January 11, 2010

-image-at the bookstore

Doing what I do best: eavesdropping.

At the table next to me are two young women. One woman is dressed in all black: jeans, sweater, spiky boots. The other woman is dressed in apathy: mom jeans, sweatshirt, sneakers.

I listen to their conversation and really start to dislike one of them.

“So I bought a petticoat.”

“A what?”

“You know, a coat.”

“Uh, well, that’s a skirt.”

“Oh. Yeah. I mean a pea coat.”

“Well, you have no IDEA how cold you’ll be.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“No. You don’t know.”

“I think I’ll be fine.”

“I keep seeing you fight for the right to dress inappropriately.”

“I’ll be fine.

Later …..

“You’re wearing Skechers with a skirt? I didn’t know you could wear Skechers with a skirt.”

And later …..

“Okay. So about you. Somehow you’re making that unemployment thing work — which I don’t get — but tell me about that.”

Oh, I swear, I could feel that old familiar itch in my smackin’ hand. I could visualize my lily white fist connecting with her smug little face: “Hey, hi, Betty! Guess what? Kapow! KAPOW!”

KAPOWW!

June 1, 2009

-image-overheard at the bookstore

The other morning, I had to nearly weep for this poor man who, through sheer bum luck of chair selection, became audience to the very lengthy monologue of the man next to him about chaos theory and how the world will end in 2012 according to the Mayan Calendar and aliens and angels and many other things …. many other inexplicable things.

Here’s some of what I could hear of his soliloquy. And these are not strung together. Where you see an entire comment, that’s what he said.

~ So if we’re all spirits when 2012 comes and it all goes to hell in a handbasket, I ask myself, should I still be planting trees?

~ But I do think the answer is horticulture.

(I swear I dated a guy who said that exact thing once. Uhm …. Jeff??)

~ Do you think demons are just another culture?

~ Those cosmic guys in the Bible who had sex with humans, they were aliens.

~ You know, when you look at pictograms, those might be angels.

~ When you look at the Indians, there are people who are angels so if something happened like a car accident they just walk off like Jesus.

(Stop stealing imploring glances at me, Listening Guy. I cannot save you. I am busy, very busy, eavesdropping here. Just getting this all down requires my utmost concentration and I cannot let it lapse for one teensy second. Alas, I do feel for you, if that helps, which it doesn’t.)

~ It’s a military conflict, like spying. It should be like eggs rolling down a mountain.

(Mmm, yes. I totally agree. Please tell me more. I’m spying on you right now and it is exactly like eggs rolling down a mountain.)

~ So what you’re talking about with these beings — they have a very cosmopolitan existence.

(Hahahahaha. They’re having sex with humans, getting in car accidents, spying and/or rolling eggs down mountains. Yes, it’s all very sophisticated. I can see that.)

~ We’re probably being watched. And I’m not someone who’s out there or anything.

(Well, you’re right about that. I am watching you. Creepy, huh?)

~ We’re turning but the other planets are rising.

(Hence, the explanation for global warming AND Lady Gaga.)

~ The removal of the water pressure ….. well, actually, rather than worry about nuclear war, we should be worrying about volcanoes.

~ If for some reason we all went away, there might be patron saints, whereas, the other pictures of astronomical change — that tells me there may be bad guys; I’m just reporting.

(Yes. I see. “Fair and balanced.”)

~ There are two different spheres here, two different levels. The top of the temple and the steps. I’m really glad to be talking to you.

(I’m glad you’re talking to him, too. He, however, is definitely not glad.)

~ Jedis aren’t in the Bible.

(I’m very sorry.)

~ Look at Las Vegas. They’re about washed away.

~ Guys that look like Darth Vader just show up now and then.

(And you know what, hon? That’s the truest thing you’ve said. The truest thing.)

