Thursday, July 29, 2004

They Mean Well

I knew from the first glance that they were up to no good.   The crowd stomped right past me, and a small part of my
frightened soul was happy that I was not to be their victim, at least not tonight.  They were clearly making their way
towards another victim.  My heart went out to her, because I knew that there was nothing anyone could do.  This was
going to happen.

 There were probably eight or ten of them, quickly surrounding the startled woman, and yelling something at her. 
Well, it wasn't exactly yelling, but close to it, and stomping and clapping.  It was almost like the technique I'd seen used
to round up stray domestic animals, by confusing them and forcing them toward some sort of confinement. 

I'll never forget the looks on their faces.  Their plastic smiles stretched artificially widely over threateningly exposed
teeth, betrayed as grimaces rather than smiles when coupled with the dull lifelessness of their eyes.   They circled the
helpless woman,  clapping and chanting all the while, as  many stunned people looked on.

I couldn't bear it.  I wanted to jump up and save her somehow.  The assault was being witnessed by so many, and yet
not one of us made a move to help.  It was as if everyone had already made a silent cowardly vow not to interfere, lest
the crowd should notice us and descend on us instead.  I turned away from the spectacle too, determined not to
witness what I couldn't defend against, and instead stared at the stained glass lamp, getting lost in its many shapes and
colors.  It will be over soon, I consoled myself.

The part of it all that seemed the most perverse to me was that they did not seem to be enjoying what they were doing. 
While the frequency of these kinds of scenes would lead one to believe that the crowd was driven by their own will
towards this type of assault, one look at the resigned and sometimes pained expressions on their faces after such an
event made me believe that they were following the sadistic orders of another.  They seemed to be doing it just because
it was expected of them.  Perhaps some of them had even thought about disobeying orders and refusing to be part of
these assaults, but I'm sure that anyone who disagreed with orders was terminated in some sort of unpleasant fashion. 
In a way, we were both to be pitied, the victims and the crowd, caught up in a hideous cycle of tradition that no one
was willing to break.  

I noticed that my companions all seemed to have taken absolutely no notice of the assault taking place, except for one. 
The one that I had been suspicious of the entire evening.  She was casting none-too-subtle glances over toward the
crowd, and then began to shoot subtle looks in my direction as well.   Within moments, I could read her intentions all
over her face.   She, more than the others, had always been easy to read.  Yes, it was clear, she intended to inform
against me to the crowd. 

I caught her glancing at me and held her gaze, long enough for her to know that I was wise to her, and she looked away
quickly and her checks flushed, displaying her guilty conscience.  I had to nip this in the bud, let her know I was onto
her, and make it clear that she would not be able to go through with her plans, except over my dead body.  To let the
moment go would look weak, and I couldn't afford that strategic mistake.

Carrie:  "Don't even think about it."

Paula:  (Looking up.)  "What?"

Carrie:  "You know."

Paula:  (Small nervous laugh.)  "No really, I don't know."

Carrie:  "You are thinking about telling them, aren't you?"

Paula:  "No!  No, I wasn't.  I wouldn't do that to you."

Carrie:  "Really, don't.  I don't want that to happen to me.  It's horrible."

Paula:  "I won't, I promise." (An impish smile inadvertently crept across her face.)

Carrie:  "No, I mean it.  I will be watching you all night, and I'll see if you try to talk to them.  REALLY.  Don't do it."

Paula:  "Oh, you're no fun."  (Pouting.)

Carrie:  "  I knew it!  Listen, I appreciate the thought, but I really HATE that, what they're doing, hell, they even
hate what they're doing,  and I don't want that to happen to me.  Okay?"

Paula:  "Okay, okay.  Fine."

I allowed myself a glance over towards where the crowd had been, and noticed that they had dissipated after one last
burst of clapping and yelling.   I glanced at Paula, and at the rest of my companions.,   As quickly  as it started it was
over, and the general mood shifted back to the way it had been moments before the crowd formed. 

At least this would be one birthday dinner at a chain restaurant where the entire wait staff would NOT be yelling some
hateful original  "Happy Birthday" chant at me, much to the annoyance and embarrassment of both myself and the
other patrons.   I leaned back into the cushioned backing of the booth with a huge sense of relief, and continued my
assault on the blooming onion before me.


