Sunday, April 10, 2011

Contract Renewal 2011

"Go ahead and open one of the envelopes. They each have an identical contract for your renewal date of April 11", came the voice on my cell phone. I fumble through my stacks of papers and retrieve one of the overstuffed envelopes and slide my finger under the flap. The contract looks similar to last year's. And the year before. And the year before that. "We want you to especially focus on Section 3, paragraphs a, b, and e, wherein the signee vows to do no intentional harm to him or herself. You were being observed during the past 12 months. That deal with the wine and sleeping pills - not cool! And what's with the bacon on Sunday mornings? I hope you got that wake up call from the workplace health screening a few days ago. Your cholesterol level is no laughing matter. And need I remind you of your trip to the ER with your high blood pressure out of control?" I feel exasperated now, but replied,"Ok, Ok, let me just read through it for a few minutes. You know, in my own defense, I was really depressed and upset a lot this last year. I'm on an antidepressant now, does that make the Management happy?", I asked, with just a hint of sarcasm. The voice came back, caring this time. "Look Hon, this isn't about making us happy, it's about you making the most of your life. You know, showing up and giving it your all every day. Which brings up another concern of Management; you really weren't putting your heart and soul into it for quite a lot of the time this year. Somedays, it seemed like you didn't show up for Life at all. We've been sending you helpers all along." I felt chastised. I was being chastised by some unknown "Management" that was far too intrusive in my day to day life. I cleared my throat. "I know. I've really appreciated the helpers. And all the cool things I'm learning to do by just being open to the possibilities. I'm even taking my husband and daughter over to Hawaii, where my son lives. It's my birthday present to myself." "Now that's more like it. Management, of course, does not guarantee no adverse outcomes along the way. But it has been very good that you've learned not to dwell upon the worst case scenario. So, how about it? Are you ready to sign up for another year? And you realize, too, that just because you sign the contract and agree to accept another year of living on this planet, does not imply that Management will not relocate you at its discretion. Understood?" The voice sounded stern but caring. What a strange combination. "Yeah, yeah - I get it. It's just like every other year." I sighed and hesitated, then reached for the pen across the table. I signed my names. The voice came back over the phone, "Alright then. Thanks you! We'll be in touch again next year - or sooner." My phone screen returned itself to the blue bubbles arising endlessly.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Contract Renewal 2011

My cell phone is ringing incessantly again - or incessant in proportion to the number of rings on which I've set it before the call is sent to voicemail. It must be between 4 and 6 rings and I could reset it to just 1 or 2 rings but now my ringtone is a ukelele tune to get me in the Aloha spirit for my upcoming vacation to Hawaii and I like to hear the whole tune.. The voicemail message indicator goes off and I check the "missed call" number; UNAVAILABLE. So it isn't one of the numerous debt collection calls for someone of the last name of Nguyen, who must have had this phone number until last year sometime. Those calls - with the assorted butcherie of the Nguyen name pronunciation - aggravated me no end. But this - this UNAVAILABLE number - is more disturbing. Especially since this is the 4th call today with the same number. I don't want to take the time to listen to the voicemail message, not right now, not in the middle of an otherwise perfectly mediocre day at work. I check my mail box in the office later in the day. Updated employee roster, check stub for electronic payment directly to my account, cell phone reimbursement check, notice of an upcoming seminar...all the usuals and one UNusual piece of mail - an overstuffed lavendar envelope with only my first name followed by my birthdate. A brief feeling of panic mixed with annoyance washes over me, but I don't have time to break into that envelope. Not right now. Not in the middle of a perfectly mediocre life. Driving out to see my last patient of the day, I glance at the billboards and road signs as I pass them at 68 MPH. McDonalds. Wanker Corners Store exit 1 mile. Oregon City Molalla Gladstone. Panera. And a new one, smaller, set closer to the highway. "Have You Renewed Your Contract Yet?" It is enigmatic, like those stupid Snickers ads two years ago or the fantastic Timbers billboards all over town. Those I like. "Have You Renewed Your Contract Yet?" I assume it's for cell phone service as my car and I whiz by. My work day approaches the end. I had to tell Mrs. Smith that her father is transitioning towards death. It was news she already new but still didn't want to hear. I wonder how I will react when it's my father or mother dying. I push through the traffic and head home. Had to get my mailbox key replaced this week, and the new key is a little sticky in the box. The door finally opens, and I pull out all the usuals; electric bill, grocer ads...and another damned lavendar envelope with only may name and birthdate on it. How in the hell...? My husband and I share a dinner that surpasses mediocre. He goes to bed early, and I settle in for a night of internet surfing. I open my email and count fifteen - FIFTEEN! - new emails from "Contract Renewal Specialists". Shit. Can't I get a few hours of peace? I move on to facebook...boring tales of other mediocre lives. I dream of Hawaii, my son, the surf, and hear a pleasant ukelele tune in the background. It takes a few seconds before I remember that it's my new cell phone tune. Oh. My. God. Can't a woman get any rest at all?! It is said that a coward dies a thousand deaths. Deciding not to put it off any longer, I push the button to answer the call but say nothing. There is absolute stillness on the other end, and then a man's deep voice asks, "Rhonda? Shusli?" I would like to think that my cousin in rehab has been granted one phone call and he chose to call me. That idea makes my codependent nature glow. But I really know better. I clear my throat and affirm my names to the caller. "We've been trying to contact you, Rhonda-Shusli. You DO know that it's time to renew your contract, don't you? We have less than a week to get everything filed. Are you ready?" I stare at the facebook computer screen for a full 30 seconds before answersing. "Yes. I suppose I am." (to be continued) " WRITER'S NOTE: NEW FORMAT, SORRY, HAVEN'T FIGURED OUT HOW TO DO PARAGRAPHS!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day, 2007

