Tulsa | Memento Mori
Amid prairie flats cut into oilfields and suburbs
Empty driveway scars summer-crisp yard
Brown brick ranch house like every other
Windows locked tight, curtains drawn
Anne Marie changed her name to Brandy Ann
As though it would add oxygen to the room
But she still sat breathless in the dark cool
Every day after class
Waiting for something to happen
Watching beautiful people on television
Drinking sweet tea
Her mother’s pearl-handled derringer on the coffee table,
loaded for protection
I was dead in my cubicle for five days before my boss noticed.
Each morning she came by to tell me how busy she was. I looked in
her eyes and saw she was blinded by tasks and trembling with deadlines.
She hunched over her keyboard long hours every day. She was glad to
see I did the same. Each morning we had a conversation on autopilot,
surrounded by yellow and pink squares pasted everywhere like flags.
Proof of my citizenship in the land of the busy, though I no longer
breathed to-do lists onto cubicle walls. The smell, they decided, was
coming from the office refrigerator. Leftover fish gone bad, or maybe
that kimchi from lunch. Someone put a piece of cake from Leanna’s
birthday on my desk, a fork rising out of chocolate sheet cake and a
half-inch of icing. Thousands of words filled my email box unread.
One said Pete is selling his van. Another that there are cookies by the
copier. I missed four meetings and a sexual harassment training.
My co-workers were amazed what I got away with. I’m busy with
decay and rigor mortis, taking conference calls with death and writing
up his action items. My mouth has forgotten its small talk. This cubicle
had no clock so time never stopped.