Short Story Portfolio

Quick breezes from the Paper Hurricane

 
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Mephisto at the Mandarin Oriental

A Deal with a Demon

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Time Flies Over Vesta

High Space Piracy

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Silent Chairs

A Peek into Friendship in Dystopia

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Free Space

A Grim Reaper Rests

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Crab, Anemone, Barcelona

An Alien who Loves consuming DVDs

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Trash Can Enlightenment

Full, Empty, or Somewhere in Between

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Post Office Physics

No Return to Sender

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Mephisto at The Mandarin Oriental

Mephisto clacked his long, lacquered claws on the marble bar top to drown out Taylor Swift's ‘Blank Space’ piping through the recessed speaker system. He didn’t loathe the catchy song, yet the beat and lyrics spotlit his natural, reckless tendencies he was doing his best to deviate from.


His crimson gel manicure matched his silk blouse, but he didn't feel put together at all.


“Another, please.” Mephisto's voice swirled in the air like his long finger did to indicate another round.


It'd be dawn in a few hours, and Mephisto considered throwing himself into the sunrise, just to feel the burn.


“No offense, but you don't look like a Mai Tai kind of....” The bartender with gelled back hair and clean fingernails paused.


“Demon. And I'm not, they're for someone else. Thank you, Frank.” Mephisto shoved his lip to the side to reveal a lengthened fang and put up his curly hair into a messy bun to reveal pointed ears.


The tall bartender nodded while pouring the lime juice. When his neck raised just enough over his collar, it showed off a glimpse of a promising black and white tattoo.


It was then he decided to shove his hand in his wallet, and take out a crisp Benjamin and put it in the tip jar.


Though he wasn’t in America, the US dollar swung in the bartender’s favor.


“No, thank you,” The bartender eyed the tip. “But your telepathy is off. My name isn't Frank.” The bartender smirked, and if Mephisto was in a sporting mood, he would've considered flirting back. He was just this shade of his type, put together, direct, funny, not too talkative, and he even liked his douchey facial hair.


He wondered if the bartender knew that no one has really liked goatees since the early 17th century, even if they were well oiled.


“No telepathy, you're just ‘Frank’ tonight.” Mephisto didn't dismiss 'current Frank' outright. He turned on his heavy, stable bar stool towards him, showing interest with his body language.


Mephisto's talents didn't lie in reading minds, honestly where was the fun in that? What made him tick, what drove him like a Ferrari 458 gliding down I85, what stopped him from throwing himself into the rising sun each morning to return to the underworld was simple: making deals.


“Ha, whatever gets your motor goin'.” Frank answered with an automotive metaphor that only made Mephisto picture the real Frank driving his onyx black Ferrari that he long ago wrapped around a magnolia tree with both of them in it.


The Demon still couldn’t go back down to Georgia, oh the musical irony.


‘Current Frank’ furrowed his blond eyebrows for a moment. He turned and dug through a jar to select a cherry red paper parasol to properly garnish his Mai Tai.


He could've chosen any color parasol, yet he deliberately chose one that matched his manicure.


“I’m Mephisto. How would you like to make a deal?” Mephisto uncrossed his legs, his black leather pants squeaking on the green leather barstool.


He took a sip of the sweet, orangey cocktail, and decided that the red parasol was the best part about it. He plucked it from the drink and twirled it between his fingers before shoving it into his dark curly hair.


“Tell me why Frank's favorite drink is unfortunately the Mai Tai, and we can discuss it.” ‘Current Frank’ answered, smiling wide to showcase predictably perfect white teeth, but a surprise tongue ring.


Mephisto barked out a laugh.


“Oh and I’m Karl by the way.” ‘Current Frank’ added while sliding him his tab.


Mephisto rolled the name around in his head. He had a German name, which was a promising sign.


“Alright Karl,” Mephisto's tongue curled around the 'l' of his name.


He left the mostly untouched Mai Tai, glass now slick with condensation, but kept the parasol. With a flourish he scribbled down 666, his room number, to charge the Mai Tais to his room.


“You know where to find me.” Mephisto hoisted himself off the barstool and sauntered off in his alligator boots to the elevator.


