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I'm in a perpetual phase of transition which doesn't seem to be phasing out.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Shit American Humans do that's annoying (in my opinion)

1.) When adult females wear pigtails, especially unbraided ones...they look like the ears of a hound.
2.) Regarding social media related shiz:
A.) When people post pictures of other peoples' children on Facebook. WTF? It's confusing and kind of creepy.
B.) When people post pictures of what they cooked for dinner and use some fancy hipster filters to make meatloaf, instant mashed potatoes and a warmed up can of lima beans look awesome.
C.) When people legitimately, sincerely, to the depths of their hearts, think that others enjoy looking at multiple pictures of their pets.
4.) When people argue about shit that doesn't matter, or shit they can't control, or shit they can't control that also doesn't matter. This can get real ugly at the bar, but at least it's amusing for spectators. However, when the internet is used as a platform, it's just plain irritating.
5.) When I split a bill at a restaurant with some various friend who makes more money than I do and I furtively glance at his/her receipt and see that he/she has left a shitty tip. Well I guess that means I will tip extra so that the percent for the table will be at least 20% for that very sweet and kinda hot waitress we had, thanks buddy.
6.Social Theatrics:
A.) When I meet someone for the first time and ask them what they do and they give me more than a 3 sentence explanation. I just can't listen with any sort of interest past 3 sentences. And if he/she does something legitimately awesome with his/her life, like goes to Africa with doctors without borders or whatever, I just feel jealous and pissed, and then I wonder how much that person's parents make for a living (which is terrible, I know).
B.) (This one is more about how I'm annoying, and how I annoy myself) When I have to go to functions full of acquaintances and we all have to play the game of "So what are you up to these days?" And people make really good eye contact with me because they've been told that's what you're supposed to do, and then I feel this anxiety that makes me talk a whole bunch about nothing. And then I get really stressed out feeling like I come across as though I think I'm real important. When really all I'm trying to say is "my life is dumb and I'm perpetually miserable".

To be continued as I find myself getting pissed off throughout the coming days and weeks and years.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Jibber Jabber Nonsense

In The Last Puritan by my beloved Santayana, an older, cultured man is discussing Whitman with his teenaged son. The son reads a line from an earmarked page in his father’s Whitman collection: “I could turn and live with the animals, they are so placid…They do not weep for their sins. They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God.” There is a pause and then the son asks his father: “Don’t you like that?” The father responds: “I like the first three words: I could turn. Deeply felt, they would mean conversion, repentance. They might have been spoken by Buddha or John the Baptist.”
I’m taking this somewhat out of context because the character goes on to discuss how Walt Whitman is as superficial as Rousseau and is like “Marie Antoinette playing the shepherdess”, I just got stuck on the idea of leaving it as “I could turn”. There is so much potential in that line. Earlier in the passage the father expresses his admiration for “orientals” remarking: “their way of using words is far subtler than ours…”
I’m a wordy person, in speech and in writing. I talk excessively and use too many words when writing, probably for lack of a strong vocabulary. Simplicity does not come naturally to me in thought either. I obsess over seeing things “as they are” so much that I think I kind of miss the point. Objectivity is an impossibility, I am stuck within myself, and I feel as though I’m fated to always be as I’ve always been, and I’m not always sure what that is, but then sometimes I feel so very sure of what that is, of who I am, that I constrain personal growth, yet still I grow all the more, and probably miss out on a lot of it. More than anything I wish I was subtler, more enigmatic.
[“The animal looks at us and we are naked before it. Thinking perhaps begins there.”
-Derrida from “The Animal that therefore I Am.”]
I’ve spent a good deal of my time at the Outer Banks, for whatever reason (possibly because I’m as far east as one could get in United States, I’m on the outskirts, I’m sort of a bystander), pondering what the American identity is, if there is one. The issues arise that arise for everyone who is American and thinks about this; “is there a congruous train of thought, mode of being, idea of self in relation to one’s culture carried through from person to person in this nation?” Well, the obvious answer in my mind is no, though probably most members of other nations would admonish this conclusion in favor of the stereotypical conception of Americans as well, all of those things people say about us. “Us”, funny I wrote that inclusive term just after saying we are incongruous.
I was watching some Yale lectures on Youtube one day and a psychology professor discussed some sort of syndrome that most people have, the name of this syndrome has escaped me, in which a person feels that they are far more transparent to others than they actually are. I found this interesting, because I tend to think that people more introverted than myself probably feel the opposite,that they are more opaque than maybe I perceive them to be. But this gloats my own powers of intuition, which usually are not as dead-on as I’d like to believe, and this might also somewhat paradoxically support the presence of said syndrome.
People are complex. One thing I’ve noticed from person to person to person whom I have encountered over the years is a deep, often unadmitted dissatisfaction with life. Hiding from isolation is a sentiment I see in so many folks, including myself. It’s a coping mechanism, a form of endurance in life. Americans: We are good at enduring. Maybe people think we’re greedy, maybe people think we are shallow, fat, dumb, lazy etc. And sometimes these things may be valid, and I’m not even trying to be romantic or complimentary when I say we endure. There are some negative aspects of sustained endurance. You can’t stay on a treadmill forever without eventually contemplating that the mechanical track controls your every move. We do think about these things. We think about how much we hate our lives, our routines and sometimes even the people we see every day. We are deeply existential, so much so that we pretend we’re not. We live as though we will always endure, as though we have the stamina to outlive death.
Hiding from isolation. That’s what we do best. People think it is taboo to eat alone and they feel sad for people who do. To feel something for a stranger is kind of bull shit. It’s like personifying a rock. It’s useless and unfair. And this leads me to think about the world created by the individual and the conceptualizations we have about the different things that we see. Are we ever right about anything? Probably not.  
A bi-product of the self-absorption that somewhat satirically has come to define the American identity is a mutated self sufficiency. I’ve made lots of phone calls in my time trying to talk to someone about some sort of emotional issue that has arisen in my life and even without being able to read facial cues, I can tell the person is only half listening at best. And I’ve played the role of the shitty listener many a time too. True transcendental empathy just doesn’t seem to be a thing anymore if it ever was. We are fundamentally alone and we constantly distract ourselves from what is closest to us; from ourselves, from “aloneness”.  
I spoke with a co-worker recently and admitted to my deep love for heady, haughty literature. This is not something I openly share with others. In a sense, I’m sort of ashamed and embarrassed about it. Well I told him that the reason I read the stuff that I do is because I like to get an understanding of just how much these people overthink everything, to sort of absorb others’ intellectual intensification of their surroundings, and to bring it back down to actual reality in my mind. Which is a total paradox, a sort of reversal of critical thinking which does nothing but make me just as hyper-observant and absurd in my interpretations of experience as these weirdo eccentrics that I love to hate and hate to love are. My co-worker said to me “Yeah sometimes Tom Sawyer is just Tom Sawyer.” I liked that a lot. But who is Tom Sawyer, really? jk

