Current Occupation: Behavioral Health Technician, caring for people who are mentally challenged
Former Occupation: Twenty years as a Food Service Supervisor, mostly in a 300-bed hospital
Contact Information: donnarkevic: Weston, WV. MFA National University. Recent poetry has appeared in Blue Collar Review, Off the Coast, and Kentucky Review. Poetry Chapbooks include Laundry, published in 2005 by Main Street Rag. Plays have received readings in Chicago, New York, and Virginia. FutureCycle Press published, Admissions, a book of poems, in 2013.
I FALL TO PIECES
I’m a secretary at the law firm of Gray and Overy, both men dead as Jacob Marley. I type faster than Supergirl on PCP and spell better than the Oxford unabridged dictionary. So the boss, the senior partner, likes me. I’m his girl. Like The Temptations, he calls me, “My Girl,” but without the soul. I haven’t been a girl since I sat on my father’s knee. I have a black and white photograph of me balanced on his drunken knee, a beer bottle held in his left hand, me knowing that if it came to a fall, he’d catch the Schlitz.
By the way, my boss doesn’t call any of the female lawyers, “my girl.” There are none.
Like me, my boss is Polish, and I can pronounce his name like an anthropologist. His last name, Krzywoszyja, rolls off my tongue like a French kiss. I received my first and last French kiss from my late husband. The first occurred on our first date in 1961 at the Crescent Movie Theater during The Guns of Navarone. My mouth full of popcorn, his darting tongue nearly choked me, kernels bouncing around like spent howitzer casings. My last French kiss occurred on New Year’s Eve 1963.The band played, “I Fall to Pieces.” Scientists claim kissing releases dopamine, the body’s own pleasure drug. For forty-nine years I’ve gone without my fix.
The company is merging with Kurosawa and Maki, both men alive and kicking ass. To be proactive, I brushed up on my Japanese. Kurosawa means “black swamp,” and Maki means “black pine.” Mr. Krzywoszyja’s name is mud, the company swamped in red ink, the merger, an attempt to get back in black. As with any merger, rumors of layoffs buzz like Kamikazes. Will I be tossed out like a sixty-four-year-old piece of sushi, or will I be Kurosawa and Maki’s new onnanoko? That’s Japanese for girl.
One day last week at the copier, like a faithful Bartleby, I made 5 copies of a 500-page brief. While walking back to my desk, my left leg transformed into a wooden peg, like Captain Ahab’s. I lumbered back to my desk and hid the prosthesis under my desk. Actually, Captain Ahab’s leg was made of a Sperm Whale’s jaw bone. But, at the time, I couldn’t recall any other one legged characters. With a letter opener, I pecked at it like a dart board. Pine? Ash? Curley Maple? Why hadn’t I paid more attention in arboriculturist class?
Pretending to mimic the Japanese work ethic, I pretended to work late. After locking up the empty office, I limped through the belly of the vacant parking garage, my peg leg echoing like underwater sonar. Run Silent, Run Deep, a movie in which Clark Gable plays a US submarine captain obsessed with sinking a particular Japanese sub. No peg leg but a definite Ahab syndrome.
When I got home, I Googled Daphne, a nymph in Greek mythology. Apollo, the sun god, had the hots for Daphne. He pursued. To protect her virginity, she prayed to the gods, hoping for a restraining order. In answer to her prayer, some nib shit god transformed her into a laurel, Laurus nobilis. At my age, no one pursues me, except the neighbor’s Miniature Schnauzer. And my virginity, well, my late husband picked that cherry a long time ago, leaving me with the pit.
Then I reread Kafka’s, The Metamorphosis, the story of Gregor Samsa. Gregor, a traveling salesman, wakes to find himself a man-sized insect. I’ve seen my share of those at the local bars. But I was no traveling salesman. No Willy Loman. Or Lowoman, for that matter. My late husband, however, was a traveling salesman. He sold industrial lubricants. On the wall above his desk hung a salesman-of-the-year award from 1963, the first year of our marriage. Ah, the wonders of dopamine.
My research left me clueless, so before going to bed, I sanded and shellacked my new leg, smooth and shiny as a Louisville Slugger.
For some reason, the next day, no one at work noticed my wooden leg. I used to have gams like Betty Grable. But bulging blue varicose veins turned my legs into road maps to nowhere. The blue on maps denotes rivers, streams or similar bodies of water. I used to have a body like Veronica Lake. Now it’s more like the Nevada Mud Flats.
At the big merger meeting when I crossed my legs, no one gave me a second look. So like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, I repeatedly uncrossed my legs under my short black skirt, revealing I was not wearing underwear. Later, when Mr. Krywoszyja said his new client didn’t have a leg to stand on, I looked for some hidden reference to me, but he just dumped the case file on my desk like a load of two-by-fours.
Then, something else happened.
Last Friday after work I went out for drinks with the new crop of boy lawyers from Kurosawa and Maki. Not a female in the bunch. Ahso! After my husband died, I started drinking. The boys don’t nibble on me at these affairs like they did twenty years ago. I’m too old, an abandoned apple left to fall on the ground, gravity winning in the end, my body rotting in the dirt, the birds eating me up, shitting my seeds on the head of city hall’s bronze and sterile Doughboy on his way to a lost generation.