May 8, 2009

-image-saturday morning ritual

Every Saturday morning we go to the bookstore, My Beloved and I. It’s a little ritual we have. We go to breakfast, have some eggs benedict or strawberry waffles or good ol’ bacon and eggs, then arrive at the bookstore right as the doors open because we are anal retentive and have dibs on this certain perfect table, you see. We must hurry hurry, quick like a bunny, to “get there before all the selfish people.” This is our long-standing joke, murmured regularly to a shared secret laugh.

And every Saturday morning, I schlep the sturdy leather bag MB gave me about ten years ago, the bag that people will always ask about with a gasp and a green gleam in their eyes because they can see that it’s basically the best thing ever and they realize with a sigh what their life has been missing lo! these many years and they bemoan how unfair it is that this unworthy girl should have a bag like this and they, well, don’t. Inside this singular bag, we keep our Saturday morning things: pens, pencils, Post-its, composition books, sketch pads, scraps of papers with scraps of thoughts scribbled across them. That bag, worn and scratched and coffee-splotched and all the more striking because of it, houses most of what we are these days, what’s inside our heads. It’s not on a computer; it’s not in a journal; it’s in that bag. Right now, as we stumble around in our starting-over life, these alien days, more than anywhere else, we are present and safe in that bag.

For a few months when we first started this ritual, we became embroiled in an unspoken yet nasty territory war with an aggressive older couple we called The Jews. We fretted with each other every Saturday wondering if perhaps this was a tad racist, calling them The Jews, but they are, in fact, Jews, if the yarmulke on his head is any indication. And although our collective marital conscience remains uneasy on this point, we cannot seem to stop referring to them as The Jews, whispering it low and quavery, waiting to be turned to pillars of salt. But I must be true to what we actually call them, although you may think less of me — if possible — for the admission.

The Jews are short. He is short and squat; she is short and lean. They both wear the same thing every Saturday. He: Jeans, brown sweater, white dress shirt. She: Jeans, black sweater, black clacky boots. They have the same cropped hairstyle, although his is grey and hers is a solid dyed black. Her jeans are faded in two small circles of lighter blue, one on each skinny butt cheek and her legs bow out like a wishbone. Those thighs, I tell you, have never touched. They make me angry. She clacks hither and yon on her wishbones, gathering every gossip magazine in the place, sits down on her faded circles, and devours all the latest about Angelina or Obama or Lindsay Lohan. When she’s done, she abandons the clutter of her table and leaves the store for quick shopping fix elsewhere. Thirty minutes later, she returns with a bag — Old Navy, The Gap, Nordstrom. Every Saturday.

Through the lively art of eavesdropping, I’ve learned that he is some kind of a judge. This seems about right. I do feel judged by him. Or maybe it’s the sheer force of my own judgment bouncing back to me, although I think it’s worth mentioning that I reject this notion outright in order to still feel good about myself. His weekly entrance into the bookstore is always lopsided as he drags in a loaded leather bag with seemingly every newspaper in the world bulging and erupting from its top. He leans, he tilts. The physics of it all seem almost impossible to me. One should not carry a bag that has such a deleterious effect on one’s posture is what I always think when I see him. Or if not that exactly, something similar like Oh, brother. Eh, potato potahto. But I always notice, smug and inwardly shriveled as I am, that his bag is completely unremarkable compared to mine and, yes, I have caught him staring at my bag. And my boobs, but that’s neither here nor there.

The war with The Jews began one unfortunate Saturday morning when we sat at the table on which they apparently have forever dibs. It’s a nice table, the only one that seats four, so you can spread out and luxuriate like a cat with all your Saturday morning things. The superior features of this table had not escaped my notice. It had also not escaped my notice that The Jews camped out at that table, hogging it for themselves week after week. So when we arrived this fateful day and the big table was empty, so roomy and beckoning, yes, we sat. We sat at the big table and we liked it. A lot. No. More than that. It was like a hit of crack. We were hooked in an instant and there was no looking back now, no siree.

How could we possibly know that an ill wind was blowing from one day’s innocent squat?

