Spring, that little coquette, has been flirting with us. An hour’s worth of sun lures you outside but the clouds are quick behind and then you’ve got hail in your pockets. There’s cherry blossoms and baby birds chirping in the leaves. They’ll litter the ground when the next cold snap hits—we’re not out of this thing yet.
Everyone knows better but after months of being cooped up complaining about the cold and the grey no one can control themselves. Throw on some shoes, some useless thin scarf, tuck the lapdog into an old sweatshirt and go, go, go!
Our brains haven’t caught up, or maybe our brains have a better grasp on the situation than our impulses and refuse to be roused for these midday walks. A woman was dragging a baby carriage into the street while trying to guide a freewheeling toddler from corner to corner. There was a car waiting for this confused tangle to clear, allowing plenty of room for the trickeries of gravity or the momentum of plastic wheels. The woman stopped and began to wave the driver on, who wasn’t really sure how to respond. Babies in the street, not taking my foot off the brakes. But the woman kept waving and waving and finally the driver decided to inch forward, hugging the opposite curb. The woman threw her arm out to stop the car, which somehow managed to screech to a halt while rolling forward. After some confusion a window was lowered. “I was wondering if you have any napkins,” the woman asked. Read more…
Blissed-out New Age Christian women wearing matching white t-shirts had occupied the Bryant Street overpass, holding paper signs of goodwill against the chainlink suicide barrier. Primary colors screamed Be Happy!, eliciting one lonely horn from the snarled parking lot of I-5 a smashed skull below. Their kids had called it a day and were splayed out across my path assaulting coloring books. They don’t teach law and order or lines or awareness of others at home school. I hopped off my bike to walk it.
This sect of hugs not drugs fouling my path was overseen by a solitary male, also in a matching white t-shirt but clearly not drinking the same Kool-Aid as everyone else. He paced across the narrow caged walkway screaming over the phone at fellow Be Happy! ambassadors who had failed to arrive. Spreading cheer and goodwill is serious business.
On the far side of the causeway a white van was parked, vandalized with construction paper shapes and Love Life scrawled across the side in bouncy lettering. I checked the bumper for anti-abortion stickers or other religious hatred. Nothing. Nothing inside but Cheerios and cookie crumbs and the dazed air of people who feel good for a living. I wanted to be annoyed and offended. Read more…
A man and a woman lean across the window table. Their voices hover just above the ambient soundscape of shifting chairs and espresso machines. Ed’s beginning to ask questions. He’s getting suspicious. The man vocalizes shrugged shoulders. I told you how it was going to be from the start. A jacket rustles, someone checking their phone, a period of silence. I’m trapped at the neighboring table thinking about jamming a pen through my eye.
Do I escape this dime store conspiracy? Throw everything in my backpack, send the chair screeching across the floor, excuse me, pardon me, carefully step over a purse and weave around elbows, find a table on the other side of the room. Spare my reddening ears this badly scripted torment but subject the back of my neck to suspicion.
No, I will sit and I will play deaf. I will wonder why sordid details of two strangers churn my stomach and pound in my chest. It’s going to get easier, the man says. A spoon hits porcelain, a glass slides over the tabletop. My pen hovers over paper in pursuit of a single thought while lips meet behind me. Look up and I will be exposed, a voyeur pretending to be hard at work while hanging on your every word. It’s not a choice I’m making. Your delicate plotting, the lies neither of you believe, an ability to blame others for your own actions, the next round of perfunctory kisses have all destroyed my ability to carry on. Life really is this terrible.
The woman collects her things and brushes past. The man waits for a minute, pokes at his phone, finishes his coffee and heads for the door. Read more…