As we sat at the bar, I sipped on an Apple Martini. The piano man played, Can’t Take My Eyes off You. And there, floating at the bottom of my glass, one of my eyes peered up at me. I couldn’t believe my eye. I ran . . . hobbled to the little girls’ room. Inside a few young beauties preened in front of the mirror. To stall for time, I hid in one of the stalls. To kill time, I read the graffiti. Graffiti in women’s bathrooms are much longer than in men’s. With men all things are done quickly: sex, eating, romance, sex, etc. Women prefer to linger, to savor the moment, even when sitting on the toilet. I especially enjoyed this quote from Fear of Flying, by Erica Jong: “It was easy enough to kill yourself in a fit of despair. It was easy enough to play the martyr. It was harder to do nothing. To endure your life. To wait.” Done waiting, I exited the stall and limped to the mirror. My peg leg skid on the slick tile, and I fought for balance. Grabbing the sink, I looked into the mirror. There it wasn’t. No right eye. I began to feel like a pirate but without any booty. Years ago, my booty dropped like a swayback mule.
Makeup was useless. I had no eye to make up. I felt like God, starting from scratch, scrounging for something with which to make Eve, like maybe some old soup bones. Was I blind drunk? I only had one . . . okay, five Apple Martinis. I freshened my lipstick and returned to my bar stool. I looked at each of the boys in the eye . . . eyes. No one let on. No one openly discussed Mike Wazowski, periscopes, Cyclopes, monocles, or the Citizen in chapter twelve of Joyce’s Ulysses (metaphorically). Okay, I was reaching on that last one.
I spent the rest of the night winking, hoping to catch someone’s eye. Thinking I had too much to drink, the boys hailed me a cab. From the back seat, I winked at the cab driver, but to avoid eye contact, he adjusted his rearview mirror. I guess he subscribed to Satchel Paige’s theory: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” To top it off, the doorman ignored my one-eyed dilemma. He just tipped his hat after I tipped him with a dollar bill, asking him if he noticed any similarity with me and the Eye of Providence, which is on the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States of America, which is on the reverse side of the United States one dollar bill. He just smiled and showed me the door. I should have gotten a door prize for being able to explain that coherently after downing five . . . okay, nine Apple Martinis and after losing one eye . . . on one leg.
What I got was a Saturday morning . . . afternoon hangover.
In church that Sunday morning, it happened again. This time, I lost my hands. My hand to God. When the priest asked the congregation to join hands while praying the Our Father, my hands disappeared. I stood there like Venus de Milo, except without the perky breasts. A man sculpted the statue, thus the perky breasts. Archeologists believe the sculptor painted and gussied up the woman with armbands, necklace, earrings, and crown. Her missing left hand is believed to have held an apple, tempting and delicious as, well, as a perky breast. Men go gaga over painted women be they flesh or stone.
During the Lord’s Prayer, Jay Jenkins on my right and Betty Paberanska on my left reached out to me, but I had nothing for them to hold on to. They seemed unfazed. Trance-like they prayed. All I could think of was gloves. What was I going to do with seven pairs of gloves?
That afternoon, I ordered Japanese. The delivery boy smiled like an oversized cookie jar. The chopsticks. Japanese chopsticks are superior to Chinese. They are lacquered instead of unfinished wood. Japanese chopsticks are shorter, perfect for little girl’s hands like mine. And, Japanese chopsticks taper to pointed ends instead of the blunted Chinese. So, let me be blunt. Chopsticks seem like a cruel device, cruel enough to be used at the Salem Witch Trials. If a handless woman like me could eat Japanese food with chopsticks, she must be a witch. Call me Cho Chang. No, too young. Broom-hilda. Nawh, too green. Лилли Александра. Too obscure. Medea. Too ancient. Glinda, the good witch of the South. Perfect. If Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had been a witch, she would have been Glinda. Jacqueline’s maiden name was Bouvier. Women change their last names as easy as movie marquees. After the death of my husband, I changed back to my maiden name. The children said they felt like orphans. The boys at the office didn’t notice my new nameplate. And the mailman kept delivering mail to a woman who didn’t exist.
That night I tried to sleep. Between dozes, I heard the tight-lipped voice of Rod Serling:
“Imagine, if you will, a woman, like an aging automobile, slowly losing her parts. Although she limps along life’s highway, she believes she will find her destination. But unknown to her, she’s on a one-way road to a dead end street in a tiny berg known as the Twilight Zone.” Then that hideous music, like Salieri pushing a Mozart symphony down a staircase.
In the morning, I woke to Patsy Cline, singing, “Faded Love.” I dressed. To hell with it, I thought, slipping into a strand of pearls my late husband gave me as a peace offering in his effort to smooth things over after I found out about his affair with that girl twenty-some years his junior. To hell with it. I could still spell the pants off any misogynist. But looking in the vanity mirror, I noticed I had disappeared altogether. “Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” No, sir, I didn’t like it.
And damn me for quoting a man.