Perhaps like the song suggested, instead of shunning what made him feel alive he’d celebrate it.

 
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Time Flies Over Vesta

The retrofitted UES light-cruiser, The Tipped Hourglass, maintained a steady speed and trajectory leaving the orbit of Europa despite being laden with an illegal ice haul. Leaving the Jovian system at too high of a velocity would tip the UES's hand that they flew under a dark banner.


Which was code for they engaged in high space piracy and terrorism, which is precisely the sort of propaganda that made captain Penelope Renata take the helm of the Tipped Hourglass in the first place.


The United Earth Republic viewed the endeavors that captain Renata, and countless others like her, undertook as driven by greed slicked by blood.


Yet, when people in the Mars colonies couldn't even cry out for help due to how thirsty they were, Renata found herself, and the rest of the ships that flew under the banner of the Steel Eclipse Resistance, not giving much of a shit about what Earth thought of them.


“Sir, we just picked up a vessel on our scope, five clicks out. They slipped in cloaked, sir.” Mitchell called out, voice high in surprise, from his seat at the communications post.


Mitchell rarely lost his composure, yet captain Renata knew he was shaken for it was a rarity when a ship managed to outsmart them like this. Mitchell spoke nine languages, and dedicated himself to engineering every part of the Hourglass’ relays and scopes himself.


She knew they should've gotten their stealth sensor array repaired back on Vesta when he told her it was faulty.


“Give me hard scans, evasive maneuvers, full thrust. Do not let them get missile lock.” Captain Renata commanded, pushing back her greying hair behind her ears. All crew on deck and under strapped in as the deck lights flashed red indicating the Tipped Hourglass entered close-combat conditions.


The ship dove and lurched to starboard, but not enough to jostle the ice in the cargo bay. captain Renata thanked the stars that their pilot, Choi, had such a natural feel for the controls.


“Sir, it's a Kinshasa class heavy-destroyer. All thermal readings confirm that it's the UES Jacinda Ardern.” Mitchell reported back, voice thick.


Any new recruit knew that a Kinshasa class heavy-destroyer outgunned their Hanoi class light-cruiser four to one, despite their upgrades to weapon systems and their scavenged particle lance.


Renata's heart thumped awake in her chest for the first time in decades.


“What's the pirate killer doing out this far past the belt?!” O'Dell postured up from the firing station, dark eyes wide as moons.


“Give me direct wave communications with the Ardern. No encryption.” captain Renata ordered, jaw set, eyes on the holo like laser scopes.


“Uh....yes...yes sir.” Mitchell's hesitancy was understood by Renata, it had been seventeen years since any pirate vessel successfully escaped the clutches of the celebrated pirate hunter, Admiral Seline Huang.


While her name was chanted and rejoiced throughout Earth for bringing terrorists to justice, captain Renata knew her much more personally.


For Seline Huang used to use her father's name, Renata. She was none other than captain Penelope Renata's own younger sister.


Coms lit up right as the United Earth's Ship achieved a firing solution on the Tipped Hourglass.


“UES Jacinda Ardern, this is captain Renata of the Tipped Hourglass. We’re on a routine salvage mission bound for the New Brazil Mars Colony flying a Vesta banner. We would like to know why you’ve engaged us in inter-sol space.” Captain Renata began with formal pleasantries to the Ardern’s too young, and too bright-eyed communications officer.


She intended to throw off her younger sister, who most likely had no idea she captained this vessel, and to ease her crew into the shock of being familiar with the infamous pirate killer.


The Ardern’s coms transferred to their command station, and a face she hadn’t seen in person in twenty years appeared on her holo.


“What a surprise for me, time flies, Pen. How long has it been, seventeen years?” Admiral Huang’s abrupt acknowledgment plunged the Tipped Hourglass into a stiff silence.


Penelope Renata swallowed and picked her cuticles. This weathered, hardened woman with a voice like stalactites was once her cheerful little sister who blew out the candles on a Twinkie that she had stolen for her eighth birthday on Earth's former moon.


“Yes it does, and yes it has Sellie.” Penelope Renata regained her composure, and bantered back.


