Opportunities and Constraints

I am exhausted and something like the walking dead from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, trapped between the kind of good fun living that makes me want to dance with fragile zombie limbs and a state of poorly-shaven near death.

I’m weary from the kinds of everyday things that make bodies ache in their extremities – heavy lifting, too little sleep, a girl, thinking about mountain climbing, secondhand smoke, talking about my feelings, attendance at overlong movies, alcohol mixed with caffeine, good sex, worrying, manual transmissions, craning at helicopters overhead, rock and roll, natural disasters overseas, reading about race car driving and space exploration, the woman ahead of me in line who’s trying to cash a third party out of town bad check – when I park my small, stuttering pickup truck on the street near my office. I step out of it and into a sidewalk clogged with a soup kitchen line that has dissolved into a hesitant mob, shuffling toward the entrance. I am asked for spare change five times before I drag myself past the one sleeping, haggard man who has somehow managed to evade the daily police sweep that would rouse him from the damp concrete of a tiny doorway. My reasons for exhaustion, my reasons for feeling weary, are suddenly insignificant and I am very hard on myself for the remainder of this short walk.

Upstairs, my eyes are burning from the artificial light and the back of my throat is scorched by the coffee that is flowing too fast through my pursed lips. I’m wheezing for some reason, waiting for my computer to finish its voodoo start-up ritual, when I make my first and biggest mistake of the day. In these rare seconds, when I am sitting in front of my computer without the actual use of my computer, I am given far too much time to think, too much time to make important decisions on my own behalf. So I reach out for the big box of Froot Loops that is wedged between my desk and the next. It doesn’t matter how the Froot Loops got there.

What matters is that within seconds, the box is in my lap, open, and I have rolled up my sleeve and begun eating them vacantly in heaping, dry handfuls. Two minutes and three servings deep, my pace has quickened and I’m in the sugar trance of my youth, watching Tom and Jerry before sunrise with only a bottomless box of frosted things between me and the rest of this glorious barefoot day. I am stuffing my face like the welcoming cavity of a holiday turkey when the new director of my very large agency stops by to introduce himself. His voice is behind me, reading my nameplate out loud and I spin in my chair to face him. I am a small chittery animal with bedhead and bulging cheeks, frozen in mid-chew at the scent of terrible danger. I am the slouching foothills of some wintry mountain range, unable to stop noticing that my pants, my shirt, my ego are all dusted in powdery white crumbs of froot.

Nice to meet you.

Yes, I’ve been here for about five years. Well, six, if you count the internship.

These? No, I don’t normally eat dry cereal at my desk for breakfast. I usually eat handfuls of raw bacon or food bars that I find in the desks of others. Ha ha!

Mmmm hmmm.

You bet.

I look forward to it.

This is all very exciting.

So very exciting.

7 Responses to “Opportunities and Constraints”

  1. Bob

    Sloan, you may recall that this director’s predecessor also made the introductory rounds and I too was in an uncomfortable, unexpected duet.
    Upon hearing that I schooled in New Orleans, he spent 5 minutes telling me (more like “us,” due to the shouting) about how drunk he used to get down there. The last story culminated in the extraction of a queue ball from his throat at the local hospital – and our handshake welcoming him as our leader.

  2. chelsie

    oh geeze… I know that feeling. Wow… you must of had a good week/weekend!
    Once again, excellent writing.

  3. J. Lena Evans

    I can’t believe I haven’t responded to this yet. I’ve read it like four times. This is very nicely written, Sloan. It’s notably better after a couple of reads, due to its density. I bet you’re terribly proud of it and feel guilty about that fact.



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