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The House of Blue Cadavers
I never tell people my job.
Maybe it’s the mechanicalness of it, the day to day, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow sameness that drives my thoughts in and out of my head until I lose all sanity.
Or, it could also be the gruesome notions that people link to the profession and then by extent back to me. It’s not that I am a particularly morbid person. In fact, I’d say that relative to the general population of horror-movie-watchers and grand-theft-auto-players, I think my morbidity falls around the mean average. There are always the saints of course, the church goers and nay-sayers who hide behind a false face of cherub innocence, but they’re no fun anyways.
These thoughts continue to run circles around my head as I walk home from work to get ready for my night. A few weeks ago I was at a warmly-lit thanksgiving dinner party with my perfectly happy couple friends, Randy and Rachel. They were drunkenly going on and on about this guy they knew. With their synchronized red sweaters and perfect blond hair, they both claimed, “He’s perfect for you.” “He’s a great guy,” they both said, “He is so much more handsome then your last boyfriend,” and my favorite, “Please, we are worried about you.” And for some reason in the sparkeling dining room, surrounded by the people I am supposed to be most thankful for, I agreed to go out with this Scott character.
So, I pull myself together with some forced enthusiasm, get my blind-date-black dress on (even though I’ve already worn it three times this week), apply and re-apply my mascara. I just start globing it on then ripping the clumps off my eyelashes, curling them, and then repeating the whole process. I add color to my cheeks and red to my lips, mask the bags under my eyes, and continue to create a mask of MAC and Urban Decay.
Once I put on my shoes, I stand in front of the mirror surveying everything that I have done to cover up who I am and become who I wish I was. I keep thinking about what I could have possibly forgotten to do, because something seemed missing. But, something always seems to be missing these days. Finally, I decide I had put on enough make-up. That there was no way to change anything elese because, in reality, my boobs will never be any bigger and my stomach will always pout a little in the middle. My appearance was as good as it was going to get.
I start walking over to the restaurant I suggested, Tony’s Di Napoli. I have been there so many times all the waiters know my routine and I very well: black dress, random guy, wine, and marinara ravioli. Plus, it is only a block from home.
I get there a few minutes early and sit down at the reserved table.
“Hi, yes I’d like to have a glass of wine? Yes, the usual thank you,” I told the waiter. “Actually, can you just keep them coming? Thanks again.” I need the hazy fuzz of tipsy to get me through this night.
Once I get my wine, my date was officially 5 minutes late. I start fantasizing about him not showing up, meaning I could go home, curl up with my new bottle of Bacardi and wait for darkness to strangle the light and consume the rest of my night.
I normally wait around 30 minutes before giving up on my date. So, I have only 25 minutes to go.
15 minutes in, I start making tornadoes in my wine glass. Little red tornadoes, swirling back and forth, obliterating everything in their path. I love the color of wine; it is so disastrously red.
20 minutes pass, and the couple next to me start arguing. I can’t stop listening to them bickering about their cat and dog problems. Oh poor them, their perfect life is tearing at the seams because their pets don’t get along.
25 minutes and I finally see him walk in. Slowly I start to go through the check list: tall, yes, brown haired, yes, relatively attractive (can I look at his face without being repulsed?), yes. It’s not like he is the hottest guy I’ve ever been on a date with, nor does his appearance scream sex, but he is not terrible looking. Honestly, my standards have slowly flitted away as time goes by. Actually, I am not sure I really ever had any.
“Hey, I’m Scott” He says while extending his hand. Now that he was closer to me, I start to notice the acne along his jaw and his receding and graying hairline. He seems a little off balance, as if he was always really close to becoming the stigmatized version of himself, but never actually got there. Something is just off about him, but it isn’t obvious. He doesn’t have abnormally large ears or a long pointed nose. Nothing seems to be wrong, but nothing is exactly right either.
“Julie,” I reply. “Nice to finally meet you.” I reach out and shake his hand, semi-hoping for our touch to create some spark of meaning. Instead he greets me with limp fingers and a cold, clammy palm. He has sticky hands. The clammy grubby type that stick to and pull your hair when they go through it. The type of hands that always seem too touchy, forceful and thick.
