My Kind of Utmost Tender
“I find myself inclined to stop a moment in my present station, and to ponder that voyage, which I have undertaken...I am first affrighted and confounded with that forlorn solitude, in which I am placed in my philosophy, and fancy myself some strange uncouth monster, who not being able to mingle and unite in society, has been expelled all human commerce, and left utterly abandoned and disconsolate...”
- A Treatise of Human Nature, David Hume
Here at Pog® an EFFA1 succeeds each unutilized thematic MMM2. Beats me why me and Duane Duane don't utilize the MMM concepts. He's stubborn, protective of his creative integrity. I'm just a creature of habit. So sue me. Excerpt from today's MMM: DAMP3: HR Pete, passively protocoled: So how might we make our product more affordable? Me, standing (I currently don't sit and sleep only stomached): Lower prices? HR Pete: I guess lets maybe yield constructive proposals only if possible, please? Duane Duane, scratching his red bandanaed head: Construct pogs from recycled cartons? Me, rolling my eyes: Construct Slammers from recycled aluminum cans? HR Pete, shrugging: Lets also recall funds are presently insufficient for such changes? Me: Maybe we should make funds sufficient? HR Pete, wincing: Sorry, but DAMP-irrelevant? Roi, I'm requesting you please also sit? I respectfully decline and rub a lumbar disc like it's herniated. But it's fine, I lie. HR Pete: How about marketability? Sorry Roi, but you vertical is borderline distracting? Duane Duane, making a frame with his hands: Maybe advertisements? HR Pete: So I guess I'm going to stand. In all honesty I'm uncomfortable and intimidated with Roi's almost towering. I'm unclear on what's protocol. I guess I'm going to have to bite the bullet and say standing isn't an option for all future meetings? Unless it's the Friday PEPP4 and in that case sitting isn't an option. I'll type up a POP5. While I'm up I guess I could stretch for my indoor game. I've had this nagging crick in my shin... Me: How about recyclable advertisements? Duane Duane, slapping my back congratulatory, giving thumbs up: That's a good one. HR Pete, standing with his foot on the conference table reaching for his toes, stops and looks at me like I must be joking. I am but I'm not. Then HR Pete distributes the oxymoronic EFFA: Qa: Please use the provided space to suggest comments and/or ideas on how we might make MMMs more productive. Qb: Please use the provided space to suggest comments and/or ideas on how we might make EFFAs more productive in making MMMs more productive. Duane Duane's EFFA is sketched with conceptual Slammers, which drives HR Pete bonkers because it's not protocol. HR Pete requests he use the POG6 form. Duane Duane's an artist. He's got a vision. I'm a miscellaneous corking hobbyist. I've got a tangible closeted skeleton. I waddle like a bald penguin tepid with sarcasm. My EFFA: Eliminate the EFFA. Later the standard email will come from HR Pete: Thanks for your GREAT!™ input! Together we'll make Pog® a leader in the gaming industry! Note to self: On the next EFFA maybe write: Fire HR Pete? After the MMM and EFFA adjourn me and Duane Duane Rock-Paper-Scissors for mail duty. We're the staff, just us two. CEO Kiffin angles up the Mohawk with a paddle while we hustle around the rented office space above The Bowl-O-Drome®, a.k.a. shat creek, sans one. He leaves things to HR Pete, only coming in when necessary: pulsing the windowpanes with the randy throttled growls of his red chopper, mock casting and reeling in me or Duane Duane, reeking of cheap plastic bottle gin and fashioning a perennial 5PM shadow that must be the ghost of his former ambition. Bet he kisses the plastic gin bottle as much as docile Mrs. Kiffin, VP who's in the earliest weekly to dust CEO Kiffin's oak desk, rotund with sharply protruded done-up cheekbones, permed and stockingless. Duane Duane, oddly elbow-nudging me once: She's the early bird catching worm. She collects CEO Kiffin's mail, leading a wake of generous palpable perfume, like scented tears, probably to battle the stench of plastic bottle gin; mail left by me or Duane Duane on the enormous oak desk depending how poorly one of us selected Rock or Paper or Scissors. Her perfume is tragic for good reason. There's something menacing about romanticism. Something naked and jugular. This declivity into mutual antiquity. This risk