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Apathy Girl and Other Tales

Musings of the Overly Naive Cynic

 

Pigeons in the Park

There are pigeons in the park. It is of no consequence. They exist to eat bread crumbs thrown by tourists, to beat winged patterns into the air, to scatter artfully in the wake of coffee and blackberry toting young professionals, to defecate. They walk in stately swirls. Their heads bob in time with the traffic, no time, their eyes swirling back and forth, seeing everything, seeing nothing, I don’t know, I am not a pigeon. I do not think pigeon thoughts.

There are homeless men in the park. It is of no consequence. They exist to beg coins warily given by tourists, to pace and drink coffee out of small styrofoam cups, to play chess with an unexpected skill and intellect, to urinate. They pace in front of their boards. They beat on drums made of five gallon buckets, no sound, their eyes trained to their money hats, seeing everything, seeing nothing. I don’t know, I am not a homeless man. I do not think homeless man thoughts.

I am in the park. It is of no consequence, to most people. I am here to drink coffee, to meet Lance, to appear busier than I am, to slide away from him as he tries to kiss me in public, to relocate. I stand up for no reason. I sit cooly detached. My head is still, no shaking in time with his words, my eyes on his, seeing everything, giving nothing. I don’t know. I am not broken hearted. I do not think broken hearted thoughts.

There is a world in the park. It is of some consequence. It exists to contain our small wants, and needs, to have its own symphony of organic sound, to orbit within the universe of the city, to radiate. It stands timeless and crumbling. It maintains itself within the humming traffic and constant construction, it holds on to everything, nothing, moments being created lost forever, or kept forever. I don’t know. I do not have a moment to keep.

Rats in the Subway

Washington D.C is so clean it’s dirty. The white of the marble, the wide sweep of the sidewalks, the crisp cut of a politician’s suit. So precise. It must be covering something. Below the streets are the seemingly infinite tunnels of the Washington D.C. Metro Transit Authority. The Metro is another world. A world that is dimly lit, with tile floors that lend a certain amount of grandeur to cement. The brass railings shine, even though after they’ve been forced upon by millions of hands, you know they are anything but clean. The air from the incoming trains wraps itself around you like a snake, a firm localized touch, slow motion with all of the speed in the world. The seats are red and orange and blue and worn through the middle. In the subways there are rats. Not too many of them, just a sprinkling of rats, like dust on the railing, dust on the corners of the stairs in the Capitol building. People avert their eyes, choosing not to see there is anything touching their white city. But they are there, under the streets. Light gray, grease on their fur lending them a luminescence, the only thing separating them from the concrete. They scurry about, looking for food. Perhaps because in the world of not quite white rats, there is nothing better to do, than to take the red train out to Bethesda. In and out of the trains, in and out of my line of vision. Just trying to get out of the weather, the cold.

One particularly cold night, the crisp scent of snow creeps down through the grates. I ran to the train, three blocks in high heels. I have my own security escort, huffing along behind me. I wave vaguely to him as I go down the stairs. They are locking the gates as I hit the bottom stair, but I do not plead, I give the WaMATA guards a small smile and slip through to just barely catch my train. I sit nearest to the doors, so that I can exit quickly. I write on yellow legal paper. I keep to myself. Every person does. On the train in front of me is a woman, she is mechanically eating a sandwich wrapped in white paper, eating without stopping, without talking to herself. With very few signs of crazy. Her once pure white dashiki, blouse and hat covered in dirt and grime, grease. She is hovering over a cart full of trash, wrapped in opaque white plastic. Cans, bottles, clothes, food. Everything and anything, nothing at all. No one looks at her, she is the only person of her kind on the train. The rest of us have better things to do. Watch our phone screens as Tetris blocks fall into place. The train stops, the white lights above the door go up. She suddenly looks up, dropping her sandwich on the floor.

“What time? Some body tell me the time!” Her eyes are filmy, searching the faces that look down and away from her, refusing to see anything gray on their lovely white city. It is my city too now. I don’t like trash either. She picks her sandwich off the floor, the air around her becoming more frantic. This air seeps into me. My own heart pounding, I do not know what to do. I know speaking is not an option. No one else looks up. We are perfectly white sheep. She is harder and harder to ignore.

“C’mon, I jest askin’ the time! I need t’know th’ time!”

Finally a braided hippie chick with Birkenstocks and soft eyes speaks up. She is wearing purple ribbons in her hair.

“Ma’am? Ma’am, it’s 12:30. Can I do anything else for you? Do you need help getting somewhere?”

A thousand miles away I would be that girl. With bright colors and bright smiles and Ma’am and Sir and How Can I Help You? I was racially sensitive and put granola on my cereal. I was polite and lovely and liberal and nice. But now I wear shiny black heels and silk stockings and carry a red leather briefcase. I ride the subway and do not look up. I ignore the rats, where once I would have felt guilty that they ate garbage. I pay four dollars for a cup of coffee and go out for scotch at night. A thousand miles away I prefer warm wood to cool marble. Dirt path to side walk.

Her clothes were light gray, the grease on her ebony skin luminescent, her attempt to speak the only thing separating her from the concrete passengers. She scurried out the doors, out of my line of vision. She was in the subway trying to get out of the weather, the cold.