Saturday, December 1, 2012

No idea. No ideas.

Being, and the world.
Being in the world.
Both at once,
And never at the same time.

The coast is a bit sad this time of year. I'm a bit sad this time of year. One month to go. Then back into the great unknown. Small rooms and routines made me forget that I never left it, and that nothing was really unknown ever anyway, and that it's all unknown just the same. But the blurred past always seems so romantic. I have no idea what happened then, but it feels better than this, always better than this. This fleeting moment that's always slipping away and always seeming the same. I remember what I was yesterday, never the day before that, but it was the same day anyhow really. And tomorrow is quickly approaching and I'm not sure what I'll say to her, or more importantly, what she'll have to say to me. And that's all just fun really, and a good excuse to be worried, conflicted and sad. And what am I without a little conflict? Well I'm not sure, but that's what I've been for months now, and I can't seem to remember any of it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sticky Notes

I write a lot of crap down on sticky notes while I'm bored at work. I collect fees for entrance into a park all day. It's winter. At the beach. I don't have many takers.

Some sticky notes:

She looked like a fish, but, I must say, a lovely fish.

His cat was watching us fuck. The guy couldn't bear it, laughed uncontrollably. He was embarrassed, ashamed. We stopped. "Kitty"...what a stupid name for a cat, and not because of it's lack of imagination, but because that was the point.

It took me a while to realize that I, myself, am on the fringes too.

Do people faint from the site of blood because of some unconscious fear of death? Well if that's the explanation, then we should all faint when we see blood. I got queasy earlier when I pricked my finger by accident. I don't usually get queasy with the site of blood.

Would you consider me an eccentric?  And does the shape of my nose annoy you? It annoyed a girl who rode the same bus as me in middle school. She told a different Emily about it and then that Emily told me. Come to think of it, all of our names are Emily (assuming they are both still alive.)

Sometimes people physically near me feel so far away that I assume they have great depth of character.

It bothers me that my Dad thinks wind chimes are annoying. That's like saying you hate rainbows. I kind of think wind chimes are annoying. I also think poetry about the beauty of nature is annoying.

My little pet tree in my room is losing its leaves but I don't think it's dying. How the hell did that happen? It's an INDOOR tree.

I once saw some pictures on Facebook of a mentally handicapped guy I grew up with sitting on his parents' back porch (in NC) with Snooki from Jersey Shore. I still don't know the context behind this photo, and for the purposes of indulging in the absurd, I hope to never find out.

The signature line on credit card receipts no longer shows up for some reason, so I always have to ask visitors to just sign the bottom of the receipt. Even when I say it, it really throws people off when they look at it (plus it's not like they're listening to me). They sorta hover the tip of the pen  above the paper and make scribbling motions in the air, while quizzically trying to determine where to press it down and sign. We get so used to things appearing in certain ways even in varying settings, that we are totally thrown off when things don't match our much ingrained  preconceived expectations. I explained to one couple that the signature line 'just disappeared one day and never came back.' They both laughed hysterically about this. They looked like academics, or people who dress like academics. I wonder if they simply thought it was a clever witticism (which is wasn't, who am I kidding here?) or if they were just being generous, or if on some level they comprehended the desperation I feel in this existentially monotonous (or monotonously existential?) box I'm in, at least on some sociological/theoretical level." (yes I sometimes use more than one sticky note.)

My life is recorded on video camera for forty hours of the week by the federal government. (I doubt the camera views what it is recording as "Emily's life", it really sees "a sterile room where the movements of bodies rarely occur, (except for when a girl power paces madly from one side of the small space to the other) and where money could potentially be stolen, but probably won't, and I'm a video camera, so I'm objective anyway, and this is just a room.)This really doesn't help my battle with narcissism, nor my crippling paranoia, nor my hopeless exhibitionism.

I like the word implosion. It's very fitting a lot of the time.

Patrick Watson's "Fireweed"

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Step 1 of Applying for Jobs. Step 2 will arrive shortly, if I get bored enough applying for jobs and feel driven to write it.

Applying for jobs is the worst. The vast majority of young Americans, and older Americans too for that matter, can agree with me on that.  There are steps to applying for a position. I don’t mean in the sense that I follow some bullshit list of guidelines that I picked up at my college’s career center, though I did do that after just one too many badgering phone calls from my mother...
“Alright, Alright, I’ll go to the goddamn career center.”
“Don’t say G.D., Emily, you know that upsets me.”
“Fine. I will go to the G.D. career center.”