“Pleasure’s all mine. Randy and Rachel were going on and on about how I had to meet you.”
“They were saying the same thing about you.” Of course, Randy and Rachel. Their life is so perfect they want everyone else’s to be too, so they can create their own perfect little world with rainbow unicorns, happy couples, and block barbeques.
“So, do you come here often?” He asks, finally moving his eyes away from my boobs and onto the menu.
“Not as often as I would like,” I lie, I come here all the time. “It seems to be good though,” I lie again, its semi-decent food at best, other than the ravioli. We both take a few minutes to look at the menu and decide what we want. Well he takes a few minutes, I just start thinking about leaving again.
Eventually the waiter comes, I order ravioli, and he orders the most expensive thing on the menu (the steak). Of the guys I have brought here only two types order the steak: the rich ones who want to show off their money, or the poor ones who want to pretend they have some.
Curious, I inquire, “So what do you do for a living?”
“I am currently in between a few jobs.” One of the poor guys? “But, I am looking to pursue my dream in music and art,” of course he is. And normally I wouldn’t question his character of mediocracy, but because he has on a red and black Michel Kors tie and custom made grey dress pants, he seems to be part of the upper elite. This means that he is not only unemployed, but living off his wealthy parents. So, an unambitious, parent-depending, entitled dreamer. Great.
“Yea I mean it is always important to follow your dreams,” not because I did.
“I’ve wanted to do it since I was little. What do you do?”
“Oh, I work at a hospital.” Keeping it vague.
“Nice, so how did you meet Randy and Rachel?”
“Well, I’ve known Rachel since we were kids. She was my neighbor so we grew up together. Really, it is a crazy coincidence that we both ended up living in Manhattan. I actually set up Rachel and Randy, I knew Randy from work. I always thought that they would be great together” Which was mostly true. I just left out that I had slept with Randy multiple times, and I didn’t actually set the two up, they just happened to meet at my place one morning. But you know, details. Oh, and I definitely never thought that they would go well together.
“How do you know them?”
“I met Randy at the bachelor’s party of one of our mutual friends. We kind of just hit it off, and have been hanging out ever since.” Oh the strip club meet-up. This guy just keeps getting more and more interesting.
“I am happy for Randy and Rachel, they seem so good for each other. I wish I had something like they have.” I wonder if he will fall into my trap.
“Honestly, I am not that into serious relationships like theirs. I am still looking to have a little fun.” And down he goes. He looks straight at me and all I can think is please don’t wink, please don’t wink. He winks. He puts his large hand over mine, covering my hand completely. I can feel the sweat from his skin leak onto mine.
“That’s understandable” I say even though it really is not, at least not anymore. For a while we both stare at each other, searching for a way to salvage the conversation as the noises around us start to get louder and louder with the help of our silence. His glare seems undress me and as I analyze his face the scrape of forks and the din of voices becomes unbearable. I can feel my dress becoming tighter and tighter--“I’ll be right back, I just need to use the restroom,” I say as I take the napkin off my dress and walk away from the table. I can feel his eyes on my ass, so I start walk away faster. Everything slightly blurs as I walk into the bathroom, force my way through the line of depressingly done up girls, walk into a stall and shut the door. I close my eyes and lean against the side of the stall. In and out, in and out.
Slowly I pull myself back together after whatever it was that drove me apart, and I walk out and wash my hands. My long fingers shake as I splash water over and under them, methodically rubbing them together under the running water. Time seems to slip away from me as I go through the process of rebuilding myself. Okay, I’m fine, I’m not going crazy.
I swear I can only do this so many more times before the helpless stupidity of men rubs off on me and I fall into their traps. Not that I haven’t fallen for their games before. Not that I haven’t lost already.
As I walk back to our table I see Scott on his phone, probably writing back a few business emails or sending some flirty texts to set the stage for a booty call later tonight. But, once I approach the table he puts it away and pretends to give me his full attention. And then I start to play the part: engage in conversation, allow his eyes to scrutinize my face and body. Of course a few more glasses of wine don’t seem to hurt his investigation.
