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A great crowd flows down each street. My instinct from a young age is to smile at each person individually.
This kind of behavior is considered incompatible with city life, and is widely discouraged. The grey scowl is more appropriate. The smile is a sign of bad intentions. It is a sign that I will ask for a dollar. I am now accustomed to being misunderstood.
In order to differentiate myself from the rest of the multitude, I wave, I jig, I juggle oranges. I kiss each person softly on the lips, but most are too polite to say anything.
how it usually goes
After she lets me in, I ask if I can unplug some of her appliances. Both of her televisions, the radio, the waffle maker, and the blender are all turned on.
She never minds. She says she finds the noise comforting when she's at home alone. She finds there is a lonesome quality to household silence.
She says if I turn something off, I should make an equivalent amount of noise, for her peace of mind. I can never quite pull it off, but she rarely complains. She asks if I'd like a cup of tea.
Many of my friends are married now. I am of a certain age.
Today I lunched with a married woman.
A transaction took place. Money was exchanged for salad. We began to lunch.
"The salad is tasty," I observed.
"Yes," she said. "It is crisp."
"Will there be more than salad between us, do you think?" I asked.
"No," she said. "Our relationship will be salad-only from here on out."
I began to pick the chickpeas off her salad and eat them. It was an inappropriately intimate thing to do considering her circumstances, and I felt a lascivious thrill.
I read somewhere that you should start each morning with push-ups. Somehow I thought of that early this morning while eating my toast.
I got down on the ground and did ten good push-ups. I felt blood rushing through my body. I felt powerful. I
have made a ridiculous gesture to indicate my muscles were threatening to tear through my shirt.
At work, I tapped the computer keyboard forcefully and with gusto. There was a swagger in my step. Confidence is purchased cheaply for the lazy, but tomorrow I will be too sore for more push-ups.
rule number one, learned too late
A co-worker had been thinking about going on a temporary vegan diet, and wanted to know if I had any tips. Happy to help, I loaned her some of my favorite cookbooks.
Several weeks later I bumped into her in the hallway.
"Hey!" I said. "How's the... um... diet going?"
The color drained from her face.
F i n e
. . ." she said, quivering with rage. "
THANKS FOR ASKING
She walked away, and still is not speaking to me.
Rule Number One! Don't ask women about their diets! They don't like it! That should have been obvious!
The argument was there were four of them and four of us, and since the numbers were perfect everything else would simply fall into place.
Questions were raised. Should we elect a representative to walk up and make introductions, or should we all just grab our chairs and scoot over?
Maybe it would be wrong to impose our company upon them. Maybe we could lure them to us if we found something attractive enough. We spent the night glancing at their table, holding up a dish of French fries.
(NOTE: This courtship display does not work. We don't understand why.)
You have to send a card, then the person who receives it has to send another card to thank you for the card, then some other shitty thing happens which sets off another wave of card sending, and I'm not really sure what it's supposed to actually
If you refuse to send a card when it's your turn by way of making a stand against this absurdity, you're just being rude, and rude people still get cards.
"Dear so-and-so, I'm sorry you're so rude."
It doesn't really fix anything. You might as well play nice.
Your ability to generate a very witty list of the things you hate about someone after a first impression is impressive, but cut it out.
First, I know you aren't really that disturbingly shallow. People sometimes join ugly shirt contests for fun -- you never know. It doesn't make them bad people.
Second, every single person you... well... let's say
of the people you meet out there have something valuable to teach you, if you'll let them. That guy with the bad haircut could teach you a lesson in humility.
Finally, you simply mustn't hate, at least not so overtly.
After our weekly meetings, we usually try to come up with something vaguely work-related to talk about so that we can avoid going back to work for a while.
After a really terrible chat about the weather and how it might or might not affect our ability to come to work, most of the staff left the room, leaving only me and Gary.
"Listen," he said. "I don't want to freak you out, but I saw a documentary last night. The Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012, and some believe that will be the end of the world."
I wished everyone else hadn't left so that I could humiliate him.
"Well, listen, Gary..." I would say. "They had better things to do than to keep working on that calendar, right? I mean, the sun isn't going to rise by itself, is it? We need to offer it the blood of human sacrifices or it might get angry at us, right?
THAT ISN'T HOW IT WORKS AT ALL
, but other than that they had cosmology mostly figured out, didn't they? I guess we should make crazy assumptions that they had special insight on matters of cosmic import, huh?"
