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I can't stop scratching my hands and looking at the clock.
I hate waiting for doctors like I hate waiting for the bus - I'm putting myself out there with no real proof my faith will be rewarded. Sure, the trifolded blue and white sheet says I'll just have to wait 'til 8:37, but lots of things are said solely in the interest of keeping guilt and responsibility at bay. I'll probably just stand here freezing while assholes speed by in their Daddy's Mustangs, igniting cigarettes with car lighters. I've no reason not to trust you, but no reason to, either.
There's another girl in the waiting room who looks about 20.
She's not attractive but not unattractive. She's reading some dippy celebrity magazine, the cover of which features the breakup of a couple who are famous for being famous. They're looking over their shoulders at each other as they walk in opposite directions on a New York sidewalk, as if the photographer caught the exact moment the breakup was official, gravity weighing on their shoulders, perhaps regret swimming in their eyes like a fish that wants to be caught.
This being a dippy magazine, they're separated by a cartoon thunderbolt.
The girl notices me staring at her magazine and gives me this put out, "take a picture, it'll last longer" face, the sullen teen version of the cartoon old lady with the cracked monocle.
Somehow I get the feeling that she's not really all that put out but feels she should be, was taught to be by her friends, the way her prettier friends act put out by random guys hitting on them because it happens so often it's just exhausting, all these locusts in denim and cheap cologne trying to suck up all their oxygen.
Maybe I shouldn't judge.
I take my cue and look away, pretend there's suddenly something interesting on the wall opposite me. Not working.
I shift in my seat like I'm trying not to fall asleep at the movies and leaf through the crumpled magazines on the table to my right. I find the same one the girl was looking at, only a much older issue, from last summer. The cover on this one features a totally over the top popcorn movie involving aliens and Tommy Lee Jones keeping the public calm. It makes me sad 'cuz it's the last movie I saw with you.
So. That's not working, either. I put the magazine down and find another.
There's some boring womens' magazine with "Dancer's Thighs in 30 Days!" in the corner and pornographically delicious looking cookies spilling out of a basket as its cover star. It's less offensive than the "how to land a man" centered magazines; it assumed you landed the man long ago and were more concerned with his offspring mouthing off and soaking up violence on TV. I almost put it down, but the cover promised a chicken recipe that sounded good.
So then I leaf through the magazine looking for the basil chicken recipe.
A bunch of stuff spills out onto my lap - the usual subscription cards, stuff to send away for ugly lighthouse themed collectibles. But underneath these was a Polaroid. Of the doctor I was about to see. It was amazing to me that I knew what my primary care doctor looked like, that he wasn't just a paint by numbers image my mind conjured up through the alchemy of his name, and my ass in the waiting room seat simply because of a familiar sounding address under his name.
I knew his face because I was here for a followup of a suspicious looking mole. And also because my cousin was engaged to this doctor.
So who slipped this picture of Dr. Peterson looking trashed, his arm around a girl in a spandex Budweiser dress, between a self help book excerpt and an ad for feminine deodorant spray? Someone with an agenda, that's who. The girl's age was of questionable legality. This little square of incrimination gave me quite a bit of power, like a gift I wasn't quite sure what to do with but better not waste. Hmm...yes.
I slipped the picture into the thin part of my purse, the part where you put stuff to be quickly grabbed, like a transit card or checkbook.
The girl in the waiting room gave me a suspicious look, like she knew I was up to something funny. Or was that just her default setting? I turned away, cool as a cucumber, and resumed looking at boring magazines. I wanted to look at the picture again, but wanted to be coy, too. Showmanship or personal gratification? Why did they always have to be different sides of the coin? Power is such sweet agony.
I watch Thomas hammer nails into the paint by numbers picture of a cat. It's hanging on your wall, low and in the corner, like a door for a gnome. It's the perfect height for your little brother to sit on the floor and hammer nails into the eyes.
I think he's trying to put a curse on the image, something that makes sense in his 6-year-old brain's interpretation of religion, to exact revenge on a cat who scorned his petting advances. As he leans back, I see he's actually arranging nails in a precise pattern to form steel eyelashes.
"Thomas, what are you doing?" you ask. "Making kitty pretty," Thomas says.
He's engrossed in his work. Should a 6-year-old be allowed to use a hammer? Probably not, but he's been doing such a good job and is quiet for the first time all day, so we roll with it. He looks nimble as a Teamster working that tool. Or would you say sculptor? I mentally age Thomas and try to figure what kind of life he'll lead. Such a sweet, earnest face with straight dead ahead pupils, like he knows he'll have to fend for himself and will manage.