of commitment, unveiling one's true self, willingly vincible, dangerously honest and open. To be utmost tender, voluntarily fragile. Not my kind of utmost tender. The emotional kind. Duane Duane Papers. I unfortunately Rock. He howls, thumbs upped. I recall Moxy. Last winter I let my terrier Moxy out to pee before work and a municipal plow compacted her into a snow bank. She was my fluffy white confidant, no fink, never stood a chance. Duane Duane bugged me at work, asked why so mopey? Finally I told him. He sympathetically slapped my back, offered to buy me a beer to honor her. Bereaved, I decided to accept. Me: How do you spell your name? I'll look you up in the white pages. Him: D-U-A-N-E. Duane. Me, rolling my eyes: Your last name, Genius? We just stared at each other for a while, unsure. We never got that beer. As I waddle to Postal I stop by Reception and ask Admin Gwynn were there any messages for me while I was in the MMM: DAMP or EFFA? I'm waiting for an important call. Admin Gwynn, biting a fake red fingernail, decent back-scratching length: Nope. She flutters wispy hazel lashes and asks did I do something different with my hair? What I did was spray on brown because I ran out of blonde advertised as Saharan Dune. Note to self: Everything should come canned. Success, Courage, Companionship, Etc. Me: Literally had my ears lowered. Admin Gwynn grabs my Dynamo!® tie and pulls me close. I smell her herbal shampoo and minty blemish cream. My lifegiver maybe flinches. I'm considerate of my posture. Her teeth, good biting white. Nose, deviated septumed so it whistles like a songbird. I tap my foot to her exhaled tune. Her, inspecting my Dynamo!® tie: That's so hawt! It's not hot. I know what she's doing and I let her. It's innocent enough. But I can't noodle her. I'm currently clandestine and sans paper bag. And there's a Liaison POP. I could get Slammed. By Slammed I mean fired. It's appropriate office lingo. Dynamo!® was CEO Kiffin's popular Eighties Cold War board game. The player/superpower to put the first man on the moon and harvest the most nuclear weapons wins. Me and Duane Duane dust it off whenever we get sick of beta testing pogs. Admin Gwynn puts her mouth to my ear, says she's tired of the cat and mouse. She asks do I want to meet her in the Postal cubicle after work and watch her bald kitty eat a yo-yo? My lifegiver definitely flinches. Her nose, a tantalizing siren. Her breath, sweet and ripe with concupiscence. What's protocol here? I should be appalled. I'm more curious in an anatomically viable kind of way. Me, shrugging: Sure. Then I waddle to Postal. When the Cold War ended so did Dynamo!®. CEO Kiffin failed to imitate his success with a recalled interactive version of Rock-Paper-Scissors with lawsuits involving plaintiffs bandaged and punctured and concussed. Then he developed SUNY7 alma mater slippers and rectangular mats for the boorish collegiate Rochambeau?!®, which harsh criticisms of I bet led him to the coniferous taste of plastic bottle gin. He finally rallied with Pog® in the early Nineties when I was a boy. Now I'm cusping thirty. Modern entertainment is almost all digital. Pogs are nostalgic and rudimentary. Hence, insufficient funds. We've wasted multiple MMMs brainstorming sales tactics like clientele WIIFMs?8. But there are none. Pogs were once collectable. Now they're trivial and forgotten. In Postal I sort the incoming, lick stamps for outgoing. I don't sit. I deliver to the HR cubicle. I drop a bundle of fishing mags on CEO Kiffin's oak desk reeking of disinfectant spray. Oddly, beside the wastebasket there's a beige stocking balled up, quivering. A nearby floor vent announces the thunderous clatter of ricocheted bowling pins. As I waddle toward the Production cubicle Admin Gwynn finds me. Her, singsong: Yoo-hoo! She tells me she just transferred a call to my voicemail, winking, mimetic with yo-yo tricks. She says it appears somebody copied her fanny, there's a fanny imprint on the copier glass. But I'm not up for the cat and mouse, detouring back to Postal. I check voicemail. It's MD Kowalski over at Utica Memorial General. Him, clearing his throat: The light bulb needs to be surgically extracted, no Ifs Ands or Butts. MD Kowalski's medical humor is textbook punny. I'm scheduled for surgery tomorrow. I'm told not to clench because if it shatters we're talking all kidding aside. I figured this much