Justin Stone's creekbed

songs, prayers, poetry, stories, art, photographs, moving pictures, fondnesses, tall-tales and meditations

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Location: missouri, el paso

The Anterior Insula and Hwy W

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Talking Heads

“He was a Data Entry Assistant’s Data Entry Assistant, if you know what I mean. He took the form to a whole new level. It’s something of a shame he never received the popular acclaim or attention he may have deserved in the office, but his peers, those that knew what was happening, they were well aware of what he was quietly accomplishing.”

“The guy had the ability to visualize the entire account at once. Not just one of the accounts, but every account. He knew where all the figures stood. He knew the status of every buy, every pay-out, the number of units in every estimate that had been and yet needed to be input. His files were maximized. His Status Quality conceits were through of the roof. His cubicle didn't smell too bad. His Bramble Reports—the millions he must have done—were always completely without error. Every thousandth point rounded, every formula closed. And he never missed a day at work. Never took a vacation. How a guy does that, I don't know. Unreal.”

“He went to the bathroom alot. I remember that. And he always used the stall, never saw him use the urinal. But he always lifted the toilet seat.”

“His fingers flew over the keypad. His stroke was, well, let's just say it was poetry. And I swear it’s like he wasn’t even there. I mean, he was there, obviously, and he was inputting, but he wasn’t really there. One time I asked him how the tendons in his wrist were doing, just trying to make small talk, I mean, the guy sat in his cubicle all day and all you heard was the clikiclakaclikiclakaclikiclaka of keys just being decimated, man, and you figure that kind of thing’s gotta take a toll on a guy, on his arm if not his brain, so I rather jokingly asked about the tendons in his arms, you know, his wrists, and we were in the breakroom at the time, I’ll never forget it because he just stared at me. I stared back at him a few seconds, thinking, okay, this will get better, but it didn’t get better at all, in fact I think his pupils were actively dilating, and so I laughed, one of those tension breakers that in fact increases the tension tenfold, and I suddenly gulped at my still too hot tea, spilling my cup and burning the crap outta my mouth and my hand, and he still said nothing, did nothing, and I got the hell out of that breakroom. I really wish I hadn’t mentioned the tendons.”

“I cannot remember ever having a conversation with the guy. And I was at Freckle & Sons for 6 years with him. Almost positive he had no idea what my name was. That guy could render a crowded elevator car mausoleum like in no time flat, all he had to do was step into the car and it's like a completely different front had suddenly moved into the atmosphere, all the breathable air just rushed out of the space as fast as possible. All conversations ceased. He had the negative touch. Am I being too mean? Maybe, but, I mean, that's just the way it was."

“He saw the information database as a matrix, but more, he was an active part of that matrix, maybe, gawd, I’m getting all Keanu Reeves here, but it’s like he was that matrix, there was no separation between he and the data.

“Black coffee. All day long. Every day. He drank cup after cup after cup. And if somebody hadn’t made new coffee after finishing off the breakroom pot—this is funny; only time I ever heard a peep from the guy was when the coffee was out. If he he came up on the pot in the breakroom and it was empty—and this was documented by more people than just me—he would just kind of gurgle, in the back of his throat, I can’t really describe it, but it was a desolate, dying kind of sound, like tiny last throes or something, a wet, wholly frustrated, half suck, half hiss gurgle. A sound that wanted to be a word but hadn’t learned how yet. I now imagine the Universe itself making a sound just like that in its moment of expiration.”

“I remember one day. We were keeping count. He of course had no idea we were doing it, but we knew what project he was on, and we ran reports in the morning before he got there and in the night after he had left, and the dude had input 164 long Bramble Reports. Seriously. I mean the recommended average, the expected there, was like 20 BRs. Most of us called it a day at 10. Ridiculous.”

“I’ll tell you this much—the guy only had 3 pairs of pants. And 4 shirts. At least what he wore to work, that’s all he had. I know. We kept track. He rotated those articles of clothing in the limited number of combinations possible week after week after week. At least for as long as I worked there, and that was like 2 years, I mean, and from the looks of them I’m guessing maybe these 12 combinations lasted him the entirety of his career at Freckle, all... I don’t know—how long was he there did you say? 17 years? Christ. Really? I mean, that’s kind of weird, right?”

“You brought him something to integrate, BANG!, it was done, just like that. Sometimes it was done before you even brought it to him. I don’t know how that works.”

"Do you know who Henry Darger is? Yeah. I always kinda wondered if he wasn't something like that. Like maybe he's sitting on an awful new holy book at home or something. Like he's building a massive Dandruff Pyramid in the river valley of his apartment or something. Oh, man. That's mean. But god. Really."

“He never moved up, never moved down. Never asked for a promotion, never got one. I don’t know that he even knew what any of the other positions at the place were. He had found the thing in life that was his to do, and nothing was going to be keep that from being done. He was Freckle’s Data Entry Assistant, that’s all there was too it, and he was the best.”

"I picture him surfing this algorithm on a giant calulator and he's just stapling everything, he's throwing files into the air and the files are circling him like doves, and he's typing on the air, punching code into air keyboard you know, and numbers are just flying out behind him like those musical notes in the old cartoons and there's definitely a piano playing something ragtaggy with swing, hella swing, and it's pretty damn breathtaking. With those uncanny fingers he's sprinkling the formulas for life itself onto a wet, nascent Earth. I mean, that's just the way I want to remember him."

“Never showed up at a mixer.”

“One time we had a building-wide Earthquake Evacuation Drill, right? The alarms go off, and everybody files out of their cubicles, their offices, and into the stair wells down and out of the building. And we’re on the ninth floor of a nine-story building. So we all make it down and we’re standing around in the courtyard under the building, there in the massive shadow of the building I remember, and it was hot out, clothes sticking to your body hot, and everybody’s kinda talking amongst themselves, milling about, killing time, all in all there’s like hundreds of us out there from the entire building. Well, all of a sudden I heard somebody say something short and loud and surprised like, and a murmur rather shot through the crowd, and somehow I knew without knowing—you ever get that?—I knew without knowing exactly where to look and, I think, I knew exactly what I was going to see before I saw it, I don't know how else to explain, but—the memory has that kind of photograph quality to it, you know; I’ve thought back on this and thought back on this and it's, what do they say, burned into my brain?—I look up to the top floor of the building and there, 9 stories up, there he was! He was pressed against the glass window, his palms out to his sides, pressed hard against the glass, like two pale orbs floating to his right and left, and his nose was even smooshed up to the glass, a blur right in the middle of his face. And he just stood there like that, frozen, and he just stared down at us, the mass of us, and one and all we stared back at him, the entire courtyard, I don't know how it happened so fast but there you have it, the entire courtyard was soundless, nobody breathed, nobody peeped, even the traffic of the city seemed to have come to a noiseless halt, and he stared at us and we stared back, and his eyes, mercy, I will never forget those eyes, I’ve not seen them on another human being ever, that expression. And I know he was nine stories up, but in that moment it was like he was just right there in front of us, that's how good I could see him. And there was in his face the deepest, starkest—how can I describe it?—fear and confusion and shock and sadness and wonder... you know what it was, what it was like? Like, I imagine if a baby, a little bitty baby were falling through the sky, if it were plummeting down from the heavens and somehow one were able to take a good, clear look at what was happening to it—like this is all speculative, you know, but dang if it didn’t just hit me—that little bitty falling baby’s face would look exactly like his did that day. That face is frozen in my mind, here as I stand. I won’t forget it. Why I was asked to bear witness to this and nothing else I have no idea. It’ll be the last damn thing I see before I die, I think. I don’t want it to be, but there it is.”