Eugene’s Genetics – Chapter ONE
“Sorry. That is probably the most exciting thing about me.”
The waif of a female stares back. Her arms unfold to take another sip of coffee; revealing a nametag by the name of Coleen. She pauses in an awkward moment before setting her dinge-shaded white mug. “It’s a great attribute I think. I mean… most females are very possessive of their names. The more someone stares at her, the more nervous she obviously gets. A mousy girl dipped in ink is the best way to describe her demeanor – contrasted by her almost glowing face. Her straight and almost completely limp hair frames her elongated and almost emotionless expression. Her smaller than usual, perfectly circle glasses give her a quality which makes this plain of a Jane continue to stand out.
“I mean look at this stupid thing.” She fiddles with her badge in a way to emphasize, “I had to finally just spell my name phonetically since so many idiots kept mispronouncing it all through school. Call-Lain. It makes my skin crawl just thinking about it,” which she half-shakes to make her point.
“It never bothered me at all. I have been a Janie, Jenny, Jean, Jerilyn, and… Maybe I should have been a little bit more stringent in what people would say. It seemed like every name with a J or a G ended up becoming one of my many aliases.”
Coleen fires back, “But it’s Gean…”
“Geenie. Well, for now.” She looks back across the darkened husk of an eatery the health department has been cringing to evaluate. “I don’t know. Maybe I need to just stick to something, but that has been my only interesting quirk.” In the tone Geenie takes, it’s as if everything she says is at the cusp of a contradiction. Not because of shyness or insecurity but more of an overall indecisiveness about her at this particular time. Giving one marble but taking two back is the closest way to describe her demeanor. These two women are hardly bookends. They are just this side of two shuffled grab bags. Geenie does not seem to be setting the world on fire with her wardrobe but it is of a different palette than Coleen’s seven shades of black. Geenie wears one of those nondescript dresses that is enough to prove she is a female, but the odds are split if dirty tennis shoes are accenting it. Coleen wears leggings with a work apron; just giving off enough of a skirt vibe to think she was trying to impress someone with an offbeat style.
In all reality, she just hates having to match clothes when she’s often barely scraping it to work on time. Geenie has the kind of hair which looks like it was cut in various stages of the week. Enough of a curl to throw everything out of whack, but not enough uniformity to pull off a particular look. It’s one of those things which looks like a lion’s mane on skid row but once a celebrity wears it for a particular television role, it would suddenly become the in thing to do. Maybe the only thing these two do have in common is their mutual disdain for fashion week in Paris. These two are not run of the mill wives who spend all day trying to make the hours fly by enough to find a new topic to nag about. They are working women. Not career women mind you, but in this day and age just having something consistent to do for eight hours and be paid for can be considered a luxury. They do not seem to particularly enjoy what they do or maybe not even their overall look if it was something to ponder – but it is easy to see they are at least comfortable in their own skin. That is the sort of thing which is heralded (or envied) as being in the minority of.
“There was this one girl I knew in high school,” Coleen recalls. There were two girls really. Beth and Bethany. Well Bethany was like one of those girls you imagine being born wearing one of those Oxford riding helmets. Well she just had that look. And if you ever accidentally called her Beth… She did this thing. She’d say ‘Bethany’ as if it was some secret password which would be the only way to unlock her ears so she’d listen to whatever you had to say.
I mean it wasn’t like- it wasn’t rude but you just…” Which she interrupted herself to half yell to herself.
“Erggh!” She let Geenie know until telling herself, “That’s it. I need a smoke.”
Around the side of the halfway to dilapidation of a structure, the flickering of an ember can be seen. The wind carries enough to let it be known Coleen is breaking down some sort of event. Her tone is unique for the fact it doesn’t have as much inflection as the usual person; nor the downer type of quality most female voices have which drone about something. It was more of a car in neutral: not moving forward nor reversing. It was just an idling. This didn’t seem to bother Geenie whatsoever. They did not have that invisible tie old friends have for the fact they have not been all to friendly until a couple days ago. They were cordial in the server and customer sense context. These two women have probably shared hours of conversations through the years of visiting the same place since it was conveniently between work and home for Geenie. Of all of the servers in this particular place, it was only Coleen who was a mainstay. Believe it or not, this place which seems so out of date and this side of decrepit boasted the same name as a dozen places but this was the hub of training; if not actually the worst of a local franchise. The original owners were of the “big fish in a little pond” mentality, which meant they were content with gaudy facades and annoying commercials over substance, but it wasn’t the commercials which brought them together but a Coleen’s running out of gas.
Geenie was able to give a lift when seeing her unmistakable frame in the night.
