Love.

F is in perfect repose next to me. Dawn’s blue light slips in from between the shades and brightens the hills and valleys of his face. I gently clasp his careworn hand, and he softly squeezes back.

+

He sits at his desk, engrossed. He has the same discerning look as his baby photo that sits just behind. That look, it sparks my core sense of loving urgency. I walk over, fold him in my arms, and inhale his scent. I whisper my words of love into his skin, radiant with his smell. This is home. His hand raises to meet mine, and they embrace.

He’s here. We love. Right now.

+

It’s said by people wiser than me,
That you are to declare
No less often than always
That
You
Love
Them

Before you can’t anymore.

 

 

Herd

8am train.
My own little slice of hell.

It’s the morning business rush; the 9am-ers position themselves along the platform, discreetly eyeing the competition.

The train wheezes into the station, and all order is lost. Herding themselves in front of the door, they commit the cardinal sin of train travel: Never impede passengers trying to exit. Those poor saps barely escape before the herd lumbers on, in search of fulfilling their primal need to sit down. The tense scuffling of feet, exasperated sighs, desperately roving eyes and sudden acrobatic manoeuvres at the sight of an empty seat… I have to admire the organized chaos.

In summertime, add in oafish commoners with ill-fitting cheap sunglasses who lug too much baggage onboard, along with their cross-eyed hyperactive children. Solo travellers scurry on to find an empty pair of seats, plop down, then protectively seat their hardside luggage next to them. I walk by, and they avoid eye contact.

It’s a 15-minute ride. I think I’ll survive if I stand.

I try to read, but I’m distracted by the flutter of conversation around me. Banal conversation, rehashed. Kids, weather, job. I burrow deeper into my book.

Suddenly I catch a whiff that offends my senses, emanating from the miserable latrine. My nostrils are burning. Good God, have these people no shame? Passive-aggressive territoriality at its lowest. How dare they subject the rest of us to the injustice of smelling their beastly morning constitution? Is this what freedom looks like? Forcing others to suffer the indignity of inhaling their ungodly coffee-fueled evacuation…

 

We approach our destination, and these bovines elbow discreetly toward the door. Self-important squares need to be the first off the train. Underlying message: “I’m more important than everyone else here.”

Indeed, we are at the center of our respective universes. Every morning at 8:24am, there are a hundred supremely-important universes fighting an imaginary battle for a prime position on the livestock transport line.

The herd shuffles forward, hooves clacking in the urgent rush. A self-herding mass, headed straight for the abattoir.

 

My heart bays: I don’t belong here.

Girl

8:30am.

I’m at a plastified table at a roadside café.

Gwen Stefani trills “Just a Girl” in my head, and I tap my feet with the drumbeat.

This place is an 80’s dream. Rows of glasses behind the bar, backlit in flourescent. Recessed lights overhead illuminate the curved bar, which is paneled. It looks hollow, as if the panels were made from balsa wood, ready for a Hollywood stuntman to crash into.

All customers, me included, have found seats in various alcoves along the perimeter of the wall. We’re burrowed in, and nobody makes eye contact.

Scratch-ticket enthusiasts scratch.
Lotto gamblers hand over betting slips.
Construction workers puff generously-rolled cigarettes and drink espresso from tiny cups.
Neighborhood regulars with gravelly chuckles sit muttering to themselves.
I listen, write, sip coffee.

My coffee tastes weird, watery and tinny, giving me the impression the water and grounds have been re-used.

A subdued, anonymous air hangs still in the café. Outside, traffic moans and chugs by. A huge truck bed is full of spiralled hay bales, like great unrisen cinnamon buns.

A parking lot buzzes with morning vitality. A man, half-asleep and wearing two days’ worth of five-o’clock shadow reaches into his car, thereby exposing the forbidden recess of his upper buttcrack, and his flaccid paunch hangs forward.

All the while, I’m humming to myself.

I’m just a girl in the world…

Steady

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(4)

Tense aggression in the heat of frustration. What to do? My body can’t take this explosion of anger, I’ve got to have a physical outlet. Stupid Barbie, why don’t you do what I want? I hate you. Bite, clench hard. Quickly take a look. It’s all bent. Why did I do that? Now she’s ruined.

She still lives in a large plastic bin of forgotten toys in a basement, frozen smile, frizzy hair, and deformed hand.

 

(12)

School bus. Meekness puts me on the radar, makes me a target.

Get out of my space, get away from me…

Through my geeky spectacles, I’m seeing red. I wish I wasn’t alone on this bus, I wish I had a forcefield of friends to protect me. Body recoils, hotly tense. I hate you. I want your ugly, mocking smile to go away. My fist jumps out like a snake from the bushes, and connects with a hollow thunk. The bully facade crumbles to give a glimpse of his true face: a confused pre-teen boy who desperately needs to be cool.