The Deer in the Road

This drive was much different than it had been four months ago. Not necessarily prettier, just different. The mountains were dusted in snow, the sky turning pink as the morning aged. The shadow of the moon had my attention, a huge opaque orb hanging in the sky, knowing its end is near, having to decide to stay or go. It is beautiful. I am more awake now, and aware of the two lane road, the hairpin curves, the side of the mountain, the ice, the potential for banjo music. And the deer.

Ok, it is at F and 10th. Seventh floor, conference room. Ten o’clock. Am I dressed ok? I think I am dressed ok. I wore flats, they were a practical choice. I am also wearing nylons, because that is what professional women wear, right? I think so…but there were a lot of barelegged women on the subway, and they only stocking I saw were black, and silk, not nylon. My skirt falls to my calves, is of a soft brown material, a blocky plaid pattern. Despite the heat I wear a black suit coat and a long-sleeved shirt. I carry my backpack from school. I was so terrified of being late that I was now a half-hour early. I tentatively walk into the lobby, and am promptly stopped by the security guard.

“Where are you goin’?” He asks, shoving a sign-in sheet towards me.

My heart was suddenly pounding, my breath gone. I hate talking to strangers. “The Tribune Bureau. Seventh floor. It’s my first day.” I offer, taking up the pen and carefully printing my name. My shoes make no sound as walk through marbled halls to the juxtaposition of the ultra-modern Tribune Bureau. I hope I can do this.

“Shit, oh God. Please.” The leather of the steering wheel slides through my hand. I am attempting a partnership with my car, trying not to…okay, now take it a little to the left, trying not to crash. I sound the car horn again, it is woefully inadequate, meek. I hit the ice, barely visible in the shadow of the mountain moon. If only that deer had picked a direction and gone with it. Maybe time would have maintained its speed.

“It’s a stroke. Dude, he’s having a stroke!” Mukasey was just a blur of flesh and dark suit on the three and a half inch screens of the control room. Flesh and dark suit that slide off the podium and onto the floor. I hit the replay again, smiling. “This is breaking news.” James is punching it up on the projector screen, Brian writing the copy, just in case. Up on the roof George is mid look-live, he doesn’t know what is happening. “I’ll run it up to him!” I am shaking with excitement, slipping on my pumps, grabbing my access card. My heels make a frantic, staccato-ed sound in the hallway, I take to the stairs, and burst onto the roof while George is taking the IFB out of his ear.

“Here!” I thrust him the paper copy. “Mukasey, he just…he had a stroke! Or, you know, it could be that he passed out. Whichever. You could go with this, if you wanted to. It is much more exciting than election again.” My breathing was starting to slow, and I was stumbling over his lack of enthusiasm.

“Are you happy that this man may be dying?” George, he usually used a very light tone with me, we joked around more than anything, talked about music and gadgets, was now extremely quiet and measured.

“I…I’ve never seen breaking news before…” I tried to cover up my enthusiasm with naivety.

“This shouldn’t make you happy.” His back was to me now, he was putting on his reporter face. I walked slowly back down to the control room. What does he know? He has been in the game too long, he just doesn’t want to learn the new copy.

“Ok, you can do this.” I mean, I had to. I was just on the ice now, just sliding. I needed my car back before I came to the bridge. Every pothole, every bump, every crack in the ice changed the english on my spinning car. I tried to turn away from the spin, but ended up just turning into it. The music was too loud. Why was I wearing gloves, I couldn’t feel what I needed to feel. I worked the break, tried to steer again, to no avail. I was just going where the ice wanted me to go.

I walked home alone from class at Johns Hopkins that night. I know Lance would have come with me, would have walked me all the way to my door in hopes I would let him come in. Instead I let David walk me to the door, and then hurry alone to the Dupont Circle station to catch the train home. It is cold outside, and my coat is very thin. My pants are the same linen from summer. I am thinking of buying new ones, but I know I don’t have any money to buy them. The more professional I try to look, the more unkempt I feel. As I walk past the bum that always sleeps under the Krispy Kreme awning by the station he rolls over to piss exactly where my shoes are. It doesn’t faze me. I zone out waiting for the train, I don’t even listen to the conversations around me. I am not eased by the small park I walk through on my way from Grosvenor station to my apartment. I walk circles around the elevator for the twenty-one floor ride. I can smell my apartment before I get to it. Mexican food. It doesn’t make me nauseous anymore. Neither does the peripheral sight of my naked grunting roommate and her boyfriend in the living room. I am trapped in my room, no food, no entertainment,nothing to do but stare up at the ceiling and wish I could be at home. I miss my bedroom, my boyfriend, my spending money. I miss the strange way Springfield seems to exist outside of the rest of the world. I miss cashew chicken. I miss going hiking. I miss my dad. In a few days I would have to decide whether or not I want to stay in D.C, transfer schools, continue my internship, or go home. Give up and go home. I just had to make a choice.

Why hadn’t the deer just picked a direction? Just kept going forward. She could have gone forward, and ended up on the other side of the road, in some sort of deer Mecca, with successful foraging opportunities and lots of deer socializing. She could have realized she was idealizing the safety and calm at the previous side of the road, that it probably was lacking in food, and maybe had bears and wolves too. But she was just a deer. She got scared, and wanted to go back. She thought it was the best thing to do. The bridge railing was right in front of me, I could see it as if I had my nose to it. And I could not decide whether to turn the wheel back or to put on my breaks. Stupid deer in the road.

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