Short Story - "The Office"

Discussion in 'Writer's Block' started by _Rex_, Oct 28, 2006.

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  1. _Rex_

    _Rex_ Manifest Sexy

    Sep 28, 2006
    The format may change by posting it on here but here it is:

    Through strained eyes, I glanced over at the clock on the nightstand. Just off to the left
    of our five year old daughter, who sat giddily on my stomach, the letters seemed to
    glow with an abnormal brightness; blurry, red and nearly illegible with a glowing hue
    around them.
    5:23 AM
    Looking back up at Athaleyah, who I had nicknamed Yayah years before, I couldn’t
    help but smile. There she was with her big, green, round eyes, peering down at me. Her
    straight, black hair was done up like Princess Leah from Star Wars and she was sporting
    her brand new pink dress which she had picked out herself for the first time while
    shopping with my wife, Vanessa, the night before. It was our daughter’s first day of
    Kindergarten and it showed across her face as she smiled from ear to ear, causing the
    bridge of her little nose to wrinkle up right where the few random brown freckles had
    been sprinkled under her eyes. If not for this small trademark of mine, and her straight
    Native hair, she would be the spitting image of my wife.
    “Daddy! I’m going to school today,” my daughter said as though we were taking her
    to Disney Land.
    “Are you sure that’s today?” I asked in mock doubt, with a serious expression on my
    “Yep, mommy gave me cookies and an orange and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
    and a blue jello and . . .” she went on as I feigned an emotional moment. Playfully I
    pretended to cry, exaggerating my wife’s reaction from the night before when our
    daughter proudly modeled her new outfit, backpack and Pink Panther lunch pale for us.
    “Daddy, don’t cry!”
    “Yeah daddy, don’t cry,” my wife quipped as she walked in the bedroom door, coffee
    in hand, “Breakfast is on the table downstairs.”
    The aroma of the hazel nut filled the air.
    Athaleyah giggled, as I tickled her, and then ran off with our slightly fat bulldog
    puppy chasing close behind.
    As she sat down in the wooden chair that I had carved for her when we first found out
    she was pregnant, I couldn’t help but think back five years ago. She used to nurse our
    daughter in that chair and on several occasions I would wake up to find her rocking there,
    watching the sunrise through the bedroom window which took up the entire wall.
    “What are you thinking about?” she asked, as I sat up in the bed staring blankly at her.
    I wanted to tell her how much I hate my job, how much I hate the fact that I drive two
    hours into the city and have to leave her here by herself. How I feel like I’m slaving away
    my life just to maintain our beautiful red brick and log home, on this ranch, with the 4 car
    garage and her art studio upstairs. I wanted to tell her how I’ve been feeling numb lately,
    but what good would that do? It isn’t proper for a man to complain about his life when
    God has blessed him with so much. After all, there are many who are much worse off
    than we are. I used to be one of those people and I had no intention of going back.
    “How beautiful you look,” I replied, winking at her flirtingly.
    She smiled in the most seductive way as she sipped her coffee.
    “You better go eat your breakfast before it gets cold.”
    Climbing out from under the covers, I grabbed a pair of boxers from the drawer and
    tried to step into them as she playfully slapped my right cheek and laughed. After
    hopping around on one foot and swaying a couple times, I grabbed my robe and headed
    out of the bedroom and down our spiral staircase to the basement where I would eat
    breakfast, read the morning paper with the news on and smoke a cigarette, before heading
    off to work in my new Cadillac Escalade.
    Today would be the same as every other. I would drive to work and listen to music,
    thinking back on how life used to be. Then I would remind myself how life is so much
    better in many ways now and why I’m still working at this soulless job that I absolutely
    hate. I’d tell myself that all I need to do is get through the week and then I’d be able to
    come home and spend the weekend with my family. That would make it all worth while.
    I would ride our horses with my wife and daughter. I’d sit out by the river with our
    daughter and read to her or teach her how to fly fish while my wife talks to her mother on
    the cell phone or writes her poems. We’d take a trip to Santa Barbara, or even make the
    drive up to the Bay Area and stay in a hotel for the weekend.
    After brushing my teeth, I stood staring at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, the
    cascade of questions roared in my mind like a waterfall, “How had life become so damn
    mundane, with every weekday almost identical? How had this job become my life? How
    had I changed so much in such a short time? Is the old me gone forever?”
  2. _Rex_

