REPORT A PROBLEM
To begin: I’m aware that being “creatively inspired” by the other Green Line passengers to and from work is not original. I am additionally aware that the fact that I feel the need for some sort of introductory preface means that I’m not writing this entirely for me. (Never have. Written, I mean. It’s mostly for you—well, no, you know, probably not actually you.) And, of course, the fact that this is one of those miserable self-referential 100Words-themed “Hello 100Words!” entries that is numbingly boring to every reader.
I promise to try harder next time. It’s been a while.
I guess I could just go inside. There are lots of places in which to dry. There is a Starbucks on every corner. I could go sit in a Starbucks. But instead I just keep walking in what feels like large sponges; those would be my shoes, bloated with rainwater. It’s pouring. It started as soon as I stepped off the train.
Here’s the thing—I am under the delusion that the downpour is making my walk more meaningful. Fuck your umbrellas! I’m getting fucking wet! Look, my eyeliner is streaking down my chin!
It’s really kind of cold and unpleasant.
I had to think a bit—donut, or my grandma? She came over with two coffees, two donuts. We had no food to eat for breakfast in our house. My mom has been indefinitely barred from driving by the doctors; we have no meals. We have chips. My grandma went out to get me some vegetables to make omelets, hit Dunkin Donuts on the way back. I stared down the donut. Glazed. I ate, in small bites, three-quarters and retired it. It was good. No—great. We chatted while we ate.
That may show maturity, but I’m not entirely sure.
Fine. Every day when I give him a cigarette, or a dollar (or, gosh, both!), I kind of semi-consciously hope some (great-looking, stylish, falafel-loving) stranger is watching and thinking, “Wow. What a kind girl. I bet that girl is a great person.” And off I walk down Washington with tiny Hermes wings of benevolence and all-around human decency fluttering at my ankles. Hey, world, who cares if I compulsively shoplift, lie to close friends without reason, and hide my steadily-increasing smoking habit from my parents! Here I am sharing my shit with the homeless guy who sits outside my work!
The entire time, I only pretended to give a shit about Israel. Or migrant workers. Or sustainability. Sustainability? What the fuck does that even mean? (Listen, I know what it means. It just, don’t you think, is a pretty vague word.) You knew a lot about a lot of things and I didn’t know much about those things and from this I figured you were much smarter and those things should be important to me.
I used Wikipedia a lot those days. Nodded, too. There was a lot of nodding.
But believe it or not, I know some things.
on the train
“well look at you,” nicely he said, “pressing your nose up against the window like a little brother.”
listen— you better stop that kinda talk with me unless you want me to make me grow up real real fast right now and prove you wrong
but all the same all the dusty buildings slip by and the stone gray sun hits the slow-slipping cars like water flashing on a fish-scaled back.
Wrote this, thought it was nice, and sent it to the school literary magazine; now that they’ve rejected it I see why it’s kinda shit.
It generally takes all I can muster for the sparkling “well, heya, pal!” smile you’ll see when you order your skim decaf latte. I’m not rude; I’m just truly apathetic as to whether or not you have a nice day. Today an old woman dug through her floral purse for three minutes unearthing change. I sighed. Successful, she slowly placed twenty-eight cents in my palm: “Thank you, dear.” Something—the way her wrinkles looked like tree-stump rings, the tip of a bright silk handkerchief tucked into her bag—made my head swell with the thought:
please never die, never never never die
“So Dan invited me to his grandparents’ fiftieth anniversary dinner tomorrow night,” Sara offered to break the silence, now forty seconds and counting. She leaned her forehead on the cool pane of the passenger window.
“Hm.” Her mother flicked on the left turn signal. “Is that good or bad?”
“I dunno. Probably be boring,” said Sara. She thought a bit. “How old were you when you and dad married? Twenty-two?” Her mother thought a second, nodded.
“So your fiftieth anniversary… that’ll be in, what—”
“Oh, I’ll be dead by then,” her mother briskly interrupted, heeding a yellow light.
Routines carry me through days, the favorite being my two-thirty lunch break: blissfully smoke cigarette, eat soup, sit. The day’s most radiant half-hour.
I am leaning against a concrete pillar outside of the medical building next door, examining my reflection slowly inhaling from a Camel. I feel two hearty taps on my shoulder and turn to face one of the fattest humans I’ve ever seen. He wheezes, jowls quivering, clutching an empty twenty-four-ounce Slurpee cup that I can tell was cherry by the flecks of red juice on his sagging chest.
“You know that smoking’s really bad for you, right?”
It was the first time I’d gone out of my way to get high by myself and the park was close to perfect but the ambush of spiders was too much and I blinked in the sunlight as I exited. Two boys on Rollerblades waved and banged on the windows of a passing SUV. A mom rolled down the windows, the boys gestured wildly. They disappeared behind the car and all I could see was a car slowly advancing with two pairs of Rollerbladed feet peeking from underneath the tail. They were holding the bumper and being carried along.
