Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tangled Errands

At the library, a man is speaking to the librarian in a loud, but calm voice.
"I am just telling you that if I find any overdue fines on my account, I will sue you and the library and the city."
I wonder how many overdue fines he has that would justify the legal fees for a massive lawsuit. I also wonder if it is worse to be a city librarian or a city bus driver. I envision this man speaking in his loud, even tones to the bus driver, too. I check out my stack of graphic novels and dark Australian rock and roll and try not to stare. I can't afford a lawsuit right now.

Well dressed people walk down the street and shout to themselves. That's all right, though, because they have hands-free phone devices screwed into their ears. It's not like the other people who walk down the street and shout to themselves. I heard all about one woman's divorce while I looked at sweaters I wished I hadn't touched. What fiber is it that makes sweaters feel slimy in designer discount chains? Why do I keep touching them? I smell like someone else's perfume. There were lotion samples. I tried them all. I'm a fruit bowl now. Did any of us know what verbena  was a few years ago? Do we know now? It is a relaxing shade of green and it tempts me with promises of invigorating citrus undertones. It smells kind of like a urinal cake.

I am drinking French bottled sparkling water to soothe whatever beast has set up shop in my belly. I am trying not to blame three days of enchiladas. Anything but the enchiladas. It is an international incident in my intestines. The French and the Mexicans squaring off for possession of 23 feet of dark, cramped real estate. For now, the French are winning. The Mexicans are blaming the Americans. Never eat enchiladas from an establishment that is also known for its tater tots. They can call them "Mexi-fries" all they want, but we know the truth - the delicious, dangerous truth.

I am pretending that my car is a shuttle to another world. The world where I buy things like window treatments and decorative candle holders and create tasteful "tablescapes" in my home instead of buying lime green striped socks and seasonal M&Ms and thinking of places to shove piles of paper. My shuttle smells like corn dogs and feet. This is not a dignified mode of transportation, I fear. What if the corn dog smell clings to me along with the lemon verbena urinal cake and combined with my crazy hair makes me One To Be Avoided like the man in the library? How would I know the difference between the usual avoidance and the purposeful avoidance? I console myself that I am drinking French bottled sparkling water and therefore, classy.

I imagine I am tall and elegant and practice walking as if balancing a plate of apples on my head: neck extended, shoulders back, drawing a line from the top of my head to my coccyx. I have replaced my flapping gap-toothed jeans with flowing skirts and an ermine cape, just so. I am tempted to sweep through the aisles like a dowager, commanding the cans of black beans and bags of coffee to jump into my cart, to do my bidding like eunuchs, chop-chop. I amuse myself and then remember that it's just me, walking around trying not to think about how my hair just feels like it looks ridiculous today.

I am spending my fortune a dollar at a time on half-finished ideas and promises; shadows and imitations of things stacked in bins. Only one dollar. I forgot what I came in here for. It's like a casino with the distracting lighting and ambiguous exits. I have things in my hands that I don't remember picking up: a box of note cards, a kitchen gadget, cupcake papers that look like Russian nesting dolls. Perhaps I should eat the cupcake papers; send the Russians in to settle the Intestinal International Incident. Would that start World War 3? Probably so. Domino effect and whatnot. Not to mention the ramifications of eating twelve useless, beautifully designed cupcake papers. I should set these things down and step away. It's dangerous in here.

I am listening to children who are hungry and bored, two women who are very upset with someone and say so over and over to each other, clucking and nodding affirmation each time. I am listening to a girl explain to her boyfriend about the socks. I catch snatches and bits of words that float around me, muted and distorted by large tiled spaces stacked with consumer goods. I wonder if they know I will write about them all. That I will try on their perspectives like outfits and wonder what it's like to be so angry about library fines. To remember being small and bored in the store with my mom. To gossip freely with a friend about someone who has wronged me. To speak with such bitterness of my new-found freedom from matrimony to the invisible person on the other end of the line. I wonder if they know they are being watched. I wonder if any of them will write about me. It's possible, you know.


  1. I think every day we all, if we listen (like REALLY listen), can hear a symphony of life happening all around us. Most of us just tune it out. But, as you so artfully write, it can be very entertaining!!

  2. I've thought about that too! How I write about people and they don't even know. How I observe them. It's probably quite creepy. And then I wonder if they've written about me ... what if someday we recognize ourselves in a blog somewhere?

  3. I read recently that writers seem distracted and forgetful because we are busy remembering the important things. Self indulgent, but I liked it anyway. I pretend all day, too. It's our job.

  4. I think a lot of people aren't feeling heard or validated (written by a person known to fly off the handle on rare, or daily, occasion). Thank you for listening to us wack-a-doodles of the world, even if you are reporting back on the blog!

  5. I wish I didn't get the willies at the thought of being captured in someone else's writing. Perhaps I should put on make-up, clean my shoes, stop correcting my son about his nose whistling. I would hate to end up somewhere quoted as that disheveled control freak harping on her compulsively nose-whistling son. (shudders and goes back to writing about other people's oddities)

  6. I hope no one interesting ever thinks to censor themselves in public, at least. Liked this one, very much.

  7. I never really considered if people write about me. If I'm doing something interesting, they totally should. I would!

  8. I loved this, for reasons that I (apparently) cannot articulate. But it is loved.

  9. The trying-on of perspectives is one of the magical benefits of the writerly personality.

    Regarding urinal cakes: once in Burger King, my brother (who was about 15 at the time) mixed together all the available soft drinks into one cup and urged me to try it. I took a sip and declared: "This tastes like urinal cake deodorant!"

    As I was (confusingly) taking a second sip, my brother deadpanned, "When was the last time you tasted urinal cake deodorant?"

    I, of course, burst into hysterical coughing laughter, thereby spewing spit-laced, urinal-cake-deodorant-flavored soda all over my siblings and the table full of people behind them.

    I have told that story numerous times over the years. Until I read this post, it had somehow not occurred to me that the people at the next table might have been telling it as well.

  10. Oh my goodness. I actually lost track of all the things to which I wanted to respond... LOL
    But YAY for you knowing ow to spell, err, tailbone.
    And what a fabulous notion, the wondering if they know you will write about them.
    FYI, my hair DEFINITELY looks ridiculous today. I can feel it too.
    Every speck of that was magical. Thanks so much for sharing! : )~

  11. It is really fun to be all those different people, right? However I do wonder if anyone will recognise themselves in my writting, that could be freaky!


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