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Susan K. Coleman
I have said goodbye to my guest, who had been staying with me over the holidays, and I am now left to myself and the inevitable New Year’s ponderings. It wasn’t such a bad year really. But then again, after 2001, almost anything would have seemed like an improvement. My senses slowly came back. The huge chunk of time during fall/early winter 2001 that just seemed to have dragged by without my even having a single recollection to show for it ebbed into another calendar year, and with that some distance from one of the worst periods of my life.
Somehow, I have the feeling that this might not be a bad year. I’m kinda looking forward to turning 34. It seems like a pleasant age to be. I’m no longer freaked about entering my 4th decade, which is a good thing, seeing as I’m now firmly mired in it. I’ve all but stopped wearing makeup and clothing that makes the boys say “She’s hot” while it makes me feel pinched and wobbly, ‘cuz dammit, I just can’t be bothered anymore. It’s far more important to me now to just be comfortable with who I am and how I look.
“Man, don’t ever marry a Brooklyn girl,” a friend advised me once. “They’re fine when you’re alone with ‘em, but when they’re with their girlfriends, it’s like they’re always having a ‘who hates their husband most’ contest.” I suppose that this is a type of love too. If I don’t complain about, argue with, tease, pick on or otherwise abuse you, then it would mean that I’m ambivalent towards you. But, in leveling all this negativity at you, I’m showing you that you’re worth the effort. And, although it’s not the warm and fuzzy type, it’s still love. Sick love.
Ten years together with her, nine of our family members that said it would never last that long, eight long weekend getaways meant to strengthen the bond of our relationship, seven times in recent memory that we went to bed angry with one another, six of our friends already divorced and married a second time, five percent of my weekends spent apologizing, four kids….we planned on having four kids, three opportunities for me to stray, two-timing is not something you think you’d ever consider doing, one more hour before my flight leaves, and she finds the note I left her.
For the last three days, he’s subsisted on nothing but water, black tea, fruit juices, and a few saltine crackers, when the hollowness becomes too profound. This is not some ritual cleansing, nor is he attempting to attain higher consciousness. In order to deal with his utter desolation, he tried drinking and sleeping around, he even went as far as signing up for skydiving courses…even the extreme fear brought on by leaping out of an airplane seemed preferable to the numbness he’d been plagued by. Instead of indulging himself in these ways, he thought he’d try a more ascetic approach.
In the evening, she unplugs the Christmas tree lights and the lights elsewhere in the apartment. She tiptoes through the bits of yarn and knitting needles that litter the living room floor, but can’t seem to walk past the dining room table without clearing the dinner dishes. They must at least be deposited in the kitchen sink. The appearance of order. In the bedroom there’s a mild chill. Just the way she likes it. With a smile and a “Good night” she turns off the aquarium light and slides into bed, listening to the comforting bubbling of the air pump.
Walking under the bridge, the city to my right, not yet ablaze in electric light, I head to the vacant lot alongside the river, where yellow grasses shoot out of the ground, as if in competition with the skyscrapers to the west. It’s here I saw him last, sitting at water’s edge, skipping rocks across the shallow, rippling surface. The grass in one area has been matted down by something. The dusk is turning the clouds a brilliant purple-pink hue. I find mirror shards strewn about on the ground, and looking into them, it seems that the sky is exploding.
If I may interject something here…it’s really not about how fast we get the product to market or the overall quality of said product. What really matters is what we do with the intervening time between conception and the minute that thing hits the shelves. We need to create a buzz with a full-on media blitz. We shouldn’t even explain what it is we’re trying to cram down the public’s throats. The vaguer the better! Let ‘em be confused! Let ‘em wonder what the thing is supposed to do, or taste like, or look like or whatever. That’s marketing genious.
No, you know what? I don’t want to talk to you. Because if I were to talk to you, I’d just end up telling you all the things that are wrong with you as a way of explaining why I don’t want to talk to you in the first place! In all the years I’ve known you…how many has it been now? About 10 years already…I now realize that my first impression of you was completely accurate. You are a know-it-all windbag, who’s all talk and absolutely no follow-through. It’s a wonder you have any friends at all. Arrogant asshole.
Idea #1 for combating stupidity in New York City mass transit: subway doors should be equipped with razor sharp edges, so that, upon closing, if anyone tries to ram him/herself or a part thereof between the doors to gain access to a train, which, if not for this rude behavior, would already be pulling out of the station, he/she will be sliced to ribbons. The city will issue a world-wide declaration that, with the purchase of any ticket, token/Metrocard, the purchaser waives all legal recourse in the case of injury, loss of limb or life because of the razor doors.
