I sat on a small white bench, listening to NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me, in the wee hours of the night. A small snail walked across a red brick, frustrating me with its diligence and patience. If I ever took life so slow, I'd stop missing all the wonderful details that make life a bit more bearable. Leave it to the snails to live life to the fullest.Had I decided to pack in just then, I would have missed two such tidbits. The mandarin tree dropped one of its fruits just then, making a great racket. And when it fell, I remembered that endings are best left unwritten. I have a story I've been writing for literally years, and now it's done. I love mandarins.
Outside the patient millions
Who put them into power
Expect a little more back for their taxes
Like school books, beds in hospitals
And peace in our bloody time
All they get is old men grinding axes
The above is true. I have both a mandarin tree and snails sitting outside my door. Sometimes I wonder...
God bless the civil service
The nation's saving grace
While we expect democracy
They're laughing in our face
-Ideology, Billy Bragg
It's raining and I'm tired. I have an umbrella over my head and I'm standing on a sidewalk, remembering. A friend of mine once told me that memories were all worth a shit. He was a bitter bastard. He died a few years later, but not before calling me to say goodbye, days earlier. He told me everything he'd ever said was absolutely horseshit. Anthony, I told him, I knew that before your breath hit the air. He laughed and told me I should stop being a prick for once. Like I said, he died a few days later. I never took his advice.So I'm standing in the rain, knowing that before the day is gone, my socks will be soaked and I'll have to stick them in the dryer. I have some time to kill, so I think about the rain. I wonder what happened to the boy who enjoyed it. Wide eyed and silent, trying to catch raindrops on his mouth as best he could between fits of laughter. I still feel like him inside somewhere, but today I stand there with my umbrella, dreading each minute of it. For a second I contemplate putting the umbrella down, running down the street, watching the cars shoot water six feet into the air behind them. But, it's just a thought. I'm tired. It's too cold.Remember those dreams I had then? Of being a writer, a scientist, a movie director; before I knew what those things really were. Yet what did I replace them with? Dreams of happiness. Of marriage and family. Of a quiet death with no grudges or debts left behind. Those dreams seem no more possible. Not today, in the rain. I'm tired. It's too cold.The rain teases me. It quiets for seconds, then continues. I'm still on the sidewalk, waiting. Only a few more minutes, she'll be here. What will she say? It's nice to see you. You look well. The usual nonsense. I'll look pale and squalid, the same as before, but I'll mumble a reply. So do you. You haven't aged a day and so on. I'm exhausted at the thought. You see, I'm tired. It's too cold.Fucking mutt, I mutter. A dog paddles onto the sidewalk and decides he's quite comfortable next to me. I swear he smiles. He rubs against my leg. My pants are soaking wet now. Fucking mutt. I chase him off, with my umbrella, forgetting it's currently holding off water from above. By the time I get it back up, it's too late. I let the water run down my forehead onto my tongue.This would be the time to laugh, I say to myself.Sherry comes a few minutes later. Look at you. What the hell is the matter with you? Don't you know how to use a fucking umbrella? I'm sorry, I say. But I don't mean it. I start smiling, grinning, laughing. Your a fucking maniac, James. Next time you wonder why I left, James, you fucking think real hard.I will. I do.It's raining. It's too cold. But I'm not all that tired. I'm too wet to be tired. And I think I'm too happy to be wet. Now, let's see about those raindrops.
Staying at school after dark is not a dish I like served often. I consider school a necessary evil, who's soul sucking mechanisms are better weathered in daylight. Tonight I started walking to my car at five minutes past ten. I won't lie and say I'm miserable, but it's chilly and the hairs on my arms stand on end and curse my choice of wardrobe. T-shirts are not for windy days. I have about a half mile walk to my car, who thanks to rampant overpopulation, had to be parked in the middle of nowhere. But enough griping, let's get to the story...Traffic lights in Santa Monica are programmed most pragmatically. They change only when absolutely necessary; only the activated side on any given pedestrian crosswalk will change. All this means that if you want to cross the street, you must press the button. I'm sure there are exceptions here and there but not now, not here. So I press the button.I hate those who have somehow convinced themselves that pressing the button repeatedly will speed up the process. I hate them expressly because I'm one of them. So I push the button over and over. It's way too cold. Finally it's green. The white walking man beckons me. I cross the street. Then the light goes out.When my foot hit the sidewalk pavement, the street light above me turns off. “Oh, don't like me, huh?” I say out loud. Then I remember I have to cross the street again, I'm on the wrong side. So I wait. Looking around, it seems abnormally dark.Turns green, walking man appears, and I cross the street. When my foot hits the sidewalk, the light across the street turns on.“Seriously?”I want to chalk it up to coincidence, but I'm having a weird day. I wait for it to turn green and walk back across the street. This time I make it onto the sidewalk before the the light turns off.“Didn't think you'd see me so soon?”Enough nonsense. I cross the street again, this time quickly, as it really is cold. I feel foolish. I hop onto the sidewalk and can't help a glance back. Lights off.“What exactly... is your problem?”I stand there. I wait for somebody else to cross the street. I only wait a few minutes. A couple crosses the street and I'm envious of their raincoats. The light however, has no problem whatsoever and lights their way contently.“Alright. Here I come.”I cross the street, against red. I'm beyond that now. Fucking light. It's cold, you know. Fuming, I step onto the sidewalk, again. The light turns off.“I don't really know what happened between us. I though we had a good relationship going. I cross the street, you light it. We all have a part here...”“Is it because I pressed the button too much?”To my relief, the light stays silent.“I'm sorry. Whatever I did, I'm sorry. I'm gonna go home now. You think about it, I'll be back tomorrow. I truly am sorry.”I rub my hands against the cold and wait for the green light. I hesitate and take a deep breath. Here we go.I take a few steps tentatively.“I'm sorry I didn't say 'thank you'.”“Thank you.”I start on my way home. The light glows brightly behind me.