Boy did that help. The lady basically told me, (not in so many words, and of course this is emotionally exaggerated due to my utter post-graduate despair) that I was useless to society and should just stay in school. Then she handed me some b.s. printed on colorful paper that I found crusty and wrinkled in the trunk of my car a year later and threw away without ever perusing.

Anyway, I have steps. Not some sort of standard procedure I wrote for myself on a series of sticky notes and then pasted on my fridge to irritate myself enough to apply for jobs. Nope, it’s just basically a pattern I follow each and every time. The first step consists of being totally consumed and hindered by the initial feelings of dred, helplessness, doubt, avoidance and the uninhibited act of procrastination which generally consists of refreshing Facebook every 30 to 90 seconds to see if I have any red shit at the top. Then I go to links of memes and youtube videos; laugh hysterically, sob violently, and have feelings of overwhelming fatalism due to the beliefs of the Republican party displayed in big text in front of unflattering photos of President Obama.

Then I think about how small and unimportant I am, which coincidentally reminds me that I’m supposed to be applying for a job, which chances are I won’t get. This is a bad attitude. I know it is.  And I think about my shitty attitude and feel even shittier, and nope, I don’t ever get to a place where I feel a renewed sense of personal strength and want to prove myself wrong.  Which would probably make my job applications way, way better. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

First Date Between Two Match.commers

"What do you want to achieve with your life?" He asked.

"What the fuck kind of a question is that?" She responded with the tonality of a question but the implication that she would be disappointed by his response regardless of what it was. 

Disregarding her underlying aggrevation, he began to answer this question with a self-righteous response (because he clearly already felt like he was achieving lots and lots). "What would you like your obituary to note as your most significant...."

She got up and walked off from their little table at the coffee shop and headed home.  Then logged onto the dating site and felt as depressed as every other time she did so.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Death of an Insect

I was a fly
On her fiberglass shower wall
It was a bath-less shower,
A claustrophobic one
In this misanthrope’s
Bachelor pad.
As I was resting there,
I decided I wanted to 
Catch her attention,
Maybe come in for a bite,
A meal.
I buzzed in front of her eyes.
She opened them
And blinked a few times
As water soaked and re-soaked her lashes
Then she zeroed in on me
With crossed eyes
And quickly clapped her hands together.

She got me.
And looked down
To watch my little black form
Go down the drain 
Then crossed herself
And quickly became aware
Of the absurd superstition
Brought on by this blasphemy
And conversed with God in her mind
Telling him he wasn’t real
And therefore shouldn’t be angry with her,
Not for killing me,
But for enjoying it.
That he couldn’t be wrathful nor vengeful
Towards her
Because he didn’t exist.
(And nothing did happen to her.
Karma’s a bitch that way sometimes)

Her mind shifted to a recollection
Of a lecture in an ancient religion course
Back in undergrad
About those females Jains
Who swept the ground
Before every step they took
To prevent crushing any organisms
Along their path
Which consequently led to the death
Of some organisms
The girl presumed.
Which would’ve been sort of comical
Had she not felt envious
Of these ladies’ good intentions.
But she giggled to herself anyway

And now I’m in her internal plumbing
And I hope to God she feels permanently constipated.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Few Marital Observations by a Never-Wed Spinster.

A car pulled up to the entrance of the park, like so many other hundreds of cars tend to do. No difference at all. Nobody is ever different here, at least they don't appear to be at the day's end, which is the only part of the day I remember, because it's the end of the day right now. All is a blur. Except for maybe the ones that say something exceedingly outlandish. But that's rare. The jokes and comments are always the same. It's comical really. But not because anything is ever funny.

The car pulled up. I remember this one because the driver's credit card receipt signature looked almost identical to mine. Its swoops were inscrutably similar. And it freaked me out.  

When the car got to the window I watched a heart that looked like white icing disappear into the car door as the driver rolled down the window. As he did this I looked towards the back windshield of the car. "Just Married". Thought so.

Then I looked into the car and in the brief split second before I said hello, I glanced at both of them. They were young, very young. Like nineteen or something. Probably couldn't even legally buy a drink yet.

They were both dark haired and tan and exactly equal in their physical attractiveness. I'd give them about a 7.8 if my recollection serves me well. Pretty solid. They almost looked like brother and sister really. Funny how often that seems to be the case in the endless demographics I amateurishly study all day.  I'm becoming an expert intaker of this data really. Or maybe just a racist with no racial preference. But I'm white so that sounds like bull-shit.

Some say marriage is a dying institution. I see no sign of that. Maybe that's because I live in the South. Maybe it's not.

I was super friendly to these visitors, and greeted them with an "Oh ya'll are newly weds! Congratulations!" Sometimes I get excited for other people about things unrelated to myself. Which happens more often than I would ever expect.

They looked happy, really happy.

Well of course they did! They were on their honeymoon. 

I wanted to say something like "savor these moments". As if I know a damn thing about the stages of married life. I guess I feel like I kind of do. Which has no real empirical grounding outside of observing other peoples' marriages and watching reality t.v. (which everyone knows isn't reality).


I remember another couple too from a few days back. An elderly couple. The man was an overweight white guy who was not aging well. The woman was Asian and was much more attractive than he.  They were probably not too far apart in age.

The reason these folks stick out in my mind is because they wore the exact same facial expression. They say married people start to look alike overtime. These were two folks whose facial expressions were fully dissimilar but they resembled each other regardless. They both wore this almost clownish frown that accentuated their jowls. The corners of their eyes kind of sank down into their cheeks and they looked mutually miserable. In that way that some older couples look who tolerate each other and will never leave the other. Who go everywhere together and kind of hate each other but would never even consider being unfaithful.

I made up a story about them in my head. How back in the early eighties he found her through a mail order bride service based somewhere in Southeast Asia. And somehow this arranged marriage worked and not at all because they were compatible.

