Standing in the Broom Closet, or “The Beginning”

I’m moving to Washington D.C. in the fall, actually, more like August. As my parents cannot afford a 4,000 dollar a month apartment in North Carolina (cough, cough, Lindsay… we’ll discuss you later), I have to make my dollars elsewhere. As I was determining how I would apply my double major of Communications and English Literature, I narrowed my options down to three potential employers: Pilot Gas Station, Jack Flap’s Country Cooking, or Big Mike’s Cafe. Sadly, I found out that Jack Flap’s closed its business down today; as I told a friend earlier, “When God closes one sketchy pancake joint, he opens another.” There was no need to fear. I was working as the new cook/waiter/bus boy/mascot/sign maker at Big Mike’s Cafe, and by working, I mean that in the loosest way possible.

In this economic crisis, Big Mike’s doesn’t seem to be benefiting from too many customers. I want to work. I would like to believe that I’m helpful, but I know that I’m the tallest obstruction in a kitchen area made for .75 of me. So instead of casually leaning against the grill area, I’ve found the broom closet. I spend a good majority of my three to four hour shifts standing in the there, counting aprons in the dark or turning all of the disinfectant bottles “label-forward.” When someone eventually finds me and asks what I’m doing, I always respond with, “Oh, you know, looking for rags.” No one ever seems to question it because I’m pretty sure they know I’m lying. I think it’s a little game we play, probably titled “How Long Does It Take To Realize Justin’s In The Closet?” or HLDITTRJITC from here on out.

It’s similar to the game I play with them called “Making Up Personal Details About My Life.” I wouldn’t say that I’m a compulsive liar… just more of an experienced fabricator. I think it probably dates back to middle school when my brother and I were allowed to stay home alone for the first time. Occasionally, I would lay in the floor and pretend that I had passed out or fallen to see if Casey would call an ambulance; he never did, but it did freak him out a lot. Eventually, it led to more elaborate lies, or yarns as I like to call them, including but not limited to the time that I told my entire Children’s Literature class that I personally knew Judy Blume and that she would be coming to speak to our class. Attached is the email correspondence between Ms. Blume and myself, detailing the situation. It wasn’t my best moment, but it was a moment.

But the important part was the closet; let’s get back to that. I was standing in the closet, running out of things to inflict my clinical OCD on, and I began to think. How is it that I ended up in this closet? How is it that I always seem to end up in these weird places with these weird stories that seem to happen to no one else?

As I left the broom closet today, claiming yet another victory in HLDITTRJITC, I kind of wanted to throw up again… probably out of habit… but I didn’t. I had realized that I had a whole collection of special stories, and some of them even included me not throwing up. I was in that closet for a reason.In this installment of HLDITTRJITC, the employees of Big Mike’s Cafe were losing especially hard because I must have been in there for a good twenty minutes backtracking my life and evaluating all of the weird things that have happened to me over the years. The first really weird place I could remember was the first stall of the boy’s restroom at New Hopewell Elementary School. Actually, a lot of weird stuff happened in that bathroom, but we don’t have time for all of that. On this day, I was in there with Momma because I had just thrown up all of the rainbow line in the hallway. No one was surprised; this was practically a daily occurrence. My early-onset separation issues, paired with my mom’s desire for me to pursue education, eventually led to me crying so much that I would vomit in the hallway on cue, between 7:30 and 7:48 in the morning. Because of this, I was Amy-Winehouse-skinny up until about the 4th grade. On this particular day, I had vommed so hard that my eyes were bloodshot and I was dangerously close to what I had hoped would happen for months and months: Momma was going to take me home. But it didn’t happen. As we stood there in the boy’s bathroom, my mom took a brown paper towel and wiped off the remains of french toast and regret and looked me in the eyes and said, “Justin, you are special…” there was a really long pause that followed, “…but this has got to stop.” Ultimately, I didn’t stop regularly throwing up in elementary school until around 2nd grade, but there was something about her words that stuck with me. Being in the boy’s bathroom with Momma made me special, or at least that’s how I understood it.

I don’t know if I’ll even make it in D.C. It’s honestly a crap shoot. Somehow, I was admitted to Georgetown to study public relations, but if they’re willing to have me, then it’s a risk I’m willing to take.  Regardless of what degrees I obtain [or attempt to obtain], I will always be that boy that throws up on himself after breakfast. That little boy used to be embarrassed by his faults, but as an adult, I carry that throw up around proudly because that vomit makes me special. Today, I vowed to never stop going into the closet and to never, ever stop proudly throwing up on myself. That’s adulthood: maturity personified, even.


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