Dark Coffee Stain

Today I was stressed. I felt it wreak havoc on my mind, felt it crease the sides of my eyes and play tricks on my forehead. I felt it like a tambourine, annoying and pointless in my head. I wanted to turn it off, to rub it until it was smooth as a pebble and then skip it into the ocean. I wanted to see it submerged in clear blue waters and wait there until the waters stopped rippling, until the whole world stopped rippling, and all was silent.

But no. It kept keeping rhythm to my ever-coursing thoughts, latching onto them like a virus and replicating inside them until they were but a shell. I needed a rest, to sit down and breath. Instead, I kept walking down that busy kaleidoscope highway, the dull hard yolk making the buildings sunny side up. I fried on the street.

People were all around me, touching me like a dress on a hanger in a crowded closet, fingering which one to wear. I paced down Franklin Avenue; it was Farmer’s Market Day. A cacophony of rushed conversations and an insane sense of loneliness crept at me, drowning the shell inside me.

I just wanted to be home, back in my comfy bed. Alone. Quiet. Still dreaming of today. I should never have woken up this morning. I should have known that when I looked out my window and saw four black cars in a row that I should have just thrown back my blinds and covered my head with a pillow. And when, I sat at the table sipping Blackberry tea with a spoonful of sugar, and instead of feeling profoundly morning, but dull, I should have called in sick.

But no. I went to work and sat at my four by four desk right by the bathroom at Manic D-Press. With the remainder of the coffee for my boss Lilac in a mug and a stack of papers, I plugged in my charger and started working.

When I first started working at Manic D-Press, I was plump with excitement, living the life I had dreamed of since middle school, and now, I am emaciated, starving on an empty idea.

No longer does the publishing enterprise hold any source of personal joy and success. I don’t get a thrill from making sure that every single comma is necessary, that the capital S is indeed for affect, and not a typo, that there is a red shirt on page 4, and a red shirt on page 12. Despite the fact that the words of literature are my blood, I would rather be at home doing nothing.

And that is saying a lot. I mean, I love books. They are my escape. To this day, I remember my first chapter book. It was Mandy by Julie Andrews. It took me away from my bed, from the deafening boredom of suburbia. I lived in London as an orphan in a brick three-story house. I saw only the pretty things in life, the butterflies, the rose gardens, the little old lady who wore pink dresses and an orange flower clip in her hair. I discovered my cottage, hidden away in the woods, tending to it with love. I planted the yellow bunch of flowers outside, put the picture of a young girl staring at the moon above the tiny three- legged table that held the two blue teacups. I was the one that brushed away the dirt from the front steps, and paused to look at a young doe gracefully prancing in the forest, an instinctual smile on my face.

But, no. Los Feliz and its white-wash buildings are my surroundings, and the only flowers are the ones I put in my hair when I wish I was a hippie and wear long flowing dresses with little pink roses and clovers all over them.

I do love Los Angeles, though, and the eclectic sounds and songs, foreign languages and intellectual discussions that make up the soundtrack of my life. I dance to Jose and Marta having sex next door, to their “mas, mas, mas” and “aye, que sexy”. I smile whenever I hear Peter next door oooooming to tranquil music and his tiny shoes sitting outside his door. And I can’t help but laugh as Milda in her pink tracksuit and miniature Chihuahua tinkle downstairs.

As I walk, nervous steps trying not to make a sound, apologizing for every person I bump into, every accidental graze of the briefcase. I am no one, and yet what happened at work today, makes me someone. I feel my fingers trembling, as I try to recount those last few moments in the office, before I left in a hurricane of threats that sounded like a joke, only seeing it in images. Dark coffee stain on pristine white carpet. “Margaret, I just don’t belong here.” He looked at me. Can’t find coat. Light green nails with glitter and a purple butterfly.

This afternoon, well it’s going down in A Young Person’s Named Sammy’s History of the United States. To make sense of it, I’m going to have to tell you about Jeremy.

