The photo above is of the house on Dumaine Street where I lived in New Orleans near City Park. I snapped this photo one month later when returning to the city to get my belongings out of the house. The FEMA X markings were written on each and every house in New Orleans. The number in the top quadrant of the X represents the date of which the rescue team made an attempt to search (911: September 11, 2005). The left quadrant number represents the team that searched, and in this case it was the 186 Infantry of the Oregon National Guard. The bottom quadrant (N/A) represents the number of living and/or dead victims found in the structure. The right quadrant (N/A) represents hazards present and actions taken. All of us that dwelled in our Dumaine Street home (divided into 4 apartments) evacuated, and hazards like rats, gas leaks etc, were not present.
Hurricane Katrina & Starting Over
Refuged in Atlanta
Shock could be the correct description of my state of mind and the TV media as well as the internet media isn’t helping a bit. But my eyes stay glued to the images thrown before me and my ears keep sucking in the repetitive words like “9th Ward” “levees” “breaking” “flooding” “drowning” “rooftops” “rescue” “orphaned” “Category 5, no 4, could be a 3” “hurricane” and “death.”
Today is Wednesday the 31st of August. Two days ago Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans with all her might. She was on a mission to take down a city that stood out of harms way long enough. Her raging winds and rains tormented the old town striking every district; some worse than others. In 1967 Hurricane Betsy had done the same but Katrina wanted to make up for lost time. So many folks native to New Orleans believed their city would never be hit again. They watched every hurricane for the past 38 years brush by taking last minute turns demolishing the cities of neighboring states: Texas and Mississippi. But Katrina took no turns. No amount of Catholic or Voodoo prayers was going to stop Her.
I write about this as if I have not been affected. My typical emotional detachment takes over while but grieve for those who could not leave. And there were many. I left on Sunday morning around 3 AM; twelve hours before Mayor Nagin finally issued an evacuation alert. I was downtown in the CBD working as a production assistant on location for a feature film called The Last Time. We were on Baronne Street shooting a driving scene with Michael Keaton and Brendan Frasier chit chatting away at their script while pretending to be at the wheel. It was somewhat comical to watch the two of them roll by in a car set up on a trailer. We had been working since 6 AM and once the evacuation alert came over the radio and TV waves we wrapped up by 3:30.
My friend, Autumn, and I rode back together in a van to a parking lot a few miles away. We parted wishing each other well and assured each other to get out soon. I drove home and began packing and boarding up windows. I knew my little Nissan Sentra wasn’t going to hold much comfortably with my kitties so I made a short list of the most important items in my head and began rushing around my little apartment gathering and packing.
I packed a medium sized duffle bag with some clothes and toiletries and put aside along with my clarinet, guitar, computer and cat stuff like the litter box, brush, bowls and food. I didn’t have room in my car for all my PA equipment and Yamaha Motif keyboard so I decided to part with those babies hoping by wrapping them in blankets and tucking into corners they’d be safe. I wrapped my keyboard with my favorite green blanket and a large quilt then slid it under the bed. I wasn’t thinking about the possibility of the levees collapsing and flood waters rushing into the city. I was just thinking about strong winds and tree branches pushing through the windows.
After I secured most of my things like putting all loose items into drawers and closets I went into the kitchen and put away all the dishes and trinkets into the cabinets. I placed strips of duck-tape diagonally across all my windows. There were several pieces of 2x4’s about three feet in length that I had left over from building a shelf a few months back. I nailed up every board across each window. Again, all of this preparation was to protect my part of the house and my belongings from the hurricane force winds and the tornadoes that typically spinoff the eastern side of the storm. I didn’t anticipate flood waters coming into my second floor apartment.
So I sit here and feed my sadness with the horrid media frenzy and who can capture the best scoop. These field reporters are ridiculous pretending to have compassion when all they want is “the story.” It’s sick, watching a network profiting off the anguish and suffering of these poor people. If I start thinking too much again I will puke. My stomachs stays in knots while my mind wonders into someone’s attic where the body of a drowned elderly woman floats around after being trapped inside. I try to force happy thoughts into my head; squeezing my eyes shut and grinding my teeth attempting to keep out the images of animals that were left behind. Considering suffocation, which includes drowning no less, is my worst fear for others as well I’m doing everything in my power to stay in control.
Occasionally I think about my keyboard and my books and photo albums. Besides the photo albums, everything else is replaceable. Even most of my photos taken after 1998 are on my computer which is sitting next to me now. But even when my little place flashes into mind I’m not worried. I don’t care actually. I feel lucky. I feel blessed. My dried up tears are for those who had no where to go and no one to go to. I knew so many that didn’t own cars or didn’t own a reliable car to take out of the city. My upstairs neighbors are there. I couldn’t get them to leave. They are among so many other people in need of rescue.
Yesterday the water levels were said to be as deep as fifteen feet in some areas. 80% of New Orleans is flooded now. The levees have been breached by the storm surge. Most of the storm surge flowed via the Industrial Canal levee inundating the 9th Ward, the 17th Street Canal levee which separates Metairie and the Greater New Orleans areas, and the London Avenue Canal flood wall which runs through the 7th Ward, Gentilly and Lakefront areas. The London Avenue Canal is used for drainage; specifically for pumping rain water out of the city and into Lake Pontchartrain. Once this flood wall collapsed the pumping stations were flooded causing mechanical failures. You need the pumps to get rid of the water but you need to get rid of the water in order to use the pumps.
The water is rising. I’m looking at the satellite footage online and on TV in total disbelief. City Park is under water which means the house I live in in Mid City must be flooded as well. My place is on Dumaine Street one block south of City Park Avenue which runs along the south side of City Park. This entire area has been affected by the storm surge breach along the lakefront. My upstairs neighbors, Holly and Leno are most likely sitting on their front porch watching this surreal mess unfold before them and wondering how the hell they are going to get out. I’m sure by now the electricity is out so they are not aware of the extent of the devastation around them. I keep getting Holly’s voicemail when I call her cell so I’m assuming the battery is dead by now with no way to charge it.
The news is showing a helicopter flying over City Park and landing on top of the
New Orleans Art Museum to rescue people but the museum in is in the middle of the park and surrounded by water already. Is this rescue team actually expecting the mid city neighborhood refugees to wade through the water or even swim to the museum? That’s ludicrous!
Starting Over in Milwaukee
It hasn’t hit me yet. I am more than 1,400 miles away from home and over 700 miles from extended family in Guntersville. Mentally I know this to be true but emotionally I am still rewound in the immediate post trials of Katrina. And physically I should be feeling cold if nothing else.
I’ve dealt with many traumatic events in my life and suffered through more occurrences of PTSD than most senior citizens, Mamma excluded of course. But this one takes the cake. What in the hell am I doing here? Why did I pick this place? I recall the hope of reconciliation with Mitch but we’ve been broke up for almost two years now and I haven’t seen him since. He doesn’t even know that I’m here. I don’t think have feelings for Mitch anymore though I haven’t developed them for anyone else. I visited Mitch in Waukesha back in 2002 a couple of times while we were dating so perhaps I moved here for some familiarity?
Two weeks have passed already and I still have no job. I haven’t heard from the media production company in Waukesha but I’m hoping for a response. I can’t remember if I told Mitch about the interview. I don’t talk to him much however we correspond through an occasional email and text. I came up a few weeks ago for the interview and went ahead and looked for a place to live. Rick came up with me. He knows the truth as to why I’m here…I think.
I’ve convinced myself that this job is mine and without ever hearing from the company for a second interview. I needed a legitimate reason for the move besides a lost love. Everyone in my family thinks I already got the job. Hell, I convinced myself I got the job so telling them otherwise would have felt like a lie. I will certainly regret this decision; karma always finds its way. I half expected the silence but will call the company tomorrow in an oblivious tone of voice and ask about my status. I think they said that they would call me back for a second interview if they were interested or else I wouldn’t hear from them. Unaware of my proximity, I will call and act like I never heard the comment about the second interview.