Her crew on deck, especially Mitchell and Odell who’d been with her the longest, gaped like goldfish.


“In accordance with the United Earth Republic Regulations R-9140, You're a confirmed vessel listed under the terrorist organization Steel Eclipse. You have one minute to power down your reactor, and sever weapons systems to prepare for boarding. If you do not comply, we will open fire, full salvo.” Her younger sister hoped they’d acquiesce, just so they could string them by their necks, and throw them out the airlock to drag like anchors as her ship burned through space.


“Really, this is how you treat your last remaining family?” Captain Renata stalled, knowing full well after Earth's moon exploded twenty years ago, that her sister would never forgive her for joining the Resistance.


For at the time, the Steel Eclipse Resistance was held responsible for detonating the moon, and murdering millions, and changing the course of life on Earth forever.


“You have forty-eight seconds, or you're ash in the asteroids. Goodbye, sister.” Admiral Huang’s smirk was a cold shard of ice as the coms blacked out.


The Tipped Hourglass remained in silence for at least three seconds, and for those three seconds, captain Penelope Renata prepped herself to surrender to a mutiny.


Related to the infamous pirate killer? Inexcusable.


“Sir, what are your orders? The Jacinda Ardern outguns us four to one, and they may have backup coming.” O'Dell asked, composed, firm, and ready just like how she found him on Deimos shooting his rapist to death in an alley.


Captain Renata’s eyebrows rose, wrinkling her forehead.


“We can hail the Tanager, they are just outside Io. if they redline their reactor, they may make it in time.” Mitchell pulled up the entire Jovian system, the blue of the holo making his freckles stand out starkly on his pallid skin.


They all needed more vitamin D supplements.


“The Tanager wouldn’t make it before the Jacinda Ardern overwhelms us. Io’s orbit and their position doesn’t suit a rapid-thrust gravity sling.” Choi informed Mitchell from the pilot seat, popping a piece of bubblegum.


Despite her propensity for pressure sickness, she was still the best pilot to ever come out of Singapore Space Academy.


“Hail the Tanager, but tell them to rally under our banner, but to not engage and to await further instruction.” Captain Renata pointed to Mitchell who whipped around and complied.


“Choi, pull us around, and O’Dell, start the firing sequence for the particle lance. Save our turrets for their torpedoes, prepare a full rack of missiles to launch before firing the lance to distract the Jacinda Ardern.” Captain Renata turned to her beloved crew, and tried not to remember the gritty collage of memories that pushed their way into her mind.


Her crew saluted.


“It's been an honor being your captain, we have lived fully and will die laughing, but we will not laugh today.” Captain Renata nodded, and the Tipped Hourglass spun out of Admiral Huang’s firing solution, ready for a dogfight.

 
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Silent Chairs

For Madison’s thirty-first birthday, Wesley had to think of something really cool, because last year his best friend spent it in the detention center for violating the ‘Upstanding Decency Act’. So, Wesley snuck him through a glitch in the Echo Park containment perimeter to practice their pitching, like they used to do before the fall of 2034.


Only, you couldn’t find baseballs, or really any kind of balls anymore so they made due with whatever they found on the ground, usually rocks.


It was when he saw a half melted kid’s ikea chair that a blip of a memory, as ancient and degraded as cassette tape, reeled through his mind.


“Do you remember Casey Thorne's birthday party when we were little? He had a house like this, but in Santa Monica.” Wesley asked as he threw another stone at the side of the shell-shocked abandoned house.


It had once been some D-list celebrity's mansion before the takeover. The blown out windows, soot stained stucco, and palm trees reduced to charcoal had plunged its splendor into ruins where the rich really belonged.


The stone, rather crumbling piece of sidewalk zipped through the empty bay window. Two points.


“Casey from baseball camp? The one who almost went pro for the Angels?” Madison asked, picking up his own rock, a chunk of asphalt, and closing one eye to aim.


Wesley snapped his nicotine gum.


“Yeah. Him. And yeah, he had skills. He wasn't like us who topped out at triple A ball.” Wesley said, licking his lips, trading in his daily water voucher for ten bars of xanax and nicotine gum to celebrate Madison’s birthday was well worth it.


