How many licks does it take to contract contact dermatitis?
How is it that old people smell the same?
How do you locate the sovereign nation of Latifah?
How does an ancillary character make it in the big city?
Hur förstår du det?
The square-jawed office manager looks at the red, blue, yellow and green squares between his fingers. Elbows planted on his desk, he peers through his rectangle glasses at the Rubik’s Cube. The air is still in his office. Four live ficusses sit in each corner, doing their best fake plant impersonations.
John knocks on the door. “Hey Phil, you busy?” Phil blinks hard at the cube, then sets it down. His eyes adjust at John, something large and blurry standing in the doorway.
“What do you need?”
“Just wondering if we can turn up the A/C in this place.” His left hand twitches, and it catches Phil’s eye. John’s nervous, though his eyes stay fixated.
“Yeah, no problem. I’ll take care of that in a bit.” Phil leans forward over the desk, and lifts up the Rubik’s Cube. John backs out of the doorway.
John catches Gary’s eye as he walks down the hallway past the rest of the cubicles. He shakes his head no at Gary, sighs, and walks back to his desk.
Gary turns around. “I don’t get it.” He throws a dart at the picture of Richard Simmons he has pinned up to the felt side of his cubicle. “What does that guy do all day?” Sheila, sitting at the neighboring desk, grunts, then checks Facebook. “I mean,” he says, “This office is going to hell. The plants are dying, it’s way too hot in here. I don’t know why we’re sitting near each other. We don’t even work together.”
“Yeah,” she says. “Yeah, you’re right about that.” Gary continues.
“And all that guy does is sit there at his desk, thinking he can do anything he likes because he has his own room. He’s probably drinking beer in there. He’s probably drunk.”
“I wish I was drunk,” says Sheila. “It would make your complaining a little more bearable.”
Gary ignores her, or never heard her. “I think I’ve had it. How many times have you put in a request to move desks away from me? It’s time you’ve said something.” Sheila gets up to use the copier without looking at him. He taps on his desk a couple times, looks around his cube. “I’m going to say something.”
Phil furrows his brow at the cube. He just can’t twist it right. Each column connects to another. The entire array falls apart for one desire to fall into place. There’s the part you brace yourself for, and then there’s the part you never saw coming.
He hears a knock. “Phil,” says Gary. “Stop playing with your damn cube. There are real problems here. How many times have we asked for you to move us. And all you do is sit there.”
“I’m trying,” says Phil.
“Bullshit. Get up. Get up off of your desk. I’ve got to eat a sandwich before I do anything stupid, but when I get back here in fifteen or an hour, you better not be here. There better be some changes in this office. Things have better be different.” Gary would’ve slammed the door if the door wasn’t always open.
Phil stays absolutely still, listening to his own uneven breath, until the sound Gary’s footsteps diminish completely, and he can think. Phil lets out his breath, and brings the cube up to his eyeglasses. He closes his eyes, and thinks about a perfect world. Twist. Sheila’s desk slides twenty feet toward the far wall. Twist. Gary’s cubicle moves into her place. Twist. John’s cubicle rumbles up to Gary, where the air moves more freely.
He doesn’t let a drop of sweat distract him. People will always need, and the cube never fits neat.
Nothing brings me so much joy
as a pot of half-filled coffee
waiting for me in the morning
leftover from yesterday
The work’s been done
My phone lurches at me through a horrible caw
like a scythe wrapping around my ribs, and yet
my memories hold the same melody
in the same manner pleasantly
It’s not too much to believe
The light becomes a solid wall of dust
lighting up golden the roads, the air between
my eyes and the cars sliding down the street
A pollution that gives for this one sun passing
beauty in five minutes
the work’s all been done to it
A shadow is cast from a yellow box building
and juts down an alley like a line dividing wars
It shoots over grass darkening one side and keeping the other light
It strikes through a fence where there is a hole
glides over stone floors, creating cracks upon cracks
and places of no cracks alike
Then it hits me running over my elbow
over my belly, up my shoulder
I can let it run over me if I can enjoy both sides
It is dangerous to blow smoke directly into your infant’s face.
When I hear a girl talk about how she has dyed and stripped and bleached her hair to the point that she no longer knows what her true hair color is, something in me is alarmed. It’s partly sadness, but mostly, it is fear. It’s the same reason why I’ve been relatively cautious to take drugs for most of my life. During high school, when some kids experiment with marijuana, I made sure to grill them. “Do you feel different afterwards? Do you feel any dumber?” Most kids at that age, of course, remarked that they in fact felt smarter not only after smoking up, but while smoking up.
I must’ve had this great love of my identity at the time. Despite being picked on and probably not the most comprehensible kid, or I guess because of this, I must’ve regarded my intelligence as a large part of my identity. And I most feared losing it.
And that’s still a great fear of mine. Every once and awhile, when I can’t quite wrap my head around something, when I’m in the middle of a conversation and nothing weirdly funny comes to mind to add to it, I start to wonder whether I was smarter just five years ago than I am now. I never used to drink, I say to myself. Maybe I’m killing brain cells. Maybe it’s cause I’m no longer in school, maybe I’m not reading enough. Nearly without causation I am thrust into a small paroxysm of fear, wondering “have I lost what I used to be?”
I think it’s important to realize that I can’t answer this. There’s no way to do a side by side comparison. I can’t even take the SATs I took back then, because they’ve changed too. What I do think is possible is continued change, more change. If I want to be able to think on a certain level, I just need to start thinking on that level. I don’t think there’s anything I ca n do for the circumstances I’m in — I have very little free will in that respect. But over my identity, I can probably grab some giant wheel somewhere, turn it in a certain direction, and ease it on a course. I could either dye my hair some wild color, or I could think hard and attempt a strand for strand replication of the original shade. It may not be a perfect copy. It just needs to look good.
Past, Present, Future, Oompa Loompa Self.
“Hey Joe! Which section should we put these Werther’s?”
Swiss artist and comedian Ursus Wehrli is famous for taking art, and rearranging the components into an OCD-like order. The images above are from his forthcoming book The Art of Clean Up. (via Colossal)