How many problems are solved in this way? The tools get thrust into the hands of someone who'd never be offered them, probably shouldn't have them in the first place, yet everything turns out beautifully as a song. How many of us would be dead without the careful machinery of this accidental brilliance? We're unworthy slugs who should be smothered in salt yet we're saved through a lucky twist of fate that places the executioner's blade inches away so we feel the wind from the thrust yet not the sharp, deadly slice. As the wind whips by we are saved.
Don't give me that fucking look; I answered your question. You just don't like my answer.
You want to poke holes in my answer to see what bleeds from it, mix it with your favorite artificial sweetener and twist it into something you can serve friends rather than just use it to lance the damn boil, its intended purpose.
You've got all them all old ladies oohing and ahhing over the pain you took from me and threw on the canvas, like you're the one who felt it, when really you're just a human tape recorder. Can't I pick 'em...
The robot dog walks across your cock as you smirk at me.
You quick bip boop some buttons on a controller to make it stand up. "Doggy want a bone!" Good God, did you actually say that? Am I actually standing in the same room as you? And didn't your ex-girlfriend buy you that robot dog? I wish he'd grow teeth and bite you. Why do I wish anything about you at all? Why do you take up my mental space? I should sponsor a child and put them there instead.
You stand before me crushed, holding up your project like it pains you to, as if it's akin to exposing yourself in public when you're the type to have nightmares about that rather than the type to gleefully enjoy inflicting yourself on the unsuspecting, like in a Kenzaburo Oe novel.
No, you're just a regular, decent fellow who finds such things abhorrent. But can't find a way out of it 'cuz I asked to see your project. It's velvet-covered cardboard with pins and strings in the shape of Illinois.
The kitty walked toward me on the couch with an inquisitive nose but made a face like she was smacked and ran away (I smell like Vick's Vap-O-Rub). She shoots off like a flag shot out of a cannon, in the process knocking over your bag, setting off a jangle of keys muffled in scattered papers.
I sigh, move to a seated position and sluggishly leave the couch to sweep up the debris. There's a thin pink cell phone on the floor in your pile of tote bag vomit, obviously not yours. I pick it up and fiddle with buttons.
I'm tired of being cryptic but don't have the guts to take life straight, no chaser.
I feel like I'm all smoke and mirrors and nothing solid. Just keep everything moving fast enough so no one notices there's nothing there. Maybe the moonlight hits a glimmer of something real every once in awhile, like hearing a prophet on talk radio on a late night drive home from Topeka, Kansas.
People drink to get rid of this feeling; you're creepin' everybody out. Suck down your Soma and get back to work.
She checked her lipstick in the flip down mirror on the driver's side. She aimed her pupils straight ahead like the butts of guns she'd wield to plunge straight through the world without being forced to tolerate any bullshit. People wouldn't naturally yield; she'd need props.
She tried to ignore the tears spilling down her face like they were whining kids who'd only be encouraged by attention. She slaps the mirror back up on the ceiling as if smacking a volleyball. Her stereo played "girl, you thought he was a man, but he was a muffin..." She turned the key.
Why do all these stories involve inertia rather than flight?
Be like a rolling stone and gather no moss. Gather nothing but momentum, the wind on your back, your enemies looking on in envy, rise like mercury in a feverish patient, rise and hit the bell and win a teddy bear, but keep going, fly through a bird and make it land in a back yard and feed a family, fly through a frisbie and make it fall down on a record player and nudge the needle on it as it spins around and plays for us angels with answers.
Beads of sweat gather on my neck like insects that are insignificant on their own, yet gain power to blot out the sun when they band together and form a menacing garment of wings and thoraces and feelers rubbing together in anticipation.
I look for your car. I keep seeing cars of a similar color and make. Even when I make out details that make it clear they're not yours - the wrong number of doors, a hatch back instead of a trunk - I keep trying to convince myself they belong to you, keep mentally mushing the drivers' features into yours.
Here I sit again, carving my ethernet scrimshaw while there's some yuppie actor party next door and the city's abuzz with pheromones and Springtime.
Do the choices you make really get you what you want, or just get you by? If you're asking yourself that question at all, I'm guessin' it's the latter. If you've got what you want you're not thinking of philosophy. "A better day is comin' for you and for me," Curtis Mayfield sang. I want to kiss your hand but can only wish you well. Overthinking is hell and these idiots keep ringing the wrong buzzer.
