I worked in a department store warehouse.
Which meant I had to use a hydraulic forklift.
Which meant I had to be trained.
Which meant I had to watch a slightly more executive employee do it.
The slightly more executive employee was a fat guy and he seemed to act the same way every fat comedian/actor did.
I recognized every part of his behavior from something I'd already seen.
Part of his behavior was responding to almost everything I said, with his eyes open wide, nodding, and saying, "Right on, right on."
He showed me how to use the forklift machine.
He made the forked arm go up beneath a palette of merchandise, high up by the ceiling.
The hydraulics made a droning sound.
He looked at me, raising one eyebrow a few times in succession.
"This is the way of the master," he said, tapping the fingers on his other hand against his fat stomach. "Pay attention, son."
It was amazing to watch him navigate the lift.
Beautiful and amazing.
The way he worked took me soaring to beautiful heights.
I wanted to buttfuck him.
"Here, you try," he said, pausing the lift up high beneath a palette. "Show me the way of the master."
I accepted the controls and slowly lowered the palette.
There was no trouble.
It was amazing.
Basically, I fucking reigned.
The other employee clapped and whistled for me and I imagined myself controlling a larger machine that I could use to rip the entire planet into smaller pieces.
"Look at this fucking guy," the slightly more executive employee said. "Just, raw power."
On the dashboard of the machine I noticed a dial that had a turtle painted on one side and a rabbit painted on the other side.
I touched the dial of the machine.
I asked about the turtle and the rabbit.
"One means slow and one means fast, buddy," he said. "Turtle goes slow and rabbit goes fast."
He took a bag of chocolate-covered peanut candy out of his cargo pants pocket and held the bag upside down until half went into his mouth.
While pouring, he kept his lips open in a concentrated ring, and his eyes were open, looking upward and determined.
The candy clicked against his teeth and he seemed to be doing some type of throat clench to keep from choking.
"But the turtle eventually beat the rabbit right," I said. "The turtle won the race I think, right. Hey does my voice sound weird to you. It sounds weird all of a sudden."
He was chewing the mouthful of candy.
"I don't know—is that how it went," he said, clearing his throat after gargling a few words. "The turtle won? Is that right." He looked at the ground, and then opened his eyes wide. "Wait—shiiiiit—you're right."
"Yeah I think so," I said. "Does that mean the turtle setting is better then. Should I just keep it on turtle."
The conversation was dying.
A gigantic asshole slowly opening itself around the planet earth—quieting all conversations.
"No wait, how could a fucking turtle win," he said.
"That's impossible. Turtles like, live forever because they never move, right."
His mouth was open, crushing chocolate candy with his teeth and when he talked, he kept the pool in the bottom part of his mouth.
He said, "Wha'd he do, catch the rabbit sleeping or showing off or some-shit, then bite through his leg tendons with that powerful turtle beak. I mean, come on man." He honked the horn on the hydraulic lift. "The horn's right here, by the way," he said. Then he honked the horn like seven times. "What happened exactly. What did the turtle do. Tell me. Did he fuck him up. Fuck his rabbit-ass all up." Honking once to each word, he said, "Fuck, him, all, up."
I said, "I'm not sure. He might have fucked him up. I think he won the race, so that's like fucking him up, right."
"Yeah man, true," he said, looking off like he was thinking. He sniffed while making a face. "Like, I could easily imagine the turtle walking up to the rabbit right after the race and putting his hands on his hips and saying, 'I just fucked you up.' and he'd be right about saying it."
Suddenly I couldn't tell if he had a southern accent or not.
He looked at me again, smiling.
There was chocolate on his teeth and gums.
I said, "Fucked him straight up to the fucking moon and then fucked him into one of the moon's craters I think."
"Sho 'nuff," he said loudly, scratching his eyebrow with his thumb. "Alright, here, practice again by lifting the palette back up and putting it down into its original spot. I want to see your best shit here, guy. No holding back. Then I'll sign off on this training sheet right here."
My training checklist was almost complete.
I imagined myself rubbing my hands and saying, "Soon I will be certified."
I raised the palette back up to where it went, and lowered it there.
"Holy shit," said the slightly more executive employee, "—you're good, guy." He was sniffing a lot and licking candy pieces off his molars. "I think it's about time I take a look at that checklist, son," he said.
Looking just past his face at the unpainted concrete wall, I said, "Check the shit out of that shit."
