Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mistaken Identity

I was a man, who met an older man who took me to live with him. The man wasn’t old in the saggy-skin-and-liverspots kind of way, but more like timeless and wizened. He was smallish, and dignified with tonsured white hair and small spectacles that i was positive he didn’t really need to see better. He wore them to obscure the nature of his eyes, which on first glance were nothing special. A mundane shade of cloudy blue, and not the brightest, most piercing blue eyes you’d ever seen, either. But when those cloudy blue eyes met and held yours. . . ah, you felt you were standing on the edge of the world and looking over the edge into the abyss, and knew that the abyss was not empty, but intelligent and waiting for you to know the truth. The clouds in those eyes parted, and you saw. That’s how i came to know i was living with God. He didn’t make a big deal of it, once i was awakened to the truth, but i felt so elated! I wanted to climb to the roof and scream it to anyone who’d listen! I had so many questions . . .

"I know, but this isn’t what you must do", he said to me as if i’d spoken my desires aloud. "There is a woman downstairs, go to her and tell her what you know". I went downstairs and there was, indeed, a woman perched on the bottom stair as though waiting for her name to be called in a doctor’s office. I walked quietly down the stairs, not wishing to disturb her. She looked up at me, as though expecting me.

"Well?", she said. I didn’t reply, i sat down on the step next to her and looked at her. She was the very picture of the Average Jane. Straight medium brown hair, medium brown eyes, medium complexion. I knew when she stood, she’d be of average height and weight, with averagely sized breasts. She was neither smiling nor frowning. She was not impatient, but waited for me to tell her what i’d come to tell her. I still didn’t say anything. She watched me for a long while, and i watched understanding dawn on her average features. I nodded, and she began to cry. Then she fled the building.

I walked outside, and down to the corner with a small wooden crate and seated myself upon it. I said nothing, though the urge to get up on the crate and shout still held me. When i felt i must succumb to this urge, i heard a voice, not in my head, telling me that i must not, that this is how the message was lost the first few times. I felt i sat there an eternity as one person after another passed me by. Day after day, the regulars who walked past me finally began to take notice of me. The range of reactions i received was mixed: Some were obviously annoyed with my brief but continued presense in their lives, some were distressed at the same, some were concerned for my apparent homelessness, and some simply didn’t care. And still i sat.

Finally, someone came up to address me. When i looked at him and held his eyes, i witnessed the same transformation in his face as i’d witnessed in the Average Jane’s. He drifted away from me without a word. I was happy to sit there all that time, waiting for someone to carry my knowledge from me. I felt a summons at last, and stood to go home. The dust of the ages fell from me as i did so, and i looked around for the first time. The world had gotten bigger, and i walked toward the house where God took me to live with him. It was just up the corner from me before, but since the world had grown, i had to walk several days to get there.

I went up stairs to see him, and he praised me silently and bade me bring Jane home. I wondered briefly why he couldn’t summon her the way he’d summoned me, and he replied that she was very far away and had lost the message, and having done so was unable to receive his summons. I opened my heart and thought of Jane standing here in the room with us. I threw my head back and tried my best to radiate this feeling of being home. I stood this way for a long time, and then i sat down to wait for her.

After what felt like years, i heard steps on the stairs outside. I knew she was there, but she was not alone. She came in and flung the door wide. Her face was wild, no longer average. She wore a look of raw ecstasy. Her hair was wild and her clothing was torn. Behind her, a multitude of people wearing similar expressions crowded into the building. She slowly raised her hand and pointed at me and began to sing in a sweet voice. The ecstatic look on her face spread to the rest of her and she swayed on her feet. The masses looked to me, took up her song, and fell to their knees in supplication. I looked at them in horror and revulsion. I turned to God, my plea for help on the tip of my tongue. He stood there, alone and unseen, and infinitely sorrowful. He became increasingly insubstantial as the song of the multitude grew to a fevered pitch.