Maya is here. I don’t know her well but she seems friendly enough and willing to help me find a job. She too, thinks I came here for this so-called position at the production company. It seems I have her under the impression that the company is flaking out on an offer already made. Amy followed through and hooked me up with Maya. Upon my arrival Maya staked out some places for me to live. I was originally looking in Cudahy which is just south of Milwaukee but she pushed for a place closer to her here in the Bayview area. I am grateful because this place is me.
So far I really like my apartment except for the paper thin walls. My bathroom is next to the bathroom of the weird guy next door. I hear him often on the phone while he is sitting on the commode; his toilet flushing soon after. It’s quite disturbing at times especially while I am showering or taking a much needed relaxing bath. I keep hoping maybe he will move. But from what the landlord said he has been living there for nineteen years and won’t be going anywhere any time soon. He moved here from Minnesota and I admit that when he speaks it reminds me of the film Fargo. So far masturbating in the bathroom hasn’t been an option. I will take note of his comings and goings and learn his work schedule to make good use of my bathroom time while he is gone.
The house is on the corner of Wentworth and Estes only two blocks from the lake if you include the park as a block. I am on the bottom floor in the back portion of the house. The house was divided into three apartments a few decades ago. When I asked the landlord about the history of the house he said it had been a small natural food store and the woman that owned and operated the store lived upstairs. The front of the house is the smallest apartment where the Fargo guy lives. His is a one-bedroom and contains a small kitchen and den. The wall that divides us runs between his bedroom and bath and my living room and bath. I have a small linen closet between my living room and bathroom.
The living room is spacious enough for a couch, chair, bookshelf, TV and a few tables some of which I acquired from Maya’s parent’s basement. They gave me an armless comfy chair, a short handmade stool painted a metallic orange with orange pattered Indian silk sewn on top. They also gave me this cool simple wooden chair that has a lyre carved for the backing, an Art Deco two-tier side table and an old wooden hand crafted desk with one center drawer and three on each side. I bought a full size fold out sleeper sofa brand new for only $400 on clearance at JC Penney. I also bought an old inexpensive small dining table with two chairs from a 1950’s vintage store called Tip Top Atomic Shop. The owners are this hip married couple about my age and were very friendly; asking about my move. After mentioning Katrina they threw in a wooden triangular corner table which I am using as a TV stand. The DVD player fits perfectly on the second shelf.
I wasn’t looking for any handouts and realized I didn’t want to talk about my circumstances anymore while shopping anywhere else. I don’t want pity and I haven’t talked about the hurricane in regards to how it affected me but how it affected those who are not as fortunate to start over as I. I went back to patronize the Tip Top Atomic Shop a few days later and bought a coffee table made of a blonde cherry wood. It has a lacquer finish and the sides can fold down if extra space if needed. There is a small thin drawer in the middle of the table where I will keep my incense, smoking paraphernalia and eventually some green goodies if I can find any.
Just off from my living room is a bedroom. I have turned into an office/studio. There are two windows along the outside wall which looks onto the house next door. A lesbian couple and their young daughter live there and I’m looking forward to meeting them. Sounds like my kind of neighbors. I put some shelving up between the windows for my heavy texts and reference books. I need the floor space in the room. My computer, keyboard, guitar and anything else related to music is in that room. This is where I write. This room will become a first for many things. I can feel its energy anticipating the arrival of a new creative outlet. Even in my saddened state I can sense something good will come of my stay here no matter how indefinite that may be.
The living room leads into the kitchen and this is where the original woodwork of the house really shows off. The dark, thick woodwork is in the entire house framing every window and doorway. The baseboards and doors are also made with the same wood which I believe is a hard aged oak. However, the kitchen is where one can appreciate such fine craftsmanship even a tree hugger like me. All of the cabinets are made with this dark aged oak.
One set of the cabinets along the wall have wood framed glass doors but unfortunately some moron stuck wallpaper on the inside of the glass. It was probably the same moron who cleaned and painted the house upon my arrival. He put in a new light fixture in the bathroom and it hangs on the wall in an obvious slant to the right. That moron was Fargo guy. He and the landlord actually bragged about the work done inside after the old obese lady that was here before me. Fargo guy said she never bathed or cleaned the house. She never left the house and her daughter came by to check on her a few times a week. He also mentioned that while shoveling snow off the sidewalk along Estes Street he could plainly see her sitting in a ratty beat up recliner wearing only a slip and without undergarments. He said it was worse in the summer while the windows were open; the smell of her putrid flesh lingering along the sidewalk.
The upstairs neighbors’ front door is on the lake side off of Wentworth Avenue parallel to Fargo guy’s front door. The entrance to my section of the house is on Estes and leads into a foyer area that connects my apartment and a large screened in porch on the west side of the house. Inside the foyer there is also a back stairway which leads to the upstairs apartment back door. My front door leads into the kitchen and my bedroom is just off to the right on the south side same as the office and bathroom. There is a window along that side and a window on the back side which overlooks the porch.
The bedroom is a perfect size for my full size bed. Maya’s friend Chad gave me a four-drawer chest that was originally intended to go to Goodwill. I painted the chest and the night stand I found at a yard sale a metallic bronze. I can’t wait to decorate my bedroom and the rest of the place. I have so many colorful ideas for every room. I’m not sure which room yet will hold my treasures and memories of New Orleans but I’m leaning towards making my bedroom like a bordello.
The Bayview neighborhood appears quaint with Maya’s assurance that I live amongst a more artsy, freethinking and somewhat liberal area of Milwaukee. I got that when I found out about the family in the house next door. Maya said to not be surprised if I notice people keeping their shades and curtains open for all to see inside. I feel somewhat uncomfortable while walking or driving through the neighborhood with her. She embarrassingly stares into people’s homes snickering and making snide remarks about furniture and art displays like this is the thing to do while passing an open window. I look curiously then look away feeling my face blush when I see someone look back. I don’t want to look at all in fear of seeing what Fargo guy had seen too many times.
Bayview is the up and coming hip spot to live. I was told that only fifteen years ago it was referred to as ‘the south side’ rather ‘Bayview’ or as some spell it “Bay View’ and was considered a rough part of Milwaukee with a lot of dealers and hookers roaming the streets. Now the housing here is quite expensive compared to other parts of town with newer businesses opening up all the time. Old warehouses have been converted into apartment buildings. It reminds me of the Warehouse District in New Orleans with unusual colors used for painting the outside walls and small mom and pop shops like cafes, bars and boutiques on the bottom floors. I like it. It feels homey. It’s more of the familiarity I was looking for while deciding to move here.
Right now that familiarity is gone as I look around and everything is covered in snow and all the trees are completely bare. The white is beautiful and not something my eyes are accustomed to. While the snow is falling the silence is tranquil and I often find myself looking around for anything to make a noise. It is almost surreal to think that there could be a place on earth this peaceful (to me) when there are no birds chirping flirtatious songs or squirrels skipping trees. I think I’m beginning to realize, I’m not visiting; I live here.
Thus far my time here has been mostly leisure. But I have spent countless hours online looking through job listings and even thumbed through a few newspaper want ads. I didn’t get the job at the production company so my explanation to the family was that the company hired me as a PA and editing assistant and within a few weeks it went out of business. As fate would have it, the studio hasn’t had any commercials shoots for some time now from what I heard and will most likely close the doors soon. I’m trying to find PA work or any type of work possibly through the local TV network affiliates.
Chad works for the Milwaukee NBC affiliate as an engineer. I recently learned he was one of Maya’s students in a production class she teaches every semester at one of the local technical colleges. She actually is on faculty at two schools. She teaches a writing class of some kind at Marquette or UW of Milwaukee. I can’t remember which school I suppose because I don’t find her life very interesting. I may be a little envious of her education. She has her masters in screenplay writing and I want so badly to go to graduate school eventually. The only other thing that I envy in her life is that she owns her house but she told me her aunt made the down payment. The house is an up and down duplex rather the side by side I have lived in the past. Maya lives upstairs and she has a tenant below. His name is Jon and he has been a family friend since they were kids.
When I’m not home I’m at Maya’s for the most part. Maya only lives ten blocks south of me. She has two rabbits and a five year old rat named Lilya. Lilya is so smart and affectionate. She has reign of the house roaming and sleeping all over. I have to check the sofa before sitting down and pay close attention to the floor while walking. Maya has eclectic tastes in décor and I like it. It feels like Maya and not forced like some ordinary people will do in their homes in order to bring out an absent imagination.