and shudder, chagrined. I'm glad for patient confidentiality. Experimentation is a method of acquiring knowledge. Note to self: Some things that go in don't always come back out. Like a billiard ball in the mouth. This is self-inflicted, the predicament: accidental. There's a lonely void in me that this temporarily fills. So sue me. I could use some Self-Preservation-In-A-Can. I delete the voicemail and deliver waning orders to Production where we laminate pogs and use an Easy Bake Oven to melt pewter for the carved clay Slammer molds. The Easy Bake Oven has got a crack in the side as if it sustained tremendous weight. The fubared pog-cutter's lid has been left up, which violates the Safety Hazards POP and when I go to close it I notice a pog stuck to a circular blade. This is typical. Insufficient funds to replace dull blades. But the pog isn't familiar. It's of two photographed naked people pretzeled, noodling. I cock my head, lifegiver flinching. My guess is Duane Duane got assigned a bachelor party SPEC9. But I never got cc'ed on any PSU10. So I take it with me, waddling carefully to Design where the floor resonates up through my bony calves from the bowling pin resetting mechanisms below. An amalgam of stale cigars and sweaty rental shoes and cheap beer wafts from the floor vents. Currently we're completing Duane Duane's most recent authorized POG edition entitled: Pandora's Pogz™. Duane Duane's designing the tsunami, bubonic plague and child labor pogs. I'm designing the arthritis, oil spill and arson pogs. They're packaged in a box, duh. Duane Duane's watching old Rochambeau?!® footage on the Internet, shaking his red bandanaed head with artistic offense. I know it's Rochambeau?!® because I hear the sounds of muffled spectators laughing at the nauseous groans of two perspired collegiates in their SUNY alma mater slippers struggling to stay upright and conscious, listing on their sections of the rectangular mat as they alternate kicking each other in the lifegivers. I show Duane Duane the odd pog and ask why wasn't I cc'ed on the SPEC's PSU? Duane Duane, snatching the pog, nervous: You're not supposed to see that. Me: Why not? Duane Duane, stiff and blinking: I can't say that I can say. I'm quick to remind him how he nagged me about Moxy getting plowed. Him, sighing, looking around, whispering: You can keep a secret, right? I think: Duh? Me, shrugging: Sure. Him: You promise? Me, rolling my eyes: Yes. Him, serious: Don't roll your eyes. Say, I Promise. He opens his desk drawer and adds the pog to a tackle box full of similar ones. HR Pete must've authorized overtime. I haven't seen him produce these. All the pogs show the same two people noodling: in an executive leather chair, in a cubicle standing on mail bins, on a copy machine mid copy. Me: Fine, I promise. P-R-O-M-I-S-E. Promise. I think both noodlers look vaguely familiar. I take another pog and squint, inspect closer. Him: Don't patronize me, Roi. Be serious. And quit the sarcasm. It's so trite and clichÃƒÂ©. Sarcasm's emotional Kevlar. So sue me. Me, humoring him, serious: Fine, I promise. I notice the male wears a red bandana and gives several hearty thumbs ups. Noodling proceeds on an Easy Bake Oven, on an enormous oak desk. That's when I recognize the rotund female's protruding cheekbones, perm and bare legs. And I clench, bewildered. I think something maybe just shattered. Duane Duane, responding to my bugged eyes: She's my muse. We're in love. I'm cringing, choked. Cautiously I begin to unclench. Duane Duane tells me to calm down. If HR Pete hears me gasping or sees me this pale he'll make us fill out MEDs11 and PAINs12. He tells me months ago when my Rock beat his Scissors he delivered CEO Kiffin's fishing mags and found Mrs. Kiffin, VP weeping over the oak desk. Duane Duane consoled her, gave her lacked necessary attention, lent an ear to listen. Simply, there. Made her feel integral, important. Her loneliness inspired him. She prefers ambition. He prefers unconventionally wide women. The kiss just happened. She told him to come to Pog® an hour early the next day. He brought chocolates. She let him in. The rest: etc. etc. etc. I faintly wiggle and feel the bulb intact. I sigh, relieved. I find a pog where Duane Duane's nude and cuffed to the radiator behind Admin Gwynn's desk while Mrs. Kiffin, VP spanks him with a blue Swingline. I waddle to my desk and drop my blue stapler into the wastebasket with a tissue. I think of CEO Kiffin: alone on the lake pickled with gin, crisp marigold dawn beginning to cascade over the Palisades where a boy once dove into a passing boat and was never found. Here, CEO Kiffin, the personified discontinued Dynamo!