I've told you that I'm currently taking a once-a-week writing workshop that's been going on since September 30th, but I haven't really shared anything I've written for class with y'all. But since one of my classmates did (and did a fine job, I might add), I figured I would too.
First, a bit of background.
We had an in-class writing assignment that went kind of like this: Pick a 10-year period in your life. Then write--in three word increments--some descriptive phrases of that time, roughly three phrases per year. For a wordy (ahem) individual like myself, this was an interesting challenge. But I did it. Then most of the people in the class read their list of phrases. It was very interesting and sometimes really funny to hear others' phrases and imagine what was behind them. At the end of class, Spike gave us this homework: Pick one of the phrases and write 1,000 about it. The period of time I chose was age 20 to 30, and although a LOT happened during that time, I won't bore you with my three-word phrases. Instead, I'll bore you with just one of the three-word phrases that I decided to elaborate upon. (Please remember, this is creative non-fiction, so there's a little artistic license going on here. But only a tiny bit.)
Summer Without Rain
The grass in the small front yard of our rented house had burned to a crisp over a month ago. Now the lone large tree in the front yard was quickly losing its leaves in an effort to conserve what little moisture it might be able to access through its deep roots. Our A/C ran constantly, all of the creeks were dried up, the lake levels were quickly receding and most of the city pools were closed due to drought restrictions. It was hot and dry and miserable, and there was simply no relief. We’d gone over two months without a bit of rain, and it was only a few days into August. I kept having fantasies of running away; just getting in my car and driving north until I finally hit cooler, greener pastures. Almost every night, I dreamed of rain. My roommate Courtney and I bought a twelve pack of cheap beer and wrote “SAVE FOR A RAINY DAY” in black Sharpie on the outside of the box. Then we shoved it into the back of the fridge and pledged that on the first day we got any real rain, we were going to sit out on our front porch and finish that sucker.
See, those are the kind of plans you can commit to when you don’t have “real” jobs. At least not the kind of jobs you’re supposed easily land once you graduate from a really good university, which we’d both done that previous spring. I was working a temp job at a roofing company in an insanely sketchy part of town, while Courtney was a hostess at a Tex-Mex restaurant. We were both making less than ten dollars an hour. Besides the pathetic pay, the downside of Courtney’s job was that she came home from work REEKING of Mexican food and waiter/waitress drama after every shift. The downside of mine was that I had a super sleazy boss named Dick (yes, really) who had a huge oil painting of a panther hanging behind his desk and enjoyed taking long, epic dumps in the roofing company’s only bathroom, which just happened to be right by my desk. Yeah, we were living large, as they say.
One day I was at work, and Dick slinked out of his wood paneled office chewing on a toothpick like he always did. He had on a cheap, too-small button down shirt with no undershirt beneath. The fabric was pale and so thin I could see his nipples through the front. He wore a thick gold chain and medallion, and had his shirt unbuttoned about one button more than any self-respecting man should EVER consider doing. “I’ll be back after lunch, Cutie,” he said while walking out the door. I shuddered a bit at his pet name for me. “Bye,” I countered, utterly unenthused about the idea of him returning after lunch, or ever for that matter.
I cracked my book and began to read. Reading is how I filled the time between fielding infrequent calls and speaking broken Spanish to the workers who had questions. I tried to lose myself in my book, but couldn’t. I’d had a particularly mind-numbing morning and had smelled one-too-many of Dick’s bowel movements. Suddenly, I began to unravel and started crying, hard. What the FUCK was I doing there?! Why couldn’t I find a better job? I mean, who DOESN’T need a perky, recently-graduated English/Theatre double major working for them, right? Between the early morning bong hits, the gallons of beer I was regularly drinking, and the dimwit brain donors I’d been spending the majority of my time with, I became quite sure I was turning into a worthless slacker idiot with no future. How the hell was I going to fix this?! Well, not by working at the Greater Austin Roofing Company via a crappy temp agency, that was for sure. So I pulled myself together enough to call my “Career Liaison” at Personnel People and informed her that that Friday would be my last at that fucking place and that, no, I wasn’t interested in another assignment. I had no back-up employment plan, but knowing that I was done with the temp job crapshoot I’d been dealing with off and on since graduation felt wildly liberating.
That Friday, the blazing hot sun woke me up through my east-facing bedroom windows. It was the beginning of day sixty-four without rain, and the temperature was already in the mid-eighties despite the early hour. But I wasn’t pissy, I was excited. It was my last day at the roofing place, and the last time I would ever have to look at Dick’s squinched up face and dandruff-filled comb-over. It was the last time I’d have to see the sad faces of the immigrant workers that Dick yelled at with evil regularity. It was the last time I’d have to drive to that glorified warehouse office with a fifty pound ball of dread sitting in my stomach. Mercifully, I was uncommonly busy that day, and the hours passed without much notice. When five o’clock came, I yelled a cursory, “Bye Dick!” as I opened the door to the parking lot. Since there were no windows in the crappy office and I hadn’t stepped outside since lunchtime, I had no idea that dark, menacing clouds had started rolling in from the east. The temperature was dropping, the wind was gusting, and it smelled like rain. Delicious fucking rain. I nearly squealed with glee. I jumped in my car and started home. About half-way there, big, fat raindrops started to fall. By the time I pulled up in front of our house, the rain was coming down in sheets, and Courtney was sitting on the front porch with our rainy day twelve pack and a big grin on her face. “Finally!!” she yelled to me happily as I walked from my car to the front steps, not caring that I was getting soaked.