He crouched to look at the guinea pig. “So that’s Baxter, huh?” I tried to conceal the quick look of shock, but he saw it anyway. “Yes, Lola, some dads can actually still squat,” he smiled. “No, not that, I’m just surprised you know his name,” I said, feeling the colour creeping into my face, starting at my cheekbones. He noticed the blush, motioned towards the cage. “You have a tiny wooden sign with ‘Baxter’ written on it right next to the cage, Lola. I’d have to be much more tired, stressed and old than I actually am to not see it.” I nodded, in the usual way, where more of my head than my face is visual.
I’m upset and unhappy – but it only matters to me, doesn’t it, in the end? My feelings sit inside me like a great roiling rancid ball but no one can see them or feel them but myself. And the only way anyone would ever know was to ask me and people, they really don’t ask. If you megaphone your problems and sit on a hilltop crying whatever the modern equivalent of ‘unclean’ is – ‘suspicious lump’? ‘cancerous tumor’? ‘deteriorating injury’? – then well-wishers and emotional support will flock to your side. You can ascribe to them your own motives; I’m surely neither cynical nor naive enough for the task.
But if your jaw is kept clamped shut the ball will stay, and all your analogies about Prometheus may or may not hold water but they’ll stay within the confines of your body too. So I find myself looking out at the city and watching the cars, and wondering how many people feel just like me and how many people have wondered just that – and so forth and so on with all the hulls of our empty selves standing like sentinel cicada husks as witness to what we once were.
When I affirmed that you could crash on my couch for a night or two, it was implicitly understood on my part that you were not to turn it into a Jamaican dance hall. Also the game of what-is-in-this-cupboard? Amusing to none but yourself.
I saw an old man just now working a menial job, an old man way past retirement age, and I felt deeply unhappy. I felt for him, as they say, whatever that really means.
I gave him almost all the money I had on me, even though it wasn’t much, even though it was food money, I guess because the right thing to do is very often the stupid one as well.
It didn’t help that when he took the money, after he realized that it was for him and he wasn’t expected to do anything, looked at me. His eyes were clear and shone just like, well, I guess like a kid’s. Like I was doing something better than the decent human thing.
It didn’t make me feel better that he was so happy, it made me feel worse.
Maybe it doesn’t ever have to make sense because it doesn’t matter. All I know is I feel raw and ten kinds of miserable and when that happens I leave it here and not in my journal.