Friday, June 14, 2013

The Stranger in Plainview


“Just remember to be anonymous”
is the advice given to me by my boss.
I listen, like a good employee.
I’ve been listening for years.
But inside a storm is brewing.
I want to be recognized.
To have an ID of my own.

As a quality control inspector
for a national oil/lube chain
I help to guarantee customer satisfaction
even though on my clipboard
there is no checkbox
for my growing discontent
I drive from Plainview to Smithport
and all the towns in-between look the same
the gas stations and the shopping malls
if I couldn’t read the white letters
on the green highway signs
I’d be even more lost than I already am
Cars are fast and efficient
But have you ever noticed
that the little things…
the beautiful things
can only be found while taking a walk
when riding a bike?
on the side streets

At the service station I let them do their thing
They don’t know I’m with the company
Just another paying customer
Secretly, I’m listening to their calls:
Brake Fluid Level, check
Chassis lubrication, check
Power Steering Fluid, check
Windshield wiper fluid, check
Everything so far is A+
Like a well-oiled machine.
What a bore…
In the meantime,
I’m trying to decide
if I hate my job
Or if I just despise work altogether


There is a castle across the street
Not an architectural marvel, mind you
Just a cheap imitation
but it’s old and that is a draw enough for me:
reads the Neon signage
and suddenly I’m filled with romantic notions
about the Smithport pier
and unfulfilled desires from my youth
I am 28 years old
a lonely single man
sometimes I feel as if the world hates me
because I kind of want to hide in this place
and play Pac-Man for hours
without worrying that I’m creepy

I’m not a kid anymore
Still, can you give me a break?
I’m not exactly old
I can still chase around the young
attractive girls
with high waisted jeans
She has long hair
and I’d like to put a flower behind her ear
perhaps she is in college
but i don’t need a degree to realize
already I am making excuses as to why
She is too good for me

talking to her is an impossibility
Then again, I have nothing to lose
I make up my mind to approach her
As she stands nonchalantly eating cotton candy
in the glow of the ICEE machine
Suddenly my cell phone rings
I answer it.
It’s my mom.
“What are you doing,” she asks…
Stalking college girls at a run down amusement place
attempting to talk to strangers
Acting like a scary psychopath.
“You should get a dog, it will make you feel less lonesome…
…a pet certainly helped me through my divorce.”

The girl is gone.
She is leaving with an older guy.
This confuses me.
Was that her boyfriend?
Or her dad?
I look down and there is toilet paper
Stuck to the bottom of my sneaker.
It’s probably for the best.
I would’ve made a bad impression.


The night is young
and not content to return to Plainview
I follow a group of well-dressed young people
to a beach front hotel party
When security questions me
I just throw back my shoulders
and say, “I’m with them”
The velvet rope is released
And I’m in!

A drunk girl approaches me and insists
that I make out with her sister
Who happens to be sitting right next to me.
I am surprised but also embarrassed.
Still, I try to make light conversation.
“Don’t worry, I’m a nice guy”
She shrugs me off…
“I’m NOT a nice girl”
a moment later
a tall black stranger approaches her
immediately puts his hand on her shoulder
and starts flirting

He asks her what she does for a living
She says that she is in marketing for the beverage industry…
two minutes later they are talking about sex.
I am NOT kidding.
I wonder what it would be like
To be an attractive woman?
To get hit on all the time.

Would l get dressed up
If I had someplace to go?
I just want to be recognized

After I’ve sobered up
I’m driving back home from Smithport to Plainview
It’s late
on a mobile floating coach in nowheresville
I’d rather be parked on some side road
necking in the backseat with the girl of my dreams.
is it TOO LATE?

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