Chad is always there too. Chad is a Taurus and hasn’t noticed Maya’s place like I have. Maya points this out often like she is trying to change him somehow to fit her needs and lifestyle. Chad is a simple man like Rick. The relationship between Maya and Chad is freaky in that it reminds me of Rick and how our relationship is similar but somehow more developed than theirs. Chad is definitely in love with Maya but Maya doesn’t have the same attraction to him. Rick and I have been friends for fifteen years now so he may have let go of any potential love by now, at least I hope.
I have been wondering about Maya and her love life. She has shared much but not that part. I don’t think she has ever had a boyfriend. I know she is not a virgin and there have been flings and friends with benefits but no long term relationships to my knowledge. Maya was an only child and quite spoiled by her hippie parents. Her mom actually breast fed her until she was three. Maya says it is unsettling that she can remember asking to latch on to her mother’s breast. Her reaction to this reminds me of my dad’s. He too can remember his mother’s breasts. I’m for breast feeding and all but not that long! That and Maya’s parents’ constant coddling has led her down a path of uncertainty of intimacy.
She is a Scorpio. Scorpios tend to refrain from intimacy until they find their ‘one’ true love. I’m starting to believe that doesn’t exist anyway. But I am reminded once in a while love is out there. Maya’s parents act like they are still young new lovers dancing and singing along at Woodstock. I admit it is refreshing to see a couple that’s been married as long as my parents still carrying the initial spark of love. It may be the pot and wine they both partake in everyday. I love hippies! I was born twenty years too late.
I got a call the other day from the NBC local studio where Chad works. Maya does some freelance editing and assistant directing occasionally. She put in a good word for me. I appreciate her help but the depression has become overwhelming and I’m not sure I’m ready to get back into the world yet especially in this city where I’m still a stranger. I need a job that’s for sure. I know the boredom is weighing me down and writing a couple of songs for guitar for the first time is simply not enough to lift my spirits.
My mood lightened some when I got to smoke a little with Maya’s parents on New Years Eve. We had a great time that night. Maya had a small party at her place. Her parents, aunt and some friends came over. Her downstairs neighbor friend Jon came up later but didn’t stay long. He seemed a little irritated by Maya and her interruptions. She likes to be the center of attention. Her moon sign or rising sign must be Leo. But Jon and I did get to talk some and exchange phone numbers while innocently flirting. He is so cute but so young. I’m not sure where it would go anyway. The melancholy has stripped my desire for intimacy and I don’t feel very sexy right now. I still haven’t lost the weight I gained while refuged in Atlanta. No, I’m not fat. I’m just obsessed with weighing 130 or less.
So it is 2006 already and I am desperately trying to let go of 2005. I can’t remember if I made any New Years resolutions but losing weight would be a good one. There is one good memory left of 2005. I finally got my bachelors degree. But the rest of 05 was a disaster, literally. Between the death of my Uncle Dick, the death of New Orleans and the near death of my family house under the curse of Wilma I think I could write a memoir on that alone. I would call it plainly and simply “The Death of 2005.” For now, I guess I will focus on finding a job and having this opportunity to really start over. Of all the moves I have made, this one feels like I went through a long tunnel rather a door to get here. There is no looking back.
Jon just left my place. We hung out for a little while after a long hike. Last week we spent a few hours talking in his place after a little birthday gathering for a friend at Maya’s. I had told him about some of my hikes including the thirty miles Rick and I covered in the panhandle of Florida on the Florida Trail. I’m guessing that’s what sparked his interest in showing off the great outdoors here. He asked me if I wanted to join him for a hike along Lake Michigan.
The gathering at Maya’s had plenty of vegetarian finger foods and wine. Jon wasn’t there and Maya kept reminding me of his neglect. I was beginning to wonder why Jon avoided Maya so much or maybe it was her need to be around people all the time that annoyed him. After everyone left Maya wanted to show me the rest of the house which included the downstairs. Jon is rarely home. If he isn’t working he is bicycling. He is a registered nurse and works the 4am to 2pm shift four days a week. After work, he comes home, changes into his cycling gear and rides 3-4 hours a day. Maya has keys to his place but respectfully won’t invade his privacy when he is gone.
That day he came home shortly after Maya’s friends left. We went downstairs, knocked on the door and got no answer. Maya pounded on the door hollering for him to answer. When he finally opened the door after a few minutes he said that he had his headphones on listening to music. He looked at me with a half smile. Maya asked if she could show me around while joking and poking fun at Jon’s habits. She was telling me something about why she chose to live upstairs even though the downstairs is larger but my mind was paying more attention to Jon. He seemed quite the recluse enjoying his time in silence, listening to music or playing his didgeridoo. I couldn’t believe he actually owned and played a didgeridoo. It was kind of sexy actually seeing a white boy with such a cultural assortment. He had various paintings and fabrics from Africa and Australia hanging on his walls as well as sculptures from Japan and China. Maya was still busy trying to talk about the construction of the house and I was absorbed in the unique décor of such a young man. Jon is only 26 and has already visited many countries in Asia and Africa.
I didn’t notice when Maya had finally quit rambling and snickering in her insecure fill-ins for silence. She quickly lost interest when Jon and I began talking about traveling which migrated toward his didgeridoo. Jon was amazed with my knowledge of the instrument and its origin. I gave him my background in music and eventually our conversation went down that path. To my surprise, Maya wasn’t annoyed by our inadvertent exclusion of her presence. Rather she was giddy about it. She acted like she was trying to hook Jon and me up. It felt weird since she is a year younger than me and treats Jon like a little brother. Not having any real siblings of her own I think she’s always treated Jon that way. She is overbearing and bossy and Jon seems indifferent toward their dynamic. Maya then made some excuse about needing to go back up to her place and headed to the door. I half-assed followed and she turned and told me to stay if I wanted with no argument from either Jon or me. We were already engaged in another conversation this time about his cycling and my love for running and hiking.
The hike with Jon was absolutely amazing. It revived me somehow; the occasional smell of someone’s chimney or outside bonfire reminded me of home. The smell didn’t make me homesick however because everything in sight was covered in snow. Much of the hike was on the edge of a cliff which runs along the lake in Cudahy heading towards South Milwaukee then Oak Creek. We began the hike on a path in Saint Francis which is a small town just south of the Bayview area. The farther south we went the more narrow the path became. The trees were covered in drifts of snow and ice crystals hung glistening like chandelier pieces. Jon warned me of falling ice and told me stories of passersby getting cut in half by the falling shards 3-4 feet in length. I kept looking up and avoided walking under the ice crystals. I tried to imagine how bright the red of blood would look in this massive thick carpet of snow but my mind would revert instead to the snowball stands in New Orleans. A New Orleans snowball is what everyone outside of New Orleans calls a snow cone or icy or flavored ice. The vast array of splendid colors of a snowball lightened me up from the bloody thoughts of ice shards.
The air was cold to breathe but still felt fresh and revitalizing. The woods were still and quiet. The only sounds were of mine or Jon’s boots snapping a twig or two. We didn’t speak much but I could hear him breathing behind me when I took the lead on the obvious parts of the trail. Everything was completely unfamiliar. I liked the newness and my senses absorbed it all. I wanted to kiss Jon and I think he wanted to kiss me too. I felt my face cold but smiling the entire time.
Jon led us down a part of a cliff less steep toward the lake. We made our way down slowly and walked along the shoreline for at least a couple of miles before heading west and eventually north closer to roadways. As we made our way back into Saint Francis along South Lake Drive Jon led me down a long wide driveway covered in a canopy of trees. It reminded me of the canopy oak trees over Old Bainbridge Road in Tallahassee. But the canopy here was made up of forty-nine maple trees and the branches were of ice and snow rather leaves. I could see an old castle type of structure in the distance. As we got closer Jon began describing the history and construction of what I finally realized was a beautiful seminary. The Saint Francis Seminary was founded in 1845 and is one of the original Roman Catholic seminaries in the US and the oldest in continuous existence. I was in aw to see such splendor despite my disregard for Christianity specifically the corporation of greed, sexism and overall conservatism called the Catholic Church. It was beautiful nevertheless and a wonderful way to wrap up our hike.
