This morning, a hearse refused to
let me in—no room in his damned lane,
or perhaps, his fare held a higher obligation—
a pressing engagement, no doubt.
God knows, the dead can be stiff tippers.
As the driver hauled (cold) ass past,
metallic spikes spun from the center
bore of each twenty-inch rim—a lofty
investment, surely the remnants of a medieval
flail or a morning star now sparing
death from life—either way,
a hell of a lot cheaper than a personalized
license plate: X F K W/ M E.
How easy it was, at sixteen,
For the earth to tilt on its axis –
A slanted glance, a mean word
Overheard, an arm withheld.
Then the bottom of the evening
Would fall out, and if I could have,
I would have sold my mother’s love
For sex, drink, and sham affection
“How does one become a janitor?” A question posed by John Bender in John Hughes’ classic 1985 movie, The Breakfast Club, is one that I happen to have the answer to. To become a custodian in the Raymond School System, I first had to send in my application. Then I waited five weeks for a response. Once I finally got a response, I went in for an interview in which all of the questions were seemingly completely unrelated to the tasks I would perform as a custodian, such as “Describe a time when you made a mistake and how you fixed the mistake,” and “If you caught someone stealing from your place of employment, would you report them?” We are custodians, what is there worth stealing? Your options range from cleaning products and rags to machines so large you could not possibly sneak them out of the building undetected. No theft was going on there. It is worth noting that Todd, the head of maintenance, was just as bad at interviewing as I was at being interviewed. I told my mom this later and she said it was because we are both “socially awkward as hell.” (Thanks, Mom.)
Todd hired me on the spot, probably because my mom is a full time custodian in the district, but a little nepotism never hurt anybody. He then told me that as a substitute custodian, I would make eight dollars and fifty cents an hour and work twenty-nine hours a week. He told me that there was a mandatory meeting at the high school the Friday before the first Monday of summer work and sent me on my way. “What a wonderful world,” I thought. “I am now employed.” The wonderful feeling did not last long.
I once read that most people cannot tell the difference between pâté and cat food when it’s presented to them. I’ve seen the Fancy Feast commercial, so I don’t doubt it. Particularly bored scientists have done experiments and usually get the same results. A lot of people think they would be able to tell, but it seems like such a simple experiment I’m not certain people aren’t doing it all the time. Maybe there is a vast conspiracy of people serving cat food instead of pâté, just because they can. I sometimes get the sneaking suspicion that I could eat pâté a million times until I was sure I knew what pâté tasted like. Then I’d get another opportunity to eat pâté (or alternatively cat food), and my world would come crashing down. I’d be just another victim of the pâté-cat food schemery.
I feel much the same way about overhearing people having sex. I’m never really convinced I’ve overheard people in the throes of passion. It always happens the same way. I’ll be sitting there, minding my own business, and I’ll hear a sound. Usually a female sound. And after my reaction, saying, “Oh… well… hmm,” and clasping my hands for no reason like I’ve suddenly got to break bad news, I dismiss it. I laugh nervously. Surely, I’m not really overhearing sex, I think. A ton of things sound like people having sex: fight scenes in movies, songs with high pitched notes, really jovial laughter, or even people making awkward sounds in order to make eavesdroppers uncomfortable. And it feels awfully rude for me to assume a stranger is having a private moment when they might be doing something innocuous, like watching tennis or porn.