Thursday, January 24, 2013

Adding Chocolate to the Ritual, Part 2

To a lion, Elsa knew her name meant 'freedom' even all these years after that ridiculous movie, but to a woman, it seemed to mean 'librarian.' Elsa wasn't a librarian, though she loved her books, but she did work at a dowdy job. Elsa was a bookkeeper for a chain of laundromats. Her desk didn't have a window, though the laundromats themselves were sunny and clean. It was the niche market, for them to be sunny and clean. She suspected that her boss had had the walls of her office painted using surplus paint from the Army. The concrete walls were a dingy gray. The desks and chairs may have been army surplus too, though Elsa knew they wouldn't fall apart any time soon like the crap that was sold in the office supply stores she was sent to at least once a week.

Elsa knew she wasn't going to live her dreams through her job. She managed to get through her day using a series of rituals. When she arrived for work, usually a few minutes after eight, she started by wiping down the coffee maker, then making coffee, and grabbing a cup for her boss before the oily residue turned it rancid. Her boss liked his coffee dark, but not rancid. Then, she made herself a cup of peppermint tea using water she brought in once or twice a week in a gallon jug. She used an old hot pot she'd been using since college. Now and then, things were stolen from people's desks at work, but never her hot pot.  Sometimes, people even ate lunches out of the refrigerator in the break room if they looked too fresh. Elsa kept her own lunch in her large black purse. No one ever expected to find anything of value in an oversized ugly black purse owned by a middle-aged bookkeeper.

After she made her coffee, Elsa ate one small chocolate from a candy dish on her desk, then worked on accounts payable. At 10:23 am, she took a break by walking around the loop that housed the offices. She picked 10:23 because most of the employees took a break at 10:00 and she wanted to avoid them, even the ones who lingered. When she returned to her desk, she took note of the volume missing from her candy dish. When lunchtime came, Elsa put on her coat, picked up her ugly black purse, and walked out of the office. She often ate in a park two blocks away, but sometimes, she bought a tea latte from the coffee shop in the grocery store and ate her lunch there. She usually brought a book. These days, she was reading 'Lacuna' by Barbara Kingsolver, a lovely book about artists, revolutionaries, and McCarthy's hunt for Communists beginning in 1947. Elsa had to be careful not to get carried away by her book during lunch. She usually got back into the office a few minutes after 1:00 pm and began her ritual all over again. While she was at lunch, her candy dish usually took a pretty deep hit.

Elsa had a good time with that dish. Even though she wasn't close with anyone from the office, she enjoyed what that dish could do. She had intentionally picked a beautiful dish, a blue and white dish from Uwajimaya before they closed their nearby store. Then, she bought different kinds of candy for her dish to see how people would react. She usually put Halloween sized chocolates into her bowl, but when that depleted too quickly, she'd buy something different, like Bit-O-Honey or Clark bars. When she did that, people had the audacity to come by her desk when she was sitting there and complain that they preferred Snickers. When she stocked it with Snickers, the skinny bitches came by, gingerly took a single piece, and complained that she was ruining their diets. She loved that one.  Once, she put a single grapefruit into her candy dish. No one took the grapefruit, though even the skinny bitches complained about that betrayal. The skinny bitches were happiest when she replaced the bowl with a Costco bucket of red vines, but then Elsa continued her own chocolate habit out of her desk. Once, she filled the bowl with loose M&Ms and it emptied in a day and a half. Even when she talked to people about the peanut bowls at the bar being the dirtiest place in a tavern, people didn't blink or slow their consumption. When she put loose M&Ms into her dish, she always ate from her own bag in her ugly black purse.

To preserve her ritual, she never ate more than five M&Ms at a time. She also liked Dove candies, but she could never afford to put Dove candies into her bowl on a regular basis. She reserved them for Valentines and Halloween. Twice a year, she treated the office to Dove candies, though she frequently carried them in her ugly black purse.

If she had to sit through a meeting, she alternated peppermint lip gloss, hand cream, and rarely, when she was struggling to stay awake, a Mentos from deep in her ugly black purse. She could find them all by feel.

She got through her day by alternating making tea, eating a single chocolate before the next task whether it was payroll, collecting records for the tax firm, or writing out the books, and at the end of the day, restocking her candy dish.

No, Elsa knew that her dreams weren't likely to be found in that dingy gray office.

Thank you for listening, jb


No comments:

Post a Comment