In Good Company (2014)
He had gotten as far as page five, numerically. The text had started only a page and a half earlier- still a whole span of pulp to get through. Right there, at the end of chapter 1, the semi-last paragraph, he shifted his view from the words ‘wean her’ on to the side margin of the page where he noticed the most personal of remnants. This legacy of readers past went well beyond the curiosity factor of marginal commentary, or sheer disdain towards underlined sacrilegious desecrations of library property. XXX methodically inspected the remaining crevices between text and spine in the remaining 659 pages, plus a thorough search of the last unmarked extras that contained publishing house adverts and other information. There was nothing there. He considered his options- tracing back the owner of such bodily secretions was a choice. He could track down all the previous loans of the book and start from there. In the end he opted against it: far too many stories had been written already by self-indulgent writers navel gazing on their own immediate surroundings to allow for his narrative to develop in the same way. Instead, he opted for contemplation, carefully jerking the book vertically on top of a white sheet of paper. There it was, seven perfect eyelashes mingling with the remnants of curly rolling tobacco, clearly distinguishable by the pitch-black middles that descended each way into discolored tips of nothing. Applying a secret note fold to the sheet (a trick he pick up from having mostly girl friends during 2nd and 3rd grades) and, lifting the extra baggage he would be hampered with for a long commute through public transportation, he left the library and subsequently began to forget that unexpected groping of bodies a few minutes earlier.
Often, he wondered why works were Untitled; he applied the same logic to the written page and asked himself if this was a helpful comparison to make with authors who named their main characters XXX. This was a very clever analogy, he thought, and, filled with self-contentment, he conjured up a half-smile on the side of his cheek and would have patted himself on the back if his joints would have allowed for such a maneuver. He regretted quitting Yoga. At some point in the day an advert had come up of a new sort of fitness revolution in which the participants would engage in this metabolic exercise in the nude. The thought paralyzed him- he remembered the horrendous feelings of inadequacy when the tips of his fingers barely crossed the threshold of his knees, straining to lift his head to find the rest of the class folded vertically with ease. He much preferred the dignified intimacy of library encounters with strangers. In the five months he attended, a serious infatuation had developed for one of his classmates. He found himself working extra hard at mastering his One-Legged King Pigeon, his Downward-Facing Dog, his Warrior I and II, only to retreat in defeat into the Child’s Pose, his favorite, but a recurring joke of the catabolic junkies that frequented his evening class.
They did go for coffee once after class, even though she didn’t ‘do’ caffeine. To impress her, he ordered a green tea latte with a shot of wheatgrass on the side, dropping it in the tea as if it were a beer cocktail. She seemed disgusted, but carried on talking about the things she enjoyed. She was an art history student, the president of various clubs and societies on campus, extraordinarily attractive, and constantly being made the example in their yoga class, she was that good. She monopolized the conversation, connecting Morandi’s practice (her current thesis) to yoga and meditation. He was happy enough just watching her talk, imagining his cock in her mouth, ideally she would hold it tight between her hands and sing Mariah Carey through it- preferably “Fantasy” but he could also see the potential of a good rendition of her Christmas tune (in his opinion a masterful work of pop wonder). XXX wondered if he should share this thought with her; she might have been into it, being in the arts and all, but instead co-opted for a more sensible approach, asking the question that inevitably ended their succinct relationship: “Didn’t he just paint the same objects over and over?”
The classes were held in adjacent rooms to the main weightlifting equipment central. She would glide through the kneelers and genuflectors of isotonic exercise, through the grunts and blinking contests, through the French-inspired glass doors that led to the H2-OM room, boasting sumptuous, contemporary, capacious interiors and a fresh, crisp finish, bright and vibrant mirrors elegantly arranged throughout this state-of-the-art exercise studio. She remembered her home.
The house was to be remodelled; in the interim, she was asked what kind of carpet did she want in her room. YYY had a vision of a shag rug with a house and two children drawn with the rising strings, like the kind she had seen at her father’s friend’s store. He was also of the Lebanese community. Instead, they installed a pink, cut-pile plush carpet of tuft construction, like every other that her father manufactured at the factory- a children’s version of hotel decor.
