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The possible futures of Mike Ellis

June 5, 2012

One of my best friends, Mike Ellis, has recently made a big change in his life – he has sold his business and has all the world laid out before him, a world made up of possibility and sugar.  I have tired of asking him what he’s going to do next; he keeps telling me that he is content in not knowing the answer to that, so I have decided to come up with a new possible future for him every day.  Here we go:  Day 1 of my conjecture, a day to act as the “control group”, a fairly typical day in the current life of Mike Ellis:

The alarm blared at 10am, waking Mike Ellis.  He had recently sold his bar, where the late nights, drinking and mingling social lives of others had become work to him, so he had been staying home nights, though he still made it to third base with a bottle of bourbon on his own last night.
Snooze once.  Five minutes.  Three snoozes later, Mike rolled out of bed and into the shower.

Downstairs, his roommate, Mac, was sleeping on the couch, never having made it to his bedroom after sneaking in around 4am.  It sounds ridiculous to say that 30 year old Mac was sneaking in after a date, but his gal and Mike did not see eye to eye, though Mike had internally decided to drop the argument, valuing his friend’s happiness above being “right”.  Mac was 30 years old, after all.  And a lover.  One just wanted to give Mac whatever his heart desired – literally, and Mike was not immune to this.

So Mike was quiet as he rolled out of his townhouse, on his way to work, and walked toward the coffee from the corner store.  In the market, many nodded to him, some said hello – it was a small town full of drinkers, so Mike, having tended bar for ten years, was well known.  He averted his eyes once, near the cheese case, trying to avoid a run-in with a particularly effusive ex-fling.

She saw him. “I heard that you sold the bar.”

“Word gets around,” he responded.  For some reason, he just didn’t want to this to be gossip, though he didn’t see the value in keeping the secret, he just didn’t want to talk about it.  He didn’t want people to ask why, or what he was going to do next.

“Why?”

Jesus.

“The opportunity arose, and I took it.”

“What are you going to do now?” she asked.

“Not sure yet.”

“Are you leaving town?” she pouted a little.

“Not sure yet, maybe.”

She pouted a little more and moved closer, “Oh. Because I was hoping to catch you after a long night’s shift again sometime…Will you be bartending there some still?” She touched his arm.

“I don’t think so.  I’m really staying in more these days.  Well, I gotta get to work.”

“Work? I thought you just said you’re not…”

“I’m helping out at Carrburritos,” Shit.  He hadn’t meant to give her any concrete information.

“Oh!” she brightened. “Well, maybe I’ll stop in for lunch sometime…maybe today,” she said as she visibly swayed away, glancing back over her shoulder as she moved toward the yogurt and soy milk.

Mike paid for his coffee and continued on to work.  When he opened the heavy metal delivery door to the restaurant, he found Rae standing in front of him, adjusting the neck string of her apron, tying it in a knot to make it shorter and fit her properly.

“What the…!?  I thought you went back to Asheville today!” He asked her.

“Daniel called me last night at 11:30, drunk, and asked if I would work his cashier shift this morning,” she responded, ” At first I told him that I was leaving Chapel Hill today, but he sounded defeated and told me that he was hoping to go to Charlotte today.  So, I agreed; leaving tomorrow only gets me some more cash.  Then he told me that I was saving his life because he really needed to go to Boone today.”

Mike laughed at the drunk nineteen year old’s inconsistent appeal for Rae to work for him,

“And I laughed and said it made me happy to save his life,” she finished.

And then she laughed as Mike lunged and made dramatic fist pumping motions with a hearty, “Yes!”  She then added that getting to work with him all day was another perk of staying until Sunday.

“So,”  he said, “you know how you can order glasses frames online for really cheap?”

“Yeah,” she bit.

“Well, I tried to get some new frames like these expensive but broken ones I have now,”  he pointed at his face, “and they came yesterday, but they are not exactly what I was expecting…”

“Oh no,” Rae smiled.

“Okay,” he pointed at his face again, “Normal Mike,”  he turned his back to her in a dramatic switch of character move, and then turned back around quickly with a burst of laughter.

She joined in; he had put on new glasses that probably looked relatively similar to his black plastic frames in the small internet picture, boasting a Wayfarer shape, but these enormous frames encompassed his eyebrows, half his cheeks, and made his eyeballs look like little round buttons.

He switched back to his regular frames and both still chuckling, he went to clock in and she began to make iced tea for the day.

Within two minutes, Rae’s dad, Bill, the owner of the restaurant, came in, and Mike went through the exact same routine: “Normal Mike” –> switcharoo!  Mike and Rae laughed all over again, but Bill just stared at him, the smile on his face awkward, like he knew he should be laughing, but didn’t quite get the joke.

“Dad doesn’t think it’s funny,” Rae said to the iced tea, stirring and still chuckling.

“I think they look pretty good,” Bill explained, “I don’t think they’re that bad.  Let me try them on.”

Bill removed his own small, round wire frames and put on Mike’s new toy accessory.  He checked himself out in the mirror and said, “Yeah,  pretty good, right?”

Rae and Mike started laughing all over again.  Bill’s head was even smaller than Mike’s, making the glasses look even more exaggerated on his face.