Saturday, July 24, 2004

Remedy Reveries

(Hack!  bark bark)  Well, I thought it was (bark bark) my allergies acting up, despite the fact that I don't usually cough much with (huck hack bark a bark bark) my sinus problems.  I'm only able to self-diagnose when whatever's going on is something that I've already been through.  (Bark! bark)  But this cough was really something else, making me hoarse and sounding like I was a phlegmy phone sex operator.  [Read this with Selma Diamond's voice in mind.]  "Oh yeah baby, that's how I like it. (BARK! yak bark bark!)  Oh my God, you're so (BARK, bark hack bark)..."  You get the picture.

[Coughing sounds deleted from this point on, to save your sanity.  But believe me, it's still going on as I type.]

By the time I went for my usual monthly  appointment at the allergist's on Thursday, I was having some trouble taking in a full breath, and my barking was disrupting my whole office.  My co-workers were sympathetic, but it's pretty sad when they can say things like, "I knew you were still here, because I heard you coughing."  So, even if I didn't already have an appointment, I sure as hell was going to make one.

"Bronchitis," he said, after listening to my lungs, and pronouncing them something that means tight.  Constricted?  I can't remember which term he used, but the bottom of my lungs were in trouble, and at least I knew that I wasn't imagining the trouble taking in a whole breath.  (You are having trouble breathing just reading this, aren't you?  It's kind of like when someone talks about blinking.  All of a sudden, you are terribly aware of how often you blink, and you either try to slow it down, or you become a blinking fool. )

The Good Doctor prescribed some antibiotics to be taken for seven days, and also some cough syrup.  But this was not any old cough syrup, and I could tell that right away by the very specific instructions he gave me while wagging his finger at me.  "Do NOT take this and try to drive.  You have to take this at night, just before bedtime, and you only take ONE teaspoon.  Not a tablespoon, a TEASPOON.  Just ONE.  Okay?"  He'd never been that specific with me before, and his stern and schoolteacherly tone made me think, "Holy Mother of God, how strong is this stuff?"  And the devil on the other shoulder thought, "Yippee!  The GOOD SHIT!"

I went straight to the pharmacy, anxious to get started on the getting well portion of this adventure.   Waiting around in the gift area of the pharmacy, it was becoming apparent that getting home and hitting the couch was a priority, because I was feeling woozy and clammy.  Well past the point of even noticing how much attention my constant barking was getting, I joked with the cashier I knew that I was finally getting the good stuff, and I couldn't wait to go home and try it out.

I fell asleep as soon as I hit the couch, even without the magic elixir.  I wanted to try to be somewhat coherent when J. called after band practice, so I didn't take my teaspoon of  "Didja get the number of that truck?" until pretty late, but unfortunately well before J. called. 
The black bears were trying to get into the house through any available means.  The windows!  I ran to the windows to close them.  The back door!  I shoved furniture in front of it.  Where was the park ranger?  The front door!  It was bolted, but the biggest bear knew that if he kept bashing against it, he could get in.  I ran around in a panic, trying to hide whatever they were after.  The maple syrup!  The must want the maple syrup!  I grabbed the jar, which now for some reason looked just like Winnie the Pooh's honey pot, and ran around the house like a maniac, looking for a hiding place.  I wrapped it in newspaper,  and tried to get it into a zip-lock bag, but it wouldn't close, no matter how many times I tried. (Come on!  The bears are coming! Blue side and yellow side, zip together,  turn green!) 

Just as I saw that it was hopeless, and a bear snout was making it's way into the basement window, I heard the alarm.  The rangers must know, and they are coming to help.  But wait, that isn't the ranger signal.  That's the phone.  My phone.  In real life... MY PHONE IS RINGING!

I briefly came out of my bear trauma and answered the phone, only to have what I'm sure was a completely incoherent conversation with J. about my diagnosis and the cough medicine from heaven.    I didn't really have to tell him that I'd already taken it, because somehow he already knew.   He said he hoped I felt better after some sleep, and we made plans to talk tomorrow. 

We hung up and I went back to the couch, only to have endless problems with a cell phone that kept falling apart every time I tried to dial.  Oh no, the little nub on the top of the antennae fell off.  Is that important?  Oh, but I used to like to pull up the antennae with my teeth when I was busy, and now it takes both hands.  But that's not the worst of it.  The battery compartment keeps falling off.  I snap it back on, it falls off again.  On, off, on off.  How frustrating!  But wait, now it's ringing, and I can't figure how to pick it up.  Ringing!  It's ringing!  No, it's REALLY ringing.  Open your eyes and get it!

