I spend the morning watching the clock. Literally watching the second hand move around the face. Clicking off second by second. Anticipating the second hand reaching 12, so I can see the minute hand actually move. It does. I see it move several times, around and around. Oblivious to the car chase across town or my cat begging for me to feed her, I am transfixed by the perpetual movement of time. I never realized how slow a minute could be. I just
collect them like I have been for many months now, put them safely away and feed the kitty.

I have half an hour to pay the gas bill, and I don’t seem to be in a hurry. There’s something in the back of my mind telling me that this is my lucky day. I don’t know what this thing is, but I’ve been wondering if I could have it removed, because it’s been lying to me lately. For many months it’s been lying and swearing and babbling. “Why, you lucky son of a bitch, look at you, you are the luckiest dog I know. You’ve got the golden touch. Fuckin’ A, you sack of shit, will your luck ever run out? Whew! All this luck is wearing me out . . .” and so on and so on. Now this little voice in the back of my head tells me that I can make it across town to the gas company in half an hour. I’ll get lucky and get a bus right away. There will be no one in line. They’ll let me get away with paying half. I look up for an instant and stare into space, not moving my hands, because they are in perfect position to receive my falling face again. Pay half, I think. Then I’ll be able to do some laundry and pick up some food and buy some smokes . . . yippie! But I’ve got to get there in time if I want any of this to be possible. I grab my coat and jet. Damned if they don’t go for the half-now, half-next-week deal.

Half an hour later I’m thanking that little voice in my head for saving me 30 bucks, and I can actually see the light from his beaming gloat. I guess I’ll keep you around a while longer, I think. I brought a book with me because I thought I would have time to stop at my favorite coffee bar, get rejuvenated and read a chapter of Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre. I think I’m still on the chapter titled “Sunday.” I order the house coffee and sit outside at one of the tables. The day is cool. The place is not crowded right now — all the bohemians are still at their day jobs getting rich. I figure I have about an hour of relative comfort before the tommyknockers move in and start eating up the oxygen. Everyone is hitting his pose. All guys like me, with a book, a pack of smokes and a cup of that house coffee sitting in front of them. I kind of look through my shades and pretend I’m reading, slowly swaying my head from side to side, careful not to let my eyebrows raise too much. That’s a dead giveaway that I’m checking things out and not reading at all. While I’m doing this, I add drama by putting the book in my lap, holding it down with my elbows, taking out a smoke, lighting it and then taking a good sip of coffee while smoke is curling from my nostrils. All the while I continue my scan of the other tables. All this actually takes less than a minute, but I slowed it down for narration.

I notice all of us seem to have the same things going on except for one guy. We have the book, check. We have the smokes, check. We have the coffee . . . uh, wait a minute. The guy to my left has a Styrofoam cup, and the rest of us hold ceramic. Is he trying to be different? Is he trying to stand out in the crowd? Maybe this coffee bar is not as “environmentally conscious” as it preaches. But there’s no point in me telling this cup story, ’cause it has no ending. I start reading Nausea and get so involved that I forget everything around me for a while. Even forget that the cleaners close in 30 minutes. Damn! Off again. I throw on my coat, drink down the last of the coffee, take one more quick scan and walk really fast to the bus. I notice from the scan that there are all new people sitting where the others were before. I think I may have left just in time. And by the way, I finished the chapter titled “Sunday.”

I get to the bus stop in five futile minutes. Rush hour(s). No bus in sight. What if I get called to a job tomorrow? If I don’t make the cleaners, I won’t have anything to wear. Yeah, that’s all I need right now. Anyway, there I am at the bus stop, all these cool cars passing by, kind of half hoping someone I know will slowly fly through and notice this desperate look on my face. I see a bus coming from the wrong direction, and my stomach immediately turns upside down, and that little voice in the back of my mind babbles something about the cleaners never closing on time, there are usually people in there way after closing. I feel a little better. That little voice back there, I’ll tell you, that is my angle-man, always stirring up hope. So, as this bus going the wrong way passes, I notice there’s an ad on the side for the Beauty and the Beast Christmas movie. I really do not see it at first. You know how you can look at something and not really see it, out of focus? I think it’s an ad for spaghetti sauce or some kind of pasta. There’s a table with the Beauty and the Beast to either side, and the candle man, the cup man and some kind of other live household utensil in the center. I think, that’s how you get these overweight families off their lazy asses and out of the house. Make it look like you’re advertising food. Fucking ingenious. How else do you entice a country of folk where 80 percent of us are overweight? Wow . . . the land of plenty. I need a job. Where’s the bus? My anxiety level starts to rise again . . . ah, there it is. I’ll only be able to get out one pair of slacks and two shirts.

Damn, if I had any more money left, I’d go and buy a lottery ticket. I got my shirts and my slacks. Paid my gas bill (thanks, Mom). Got food, got smokes. I can last the rest of this week without worry. I get home and look at the clock and give it the finger. This day is not done yet.

I go to my computer and check my e-mail for a response to a letter I sent someone I really like but pissed off by saying something stupid. Then spent the rest of the week apologizing to her via e-mail. It is a lot safer for me this way. I have two incoming messages. One: “Greetings from Iceland. Have you heard the one about the three guys and what their wives call their peckers? The first guy says, ‘She calls it Spock because it always beams out in time.’ The second guy says, ‘She calls mine Napoleon because it’s small and wants to conquer the world.’ The third guy says, ‘She calls mine mugagaugumfga.’” Okay . . . Message two, from my sister up in the Bay Area: “Rick, your younger sister and brother-in-law just moved into their new house. We now have an empty room here if you want it. You can come back home and recoup. Love, your older sister . . .” I’m crushed. No message from my friend.

Damn, it’s been almost two weeks. I’ve managed to sabotage another relationship. That’s it, no more honesty! Then the voice, “Check your e-mail again. You may have overlooked something in your haste.” So I check it again, and what do you know, it’s the letter I’ve been waiting on. We’re still friends. She still likes me. We’re going out as soon as I get my car fixed. This is great.

Unemployment ain’t so bad when you have
adventures like this.

LA Weekly