    _Rex_ Manifest Sexy

    Sep 28, 2006
    Turning toward the shower door I scribbled out my thoughts, with my index finger, in
    the moisture that had gathered on the glass: When I look into the circus mirror and see a
    distorted version of myself, I can’t help but wonder if he’s in there looking back at me,
    thinking that I am the one who’s vague.
    After staring at the words for a moment I pushed my thoughts back inside, where
    society had taught us men that they belong, and wiped the writing from the shower door
    before heading off to work.
    On my way out, I kissed Vanessa and she asked, “Do you wanna meet for
    lunch today?”
    “What time?”
    “Could you take your break at two and meet us in Santa Monica on 3rd Street, in the
    Promenade?” she asked.
    “The Cheesecake Factory or Italian?”
    “I told Leyah that I would take her to the Pier to ride the Ferris Wheel after school
    today,” she said. “I just figured that since we’d be there we could all eat a late lunch
    “Yeah, that’d be fine, where do want to eat?”
    “Italian at Two?”
    In my best Godfather impression I replied, with my chin out, like Don Corleone, “You
    made me an offer I can’t refuse.”
    “Yea, ok Michael,” she said smiling.
    “AH! That was Vito, not Michael,” I said, in a shame on you tone.
    “Whatever,” she said, smiling over her shoulder as she walked away shaking her
    backside at me in an over-exaggerated manner.
    I watched her walk across the room, and leaned around the corner, as she continued to
    smile back over her shoulder. Seven years of marriage and we still flirt as though we’re
    going on a month.
    We had met when I was twenty four and she was twenty one. I had gone to a poetry
    slam in North Hollywood and she was the host for the night. She opened with a
    poem titled “The Fall of Man” and I knew at that moment that she would be my wife. It
    may be a cliché to say that one can know such a thing at first site; but clichés exist for a
    reason, I suppose. Either way, we had left there, that night together, and went to the
    Promenade. We ate at the Italian Restaurant on 3rd Street and later spent the night on the
    beach talking until sunrise. I proposed three months later and we’ve been married since.
    As I backed out of the driveway, the earpiece for my phone in my ear, I listened to my
    “You have twelve new messages.”
    After listening to all of them, I turned the phone off, making all the mental notes of
    what had to be done for each one. Driving through the mountains that surround Los
    Angeles, I listened to the radio. Coming down the coast from Thousand Oaks, just
    outside of Malibu, it occurred to me and I spoke, out loud, to myself.
    “I haven’t taken a day off since I started working at the firm.”
    It hit me like a train and I pulled over at a small Mexican stand. The man was selling
    fruit and flowers. I bought a dozen roses from him, for my wife, and got myself a peach.
    After washing it off with a nearby water hose, I continued on and drove down to Venice
    Beach. The traffic hadn’t gotten too busy yet, as it was still early, so finding a parking
    spot wasn’t all that difficult. After locking the doors I walked down the beach with my
    beige dress pants and un-tucked white dress shirt on. Fortunately the shoes my wife had
    set out for me were my white slip on dress sandals, so I wasn’t too out of place.
    “Damn, I’ve changed,” I thought to myself as I walked along, looking at the shops
    beside the sidewalk, which were filled with bootleg CD’s, weed paraphernalia, and Bob
    Marley merchandise. A couple women were roller blading past and several body
    builders were off to my left at the outdoor Gold’s Gym, working out. Off in the distance
    the black guys had already started playing basketball for money and the skinheads were
    off to the right trying their best to look scary as they stared down the foreigners who were
    here on vacation. The mime was already in place standing perfectly still like a statue and
    I couldn’t resist.
    Reaching into my billfold I dropped him a ten and he began to move. Standing
    there watching him, as my focus slowly shifted to the ocean over his right shoulder, my
    mind drifted off in the sort of daze that you get when it feels like you’ve temporarily
    ceased to exist. Then I heard it.
    Faint at first, but God, it was the most beautiful sound in the world. The six
    string Spanish guitar was echoing from down the walkway. After nodding to the mime, I
    began walking towards the sound. The guy playing looked like he was a good ten years
    younger than me. He couldn’t be more than twenty one but the kid could play. I just
    stood there listening with my eyes closed, inhaling the saltwater smell from the ocean,
    which hung in the morning air. A young wippy (wannabe hippy) broke my meditation.
    “You look like you could use some hemp,” she said as she tapped me on the shoulder,
    With just a glance at the girl who couldn’t have been more than fifteen, one could tell
    that she was one of those, “I’m against the system,” types. She was selling everything
  3. _Rex_