Bill looked at his reflection again, “I guess they do kind of look like those joke glasses with the big nose and mustache attached,” he conceded.

Everyone moved back to their work.

Eleven o’clock, the restaurant was set to open and the other line cook, Julion, came in the back door to clock in.  Mike repeated his move with the glasses again.

“Can I have those!?” Julion asked, eyes wide.

“No, man,” Mike said, “I totally need these for costumes and shit.  And I might still put a prescription in them at some point.”

“Well, can I at least wear them today?”  Julion asked.

“Okay.”

Julion tied his lime-green bandana around his neck, the triangle almost fitting like a puzzle piece into his dingy-white v-neck tee shirt, put the Gerber Baby blue and white trucker hat on backwards, set the glasses on his face and went to finish the opening prep on the line.  And that is what Julion looks like normally; the glasses fit right in.  Hipster.

Burritos rolled, salsas cupped, the day went by.  The late-night girl from the morning run-in never came in.

Julion said, “You know what Michael Richardson says about tacos?”

Mike: “What?”

“He says, ‘I don’t know why we put lettuce in the tacos, when people order tacos, they don’t want a bunch of fucking lettuce!'” Julion said as he cracked up.

“I don’t know why that’s funny.”  Mike said with a deadpan face.

Julion laughed harder.

At three, Mike was cut so Julion could end out the hours til five on his own.

Mike gave Rae a big hug, “So, I guess I’ll see you next time you’re here.”

“Or, you could come up to Asheville to visit me,” she said.

“As soon as I buy your mom’s car, one reliable enough to get me there, I will.  And that’s in May.”  He responded.

“Okay, fine.  Talk to you soon.”  Rae rubbed his shoulder as he turned to walk off the line.

“We would if you would ever call me back.”  Mike jibed.

“Jeez, you know that my phone habits don’t mean that I don’t love you!”  She was tired of this spiel, but it had not improved her cell phone social skills.

—-

Mike checked his iPhone with the cracked face as he walked back home.  He had a text from his old roommate inviting him to a party for Mike Roblett.  There were so many Mikes in this town that, for all of them, their first and last names were pretty much one word, and that went for the Michaels too.  Maybe it all started with Michael J. Fox, maybe he once lived in Carrboro.  And you know you can’t just call that guy Mike.  You always need the J. and the Fox.  Mike Roblett had been cancer free for a year and it was a sort of “birthday” party for him.  Word.

Mike Ellis and his roommate, Mac, made chicken sandwiches for dinner.  Mike put a lot of mustard on his and absolutely no mayonnaise.  There was not even any in the house.

“That is the most disgusting shit ever.” Mike said about mayonnaise.

Snakes on a Plane was on Cinnemax and it played on the big screen TV while Mike checked his Facebook page and Mac read on the loveseat.

They headed on over to Orange County Social Club for the party around ten p.m.

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Hello, again

May 31, 2012

It’s been over two years since I last posted on this blog.  And the last draft that I had written was an exercise on writing a new future for a character each day.  I didn’t even get the first day of the exercise published!  Just ‘shows to go ya’ that discipline is not one of my strongest elements.

In the last two years, I have moved out of Asheville, gotten engaged, got a new job teaching (my favorite excuse to not write), got married, bought a house and had a kid.

Now, home on maternity leave, I am once again re-enlivened to focus on writing.  What will I write on this blog? About writing, like I originally intended? About being a mom, or figuring out how to be a mom?  I don’t know.  There are billions of blogs out there about both topics and even now, I feel overwhelmed by the pressure of trying to stand out, to be special, to be different.  But that is what I am trying to overcome – this writing blog is for me, and I will just do what I do, write whatever I write that day – just to be writing, because I am happier when I do.

Write to write, not to compete.

I want to tell my daughter that she can be whatever she wants to be; I want for her to pursue and work hard at what makes her happy, and I want to be able to tell her those things from a place of experience, not of regret.

So, I will now go make dinner: stuffed tomatoes with quinoa, zucchini, squash, feta and fennel, and continue to work on being the best wife, mother, teacher and writer that I can be.

Later, or tomorrow, or whenever I get to it again, I will write the story I told my girl yesterday.  She is 5 weeks old and I am practicing telling her stories.  Yesterday was about Frederick the Frog and how he wants to travel the world but there are some obstacles in his way.  My mind kept going to the fact that the dangers often win for the poor little frogs in my yard, but that is not the story I want to tell my girl, so I will make it about perseverance and hard work and the importance of hopes and dreams.  Maybe I can learn a little something from Frederick myself.

 

My girl

May 31, 2012

My girl

My inspiration to do what I’ve always wanted to do – to be the person I want to be.

Compliments

February 11, 2010

Yesterday, I complimented someone’s bracelet, and she said, “Thank you; you have nice skin.”

I have never before been complimented for my skin; this was a monumental day for me.