I escape from the school bus, and soon after I notice small rocks dancing at my feet. Turn around, and he and his friend are throwing their parents’ decorative landscaping pebbles at me. Very tough indeed. I speed-walk home, tail between my legs.

 

(16)

I’ve learned that “no” is a question of interpretation. “Leave me alone” communicates an invitation for more undesired attention. My pathetic defenses have been exhausted. There’s a key to surviving here that I just don’t have. Why don’t I have it; how do I get out of this?

In class. Day after day, explicit sinister whispers chip away at me. I wish I could take my skin off and disappear. One after another, ugly comments meant to do what? Wear me down, violate my comfort; I’m tired of it. What did I do to deserve it? Tension, heart is boiling again. Stop fucking with me. I didn’t ask for this.

Teacher leaves room, and I can liberate the Me that lives inside, vibrant and angry and electric. The current extends out from my hand, slices around to meet his face. Jaw wobble, sharp intake of air, now I’m tingling. I plaster on a smile, eyes forward, like a good little scholarly robot-mannequin.

 

(30)

A student is going on the offensive; they’ve taken constructive criticism personally, which has led to aggression; at least, that’s what it feels like.

Needles in my skin, chest is hot. Voice and hands want to tremble.

I’ve given my professional opinion, and this poor sap feels the need to retaliate, and turn to the typical cheap ploy of ping-ponging their insecurity back onto me. I’m not having it. This time, I’ve got a full arsenal of words at my disposal. With firm professional efficacy, I defend my position and steer this person out of my space.

 

Same internal response.
Different course of action.
Growth.

Snapshot: Nausea

In class, one-to-one with a young woman. Her limp ponytail drags between her slumped shoulders. I’m patiently listening to her gulpy, whispered half-responses. Gently, I ask for a full sentence, and she’s staring down at the table, cold. Out of my peripheral vision, the television in the next room plays a special report: death rituals in some faraway country. The desiccated, hollow, toothy face of a man’s dead father comes up onscreen. My eyebrows twist in morbid fascination as he explains the bathing and offering of food and cigarettes to the mummified body of his father.

My attention whips back to my student, and I tune back in. It’s been almost a full minute of silence. I rephrase in favor of a black-or-white question. She continues staring down, frozen in time.

The full-length window facing the sidewalk buzzes with passersby. One figure looks in, then turns and stops. Staring at me through the window, vulgar, slack-jawed, grimy canvas vest, clutching a tattered shopping bag. I flush when my eyes meet his, and hurriedly tune back in to my student, who is just finishing her carefully composed response.

My eyes crinkle with a plaster-toothed, dry smile. “Great,” my voice creaks.

Vacation

Lying snuggled in the comforters, with double the space and pillows because F’s gone off to work. Bye sweetie, I’ll be having breakfast in bed… Sucka…

Going for a walk as the day starts warming up, basking in the best golden sunlight of the day.

Making thoughtful, well-prepared meals.

Taking that precious 3pm nap.

Tasting a fine Irish whiskey at noon if I feel like it.

Unburdened by the clock.

Deep breaths, birdsong.

Love, love, love.

Smug

“Yeah, when I was in New York on business…”

“Those 2 weeks I was in the U.S…”

“The food is terrible… all those hamburgers and hot dogs…”

“American culture?  What culture?”

“There’s not much history there, is there?”

“Ugh, that American accent… I can’t understand a thing!”

“The thing about Americans is…”

 

I mold my teeth back into a stiff-lip chiclet smile.  Heh, heh.  Very amusing.  They look so comfortable, self-assuredly snickering at a caricature of a country they love to shit on.

I observe with fascination the smug joy in their eyes, the derisive wheezy laugh.  All driven by a glaringly misguided, yet gloriously seductive need to be better than.

Why should I rain on their shit-parade?  I wouldn’t dare spoil their moment of naive delight by questioning their pseudo-intellectual, stunningly brash hubris.  There are indeed plenty of things to criticize, sure, but they’re pulling at low-hanging rotten fruit.  The bland revelation is too simple, too deliciously satisfying to resist.

Is this how they go through life?  Satisfied with a facile, self-serving version of reality, with no desire to learn more?

I’m not offended at their (perhaps unintentionally) injurious comments; that would be too easy.  No, I’m learning.  This is a pernicious trap of logic, a hasty generalization.  Such exchanges remind me to work to avoid this pitfall myself.

“Mm-hmm.  Whatever you say.  On to page 2…”