Down on luck. Up on hope. **Random as always
|A few hundred dollar bills were still on the ground.
I had been throwing them at my girlfriend pretending she was a stripper while she danced around to Black Sabbath. It was an average evening.There was a layer of smoke in the room, like fog over a damp valley in the early morning. A joint sat burning in an ashtray. We had both been drinking since before noon. From mimosas at breakfast to beer at lunch to tequila and whisky just like that. The day felt long. It was Sunday. The night before, I had won five-grand at the casino playing the penny slots. Before that I had hardly ever won a dime. Before that, I despised gambling. I was twenty-five years old, it was one of my best years so far.
“Pick those bills up before you lose them,” said Ashley. “You’ve lost enough of that money already.”
“What, how?” I asked. “I might’ve wasted some of it, but to say I lost any is incorrect.”
“Just pick them up,” she pleaded. I just moaned.
“I don’t want to go to work tomorrow.”
Ashley was brushing her hair in the bathroom in front of the mirror. She was wearing a dark blue thong with a matching bra. One of the straps was down past her left shoulder. I was admiring her tan cheeks while laying in bed. My view was upside down. The hundreds were still on the ground.
“Call out,” she said.
“I probably will.”
“Even though you did last week.”
“Yes you did, on Monday. Do you even remember last week?”
“Veronica’s birthday,” I said with my face in the pillow.
“Yeah, you were wasted.”
“Everyone was wasted,” I rolled off the bed and onto the ground. I picked up the bills. When I got up, the room was sort of spinning. “It was a party,” I concluded.
“Not as wasted as you, bub.” She was probably right. But so was I.
The pool sounded nice and I suggested it only to be denied. It had been a long weekend, just like the weekend before. Hell, they’re all long until Monday comes around to prove just how short they really are. I walked down to the pool anyways. It was a warm night and I knew that a dip under water would do my head some good. Tylenol isn’t the safest product in the world to consume, but neither is most of the shit I put in my body. It’s still a temple and all that, my body, just on a different street, a different area code. Anyways, I had just taken three Tylenol and made some coffee, it’d be ready when I returned. There was a joint resting behind my ear, one in my mouth. There was nobody down at the pool. Very surprising, as the summer had brought its best and the beaches had no parking. It was fairly late, I suppose. All the better for me. I stepped in and swam a few laps. The moon was out now, up above in crescent form, almost like it was smiling down at me. I whisked around and got out to smoke a joint. Halfway through it, a younger couple came inside and locked the gate behind them. They came to use the jacuzzi. I offered them some smoke and they finished the twig off with me. I got back in the pool and floated lazily for a while, got out and walked back to my apartment. I felt better as I walked the hundred yards back, past the mailboxes, dripping in the brisk evening air. Work didn’t seem so bad now. We made chicken tortilla soup for dinner and cranked up the AC. I was drinking purple Gatorade, light purple, not dark, and a Coors Light and we were watching the news. Well, not really. We were watching Anchorman with Will Ferrell.
“I’m not going to call in,” I said.
“Feeling better now?” she taunted.
“I am, and it’s still early. All is well.” I almost lit another joint, but set it back down. Ashley laughed.
“I’m going to have a long day tomorrow, Jim has been on a roll lately.”
“What now?” I asked while slurping down the rest of my soup.
“Just everything,” she said. “Everything about him and the employees and that place. It fucking sucks.”
“Well at least you don’t feel like you’re gonna get fired every day.”
“At this rate, who knows?”
“No,” I told her. “You’re safe.”
Our room was cold. The AC had done its job so I turned it off.
The next morning, Ashley was sleeping and the light was flickering in the kitchen as I tossed the coffee grounds from the night before and grinded up a few new beans. The aroma eased its way through the entire apartment, bouncing off the walls and back into my nostrils. I had just changed the batteries in the light, but the annoying glimmer sustained. I unscrewed the bulb and sat in the darkness for a while. I do that a lot. I’m not a fan of the darkness or anything, but the sun would be rising soon. I lit a candle and got lost in the moving shadows on the wall. I always get the same kind of scattered thoughts in the morning. It’s a time of tamed, half-baked reflection. I looked inside the room and saw Ashley cover her legs with the blanket where the fan was hitting her. Our room was hot, but the fan air was chilly. The ice pack at the edge of the bed had melted some time in the middle of the night. The scented candle smelled of pine; the smell of Christmas. It’s July, though, not December. And it’s hot. The past month has been hotter than usual. The news says one thing, and the news says another. I don’t care one way or two ways. I’ll be at work soon. Me and the sun.
