Still Life with Crackers

There are days when I descend dreamily into the cube’s lusterless gray as if from a lofty and boundless place. Today is one of them. Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy is playing in the AirPods and I’m feeling sparkly from an aerating walk on the westside of town this morning. I cannot sit down. Not just yet.

Standing up in the cube can be out-of-body experience. The need to break free, yet the body not knowing where to put itself. The towering walls, dwarfed swivel chair – lack of circulating air – all of it translates to a cheerless halfway house disguised as work station.

The boss’s snowy white head, a puffy cloud, floats by in the gap between the cubicle walls, snapping me out if my reverie. His lips are moving but I can’t hear a word he’s saying.

I withdraw the AirPod from my left ear and half-listen. He is in mid-sentence. The AirPod in my right ear is handling Beethoven all on its own. A big job, but an acoustically unrewarding one, in monaural.

“I know. You have that thing today,” I say to the boss, deliberately trying to curtail the length of our exchange so I can re-plug the AirPod into my left ear and not miss the exhilarating climax, the entry of Beethoven’s chorus in this wondrous piece.

I transmit my brainwaves into the wispy nebula crowning his head: Be gone! Don’t you dare kill my buzz!

Praise the Lord. It worked. AirPod goes back in, and just in time. I am high for the rest of the morning.

I sink into the swivel chair, spin it 180 degrees, and unlace my HOKA MACH 2 trainers. Slip my feet into my work flats and spin another 180 to face the monitor. I log on.

And so it begins.

Minutes later, the HR posse converges on The Cave in no-nonsense mode. The tremor of change echoes in each determined footstep. Heading en masse to the rear of the rectangl-icle, they proceed to empty the debris from the redundant trial cart parked there last week by Sneaky-Paranoid-Hoarder. They also clear off the vacant desk it was blocking.

Startled that humans have invaded the rectangle-icle, Sneaky-Paranoid-Hoarder whips around in the swivel chair, her eyes rapidly darting like scrolling fruit in a slot machine, until the back of her head aligns with the portfolio of NYPD mug shots displayed on her monitor.

“Do you want these flowers?” says HR.

From, the opposite corner of the rectangle-icle, Sneaky-Paranoid-Hoarder is facing HR. HR is holding up a stained, dusty vase, circa 2017, an artifact left behind by a former cave dweller, who fled not only The Cave, but the entire State of New York.

“No. But I want the vase.”

And yet, her lazy ass remains firmly planted in the chair.

“Well, then get over here and clean out the vase!” says HR.

Un-genetically predisposed to hoarding, HR believes Sneaky-Paranoid-Hoarder really wants the vase.

But Sneaky-Paranoid-Hoarder has been marked from birth as hereditarily incapable of NOT wanting the vase by virtue of her ancestral family tree.

Dead roses in situ, she snatches the vase from the grip of HR and transports the dried up relics to a far corner in her section of the rectangl-icle. Packets of crumbly Saltines and stale Nabisco Oysterettes, randomly disarranged in the vicinity of the vase, complete the artless composition: Still Life with Crackers

That’s my cue to put in the AirPods and drown out all the commotion. I choose The Nun’s Chorus from the operetta Casanova, an enchanting, mellifluous prayer gifted to me from a faraway land.

To the main altar / I will bring roses / To thank you, to greet you / Perform a miracle, do!


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