My first reaction was shock—moms should know better than that! They didn’t have helmets! What if they fell, slipped under the wheel, somehow, I don’t know! There was a car behind them—an old man. A surprising, shining grin overwhelmed his face. I started to laugh. The mom dragged the two friends clutching her bumper, the old man was splashed with the surprise of youth and smiled, a fly landed on my damp wrist, and I laughed, suddenly obsessed with a singular, thrilling thought that glittered and perspired before me:
Life is beautiful and we can get away with anything
It’s tricky, I think—holding the phone between your shoulder and cheek, hands free. The phone starts slipping, always. Anyway, I did it uncomfortably as I slouched lower into the armchair and fumbled for an excuse for staying in again. The chair faces the window; there is a park outside. “I can’t go out tonight.” “Why not?” At that moment a barrage of hail fell, all at once, suddenly, from the sky. A bucket of hail upturned clumsily. The ice stones bounced across the soccer field and rested, marbles, the color of cloud, in the grass. I sighed in relief.
13. Francisco’s kids have come to visit him at work today—eight huge glistening eyes staring up at us over the sandwich counter. Two boys, one tiny dirty-kneed girl, and one of an indistinguishable gender.
“Cute kids,” I tell him. He is beaming; his two silver teeth are displayed prominently. My coworkers and I stop to soak up the peripheral glory of a father in love with his children.
Truth is, I find children disgusting and would be thrilled if I could go through life unyoked by their sticky-fingered presence. But more and more I find that lies generally hurt nobody.
I told all the busboys. “Si? Your family?” Yeah. My family’s coming to the restaurant today. I see them out of the corner of my eye at noon—my uncle’s fat white eyebrows resting on his glasses. I stick my arm straight up, like drowning, and wave. “Your mom fell,” says Aunt Shelly. “Across the street. She hurt her arm.” I get nauseous and spill ice all over the floor of the coffee bar as I fill a bag. My mom holds her right arm in her left. “I think it’s broken.” I cannot cry at work. Don’t fucking cry.
I’m faithful to Bossman, the bum who frequents the restaurant, gyrating to Biggie in his headphones all day, and I’m also greedy and obsessed with money, meaning that other bums don’t get much from me. “Can you folks help me out tonight?” The man holds his cup at the bridge over the river at Wabash. I look at him just short of eye contact, somewhere on his cheekbones-"Sorry, man”—and walk on. “You’re pretty,” he says matter-of-factly, not lecherous, and god, I’d hate myself to turn back now but I smile the entire way to the Green Line stop.
Anna had seen dozens, probably, of kisses in the rain magnified and magnificent and courtesy of silver screen magic. Sometimes there were umbrellas, sometimes on-looking pedestrians, but always there was passion that made one feel excluded for never having felt the same so beautifully, without rain-streaked mascara or the discomfort of wet clothes on skin. And when Anna found herself outside of her porch in the midst of a night storm (with Stephen, yes, holding an umbrella), lips on his, all she could think about was the slow sting of her new shoes cutting into the backs of her heels.
Nothing better to do, we’d often take walks through various hometown parks. Back then we’d occasionally seek out secluded spots to make out, until we realized it made us seem like high-schoolers which, having graduated about ten days prior, was a stage we clearly were far beyond. Once that June, I remember, we were walking through Taylor Park and saw a couple having sex, the man behind, next to the tennis courts. It provided us a brief running joke, but in truth some small part of me was envious. To feel such devastating passion that privacy is an afterthought!
Ronica is shaking—heaving, shoulders jerking. I awkwardly pat her shoulder. I don’t know how to do these kinds of things—consolation, empathy.
Her ex-husband’s in the hospital—sickle cell—he had an attack—prognosis is mediocre at best.
“Girl, you never seen me with my beads before.” On her chest rest strands of bright beads. I shake my head. “These are my saints’ beads. They… I only…” and her face breaks.
I always wanted to be the woman who consoles, embraces, whose chest is used as a tissue. I don’t know how to be her so I do nothing.
Emily calls her parents by their first names. Her lips, back when we all used to go out with her on the weekends, tended to be painted raspberry (yes) and her shirts always pastel. I fucking hate Emily. Emily is in Paris for the summer. To take one class. I saw her photo albums online. In them she is smiling enormously in one of many spring dresses in front of cathedrals or sprawling lawns. I look at them and decide I hate rich people and want to be forever financially unstable, because
, but I know I’m lying to myself.
I haven’t had a drink since the second week in May. This is, no doubt, a good thing. The calories I’m saving—I mean, the calories in liquor, have you ever looked up how many calories you’re drinking when you wake up on a dirty floor in your mud-caked shoes and your face smells like dried saliva? And it’s weird, they tell you that eight hours of sleep makes a difference and you think four’s fine but really, you will notice that eight hours, you’ll be able to wake up and oh my god I need to get fucking drunk.
