Predictable Upheaval

Co-Authored with Anne Spitza

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Benjamin Sanford woke up and found himself again both well-rested and slightly dazed. These confusing collision of facts and images were now happening every time he woke up; a few moments of polite mental wandering before the reality of the day's circumstances and things which pulled at him as he fell asleep became clear again. Ben was a person who was not burdened with a complex mind but he made a point never to over-think these moments. After a few quiet moments of vague thought, he allowed them to stumble eventually into a self-composed confusing conclusion. As stated, these moments passed quickly but the time to take a brief life inventory via a miscellaneous meander was taking longer and longer each time he awoke.

Many times the inventory or adventure was fairly mundane; sometimes it was a litany of loves lost and loves gained and sometimes it was a mental listing of all his grade school teachers and sometimes it was just random scenes from his past with no rhyme or reason. Laying in bed, he would remain within his cocoon and allow his mind the time to complete that morning's exercise and then, and only then, he would rise to meet the day. He never explained this ritual to anyone because it was one of those things not to share for two reasons: 1) It was an odd proclivity which had grown more noticeable over the months and 2) Faced with no pattern or purpose, the whole episode seemed fairly odd and surprisingly, he had no snappy insights to justify the musings thus the silence.

While he woke well-rested but dazed, those first moments as he emerged from the fogginess to the reality of his current circumstances, he always indulged in his private luxury of a mental vacation. As he let his mind wander without agenda, he seemed to be consistently running nostalgic inventories more and more to the point that a pattern began to emerge. And lately, it had become a litany of loves lost or loves gained or love made. While it had no purpose or intent, the mental listings ranged from the harmless to the erotic but again with no real purpose. Today he was recalling with Kodak clarity his grade school teachers; Miss Whitman was a looker, Sister Carmina was rightfully remembered as Sister Carmeanie and Mrs. Vaughn smelled like the triad of misery made up of menthol cigarettes, mothballs and White Linen™. The roster of Catholic instructors was strangely devoid of any attention-getting thoughts but the dormant memories of the school uniforms made a looming appearance for no obvious reason.

His bedroom was a nice place to be; in fact, both of his bedrooms were pleasant and comfortable. When his love life was non-existent and mainly hypothetical, he had slept in a smaller bedroom with a single bed. And only when his social life dictated it, he would move to the larger bedroom with a queen-sized bed. Connected by a bathroom, he would alternate between the rooms with a sense of purpose which only comes with a logical and convenient epiphany. The bathroom isthmus allowed for the dual bedroom idea to evolve with minimal upheaval and he always felt the change in rooms was healthy. It allowed him to experience slight but noticeable changes in the sunrise and reduced the sense that he was getting into a rut with his comings and goings. Once the social life went through the change, the resulting switch of rooms allowed the misery (or excitement) to be tempered slightly by the predictable chaos of the move and all the things which come along with moving one's bedroom. After a few social adventures, the smaller bedrooms slowly morphed into his "single room" and his larger bedroom became his "non-single room." The interior design also reflected his current social situation and for the most part, it did add some stability to the whole relationship dynamic. It was easy for him to determine the health of the current social status but just looking around the room to see where he was (literally) sitting on the affairs of his heart.

His close friends also understood his room strategy and it was common for one of his close friends to just walk into the bedroom area to get an immediate update on his social life. One quick spin around the house could provide his friends all they wanted to know about his situation. If the "non-single" room was more orderly than usual with personal items placed in boxes but still occupied, it meant that Ben was in the last throws of a relationship. If the "single room" was heavily lived in and well entrenched, it meant that Ben was most likely in a very deep relationship-based slump. If the queen bed was piled high with clean yet-to-be folded laundry and the weight bench at the foot of the bed had that ready-to-pump setup, Ben was looking for a way get out of whatever entanglement he was in. If the "single room" had that disheveled, lived-in look with magazines and books tossed on the floor and dirty coffee cups on the side table, it was a sure bet that Ben's was doing the solo bachelor routine again. No matter his level of relationships, he also prided himself with optimistic preparation In this case, with clean inviting sheets and a bedside table no doubt filled with some sorts of contraband conveniently stored in the bedside table; quietly dormant to the curious or the obligated. Ben might have kept his own counsel on personal matters and made numerous attempts to beat around the bush (pun intended) when forced to provide an update about his social life but everyone knew the rooms never lied. But in his defense, he never asked them to do so.

When he was out in public, in the throws of his single mode, he'd observe couples from a guarded distance, wondering at what made it work. When he saw a doomed twosome put on the ledge, with their final breakup only a stumble away, he couldn't stop staring. Instead of averting his eyes, he would find a discrete place to sit and drink in the sweet nectar of schadenfreude. Just yesterday as he watched a couple in mid-footsie, he determined that the relationship was teetering on the cusp of physical intimacy. The woman was dressed to kill and the man was clean, engaged in the conversation but had focused on the impending session of resolution. The man was giving off all the classic non-verbals of someone who had been owed something but that fatal flaw would not be discovered for a few weeks. The woman's behavior was not much different but at least she seemed she was prepared to delay the destination if any of her requirements were not readily obvious when it was time to do what needed to be done.

