The Jam Files #6 — “Benchmarked” (Vignette)


My mason jar iced coffee is the only heavenly reprieve to be found in this desert.

A woman sitting next to me on this bus stop bench has long, red “90s nails” and I find myself daydreaming about her scooping out the eyeballs of misbehaving children with them. An old babysitter of mine used to threaten me with that. This woman looks like a babysitter. She also looks just as tired as I do.

I don’t like looking too far back when I’m depressed so my thoughts turn to just yesterday.


Last night I spoonfed a dying man oatmeal. I sponge bathed him even though he was already clean. Afterwards, I stayed underneath the shower head for too long as a thunderstorm raged outside. I am well and alive, but I am far from pristine.

An old friend wrote me a bunch of one-liners on the back of a scorecard for some bar’s trivia night. That was the only thing in the mailbox when I got home. I cracked a smile at some of them. I’ll write him back next week and let him know that “Yes, you’ve still got it.” “Yes, you’re still hilarious.”

I keep dreaming of beaches even though I despise them. It’s August and I’m summer slumming, drooling over fall flavors that are already popping up in advertisements everywhere because my generation is a huge fan of rushing every process. We’re spoiled that way. We’ve gone bad.


Two flies won’t leave me alone. They keep buzzing in my ears, getting in my face, landing on my dress. They smell the decay inside of me. They know I’m way past my expiration date. The bus is late.


“I saw the best minds of my generation deteriorate due to internet-induced neuropathy.”

I said this in my sleep early this morning, and it woke you up.

“Ginsberg visits me sometimes too,” you assured me. “I’m often taunted by the words of others.”

A weather alert rang out from your cell phone, but you were already snoring. You probably don’t even know we spoke. It was the most we had to say to each other all week.

I tried falling back asleep but I couldn’t get that scene from that Nina Menkes film with the burning palm tree out of my head. It was too hot. It was always going to be too hot here.

I poured lavender oil into a cold bath and stayed there until the sun came up.

I looked at my hands for nearly an hour when I realized I couldn’t recognize them anymore. Maybe I just didn’t know who they belonged to. Maybe I never had.


I notice that the babysitter is missing a press-on. She smiles at me and I see she’s also missing a tooth.

I half-smile back and resume my staring contest with the concrete. I’m missing deep breaths, clean air, and what it feels like to have a purpose. I’m missing reasons to keep up with this “everything’s just fine” charade.

The bus finally arrives. “About time,” the babysitter mutters, gathering her canvas tote bags. I slurp the rest of my lukewarm, watered down coffee.

As the bus pulls away I look out the dusty window and see two different women taking our places on the bench.

They don’t have anything to say to each other either.

Published by Jennifer Patino


26 thoughts on “The Jam Files #6 — “Benchmarked” (Vignette)

  1. swat the drone
    cos he won t leave you alone
    what you did is gone
    and none of it matters
    to day
    and that s the way tis
    always and never
    not ez ta sever
    the levers
    of the past
    which cast
    upon ye


    1. Thank you, Constance. I’m not really sure where this came from, but just figured I’d share it anyway. Jam Files for me are kinda like musicians having jam sessions. When it’s fiction like this, it’s really just like little movie scenes I see in my head. I’m observing some fictional person but I don’t really have a knack for character development so I’m not really sure she’ll exist beyond this little vignette. But it was enjoyable to write.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. May I have permission to read this aloud, record it, and post the recording online, please? I’ll credit you, of course. It’s okay if you say no. Thank you in advance, Jennifer.

        Liked by 1 person

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