Somewhere in Rooms with No Mirrors A Collection by Steve Passey  

Somewhere in Rooms with No Mirrors

I’ll tell you about responsibility vs. accountability:

You know these boys, these girls – “Team Leaders”, Capos, Corporate motherfuckers coming to pass down the word from on high. Got that degree, got off the farm and here they are saying “We all have to tighten our belts” – Meaning that you have to do more, with less, for less. They are hoping that when the crumbs get parceled out they’ll get some. They get their one per-cent, trusting someone else’s math – Not enough to cover what he owes on child support, or she owes her roommate, for paying all of last month’s utilities. Maybe she’s got a husband, with a government job and a government pension. Her husband hates her like she hates him but she’s hanging in there for that pension of his, hoping he dies first

They believe, these Capos, these “Assistant Vice Presidents”, they believe that their shares are vesting. They need to believe …

Then the C-suite makes a call and they’re out.

Soon, the logo on their card changes but they’re still in a cubicle, somewhere, treading water, telling you to sell more, do more, with less, for not as much, because someone has to do something. They didn’t go to school to answer the phone and deal with this shit – Won’t somebody deal with this shit? Someone, anyone, you …

And then they are gone again.

You never see these people in public. They are alone somewhere, in rooms with no mirrors, dying by degrees, dying from too much sitting, dying from too much vodka, dying from loathing, dying from not doing a little more, with a little less, a little better, than they did.

7 AM Automatic

Every morning I go for a drive and pick up a coffee I pass the same old man out for a morning walk. He walks briskly; the old guy does, facing the sunrise in his black porkpie hat, his pea-coat, his good shoes. I wonder: What for? How long do you want to live?

An Ex of mine not very smart and very self-conscious about it(She had been held back in grade school – That was a long time ago but the feeling stayed as if she had been forcibly vaccinated against smart – She was convinced that every interaction was a transaction There is a winner and a loser in each and every one. Everything was a 60/40 proposition, everything and she’d be good and goddamned if she’d be the lesser. She doesn’t walk anywhere, she hardly moves. As wide as she is tall she sits on the couch now, dying of sitting, dying of wine. dying of being sure that she has somehow wound up with the 40

So I look at the old guy and think “At least he has that.” At least he thinks its 60 every morning that he walks. So what if it isn’t? He’s doing what he wants which

a good enough answer to the “What For?”

It’s better than boxed wine and Ativan for supper after another bad day at the office, sitting there counting how many people screwed you and trying to imagine by how much.

Small Town Hotel Breakfast Special

The waitress, bad knees, bad feet, and slow moving, never says much. She doesn’t need to ask what he wants, just shuffles around, doling out refills on a nod. She has been here longer than he’s been coming, grinding it out like the rest of us. $2.50 Breakfast, toast and coffee, refills free, all of the little jam packages you want. You can live off of the peanut butter ones. He often walks out with one or two in his pockets. It used to be a $2 breakfast a while back. Now some fucking guy in here, fat and flush, always complaining, (has a place in Arizona too), tells everyone that if it goes to $3 he’s never coming back.

But our guy comes at $2.50, just like he did at $2. It takes a half-dollar away from his cigarettes – A pack a day, sometimes less – Carefully managed because they’ve gone up way more than a half-dollar. He could buy a lottery ticket, he could – I still do, you still do, the grinding waitress still does, but he’s walking out with peanut butter single-serving packages in his pockets.

I know now, watching him that sometimes you are too old to win. There is nothing a million would do for you that a dollar wouldn’t. There is nothing you could buy and no one to give it to. It couldn’t change your days, not a one of them.

It would be better for everyone if the breakfast special stayed at $2.50.

Steve Passey is from Southern Alberta. His fiction and poetry has appeared in publications in Canada, the UK, and the USA including Existere Journal, Minor Literatures, Chicago Literati, the Rat’s Ass Review and others.