The Terror of a Ripe Pear

22 Apr

How do you say your real name?
Lelu tells him.
Ah. That’s cool. And, where’re you supposed to be from?
Lelu tells him.
Cool. Cool. Is that supposed to be in Africa?
No. Europe. East Europe.
Ah, cool. That’s cool. Yea. Yea, I thought so. Your last name sounds kind of, uh . . . eye-talian. That’s supposed to be in Europe, right? Eye-talia?
This fellow is called Michael Bayer. Like the aspirin. He is a small man. German, probably, Lelu deduces by the last name. But, American. Michael Bayer says “supposed to” a lot. The other fellow on the crew is Satoshi Watanabe. He is also American. And also a small man. Japanese, Lelu deduces by the last name. Satoshi Watanabe doesn’t say much. Lelu likes him. He brings his lunch in a small box. Which is in a small but wide brown paper bag. And eats it with chopsticks. Even soup. It’s some kind of mind-boggling gift to be able to eat soup with wooden sticks.

They break away, each to his assigned task. Lelu empties the trash cans, drops off an extra plastic bag at the bottom of the receptacle, then inserts a new bag. Ties it at one end so it fits around the ring snugly. Then he cleans the toilets. And the sinks. Then he washes the floors. Next to the toilet, in the men’s, the floor is always sticky. In the women’s, the floor around the trash container is always littered with used, balled-up paper towels. Bad aim all around, Lelu thinks. From everyone.

Imagine the terror of an impending deathly drop. A long drop. Say, twenty feet. Thirty. It’s awful. Imagine it inhabiting every fiber, like cancer. Like the Sword of Damocles. Held by a single horse hair. It’s right there, above the head. Imagine the dread of a ripe pear, barely hanging. Barely. Weighing heavy every minute. Pulling down on the branch. The impending violence of the thirty-foot drop. The awfulness of the inevitable. Imagine the horror of that pear as it waits to fall.

This is what Lelu thinks of as he wheels the giant overflowing trash container out toward the elevator. Michael Bayer is dusting desks and looking into drawers. He sniffs in some kind of allergy or cold. Incessantly. Satoshi Watanabe is off down the hall with the vacuum. Lelu can’t see him. But he can hear the machine. It grows softer and then gets louder. Then softer. And then louder.

Halftime

16 Apr

At the break, Lelu eats from his brown bag sitting on the polished floor next to the elevator. The other fellows gather together in someone’s office. They’ve been a crew for a while so there’s minutia to dissect. It’s all right. Lelu likes eating alone. There is laughter that bursts out of the office, and it startles Lelu. Two fellows are sitting on the desk gesticulating and laughing. Lelu likes the offices after working hours. They mostly smell like something he calls functionary. That is an amalgamation of ink, paper, toner cartridges, recirculated air, bitterness, staplers, WD-40 lubricant, and paper clips. Functionary.

They all are immigrants but most of the crew sound like Americans. They say things like:
– How’s it going?
– It’s Friday!
Lelu thinks that is an odd response to the question. Or, they all say welcome in response to thank you. That is also odd. You are greeted with welcome when you arrive in one particular place not when you thank someone. Odd, this.

In the paper bag there is: a small apple, two slices of white bread with bologna in between and mustard in between the two slices of meat. One round chunk of liverwurst wrapped in plastic wrap. Embedded into the chunk are three halves of black olives. Also, a hard boiled egg in a sandwich bag. Tomorrow there will be: three green onions, another round slice of liverwurst with olive chunks, four radishes, and a sandwich with feta cheese pressed thinly in between the bread.

The floor is clean. Shiny. He had polished it earlier in the night. There’s a saying here: you can eat off the floor, it’s so clean. And it is. Tomorrow, Lelu thinks he will try to do that. Eat off the clean, polished floor. Next to the elevator.

Everyone Is Pushing to be Happy

15 Apr

In the mirror he practices two things. Smiling. And, oddly, the possible look of his face as he’s lying in a coffin. Dead. It’s peculiar, this desire to see himself dead. He closes his eyes. But, not all the way. He needs to see. So he barely keeps them open. Tiny slats. Looking through out-of-focus eyelashes. Interesting mouth. Corners down or . . . just normal. What would happen to the flesh. How would it look. Rigidity from death? The smile face looks perhaps even more disturbing than the death face. There’s the interview smile. The friend smile. The first impression smile. The I’m just generally happy smile. They’re all grotesque. Like in photographs. What a macabre idea, the smile face. Captured indefinitely.

Later will come the terrors of the night. This time they will be different. They will be the terrors of work. Overnight work. He won’t be asleep. Everything will reverse. He throws down a glance at the paper again. An address. And a name. First name “Mister.” Underneath the last name a parenthetical reminder: “(supervisor)” The job is office cleaner. Hours begin at eight in the evening. End at five the next morning. There is a break worked in there somewhere. For lunch, probably.

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