The hiked lasted over four hours covering a terrain of approximately fourteen miles. Jon and I walked back to where his car was parked and he drove me home. He came inside and we sat down in the living room exhausted from taking in so much cold air. I went online and checked the weather and found out we had hiked through some pretty windy conditions making the chill around ten degrees Fahrenheit. I then sat down on the floor and he looked at me with that half childlike smile as we sat in silence. The only sound was that of our lungs taking in the warm air deeply and with ease. I got up, sat on the couch next to him. He leaned over and kissed me.
Saint Francis Seminary wikipedia
The fantasy of Jon seems to be coming to a close and just when I was beginning to like him. We fooled around a few times while hanging out here or at his place. My coming and going to his place without stopping in to see Maya caused some friction. She has been acting odd toward me lately and saying some pretty means things about Jon. I think she’s jealous; not of me but of him. He has been getting my time instead of her but it hasn’t been much time at all. I’ve only seen him a half a dozen times. When I am with her all she talks about is how Jon has done this and that horrible thing, ignoring her phone calls and something else I can’t remember. She’s becoming a bitch about this whole damn thing and I am caught in the middle. I don’t even know what initially started her hostility toward him but I suspect this is her way of getting my time back. She is so demanding I’m not sure if I want to stay friends anymore whether or not Jon and I stay in touch. It’s beginning to look like Jon and I won’t be talking anymore; such a shame because despite personality and age difference we do have some things in common.
Jon has retreated into his shell. He is a Cancer and those crabs are either in or out. When they are in they literally clam up and detach emotionally. When they escape the shell a Cancer will wear their heart on their sleeve. I think Jon got hurt and went back to his protective isolated world of cycling, hiking and doing just about everything alone. This only gives Maya more ammunition. She keeps going on about how dysfunctional he is when I just want to throw it in her face how co-dependent she is! The last time I saw Jon was at my place. Maya drove by several times slowing down trying to look in through my living room windows. When I confronted her after Jon wrote her a letter about this she went ballistic; denying ever coming around my place when he was here. How the hell did she know when he was or wasn’t here?
I’m glad I didn’t’ have sex with Jon despite the fact it was he who didn’t want to have intercourse. However, we did everything else under the sun so what’s the difference? Less hormones forcing their way out of my glands and running through the veins of my brain deluding me into love: that’s the difference. And that makes it easier to let go especially since he lives below Maya. Jon hasn’t been responding to my calls or emails and I have sided with Maya in all of this; not that there are any sides I care to join. Maybe she was right about his dysfunction but I don’t want to hear anymore childhood stories and other ramblings about Jon. I have had enough of Maya’s mockery.
Last night while hanging out at Maya’s we noticed Jon’s headlights pull in. I had parked in the driveway this time instead of parking on the street. Maya had said Jon was already home and parked in the garage. I’m not sure if she was mistaken or had planned this all along. I wasn’t up for an argument but unfortunately the three of us were doomed to confront one another. I wanted to confront Jon alone.
Time elapsed when I finally realized I better go downstairs and ask Jon to let me out. He was parked directly behind me and I didn’t want to wait too late in case he went to bed. I went downstairs and knocked for a few minutes and there was no answer. He was either ignoring me or had his headphones on. It was useless to try to call but Maya called him from both her home and cell phone. I wasn’t interested in ever calling him again. I was long past the point of giving up on our friendship and wanted face to face or nothing at all.
Maya’s car was parked in the garage so the option of taking me home was out. We were both trapped so we went downstairs together. She knocked and hollered out for Jon to answer. After several minutes of my profanities and her awkward bellowing Maya decided to go around to his bedroom window and knock thinking he was already asleep. He heard us. He had to of heard us. This was a game for him and he still didn’t answer. I went back upstairs and waited and she returned enraged. She stormed past me heading to her office. She had something in her hand as she grabbed her keys and motioned for me to follow. We went back down and Maya’s face was beet red with sweat despite the cold. As we walked the steps she informed me that she was carrying his eviction notice. She had threatened to write it but I didn’t think she was actually going to follow through. She has known Jon since before he was born. Their parents are still neighbors and best friends from what I have gathered.
I waited in the corridor while Maya unlocked the door and went inside to find Jon. When she returned the letter was not in her hand and Jon was dragging his feet behind her with half opened eyes pretending to squint from the light. He wasn’t asleep. That much was obvious. I looked away and acted like I didn’t know him. He never said a word. He just slipped on some shoes in the corridor outside the entrance door, grabbed his keys which were hanging just inside then went outside to move his car. I said goodnight to Maya, got into my car, and backed out while he stood idling in the street. I left and much to my dismay without confrontation. I was hoping for some answers once we were briefly faced with one another. I thought maybe he parked behind me on purpose hoping for the same. Perhaps he did and flaked out or maybe he really was asleep. I suppose silence is the best and only answer I am ever going to get.
After six weeks I was approached and asked if I wanted to join the management team. Another doorway lay before me. This had been discussed already during the first week of my employment but I wasn’t sure if it was just talk or not. UPS needed female supervisors to fill the quota and I had experience and a degree. They also wanted me trained and ready for Peak season. This would give me at least five months of experience before Peak. It began Monday after Thanksgiving weekend and ended December 23rd. Peak is the busiest time of year for UPS and I assume that goes for all shipping companies.
The paperwork was finalized and I passed the psychological testing required. I had an interview with Larry, the sort manager; a simple formality to complete the process. Within two weeks I was promoted to part-time supervisor and began my training on the Green Belt. I didn’t know anything about the Load coming from the Unload but getting thrown to the wolves is the UPS standard of “training” management as it is most likely with all major corporations. At first it was stressful but it was a good learning experience forcing me to open my mind to new things. I gained some insight of the system and got the hang of running the Green Belt but as soon as management realized this I was moved to the White Belt: the sister belt of the Green. This was going to be an interesting debut into the world of operations management. The door was open and I walked through it.
The winter cold had eased shortly after I began my job at UPS. I had just returned from a weekend trip home for my sister’s bachelorette outing and wedding party (instead of a bridal shower). I felt inspired. I had a job and the trip home with warm weather invigorated my senses. It was good to see my family and I felt revitalized. I wanted to write my first short story or short memoir. I began with the latter. I wrote a short memoir called A Resounding No. It is about my childhood; growing up in rural Loxahatchee as opposed to the city of West Palm Beach. It is about the lessons learned when not following parents’ directions.
I enjoyed the taste of a more extensive writing than poetry and songs. After I completed the short memoir I wrote my first short story called The Orange Car. The story is about a woman in her mid fifties living in New Orleans post Katrina. It begins eight months after the hurricane where the woman is trying to pick up the pieces of her disastrous life. The story reflects on her past and how it led up to her current circumstances as a New Orleans native. I foresee The Orange Car becoming a full length novel someday.
Spring Has Come and Melancholy are two poems written while experiencing my first spring in the midwest. Only when you have endured a northern winter, can you honestly say that the season of spring actually exists. It is quite remarkable to see the bare trees slowly come to life again. The evergreens get thicker and greener but the oaks and maples show off their tiny sprouts while the birds return with music. The Canadian geese fly overhead honking in triangular formation before landing in the cool waters of Lake Michigan.
The days are short and the skies are gloomy in the winter. But dormancy is a necessity in order to bring new growth of green and colorful blossoms every year. The beauty of a Midwest spring was the birth of a creative outlet in writing. Once again, the month of April brought me something extraordinary; a new way for me to express myself.
The Moment of Recognition
I’ve been putting off writing the story of Chris for too long now. I’m sure I’ll never forget this unique love of past lovers. He is the last crush I’ve had and I don’t think I’ll have anymore for a while. Ending my line of lovers lost with Chris was certainly not the ‘going out with a bang’ I expected. But I’m glad it happened.
Chris’s companionship was the first to inspire poetry since Mitch. The relationship with Brett, if one could even call it that, provoked two poems rather inspired. 13 Days Late and 16 Days Late But… simply outlined the mistake of unprotected lust not to mention Brett was a lousy lover. He had to be high on some ADD medication called Adderall to get it up. I wasn’t physically attracted to his out of shape short and wide Taurus stature. What was I thinking? Chris however, was of average height with a well defined body. He was quite fit and very strong. UPS did that for most of us.
