“Uhm…” I’m wondering where Jamus’s hypothetical analysis of my immediate life is leading the conversation.
“The only thing that could even mildly attempt to explain your misery would be your letter. The only people that get that letter would be your family and close friends. You don’t encounter people who want to publish their dearly departed’s suicide notes and poems do you? I mean except for the usual rock and movie stars whose publicists want to squeeze a few more financial drops out of their clients in the event of their death, but how sad can celebrities be really? They say they’re lonely but are they? Truly? Anyone would trade places with them in a second. Nobody can relate to them though and ultimately from a publishing standpoint on a literary memoir, people don’t care much about them because they are so detached from the norm.” I don’t answer Jamus because I figure that his last statement is a rhetorical question. I wait for more. “I thought I’d write one, a novel. A diary of someone who does what only the truly miserable do.”
“You didn’t though I take it.”
“I wasn’t sad enough. It didn’t even make sense in the end. I was more frustrated with writing it then I was excited about finally being able to say something new. The only way it could have been publishable was if I had killed the protagonist.” I listen and tweeze at wasabi and ginger with my chopsticks.
My hand moves the chopsticks, my mind makes my hand move…I see with my eyes. All seeing, all controlling omnipotent being in charge of utensils.
Seasons seem to scroll on before I speak again, Jamus is still holding his sake cup. Cottonmouth, dry lips, painful words.
“So you’ll never get your book.”
“I don’t think so. No.” He sounds almost upset that he isn’t insane enough to kill himself and, though I should be disturbed by the idea, I’m not.
A new waiter comes to take our plates away. Cute waiter must have gone home, maybe sick. New waiter brings the bill, Jamus picks it up, puts down a Platinum Visa (such a gentleman—has good parents). I thank him. We sit quietly, though not awkwardly until the receipt is returned. Jamus autographs beautifully: large, dramatically looping strokes. As we exit the restaurant, we startle the hostess as she’s staring out onto the hot streets… if she returns, I promise I won’t ruin it again. This time I promise.
I thank Jamus again, and consider dancing around the typical niceties of “you didn’t have to” and “that was so generous of you.” Nope. I say goodbye to Jamus, thinking that I won’t see him much again, but he gives me his card, increasing our odds. I thank him a third time. Exit stage right… bus is actually in the other direction…stage left instead.
I’m thinking about cities as I listen to random indie bands on my headset while walking to the gym. I always like how each one has a distinct smell to it, much like a person or an animal—it’s some sort of olfactory fingerprint. Vancouver’s semi clean streets for example have that sweaty smell of gasoline and greasy fish. You never know whether you’re getting close to a gas station or getting take-out. The salted air mixes so well with the sweat of wealthy yoga moms and new-age gurus that it creates a sort of cologne for the city, pheromones maybe, detectable only to those who don’t totally fit in here. I can definitely smell it.
My gym (or “Wellness Club” as the girls at the desk try and get everyone to call it) is a mirror festooned fishbowl of a place planted in a neighborhood that is the epicenter of aspiring actors clad in LuLuLemon pants. I manage to venture here every week or so (whenever I feel as though I’ve recovered from the last visit) to hopelessly try and tone my arms, firm my waist and sculpt my buttocks. I’m actually skinny. Not just “I wish I could fill out these jeans more” skinny, but really, really “I ate at a friend’s house” toothpickish. Most girls say that they want to be rail-thin but don’t realize that along with skinniness comes the loss of any breast, hip or ass shape—essentially all the things that make a woman look different than a man. They are mere fantasies for the truly scrawny girl…for me. I look like a 6-year-old boy and I doubt that any one of the curvy girls in here trying to sweat off her cellulite wants to look like Justin Beiber. From what I can see, most of the hard-core mattress-actresses studying their scripts on the cardio machines have all magically developed the ability to remain ultra thin while maintaining their “endowments.” You could put plant pots on those chests.
Two Liz Bell model twins walk past in matching workout outfits with a personal trainer who is holding a clipboard. They’ve backed her into a corner behind one of the machines and are telling her that her technique is “all wrong” and that they achieve rippling abs differently. Trying to phonetically spell single syllable words perhaps. One is now demonstrating on a mat in front of the instructor and she looks completely pissed off to have to deal with the two of them. I feel for ya’ sister.
Realizing that I’ve been staring at the pair of twins humiliate the personal trainer and not having done much in the way of actual exercise, I step onto an ominous looking machine, called the Iron Trek. In an attempt to look like I’ve done this before, I start pressing buttons randomly to see if I can get the thing started. I can tell there are others present (the fat girls mostly) who want to see how this thing works too so I am now the guinea pig. The Iron Trek screen is telling me that I have just burned 422 calories, my heart rate is 190 and my workout is complete. Apparently the machine can detect fear, hence the calorie consumption without my actually having moved. I am sweating bullets though because I have been on this thing for a good minute and a half and haven’t figured it out. I can feel that people are starting to whisper.