It had a repetitive tessellation like pattern of a house and stick figure children, one on each side. It was made the standard ‘girl’ carpet at the factory. There were long rolls of it at the back warehouse where industrial produce was kept: acrylic, yarn and polypropylene, the prime material of manufacturing. The workers weren’t pleased when all the cousins gathered there and jumped from one side to the other on top of these rolls, scraping their knees from the rough latex side. They had to accommodate them though, eyeballing them with contempt from their platforms and other various stations had to suffice.
At the Christmas celebrations a man came up to YYY, drunk, and called her a cunt. He operated the second largest broadloom in the factory, a pale military green, Jaquard-esque relic; this was one of the first bought by her grandfather in the early 1960s as the factory was expanding. The rolls of multicolored threads trembled as he switched on the power on the machine, they unraveled themselves and the loom started weaving the punch-hole patterns it was fed from the design department. There was a room held solely to archive the stacks of punch cards.
The upstairs offices had the landmark, best-selling carpet that the factory produced. It was a geometric pattern of rectangles divided by right-angle triangles of different colors, usually over a dark brown background filled by pastel, neon, ’80s colors. Her father’s office was decorated by his then-wife, who had a new found hobby: antiquing. He had a globe of the world from the 19th century that delineated the Ottoman Empire, a burgundy tie-patterned carpet which always had that recently-hoovered fluffiness to it, except on the trails of ins-and-outs which led from the front of his desk to the front door and extended into the outside hallway towards his secretary’s desk. He always had very attractive secretaries with double -barrelled names such as Maria-Carolina or Marta-Eugenia, as did her grandfather. It was rumored that he had erected the staircase at the main entrance solely to impress his most long-lasting assistant. It had a gold leaf banister with 1960s rococo adornments vomited onto it; the spindle erupted into the shape of a floating cupid, a Lebanese immigrant’s homage to Louis XVI, complete with red velvet-like carpet that draped the fascia as well as all five walls and extended on to the ceiling.
Downstairs, the industrial complex was uncarpeted, divided into segments of production; accordingly, there were 120 workers, maybe 180 at the best of times, not including those who worked at the chain stores which were opened to the public at some point in the late ’70s and slowly shut down one by one until the factory went bankrupt in 2001.
It was a touchy subject for her, preferring to hide under her current ‘working-hard-for-the-money’ attire, bartending and waitressing to pay her way through school. Morandi was a far better object to contemplate. YYY imagined the delicate gradations in gray tonalities as she shifted her body weight to the left side of the RipSurfer X from SurfSET. Owing to the sound of crashing waves in this surf-simulated yoga class, she concentrated on generating three-dimensional images of his recurring bottles and bowls, getting frustrated and losing balance when her imagination would inevitably plaster them with bright colors, unacceptable to her purist views of his renderings. The jars, boxes and jugs would rotate in her mind like jewelry displays, oscillating between object and biography, formulating intangible comparisons between his narrative reclusiveness and his life of ascetic Sanyasis, slightly aggrandizing his devotion to fit her romance.
Some classes, she ventured into other matters- more pressing interpersonal relationships, lost friends, bickering flings, details and minutiae of her daily life that lingered in her mind well past their expiration date. Ashamed, as only a raised catholic can be, she would recall her past nights, masturbating heavily to the thought of one of his particular vases, embroidered with detail she found it more satisfying than any human could ever be. Venturing outside of the grayscale, out of the terracottas and the earth tones, it floated in her mind shimmering, iridescent with its phallic, elongated neck and fatty, muscular crevices that compromised its bottom. It must have been cold to the touch: dragging herself to the ceramic bathroom floor to mimic its touch. She would meld the vase with the one violet box, syncopating in perfect synchronicity with each other. It was the love story she craved, it was the fabric of her fantasy.
It never would have worked out, anyway; XXX recounted every detail of their encounter, fondling the packet of eyelashes cradled in his pocket.