    _Rex_ Manifest Sexy

    Sep 28, 2006
    hemp, from necklaces to wrist bands, ponchos to skull caps. Her blonde hair was dreaded
    out and she wore a white tube top with a flower design wrap around her waist.
    “I made them all myself,” she bragged.
    “How much for the hat?”
    Handing her a twenty I told her to keep the change and then turned back to the kid on
    the guitar. He had his CD’s on a fold out table and was also selling t-shirts, posters,
    buttons and other things here and there. I watched as his long, thin, black fingers flicked
    across the strings contrasting the brown wooden guitar. After looking over a CD, I asked
    the young Mexican girl at the table, more than likely his girlfriend, “How much?”
    “Three bucks,”
    Astonished I couldn’t help but ask, “That’s all?”
    “He just wants somebody important to hear his music.”
    I handed the young girl a hundred dollar bill and put the hemp hat on my freshly
    shaved head and started back towards my truck. After putting the CD in the stereo, my
    eyes began to swell up. To this day there’s no way that I could tell you what came over
    me, but as I sat back listening to this kid play and rap along with it, the tears began to
    flow. His lyrics were commanding. He put his entire life story out for everybody who
    cared to listen. From being raised by a single mother and never knowing his father to
    watching his older brother get gunned down in the street, his words flowed out of the
    speakers and straight into my soul. He was me, ten years ago. His faith in God; his love
    for his girlfriend who he wanted to marry as soon as he could save up enough money; a
    strung out cousin who went from being his hero to a reminder of how frail we are;
    and the dream that tomorrow may be a new day, with a whole world full of possibilities,
    was everything that I was ten years ago and still am today.
    Other than the color of our skin the only thing that made this kid different from me
    was that I have allowed the easy profit to steal away my soul. Of course, inside, I was
    still there lingering, resting, waiting to be reborn, but the shame of the truth was attacking
    me. I had abandoned myself and become something I never intended on being. I was
    leading two lives. My family world, in all its authenticity; and then on the other end of
    this seesaw existence was the viper who uses his venomous words like arrows to murder
    the truth and market its’ carcass to support this weekend hideaway beyond the hills of the
    city. I had become a divided man. I had left the ghetto and forgot everything that it gave
    me, to purchase my one way escape. The ghetto made me, and I’ve given nothing
    The ghetto was a father to me. He was an unbiased mentor who built a foundation
    inside me. His filthy streets with alcoholics and heroin fiends became the inspiration for
    my soul. I’d watch as prostitutes would sell their flesh and split the profits with their
    pimp, who was like a father to them. Though a father who beat them and would treat
    them like trash, at least he knew their names. My father showed me four year old black
    babies on the apartment steps crying because they had nothing to eat, as teenagers would
    break-dance on flattened out cardboard boxes just a block away. The graffiti adorned the
    walls of every building and the gunshots at night were so common that I’d have to make
    myself remember it wasn’t normal and that it shouldn’t be that way. It wasn’t that way
    before we had moved here from the small desert city of Barstow, it was quiet then. The

