taken from an email i sent to myself from work 3 years ago. you were right cynthia.
I’m always waiting for someone to change my life. I can’t even do it on my own. I’m waiting for some kind of collision. Hoping that I will somehow crash into someone’s orbit and they will inspire me to move. To make it happen. What is it exactly? Anything. Anything other than what I’ve got going on. Anything that will change this scenery or make it somehow come alive.
Sometimes I try to make it happen. I leave town. I leave the country. I thought foreign soil would do it. I thought once I finally touched down on the ground of somewhere completely different from home, that I would feel it. But I didn’t. I walked the streets of Italy and I didn’t feel it. I took a train in Paris and I didn’t feel it. I can’t even describe the disappointment. To be somewhere so beautiful, and feel nothing. But then I came home and read The Sun Also Rises, and I longed to be there again. I felt like I would be so inspired if only I was there again. Of course, once I’m not there I feel it.
But it never lasts. It’s the Sunday night, Monday morning curse. You feel so different on a Sunday night. Everything is possible. You have a fresh new week ahead of you. You can do things different. You can be more positive. You can start eating right. But then Monday morning comes. Everything feels different. Something happens. It makes you lose your faith in whatever you felt last night. Enthusiasm disappears somewhere in the middle of the night.
So when you’re looking for the life changing, the awe inspiring, you take what you can get. You’ll jump into anyone’s orbit. You’ll ride any train. Just for something to happen. Anything.
So I guess she was an unlikely candidate. She seemed like any other crazy customer I had helped before. I have this curse. For some reason people look into my eyes and they see empathy. They know somehow I’ll understand. They know if they tell me their husband left them and took all their money, I’ll hold their hand and cry with them. They know if they tell me their son just died, I’ll pull their sweaty body into my arms and hold them tight. They know I’ll take all of their pain in, story by story, until I have nothing left for myself.
“I lost my wallet. I’m disabled you see. I was walking for 3 hours last night because I can’t turn my neck sideways.”
This was the first thing she ever said to me. You can’t fault me for my first thought, that this lady was crazy.
“Oh ok,” I said. I always try to treat crazy people the same way I’d treat little kids. I talk slow and down to them. “Um, do you have any form of ID with you?”
“Oh I have lots.”
I felt relieved. At least I wouldn’t have to make her angry by denying her transaction. At least I could validate her some way. Then a wave of paper flew onto my desk.
“Here’s all of my mail. Look at my address, P.O. Box 5556, that’s me. I also have my doctor’s chart. Here it is. See I have this wrong with me. I also have my MRI. Here look.”
She pulls out a dvd of her MRI. I’m wondering if she thinks I had a dvd player and I could play it right here and now. Match the curve of her spine to the lady I see in front of me. Then she pulls out a travel bag and opens it revealing 10 bottles of pills.
“Here are all my medications. See they have my names on them. I’m me. I’m Cynthia Davenport. You really think someone would have this if it wasn’t me?”
I already know I’m going to do it for her. I can never say no to people. Especially when they lay their whole lives out on the table in front of me. She tells me about her illness. Most of it I can’t even understand. All I know is that it sounds really bad. She talks so fast it’s hard to understand anything. I find myself grabbing at words and phrases trying to commit them to memory. Can’t drive. Can’t turn her head sideways. Nerves.
“I used to write books until I couldn’t type anymore. I really miss it,” she says.
This is where she gets me. I’m hooked. I want to know.
“Wait, you used to write books? Really?”
“Yeah. Children’s books. Me and my husband used to live in Japan. We used to publish them online. Poetry too.”
She could be lying. I almost don’t care. She had me at, “used to live in Japan”. I’m jealous of every single person whose ever done anything I haven’t. I want to be reckless. I want to be determined. I want to say I lived in New York for a year. I want to say I drove across the USA. Anything. I want anything other than what I’m doing. So even if she’s lying, she’s making up better things than I ever could.
“Have you ever heard of Bukowski?”
“Um yes!” I’m practically yelling now. I’m getting so excited.
“Have you ever read his poetry? He’s so one way in his novel writing. But his poetry is so passionate. Well you know one time my friend knew him and she gave me his phone number. And calling him was probably the worst thing I ever did.”
“Wait what? You talked to him? Was he mean?”
“Well you know, we didn’t do anything. But oh man me and him could have had a good time you know.”
She’s not even listening to me and I love it. I want to know everything. I’m almost giggling. I’m looking around to see if any of my coworkers are hearing this. I don’t want them to. I want this to just be mine. My own special thing. I’m already trying to see how I can stretch this out. I want to know I can contact her again. But she already told me she can’t type so I’m sure she doesn’t use email. I almost want to ask her for her phone number but that seems really weird.
“God, there are so many good books you should read. Have you ever read Isabella Allende. Allend. Wait, yeah Allende. Have you ever heard of her?”
“No,” I say practically salivating.
“Oh my god. You need to read her. You’re going to read her books and go try to find her and see where she speaks and be in love.”
She grabs one of my business cards and starts scribbling out names in the most indecipherable handwriting. She fumbles with names of books while I try to remember them because I know I won’t be able to read her handwriting.
“You’ve seen Planet Earth right?”
“What? Are you serious? I’ll give you $500 if it’s not the best thing you’ve ever seen.”
I want to explain to her about my irrational fears. How I love the solar system but just the sight of earth from space gives me the chills. I want to make her understand how the ocean just pushes me against the earth. How it causes the air to leave my lungs when I think about the endlessness of it. But I can’t. No one ever understands. And when I think I can tell them it never comes out the way I hear it in my head. It sounds ridiculous and I start laughing.
“It scares me,” is all I can say.
“What? No,” she says. “It’s so amazing. I was on the bus one day and as I was getting off I turned to the whole bus and I was like, “Planet Earth! If it’s not the best thing you’ve ever seen I’ll give you $100!’ And then I left. And you know what? When I was on the bus again someone came up to me and told me it was the best thing they’ve ever seen!”
She has me questioning my own irrational fears. She’s got me thinking that in the span of 5 minutes I could change my whole life. I’m trying to imagine oceans in my head, just to see my initial reaction. Oh. Ok. Maybe I need a little longer. Let me calm down here.
“I love talking about books,” she says.
I could almost tell it wasn’t exactly me she enjoyed talking to. It was my love and excitement. Just like I was feeding off her age and accomplishments. I get jealous of people’s ages. I’m jealous my mom is 58. I’m jealous she spent her childhood summers in Florida. I want to have lived. I want to know i’m going to be that old. I get jealous of old men who look like death. Who rattle along at the slowest pace possible. I want to know I’m going to get there. I want to know I have the time to get there.
“I wish I could just sit in the park with you and talk about books,” she says.
This should be my in. I should tell her yes. Ask for her phone number. But I always feel like I should let things happen the way they are supposed to. I shouldn’t force anything. But that’s just it. Is there really a way things are supposed to happen?
“That would be awesome. We should do that someday,” I tell her.
“How old are you?”
“You have until you’re 33,” she says.
All I can think is ‘WHAT?’ Does she know something I don’t? I always say I won’t make it until 30. Maybe she’s psychic. Maybe all of my years of saying that has made it a reality.
“They say 33 is when you should really have it together. So you still have time.”
I still have time.