just a normal day

You’re stirring honey into sunflower seed butter and suddenly panic: was this the same spoon you just used to stir the cat food?

Sniffing it, you are reassured, also seeing the cat food spoon in the sink. But it begs the question: How did we get here?

On a walk you look right and left, wondering where the male voices you hear are coming from. On one side of you, a steep hillside covered in bushery, housing no men but those of the raccoon variety. On the other side of you, a nearly vertical slope, nature’s way of saying “No,” to all but more raccoons.

Yet you hear the men. Finally, turning a corner, you see them, on the top of the vertical, sitting in lawn chairs with beers, watching the sun set. You remark to them on your seeming hallucination, they agree they too are hallucinating, and you continue on your walk.

Sitting at the coffee shop, you realize your back is facing a support group for some kind of autoimmune or digestive disorder. You eavesdrop, in case anyone sheds light on the causes of your stomach’s dysfunction. But the voice of one of the group’s members makes you want to disembowel yourself. Delighted when they depart, you settle back with your journal, only to discover there is an elderly man further back, talking to some visitors. You continue writing but can’t help but hear bits and pieces of his conversation, peaking with the statement, “I’ve looked into self-suicide options…”

Back home, you light up a joint, and realize you’re looking down directly on the father-son contractor duo who work on the building you live in. Note to self: Don’t smoke in front of Joe and Fred (unless you’re going to share).

How did we get here?

Ask the raccoons.

The sunflower goo hits the spot and you return to your journal.

Notes from the island: Amie

She was starting to feel like she was alone in a crowd, singing a song no one could understand. Nearly every day she found herself wishing she could better articulate one simple point:
Calm down. It will all be okay.

Ironically, in a city gone mad, that seemingly simple point was harder to make than any complex legal argument. Try telling the man staggering up the street, drunk at 9am, that it will all be okay. Try telling the people driving like bats out of hell to jobs downtown that it will all be okay. Try telling your coworkers that, or your mother, or even your cat.

Driving off the ferry one night, safe from the rage-filled city, she felt inclined toward a whiskey ginger. Into the dive she walked, wondering how many stories in her life began with “I walked into a bar,” or ended with, “And then I paid my tab and went home.” She couldn’t seem to escape the reality that no matter what else was going on in her life, one solution was always to sit down on that stool.

If only she had such faith in other spiritual practices, like yoga, or helping at a soup kitchen.

But this was another question she could ponder over ice.

Fiddling with her phone, she remembered that she had uninstalled all her social networking apps, like Instagram and Facebook. In a fit of enlightenment, she had realized that these supposedly social tools were actually preventing her from socializing. The only way to explore this theory had been to uninstall them. Toying with the idea of now re-installing one just for something to look at, she sighed.

Forcing herself to test her hypothesis, she set down her phone, walked over to the group of folks at the other end of the bar, and asked them how their night was going.

She was soon ensconced at the corner stool, discussing everything from Utah to Hawaii, software to poetry, suicide to morality. This was what always tempted her to return to a good dive: it was the most likely place you could have philosophical conversations.

And it was better than an app.

It was revealed to her that she shared her name with one of the bartender’s children, who had committed suicide as a teenager several years before. He elaborated, describing how and when and why. Inhaling, she felt no need to run away from the conversation. This was an opportunity to practice articulating her inarticulate song.

She said, “I feel the need to say something presumptuous.”

He waved his beer at her in invitation.

“I have always struggled with anxiety and depression. I know a little bit about what inclines someone toward suicide. What you’re describing… the way he did it, and his reason… there was something in his wiring. If he hadn’t done it then, it would have been a year later, or five.”

“That’s what his sister says,” he told her.

“But you feel guilty,” she pressed on.

“There is some of that,” he agreed, and joked without humor, “That’s why I come here.”

She suggested he think about letting go of that.

She didn’t really know if he could have done things differently. She just knew with utter confidence that it no longer mattered. His guilt now only served to keep him on that bar stool with that pint glass.

If she was ever going to get off her stool, she had to find a way to show people that it would all be okay. Even when it most profoundly was not. It was simply a song she could not get out of her head.

He thanked her, patted her shoulder, and bought her another drink. A stocky regular sat down with them. They chatted about her recent move to the island. And then “Amie” came on the jukebox.

Together without discussion the three of them began to sing along, and sang every chorus to the end.

