Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sid Did It #5

Out of respect, all the names of the people I work with & for have been changed.

Somehow the stars aligned, along with the cast of employees, and I got my job back. The shuffle played in my favor, I broke even… welp- kinda. I missed two weeks of work in the process, which translates as negative several hundred dollars. Meh, effit, I’ll go with breaking even for now.

“Does everyone know why today is special?”, announces Ginny to the classroom. “Noooooo”, replies the gang. An unwanted smirk graces my mug while stacking $120 chairs onto the knee-high tables. Attention can be good, pending on the circumstances, however with this one I was hoping to make a swift & silent exit today. No goodbyes, no realization this will be the last- just a brisk strut cross the parking lot to the most dilapidated car within a mile’s radius of the school building.

“Today is Toussaint’s last day with us. He’ll be leaving for a new job when we get back from Winter-Break,” Ginny casts the cloud over the clan of 3, 4, and 5 year olds. Few of them absorb what she’s saying… except for Sid. His head peeks above the crowd like an Ostridge stretching for a view out of a prairie of tall grass. “What?” Sid replies. Ginny explains it more simply, which inversely makes it less simple for Sid. It’s not literally what she’s saying, it’s the intent she’s saying it with that Sid receives. It sets in, Sid gets it, Nolan gets it, soon even Neil gets it, but too preoccupied with generating a genius mind to care- Neil’s been caught staring at the lights, staring into the distance, staring into the vast amount of square footage the classroom occupies since several kids newly enrolled into our program. The increase in class population has spun his attention into all directions. Neil looks at me and mouths something… I tell myself its “goodbye for now, see you in the next one.” Yeah, something like that.

The look on Sid’s face won’t let up. “Can he be back after Christmas? Can we do that?”  Sid resists the reality. I smile, distribute my attention towards a stack of papers left atop the toy shelves, and sit with the rest of the gang. The chairs can wait, it’s my final day, what of it.

The gang groups at the door, exits to loaf their jackets on, and disperse into the arms of parents and bus drivers. I gather the papers from the top of the shelf, strut to the most dilapidated car in the parking lot, hit the radio to npr, and I’m out. Job done, job over, on to the next. Not departing without giving Sid a giant hug, I’ve learned far more about the capacity to be simply nice to someone through Sid’s progress since I’ve met him than I have ever experienced throughout my lifetime. The basics of being a good person lie within the day-to-day of a pre-k genius named Sid.

Wheels squeaking, belts clapping like an encore applause, engine shittily sputtering towards oblivion, I park Honda a half-mile from 25th & Nicollet (the winter headquarters for the time being, the Spyhouse Coffee Shop). I pull the key on the series of explosion of compressions and sparks to a stop. Honda lay silent, I glance to the papers atop the passenger seat. I am afraid of them. I’ll escape them momentarily in the Spyhouse to write for the mixtape, but in time there will be no evasion. The papers are the schedule for the month of January. Having worked so well between the Pre-K department and the middle school, I’ve been offered a position as a paraprofessional, once again, in a one-on-one. I can’t find it in me to go into major details, as there is an exceeding amount of confidentiality in this situation, however the palpability is enough to strike a presence even through thin papers mentioning its details.

Not to say the youth I’ll be taking on is more a challenge than any other kid, but for me- for me it’s more of a challenge. As we assess another’s humanity, we must assess our own. What are our bending points, sticking points, Achilles heels, cracks, crevices, baggage going into this? Any chips on the shoulder could halt my January tenure short. Looking in the mirror, asking yourself the same questions you dole out, standing next to the flame of accountability you hold everyone else you respect, measuring your character by a higher standard than the one you did before; all these elements of decency… I learned best from Sid. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Breathing By Default

My car has a 4 cylinder engine. Of the 4 cylinders processing compression, spark, and (I forgot the 3rd step), 3 of them are working. When you turn Honda on, he reverberates a sound that can only be distinguished as the Guinness book of world records performance for most hand claps by a human being in 60 seconds. Although they're not hand claps and more so the power-steering belt competing with the alternator's belt for loudest performance before the engine warms, Honda rolls like Atlantic City dice to and fro on 94 to make the magical trip to work and back... safe.

That single non-operational cylinder- that singular son'bitch is my alibi, my excuse, my crutch- the sole reason I don't dangerously greyhound it to the west coast and take up a friends couch while busting arse at the nearest Starbucks day-in-and-out. The choice could level my sanity entirely.

You know your friends that take pride in knowing where the salad fork is, keeping their cubicle organized, and returning redbox vids within the same day they've rented them... this is not the lifestyle for them. What would level my sanity in a week, could potentially destroy their moral compass and sense of gravity in 10 minutes flat. So... I can't make this choice to bust ass to Los Angeles, as I had planned so discreetly and publicly, as fast as I want to. I can't say “can't” because it wouldn't be true to the situation. Yes- I could move to Los Angeles right now, say “fuck your mother” to all the bills I'd plan on paying when my weekly income entered the 10,000's and put this whole half-reality on hold... perhaps the better word is “won't”. Yes- I will not- I won't move to Los Angeles like a Tony-Scott-film helicopter making a emergency landing to salvage what's left. Although I could... I won't.

For now, I take the trips to work (which praise be to Allah they gave me back, after shuffling the staff once again... this time in my favor) as practice for Honda and I to make the trek to Los Angeles as early as Spring, late as Summer. The trips to work finance Honda's new engine, finance a new laptop, and that savings side of the bank that could use a little more than a pick-me up.

With a debilitated engine such as Honda's, it requires a tad more TLC than the average machine. Whenever filling it with gas, it's mandatory I look underneath the hood and check the oil. Every time after stabbing the oil rod back into it's test tube valve, I'll find myself staring at that cylinder- that motherfucking cylinder. In my mind I curse it to death and wish it'd taken the beloved nice treatment to the new spark plugs I bought for him and his 3 buddies... obviously shot down, literally. Then I go to pondering the positive. Could the cylinder be saying something?- that perhaps I was supposed to stay in Minneapolis longer. A reason to all this, you say? How could I not think so and/or take up the challenge.

After hearing The Blend's new album, setting up the final tour dates for their CD release and farewell show, it was as if this was the way it was always going to be- as if there were no other way gravity or the rotation of the globe would have it. For me, and I know for Linden (The Blend's keyboard/saxophone player) it couldn't've happened at a better time. Linden leaves early January for his new apartment on Wilshire Blvd, a la California, whereas I stare at a cylinder in a 1997 Honda Civic per chance waiting for it to tell me why it decided to crap out before straddling Midwest to West Coast- how it failed to follow the crowd (the other 3 working cylinders).

What I've found from these episodes with the hood open, and the gas flowing to the fuel tank... is that dead engine cylinders don't talk. They simply stick with the piece of machinery that they were destined to be a part of- frozen in funeral amidst the turning cogs and lively parts still pushing forward in the process.

I shut the hood. Hop in the Honda, and head toward my daily destiny (j.o.b.) to take care of a handful of kids with autism, go home to write afterwards and finance a new engine with cylinders that reciprocate with California. As of right now, where I am, this engine reciprocates perfectly with Minnesota.