Man, you're a dead ringer with that BB gun. You musta had them rednecks on the run. Peppering the ground and makin' 'em dance, the less talented winding up with hot buckshot ass.
Oddly enough, that's the name of the local favorite dish at the town diner: Rump roast of rabbit with peas marinated in Mama's special sauce so they resemble BBs. Sometimes bratty kids fling them around and it's hard to completely scrub the sauce off the countertops when they do.
Hot buckshot ass is recommended for sophisticated diners.
It was a perfectly lovely day today. Does this mean I'm getting lazy and just deigning to do diary stuff? Eh well, today I am, anyway.
And look, it's actually April 22! I usually write a whole bunch of these in several days rather than writing one a day every day. Ain't that always the way? The 11th hour conversion and all that. The putting everything on credit and then getting fist fucked by the bill rather than doing sensible little bite sized pieces in sensible little bite sized increments.
In relationships I'm also a bottler and then a blurter.
My head is a Milton Bradley game from the '70s and one of the corners of the box top is separated from the others because of years of people pulling at it during tense family fun evenings. All the pieces are shook out of their compartments and the cards spilled on the floor like roof shingles after a hurricane.
A raccoon snuck into the basement and knocked the game from the top storage shelf to the floor. I think everyone had forgotten the game was there and wouldn't have even seen if it not for the raccoon. Who'll play me?
Dry ice shoots all around us and lets out turbo powered sighs.
This place is cheesy. But it's having the desired effect. And that smoky powder smell! They say that smell is the most powerful sensory link to memory, and they must be right because even though my rational brain can see how cheesy and artificial the atmosphere is, part of my brain feels just like it did at 18, when I really would've found this to be a sexy mystery world and really would've thought that meeting some silly boy from another suburb would've turned my world inside out.
"Not a bad life, this," Bill said.
He sat on the windowsill drinking a Tecate, left leg bent with Puma'd foot up on the sill while the right leg dangled to the floor. He looked embraced by his surroundings like the Miller High Life girl in the moon.
A breeze blew in through the open window and the trumpets of Mexican radios spangled like jewels in the air. A dog walked by on the sidewalk and looked up at us like he wanted to be petted but was sure he'd be hit. I try to draw Bill; busy my hands.
Bill's the sort who'd say "not a bad life, this," no matter where he was, and make you believe him. He's a talisman of calm; be near him, and your equilibrium is restored.
So he has a special talent for attracting strays with hungry eyes and overly apologetic manners. Like me. Bill's got a heart big as Montana. It's contagious. Only I don't know how to handle it; I feel like I walk funny with this big, dumb lump of love swelling up in my chest. I look at his eyes and wonder what he sees outside. Try to breathe.
I'm shopping like a fugitive again. That can't say anything good about my state of mind. $1.49 for one orange at 7-11.
I'm foraging like a raccoon, eating and running, whereas a few weeks ago I'd pore over cooking magazines and try to fill my pantry with love and a sense of order, try to purchase my way into being matriarch of my tiny kitchen, try to fashion myself into someone who welcomes guests warmly with cocktails and the scent of baking bread.
Now I have the attention span of a cricket and any decision feels overwhelming and oppressive. Cursed.
"Get that spider!"
"Why don't you get it?"
"It's closer to you."
"I ain't got the problem with him; you do. And don't you remember the story about the spider that saved Jesus from King Herrod's soldiers?"
"Are you drinking?"
"They were hiding from soldiers in a cave and a spider made a gigantic web over the cave opening to keep them from view."
"You wish a spider would do the same for you, don't you? That's why you won't kill him."
I start to say "yes, actually," but am startled by how violently you smack him to death. Splat.
Careful with your heart, girl. You need it to live and yet treat it like a cocktail napkin for some fucker to wipe barbecue sauce on.
You try to connect the dots and unlock happiness through a song but it's kind of like how they build products to disintegrate after a couple years. Companies profit off your need and only give you the illusion of what you want, counting on you to grow dependent and ever purchasing, ever hoping. Maybe you should just buy 20 toasters at once to be set for the apocalypse. No Poptart can fuck you over.
Today's page in the Word A Day calendar is "bedevil - to torment mercilessly; plague." Even the calendar is mocking me!
Will April showers bring May flowers or will misery just beget more misery? When the trickster comes a-poking, will you poke back, or just let him three hole punch you and slap you in his binder of suckers? He'll bring you to the board meeting with enough copies of you for all the shareholders and say "2006 yielded a bumper crop. We can now declare the Soul Harvest Initiative an unmitigated success. Cocktail reception at 9:30. Give yourselves a hand."
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