I think I got the job. I'm not 100% sure of it yet, but it looks promising- very promising. I'm the lowest bidder so far, the most qualified, most experienced, most talented and most willing to conform to the client's requirements. All that remains is their decision, which will probably come on Tuesday. Meanwhile, my car is breaking down around my ears, debtors are getting more impatient with me and I'm beginning to really feel the listelessness induced by being broke. I had better get that gig or I'm "up the crick without a stick," screwed six ways from Sunday.

I'm driving out of Nashville now, to Portland, where I live and work (for lack of a better word). Traffic is all kinds of hell right now, bumper to bumper, and I have to report for work by 4:30. It's 5:30 now and I've moved only 3 miles through this maddening traffic. I'm not bitter about the jam. To be honest I really don't want to go to work tonight, but since it'll probably be my last night of pizza delivery I had best go in and try to make some money. All I need is about $30 to keep me afloat for a few days and maybe help pay for the alignment job my car desperately needs (if my car dies on me I really will be screwed). I'm traveling on The Beast, I-65 North. I know the Number of The Beast- it's 45. Forty-five miles of concrete and asphalt eternity lie ahead of me. I've moved another 3 miles in fifteen minutes- traffic is picking up speed. My front wheels wobble... some.

Shit. I hope the Old Girl doesn't break down before I get there. If she can hold on for just two more days, I think everything will be okay. I have $180 cash at home right now and that's all I have to my name. Well, that's not entirely true. I could always sell my computer, but that could cause more problems than the ones I have to face right now. My computer is my friend and friends don't sell each other out, right?

I saw her last night, my ex. We didn't speak to each other. It was at George's Pool Hall and Bar in Nashville. I go there every time I go to Nash-Vegas and play pool, practice for the next time I play against my cousin and get my ass handed to me. She was with some friends, some or all of them fellow noders, laughing and having a good time. When I walked in our eyes locked for a few seconds and conversation seemed to freeze for a moment. I was about to say "Hi" but then I remembered that she didn't want me to reach out to her in friendship or any other way for that matter, so I kept my lip zipped and strode past her, silently. Got my balls, pulled out my stick (I have my own pool cue- a sweet little number that I love almost as much as I love my friend-computer), and selected a table. Part of me wanted her to come down and chew me out for not saying hello, just so I could remind her that it was her decision and I was respecting it, but another side, which won out, made it clear that I had better things to focus on- three-ball, corner pocket off the wall, leave the cue set for the five-ball by putting a little english on it. Snap! Good one. She was forgotten at that point, just another voice in the cacophany of voices trying to have a good time over the loud music and cigarette smoke.

I played for a good, long while and no one joined me. I like playing pool alone. It gives me a chance to collect my thoughts and relax for a while without someone trying to strike up a conversation that isn't interesting. When I play pool, I'm there to play pool and nothing else. Everything is a distraction, so I ignore it. I'm in the "zone" now, I think.

Eventually I got a little bored shooting ball after ball into the proper pockets and missing every once in a while. I can't stop playing, though, it's a compulsion, so I keep beating myself and racking the balls until someone mercifully interrupts and asks if they can take over the table- they have a large party of people and have been waiting for a long time. Suits me just fine, so I let them have the table, cash out and go to Café Coco, which is pretty much just across the parking lot and not 30 seconds away. That's a typical night for me. Like a simple program:

1: Go to George's
2: Play pool
3: If exhausted, goto 5
4: If not exhausted, goto 2
5: Go to Coco
6: Drink coffee, write, talk.........

A simple algorithm of entertainment. I like the simple things in life. They're not always cheap, but they're easier to grasp and understand.

So I went to Coco's and drank coffee in the smoking room, a 10x10 room with shitty ventillation and worse heating, and I broke out my notebook to do some writing. A few of the regulars there greeted me, but when they saw my notebook out they got the hint and left me alone. Some were impish and purposefully inserted my name into their conversations to distract me- I was in the zone and could not be deterred.

I'm writing a new story. Sci-fi, of course, what else would I write? It's a cross-over story of my two favorite universes: Star Trek and Heinlein's Future History. It's a real challenge to write it because I've decided to adopt Heinlein's writing style while still staying true to Roddenberry's Trek characters (Picard, Beverly and Data)- more challenge in the fact that it's all first-person... each chapter from the perspective of a different character. I'm really into this story.

Her friends, the ones she was hanging out with at George's, file into the smoking room and blatantly begin what I call "the interview after the fact." Variations on a theme, but it generally boils down to people trying to get all the dirty gossip after something unsavory has occurred- could be a fight, an argument, a robbery, an affair, a date... or a snubbing. They ask me if I wanted her back and had thought that maybe she did, too. I told them, exactly, No such thing. She made it pretty clear to me that she doesn't want to have anything to do with me. Her decision, not mine. I simply respected it. It pissed me off and hurt me, naturally, but I didn't have any illusions about anything. Same thing for the friendship. She said she wanted one when we broke up, we tried it out, it didn't take for her even though I wasn't treating her poorly. She said she didn't want to be friends anymore, so I respected that, too. Her decision, again, not mine. That's not a direct quote, but it's damn close. That put a damper on the conversation. Good. It was rude of them to interrupt me while I was writing. Interrupting a person while writing is kinda like walking into a bathroom while someone is pissing just to slap 'em- it just isn't done. At least, not without comment.

