There is a woman who every day at a quarter past twelve leaves her office building and lights up a Virginia Slim. I only know it’s a Virginia Slim because of its distinct narrow and long appearance (it was also my grandmother’s brand of choice).
The woman also looks like her name might be Virginia.
Virginia let’s her cigarette dangle elegantly from her mouth as she enters the sunlight and walks purposefully toward a small pod in the complex. Once she arrives she will pace and intermittently take drags with her two fingers very close to her mouth.
Virginia always wears mid-length skirts with low heels. The pattern and color of her outfits vary; she has no routine palette. She has a slight backward arch to her torso and she moves languidly, yet there’s a strange alertness to her. Her face, masked with sunglasses, rarely looks anywhere but directly in front of her. Sometimes she chats softly on her phone, other times she simply lets her cigarette dangle from her mouth.
Her age is observable by some faint wrinkles on her tanned arms, always exposed under Florida’s persistent heat. Her hair is light blonde (perhaps dyed but never neglected) and freely maintained in that she allows wisps of it to frame her face.
She walks back to her office in a timely manner, and I’m left wondering what her life is truly like outside of this mediocrity.
How am I not writing during this time in my life, where change is seeping into every little safe corner I’ve ever known? Writing is sanity for me, and it always has been. Whenever something was difficult, I didn’t need to wait until I had access to a keyboard; I ripped out an old diary and began scribbling even the most mundane thoughts and bringing them to life.
When I look back on those scribblings, sometimes I’m brought to tears. I love the connection I have to my old self. It’s so important to document even the happy times, not simply in Instagram updates or Facebook shares, but in words.
I pulled into my driveway and saw a sales sign in my front yard. The home I’ve lived in for the past seven years now has people walking through it, fancying themselves in it. The little window I like to sit in our kitchen and eat yogurt and talk to my boyfriend might have someone else sitting in it soon. The den where I stretch into Warrior 3, or collapse into child’s pose might someday have someone else doing the same; or worse, not doing anything to that open space I like to pretend is my own personal fitness studio.
The pool that I like to sit on the front step and stare up at this very stately tree, will have someone else sitting in it. They might not look up at that tree and pretend the leaves are waving at them. I almost wanted to write my tree, because it has been mine, hasn’t it?
I understand attachment to things and possessions is actually unhealthy. It’s as if I could run around that entire home claiming it like a cat rubs against its owner. I would do it if I could. And although I know change is good, I can’t help feeling horrible as I walk through my newly sterile home. We are proclaimed minimalists; but our home has taken on a new kind of lifeless feel to it, as if no one is giving it any happiness anymore. A home isn’t a person, but it sure feels that way lately. I feel like I could wrap my arms around the walls and say, “Thank you.”
The thing is I know I could get that feeling again, and that it’s going to be okay.
I was at a stop sign in my neighborhood, watching a kid scream in another kid’s face. He wasn’t screaming anything specific, he would go around the other kid in circles, yelling “HA! HA! HA! HA” in a shrill fashion.
The kid receiving this treatment had headphones and was looking straight ahead with an expression I’m too familiar with.
My heart pulled for him. I wanted to get out of my car, and yank the other kid away from him. Scream, “HA, HA, HA, HA” in his face. But I had already stayed at the stop sign too long, so I drove away. I knew even if I thought of a more rational way to interfere; it wouldn’t solve anything.
Someone’s doing enough damage to the kid who feels the need to bully.
I’ll start by remembering the comforter. The fabric was coarse, and it had a pattern spread across a faded yellow background. Maybe it was beige, but it felt more like the color of old newspaper. Anyway, the pattern I remember was smears of pastel colors all over, as if someone had taken a brittle paint brush and made some half-hearted attempt at a design.
There was wallpaper in our room of multi-colored ballerinas. I’d fixate on one girl (brunette bun, blonde bun, red-head bun) at a time; as if they could come alive and twirl across the parts that were peeled back from bored curiosity.
Mandy was in the room with me, she is my twin sister. She had one leg dangling over the other; her foot bobbed up and down, and a book was pressed to her face. She was reading because that’s what she always did back then, she read everything. When she was reading you had to take care not to interrupt her.
Sam was in the room with me too, she is our younger cousin (two years apart), but we’d never acknowledge this. As far as we were concerned, we were triplets.
I’ve been tweeting a lot, but not writing lately. I guess for me tweeting a lot is churning out two/three tweets per week. I know some folks can keep ’em coming all day, which is a gift I can’t attest to having. Anxiety keeps me from sharing too much, or saying something which may cause offense.
Writing is my favorite. Mostly studying people, or rather the people I pass by in the course of a day. Whether it’s my unforgivingly loud neighbors to the right of our house (they have a serious addiction to blasting reggaton from their truck), or the quiet neighbors to our left (the wife tends to her rose garden when her arthritis allows it; the husband walks the dog every morning just before the sun comes up).
Then there’s the married couple across the street. When I pull in from work the husband is often sitting in their garage, a bit disheveled looking, with the same white t-shirt he wore the day before. I don’t know what he’s working on, but we say hi to each other and I walk inside before a “How are you?” can be uttered. I like that he seems to be okay with that.
Sometimes when I’m down on myself for feeling mediocre, I remember I care enough to write about these seemingly trivial moments I collect. And that none of these people I meet, or observe, are mediocre to me. They’re all living and breathing on this earth during the same time I’m living and breathing on this earth; and I love that.
I remember life in that stale and small living room. It seemed stale because the furniture was dated and the carpet always felt like it had a layer of dust over it. It was perfectly clean, though. I wouldn’t dare offending his mother, even if she never read this; she was diligent in her upkeep.
I specifically remember the decor that hung over a black leather sofa; gold leaves, intertwining. It felt like a big seventies-era stamp.
His mother would get home from work and watch soaps with a giant glass of wine. I found her to be beautiful and interesting, despite her routine existence. She would tell me about the characters and their brief history. I suppose if I tried very hard I could remember names and stories, but it doesn’t matter anymore.
I haven’t gotten to know Denise very well. She works next door as the receptionist of a small advertisement company which isn’t advertised anywhere online.
The owner of the company’s name is Bob and he is roughly around eighty year’s old. His slim figure is often hunched over and his stride is slow. Despite this he regularly takes the stairs instead of the elevator, plays tennis, and I often see him carrying novels or a folded up newspaper.
Bob says things like, “Hello.” and lingers on his annunciation. Sometimes I get a bright, “You look tan, today!” When I haven’t been in the sun for ages.
Denise never says hello, but she does a weird sort of thing with her mouth that I imagine to be a smile. She is overweight for her petite height, wears flip flops daily, and is always carrying a tote bag or two filled with God knows what. Denise isn’t unkind, but she isn’t warm either.
I wonder how long she’s been resigned to her routine of tote bags and flip flops. I find myself wondering if she fantasizes over self-improvement or if she enjoys herself as she is.
On one occasion I peeped into her car as I was passing it on my way to mine. It was covered in trash, magazines, and lottery tickets. I felt a twinge of guilt for looking; as if I was confirming a guess.
I wondered if anyone ever looked into my car what they’d be confirming.