Friday, March 04, 2016

Colds, Addictions, Transvestites and Consorts

I had no idea whether the long-refrigerated liquid I was drinking out of the merlot bottle were still wine, or had already turned to vinegar. The green glass was cold in my hand, and the paper label rough against my fingers, and I could feel the liquid sloshing over my tongue, but there was no taste. It could have been nectar, it could have been lighter fluid--I wouldn't have known the difference.

The carpet around my bed looks like the aftermath of bridal shower where bridesmaids force one another to create "wedding gowns" out of toilet tissue--there are wads of the white stuff all over the rug, over the power cords and among the clean socks. It's like a bloodless trauma ward. Empty tea cups, grungy ear plugs, unread novels, odd pieces of jewelry. And a pair of brand new progressive lenses in fuchsia frames. I attempt to inhale, sneeze and cough phlegm into a wad of toilet paper, then toss it on the floor with a groan.

Colds suck.

 Of course, what I'd like to do is inhale without having to open my mouth like a fish, to breathe smoothly in through my nostrils. Hah! Cough, cough. Even harder to say than to do, since my voice has gone along with my senses of taste and smell on some long term excursion, leaving no forwarding address or prospective time of return. I am, faintly, pleased that my throat doesn't pain me the way that it did yesternight, but even the most advanced voice recognition technology that Apple has to offer cannot puzzle out my choked and scratchy whispers, so dictation, my favorite feature on my iPhone, is lost to me for the time being.

 On Monday, my skin felt young and clean and ticklish, the windy day gloriously sunny, the sort of day when you wish you could sprout butterfly wings from your shoulder blades and be whipped away into the air, spiraling free above the treetops in the fresh breeze. I could breathe through my nose. Those were happy times.

I have observed that it is never a good idea to ask how roundly one is being cursed, but sometimes you are irresistibly tempted to do so. You rarely hear yourself praised when you listen from behind doors and through keyholes....

We discuss food a lot in the office, from the deliciousness of kimchi and other spicy concoctions to the common appeal of the grilled cheese sandwich. The other day we were talking about duck, which I usually avoid because of the fat. "Oh, duck isn't greasy," returned my colleague. "Duck is unctuous." And she wriggled a bit in ecstasy at the thought.

Who was it that said, "'Write drunk. Edit sober'?" When you are loopy on cold medicine or whiskey or what have you, your lips burning from pouring alcohol over the chapped creases, maybe you are willing to let more spill on the page uninhibited that you are when properly attired, when politely seated with a clean, steaming cup of expensive coffee at your wrist. If I put any cup of liquid "at my elbow"--which seems to have been the received table arrangement for centuries--it would be knocked on the floor or all over my lap or my neighbor's before a pimp could thumb his way through his cash roll. 

Sometimes you just want to feel something. In fact, isn't that the motive behind most behaviors--that we want to feel something? It's only the happy giving behaviors of creating an opportunity for others to feel joy that we ourselves feel peace, however. We run around frantically seeking diversions, feeding the need for sex, for violence, for power, for control, for money, and they suck us dry, these diuretics of emotion. Instead of satisfying the need, they feed the cravings. Diminishing returns on each and every hard-sought win. Physical drugs, in what they do to the body, only offer a picture of what the emotional drugs--those acceptable, common obsessions that so many share--actually do to the heart.

Without Jesus, we are messed up. Man, are we messed up.

I found out more about the huge transvestite at the auction house. S/he is actually a Marine veteran of the first Gulf War, decorated several times, and while a young man participated in a football training camp alongside Dan Marino (which Ace Ventura fans will doubtless find amusing). After leaving the military s/he became homeless, and clawed up out of that situation by means of selling a bagful of blue jeans. Apparently s/he asked out a similarly large coworker of mine who is a divorced father of two and was not happy about being rebuffed.

Speaking of large men and larger men, my cousin, who is a good six feet tall, 235lbs, told me about a former employee of his this morning, who was "as strong as an ox." He was the size and had the intellect of an ox, too. He'd been arrested for multiple DUIs, yet somehow had a drivers license. The subject came up because the TV news was featuring two local government officials being arrested recently, in separate incidents, for driving while intoxicated. Camden told me that this fellow could rip out a tile bathroom in under three hours--he was a beast. "He broke three of my ribs!" Camden said. Camden had been stiff after work and casually mentioned to this fellow that he needed someone to crack his back, and before he knew it, this guy had picked him up behind the arms and was shaking him like a rag doll. My cousin had only enough breath left to squeeze out, "Man, what the hell you doing?!" And upon being dropped, "Hell, man, you broke my damn ribs!" Like Harry Houdini, he'd not had time to brace himself, and it was his undoing. That didn't lead to the guy being fired. The reason that Camden fired him was that one day they were working for a missionary who risked her life repeatedly to smuggle Bibles into a closed country. A really nice lady. And this guy needed a ride (it must have been one of those times when his license was temporarily revoked) and he agreed to meet someone who could give him a ride at a local strip club. And he asked the lady where the strip club was. That was the last straw, in Camden's book.

Last week, I'd sold a DVD collection on eBay and had to go to the post office during lunch to mail it, since those blame postal machines won't permit Media Mail packages. Outside rain was dripping off the Kennedy Center-style metal awnings (incongruous with the traditional Greek key-embossed bronze post-box doors inside). I had been standing in an unmoving queue for 20 minutes, chatting with the dumpy little white woman next to me, one place ahead. There was no new movement. The two clerks at the five possible windows were operating at a glacial speed, not only as if they were stuck in molasses, but as if a film of their movements had been slowed down for frame by frame analysis. The voluble round woman beside me told me she was from a tiny town, where the post office at just one employee and they knew you by sight--she never usually had to wait like this. Then she spotted a woman she knew further up in the line, caught her attention and started chitchatting about the church that either they had both worked for, or both volunteered at, or something, and the other woman mentioned that it was children's musical week. Immediately the woman standing next to me reminisced about being dressed up for one of the past musicals "as a Sodomite, or something," I don't think sodomite was what she meant.

Then SC governor Nikki Haley's husband showed up. I didn't know him from Adam, but the dumpling poked me in the ribs and indicated him: "That's the governor's husband--and that's his bodyguard with him!" I noted that the bodyguard was cleanshaven ethnic fellow who looked like he had little sense of humor. They quietly got in line behind the rest of us. And suddenly, postal employees materialized on several fronts anxious to help the customers. It was magic. The little old lady behind me clutching an envelope with tax returns in it was shocked. Within five minutes, everyone's business had been seen to. Miraculous.

There's a unspoken pecking order in the publishing house, too, I have found, and editors are at the top of this silent hierarchy. The senior male editors don't really speak with the lower staff members, or when they do, it's with an air (probably unintended) of descending into the realm of mortals from on high. I had wondered why everyone was treating me with such deference, asking my opinion about silly little details when they clearly knew more about what was preferable than I did, and suddenly, all is clear. However, I am glad to report that while they are in their little silent all-male enclave next door, I am in a majority female office where I can talk and be talked to (and ridiculed cheerfully, when the occasion arises). So the minute my feet start to leave the floor, I'll be pulled back to earth and slapped until I come to my senses.

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