I always cry at weddings.
Every fucking time.
Like clock-work,
They say their vows
and I'm a hot mess.
Even if the vows suck.
I think it's because in the moment
They really mean it;
They'll love each other 'til the end.
(Even if later it's not the case,
But that's later, and not then
And doesn't matter until it does)
And its sweet because they really do mean it
And sad because I don't have that
And funny because I don't want it,
And awful because I do,
And worse because I think it's bull shit.

And worst because I don't.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Moncks Corner Wax Museum

I used to frequent a wax museum. It was nothing like that gigantic chain museum with wax sculptures of Oprah Winfrey, Ronald Reagan and various other famous folks. This one was located in a tiny South Carolina town called Moncks Corner, and was itself quite small. It’s not there anymore. It melted away in a mirage one night that escaped me when I rehydrated somewhere in the desert of my frontal lobe, or maybe my earlobe. I’m wearing clip-on earrings now after all. The holes grew back just as the foliage did where the wax museum once stood.
A tall but bent-over, unusually spunky and eccentric old man ran the place (go figure). He was deaf as a doorknob. Only he could hear perfectly well, but preferred for people to think he couldn’t hear a damn thing. He even wore a big, archaic hearing aide whose little green light was never illuminated.  Maybe at one point that particular aide was in vogue with the elderly and he just couldn’t let go of an era lost. His face had grown smaller over the years due to it caving in a significant bit around the mouth as more and more teeth fell out and were not replaced with dentures. The bottom of his glasses’ frames nearly reached the corners of his curled-in lips. He was emaciated looking everywhere except his belly. There he maintained a small gut that sank with the curvature of his spine.
This old man wrote notes to visitors on a small wooden-framed chalkboard that looked as if it were meant for a 19th century schoolboy. He had it strung around his neck with a surprisingly modern piece of multi-colored nylon rope. I often wondered where he got that rope, because it seemed as though he hadn’t left his museum in decades. It was as if he, himself were a permanent installation.
He wrote the notes by holding the board angled slightly upward and away from his chest with the palm of his non-dominant hand (I can’t remember which hand he wrote with, but he was an archetypal leftie). When he let it dangle again the notes were always upside down.
If a child visited the museum of a reasonably literate age, the old man would write her a note and then pick her up off one of the many worn out oriental rugs and turn her upside down so that she could read the message, instead of simply flipping the board. He’d usually write something like “Want a lollipop?” and once he flipped the kid back onto her feet, the old man would offer her a wax lollipop that looked perfectly real. It was almost an evil trick. Once the child bit into it and discovered the charade, the old man would mimic her perplexed and saddened facial expression like a mime. After a bit of a starring contest occurred, the child began to tear-up and feel frightened by him, and the old man would hand her a real lollipop.
His museum contained sculptures that were simply layers upon layers of dripped wax.  There seemed to be no pattern to the dripping, just random drops stacked high (although there’s always a pattern to everything, now isn’t there?). I suppose whoever created them just sat around for hours upon hours dripping wax. Every sculpture had a humorous and/or poetic title like “Ghangis Khan Parting the Mississipi” or “The Rose Petals that are Your Tuckus, So Soft”.
I’d try to figure out the ways in which the titles related to the wax formations, and never figured out a single one. The educated guesses were the worst of all I think. Maybe randomness was the artist’s point, maybe the title didn’t mean anything nor did the sculptures themselves. The sculptor must have had a wild sense of humor.
Now that I say that, I feel as though I’m wrong. That the artist was a genius. He fooled me into thinking meaninglessness was the point, but that doesn’t make one bit of sense, other than being an utterly perfect and amusing existential contradiction.
The old man never confessed to being the creator of the pieces. To this day I question whether he was or not. He just didn’t have the arrogant demeanor of someone manning his own exhibition. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if a family member or acquaintance made them and he somehow inherited all of them. Or a complete stranger made them and the old man was an obsessive collector.
Most of the pieces were made entirely out of an ugly olive green wax. Like the color of kitchen appliances in the sixties. When I saw them I imagined a pre-electricity game show like a 1700’s version of “The Price is Right”. Maybe someone won a generous lifetime supply of stove-green candles and they were passed down for generations until a black-sheep eccentric inherited them and used them for something other than their intended utility. Artists are always doing that.
Well it seems as though he went straight through the life-time supply after who knows how many hours and days and weeks and years. Later pieces were made out of an Easter candle purple instead. Globs and globs of holy wax were mounted on plywood stands. I wonder how Christ would’ve felt about that. Certainly he wouldn’t think it was art after having his portrait done by people like Caravaggio and Da Vinci. Or maybe, since people like to talk so much about how Jesus was the first hippy, some would be of the opinion that Christ would have loved those. After all they were pretty far out.
I wonder if the artist reached some level of catharsis while dripping holy wax for hours. That experience would’ve made good subject matter for a Dali painting.
There were also shelves and shelves of small pamphlets. They were little cheaply assembled paper back “how-to” instructionals from the early twentieth century. They had titles like “How to Schmooze with the Big Dogs” or “How to Throw a Lavish Party on a Budget”. That’s all that was in the museum, just shelves upon shelves of obsolete “how-to’s” and those odd mounds of wax droppings. I read a good tenth of the pamphlets over the course of the three years I visited that place.  They weren’t often informative in the intended sense, but were enlightening nonetheless. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for romanticizing unusual experiences. Like sitting in a musty corner of an esoteric Southern wax museum reading antiquated leaflets about anything and everything.
Regardless, it’s gone now. Everything. It’s gone, done, dead, finni.  The old man died just a few weeks after the 60 Minutes reporter, Mike Wallace passed away. He admitted to me upside-down on his chalk board necklace once that he was very much infatuated with that man. He even invited me into his living quarters in the back of the museum to watch the broadcast with him a few times. We watched the program and split some bourbon out of a silver flask with the initials “GWC” engraved in it.  That’s all I know in the way of the old man’s name, and just like the sculptures, I’m not positive it was originally his flask anyhow. After the sixties minutes passed, the old man proceeded to recite several of Lord Byron’s poems from heart. It was the only time I ever heard him speak.  Then he wrote on his chalkboard that it was time for me to go home.
 That was a few years before he died. I moved away shortly after. I came back to Moncks Corner for a visit and discovered that the museum was gone. A cashier at a nearby gas station told me the old man passed away and that his museum got bull-dozed down and that everything in it was either sold-off or thrown away. The clerk told me that the old man’s last words on his chalk board were “My heart is broken and I’m tired.” He died in his sleep though, there were no signs of suicide.
I remember there was a wax sculpture of Mike Wallace, or at least that was its title. Somewhat to my surprise, it did not resemble a circumcised phallus. It looked more like a melting stegosaurus. I wish I had known the old man died. I would’ve bought that particular one as a sort of commemorative piece. RIP Anonymous. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