"This is all wrong", i thought. I thought of the message that was lost, and the wrong message that had replaced it and i felt a little despair. Then i thought of the lone person who’d quietly borne the knowledge away from me, and my despair gave way to hope.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

All Packed And Ready To Go

We’re leaving today to go see my grandparents (all three of them live in the same town, about fifteen minutes away from each other) in Lawton, Oklahoma. I got off work this morning and came home to pack for our trip. I had to dig through the garage for the big suitcase and various duffle bags, as a lot of them were used in the move from our old apartment to the new house and, sadly, we are STILL not done unpacking all our stuff. I found the dufflebags first, and when i finally located the suitcase (which happened to be in my bedroom closet, not in the garage), i put it on the bed and looked at it.

Though it looks nothing like it, the suitcase reminds me of the old brown suitcase my family used to take on vacation when my sister and i were kids. As i was digging through my dresser drawers, i reminisced a bit about the vacations we used to take and how much fun we always had (except for that time San puked in the back of the red Dodge Colt). Two details remained constant no matter where we went: we always drove, and the old brown suitcase. My dad was CRAZY anal about how much we could pack to take with us places. Our whole family of four put our clothes into the one suitcase. We had to pick our clothes carefully, because we had to all fit our stuff in it. No extras. I remember submitting my clothing selection for my dad’s approval before cramming them into the suitcase. He usually made me put several items back before i received the O.K.

Snapping back to the present, i realized that the more i’d thought about the claustrophobic conditions of the old brown suitcase, the more clothing i’d packed into my current black and red one. I’m only going to be gone for fourish days, but i’d packed enough clothes for a week for each of us. Feeling a little silly, i started pulling clothing out of the suitcase to return to the drawers. As i removed each shirt, i reconsidered and put it back in the suitcase, thinking i might be in the mood to wear it that day. That’s when it hit me: I’ve got space for 7 days worth of clothing for two, then damn it, i’m taking 7 days worth of clothing for two! I laughed at myself and started tossing clothes in, with reckless abandon. I even packed a few things i’m POSITIVE i won’t feel like wearing, but i didn’t care. This is my suitcase, and i am going to over-pack. Just because i can.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The White House Isn't (Nor Should It Be) a Pulpit

Here's a hot topic that's been kicked around a lot lately: Barack Obama, Muslim-In-Christian's-Clothing or Real Christian?

This got me to thinking about Mitt Romney. His religion isn't exacly the usual brand of Christianity, but people didn't really criticize. Why not? Is it because people were relatively sure he didn't have a chance, or has the new face of Mormonism that successfully buried polygamy in the past and/or closet? Even when Lieberman was running there were brief whispers of his being Jewish as though that weren't quite kosher enough for our White House (no pun intended).

That got me thinking about Mike Huckabee. He's the usual brand of Christianity, and people find this not only palatable but desirable. The current Bush, too. I've gotten into discussions with Bushies about his performance as our president, and no matter what kind of shady shit he's been involved with, i always get this gem thrown back at me as though it were some kind of trump card: "At least he's a Christian and he's following his beliefs".

Which got me to thinking about what i really wanted to talk about: Is a very religious president really such a good idea? Now, i'm not saying a president HAVING religion is a bad idea, i just happen to believe that religion is a matter of personal business. I know that this is a predominantly Christian country, but there are a lot of non-Christian Americans living alongside us who deserve equal consideration when policy is being made. I wonder how effectively a zealous president (of any faith) is capable of representing the country as a whole, and not just His/Her Kind of People. I guess i'm trying to say that i'd like to see a hopeful president be as moderate about religion as he is about everything else. Like most Americans, i'm fairly moderate, and extremes in either direction bother me.