Coleen’s gratitude was even doubled due to the fact Geenie had one of those handy, plastic gas cans to use rather than the original plan of trying to fill up a sixty-four ounce beverage container. Despite all of the environmentalist nitpicking if she did such a thing, the vapors might have even knocked out the small framed woman if she went it alone.
“It’s really… Yeah I hate that perception everybody has,” Coleen prattles on and on about. “People expect me to be super cultured or dating some beatnik French reject just because I wear black. Really.” Geenie scoffs in a sleepy voice.
“Sorry if I was boring you, Geenie.”
“It’s not. If you didn’t notice, it is getting late.”
“Oop. I’m sorry,” she said while tossing the last remaining light of her cigarette into a conveniently placed puddle of liquid. “You were probably just hanging out here since you didn’t know what to do. I’m sorry about all that,” as she yanks at her bag and belongings.
“Don’t worry about it,” Geenie counters. I think it’s the air or something making me sleepy. All of the white noise in the atmosphere or something.” While looking back up, Geenie sees another cigarette in Coleen’s mouth.
“Oh my gosh, that is such a bad habit I guess,” as she tosses it back inter her purse with a guilty inflection punctuating her usually monotone cadence. “Maybe I’m just a little nervous. I really don’t do this sort of thing.
Socializing isn’t as much fun as sleeping when you have to constantly pull doubles due to these ignoramus waitresses in training. You know?”
“This isn’t really my expertise either,” Geenie laughs back. “You know those cheesy romance movies where they have to show the guy’s so old because he doesn’t know what it’s like to date? I thought it was a complete cliché until the likes of us are congregating by the garbage can.”
Pulling her fingers through a straightaway of her raven hair, “Yeah. What a couple of dweebs we are. And I’m like a little bit younger, so we shouldn’t be in the same boat right?”
“At least a decade more here if you remember your college years.”
“Year,” Coleen emphasizes before, “Wow, I always thought you were like my age anyway. I just have that kind of look where I’m supposed to be studying for midterms. Or babysitting. Heh.”
“Hey you know,” Coleen asked in an all but philosophical way. “What’s your last name?”
“Oh,” was all she let out; her train of thought stopped dead in its tracks. “I was thinking maybe it would have been a better idea going by your last name. You know kind of like jocks or those lame business movies.”
There wasn’t much to really bother Geenie at his point; socially awkward as they both wee It was the thought which counted anyway. One of these idioms one’s mother might have spouted of. It a way they were both in the same boat; despite the visual differences. They certainly didn’t shop at the same place indeed.
If you’re always having trouble putting these two women together, there wasn’t much more to say about the transpirings of Geenie and Coleen. They didn’t even have that much to say between each other really.
Coleen seemed to have come from one of those backgrounds where family members or a relationship really didn’t look at what her opinion was. More the latter if someone took a harder look; yet maybe her look and hair was indicative of an assumption. Geenie didn’t mind listening at all however; which was fortunate or serendipitous enough. It could have been a lecture on advanced physics and Geenie still would have been happy to be hearing the words since they were coming from Coleen.
It was one of those first steps towards acquaintances or even friendship. Not that too much was being looked forward towards.
There was some talk in the past from Coleen abut boyfriends or whatever hook up scenarios she had – all between order taking, food serving, and beverage refills. Geenie was more of a listening type that the reactionary sort. She did not have a job or group of friends in which she was looked towards for advice or the such. Geenie heard this and that and then made whatever polite responses – never asking for more clarification or even offered advice. Geenie was not usually in any situations where she needed it as well so perhaps she lost touch with that act in society… If it even existed in the first place.
Coleen relit her cigarette again since she did it – yet again – out of habit. It was a compulsory thing to do rather than relaxing. It was never something Geenie noticed before, so maybe she only did it while in an idling point of time. Coleen never had that foul odor of stale smoke which often followed people as a cloud of shame from smoking. She also never seemed to have a compulsion for smoking. At least not as she did when thinking about that Bethany person she had disdain for. Childhood trauma can always be afforded the exception rather than the rule. Of course.
The words were sparse for a minute more. Coleen took her eyes off the cigarette a moment and looked up before glancing once again in Geenie’s direction. The end of the cig was reflecting off her glasses; giving an illusion of it being much brighter than it really was in the area near the alley. “Well I just kind of wondered.,” she said to Geenie. It’s a nice name though. What is Swaboda?”
“It’s German. I guess.”
“You aren’t sure?”
“I’m pretty sure but not positive. It’s what my family says. I’m adopted anyway so whatever the name is, that doesn’t really make any difference.”
“Whoah really?” Coleen asks as if she found out a close relative had an untreatable disease.