I hope my pets make it to the beach!

One day a few months ago I accompanied a friend to the post office. I noticed an incredibly long vine growing across the seal of a huge set of windows. As my friend was being assisted in mailing his package, I commented on the vine to the older male clerk.  He immediately asked me if I wanted a snip of it, and informed me that people come by for snips all the time.  I said "SURE!" and got really excited. He jokingly advised me to feed it some PBR from time to time. What a hip fella. Then he came out of his box with a pair of scissors and snipped me an extremely generous piece of the massive vine. 

My 66 year old roommate at the time knew a good deal about plants. She cut my piece of vine into thirds and all of them rooted in jars of water. Now I have three vines and I even bought a mini-tree friend so that they could understand the value of diversity in friendships. I think they like s/him pretty well.

I'm very attached to my plants, especially considering they are my only attempt at "gardening" since I was a little kid and helped my dad with the tomato plants (kind of). 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Columbian Playgrounds

This story is dry, long and pretty boring and pointless, but I spent a lot of time on it so I'm posting it regardless.

A pretty girl in her late twenties was standing on the front porch of a big, historic white brick home. She was bent over a little, struggling to find the right key to the lock of the massive Prussian blue front door. Her left arm had the handles of 4 or 5 different large shopping bags dangling from it, tugging on her skin uncomfortably due to the weight of the objects inside. The other arm held two or three bags as well.  She was nearly breaking a sweat trying to balance all of these items and also get into the house. Instead of putting the bags down, she decided to just ring the doorbell.

A middle aged woman came to the door.

“Where have you been all day Eloise?” said the long-time “Ms.” And not “Mrs.” James. Who’d once been “Mrs. Rosencrantz” when she was married to the girl’s father.  She’d changed her surname back to her very Anglo-Saxon maiden one after developing, or maybe somewhat reinstating, an internalized anti-Semitism subsequent to her divorce. When she’d changed her name back years before she told everyone it was simply because she was tired of people misspelling and mispronouncing ‘Rosencrantz’.

“Oh just driving around mostly” replied her daughter.

“With gas prices the way they are? You really shouldn’t be doing that Eloise.”

“Well it helps me clear my head.”

“Where the heck did you drive to?”

“I drove down to Columbia.”

“Columbia! Good gracious Weezy, what in the world for?”
(Ms. James really wanted to say “what the hell for?” but was in one of her religious phases and had been going to church every Sunday for the past three consecutive Sundays.)

“I needed a change of scenery.  The historic part is pretty nice.”

“Good lord Eloise, you could’ve just gone over to the lake house or something.”

“I wanted to go somewhere new.  I’ve never spent any time in Columbia.”

“Well I don’t know why anyone would want to spend any time anywhere in South Carolina with the exception of Charleston. What’s in all those shopping bags?”

“I bought some antiques for the loft.  Robert will love them.”

“Eloise, you have got to wake up and accept the fact that you two are no longer together.  That loft is his bachelor pad now.”
Ms. James had always been a blunt person. She struggled to be comforting towards her children when she viewed their issues as petty or ridiculous, as was the case more often than not. Her childhood hadn’t been easy, and not in the same way that Eloise’s hadn’t. This always seems to create generational tensions amongst families.

“Well I’m going to ship them to him or just drive them down to Atlanta when he’s away on business or something and put them around the apartment and see if he notices when he gets back.”

This was a sort of confessional.  Eloise always told her mother things that she knew she would openly admonish.  While making this particular confession, she got half lost in images of the loft she used to call home, of the corners and shelves where she’d place the antiques she bought, and of the regally decorated bedroom she used to make a mess of. She felt a sort of ghost of her estranged husband holding her body as if she were prostrate. She lost her balance for a second and snapped back into the present, remembering that she was standing in the foyer of her childhood home, the foyer belonging to her mother, the foyer of the home where she once again resided.

“And he’s not my ex-husband mother. He doesn’t even want to sign the divorce papers.”

“Well I just don’t understand you two.”

“There’s nothing to try to understand. We’ve had some problems and we’re taking a break. We’re both patient people and neither of us are quitters.”

“You’re both stubborn is what you are.”

“Okay. Sure. You’re probably right, Mom. “

By this point they’d both shifted over into the adjacent living room. Eloise had plopped down onto the stiff burgundy upholstered sofa that had been in her mother’s family forever.  She rarely sat in that room and forgot just how stiff that couch was. She consequently irritated her lower back a little with the false expectation that she would be absorbed by this piece of furniture when she sat down. Her mom sat on a chair to the right of the couch and Eloise repositioned herself so that she was she was half-lying on her side with her bottom leg bent and the other stretched out across the body of the couch. Her left hand cupped the side of her face and she supported the upper half of her body with her elbow on the carved walnut wood arm rest.

