I slipped my grease stained shirt over my head, buttoned every one but the top button and gathered together my apron. I wrapped the dangling strings around the bulky apron to keep them from trailing on the ground and getting dirtier then they already were.
I had one foot out of the door and a hand on the door knob when I glanced down. Damn, I forgot to cover up my tattoo. I shouldered the door open and sprinted the length of the living room and into the bathroom. With fingers that knew what they were doing I put the white bandage on my leg and taped it down.
I re-hooked my keys on my finger and put my apron back under my arm. I was out of the front door a minute later and twenty seconds after that I was behind the wheel of my car. I had gotten to be an expert at covering up my tattoo. It was a problem for where I worked. Why it was a problem? I had no idea. It was a picture of an open book, with the words Believe written across the pages by a feather quill. How unoffensive could you get?
Tattoos didn’t create the proper image for the restaurant where I worked. Everyone had to look uniform and match. No individuality or personality allowed inside those walls. I hated having to cover it up the five days I worked a week. I got it for a reason. It was my emblem, my way of showing the world who I was and what I did with my life. I wrote with full belief in myself, my words and what I could do with them. If that was offensive to someone, well screw them. I didn’t and would not try to care.
The drive was quick, only fifteen minutes today. No traffic to delay me, which was good for my mood. What wasn’t was the actual shift. The work day did not fly past like the drive. It was long and full of attitude and confused messed up orders. I got my exercise that day running back and forth recooking half of what was served. I got into a fight with one of the cooks when I wouldn’t admit that his job was more difficult then mine. (He didn’t have to talk to these people! I did.)
Finally the end of the day was near. I had one hour left. Sixty minutes was all I had to endure before freedom was mine. I had two days off and I was planning on using them to forget that this place even existed.
I got a new guest at the counter. I handed him a set of silverware but left the menu in the holder. He was a regular (not a particular favored regular) who knew the menu better then half of the waitresses here. He rattled off his meal of choice and I turned to head around the corner to put in his order. He caught sight of my bandaged leg and asked question I had heard at least a dozen times that day.
“What did you do to your leg?” He asked.
I stopped and glanced down at my leg to ensure we were thinking about the same thing. “Nothing. It is actually covering up my tattoo. Against regulations to have it,” I said. Now that should have been it, just like it had been for the rest of the day. But this guy wasn’t one for keeping his mouth shut.
“You have a tattoo? Why would you destroy yourself like that?” He asked, completely shocked and disgusted.
“It was designed by my brother. It’s an open book with a feather quill writing the world Believe,” was how I responded. It was the safest thing for me to say right now. I walked around the corner to the computer, knowing that if I stayed near him any longer some unpleasant words would leave my mouth.
Unfortunately for me staying away from him was not a possible task. The restaurant was the size of a shoe box, it only sat 30 people. So I ended up back in font of him only minutes later.
I was at the front computer checking out a guest, doing everything in my power to ignore him. He kept trying to catch my eye but I refused to even glance at him. As soon as the woman had her back to me, Mister-I-know-everything opened his mouth again.
“So what gang are you in then?” he asked, no laughter. He wasn’t joking, he was being serious.
I had to drop my pen because my fingers started to shake. “What!? I’m not!” I snapped at him. I was usually very much in control of my emotions. I didn’t snap or get angry easily. People joked it was like pulling teeth to get me mad. Unless you attacked someone I cared about. Today though I was already at the end of my rope and he wasn’t cutting the last threads.
‘Well, that is automatically what I think. If you get a tattoo you are in a gang. Simple.”he shrugged at me. His look said “Well, you’re the one who got it so don’t blame me.”
“Well, you are a judgmental piece of shit! You know that!? You wear glasses and a high priced suit, guess you are a smug bastard who thinks because he has money he is better then everyone else. Like being judged? No!? Well, neither do I! Did you bother to ask if it had any meaning? Or why I got it in the first place!? It is a reminder to me to believe in myself always. Even when arrogant piece sod shit like you attack me! SO FUCK YOU!!” Such an awesome speech, I just wished I could actually deliver it. I wished I could have watched his face fall and watch him fumble for his words.
But I needed my job so I bit my tongue until I tasted blood and turned on my heel for the back area. As I scooted past coworkers I let the scene continue to play in my head. A small smile creased my lips. In real life I could never say a word and could never put him in his place. But in my own little world I could tell that bastard off and he could get what he deserved.
(Came up with this story after listening to this song)
The night sky is as bright as a new dawn. It is like someone has flipped a switch turning on every star high above me. Thousands upon thousands of little balls of fire sparkle and wink down at me.
I sit back in my lawn chair sipping on lemonade wondering if he could see them to. Was he looking up at this sky amazed and inspired by the way the universe worked? The molecules and chemical reactions taking place so high above me were far beyond anything I could ever comprehend; but no matter my lack of understanding it still moved on. Those stars would still burn and live and die no matter what happened on this little planet below them.
