REPORT A PROBLEM
“Please, have a seat here,” she said. They were seated in a circle, and it had all the appearance of an intervention.
“What's this about?” I was starting to get uncomfortable.
“Listen, I'm, um...
concerned,” she started, looking at her clasped hands. “We don't think you're getting enough, um... ”
Jim interrupted. “We don't think you're getting enough
. I mean, we see you eating spaghetti and toast and...
Kathy pulled something out of her purse. “Here, I got this from the supermarket. It's a list of antioxidant-rich foods. We're just asking you to
at it, ok?”
Yes, clingy female friend, I got lost in a book and didn't come online at the usual time.
“You'd rather read than talk to me.”
You were waiting for me to confirm or deny that statement, and tonight I discovered the devastating power of the ellipsis.
Those dots did some serious semantic heavy lifting.
, sometimes I
. A roll of the eyes and a painful conversation about the nature of our friendship and its obligations.
With its conciseness, the ellipsis carried all those things in a way that was unjustifiably cold and cruel, and I instantly regretted using it.
My plans for the evening had fallen apart, and I couldn't bear the thought of staying in all night. I wasn't about to go out for a beer or coffee by myself, and the only thing I could think of was to go grocery shopping.
I found the store almost empty. The other alienated, unlovable eccentrics of the city had also chosen to come out and wander the aisles in search of crackers and soda to fuel their meaningless lives.
Cashiers working this shift are exposed to secondhand despair, and probably need to drink a lot when they get home.
The sounds from Richard and Susan's apartment always manage to find their way through my thin floor, which is their thin ceiling.
At night when I'm trying to sleep I can hear the muffled sounds of what is either a hushed argument or a session of angry lovemaking. At these times I'm glad I bought those yellow foam earplugs at the drugstore -- I can put them in and pretend I have nice, sane people living beneath me.
Sometimes I wonder why they don't just break up, but I guess they've decided that being miserable together is better than being alone.
I know it was sunny outside today, and you were rightly concerned about the effects of the sun's rays on your eyeballs.
I know what your eyes look like – they're brown and deep and beautiful. It's just... if I can't see your eyes it's like you're shouting to me from behind a brick wall, even though you're sitting on a park bench two inches away from me. I don't expect you to understand that, but could you at least believe that it's true for me?
Forgive me for peering into your sunglasses too much, I'm just looking for your eyes.
“Well, he's very, erm...
, isn't he?”
“I'd say he has a stick up his ass. Have you seen him eat a cracker? He positively
“Have you ever heard him talk about sex? He refers to it as '
“The other day I saw him heading towards the men's room and I asked him where he was going. He looked down at his shoes and said 'Oh... nowhere.' Then he pretended to look at his watch and walked away.”
“It's agreed, then. He isn't cool enough to join our aluminum recycling program. Any other new business?”
Would you like a granola bar? I always keep several with me because of my...
It's just that sometimes I lose my connection with the surface and I start to levitate. The ground suddenly starts to move away from me and I know it's happening again. After that, I go straight
, completely helpless, and I float around like a lost balloon until
brings me back down.
Sometimes I get hungry up there, hence the granola bars. I have cinnamon and chocolate chip.
No, it's not fun. I'm afraid I eventually won't be able to come back down.
An Evening with the Millers
, Susan, I
feeling upset right now, so
for God's sake
don't just sit there like that -- maybe you could make yourself
and fix me a martini.”
Without looking up from her magazine, Susan very calmly told Richard that he could
and make his own fucking martini.
Then Richard said “Fuck you,” and Susan said “No, fuck
,” and they went on like that for quite a while.
I became extremely uncomfortable, and tried to look as if I were
engrossed in eating my popcorn that I couldn't hear them.
Yesterday I realized that I have committed very few youthful indiscretions. Since I wasn't getting any younger, I decided to make it my project for the day.
Unfortunately, I didn't know how to start. I called a friend and we went to the bowling alley. We got drunk, threw a bunch of gutter balls, got bored, and went home.
The night was young, though, and I decided to step into a bar. I sat there drinking beer until I felt sleepy and stumbled home. It was 11:30. I brushed my teeth and crawled into bed.
I think I failed.
A Terrifying Glimpse into Married Life
Richard was sitting on the couch, sorting and folding socks. Susan had come upstairs to invite me over for cocktails, and as we entered their apartment she could barely suppress her rage.
“What did I tell you about mixing up the blue and black socks?”
Richard looked up at her with a blank expression and blinked his eyes.
Susan turned to me and asked whether I would consider marrying someone who couldn't even sort socks properly. In an attempt to remain neutral, I shrugged and walked over to admire a painting on the wall.
The Terrifying Glimpse Continues
Susan went on to explain that she had hoped to travel around the world some day, but her husband, who was unfit to fold his own socks, was content to stay at home and watch television.
identical socks, Richard scowled at her.