My brother, calling to check in and see if I needed anything from the store.  What a relief, because I was really tired of trying to fix the phone.  Back to the couch, hopefully to sleep without problems. 

And I will get a great night's sleep, as soon as I find my slippers.  The green ones.  Oh, but they are ripped.  And didn't I throw them away months ago?  I must look for the purple ones then.  In my grandma's closet.  The grandma who's been dead for years...

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Google Treat

I never would have thought to Google someone before I read about it in a magazine, but after the idea was planted, I went on a frenetic Google spree. I'm admitting to you right now that I basically cyberstalked ever living person I ever knew. Okay, an exaggeration, but only slightly. It was such voyeuristic fun, and oh so addicting, that as soon as I ran out of the obvious subjects (old boyfriends, never-quite-boyfriends-but-I-wished-it-so fellas, as well as old cronies and enemies alike), I started scanning the recesses of my brain for yet more subjects for google searches. Admittedly, it was the search engine equivalent of crawling on your hands and knees in hopes that one might find just one more precious crack rock hidden in the rug, but yes, I was that bored, and that addicted.

A name popped out of the mists of past memories, a childhood playmate, and then through my fingers, in it went into the magic Google search box. To my surprise, out tumbled some very interesting information. Not only did my childhood friend have a web-presence, but she turned out to have a quite a career going, editing a magazine that was pretty well known. My old friend Lucy is somewhat of a celebrity! I was so excited and proud!

I remember how devastated I was when she and my other best pal Linda moved away from the neighborhood one after the other, over a period of a few months one lonely summer. Lucy lived across the street from us, and well I remember spending afternoons in her backyard, playing games, picking crabapples out of the old tree on the side of the house, taunting the boys who hung out in the yard next door, and swimming in the kiddie pool on hot days. I learned to climb up poles faster than most kids in the neighborhood by practicing shimmying up the metal poles on her back porch, much to her mother's dismay.

We endlessly played house, dolls, and games we made up that were born from the t.v. shows of Sid & Marty Croft. We would play "Lidsville" every damn day for weeks on end, and something we called "Spooky Boo", which was really just going down into the dark basement on rainy days and scaring the crap out of each other. Her little brother hung around with us a lot, and was a major annoyance sometimes, but he could be funny too, like the way he had of flipping you the bird with the wrong finger when he was angry.

I don't recall how I found her address, but when I was a pre-teen, I got back in touch with Lucy, and for a short period of time, we became pen pals. Our version of being pen pals was to fill out index cards with questions on them ("What's your favorite t.v. show? Your favorite group? Who's the cutest actor? Which actor would you marry?") which seemed to me to point out that not only were we both entertainment fans, but that Lucy was particularly boy-crazy at that time. I wasn't completely up to her in the boy-crazy sweepstakes yet, and I was a little embarrassed that some of the boys she seemed to be fascinated with at the time left me completely cold, so I fudged my answer to some of her questions to make it sound like I was just as enthusiastic about the same guys as she. Unfortunately, being young and probably short of attention span, we fell out of our correspondence after a short burst of activity, and we lost touch.

Now, all these years later, I found several Google entries about my old friend, which all seem to indicate that she has really gone places as a writer, and that she seems to be the same enthusiastic and articulate girl I remember all those years ago. And, to my great sentimental pleasure, I found an interview with her, in which she mentioned her girlhood crush, the same one that she mentioned to me in that index card correspondence all those years ago. Oh, how I wish I had kept those cards! For all I know, I have them squirreled away somewhere and will come across them well after their use has passed, but I would love to dig them out and mail them to her at what I gather is her new magazine home.

What a special little prize it was, after spending mindless (but fun) hours Googling people to no avail, to come across someone and find that they have become such a success. I'm sure it would be of no consequence to her after all these years, but I am strangely proud of my long lost pal's accomplishments, and thinking about all of those happy childhood memories made me smile wider than I have in quite a while. Thanks, Google.

Monday, July 12, 2004

More In The Pond

He was telling me the story of the last days of his marriage. They had grown apart to the point that they were still sleeping in the same bed, but any intimacy had become a distant memory. There was an icy chasm between their bodies every night, one that no words or touches could bridge, because the chasm had grown slowly and stealthily over a period of months, maybe years.

