Kroger Sisyphus

Earlier this morning, I was at the Kroger grocery store on Dorothy Lane. I had a can of medium spicy Ro Tel tomatoes in one hand, mild in the other. I had a tough time deciding which one to get.

I looked up and realized I was crossing paths with this older crone woman employee, struggling to push this tall, blue multi-compartment cart designed to get online orders together. She stopped and stretched her back, taking a deep breath after scanning a can of garbanzo beans and bending over, tossing it in the bottom cubby.

It was obvious the hard working woman was in pain. I chimed in: “Are you okay?”

“Oh yeah,” she sighed with the voice of a lady who has carried many heavy loads in her lifetime, “ I’ve been doing this too damn long- all the bending and stretching gets to my back”
She rested her long, bony fingers of the left hand on her back while the right reached for a can of Ragu extra chunky mushroom pasta sauce at her eye level to scan next.

I wanted to give her gratitude, a sense of satisfaction, to feel some sort of form of accomplishment. Whether she knows it or not, she is the Sisyphus condemned to push the rolling bolder up the hill just to have it tumble down again, and repeat for all eternity, that is, she is the existential hero who has mastered the art fulfilling a societal role, a co-creator and producer of labor. A true hero.

Way to go. Way to get the duck out of the bottle without harming the duck nor breaking the bottle. Way to fucking exist.

She hauled the compartment cart past me, her salt/pepper hair and cape fluttering in the wind past my line of sight as I snapped back to reality.
I wanted to tell her how she moved me, but it would be socially unacceptable. Kinda weird. Sisy-who? Existential-what??

No, the only way I knew how to express the inspiration was with “I think you’re doing a good job”

She stopped and turned around, her old, kind eyes meeting mine. “Thanks. Finally, someone notices.”

If you want to know what it’s like to have a mental illness, you could ask yourself what it’d be like to trust and doubt your judgement at the same time.

In a sense, you have to be smarter than yourself. Be responsible. But what if you’re still in your 20’s, late or not? Experienced or not? It sure is asking a lot for a mind who conjures up 5 thoughts that all need attention at that exact time.

A mind whom bends shadows and shapes into false objects that never existed and that will never exist again.

All of a sudden you miss doses and appointments and more and more sleep.

“But do you hear voices?” My doctors voice rang through the intercom phone next to him on computer webcam, all covid precaution.

“Do you need to go to the hospital?”

That’s when I start to sweat. My heart pounds out of my chest thinking about enlisting in the war again: the mind games with other mentally-ill strangers, the communal showing off of emotional scars in those workshops, those goddamn no-slip socks.

No, no, I’m not that far under. Not only do I practice mental repose, but I can still function. I’m not that manic yet.

“But I’m more worried about your depression” my doctor chimed in. I guess I have been crying the whole visit.

“But I’m not prone to hurting myself or others”

“It doesn’t matter”

I’m starting my first round of seroquel at home before bed, a mood stabilizer and antipsychotic that makes you really sleepy, so hopefully I’ll start being able to trust in my good mental health again soon.

Sometimes, for certain folks, it takes more work to maintain a status quo, the level everyone else effortlessly skates through life at. Consider yourself blessed for your strengths, no matter how much work it takes. Things could always be worse.

Valentines Poem

Amiable, hearty Hibby:

Saccharine as freshly sliced pineapple,

Separated to succulent chunks,

And chunks,

And juicy chunks more-

What should I make of his sunup aura:

A nasally bouncy “good morning!”

Followed with high-pitched “coffee, hib?”

The faint smell of veggie submarine, deodorant wash musk,

The pepper of booze,

And his natural scent.

Our romantic, rather cloying love

Is my favorite flavor upon palate tender

Like steaming meat falling apart at the stiff osseous-

To be enjoyed by secret party only-

To go coveted by her or him

Twice, or perhaps a third time again.

It does not matter what physical form

That he transforms to this lifetime, what form

He takes, his body and his face,

His shape and his weight, his arms and his legs.

My attraction is abyssal

And rather immeasurable, his

Embodiment and vessel

Forever my holy temple

To the masculine, alpha-God-

matching his alpha-goddess stature upon their throne-

Pansies and hyacinths upon thine ankles-

Forest Ivy poised armor upon thine chest-

Bow and arrow burrow in shoulder,

Of gold, diamond, and opal-my love,

Will you save me?