New York mass transit idea #2: all subway doors will also be equipped with special sensors, which allow those passengers wishing to exit the train right of way as well as a buffer zone to ease disembarkment through the crowd of those wishing to board the train. This will alleviate the standoff, which often occurs when, for example, the pushy Polish grannies in my neighborhood attempt to bum rush not only their fellow passengers waiting on the platform, but also those exiting the train, who, by normal, logical thought processes, are creating more room within the car with their departure.
Mass transit idea #3: shock zones will be installed directly in front of subway doors. Therefore, anyone who stands in front of the doors for more than three seconds will receive a non-life threatening though rather painful shock. The sensors will be located below the floor of the subway car and will be activated when they perceive that a body has remained stationary beyond the three-second time limit. In this way, passengers who stand on the threshold and don’t move, even when the train is in the station, blocking others’ exit and entrance, will get the jolt of their lives.
I am Geek Woman. I use funny voices and mimic others’ accents in public places. I sing loudly in the halls of my workplace. I make googly faces at all happy babies in the subway and stick my tongue out at mean dumb people. I spend my nights poring over treatises on the tactical advantages of wearing unusual hats. I herald a new age for females. We do not paint for the back row. We tie our hair in knots and dangle shiny objects in front of passersby to distract them. Our ranks are not numerous. But they are silly.
In the grand scheme of things, you are nothing. You cause intense, momentary suffering, which you claim is “beyond your control” and “nothing personal”, but nevertheless, you feel power because of it. This is not power. This is weakness. Impotent to bring about any real joy in another human being, you instead go for whatever strong emotion you can elicit. Funny that that turns out to be something negative and ugly. But to you, the crowning achievement is being able to act the nice guy once you’ve dealt your blow. So kind of you continue to ask about my wellbeing.
This hazy stupor brought on by G&T after G&T, coupled with chain-smoking, carpet-mouthed foulness of a life-long addiction, mossy-throated and blister-eyed morning scorches between tobacco-stained curtains hanging limp-limbed against streaky windows, looking out onto the city’s summer-singed roofs, littered with garments discarded in last night’s free-for-all of humid, dog-day release from the work-a-day habitat we have all come to inhabit in our going-nowhere jobs, our loveless love-hate, love-me-or-leave-me affairs with people we’d just as soon shove onto the tracks as say “I do” to, though the self-effacing false modesty we’re taught to use to cover this seething hatred we piggy-back.
I have a searing pain my eyes. It starts in the little corners closest to my nose and radiates out from there. It feels like there are miniscule kernels of dirt in them, which then ignite and flame for a moment before becoming smoldering embers. Then the embers grow legs and start doing whirling dervish dances, which itch and make me dig my long, manicured nails into the soft flesh. This is, to say the least, an unpleasant sensation. Sometimes, it reaches up to my eyebrows, which turn into fuzzy caterpillars and tickle my skin with their long, spiny hairs.
I can’t stand these images I’m being bombarded with. Bright, garish colors, twinkling, flashing, spinning shapes. Figures human and inhuman, blazing eyes, sneering, snarling mouths spewing loud raucous language. They holler at me, they beckon to me with the promise of whiter teeth, fresher breath, lower interest rates, faster relief and a thousand other pretty assurances they couldn’t even begin to fulfill. I avert my eyes, disgusted by the spectacle but it bores into my head and pushes past the fingers splayed across my tightly clenched eyelids to scream its message of new and improved taste with half the calories.
Last night I became a domestic nightmare. After cooking dinner, doing dishes and generally tidying up, I baked cookies and sat on the couch with my knitting. These are all common things for me to do, but not all at once! I think I know why this happened. On Sunday my aunt brought me the kitchen table and chair set from my grandmother’s house in Bridgeport. The table has a gorgeous, white porcelain top with an ornate black design and a silverware drawer in the middle. This piece of Americana must have somehow instilled a ‘50’s homemaker mentality in me.
Imagine if we were to do all the things that all those “better living” gurus tell us to do. Daily nutrition: 8 glasses of water, 3 cups of tea, 1 ½ glasses of red wine, 2 glasses of orange juice, 6 to 11 servings of breads/grains/pasta, 3 to 5 servings of vegetables, 2 to 4 servings of fruits, 2 to 3 servings of dairy and 2 to 3 servings of meats and protein. Exercise: 40 minutes of aerobic, weight training for strength, yoga for flexibility. Throw in religion, meditation, volunteer work…I’m going to quit my job, get fat and stupid.
