Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hello, My Name is GEORGE

It may have been the approaching tenth anniversary of 9/11. It may have been the frustration my husband and I have endured trying to start a family over the last eight years. It may have been realizing my dad’s 66th birthday would soon be here, but he wouldn’t be. It may have been the horror that yes, I graduated high school not one, but two decades ago. 
Whatever it was or wasn’t, I have to admit, I struggled with my high school reunion. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed myself, and it was wonderful to see and talk to people I haven’t (and even have) glimpsed over the last 20 years. Still, I felt a little heavy from something I couldn’t quite single out.  
It’s funny (ha-ha!) how events tied to celebration and joy can evoke sadness. Except for the first holiday season after my father’s death, I don't remember ever having a blue Christmas. Yet I know there are plenty of people whose hearts ache with every twinkling light, every falling snowflake, every fa-la-la  and ho-ho-ho. 
Though I doubt anyone noticed, I was the 38-year-old clown in street clothes whose heart ached at her 20th reunion. Maybe that’s why I just surrendered and became GEORGE. 

Parchment High School’s 1991 Class Clown (along with Jason Wheelerwho was and is, I’m ecstatic to report, the riot of the party) had to shed the serious by not taking herself serious. 
Welcome to Jackass, section BS of Deflection 101. GEORGE is here to make you chuckle, or at the very, very least, scratch your head and mutter “huh?” If you’re looking for Amie, she promises (really!) to make the 30th. If she can locate her prom dress and coat herself with enough "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!" to squeeze into it, she’ll be the one in the "Green With Envy!" Circa 1988. 

We weren't merely freshmen (well, I was). Me and my date, who shall remain nameless for his own safety.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Waiting

They wait at stops—kids waiting for the bus in Topeka and businessman in monochromatic suits and ties, silver on silver, waiting to grab the EL and head off to another day’s work, both weary and enthusiastic. They wait in traffic jams, on steaming pavement, their bladders busting with coffee or bottled water or Sunny D. They wait in long, tenuous lines at the grocery store, one of those self-serve lanes, the sorority girl in front of them blabbering away to someone invisible, the Bluetooth above her ear an obtrusive hot pink. 

They wait at Denny’s for white plates heaped with scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and a short stack of pancakes with a glistening mound of butter. 

At hospital bedsides, they wait to find out if their grandmother will survive another day, another hour, transfixed by the life support, a mess of circuitous tubes. They wait for a whirring box fan to seduce them into dream. 

Missing the homerun, they wait for a lukewarm beer in a plastic cup that costs eight bucks. They wait to renew their driver’s licenses, the woman at the counter tapping her fingers, her fake nails coated with gunmetal gray. They wait for the water to boil, for their rigatoni to become al dente. In the morning, they wait for the sun to rise, streaking sherbet across the horizon. 

They wait, pens clutched, for the infomercial to repeat the telephone number.

Holding their breath, drinking from a cup backwards, they wait to subdue their hiccups. They wait for the toast to pop up. They wait for first signs of hair loss, first heart attacks and first wheatgrass smoothies.

They wait to see if there’s a single line or a double line, a plus or a negative, a color that resembles blue. The wind snaps the branches, topples the garbage cans and the wheelbarrows, and they cower in windowless bathrooms, crouched inside bathtubs, waiting the storm out. They wait for the teacher to call on them, their arms shooting up, their sticky hands waving.

They hold the door, waiting for the old man with the driver's cap and the rubber boots to pass them by. They wait for some inspiration, motivation, provocation. They wait under hair dryers that look like the uniforms of astronauts. They wait to hear from the doctor’s office about their CT scans, MRIs, TEEs, EMGs, the LMNOPs of their diagnosis.

Newspapers hiding their faces, they wait for the waitress to pour them a refill. They wait for the final act, the final answer, the final seconds in regulation, the final episode, the final walk through, the final chapter and the glittering ball’s sluggish decline for the final countdown.  

They wait for the inevitable waiting, what that rock and roll singer said is the hardest part.