The relationship with Chris began strangely. Simply put, I hated him. I didn’t realize then that he was a Cancer. His sense of humor was dry and he rarely smiled. He was always criticizing or trying to give me advice on how to run my Belt. After I was transferred to the White Belt I saw him more. The White Belt had some experienced head-strong employees and Chris knew this would be a challenge for a fairly new supervisor. Chris assisted the manager of the north side. He primarily floated around between the Green, White and Yellow Belts.
I’d been running the White Belt a little over two months before I realized that Chris was genuinely trying to help. He actually cared. It was more than a job to him but unlike me he didn’t express his compassion for employees and co-workers. It was the end of October when my frustrations came to a head. I had prevented the tears from flowing way too long and everything contained blew out of me in anger like a volcanic eruption. Chris was on my Belt helping the top puller. I was on the grating at door 13 breaking jams for the load. I had my best two loaders in the trailer. They were working as fast as their scanners would allow building insecure walls and throwing packages. Their aggravation fueled mine while a shouting match continued between them and the top puller. Chris usually stayed quiet even when he spoke in a loud and high adrenaline environment. I never heard him shout but when he came down from the top pull he decided to join in the charade of belt problems. Everyone was blaming each other. I tried to focus on breaking jams and kept quiet. My own voice only fueled my anger more.
I faintly heard a supervisor under the grating below me delegating tasks to employees sent over from other areas to help. When I looked down I realized it was Chris and he was looking up at me. His voice was the last I wanted to hear giving advice. At first I ignored him. Advice from anyone was useless at that point. Chris was actually raising his voice at me. The rage was bubbling up towards the top. Suddenly my voice was all anyone could hear with profanity flying in all directions. I remember hearing “Don’t raise your voice at me, Asshole” “Shut the fuck up” and “Get the fuck off my belt.”
I was so angry I didn’t realize it was my voice I heard. I felt lost in rage like I was in someone else’s nightmare. Chris tried arguing with me but to no avail. His passive tone wasn’t going to overpower mine. The North Manager (Asshole #2) came over to jump in but took one glance at me then turned away knowing I didn’t care if I lost my job over insubordination. He turned his attention toward others in need of help. Chris continued harping and eventually I said fuck the jam, turned off the Extendo and practically jumped off the grated skipping most of the rungs on the ladder. He made a sarcastic comment regarding safety at the exact moment I got in his face and told him to get off my belt one last time. With this he looked away and then his feet followed.
The belt continued to back up and the shut-offs became more frequent. Packages were coming from the Primary piled dangerously high. The sorters stacked their belts during shut-offs. This caused massive jams damaging packages throughout the maze once the belts resumed. As a result pullers had to shut off the belt again to break jams and the vicious cycle would continue throughout the sort. Worst yet, the sorters doubled their misorts sending out packages to the wrong belts. Both of my pullers couldn’t keep up with the misorts and either had to shut off the belt or send potential misloads. With an overwhelming number of boxes falling off the Extendos onto trailer floors, the loaders couldn’t keep up so the chance of misloading a package increased. My top puller was busy trying to fix a jam.
Asshole #2 came out of door 20 after breaking jams adding his negative comments to an already hostile atmosphere. Our belt was shut off for almost a minute and he demanded to know what was happening. He hollered out things like “What the fuck is going on?” “Why is this belt still off?” “Raelea, you must be stupid to allow this to happen!” “How the hell are you gonna get through Peak?” I lashed back telling him not to raise his voice at me and to get off my belt. I had told two assholes to leave and I kept thinking ‘third time’s a charm’ ‘Who’s next?’ ‘Who wants a piece of me?’
Break couldn’t have come at a better time. But it felt like the fastest ten minutes ever. Nobody wanted to get up when the buzzer sounded. Looking at the overloaded belt, I took in a deep breath then said “Lets get this shit over with…we can do this!” I tried to create some positive vibes. Everyone was exhausted and pissed off and needed to hear something optimistic during this night of hell.
The Primary was trying desperately to go down and packages were coming in piles again. We were only a few minutes into work after break when the White was shut off. I was standing at my hubcom updating the percentages of the trailers. I didn’t notice the belt was shut off. I had welcomed the calm after the heated rush ignoring the reason for silence. Chris had just walked in from the break area when the manager of the Primary (Asshole #3) marched around the corner like a drill sergeant barking out orders. I turned around quickly to acknowledge him in disbelief. Like Asshole #2, he demanded to know why the belt was still off. However, unlike Asshole#2, he liked confrontation and continued marching toward me asking rhetorical questions. I couldn’t argue back. I couldn’t even raise my voice. I had no energy left to break jams much less get into it with Asshole #3.
Chris came over and before he could speak I told him to mind his own business. Asshole #3 kept trying to get a rise out me but I directed my anger toward Chris instead. I should’ve kept my mouth shut because much to my ignorance he came over to defend me. He was attempting to explain the situation to Asshole #3 and get him off my back. I finally spoke up after Asshole #3 accused me of not doing my job. He said that I wasn’t doing “my fucking job and holding my employees accountable.” I was sick of that word accountable and decided what’s sauce for the goose…”Hey Asshole #3, why don’t you hold your employees in the Primary accountable! If your sorters were doing their fucking jobs then my pullers would be able to do theirs!”
Asshole #3 came back at me but I walked away and headed toward door 19 to break jams. I heard him yell something about ignoring his commands but kept walking. When I looked back I saw Chris trying to get his attention to clarify the mess we were in.
The night finally came to a close after running over an hour. I made a formal complaint about Asshole #2 and #3 for name calling and belittling me in front of my employees. I was exhausted and felt humiliated especially for making the complaint. Larry wanted a quick resolution and thought face to face verbal apologies would suffice. I agreed wanting it all behind me not to mention I didn’t need management thinking I was some weak, emotional, incompetent woman who shouldn’t have been promoted. My chest tightened anticipating a run-in with Chris while I walked down the steps from the pre-sort office.
My employees were sorting through packages all over the floor and loading the last bit of bulk into the trailers while I stood at my hub computer desperately trying not to fall apart. I was pretending to do paperwork and focused on taking deep breaths. I kept choking back tears so not to expose ‘weakness’ in front of my employees. I usually helped them with bulk despite union rules; instead I stuttered a few words of appreciation for their hard work. No matter how shitty our numbers were going to be my employees hung in there.
My last employee grabbed his backpack and water bottle off the bottom pull and headed toward me to clock out at the hub computer. He said goodnight as he walked away. I felt the rush beginning. As soon as he was out of sight my chest began to heave. I thought I was alone when the tears began to fall. I tried to finish up my paperwork wiping the tears as quickly as they fell but to no avail. I couldn’t see the screen on my hub computer. I slammed down my pen and clipboard and sat up on the grating. I put my face in my hands to silence my cries and didn’t notice Chris was standing in front of me.
Chris’ voice startled me. When I looked up he asked if I was okay. I didn’t want any consoling from him. I told him I didn’t need to be ganged up on. I looked away and he walked into view to explain why he rushed over during the confrontation with Asshole #3. He told me to listen and I looked up at his face. For the first time I saw Chris and heard the sincerity in his voice. Was I reading him wrong all this time? Chris was expressing concern and so I listened.
We walked outside and had a cigarette. I felt the weight of my job without guidance or support beginning to lift. Someone had my back and of all people it was Chris. He wanted to teach me how to emotionally handle this job. He assured me I had the mental tools to run an operation; most importantly communication. That was one skill I possessed unlike my male co-workers and bosses. My pride fell away and welcomed his advice and compliments. Peak was only a month away so my new friend couldn’t have come at a better time. Now I knew the Cancer tenderness of Chris; the soft crab peaked out of his shell and softened me as well. That moment of recognition was the beginning of my attraction to Chris.
