There isn’t much to say about me, so I’m not sure why I’m trying. I’m not sure what’s unusual about today. What makes today the day that I reach out across whatever void there is between reader and writer. And who knows how you even come to be reading this. I have no idea. But I’ll write it and send it out anyways, and when I’m done, I will deconstruct this bridge that I have extended to you. And I’ll never know if you read it and you’ll never know if I’m real.
But I feel like writing to you. Whomever you might be.
But why today?
Today today. Today I woke up with a pain around my wrists. A heavy weight, as if I had been shackled to my bed during my sleep. I woke up on my back. Which is unusual. I always sleep on my side, unless I have been drinking too much, in which case I wake up with my face in my couch and yesterday’s clothes still on, smelling like smoke and cough drops. I’m not sure why drinking makes me smell like cough drops, but it does and my mom also thinks it does, only she doesn’t know I drink, she just thinks I’m sick a lot. So I get a lot of soup from her. At least once a month. All kinds of soup that I accept with a small cough as I clear my throat. I feel a little guilty that she’s been so worried about my “enginas” which is just a word I made up and told her it was a complicated throat condition, but anyways, this is why I never write; I get distracted easily, and who wants to read about my mother bringing soup to her 34 year old, semi-employed son who lies to her about throat sores and the like? What I was really getting at, because, I think this is the whole point: the point is that I woke up on my back.
I woke up on my back, and my wrists were hurting, again — like I said, it felt like I had been shackled to the bed. So I rotated them slowly and stared at them and the old prayer my mother used to say with me before I went to bed was going through my mind:
“Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord, my soul to keep
And if I die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
And, because this is my only chance at your audience, I just want to take an aside to say my problem with religion; for child prayers like that one. First of all, who puts a kid to bed with “and if I die before I wake?” That’s terrifying. And second of all — I hate anyone talking about my soul. It’s convenient to make promises that can’t be seen or measured and then hold your soul over you as an insurance against disobedience. So I was thinking this as I twisted my wrists in the air and I thought, in just this one moment of clarity; I’m going to live forever. I’m not sure why I thought it, and I know now rationally, pen to paper, that it’s not true. Per say. But what is true, is that my thoughts turned into a dream. A good dream. Without any weights. And I turned back over, onto my side and fell back asleep. Which is one of the better ways to start a day. In fact. If I were to have my perfect day, I would wake up and fall back asleep into a dream about five times before I really got up. With no fear of soul-loss or anything like that.
Which kind of made me think this might be my perfect day. I’m not sure, because even though this question was asked of me by every tweeny counselor at every twinsy summer camp I ever went to as a kid, “Let’s all describe our perfect days” — I hadn’t really thought about it before.
Anyways, I woke up. Dreamt. Woke up. Dreamt. Woke up. Masturbated, adjusted, stretched, urinated and woke up. Woke up. Woke up and ate some soup. Stretched and I swear, the sun was shining on my fucking face. And I can’t remember the last time I felt this good. So maybe that’s why I’m writing. Maybe I’m writing to tell you that I think I’m going to be make it.
Even my upstairs neighbors didn’t bother me today. My neighbors in the upstairs apartment were having sex, again, which they do all the time, and I swear they sound like rabbits going at it. Boom boom boom boom. Like they’re having sex on pogo sticks. And usually this irritates me — I really hate listening to their constant sex. But today I didn’t mind. Today the sun was shining on my goddamn face and I fucking believe in love today. Good for them. Fuck away.
I went to school in the Midwest. There isn’t much to say about that, I just wanted to say it right here, because this is my story and I felt like saying that right here.
Also. I majored in history. Not because of any particular reason; I like it and got good grades and all; but mostly I took it because I didn’t know what else to do. Which is kind of how you can describe all my decisions. Sometimes I’ll spend twenty minutes in the grocery store trying to decide what mouth wash to buy and then I’ll end up buying laundry detergent instead because forty toothpaste flavors is overwhelming and I don’t know what else to do. And now I need to say this: it may sound like I’m a pretty aimless, hopeless, 34 year old-semi employed, uninspired, dysfunctional adult. And probably, that’s mostly true. But since this feels like my one chance, I want to tell you, it’s not like that. I’m trying really hard. I used to be really smart as a kid. I really did. And I always thought I would do great things. And I’m trying to. I’m trying to do great things, only I’m not sure what they are yet and I’m not sure how to start, but I’m trying. And I have an idea that it’s all going to come together soon. I really do. God or no god, fate or no fate, all of that; I’m trying really hard. And I just want you to know that about me.
