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Thursday, March 30, 2006 

Diving Into The Glass

In the morning Pete brushed his teeth at 7:15 am on the dot. In the mirror he fixed his tie, gelled his hair, tucked in his shirt and headed off to work with time to spare. Pete was a good guy in an abstract sort of way.

He called his mother dutifully every Tuesday afternoon and every Friday night. He asked her if she needed anything and then he sighed into the phone while he listened to the long list of complaints coming from the other line. His answers were always spaced out and even,

"Yes mom. I'm fine."

"Of course, everything's great."

"No. I know. Of course I won't forget. Yes… you helped me and I didn't deserve it."

"Everything's different now."

Sometimes when he hung up he lay down on the bed and his spine screamed in outrage. He had sat so long with his shoulders slumped that his body ached at the thought of correct posture. Pete bought bibles and told his friends that he was a born-again Christian, "Pete. You are definitely a born again something" and he laughed along with them even though his fist was clenched tight.

"Go ahead, you laugh. But I'm getting my life right with God. You'll see, you'll see" and Pete nodded his head in such a way that they thought he might just be on to something.

Pete got a job selling sports cars to men in tailored coats wearing steel watches with insignias denoting wealth and power. When he helped fill out their application there was the faint taste of steel in his mouth as he wrote down their income and filled in their occupation. He asked the men what color leather interior they preferred and was blinded by their whitened smiles. In Pete's glass office the men never sat, preferring to stand they paced around the office using wide hand gestures and never quite looking him in the eye. Pete wanted to put his pen down, lean forward with his elbows on the desk and say, "Hey. All bullshit aside. How do you get to be you?"

But he didn't. He wrote down their bank account numbers instead and dreamed of a better tomorrow. At home Pete threw away his bibles while listening to his many failings as a son and put the phone down while he went to the bathroom. When he came back his mother was still talking, completely unaware of his absence and somehow he felt this to be a reflection of his whole life.

So he hung up.

He pulled on a sweater, a pair of loafers and headed down to the local bar. The place was crowded even on a Tuesday night and Pete wondered if they all had mothers they secretly hated. He ordered a jack and coke and stood with his back to the wall. Pete never goes to bars for women. He goes there to get lost in the bottom of the glass and for the feeling of anonymity, which always pervades places like these.

"Do you mind buying me a drink?" the girl standing in front of him is holding out a five and offering a hesitant smile.

"Excuse me?"

"A drink. It's like I'm invisible. The bartenders always take the orders to the left and right of me and when I lean forward they act like I'm not there."

Pete laughs, "You're fucking gorgeous. I'll bet the guy bartenders run right up to you with every drink on the house."

The girl rolls her eyes; "I wish," sticks out her hand "I'm Marilyn by the way."

"Pete" and now they are shaking hands, two strangers no longer so strange.

"Nice to meet you Pete. Now how about that drink?" She waves the money around and Pete feels like the world has been turned upside down and been shaken like a snow globe. He waits for the glitter to fall and when it doesn't he sidles up to the bar and orders two drinks paying with money from his own wallet.

Marilyn is so beautiful you don't want to touch her. She is not centerfold beautiful or girlfriend beautiful, she is classic beautiful. She screams money and breeding and when she talks her vocabulary enforces every possible preconceived notion you could have about her. When they go out Pete sees people look at her and then through her. Marilyn travels through life in this bubble and so she doesn't see what others see. When she looks at Pete she smiles and it makes him feel like he is one of the special people. He feels privileged. At work he doesn't sit unless his clients sit and if they don't look at him he stops talking. When his mother calls he lets her go to voicemail.

"Wow Pete. God must really be good for you."

"What?" Pete and his friends are sitting outside, enjoying the sun and having some beer. Well, actually they finished the beer hours ago and have now moved on to the vodka and rum bottles.

"Jesus. Don't you even remember the big God kick you got onto?"

Pete's not thinking about God. He's thinking about the way Marilyn looks in the morning before she wakes up and the distance between her house and his. He's wondering how much convincing it would take to get her to move in and imagining the look on his mother's face when she meets her. Marilyn is just what he's always needed, always wanted. He's wondering if this is love but finding it hard to come up with a definition.

"Pete. Pete!" Steve's waving a hand in front of his face. "Jesus man. I think you've had enough to drink. No more for you."

"Well fuck. I think we drank everything anyway. There's nothing left to drink." And everyone's laughing, even Pete who has no idea what the joke is about.