She starred down at her other arm which she’d raised and bent so that her forearm was out in the air under her nose. The shopping bags had left little temporary white indentions in her skin surrounded by redness. Her erratic energy was burning out and suddenly she had buyer’s remorse. Her belly sank quite literally with a tenseness that required an awkward tightening of her abdomen muscles as she lay there. She’d forgotten to eat all day and associated her stomach pains entirely with post-mania guilt which articulated itself in her mind as a loathing, painful longing for him.  She had something else on her mind too which suddenly came to the forefront and led her to interrupt whatever her mother had been going on about:

“You know what’s weird about going to a different city?” She asked rhetorically and continued,

“What’s weird is that aside from the downtown areas, everything is exactly the same.”

As she said this she realized there was nothing weird about it at all, that it was the opposite of weird and therefore terrifying and strangest of all, but continued because expressing indecisiveness in her own ideas to her mother would just set herself up to not really be heard. Ms. James was easily confused and perpetually distracted by what seemed like absolutely nothing, by pure anxiety, which sometimes took the form of thoughts like “I need to take Mimi to be groomed” or “I can’t believe Maria folded my pants twice over on the hangers again. What a stupid way to be passive aggressive, she’s just going to have to iron them anyhow.”

“Even the downtowns aren’t that different” Weezy added.

“They are all chalked full of antique shops and banks and attorney offices and pseudo-conceptual art galleries and college bars and local coffee shops that somehow all seem the same, with their grungy couches and pretentious art and sexy tattooed baristas.”

“I think Columbia is completely different and a lot less progressive than Charlotte” argued Ms. James, “And no one with lots of tattoos is sexy, Eloise, nor do they live in Columbia. You’re always embellishing reality to the point that it’s entirely fabricated. It’s not healthy.”

Eloise ignored the last part of her mother’s rebuttle, adding:
“Well sure Charlotte is much more of a metropolis, but you look around and everything is the same, all the people are the same, everything just feels identical and redundant, backwards and forwards and sideways and upside-down and right-side up, replicas of each other, replicas of nothing at all, of the end of history itself.”

Mrs. James in turn disregarded most of this little rant, finding it more absurd than indecipherable, though if she’d listened she would’ve probably found it to be the latter too, not because she was dumb, but because Eloise often spoke with a seeming lack of concern for her audience. This was a result of insecurity regarding her ability to verbally expound on her own thoughts (which was in itself a sort of self-righteousness), thus leading Eloise to be nervously garrulous even with family members.

Ms. James continued to stand up for the city she’d called home for over thirty years.  She’d grown up in rural Pennslvania fairly close to impoverishment, had received scholarships to Boston College and wanted nothing of the country life ever again. She moved South with Eloise’s father and older brother (a baby at the time) when Mr. Rosencrantz’s company transferred him. Charlotte was about the only Southern town aside from maybe Atlanta or Richmond she could ever see herself living.

“Well Charlotte probably has a much more diverse populous than Columbia.”

“Have you ever even spent time in Columbia?”

“I’ve passed through it a few dozen times.”

“How can you say what it’s like if you’ve never really been? That’s the same thing as me saying it’s exactly like Charlotte, only I actually spent some time there.”

“You can’t expect to have a full grasp of a place you only spent a few hours in, Weezy.”

“Well I know for one thing that Charlotte is only more diverse than Columbia on a purely racial level, which doesn’t matter anymore. Diversity doesn’t even mean anything anymore except to multi-cultural clubs on college campuses. The term ‘diversity’ is just a make believe term used to falsely illustrate that America has some culture, and a multitude of cultures at that.”

“Well I personally appreciate what a melting pot our country is.  Look at all the refugees and immigrants who’ve come here and discovered a better life. And I think it’s good that skin color is losing significance. That shows great strides for our country.”

“Oh good God, Mother.  That’s not at all what I was trying to get at.”

She moved away from a discussion of immigration, she had no interest in getting political, and really just wanted to talk aloud, regardless of whether her mom agreed or disagreed with her or even cared at all.

“Maybe it’s just all the corporate shops and restaurants that do it, I just don’t feel like I’m ever going to go anywhere or do anything new.”

“Of course you can Weez and you’ve already had plenty of opportunities to do so with Robert but you repeatedly turned them down. You could have had quite the ex-pat life if you’d only been a little braver.”

“It was hard enough getting comfortable in Atlanta. Uprooting is difficult.  All of these twenty-somethings want to travel the world and experience different cultures and all of that.  I was just learning the name of my grocer and getting a feel for his biography when I had to move back here, and that was challenging enough.”

“Your grocer? Eloise, that’s ridiculous. And you’re so friendly and extroverted, you could meet people anywhere with more in common with you than your grocer!”

“Ugh, Mom, you have become such a snob over the years.  It’s gross.”

Eloise knew that in a way her mother was right. She was contradicting herself. She found everything and everyone to be so trite, but only through the limited tunnel vision of her small little life. Despite her ingratiating, sweet persona, Eloise really didn’t branch out much or see a whole lot. Back in Atlanta she stayed within fifteen blocks of their loft nearly all the time. She’d rather corner her grocer and talk to him (who half the time clearly was too busy to chat, nor wanted to) than seek out real relationships.  She was limiting herself partially out of fear of the things she might find. It was easier to feel a sense of understanding of the world through literature and the Times and her secret viewing of shows like “Keeping up with the Kardashians” than to actually go out and experience things.  She was growing judgmental in her loneliness as a form of self-protection.  This wasn’t really her nature. Her mother was right, she was naturally outgoing and she liked people. Depression was making her hateful.  

“I’m not a snob Eloise. I was just trying to make a point. You haven’t put yourself out there when you’ve had the chance and your marriage is on the rocks because of it.”