I wish he was here. I loved sitting in the backyard talking to him, asking him his opinions and wondering why things worked as they did. Why did he have to leave? Wasn’t he happy here? Did this life not excite him enough? Or did he not think I loved him more than I could ever put into words? After what I did I would not be surprised if he thought the last. The memory of those actions still made me feel sick to my stomach.
He was generally very quiet. He would listen to my questions and just give me a look that said, “I don’t know.” I never felt like it was an accusatory glare, more like a sympathetic one. Like “I don’t know, but does that matter?” It didn’t matter, it never mattered. When he was here those were just questions I pondered, nothing more. Now he was gone, and those questions and my ignorance bugged me more and more every day that he didn’t come home. I didn’t feel happy wondering anymore, without that doe eyed look of sympathy. I just felt like a speck inside the chaos of the universe. An ignorant pathetic little speck.
I laid my head back as one question, the question I can never get an answer for, rushed through my head. Why did he have to leave me here all alone?
I was in the dumpster pushing past paper bags, old bits of rinds and torn clothes to dig under piles upon piles of coffee grounds and decayed things that no longer had a name. Under this heap there was real food, I could smell it. I just had to get to it.
Finally I saw it, the dull pink of a piece of perfectly fine ham. I picked it up and let it rest it in my mouth as I jumped out of the dumpster. I gobbled it up as soon as my feet hit solid ground, hardly savoring the rich flavor. Right now I just wanted to quiet the constant rumbling of my stomach.
It had been two days since I had found anything as substantial as this piece of meat. Normally it was wilted lettuce, pieces of rotten bananas or stale crusts of bread; sustenance but nothing more. I was a carnivore, so having that piece of meat in my stomach, that sweet smell in my nose and that savory taste on my tongue made me feel satisfied for just a moment. For one blissful moment I forgot where I was and why.
The moment didn’t last long. Once I had swallowed that last chunk, that hungry growl in my stomach returned with a vengeance. I needed something more. Now my stomach remembered what real food tasted like and it wanted more, more than I would ever be able to find. I would pay for that perfect find for the rest of the night.
I jumped back into the dumpster and began to rummage around again. There had to be something else in here, something that would quiet my stomach enough to let me sleep.
Every time I raised my head to take a look around for a new spot I caught a glimpse of the night sky. The lights were bright tonight. The little dots stood high above looking down at me. I never understood what the “stars,” were exactly; but that never mattered to me. They were so bright, like little eyes twinkling down, shining like her eyes always had whenever she had given me that sweet smile of hers.
How I missed that twinkle. At least the night sky was giving me some reminder, a small comfort in this ridiculously complicated world. A world that had been so pleasant, so easy until two weeks ago when it had all been turned on its head.
It had been a normal morning. I woke up with her. She got ready for work while I ate breakfast. She had seemed distant, not as chatty and cherry as she was normally. I just figured it was because it was early in the morning, which had never been her time of the day. She had left with barely a goodbye, just a mumble I had to interpret for myself.
That night she had returned angry beyond anything I had ever seen. She was crying tears of rage, her bag laid torn to pieces in the middle of the floor, its contents tossed all over the house. Books lay next to over turned lamps with shattered bulbs. The coffee table had a long scratch across the entire surface from where she had dug a pen into it screaming with some type of brutal anger.
I had no idea what to do. She was normally so conserved, so gentle and quiet. It was rare she cried or had any real hard emotions. Watching this meltdown scared me. I ducked into the corner behind the television, hoping she wouldn’t come after me. I tried not to let out a whimper or any real sound, trying to stay out of sight to stay out of mind.
She seemed to have let everything out ten minutes later. She sat on the ground exhausted from her whirlwind through the house. I slowly crept out of hiding and went to her side. I remained completely silent, just sitting there waiting for her to say something, to give me a real explanation. I didn’t touch her, afraid it would start the freak out all over again.
She didn’t speak. She turned to me, an anger mask clouding her generally sweet face. She just grabbed me by the neck and threw me from the house. She slammed the door in my face as I stood shocked on the porch. I heard a thump and as sob from the other side of the door. I could picture her collapsed on the floor on the other side, tears streaming down her cheeks and reddening her eyes. I’d only seen her like that twice before and all I wanted to do was go to her, let her find comfort in me like before.
I had no way of getting inside. The doors were all shut tight and locked. So I turned and left my home, hoping one day I could return. Hoping all she needed was time to herself, that she would calm down and I could return to her. I had planned on just wandering a few blocks, giving her time to calm down and time for me to understand what had happened.
As I wandered I got disoriented and lost. No one stopped to help me, most just turned their noses up and slipped off to the side, going around me. I wandered for ages until I realized I had no idea where I was and no idea how to get home again.
As I looked at the sky again I wondered if one of those small bursts could show me the way home.