Dinner comes and we have polite conversation as I pretend he is looking above my neck instead of bellow. Finally, I decide to play with him. If all he wants is a fun time I can do that, seems right up my ally.
I lean in, “So what was it like growing up,” I ask as I look into his black eyes pretending that I actually care about his childhood. He has little dwarf eyelashes. He starts to go on and on about his ambitious parents and pressure, telling the same story I hear every time I ask this question. I throw in a few sentences like “oh, that must have been so hard,” and “I am so sorry,” but he is too absorbed in his own childhood saga to notice that my eyes start to glaze over with indifference as he tells the tale of how difficult his pretentious little life was. And during time’s lackadaisical dance toward the end of dinner and hopefully his story, I am tormented by the cluster of whiteheads on Scott’s cheek. The angry, puss-filled patch of skin beacons to me, and I can’t listen to his childhood as I think about resting my hand against his face during a moment of weakness. Ew.
After a while the check comes and we do the “who’s going to pay” dance, which invariably ends up with him paying for my meal. After all, I might as well get free dinner out of this night.
Scott then decides to take advantage of the time and conversation by pretending to become distraught over his childhood memories. As if I am going to fall for the sensitivity play from a guy with such a wandering eye. “Really, I just want someone who can help me through this, someone who understands what I want,” he tells me as his frown quivers from a smile struggling to break through the facade.
“I know exactly what you mean.” Because I did. I always know.
“See, I think you could do a much better job comforting me if we go somewhere else. We should go back to my place, but it is so far away.”
“How about we go to my work? It’s just a block away.” At this point I am kind of hoping that he doesn’t fall for my plan, that he walks away a self-respecting man who is not desperate enough for sex that he will go to a hospital to get it.
“Sounds like a plan, we can take advantage of all the beds,” he replies. His hand reaches under the table and grabs my thigh. It takes everything I have in me not to scream in discomfort and distrust as it starts making shapes on the inside of my leg. His large, white-knuckled, moist hand. Stop, please.
We both drunkenly stumble out of the restaurant, making a scene as we limp over to the hospital. I decide I want it to be a surprise, so as we get closer I whisper in his ear, "I'm going to cover your eyes. Trust me it'll be fun." I have to stand on my toes to close his eyes, making the process of getting to my work more and more difficult. He smells like axe and forceful desperation, and I can’t decide which is worse.
Finally, I am able to swipe in, open some doors and get us into the main room.
"Open your eyes," I say to him as I back away, waiting for his reaction.
"What the..." He stumbles backwards into a medical tools cart, which clearly it can’t support his weight and he goes crashing onto the floor, startling the silence of the bodies surrounding him. Surrounded by medical supplied, he asks, "Why the f*** am I here?"
"This is where I work," I say looking at him as I sat in a red swivel chairs next to one of the beds.
"You said you were a doctor," he accuses me as he starts to get up. He places his hand on the floor and puts all his weight against it. But then his arm buckles under him and he falls. It takes him a while to control himself well enough to stand up.
"No I said I worked at a hospital and I do.” I watch him as he backs out of the room filled with shadows of people zipped tight into plastic bags.
“Why the f*** did you bring me here?”
“Well there are plenty of beds, just pick your top choice.” I smile at my own cynical sense of humor. Go for it, I mentally persuade him. How far are you willing to go, Scott?
"You sick freak. I am out of here," he says before he turns around, tripping over himself to make it out of the door. He slams the door behind him, forcing all the sound waves in the cavernous room up for one last second before stabilizing at the steady beep of nothing. He’s gone, he’ll never bother me again.
But, then I’m alone.
I sat in the room for a long time after he’s gone, looking around at the surroundings of my life. I sat stuck in my ponderings long enough for the automatic lights to switch off, until I saw the same things they do. Great oblivion, nothingness, and lonely loved ones. At this point, I am not even sure I could call myself one of those. I sat there in my blind date dress, teethed stained from the red wine and ravioli, everything done disastrously to follow the general pattern of my life. And I was left in the darkness, strangled by the silence and tedious crawl of time, stuck in the cycle as it creeps from day to day.
Alone again in my house of blue cadavers.
“Out, out brief candle.”