Anyways, so I woke up on my back, I went back to sleep, woke up and I felt great. I really did. So I decided to go out for a coffee. I don’t go out for coffee much on the weekends, because I hate the Saturday morning crowds, and I hate it when someone’s in my corner seat. And, honestly, I really only go to the coffee shop because Lisa might be there. I actually have no idea if her name is Lisa, only that she looks like a Lisa and she’s never there on Saturdays. So I never go on Saturdays.
But I go anyways, because my whole chest is full of life, and even though I believe in love today, I really don’t want to sit around and listen to my neighbors have sex and anyways I keep thinking I just have to put myself out there in the world today. Out of my room, out of my bed, and. And anyways. This might not be important, but it’s my story, and I get to the coffee shop and there’s a guy in my goddamn chair. An overweight, balding man in my chair would have been fine, but that it’s a really good looking guy in my chair is annoying because today is supposed to be my day and the chair is supposed to be my chair. I don’t have much, I really don’t. But I usually have that chair. Anyways, I’m muttering to myself about it as I go to the counter and Megan, who never sees me on Saturdays, says, “Wow, I never see you on Saturdays. Do you still drink house blends on the weekend?”
“No,” I say, “I’ll have an Americano.” And Lisa looks up from the end of the counter where she’s waiting for her drink. I hadn’t even noticed her because of the good looking guy in my chair. “I love the Americanos here, they’re really good.” She said. She said that and looked right at me and said it.
“Oh yeah?’ I asked. And wondered what to do next. Because most people don’t like it when strangers talk to them at a coffee shop. Most people are on their laptops or reading their books and at most, AT MOST, will offer you a weak smile if you accidentally make eye contact, but today, all I know is that today feels different, and I feel the importance of the moment. So I go to the end of the bar to wait for my drink and as I go over by her I say, “Hey, I’m Jeff, by the way.” And I offer my hand.
And it sits there. For a second. And then she says, “I’m Rita.” And she takes it.
I don’t let it phase me. O.K. It phases me a little. Rita? Rita, Rita, Rita — that’s fine. Rita could be fine. It’s no Lisa, but anyways, I say, “Nice to meet you, Rita. You live around here?”
“Yeah, I actually have an apartment above the shop, but I don’t like to come here on the weekends, it’s too crazy.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. I don’t usually come here on the weekends either.”
And then there’s silence. A long silence. Because it’s a coffee shop and how do you follow that up? Do you just come right out and say, I don’t know why but I think this is going to be the best day of my life. I think this is going to be the day that I find a job and a direction in life and my engina goes away which really means I’ll stop drinking so much, and that my mom won’t have to bring soup to her 34 year old son anymore, and I won’t dread sleeping each night and I think — mostly because today I feel like I’m going to live forever and it’s going to matter — that I’m going to ask you out today, because, honestly, you’re the only reason I come to this coffee shop, even if your name is Rita instead of Lisa, and I’ve had the biggest crush on you for the longest time, and I’m a better person than maybe I seem at first glance, and I know the guy in my chair right now is better looking than me, but please give me a chance or at least smile at me the way I imagine you smile even though I’ve never seen it, and maybe we could just get a drink sometime?
And maybe that’s the kind of thing the good looking guy in
my chair would say and women would swoon over. But I don’t say that. People
don’t say that. People just sit quietly and wait for their Americanos and
stare awkwardly at the art on the walls and shift their weight from one foot to
the next. Which is what happens until Rita gets her drink and half smiles at
me before heading towards the door. She stoops and gets a free newspaper from
the stack and I think, “This is it. This is it, Jeff.”
Megan calls, “Your Americano is ready.” But I ignore her. Rita is out the door, and I’m following. This really is it. Either she says yes, to whatever I am about to ask her — I’m not sure what that is just yet—or she says no and I feel like a creep and avoid the coffee shop for eight weeks. Maybe twelve.
She turns around.
“Do you like soup?” Not sure why I said that.
“Yeah, I like soup.”
“Would you like to get soup together sometime? Maybe?”
She looks at me a second; the most terrifying second in the world. And then, “Sure. Let me give you my number.” She pulls a small sketchbook out of her bag and scribbles her number on it and hands it to me with a smile. The most beautiful smile in the world. “Call me on Monday. I get off work around 3:30 so call me sometime after that. 5:00 would be good. Call me at 5:00. On Monday.”
“Thanks,” I said, “I will. Monday,” And I smile too.
And maybe that’s why I wrote everything today. I mean, of course that’s why I sat down and wrote everything today. Because I woke up on my back and I woke up well, and Rita gave me her number and I’m going to call her, and that seemed important enough to share. And that seemed like all anyone ever needs to know. That’s all you goddamn ever need to know.
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Portland Fiction Project
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