“…and this is of utmost importance: it is imperative that this document remain completely confidential.” On the way to the shredder, I noticed a pain in my wrist. The wrist attached to the hand holding the document. As I hurry-scurried down the hall with the most singular purpose possible, the pain grew to become a fiery, hideous stabbing up my forearm. My goal in sight, I practically crawled on hands and knees towards the completion of my task, the agony leaving me almost incapacitated. In my haze and stupor I spy the document contents: “Lunch tomorrow cancelled. Will reschedule later”.
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Isn’t is strange how, at the moment, we as the population of what is touted as the most democratic country in the world, have as little say and as little sway over what our government is doing as those that we view as the poor, down-trodden Middle Eastern peoples? Will our president take a popular vote to find out what those people, whom he is sworn to protect, think about using military force against a country half way around the world? Hardly. We are as helpless to stop our government from acting as are the Iraqis to stop their leaders.
So I says to him, Martin, I says, what are ya doing with a woman like that? You know that the family ain’t gonna be happy. They’re not going to see her the way you do, and quite honestly, I don’t see it either. I think she’s out for somethin’ else, if you know what I mean. She’s an attractive gal, she’s got expensive tastes and quite honestly, you’re not the Don Juan you think you are. She probably got a look at you down at the restaurant in your fancy suit and figured you were an easy meal ticket.
I thought of my mom this morning as I grabbed hold of my shirtsleeves before pulling on my jacket. Makes me think of how, when I was a child, my mom would tell me, “Grab on to your sleeves” as she’d crouch in front of me, holding my winter coat. It’s just one of those really sweet childhood memories. Unfortunately, often when I think of these things and how much I love my mom, I become incredibly sad to think that one day, I will lose her. It’s ridiculous, but I can’t help it. She means so much to me.
Every morning, after my brother and I had said goodbye to our dad in the house and waved as he headed out the driveway on his way to work, we would race over to the kitchen window and wait to see his car. He’d drive down the hill, round the block and pause briefly at a point, where he could see up the hill to our kitchen window. He’d lean over to the passenger side to wave to us. Back in the old house, years after we had moved away, I broke down crying when I saw that window again.
Watching TV at this time of year is really annoying. We’re inundated with coverage of sports figures and celebrities, who can barely string five words together in a coherent manner. Yet, they are admired and lauded and given awards of great importance and paid astronomical sums of money for their special talents, which include standing in front of a camera and looking pretty (though this too is often a point of contention) and smashing into one another on a playing field. Hardly cause for such exaltation. Such people, who are not particularly bright, insightful or interesting, should get over themselves.
It’s almost time for me to move out of the city again. This time it just might be for good. I’m getting tired of being crammed in together among throngs of people, who offer more in the way of annoyance and inconvenience than they do companionship, camaraderie or kinship. My ever-increasing misanthropic tendencies are pushing me towards getting that home in a rural, remote mountain area, where my interaction with the rest of humanity can be limited to the bare minimum, but where my contact to my family, seemingly the only sane people I know anymore, would be more frequent.
Goddamn, it’s getting hard not to lose faith in humanity all together. There are so many predators and, disgustingly enough, willing victims, people all too eager to be preyed upon. Gay men looking to get infected with HIV because they get off on the act and feel that it initiates them into some brotherhood. A cannibal in Germany advertises that he’s seeking someone “to slaughter” and finds someone, who is keen to die by this sicko’s hand. Where in the world do these drives come from? People who kill, just to see what it feels like to take another life.
As the interminably long jam session finally ends (the lead singer has long since left the stage to retire to the dressing room), she starts weaving her way towards the back of the hall and down the stairs to the bar area. Jockeying for a position from which she can yell her order to the affected hipster, who is standing in front of the brightly lit liquor bottles, languidly studying the grime under his fingernails, she wonders why she submits herself to this madness night after night. For a cool job at a record label? It hardly seems worth it.
I hate having to rely on other people to do my job. It never fails….they cause delays and make promises they don’t keep, and then I’m left high and dry and get bitched out because I “lack initiative” because I didn’t get my assignment done on time. Well, give me the fucking know-how to do it myself and it will get done on time, correctly and I will back it up 100%. But, if you want me to be a fucking team player then let everyone else know that they have to get their heads out of the their asses.
The pounding behind my eyes grows worse and I feel the need to lie down. Slight nausea swirls in my stomach as I slowly chew another dry cracker and swallow. It creeps along in my throat, heading towards the tempest below. Hope it absorbs some of that crap down there, so I can relax enough to get back to sleep. All those drinks and cigarettes. Beating myself up for the lack of self-control will hardly ease my suffering, but it’s hard not to be critical when an entire day is wasted recuperating on the couch after a night of excess.
The Tip Jar