Mr. Right and Mrs. Wrong

“I like parks,” Tom cheerfully observed. He sat back, resting his hands supportively in the thick grass and closing his eyes in the warm spring sunshine.

“Mmm-hmmm,” Abigail responded, in a noncommittal way. She squinted into the bright light, feeling wetness seeping through the small blanket and into her jeans from the moist lawn. A slight breeze carried a tangible whiff of dog feces from somewhere nearby.

Tom turned to Abigail, opening his blue eyes to stare into her brown ones. Unfortunately, the angle of her face made the sun reflect off her glasses and he couldn’t quite see them. He shifted, then smiled as their eyes finally met and her face brightened.

“There are just so many things in life to be excited about,” Tom continued, confidently. He’d finished his first week at a new job, one he’d selected after all the companies he’d applied for offered him a position. “Like, today, for example,” he said. “It’s a beautiful Saturday, and I have you to spend all afternoon with.”

Abigail recoiled slightly at the sincere praise. She had spent that morning at yet another interview. A whole month had passed since the last company she’d worked for had decided to downsize. She found herself feeling unwanted lately after so much rejection. “Yeah,” she said, attempting to echo his positive tones. “I’m glad you planned this, Tom.”

Frowning somewhat, Tom amended, “Oh, I didn’t plan today. I just thought we could wing it.” He laughed. “We could do anything. The sky’s the limit, you know!”

The $20 bill Abigail had dusted her apartment for felt smaller in her pocket, as she considered how much sky might end up costing this afternoon.

“So what do you want to do?” Tom asked.

Oh, great, she thought, I need to say something fun and adventurous so I don’t sound like a stick in the mud. Sticks and mud were already poking at her ankles. She cast around for an idea.

She chickened out. “What do you think would be fun?” Hopefully, he’d keep it under $20.

“Well,” Tom began immediately, whipping out his cell phone, “I actually made a list.” Activating the screen, he scooted closer to Abigail so she might see the ideas he’d compiled. He still subconsciously managed to sit in a dry spot.

He read aloud as she did so silently, “Tubing down the river, going to the pier, spend the day at Six Flags, try paragliding, see a movie, ride a zipline, eating dinner at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, rent bicycles…”

The list continued a few more lines. None of the options seemed inexpensive. None of them fit the mood Abigail was in, which was to simply sit somewhere and recuperate after an emotionally-stressful week.

She liked Tom, a lot. He was intelligent, capable, organized, and he liked her. He said he liked her. He’d truly seemed to after their last date, during that first, lingering kiss just outside her apartment building. Too bad it had been that time of the month, literally during dinner. She’d have been screwed without that spare pad in her purse.

Well, Abigail thoughtfully amended, I’d been screwed if it hadn’t been that time of the month.

Coming back to the present, Abigail realized Tom had stopped reading his list. He was looking at her expectantly.

Tom liked Abigail, a lot. She was thin, kind, laughed at his odd jokes, and seemed to like him in return. She had a great butt, and kissed well. He thought she might not feel the same as he did after they’d only kissed last time, but then she had texted him on Wednesday to ask if they were still on for Saturday. Despite his many great qualities, sometimes girls would not answer him back when he texted.

Tom waited for Abigail, his face betraying some impatience. The day was nice, but would pass quickly. They needed to make a decision and go.

He reached over casually and touched fingers. Their hearts fluttered as each intentionally shifted and held the other’s hand.

Ignoring memories of the catastrophic bicycle accident of their first date, Abigail decided to trust Tom. It could be fun.

She took a deep breath. “Scroll down your list, and I’ll point to one with my eyes closed.”

Tom looked ecstatic. “Great!” He said, activating his sleeping phone.

Abigail closed her eyes, her finger hovering over the screen. She jabbed her finger down before she could change her mind. Gingerly, she opened her eyes.

Tom peered around her nail, and read, “Paddle-boating on the lake.”

“Let’s go!” He enthused, stood, and bent to collect his shoes. Abigail stood as well, checking her backside discreetly to see how obviously the grass had affected it. Tom picked up the blanket, frowning slightly in confusion at the wet spots.

