to be looked at.
His tattered clothes hang limply over his body.
His mismatched shoes beginning to reveal his toes.
Silently, he raises his head.  Watching the people pass him by.
All hurried.  All unheeding.  All familiar to this sight.
He's lost the desire to ask for help.  Pride is the only thing he can call his own.
He's tired and hungry, his insides scream.
His eyes brim with tears, but he won't let them roll down his dirty face.
He has his pride.  And a coffee can.
The rusty container sits at his hip, the only sign that he is willing to accept donations.
It holds no dollars, no quarters, no pennies.
It holds air and hopelessness.
Children approach, laughing and playing, as children do.
He allows himself a slight smile. Youth.
The sound of change bounces into his container.
The children pass, still laughing and carrying on.
He peers into his rusted coffee can.
A bottle cap.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Cog Part 3

The Wrench


Caylee was called in to her Director's office on a Wednesday at 10:30am. Her boss was already sitting there. His hands were folded in his lap calmly, but his expression looked of discomfort. Like he had a bad taco the night before and hadn't yet gotten over it. He was also sweating a little bit. But that could have been the taco, too.

She took the seat next to her boss, across from her Director, Mr. Jonas, and looked at the pictures hanging on the wall. The typical landscape motivational pictures hung here and there. One specifically stuck out to her. A lone boulder sitting in the water, the sun just about to set, captioned:


"Keep your face to the sun and you cannot see the shadows"
- Helen Keller


Caylee began to laugh and laugh. She laughed so hard, she couldn't catch her breath. She couldn't contain herself. Tears were gathering in her eyes and were about to brim over. She found it just perfect. So absolutely-fucking perfect that her Director would have a picture hanging in his office, offering advice on how to see the world from a blind and deaf woman. She had nothing against Helen Keller, but really? Really?! Was she the only one who found this even the slightest Even the slightest bit funny. Was she the only one who saw that poster for what it really was? "Be blind and deaf and everything will be A-OK.". If she had to personally pick out a wall hanging for this douche bag of a boss, this would be the poster she would choose.
Gathering from the stunned and frightened looks on both faces, she guessed they didn't see what was quite so funny. She gradually composed herself, swallowing her remaining giggles and wiping the tears from her eyes. She tried to put on her most serious of faces and return to the Land of the Corporate. She was starting to get the distinct impression that this meeting might actually be about something. Not just a meeting for a sake of one. She had to admit, she was intrigued.

Her Director offered her a tissue, which she thanked him for, and he started to speak hesitantly. "Caylee", he started, "I think it's important to have a strong working relationship with my people. Without you, I would be nowhere. I hope you know how fondly I think of you." She was startled he got her name right, but wasn't shocked that this was the same speech she had just received not too long ago. He continued: "Your work has always been top-notch, top-notch. And we're both very pleased at how far you've come along", nodding to her boss. "It's just that, well Caylee, there's been some complaints. Quite a few actually. I of course can't divulge the names of those that have come forward, but there have been several complaints. Quite a few actually." He was repeating himself now. She silently wondered if "Rain Man" made any inspirational posters.

"Can you let me know the nature of the complaints?", asked Caylee. She understood that murderers and burglars were even afforded the right to face their accuser, but that wasn't important to her. "What, exactly, seems to be the issue, Mr. Jonas"?

"Well, Caylee. You just seem to be making some people uncomfortable, quite a few people actually . For example, your laughter. You seem to laugh inappropriately and without reason. This is very disturbing to your co-workers. We just witnessed that ourselves. Reports that you seem distracted and just, how do I say this? Uninspired, actually. Uninspired people are like a disease, Caylee. If someone in uninspired, then they are uninspiring. Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you, Caylee? Uninspiring people breed displeasure. Displeasure breeds contempt. We are all a family here. We can't have one of our family causing others to feel uncomfortable. We can't have others starting to question their roles in this Company, because one employee is experiencing...something." He finished with this: "Caylee, we are a well-oiled machine here. We just can't have someone trying to throw a wrench in the works. We just can't have that type of behavior. You understand." He finished his speech and everything went silent.

Caylee looked at her boss who was playing with an imaginary stain on his tie, while sweat dripped from his temples.

"I understand", she replied. "I understand that you didn't even fucking know my name until HR handed you my employee file. I understand that you sit here and speak of inspiration, when you have no idea what it is I even do. I understand that you consider individuality a bonus, as long as it conforms to your idea of Corporate Individuality. I understand that you want me to succeed, as long as I don't question anything. I understand. I understand, perfectly."

"Caylee, I know you're upset, and I understand that", her Director responded smoothly. "We just think it might be beneficial to all if you took a little time off. Since you're not married and have no one of your own, we've already spoken with your parents. Like I said, Caylee, we're a family here."


