Presently I’m an assistant to a famous musician, mostly known for his duets of the sixties and early seventies, short stature, and tremendous fear of hair loss. His team of five hired me after a roundtable discussion about my future dreams of being an artist, which they wholeheartedly supported with chortles and nods. I wore a green blazer and a denim skirt. I wore a shorter version of heels that supposedly would empower me and at the same time accentuate my ass for the approval of outside eyeballs. The headhunter called with the news. They loved you. When can you start? I blushed and calculated how much more money I would have per week. I could pay rent, I could get a haircut, I could pay for a whisper of college. Duties include, but are not limited to: concocting courteous replies to fans, ordering supplies, brewing green tea, booking hotel rooms, making dental and plastic surgery appointments, answering phones, paying landscapers, editing bios, maintaining relationships with publicists, promoters, and managers, firing exterminators and phone companies, replacing tissues, and mailing hand cream, cell phones, jackets, and baby pictures to Mali, Jamaica, and China. I do small dances at my desk and make the team of five salads that span the color green. I throw beets in for good measure. Carrots too. I scan the newspaper for familiar faces and false journalism. I open Christmas swag with zeal. Sure, I’ll take the champagne and the foot balm. The musician gets his ears tucked, pays to have his nails buffed, skin smoothed, belly polished. He approves of my cowboy boots and so I wear them all the time.
Presently I’m selling hot dogs at the tubing hill where Texans come for winter vacations in pissed-in snow pants. Apparently, the beer is too much for bladders. I say, is that all. They say, yes. Or no, it’s not. We’d like more ketchup. Can we have more mustard? Excuse me where is the bathroom? I think my daughter injured herself on the arm lift headed up the hill. Can you call an ambulance? Do you have any soda? I’m looking for the fireplace. I think my toes are frostbitten. Is this your first job? Aren’t you too young to be working? Are you from around here? I absorb joy-terror screams as they slide down the hill. Linked arms, hats off. I don’t know who my boss is. My boss isn’t the bus driver, but someone like the bus driver. My boss hasn’t been here in days. My boss isn’t male or female. My boss could be a bobcat or an eagle. My boss is mostly invisible and leaves me in charge. I could easily steal the money from the register, but I live at home with dinner every night, so I won’t. Someone asks me to refill the napkin dispensers. I do what I am told and more often than not, a little more. It doesn’t take much for me to wipe the ketchup off the counter. This place smells like head sweat and sugar, the aftermath of alcohol sneaking its way through pores. There’s a graveyard just around the corner where none of these people will be buried, not even me. I’m saving for a Hypercolor sweatshirt, red Converse high tops. It’s easy to work when you know you are going to get things. When you don’t have to think about anything but the wanting then getting of things.
Presently I fold napkins at the back of an Upper East Side restaurant in Manhattan. One hundred and fifty napkins folded into disheveled origami shoved into an I Love NY bag for the next round of customers. My skirt is short and black and when I bend over it’s presumed by men and women that I’m somehow theirs to claim. But really the only thing that belongs to them is the martini in my hand, with a twist, neat. I serve elaborate sushi rolls and Pan-Asian noodles perched atop seared duck liver. The money that makes up these people burrow deep into the pockets of my apron, I scowl, ashamed of its smell on me. In this exchange, I recall the eyes of a homeless woman in the subway, diabetes thighs, heroin arms. Hello people, smile it’s a new day. It’s morning, you have all this time to start over today. Wash yesterday away. Look I need an operation on my feet. Look, people, smile it’s a new day. If you can I would take change or food too. If you can I would take a dollar. Hello people smile it’s a new day. Yesterday is all over. I fold the perfect napkin, a customer unfolds it like a package, slides it onto their lap where crumbs don’t stand a chance.
