Living Out Loud: : A Belated "You're Welcome"

The Birthday Gift

So there I was, holding the postcard that U.P.S. had sent me. It claimed they had sent what I told you, dear brother, they were going to send. But I pity the fool who believes that. As my brother, you're well aware that I'm a completely different type of fool. It was quite an official looking card, one of potential redirection for a certain trio of shirts bought in and imported from the international hotspot of Downers Grove, Ill.

"Hmm," I said, and rubbed my chin all thoughtful like, because this item was nowhere in sight. They offered a phone number to correct any potential situations, so I lit a cigarette and paused to smoke out the implications. This card from the great and faceless "they" informed me that, unless contact was made by the 24th, said package would be returned to sender. And here it was the 23rd, and I wasn't in Downers Grove anymore, to be either a sender or a receiver.

"Yikes," I said, knowing I had little if any time to waste.

I dropped the cigarette and crushed it none too gently beneath my foot. Damn good thing I was outside — at Ninth and Main, to be exact.

I picked up the pay phone that the phone company had clairvoyantly placed at my exact location and made the call. After jumping through the hoops of metallic voiced menus, I was connected to an actual human being.

Many chaotic yet seemingly important numbers were passed between myself and a cute sounding girl with no name. Perhaps she had no face either but that wasn't a problem I could help her with that at that point. Someday maybe, but I had my priorities. Suddenly, with no apparent forethought for my feelings, this nameless girl put me on hold. I trust you know what happened at that point: My ears, and hence my entire brain were subjected to that computer-generated assortment of cover tunes from hell.

I turned into the wind and spat, a consumer uprising lost on the rest of the world, as there was nobody there but me to see it. I curled my free hand into a fist and shook it at the sky, wondering why my pseudo-cool displays of rebellion always turned out this way. A thin film of sweat oozed from my forehead as I listened closer to the "music," wondering how the hell Dylan could let them do what they were doing to "Lay Lady Lay."

My eyes darted up Ninth St. and down Main. Damn! No strangers to engage in idle conversation. But that was OK, I reassured myself, because at least I still had — wait a minute! No, I didn't. I was out of cigarettes!

A sick and twisted version of "I Love You Just the Way You Are" filled one of the ears attached to my head. My repulsed brain tried to worm out the other but tragically, for one of us, that's still anatomically impossible. So I calmed myself by thinking that I too loved myself just the way I was. Yes, it's not for nothing that I'm so well known for my coping skills.

The images of the girl with no name were beginning to evaporate from my mind, blown out by the idiot wind. Tragedy continued striking me there on the corner as "on hold" seemed to have become my new middle name. A nauseating version of "Please Mr. Postman" began to play but then a break was made — she was back. She assured me the package containing your shirts (remember your shirts?) would be forthcoming and delivered to the destination of my choice. I told her, in a living-out-loud styled voice, my address in Northside and scrambled for a smooth way to wrap up the call, somehow get her to meet me somewhere quiet. "Well, this is a joy to the world and me and my brother," I sarcastically exclaimed. Without missing a beat, she replied, "Yes, whatever, sir," in a carbon copy tone and hung up. "Never mind," I said to the empty street corner and strolled away, leaving the pay phone dangling above the sidewalk, a potent yet once again unwitnessed demonstration of my acute nonchalance. So that's why these damn shirts are late for your birthday. And I hope you love the hell out of them, considering the ordeal I went through to get them for you. But next year it's gift cards all around. As for the girl with no name, that never would have worked out. Someday she might have grown to love a motor mouth like me but what would be the point of that? I mean seriously, how could I bring myself to love a girl with no face?

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