Robert cheated on Eloise when he was in Saigon, a trip he’d invited her on, like every other trip he took, and he traveled often. He told her about it.  She wanted to work things out and start going on more trips with him.  He wanted a break.  She was left to wonder if he loved the beautiful little eighty pound Vietnamese girl whose image Eloise had grown to invent more and more vividly in her mind as time passed.

“How did we even get onto this topic anyhow?” Eloise asked, scraping her brain for a way to change the subject. “Oh I remember now….Okay, so I drove around Columbia mostly disappointed and disinterested, and ended up in an old money neighborhood just like this one. I came across a plastic playground that looked exactly like the one Jake, Nora and I used to play on down the street. Everything was the same except in reverse, it was a mirror image of our playground. Even the strategically planted Bradford Pears looked like they were on the same landscaping blueprint as our park, just flipped over. You know Dad used to always gripe about the degradation of floor plan creativity whenever he went to a soirĂ©e at someone’s newly built home.  The playground kind of reminded me of that.”

“Your father griped about everything, Eloise. He had such a big chip on his shoulder that it’s astounding he didn’t walk lop-sided.”

“From what I remember Dad had wonderful posture….Anyway, I got to thinking about how some little girl, the middle child of three, with divorced parents, one of them dying or dead, probably innocently swung on those monkey bars before she understood anything. Then in another epoch, she snuck there late at night with other teenagers. She probably started her period way later than other girls because of gymnastics and then quit gymnastics to read books, and then got fat from sitting around and reading so much and then took to powdering her nose and consequently got thin again, but without all the bulging muscles, and eventually got sent to a beach resort rehab facility by her wealthy extended family and so on and so forth…My long lost parallel.”

Then Weezy thought to herself about how parallels never connect for eternity and that it doesn't even matter that much if there are people like her out there living her life, robbing her of her own individuality without even knowing what they’re doing. She was doing the same to them.

“Eloise you sound so immature and half-mad right now. So what if you’ve had some misfortunes and made some bad decisions. And I highly doubt there is someone out there living a life identical to yours, and if there is, I really don’t see why or how it could possibly affect you or be relevant at all.”

Ms. James could come across as quite the bitch, but it was out of guilt that her children, despite their upper middle class social standing, had to deal with several tragedies, some of which she could, and others she certainly couldn’t, have prevented. Still she felt that by twenty-nine Eloise should have overcome most of her grievances and it frustrated Ms. James that the past was being brought to forefront.  It was rare that the past was discussed in their home, with the exception of a funny story or a warm memory here and there. She didn’t want her children to suffer, but more than anything she wanted them to be strong people. To show weakness was the greatest sin of all to this Puritan.

Weezy knew that it was futile to discuss her inner turmoil with her mother, yet it was in the frustration of this limited communication that she was able to take herself very seriously. She could only take herself seriously when she felt that she had to convince someone of something, especially someone she couldn’t convince of anything. It’s in these moments, when people take themselves so very seriously, that they are the most comic of all.
She began laughing hysterically at herself, at her mother, at everything.

“I go around feeling so sure of myself and of my life and it only takes the sight of a playground to make me totally crumble. I’m always questioning whether or not I believe in God. I thought about it the whole way home, Mother. I’ve never been outside of myself enough to wonder if he believes in us. He does. Which is completely absurd and a waste of time.”

Weezy was a proclaimed atheist. She believed in God, but was absolutely sure he didn’t exist or maybe it was the other way around, she was never really sure.
“Well of course he does Eloise. He made us in his image. And he loves you very much.”

“You’re right mom. You’re right! You’re right! You’re right!”

“I think you should go lie down Weezy.  Why don’t I warm up leftovers from supper and bring them up to your room?”

Ms. James all of the sudden was struck with legitimate concern for her daughter.

“That’s okay. I’m not very hungry. I’m just going to go to sleep early.”

“Okay, that’s probably a good idea. It’s all going to work out Eloise. Things just take time.”

Weezy rushed up to her bedroom with leftover adrenaline from her hysteria in the living room. She got a suitcase out of her closet and began packing a bag. She was going to sneak out and drive to Atlanta. She turned on the radio and Tom Petty’s  “American Girl” was playing.  She turned up the volume and started dancing like crazy as she packed. The song ended and she collapsed on the floor in tears and fell asleep.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bottomless Mug and an Empty Heart.

“Are you okay, hun?” asked the cute, but crooked-teethed waitress with a heavy country twang.

I’d been totally lost in my own empty, thoughtless thoughts.

“Huh?” I asked. My heart pounded in embarrassment, while my brain languidly caught up with it.

“You doing alright, sir? Need more coffee?” she asked, speaking significantly louder this time.

I didn’t know which question to answer. My mug was close to empty, but she’d just filled it up not long before. The mugs were small.

Was I alright? Who knew, but it’s always best to say yes.  If I’d responded simply with “yes” though, she may have thought I needed more coffee and that I was also doing fine. Both of which I was still unsure of.

I perked up a little dramatically and decided to answer with “I’m great thanks”.  I complemented this response with an unconvincing smile so big that the crowns on my back molars were revealed and all my years of wear and tear were probably exemplified along the hills and crevices of my wrinkled, ugly face.

I was sitting on a stool at the counter right in front of the cash register.  It’d been the only seat available the last time I’d come there, so I took the same seat again, despite the many other more comfortable options available.

I added to the waitress that I was getting some work done on my Cadillac at the mechanics next door and would probably be hanging around for a little while. Why the hell didn’t I just say car? Who cares if I have a Cadillac, she certainly didn’t. But she was awfully sweet.

She responded, “Oh that’s just fine. Take your time, Baby.”
I would have to take my time if we were in bed together. I’m that goddamn old. I’d be a disappointment at best.

