My Dear and Nameless Petitioner,
As is often my wont, I elected to take this question "to the People." As fortune would have it, much of my lab's staff are People, and these people gather regularly for the observation of Pizza Thursday, a weekly sectarian holiday which, as near as I can discern, commemorates the single father of my typist, Jarwaun, and his young brother, Trael, being required to work a double shift. In recognition of this holy day, the office staff feasts upon lactose-strewn bread platters and carbonated dental acid baths, and then prostrates themselves before our staff lounge's very large plasma screenéd televisual broadcast receiver in order to observe either a narrative videographic display, or engage in double-elimination video-gaming tournaments of either the "Old School" Mario Karts or the new-school Calls of Duty, the Teams Fortress, or the playing with the Wiis.
I am inclined to believe that the celebration may, in some way, venerate both Ganesh and St. Clare of Assisi, but have yet to verify these inductive suppositions.
In any event, prior to last Pizza Thursday I attempted to address your question to my occasional lab assistant, Rob.
"ROB! ROB!" I did call as he paced the lab, his cell phone pressed against his ear. "ROB!" He waved his arm violently, as though shooing an especially determined cloud of gnats. "ROB! PLEASE DESCRIBE, AS CONCISELY AS POSSIBLE, THAT WHICH YOU DO ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP ISSUES! ROB!"
Rob pulled the phone from his year, cupping his paw over the telephone's mouth piece, "Man, Lord A.," he hissed, "Don't even start with me about relationship issues, OK, 'cuz—"
"WELL ENOUGH," I shifted my gaze to young Trael, who at that time toiled over an elementary arithmetic workbook arrayed upon the lab's linoleum floor, "TRAEL, PLEASE DESCRIBE, AS CONCISELY AS POSSIBLE—"
Rob muttered his last into the phone and snapped it shut.
"Listen, there's no pizza for Pizza Thursday if everyone can't shut the fuck up—"
"—THAT WHICH YOU DO ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP ISSUES."
Trael looked up from his workbook. He set the eraser of his pencil so that it rested beneath his upper lip, then cocked his head thoughtfully.
"Well," he began.
"Pizzas in twenty," Rob called out self-importantly to none in particular. In the lounge Jarwaun and my de facto lab director, Molly, endeavored to connect a computer to the television so that they might display the Instant Net Flicks; they did not acknowledge Rob's news. "Anyway, Lord A., here's the thing—"
"Hey," Trael said quietly, his large eyes fixed on Rob, perturbed but calm, "Mr. Squid asked me about what I do with my issues—"
Rob rolled of the eyes, "Yeah, after he asked me, but I couldn't answer, because I was straightening out the pizza situation—"
"Yeah, and so he ask me. Besides, there ain't no 'pizza situation;' it's just pizza; you dial the phone and tell the Arab man what you want, and then his cousin bring the pizza and you give him cash from Mr. Squid's cash drawer in Molly's desk—"
Rob narrowed his eyes.
"Why does Tray know where the petty cash is?" He looked upon me directly, "When was the petty cash moved?"
Trael shrugged, "Everyone know where the cash is." Trael craned around and called to his brother, Jarwaun: "Hey, J., you know where the cash be?"
From behind the television Jarwaun replied absently, "Which cash?"
"The pizza cash," Trael replied.
"In Molly's locked drawer, the one with the key she keeps in her President coffee mug she stole from the White House when she did that."
"Why'd he ask 'which cash'?" Rob asked.
"'cause there's pizza cash and candy machine cash," Jarwaun called, not poking his head over the screen. "Where the hell you been?"
"I been lots of places," Rob said defensively, "You don't even . . . just . . . whatever. Whatever." Rob crossed his arms, "Do you tykes even know where the key to the candy machine cash is?"
Trael raised an eyebrow and smirked, but Jarwaun simply looked confused. "Key? What are you on about, Big R.? How the hell do you put a lock on big glass fishbowl? Or did the whole thing get moved into a cupboard or somethin'?"
"It still where it always be," Trael called back. He then looked upon Rob and shook his head pityingly. "Don't bother with Rob, J.; he playin."
"I gotta call the pizza dude again," Rob said, pulling out his cell phone.
"That's good," Trael said, "'cause there might be some 'situation' happening that needs you."
Rob scowled and turned away as he dialed.
