I finish my book today, close it, and find myself still at work three and a half hours after I should have left. It is a rare thing for me to finish a book, though I probably read more than the average person. Most of the novels I endeavor to start reading just don't make it across my finish line, the most recent being Dave Barry's Tricky Business and Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. There is no pattern here.
I am wandering around the store, half looking for a replacement for the force that has just come and filled my life then left me standing in a void, half simply having no reason to go home. Bill, who I am drawn to, is rearranging the iPod accessories section. I strike up a conversation which, since it is not directly about work, makes me instantly self-conscious about what I have to say. When I was in elementary school, this kind of discomfort might have caused me to lash out, picking a fight with the object of my interest. I am an adult now, though, so instead, I just pick a fight with an object.
"These organic yoga mats annoy me." I say in his general direction, and he cocks his head. I pick one out of it's display and examin it's grainy brown color, a condescending hue if I ever saw one. "Was there really a need for this? Were we clear-cutting a forest of yoga mat trees?" I am miserably aware of the fact that there was a much more suave and intelligent way to say this, and I try to ignore that, only to find myself hoping that he doesn't pick up on the larger flaw, which is, of course, that if yoga mats were really made from yoga mat trees, than they'd already be organic. When he's still said nothing in reply, I tell him, more quietly, "Sometimes, I go on rants. You'll find that out about me."
"Okay. But they are a good development." He picks one up and reads the label. "These are made out of 100% Pico Plant fiber."
"Are you implying that we're running out of vinyl?"
"No, but these will decompose in a landfill." He says earnestly. Bill is one of those people that is so nice, it's impossible; so non-judgemental, you end up judging yourself in his presence just to make up for the deficit. "They create less waste."
"Thank god," I say, sarcastically. "I always say, the biggest challenge our environment faces right now is all the unrecycled yoga mats that pollute our air and water." In truth, I simply hadn't thought about it from this angle. But I wasn't to give up my armor of cynicism.
"Well, it's a start." He says, pleasantly, and goes back to his work. I turn my back to him and straighten a few books, wanting to rant on about how there might be more global good accomplished if people learned to be fiscally responsible with, say, the thirty dollar difference between the price of the organic yoga mat and it's cheaper synthetic cousin, or even sent that money off to Greenpeace, if that floats their boat. I wanted to point out that they could use that money to buy organic snacks for a rally against the excessive burning of fossil fuels or the tiny little cages they put those bleeding heart chickens into before they become McNuggets. I wanted to ask him to be my friend.
Instead, I say, "Great. Let's give those yoga people one more thing to feel self-righteous about."
He turned to look at me again. "You are on a rant, aren't you?"
On the ride home, I wonder if my bitterness was fueled, in part, by a yoga person I know who, at that exact moment, was neglecting to get back to me about tentative plans we had made, and it strikes me that it's always the decent people who motivate me to act like an asshole. I turn on the radio to washout this thought; 94.9, in it's all-holiday-music mode, is playing "Let There be Peace on Earth" performed by some country singer with a twangy voice. I listen, and am brightened, if just for a moment, by the simple words, and that special, subtle effect Christmas can have on you, to make you enjoy something you'd despise eleven months out of the year. Then, in the next verse, the country singer's voice is replaced by the voice of a young boy. It's meant to illicit feelings of innocence and nostalgia, carefully chosen to sound immature and somewhat nasal; suddenly, all I can think of is some far more talented child who auditioned, getting passed over because some record exec. with an eye on the bottom line said, not to the boy's face, "Nah, this kid's too good. We need to a kid that sounds like a kid. A common denominator." All I can think of is that kid not getting a callback, and wondering why. Hearing the song on the radio and being bitter, knowing he's better than Nosey McCan'tSing, but secretly wondering if maybe he really isn't.
I don't think I quite fit into the target demographic, here. Clearly, I am not the common denominator, either.
I pull into my drive way, and check my cell: still no text message from the yoga girl. I think about landfills, and how dishonest they are: let's take all this trash that we can't get rid of, trash that'll never be anything but trash, and bury it. Wait for some green grass to grow back, it'll look nice. We're making our own geography here. The rolling hills of Scotland, almost. Why not just a warehouse, I wonder. And where were the yoga people when that decision was being made?
A big pile of trash covered by a thin layer of soil and grass; it's not much of a disguise, but, then, neither is picking a fight with a yoga mat. I can't help but wonder who came up with this concept, and why.
On with it.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
I feel, lately, the need to be fake. Things that are going on in my head, I feel like I can't write them here, for the first time. The guy I can't allow myself to expose my continued vulnerability to, anymore. The girl who I have no let understand how badly I want to get to know her. Problems with Zack's family that are not mine to publicize.
At night, I lay in bed and these things swirl through my mind, and I feel the need to commit them to paper, or the modern day equivalent. The process I've developed to deal with my day-to-day problems involves a detailed equation, reconciled only when I've put it into words precise and rhythmic enough to be worthy of an audience, then shared. In the end, the sum of my circumstances and neuroses is humanity, the story of my character, and if it's written well enough, than people will love me for the confession, no matter how heinous the crime.
Part of the situation that I am not at liberty to publicize in this manner winded up bringing me, today, somewhere I did not comfortably fit in, a place where the reality is harsh and uncomfortable, so much that going there was not only a physical journey, but a leap forward, too, in time: most often, we age at a regular pace, maybe different for all of us, but pretty constant throughout any one life. Every so often, though, things happen that push you forward at a dizzying speed, and you stumble forward, haphazardly maturing out of nessecity. To get through these things, you understand, you have to be a little bit more of an adult than you ever planned on being.
Without giving away too much detail, I hope, I found myself waiting with Zack and his brother in St. Mary's, just outside the psych ward, just after the elevators and before the locking doors. We layed on the stairs and listened to MP3's on Ian's cell phone, and I stared up at the concrete bricks painted with that institulional paint, a beige so bland that it hardly even qualifies as a color, and suddenly I was overcome with a sense of familiarity.
"This feels like high school." I said. Zack and Ian acknowledged me, but then moved on with the conversation, leaving me to decipher the deeper implications.
I'm reading Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper right now, a recommendation from Barb, a teacher at Andover who I miss since I've stopped going. It's excellent; I don't feel qualified to give a full-blown recommendation until I finish it, but, unlike with most books, I have no doubt that I will. The book is dramatic, sad and complex, with a new tragic revelation, like a punch to your gut, ever third page or so (but not in a bullshit, unbelievable, Forged by Fire kinda way. Moreover, it's a way that feels familiar to anyone who's ever gotten the sense that life really does love to kick you when you're down.) In the midst of all this tradgedy, though, the author's wit comes through in a real way, and, in spite of it all, you find yourself wanting to laugh just as often as you want to to cry.
You should go to Border's Brunswick and pick it up. I hear they have a great selection, there.
On with it.