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Susan K. Coleman
When we got together, she wore these slinky outfits. She had a great body and her hair looked so sexy falling over her shoulders and draping across one eye, kinda like Veronica Lake. But things changed. She still wears the tight clothes, but when we're waiting for the train together in the morning wearing that stuff, I get kinda embarrassed, 'cuz I see people staring at her. She pulls her hair back now in this strict bun, and she purses her lips so much in that judgemental way, that she's got these big creases at the side of her mouth.
Today is my little mom's birthday, or as my brother and his wife call her, the pocket mom. She's a tiny lady with a big smile and an even bigger heart. I never knew her to be a mean or angry, nor did she ever made that impression on anyone else. All of my elementary, junior high and high school friends wanted to come over to dinner at my house, even if we were only having leftovers. It probably wasn't so much because of the food but much more because of the wonderfully warm atmosphere mom created in our home.
Had another really wonderful day with my friend visiting from Germany. We've hit many of the city's highlights: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, shopping on Broadway and in Chinatown, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, author reading at B&N etc. It always makes me happy when people see New York the way I do: not as an overly big, sprawling, crowded, noisy metropolis, but more of a loosely connected group of neighborhoods, all with their own character, charm and positive as well as negative sides. It's much easier and more pleasurable entertaining guests, when they come here relatively free of preconceptions.
Carefully, he kicked at the last smoldering ashes in the fire, spreading the dry dirt around to cover any unseen burning embers. It would be another long stretch behind the wheel today. He had a lot of highway left to travel until he put an ample amount of distance between himself and the horror he left behind. Though its physical proximity became farther and farther away with each day (and sometimes long night) on the road, the nagging sensation, like a spider bite on the back of his neck, did not seem to abate, and this began to concern him.
“Another tedious, horrible mess that I have to clean up.”
Janice rolls across the thinly carpeted floor on her office chair, reaches into the top filing cabinet drawer and pulls out her hidden stash of Mallomars. “Emergency provisions”, she calls them. She shoves one in her mouth, secrets one into the pocket of her jumper and rolls back behind her PC. She used sweets not only as a condolence, but also as a treat, a crutch, a comfort and a weapon…and her figure showed it. That and years of employment behind a desk had left her lower half somewhat pear-shaped.
My itinerate lifestyle has often been cause of wonder: to the friends, who have managed to keep track of me over the years, and to me as well. There have been so many people, very interesting, unique, creative and wonderful people, who’ve just slipped through the cracks as I’ve moved from place to place. I’ve found some on the internet. But folks with very common names or women, who may have married in the meantime, are all but hopeless cases. It’s sad, really. All those endless conversations in dorm rooms or sitting in the pub, drinking a beer…or maybe five.
She’s in another room now. She’s not sure where her clothes were left, but there she sits in the paper gown, feet dangling over the side of the examination table. She bangs out a slow rhythm with her heels against the table, bobbing her head along with the tune she’s humming in her mind. Each room brings another half-hour wait. This is at least the third room she’s been led into. Or is it the fourth already? She’s not sure. Who can keep count with all this mind-numbing boredom while waiting to be poked and prodded by another masked face?
In the grand scheme of things, I really have no reason to complain. But, we’re talking something so simple, so basic, that it’s just ludicrous to even contemplate the contrary. Am I right? I mean, think about it. Here we are, in a world of technological advancement that was completely unimaginable by our parents, or our parents’ parents. And yet, this oh so insignificant, fundamental aspect has been overlooked, or, dare I say, willfully cast aside. With all the effort that’s expended on lesser endeavors, it really is just a shock that something so uncomplicated yet so important is neglected.
She creeps around late at night, she does, making nary a sound, slinking along the floorboards, in and out of closets and wardrobes. There she finds her quarry, spilling over sometimes onto the floor or into the hallway. Hardly the way such lovely frocks should be kept. It’s then that she acts, sifting through the racks and drawers, pulling out all those tasty little black cocktail dresses, a-line skirts and crisp, pressed blouses…all the things the mistress would love to be wearing the next morning, but will not be able to find. Such is the work of the clothing gremlin.
Who do these terrorists think they are, claiming that they can seriously impact the US economy? With economic growth indicators as sketchy as ours and a stock market based less on the real world worth of the companies listed there but more on whether Alan Greenspan had one egg or two for breakfast on any given morning, one would think that any ill effects on our economy from a terrorist act could easily be wiped away with one sweeping wave of the Fed’s wand. We’ll just cook the books, overstate the numbers and it’ll be back to business as usual.
