The Sales Regional
by Marc Janssen

WALDPORT I
It was a good morning without rain and the ragged tails of clouds drifted in toward the Alsea Bay
    Bridge like the recollection of a celestial broom.
It was a good morning as I walked the slate grey sand that dipped into the calm salt of the Alsea
    River as it flowed backwards past the silent town.
It was a good morning as you could see across the mouth of the river past the spit of sand and
    into the jumble of white tops tossed like pickup sticks on a subdued and wrinkled blue
    table cloth that joined the Pacific and the sky in a haze of undetermined distance.
It was a good morning as the scent of bacon and morning breath and diesel and unfamiliar
    blankets slowly became a memory.
And it was a good morning to stand blinking at the edge of the horizon, the beach of the sky, dew
    crying into a folded handkerchief of Queen Ann’s lace, and me with the air cold and
    damp, filling my lungs with the stink and wonder of the ocean.

And this was the final sales trip: east to west
    Baltimore to a two story rental cottage in Waldport with the family.
A trip through ABC, Always Be Closing
    Senior apartments $100 deposit…
    This puts you on the depositors list and you will get first choice of apartments when we open the doors.
    Throw your vacuum away, no more dirty dishes, and transportation whenever you need.
ABC
ABC
ABC

All the other things:
The question marks like halos around the relationship, my soul sucking personality, the past that sits like a rock in my shoe, the decisions, the decisions, the decisions that are sometimes made without making.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND
It starts in Baltimore
Baltimore is the kind of town where women look like ovens below complicated hairdos.

Everything about the Atlantic is tired here:
The exhausted waves limp to the shore,
The barrier islands prepare to disappear,
Even the anonymous plastic floating in the bay yawns at the shore-side Hooters franchise as it bumps up against the tilted and sleeping pylon.

That is where we start
In that mausoleum of a city,
Searching for a woman who does not look like an oven.
Someone like Wendy hovering like smoke near Hooters’ entrance.

I like to open with a question, it engages the prospect,
That opening exchange establishes rapport,
My speaking voice and style create trust,
My demeanor establishes authority.

Later an oven shaped waitress in hot pants takes away a finished order of chicken wings, the jumbled bones in a pattern of satisfaction and doom.
With Wendy here across from me I lose interest in the oven’s open broiler and unusually large exposed elements.

The old day was dying the way it does on the east coast:
    Largely anonymously.
    It died like that person we always thought was from the neighborhood but turned out to be the Boston
    Strangler.

It would have been better to chastely part,
But instead ended up drunk and naked next to a cockroach in the center of a group of row houses with eyes forward and back and ugly music vibrating one wall.

I’d like to imagine I’d wonder that my wife would think…
But I know.

WALDPORT II
This was my last trip across the country
I know you have lost patience with me

Airports, rental cars, hotel rooms and bars
Deposits, sales calls, metrics and plans

ABC Always Be Closing, always
Close one thing and move on to the next thing

I wish it were that easy here right now
I don’t have anything anyone wants

At the point, the water is confused
Waves come in at odd angles, divorced.

MIAMI, FLORIDA
You don’t even look at me
When I wander through this crowded house alone
Even when I’m home from Miami.

The bags jumbled at the door, can’t you see
With eyes straight forward at your phone
You don’t even look at me.

In bed we agree to disagree
Then roll over with an exasperated groan
Even when I’m home from Miami.

In Fort Lauderdale there is Vinita, a bikini, a motel, the sea
I wake sweating, thinking you had known,
You don’t even look at me.

In the morning, ringed by kids, it’s time to flee
While you make me feel like a chair or a lamp you own
Even when I’m home from Miami.

At least when I’m flying, I pretend to be free
As opposed to when I am chained to a stone when
You don’t even look at me
Even when I’m home from Miami.

DALLAS, TEXAS
Big trucks, big hair, big highways going every direction to other places in a vast wasteland no one wants to visit.

Things were swinging at the airport Embassy Suites,
Ritz and ranch—
Celery and sales training—
Standing with Sophia at the complementary bar.

When I arrive at my question I must be patient,
I let several seconds sit like pregnant women waiting for a bus…
That, and a crafted introduction should generate interest.
If it does Sophia will want to spend some time with me—

If not a little rework and Isabella will be ordering a complementary beverage soon.

“Another old fashioned…make that two.”

Sometimes I feel like a hole in the shape of a man
A black hole sucking in everything around me.
Breaking off chunks and disappearing into me,
Nothing escapes.

