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He is sitting at the table raking his bonsai tree. I am standing in front of him, watching. This is what he does now. It is all that he does. He grooms this little tree. He sits at this table, small, white, boring. It’s fun, he says. He does not look up at me.

Sometimes music blares in the room. It’s good music. It makes him happy, as he sits very still and stares at the bonsai tree. I listen to his music. I search for some kind of meaning in it, because he is silent. Slowly the music is becoming more interesting than he is. I watch him; he does not look up at me.

The tree is alive but he is dying. I want to dump the thing on the floor, pull him away, throw a clock at him, kiss his face, make him stare into a sunset. Wake up. Stop this. It is such a little thing, it is not as big as you think it is. He stops listening to me.

It is getting worse and worse. The music is still playing, it still sounds nice, but it’s starting to make my head hurt. Too much of a good thing. Too much of this one thing. Not enough of the man behind the tree. He is lost in it. Somehow he is gone.

Finally, finally, finally, I am tired. I sing softly along with his song as I leave the room. He does not look at me, he does not look for me. Somehow he has died. The door shuts. Maybe I will see him again in the sunshine.

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There is a boy. He is seventeen. He is young. He sits in his mother’s house. Don’t we all? His world is small. He is looking out the window at it. He is slowly driving onto the expressway of it. He calls it a freeway, I tell him it’s not called that where I’m from, he still calls it a freeway. He is a little bit afraid. He is excited. He is brave. He is me when I was seventeen. We are sitting in my mother’s house. We are all here together, talking. At night, when no one else is with us, he tell me stories of him. His cat is laying on the rug in his room. His cat looks like my cat. He likes pizza. Of course he does. He likes pizza with meat, like most Americans, I tell him he’s got it all wrong, that he needs more veggies. When the pizza is gone, he tells me more. He lives with his mother in a small city in a small apartment. His world is small. He goes to school online, somehow, isn’t it amazing how children use to go to school in tiny rooms holding chalkboards, that’s what the books all say, but he goes to school online. In my almost old age I can almost understand it. His parents are divorced, and that seems to matter. My parents never divorced, but that doesn’t mean they were together. He sits with his cat and his dog and he tells me. Some clock goes off again and again at the start of every hour. It sounds like the grandfather clock that lived in my grandmother’s house, but his runs on batteries, not the swing of the pendulum. The story isn’t straightforward. He is his own narrator. There are questions I have that are not asked or answered. Listening, it is a mystery that never plans to reveal the answer, that never knows where it is trying to go. He might be getting a job soon. He’s so excited, he tells everyone. He is kind. He is silly. I notice we all start to sound the same, make the same jokes, our accents merge into one, we all say freeway when we mean expressway, we all turn a little southern though we were born elsewhere. His mother is not kind to him. We only hear the story that he tells. He might not be kind to his mother. She might be ruining his life. She might be saving it. There might not be anything to save. What damage will we do to other people? We are all laughing together at midnight. My jaw is sore from grinning. It was not like this before. There was no happiness in sitting alone, not this much. We sit together. We tell our story so far. There are questions we do not answer, things we don’t include. There is a expressway that runs from me to you. It might become a freeway before it gets there, or something else. The police came to his mother’s house one night, weeks ago. They put handcuffs on him, or so I imagine, it was one of those unasked questions. When he sat there in his mother’s house, he was still the boy who loved pizza, who was afraid of driving on the freeway, who took silly pictures of his cat that looks like mine. I imagine the clock chiming in the background, the cat winding around the officers’ legs, his mother sitting sternly, trying to teach her son some lesson of life. It is some story I don’t know. I am looking through the window at it, wondering. We might hear about it, someday, but the story is not straightforward. There are many blank pages that will never be written, that might be left alone, that might be filled in later. Imagine an empty pizza box. There is a circle of grease on the bottom of it, where some restaurant worker put the steaming, cheesy, meaty thing. They closed the lid, pressing down on the cardboard. He might be that person someday. His mother might have been. The policeman might have been. You might never know.

I smile when I don’t know what to say, and I think you understand me. Our eyes are dancing across the tabletop, never meeting. I stare at you as your gaze is focused towards the window, people watching. I look, too. I wonder if we see the same things. Outside, an old woman in a long black coat is smoking her cigarette. She bends down and snuffs it out underneath her shoe. She’s standing right next to one of those cigarette bins. I look back at you so I don’t see what she does next, if she leaves the cig there or if she takes care of it. You still don’t look at me. I tell you about my day, about my week. You listen. I look away while speaking, to see if you look at me. You do, but not for long enough. Not in a way that makes me think you like me back. Then you look away again and I’m back to staring at your brown eyes. They look happy. They smile when you do, when you don’t know what to say to me. I look through the window again. The woman is still standing there. I wonder if she’s waiting for a bus. There’s no bus stop there. I wonder what she’s waiting for. It’s cold outside. Her coat is long and dark, like Winter. I look back at you and think that it’s going to be a long and dark Winter again.