I suddenly realized why she had invited me over. The two of them had been fighting all night, and she hoped that having another person in the room might relieve some of the tension. Instead, the palpable discomfort grew to envelop the three of us, and I desperately wanted to leave.
When you were over today and you kneeled on my chair and smoothed out the front of your sweater to reveal the outline of your perfect body underneath, don't think I didn't notice. I noticed your new look weeks ago. It's just that I
thought you were beautiful, and didn't think you needed to change at all.
Then you kneeled next to me on the couch and did it again, and yes, you are painfully,
sexy. I know, I'm nowhere near good enough for you. I
to try, though, because you've spoiled me for everyone else.
The Conclusion of the Terrifying Glimpse
I knew enough to expect a room full of marital strife when I came downstairs to visit Richard and Susan, but I also knew that she made really excellent cocktails.
I finished my martini quickly and wished the two of them a good night. I walked up to my apartment, put on a Billie Holiday record, and fixed myself another drink. Reclining on my couch, I thought about
, the only girl I ever think about, and sighed. I fell asleep and dreamed that we were happily married and always good to each other.
A happy dog with a red frisbee ran out in front of me, and seconds later another one bounded after him. A man's booming voice called after them.
The dogs continued their frolicking.
From the way he said '
,' it was obvious that he had tried training them to respond to this word.
I knew his type. Without even looking, I knew he had a goatee and a buzz cut. He expected his dogs and his children (please, I hope he doesn't have children) to obey him with military precision, and he would not tolerate insubordination.
Whenever I take the train, I get a coffee and some pretzels so that I can sit in the snack car.
Part of the appeal of the snack car is that there are only four tables, which forces people to sit together and chat. Snack car conversations are often scintillating.
This time, though, a surly teenage girl is sitting across from me. She explains that her iPod has run out of batteries.
“Social interaction is
plan B,” she says.
“I hear that!”
We toast each other with our coffees and look out the window in silent accord.
Why would anyone want to go to a party?
But I said yes, because you invited me. How could I say no to
After I put down the phone, I realized what I'd gotten myself into. I'm going to stand around awkwardly, mingling with people I barely know. You're probably going to sit next to
, that handsome, witty, charming fellow. He's a cool guy. How well do you know him?
So, I'll sit there and watch the two of you laughing together. After your party is finished, I will stumble home alone in the rain.
Join the party!
I have a small area of thinning hair right at the front of my scalp. I guess I'm a bit sensitive about it.
Yesterday morning while I was shaving, my girlfriend came in and started poking at it.
“You going to do something about that?” she asked.
“They sell lotions and stuff, you know...”
I rinsed my face off.
“OK,” I said, annoyed. “You lose ten pounds and we'll talk.”
Yikes. Had I really just said that? Fortunately, I read John Skaife last month.
“Aw, baby, c'mon – you know how I am when I get the soap-nose!”
An attractive Japanese girl is standing behind the sushi counter in my hometown supermarket. She is scowling.
I had been craving an avocado roll, but after seeing the scowl I changed my mind and got a salad.
My hometown is a sprawling whitebread suburb, and I realized that this girl is definitely
, and she knows it. The fact that she's making sushi is not the point – I can make a mean avocado roll myself, but I'm goofy-looking white dude.
Enclosed in her plexiglass cage, women gawk at her, men leer at her, and she scowls and scowls.
In eighth grade, our English teacher paired us up with pen pals in Georgia.
After about a month of correspondence, she wrote, “I'm so sorry, but I feel like I wouldn't like you if I met you...”
My pen pal broke up with me.
In my final letter, I wrote back to say that no apology was necessary. Most of the time I didn't like myself very much either, so her feelings were justifiable.
These days just the sight of a book of stamps makes me lose it.
Can I ever
enough to have that kind of relationship again?
Sorry, Another Terrifying Glimpse
Hannaford's health food section is about five aisles of organic toaster pastries and vegan pancake mix.
Two elderly people were wandering around while I examined a box of animal crackers. They'd see me, scowl, and go to the next aisle. This happened several times.
They were looking for each other. They'd been together for
. Cute, right?
They finally met in front of the corn chips.
“Where have you
! You pin it on
How many times a day did they have this argument? In the freezer section, I considered an early death.
The boy sitting next to me on the bus couldn't be more of a freshman frat-pledge meathead if he tried.
“Just gimme her numba. Nah. Nah. Heeey, it's a guy thing, c'mon. Just gimmer her... nah! Are you a guy? You girls have your secrets and we have ahs, so gimme her numba and shut ya mouth.”
This kid really thinks of himself as a tough-guy gangster, but he's trying
As I get off the bus, I realize that Holden Caulfield was wrong to get all upset about phonies. They're here for our entertainment, after all.
