seals

It’s always the same; one parent starts to look a little tired, while the other appears normal. Fast forward a certain amount of time, and one of them looks like his or her best friend died, and the other looks like a beautifully well-trained circus seal: plump and sleek and shiny, all over.

Sometimes the seal is a woman and sometimes it’s a man. I haven’t seen any great differential gap between who does the hurting and who gets hurt – between the jellyfish and the seal.

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why hating work is useful

I was glad to be back to steady work. Steady work is steady money, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean the feeling of loathing that washed over me – here I am again, everything looks the same, everyone is the same, even if they’re not.

I know that’s not really clear, not the way I mean it to be, at least. 

There’s a chance to find yourself in work, especially in work that you dislike. There’s a framework imposed upon you, and you’re forced to create yourself inside it. Now of course I’m not advocating that everyone go out and find soul-crushing employment. Nor am I saying that people who are really really happy with their jobs are missing out on something. I guess what I’m saying – what I’m trying to say, rather – is that there’s a certain unpleasantness inherent in life, like chores. Like wiping runny noses or poopy butts, like bleaching the toilet bowl or cleaning out the bits of half-chewed food at the bottom of the sink. There are those things, then there’s getting terrible news – a teacher is quitting! A parent has decided to find his/herself and has abandoned the rest of the family! The latest guinea pig has gone to heaven and the pet store is going to close in ten minutes! The inspectors are here! 

And in those moments, the terrible as well as the mundane, I learn more about myself (and sometimes those around me) that I ever did meditating, as good and head-clearing as that was, or traveling, as amazing and eye-opening as that was.

So I walked in the door, hung up my car keys and old bag on the same hook, put on the same old name tag, and thought I hate working. Isn’t it great?

 

to need a man

“I need a man in my life,” I told Vicki, poking at the green foam in my glass with my straw. Green. Inventive. Her eyes widened. “Oh come on,” I told her, “a guy. You know?”

“You need a man?! Like,” she leaned in closer, “Like your body needs a man? Or like, marriage?”

“Oh my – ” I choked before I could finish. Maybe green was not an indicator of potability. “Is that all that men are good for? I mean, I clarified, I said a ‘guy’, and that’s what I mean – a guy. A friend.” She seemed confused. “To fall in love with slowly?”

“No, when I say a guy I mean just a friend, a dude, a bro. I’m just tired of talking to girls right now.”

“That means me too, doesn’t it?” She frowned. “Did you just drink that whole thing?”

“That’s what I’m talking about! Every time I go out with you and your friends,” I sighed, rephrased. “It just seems whenever I go out with girls I’m told how inadequate I am, we all are, and I’m sick of it because the minute I challenge any of it I’m told I just don’t understand yet, or accused of being anti-girl.”

“What?” She was completely still, watching me.

“I’m tired of hearing about diets, and surgeries, and body modifications, and what this or that article says about when you should biologically reproduce. I don’t want to make the point of my life – why did any of us go to school or do anything other than embroider if it all leads up to this? I don’t want my life to be this one huge search for a ‘wonderful man’ with the right lifestyle it’s just sickening it just . . . My life needs to mean more than a huge diamond one day.”

Vicki looked at me steadily. I was looking down at my folded hands but I could feel her eyes pass over the bridge of my nose, my glasses, the top of my head like a hot searchlight. “You can get a sapphire, you know. They’re beginning to be in style so if you wait to get married it’ll most likely be in vogue by whenever that is. Sapphires are really pretty so you shouldn’t feel badly about not wanting a diamond – ”

“Was there some poisoned well I neglected to drink out of?” I interjected, even though I knew there was no stopping her description of wedding trends.

Or reaching her.

envelop

All the feelings I have about him are protective. From there you already know where I’m going: warm, tender, emotions that envelop like arms.

Sometimes, very late nights, I worry about him. I do not want him to disappear one day and come back, three days later, a changed man. So I put it out of my mind very quickly and think about something else.

everything

Everything he says sounds like the right thing, I thought, up to my elbows in sudsy water. I thought of his face. He looks earnest when he’s talking to me. I guess he just looks earnest all the time. I guess . . . I need more coffee. It’s the afternoon, I don’t need coffee. I’ll just be up until 4 again.

I don’t know why it’s 4 – the magic hour when I suddenly fall asleep no matter what.

Late night/early morning is the loneliest time imaginable to be awake. Sometimes I feel like the last person alive, and I wonder how many other people are feeling like that, like me, just like me, and are only a few yards away.

couples

I never want to ask the unhappy couples if they’re okay. Sometimes I can’t help myself, the words come out and I feel like a fool but they’re out already and there’s no stopping the response. “We’re fine!” they tell me, us, whomever. “Never better!” “Great!” “Happy!”

And then one morning you see pink around their eyes, or the sunglasses never come off, but the wedding ring is off, and they’re too busy to say good morning.

Invariably the children’s clothing is rumpled, his or her hair isn’t brushed – and no one is happy I said this.

Teachers aren’t supposed to notice.

leak

Sometimes when I think of him I want to spontaneously burst into tears. I didn’t say ‘cry’ because it’s different: one cries out of sadness, frustration, joy. It isn’t like that. It’s different.

I just think of his face and I feel like there’s a river behind my eyes, matter-of-fact body of water that’s about to leak out. So I immediately banish the thought of him to the back of my mind (wherever that is) and the next time it floats to the surface of my consciousness, this idea of him, is months later.

And perhaps that day I feel something entirely different. I usually do.

whore

I was always told that women who had indiscriminate sex would get labeled and spoken of with malicious winks. Labeled ‘whore’ and – you know all the epithets. As for the women I’ve heard about mentioned that way, I never felt one way or another towards them: I didn’t know them.

I don’t think about people or things I don’t know.

(Do you know where this drift is headed? Maybe you do.) I always assumed that as a preschool teacher who doesn’t wear makeup and doesn’t even know how to flirt I would be firmly relegated to the land of ‘women who are never talked about one way or another’. Sometimes I’d watch a movie with a really sexy woman in it and think Wow! It must be kind of amazing to be sexy. She looks as different from me as a pheasant does from, I don’t know – a mailbox. But that was it. I wish I could say I don’t think about my looks because I am awesome, but really it’s just that I’m surviving. I feel like some sort of arctic explorer jumping from one ill-advised melting floe to another and trying not to count the cost.

I think every time I don’t sleep with a guy he calls me a whore.

I felt the wall move against my back, and I realized that whatever I’ve ever felt, I’d never felt the peculiar stab of finding out that people are literally talking about me, like some kind of nightmare of whispers and dismissive glances. I hugged my knees and felt myself folding up inwardly and outwardly, like human origami.