When The Jews arrived twenty minutes later, they stopped dead in their clacking and lopsided tracks, thoughts fairly bellowing in outraged waves across the room: What is this? Interlopers? At our table? Never! Oh, the betrayal! The hissy! The gyp of it all! Yeah, well, what of it? We felt their wrath, but we were numb with addiction. High on comfy spacious bliss. While they stood adrift and incredulous in a sea of two-seater tables, I simply bowed my head a little closer to my book, pressed my butt a little deeper in my seat.

After that — the day The Jews had to sit at a two-seater table — it was Game On.

The next Saturday, MB and I, jonesing for that table now, arrived even earlier. But, alas, The Jews did, too. So there we were, the four of us waiting for the doors to open, pointedly ignoring one another, pretending we weren’t antsy little kids jostling to see Santa first or jittery racehorses twitching in the starting gates. The air vibrated with immaturity; it shimmered with practiced blase. I have to say: I was appalled at my elders. No role models, those two. How could I possibly be the bigger person when it wasn’t being modeled for me, I ask you? And, anyway, wasn’t this the Sabbath?

Okay. Fine. Bring it, God’s Chosen People!

The doors opened. MB yanked my bag from my hands and morphed into Pac-Man. Left, right, left, razor sharp turns through the maze of shelves, into the cafe area. The Judge took a different route, but moved his legs even faster. He had to; MB towers over him. His legs are as long as The Judge is tall. The man was hell-bent, hell-bent I say, on reaching that table first. He seemed ravenous, the Tasmanian Devil. I lagged several feet back and watched the furious footwork, the dueling foolishness. For a split second, I admit, I questioned what I had become, what I had been reduced to, if this was all there is, but when I rounded that last row of shelves and saw my leather bag perched in triumph on the object of our desire — MB’s longer strides having vanquished our foe — I finally knew what mattered most:

The Table and Keeping It From Others.

For the next two months, this became our new Saturday morning ritual: a cozy breakfast together …. a pleasant drive to the bookstore ….. a casual loiter by the doors ….. an insane death match amongst grown adults over the big table in the cafe. Not a word was ever said. Not one. Ever. It was beyond words. Honestly, I marveled at our shared sense of vision, the commonality of our cause. I understood The Jews. I knew them. What they wanted, I wanted. What I wanted, they wanted. I mean, I’m not this in sync with my own family. I don’t even understand myself this well, for crying out loud. I’ve disagreed with people mid-prayer, for God’s sake. It was beautiful thing, really. Four strangers’ hearts beating in rhythm to a shared secret tune, devoted to a single mutual goal:

The Table and Keeping It From Others.

As the weeks went by, our battle plan became more involved. MB and I split up, covered the front door and the side door because they weren’t unlocked simultaneously, of course. One door always lagged every so slightly behind the other. But that didn’t matter. We had it covered. If we were pulling into the lot and The Jews were getting out of their car, it was pedal to the metal, baby. A screech of tire, a squeal of brakes. Go go go go go! I tell you, we were Special Ops. SEALS. Rangers. Something big and bad-ass and heroic, that’s for sure. Our motto was our mission: “First There.”

And, well, we were and we were and we were. For weeks, The Judge’s little feet of fury and MB’s seemingly nonchalant strides went toe to toe but the results were always the same: victory was ours.

One Saturday, though, lounging at the big table, gorged from weeks of consecutive victories, we saw something that gave us pause. A sight that caused us to rethink our ongoing mission, our newfound purpose in life. It was The Jews, dragging into the bookstore half an hour late; he, looking much more lopsided than usual; she, sounding much less clacky. They seem resigned, subdued. Was it possible the ongoing battle for the big table had broken The Jews’ spirits? Quietly, they set up at a nearby two-seater while we watched, shot one glance at each other, and knew we thought the same thing: We suck.

The triumph of selfishness lost a tiny bit of its glimmer. Who knew?