Will you manifest our destiny?

Will you be my Valentine?

In One Ear, Out the Other

“What do you want to eat, hib?” I was sitting at the couch, interpreting a two card tarot spread while Raisin toyed with the deck’s box discarded by my feet.

Ricky was flipping through some restaurant coupons we got in the mail, searching for that one special meal to pop out at his eye’s tender palate.

“Any good coupons?”
“2 can dine at Arby’s” he calls out from the cat tree, where the booklet lay resting, worked over finger by finger.

He continued to flip. “You know I always used to eat at Ron’s Pizza with my grandpa when I was a kid… but it’s all the way out in Miamisburg. And we just had pizza”

“I want breakfast” I suggested, automatically nixing the idea of Waffle House because I was basically going out in pajama pants. I didn’t want my old coworkers to see me bumming.

We both agreed on getting breakfast from Bob Evans at 3:00 pm. It shouldn’t take that long, right?

When I got there, I was automatically raced to the door by this lady in a pink sweatshirt and a baseball cap. I could care less who got there first, as I came trailing in behind her, after she failed to leave the door open for me. I was third in line.

“Yeah, I’m up,” the lady aggressively announced, as if rushing up to her podium before the staff. People from nearby tables turned their attention to the bubblegum-topped politician about to give her speech. “I’m DoorDash”

“All DoorDash orders need to wait in the lobby until their orders are ready” an older lady appeared around the corner while shooing the crowd with her arms in a stressful manner. I stood and grabbed a menu from the counter while the two customers in front of me dragged their feet out defeatedly to the lobby, including my new pig skin-colored sweat-shirted baseball-capped best friend who’s in such a damn hurry.

“Wow, it’s busy for 3:00 on a Monday!”
The older woman approached the counter where I stood and was literally sweating stress.
“Yes, and I’m one of the only three up here,” she started , and followed up with a short rant about how she didn’t know where all these people came from who are coming through the doors and why they wanted breakfast now.

I remembered feeling the same way when I worked at Waffle House, and receiving consolation from that one understanding customer- so I tried to be that customer for her. I looked her straight in the eye and said “Look at me. It’s just breakfast. The worst that’ll happen is that customers will have to wait longer. You’re part of a well-oiled machine. Trust the flux. Take a deep breath. It’s just breakfast!”

I think my words of wisdom went in one of her ears and out the other: she followed up with “I know. Can I take your order?”

My ultimate question: what do you do when you try to offer somebody wisdom they cannot or do not want to comprehend?

I ordered the three egg breakfast with hollandaise sauce in top, bacon, and what was supposed to be well done hashbrowns- which are never Waffle House well done but whatever- and I asked for honey, butter, and strawberry jam.

Before I left, I called the staff “goddesses who work hard” and got dirty looks from the waitresses. Maybe I should have stuck to calling them something more ‘skimming the surface’, like “all-stars”.

After all, I opened up my bag to the breakfast entrees, a hurried fist full of ketchup, and three packs of country crock spread.

It found its way

One of my first magical customer experiences when I was working at Waffle House was back in 2013. I was 22 years old, freshly college educated and constantly stressed, therefore constantly ticking. I believe it was solely an EEEE vocal tic I called a bark, but it was much more frequent. And yes, I was hella hella manic and didn’t know it.

There was a customer who came in and sat in the booth up against the back two way mirror into the office, and came in every day for a week that spring. He was a middle aged chunky white guy with a black Elvis hairdo. He was in town for a week, giving some sort of literature lecture daily to the English students at Wright State, and he needed space to kill some time and someone to expend some extra social energy.

He’d tip a solid $10 every night that week.

He put $5 in the jukebox everyday and let the waitresses pick the songs.

I want to say his name was Eric.

It was apparent that his energy wavelengths were complimenting my own: he would often pick up tabs of older military men dining by themselves, and he even bought Rob the homeless guy his favorite cheap lunch (two original cheeses add grilled jalapeños). Who knows, maybe the hypomania got the best of me, but I went up to him one night after he finished his smothered hashbrowns and over medium eggs with “the whites a little too runny but they’re still good eggs”, and I said to this man: “Sir, there is something special about you. You are obviously a human being with substance. So what’s your secret?”

Can you imagine your Waffle House waitress complimenting some sort of sage wiseness residing in you and asking how it came about, only knowing her an eye’s wink of time? Well that’s what I did with this man here.

