“Uniforms” by Robert Lopez


Found in Willow Springs 63

Back to Author Profile

an excerpt from Kamby Bolongo Mean River

Uniforms are always good and I have always enjoyed wearing uniforms whenever I am allowed to wear one. I got to wear a baseball uniform one summer because they let me join the team. I think I wanted to join the football team but I was told it was too rough and which meant I might get hurt and die. I never saw anyone get hurt and die playing football. I saw players get hurt and carted off the field but none of them ever died I don’t think.

Why uniforms are goo dis this way you don’t have to worry about what to wear yourself. For instance I like it now that I have a uniform and don’t have to worry about what to wear every day. One less thing to worry about is something I’ve heard all kinds of people say.

The uniform I wear now is comfortable but not as handsome as my old baseball uniform. My old baseball uniform was made from a fabric they call polyester. Polyester is the best fabric to make uniforms out of.

The uniform I wear now is made from cotton which is not nearly as good to make uniforms out of as polyester is.

Polyester is one of the great words and I never have any trouble with it.

The only trouble with this uniform is I sweat too much in it. I sweat right through the uniform and they have to bring me a fresh one. I always sweat too much and when I sweat too much I chafe and when I chafe the insides of my thighs are rubbed raw.

I tell them it’s hard for me to walk around like this which is why they give me powder sometimes. They don’t give me powder like Mother did because Mother knew how much I chafed too.

It is hard to say which is better uniforms or answering machines.

No one looks as handsome in a uniform as a military policeman or security guard. Baseball players don’t even compare to MPs or security guards.

The people who bring me powder are the same ones who bring the uniforms. I can’t tell how many uniforms they have for me. Every three or four days they take my uniform and give me a different one. This different uniform looks exactly like the other one so they’re not as different as you’d think. They are the same uniform only different versions.

Maybe there’s a better way to say this but here is the trouble with words.

I think they’re washing one while I’m wearing the other is what I want to say. I think it takes three or four days for them to wash uniforms here.

Only once or twice did they take a uniform from me and not give me a replacement. They left me naked for two and three days each time.

There was nothing to distract myself from myself those days and they knew it.

I asked them what am I supposed to do now and they said it’s one less thing to worry about.

If I had a list of things to worry about the phone ringing and how to conduct myself over it would be at the top. After that it’s the air conditioning and then the uniforms.

They tell me I look nice in my uniform whenever they bring me a new one and who can argue with them.

I’m sure MPs and security guards have different versions of the same uniform too. I’m sure they don’t have only one uniform to wear every day on patrol. They are probably washing one while wearing the other like everyone else does.

I don’t think I myself have ever worked as an MP or security guard. I don’t think I myself have ever worked. I think I may have wanted to once but was not allowed for one reason or another.

Why I will ask people to identify themselves is because sometimes I have callers ask for people who aren’t here. I don’t know why callers think those people are here when I am the only one who is ever here. I am here all the time and there is never anyone here with me. As far as I know I am the only one who has ever been here.

There was no here before me is another way of saying it.

Here is the sort of place that should have a military policeman or security guard standing outside the door. They should patrol up and down for intruders.

Here is a room with four walls and one window. The window does not look out into the real world like most windows. There are no trees or birds out the window and there’s no grass or sunlight either. Worst of all there is no river out the window.

This window is like a mirror and this is how they watch me. They are on the other side of the window keeping an eye on me for my own good.

I cannot see them watching me which is probably another good thing.

Otherwise I would spend my whole day watching them watch me.

I have a comfortable bed here with three pillows. I use one pillow for my head another for between my legs and the last one to wrap my arms around.

Intruders can be anyone so the MPs or security guards would have to be vigilant. Doctors in their white coats and clipboards are intruders the same as a burglar would be. Even Charlie and Mother would look like intruders to an MP or security guard. This is why you need MPs and security guards patrolling up and down outside your door at all times. They protect you from every sort of intruder.

Should the phone ring it might be an intruder on the other end.

Calling someone on the phone is an intrusion though most callers don’t think of it this way. Most callers go right into the hello how are you and never once apologize for intruding. This is why whenever I make a call I say right off that I am sorry for intruding and then I beg forgiveness. Only then will I say hello how are you I’m fine I have a headache I didn’t sleep last night.

I only apologize for intruding when a person answers the phone themselves as opposed to the machine doing it for the. I would apologize to the machine but the machine is never sorry for the intrusion. The machine welcomes all intruders equally. The machine looks forward to all intruders and does not pass judgment on any of them. This is another reason machines are the best things going.

The machine would never have you beg forgiveness either.

Should the phone ring it might be Charlie on the other end.

More than likely though it will not be Charlie on the other end because Charlie does not like to intrude on people.

Sometimes uniforms come with hats or helmets but just as often not. Hats and helmets aren’t necessary for any uniform to look good but they can help. If there were MPs or security guards patrolling outside my door they wouldn’t themselves need hats or helmets.

I didn’t like wearing my baseball hat but they said I couldn’t play without it. They said it was part of being on the team. I didn’t like the way my hat made my hair look and I wouldn’t have liked the way it looked whether I was on a team or not. I had curly hair when I played baseball but now I am bald like a baby’s bottom like an eagle.

I remember when Charlie and I wanted to go to a private school because of the uniforms. They also had a boxing team which is another reason Charlie wanted to go there. I didn’t care so much about the boxing team because why bother but Charlie did and that was fine with me. We saw these uniforms around the neighborhood and found out which private school had them but when we asked Mother about it she said we all had to make sacrifices so the answer was no.

