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Susan K. Coleman
This was not the childhood dream. Back then, I did not imagine my life would include paying monthly rent that saps me of almost half my take-home salary, working a job that I have no professional, spiritual or emotional stake in, being single, childless. But, this is not a gripe. When I consider the alternative: married with children, possibly no job or other means to support myself independent of a husband, living in some sterile suburb, spending hubby's disposable income on an SUV to cart the kids around. No thanks. I am very grateful for the way things turned out.
Today is my big brother's birthday. I wanted to send him tickets to go see a band play. I know how he loves live music. But, work, wife, responsibility all played roles in his saying, "Wonderful gesture, thanks, but no thanks". Kinda made me sad. He's not that much older than me, and I had always thought that we were very much alike. Both into music, travel, bad sci-fi movies. His life, though, has become everything that mine is not. On his second marriage, third house with a mortgage, two car garage filled as one would imagine with two cars.
There is much misogyny inherent in our everyday lives. Why must a woman take a man's name upon marriage? Is she meant to turn her back on the parents that created her, raised her and helped form her into the person she is? Her original name comes from her father. Once that name takes her into adulthood, she's turned over to another man, who imprints her with his name, making her his own, thereby limiting the influence of the matriarchal line. It may seem like a trifle, but it's just one indication of the role women are expected to play.
For the foreseeable future, not one single day will be completely free of some sort of rain: showers, thunderstorms, downpours, drizzles, you name it, it will be descending upon New York. Our winter was horrible: a dreary combination of bitter, biting cold, mounds of somewhat less than pristine snow choking the sewers and terrorist alerts to cap off the misery. Then came a spring of endless rain and vitamin D deficiencies. Now, after a brief tease of four, count ‘em FOUR weekends of nice weather in a row, we’re back to what’s becoming an all too familiar pattern of gloom.
In a feeble attempt at enthusiasm, she twirls the noisemaker and gives a half-hearted “Happy New Year.” The sloppy drunk next to her plants a misplaced and very wet kiss on her ear. “Ugh” she thinks. “Amateurs…fuckin’ state-sponsored amateur night. Gotta get outa here.” She slams down the last of her G&T and gingerly slides off the barstool. Picking confetti from her hair, she steps into the frigid New Year air, dragging her coat behind her, clutching one last cigarette (resolutions don’t kick in until the morning after the revelry, she tells herself) between her lips. Where’s that damn lighter…
It’s rather peaceful out on the street. People are still hugging and groping inside the bars, some make a go of “Auld lang syne”, but it doesn’t seem that anybody can agree on the words. The first drag off the last cigarette before cold turkey is a gratifying one. Unfortunately, the moment is soon shattered as smokers pour out of the bars all up and down Atlantic Avenue. The inconvenience of it all bothered her at first. Having to leave your friends sitting in the bar, or worse yet, leaving your drink behind while you run out for a puff.
When I came into the office this morning, before I got much past the door (and nowhere near my desk) my boss shouts out, “Susan! How about doing your best Florence Nightingale impersonation and bring me a few Advil!” I was stunned. I was hard pressed not to shout back, “Get your own damn Advil, you fucking pain in my ass!” When I land another job and can finally quit this hellhole, I’ll find it excruciatingly difficult to bite my tongue when asked why I’m leaving. Euphemisms like “it was time to move on” can never substitute for the truth.
How did we all allow the world to come to this? No one speaks his/her mind with any conviction. We couch everything in vagaries and euphemisms. It’s such a part of our culture that most of us don’t even notice it anymore. When someone is fired for gross incompetence, (s)he has “decided to explore opportunities elsewhere” and is given a glowing reference. Parents “we’ll see” their kids to death to avoid saying “no”. A cramped, collapsing house is a “cozy handyman’s dream”. The examples go on and on and on. I’d prefer painfully direct to being handed the soft touch.
Conspicuously suspiciously missing from the group gathered in the back room of Teddy’s Bar was Oliver. No one had heard from him in days and no one was talking about it either. To bring it up meant you had something to do with making him vanish and were trying to be sly about it or, if you didn’t have a hand in his disappearance, you sure weren’t going to make those who did very happy by squawking about it. Still, the silence on that subject made Jonesy a little uneasy. After all, Oliver was his cousin, though a distant one.
MMmmmmm, hollandaise egg brunch and tourist skeet shooting. “Gawd, this sure is an ugly part of town! I think we went the wrong way! Where are we anyway!” Far from home, my dears, far from home. Go back now, if you know what’s good for you. Broadway is bloated. Disgorging its contents into the side streets of SoHo. My feet hurt, despite being swathed in German-made, ergonomically sound footwear. One small shop alone on any corner of Spring Street contains merchandise valued well beyond my yearly salary. Blood-spewing, turbo-charged zombies tear through city streets. No…don’t mean the tourists this time.
