The Railroad Ramble Exercise

(Sidenote – if you want to see how this writing exercise evolved, please see my previous post about Gary Hoffman’s Writeful.)

Under Picasso’s Gaze

Taking a break from the every day shuffle and grind of my daily desk-bound vigil, I look around my office with new eyes.  On the personalized calendar from a friend, I see a photo of two silly boys and their proud parents jumping and roaring as they laugh uproariously and without pause while sailing along choppy, white-tipped waves amidst sea spray and crying gulls soaring above their sleek, yellow-canopied speed boat.  In another photo, those same young boys – nephews in deed if not blood, one seven and one ten – are dressed in faded jeans and black t-shirts with barely perceptible graphics (all but completed obliterated by repeated washings), are standing next to their father who’s beaming under a white cap as his two sons proudly show off a couple of fish they’ve caught off the pier during a summer “day with dad”,  both are healthy specimens of  the sea, wet and shiny, gray and blue-scaled.

On the bulletin board next to the calendar, random notes and pictures jostle for attention. In one corner, out of a crookedly cut square of a black and white screen shot from a website offering to match you with your creative soul mate upon the completion of a silly but entertaining questionnaire, peers Pablo Picasso – amused yet stoic in a jaunty cap and paint splattered work shirt; my creative soul mate who (according to the words under his picture) was a revolutionary and an active lover, who enjoyed breaking the rules and reacted poorly to heartbreak – staring down at me with an encouraging twinkle in his eye and a half-formed grin just waiting to brighten his countenance.

Opposite Picasso, shining under a clear plastic thumbtack indistinguishable from it’s corkboard mates, is the shiny, blue flashcard that I picked up from a booth at last year’s Earth Day festival; a cacophony of colors – including lime green, lemon yellow and fluorescent orange – the star shaped Amoeba, a happy, wide-eyed symbol of the group of girls I befriended my freshman year of high school who had the tendency to go everywhere together and were thus dubbed “amoeba” – grins out from under the heading “Mighty Microbe.”

I sit uncomfortably in the my gray, overused and overpriced, office chair typing away on my computer screen and trying to get as much accomplished as I can before the lunch break. I’m half-listening to jazz on KMHD,a radio station from often rainy and always quirky Portland, Oregon. The white and dusty fan that I bought on impulse from the drugstore for something hovering around thirty bucks (in an attempt to mask the coughs and the scuffles and the tapping of coworkers that can congeal into an attention-disrupting cacophony) is reliably and gently droning and blowing a soft, cool breeze across my shadowed, quiet cubicle.

Suddenly sound intrudes. My mostly silent and conscientious female coworker who rarely calls in sick and is never late – either in the morning or after lunch –anxiously and timidly coughs.  Almost simultaneously, I’m interrupted by the unexpected and startling ding of a text message from a harried and overwhelmed friend trying to organize her calendar and her life;  the plea for information buzzing and banging the phone perched on my computer’s hard drive, its warning ding alerting me to a question about a birthday party and a missing invitation.

After answering her missive, I quietly and cautiously slip out the office door and onto the sunny and unexpectedly bright stucco pathway, squinting downstairs to fully and completely fill my heavy glass water bottle. As I step outside the heavy, forest green, fire-door that separates our building from the outside world,  I realize almost immediately that my white, scratchy sweater and multicolored scarf of chunky soft yarn are suddenly superfluous — if not completely detrimental — to my enjoyment of the morning now that early clouds and biting wind have dissolved into a bright, and uncharacteristically (for early spring) sunny day.


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