A RICH LIFE

I have always had a strong imagination. When I was a child, there were nights where I would lie in bed, waiting for sleep to claim me, with more vivid fantasies about knights and magicians than the dreams that would follow. On the walk to school every morning, I would picture the world coming to an end in a new way, just to pass the time (and, perhaps, in hopes that I could somehow make the school explode).

Until one day I realized that I had to move on. The perfectly detailed gun battles, the stealth missions against giant aliens, the jumps from thousand foot buildings with a parachute—they all were too little for me. I started spending my time on schoolwork. Instead playing clips of unwritten movies in my head at night, I passed out with a pen in hand and a notebook under my head.

I got a degree in finance, and was set up with a steady job. The office walls had that dirty, faded white color that looks simultaneously unfinished and ancient. Things were pretty good. During my breaks, I got a brief moment to myself to breathe. I usually spent this time picturing what it would be like if I were outside, but company policy was that all breaks not spent on the can were to be spent in the break room. Then it was back to the tip-tap­ of the keyboard.

And that was twenty-five years gone. Nothing changed. The occasional pay raise kept me feeling humble about myself, while the company’s profits quintupled under a budget plan I had proposed. They even offered me full health insurance coverage—and I mean FULL. They even scheduled check ups for me, I was considered that important to the company. Plus, the big guys said they could write off any costs anyway.

Then the day came where the check up didn’t go so well. It was an overcast day, with the sun just barely peeking out from behind the clouds. The doctors’ office was colder than it was outdoors. I came in for a routine check up, which I had once a year, and the doctor found a strange clump in my chest. The tests came back a week later, and they told me it was breast cancer. It had progressed fast, too, and was likely to begin impacting my health seriously within the next two months.

The company gave me leave—something that came marking both my twenty-fifth anniversary with the company, and the tenth year since they monopolized the market (of course, in America they can’t call it that, but the results were the same). I went to Spain, to Germany, and a load of other countries to try to clear my head. The head of the Euro branch of affairs found me a top-notch place to stay at, and I began to burn through my hefty savings.

One night, I took a break from the parties and the escapes, and went to bed early. I was nostalgic about my life. I had called family, friends, and even past co-workers about my conditions. My childhood memories of imagining things before bed came back to me, and I closed my eyes to picture myself in a meadow. It started well, but soon I had lost myself in a story about beautiful queens and valorous knights.

And it struck me that I had never been valorous. There was no adventure to my life. Sure, I was frequenting the top of the top in society, but the blow was hardly fulfilling anymore. There were no roadside breakdowns. No struggles. No victories. Just fun. So much fun, that it didn’t feel special anymore.

The next day I took a walk through the street market. An old couple was deciding between two vegetables, while a child ran from his parents in ragged clothes. They all had such smiles on their faces. They had made it. No, they weren’t spraying champagne into crowds of cheering faces, or sleeping with gorgeous models, but they had the heart-wrenching expressions just the same.

I walked my way up through a cobblestone tower with a name I couldn’t pronounce and looked out over the world. It was a misty day, with just enough fog to coat the horizon, but not so much to cover the city. They didn’t have ledge guards here—if you fell, you fell. And as I stood there, I pictured the life I could have had. I could have ditched that class, went on that hike, or went to that dinner. Maybe then, I wouldn’t be standing where I was now—rich, famous, and utterly alone.

And I jumped.

——

 

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DEAN’S ORDER

Dean’s Order PT. 1

Venti, decaf, hot

Skinny mocha with no foam

And something for you.

 

Dean’s Order PT. 2

Line is out the door

And the rain is pouring down.

What took you so long?

 

Dean’s Order PT. 3

Since you took so long

I will need you to stay late

To answer the phones.

 

Dean’s Order PT. 4

Go get the mail

They said there was a package

Labeled for my use.

 

Dean’s Order PT. 5

Thank you for your work

But we are letting you go.

Go clean out your desk.

——

 

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BREAK TIME! (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Flying

He’s riding the wind

On the backs of his people

Hoping to succeed.

 

Stuck

Someone spilled the glue

And now the table is stuck.

Just like we all are.

 

The Office

“Please, DO THE MAIL,”

Read the orange sign at my desk

As the clock strikes ten.

 

Break Time!

The ducklings waddle.

They’re on their way to the pond

For a brief respite.

 

The Next Bill Gates

His shirt had a stain,

And his hair was in a mess,

Not fit for the job.