I sat in the backyard again, why I kept repeating this routine I had no idea. He was gone, gone because I had forced him out. I had shoved him out the door and locked him away. I had just been so angry, so clouded by loss and disappointment that I couldn’t see straight. I didn’t want him bothering me so I had removed that annoyance, not knowing that I would miss his nudging and his attempts to get me to talk. Not knowing that comforting touch was all that would be able to help me stand up again.
It had been the worst day of my life. I didn’t understand how the entire universe could come crashing down around me until that day. I had known something was wrong when I woke up. I could feel it in my gut. I was queasy, twitching and short of breath. My heart was beating in a rhythm I couldn’t place. Something terrible was coming.
At work they had me sit down in a chair right in front of two executives, dressed in dark black suites, funeral suits. I don’t remember most of their speech, just two words, “You’re fired.” I couldn’t understand why. They tried to explain but my brain never did process any of their words. Something about numbers not adding up and a potential investigation. I just nodded, gathered my things and left without a single word. I didn’t know what else to do.
On my way home my phone wouldn’t be quiet. I ignored the first three calls and to this minute I wish I had ignored that last one as well. Still in a haze from my firing I had answered. “He’s gone,” they had said. “We are sorry.” That was when a film snapped down over my vision, turning every thing read and black around me. I felt like I was possessed, possessed by some red-eyed demon, my actions no longer were my own. I screamed and gunned the car, it still amazes me that I didn’t hit anyone.
I got home and unleashed everything. I ripped my flimsy fabric bag hurling fabric strips all over the house. I threw lamps, littering the room with a minefield of broken shards of glass. I toppled books, tearing pages. I scratched the coffee table, wanting my hurt to transfer into its surface. I destroyed the world that had hurt me so much. I never noticed him hiding from my angry tirade. The last straw had been throwing him out. I couldn’t take his sympathy or questioning concerned look. I didn’t want his curious glances or gentle touches. I didn’t want anything in the world to be good at that moment. I wanted only my pain to exist, nothing could stay that would fix it or gentle it any.
After that door had clicked shut the flood gates had opened and I had collapsed. I cried for hours, no idea why I couldn’t stop. I had sobbed until I almost felt like I was going to pass out. I just felt like the world was breaking into pieces around me and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to stop it.
When I had opened that door later, just as the stars had begun to sparkle and found him gone, I had collapsed all over again. My dried up eyes stung as they tried to cry again, but it was pointless I had nothing left to pour out.
Two weeks later my heart still hurt, still was bruised by that day. The stars just twinkled down, winking down at me. I picked one and closed my eyes, “ Please come home,” I begged. I needed him if I was ever going to get back up on my feet again.
I laid in the park under a tree, head on the cool grass watching the stars once more. They were so high. How did they get up there? Could they tell me, show me how to rise high and escape all of this? I was cold, the grass was wet and I could feel bugs scratching their way up my back.
At first the freedom had been fun. I could go anywhere, eat anything and approach anyone. The novelty wore off quickly though. The food was never fresh and half the time barely eatable. The streets were hard and cruel. I barely avoided a number of fights mostly by running and hiding under porches or inside dumpsters. The people were mostly mean, shooing me away or wincing at my dirtiness. Some offered a handful of food with an “I’m sorry,” smile before turning me away again.
I didn’t want freedom, I wanted home. I wanted safety, warmth and food that wasn’t covered in slime or fuzz. I just had no idea where to go. I knew it couldn’t be far but I was slowly running out of hope. I gave the stars one more plea, “Help, please.” I didn’t expect an answer but when I heard the chattering voices I looked up and wandered closer anyway.
“Walker Street,” the name made my heart stop for a second. A grey haired short man was at a van window speaking with someone. From what I could hear it sounded like he was giving them directions. I jumped to my feet and went to within a hundred feet of the van and the man. I didn’t understand half of what he was saying but it didn’t matter. I would follow the van, once on the street I could do the rest.
With a lighter heart than I had had in weeks I took off after the green minivan. As I ran I looked up, each start twinkling brighter and brighter as I ran, as if shouting “Go, go, go, go!”
It was almost midnight when I woke with a start. I sat up and looked around trying to figure out what had awoken me. I looked down and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest.
Sitting beside me the biggest smile of complete joy on his face was Matty. I felt my eyes growing damp.
I dropped to my knees and buried my head into his neck.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” I kept whispering over and over again. I knew the stars heard.
She had a strangle hold on my neck but I didn’t care. She was hugging me. She wasn’t shooing me away or yelling.She wasn’t pulling me away or trying to make me leave. She was sobbing with utter joy not sadness or anger. She had missed me as much as I had missed her.
I licked her face making her giggle. She patted my head and scratched behind my ears making my tail thump back and forth on the cold damp ground. I pushed her to the ground and laid out on her chest. I rested my head just over her heart and listened to that calm perfectly comforting beat.
Two weeks ago didn’t matter. This moment, being home with her was all that mattered. She wrapped her arms around my back and slid her hands through my fur. I settled comfortably into her embrace as our stars looked down, smiling at us.