Pedal things rumble…
Momentarily I get the sensation that I’m on a winged animal soaring bird-like high above the gym, dropping seagull turds on the Liz Bell model twins and large-breasted anorexics. The sensation is short-lived because I get thrown back against the railing behind me—the machine’s treads have unexpectedly erupted with movement and are now cycling on at a sonic speed. The somewhat retarded grin on my face has surely fooled my fellow gym-goers into thinking that I either meant to smear myself on the gym wall or that, though a seasoned fitness queen, the machinery has malfunctioned and caused a scene which is no fault of my own. I exit the gym quickly, under the cover of a drink from the water fountain. Who really drinks from the fountain? I mean honestly. I don’t think anyone bought it.
I walk the long way home from the gym, the daytime sky dimming into an evening behind me. There is still enough of the generic waning afternoon sunlight to illuminate the face of a tall woman leaning on a railing at the back of a strip-club on the street. I’d place her somewhere in her mid-thirties, though it could just be the roughness of her occupation that has desiccated her skin so much. She looks at me, her peroxide-dry hair, teased into curls is blowing in the light cool wind. I smile, trying my best not to look like a condescending yuppie. She looks away and closes her eyes to the dull sun, her foundation thick and clearly visible over fine crows-feet, laugh-lines and small acne scars. Laugh-lines might not be what she would call the etchings on her face. I imagine that she’s danced the floors of this and every other low-end peeler bar in the city, working the same perverts for cash over and over. She dances for rude men who wear tee-shirts that say things like “Your Girlfriend Asked For Seconds,” or “Ask Hercules,” followed by an arrow pointing to a sub-standard penis. She has to smile and get the crowd riled up when the announcer calls for the men to “load the stage with loonies so we can get this hot bitch in the shower!” This woman has probably never been in love, not real love at least, but she watches romantic comedies with her cat and does long for someone to rescue her. She once wanted to be a nurse but can hardly remember that now and has resigned herself to the grimy stages of Vancouver’s bars. She hasn’t complained in years. It’s just a job so why bother?
The breeze lifts her feather light hair off her shoulders again as she finishes her cigarette and returns indoors. God doesn’t love this woman, she would tell you he gave up on her long ago and she him. My walking is quick, trying to make up for the fact that I skipped out on the gym. I also pass by a man eating in a tiny Italian restaurant. He’s alone and sipping from a glass of red wine and doesn’t notice my looking at him as he stabs a fork at some pasta but doesn’t pick any up. Fork down. I love despondency but hate being sad. The paradox makes it interesting. I love cigarettes but hate smoking. I love music but hate the bands that make it. I love reading but hate having read. It’s paradoxes like this—these little nonsensical anaphora I love…but hate that I find so appealing in life.
There are so many un-extraordinary things that I feel contribute to my personality in an extraordinary way and I am thinking that I just need to find a way to capitalize on them. I’ve been dwelling on these so much lately so that as each one presents itself in crystal clarity, I find it almost impossible to escape the usual depressions that subsequently arise from realizing my own mediocrity: these “things” being a testament to it. Some writers can make things interesting, I know that.
If I allow myself to go there (and I often do out of habit if I’m not distracted by something else) then I’ll become like every other self-obsessed writer: pondering my own existence to the exclusion of all else and never coming up with anything original or worthwhile to put down in a book. Why would anyone read anything I have to say? Then again why wouldn’t they? What else do they have to do? Turn something ordinary into something wonderful. If you can be that introspective about your experience then your readers will adore your every word. You’re just like them after all.
While I go over in my head all of my idiosyncrasies and my somewhat obnoxious habits, Jamus pops up once again. His tell-all bio idea seems so simple: sad people with awfully simple lives, quick uncomplicated journals paradoxically detailing very complicated neuroses. Bestsellers. Fame. I walk more quickly towards home, my music having long since stopped. I notice that I’ve been listening to the seashell hollowness of the headphones and it’s oddly comforting. I decide to call Jamus, I have the best idea: something he’s been waiting for. Something I’ve done already over and over before, in billions of ways with billions more outcomes, all within the cool un-judging walls of my imagination. We’ve all done it. Admit it, we’ve all done it.
The curser blinks in taillight fashion on my computer screen. WRITEsomethingWRITEsomethingWRITE. WRITE something Katherine! Put down something! Anything! Pretend your life depends on this…or pretend your death does. Pretend the fate of the world rests in your having to say something profound…now.
I have a giant bottle of water next to me and a package of Matinee Ultra Lights that I haven’t opened and can’t seem to get myself to, seeing as my apartment would smell for weeks afterward should I actually light and have one.
I jot these two words down to begin my little diary, or my book, or my journal. My guarantee. After all, it’s exactly the meaning of these two words that everyone will say I lost…when this is all over.
I consider the classes that I am still enrolled in and how funny they’ll seem…later. It’s not as if attendance is taken anymore and all the classes are too big anyway. No one I’m sure will notice that there’s been one less person present, or one less person has been handing in unlearned homework. I cut most of them out via the online student service and it forms a straight stitch of W’s, embroidering the screen next to the course numbers of each class listed on my record. I am though saving the feminist literature class taught by the angry lesbian. It’s good for a laugh, especially now that I don’t give a damn about the grades and I have always (though maybe incorrectly) considered myself something of a feminist. My inspiration and the words of genius I’m wanting to come up with for my “journal” don’t seem to be taking any sort of root on the initial pages of my slightly too expensive sketcher. I’ve already cracked the gluey purple spine of it so I decide to continue with writing my resume: