by Joseph Plese
I had an Almodovaresque day. I’ve since learned that the term is Almodovarian. How did it begin? I suppose it began with the colors. I’ve got this thing with my brain. My whole body actually. Or my immune system has this thing, this problem, with my body, and attacks it. Which would be awesome if my body, my brain, were a virus or this tiny but irritating bacterial infection a beard gave me once, but it’s not. I’m not. So I very occasionally get what I can only assume are things like panicattacks. Except I’m not panicked, but my brain is, and shit gets surreal and colors get intense and I just have to go on with my otherwise unreal day because mild disorientation is better than excruciating (as in not mild) pain should my immune system decide to fuck elsewhere in my body.
My day began at a gas station, as usual. I don’t start every morning in a gas station, but I feel like I should. I sometimes dream about the idyllic world of convenience store employment. When I dream. Which is not usual. This QuikTrip employee tells me that I can’t buy cigarettes until later in the week because they are demolishing this QuikTrip in order to build another QuikTrip in the same location. I went somewhere else.
I went underground. Where I work. Sixteen labyrinths of tax returns. And JFK’s bloody sheets (not from his marriage bed). The design is more Mexican brutalism than Spanish…I’ve exhausted my repertoire of architectural terms. But I do know my Spanish architecture. I sometimes go to the Plaza. Kansas is just like La Mancha. Windswept plains and crazies, right?
Sherie Renee Scott is from Topeka. And I listen to her sing Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown the Musical as I push my canary yellow cart through endless rows of shelving. But like a dead canary. Soot-covered. You know, cuz it’s in a cave. And caves are dirty, though visitors comment these are remarkably clean. For caves.
Most carts are beige or what I just call metal-colored. Which is the color of metal. Some of them have “DOI” stenciled on them which means they should only be used in BIA but we push them around anyway because we were told to or not told not to and I may have just divulged some huge government secret. We use carts that maybe belong to some other part of the government.
But not me. I have a yellow cart. It’s the loudest cart in the cave, but I love it. I’m pretty indifferent to it. I don’t hate it. And I work in the survey-says worst place to work in the federal government. So I hate everything. But I get excited to see another yellow cart, even if my brain is telling me that the cart isn’t yellow it’s YELLOW.
Velina would love to work at a QuikTrip. But not one in Missouri, because that would be dangerous. Safe in Johnson County there would be variety and sunlight or the ability to see sunlight if clouds and position of this QuikTrip’s half of the globe relative to the sun’s light allowed. Outside of this dark habitat.
Velina pronounces Chinese as /Chi neesey/. Which is very Italian of her. Italian-American. Trying to sound Italian. But she’s not. She’s maybe German? When it’s announced that we will celebrate diversity by having a Hispanic Heritage Month Day, she immediately complains that Germans aren’t being honored. She talks about “that girl” living with her and I don’t ask because it sounds like I’m supposed to know, but “that girl” eats a lot of ground beef or bananas or something else Velina picks up at Costco on the way home. Velina has a yellow cart covered in pictures of other people’s dogs and I just noticed that there is a Costco on the way home.
Queen Greg is upset about something. “Hey, Velina. Why doesn’t Joe talk to me? He talks to you, he talks to Laura. But he never talks to me. What have I done to deserve this?” This was years ago. In cavetime. Maybe an aboveground year? I still hope he hasn’t made the cart connection. He has a yellow cart. Velina has a yellowcart. I have a yellowcart.
He is Queen because he is queeny. He is not Actually Gay or Bead-Dropping Greg. Nor Greg B—the other Greg B as Queen Greg is also Greg B—who is the Greg that I like the most. That’s three Gregs. Queen Greg will shriek at some new interpretation of personal calls policy. He feels it is his right to call his wife from work to tell her about “something cute” he read in the paper. I think it could wait. He could surprise her with it when he got home. “Hey, girl,” he would say. “I found the fiercest thing in FYI today.” I miss those bizarre egg-related puns that used to be near the comics when I was a child and read the/a paper. There would be a drawing of an egg-shaped thing and a caption that would have a word with “egg” forcibly inserted into it. I am eggstremely interested in Tenga Eggs, which are these male masturbation…devices? Creations. Things shaped like Easter eggs that you forcibly insert yourself into. They look pretty. Look them up.
I don’t talk to Greg much because, while he has a yellow cart, he also has a red kneeling cushion thing. I’m sure there’s a better term for it. People use it when gardening. Or when they have my job. I don’t use it because my knees are fine unless my immune system thinks otherwise. A cushion is not going to stop that.
Today the cushion is a little larger than the cart it rests on. Or I perceive it to be. And the red, though the foamy stuff cracks making it less red, is too bright to look at. This must be how bulls feel if they could perceive the color red.
I say hi to Greg when he says hi to me. That is enough.
Laura has a yellowcart though she is black. That has nothing to do with her yellowcart, but when I talk to Laura who is yellow, my Latina friend with sallowskin, she sometimes gets confused when I talk to her about her and I have to remind LatinaLaura I am speaking of blackLaura.
Laura of the yellow cart does not have a girl living with her and I do not ask because I am supposed to know.
I go to lunch with Laura who is black and Velina who may be German. We have the only yellow carts. Except for Greg, but women are more interesting to write about.
And I just don’t really like him.
The Oak Park Mall Food Court. It’s early, so I am not too overstimulated, though I often go to the mall just to be stimulated but today I want to be stimulated by the gentlemen working at European Bistro. When did these new food court eateries appear? I don’t even see what he looks like—and why are these people pushing free food samples on me? I don’t want to eat more than I have to at a food court. But I see that he is reading, a black book with Wicked green lettering, and though I approve of books, and of Wicked the book, I don’t approve of the sequels or maybe the book about the musical which takes a revolutionary and makes her a beautiful brat. I would flirt but I don’t know how and I also don’t know how to order a gyro. I have to instruct this faceless creature on what to put on it. I can’t handle this now, and I start to hyperventilate. Just the teeniest bit. He begins to ask me leading questions, which I answer confidently, but I after I determine that
Do you want any vegetables?
Is not the end of the interrogation, I black out, and end up circling the food court entirely before settling with Laura and Velina at the table just behind where I stood as I apparently ordered sour cream rather than ketchup to go with my potato pancakes which are flattened Tater-Tots in a square.
Tri-taters, potato wedges, potato pancakes. Some physiological or psychological or psychophysiosomatic trigger fires, neurons stop firing, and I settle on memories, litanies, of schoolfood.
Velina, a SMS parent, rants about my middle school across the street and I turn pink as I think how my parents make more than she does, I know because I live with them and I work with her and I cannot afford to live on her salary except with them.
My high school pride is perhaps fifteen years old, but the gold of the freshmen gym uniform I bought because we were told we could buy gold or black or white and I was the only one who chose gold is very much like the yellow of the carts of Laura, Velina, and Joe.
Who hopes that we had a nice lunch.
Did you have a nice lunch, Joe?
We went to the mall food court
I hurry past him, my cart now complaining about the ability to express opinions about cute stories in FYI long distance, because he often mistakes my cart for his and I don’t like any one touching it.
I clap along to Bernarda Alba the musical as I fill boxes from boxes on green shelves that don’t bend when you climb them like the brown ones, but I keep sweating off my headphones and I tire of taping them on. I work in silence.