At the end of the day, I don't believe that a person's religious affiliation is a good enough character witness. I'd like to see a potential president judged by his/her acts and what policies s/he's supported in the past rather than how religious s/he is. The White House shouldn't double as a pulpit, and the presidency shouldn't be used to levy one person's beliefs on the population.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Walmart, Apparently My Dream Job

I was walking down the aisles of Walmart's women's clothing department, listening to all the women complain about our selection. Our selection really was terrible, but i still felt a bit of a sting as though i were the one who personally selected the frumpy clothing we feature. One particularly unpleasant woman, after noticing my Walmart vest, grabs me and thrusts an atrocious shirt at me, demanding to know if i have this in her size in "the back". All customers seem to think we have a handy stash of whatever it is they're looking for in "the back", just so they can't have it. I agreed to go and look, and off to the stock room i trudged. I passed the bedding department and noticed mournfully that the kids had taken down all the pillows again, and were making pillow forts out of them. Walmart's policy was for us to smile indulgently at the kids and let them carry on as though there wasn't some person out there who might want to purchase one of these pillows one day, and that they might not mind that they've been all over the floor and grubby little child-bodies. Practically used merchandise. I thumbed my nose at policy and looked the other way rather than smile at the little cretins.

I finally reached the stock room, and it was pandemonium in there. People were running every where with various boxes and bags of merchandise. I took the escalator up to where Derek was working, and told him about the shirt and socks i needed for the troll woman waiting downstairs for me. He tossed me the socks, which i dropped off with the stockroom manager to hang onto while i found the ugly shirt. Derek said to me that the shirt is in the Other Stockroom. I sighed, fearing this would be the case, and tied on a pair of rollerskates. I grabbed onto a harness on Derek's back and he started trudging off toward the Other Stockroom. At his pace, this was going to take forever. Ah, well, i wasn't anxious to get back to Troll Woman, anyway.

The Other Stockroom was located a mile or so up the road from us, and for easier, safer access for its employees, Walmart built a service road alongside the freeway. Derek and i joined the exodus of employees on quests for mundane objects for our ungrateful customers who would never know how much effort we put into retreiving their items. They would only bitch about how long it took. I considered asking Derek to walk faster, but then i felt grateful that i wasn't the one strapped with his 400lb ass to my back, and decided to hold my peace. I wondered briefly why i wasn't just walking.

Finally, we reached The Other Stockroom and went inside. The inside was like a derelict shopping mall with each store holding the contents of a single Walmart department. The windows were all broken out and the merchandise strewn all over the place and spilling out into the main walkways. Most of the lights didn't work. I took my skates off and hung them up next to the door with my name badge clipped to the laces for easier ID when i came back for them. We navigated the piles of stock, looking for the Women's Clothing department. As we walked, Derek was telling me some story i was only half listening to; i was jittery with thinking about the royal bitching-out Troll Woman was going to give me when i finally made it back, which would only worsen if the shirt in her desired size wasn't here.

We went through a service door that was once used by handymen and janitors to access the areas behind the mall that customers never saw. I thought this was odd, no one used to store merchandise back here. We went up some rickety old wooden stairs that i was afraid wouldn't support Derek's bulk. Once we got to the top, i could see in the dim light that filtered in through the patchy roof that there was a low wooden shed type building on the other side of the rafters. I realized we were in the attic, and a building is a strange thing to see in an attic. I turned to Derek and asked him if he was sure we were in the right place. He gave me an unconvincing smile and said of course he was sure. Dubiously, i headed for the building. Once inside the building (which was much larger on the inside than it appeared to be from the outside), i saw a guy who looked like Willem Dafoe cutting meat on a dirty table. He was wearing a rubber apron and rubber gloves, and there were no lights on inside. I saw a few naked bulbs suspended from the ceiling, and i jerked on their strings to get some light. Only one of them worked. Willem turned woodenly to me and said to me "If you break my last light, your family will need bereavement time from their jobs". Chilled, i turned toward the back of the building and saw a door. I pulled it open, and turned on the light to find that i was standing in a meat locker. I stepped inside, and something crunched underfoot. I thought it was ice, but on closer inspection, i saw that it was frozen maggots. Disgusted, i turned back toward the door to leave, when Derek slammed the door and locked me in. I pounded on the door, screaming to be let out, and i heard his mournful reply, "You should have smiled, Christie. You should have just smiled at them".