The next weekend, chastened, we arrived and saw something we hadn’t noticed before in our blood lust for the big table: in the far corner, a skinny rectangle of a table, empty and ignored. No, it wasn’t the perfect wide equality of the big table, but, still, it was just right somehow. Out of the way and private but with a view for people-watching. I mean, if a person was into that sort of thing. We looked at it, looked at each other, and knew the battle was over. MB plopped the leather bag on it and there we sat, setting up our Saturday morning things. When The Jews arrived, listless and ragged from their constant second place in this marathon of greed, we watched with secret glances as they stopped, saw the vacant big table, us at the skinny table, took it all in doubtfully, then moved in slow motion to claim what had been lost to them.

So that’s our ritual now. The cozy breakfast. The leather bag. The Saturday morning things. The skinny table for us. The big table for The Jews. This is our new detente. No words have ever been said between us.

The Judge still stares at my bag. And my boobs. But there’s only so much I can change.

March 23, 2009

-image-at the bookstore, episode 8

Little boy, about 3 or 4 years old, sitting with his dad, continuously asking about his “coffee” — when can I get my coffee, how big will my coffee be, are you getting coffee too, Daddy, etc. Finally, he gets his “coffee,” and calms down enough to announce, “You don’t talk to strangers, Daddy.”

Dad agrees. “That’s right.”

“And you don’t talk to ladies, either.”

Dad sips his coffee in silence.

March 21, 2009

-image-at the bookstore, episode 7

A snippet — without editorial comment, although it’s tempting.

A bride-to-be with her groom-to-be meeting with a florist a few tables away. The bride wears giant hoop earrings — Tyra Banks would tell her she “needs to lose those.” The groom ogles me and basically every woman that walks past him.

FLORIST: Give me three words to describe your wedding.

(silence)

GROOM: Well, fun …. and ….. well …

(longer silence)

FLORIST: Okay. That’s good. What’s the size of the bridal party?

BRIDE: Twelve.

FLORIST: Okay.

GROOM: Seven guys and five girls.

FLORIST: Do you have a theme?

BRIDE: (sadly) No.

FLORIST: Oh. Hm. Okay.

BRIDE: But the girls are in red so they should have white flowers and I’m in white so I should have red flowers.

FLORIST: Okay. Any flowers you particularly like?

BRIDE: Noo … I dunno ….. I’m open …

FLORIST: Okay. Why don’t you look through this book of samples then?

(they do so — several moments pass)

BRIDE: Do lilies come in any other color besides white?

FLORIST: (eyes wide) Uh, yes.

(another long pause of perusal)

GROOM: The guys are all wearing red vests.

FLORIST: Oh. Okay.

About 20 minutes later, the couple walk to their car, far apart, not holding hands, not touching.

February 21, 2009

-image-at the bookstore, episode 6

I couldn’t see his face, he was sitting behind me with another gentleman, but his voice caught my attention. His accent, the rat-a-tat-tat of his cadence. He sounded Indian maybe. Older. First, it was the rhythm of his speech that caught my attention, then it was his words.

“Do you know why I’m a closer? Do you? It’s because I love people. I feel people. You must listen. You must let them talk. You can’t be ya-ya-ya talking at them. Remember last week, with Bob? You know what he did wrong? He closed the door — “ya-ya-ya.” And what did I do yesterday — remember? I opened the door. You must open the door. Don’t close the door until they’re inside the door. Do you know what my expertise is? My expertise is people. People.”

February 1, 2009

-image-college students at the bookstore

A group of eight San Diego State University students seated several feet away at three tables they’ve pushed together. They’re doing some kind of group project — the dreaded group project. I eavesdrop, as I am wont to do, and learn it’s some kind of marketing assignment. They’re supposed to be an ad agency, I guess — everyone with his or her jobs and titles within this pretend agency, and it seems they’ve been told the pretend client they’re pitching sells air-freshening type products.

Okay. That’s the basic set-up for all the eavesdropping that follows.

