A Good Day in Hell
A cockroach climbs the wall behind them, and a hand raises and smacks it across the room.
They slept all night wrapped in the sharp, not wholly welcome smell of Gain laundry detergent, inescapable and ingrained into every fiber of the bed, and their bodies.
“I don’t think either one of us are cut out for real jobs,” he says as he flicks his cigarette ash on the windowsill.
“This is a good day in hell,” she responds, her eyes traversing the laundry piled at the foot of the bed.
Two bodies raise to pick up their cinnamon infused mugs of coffee, and shiver a little in the air the world is providing today.
It’s warmer today than it was yesterday, A car in the ally won’t turn over, and it reminds him of the dishwasher in his parents’ house.
They look around the room, and there is silence. Both knowing what needs done, and neither one quite able to get their young bodies to spring into action.
The red clock on the floor by the closet ticks away as they hopelessly try to buy more time.
“We could avoid all of this completely,” one mumbles, slowly sliding the covers off in an act of surrender.
They grab bread and peanut butter, and a few oranges for the cough they’ve developed in the early hours of the morning.
Stepping outside the apartment to the car, the sky is spitting down on them.
“What is this?” She brushes the mist out of her eyes. She doesn’t have her car keys on hand, and he tosses them over the car to her open hand. He watches her mouth as she unlocks the door. “What is this?”
They begin moving, and a metal object falls off the hood of the car onto the windshield. He removes it, and they carry on.
Down the highway they follow winding wide roads built for routine. She drops him off at work. She wants to say something more, something to give them both the momentum to fly through the day. She doesn’t find the words and pulls out of the parking lot, seeing him in her rear view mirror making his way to the office door. Flannel shirt hanging off his body like it’s been worn too thin. She takes a slug of her coffee, grimaces, and presses the gas pedal.
The day breathes in, and the building creaks under the strain of morning. Three sided cubicles, the rattling of keyboards — spreadsheets, posters for food drives, photos from California, are spread across his desk. Leaning forward with his head in his hands, sound of plumbing echoes his stomach.
Emails are red flagged, and sent off. Hand lotion, and lunch time. The trees outside are budding, and with a spoon in the jar of peanut butter, he sits at the picnic table with the others.
They talk about high school, and college. They talk about the elections. They talk about how it was Tuesday and they restocked the vending machines today.
Emails are red flagged and sent off. A trip in the van to pick up donation barrels, and a feature piece on the radio about a man who was killed by a bear in the Ozarks, and new plans fill familiar framing. The plans will carry him through until 4:30, which is all he asks of his work day. It is time that he could spend looking for schools, writing, editing.
She arrives at work early, and drops her bags down at the fast computer before the interns can claim it. Her boss calls minutes after she sits down in her chair.
Meeting in his office, the day progresses with gusto. And a slightly unhinged feeling that you can’t help being motivated and also filled with a sense of insecurity by.
They move to their director’s office, who tells them that the refugee gardens are covered in elephant dung from the zoo. A number is slid across to her on a yellow sticky note. A number she will not be calling anytime soon, because in the next moment she has volunteered herself to drive a van of furniture and volunteers to set up for new refugee arrivals coming that night.
Whisked away and looking at the bios of the incoming refugees, she hears the intercom announcing that the volunteers are in the front lobby. Moving with momentum in a new direction, she takes a moment in the hallway to herself, and stares at the wall, asking it for a game plan. Without finding one, she rallies down the stairs, the untied laces of her combat boots making tiny patterings as they fly around her ankles.
Directing the volunteers to the backroom, with an already tired and checked out voice, she realizes she is exhausted already. It’s impossible to be inspired all the time, she tells herself as her monotone voice asks them to go around the circle and give their thoughts on yesterday’s volunteer work.
She tells them they will be meeting a Somali family at the airport tonight, and they can make a banner to welcome the family as they take their first steps on American soil. They make oohh and ahhh noises, and lots of “how cute!!” squeals. She wonders how similar she would react if she was in their position.
She is handed the van keys, and then pulls out of downtown with coworker Hans in the passengers seat and seven mattresses, a bookshelf, couches and chairs behind them. The volunteers follow in their respective van.
At the apartment, the unloading goes quickly, and she makes an effort to find all the lightest things. The apartment comes together, and she admires the tampons and toothbrushes left in the bathroom for the new Americans arriving tonight. Leaving the apartment, the man who used to live there pulls up, coincidentally from the same area in Michigan that the students are from.
Back at the office, she meets with a Burmese student and an Afghan student. They are going to help her do outreach, and she is thirty minutes late in meeting them because of the change in plans. They’ve been sitting in on the job placement class full Cubans who need food stamps. She begins talking to the girls, and realizes she is out of breath. She tries to explain her day to them.
Sneaking back to her office cove at noon she dives a plastic fork into her recycled dill pickle jar full of quinoa. Two people walk past and tell her it looks like shit.
Thanks to Benjamin Carpenter for partnering with me on this compilation.
Originally published at everydayembellishments.wordpress.com
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