"TRAEL, I HAVE RECEIVED A MISSIVE SEEKING ADVICE ON HOW TO ADDRESS THE RELATIONSHIP ISSUES; AS CONCISELY AS POSSIBLE, PLEASE DESCRIBE THAT WHICH YOU DO ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP ISSUES."
Trael recommenced chewing upon his pencil for many a moment whilst Rob held his cell phone to his ear, neglecting to pretend to be engrossed in a feigned conversation with the Arabian pizza man.
"I guess," Trael began uncertainly, feeling his way forth, "there's two kinda issues. Like, sometimes the issue is that you messed something up—that's one kinda issue—and other times, it's someone else that messed it up. And if you messed it up, you can be all sorry—like for real sorry, deep in your stomach, not just sayin' 'Sorry,' like it ain't no thing, 'cause if it weren't no thing, then it wouldn't never got to be an issue. So, if you mess it up, if it your issue, than you gotta reach deep down and make a real sorry about it. I think Momma said that one time, a long time back, before she was gone. I think she told J. that, but I was there, and I heard it too." Trael frowned, "Or maybe I just remember J. tellin me she told him it when I was there too. But, if the issue is someone else's—like if you win at the dictionary race during the Holiday Party in your classroom at school the day before Christmas Break and you friend get all salty because you got the new Iron Man backpack that was the big prize . . ." Trael frowned deeper, the frown propagating lines of concentration across his forehead, like the ripples in a deep pool that has swallowed a heavy stone. He looked upon his black backpack and its proud vinyl emblem of the Iron Man in all his Glory. "Well, you can't really do a thing about that, right? Like, don't make no sense for you to say sorry for winnin', 'cause don't make no sense for bein' sorry for winnin'. Winnin' is what it's about; no one would feel good if they won the big prize 'cause everyone else was tryin' to lose; then it's just like they givin it to you, like it's out the Toys for Tots box. Toys for Tots ain't bad—I ain't sayin' that—it's just that you ain't playin' for Toys for Tots. It's a different thing. So if the issue is on someone else . . . it easy to let that issue make you mad, but then, if you mad, there's two issues. Issues spread and make baby issues that grow big and make trouble, get everyone beefin'. When there's a beef with folks, then there's even more issues, 'cause everyone wanna take sides." Trael paused for a long time, looked upon the steel visage of Iron Man, nibbled on his pencil's pink and fleshy eraser.
"When you got the issue, when you made the issue 'cause you teased someone 'bout they learnin-disabled sister or something, then before you can make the real apology—the deep one from your gut, the one that really counts—you gotta get all quiet inside. Like, you gotta go to your own place, your room or where you can sit by yourself and think something out, and you gotta let everything out, breath it out real calm, and let yourself get still inside. You gotta let your angry settle out and stop bulldoggin', so you can see that you done wrong. But, if the issue is someone else's issue, if they made the issue, you still kinda gotta do the same thing. It don't end in a sorry from the gut, because you got nothin' to be sorry 'bout, but . . . but it makes a space in the air for that person to put a sorry out there, a real gut sorry. It makes a place for you to bring that sorry inside you self. I guess maybe that's what you gotta do with the relationship issues: You gotta make a place in you where the sorrys can fit, so you friend can put that sorry out there."
Trael looked at me wide eyed for a long time. "That's what I'm sayin' about issues," he said. "I'm done." Then he turned back to his books, and I watched him without speaking.
We were quiet, all of us, for a time, quiet enough to hear Jarwaun and Molly cursing as they attempted to mate all of the vital cables betwixt computer and plasma television.
"You know," Rob said softly, his cell phone arm—still holding the silent, open cellphone—hung limp at his side, "the question wasn't 'What should I do about my relationship issues?' it was 'What do I do about my relationship issues?' And, since he's asking us, it probably means he does jack shit about them."
Trael looked up. "True dat," he said, nodding.
"Just sayin," Rob went on, "We're kinda, like, the most perfect enablers natural selection could devise, you know what I'm sayin?" He snapped his phone shut without looking upon it and slipped it into his pocket. "I'm gonna go down and wait at the doors for the pizza cousin." He turned and walked towards the elevators.
"Ain't he just gonna ring your cell when he come?" Trael asked Rob's back.
Rob shrugged, "Yeah, but the weather's OK, and I might as well, you know, stretch a leg, sort some shit out."
And so he did. For when he returned he was lighter of mein, and bore unto us both pizzas and, subtly, some measure of goodwill and grace. Or so one might be inclined to perceive.
Your Giant Squid
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