The older man lowered his eyes and his midwestern framed glasses drooped low to the point of his nose. “What is your spirit animal? What clan are you from?”

“Bear,” I answered, happy and intrigued with his response. “I mean, it runs in the family”

His eyes lit up and he started shaking his finger my direction. “I knew you were a shaman girl. A bear, huh? One of those healing types….”

While he was lost in thought, I grabbed his empty plate and refilled his coffee cup, pivoting on one foot to the fridge to grab a handful of creamers for the guy.

When I came back, he had lifted up his t shirt sleeve, exposing a worn tattoo of an eagle on the freckled part of his fatty bicep.

“I’m an Eagle, not a bald one mind you, but a fine feathered bird of prey,”

I forget the attributes he described them as. But the rest of that night we talked shamanism.

How often do you reach ascension?

How often do you meditate?

What are your totems like?

What herbs do you like to cleanse with?

I asked him how to stop the tics for good. He said something like “There is no stopping them, only healing yourself to the point where they slow themselves down. You are a healer after all, you ursus you.“

The cook and other waitress were probably listening to our conversation thinking like … wtf

But fuck it.

Before I left, Eric found me in the parking lot and said that he had something that he thought long and hard, and decided he wanted to give me. It was a wooden hand carved worn in Buddha figure. He said that one day, he was following a group of Buddhist monks somewhere in Asia on a mountain and the figure fell out of one of their bags. Eric found it and tried to return it, but the monk said “no, it found its way” so, he wanted to pass it along to me so it can “find it’s way” with me.

He told me to hold it in my left hand and feel all the energy coming from the totem.

The first time I’ve ever felt a transfer of energy to an inanimate object or totem, consciously.

Where did that figurine go? Come to think of it, I think I bequeathed it to someone else who tried to give it back, and I told them “no, it found it’s way”

A letter to hibby

To my dearest, always-loved Hibby:

I wanted to thank you for hanging in there while I’ve been riding this recent rollercoaster of mood swings and generalized sadness. You’ve been not only the perfect paradigm of “husband”, staying loyal in sickness and in health, but you’ve been a best friend, a transmuter of my problems, making them neutral or positive.

And while your hands cannot master the chemical imbalance that curses my biological thinking organ inside my skull, they sure can and have mastered all the other hassles in my life: dishes, coffee making, dinner cooking, feeding the birds.. And of course all theres all your tender, loving uplifting affection that channels my deepest romantic manifestations and places my center of gravity back on track.

As I’ve told you, My love for you radiates hotter than the suns rays beating over the desert basins transcontinent, for they never beam for a purpose richer than our love. And when this bout of depression is over, maybe I’ll stop crooning Portishead and sing a happier tune, maybe an Alicia Keys’ song in a major key. Teenage love Affair. You Don’t Know My Name. Even that annoying New York one with Jay Z.
Okay, maybe not that one.

Love, Hibby❤️

Bringing about Beauty to the universe

In Wright state’s drawing I class, I had a small group of colleagues my age flock to my easel, dragging theirs close to mine while gazing at the talent I left in charcoal and sometimes H2 graphite pencils on my multi-media sketchbook. I’ve always had a knack for drawing, and I never knew it would be a gateway for forming friendships with those who admired my work.

There was one girl on particular that I hung around then- it was a refreshing sunny 2011 springtime, when Valerie took to my side during class, usually 5, 10 minutes late with long, pitch black hair tied back in a loose bun and the coffee drink that held her up.

One day, our class was going out to this very shady grassy spot in the woods near the university to practice drawing landscapes. After about an hour of creation, Valerie made a click-click whistle to get my attention. “Ey,”

I looked up from my drawing board and met her playful, cerulean eyes. “Yeah?”

“Let’s blow this pop stand… wanna go to the sculpture house?”

With squinted eyes, I smiled and nodded quietly, careful not to break the others concentration around me.

Valerie raised her hand, waving it around and asked the professor if she could go to the bathroom at the sculpture house and bring me for safety. I don’t remember much about our professor, but she did something of a huff and gave us permission. She then turned and called out in a monotone voice: “Now, next time guys, make sure you go to the bathroom BEFORE you come out to the woods”

We hurried on the path to the sculpture house, dodging tree roots, fallen lumber, and puddles. I wasn’t wearing the best shoes for a walk through the woods like this, and I remember ruining the pair I was wearing.