I work for the creative writing magazine at my University. I’m the “Prose Editor”. I handle the fiction and non-fiction submissions. AKA, anything that’s not poetry.

I love my job. (I call it a job… it’s more of a paid volunteer.) It’s great. I love writing, I love reading, I love working with the authors and editing their pieces to make them the best that they can be; to help create the end product that the writers originally imagined.

About a year ago, I discovered there was such a thing as a creative writing magazine. Who knew? I think I found out about them from my creative writing professor, who handed me a long compiled list of mags that accepted student work. When I found out, I thought I had stumbled onto something big.

That’s it! I’m sure I shouted in my head. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll work for a creative writing magazine/journal once I graduate from college. Sounds good to me!

Little did I know, nor could I ever imagine, that about four months later… I would be working at a creative writing magazine – at my college, no less!

Like I said, it’s a great job. I get to do all that cool stuff I already mentioned, as well as hang out with the staff (who are a group of amazingly cool people themselves), go to poetry readings, have magazine launch parties (in which we eat cheese, drink wine, and wear fancy clothing)… basically, I have the opportunity to do what I love with people I love in the town I love.

I hope I can be so lucky once I graduate and get a “real” job. I mean, honestly, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I keep asking people, “What am I going to do the day after graduation? … What are you gonna do?” (And with my literary magazine idea already completed, well, I’ve got nothing.)

College students, generally, are pretty cool. They tend to be intelligent, open minded, fun, interesting, etc. Well, the ones I hang out with, anyway. People getting a higher education are just interesting people to know; they’re either involved in some cool project, or they’re helping out in the local community, or they’re working in or at the University itself, making it a better place in one way or another.

Universities and colleges are where the smart people hang out. Where the kids with bright futures live. (Oh, and I go there, too. …) So, when I ask my, “What are you going to do after you graduate” question, I always expect something other than what I tend to hear: “Oh, I’m going to be a teacher” or, “Oh, I guess I’ll be a professor.”

Uh, excuse me, what?

I think this has happened with the last 6/10 students I’ve spoken to. The rest of them, the 4/10, either have a different career in mind, or, more commonly, still have no idea.

I can’t believe it, though! A teacher? You want to teach? You’ve just spent the first 25 years of your life in school, and now you want to teach? What?

I don’t want to teach. I know that much for sure. (Crossing possible careers choices off of my ‘list’ is better than nothing, right?) No way! Maybe I’m just too selfish to be a teacher. Or, maybe I dream too big. The way I see it, you’ve only got one life. You’re gonna die. (Hate to break it to you like this.) Why waste it doing something you don’t love? Why not try, why not risk it (whatever “it” is) and go for your dream job? Why be a teacher?

Ok, Ok, I understand that some people really do want to teach. Like, they’re passionate about it, and it’s how they want to spend their life. And that’s great! Good for them. But I’m not talking about those particular people. I’m talking about the really fucking awesome people in this world that become teachers/professors because they just don’t know what else to do, or they’re too scared to do it, or (this is probably the most correct option) they’re too smart to do it.

“What I really want is a good paying job.” This is what I hear a lot. People just want to do something that will make them money. A good, steady, income. Be reasonable: get a reasonable degree, get a reasonable job, live a reasonable life.

I’m sorry, but that’s just not good enough for me! I don’t care about money. Really, I don’t. But, at the same time, money is a necessity. Money buys shelter and Charles Bukowski poetry books. It’s just not that important to me. A successful life and job is doing what I love. For me, that’s not teaching. That’s not a lot of things. I don’t know exactly what it is yet. I love so many things, maybe that’s why I can’t settle on one job. Maybe I need to find or create a job that lets me do lots of really cool, interesting things.

I don’t know! I’ll admit it: I don’t know. Not a clue. And it is so scary, not knowing. You’re expected to know. “What are you majoring in?” “What are you going to be when you grow up?” “What are you going to do the day after graduation?”

Can I respond with: “Who Cares!”? That’s what I want to say, sometimes. I’ll figure it out. I’m just going to live my life and see where it leads. I want to do so many different things. I don’t want a “regular” job.

I don’t know!