The last two weeks of Peak put a strain on me mentally and physically but I got through it by having Chris around during breaks. Lori was a mutual friend. She was also encouraging in not letting the job get to me. The three of us sat with each other during the pre-sort meetings. Lori and Chris had an interesting dynamic. She was only a couple of years older than me and Chris was only 22. Their friendship was more like a big sister/ little brother relationship. This was all too familiar and reminded me of Maya and Jon. Here I was again in a strange threesome of an older Scorpio woman befriending a young Cancer man. Except this one was a healthier relationship. Lori wasn’t as bossy and controlling as Maya. She was also more reliable.
I had celebrated Christmas at home with my family. It was a quick trip of only four days since I had to work between the holidays and didn’t want to be away from my kitties too long. Lori graciously came by my place twice to take care of my cats while I was gone. I felt at ease during my visit knowing my kitties were okay this time. Chris was more reliable as well and much more social than Jon. But no matter how much I fantasized about Chris I didn’t foresee any intimacy with him as had with Jon even in its brevity. Chris had a girlfriend and they had been together for five years.
I stayed in Milwaukee for New Years and Rick came up for a few days. We went to a party at Kevin’s house on New Years Eve. Kevin was an acquaintance and occasional drinking buddy I met at Lee’s Tavern. He only lived five blocks from me and two blocks behind Lee’s. The party crowd hung out for a while and eventually migrated to Lee’s to bring in the New Year. I wanted to call Chris and invite him out with us but I knew he was with family and Kim.
When we arrived at Lee’s it was already beginning to get busy and all the tables were full. There were a few stools left at the bar. After relaxing with my first drink I looked around sporadically half expecting to see Maya and Chad. I hadn’t spoken to them since our falling out. I didn’t want to have a run-in with either one of them but was hoping Jon would at least show up with his friends. I noticed the pool table was open and thought about playing a few games with Kevin or Rick. The last time I shot pool at Lee’s I was with Jon and Maya. I couldn’t get that image off the table so I turned away deciding no pool for tonight. I assumed they were not likely to show up so I let my mind leave the nostalgia of the old threesome and wonder into the new one.
Much of my personal and break time at work with Chris was spent around Lori. I felt more comfortable with Lori around as if her presence somehow restrained me from expressing my developing passion for Chris. Suddenly my thoughts were interrupted by Rick counting down practically screaming to get my attention. 2007 was here and my new year began with one wish; wanting to be closer to Chris.
During Peak I somehow found the creative energy to work on a short documentary about my family. All the footage was shot during the four day Thanksgiving holiday I spent in Guntersville and all editing was done between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now that that project was complete I was ready to begin a new one. But as January would have it, the usual depression I experience this time of year crept in and it was darkened by the Wisconsin winter. I allowed myself to fantasize about Chris instead of focusing on a new project. I began to accept that my fondness of Chris was emerging into the desire of a physical bond as well as an emotional one. Despite the knowledge of Kim, I wanted to spend more time with him outside of work. I wasn’t sure how we could arrange time together with his busy schedule which included going to a technical college for business but I wouldn’t permit myself to think about the logistics. I just wanted Chris.
Peak was over. The holidays couldn’t have passed any slower. I wanted to return to work so I could see Chris and I was ready to get back into the grind. I knew there were changes going to be made at work. It is customary to move part-time supervisors around after the new year. There was talk that I was going to be moved to the Primary. As an unloader I was hoping to become an unload supervisor. I didn’t think my skills would be wasted as a sort supervisor.
I arrived at work Tuesday evening about 30 minutes early. I went outside to the break area to have a cigarette and wait for Chris. One by one other supervisors began shuffling outside as well. Every time the door opened I inconspicuously looked up to see if it was Chris. But he never came out. After a few words with coworkers I went inside and walked upstairs for the meeting when I saw Chris. He was passing me to go have a cigarette as he jokingly pushed me out of is way. I wanted to follow but continued up the stairs smiling and looking back hoping he would ask me to join him. Lori was already in the presort office and we talked about work anticipating the announcement of supervisors being moved.
Chris finally came in as well as the rest of the supervisors and the meeting began. Larry talked about our numbers during Peak. We all had done remarkably well considering all the aggravation of being overworked. Then right before disbanding Larry had his full time managers announce who would be working for whom and where. The Primary manager, Asshole #3, looked over at me. I knew before he said a word where I was going and despite having to work for him I was happy to hear the words “Raelea, you will be running Unload 1-8.”
There have been some challenges but that’s to be expected when running a new area. I already knew some of the employees since I was an unloader on 9-16. One of my employees on 1-8 was Tami. Her and I started the job at the same time and went through training together. She was approached by human resources at the same time I was regarding the promotion process. Tami is only two years older than me and because of her maturity, experience and being a female UPS wanted her as a supervisor. However, she wasn’t interested in leaving the union and having more responsibility. Tami is married and has a daughter. She wanted to come in and work her mindless job and go home. She mainly needed the health insurance for her family. I used to encourage Tami to become a supervisor but since I have been a part of the typical bullshit corporate bureaucracy I remind her often she made the right decision. Sometimes I wish I still did the mindless labor of unloading trailers.
Health insurance was a big incentive for many employees with families. The other big incentive was for college students. UPS has a program specifically designed to reimburse tuition for employees that go to school. I was looking into the possibility of attending graduate school in business. I had been informed of the starting salary for full-time management and thought that maybe UPS was for meant me and a chance to pay off student loans that have been hanging over my head since 1995. It seemed like my days of art, writing and especially music were falling by the wayside. I couldn’t help but question my motives but forged ahead with UPS.
I was becoming a corporate whore without actually having sex with the bosses to get promoted. Luckily the harassment I received from men at work wasn’t sexual in terms of flirting or threatening my job if I didn’t ‘perform’ some extracurricular duty. Thus far none of the full-time managers seemed interested in crossing that line. For this I am grateful. However, as a woman, I have been indirectly accused of being incompetent but I will continue to suck it up. I want to be promoted. I’ve already begun the process. There are two tests both psychological and business oriented and a formal full length evaluation done by my immediate supervisor. Once I pass I go before a panel of UPS managers and answer a series of questions through role playing or whatever is requested. For now, I focus on my job at hand and doing the best I can.
Lately there has been a group of supervisors that meet for breakfast after work. The Primary supervisors usually wrap up by 2:30. We pick between three restaurants close by depending on which is not the busiest. Many businesses here cater to the third shift worker. It is nice to go out, get a bite to eat and bitch about work with my fellow supervisors until 4 or 5:00 in the morning. Sometimes a full-time manager will join us which makes for an interesting time. The best part about that is they will usually pick up the tab and buy everyone’s breakfast; crazy, considering we get up to fifteen supervisors and employees to come out with us.
After Friday night sort the same group has started a new ritual. We have been going to a bar in Cudahy called Club Bagdad. I’m not sure where the owners got the name. They’re not from Iraq. They’re just white home grown Midwesterners. And the ‘Club’ part is mind boggling as well. It’s not a club. There’s no dance floor or stage for musicians; just an old beat up juke box filled with classic rock & roll, some real moldy oldies and a few new pop albums that I’m not familiar with. Club Bagdad opens at 6AM and most of its regular customers at that time are either us third shifters wanting to start off our Saturday in a drunken stupor or a pure bred alcoholic waking up to get a head start. They tend to sit at one of the bar and we sit closer to the jukebox and pool table.
I’ve been helping out around the hub killing time and waiting for Chris to finish up. He is usually one of the last part-time supervisors to leave. He’s been a supervisor for at least four years and knows more about the night sort and the entire Oak Creek hub than our sort manager, Larry. Larry began running this sort a year before I arrived. He came from the Preload with absolutely no hub experience. I came to realize that getting thrown to the wolves was something that never changed no matter how high up the ladder I went. I must be stupid for pursuing a career with UPS! Club Bagdad has become my refuge along with my fellow supervisors also in need of refuge.
Chris and I have utilized the time after the sort to get to know one another. I’ve learned a lot about him. He still lives at home with his parents in Racine. He’s 22 and has already developed a thrifty way of life. He says paying rent is throwing money away which I agree but he should move out on his own. He talks about Kim occasionally and eventually wants to buy a small house or condo with her somewhere in Milwaukee. Chris has been dating Kim since high school.