    helicopter overhead, which would have seemed like a military invasion when I was
    five years old and now again, had become just another common occurrence.
    My ghetto father, even one time, showed me a crack in the curb where a dandelion
    had grown. I stood off at a distance and stared at it for over an hour. That dandelion
    represented me. It had grown through a crack in the curb, against all odds and bloomed.
    As I watched it from the steps of the apartment building, a junkie noticed it and purposely
    stepped on it, pulled it from the crack and threw it on the ground. What was going
    through his junkie head, I will never know, but I do know what went through mine. This
    place was going to kill me if I didn’t get out soon.
    That was the first time I went to Santa Monica. I had heard that people played there
    for money and so I walked to Wilshire Blvd with my guitar over my shoulder and rode
    the bus to the beach. When I got there, I found a spot in the promenade, sat down and
    began to play with my hat on the ground. In less than an hour I had made over a hundred
    dollars. Crowds had gathered to watch me play, and I was hooked. It was like a narcotic.
    I’d go there every day after school and gave the money to my mother to pay our rent and
    would buy our food with it so that she wouldn’t have to work.
    Her cancer was spreading rapidly and my older brother stayed home, while I was
    away and took care of her. My brother had joined the Rolling Flats, a local gang, when he
    was thirteen and was what they called an O.G. by the age of nineteen. When I was
    thirteen I wanted to join also, seeing him as my only hero. He refused and said, “No, this
    life is not for you. You’re different.”
  4. _Rex_

    _Rex_ Manifest Sexy

    Sep 28, 2006
    After sitting in my truck for over an hour, reflecting back, I looked on the back of
    the CD case and saw the kid’s contact information. My mind was set. No longer would I
    sit back and waste my life working in an office full of people who all look up to me
    because I have elected to use my words to free people who probably should be sentenced
    to life in prison.
    I spent the next several hours back in the old neighborhood and realized that not much
    had changed. The prostitutes and pimps, drug dealers and gang members were all still
    asleep, as they always were during the day; the vampires only come out at night. While
    the sun is up, the ghetto looks like a ghost town with white people passing through
    ignoring the speed limit. New graffiti adorned the walls, covering over the old graffiti but
    it was the same shit hole it always was.
    Because of my native background, college being paid for, I was able to get out of the
    hood and went all the way with it. As a seventeen year old freshmen, I practically lived at
    the Promenade and the Pier in Santa Monica and would switch off, depending on the day,
    between one and the other, playing different instruments hoping to be discovered. Of
    course I didn’t have a CD that I could sell, otherwise somebody would have signed me
    and school never would have happened. Then again, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.
    There would be no Vanessa or Athaleyah in my life nor would I have the ranch.
    It was when my Mother passed, a month into my second year, that I stopped making
    music and finished out my B.A. She wanted to see me succeed in this life and I decided
    I’d do it for her. I got accepted to Harvard and went there for Law and then came back to
    California. Of course it paid off, but now for the first time I’m financially able to step
    away from it. Between my wife’s art shows and the money I’ve put back we could start
    our own independent record label and I could give kids like this a shot at their dream. Do
    something positive for a change. Give back to the world. Who knows, if the label makes
    enough money we could open up youth centers, businesses to give the people work, and
    try to clean up the neighborhood.
    Suddenly it occurred to me, my wife doesn’t even know I can play. Could I still? I
    heard it’s like riding a bike. I remember the first time that I held a guitar, it was my
    brother’s. He used to tell me, “Nikayah, one day you gunna get out. This here can be your
    Many years later, as I held him in my arms while he bled to death on the corner that
    night, I started to feel like God had abandoned us and began to hate everybody in the
    ghetto. My brother was shot during a drive by as we walked home from the corner store,
    a year before my mother died. We both ran in different directions but they had followed
    him. When I returned and found him lying there I sat down beside him and laid his head
    against my chest. As I cried, trying to reassure him that everything would be alright he
    just looked up at me.
    “Nothing ever been right,” he had said while choking between his last breaths. “That’s
    why you gotta make it right.”
    He started crying and I cried with him as I held onto him. I remember watching him
    take his last breath. His eyes glazed over and the tears fell down his cheeks and his last
    words were, “It’s beautiful. It’s so beautiful.”
    Then he was gone. At the funeral, I tried to stay strong for my mother, who was no
    longer able to stand on her own and had to sit in a wheelchair. Being too weak to even
    mourn, she just stared on as they lowered the casket and shook her head, crying silently.
    After his casket was lowered into the ground she threw a rose on it and then looked up at
    “He never had a chance, Nikayah. Neither did I. But you do. Please, when I die and
    I’m going to die soon, stay in school. Leave this place. I want you to get married and
    have babies and have a family and live for all of us. Let us live through you. Please,
    Nikayah, don’t stay here.” She broke down sobbing and all I could do was hold her and
    cry with her.
    I lost all faith in music when my mother died. When she died, it died in me. At least
    that was what I thought. I swore that I would never touch another instrument again. Then
    I seen that kid play and felt the music wake up inside me. I felt that feeling I used to feel
    when my brother and I would sit on top of our eight story project building smokin weed,
    drinking 40’s and playing together. My soul was in that guitar and I pawned it off to buy
    my first couple law books.
    My mind was set and I found a music store. Walking through the glass doors I looked
    over the guitars hanging on the wall. The Mexican kid behind the counter looked at me in
    a smirking way and then pitched his lines at me.
    “Yo Esse, you play or you juss lookin fer a gift?” he asked.
    “That one,” I said pointing at the 6,000 dollar Strat on the wall.
    “You wann me to hook it up to the amp?” he asked in surprise.
    “As he did, I took my dress shirt off, leaving me in my tank top undershirt. When he
    stood up and turned to hand me the guitar he noticed the tribal tattoos on both of my
    upper arms.
    “Yo, you from the Hill?” he asked in a la familia-ish tone.
  5. _Rex_