OK, all you fucked up gun advocates, people who think that owning assault rifles is our constitutional right, I double dog dare you to take your family for a vacation to the suburban Washington DC area, hang out at gas stations, leisurely pump whatever fucking land yacht you drive full while your kids play in nearby wooded areas. How good do you feel now about every American’s right to arm himself? How safe does it make you feel to know that most homicidal lunatics out there can obtain the necessary equipment and training to pick people off from a distance?
Boy, oh boy, this weekend I came up with all sorts of scintillating topics to write about. However, I can’t remember a single solitary one of them. I should have just gotten them down in the laptop and posted them once my phone started working and I could therefore dial in to my ISP again. You see, it rained this weekend. Like gatherin’ two of every animal rain for several days and it somehow affected the phone cables under the street. It always amazes me how this modern city of technological wonder just goes lame when a little rain falls.
Well, holiday season is almost upon us again, and that means twinkling lights, colder weather and family gatherings. Sam tended to all the arrangements for the annual trek to see his parents out west. He had passed on the trip to the islands with his buddies last month, so as to have enough vacation time left to make the journey by car. It was a tough sacrifice to make, but in the end, he appreciated the fact that he didn’t have to lug Christmas presents onto the plane. Anyway, the real sacrifice was in the planning and expense involved. Cont’d…
That, and the fact that the end effect of all this effort is one and a half weeks’ worth of listening to his father’s right-wing vitriol. Sam’s mom had long since stopped berating his dad for this embarrassing behavior and somehow now can just stand silently by while dad launches into his non sequitur streams of abuse against the Labour Party, Tony Blair, the Americanization of his great country etc. At least now that he’s off the booze, he no longer launches into “God Save the Queen”, but his relative lucidity often makes his attacks more biting and generally unavoidable.
Though cracks have long since appeared in the surface
The structure is subjected to weights it can’t possibly bear
Echoes moan through hollows formed by stress
While pretty bows and ribbons are wrapped
To make up for a universe of ills
And lend support where there is uncertainty
The burden is great and reward seldom
Rivers erode furrows as deep as gorges
Words become knives hurled in anger
And silence is used as a weapon
Yet somehow the appeal outweighs
Any potential for grief and strife
And the searching continues for
The one who will
Bring me that
My blood runs cold as
The refrigerator door
Swings on its hinges
To reveal evil
Most foul and most odorous
Lurking on the shelves
Equipped with thick gloves
And protection for my eyes
I face the challenge
All at once I reel
Backwards with a mighty lurch
Tears flow from sockets
What awesome power
What force of nature could cause
This miasmic stench
From out of nowhere
Bubbling up from hell’s dank depths
Fetid cheese appears
I assume it’s cheese
Though its color could imply
Another food group
Lovely natural green hues
Though cheddar should not
Multiple layers of stars form a milky haze in the sky as a young woman stands alone with her lover. She holds her hand out in front of her face and but finds that she can barely discern its outline. Its form seems fluid and changing. The batteries in the flashlight flicker one last time and give out for good. The path is familiar enough to them that they do not feel ill at ease. At least not because of the dark. The thought that an evening walk in the countryside would bring them closer together now seemed laughable. Cont’d.
Instead of bridging the gap, the distance between them now seems vague and somehow structureless. Much more maddening really than the silence and separation that follows an argument. The woman turns to face the spot she had last seen her lover standing, when the light cast from the waning sunset was just bright enough to make their long shadows seem like ghostly specters crouching over them. She calls his name, unsure now whether she’s not entirely alone on the path. He answers, his voice coming from behind her. It startles her that her perception had been so completely inaccurate. Cont’d
“I’d lost sight of you. Sorry, it was just a bit unnerving for a moment.” She moves slowly in the direction from which his response came until a filmy form takes shape. Startled once again, she stops with a quick intake of breath. “What’s wrong?” he says to her. “Can you still not see where I am?” She laughs in a reassuring way, more for herself than for him. “No, that’s not it at all. I just suddenly had this flashback to when I was younger. It’s silly really.” She finds, however, that she can’t move from the spot. Cont’d
The memory begins to take form in her mind. “When I was a little girl,” she begins, “I used to see figures in my bedroom late at night.” She hears the shuffle of gravel beneath her lover’s feet and continues: “You know when you’re sort of hanging between sleep and being awake? You feel like you could drift off any second, but you’re not quite there? Well, at that moment, I would see figures standing all around my bedroom. They were transparent. They just stood there. The sight of them would shock me awake immediately, and then they’d disappear.” Cont’d
She pauses and thinks she hears her lover sigh deeply. “They never seemed to mean me any harm or want to try to make contact in any way. They just seemed comfortable being there. I don’t know if it had more to do with my being there or just that they liked the house for some reason. I was always a bit sad that I couldn’t make them stay longer. But I would only see them for that brief moment. I’d squeeze my eyes shut at the sight and when I’d open them again, the figures were always gone.” Cont’d
Her lover doesn’t speak this time. So she goes on. “That’s how you seem to me. Not just now that I can’t see you clearly. But lately, you’re just this nebulous form floating around the house. I sometimes feel that I have to squint to see you, or that if I were to close my eyes tight, you’d have disappeared when I opened them again.” The woman senses her lover standing right next to her in the now impenetrable darkness. He takes her hand. “I’m right here. Solid flesh. And when you open your eyes again, I’ll still be here.”