Jeremy. Brown hair. Blue eyes. Quirky. He’s my type all right. But, I’m too nervous to tell him. His voice is soft and excited, a merry-go-round of spontaneity and puns. And when he wears his brown chords, I just want to put my hand in his pockets.

My friend Chris thinks I should move on. She read this story I wrote about him and I where he tells me that he likes me too, and he takes my hand and says with incredible intense eye contact, “I want to hear your every thought”. Don’t worry; I changed his name to Dylan and made him have blonde hair and green eyes. Also, I incorporated some of Jack Johnson into his personality. He makes me banana pancakes the next morning. Anyhow, she put two and two together and decided to have a talk with me. I thought I was being really crafty, but no. All my secret intentions spilled out black and white on that dreaded eight and a half by eleven paper. See, that’s why I hate words, but also love them.

She thinks he doesn’t really like me, just as friends. And that I am imagining the sexual tension between us, creating an unrealistic expectation of him in my stories, and I’m only going to let myself down. She is most likely right, but I feel like we have this secret understanding, like we are made of the same. I’m probably wrong. He probably has no feelings for me, probably never thought about me for more than ten seconds (that’s how long it takes for someone to remember your name) but I’d like to think he does. I’d like to hope. He might like me, right?

Last week, Jeremy walked past my desk on his way to the bathroom. My eyes are on his every move, and I probably look like some empty-minded intern, eyes like reflective mirrors, wide and petrified to be looked into. Just as he passed my cubicle, the right side of his brown chords brush against the plastic wall. He stumbles a little bit, and with his eyes still ahead, he drops his pen. I jump from my seat, my hand a click away from the pen, just has he is bending down to pick it up. Our hands meet, and then our eyes,

“Oh no. Now we have to get married,” he says. He laughs in a good-natured way, my mind unable to come up with any sort of witty conversation. “Wow, you have really pretty eyes.”

“Thanks,” I squeak, as I blush furiously and avert eye contact. He walks away, and as I close my eyes, all I can see is his smile.

Sounds like I should be in high school, right? I’m working on it, okay! I have issues, but at least I am aware of them. It’s terrible. I am so aware of them, that I know exactly what my problems are, I just have no clue how to make them better, and instead of going for help, I write them all down, and drown in my own self-inflicted sorrows. Actually, to be fair, the biggest flaw about me is keeping secrets. And I know it, too.

It’s been following me all over the place, and it’s the reason I am not the greatest friend. The worst thing is, well it’s not the worst, it’s just average is people tell me that they will never tell me anything because I just tell people things, and so I don’t tell anyone one anything, because if I can’t trust myself, how can I trust people? Also, usually, I only tell personal things about me if a. you just happen to be in the room when they happen b. you told me something personal and I feel obligated to let you in a little bit into my head or c. I write it down.

It’s just this whole policy I have, really. I believe that people do not want to hear your problems unless they affect the other person in any sort of way. People only want you for the good times, and they don’t really want to hear about your problems. Plus, I always feel kind of exposed, like I’ve left the front door open again, and now people know everything about me, when I’d really like to keep them peeping through the windows.

And the odd thing is, that I love to write. And when I write, it is my mind in words on paper, and everyone can see everything because I lay it all out there, my beating heart bleeding on my desk. And I want people to see it, too. I’m not ashamed for them to read it, but coming out of my mouth, too hard.

My words always get screwed up, or I mumble, or I don’t think I’m actually allowed to say that to another breathing person.

Whenever I am in the car alone, I am quite a different person. I almost don’t know myself.

“Wow, Sammy. You are so weird.” “Ahehhahahhahyeahah…that was a strange laugh.”