Even if they’d probably end up paying for it later.


He scanned down the cul-de-sac to his right, ensuring that no Starlink drones lurked beyond the other skeletal houses.


“Was his the party with the pinata? Do you even remember what a kit kat tastes like? Those were like, your favorite man.” Mads threw his chunk of asphalt and just like Wesley's it soared through the empty window pane unimpeded until it resulted in a muffled, echoing thud.


“Yea, Mads I remember what chocolate tastes like,” Wesley rolled his eyes, Mads had always had more of a sweet-tooth than him but would never admit it. “but what I mean is that game musical chairs.” Wesley said, his turn to pick up a rock.


He bent down to pick one up, avoiding bones, one clearly a human vertebrae, to get a large smooth one. Probably one that used to decorate some zen garden.


It just showed you can't buy class, or survival skills for that matter.


“Oh yeah, musical chairs, do kids even still play that game? I guess it’d be hard with the music ban now, but everyone would always cheat anyway. Or the game would be rigged by whoever played the music.” Mads said, taking his turn to keep watch, rubbing his buzzcut out of a nervous habit.


The orange lights from the Starlink perimeter fence around Echo Park had the privilege of winking in a languid tempo, because the overtaker's proximity sensors didn't ever need to scramble, rush, flee, scatter or run.


See, the United Republic of Enterprise controlled the music.


“When you’re right, you’re right Mads.” Wesley hadn’t expected Mads to hit the target so quickly. “As a kid it was just a game, now--” Wesley heard a clang of something metal down the cul-de-sac and both Mads and Wesley's necks snapped to attention.


A sleek, gunmetal gray drone snapped its identification beam towards them both, blinding them before blaring the arrest siren.


Wesley did the only thing he could do, he threw a rock to start the music.

 
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Free Space

On the high plain of Rose Plateau, Gladys the Grim waded through chest high stalks of golden ripe barley. The crisp blue sky and wind stretched clouds rolled on and on until the towering mountain range that separated the two squabbling kingdoms that gave Gladys so much work.

Gladys didn't greedily profit off the war like so many others around her had, no. Her occupation paid about the same since the dawn of man, two coins, one for each eye.


She didn't care for a raise.

However, from time to time, she did care for a respite from her endless duties.

Gladys halted in the middle of the field when she heard a small sound of something living jostling the barley stalks.


Time to clear the fields of some dim-witted creatures.

Her bony, sun-aged hand swung her rosewood scythe with precision and power, severing the barley stalks around her in a perfect half moon. Sky pheasants, stone rats, and all manner of other mildly enchanted creatures scattered away, but none were slain.


Her rather toilsome duty to death did not apply to her in the Free Space.


Instead, a blade flipped through the air, seeking one of the fat pheasants with intrepid aim.

Gladys pulled down the dark hood of her muslin uniform with her free-hand to better view the spectacle. She was maybe only a handful of entities to cause then witness such a feat.

From such a height to starve a dragon of oxygen, the black chevron slimmed to a spear-point and dove.

Her cracked, thin lips curled upwards, an action that her mouth hadn't done in centuries, watching the inevitable end of one pheasant's life.

The sharp point accelerated, and from its tail, a magenta afterglow was left in the clear, boundless sky. Gladys the Grim's favorite past-time was flushing out prey for those predators worthy of it. And few other predators were more worthy of it, than the fuschia-tailed falcon.

Only these raptors could endure the high-altitudes of Free Space plateaus. Even the very plateau she stood on, Rose Plateau, was rumored to be named after these birds, and not the flower that humans cherished so.

Though Gladys had lost her eyesight to the human realm long ago, here she could capture every movement of the falcon's wings as if capturing a slice of a memory and painting it onto canvas.

The falcon zeroed in on her prey.


Any second now.

The grim reaper's empty eye-sockets brimmed over in tears as the raptor struck the lolling pheasant with such force, tufts of downy feathers burst into the air.

She lifted her onyx-bladed scythe to the sun and let out a banshee shriek in victory as the wind rustled the barley that she hadn't cut down.

After the rippling plain calmed and stilled, like a pond long after a thrown stone, she could hear the tearing and ripping of flesh.