A collection of what I heard:

~ Okay. We need to emphasize that we are innovative and traditional.

~ Am I the Account Executive? I wanna be the Account Executive, okay?

~ Well, maybe we could share that. Can we share?

~ Well …..

(Hahaha. That was the Alpha Male and Alpha Female of the group. Basically, the only ones talking.)

~ We need to acknowledge the challenge of our competitors. Make sure we talk about them.

~ Well, don’t talk about them TOO much!

~ (to a girl who hasn’t spoken) Do you wanna join the group or what?

~ Remember: The brand is the product. The brand is the product!

~ I think we should focus that our experience is that we’re young innovative professionals with fresh ideas.

(Verbatim there.)

~ Okay. I think we should show two guys: One is good-looking but his room stinks. The other is a total dork, but his room smells good. And the dork gets all the girls.

~ Are we gonna do a skit?

~ Yeah! We should do a skit!

~ Our expertise is that we’re professional.

~ Shannon, you’re Media Director.

~ I wanna be AE!

~ Sorry.

~ We need to focus on three things: our experience, that we’re on top of trends, that our competitors do things but we do them better.

~ Oh! And we need to make sure the client knows that WE choose. Our agency picks and chooses. WE choose YOU.

~ For the presentation, let’s wear suits and flip flops!

~ I think we should do it extemporaneously.

~ (to two students not contributing) You guys are copywriters, okay?

~ (shrug) Okay.

~ Sure. The other agencies will show you their stuff, but will they show you everything?

~ Okay. On Tuesday, me and her will write the copy.

~ (as they’re leaving) I really like us.

~ Me too.

~ We rock.

You know, I don’t know why people say SDSU is a laughingstock among colleges.

I am completely baffled.

December 23, 2008

-image-christmas eve eve

So this time, I’m at the bookstore to Christmas shop. And for pity’s sake, it’s today, Christmas Eve Eve, yet, apparently, I engage in this activity without any nod to reality or consequences or the fact that other people actually exist.

Within 10 minutes, however, I behold the snaking line — 5,000 selfish shoppers deep — and retreat, hyperventilating, to the refuge of the store cafe, with a small coffee and a Real Simple magazine. I’m always drawn to this magazine with the condescending name, hoping against hope every time that I will suddenly find that everything IS real simple after all. But, obviously, Real Simple has never been to this particular bookstore on Christmas Eve Eve. So, you know, do shut up, Real Simple.

Next to me, at a larger table, sits a little man with slick dark hair. His tucked-in shirt is red, his belted jeans are “mom,” his tennis shoes and socks are black. When I glance down, I can see his black socks peeking beneath his mom jeans with large red letters proclaiming USA! His companion, an older woman, sits across from him, wearing huge googly glasses. His mom, perhaps? I don’t know. She quietly reads a Gourmet magazine while he noisily spars with the latest edition of Hello! I’m not kidding. He doesn’t just read it; he attacks it, debates it. Out of the corner of my eye, I watch him zip through it, turning pages with a wild fling of his arm. Sometimes he stops and thumps the page in dismay, barking to the woman in a foreign guttural tongue. Enraged by the latest photos of Brangelina’s brood? Driven mad by Britney’s shenanigans? Who knows? He looks so mild-mannered, a Turkish Bruce Banner maybe, but I fear his Hello! magazine is pushing him to some horrible Hulking brink. With each outburst, the woman across from him murmurs shhhh …. shhhhhh … soothing him like a colicky baby until he quiets down again.

For maybe thirty minutes, while Real Simple compares olive oils for me, this is the routine: the thumping uproar, the growling upset, the soft shushing. Shhh ….. shhhhhh. They seem accustomed to this procedure, as if it’s some strange companionable groove they’ve carved out over the years.

Thump …. grrrrr …. rrrr ………. shhhh …… shhhhhhhh ….

