Fine Line

I borrowed my dad’s tool set because it looked cooler than the ones we had in class. I turned each screw as hard as I could and swung the door panel a million and half times to make sure it was loose enough to open but tight enough that no baby birds would fall out. I painted it robin egg blue and posted it proudly in our backyard. It didn’t take long for the bluebirds to find it and for me to become fascinated with their homemaking progress. Twigs turned to nests, nests to eggs, eggs to waiting impatiently for squeaky mouths to feed. But it turned out that I didn’t have to wait long because the neighborhood boys came along and threw every last one against a tree for sport.

And that was the day I learned the difference between love and apathy.

Of hopes and paste

I remember eating a cream pie but I’m almost certain that it did not have lemon in it. Still, something must have set off the bitter sting on my tongue. I crumbled up the paper napkin and drank the last swig of water in my cup as I got up from the table. Tossing the napkin ball into the trash, I went on to the bathroom in hopes that brushing my teeth would help the burn in my mouth. I’ve always preferred brushing with Crest though my roommate in college gave me long speeches as to the superiority of Colgate. And I never understood the appeal of any cinnamon flavored paste. You can’t feel clean and fresh if your mouth is brushed by fire, especially in my current scorched condition. Any matter, brushing my teeth did ease the sour tang but only exacerbated the over all heat. Well then, what more could I do? Resorting to science, I considered if drinking a base such as milk might take care of the nuisance. So I poured a small glass and attempted to swish a bit, forgetting too late just how dreadful milk tasted on a freshly brushed pallet. That lead to a spat in the sink and fresh dose of frustration. Storming back to the bathroom, I opened my mouth in as many directions as my jaw hinges would allow, seeing nothing. Oh but wait, right there. There on my tongue, towards the back a little. Geez, I needed more light. Turning the illuminate function to bright on a little compact mirror from the makeup drawer, I focused in on that speck of something that was the source of my torture. I wasn’t going to be able to get my finger to it without gagging. Taking the tweezers by the sink, I carefully gave the speck a tug and slowly extracted it. Giving a little cough, I blinked at the miniscule object at the end of the tweezers. I had to almost squint to make it out but came to see that the bitter situation was an unanswered prayer.

Mark goes to the market

Mark was fidgeting. He really had no idea where to start. There were displays for 401K, long term life insurance, even preorders for after life care. The store was kind enough to arrange arrow stickers along the floor to lead the way for the best shopping experience, you know, should you be looking for that sort of thing.

A man brushed by on his way to check out. It was Larry from the downtown law firm. Mark raised a hand to salute hello. Larry did as well.

“Hey Mark, good to see you. What are you in for today? I’m picking up a larger house and baby number three! Amber is feeling a little restless since the other two are in school now. I thought it would be a nice surprise to occupy her, make her feel a bigger purpose.”

“Oh you know Larry, just trying to figure out what to upgrade to now.”

Larry gave a laugh and was on his way. Mark envied him and his wallet and fancy life accomplishments. To make progress in this world, you had to pay dearly for it. Mark’s problem was he hadn’t quite figured out how to acquire enough money. But he couldn’t go home empty handed. His wife was counting on him. He walked up to the check out line where there were often lower priced deals such as a family visit to the ice cream parlor, sometimes even car maintenance. After all, even the poorest needed transportation. Browsing, Mark stumbled upon a a bin that was hidden behind a display for fancy sports cars. It was advertised as “free”. Excited, Mark looked inside the bin, ready to grab heaping piles of whatever was inside. It was love. It would have to do.

How I met your mother

I’m not a lady hunter kind of bloke, honest. I just like to ease out of work with a beer. But I’m also not particularly blind, so I noticed the girl next to me was staring at the screen without really watching the game. The bar was crowded with guys being guys and here she sat like she didn’t notice. I asked her name and she didn’t even blink. So I took a chance and nudged her a bit. Her eyes never changed when she looked my way but she smiled a wee bit and said hi at least. She offered an apology for being so spaced out, though I don’t know why she thought she owed it to me. I offered to buy her a drink but she only wanted water. Said she was waiting on friends and they appeared. One was obnoxiously loud and over using words. My still unnamed bar girl didn’t look as enthused. I really have no idea why but on impulse I grabbed her hand and asked her girls if I could keep her for a bit longer, making up some shit on the spot about getting her a drink and being in the middle of conversation. They made their assumptions and gave catty looks but they did leave. Bar girl actually gave me a genuine, full mouth smile, and thank you. God, she was gorgeous and I really wanted to know her.  But she went back to just staring at the game because it seemed like what she wanted and what a dick I would be to save her from her friends then harass her all night.