He waited for Abigail to collect her things, then held her hand once again as they headed toward the boat rental dock.

Tom had never been on a paddle boat before. This will be fun! He told himself, noting the bright orange of the boats and the warm glint of sunlight on the lake’s surface.

Abigail hadn’t been on a paddle boat since she was ten. Her father had accidentally shifted the boat too roughly and she’d fallen in. After two weeks of feeling sick, they’d taken her to the doctor and discovered she had Giardia. I won’t fall in, I won’t fall in, she repeated, in an odd sort of mantra.

They reached the sales office, and stood in line behind some giddy teenagers.

“Are you ready?” Tom asked Abigail.

“I think so,” she bravely replied.

Wilhelmina Winters: Ten

Buoyed by mystery, Wil passed a happy time in the remainder of math class and all of English. Her mind ran scores of pleasant ideas round and round as she stared, unseeing, at her teachers or seatwork.

This secret message would lead her to a secret meeting of spies, determined to overthrow an evil dictator’s evil plans to destroy all happiness. No -she was needed as a key member of a team of talented and smart teenagers, the true advisers to world leaders. Better yet, Wil would discover she was the long-lost daughter of the King of Fairies and would have her powers and prestige returned to her.

The bell for third period played its low dong, and she headed eagerly to art class. Unlike most of Wil’s teachers, her art teacher cared about her pupils and her subject. Mrs. Ting also taught French, and liked to slip in French phrases and expressive gestures while lecturing.

“Today, we will continue to work on perspective,” Mrs. T. began, pointing her right hand toward some unknown horizon line and looking distantly at her imaginary point. “You all remember the first steps, bien sûr. Now I want you to draw your horizon, your lines of perspective, and then you,” here she paused to point and look instead at the class in general, “pick what to draw.”

She swished in her open art smock over to the supply cupboard. “Castles, a sports car,” Mrs. T. nodded at a few boys sitting near the back together, “Your dream house, your own house.” She began handing out large sheets of parchment. “This school,” she added, and received a few snickers in response.

“Whatever you imagine,” Mrs. T. concluded, placing the last sheet in front of Wil and looking right at her with a smile. Wil was no great artist, and she knew it. Mrs. T. liked Wil, however, and always told her that she loved her art. “So much creativity, Wil!” She would enthuse. “I wish I could see the world the way you do!”

Wil pulled a ruler from the bin in the table’s middle and traced her starting lines. What did she want to draw? She thought idly about the note, her family, and her life as she finished the necessary steps.

Almost of their own accord, Wil’s hands began sketching in trees. They began as dark sentries at the front, then marched along her line of perspective all the way to the horizon. She pulled her errant lock of hair from behind her ear again and toyed with it while adding light swirls of fog and a wan moon in the sky.

Wil was terrible at drawing people, though she wanted terribly to capture the lone dark figure from her dreams traveling through these misty woods. Instead, she roughly outlined a dingy square building near the horizon. For kicks, she penciled in a broken neon sign that read RESTAURANT.

At this point, Wil thought of two things: One, she’d never asked her father what time of year he’d met Cynthia. Maybe it had been snowing. Two, what red table would she need to go to at noon, and who or what would really be there?

 

Continued from Nine.

Dear Son

Dear Son,

I try to love you, but you make it difficult. I see love as soft affection, listening considerately to my advice, and respecting my intelligence.

I get calls and e-mails home from school about concerns parents have for their children who play with you. When I ask you about what happened; you respond with complete ignorance, offended honor, or adamant disagreement.

Your instructors ask me what I recommend for working with you. If I knew, don’t you think I’d tell? Sometimes I ask you. You laugh and say, “I don’t know!”

I will keep trying, because you are my son. I hope that you will grow out of many of these things so that you will be successful in life and have the many friends you love to play with.

Love,
Mom

————————————-

Dear Mom,

I try to love you, but you push me away. I like to hug you really tight so you can see how strong I am and how much I love you! I see love as giving me what makes me happy, surprising me with fun games or treats or fun places to go, and agreeing with me when it’s my brothers’ fault!

