Friday, May 02, 2003

Wallow Park


When I got home from work, all I wanted to do was crawl into bed, pull the covers up over my head, and take a long nap to forget everything. Lo and behold, upstairs was having some kind of cleaning festival, and the second I pulled the covers over me, I could tell that I would never be able to sleep with that cacophony of scrubbing sounds mixed with the high pitched whine & scrape noise of the vacuum going over something with a texture, over and over again. If there had only been a baby crying, my misery would have been exquisitely complete.


Having no choice but to vacate the premises, I got in the car, no idea where I was going exactly, until I found myself near the river, where there is a state park that I've never visited. It seemed to me that I would be able to be miserable in relative peace there, so I parked and walked into the park (park & park), and made my way around the bend towards the river. People passed me by occasionally, and I studiously avoided eye-contact, because I was embarrassed by my miserable mood, and I didn't want to get stuck making polite small talk with strangers. There is nothing worse than having to be pleasant when you are miserable, it's sheer agony.


Anyway, once I made it around the bend, I noticed that despite myself, I was enjoying the weather, the tall reeds and red-winged black birds who lived among them, the slightly salt-water smell from the river, and the nice breeze on a warm spring day. Dammit, why did it have to be so nice out when I was bound and determined to continue to be miserable? I was there to be in a funk, I had even brought my purse so I had the cigarettes and matches I only pull out in the middle of a desperate funk, and I was not going to be cheered up. I was here to sulk, and no one was going to mess that up for me.


I quickly found a picnic bench near the water, and proceeded to wallow in my miserable thoughts, my head propped up by my pocketbook on the table. The middle-aged fisherman a little ways away from me acknowledged my presence with a greeting that I couldn't hear, and I nodded to him quickly and made no other eye-contact, hoping he would get the hint and leave me to my thoughts. I watched him surreptitiously, and found something else to be miserable about, thinking that my father should have spent the last years of his life just like this fella, fishing here, not caring whether he really caught anything or not. That's more like it, thoughts about missing Dad are much better to stay in a funk with, than this beautiful view and the sunlight at this angle.


The fisherman and I ignored each other for about a half an hour or so, until he began packing his gear into his truck, parked behind me. He said to me, "You look down in the dumps, young lady." Without turning around, I said (not meaning for my voice to crack, but it did), "Yeah." "Yeah?", he asked and continued, "He's not worth it." To that, I made an attempt at a laugh, which came out more like a snort, but I hoped that he took it to be an acknowledgment of his attempt to be kind. Geez, I was trying to be alone and miserable, and here this fatherly sort was trying to cheer me up. As soon as his truck pulled away, I started sobbing like a fool. I really needed to snap out of this somehow.


Still intent on being dejected, however, I attempted to smoke a cigarette. If you have ever tried to light a match on the breezy side of a body of water, you can imagine for yourself how many matches it took, and how close I came to lighting my own hair on fire in the process. Misery is so close to comedy.


By now, one of the exercising people, a guy equipped with Walkman, had come to sit down on the rocks near the kind fisherman's spot, and I hoped that I wasn't bothering him with the smoke. It didn't seem like I was, but actually, I was bothering myself. That was god awful. If you haven't smoked in a while, you will really feel miserable trying to choke one down. The taste in my mouth and the disgust from the smell on my hands was helping with the misery.


There was a path down closer to the water, and as the sun was getting lower, a lot of strollers, dog walkers, and more fishermen were along the river. I decided to go take a walk to the end, and then go back to my car. The ducks, geese and water birds were putting on a little show, swimming, grazing and fighting for territory in a muddy mini-pond in the reeds, caused by low tide. I love birds and their antics, so I was admitting to myself that they were cheering me up some more, whether I liked it or not.


As I came closer to the water's edge, I had a moment, an "imp of the perverse" moment as I like to call them, where I wondered what would happen if I threw myself face first into the water. Would I drown? Would someone jump in and drag me out? What would I say if they did - that I just did it to see what would happen? I mean, as low as I was feeling, it wasn't a suicidal moment, just a twisted momentary fantasy. I stood on top of a rock and thought about the consequences. What if no one cared, and I drowned face-down in that muddy duck hole? Surely, no one would look like to think that that would be the end to their life. How pathetic. Needless to say, I trudged on.


While walking, I had taken note of some of the people walking along the path, and one woman stood out to me, mainly because she was the only other woman I'd noticed with a purse (did she have her wallowing cigarette & matches kit with her, too?), and also due to the gate at which she was making her way to the water's edge. She was not exactly dressed for exercise, and yet, she was walking as if on a mission. I lost sight of her until I got to the water's edge, and noted that instead of walking along the concrete path, she'd made her way out on the beach to the furthestmost rock, and proceeded to sit down on it, head in hands, in a most dejected posture.


Oh my GOD, I thought, she's come here to mope, just as I had! I had a sister in misery here. She filled me with mixed emotions. I felt sorry for her and her troubles, whatever they were. I was worried that she might have an imp of the perverse moment and launch herself into the river, and I spent some time cautiously watching her to make sure that she didn't decide to try it out. And I felt that she looked sort of pathetic, just as I must've to the fisherman and anyone else who'd walked their dog past me earlier.


What was it about this park, this spot on the river, that was a magnet to miserable women that day? Why had we both come to wallow in the same place, at the same time? I was drawn to her, I wanted to ask her all kinds of questions. I squelched a passing desire to call out to her, "Down in the dumps, young lady? He's not worth it!"


After watching her for a while, I started to walk back, trusting that she wasn't there for any other reason than to mope alone, and I didn't want to disturb her privacy any further. I stopped to look at plants and birds and the dilapidated pier still piled up on top of rotting piles, and I was pleased to see her pass me, walking back to the car area with that same quick gate. I wonder if I'd even have paid her any attention, if I hadn't come there to wallow myself.


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