The June of the culmination of senior year in high school means every weekend you will attend at least five graduation parties of your “closest friends.” I didn’t have one. I was afraid nobody would come and there I’d be in my backyard, eating Ruffles alone amid orange and blue balloons. My little sister’s graduation party was today, two to five. I peeked out the window at five til two; my sisters and my dad were playing badminton, the three of them. My gut clenched and I thought,
god, if anyone every hurts my family I’ll fucking kill them
Not so many people know how incredibly easy shoplifting is. First you need to find a store that doesn’t attach security sensors. It should also have changing rooms. Easy. To steal jewelry, you need a hooded/pocketed clothing item. Place jewelry (or other small item) in hood/pocket, bring into changing room, slip into purse, leaving scan tags tucked behind the mirror or beneath a seat cushion. Clothing? All you need’s a changing room and a backpack. Oh, and you’re going to need an easily distracted sense of morality in which you convince yourself it’s the stores’ faults for ridiculous overpricing.
Considering my inexplicable disgust toward dairy, milk especially, I guess it’s ironic that I spend my days making lattes and au laits for bitchy moms double-fisting American Girl Doll Place shopping bags. The smell of burnt milk sticks to my skin, my hair, and I think about that summer in the hospital with the meals, two of them plus snacks. We all had to drink a carton of milk, whole milk, with every carefully configured and institutionally documented meal. I told them I didn’t like milk and I don’t think they heard me, or tried all that hard to.
Dustin hasn’t showed up for work in two days, hasn’t called. If this isn’t quitting, he’s fired anyway. No one has heard from him, so it can only be assumed that he finally tired of the unending retardation of the management and the slow, deliberate annunciation of customers who see Mexican employees and assume general retardation of the staff. But what if something happened? “What if he’s
?” Christina whispers as she arranges pastries. It’s possible. He hasn’t called. He could be dead. I’ve never been to a funeral of anyone I really knew. I wonder if I’d cry.
I’ve found that mild racism is the best starting point for conversation among coworkers you don’t know so well. The new guy is the whitest man alive and I find myself laughing about him—the place at which his pants lie, the way he tried to have “male bonding” by talking with Felipe about how the grill is man’s best friend—on my lunch break. I then gently remind myself
You’re white too, you idiot, and don’t you have anything worthwhile to say?
To which I reply
No, I do not
and laugh along with everyone. Belonging is a great feeling.
When I quit the English major, I decided I hated reading and those obsessed with it—those fucking kids in my American Lit class asking Great Questions about Great Books—“I think the clam chowder in Moby Dick is interesting, because…” I didn’t read a book for months.
Fuck English majors. Think they’re so fucking smart. You’re not important because you’ve chosen an affinity for words.
I felt I’d reached a higher level of intelligence—wisdom through stupidity. I read again now but I barely have the patience for anything more than short stories and I still hate those goddamn English majors.
There’s a pet store called Happiness Is Pets and the sign in the window boasts “Over 100 Puppies!” You go in and all around you are windows, behind which are puppies, fucking wonderful puppies, most of them surrounded by their tiny clusters of shit. Some of them just sit there shivering and some of them, when they see you, press against the glass and try to lick you but of course there’s the glass. More then anything, when I go, I just want to hold a puppy for a while but for some reason I’m too afraid to ask.
Do you ever get the feeling of being very close to fainting? I get that a lot and need to sit down with my head between my knees. First you notice that you’re sweating disgustingly, and then everything will begin to go white and you’ll feel your head burning and then you won’t be able to see anything at all and you’ll need to sit.
(I had a ghost of an idea of who the “you” to whom I directed this was, but it only stayed for a few seconds and then it left. It’s still for you, though.)
Look, I’ll be honest: I don’t write one a day. I get lazy and then I stock up. This is why my last attempt was unfinished. This is also why I don’t get straight A’s like my best friend and roommate who is perfect, and why I have a job requiring a uniform unlike my fellow Notre Damers who have internships at law firms and fucking suck. I wanted to really try and actually do 100 words a day but things like staring into the refrigerator at 1:00 am and intently studying acquaintances’ Last.fm pages get in the way.
Realizations upon first 100Words completion:
-I write too much about work. It’s pretty pathetic.
-I write only what I know and should probably try and know more interesting things.
-I am not interested in my past, because it’s over.
-I was wrong when I thought that drunkenness catalyzes more interesting writing.
-You’re right—the cabbage sketch was great. (Shit—I’ll probably regret that. Whatever.)
-I swear too much.
-I still don’t like writing that much and I do it anyway. That sounds like some teen novel about a brown-haired girl with potential, a born author. I don’t mean it that way.
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