Monthly Archives: July 2012
A bald man with a mustache sweats buckets under the hot blaze of Summer. His straw hat and Guayabera shirt facing a losing battle against the orange sky. A sky on fire.
A middle-aged woman stands nearby fanning herself, her teased-out cascade of dark waves tumbling onto bare shoulders marred by the occasional liver spot. The personal pocket of air she struggles to maintain with that cheap sandalwood fan is her only means of triumphing against the heavy haze of the day. Her mustard-colored halter top, a remnant of disco days long-gone, clashes with her sun-tainted skin.
Under the thatched roof of this tiki bar in the middle of nowhere…no, in the middle of somewhere, somewhere very real, strangers gather and drink and wait.
A large woman in a brightly colored, bush-like bathing cap and a navy blue bathing suit with white polka dots sips a Mai Tai that’s more fruit than fluid. Atop her plump face rests a pair of rhinestone-studded, tinted cat eye sunglasses. She lets out a muffled belch before addressing her fellow bar mates.
“I sure do wish there were a pool in these parts. Such a nice day for a dip in the pool, don’t ya think? Name’s Laura Lee, by the way. Laura Lee Fitzgerald.”
The woman spoke with a thick, guttural voice in a decidedly Midwestern accent. Upon seeing that none of the other denizens of the bar was acknowledging her, she resumed drinking her Mai Tai, through lips painted redder than a fire engine.
“A Bloody Mary, please,” said the halter-top with the fan.
“Coming up,” answered the androgynous bartender dressed in a full tuxedo with a short, fringed bob cut as blunt as their conversation.
Within seconds, a blood-red drink slides down the counter and the halter top looks longingly through the liquid at days she knew full well she would never see again.
“My hair used to be red like that. It was red…but bright! So bright. Just like this…drink,” she said as she continued to beat her fan against the stale air.
“Everything changes,” said the man in the Guayabera shirt in a thick Spanish accent.
“Boy, ain’t that the truth!” exclaimed the large woman in the bathing suit, henceforth known as Laura Lee Fitzgerald.
And again, they ignored her.
She sipped noisily, now that she’d reached the bottom of her drink. Disappointed, she pulled her lips from a straw whose tip was stained a sloppy scarlet.
Through the searing air, a pool of green-blue came into view. Laura Lee Fitzgerald brightened up at once and abandoned the remnants of her last drink there on the table.
“I knew there had to be a pool, I’m goin’ swimmin’!”
The woman ran through the thatched door, cutting her way through palm trees and bushes that seemed more rubbery than shrubbery.
Back in the bar, the halter-top who used to be a redhead, but no longer was, drank her Bloody Mary and looked out the door at the green hell that surrounded them. She hated the outdoors.
“Hey, she didn’t pay…that woman!” she commented as she fanned.
“She’ll pay,” the bartender said confidently, without looking up from the counter.
Outside, Laura Lee Fitzgerald dipped a chubby toe into the lily-pad laden, cyan waters. They were crisp, cool and chlorinated. Her kind of scene. It was a tad murky though, what with all the plant life, but still something was better than nothing.
“Nice and cool. Well…only one thing to do. Cannonball!”
The large woman pinched her greasy nose with a set of pudgy little fingers that seemed almost sausage-like. Then she launched herself like a great navy blue, polka-dotted rocket, ripping through the air in a moment of sheer rapture before hitting the seemingly bottomless depths below.
From the bar they saw it, the gigantic green maw gaping wide open and then clamping shut on a pair of bloody, flailing, fat legs.
It’s teeth were big enough to spot from miles away and vines dripped from it like an external nervous system. Satisfied, it sank back down beneath the lily-pads and poolside reeds.
The halter top downed her Bloody Mary in one fell gulp.
The man in the Guayabera lit a cigar…as Cuban as he was…he could remember.
The bartender mopped up the counter with a dirty rag, that seeped a rust-red liquid with every squeeze.
“So…what’s your poison?” in the same indifferent tone as before.
The Cuban laughed a dark cacophony as rich and loaded as the coffee he used to drink.
You, yes you…however you got here and whatever your circumstance in life…pay attention. This message of mine may not be worth much to you but I piece it together from pain and triumph and send it forth on the sharp wind of reminiscence.
Life is too short. That is such a cliche, isn’t it? But what is a cliche if not an overused truth? Overused, because within is contained a rather universal sentiment. Length of time can be relative, varying from one person’s perspective to another, but I think we’re all in agreement that however long it seems to us, it is, ultimately, never enough. I’ve been miserable in life, and thought erroneously at times that life was too harrowingly long…too full of suffering. I’ve also been happy in life. And I’d much rather be happy. So the real crux of anything I post or say during my speeches to caseworkers and other interested parties is this: never waste what you’ve been given. If you’re in an unpleasant situation, REMOVE YOURSELF FROM IT. If you’re around people you can’t stand, REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THEM. Don’t make excuses, don’t tell yourself tomorrow will be the day. Wake up and grab every minute by the balls. You may not get another chance. Life is your canvas, paint what you will, but don’t waste your colors. I’m at an age where I’m seeing and hearing of old family friends who were such a fixed part of my childhood just fade away. Slipping under the soil as yellowed pages slip under worn book covers. Even my cats, (for I have always had a surplus of cats due to my mother’s innate compulsion to “rescue”) are here today and gone tomorrow. Lively beings. People that dressed up and made small talk and ate finger foods and cried about their loved ones passing and smiled at familiar films and got stressed about bills. Cats that stalked the shadows and played with their toys and followed laser pointers and made messes. All of those moments that make up an individual person (or cat) just fade away. And we don’t really know where they go or whether there is a second chance, though I choose to believe there is, because the alternative is just too bleak for me to want to grasp. Still…this knowledge lies there, swept up beneath the delirium of daily living. Forgotten, until the day it happens to us and we can no longer ignore it.
We saw an old family friend today to celebrate her birthday and laughed with her and remembered all sorts of things from “back then,” like her penchant for Cheez-Its and the magnificent knickknacks in her home she used to let me play with when I’d visit (my favorites being a collection of miniature houses which she sadly, no longer had). About this friend, she’s an 80-something cat lady and completely marvelous. And the last time she saw me, I was a plump little boy she baby-sat during the summers who played with my action figures as if they were Barbies while watching “The Facts Of Life” re-runs. Within seconds, she “got me.” She “got it.” And she was celebrating my (for her) new-identity with exclamations of, “Oh she’s gorgeous! You’re you finally! You’re not a phony! You’re female goddammit!” Remembering things makes me want to stop time so that I can’t stockpile any more memories. As if that would make it any easier when I can no longer make memories with those who pass on by.
Still, seeing her streaking each day with regret-less life, a woman who’s witnessed a world war, the birth of the internet, and a plump little boy turning into a “lady-in-waiting” it just makes me so adamant about forging ahead and making the most of every second. Never wasting it on anything that isn’t absolutely marvelous. Like my old cat lady friend.