Presently I am an intern for a struggling travel magazine and because I don’t know how to use the crop tool in Photoshop, I’ve been asked to retrieve coffee instead. My boss is planning her future wedding and fidgets under her desk in designer jeans. I don’t have time for this she says asking her co-worker to deal with me. I feel old and young at the same time. I feel like I should know what I’m doing but all I’ve ever done for money is bring people food on white china plates or scoop ice cream or pour espresso shots into warm mugs. Here’s your creamer. Can I get you another drink? A table for two? I don’t have time for this she says sliding her chair from her desk and clicking heels to the bathroom to puke up the salad she scarfed down for lunch.
Presently I massage the hairy backs of strange men who feel connected to me in a way I do not feel connected to them. They tell me I’m good at what I do, pretty, but not obviously so. Strong for being so small. They breathe out longing. To go places away from their kids and wives and work. They breathe out shame for bald patches and boners. For feeling the wrong thing or the right thing. For not knowing wrong or right. I slough skin cells from my oiled hands, pulling skin from muscles and bones, kneading it red. A masseuse I work with bends me over the table, massages my shoulders, my upper back while gently pushing his half-erection into the back seam of my pants. Your neck looks slimmer. Have you been working out? Now every time I look in the mirror there is a measurement.
Presently I am organizing Beanie Babies on the top shelf of a moose-themed coffee shop. Presently I am making beef and cheddars, curly fries, and mocha milkshakes for Americans in sports utility vehicles. Presently I am stuffing flyers into envelopes for my father’s friend who is a real estate agent. Presently I am selling lemonade in front of our cherry trees on 2525 South Dahlia. A quarter a cup, please. Presently I am a singing telegram wearing disheveled costumes and cigarette smeared lipstick. Presently I am designing web modules for a children’s pajama company. Presently I am knocking on doors soliciting funds to obliterate coal powered plants until someone answers and tells me I’ve come at the wrong time, to come back later, not at all. Presently I’m filing bank statements for a budding philanthropist. Presently I’m art directing models to look authentic as they pretend to take their blood pressure. Presently I’m sweeping the floor of a Greek restaurant. Presently I’m archiving photographs for a woman who is grieving the loss of her mother and ancestors who died in concentration camps. Presently I’m painting promotions on large windows. Presently I’m building brand identities for wannabe corporations. Presently I’m assisting a dead rock star with his high-end cameras. Presently I’m rolling leftover cake into balls. Presently I’m sitting naked on a folding chair as fourteen painters render my body. Presently I’m walking formerly abused pit bulls.
Monday through Friday is the schedule in which I begrudgingly partake in out of capitalistic responsibility. This includes two weeks paid vacation, two personal days, and if I am really ill, sick days when I spend all day in bed reading. Or I peter around the living room with a warm beverage in fuzzed slippers. Or I masturbate while the cats watch. Or I sit and stare out the window not unlike the ladies attached to my lineage did long ago, seeking their dream selves far away, in another life perhaps. Because the work isn’t mine, it doesn’t belong to me nor feels like it’s supposed to. It’s microbial and sticks to my skin. Corporations are uninspired. Sunday hurts the office worker. Body chokes and spine aches. I tussle the pillow with clenched jaws and fury. Presently I have little ambition to remove myself from bed to trudge alongside workforce one. Cubicle seventeen. My priorities do not hang inside wallets of investment bankers. This is what I tell myself every morning after my zen alarm clock chimes, slowly waking me from anxious dream life and jaw clenching. I gorge myself on hustle, churning out pixels and meetings like a factory. Shrink those pixels. Expand those pixels. Today everything is on sale. Again. Presently I prepare myself for the day through antsy meditation. Coffee too. A little body talk. Let me hear your body talk. Foam rolling into a pectoral. Foam rolling into a pre-arthritic knee. The one my sports medicine surgeon tells me has been worn down like a tire. Clicking its way up the stairs. Cubicle seventeen. I have five minutes before I must venture upstairs, slip off my night clothes, scrub my morning body with invigorating botanical soap, soap that momentarily lights up the senses. Clears the pores, convinces me the money I’ve earned is taking care of me to the core, microbes and all.