Why we also wanted to go to this private school was because of the security guards. This private school had security guards at both entrances and Charlie and I would test them whenever we could. We’d climb over the fence and walk into the school like we were regular students but the guards always stopped us and chased us away.

Because we didn’t have uniforms made it easy for them to spot us.

Instead we would go to our public school in our regular clothes which didn’t look anything like uniforms. What we’d wear is blue jeans and T-shirts but I always had to wear Charlie’s old blue jeans and T-shirts because he was older and Mother couldn’t afford my own jeans and T-shirts. She didn’t have to tell me about sacrifices this time because I wasn’t as dumb as I looked back then.

That was something Mother would say to both me and Charlie all the time. Whenever one of us would do something right around the house like clean up the kitchen or make our beds Mother would thank us by saying you’re not as dumb as you look.

After school we’d come home and do our homework at the kitchen table. I always needed help with my homework and it was math especially. I had trouble with fractions and square roots which were two more words I didn’t know what they had to do with each other.

I would be in class and the teacher would ask us what the square root of some number was and while all the students were scribbling the answers I would think about the word square for a few minutes and how that square was perfect shape like a circle which is why Mother would make pill circles and squares and I was always happy to make them disappear for her.

So whenever the teach walked by my desk and saw my blank paper she would punish me with her stick. Then she’d ask me why I didn’t do the problem and I said I didn’t know. She would say how can you not know why you didn’t do the problem and I would answer by saying I don’t know that either. This is when she’d punish me with her stick again and send me home.

Charlie needed help with his homework too but Mother wasn’t home to help us and by the time she did get home she was tired of making sacrifices.

I don’t like disappointing callers so sometimes I pretend to be the preson they are trying to call. This is what separates me from most callers. I figure it’s the least I can do for the people who call me.

This is the kind of thing Charlie himself would do too. When we were kids we’d pretend to be all kinds of people. For two whole summers Charlie pretended to be a boxer and I pretended to be his trainer. Every morning we’d wake up while it was still dark out and go jogging. I think Mother was still asleep in her room when we did this otherwise she probably wouldn’t have allowed it. It Mother knew we were doing this she’d probably think I might get hurt and die from it.

Charlie would do the jogging and I’d hold on to the rope we tied around him and follow behind on a skateboard. It was Charlie was a horse and I was buggy which is something we never pretended to be. Charlie didn’t like animals growing up which meant I wasn’t allowed to like them either. But we saw some boxer and trainer do this horse and buggy maneuver in a movie one time so we thought we could do it too. We’d jog all the way to the ice cream truck on the other side of of town and back. What we wouldn’t do is buy a Popsicle or ice cream cone because we were training. Sometimes Mother would give us money for the ice cream truck but most times she would say we all had to make sacrifices when we asked her about money for the ice cream truck.

Then we’d go into the basement after the jog and I’d hold a laundry bag up so he could pummel it to death. Then I’d make him a breakfast drink of raw eggs and milk and he’d drink it right up and only once or twice did he throw up from it. Charlie didn’t mind throwing up because boxers thew up all the time.

I can’t remember if Charlie ever actually boxed another boxer inside a ring. I’m sure he would’ve wanted to otherwise what did we do all that training for. This is something Charlie probably regrets to this very day.

It probably haunts him that he never became a real boxer and this is probably why Charlie is the way he is.

This is why I feel sorry for Charlie sometimes.

We watched the boxing matches Friday nights and we’d watch boxing movies when there was no matches on. We were boxing crazy for two whole summers and each of us brought our own trunks and mouthpieces and we made Charlies bedroom into a ring. We made ropes out of the fox and raccoon stoles from Mother’s closet and we used her old music box for a bell. We stapled all those stoles together and took the bell out of the box and Mother gave us hell when she found out about it. She gave more hell to Charlie because he was older and responsible and I remember felling bad for Charlie that his own mother wanted to kill him like that.

Mother never wanted to kill me herself I don’t think.

Sometimes Mother gave us hell by making us read the dictionary. She would have us sit down at the kitchen table and read the dictionary together. We would pass the dictionary back and forth and have to memorize certain words and later she would come home and test us.

She would have us do all the Hs in one sitting for instance.

Another thing Charlie and I would do together is riddles. I would tell Charlie that if he wanted to be a boxer he’d have to think on his feet and riddles help with this. I told him all boxers should do riddles and he was no exception. So I would say to Charlie that if a plane crashed on the border of Alaska and Canada where do you bury the survivors. Then I would tell him what walks on four in the morning two in the afternoon and three int he evening.

Charlie would answer what does that have to do with boxing and he was right of course.

This is why I like to pretend when callers call for people who aren’t me. There is no right way to do this but it helps if you can make yourself believe you are the actual person you are pretending to be.

No matter who it is I am pretending to be I always sound like a military policeman or security guard. This would be fine expect sometimes I am trying not to sound like an MP or security guard. Sometimes I’ve wanted to sound like a boxing trainer but other times I want to sound like anyone. The way you try to sound like anyone is to sound like you are falling asleep while speaking. The way to do this is to speak slowly and mumble and the longer you’re at it you speak even more slowly and mumble more. This is the same way drunk people talk and the same as people who have been given too may pills.

One time I asked a caller if I sounded like an MP or security guard but the caller hung up before answering. I took this to mean yes I did sound like an MP or security guard.

What I never do is try to sound like a doctor in a white coat and clipboard. No one likes doctors in person and even less over the phone.


Leave a Comment