My co-worker held my training checklist up against the side of a shelving beam and signed the bottom.
He cleared his sinuses a little, inflating his cheeks.
He gave me the training checklist.
It was completed and signed.
I was certified.
I looked up and down the list—all checkmarks.
"I have become certified," I said.
The slightly more executive employee said, "Welcome home, son."
And he lowered the forklift.
I imagined hiding until everyone left the store and then using the machine to mishandle a palette from up high, make it fall on my head.
Just expertly dropping a big wooden palette on my head while placing my head sideways against the unpainted concrete floor.
I could kill myself and make it look accidental.
The best of both worlds.
No, think I'd only drop a pallet on my head though if I were able to live through it—and watch the first person to find me.
That was the promise I made to myself, as the other employee was talking to me again.
He said something about "Re-stocking" but I wasn't listening.
Because I was trying as hard as I could to fully feel the pain I'd experience—as if living through the experience of getting my head crushed by a wooden palette.
What would it be like.
What if it felt exactly the same as eating like, a cracker with peanut butter on it.
What if all experiences occurred from the same foundation of excitement, and it just registered in different ways, but each attempt was an attempt at it all.
I saw the sight of my head getting crushed and coming inside-out.
And it wasn't painful.
It wasn't gross.
But calming and quiet to see.
I could appreciate it.
I took the keys out of the hydraulic lift and returned them to my co-worker.
"Here you go champ," I said.
Then I went to pinch one of his nipples.
He backed away.
"Look out champ," I said.
He covered both his nipples with his hands, backing up a little.
"Good God," he said. "Calm down."
I imagined his nipple between my top and bottom front teeth and then me ripping it off.
Calming and quiet to see, his holed-out nipple bleeding into my mouth.
"What do you think you're going to get for lunch, man," he said, tucking in a part of his shirt that'd come out during my attempt to pinch his nipples.
There were purple stretchmarks on his stomach.
"Well," I said. "I suppose, I'll be getting whatever the fuck I want."
"Certified," he said, miming a pump-shotgun motion then shooting it at me. "Boosh," he said, and stepped back a little from the imaginary recoil.
I touched my stomach with both hands then held both hands up and looked at them and said, "Fucking certified."
And we both laughed some fake laughing for each other.
Then walked in different directions to different stock rooms to keep working on whatever we were supposed to be doing.
I thought about a wooden palette dropping on my head.
And how maybe it would be worse for the palette to fall from only a few inches up, rather than many many feet.
Because then you would really feel it.
Maybe I hadn't ever felt anything.
Maybe the turtle won the race because he didn't start, he just walked away.
After work I went across the street to a Chinese take-out restaurant.
It was called 'The Chinese Connection.'
Inside it smelled like burnt oil.
A Chinese man with mild gigantism worked the counter.
"What I get you," he said, combing his bangs to the side with his fingers.
I ordered fried rice.
He raised both his hands and said, "No rice any kind anymore."
I couldn't tell if he was joking.
Then I realized the restaurant was going to close soon.
I ordered something else.
"Ok, wait little bit," he said, and went back to the kitchen.
I stood at the counter and noticed a small fountain by the wall, where water dripped down from a top rung onto a lower one, then onto another lower one and then somehow back up to the top, recycling.
Looking at it felt really nice.
The employee came back and added up the price on the register. "Nine dollar. Be ready ten minute."
I said, "Where did you get this fountain, it's nice."
My elbows were on the counter and I was on my toes, lifting myself up and down.
Without looking up, he nodded towards across the street at the store where I just started working, and said, "Over there, twelve dollar."
I said, "Oh, nice."
I thought about telling him how I work there, but then it didn't seem to be important.
It went from immediately seeming important, to definitely not.
He walked back into the kitchen area.
The fountain kept going.
I watched, waiting for my order it was so nice to watch and hear the fountain.
A very tiny sound.
I folded my arms on the counter and put my head down and started to laugh.
I thought—nobody knows I'm here except me and the guy who took my order.
Walking home with my food, I passed a gradeschool.
There was a light still on in one of the rooms.
I walked up to look.
The room was empty.
On the chalkboard there were pictures of everyone in the class.
Each picture was inside a construction paper balloon.
I stood by the window looking in, but I couldn't read any of the names beneath the pictures.
I tried to read the names but I couldn't.
I couldn't read the names.