®, midlife crisised, is concerned only with the line's nervous tug while, unbeknownst, Mrs. Kiffin, VP's being intricately positioned here at Pog®. Her poged complexion terrifies me. The intimate face is the ultimate informant, the fink, a window into the nakedness of merely being. It releases a vulnerable arm of true self that swipes at the air, desperate to interlock its fingers with another's. But what of hands unclasped, unaccepted? I could use some Security-In-A-Can. Looking at these pogs I wonder what it really takes for someone to decide the gamble of baring his true self is worth the potential hurt of the exposure. What kind of means can justify such a possible stark end? Is the vulnerability of romanticism really worth the subsequent embarrassment and abandonment? What if I offer myself to someone who rejects the trueness of me? Hence, I'm preventive: temporarily filling my void with the delicate knack of miscellaneous installation behind the closed curtained windows of my modest hilltop home, only on occasion negotiating a conditional affair via kinky Internet chats. We'll rendezvous at the Majestic Midnight Motel® and drink boxed wine, listen to the night wind howl and swirl, silently decorating a paper bag with glitter and markers and yarn. I wear the paper bag over my finking intimate face while we noodle. So sue me. On another pog Duane Duane's shaving Mrs. Kiffin, VP's calves as she sits on the enormous oak desk shooting her balled up beige stockings into the wastebasket. I recall the disinfectant spray, consider the sanctity of marriage and really grieve it. Me: But CEO Kiffin's going to frigging Slam you. By Slam I mean pummel. Or fire. Or both, I guess. Duane Duane, shaking his red bandanaed head: We're eloping. And you promised, right? The tackle box is brimming with ribald pogs. Eventually in will stagger CEO Kiffin, stubbled cheeks and burnt nose peeling from reflected lake sunlight, to collect his piling mail; Mrs. Kiffin, VP missing, by then untitled and maiden named or Duaned. And there will sit the tackle box of pogs on the stacked fishing mags on the oak deskÃ¢â‚¬â€ùthe suspicious odor of disinfectant spray just fleeting. Bet the desk will flare up saturated with disinfectant spray, brilliant with blue. The tackle box of pogs is metaphorical for how Mrs. Kiffin, VP's supposed to feel but is trapped inside CEO Kiffin's true love, true priority, true selfishness. Duane Duane says they'll probably go someplace meek and arid, like Utah. He's got full creative control of his new partnership with Mrs. Kiffin, VP: a modernized digital Chutes & Ladders spinoff called: Escalators & Elevators®. Does CEO Kiffin deserve it? Maybe. Still, I find myself strangely breaking for him. Duane Duane, concerned, watching me fidget: Don't you fink out on me, Roi. I reassuringly nod, run a hand through my canned coiffure. A clump advertised as Tuscan Umber falls out. I quickly replace it but Duane Duane's already chuckling. Him: I know your hair's canned, Roi. It's obvious. That's definitely an aerosoled part. Now I'm flushed and trembling, worried what else he might've figured out. I could use some Dignity-In-A-Can. Or Nothing-In-The-Can-In-A-Can. I try to coolly chortle it off. I try to waddle without looking like I'm waddling. My stuffed confidentiality might split me at the seams. I fear there's an obvious comical bulge in the seat of my pants. Then HR Pete stops in to inquire about a PSU on Pandora's Pogz™. Him, eyeing me with disheveled canned hair: Roi, you don't look so swell. Maybe you should sit? Duane Duane's staring daggers at me. HR Pete, pointing at a chair: Roi, I'm seriously requesting you please consider possibly sitting and maybe perhaps also place your head between your knees like the Health POP suggests? But I can't sit. Then I wonder if HR Pete's just mocking me, knowing I can't sit. Maybe he's testing me. Me, quick-thinking, leaning on my desk: I just stood over the heating vent too long is all. Duane Duane eases his desk drawer shut, gives a discreet thumbs up. I feel lesser. HR Pete: I guess I'm going to suggest you might want to consider