A Penny for Your Thoughts
A second's thought can be paralyzing especially in a week like this. One by one the split ends of the strings I have been straining fingers to hold have unravelled and slipped from my grasp setting off chain reactions like a grotesque Rube Goldberg machine made of one car, two dogs, a girl in LA, a house in KC, a gas station in Linwood, a dead-end job, a half paralyzed woman in New York, some backed-up plumping and a frozen bank account. In desperation for money or sleep or sex I have inadvertently been pushing dominos all week. Suddenly, at such times, sandbags fly in from the rafters, well-libated gods go hungry and turn their unfed wrath on the little creatures that would normally keep alters fastidiously festooned with goods. So it is that I have been besieged with a cascade of impossible responsibilities of late. All little things, many of them pleasant, like walking the dogs, or doing the dishes, things that must go undone. Many small debts to friends, to coworkers, to creditors lock arms and charge. It is at such times I wish I was a weaver of good fortune. I should like to braid strong ropes and sew them fast together, freeing my hands and thoughts from obsessing over the tensile failures of my modest constitution.Then two nights ago I found myself in the odd predicament of needing to get out of the house to keep from going insane, but having no money, in fact having less than no money to do so. I gathered coins and headed out to a monthly roving social gathering.This party was at the Gossip Inn and as I pulled to the curb I watched two men play with a baby in a dirt yard, the home of mean dog, of an open fire and discarded bottles. I hesitated to get out, still wearing one of my four nicely-pressed work shirts, because I suddenly, for the first time, felt out of place in a poor neighborhood. I didn't know how to explain to the curious onlookers or to myself that despite my crisp collar and almost new car, I am, in fact just as poor as they are, but that I have made concessions to the wealthy. Concessions that have afforded me only the appearance of stability without the luxury of it. I excused myself past burly men in plain white t-shirts, hiding eyebrows beneath widely folded bandanas and drinking from bottles in paper bags. As I did so I recognizing that I was about to spend the evening acting the part of the down-to-earth professional type, when in fact I am a poor person trying her darndest to get a hold on some type of something - a down and out professional poser.At the bar I apologized as I placed three stacks of four quarters each in a neat row. The barmaid grinned a half-toothed smile, her well-worn face's secret apparatus pulled folds of flesh into taught ribs around the corners of her mouth and eyes, "No worries, sweetheart, I've been there before." I knew by the texture of her skin that she had been an alcoholic and a heavy smoker for many years. I knew also that she was undoubtedly half as old as the lie of her face. She didn't count the money, a sign of deep and unobtrusive understanding. It is the kind of dignity one isn't granted in welfare lines or HR offices.I put down one extra pile of coins as an offering of thanks and headed out back to begin the evening's social parody.