The more Midwesterners I meet the more I realize how old fashioned these people are. I feel like I’ve entered a time warp. I thought marrying your high school sweetheart ended with the baby boomers. And here I’m finding kids 15 years younger than me getting married and popping out their own kids. Wisconsin is a factory state for sure. So much of its rural population consists of high school graduates or drop-outs, who marry out of high school, get a factory job and have children immediately and not necessarily in that order. Many of my coworkers, employees and bosses have never had another job. They started at UPS right of high school. The ones that actually attend college usually do so online part-time or attend a small technical college with accelerated programs.
I’m truly amazed at how many people here don’t travel except maybe once to Florida or Arizona. If it weren’t for TV and the internet I would call these people downright backwoods. Even my small-town Guntersville cousins went away to college. No wonder I get strange looks from people when I tell them about the places I’ve been and lived. They seem dumbfounded when I talk about Hurricane Katrina like it happened in some third-world country.‘W’ Bush had too much influence in Wisconsin which is typically a blue state.
I know Chris isn’t the exception to most of my observations of midwestern culture but I still like him. I’ve been trying to get him to come out with us on Saturday mornings after the sort. He’s been out to breakfast with us once or twice but hasn’t come to Club Bagdad. I want to spend time with Chris with some liquid encouragement. I may express to him how I feel. I’m not brave enough to do so sober rather my brain puts on the breaks for my mouth. Sobriety allows my intellect to rule my emotions which reminds me of Kim while conversing with Chris. I think with a few of his Captain Morgan’s and coke and my Jameson’s on the rocks we could break the silence. I want my mind clouded with alcohol to allow my heart the freedom of a much awaited passion. He has flirted as much as I have these last few weeks. I’ve had a crush on Chris since October and I’m ready for the next step without thinking about the consequences.
It’s Friday again and the night went by quickly. I had so much fun running my unload. Everything ran smoothly and the bonus was Chris hanging around my area and passively flirting back at me with his boyish half smile. It must be a young male Cancer thing. Chris doesn’t work in the Primary but frequently passes my unload in order to get to the Brown Belt. He has been assisting the South side manager since the moves were made. For this I am grateful. I see him more often than I did when I ran the White. He has become very protective of me on 1-8 making sure I don’t get more than my share of bad trailers. Bad trailers consist of a range of problems from having a lot of bulk to getting a lot of drop frames or simply getting a trailer or two that won’t take a jack. The ‘bad’ trailers are usually distributed fairly between the four unloads to ensure an equal production down time in the Primary. Unfortunately favoritism tends to lean towards 25-32 whose unload supervisor whines until he gets his way.
Chris had promised me last week that he would come to Club Bagdad. Tonight, he was more open and friendly than usual. It could have been the same eagerness I felt. Despite his frequent visits we have inadvertently kept our fondness for one another on the down low with the exception of Lori. Chris doesn’t know of my confession to her. I had to tell somebody. I don’t have any friends outside of work anymore. Lori’s reaction luckily wasn’t of jealousy like Maya’s; instead she has been extra protective of Chris...and me! I seem to be the only one not protecting someone.
I decided to forgo breakfast and stick around the hub for a while to make sure Chris wasn’t going to change his mind. We finished up around 5:00 and went out to a break area with a few coworkers. I knew we were going to leave soon and the anticipation overwhelmed me. My stomach was filled with butterflies and I felt like I was in high school again. I hadn’t felt this giddy since I dated Nathan. It was the first time that I allowed so much time to lapse without making a move on a potential crush. Years of detachment most likely had something to do with it.
Chris and I walked out to the parking lot together. Club Bagdad was only 15 minutes away so we had about 30 minutes to kill before the bar opened. The temperature was around 15 degrees and Chris’s diesel truck took a long time to warm up. It made sense when he got in my car to wait. We sat quietly for a while and smoked a cigarette. I broke the silence with an Ani Difranco CD. We talked a little about work and Chris’s coursework at school but Kim’s name never came up. After a few more cigarettes Chris got out and he followed me to the bar.
I led the way into the bar. It felt awkward with every head turning in our direction. Did anyone know? The excitement of Chris being here soon reclaimed my emotions as we sat down and ordered our first drink. I was one step closer to the fantasy. One of the supervisors bought a round of shots. Chris and I had a shot of Yager. Down the hatch and more drinks followed. The group of us mingled for a while; playing pool and selecting songs in the jukebox. The warmer my insides grew the lighter my head flew. Fatigue brought on a good buzz sooner than I expected.
I waited patiently and finally got Chris alone. We sat down at the bar together while the rest continued in their discussions and games. My brain felt like it was on fire overloaded with questions and confessions. There was so much I wanted to say but I refrained not wanting to bombard Chris with too much at once. Luckily the alcohol helped in that department. What did Chris think or feel? I wondered if he felt anxious.
I wanted to touch him so badly even just to hold his hand. As we exchanged glances and nudges throughout our conversation I could sense his acceptance of my affection. We mutually scooted my bar stool closer to his. I wasn’t sure what we were talking about anymore. My mouth moved more than his but the words were floating out in a fog. I was lost in the energy that flowed through the connection of our shoulders leaning gently on one another. My face felt warm and I wanted Chris to brush his fingers against my cheek while I closed my eyes and let his mouth wonder towards mine. I wanted to feel his breath exhale into my parting lips and focus all my energy and passion in this one kiss.
I opened my eyes when Chris began talking about his questioning relationship with Kim. My desires ceased but the excitement grew listening to his doubts. It wasn’t the words but how they were spoken that sent out the message. I knew then that Chris would reciprocate any sexual move I made. However, that was not going to happen here in front of our coworkers for a number of reasons but mostly because of the UPS fraternization rule. I forced myself to stop and listen. Chris said he was drunk but he hid that just as well as he hid everything else while confined to his shell. I kept hoping his inebriated state would allow the crab to become exposed and confess his mutual desire. The more he spoke the more I wanted everything and everyone around us to fall away so I could curl up inside his arms. Despite my mind reminding me of his youth and naiveté I felt safe with Chris and I couldn’t recall ever a time in my life having this feeling with any other man.
9 AM rolled around and our group was dwindling. The sun shone brightly outside and I knew fatigue or the pressure of some family or girlfriend obligation was going to take Chris away from this pleasurable moment. Despite my drunkenness I still felt giddy. My nerves had calmed for a little while but the ‘late’ hour brought back the butterflies knowing it was now or never. I had to tell Chris something. I wanted more time with him and so thankfully for drunkenness I looked into his eyes and outright told him so. I asked him if he wanted to come over to my place. My throat tightened as I held my breath waiting for an answer. Without hesitation Chris accepted my invite. I ordered us one more shot and silently toasted “ to confessions.”
The few coworkers that were left were too drunk to notice Chris and I walk out together. We both stupidly got into our own vehicles and drove to my place. Luckily I lived less than two miles away. Chris parked his truck behind my car and we walked inside. The rush of hot air was smothering after riding in cold car that never had a chance to warm up. I gave Chris a brief tour then poured him and myself a glass of wine as if we needed more. It was something to keep my hands busy.
We sat down on the sofa. Chris sat upright and feet on the floor while I sat facing the sofa on his left with my legs tucked against my chest. For a few minutes there was silence between us. The last man that sat here with me in unsure silence was Jon which was over a year ago. I knew I had to be the one to break the silence and I did so by confessing how long I had wanted to be alone with Chris. He rubbed his fingers on the back of my left hand then turned it over and held it submissively. My heart began to pound but I didn’t move. We looked at each other and he put his arms around me and pulled me closer. I was surprised by his move but delighted nonetheless. He held me against him and I knew he could feel the passionate energy between us. My cheek was lying on his right shoulder and my chest was across his. His breathing staggered while struggling for control as each inhale and exhale intensified the next. His hands pressed gently and slowly moved up and down my back. I sensed his hesitation and intimidation no doubt of my age and experiences. I took a deep breath an whispered “I want to kiss you.”