“Yeah… Maybe that came of a little bit harsh. I don’t have anything against my name or my family. But whatever the name doesn’t really make that much of a difference for me. I’m perfectly content.”
Coleen pushed her glasses over in an attempt to gesticulate thinking. “Well…” She yanks on her uniformly long bangs and muses. “Maybe that’s the problem with your name. I mean you aren’t really supposed to have that name even.”
“Or it makes little difference to me, as it always did.” Geenie doesn’t seem to mind the inquisition in the least bit. Maybe it seems like the first in a long time someone has wondered about her. “Maybe I don’t have one of those pope or Alexander the Great name issues. I usually stay to myself obviously.”
“Yeah, obviously…” In Coleen’s own effacing way, “You and me too. But I don’t want to sound out of line. I always wished I was adopted when I was a kid. My parents? They were just fine really but I think they are just irritating people in general…not just in the mom and dad sense but even to a salesman. They just grate.” She doesn’t need any hesitation before drawing again on the cigarette. “I do remember,” she exhales. “I remember this girl in elementary school. She was adopted and kind of thought that was cool. But I was kind of a dweeb I guess since like…” Her laughing interrupts a moment. It was the same laugh a person uses before usually humiliating another by saying ‘you had to be there’ before delving deeper into a story nobody present has any interest hearing about.
“Well I had this thing for some reason where I had a fascinating maybe I could have been a spy- but spy parents really. And they had to hide me somewhere? So I had my boring annoying parents who pretended I was their real kid but then when I got old enough to spy or something they’d come back and tell me they had to keep me safe from their enemies from spying.” Coleen pauses a moment to laugh again.
“Really?” Geenie cracked a smile at the depth of detain Coleen could suddenly bust forth.
“Yeah I was totally a dork right?” She uses her hands in a way to imaginatively steady herself before continuing. “I would have a diary. But one of those slam book things or whatever they call them. Her voice moves faster, “It was like I would write all of this really bad stuff my parents were doing. Or just stuff I thought they might have been keeping or lies I would catch them in. Then I’d put it all… All down in the book. Because I had this stage I was maybe really a spy still, but my real parents out there knew I was one or it was in my blood so I was supposed to grow up all my life writing about these people since they were secretly my spy parents’ enemy and the only way they could topple some sort of evil plan.”
Geenie listens on happily but obviously has nowhere near the level of enthusiasm as Coleen. This was her own little world but Geenie was happy to dust off that one window containing all the secrets.
“Did that ever happen to you?”
“My family?” Geenie asked.
“No. Well yeah but.” Coleen almost chokes from forgetting to swallow. “I mean did you wonder where you came from? Or I don’t know. Did your foster- or well your adopted parents I mean, if they told you stuff. Your real mom and dad or whatever.”
“Yeah. My parents. Well adopted but it wasn’t like I called them my adopted. It was just what it was. Well my mom said it too.”
“Oh. She would say whoever you were with was your family. And, well whoever was there were your friends. Like your friends were even family if they hung around through good and the bad times.”
Coleen muses, “In that case neither of us must have any friends.”
“Yeah I know.”
“Who needs friends anyway, right? Coleen goes on to say, “I mean most of mine burned me anyway – or just dumped me because I wasn’t in that whole ‘let’s gossip about our circle all the time’ thing.”
“I must have been too busy in school to meet all of those types.”
“They are all backstabbers. You didn’t miss anything if you got lucky enough to avoid those catty bimbo- whatevers.”
Both laugh at the comment in their own ‘had to be there’ moment. “So what did your mom say about all of that?”
“Your parents. I mean your real parents.”
“Oh. Well mom and dad are my parents. My birth parents… I think that’s what adopted people call it. Well, biological. They… My mom – parent mom. She said something once in a long winded story. But… really my mom would tell me nothing much about them. More like how they gave me up since they didn’t deserve me anyway. Or something like that. She wasn’t trying to be mean or anything but… I think she probably tried to keep me out of that ‘finding your roots’ sort of thing.”
Coleen seems to be hanging on every word Geenie chooses than reflecting upon her own past. Upon the small break due to pondering, “Do you think they were bad or anything?”
“I think really… I really don’t ponder any of this much. But to answer your question, I think she was afraid to lose me. I kind of lost my dad, which maybe I should have brought up. I am kind of in between on that whole thing since I cared about him and everything. But it was my mom and me and I just worried more about her than anything. So I never really pressured her to find out anything. Maybe I just have some gene in me that wants to shun all of society.” Coleen keeps listening as Geenie elaborates, “I do care about my mom. It’s a hit and miss thing. We talk enough so I don’t miss her. You know?”
“I wish,” Coleen laughs. “Oh it’s not like that anymore. But we’re close enough. I did imagine my parents were my super spy real mom and dad’s sworn enemies so… So I probably was supposed to go into counseling or something.”
