We called him Sweatpants because he showed up to the New Faculty Orientation in a hoodie. All the other staff came in suits and blazers, casket-sharp. He came in skinny-legged sweats and some ol’ school Adidas.
I was attracted to him, but tried not to show it. He seemed arrogant, worse than that: smug. The corkboard was filled with pictures of home. I’d meant to post a wall calendar, helpful flyers, a few files. But before I knew it, I’d covered it with family pictures, friends from school, at least 10 pictures of my niece, and a few pics of an old crush. He noticed her first. “Do you have children?”
I’d made a point to be unnecessarily busy, no matter what time he came. I’d been single for a while, 30 plus years’ single. He was too smart, too handsome. He made me nervous.
“Your daughter?” He pointed to the picture again and smiled.
“My niece! She lives in Houston. My family lives there. Actually, everyone in my family lives there. Except for my brother. He lives in Austin. Well, technically Round Rock, but it’s basically the same thing. Like saying you live in Chicago instead of Oak Park. It’s a nice place. Houston, I mean, not Oak Park. I’ve only been to Oak Park once. It’s probably nice too, I’m just not sure. Do you know what it’s like there? Houston is nice. Different than here, but nice.” I was rambling. Trying to find an endpoint but failing. He had two children of his own, two small toddlers that he didn’t see enough.
There’s a wooden instrument that sits outside my door at work. It has two wooden rods that look like microphones. If you use the rods on the wooden beams, it sounds just like a xylophone or a piano, just as musical and just as loud. The children bang on the keys while they’re outside waiting. They’re hardly tall enough to be seen from the window, but there’s a constant, incessant clanging that rarely ever fades.
They hid the beams from them today. I found them stuffed under some folders on the shelf. I laughed out loud when I saw them, because I knew exactly why. It reminded me of her picture that I couldn’t find. She’d grabbed my camera, but didn’t know how to use it. I was worried that the flash might bother her eyes, but she snatched it from my hand so quickly, I couldn’t turn it off. She giggled as it snapped, and giggled more when I showed her the picture.
We tried to do Rose, Bud, Thorn this week, but I didn’t have the energy. Families stranded in airports. Mothers and fathers denied. They detained a 5 year-old boy. One woman, at the risk of deportation, threatened suicide at JFK.
Deadlines and work stress seem frivolous, but I rant anyway.
Week 7, Joy:
- It was my mother’s birthday this weekend. I should’ve gone to see her, but the struggle is real. I like gift-shopping for her. Decisions, decisions!
- Two weeks from now will be my 1-year anniversary of my return move home (if that’s a thing).
- We celebrate 2 years tomorrow.
Week 7, Struggle:
What were your struggles? What were your joys?