No one but the crazies out today…
I fit right in.
He’s calling the Tesla dealership, wants to know if there’s a discount if he only intends to slam it against a wall. He wants to talk to corporate. He wants to talk to the President of the United States, unless it’s already whoever took over after we killed the one we elected. Time’s gotten away from him, if he ever had a grip on it at all.
She heals people but no one respects her hands. If they gave doctorates for experience– punchcards for every time you saved a life– people would respect her then. They’d love her hands. She sees him talking to Tesla and thinks aloud that no one would want one of those cars if they knew how often porn was filmed inside.
The grandma-looking woman sits in between them. Crazy doesn’t scent crazy and she sips her tea, talking to a dead man. The love of her life. There are bedbugs in Bermuda, you know. The past lives in the pavements. This city is a cemetery.
This city is a church.
A man lays down a rug and prays. A business woman walks around him. A child holds up a sign that says “This is Long Beach”, as if anyone had any doubt about that.
No, we have doubts about other things. Every other thing.
The business woman nearly touches the praying man, but walks a wide berth around the crazies. Everyone has a cup in hand, a flat white by the rug, a cappuccino jostling onto the floor every time Tesla puts him on hold, a tall green tea in the hands of the healer. This is Starbucks. There’s a sign, not that anyone needs one.
I am not holding a cup.
I don’t drink here.
I observe the sign the child holds, and I may be the only one who needs to read it. I don’t live here.
Today, I had a panic attack on a train station ramp. A beautiful attack, that struck me down as surely as a bolt of lightning. I shuddered thunder. I darkened so stormily that you couldn’t even see my closest stars. And then it passed and a tearstorm came, washing over my face, washing over the city as I walked it blindly.
I got lost, but I was already lost, and signs have no meaning when you’re so far from home.
I needed to write so I thumbed through the bag I packed to see m best friend. There’s a pen in here, I mutter, but the first I grab smells like burnt marshmallows and writes the same. It is not what I want, I mumble. The old woman scoots close to me and asks if I need help.
Crazy doesn’t scent crazy.
The pen I find is my husband’s, but it is out of ink, not for the first time. He used to refill them. Pens are like writers, he’d say, they stay alive as long as you want them. It’s not true. I wanted him.
I don’t know how to refill a pen. I’ll google it later, along with all the other things I don’t know how to do.
I missed my train because I was scared. There were so many unknowns that I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see.
Right now, I hate myself.
I write the sentence with a borrowed pen. I underline it. The praying man taps my shoulder and says he saw me, crying at the station, that he prayed for me. That I should know I am loved, and that he hopes it’s alright, whatever it is. The old woman hands me Dave’s old pen. It is full again. She had ink for it, somehow. The man on the corner has reached Tesla corporate, and wants to know about their porn policies. I go to the curb to wait for my friend, accidentally standing in the way of the healer. She jumps back to not touch me.
“I can’t fix everything,” she says angrily, spilling her tea on the city floor rather than letting all my brokenness drain her.
The sun is hot on the sidewalk, and I’ve walked in circles. I can almost see the the shadow of the person I was, mixing into the pavement with the spilled Starbucks and tears.
She’s gone now.
The city is a cemetery.
The city is a church.
I raise my eyes up, shaking and crying. There are signs everywhere but I just can’t make them out. My best friends are texting.
Am I okay?
I am not.
I will be.
I’m not a grownup, I tell one, minutes before the other pulls up and hands me a balloon and lollipop. I could still make my train, they say. It’s okay to need help, they say.
Mama’s classrooms used to have signs that said, “Everyone is good at something, not everyone is good at everything.”
Sometimes you read signs, but so often you don’t need to read them in order to see them. I think of the child holding the “This is Long Beach” sign, and how everyone ignored it because signs are for people who don’t know but want to know.
If it doesn’t make sense, it’s not your sign.
I can’t make sense of the signs, but I made it home and the pen is out of ink again. I think of my shadow and how I buried it in front of Starbucks. Some things you keep alive as long as you want. Everything else passes through like the 11:45 train that I was supposed to be on.
In the city, everything happens so far that we walk right over the ash, magnetizing away or towards the crazies at will. My words smell like burnt marshmallows. As soon as they’re spoken, they’ll burn away. They’ll wash through the drains of the city I walked today. The city is a cemetery, the city is a church, and everyone is praying in some way or another.
Most of us with a Starbucks in hand, but not me.
I don’t drink there anymore.
I don’t live here.
This is Long Beach, the sign says,
but I am lost.
I wrote this on September 29th, after my panic attack at the train station, and read it on Facebook. I figured I should post it somewhere so it wouldn’t get as lost as I did…