I never look at him directly, just sideways, but I can see that when he’s done with one magazine, he slams it shut and shoves it to the side to make room for the next one. I have to admire him, really. He’s fully present, fully engaged, doing his thing his way, in his own little world. Nothing and no one else exists for him, it seems. Just those magazines with all those vexing people inside. Each time he’s shushed, even, he responds to the sound, but not to her.

Finally, done with all his magazines, he jumps up and rumbles at her until she gets up, too. As he tromps past me toward the door, I hear him grumble behind me, quick and low, “Merry Christmas!”

And, I don’t know why, really, but I begin to cry.

December 17, 2008

-image-intersection

I am at the bookstore the other day, sitting in the cafe area at one of those high tables, bar tables, whatever they’re called. I don’t really know. I only know my feet don’t touch the floor when I sit in the chair and yours probably wouldn’t either. I am minding my own business, because, as we all know, that is my life. Minding my own business. After a while, a woman with long silver hair and brown leather clogs sets up camp at the high table, too, with her notebook and a pen and a paperback called It’s So Hard To Love You. I decide she is New Agey, because apart from minding my own business, the only other thing that is my life, as we all know, is making snap judgments about other people. She has long silver hair and wears brown leather clogs so she is New Agey and her name is probably Gaia. After a few short moments, she quickly fills a page with splotchy dark blue notes. I am spying on her, because that, too, is my life. Minding my own business, making snap judgments, and spying. I’m also worrying about the quality of her pen because her notes look so gunky and messy, but this is none of my business. If Gaia wants to fill endless volumes with blotchy blue notes from a book called It’s So Hard To Love You, well, who am I to object? There are obviously larger issues at work for ol’ Gaia. She ignores me better than I ignore her and I try not to be offended that I am so uninteresting to her, but I also decide she is sensing my intrusive energy in her New Agey way and consciously trying to ignore me. Because I am a narcissist.

Notice me, Gaia!

Alas, I am a wellspring of hideous need which I sense she senses. Wisely, she continues to ignore me.

Along the wall, next to our bar table, is a line of bar chairs. Extras, I guess. An older man strolls up and perches on one of them, casually, cradling his coffee like a crooner with his mic, about to sing or banter with the audience. I pay attention to my work now, yes, I do, because I surely don’t want the Old Crooner to notice me noticing Gaia. His presence represses me and I resent him deeply. Oh, no. Here we go. He’s going to speak to me any minute, I sense it, in my non-New Agey way.

Suddenly he makes a weird sound deep in his throat, all rasping and choking. A likely medical emergency which I choose to ignore, as any compassionate person would do. He chokes and rasps again, overplaying it if you ask me, but that darn Jesus makes me speak to him.

“You okay?”

“Oh! Yeah! Wow! I have lava throat from the coffee.”

“Oh, ow.”

“Yeah!”

We fall silent and I assume our lives will intersect no more.

I am wrong.

“Yeah. I don’t know what’s worse, lava throat from something hot or brain freeze from something cold.”

“Well, they’re both uncomfortable,” I say.

“That’s for sure.”

Silence again. Now I’m feeling some pressure to continue to chat with the Old Crooner, but not that much pressure, I guess, because I stay silent but simultaneously shift my position away from him, slyly rotating on the axis of my bum. Gaia remains serene and silver. She could help me out with the Old Crooner, you know, but she doesn’t and I just might be starting to really dislike her and her single-minded preoccupation with her So-Hard-To-Love person.

Help me, Gaia! Notice my distress!

Nope. Nothing.

You see, secretly, I always rely on the kindness of strangers and, therefore, I am usually disappointed. On the other hand, it’s fair to say that I sometimes have unreasonably high expectations of strangers and how they will help make my life easier.

But, lucky me, the Old Crooner tries to drag Gaia into the awkward social fray, all by himself. He gestures toward her book with his coffee/mic and says, “Oooh. I don’t even wanna know what that’s all about. Oooh-weee.”