maybe filling out a MED and PAIN in case it's something more serious? Like heat stroke? I wonder if HR Pete's teasing me, if he really knows the caudal severity. I just nod. Then HR Pete leaves for his intramural soccer game and I maintain a posture that's nonchalant and abdominally comforting, multiply conflicted internally. Duane Duane, winking: Nice job. He tells me the heating vent was a nice touch and gives me a firm athletic congratulatory slap on the rear. And then there's a definite and immediate internal shattering. My gut is suddenly one ornery porcupine. I instantly think of MD Kowalski's morrowed puns. All kidding aside. I miss Moxy. I could use some Comfort-In-A-Can. Or Common-Sense-In-A-Can. What was I thinking? I wonder how many fish CEO Kiffin has caught today. If he caught that humdinger. I wonder if he'll think it was worth it in the stark embarrassed end, the cuckold. I'm thinking his plastic bottle gin habit is the effect of much more than just a failing career. I'd agree the only thing more fearful to a man than his failure is his emotional susceptibility. I made a promise I'm not sure is right to keep. But still, a promise. I can only assume Admin Gwynn loops the yo-yo string on her finger. Note to self: Maybe attach all future miscellaneous tailpipe objects to string? I bite my lip as Duane Duane takes the tackle box of ribald pogs. Him, giving me a friendly arm jab: Sorry we never got that beer. There's nothing I can think to say to make this moment any more or less pathetic than it already is. He heads to CEO Kiffin's office. Not long after I hear the front door open and shut. And that's that. In Production I keep busy with leaky oil tankers and slick ebony gull pogs, ignoring the occasional sharp pain when I move too suddenly or awkwardly, as if my guts are up against a cheese grater. I check my email and find the standard reply from HR Pete thanking me for my GREAT!™ EFFA input. Is it my place to get involved? Does CEO Kiffin even care? Does Mrs. Kiffin, VP want to be saved by her husband? Is she testing him? Do I have any obligation to either men? I feel like the recent time I was in MD Kowalski's office: him staring me down, me deciding whether to confess my degradation or not. A promise is a promise. But I didn't know what I was promising. This bloating, this self-condemnation. What's protocol? I could use some Sensibility-In-A-Can. Me, cursing myself: fink fink fink. I waddle into CEO Kiffin's office and remove four pogs from the tackle box. On each blank back I write a letter in thick marker: U-T-A-H. Then I put them back. To play Pog® you stack pogs facedown and Slam the stack with a Slammer, obtain the faceups. The winner is the one who flips over the most pogs. My stance: if I were CEO Kiffin and cared enough to find my wife I'd leave no pog unturned. I'd figure it out. I'd win. This is the best I can do. I waddle to the water cooler and soothingly sip. Then I hear a singsong: Yoo-hoo! Admin Gwynn's against the Postal cubicle with a yo-yo, nose whistling with each flick of her wrist. She Rocks the Baby. Walks the Moxy. Admin Gwynn, winking: Care to join me in Postal? The yo-yo spins down up down up down up. I notice the mail bin shoe scuffmarks, the radiator handcuff scrapes. I shrug. Admin Gwynn, pretty, unloved, unchanced, maybe joking or maybe not: Or would you prefer the yo-yo up your tailpipe if that's what you're into? I'm into that, sure. But I wonder if Admin Gwynn knows this and is testing me. Is there a right and wrong answer? Why do I care? What's protocol here? Me, a self-inflicted creature of habit. I think of CEO Kiffin finding the pogs, undecided on what he'll do. The way I've chosen to live my life has brought me here and I wonder by selfishly and voluntarily withholding myself, not unlike CEO Kiffin, am I like him: trivial and forgotten? My eyes well. I shiver, suddenly terrified of dying alone. My pelvis, infernoed. Admin Gwynn pockets the yo-yo. She surprises me by placing a hand on my shoulder. Her, concerned: Is something wrong, Roi? You don't look so hawt. She exhibits a depth I didn't know she inhabited or was capable of. Maybe I have depth, too. This gives me hope. The ache subsides enough to appreciate her hand on me, breathless and strange with relief. Me: I think I'm taking a sick day tomorrow. Admin Gwynn: What's wrong? Me, oddly sincere: I'm currently clandestine. Admin