Yesterday I had exactly one cigarette and one alcoholic beverage. Today I had neither. The weekend’s activities have left me dehydrated, worn out, scratchy of throat and lacking of sleep. These symptoms have once again left me wondering why I do such things to myself. “Must exercise more, drink less, smoke not at all and always get enough shut eye.” Though easier said than done, much easier done if only I would stop “rewarding” myself with long nights in front of the idiot box watching ridiculous reruns of inane programs that I didn’t want to see in the first place.
My head is throbbing. Every time I look at the computer screen, the pain shoots from my jaw to my ears and then up into my eye sockets. I suppose I should go get myself looked at, but even the thought of sitting in the doctor’s waiting room with a pack of screaming children and their “turn a deaf ear” parents is already making this stabbing pain worse. Self-medication is therefore the course I plan to take. For now at least. Don’t want to risk a more severe case of whatever it is I’ve got by not getting checked out.
Today is my dad’s 65th birthday. It’s odd to think of my parents being of retirement age. It seems like a short time ago that we had a party for my grandmother, now deceased, when she retired from her position as head cook at our local junior high school. Now my dad, who has been officially retired since turning 62, is at one of the last big milestones of his life. Unless of course he makes it to his centennial birthday. I’m trying not to let this bother me. I’d rather ponder my own mortality than that of my parents.
She’d always called before if she was running late. But this time, there was no word from her. He started to worry. He must have walked to the front window of the house about ten times in a five minute span, every time he’d see headlights coming down the street. But it was never her pulling into the driveway. The radio said that the weather was causing delays on the interstate, so maybe she was either stuck in traffic or had taken a less congested though slower route home.
In her lover’s arms, she had simply lost track of time.
Well, yes, there was that pesky blackout thang yesterday. Just what the ol’ body needed, my biennial walk home from work. Two hours after heading out of the office, just to see what was up, and I was home packing all perishables into the freezer, seeking out my candles, batteries and flashlight, getting ready for a long, dark, sticky, stagnant night. Beer at a local hangout, two blocks from the East River, watching the sun set behind the dark buildings, jutting up like crooked, rotten teeth. But then, the stars came out and I found myself drawn to their light.
The city is becoming too oppressive. The blackout was fun, as was the recovery, but that feeling of helplessness was more than a bit off-putting. As much as I approve of public transportation, I miss being able to jump in a car at a second’s notice and move myself to a different location. Also, the density here is becoming frightening. A time will come when everyone will want to leave NY at once and in a big hurry. We can’t fool ourselves into believing that we’re safe from that eventuality. What then? The inevitable gridlock will create havoc and panic.
I artfully splayed the cards out in front of me, careful not to allow the competition to see them. The air hung heavy and I could feel the perspiration budding out from my upper lip. Cold Grappa afforded a quick chill, though its heat quickly sluiced down my throat, radiating out to my extremities. A stifled cough gave me away. I am not an experienced drinker. Not when it comes to the hard stuff at least. The game drags on, and I hold my cards close. Then comes the moment of truth. A skillful parry and I triumphantly shout “Uno”!
When she was wheeled into the emergency room, no one assumed hers was a special case. Just another teenage junkie who went a little too far, shot some shit that was a little too pure. At first, no one saw how the inside of her mouth was a mass of scar tissue from constant, nervous chewing on the soft flesh. Lying on the gurney the way she was, it wasn’t evident that her posture was flawless, the product of tireless reinforcement by a mother, who would settle for nothing less than perfection. No one considered the release she now felt.
Horrible, awful woman next to me on the train. She had plenty of room, but kept jostling her polyester wrapped sausage of an arm against mine. No, not sausage, more like a roll of some sort of pressed meat product, like turkey roll or chicken roll, all held together with a gray-beige gelatinous substance. And the fabric rubbing against my bare upper arm chafed and irritated. Her head bobbled to and fro as the subway shot through the tunnel on its way to Queens. Hardly even budged as I got up to exit the train. Move your dumb-ass sausage body!
More train freaks today. Those who can’t seem to grasp how one must stand and hold the pole to avoid stumbling around are just plain stupid. You’d think they would understand how momentum would cause them to be rocked forward or backward as the train makes sudden movements. But, they still don’t plant their feet properly and end up barreling into some helpless stranger, stepping on toes and prodding with backpacks. And the ones who stand with their backs to the seats located closest to the doors. No consideration for the poor passenger, who has a face full of ass.
Frowning faces are not welcome here. This is a happy place. Please set your Jello salads on the table to the right, along with all the others. Very nice. Lime Jello with cherries, pineapple, strawberry, blueberries and orange. Lovely colors. Very festive. Now, if you’d please follow me, we’ll be making our way on into the hall. Ladies with your children to the left and husbands please on the right side. We want to make sure the little ones are comfortable and quiet. Gentlemen, please remove your hats, thank you very much. Now, if everyone’s all settled, let’s get started.
