Way back when I worked for a famous catalog company that rhymes with H.P. Henny, the days following Thanksgiving were nothing short of hell. If you had taken yourself a happy little vacation to visit the family and eat dead poultry, you had to cart your ass back in time for the barrage of folks who just couldn't wait to get Timmy or Betsy or Susanna or Jim the best new toy, the best new pair of shoes, the best new lingerie—and for daddy—the best new tie. Unfortunately, early shoppers had beaten the pack and it was my job to tell the newbies they were crap outta luck, try another item, and another, and another. But first . . . upon arriving at the telephone center it was customary to stand against the wall and wait for an extra station to open up. Why? Because the staffers had over-scheduled their employees like Santa's elves munching on candy canes dipped in crack. They didn't care if you stood there for an hour, nobody was going to miss this fantastic event of mass consumerism via electrical wires of telephone trading. If and when you found that open station, and the bedraggled worker whose back end had been permanently molded to the shape of a lightly padded office chair passed by with a salute and a muttered, "Is the sun still shining?" you plopped down to a long day broken only by bathroom treks and forays to the cafeteria where husky-voiced women compared ass fat and whose husband had left who that week. It was a good job, and it paid well. I spent most of my time droning out the voices that came across America's over-bloated pocketbook, thinking about a man I'd been dating, and the failure, and the sadness, but the rebirth that comes from failure. The voices helped erase my own less-confident musings. You're no good. "And your next item is . . ." You're not pretty enough. "Repeat that number, please . . ." Would anyone ever love me again? Would I be lonely my entire life? Or would this go on and on and on?
I spent most of my breaks reading and hanging out with the black women who sat by themselves in a far corner of the cafeteria so the white women couldn't hear. I loved their camaraderie, their laughter, their warmth and shared sorrows. They accepted, but cautiously allowed me into their conversations. Then it was back to work. I doodled a lot, faux-shopped a lot. After work I'd light up upon closing the door of my el crappo Chevy. Taking frantic puffs of a Marlboro, I'd ask the angels to guide me. Was I heading in the right direction? Who the fuck was I anyway? Who the fuck was I?
Eventually I got over that man who didn't love me. Christmas came and a new year started. Sometimes it still feels like I'm in that vortex of voices, of sorrow and constant indecision. But this is a new Christmas, a new year and a new time. The questions will never stop, but that's how life is. It's when they go silent, that you should really start to wonder, that you really start to feel old. Ah . . . but I was older then, I'm younger than that now . . .