by Unity Barry
Red faced, round bellied and very loud, Daniel Greenberg was a transported, in-your-face New Yorker. He was slightly rumpled, slightly dusty and had a proclivity for wearing plaid shirts that reeked of stale tobacco smoke. Daniel was, undoubtedly, lacking the aid of someone to keep him presentable. Pudgy jowls and stooped shoulders revealed his age to be well past youth.
Daniel’s office cubicle was piled high with the remnants of food, stacks of loose paper and three ring binders which tottered precariously on all surfaces, including the floor. There was a small space on the top of a pile closest to his computer to place a coffee cup and his morning doughnut. The top page of that pile was stained with dozens of coffee rings and grease stains with a fine layer of powdered sugar and crumbs coating everything. There was just enough clear room on the floor to slide his chair back and forth under the desk. The upholstery of that chair was spotted with God knows what. The screen of his computer was obscured by fingerprints and the keyboard held the remnants of at least three pastries lodged in the crevices.
An overweight, middle aged, chain smoking, cardiologist’s nightmare, Daniel Greenberg reveled in ways to avoid physical activity and at the same time eat as much fatty, sugared food as possible. He also reveled in ways to annoy his coworkers and supervisors as well.
Daniel Greenberg was a slob.
Daniel Greenberg, however, was a slob with vanity.
Daniel Greenberg wore makeup.
Heavy, Groucho Marx eyebrows formed arches drawn in with black grease pencil. His splotchy, crimson visage was somewhat softened by liberal use of liquid foundation. His hair and moustache were dyed black. He loved to sprinkle his conversation with slightly off-color, double entendre references to his sexuality, leaving no one guessing if he might be homosexual. Daniel Greenberg did not mince or lisp or wave a limp wrist, and he certainly wasn’t fussy, but there was no doubt, Daniel was gay. He loved to tell anyone who would listen how much of a freak he was. Freakishness was his badge of honor, his raison d’etre, and the core of his self-deprecating sense of humor. Stories of his childhood and poor, confused parents peppered his conversation. Having a son who preferred to play with Barbie dolls was a bit overwhelming for his Yiddish-speaking, immigrant mother and father. Claiming to have recognized his own unique orientation at a very early age, he assumed his father had him pegged when he called him is fagella, which he discovered later, means my little doll. Mother, however, was more on the money with the endearment of mischkite or a totally crazy person. His favorite toy? Why an EZ Bake Oven, of course. Since his favorite pastime was, as an adult, gourmet cooking, not to mention gourmet consumption, this did make sense. Daniel preferred girls to boys as childhood playmates and really liked playing with their Barbie dolls. Pulling off the Barbies’ heads was definitely irritating to his friends and their mothers, however, and eventually got him banished from the playgroup. Daniel frequently acted up as a child.
Daniel still liked to act up. His office neighbors were subjected to loud sessions of colorful, vociferous complaints about almost everything. The company was run by dolts. The people in charge were way too slow. The customers were totally unreasonable. He was like a teakettle that must reach a state of noisy, frenzied agitation, blowing hot, powerful blasts of steam, until settling down to a gentle gurgle only when removed from the flame. His already red face turned even redder, the veins in his neck bulged a vivid blue and observers frequently assumed Daniel was moments away from a stroke or turning homicidal. But everyone around knew Daniel too well to be intimidated by his frequent outbursts. After a few minutes of ranting to allow the pressure cooker of his ire to vent, someone would pipe up,
“Oh Daniel, shut up.”
Dutifully, he’d nod in acknowledgement that he was out of order and stroll back to his desk, rattling the cubicle partitions as he walked past, satisfied that his presence had been noted by everyone.
But it was with uncharacteristic quiet that Daniel Greenberg passed from the scene. Without any warning, he did not show up to work one day and it was only a couple of months until he died from cancer. He did not wish to have any visitors during his brief illness. Calls from his office mates went unanswered and messages were never returned. Daniel Greenberg’s cubical stood cluttered with the detritus of a unique life and was left untouched, frozen in time for over a year until it was announced that the department was being downsized and the few remaining employees would be moved to a different city. The last people to leave packed up the office files and paraphernalia, but left Daniel’s cubicle intact for the mover’s to deal with.