For 4:23 minutes, life was completely, unreservedly okay.

The husky fellow held out his large hand to shake hers, saying, “Welcome to the island.”

She paid her tab and went home.

Friday Night Teddy Bear

She fantasized that she could walk into Salty’s and find him with a beer and a drunk buddy discussing some deep subject like whether pink lures worked better than purple ones. He would act surprised to see her, attaching great significance to her arrival, and say something idiotic about how they were meant to be together. She would sit down with her own drink and assure him they were not.

But in this fantasy she would take him home. She would do this because sex with him was like being with an extremely ferocious teddy bear, a combination she had longed for for some time.

It appeared to be impossible for her to want a normal love with a normal man. Whenever she got frustrated with the obsessive, melodramatic men she knew, the type of men for whom reality was a highly optional endeavor, she would remind herself that in her daily life she encountered just as many cheerful, well-adjusted men. They just bored her to death.

And this was probably the crux of it: she didn’t want a relationship. She wanted a Netflix series of a man, a bingeable drama that you could also pause or mute. She wanted a love that was wild and true and could be turned off when it was time to go to work.

In the meantime, he wasn’t at Salty’s, and she could never just call him up. That would be too easy. So she paid her tab, and drove home. To her TV.

she goes out for new year’s

she goes out for new year’s

She wasn’t sure why she kept carrying around the damn Minion. Just a cheap plastic Christmas ornament she’d meant to hang from her rear view mirror, thinking it would put a smile on her face on dark winter mornings to see the grinning fella with his wreath. But now it was New Year’s Eve, she was leaving a bar, and a man was asking for her number, and more. Fishing through her purse for a pen, she instead found the Minion in her hand…

Ordinarily she hid on the last night of the year, unamused by the ruckus as only a seasoned bar-hopper can be. She hadn’t hopped any bars since moving to this little island, though. She was now a grounded gal in boots with real beach mud on them. So why bother with nylons and strangers, she grumbled to her mother.

But she did anyway.

Driving into town, it was very clear the classy bar was tucking itself in for the night and the party was at the local dive. The twang from a country trio filled the otherwise silent night sky. So she walked in her long skirt into the only establishment in town boasting plate-size pancakes in the mornings and five dollar doubles at night.

Everyone was in jeans and everyone was plastered.

She felt like a princess in the worst possible way, but out of sheer principle she ordered a beer.

The problem with showing up after a football game and four rounds is that everyone around you has partnered up to the degree they’re going to. The buffet is basically empty, and unknowingly, you have become the last drumstick.

A drumstick in a skirt.

She had to keep her wits about her.

A drumstick discovers quickly that nice men move slowly, while weirdos and the very horny have no inhibitions. But it was the retirees who were unnerving her, their eyes locked on her from all corners, like the sight of her cleared the beer from their bleary brains and made room for just one delicious thought:

Thigh meat.

Exhausted by the military maneuvers before she’d even finished peeling the label from her beer, she gave in to the second guy who approached her, letting him sit with her and pretend to have a conversation through the music and his drunken blur.

He made her laugh, but she couldn’t tell if it was intentional. She mostly felt pleased that his presence protected her from the old men, many still staring.

At midnight, he faltered and kissed her hand. She made him get up and dance, and he did, and kissed her there. And she liked it, in spite of how blurry he was. He was a man, and the song was festive, and she’d made it out of the godforsaken year before, and it was enough to make her laugh.

A little later, as he negotiated with a buddy over a spare cell phone he wanted to buy, it became clear that the kiss to “Brown Eyed Girl” would be as magical as her first New Year’s Eve on the island would get.

She told him she was going to turn into a pumpkin soon, and then had to explain what she meant. Because his cell was broken, and he wanted her number, and giving it to him seemed like the easiest way to leave, she fished through her purse for a pen.

He said something she couldn’t hear. She leaned forward to hear him repeating, “I want to come with you.”

She wanted to say, I know you do, but I don’t, in any way, want to take you with me. Instead she handed him the Minion because it was in her hand. He set it aside, saying it again.

She realized looking at the ornament resting on the bar by his hand that giving it to him had made no sense, and yet had also been the most sincere thing she’d done all night. She felt certain the right guy, the guy she would take home, would have somehow understood that a Minion is significant.

For now all she could do was leave the bar, making her first New Year’s resolution as she pushed the door open: The next man I kiss will take the Minion.