We were sitting next to one another, awkwardly, on the concrete bank of the man-made tiny waterfall in the park. I was staring down into the waterfall as he spoke, since he was looking away from me without any attempt at eye contact. Every once in a while, while staring intently at the bubbling water, a fish could be seen actually jumping up the waterfall, to get up into the pond above. I focused on the fish while he spoke, doing my best to listen for the reason he was still so focused on their crumbled marriage. How sad it must be, I remarked to him, to be with someone, and yet feel so alone.

He turned and looked straight into my eyes, his face melting with the relief of being understood. I felt such hope right then, like perhaps we had turned a corner. Maybe, after all of my support and patience and friendship, he could finally see me, instead of the ghost of his ex-wife. But the relief was tinged with anger, too, because I was losing patience. Why had he been able to move past his divorce and have a relationship with that other one, the one he told me he had a passionate affair with, and yet we were still spending all this completely platonic time together?

At that moment,I wasn't being understanding about the pain from the distance between him and his ex-wife. I was coming to see my own pain, and the chasm still between us. I had consoled myself that the gap was closing each time we saw each other, sharing confidences and laughter. He had even taken me into his confidence about a private joke he and his wife had shared, regarding a small stuffed animal that he would make talk, and it became a private joke between us, as well. It was a small, delicious thrill, having a funny little secret joke, something to whisper and laugh with him about, a step closer over the chasm.

It wasn't until he surprised me with the news that he had been dating someone for two months that I realized that any idea of our relationship moving beyond friendship was dashed on the rocks. How stupid I had been, to spend so much time being a bendable ear for him, only to find that while my services as a counselor were much in demand, my services as a girlfriend would not be required. I was crushed and felt such tremendous embarrassment, that the tears splashed down my cheeks the moment I was safely in my car and away from his view. Soon afterwards, I refused his phone calls and letters, as I felt that I would not be able to bear his company, knowing that the relationship I worked so hard to have with him was given away to another woman for free.

Years later, I saw him at a party thrown by a mutual friend. He was alone, as I was, and although I thought about avoiding him all night, it seemed childish, especially since I felt absolutely none of the old infatuation when I saw him. Eventually we said hello and made small talk about our current lives. He told me about a new project he was excited about, one that made sense to me, knowing his old interests and how they would dovetail with his new idea. The seed of his new project, interestingly enough, seemed to have been born from the joke about his talking stuffed animal. I commented that I could see the thread between the talking stuffed animal and his new project.

His head shot up, and he looked at me with raised eyebrows and his mouth open in surprise. He leaned toward me ever so slightly, and in a somewhat more hushed tone asked, "I told you about that?". A surprisingly sharp bolt of shock ran through me, and I realized that he was clearly not remembering the part of our friendship and the part of our bonding that I had felt was so huge and special at the time.

I was aghast, but did my utmost to reign it in, as I mumbled, "Uh, yes, you had." It was then that I finally knew that I had wasted all of the time time spent with him, but the lesson of not spending so much time coddling men who were not ready or interested in a relationship with me was finally learned. And I wondered, like Sally in "When Harry Met Sally", how I could have ever found his blabbering on remotely interesting in the first place.

Friday, July 02, 2004

What a Whore

Paraphrasing the infamous words of Jay Leno, what the HELL was she thinking?

While I'm sure that some people are of the opinion that she was a hormone-addled teenage boy's "Porky's" movie fantasy come true, it has to be said that not all fantasies should come true. Teachers are in a position of trust, and part of that trust is the expectation that they will not act as sexual predators with the children they teach. Even in this sexed-up culture, 14 years old is still a rather tender age. Yes, I know that there are teenagers having sex at that age and (sigh) even younger, but let's hope that they are having sex with other teenagers, NOT people a decade or more older than them, and especially not their nympho reading teachers.

But moving past the illegal and immoral actions of this whore towards the teenage boy, think for a moment about her poor husband, and their families. These people's pictures are pasted all over the internet now, smiling at their wedding. This poor bastard she is married to has to endure the indignities of being known as The Poor Bastard That Whore Is Married To. But the unkindest cut of all is the reason she gave for cheating on her husband of less than one year. She claimed that their marriage was suffering from "sexual inadequacies".

Oh my God, now this Poor Bastard is the Sexually Inadequate Husband of the Whoring Cradle Robbing Teacher. How lovely for him and his family. What a lovely parting gift from his faithless wife.

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