UNDER THE GLASS CEILING

I was sitting on a glass ceiling. The chairs and tables in the room were all lush and fashionable. The grandfather clock struck 3:30 as the meeting drolled on. At the head of the table, my boss was in a clean suit with a red tie reviewing the documents before him, while to my left the freshly hired Ms. Tilda—Tilly, as I call her, flicked her thumb and index finger nervously. The room was a work of art, to remind the people below that they had more to aspire to. In the room below, the scene is very different. Workers bustled about to and fro—some with papers, some with water jugs, some with carts of giant materials.

We were all at the water treatment facility in Arkansas. It’s an enormous, windowless building, with water tubes running throughout the building. Every room of the building, save the room I was in, had pipes throughout it, along the walls and the ceilings. Some rooms had so many pipes you couldn’t even see the ceiling above. The room below had almost none. There truth was that the two rooms were separated by a few feet—there were two “glass ceilings,” one for the room below, and one to make up the floor of the room I was in. The only way in or out of this room was by helicopter. There was a huge roof above us, with enough space for two choppers to land safely. In the room below, I could see my friend, Shirley, a brilliant woman on her way to the top, down below. She was ordering another worker to do something, and pointing at the door to the stairs. I was surprised that Tilly got the promotion over her—of course, deep down, I knew it was going to happen.

Shirley was an outspoken woman, and she was really forward. She and my boss clashed constantly. She was typically right, too, and while I argued to him that this was a good thing for developing our company to bring to meetings, he went in favor of the quiet Ms. Tilda. It probably helped that Tilda’s father and my boss were good friends. That, and the fact that she was gorgeous. She was five foot five inches, blond, and well toned. She had enough muscle to look fit, but not so much that it was intimidating. She had a soft face, she giggled at every joke, smiled constantly, and dressed well. Today, she was wearing a short, dark blue dress that was tight to her body. The dress itself stopped about 8 inches short of her knees—would you even call that a dress? I don’t know fashion very well. She constantly was pulling the bottom of the dress down to keep it from rolling too high, which I found quite comical. But, she certainly stood out, and I think our boss liked that. He, or the investors at the meetings, often shot her quick glances.

Of course, Tilly rarely spoke during meetings—not that she had been to that many. We had two meetings a week, and she had only been brought on a month ago. Normally there were an empty chair or two at meetings, but since Tilly had joined we have had to add a few chairs. She was the only woman in the room. Unfortunately, those days didn’t last. You see, there was an accident that day. At 3:35, the main pipeline backed up—we learned later that it was from a build up of plastic—and the pipes began to burst from the pressure. The building flooded. I remember it so clearly. Every room with a pipe must have flooded in minutes. The water pressure was so high, it forced the doors closed. The building was old, and our boss had neglected to put in the easy-open doors that Shirley had requested a year ago. I saw the water flood up below me through the glass ceiling. Shirley was down there, pulling frantically at the door. When she realized she couldn’t get it open, she started trying to plug the water flooding out of a pipe on the wall.

Eventually she had to start swimming, and we looked on in horror below as she, and other workers, were enveloped by water. I can still remember her hand banging on the glass, as the air bubbles popped from her mouth. The glass was industrial, made to withstand the harsh weather of the area. There was no way she would be able to break it—it was practically bulletproof. Eventually, the banging motions became slowed, until finally her arms drifted listlessly through the water, and the life drained from her eyes. Of course, we were all safe in our room. It was the only one separated from the main building. Tilly was crying. Our boss looked shocked. I wish I could say I felt the same, but as I looked at all the well-dressed men around me, I could only feel like this was their fault.

You see, that’s the problem with the glass ceiling. It lures people into the false sense that they can shatter it. But the reality is that they will just drown beneath it. They didn’t need a fancy ceiling, they needed a door. A real path out of that hell. But what kind of boss gives people a way out?

NUMBERS IN AN OFFICE

There’s an assortment of numbers

Hanging on the office’s wall.

Each a different person to call.

And yet they are filled with wonder.

 

Look at how each number can weave

It’s way through the lines of the board,

Or together become a hoard,

Asking for each of us to leave.

 

Yet we stay here, sitting alone,

With our hands clutching the dials.

Our mouths sound like nail files

As they beg us “please” to go home.

 

And it isn’t till the clock strikes five

That we will get to leave them be.

It isn’t till then that we see,

These poor numbers become alive.