Sometimes the teachers don’t listen to me. I try to tell them that I accidentally bumped his head or meant to just throw snow at his coat and not down inside it. That one time, it was really my friend who pushed her down, but she thought it was me. I usually don’t remember, because we’re having fun.

My teachers move my peg down when we’re still talking and they get to “1” counting down. Can I make a chart for home with pegs? Then you can move my peg up or down and I can have computer time.

When I grow up, I want to be a computer programmer like Dad and work with him and eat lunch with him. I will buy a house on this street so I can visit you.

I love you Mom,
Charlie

Reaching for the Attainable

I was sarcastic before it was cool, before I could even spell the word.

Adults told me people were good, I could be anything I wanted, and my peers would like me for who I was.

Let’s keep this under a few thousand words, and just say that I experienced a few examples to the contrary.

Let’s also clarify that I was never covered in boils, told that my toys all died under the collapsed roof of my bedroom, and that the plush ones ran away after their toy box caught fire.

I had a few of the usual letdowns, disappointments, and lack of any childhood friends to speak of. I probably should have hit less.

Mostly, though, I attained my worldview from watching and reading.
The point I want to make, however, is:

I have been happily jaded for a while and felt unique in this position. But, my complaints are drowned out in a chorus of many whining voices. My wry observations have already been mentioned by other dispirited souls.

Whether the world has slowly become embittered like me, or I just entered an adult world that was that way, I’m not sure.

The discontented dirge is depressing to listen to. I look around at mirrored expressions of frustrated apathy, and wish for a smile.

But, we all think we’ve had it. If any lonely optimists wander into camp, they’re seized upon and beaten down till they join us or die.

Recognition is the first step: yes, life sucks. I’m even okay with complaining about that fact, because I do.

This morning, I remembered a scene from the movie Enchanted: Giselle has just entered The Real World and needs help. In her ignorance, she climbs a billboard displaying a castle and knocks. Not surprisingly, no one answers. Robert and his daughter drive by, notice her error, and rescue her.

Sometimes, we are trying to repeatedly go somewhere we cannot and we do not understand why. Feeling discouraged, we complain. Another person, passing by, points out alternate options: change perspective, look at your accomplishments, realize that things get better, and have a hug.

Take the advice and hug the help. Heal, and move on. You can do it.

Just, don’t get stuck. If all we’re doing is seeking attention like an over-indulged toddler, the adults are going to stop helping and start leaving us pounding on an empty door.

A Day in the Life

Some days my nails keep breaking,
As I lose hair strand by strand;
And the vitamins I’m taking
Can’t be opened just by hand.

Sometimes I sweep and mop the tile,
Get dinner on the table,
Then ruefully watch ev’ry child
Drop as much as he is able.

Somehow the same pants surface
Ev’ry time I sort the clothes.
They’ve yet to be in service,
But round and round they goes.

Somewhere beyond the drywall
There’s life; there’s something more:
There are shining floors and people.
I run away! -to the grocery store.

Intervention

Hello. I’m Chelsea. And, I am a sock-aholic.

It all started when I attended Fred Meyer’s Black Friday Sale. Suddenly, expensively inaccessible footwear was accessible. I can feel my toes twitching even now, just thinking about those boxes and boxes completely full -and at half the price.

They had all wool, cotton with moisture wick, and part spandex thigh-high business casual. They had toe socks (which we webbed-feeters can’t actually wear), nylons in packages instead of eggs, aloe-infused fuzzy cuddlewear, and patterned boot stockings.

I bought a pair of thick, wool hiking socks last time -after selecting sensible white pairs of cotton blend (super soft and stretchy!) for everyday, of course.
When I’m dressing, I reach for the alluring stripes, itching to put them on.

But, no -I bought these to put inside hiking boots. I did not buy them to put inside houses (and, in cars, outside, etc.)

Actually, that’s my other confession: I hurt the socks I love. I frequently take a lovely, thick pair out in the garage or down the street to the neighbor’s.

Most days I’m good, but sometimes the pull is too strong.

Socks speak to my sole.

A Wrinkle in Time
“You mean you’re comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?”

“Yes.” Mrs. Whatsit said. “You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.”

Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time