About a quarter-past one is rush hour for the college cafeteria. The usual assortment of perky, attractive, talkative, yet astoundingly shallow teenagers you'd expect float through then, lattes in hand. A few steps behind are the self-anointed rejects and losers that line the edges of the cafeteria, afraid that stepping further inside will somehow diminish them. Occasionally you see others, like me, that never belonged to either group, quickly buying fountain drinks and salads before scurrying off to do god knows what.This particular day I rushed past the crowds, mumbling to myself, ignoring my surroundings except for the occasional pair of legs threatening to impede my passage. I was two colas, a Sprite, and a SOBE Green Tea into my day. It was becoming one of those magical moments where I was begging to meet a urinal. Only a few feet to go. I might be exaggerating, but I think I was gritting my teeth. I slam the door marked “Men” and another beyond it on their hinges. Ugh, defeat. All the urinals are busy. Fuck that, past them into the stalls beyond. Never choose the first one; second one isn't so hot either. Third stall's the charm. Fumble with the door, rush past, and...Everything was fine now. My bladder no longer threatening to explode in a sudden rush of conscience. That's when I spied the writing on the wall...It read: Fuck all u jewBelow it was etched a large symbol, which from the above was evidently suppose to be a swastika. This particular symbol had arms which bent twice rather than the swastika's single right angle.Had this been all that was on the wall, I would have proceeded to zip up my pants and have a nice day. Despite whatever issues I might have with the moron who felt the need to broadcast his hatred and bigotry, I don't fight wars with enemies who are both long gone and not worth the time of day in the first place. What kept me was the writing below, in neat block letters:
FIRST OF ALL, ITS FUCK ALL YOU JEWS MORONSECOND, THATS A BUDDHIST SYMBOL OF STRENGTHNOT A SWASTIKA YOU STUPID FUCK!
And that fascinated me; that somebody would take their time to carefully etch into the bathroom stall wall a response. Not only that, he included punctuation and his writing was impeccable. I didn't know if I wanted to laugh or cry, so I walked out and went to class. Later that day, somebody pointed out that my fly was down.
I wrote that later that day, still confused as to what to think. I'd like to point out, the symbol on the wall was not the Buddhist symbol that our mystery writer alluded to. That symbol is the swastika itself, which has a history older and richer than even the Egyptian Ankh. The Chinese refer to it as “wan zi”, the Japanese as “man zi”. It typically signifies resignation. Hindu's take it to mean “sacred fire”. The swastika that Westerners associate with Hitler is arranged with arms counter-clockwise and was meant to distinguish members of the National Socialist party. Just though you might want to know.Another magical nothingness happened later that day, but we'll save that for tommorow.Ja.
Fighting myself over matters of principle the last few days, usually a bitter dastardly fight, I came to a conclusion. Conclusions are not a favorite of mine since they tend to lead to ideas, or, dear god, action. This one seemed sound however, and it was this: my writing isn’t, will never be, and doesn’t have to be, perfect. Going further, perhaps it doesn’t even have to interesting, intelligent, or intelligible. I believe it is a testament to my engorged ego that I though it mattered in the least, at least subconsciously. All this would be much ado about nothing except in applying these radical ideas to this website; I’ve decided to write liberally and regularly about almost anything*, ignoring my old rule: if it doesn’t cost anything, it isn’t worth writing. All in all, it’s still much ado about nothing, I know.*I will under no circumstances ever tell you about my new haircut.Ja.
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