I held the newspaper up high in front of my face only to read the same four words over and over again. I can’t remember them now, nor could I have told you what they were then. I never really read them, I only sort of half-consciously counted them.  It was four words, I know that for certain.

My waitress and one other girl came over to the cash register. Mine was helping the other type in an order, I guess she was training. That made me feel depressed. What a terribly sad place to be in training. They gossiped about some customer being way too high maintenance for a crappy old diner, adding in a racist slur about black people not tipping good.  They seemed to feel completely comfortable saying these things right in front of me.  Maybe they didn’t even notice me. Then I remembered how my waitress had spoken up when I said “huh?” earlier.  I guess they thought I was close to deaf, and probably dumb too.

The other girl walked away after a few minutes and my waitress took a step towards the counter and therefore very close to my newspaper. I put it down and she asked me once again and loudly, 

“You still alright, sweetie-pie?”

It was odd to me that she used these pet names.  She couldn’t have even been twenty-one.  I was out of the loop, but it just didn’t seem fitting to her age for her to use those sorts of epithets. However, I kind of liked the attention, even though she clearly just saw me as a nice old man, or worse, she just used those pet names for everyone. Once again I had to tell her how I was doing. It was so nerve-racking. And to her it was probably almost a rhetorical question, a robotic inquiry, to which the answer only mattered if a guest requested something, and even then it didn't 
matter all that much.

I felt myself break a sweat. I wanted to tell that pretty, young, stupid girl that I had a dirty secret weighing down on me.  That I wanted to let her in on it.  That I wanted her to be the saint that saved me from my own dirty conscience. I wanted to tell her that I’d killed a man and gotten away with it.  I wanted her to comfort me and tell me it was okay, but at the same time I still wished to feel the remnants of the rush one gets when he steals the life of another.  I wanted that sexy little waitress to be my angel, to tell me I could still find redemption.

Problem is I’d never killed a man and I never would’ve, and I never will.

“I’m still okay, thanks.” I responded after an awkward silence which she was on the brinks of ending by asking me the question again. Fortunately I got around to answering before she did this. It would have killed me inside I think.

I sat there shivering in the heat my body produced with those sick thoughts.  My brain is getting weak. It’s the worst feeling in the world to know that. I’m going to die soon. I’ll probably live another decade, dead.

I got up rashly to get my wallet out of my back pocket so that I could pay and get the hell out of there. When I was on my feet I almost immediately fell over in a dizzy spell and all the young, cute waitresses gathered ‘round me. What felt like a hundred country accents asked me if I was okay. I couldn’t take being asked that anymore. I shoved them all away and rushed out of the building.  I didn’t pay. I didn’t even tip. But they didn’t come after me. I was only going next door to pick up my Cadillac, and they didn’t follow. They let me go. And surely not a soul cared. But they were good, country girls. Maybe they cared a little, for a moment or two, that a sad, lonely old man fell on his ass. 

I am completely, utterly, hopelessly in love with this woman. She had me at "Gone".

Click here: Sea of Bees- Gone

Saturday, June 30, 2012

My biggest fear regarding adulthood is not being able to help but know what day of the week it is.

Well I'm at the countdown of days until I start my new job on the coast. I'll have a much more consistent schedule than I do at my current place of employment, and it will be full-time. I only understand these sorts of 9 to 5 lives in theory, and through what customers tell me at Starbucks. People are always super aware of what day it is, and it's proximity to Friday.  There is always small talk to be made about the day of the week if it's early in the week (aka, "how was your weekend?" or "I've got a case of the Mondays!") or towards the end of the week ("It's almost Friday!" or "Got any big weekend plans?").  The middle of the week, however, is a little tougher. Last Wednesday at least five people coming through the drive-thru made the observation that "It's hump day" with lack of anything better to say as I stood by the window and we both anxiously awaited the arrival of their absurdly expensive beverages. The first person to comment "'s humpday..." threw me off, because, for one thing, I didn't know what day it was, and also, I still have the sense of humor of a pre-pubsecent kid who knows much more about sex than they should without actually understanding it.This, as well as my new position on the Outer Banks, inspired me to draw these humpback whales:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sundress Saturday.

I don't generally pay a great deal of attention to my wife, but several weeks ago I made note that she wears the same pair of pedal-pushers just about everyday. The only thing that changes is the color. Then I slowly started to realize that the color corresponds with the day of the week and that the pattern never changes; violet on Monday, lime green on Tuesday, etc. Well on a recent evening at supper after I'd had my fill of sports, Middle-Eastern gore and the childcare center that we call the U.S. Senate,  I continued to thumb through the paper while peering over at my wife. She was already over at the sink washing the dishes.  It was a Thursday. I knew this because she was wearing orange pedal-pushers, and I'd learned the pattern by that point. I thought to myself "what happened to all of those sundresses you used to wear?" 

She looked over at me with big, curious, hurt eyes which I hadn't evoked or seen in ages. I quickly realized that I'd actually asked the question aloud and she replied: 

"I'd look ridiculous in those now, honey."

She was right.  She's grown quite fat.  Boy is she large now. I hadn't entered her in years, but not because I was repulsed by her, I just never really thought to. All of the sudden I felt like I despised her. Whereas before that moment she'd always been a benign, constant sort of nagging thing in my life that I mostly disregarded, but didn't really mind either. 

I was paying attention to her for the first time in ages and it struck me that I hated her deeply. Yet I was able to actually feel something towards her for once. I was suddenly struck with emotion and erratically got up, went over to her and said: "You're a good wife, Delores. Tomorrow is Friday, when I think of Friday I think of the color baby blue for some reason. Maybe I will wear that baby blue tie to work tomorrow that you bought for me a while back...Anyway, I'm going to head to bed early I think." I kissed her on the forehead and she said with a bewildered and slightly trembling voice, "Thank you Doug, sleep well."