Caylee watched as the ant she had just rescued from the shallow pool, took another nose dive off the edge in to the clear blue water. She was sitting on the concrete, legs dangling lazily, saving bugs from their suicide leaps. This ant was persistent though. She had already scooped him up with her hands, held out a small branch, and was now floating a large leaf-made life boat out to the fool. This was the last time, she told him. If he continued to go back to what was going to be his inevitable doom, she wanted no part of it. She took hold of the leaf carrying the ant, and placed him even further away from the pool this time. "Come on", she said out loud. "You can't even swim."

Resuming her position, she dunked her legs back in to the cool water. It was late August, and the weather was still warm, without being oppressive. She gave a big sigh, and leaned back on her elbows. She felt pleasant. She felt satisfied. Maybe this is what she needed. Just some fresh air, sun on her skin, and playing lifeguard to some bugs. Some time to think and put things into perspective. Yes. Perspective. That's it. Perspective.

As she leaned a little further back, she noticed the ant making his way back towards the pool. She mentally willed him to turn around. To catch sight of a cute lady ant, or to hear his mother call, anything that would stop him from heading towards his certain death. She felt for this ant. He was her. All he knew how to do was the same thing, over and over again, regardless of how much it might make him feel, or how much it didn't matter in the end.

As she started to get up, a staff member came out in her squeaky white shoes and pasted on smile, telling Caylee it was time for her group session. As she walked over to hand the towel to Caylee, the aide stepped right on the ant. Ending his journey to nowhere.

Well, thought Caylee, that's one way to go.

The End.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Cog Part 2

The Machine

Caylee just came back from a large Company meeting. A two hour long Pep Rally delivered by upper-up's and meant to gather the drones into a cohesive unit. "Rah Rah" speeches presented by beings who really believed their own words made a difference, because they delivered it. People who thought they were admired and looked up to. People who must look in the mirror each morning and mistake their arrogance for self-confidence. The type of people who, when portrayed in classic films, get their shoes shined and toss a dime to the poor kid - telling them "it takes elbow grease and persistency to move up in this world, kid. Nothing gets handed to you for free." The type of people who went to boarding school, vacationed in Majorca, skied in St. Moritz, and yachted to take the "edge" off. The type of people who invented the silver spoon, and decided just who's mouth it would be placed in to.

These types of meetings were beginning to weigh heavily on Caylee. There's only so much bullshit one person can hear after awhile. It's one thing to promote Company spirit and acknowledge the milestones that have been accomplished. It's quite another to backslap your good ol' boys and congratulate each other for a job well done in front of an audience. Like Congress approving their own raises. It just stinks of sordidness.

All of this monotonous talk about everyone being a contributor and everyone being a vital part of the Organization started to give her a headache. She'd been in the corporate world long enough to know the speech. It's given every fiscal quarter, for Chrissake. The speech is given before and after large lay-offs. If there happens to be a meeting scheduled during a lay-off, the meeting is mysteriously cancelled. Fucking wimps, she thought to herself. They keep serving up the Kool-Aid and expecting us to drink it up without question. Amazingly, people did. Willingly.

Back at her desk, her internal volcano continued to bubble. Underneath, she was a simmering stew of contempt, disbelief, anger and self-loathing. This corporate mechanism, this machine, was created for one reason only: to suck people in by their need for money. Once incorporated in to the fold, people were ground up, reshaped, and reassembled - like plastic dolls in a toy factory. Once perfectly formed on the outside, they were then fed with the dogma that they were "individuals", how each "person" contributed to the "spirit" of the workplace. Formed and fed, the drones were sent off to perform their tasks as instructed, no questions asked. Happy to belong to the Organization. Happy to have a Leadership Team that so understood the employees needs. As a now fully formed plastic human being, you had no feelings that needed to be addressed. You had no wants or needs. Caylee wasn't going to let this happen to her. She was just blending in. Like playing dead in a horror movie, so the serial killer thought she was already a goner. The fact that she played along contributed to her self-loathing.

Caylee knew that Holden Caulfield would have called them all Phonies. She wanted to call them something else.


All one can hear in the office is the rapid clicking of someone’s computer mouse - as if they are buzzing into a game show – and the "sound masking" system that has been put into place to filter out the hum of nothingness. She would imagine this is what space would feel like. This vacuum. This never-ending battle of sound vs. silence. A silent scream.

