Thursday, April 23, 2009

On Edge

I'm on edge. Like walking down the blade of a knife. One side is darkness, the other light. I'm trying to stay in the middle, which is human.

Had to bring the car to the garage to get the snow tires taken off and oil changed. They said I needed a state inspection as well. I had forgotten about that. I told them that I would go eat a bagel while they did the work. Eat your bagel slowly the mechanic told me. I walked down two streets and found out at the bagel store that I was lucky - a booth with a cushioned seat was free. There are only three of them in the store. There were a lot of people walking in and out of store. I had brought a book with me and ordered a bagel and a large cup of coffee. My plan was to read the book until the coffee was finished. That sounded reasonable. I paid to have the right to sit there. My bagel was finished quickly but I left the open wrapper on the table so as to say "See, I spent more money here then just on coffee. I have a greater claim to sit here than if I had only ordered coffee. Nobody dare give me a disapproving thought." There was music playing that I had never heard before, but I recognized the distinctive voice of Coldplay's lead singer. Sometimes the music interfered with my reading, and when this happened, I looked out the window. I looked at people. One girl wore a light green scarf that went with nothing she was wearing. But the scarf was immaculately folded around her throat and hung flat against her chest. It was a scarf with purpose, a stylish prop that succeeded in making a perfect knot, and this perhaps over shadowed the small flaw that it was the wrong color. A mother referred to her young pre-pubescent daughters as "ladies" and told the woman at the cash register that they all were going shopping at he mall. Each small girl was blond, like their bottle enhanced mother, and there was a thick streak of blue eye shadow over each girl's eyelid. A girl came into the shop talking to her boyfriend and wearing pajama bottoms. I envied her youth that made the breaking of rules of conduct so easy. I watched emotions flow over people's faces and ride upon currents that connected them to one another. Everyone had to order something so everyone had to speak. Isolation can't be complete in a bagel store. There was noise, there was jostling, there were secret peeks at each other. I believed (probably falsely) that none of them could be like me, they couldn't be feeling the sort of panic that I was feeling. I felt fragile. I felt like a freak. I felt like all my movements were deliberate and artificial. I know that nothing about my looks identified me as different. My clothing fit well, it was tasteful. I showered last night and my hair was a lovely puff around my head. Gold twinkled on my ear lobs, above my breasts, and on my wrists. It is not uncommon to be reading a book and drinking coffee and I had enough brains in my head to be really reading the book, appreciating the art of what was on the page, and not imitating interest. I read "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men" by David Foster Wallace. He really knows how to describe a moment. He can take pages to describe all the details in one moment. Reading his writing made me want to go home and write. The rest of my day was free. But I said to myself, "You have walked from the garage and will have to walk back. You have talked and smiled at a strange mechanic who you are secretly afraid of and have sat, drinking coffee, surrounded by people who you suspect are all more happy than you are. If you get your car and drive straight home, take off your coat and shoes and slip into bed with a computer on your lap, will there be any coherence left in your brain to write sentences that flow together and make sense? Or have you, after being mixed up in the world outside of your house for a little more than an hour, completely used up the small measure of sanity you are gifted with every morning when you wake? Are you strong or are you a mess?"

I have a brain that is broken but I do like to play with it. Push it. Ask it to preform for me. I was at the garage with my car the very moment it opened and flawlessly I acted like a person who it is easy to forget. There were no sharp edges or stumbles in my behavior. I appeared rock solid. And then I came home and recorded everything I did, the little bit of it that cost me so much. I am a satisfied participant, observer, and scribe. There will be a faint residue of bliss when I shut off my computer and close my tired eyes. It is not yet eleven in the morning.

1 comment:

nancy said...


Wow! You are a wonderful writer. I loved reading "ON EDGE." You'd perhaps be surprised that many people I think feel like you did at times. Perhaps people like you, Kate and myself are so sensitive and pick up so much from our environment. I spoke for years in therapy - never wanting to become bitter, but not wanting to become "thick-skinned" I am crying, I think out of a strong connection to this piece. I have been in a cafe, in the midst of a severe depression and feeling cut off. You describe it so beautifully. Thank you! all the best, Nancy