I lifted my head off his shoulder and leaned back. I moved my right hand slowly towards his face. While softly stroking his cheek I leaned in closer. I felt every muscle in his body tighten. I glanced up and as we looked into each others eyes I knew this was right. He leaned in closer and I could feel the pocket of sensation lingering between our mouths. I closed my eyes and the kiss began softly with the subtle touch of his tongue caressing my lips while my fingers outlined his chin. Chris cupped his hands around my face and we passionately embraced; mouths entwined while our bodies began to pulse in unison. I straddled myself up on my knees and over his lap. He pulled me down kissing my neck and shoulders while his hands gently and briefly slid over my breasts. The blood rushed through my veins sending tingling sensations from my breasts to my abdomen. I pressed myself down and sat on his lap grinding my hips into him. Our mouths met again while our hands roamed effortlessly and mindlessly all over each other.
Chris held one hand behind my neck while the other moved along my arm, over my breast and down toward my stomach. I started to remove my blouse but Chris grabbed it and swooped it over my head while he kissed my chest and neck. I felt his erection beneath my damp slacks which only excited me more. He took off his shirt as I unfastened his belt and pants. I slid out of my slacks while he unhooked my bra. He kissed my mouth passionately while circling one hand around my breast and sliding the other over my panties. I went down on my knees to the floor in front of him. I began to kiss his stomach just above the elastic of his boxers. He gasped with excitement. His little whimpers and moans excited me more and I wanted now more than ever to make love with him. So I stood up grabbed his hands and pulled him to me while walking backwards to my bedroom. I sat on my bed and pulled his boxers down allowing my mouth to freely roam his body. After a few minutes he went down on me exploring every spot of pleasure I never dreamed he would find. We played and fondled before making love well into the afternoon then fell asleep in each others arms.
I was wakened by the sound of footsteps. I looked up and saw the naked silhouette of Chris’s body walking out of my bedroom. He returned with his clothes on then sat on the bed stroking my hair out of my face. I was still half asleep mumbling and asking him not to leave. He pulled up the blanket and crawled underneath then put his arms around me. He said he had to leave but didn’t want to go. I felt cathartic after holding back my feelings for so long but I wanted more. The comfort of Chris’s company filled my lonely world in Milwaukee and even just for this day I didn’t want it to end. I wasn’t looking ahead in terms of a relationship rather I was looking to fill the void of the weekend. I still had this evening, tomorrow and all day Monday before I would engage in social contact with people I trusted. The only other way to get human contact would be to go shopping or go to a bar neither of which I had the money or desire to do.
No one of this was said but my vulnerability must have been obvious. I felt like crying but knew that had a lot to do with post-sex hormones. My brain goes to mush after amazing lovemaking. I didn’t need to say a word Chris read everything on my face. I couldn’t hide anything from him even if I tried and I wasn’t trying. I was fully awake and sober as was he. Despite inebriation I remembered everything and he said he did as well. I asked him if he regretted anything and he said no but had a lot of thinking to do. I understood but feared this encounter was going to be brief. If I had just recently wanted this intimacy with Chris then parting would be easier. But it had been five months of secret desire perpetually growing like a snowball rolling down a hill. The farther it rolled the harder I fell for Chris. It may have been the sex but nevertheless I definitely had feelings at bay that were stronger than I realized until they unfolded this morning.
Chris was choosing at this moment to lie down with me despite his schedule or lack of sleep. He turned his body toward me then kissed me. I was still naked under the covers and my body was on fire again. His hands went down my side over my hip and down my leg. He told me how beautiful I was and how much he enjoyed giving me satisfaction. I fell into bliss this time with all my faculties in tact which made it much easier to physically become aroused and orgasm. He took off his clothes and took out another condom from his jacket pocket. This day hadn’t ended yet and I wanted to enjoy every little moment assuming it would be the last.
Back in the South
It’s August and the southern swelter of late summer still lingers; though some of the maples have already lost a few leaves. That could have been from the remnants of Hurricane Fay with her much needed rain. Georgia has been afflicted with a terrible drought for a few years now so I doubt any resident of this state is complaining about the early raking of wet leaves.
I’m sitting at my desk typing away with this half-ass six-finger typing talent and intermittent thumb or two. I never learned to type properly. I still don’t know how I got through high school and college, twice, without knowing how to type. At least I don’t do the one-finger hunt and peck. Thankfully, dexterity is definitely on my side but considering I’m a musician who plays a number of instruments that’s a given. The only real issue with my typing ability or inability in this case, is I have to look at the keyboard while I type.
My fingers wait patiently while my eyes float off somewhere toward the window. Much of my inspiration for writing these days has come from the view. My desk is intentionally placed right next to a very large window which overlooks the pines, maples and oak trees full of cardinals, mockingbirds and squirrels at constant play. The occasional hummingbird will buzz by going to and fro the feeder of red sugar water which stands in the front yard. I’m on the second floor on the side of the house so the view is almost comical in that either the wildlife has already accepted my presence into their tree house club or they are completely oblivious to my observations. I’m going with the former. Either way, the animals seem to enjoy the sunrise glistening off the dewdrops in the trees as much as I do.
I’ve been living in this big house in Fayetteville, Georgia since the beginning of April. Fayetteville is about 25 miles south of Atlanta. The house belongs to Rick. Rick and I have been friends for 19 years; since my freshman year and his senior year at Florida State University. We have also been roommates off and on throughout the years which almost mutilated the friendship a few times. He’s a slob, I like a clean house. I shouldn’t complain that much considering that’s the only real problem we have living together besides the fact that he procrastinates and is very lazy. I have pushed all of my criticism aside, for now, because he just made a special trip to Milwaukee to help me move down here. And at least this time the move wasn’t drenched with cold and ice and falling snow. That was the move up to Milwaukee in December 2005, three months after Hurricane Katrina.
Nope, this time it was smooth sailing away from Lake Michigan and the farther south we got the warmer it got and the more we could soak in the beauty of spring. It seems so surreal to think that Hurricane Katrina has sunk three years into the past. I lasted through three Midwest winters and I’m still not sure how I tolerated the weather that long. Funny, right now I wish I could get a small glimpse of that winter just long enough to cool this scorching heat of Georgia.
I have written several songs since I moved here and even revised a few older ones. There is something about this house or maybe it’s the heat that has fueled my creative fire. It could be that I’m not so far away from my friends and family anymore. It could also be that I am actually absorbing some vitamin D since there is a sun down here! I can’t believe how long Midwesterners can go without seeing the sun. It is so depressing. I went to a tanning bed about once a week this last winter in Milwaukee. It helped a little but anything imaginative in my brain was clouded by darkness, literally. I’m trying to appreciate my southern blood even though it has been thickened by the cold and having trouble enduring the heat. I’m sure it will thin out again after a few years in my hometown in Loxahatchee, Florida. That is the next stop.
As much as I love living here in this quiet neighborhood of Fayetteville and having the entire upstairs to myself I will be moving shortly after my niece, Rowan Marie, is born. My sister’s expected due date is sometime late November. She will have three months of maternity leave and upon returning to work I will begin as Aunt ‘Nanny’ Raelea. I decided a few months back that I wanted to care for Rowan for at least the first couple of years of her life. Infants in daycare don’t bode too well with me plus it will save my sis and her husband some money. This decision was the icing on the cake for my departure from the vast cold of Milwaukee. It couldn’t have come at a better time since my job with UPS was beginning to wear me down mentally and spiritually.
I wrote “Rowan’s Song” for piano and vocal in anticipation of the birth of my niece, Rowan Marie. My sister selected the name ‘Rowan’ after watching a film that had a character of little girl with the same name. Her curiosity of the name’s origin led my sister down a path in which we both have crossed throughout our lives. Neither of us practice any religion but Wicca has always seemed the most peaceful, and natural considering the religion is based on the energies of Mother Earth.
The Rowan is one of the thirteen trees of Wicca. It is a small deciduous tree native to the temperate regions in the northern hemisphere. There are more species of rowan in the Himalayan Mountains of China than anywhere else though it is commonly associated with the British Isles. It is thought that the name “rowan” derived from a Nordic word raun or raudnian which means “getting red.” In the autumn the rowan tree grows red berries and the foliage turns red as well.
‘Marie’ is a simpler story. It is our mother’s name. My sister knew her first born girl would be named after our mom and it just so happens to flow beautifully with Rowan.