She did all the right things to try to fit in with all the other moms.
She brought and actually sat in the obligatory uncomfortable folding lawn chair.
On the sidelines.
With the other parents.
She had a camera for taking the occasional blurry bad photographs of kids jostling by.
She even developed a knack for holding conversations out of the sides of her mouth – so it looked like she was really engrossed in watching her child play while she traded parenting tips with the ladies around her.
But she never ever got the hang of yelling at her kid. Possibly it was because she didn’t understand any sports – so the idea of screaming ‘helpful’ instructions to her running huffing child didn’t make sense to her. After all, she was already pretending to follow the rules for the adults. Why would she have any good insights about the game ? In any case, if she was going to yell useful things at her daughter, she would pick stuff like “Clean your room!” or “Brush your teeth!” and not “Get the ball!” So she just sat quietly and let the other parents roar above her intermittent soft snoring. Oh yes, because of all the guidelines for her to know, she had also mastered the sly sideline doze.
Life tilted sideways, like a fast turn around a sharp corner. It was unnerving and just a little bit exciting : perfect vomit conditions.
She sensed she might be in trouble.
To a very large audience of new work cohorts, the woman who presented before her talked about her wrestling skills and knowledge … like that was some kind of valued core competency at her new company.
Crap. She wilted in her chair and fidgeted. She didn’t know much about sports in general and even less about wrestling. She quickly searched her mind for something she might be able to offer up as athletic prowess.
And so when it was her turn to speak, she noted calmly that the only wrestling she did was with her thumbs and a lot of that involved fighting the autocorrect on her iPhone.
It was really the best she could do on such short notice. She slumped back into her chair and left with the mental note to take up a sport that was perhaps more social.
her sadness floated
just below the surface
in heavy musky swirls.
the man next to her said
“everything is going to be okay”
to no one in particular,
just the nearby blank wall –
weighing on her sadness
floating just below the surface
This whole “new job” thing was seriously disrupting her life.
On the one hand, she felt grateful – it was a very good job.
On the other hand, she kinda wanted to skip to the part where she felt settled into her habits again – including the one where she could let her mind wander without worrying that it would get lost. Yes, that would be nice.
it only took 42.56 years to understand, finally:
is not the same as
Somewhere behind her smile, she hides. She fills the evening with empty conversation and vacant gestures. Too worn, she then simply stands near the fray of chatter to look engaged. When she feels she might shatter, she leaves without saying goodbye. Outside, she crumples on the sidewalk, hollowed by the night. When she can stand again, she hobbles to her car, breathing in all the beautiful silence and space around her. She frees herself from pretense and protocol and scatters her thoughts among the stars.
These are the best moments of the entire evening for her.
She knew she was short. But she was really getting tired of having every public toilet flush automatically while she was still seated. And the usual solutions clearly weren’t going to work – for example, she could tell that stacking telephone books on the commode would make for a crappy experience.
No pun intended.
They told her she needed to label all of her daughter’s clothing. She felt like crying …..
Instead, she developed an elaborate scheme to accomplish the soul sucking task. First, she bought hundreds of iron-on labels and waited for them to come in the mail – because she loved real mail. When the thick packet finally arrived, she positioned herself in front of the living room window with an iron and ironing board. She wanted to be able to watch the world pass by while she ironed. She didn’t want to be stuck in the basement for hours. Never mind that she lived on a dead end street with almost zero traffic.
When her interest in the external world started to flag, she decided to practice her newfound mindful meditation. She thought deeply and intensely about applying each label to each piece of clothing. She heard the slight sizzle of the label with every stroke of the iron. She dwelled on the most fitting location for each label. She breathed in rhythm with every push of the iron. She became one with the label and the iron, goddammit.
Sadly, by label #157, she was BORED out of her ever-living mind. Her whole plan for peaceful and methodical label ironing had failed. She did a laborious mental calculation of how much remained to be done: only about 500 MILLION or so left, she figured. Okay. She just needed to coach herself through this. Yes: She could do this. She had advanced degrees, after all. She could complete this small domestic project for which there was no required ROR or fancy algorithms, no complex rules or laws. She just needed a little push.
That was when she started to play a little bit. She strategically covered the designers’ names with her daughter’s name so her daughter would be wearing Calvin [Pod] socks and Ralph [Pod] shirts. She put some labels on upside down. She cut labels into funny shapes and applied them. She did all sorts of different things – as many as her mind could conceive.
Even then, she reached a point of sheer numbness and had to stop when she could no longer see any shadows on the road to nowhere. She plopped down on her living room floor and wondered – hoped, really – whether her daughter would get the joke and smile a little at the discovery of each tiny label she had placed in odd spots. Because that would make her feel truly successful.
And then she knew: this was the thought that would carry her through the rest of those labels – the mere possibility of a shared chuckle with her daughter.
I think I have been spending too much time with the dog.
Last night, I dreamed about laying on lush green grass and tossing tennis balls to her until she flopped down on the patch of grass next to me. The dream was so vivid that she even had stinky dog breath.