“Good thing no one is in the car with you.” “Rachel you are not funny.” The car is rocking with indie-hipster-pop-happy music as I joyfully yell at everything. I swear and sing so loud trying to block out my thoughts, to exclaim my thoughts, to enjoy my thoughts. I am happy, but then I get outside, and I’m still smiling, it’s just I let myself back into the strainer, and let only the witty, happy, funny, sexual things come out, basically the things people actually want to hear. Is that wrong? I feel like everyone secretly does that but will never admit it; I mean who would want to.

But, back to Jeremy. He works in the cubicle across the room from mine, in the cover design cubicle area. He is pretty good friends with Chris, and she is in the cubicle next to mine, as well as my closest friend at work, well my best friend. Sometimes he comes over, and I think he’s flirting with her, and I feel all anxious, and over analyze their body language.

Gosh, I need to get out there. She says I need to move on, but he told me I have pretty eyes!! That means something!

I’ve already started cleaning up the room of things that remind me of him; I’m being realistic. I’ve made a bag of all those times I closed my eyes and still saw his smiling face looking at me, and when he said my name and looked in my eyes. I am going to get one of those Hoovers that suck all the airout of the bag and make it super thin, then put it in the grey filing cabinet with Jeff and Jake and Jesse. So I have a thing for guys with brown hair, blue eyes, and their first name starts with “J”. So what? it’s no big deal.

It’s just, he likes to read. I know what you’re thinking, I sound like a first grader when I had a crush on John because we both liked PB&J, and well I still think love is that easy. Okay, caught me. I am only saying that to defend my point, I know love is complicated. To be honest, I’m starting to think it doesn’t exist, “Love is a thing of myths, of musicals and movies”, as the great poet Samantha Evans said.

And that’s why he should be flattered that I have a crush on him, because I am nothing like a normal girlfriend. I just want to do things, to go on adventures. I don’t want to talk about things, our feelings, our families. I just want to smile. By having a crush on Jeremy, I am simply saying that I could imagine him in the front seat of my car going on adventures and having a magical time. I don’t want to get in his pants. Who am I kidding, I wouldn’t mind getting in his pants, but he probably doesn’t want to get in mine. I’m probably in the friend zone.

I lied again, I kind of want to talk about my family. I have such a hard time talking about it though. In high school, I went to a Red Hot Chili Pepper concert with my best friend Heather. We were both so excited, for it was to be a historic concert! With every opening band, the audience got more and more pumped. And yet, with every opening band, Heather got more and more frustrated with me. Her parents were out of town, and she didn’t want to have a party. I jokingly kind of told my other friend that her parents were out of town. She got mad at me, said she could never trust me, and I was basically in the doghouse. I knew she would, and I knew that I shouldn’t have done it, but I did it anyway. I told you, I have a problem! So then I thought that maybe if she had leverage that I would try harder to keep my mouth shut. And she admitted to me that she didn’t really know anything about my life. I wanted to cry. I mean, I’d like to think I tell people things about me, that they imagine what my life is like when I go home, and I’m not the only one that sits wondering what it’s like for Chris when she goes back for Christmas, or Mark in the copying department or Jeremy in the cover design department. But what more, she didn’t know anything about me.

I almost told her my darkest secret. The one that is so scarring that I have been working to remove it and block it from my mind even though it is such a huge part of the reason why I am the way I am today. I hate it, I can’t believe I did it. And I feel like people will look at me differently, not so innocently; they will be disgusted by me and pity me and I don’t want them to pity me. I’m fine, even though sometimes I cry about it, even though it’s not that bad, but it’s kind of bad. I can’t talk about it, or then I’ll start reliving it.

That happened to me when I was in Scotland last summer, and I felt so terrible. I sat in my dorm room on my bed and wanted to cry. It was too much. It makes me feel like some kind of horrible monster, and then it makes me feel like a victim. But, I’d really like to stop talking about that, so I’m going to talk more about Jeremy. He’s really pretty, and has these blue eyes that are constantly laughing, and I don’t think he likes me. So, I’m not going to talk about him.   

I buy a tamale, go home, take a bath, and crawl into bed. 

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