The rest of that memory with her is a little fuzzy. We made it to the sculpture house, but couldn’t go inside because classes were going on.

This other time, I bought me and Valerie ice cream drumsticks from the little store by my dorm with my Wright state food money. The sun was just setting, and she was blasting Justin Bieber drivers side in her black bullet of a car, with me finishing my cone passenger side.

We were on our way to her house some couple cities away, out in the middle of practically nowhere. Valerie was also a fan of my writing, and I had agreed to help her write an English paper because she had writers block.

Valerie was a very creative, open-minded and free-spirited creature, whom often doubted her abilities to bring about beauty in the universe, when the girl herself WAS beauty in itself. It wasn’t the bluest of the blue eyes, nor petite bulb of a button nose above fuller plump lips outlining seraph’s image of an angel’s face, nor thick feminine curve of her hips as she hustled, coffee splashing slightly out the crease of her cup lid, late yet again for our drawing class. Those features skimmed the surface of ‘the true beauty she brought about to the universe’.

We pulled up to her parents house- a mansion, bigger than my wildest dreams. She was so nonchalant about her living situation-a deck surrounding the house, a crazy ass staircase leading to her bedroom with a king size bed and MacBook plugged in nearby.

She pulled out a deck of Rider-Waite Tarot cards she just bought at the bookstore. She was a little clumsy but gave me my first ever Tarot reading: you’re too mature at times and sometimes you’re too immature. Try to create a balance of your maturity level.

Some point, after we did some art together, we got around to her English paper. I recall her getting a good grade on it too.

I remember she was feeling a lot of pressure from her parents to succeed and make money, which clashed her artistic, free-spirited demeanor. Valerie envied my artistic and writing talents, and I envied Valerie… in general. Her spirit, her size, her femininity. While she held shadows, and struggled with her self-worth like any other young adult her age, she was ‘goals’ to me in many different ways. I expressed that to her on occasion and she’s say the same thing every time : “ooooh no no no, you wouldn’t want to be me”

Years have passed between us as our paths went separate ways. I dropped out of college for personal reasons and learned how to live on my own. I believe she did something similar, but I know she’s a bar tender at a happening place in the Oregon District, bringing about her own sense of beauty to the universe. And while our friendship could best be described as ‘Valerie’ by Amy Winehouse, I applaud and admire her and the impact she’s left on me from afar. She deserves all the goodness she manifests with her gift she spreads everyday.

His gift

While serving at Waffle House, I distinctly remember this larger man with a big, brown bushy beard coming in maybe once or twice a year. He’d always sit at the low two seater in section 1 during more spontaneous bursts of business in the evening.

This guy was extra jolly, somewhat immature and itching to tell jokes to whatever waitress crossed his path, which was mostly me.

Yes, jokes: these corny ass one-liners that you’d instinctively bring your left palm over your face quickly after. Knee slappers. Dad jokes.

“Hey, hey you” he chuckled to himself, both nostrils flared from bulbous tip of his nose that poked out of all his facial hair. “Knock knock!”

Now the other waitresses and the cook seemed a bit annoyed with the man. Like I said, busy times was his favorite time to cut up, and everyone was trying to concentrate. However, I welcomed that type of energy so close to my tables: his laugh was quite infectious.

“Who’s there?” I called out, balancing 3 plates on one hand and one more that rested on my arm.

“Buddha…” he curled his bottom lip with his teeth to keep from laughing in a childish manner.

After my visit to the larger family I was serving, I whipped around the counter. “Buddha who?”

“Who’s Buddha’ren my toast over there??” He exclaimed, squinted, teary eyes and barely keeping it together. He then proceeded to breathe out in between laughs:”I want extra Buddha!”

I let out a couple loud “aaah aaah aaah”’s, a laugh I definitely adopted from my cute mother. He lit up as I walked around his table and proceeded to clear off a counter in my section that just left.

“Hey, heyhey, where do waffles go on vacation?”

I was organizing my dirty plate stack on the tabletop, and smiled at the game. “I dunno man, where?”

He raised one pointer finger, as he very matter-a-factly answered in a fecisious tone: “Sandy Eggo”

He kept on doing this even after business died down, drinking cups of black coffee that clung to the bottom tips of his mustache, thinking of the next golden joke to take the restaurants stage, or at least my attention, spitting one out after another.

