Sunday, April 01, 2007

But I was a clerk in a filing room when I did

Dream: Harvey Pekar kept calling me and leaving me messages, or getting me on the phone and getting the brush off. I was busy, I’d tell him. He was calling me the way a customer would get my attention; he wasn’t calling because we were familiar, but because he needed me to retrieve something from a shelf. However, we lived several cities away from each other. I kept brushing him off like even the snidest clerk in me wouldn’t, because he wasn’t really my customer--I was no longer working a customer service job, and he wasn’t really calling a store. It was as if (after 11 restaurant jobs and almost a decade in retail) I’d turned into the Everyclerk; if you called me, I’d get you something from a shelf. Harvey Pekar knew it, and I didn’t yet.

As I said, I was brushing him off constantly. I would delete his messages before I listened to them and I would self-righteously slam-hang up the phone if he reached me. Some guilt started to eat at me. What was he trying to tell me? His calls were increasingly angry as of late. Was he threatening me, now that I was treating him so?

I was busy. In my mind, I was very busy and I couldn’t believe that yet someone else needed me and demanded of my time and energy.

The space I existed in was like a long warehouse, sectioned off by suggestions of different rooms but not by walls. The floors and walls were concrete; there were no windows. It was hard to say whether this was specifically my place of work, or whether it was some nuclear-bomb-shelter future society; whether it was just where everyone existed. For one thing, I was doing various tasks there. In the fathest back section, I was shopping for records from some snotty twenty-year old guys. Slightly closer than that, I was folding the Sunday paper sections as they came in. Even closer to the front, I was visiting Morgan, who had returned to Brooklyn with his family, left his house in Italy behind and had to get a job in a pet store. Our heads were surrounded by bird cages and hanging plants as we talked about his disappointment in this turn of events. At the front end of this windowless space (why it seemed the front I can’t say) there were stacks of the complete Sunday paper, with a thin version of Harvey’s latest book stuffed inside as this week’s supplement. At this end of the place, people were starting to gather, for a variety show to celebrate Bryan’s wedding. I turned around and saw Bryan, Phillippe, and my brothers, all in plastic bowler hats and various other costume accessories, looking like they were dressed for St. Patrick’s Day. I shook hands to congratulate Bryan.

Parallel to the pet store, there was a room-sized bird cage of sorts. It was like a tiny studio apartment with walls of black-metal piping. I seemed to work for the person who lived there; I had come to water her. On one side of the cage walls, the metal piping was interrupted by a row of what looked like black hot-air balloons, or dry-cleaning bags for Abbot and Costello, hanging from the ceiling. These were supposed to be all the rage now. I was fluffing these balloons up for the resident, when I saw Harvey Pekar charge around the corner. “I’m Harvey Pekar!” he yelled in my direction when he saw me. I was stricken by fear at the sight of him, because my anxiety at having ignored his calls, and my confusion as to whether he was somehow inherently my customer, had grown so high. He looked terrible, his skin looked that transparent-elderly-Irish, plus liver spots. One of his eyes was bandaged. He got closer to me and was still yelling at me. Now I was fearing what threats I had erased off my answering machine, as if I wanted to know his plans. As if I somehow deserved them more because I had ignored their build-up. Then Harvey lit a match and set me on fire, and ignited the hot-air balloons, yelling that he told me he would do this if I didn’t take his next call.

I woke up.


Last Sunday night’s dream: Harvey Pekar was being held hostage by terrorists, and the City of Cleveland was being asked for the money. Harvey had his own demands for the terrorists: He told them that his plans were to finish eating his meal now, a whole roasted chicken, and then to defecate the following morning.

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