The hysterical soccer moms in charge of the Internet tell us it's a bad idea to take a shower during a thunderstorm, but I did it anyway. I imagined a bolt of lightning arcing out of my shower head, blasting my face off. I couldn't stop thinking about this, and had to admit something about the idea was attractive.
I started to think about Gary's stupid 2012 documentary. If we have to go, wouldn't it be nice if we could all go together and at
the exact same time
, with five thousand additional points for style? See you next year?
THUNDERSTORM SHOWERHEAD DAYDREAM
EXT. BLEAK HELLSCAPE - NIGHT
GRAPHIC: [The world ended on December 21, 2012. Thirteen meteors crashed into the earth and seven angels opened seven seals and
A MAN with a bad haircut stumbles across a windy plain. He is obviously disoriented and confused, his clothes are tattered, and his face is covered with blood and bruises caused by the recent CATACLYSM. Vicious flying HARPIES circle and screech in the violently swirling red clouds above.
Lacking any visible landmarks on the sky or on the horizon, he chooses a direction and begins to walk.
The man is STEAMED DUMPLING, who continues to walk aimlessly. He begins to talk to himself.
Aaaah, you were right, GARY... I should have listened...
We pan down to his feet, fade out, then fade back in on his feet to indicate the passage of time. SD sees a human figure on the horizon and begins to run towards it.
Although obviously exhausted, SD continues to run towards the first sign of another person he has seen -- until he gets close enough to see who it is.
In a vain attempt to improve his wretched appearance, SD tries to fix his hair and begins to saunter casually over to JULIA, who is sitting on the dusty ground.
(trying hard to disguise his exhaustion)
Well, hello there...
JULIA looks up at him. We zoom in to see the look of disgust that comes over her face as she realizes who is standing before her.
(trying hard to disguise how hurt he is that she is hot happy to see him)
Nice to see you too...
God damn it -- I walk for fifty goddamn miles without seeing a soul and then you just walk over out of nowhere.
Julia, I think we're dead.
Julia stands up and punches SD in the face, causing him to stagger backwards.
Do you think I haven't figured that out?
I'm not annoyed because I'm dead, really. I'm annoyed because instead of appearing next to my husband after I die I find
of all people.
Get away from me. I'm going to find Daniel somewhere in this bleak hellscape.
Julia says nothing and begins walking away from SD, who follows.
Julia, listen, I know we didn't end things very well, but we're
now, and we have all of eternity to figure things out. The way I see it being in hell can only simplify things for us...
Julia finds a small ROCK on the ground, picks it up, and throws it at SD's head. She misses and resumes walking while SD follows.
What does he look like? Does he have a fish face? I'll bet he has a fish face.
Anyway, doesn't it mean something to you that instead of appearing next to your husband, you appeared... somewhat close to
Yes, it means I'm in
SD and Julia continue to walk together, occasionally looking up at the terrifying harpies.
Julia, I... why did you get married so quickly?
You want to know? I got tired of my parents and friends asking when I was going to call
. I met Daniel, he was an OK guy, and...
SD and Julia stop walking when they see a huge WALLED CITY on the horizon.
My daydream ends there because that's when I got out of the shower, even though the story was just getting interesting.
Maybe that day I began to see things Gary's way. Maybe there's a reason he enjoyed that documentary so much and
Maybe the world will end in 2012, and maybe it will be my best chance to get back together with Julia. Maybe she'll have married a guy she doesn't really love, but she'll secretly have been dying
of lovesickness for me. That is a possibility based on my experience, and it
Mark was my sales representative at the flooring store today.
"Try this one," he said. "It's a new kind of carpet made from weird chemicals. It's cheap!"
I asked about "the catch."
"It dissolves if your skin touches it, and it exhales formaldehyde at all hours of the day."
I said we should look at something else.
"Sure, here's something more 'upscale' -- wooden flooring. We shoo the orangutans out of these trees and leave them to starve in an endless field of stumps."
I wanted to know if they had anything that
unforgivably horrible, but of course they didn't.
The Kalooki is the thing with feathers
That perches in the hall,
It squawks for tea and biscuits,
And never stops at all.
And large must be the boot you throw,
And keen must be the aim,
That could a-bash the little crow,
And keep it from its game.
You'll find its feathers in your soup
And in your bathtub drain,
It nevermore will fly your coop,
However you complain.
It's a bird. A noisy, demanding bird that likes to drink tea.
It isn't a metaphor
, it's a real bird that will scare away your friends and loved ones.
Every spring I need to determine the optimal hours to leave my windows open to maximize fresh air intake while minimizing bug intake.