I know I’m not just exaggerating somehow when I say that, lately, there has been more than the normal amount of reporting in TV and newspapers about death and violence. Counting the headlines on the New York Times website, both in the National and International sections, I was amazed the other day to see bombs going off all over the world, hostage takings, sniper attacks. It’s no longer just some unfortunate pieces on accidental or unforeseen events, such as plane crashes. We’re killing each other off in droves these days. And I’m afraid it’s becoming just too commonplace a thing.
I like to go back from time to time. I inevitably run into someone I know on the street, who approaches me with, "Wow, I had no idea you were still here! How come I haven't seen you in so long?" When I explain that I moved away many years ago and was only back for a visit, the wide smile turns down ever so slightly at the corners. "Oh, ok, well, it was great running into you" and a hasty retreat is made. There's no shame in never escaping the small town life. Some of us simply need more.
He works hard. He deserves to go hang out with his friends if he wants too. Who am I to demand that he spend his time away from the office at home with me and the kids? He's got enough stress to deal with on the job, he doesn't need to hear about my petty little concerns. And the kids are fine alone with me. We spend so much time together, they don't seem to mind when daddy's not here in the evening or on the weekend. He needs to unwind, and he just can't do that with us around.
Today is my brother's second wife's birthday. Wife number one was an evil harpy of a woman, whom I had to tolerate until the separation. I remember feeling guilty standing up at their wedding, hoping the whole time that the marriage would end in divorce. But now, I have a sister-in-law that I can love and respect, and whose company I genuinely enjoy. Having such feelings of loathing for a sibling's spouse is extremely awkward. You can't really just come out and say, "Hey bro, that wife of yours is a grade A bitch." That rates as a relationship ender.
Horizontal shafts of sunlight filter through the blinds and reflect off the dust in the air. She clasps a mug in both hands, steam still rising from its creamy warm contents. Strains of Billie, Nick or Leonard float in from the dining room as she pads on slippered feet from couch to kitchen back to couch. There is no need to rush or scramble about with preparations of any kind today. Even as the shadows grow longer, the dust settles and cigarette smoke swirls around her head. The coffee mug will simply be exchanged for a wineglass once evening comes.
A wee rant today: my company has been interviewing for an admin position. The women I’ve met have been young, possess degrees from some very good institutions and are quite bright. Why the hell do they feel that they have to be pigeonholed into some admin position? Would a man with a similar degree and comparable intelligence level resort to such a menial job? Most likely not. And, from seeing the amount of time the white, male upper management spends on exchanging bawdy joke emails each day, I’d say that women are sorely needed and should stop selling themselves short.
When you have couple friends who break up, you go out for drinks with the man. He doesn’t mention the failed relationship much. Maybe he’ll relate some sense of regret or loss, but won’t delve too deeply into emotions. After a few glasses of wine, he may even begin to flirt. But the woman will want a more serious debriefing. Regardless of whether she ended the union or not, she will embrace this change and the resulting feelings. She’ll want to find worth in that part of her life, which is over, but had been rather meaningful at the time.
With her head pounding, she stretches an arm out from under the comforter and smashes the snooze button for another 9 minutes of peace. The radiators have been clanking for about 20 minutes and the apartment is just starting to warm up. Outside a thin fog is trying to maintain its hold in the predawn air. A car alarm sounds from the side street. She burrows further under the covers and wonders what could have possessed her to have that 4th glass of wine. Good conversation? Scintillating company? Or just the nagging onset of hereditary alcoholism? Who can really say?
Creeping across grassy fields
The shadowy figure nears
The sleepy little village
All tucked in tight
Safe from the things
That go bump in the night
His menacing presence sends
Howls yowling from dogs
Tied to their posts
Outside snuggly warm homes
Where candles burn dimly
And threats are unknown
But slowly it nears
The dwellings so quaint
And stretches shrouded arms
Toward brightly ornamented doors
How can the poor
Occupants not sense the menace in store?
A knock comes first
Quietly then louder still
And unwary folk start
At the danger unseen
‘Til shouts come from
Outside: Happy Halloween!
The Tip Jar