Gladys the Grimm took a single step towards her fuschia-feathered friend before a dark door opened behind her.


A summons.


Gladys the Grimm composed herself, resenting her cursed occupation, and turned about to enter the portal. She didn't look back at her beloved Free Space.


She'd ascend her way back one day.

 
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Crab, Anemone, Barcleona

“You’re going the wrong way!” Doran exclaimed, pointing with a yellow pincer at a sign beyond the windshield of their battered atmosphericle, phericle for short.


Their Solar Positioning System had gone haywire again!


Their malfunctioning phericle was the only shuttle their command ship, the ‘Ash Comet’, had available outfitted for post-radiation navigation.


According to the interpritron, they were following the sign that read “100 km to Barcelona”. Additionally, Doran’s pilot, Rakler, knew this was not their intended destination for their scavenging mission.


Rackler the Anemone had a tendency to be a bit bizarre, like he didn’t eat with the rest of the crew, so most of the others and Doran avoided having Rackler as a pilot for this very reason. However he didn’t have a choice in this particular mission.


“We’re not trying to go to Barcelona…we must turn and go to Bilbao! That Guggenheim museum is there!” Doran said using a shelled eyestalk to fix the blinking dot on their phericle’s SPS screen.


The yellow crustacean had no idea what a “Rothko” was, but apparently the item was worth at least fifty thousand lithium dollars. Doran was assigned as punishment to go to the toxic, desert planet of Earth for slurping cosmic sludge on duty, yet Rackler, the strange Anemone he was, had volunteered.


“I didn’t volunteer for this mission to this wasteland planet to only go to that Guggenheim place. I want to go to Barcelona.” Rackler replied, his rubbery teal fronds buzzing through the foreign words.


Doran clicked his golden mandibles in irritation. The anemone finally grew a spine, but now the young crab was already on thin ice with the captain.


“No! It was confirmed to be nothing but glass and rubble! There is nothing of worth there.” Doran pulled up a recent image of Barcelona which looked depressing as his own future in this scavenging outfit.


If he got caught breaking protocol again, Doran would be forced out of the Ash Comet at the next available station, most likely the Andromeda Gate.


Not even Doran’s shell was tough enough to survive that den of ruffians.


“There is something I must do there. If you come with me, just tell the truth and say I forced you to go and turn me into Captain Manta. Or I can let you out here and I can come back and collect you.” Rackler punched a few buttons with his fronds and the escape pod blinked active.


“I have a question, what is worth seeing in Barcelona to get yourself thrown in the brig?” At this point, Doran’s interest was piqued. Call himself a curious crab.


One of Rackler’s ten eyes looped over his way.


“Have you ever watched entertainment media from this planet? DVDs?” Rackler’s voice hummed, and his fronds glowed violet as their phericle cruised over the broken highway.


Doran rubbed his eyestalk with his hind leg, a bad habit he got when he concentrated. He remembered scavenging a container ship filled with delicious flat, circular rainbow-colored discs. The whole crew, except Rackler, crunched the snack up and ate them.


That brand of snack was DVDs!


“I’ve eaten plenty of DVDs that one time. Very delicious with a flat taste.” Doran recalled.


Rackler’s fronds darkened in affront.


“Those were not to be consumed via the mouth, but via the eyes with the proper device. I watched four, my favorite being one called ‘Vicky, Christina, Barcelona.” Rackler explained and Doran just wanted to bang his carapace against the windscreen.


He wanted to go to Barcelona because he saw something in the food?


“I must see this magical Barcelona for myself, even if it is now an irradiated wasteland.” Rackler continued, speeding up their Phiricle.


Doran thought, motioning to stroke an eyestalk but stopped. Going to Barcelona sounded at first like a waste of time, but the longer he spent on-planet, the more he could just be himself because there was no way he was as crazy as Rackler.


And he hadn’t commented on his nervous clacking once.


“Fine, let’s be off, but we can't delay going back to the Guggenheim, or the captain will find out.” Doran agred, clacking his mandibles.


“Noted, thank you. You will not regret this!” Rackler swayed a bit in the driver’s seat.