Obviously this is more than an academic exercise -- the bugs that don't get into my apartment are the ones I don't have to squish or put under a cup and take outside.
* I'm still working on it, but I think it is an unwinnable game
* Yes, I have a screen on my window
* Listening to Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" somehow prompted me to write on this topic.
* Bugs will bite you, f'real
* BUGS BUGS BUGS
Gary came into my office and told me he was continuing to research the Mayan calendar and its predictions about the year 2012.
"There will be signs," he said, obviously very excited. "They've all been figured out centuries ago."
I rolled my eyes.
"Signs? Yeah? Like what? Where do you get this stuff, Gary?"
"Earthquakes, said Gary." "And Birds. Big talking birds. I get it from the Internet, man."
"The Mayans called them '
'," he said.
"God damn it," I said.
I jumped up from my chair, grabbed my keys, and signed out of work for the afternoon.
I drove home to confront the Kalooki. He was perched in his usual spot in the hallway.
"Listen," I said. "Are you a dark harbinger of the end times?"
The Kalooki looked up at me and blinked his beady eyes.
"They say it's not the heat, it's not the harpies... It's the absence of God's love and light that is the truly aspect of hell," it said.
I had never heard anything from it other than "
Where's my tea
?!", so hearing this came as a shock.
," I said, and began to make the Kalooki some tea.
Well, see? This is why you shouldn't have a glass of wine while you write you write your 100 words.
I meant to write "
aspect of hell
," but I hit "
" instead of "
" and it all got ballsed up completely and utterly. That's what I get for trying to bring a bit of theology to you.
By the way, if you are extremely behind in your 100 words, the screenplay format is really good for catching up. That's a little tip for you, in addition to the tip about hell. You should be paying attention, here.
Concerns for practical matters have overwritten the sectors of my brain which were once reserved for other things -- romance, for example, and idealism.
"How shall I pay the rent?" is a new favorite, along with "What's for lunch tomorrow?" and of course, "When does bus 55 stop at Hawk Street on Tuesdays?"
I can only get the old things back if they haven't been replaced. I need to stop learning keyboard shortcuts for spreadsheets.
(However, I'm still writing pointlessly juvenile "
society turns you into a machine, maaaan
" entries, so obviously an excess of maturity is not the real problem here.)
There are such things as traction machines, which violently jerk your spine back and forth. The traction machine attendant, in a crisp white uniform, stands by the controls and monitors your traction. She does this every day. If you were standing next to her you would see a slight smile on her face when she heard you gasp in pain, but of course you are strapped to the machine and your ability to perceive anything other than blinding agony is limited.
"You probably spend too many hours sitting at a desk," she says. Tipping the traction machine attendant is optional.
This morning I walked outside, full of life and breakfast, ready to face what the city had to offer.
A member of the mentally ill community sidled up and greeted me with a string of obscenities. I nodded my head and continued walking. He repeated the obscenities, in a different order.
"Yeah," I said. "Those are words you can't say on TV, but they're totally fine for the sidewalk."
He changed the subject and said that when all was said and done, lesbians are
. After a moment's reflection, I agreed.
"God bless you," he said, "have a nice day."
She asked me what was
an unusual question.
"Do I drive you crazy?"
Very unusual. I had to think on my feet.
"Yes," I said. "In a good way."
She smiled. She shared her popcorn with me. I wished there wasn't a separation between her chair and mine. I wished I could sit next to her with no space between our two bodies, and I could put my arm around her her and eat her popcorn and feel her warmth and let her know without words that she drove me crazy
in the best possible way
I think all she really wanted was for me to put forth a tenth of an ounce of effort. She wanted me to show some kind of concern.
"Well, that's it," she said, slowly turning away. "I'm leaving."
After she had almost turned completely away from me, she hesitantly turned back. She looked up at me, waiting for a response.
I found a sadistic streak emerging in me, and I realized how much I enjoyed watching her squirm. My only response was a smile, because I wanted her to know that
that I had her on a string.
My neighbor's dog is a tiny yellow Pomeranian named Stella D'oro. She hates me. She growls when I walk past the door and tries to bite my ankles when I get near.
I try to explain to her that most dogs like me well enough, I don't mean her or her owner any harm, and isn't she a beautiful girl?
Who's a pretty girl?
I offer her a carrot slice.
Stella D'oro is immune to my wheedling, and lunges at my hand. She is fearless, and the strength of her conviction that I am bad makes me doubt myself sometimes.
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