Ben was seeing many of his personal behaviors in both of them. They danced around each other smiling, watching, testing, at once hesitant to let down their protective shields and anxious to experience the pleasure of physical surrender. In a moment of clarity, he realized the anticipated joy was not only found in the obvious climax of achievement nor in the mutual collision of need and desire but rather along the journey to the destination. He longed to take the time to savor the process and rely on listening skills still not fully formed; he was not a good listener and never implied as such, but one's behavior could always be misconstrued as listening when in fact, all he was doing was waiting to talk. He was between relationships at the moment but he saw the consistent flaw for the first time; he couldn't shut up and didn't care what they had to say. The journey was the reward only as long as his traveling companion packed the right things but he knew the combination of poor listening and a dismissive approach to other's ideas was a bad combination.

He had been part of many volcanic interplay and knew that the thoughts and desires that fueled them were the first things to abandon him once the conquest had been achieved. He had caused and suffered through numerous walks of shame, still carrying the props and related dialogue cues, which now seemed to changed into their own antonyms and wondered why something so powerful a few hours earlier now had taken on the appeal of unwanted and ill-fitting underwear. When circumstances would permit, he wanted to do some logical thinking to see why powerful ideas and thoughts turned into bizarro mirror images with the only measureable emotion of fleeing the mental scene of the crime., as he lay in the single bed and within his self-defined 200 thread count cocoon, he exercised his memory and before rising to meet the day with a moderately clean conscious and nice focus on what needed to be done. Lately, he was finding himself pre-occupied with his pre-conscious thoughts and lingering inside his cocoon, his thoughts were deliciously outside his control and he felt quietly liberated by just enjoying the ride with no interest in the directions they were heading. The memories long lost to time were emerging unbidden but not unwanted and it was as if the filter of time had been lifted: there were no regrets attached to this world. No judgment. No longing. It just was what had happened but next time, he silently promised himself, he'd watch, listen and observe from within his own relationship. Next time, he'd let down his guard to experience the dance with abandonment. He wanted to meet someone who realized that foreplay was not just something to engage in over a second drink on a second date but something that needed to percolate over a longer period of time. The fine line between isolation and solitude had just grown a little finer and that resulting reality was neither appreciated or wanted.

He finally rose for the day and scampered around making coffee and sprinting down the hall to get his morning paper before it was stolen by one of dozens of his fellow neighbors. As he shut the door behind him with an uncracked morning paper under his arm and the smell of freshly brewed coffee surrounding him as walked toward the kitchen, he started thinking more and more about these post-slumber dream sequences. As a young man, he opened his eyes and he popped out of bed with no emotion and he began his day. If he was fatigued, dappled, drowsy or fully rested, it didn't matter and didn't not slow him down. However, the moments which occurred immediately after waking were becoming more his new way of getting up. He enjoyed the random nature of these previous thoughts but the reasons why he was revisiting this dusty information was still a mystery to him. He never divulged this private ritual to anyone for two reasons: he was enjoying the side trips and he felt that any serious thought to its origins or purpose would likely kill the muse within. He'd only recently fully acknowledged it to himself and as an odd proclivity, it gave him hope of the unknown but with his own human condition fully on parade and he did enjoy it and had no interest in risking altering the enjoyment of it with the intrusive judgment of another was inconceivable.

The drive into work was quiet and restorative. He liked his car even more than he liked his bed. The traffic lights and other drivers were cooperating so he made it to work early and completely void of frustration. The simple act of missing a few traffic lights became a personal highlight and he didn't know whether he was happy because of the lack of general hassle or sad because the low level of expectations when it came to personal achievements.

When he arrived at work, he walked right past his office and directly to the coffee machine. He dropped his man-bag on the floor and pulled his never-washed coffee cup from the top of the cupboard. He was tall enough to place things in areas which no one else could see, thus creating a number of convenient places for his general purpose. He looked in the cup, splashed and sloshed some water in and out of it to hydrate the mysterious organisms living in its recesses and then filled it to the brim. Ben then grabbed his man-bag, took a hard, hot slurp of coffee to make it a bit less daunting to walk and went to his office. The nearby workers saw his pace and purpose and knew he had another one of those wake-up moments. As anyone knows, there are no secrets in subs or offices so the entire group knew Ben was still dealing with these internal morning mental movies.

Ben sat down, slid his laptop into the docking station and started drinking his coffee while he waited to access the system. His office was the opposite of his home: where is home and bedrooms were haimischly personifications of comfort, his office was cold, stark, barren and made of either dull brushed steel or obviously expensive leather. He had inherited the office from a long-forgotten executive with a love for a selfish internal love of himself (or herself) office style but Ben saw no purpose wasting any more money trying to rectify the vibe. He could fill it with his own sunshine.

"I see you had one of those dreams again," said Michael Wolff. Michael was his partner in crime and general counsel of the company. They worked on a variety of initiatives together and shared a similar opinion from two different perspectives.

"These are not dreams, these are little mental vacations with an occasional volcanoes of known images with no known pattern except they involve me."

"Dreams...mental volcanoes. It doesn't matter to me except these predictable upheavals seem to fuzz up your karma a bit."

Michael never had a problem with nouns; if he didn't have one handy, he would insert any hard-to-describe phrase or concept into his response and would keep moving. There was a six month period where he was quoting obscure Indigo Girls lyrics and no one called him on the practice. Ben did not have an issue with replying with well-paced non sequiturs because many of the workplace conversations were exhausting and without purpose. However, he did have an issue with the lack of originality; if you are going to quote lyrics, at least show some class and strategically place the right lyric with the appropriate circumstance. He felt that his saturation strategy was charming at best but suffered from an overall laziness by relying on a single source, no matter how sincere.

It is fascinating what you see when you are not looking for anything in particular.

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