20 August 2008

This Is Rough

It was raining. She had been forced to walk across the Square, constantly losing her sandals across the wide, dark puddles, their plastic soles slipping beneath her feet, making her stumble and mutter “Fuck” under her breath. She had been forced to park in a forgotten strip of spaces behind ugly buildings, and it was raining. She was slipping and muttering as she crossed the ill-defined parking spaces, walked north down one street, east across another, and then finally heading south to the bookstore where she was being forced to buy a book that she could have bought for much cheaper online, had the professor given her students more than a few days notice. As she slipped and muttered north, than east, than south, she was forced to pass a boutique displaying storefront dresses she couldn’t afford, much less fit into, and she was forced to remember her lumpy figure’s tendency to grow all the more lumpy and saggy in all the wrong places. In the bookstore, she was forced to ask someone where the books she needed were, after initially telling a clerk, “No, I’m fine, I’mjustlookingrightnowthanks.” The books were, of course, neatly arranged alphabetically on a shelf wearing a neon green post-it note with her professor’s name and title as a name tag. She had missed the obviously marked shelf. She had missed a lot of things. She was feeling odd, and uncomfortable, awkward without her usual social safety blanket draped around her shoulders. When she placed her books on the counter to be rung up, she realized she’d forgotten to buy the journal she wanted to write down her reading assignments. She was too embarrassed of her forgetfulness in front of the undergraduate ringing her sale to mention it. He was wearing a deliberately faded plaid shirt, the kind that snapped rather than buttoned, and an ill-fitting and not-at-all humorous trucker’s hat. She would later forget what his face looked like, but would not forget the way his conversation with her was flat and lifeless, too impartial to even be considered forced. The undergraduate didn’t know his way around the cash register, and she grew impatient even though she recognized that she, too, was new to everything. She realized, too, that she was not impatient for the undergraduate’s slowness in ringing her purchase, but for her own easing into her new city. She’d become mildly agoraphobic. Going to the grocery store and shopping in a busy aisle nearly drove her into a panic attack, which she hid, of course, behind almost-closed eyes and a weak smile. “What class are these for…” the undergraduate stated, more than asked. “English 600.” She waited for the glimpse of recognition in the undergraduate’s eyes, but none came, and she was mildly disappointed that once again, no one cared that she was a Masters student. “Would you like a bag for this…” Again, the words followed one another as simply and obviously as a caravan of bored pack animals. It was not a question. But she answered it anyway, “No, thank you, I’ll just carry them.” She had intended to get a bag, as it was raining, and she’d had enough problems trying to keep her shoes on. The undergraduate had further problems knowing how to ring up her sale and charge it to her credit card, and had to consistently seek advice from Dot, the much more lively attendant who, despite ringing up her sale (by proxy) didn’t seem to notice the girl buying the books at all. “Would you like a bag with that…” She almost said ‘yes’ this time, but instead, not wanting to contradict her original opinion, went again with a bored, “No, thank you.” She left the bookstore without being noticed, and again slipped and muttered her way north, then west, then south back to her forgotten parking spot. It was then she noticed row upon row of books filling up a window that was nearly covered with a climbing vine and ill-draping power lines. With the rain coming down, it seemed dreary, yet calming, and she wanted to take a picture of the scene. She had only her cell phone, and was therefore faced to take a picture that did not capture at all what she felt when she first looked at the window full of books. The picture now on her screen deadened the affinity she felt for the window and vines and books. She got into her car, and heard a song sang by an artist she didn’t know. It was a sad song that tried to evoke tears from her chest. It almost succeeded, but she was resolved to avoid tears. Less than a mile from her home, she realized that the car in front of her was being followed by an ambitious black mutt. She was driving behind a dog that was happy to run behind a car. When the car escaped him, he merely stopped, turned, and looked at the oncoming girl. She pulled up beside him, honking at him to get out of the road, and he looked at her, wagged his tail, and walked away.

1 thoughts by other people:

Kathleen said...

Goodness gracious, dearie!!!