    _Rex_ Manifest Sexy

    Sep 28, 2006
    Ignoring him I began playing. At first it was a little awkward, and my fingers were
    hurting as the calices were no longer there, but after closing my eyes I lost myself in it.
    Pouring my soul through my fingers and into the strings the wings began to grow and my
    spirit flew back into time. I was back on the roof learning how to play, my brother
    teaching me once again. The ghetto bird (helicopter) lights were shining overhead
    searching for tonight’s killer, in my mind.
    After well over ten minutes I stopped playing and opened my eyes to find my young
    Mexican friend staring at me with wide eyes, in shock.
    “Yo esse, that shit was crazy! I never seen nobody play like that.”
    “You take checks or cash only?”
    “Uh, debit, credit or cash,” he said after breaking out of his frozen glare.
    On my way to meet my wife I went through all the ways that good would come out of
    this. She’s always been supportive of everything I’ve ever wanted to do, as I have with
    her, so I wasn’t concerned with telling her in the least that I wanted to quit the firm and
    do music full time. But this was a part of me that she didn’t know. She couldn’t possibly
    understand where this is coming from unless I show her. I had buried this part of me with
    my mother and now was resurrecting it. After calling the kid from the beach, on his cell
    phone, we met up and arranged everything. He was to be in the promenade with
    everything set up by 1:30 and at 2:15 I’d meet up with him.
    After meeting with my wife and daughter, I gave Vanessa the roses I had got her and
    told her that I had something she needed to see. We walked past the stores of the
    Promenade off 3rd Street and approached the kid as he played “Cancion del Mariachi.” I
    had left my guitar with him and walked over to it.
    Vanessa seemed surprised as I put the strap over my shoulder and started playing
    along with him. At first I watched as her eyes went from shock to joy and then I began
    playing as I did in the store. Eyes closed, head back and all soul. We must have played
    for an hour straight before I finally ended the session with the kid and told him I’d be in
    touch. A large crowd had gathered around to watch and clapped as my wife, daughter and
    I made our way through the people. Later I found out that my new young friend had sold
    every one of his CD’s and several shirts.
    “Why didn’t you tell me that you play?” my wife asked in shock.
    After telling her the whole story and what I wanted to do, while we ate, she smiled and
    said, “Of course.” She then continued while I cut our daughter’s spaghetti, “You do
    realize that we began our lives together here at this restaurant?”
    “Yea, that was a nice night.”
    “Well, now we’re beginning a new life together,” she said before leaning down to kiss
    my hands, which she held in her own.
    That night after I came home from clearing my things out I found a painting just
    inside the front door. My wife had done it that afternoon and left it there for me before
    going to bed. It was a painting of me and the guitar in the promenade. My hemp hat on,
    tank top t-shirt, dress slacks and sandal dress shoes. At the bottom she had written a

    “With the sound of strings my soul soars through the heights of heaven and the depths

    of hell, back to a place where memories dwell, and frees me from my office cell.”
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