If I had the time to tell you all the reasons why I won’t date you, I would be among the most idle of the leisure set. The sheer vastness of support I have for this position is staggering. And, quite honestly, I’m a very nice person. I take no pleasure in being mean, or criticizing or pointing out flaw and error. So, there’s really nothing constructive to be gained from forcing me to tell you why I won’t date you. It would merely be an exercise in self-abasement for you to listen to such things, and who needs that?
People who see the big picture don’t argue over the relative merits of Mac vs. PC. They do not claim to be either Republican or Democrat, for they know that all politicians and most non-politicians are liars. They do not have some bloated sense of self-importance, and they realize that the work most people do (often including themselves) is largely meaningless, when looking at the big picture. They prefer simplicity, quiet and solitude. They do not scream at other motorists, they do not own gadgets like palm pilots or hand-held video games. The party set finds them quite dull indeed.
The formula is: rockin’ guitar riff pounds away for about eight bars then becomes suddenly quiet, mimicking melodiousness. Tortured lead singer/guitarist with floppy hair slumps up to microphone and squeezes out doleful pap about heartbreak/angst/disillusion etc. Guitars kick back in and stringbean singer bounces about, shrieking his war cry, railing against above situation, then guitar fuzz is turned off and music becomes soft again. Repeat sequence once, ending with mournful wail. Couple said singer/guitarist with waif-like supermodel or actress flavor-of-the-moment and insert snuggly/angry, cuddly/arguing, reconciling/repentant photos in tabloids. Invest wads of cash wisely, as star will soon flicker and fade.
Their offices are adjacent to one another, yet they use the phone to talk. It’s so inane. I hear their voices in conversation and wonder why they can’t just pull their lazy asses out of their seats and walk the 20 feet or so from desk to desk to have a normal, face-to-face interaction. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think there’s some hanky-panky going on. He’s capable of it, I would imagine. The photo of him and the wife on his desk is very telling. He’s in full view with her hidden, peeking over his shoulder, very much an afterthought.
many men of a certain generation seem to base their ability to attract the opposite sex (‘cuz lets face it, none of these winners is gay) and therefore their sense of self-worth on the amount of hair they have. i spied a guy on the train the other day who seemed to really think he was the shit. he appeared to be in his late 50s/early 60s, had on a mafioso looking pin-striped suit and a coif like you wouldn’t believe. it was so bad, it should have been a rug, but i think that it was his real hair.
You make want to fuckin’ wretch! You hang all over each other, as if your very existence relied on being in constant physical contact with him/her. You claw and grab and paw and tug at one another, hoping that in some way this will make up for your own lack of self. You don’t even exist anymore as an individual. Your entire frame of reference is the other person. You base your personal worth on the amount of sex you have. You’re empty, vapid, vacuous. You are one gaping void. Yet, you look down on me for being single. Loser.
I have to make a concerted effort to stop gauging my time according to what’s already happened (two weeks since the blackout, almost two years since the terrorist attacks) and what hasn’t happened yet (concert this weekend, trip to beach in two weeks), because I really don’t think I’m doing a good job of making the most of the now. By doing this, I allow myself too much idle time because I’ve convinced myself that I’m so busy I “deserve this little rest”. But my “rests” are just bouts of laziness masked as a treat for a job well done.
I had no idea that there was a term for my type of person: quirkyalone. It’s so fitting. There are times when I truly feel that the world has gone mad and that there is no one, absolutely no one, who could possibly understand my motives or the choices I make in my life. Then this word came along to describe single women who, according to the inventor of the word, are “deeply single”, as in: we don’t just date for the sake of dating. We want it to be meaningful, enjoyable and fulfilling, or what’s the fucking point anyway?
Marriage is a complete mystery to me. Or, I guess, what’s more of a mystery is why anyone would want to embark on such a union. This weekend I’ve seen prime examples of poor married behavior. Husband comes home, barely says a word to his wife, or her company, heads straight for the living room and hides behind the paper. Or, husband joins family for dinner and, as soon as he’s done with his meal, leaves the table and all his dishes behind and retreats to the Laz-y-Boy and television. Seems like marriage can be much more solitary than singlehood.
On Tuesday I will not want to get up in the morning. If the forecasted rains materialize, I will lie there in bed after my alarm has gone off and I’ve hit the snooze for the third time, and I will survey my entire body for aches, pains or the onset of illness. As I will myself to surrender to some malady, the cat (or cats) will be snuggled next to me, purring and warm. I’ll hear the rain drumming against the air conditioner in my bedroom window. I may be nursing a hangover, which will only make matters worse.
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