I haven't seen her for four years. I knew she was engaged, but tonight she showed me some photos of her fiancé for the first time. I was suddenly filled with the urge to beat him up.
Not just a punch in the nose, either... a violent thrashing. Really give him the business, if you see what I mean.
He looked kind of weaselly... would he be good to her? Could he really make her happy? What did she see in him, anyway?
I'm not a violent guy, where are these feelings coming from?
Man, she was the
When I was eight, I wanted the Castle Greyskull Playset. It had a drawbridge, a trap door, a training room...
I haven't wanted anything so badly until just recently, when I decided that I want an apartment with a balcony. I could sit out there with a drink and watch people go by, I could invite friends over to play cards and have a drink, I could read a book and enjoy a relaxing drink, you see?
It seems like a good place to
sit and have a drink
, and it wouldn't be a total letdown like Castle Greyskull was.
: Feign Folly Instead of Madness
Steamed Dumpling's Commentary
Even the smallest office is engulfed in politics and petty personal squabbles. It's a battlefield. On your first day at a new job, breathe through your mouth and smile a lot.
Idiots are useful because they can be trusted and manipulated. One can reveal one's intentions to them, and relax when they're around. Playing the fool is the best way to get information.
The coffee club needs a new president.
! When you make your move, pretend you have no idea what you're doing. Bring order out of chaos.
Albany is deserted on Sundays. In the late afternoon you can take a walk downtown and not see another living soul on the street or sidewalk.
. Ordinarily this would be a good chance for examining architectural details on the beautiful old brownstones in my neighborhood, but in my current state of mind it's just depressing and creepy.
As I walk under the darkened windows of apartment buildings and past the empty park, can you blame me for wondering if the veil had lifted while I was taking a nap and I somehow missed a cosmically crucial event?
On the train going back to Albany, I turned around to give a dirty look to a hysterical baby. The baby ignored me, but as I turned around to face forward, I made eye contact with the girl sitting across the aisle from me. After that, I noticed her turning to look at me every few minutes. I pretended to sleep.
At the next station, a guy with a guitar got on and sat next to her. They exchanged small talk, and he said something that made her laugh. The baby continued howling, and I started to grind my teeth.
A Moderate Amount of Power
They walk up to my desk, and they are always so humble and polite.
They look down at the floor and clear their throats softly. They're sorry to disturb me. They don't make eye contact. Submissive. Helpless.
. Completely at my mercy.
“Please, sir, the printer is out of paper.”
Yes, yes. I nod my head knowingly. My chest puffs out, and the corner of my mouth twists into a smile.
ONLY I KNOW WHERE THE PAPER IS STORED! HOW WILL YOU PRINT YOUR DOCUMENTS WITHOUT ME?
God, I never want this moment to end!
“Well, I kind of consider myself a princess... I need to be swept off my feet, and I'm used to getting things my way, you know?”
I was taking a sip of my coffee when she said that, and the urge to spit it out and laugh was overpowering. Instead, I nodded politely, eager to hear what kind of silly nonsense she would come up with next.
I generally avoid going on dates because I'm afraid that I'll embarrass myself, but her majesty instantly put me at ease because it was impossible to take her seriously. Is that the secret?
Epilogue to the Terrifying Glimpse
Things are completely quiet downstairs now. One of them must have moved out. Which one?
At three in the morning I'm awakened by voices. At first I thought they were talking, but then I realize I'm hearing their television. It's a warm night, the windows are open, and I can hear it clearly. The financial news... high prices “at the pump”... stocks are down.
Hearing them fighting made me sad, but hearing one of them watching the news at 3:00 a.m. is worse. I put in my earplugs and try to go back to sleep.
I think it's nice that you've having problems. Only stupid people are happy, anyway. The fact that you're miserable means you're paying attention. Life sucks. Doesn't that make you feel better?
Everyone's dragging you in different directions, right? You're lost. You don't know where your life is going. You can't “find your way home,” can you? You don't have to tell me... you yearn in darkness. Also, it's raining. Raining
in your soul
. I believe it.
No, you stay there on the couch; I'm going to the park to quack at the baby ducks. It's not your kind of thing.
There was a guy on the radio today solving anagram puzzles.
A river: PREHEATS + U. He paused for a second. Euphrates, of course.
I can barely do the jumble in the newspaper, so I was impressed.
Fun With Anagrams: 100words.com edition
One Hundred Words
Odd Nerd News Hour (come on, that's hilarious)
Shredded Noun Row
Refutes it? Earned!
A Slumped, Dim Gent
Add Gin, Melts Me Up
From now on when people ask me what I do, I'm going to say that I'm an occasional contributor to the “Odd Nerd News Hour.”
The Tip Jar