Wander, a short story.

“I went to visit mom today. She said she loves the African violets you brought her and was wondering if you could bring her some in pink next time you visit.”

“Oh that’s great!” I say. “I’ll make sure to get her some.” The pink ones were always my favorite. They made me think of the violets Grandma kept on her table in the sunroom. I used to pinch the cactus type plants, loving the way they’d squirt out water. The plastic green flooring meant to look like grass always left imprints on my skin which would itch for-

“Lynn? Are you even listening? I asked you where you got those flowers for mom.”

“Oh,” I say. “Sorry, er, I picked them up at that nursery by the Mass General.” They still have that wall full of buckets of candy that you can pick from to fill up a one price bag, only now it’s five dollars a bag instead of seventy-five cents. Dad always liked the gum that came in strings, a baseball picture on the package. I can’t remember the name though. I’d always steal-

“Ok, if you’re not going to pay me any attention, I’m just going to be on my way. Stop your daydreaming and learn to focus for goodness sake and maybe you’ll finally make something of yourself. You need to get your head out of the clouds, Lynn, I swear.”

I wish I could. For you. I hate this habit affects you…

But at night, it’s safer there.

Sour

I had a thought and I opened my mouth to speak about it. And I guess I must have taken in too much air (you know how that goes) because next thing I know, I’m choking violently on my own spit, trying desparately to gain control of my airway so I can finish saying what I never even started. It’s kind of pathetic how badly my throat was burning by that point and the tears were uncalled for and embarassing so I stood up and stumbled to the bathroom, hacking into my shirtsleeve. I closed the door and leaned over the pristine petite porcelian sink (the host, dear friend of mine, was into the whole Parisian chique look). I tried deep breathing and for a moment it did seem to calm me down but all the coughing must have set off a full body reaction because before I could really prepare, my stomach was heaving. A deep, full belly squeeze possessed me and I lunged for the toilet, in all its pink fluffy glory. I don’t recall how long I heaved, more than a couple times but not so many that I had time to really think, then I was finally dispelling whatever had a hold on me. I went along with it, trying to relax as much as one can in such a situation and just waited for my body to calm. I felt spent but slightly more normal so I set about washing my face and hands, taking in huge lungfuls of air. Finally satisfied with my composure, I turned to take a curious peak (you can’t deny that knowing what comes out of the body is somehow vital information) into the toilet before flushing. I looked down and while I was surprised, I can’t say I was stunned, to see floating in the murky putrid liquid, your name.

Embellished Autobiography

I was really too sleepy to remember how but I made it to the subway for my morning commute, coffee in hand and eyes barely open. I plopped down on the first seat I saw and knocked my head back to catch a few more minutes of semi-snooze. I didn’t realize I sat beside a talker.

“Good morning! I couldn’t help but notice your scrubs. Do you work at Regional?”

I cracked my eyes open and forced a friendly smile. (I hope it was friendly. I couldn’t really feel my face.)

“Hi. Actually I do home health care.”

That didn’t put an end to things as I hoped it would.

“Oh! Well, I just find that to be so admirable! You do such great work, caring for others when most people in their life have either deserted them to live young and busy lives or passed on before them. Thank you so much for all you do. I’m sure your patients really appreciate it.”

Maybe it was the wee hour, my lack of sleep. I hadn’t had a sip of my coffee. Or maybe it was just how brilliantly cheerful her face looked. But once I started, I couldn’t stop.

“Actually, most of my patients yell at me first thing for not remembering some minor detail like putting their socks in the first drawer instead of the second. And then there’s the whole bit where I run to the grocery store and come back with the ‘wrong brand’ even though I’ve been buying them the same exact one for months…

“Some people are burdened with the hardship of having a family member go through a long and difficult dying process like Alzheimer’s or cancer. It consumes their life and drives them nearly insane just to handle and care for that one person. But I envy them actually because they have their one or two encounters. I have new encounters everyday, every way to die you can imagine. I can’t figure out why the hell I put myself through that.I guess because I still have bills to pay.

“It’s just a job. I don’t really want to know these people, nor have them shit on me. I don’t want to care about their problems. I have enough on my own. When you spend more time with the dying than your own friends and family, you start to feel like you’re dying too. They’re too old to have much of a life but I’m still young enough that I’d like to live mine. And I’d prefer for it to not include this awful job anymore.”

The woman gave me a horrified look and mumbled something about my cold heart, should be ashamed, today’s youth. I swear, she even crossed herself as she got up to move seats.

But I didn’t care. I was more pissed that I let my coffee get cold.