I once had an office. I feel quite certain of this, and it would be extra nice of you, Dear Reader, to refrain from contradicting me here. Thank you. As I say, I had an office, and I went to this office every day of the week and sometimes on weekends too. There were important things to be done in this office, you see, important things involving certain pieces of paper. Yes, I distinctly remember now: there were lots of papers in the office, papers, papers, everywhere, papers piled up willy-nilly on the desk and on the little coffee table and chairs for conferences. There were doubtless papers in the filing cabinets as well, tall, greenish, metal filing cabinets with the look of filing cabinets with files filed, cabined, cribbed, confined in them, hundreds, possibly thousands of files, and in the files various untold numbers of papers. I like the word “papers.” Not “paper”; “papers,” plural. What are the papers? What’s written on them? Where did they come from and what course of action do they demand or expect or encourage or compel or cajole or flatter one to do? Or not to do. It’s a mystery. Maybe the papers are still dreaming of me somewhere. Assuredly, however, I must have read the papers and filed them, for… this is what I was paid to do. ––You see? All it took was a coordinating conjunction to light the way to the truth: I, Dear Reader, had a job. What a strange and novel idea! I had a job, Dear Reader––or did you suppose I went to the office every day and sometimes on weekends for my health? Quite the contrary, Dear Reader. I went to the office with the express purpose of being relieved of the burden of my incorrigible health. For I was, until then, as could easily, even at this late date, be shown, demonstrated, documented and proven beyond the shadow of the shadow of a doubt, a fellow of remarkable robustness per se. Not that I wish to brag, much less to appear to do so. Far from it. But the truth, as you will doubtless yourself have had occasion to observe, Dear Reader, and as I am in any case fond of saying, the truth will out, like the sun from behind a malodorous haze; and therefore let it be known that I was healthy as a tortoise, and full of zest. What is zest, by the way? I haven’t the faintest idea. But doubtless I was full of it to the point of overabundance, which is why women were irresistibly drawn to me. I confess it: I was a bit of a scoundrel with the ladies, Dear Reader. They liked the fact that I was robust and zestful and had an office with lots of papers in it and wore a shirt and tie and sport-coat and strode down and sometimes across the avenues of our town in defiance of the drivers of all motor vehicles and traffic in general. I dare say the women admired me for it. I dare say I made a good impression and cut an elegant figure. I dare say I had “Good Provider” written all over me. They (the ladies) looked at me and, as Nature in her wisdom had previously arranged the matter, said to themselves and sometimes even aloud: I want that one. Ah! Those were the days, Dear Reader, let me tell you! Why, I once kissed a woman I hardly knew. Then there was another one I knew quite well, but never kissed. Why didn’t I kiss her, Dear Reader? Another mystery. Maybe because it would have hurt the first woman’s feelings if she ever found out. I don’t know. In any event, kiss her I did not, though she was quite extraordinarily lovely and beautiful and smart and pleasant to be around. And she had a daughter––did I neglect to mention it? a little girl who was very fun and girlish and reminded me of something. She was just a kid, you see. Maybe that’s what she reminded me of, and so I was embarrassed to kiss somebody’s mother.
Born in Austin, Texas, and raised in Boone, North Carolina, John Crutchfield is a writer and theatre artist now based in Berlin, Germany. His poems, essays, translations and reviews have appeared in a variety of journals, including *Shenandoah*, *Seneca Review*, *Southern Review*, *The Appalachian Journal*, and *Zone 3*. His one-man show, *The Songs of Robert*, won an award for Outstanding Solo Performance at the 2009 New York International Fringe Festival. He has also created and performed interdisciplinary work with X Factor Dance, Sans Pointe Dance, G. Alex and the Movement, Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre, and Legacy Butoh. He has been Artist-In-Residence at the Djerassi Artists Foundation, Headlands Center for the Arts, the Association d’Art de La Napoule (France) and the Pädagogische Hochschule Karlsruhe (Germany). At present, he serves as Associate Artistic Director of The Magnetic Theatre, teaches creative writing and drama at the Free University of Berlin, and works freelance as a literary translator. More info at: johncrutchfield.com