I TOO WAS YOUNG AND FULL OF PROMISE

ERIN MCINTOSH

 
 

But of course I wanted to kill any man who had ever. Doesn’t every woman. This was in the early days when they all lived in the canyons and I, mooning after them, stayed in the valley. I lost count of the number of flowers I brought to peoples’ houses as gifts, flowers in exchange for dinner in those two-story mansions hidden by hedges, trees, funds. Bitterness came when I spent too much time thinking I wanted something I never dreamed of as a child. The more I saw that sparkled the more I began to desire that same gold glitter of fireflies in private backyards, not even a pool so much as a hearth, bath mats, working ovens, that sort of thing. If I had stayed out of this city I would not be so tired. I left lovers when they started to ask too many questions about what sort of girl was I really. I couldn’t bear anyone to see my hurt, the seeing of it only adding to it and so I snipped and cut and trimmed people the instant they hemmed me in with their care. Anger always the easiest emotion, the most soothing, a man outside of a club somewhere on the edge of Hollywood told me I was “too angry” and I, stone-faced, spit gum onto the sidewalk in front of his feet. There was a lot to laugh about if you could have seen me in those days, and I knew this even as I languished, laughterless, staring up at rafters in yet another apartment share where the water never quite got hot enough, thinking well someday soon my life will start, the parties all adding up eventually. In the back of my head thinking well I can always move back to Minnesota and write memoirs about the whole thing, only I knew my story wasn’t anything special and anyway too many others had already beaten me to it, real people whose names held something of interest to the world at large, and who was I, I hadn’t even had a stint in Venice. I made kill lists and two uncles made it, my younger brother, my first boyfriend and the first boy I loved who were not the same person, an assortment of men I’d run into or toward or who had run into or over me. It was dull, dull, dull and I could barely eat in those days, I started frequenting a dog park on weekday afternoons, shivering in long sleeves despite bright sun, my stomach joining my head and my heart as sworn enemies against my body. I would sit on the benches with my knees up against the rest of me, hoping the dogs wouldn’t come near and hoping their owners would. If they had I wouldn’t have known what to say. My cousin Maggie kept saying she wanted to come visit but I kept putting her off, saying work this work that too much is happening. Too much wasn’t happening but I could never seem to keep still. Remember when you used to write an old friend wrote to me in a letter remember when you used to want things but I couldn’t get over the strangeness of hearing from that person long enough to listen to anything he said. Maybe if he’d gotten there sooner. Tired was just as easy as angry and most of the time easier and Maggie said maybe I had a chronic illness and I shrugged my shoulders and went to the meditative healer she recommended but the healer only touched my forehead for an hour and told me my aura was cleared and after that I had trouble remembering things like what day it was or if I’d watered the basil plant I’d bought months ago on a whim. I started to think of my aura as a pinkish thing, glowy and shadowy, and like Peter Pan I wondered how to chase it down again and patch myself up. Without the pink did I have anything to offer at all. Would anyone want me without my invisible tulip shine. At a restaurant late one morning he was paying so I ordered plates grossly and didn’t care. The server brought complimentary oranges on a square plate, sliced up in neon half moons and I ate them like I was starving, like a wolf would if wolves ate that sort of thing. He watched me as I did this and when I said “what” he only shook his head slowly, stroking at his white mug of coffee. He reminded me of an old therapist I went to once and so I never saw him again after that day, never returned the calls even when the tone took a desperate turn, and an angry one, and finally a threatening one, one to which I normally would have responded. I stopped responding to much of anything: emails, invitations, social prompts. People said have a nice day and I couldn’t meet their eyes with my own, “bitch” people would mutter after and I wondered how many of my normal niceties, thoughtless pleasantries, were only an armor against this: other people’s inevitable hate. The less I responded the more I noticed and the smaller people grew to me, it was funny like the world around me was a screen and I was only watching it, watching other people cry and yell and laugh. In my own life I felt no pleasure or remorse, and this seemed to me an even exchange. A man I met somewhere, sometime, through somebody else, convinced me I ought to buy a car and somehow I managed this, I forget where the money came from, if I asked for it or got a loan or if the timing coincided with the death of a grandparent. Either way I had the money and so I did it. I remember feeling for a few days after a kind of elation I hadn’t experienced in years. Like I was really going somewhere. I could feel this in me and I forgot temporarily about my plans to hurt other people and take some kind of revenge for this life so unfairly foisted upon me. For that handful of moments I was a new woman, my spirit rebirthed, I smiled at long-haired hippies on the street and when beggars begged toward me I pulled over and gave them whatever pennies had sunk to the bottom of my backpack, or sometimes an orange, or leftovers of the Chinese lunch special I had a habit of getting from the place around the corner from where I lived. Nothing else was coherent but I knew I had wheels, I knew I had a full tank of gas, I knew I was moving, and the feeling of this was going to change my life, I could tell. Of course a week later I was in an accident, my momentum totaled, and by that time I could see things weren’t going to turn around for me after all and that I had been an idiot to think otherwise. I called up an aunt I hadn’t spoken to in years and asked her – holding what remained of my heart in my hand, this little square of lumpy, bloody rawness – How do you live? And she said who is this, she said I think you have the wrong number, and I said no, I said wait, I said it’s me. “Who’s me” she asked and I hesitated too long because she hung up in the pause. The empty silence rang in my ear and I handed back the phone to whomever I’d borrowed it from and when I looked at my other hand my heart was nowhere to be seen and so I looked down at my feet and at the linoleum floor. Customers milled about grabbing candy bars and cans of energy but no one had seen it, even when I started asking them people just stared, one man said what did it look like and I began to cry, overcome, and he backed away. I was asked to leave and so I did. I walked out of the building and into the sun and my face was wet and hot and my chest was empty and I couldn’t recall where I was, or how I had gotten to be there, and when someone walked by I began to shout at them, angry words, and hours later I was somewhere else but I was still shouting, cars were zooming loud and overhead, one of my shoes had gone, there was a loud honk and I realized I was in a tunnel. When I looked to either end there was light, and I swung my head back and forth, which way was I supposed to go? If both ends lead out how am I to know? So I stayed there in the middle and the light faded and night came and my shouting shrank to a whisper and as words and saliva tangled and fell together from my open mouth I closed my eyes and I held myself tight and I tried to remember just what was going on.

 

 
 

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