Nabe, my neighbor, is over one morning; he’s been good lately about listening to my stories. This one is about how I always mix some physical with the mental when I’m working at home: “I don’t want to get my back all twisted up or my arms all numb by sittin’ in front of the computer for too long.”
“Yes?” says Nabe.
“So I take breaks from it.”
“What kind of breaks?” he says, always tryin’ to trip me up.
“I call them ‘physicals’,” I say.
“What consists of ‘a physical’?” Nabe asks. Always poised to mock me, always taking a drag off a cigarette in his mind.
“Like vacuuming the house or mopping the floors,” I say.
“Oh,” says Nabe. Score one for me, I have just won a conversation: Nabe cannot disagree that these tasks are indeed physical, for he loathes both of them for just that very fact.
“Good for you,” Nabe shrugs. I bet he was hoping I’d say “paying bills”.
I wonder sometimes if my interpretations of my and Nabe’s discussions are 100% accurate all the time.
I’m on the road later, running errands. I notice that I’m low on gas, and end up pulling into the station closest to my house. First I hop out and remember to pop the gas latch before closing the door. Score! I can do no wrong today. I unscrew the gas cap and only then see the large red signs taped onto the gas pumps at my station: Out Of Order. Ohhh. Well, since I’m so smart and strong, I’ll just reach around to the other side of the pump and drag the hose from that side to my car.
I start to do this before noticing two large red signs taped onto those gas pumps, too. No way! So far at this gas station, all I’ve done is stand on the divider, turn from one direction to the other, and wring my hands. I hop back into my car and move it to an entirely new gas pump, which happens to be just feet from the front door of the convenience store. I am thinking this must be against code since I could literally reach in and fill people’s cups with gasoline if someone wanted that. I am also being trampled by every person coming out of this store.
Later, I go in for a chocolate bar and find not only that but a basket of ripe bananas for forty-nine cents apiece on the way back to the front counter! I have a girl-fit right there in the aisle. “Oooo, banananas! I can’t believe you have theeese! The CVS and the Walgreen’s across the street never have fresh fruit! This is excellent!” This is so unlike me, but I go with it. I’ve told a few people that ever since getting back to Arizona from Minnesota this last time, I have felt an ebullience of sorts, a weight lifted, like my anti-depressant is suddenly working super-duper well, with my moods most often ranking in the “no worries” zone (unless unkindly harpooned, of course).
I get to the counter and the boys are ready for me and my purchases: a chocolate bar and the banana. “And that’s all I need!” I say, grinning, quoting one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies.
The boys stare at me, their natural smiles waning. Perhaps they haven't seen my favorite movie.
I am slightly embarrassed after my unpremeditated antics. I can make up for that with a donation! I put my change into what I want to be just a cup with pennies for the customers, so maybe my silver coins shine on top: a selfish donation. But my eyes aren’t that bad, and I know long before I drop my coins into the plastic donation box that it's not for customers in need of a couple pennies, but for needy children. I’m donating to needy children in exactly the way I teach my students not to: the wrong way.
Taken aback by my own unabashed bad donation choice, I say “thank you” to the boys and start towards the door. Then one of them sings out to me, clear as a bell, “I never heard any of those kids say thank you!”
The dagger through my heart. And I must look stricken because the boy who says it immediately backpedals: “I was just kidding….”
I shake off the stupidity of me and regather my meanness. “I’ll see you boys again,” I say, smiling, backing out through the in-door.
I am home later in the afternoon, grading at my desk. I have been doing so for more than an hour straight. I hear a demanding female voice inside my brain, and it’s either my fourth grade teacher, one of my sisters, my mother, a former camp counselor, a former roommate, that lady from the video, or a degree of me. I have to listen:
“Weren’t you gonna do ‘a physical’?” she says. Mocking, always mocking.
“What was it?”
Fold the laundry.
“Fold the laundry!? Can that wait?”
“What else were you gonna do?”
Vacuum my room.
“Can that wait?”
We both knew the answer to that one: I had put that off for more than a month one time last semester when the going got rough. It could definitely fall lower on the physical priority list now.
Okay, you caught me! I say. (I hate mopping the floor and the floor hasn’t been mopped in months.)
“Get that bucket!” she yells.
Okay! I got it! I’m getting it!
“You’ve gotten it before, then you put it back without washing the floor.”
I recognize her now. That's my woman scorned.
She never forgets a thing.