“Maybe…and we definitely don’t have time to see Vicky or Christina.” Doran added, not wanting the anemone to get any ideas.


“That won’t be a problem, or really an option.” Rackler’s fronds jiggled and he pressed a button on the screen.


Some scratchy video started to play.


“What holo is this?” Doran asked, tapping the screen with his cutting pincer.


“It is the DVD, Vicky Christina Barcelona, and don’t you dare eat it.”Rackler shook a frond at him as the music swelled.


Doran decided that despite how good they tasted, he’d just find something else to eat on the way.

 
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Trash Can Enlightenment

Thursday, April 2nd 2020:


My trash can is full again.


I jam my empty sugar-free redbull can into it anyway. The wet metal screeches against the styrofoam packaging of my father’s things that I had unwrapped yesterday.


The satisfaction of shoving something so solid into a space that was assumed to be too full fades like smoke from a Marlboro.


It irks me, how something so plain, boxy, and gray can fill up so easily, when I feel so empty in my bright blue shirt and orange sandals.


One time my dad wore bright purple pants to a client meeting because he thought they were navy blue.


Colorblindness is a bitch, but that’s not why he ran red lights.


I eye the flimsy off-brand trash bags and think about stretching and pulling them apart like tasteless, joyless taffy.


Maybe I’ll scream.


I don’t.


-


Saturday, April 3rd 2021:


I have 12,097 unread emails alone in my primary gmail inbox.


Most are from bots or something equally fake. Who even sends real emails anymore? I remember when AOL had that awful catchphrase ‘You’ve got mail’.


I'd get excited, I admit it.


While my mother took to new tech like an f1 driver would a chicane, my father never could quite navigate it.


Yet, to his credit, he was always first in line to try.


His first PC was a Packard Bell that ran Windows 3.1. Pretty OG.


The last message I got from him was in mostly caps with emojis tangled in the letters. It read like a gen-z ransom note, which suited our conversation style better than I expected.


I still have him pop up as a secondary connection in LinkedIn.


He's sporting a gray suit in his photo, but not the same gray as my trash can.


I’m wearing a yellow graphic T with the words “It’s the kind of tired that sleep doesn’t fix” scrawled on the back.


Those words are more real than any I’ve received in an email in a long while.


-


Monday, April 4th 2022:


I live in a shared flat now, so it’s not my gray trash can, it’s our trash can.


And our trash can is full, but it's really only like 33.33 percent my fault.


We’re causing this waste together. We’re creating and destroying as a unit. Inside our trash can is dark from coffee grounds and burnt bread, but glints from sugar-free red bull and coke-zero cans.


Maybe I made more of this trash than I want to admit. Maybe I’m first on the leaderboard. Maybe I’ve won something.


I could put that on my LinkedIn.


I still feel empty, but it’s a shared emptiness, like our shared trashcan is a shared fullness.


I have on a hazard orange sundress to hold a match against the encroaching darkness.


I debate going out to be seen.


Nah.


I put on my father’s and my favorite movie, Independence Day.


Happy Birthday Dad, you would’ve been the big 70.


Hey life, Up Yours.


-


Wednesday, April 5th 2023:


Someone smarter than me once wrote, grief is just love with nowhere to go.


I read that while listening to Nirvana.


Drain You is my favorite song. I like it when they say the part about chewing meat. It’s visceral, true, bloody, and human.


Like enlightenment should be, but maybe that’s why no one quite gets there. I don’t think Kurt Cobain got close and well, the name of his band sure is self explanatory.


I drain my sugar-free red bull and go to our trash can.


When I press my foot on the lever and the lid pops up as it should, I grin.


I relish the little victories.


The trash can is only half-full or half-empty or however else you want to describe it. I drop the can in and it hardly makes a sound.


My dad used to insist on getting those fancy drawstring trash bags after one leaked across the linoleum. He felt personally betrayed by the cheap bags because he always had his house immaculate and just-so.


In fact, the only time he wasn’t crisp and put together was in a vacation rental house at the beach.


He’d even rock a goofy T-shirt from a nearby restaurant out in public.


I’m wearing one of those T-shirts from Key West Florida and blue basketball shorts I pilfered from a friend.


