Sunday, April 13, 2008

Outside

She started her lunch break by reading the end of a short story by Raymond Carver. She wasn't a big fan of short stories, but she liked finishing things, and she could finish a few of these a day, even during her broken up workday.

After she finished the story, there was nothing to take up the space in her head, so it went where it often went during lunch breaks, to that point in the very near future when the break would be over. She could see it in her mind. It was like a photograph of herself back behind the counter, and it started out so small it was almost invisible, like a fixed point of light in the center of a tremendous movie screen, but it was flying towards her, getting bigger and bigger until it would swallow her up. She shook her head and decided to do something instead of sitting there thinking about this. Acting was usually better than thinking, she believed. Maybe she should eat something. She considered for a moment buying a sandwich. Then her mind calculated roughly what percentage of one hour of work that sandwich would represent, and the number was like a little weight inside her. She sighed. Then she wondered what percentage of people who came into her shop ever thought about what percentage of an hour they were eating and drinking up on the things they bought. Then she thought that this thought was a clear sign that she was at least a little bit crazy. She knew that some people said that if you think you're crazy, you're not crazy, because crazy people never think they're crazy. She thought that was a bunch of crap.

It was only a few hours until her shift was over. She decided she could wait to eat, and that she would go over to the drugstore across the street and maybe buy some things to use for making a sandwich when she got home.

It was hot outside. She saw a young woman with pigtails walking down the street strumming a guitar. The woman wasn't doing it for money. She didn't look angry or lost. She looked well-loved. She was, it seemed, just walking down the street and strumming the guitar because she wanted to. Seeing this woman made her glad. Of course, she knew she could be wrong about the woman. But she felt she had a good sense about these things. It was strange to her that even though people mystified her in the easy way they spoke to each other, she still felt she had a good sense of the inherent goodness of some people. But that was the way it was. And she figured that maybe someday, if she felt more like herself, she might understand how people spoke to each other, too, that everything there might fall into place and it would all be easy. Then she thought that might be too much to hope for, that maybe it was a little hard for everyone from time to time, but maybe it would be a bit easier, anyway.

In the drugstore, she walked to where they kept things you might use with sandwiches. There were two young men standing nearby. They looked to her like they might be students at the university.

"Well," one of them said, "I mean, she feels pretty strongly about her feelings, you know?"

"That's the point, though," said the other. "I sort of attacked her to upset her," he said. "That was kind of the point."

"But you don't really know her very well," said the other. "You haven't really earned the right to attack her like that yet, you know?"

There was nothing here that she had any desire to put on a sandwich. She sighed and walked out.

As she walked back up the street to her shop, she glanced at the image in her mind to see that it was now almost at the size where it was going to swallow her up. She came to the door of her shop. She knew she really should go in.

She grabbed her ponytail and pulled it over her eyes, but she couldn't block out the sun.

4 comments:

betty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
betty said...

Nice entry. These kinds of writings of yours are usually my favorites. :) While reading it I felt as if it were a comic strip and I was another person on the street, observing, and I could see what you were thinking in a bubble above your head.

Oh! That reminds me, I picked up the latest American Splendor comic for you. I'll send it out Tuesday, hopefully.

Sara said...

I loved that! Very nice.
I really could relate to calculating every purchase in terms of hours worked. I seem to be doing that a lot since I figured out how little I actually take home after daycare costs...

Shifty Pete said...

Great piece... made me feel like I was there. You're such a damn good writer, I can't imagine why you don't have a regular gig doing a column somewhere, or doing technical writing, or something. If you wrote my toaster manual, I'd actually read it!