Small discussions take place around her, some laughter, some whispers, more laughter. Not to her, or with her. She's not included. She's just there. The more time she puts in, the more she feels that she must be turning to glass, or cellophane. Yes. Cellophane. That’s it. Something that is clear and pliable, see-through. Glass is harder, hardier, and serves a loftier purpose than cellophane. Cellophane it is. She stares at her hands to see if they are starting to disappear through her own eyes. They appear human, and multi-dimensional to her. Who knows, though? She’s often thought that people could be calling things by the same name, while each seeing that something as completely different. She struggles to explain this to her mind, as if speaking to a class: "People all agree that on a clear day, the sky is blue, with maybe some clouds of white. But what if HER "blue" is really somebody else’s "red", and then somebody else’s "purple". We’ve all just been told to identify the sky as blue. Blue to who, though?"

How do you know what other people see, if you’re sitting right there and they can’t even see you?

Caylee wondered if getting up and doing a cartwheel down the hallway would be out of line.


With Love,
Lady Butterfly

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Cog

The Cog


The alarm on her phone went off as expected. She lay in bed wondering why she even set the damn thing, as she was always awake before it went off anyway. She should get up - the cat needed to be fed, a shower needed to be taken, work was waiting. Yet, she stayed where she was, only turning slightly on her side to look out the window. She will get up - just a few more minutes. There was no need to hurry, she could go another day without washing her hair. She could make it to work with the gas she had in her car. She didn't need breakfast. She reasoned with herself that there was no need to get up quite yet.


Every weekday was the same damn thing. Wake before dawn, turn off the alarm and make excuses. It's not that she was depressed, per se. She was on anti-anxiety medications that made her less anxious about being depressed. So if she didn't feel anxious about being depressed, then she wasn't depressed, right? Like the whole "tree falls in a forest" principle of thought? It made sense to her, in a weird way.

She wasn't lazy, either. She was just...uninspired. Uninspired and unfulfilled. Uninspired, unfulfilled and unexcited. Maybe she was depressed, she thought. Maybe she thinks too much, she thought.
She rolled on to her back and looked up at the ceiling, wondering if everyone went through this each morning before work. She knew she wasn't unique in the slightest of ways, so this must be every one's morning ritual. Well, at least 50% of her peers. Yes. That seems about right, she thought. Her entire life she had been exactly average, so she couldn't be exceptional in this category. Then again, if she was going to be outside of the norm, it would be reasonable to assume it would be with a less than positive thing. She was out of the norm already, actually, being a late thirty-somethinger with no husband, no kids,no friends, no degree. For some reason, these "exceptional" traits did little to motivate her to rise from her faux slumber.
She glanced at the clock and 25 minutes had gone by. She realized that the last time she had even spoken to another human being was 3 days before, as she left work for the extended weekend. No one had called her, no one answered when she called them, and she hadn't left the house. Is that normal, she thought? Probably not, she surmised. Maybe she was more unique then she thought.
35 minutes had now passed since the alarm sounded, and she could stall no longer. She groaned and placed her feet on the floor, the cat immediately jumping to attention and swaying in between her feet. She allowed herself a brief smile and made her way into the kitchen to fix breakfast for the little feline. Soft purrs were heard as she headed to shower and begin the day.
Dressed and on her way, she locked the door to her condo and greeted her neighbor. "Hi Adam", she said. "Hi Cindy", he replied. They rode the elevator in silence, she staring at her shoes, and he fidgeting with his iPhone.
After a 40 minute commute, she arrived at work and swiped her badge through the security doors. "Hi Sidney", she said. "Hi Catherine", was the reply. Climbing the stairs to the 4th floor, she acknowledged several co-workers, and was never once called the same name. "Hi Carla", "Hi Candace", "Hi Carin". She didn't correct any of them. She had only been there 8 years, she mumbled under her breath, it's hard to remember names for some people.
She reached her desk and was relieved to find she was only 3 minutes late. All in all a pretty good start to the day, all things considered. Just then, her bosses boss walked by and said "Well, good morning there, Catrina. Glad to see you could join us today. I heard you took a long weekend. I'm sure you enjoyed the time with your family. Those kids grow up so fast, don't they? I hope you feel refreshed and ready to go-Go-GO today! We're like a family here, too. Every employee is unique and contributes in their own way. We're only as strong as our weakest link, right Catrina?" He chuckled at his wittiness and began to move on.
"My name is Caylee", she said a little louder than she wanted to. "What was that, Catrina?", he asked her, walking back to her cubicle. "Oh nothing, Mr. Jonas, I just was agreeing with you", she responded. "Catrina", he said, "I think it's important to have a strong working relationship with my people. Without you, I would be nowhere. I hope you know how fondly I think of you. Keep up the good work." He began to walk away, and stepped back once again. "Just remember, Catrina, we're all equals here. We're all working toward the success of our Company." He gave a dead-eye wink and she simple replied, "Yes Mr. Smith".
He walked away, without noticing, and shook hands with Brian. Or is it Brandon?

With Love,
Lady Butterfly