My pants are stained with dried mud, and though my shirt is clean, it has a light brown fade to it. Almost like brown and white tie-dye. It’s just dirt. My socks, the same. I wear boots to work, they’ve seen better days, but they’re supposed to be dirty. There’s no tip-toeing in the mud. I wear a big straw hat and most days I have on my orange Nelson Construction long sleeve t-shirt. It’s just too hot down south. We’re working five miles north of the Mexican border. Last week we finished a job in La Jolla. Last week was better.
The sunrise came with a sherbert colored sky. Leftover clouds from the night before boasted an orange and pink glow. I sat and appreciated the cotton balls above as they moved at the pace of a snail. I drank my coffee and dumped most of it out. I splashed some water on my face, made a big grin, plucked a pepper out of my teeth and flicked off the lightswitch. I get picked up every morning at five-forty-five. It’s the best time of day, in my opinion. The most romantic moment I have every morning is standing outside in the cool air before the heat arrives and makes me eager and angry. That and in the evening when Ashley and I do the freaky-deaky.
Her name tag said Jennifer.
She was my personal banker at the local bank up the street from my apartment. I have been going there since Ashley and I moved to this southern California town on the outskirts of San Diego ten years ago. Jennifer had been there just as long, she opened our accounts that short decade ago. Her and Ashley had become friends over the years and I had tagged along on my fair share of double dates with them and some real losers. The poor girl attracted scum like a magnet on the fridge. A lot of swinging and a lot of missing. She was our friend, though. It was the least I could do. I was at the bank inquiring about a loan. Work had been slow and to put it frankly: I was in deep shit. We had moved to save money, and it was the right decision, but I was beginning to worry that our primest real-estate might soon be my car in an industrial building parking lot next to the McDonalds up the street. I was sitting at Jennifer’s desk while she finished a phone call. She rolled her eyes and pretended to cut her throat with her finger. She laughed in silence and stuck out her index finger in my direction indicating that she’d be done in a minute. Five minutes later, she hung up.
“Oh my god,” she said. “Sorry. Sorry, that took so much longer than it needed to. This place is a hell hole. How are you dude? I hope this is a good visit and not a bad one.” She was shuffling some papers on her desk and organizing her pens, paper clips, this-and-that.
“I wish it was,” I told her. “I might be putting you in a weird spot.”
“How much?” she asked, almost immediately.
“You’re here for a loan. Dude, I’m your banker. I’m like your mom, only I can’t legally tell you what to do with your money. However, I can make suggestions.”
“What do you suggest?”
“Stop spending your money like a drunk child.”
“There’s a funny image,” I started laughing. Jennifer was not as amused.
“How much are you trying to get?”
“Not that much, the interest will kill me.”
“I can help with that, just tell me how---”
Jennifer’s boss walked by as we were talking and gave her a long stare. She said good morning as he walked by and ignored her. His greasy bald head was blinding. And his suit looked like it was designed by a blind person.
“Tacky motherfucker,” said Jennifer under her breath. “He is the worst.”
“Yeah, he has never come off as a pleasant person.”
“It’s because his wife cheats on him and his dick is probably limp.”
We were both laughing now.
“Seriously, though, how much?”
“Five grand?” She raised her eyebrow and started flipping through some papers. She found the one she needed and smiled, then she started writing on it.
“Here,” she said. “Sign this.”
“What is it?”
“Just sign it. Do you not trust me?”
I signed it and she said, “Go take it to the banker.”
“Any one, you dip!”
“I don’t get it.”
“Take it to the damn banker,” she yelled. Then softer, added, “She’ll give you five grand.”
I was holding the paper and moved slowly away from her desk. I felt like I was committing some type of crime, like all eyes were on me. Jen just smiled.
“Have a good day, sir. Thank you for banking with Mattown Financial.”