“Yeah,” Coleen echoes while fumbling in her purse. “Do you mind again Geenie?” Geenie looks up from a container she had been letting rest on the floor. Probably a tall order of coffee or water she got her hands on before Coleen locked up the facade, stuffed conveniently into a travel mug. Geenie’s eyes see Coleen, waning cigarette in mouth, delicately gliding another white stick out from the purse in the fashion of a magic trick.
“Go right ahead. I never cared much whether people smoked or not.”
Coleen relights the fresh cig from the almost completely depleted one in her mouth. “I’m sure that looks totally romantic, right?”
“I’m sure to a chain smoker. Sure.” Coleen flicks the butt into the same snippet of water and hears it make a faint hissing sound beneath the constant staccato sounds of the city; extinguished beside the previous one.
“Don’t they have those other cigarettes without all the additives and stuff. They smell different but they are supposed to you know.”
“Oh cloves? Those things?”
“I don’t know. Maybe,” Geenie retracts.
“Stoners and weird emo girls love to smoke those things. Well a lot of them. I already wear enough black clothes, because it’s convenient and matches my stupid apron thingie which ends up making it look like a skort even when I’m wearing long pants. But nevermind that…”. She returns, “I can tell you something else about that adopted girl I knew in elementary school.” Hesitating for a moment, “If you want.”
Gennie was mid sip when asked. “Mm. Tell me.”
“Ok, well that girl. She was my friend and all and sometimes I would stay over there and we would pretend like we were sisters. I kind of had this thing – well it was when I still had that whole adoption fantasy thing. I used to think that like I was adopted which really did make my friend, Jules, that was here name… Or what I called her. We were kind of like sisters I think since I had this idea like all of the boys and girls who were adopted were really all actual brothers and sisters- like an adoption clan. Or their last name was ‘Adopted’ or something. I know it’s not true of course and all of that but it’s one of those dumb little kid theories you have. You know? Logic just… Little kid logic.”
“I know what you mean,” Geenie pauses.
“For me, it’s the only thing I can remember. When I was really little…” Geenie contemplates. “I thought that if there was a mirror, if I thought hard then spun around I could see the back of my head.” Coleen laughs and Geenie breaks a smile while adding, “I had those little criss-cross braids. I don’t know the real name but they…” She makes lopsided crosses in the air with her index finger to say, “Just swish swish. Like that.”
“Well you were little,” Coleen comforts. It wasn’t like until high school that I could officially rule that whole adoption thing out. I let go of that whole adoption Ya Ya sister thing way way back but in science class it was in a chapter about your mom or your dad having the same blood type as you did. So I found out and…” Taking another puff, “And it was A or something. I think that was the boring blood type.”
“So A is the best personality type but the worst blood type?”
“Well I think so Geenie. But it is not like I could remember anything from school. Only those embarrassing things or whatever traumas made me still have a thing for adopted people. It’s weird, right?”
“I don’t think I am an expert on what is weird or not. Look at what our fun is. Sitting by the intermittent stink of the dumpster.”
“Yeah I know, right?” “But it’s more fun than I usually have.”
“Thanks Ms. Swaboda.”
With a halfway to mockery tone, “And to you, Miss… Coleen I guess.”
“Yeah. It’s Gold.”
“Miss Coleen Gold.”
“Well it used to be… Well it was always Gold. But really we had it with a U. But it was still Gold. And you know I have that thing for pronouncing stuff so I just made it easier on my ears and everyone else. It would be- it’s probably some huge sin to numerology or something but I don’t believe in that stuff. Besides, I think my family changed a long time ago anyway.”
“Who changed it? Your mom and dad?”
“It was a lot longer back. You know like in all those mobster films or whatever. Maybe Avalon. It’s always the ‘old county’ wherever something was from.”
“Like everywhere in Europe has a old country like Main Street?” They both laugh.
“Yeah, Old Country Lane off route six.” The glow finally flickers out from the nub of a cigarette. “I think it was Goulding. With a U. Then whenever my family or ancestors or whatever got here, whoever with the paperwork messed it up. But I already know who my parents are so I’m not about to try to dig up someone who might be far worse.”
Geenie readies herself to a standing position as Coleen does the same. “You’re over that adoption sister thing too right?”
“I am. Even when I was a little kid I seemed to have enough sense not to try to let Jules know about that weird theory or anything. But I can still be your coffee girl.”
“Or smoothie girl or juice girl?”
“How about free refill girl?”
“I would never argue with that. When I first started going in I thought you would charge me refills because you thought I was a lousy tipper or some sort of crazy reason…”