A Place to Live

January 4, 2010

I am leaving my most wonderful-apartment-I-never-thought-I-could-have-or-afford because it turns out, I can’t really afford it.  It seemed like a great prospect when I was moving here from DC, where I made a measly 54K (half of what my friends with “real” jobs made, but twice what I make here in NC) for teaching and my rent was $950.  So imagine my delight when I could get a downtown loft with WASHER AND DRYER for only $800 in Asheville!  The only thing missing from my dream loft is exposed brick, and well, maybe some exposed duct work would have been cool, and well, a balcony would have been dang sweet, but who am I to keep asking?  It is the coolest place I have ever lived: 9 foot windows in the living room, which has 14 foot ceilings; a wonderful mountain view, and lots of wonderful warm light.

This was great for what I was here to do: NOT WATCH TV.  Seriously, there is a monster glare, like God himself is floating right outside my window and annoyingly shining his heavenly rays of light on my screen – no matter where I move it or how I angle myself – brightness is either on my show or on my face.  Pain in the neck natural light.  But that is precisely why I needed this place: I am addicted to TV, and not the cool healthy stuff like the Book Channel or the History Channel, but rather home design shows: Hello Income Property and House Hunters International, not to mention my very favorite Property Virgins (Sandra Rinomato, will you please come and help me find another place just like this one but with more than one bedroom, a basement, a fenced in yard, 2 bathrooms, laundry and an updated kitchen while staying within walking distance to shops and restaurants and, importantly, bars, but not busting my servant-to-society teacher’s budget?  Easy, right?)

So, like the Betty Ford of apartments, I moved into a place that would be more conducive to reading and writing and yoga rather than sitting like a zombie eating pasta while watching The Biggest Loser.  But alas, I cannot afford it, AND – and this is probably the reason I should mention FIRST when I say why I am moving, I am proceeding along the relationship path with my wonderful partner and pal (I dislike the word boyfriend, but that could be because I spend a lot of time with teenage girls lamenting about their boyfriends, and frankly, I just feel too old to deal with boyfriend crap of my own, so my man is my partner and pal – for now.  Maybe one day he’ll get a new title, we’ll see.)

As I sit here, I realize that it has become very dark in my ever-bright loft space which means that it’s nighttime now.  The light in the apartment mirrors the light of the outside.  The mountains are a mere shadow outlined in the pink of the setting sun with gray wispy clouds hanging out above, like they’re waiting for the authoritative sun to get on and get gone so they can be cloaked and incognito and the real party can start.  I just had to get up and turn on the nearest floor lamp and am pleased to realize that when I get writing, I fail to notice other things – like night falling or the fact that my hair is drying in a weird towel-twist shape as I have not proceeded to comb, dry it or get dressed post-shower and instead sat down to this upon exiting the shower. (See?  I am easily distracted, and that is exactly my point.  I am like walking ADD much of the time and when I am writing – I am unusually-for-me-focused.  Why don’t I do this all the time again?)  I am also starving – I think pesto tonight, I mean, I’ve got to use it up right?  That’s justification enough for pasta if you ask me.  And I haven’t let the dogs out in like 6 hours – they are over at my manpal’s house, into which I will be moving, and I am icky-terrible at living in two places at once.  I go into dreamy time-warp when I am in my apartment, like it’s not real life and I am in my own little imagination bubble where I read, write, sing (which I will absolutely never do in the real world) and am the person that I wish other people thought of me as.  That last sentence was terrible grammatically, but I don’t care right now.

All of this to say, that at the end of the month, I will be handing the keys of my very favorite creative living space – my greenhouse so to speak – to a banker named Chris Farley.  When he came to see the place, he, in my opinion, just did not seem to be reasonably excited about the place.  He did not at all jump up and down or squeal or gush the way I did when I saw it; in fact, I don’t think he even smiled.  He just needs a convenient box close to work to hold his things.  That is not all this apartment can do, no sir.  This apartment is meant to stir the soul and get one closer to heaven, and he just wants to be a boring guy in it.  My theory is that he has been made fun of for far too long about his name that he has permanently banished creative humor.  One too many people has made some, “van down by the river” joke to him and he has lost all luster for giddiness, and now my poor apartment must suffer someone not appreciating it properly.  It is not just a box in which to sleep.  But, he works at a bank and I’m guessing that my landlord likes the idea of a consistent rent check.

So, when I saw my landlord this morning in the coffee house downstairs, I asked, “Did you hear from anyone or decide on a new tenant?”

And he nodded and said, “Yes, I went with Chris Farley; I figured it was just too cold right now for him to continue living in a van down by the river.”

At least my landlord is maintaining that creative humor.

Bad practice

December 24, 2009

So, you can see from the frequency of my posts that I am no good at the consistent practice of writing.  Above all, that may be my greatest flaw in writing – discipline.  This is not to say that I do not write almost every day – I feel like I am feeling out the different modes of putting down words, trying to figure out what medium works best for me – I write faster when I type, but I have a tendency to mid-writing-edit, which stunts me.  I can’t get myself to write a shitty first draft because I just keep deleting the first couple of lines – no flow.  But when I write with pen and paper, it gets lost in my journal and doesn’t feel legitimate, more just like emotional self-pandering.  I have been writing in my journal a lot more though – really trying to write something down every time I think of it, without pausing to figure out whether it’s a worthwhile observation or story and not self-editing throughout.