Gwynn, eyebrows raised: You poor baby! She moves her hand to my cheek and I lean into that lotioned sun, me photosynthesizing. I'm dizzied by this gesture of affinity. I can feel myself between every line of her palm. Charity resides in her fake red fingernails. Those press-on sympathies holding my head up. It feels good and right. Still, I could split her like a wishbone and noodle her: me, paperbagged. Still, I could let her split my ribs and stone my heart with her breathy kisses. Still, I could get Slammed. Still, I could be wronged, unaccepted. Still, we could carelessly exchange tongues in our shallow concavities. Still, we could meaningfully assist each glottal confession we've ever concealed. Still, I could walk away. Still, I could open myself up and maybe be received by her. Still, I could find out the hard way if it's all worth it. Still, my quivering WIIFM? eyes. Still, I see my skeleton reflecting in her bowling ball pupils as several strikes thunder below our feet, a near tribute. Still, I fear opening my intimate window and the slipping apart of her lonely hand from mine. Still, I find myself fearing their chance never to interlock more. Still, all a gamble. Still, still, still. Me, deep breathed: Let's maybe just take it slow and get a cup of coffee sometime? Admin Gwynn blushes. Her, nose twittering: I knew it. I knew you wouldn't come into the Postal cubicle with me. I had a hunch. I was right. I know what's in there. She pokes me in the torso and it takes every ounce of me to keep from wincing. Me, gulping and bloated and eggplanted and nervous and abdominally acupunctured: What? Her, batting wispy hazel-lashed eyes: A gentleman, duh? I just shrug, not really knowing. She locks up Pog® and shyly takes my hand and out we go. The upstate November chill is dry and small fuzzy snowflakes sweep sideways in grand symphonic conducted motions. My ears feel like Styrofoam packing peanuts when I rub them. The Bowl-O-Drome® sign is broken: only the Bowl flickers neon and I mistake it for Bowel and wonder how many MD Kowalskis does it take to unscrew a busted light bulb? I strategically wince, waddling meticulously beside Admin Gwynn to her car. She offers me a ride but I respectfully decline. I've got to take the bus. I'll stand even with seats available. Admin Gwynn, bashful: So when do you want to get that cup of coffee? Me, nearly faint: Maybe after the Friday PEPP? I've got some healing to do before then. Then what Admin Gwynn does makes me blubber like a baby on the bus standing hunched in the aisle among empty plastic seats and uncomfortable rouged passengers, all sitting. Me blubbering so hard the replaced canned clump of Tuscan Umber is loosed as the bus bounces and my gut curses me out. The windows fog from the heat of us all enough so that one passenger distracts herself by drawing a heart with her finger and pierces it with an arrow. Tomorrow I'll be opened and humiliated, reduced to a pun. But here in the parking lot as my guts digest barbed wire I am witnessing the beginnings to a new end. The means of which are initiated by what Admin Gwynn does and I believe she'll receive me at whatever depth I possess. Because what Admin Gwynn does has never been done to me and I'm struck with an urgent compassionate desire to confide to her that I want to be consumed by her. I want to be integral. If I hurt, let me hurt in a different and important and mutual way. I want Admin Gwynn to be my hobby, my muse. I want her to teach me what's protocol. Let us install something into each other that will hold some significance in the world. I want to be her bald pathetic infant, suckling her soul through her teat. Here I am. I want to be cradled and told I will be all right. I want to believe it. This will take time. I want Admin Gwynn to be my new experiment. I want to acquire something new. So sue me, please. I'm seriously begging. What Admin Gwynn does is she grabs my Dynamo!® tie and pulls me close. I can smell her herbal shampoo and minty blemish cream. Someone's trying to relocate my guts with a pitchfork. My numbing toes curl. My lifegiver, patient. She puts her mouth to the side of my head. Her nose whistling, like a sunrise. Her hot generous breath, like a fever over my pink packing peanut ear I considerately meet halfway to offer her. Here in the parking lot. Tears assembling, preparing their bussed flank. Her: Let me take care of you.