Gaia just smiles at him. She just smiles. All unperturbed-like. What is going on? What is the deal here? Her serenity sickens me. Is she surrounded by invisible healing crystals? Does she have a perfect pink aura? Is she in tune with the global harmonic convergence, blahdie blah blah? Something is askew here. My inner Jesus narrows his eyes.

Still, unfazed by Gaia’s silence, the Old Crooner rambles on about her book. He seems determined to break her and, well, I’m not proud of it, but I now love him.

“Yeah. Wow. That thing there, that’s trouble, you know. It can’t be good.”

Finally, finally, Gaia’s healing crystal shield cracks a bit and she says, “Oh, well, stuff like this helps me with my work. I do energetic healing.”

BINGO! I take an inner bow, hitchin’ up my smartypants.

“Oh, yeah?” says the Old Crooner.

“Mmm-hmmm.”

“Wow.”

He seems suddenly uncomfortable with himself which seems only fair to me because I have been uncomfortable with him this entire time. He stands and shuffles a few feet to the comic book stand.

Again, silence. Gaia has retreated behind her healing crystal shield, drat her. Several seconds pass. Perhaps as many as thirty whole seconds pass in silence.

But then.

“Wow! Hahaha! Wow!” crows the Old Crooner.

I lower my head. Gaia does not move. He turns back to our high table, waving a Wonder Woman comic book in our direction, pointing to the cover image of Wonder Woman in her red-white-and-blue molded-breastplate glory.

“See this? This isn’t the Wonder Woman from when I was a kid! Look at that six-pack! Oh, brother!”

He’s standing closer to me, unfortunately, so that darn Gaia leaves me to schlep the growing social burden alone.

Gaia! What about the sisterhood of man, Gaia?

“Well, it looks like a breastplate,” I say.

“Well, maybe, but …. look at those biceps! Ohh, brother!”

“Mm-hm. She’s pretty buff.”

“Yeah! ‘Hey! Look at me, I don’t need a man!'”

She’s Wonder Woman, dude.

Not getting what he needs from me, he steps toward Gaia, who, I notice, has now obscured her silveriness in her book.

“Yeah. That’s trouble, that book.”

Silence.

“Hey, I bet it’s about those people … uh, whaddya call ’em … uhm …. oh, they’re not enablers; they’re –”

“Co-de-pen-dent?
” Gaia breaks in, every syllable a bullet, her tone a deathly desert. Her very voice has changed the temperature in the room. I am agog.

“Yeaah ….. co-dependent!”

Gaia stares at him, a perfect blank. The Old Crooner wavers a moment, cowed in the fixed plane of her gaze, then turns to tippytoe back toward the comic books. I decide that without invisible healing crystals or a perfect pink aura or oneness with the harmonic convergence, I must be nothing but a fickle wench because in that instant, I am deeply in love with Gaia. Turns out, nothing about the Old Crooner has escaped Gaia’s silvery notice. Maybe she noticed my distress, after all. Wanted to help. Sensed what would make the perfect moment. You know, for me. Because if it’s not all about me, then darned if I know who it IS all about.

Gaia glances at me. I can only see her eyes, their corners crinkling. I smile back, my best friendly-and-not-at-all-needy smile. Who knows what that even looks like? Who cares?

Gaia noticed me!

Uh, yes, Trace. You just keep practicing that not-at-all-needy smile.

Moment over, Gaia goes back to her book, I go back to my work, and the Old Crooner peruses a Batman comic book in silence.

And our lives intersect no more.

July 12, 2008

-image-overheard at the bookstore

(Two men standing at the coffee condiment stand — adding sugar, etc. — in mid-conversation):

MAN 1: …. and if the Muslims do that, that’ll be the end of all the Christians.

MAN 2 (after a pause): Okay. So you bought me coffee — does that mean I have to listen to your conversation?

MAN 1: Oh, yeah. I mean, this is pretty much THE conversation.

MAN 2 rolls his eyes as they walk away together.

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