Anyway... it was unpleasant to be "interviewed." I didn't like the intrusion from people who barely know me. If they'd asked about something else, I probably wouldn't have minded. But they asked about something they knew of from one side. Why were they asking me questions? Do I have something to defend? I don't think so. I didn't do anything. So they're asking just to be nosy and, perhaps, run back to her and say, "This is why he didn't say anything to you last night." Maybe. I doubt she cares. If she does, that's her bag. She rolled it out, she can sleep in it- twigs, snakes and all.

Traffic has finally died down; we're moving faster than a snail's fart now, thank God. "Thank God?" Am I nuts? The wobble in my car's getting worse and I'm looking forward to working in this thing? Risk is our business, I guess. Why not go whole-hog? Yeah, it's dying on me, but it's not all that bad a car, really. Just needs some fixing. Maybe, when (if) I get this account, I can use some of the money to fix the Old Girl. New tires, alignment, new left axle, new exhaust system, new head gasket, new spedometer cable... Fuck it. I should just buy a new car and chew on crow for a while. I've spent more money on repairs for this car in 8 years than I actually spent on buying the damn thing. Granted, I didn't pay a lot, but when a person ends up spending twice what they paid for a car on repairs, something is seriously wrong. Thump-bump-wobble-hiss.... I've figured out that 1 year for a car is like 10 years to a human- she's not just in need of repair, she's headed for the Great Heap in the Sky, literally dying. Old people end up in wheel chairs; she'll end up in a tow truck before next Spring, I just know it. Poor girl.

My stomach growls. I'm hungry. Damn. I don't have time to eat and even if I did, I don't have the cash on me anymore. I spent $35 on new business cards for NightShade, Ink. They look good, but they took my lunch-money, dammit! Can't gripe about that now, Jay. It was your choice and you're going to have to live with it. Hopefully, it's an investment that will pay off soon- provided my car doesn't break down on me anytime soon. Life can be a bitch sometimes. If I hadn't spent the money on those business cards then I'd have more money to spend on repairs. Oh, well. You've been in tighter situations. Did you buy drinks for Mom's Thanksgiving Dinner? You were supposed to.

Fuck. I pick up the phone and call Mom, while driving (some people find this to be a daunting task and fairly unsafe... perhaps it is, but I feel all right doing it), and we talk about what I should bring in the way of drinks. Coke, Dr. Pepper, Diet Coke (for Dad) and Sprite. Bring some juice, too. Am I bringing a "friend"?
"Uh... should I?"
"What about that girl you were dating? We never did meet her."
"And you likely never will, Mom. We broke up a while back. Forgot to send you the memo."
"Oh, sorry to hear that, Jay."
"I'm not. It's for the best. I'll be there at 2:30 tomorrow. Is it okay if I come over early? I may want a nap as I might be sleeping at a friend's in Nashville tonight."
"Oh, sure! Love you! Bye!"

I like my family. They know the importance of getting off the phone quickly- especially when one of the callers is using a cell phone. I like them for other reasons, too, of course, but that's a good one to start with.

Portland's just seven miles away now and Old Girl still has some spring in her step, as it were. People're passing me the whole time, zoom!, but I'm going as fast as I can, don't they know that? I'm on the freeway, for cryin' out loud! If I could move faster, I would. Some people just lack perspective, I guess. I light a cigarette, now that the car's heater is at full strength and keeping my chilled fingers relatively warm. Cracking the window proves to be a mistake as it's deathly cold outside. Too damn bad, I need a cigarette. Mom bringing up my ex, after having just thought about last night, does nothing good for my nerves. I've decided to make it clear to mi familia at Thanksgiving that I'm going it alone for a while- no girlfriends, no roomies when I move back to Nashville... I need to learn how to depend on myself for once. How can I justifiably seek a "whole woman" when I'm not all that complete myself, when I don't know what to look for yet? Yes, I need to be alone. It'll do me some good, I think. At least, that's what my heart tells me. I've already distanced myself from my family and most of my friends... my ex took care of breaking off the relationship thing... all signs point to loneliness. It's not just my fate, it's my destiny, too. Dreck. That's sounds like a really bad variant on that "it's not just for breakfast anymore" slogan. I need to come up with some more original lines, methinks.

I look at the clock. It's 6:00 PM now. I've already thought ahead and told the boss, yesterday, that I'd probably be late, but no later than 6. Well, here we are! Portland exit coming up. No time to go home and change clothes. I've thought of that, too- my work clothes are in the passenger seat next to me (forgot the pants... woops... too bad, I'm not stopping). Time to get my head centered on making deliveries now. Turn on NPR and see what's going on in the world around me, Israel and the Palestinians are still going at it quietly and not quietly at the same time. I told a friend recently that I think Israel's headed for civil war, possibly a coup d'etat. She didn't agree with me last week, but when I was giving her a ride home yesterday morning we were listening to NPR and she said that I might be right after all. She's Jewish and has lived in Israel before, in Haifa. I'm not surprised by her hope that war won't break out there, but it's getting far too messy for things to cool down, now. Gore and Bush are still snapping at each others' heels. This pony show in Florida is getting annoying to me now. I switch off NPR and opt, instead, for 102.9 The Buzz- alternative rock- and pull into work. I don my shirt and cap and suddenly my persona changes: I'm "The Pizza Guy, friend to all, enemy to none."

Let's get to work, shall we?

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