That old man knew what he was doing. His gift was overlooked by most staff stressing a busy shift, but it didn’t surpass the emotional radar of this trained empath. I actually felt good after he strutted out: my diaphragm was exercised from laughing and I distinctly remember taking a deep breath and feeling the endorphins and positive energy he left with me. I wonder if any other waitresses at other restaurants noticed too, because I guarantee you this isn’t the first time he’s attempted to share his gift with various waitstaff.

Sister friend

Today when I was next in line in the waiting room to see my psychiatrist Dr. Singh, this woman with a Harley Davidson jacket, a neck tattoo that said ‘little shooter’, and a face mask that said ‘fuck off’ stormed in the waiting room, burst out in tears. Everyone sitting around acted awkward from her bellowing and waterworks, I mean, they were really flowing. She put her folder in the tray and sat a few seats away from me.

I turned to her without hesitation: “what’s wrong there, sister friend?”

“Oh honey, I got a phone call on my way in and…” she cringed out a few hot tears out of scrunched-up wrinkled eyes out of grief, interrupting herself.

“My brother died”

“Oh no,” I started, heading to the front counter for a box of tissues. “Were you close to your brother?”

I stood above her while she nodded and sobbed, taking about five from the box. The door opened and a nurse called my name to be seen then.

“Be strong sister friend”

After my talk with Singh, I came back out to find her still in distress, eyes flowing like leaky faucets. I really felt for her- while I didn’t have the same reaction when I found out about my own brothers death, there isn’t anybody out there immune to the initial shock and pain of grief. And I knew it so well.

I came back out and hovered over her, kind eyes with heavy cat-eye eyeliner and held out my magical healing left hand for her right. I had the energy, the currency, the mana, and what did she do? She grabbed it. And held onto it tight. I didn’t let go while she closed her eyes and breathed in my life through my palm. I was impressed by how she calmed down after that 20 second moment.

“I lost my brother too- he was 27. It seems like the universe has a plan for everyone. Time makes the grief ache less” my advice reverberated throughout the silence of the waiting room.

“Thank you, sister friend”

And I walked out.

True love with ‘such a man’

I got home from breakfast and a trip to the dispensary with mom this morning around noon or one, around the time Ricky starts to wake his sleepy self up.

When I opened the bedroom door, he was not stirring yet and very much fast asleep on his belly, strands of dark hair going every which way.

I greeted him, chirping “hib!” until he smiled and chirped a lower-pitched hib back, eyes still closed.

“I got fo-od!” I sang. He lifted himself, exposing a nipple and responded in a falsetto “hmmm??” with one eye opened. Because there was distance between us, I presented the box to him far away; he very lazily reached out for it with his whole arm, unsuccessfully. I snorted and mocked him immediately, making an “ehhhhhh” noise, and he started laughing, mocking himself too, joining in the fun.

Ricky Edward Humerick. Educated in things he’s really interested in. Close to 600 records in his collection, but cannot pick an all-time favorite. Smells like green peppers, sweat and pheromone after a night of chopping up cheesesteak beef on the grill at work. Quiet, and gentle, but not a pushover and an alpha-male. Kindness is his demeanor and humor is his sharpest tool when meeting new people, despite his small bouts of social anxiety before we arrive at the scene.

A quick cigarette sparked in between his pretty boy lips to calm his nerves.

“You’re such a man!” I declared sternly while stretched out on the bed, sweatpants drawn to my upper waist meeting a messed up black lace tank top above.

“What’d I do??” Ricky playfully huffed back while unraveling a questionably clean t-shirt to wear until he had to get ready for his Subhouse shift. After a sniff or two, he proceeded to cover himself with the garment.

“Nothing, you just are! You’re so masculine, you think like a man. You’re just such a man!”

“Yeah!?” He chirped back in falsetto, “you really think so Hib??”

“Oh yes. Now come over here. Pettins?” I rolled over on my belly, head in pillow, melting into the memory foam of the mattress. I rolled up my tank top, exposing a larger part of my back.

Ricky smiled and made his way past the dirty clothes on the floor, standing tall before my bare back and started lightly running his lissome fingertips across my skin, from my blades to my spine, and back again. I looked up, and he was scrolling on his phone with his left hand- very talented.

He continued pettins until I started snoring in a promising slumber. And I guess that’s just the way things are and how they go.

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