Our trash can is still gray.


I only feel half empty.


Maybe ‘real world enlightenment’ is a skill in LinkedIn.


Hey LinkedIn, Up Yours.

 
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Post Office Physics

The post office is a difficult concept for me to talk about. There’s a snowy melancholy about the gray cement building that caves in my stomach when I went inside and really looked around.


It's like its own closed circuit, but instead of circulating electricity, it just runs people with boxes of baggage around and around.


I’ve been reminded time and time again that life is more complicated than pure science. First law of thermodynamics is that energy is conserved, it's neither created nor destroyed.


So.


Why is it when I go into the post office, to send this lumpy, heavy package across the country, do I feel like energy is siphoned out of me like gas from my Mazda...


…but I never get any of it returned, just like the missing gas from my car?


“That will be $135.67, will that be cash or credit?” The woman behind the counter asks, eyes without recognition.


Her name tag reads Laura.


“Credit, thanks Laura.” I answer, in defiance of thermodynamics. I choose to expend the energy to read her name tag out loud. Maybe addressing her by name in a direct answer to her question will make her feel good, to be recognized and seen.


Or maybe that’s just what I want, to sound out letters like L A U R A in hopes someone knows my return address, and sends those letters back.


Yet, I should know better, like really.


I’ll never get that energy back. I’ve thrown it into the void, like my phone into a pond, like my fist into mulch.


At least this is an improvement. Before when my own fists rocked my own face, my own thermal behavior, I’d have to make even more exhausting excuses. I fell. I fell again.


I just keep falling.


What can I say?


Those excuses again seem to defy physics because my voiced answer didn’t matter to my manager. What mattered was my matter was there at the desk, not my energy.


Laura doesn’t look at me when I hand her my credit card. I use credit because it means I don’t have to spend more of my life force checking my bank account.


I know my visa has a 15,000 dollar limit because that’s constant. That is always conserved. The amount of money in my checking account is mercurial, always in flux, like the amount of affirmation apps I have on my new phone.


My financial shambles only makes me want to kick more gravel and hurl more picture frames at the wall.


The second is way more gratifying, but the energy spent cleaning up the mess of the shattered protection that once housed something special isn’t worth it.


That makes me think of the second law of thermodynamics, which is that the universe just keeps increasing in entropy. Chaos.


The discomfort of universal disorder.


Of us together planting tulips and irises, knowing they may never, ever bloom.


And that’s maybe why I’m thinking of the laws of thermodynamics in a post office. On this surface this cinderblock building is so dull I could dig my fingernails into the soft skin of my underarm and still not feel the excitement of expected pain.


However, the post office is a hidden havoc, like all the important parts of myself I keep behind protective one way glass.


“Thank you, ma’ am.” Laura hands me back my monetary lifevest. I toss it into my purse, not my wallet.


The post office isn't randomized mayhem because they lose packages, no.


It’s complete bedlam because we all send precious, common, rare, pointless, or valuable items without any guarantee that the recipient will appreciate the intention and emotion that it took for you to go through this ordeal.


I had to wake up. Slither out of bed. Ignore my scale. Put on a bra. Grab my purse. Remember the package. Crank the ignition. Obey the driving laws. Find a song. Find a better song, park properly even though I want to drive my car through the fence.


While waiting and zoning out about science, I know I have no real guarantee if the matter within the box will end up on his doorstep. Not only that, but even if it does, I don’t know how much of my leaking, shrieking soul he will sop up from from cutting it open.


How much energy will he expend to slice open the amazon box that once contained our gardening tools and read the letter I scrawled in the purple dry erase marker?


How much effort will it take for him to deal with all the mulch and gravel I filled the box with?


“Have a nice day, Laura.” I persist.


I don’t want all of my interactions to be one way glass.


Maybe this is what persistence is, doing something without any guarantee that you’ll get any external validation, ever. To sweep up the glass, knowing that the law of thermodynamics doesn’t apply to our lives in the ways we wish it did.


It doesn't help in the ways it matters most.


“You too, next.” Laura’s eyes flicker to attention then wilt.


The post office persists despite their dismal budget, and so do I too endeavor.


I leave without the weight.