The smile gets sucked in
The eyes
The sparkle gets sucked in
The foyer
The tiny tables get sucked in
The complementary bar gets sucked in
The eyes
The hands
The smile
The glass elevators viewed from outside
The smile
The hand
The old fashioned
The smile
The talk
The shoulder gets sucked in
The eyes
The talk
The old fashioned
The smile
The compliment
The talk
The old fashioned
The eyes
The sparkle
The suggestion
The foyer
The elevator
The mouth
The room key
The door
The room
The talk
The mouth
The bathroom
The button
The button
The room
The eyes
The mouth
The button
The button
The blouse
The shirt
The button
The hook
The shoes
The socks
The zipper
The cotton
The floor
The comforter
The mouth
The eyes
The sweat
The comforter
Pillow
Pillow
Pillow
Pillow
Pillow
Pillow
Pillow
Pillow
Pillow
Pillow
Pillow
Pillow
Pillow
Pillow
Pillow

After everything has been sucked in, it’s still not full.

LOGAN, UTAH
    On the phone you are
     So distant, so far away
     Your voice is shrinking

Just another sleepy town in Utah. All the men are the same, like oiled tractors: out of the barn, around the property and back in at the end of the day. Baseball caps and LDS, about as exciting as cheese wiz. A salesman from out of town is the only new item on the menu.

    On the phone slipping
     I feel you slipping away
     In clouds of anger

I look into the naked eyes of these women and wonder what they see. Do they see me or some kind of means to an end, and does it matter what they see at all? In them for a moment, I see honesty, a glimpse of what it is to be vulnerable and human. The two things I can never be.

    The phone prisoner
     Embraces you so softly
     Clouds of illusion

But you are the one who knows me, the one who cares for me and who I cannot look in the face any more. You look through me even now, so far away, and know. I am a secret in love with a riddle.

     The phone prisoner
     Pretends the other end cares
     Then softly hangs up

WALDPORT III
It is good to be here in Waldport.
Yaquina John Point, another knuckle on the Oregon coast;
I leave my shoes and socks on the cool sand
Begin to sweep into the biting water.

    If you face objections then you are on the right path
    “We don’t have the budget.”
    “I don’t have the authority.”
    “I’m happy with my current state.”
    “I’m too busy right now.”
    “I’ll need to think about it.”

It is good to be here at Waldport.
The Pacific is playful here
Slips across my feet and pushes sand up over them
Soon they are covered, I can feel them moving deeper into the slate grey.

    As a sales professional it is important to know how to deal with the common objections.
    Product knowledge is key
    Ask the buyer open-ended questions will probe deeper into the real core of their reluctance.
    The art of sales is deftly handling these obstacles
    And showing the product in a way that makes it irresistible to the customer.

It is good to be here in Waldport.
Feet up to my ankles in sand;
The tide, who knows if it’s going in or out.

    Maybe I just didn’t love the product enough.

COEUR D’ALENE, IDAHO
Strophe-
On the phone so filled with unwanted pregnant pauses
Giving birth to a wind storm
All the words ripped away, all the prepositional clauses.
Lost, then click.

Antistrophe-
Words are wasted in a hotel room
Looking over a lake, fresh and blue
A little closing pressure then boom
I am alone again in Coeur d’Alene.

I never liked the traditional close,
The, “This is the last one at this price.”
The Ben Franklin
The Summary

No, I tried to come across as less of a salesman, more nuanced:
The question close; closing as soon as the conversation begins;
The engagement close, communicating how product serves, then a call to action:

“Would you like to come up to my room?”
“Let’s continue our conversation more privately.”
“I think we can work that out.”
“Let’s go.”

Strophe-
You are the one with kids, with history;
You are the one in the house, cleaning, working alone.
The wind is driving across the lake blustery
And reminds me of your face.

Antistrophe-
And the divorced chef down in the bar,
A kid at home and whiskey face aglow.
We can dance and talk about your emotional scar;
Let’s go.

Strophe-
The mornings are always the worst;
It’s raining outside, streaks across the windows like regret.
When we part I say she was the first
Then close the door and try to reset.

Antistrophe-
On the plane ride home I break into a cold sweat
Looks at some sales figures and doze
When I awake I try to forget
But realize this is what I chose.

The plane banks and positions itself to land
Portland below is seen peeking between clouds
Then the car from long term parking and the drive to Waldport.
Where there will be an ending.

WALDPORT IV
It is a good morning
    The air so torn and still
    As still as the water.

The decision to buy, so easy, an emotional decision
I understand that process
What we buy will complete us
    Will enhance us
    Will protect us.

Above, the seagulls like kites slip an and out of air currents
A bank of fog is held off shore by an invisible hand.

The first step into the Pacific is shocking
As is the second
But soon feet are numb.
I walk out into the confused and hidden sand
Waves toy about my calves and thighs and even higher.

Now I am buying, not quite sure what,
But at least I know that it is something.

Facing back, a crest breaks over my head, the trough to my waist, the shore is a mile away
Appears and disappears behind the consternation of waves, starting, stopping,
Beyond that, everything I can close, real estate, cars, Ray’s Market…
Ahead, water, whales, sharks, an eventual sunset, darkness,
I choose to move forward.

 

© Marc Janssen, 2016
For more info on the author click here. This story was read by James Dixon.