It must have been on a Tuesday that I knew you didn't want to see me anymore. We had already stopped sharing a home, but when I saw you at our usual meeting place that evening, I knew it. You had decided to be done with me. You didn't say it, or say much at all.

Later, over dinner, I finally put it on the table: You don't want to see me anymore do you? You hung your head...stammered reasons why it wasn't working for you. I was disgusted by the whole thing - all the effort I'd put in to it and what I considered a half-hearted effort on your part.

Half-hearted. That's a good one. Valentine's Day was just a few hours away when the conversation ended with me flouncing out of the restaurant. It seemed doubtful that you noticed or cared.

I celebrated your complete departure from my life by seeing a lighthearted romantic comedy starring Diane Keaton. The people onscreen gave me plenty of opportunity to cynically laugh at the stupidity of believing in love.

A few days later, sorting through things in my purse, I pulled out a small tissue-wrapped object. Opening it, I saw the clay figurine I'd intended to give to you for Valentine's Day; two people embracing. I shoved it in to a drawer and hoped to forget about it. What a cruel joke this "Valentine's Day" crap was. Not so much as a chocolate bar to honor the memories of what we had. Well, I washed my hands of all that nonsense - once and for all!

By Friday night, the opiate was leaving my system, and I needed a fix. I called and begged to talk to you...but no. Not now. Maybe...not ever.

On Saturday afternoon, I lay across my bed, crying, feeling my life ebbing away in a pool of sorrow. My friend called on me with a blood transfusion in the nick of time. "Pray to Mother Mary, or whatever female deity you can relate to, my sister. Pour your heart out to her." She comforted me with kind and loving words.

I turned to my tacky glow-in-the dark Virgin of Guadalupe. I knelt and prayed, telling her everything, and then kept her by my bed. If I awoke in the middle of the night, she was there. She, the endless source of comfort. She was better off an eternal virgin than face this pain.

The days that followed brought a kind of numb healing. Scar. Yoga eased my mind. I wrote poems and stories. I walked through the park every day. I bought a new, white, pristine, full sized bed. For me only, in my reclaimed and perpetual celibacy.

I bought candles and oils and wrote love letters.

Of course we reunited.

The pieces of broken heart were swept up from the floor. There were some in the drawer where the figurine lay, and these were put into the pile of red shards. A few had landed under the sofa, but I got them out with a long-handled duster.

So, I got my heart put back together. It's bigger now. It's really pretty.