Sometimes I know I’m not quite right because coffee, the slightest amount, can send me into a manic whirlwind, or trap me under a manic avalanche, heavy on my brittle little spine, and I forget about appointments, papers, even the silent passing of time itself. Do I have an exoskeleton, I wonder idly while thinking of my brittle spine. No, I imagine not. Already I’ve forgotten the slew of worksheets and lab reports from AP biology; more of it leaves me quietly each year, some traveler-thief comes for it with his small pack, quiet as the air inside the belly of a whale, and brings it faithfully to the jealous god that rules over the limbo in my brain where all but the most essential knowledge inevitably goes.
There are pen marks on the wood of the walls—I’m at Caribou, excuse me—and they shoot off in all directions in varied colors, red, black, green…signifying, what? Nothing, I suppose. Signifying a child’s sloppy brute amusement, or a furtive madman’s secret expression, the thrill of it being that it imposes upon the public. And despite myself I think of Gilman’s wallpaper and I imagine my own sick face in the wood behind the crazed bars of the pen. They are playing Ella Fitzgerald too loud and so it is impossible to think pensively. Any thought that bubbles up is immediately colored by the leaping, frivolous scats shooting out of the speakers directly above my head. Only now in the time it’s taken me to get that down, they’ve switched it to a mournful hillbilly ballad with twanging banjos and howling vocals, and now everything seems warm and sticky like a Texas afternoon, and you can almost see a tumbleweed out the window bouncing like a pinball along the parking meters on Hennepin.
But let’s get factual for a minute. I’m at Caribou on Hennepin because I’m waiting for Grace (always), this time because she’s at the house of a modestly famous composer of band music who lives in a mansion-type by Lake Calhoun. No idea what they’re discussing in that house near the lake, or what it could possibly mean for someone like Grace who doesn’t even particularly want a job in the band-teaching industry, or even the music industry proper, and who these days is much more keen on success and money-making and material comforts. She wants, perhaps, 500 pounds and a room. No, that is me, more than Grace. $100,000, a mortgageless house, and a hefty genius grant. Is this a lot to ask? I don’t know what a lot to ask is these days. We’re revisiting the sentiments and sensibilities of 1929 here in America now, and it mucks with the whole system of the American dream, which left to its own devices, would inflate itself to the bursting point and splatter along the back alleys where children play basketball with a flat tennis ball and two garbage barrels. People would step on the rubbery chards on the way to work, and forget there ever was a silly thing called the American dream and maybe we’d be better off, if immobile and a bit fatalist. But the recession’s shrunken it down, out of the red zone, and I don’t think it should burst for another century. And by that time we’ll be very socialist anyway, and there may not be a need for it any longer.
Had a refreshing day off from neck-breaking cubicle work, got up late, lounged very languidly in pajamas on the sofa, injecting YouTube comments and message into my ego’s throbbing veins, and forgot to eat until mid afternoon. Hopped on the bus and watched a bearded woman faun rather embarrassingly over a young black child, her blond pubic-looking bush hanging down as she complained of never having children of her own (and, implicitly, a lover of her own). I resolved that if ever I obtained the ability to grow a tuft of hair under my chin, I would shave it off at first notice and never let anyone touch the rough patch. She was also balding and obese, and I wondered what terrible thing she had done to deserve the lord’s great fury, and what terrible things people had said to her to make her impervious to public scrutiny, quitting her house in baggy striped t-shirts with a hideous patchy ponytail and large yellow-lensed glasses that made her look like a fat insect.