113.0: An open book.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Ma and it’s not just because our trip to France is booked and this means so much to her. (My mom is at times a highly pragmatic woman who has never uttered the words “It’s always been my dream…” to me until this trip came into existence.)
One of the responsibilities of my bookselling job is to help maintain sanity in the store. We are in a lively neighborhood that attracts a lot of foot traffic and unfortunately that traffic at times involves unsavory elements. Probably half of our retail experience is spent keeping an eye out on shady characters. Recently and on two separate occasions, two different women have wandered into our store and on both times we eventually had to kick them out. Aside from the fact that they were women here is what they had in common: they were clearly strung out on something; they were white; because of what I could only assume to be some kind of substance abuse, it was hard to tell their age; according to my boss, they both had been in the store previously and had developed suspicious reputations; and they kept talking about their moms.
The first woman brought a stack of books to the register that we all suspected she had no intention of buying. Instead she took out a notebook and copied the title of each book onto a solitarily ragged page and between each painstaking stroke she explained the following to me: “I hope that my mom will give me enough money to buy these books.” Even though outwardly I showed patient customer service, inside I was anxiously waiting for her to finish not buying the books — yet also, I could not help but lift at least half the side of my mouth in a smile at her sweet if displaced mention of her mom. I was fleetingly nostalgic, recalling the times as a kid when I relied exclusively on Ma for everything I needed to buy, like books.
In the second incident, the woman who had wandered into the store simply collapsed over a coffee table in the café area. Of course, we went to check on her condition but as soon as we approached her she roused herself merely as if she were waking up from a long nap.
“Sorry, I’m okay,” she said.
“Are you sure?” I asked, already fearing the intensity of what seemed to be the very likely possibility of having to call an ambulance.
“Yeah. I just need to call my mom.”
“Do you have a phone?”
The woman’s prematurely aged face crinkled with grief: “No.”
I glanced at my coworker, who shrugged. To the woman, I nodded in a manner as to indicate that she follow me. When I began to move away, she actually did follow me, and I escorted her to a phone where I monitored her dialing a number.
“She’s not answering,” she said, hanging up soon after. “I’m very sorry to have bothered you.”
I walked behind her as she eventually left the premises. While my coworkers shrugged it off as yet another encounter with the crazy, I shared her feeling of abandonment, the feeling draping over me with strange and sudden familiarity, and I was stricken by how this was the second time some woman had wandered into the store using her mother as an explanation. I wondered what was happening in their lives that had pushed them each into separate occasions in my store in which a captured moment somehow brought their attention back to their mothers.
Or, I had also realized suddenly and darkly, maybe “mother” was street code for something more sinister like a pimp, maybe, or a dealer. I am not a social worker and I am only vaguely aware of the injustices around me in the way that most everyday progressive types struggle to maintain vague awareness of countless injustices.
Speaking of jobs, today I start a new part-time gig that I pursued specifically because it is directly related to what I am going back to school for; despite that, I’m really anxious, Linc. This is step one of a larger, newer experience and I am consumed with thoughts of what if it doesn’t work out and what if I am a total failure and what on earth am I doing with my life even though I thought that I had decided this is what I want to do with my life. Mostly I’m nervous just because this is a brand new experience and historically I have always been petrified by new experiences at the beginning; for the most part, they have turned out well and I certainly hope this does, too.
But, uh, I wish you were here — despite the continuation of these never-to-be-sents, Linc, it has been a very long time since I actually longed for you. When I began writing these never-to-be-sents, it’s no secret that the hope was that the real you would somehow gain notice of them. Now that these have been around long enough that we know the possibility has passed, I have continued writing them less an avenue to meet you and more as a way to bring organized narrative to the reliable chaos of everyday living — but whatever, because this is one of the key moments that I wish you were here. All right. Maybe not you. But a boyfriend would certainly be useful. A husband.
The existence of this blog has been coming up in conversation lately with acquaintances whom I am steadily building friendships. At a dinner that I went to last night, one acquaintance piped up during conversation: “So I heard you had a blog. What’s it called?”
“‘Baseball 2.0: Lessons From An Imagined Romance’,” another acquaintance declared with a quickness that seemed all at once comic, as in a sitcom or a romantic comedy in which I am endeavoring to a fateful meeting with you, and alarming, as real life often is.
I glanced at him, my face hot. I glanced at the other acquaintance, who was now intrigued by the title.
What else could I do? I just grabbed a glass of wine and sipped nervously.