12.3.2002 by , every Tuesday.
Hallo. Here are three medium-shorts. I try to keep angst out of this column but sometimes it sneaks onto the computer and posts on behalf of me.
The last story can be interpreted in zillions of ways that aren't the one I was going for. People keep telling me different neat things, like "marriage". Give it a shot and then send me some comments.
One day I looked down and noticed that I was leaking. There was a slit in my left ankle, close to my heel, and some sort of blue sparkly liquid was trickling out. Concerned, I put a bandaid over the slit and phoned up my mother. "Leaking?" she said. "I've never heard of leaking. Put some ice on it, dear." I got some ice from the freezer, put it in a bag, and tied it over the bandaid. Still, blue liquid was running out from around the edges and pooling on my newly-cleaned floor.
"Go see a doctor," said my best friend distractedly. We were walking to class and I was leaving a trail of blue on the snow. It seemed like a smart idea; I went to Student Health after lunch. "Leaking?" said the doctor from behind her stern glasses and clipboard. "I'm sure it's just a blister. Put a compress on it, and wrap it in gauze." I bought a compress and some gauze from the local pharmacy and taped them over the bag of ice and the bandaid.
The next morning I was still leaking. When I went to ask my Chemistry Professor about the midterm exam, he noticed the blue liquid dripping onto his floor. "How unfortunate," he said. "Put some cream on it." I went back to the pharmacy and bought some cream. I wasn't sure what kind to buy, so I bought hand cream, face cream, burn cream, and six different herbal creams. I smeared the creams over the gauze.
The next morning I was still leaking. My sheets were stained blue, and the blue was forming a lake under my bed, warping the wooden floor. I put on my jacket and returned to Student Health. "You again?" said the doctor. "What happened?"
I explained the whole story, starting with the bandaid, then the ice, the compress and gauze, and the creams. I told her about the stained sheets and the puddle of blue. The doctor listened long and hard, yawned a little, and pushed her glasses farther up her stern nose. Finally she noted something on the clipboard and got up to leave. "Wait," I said. "What should I do about the leak?"
The doctor blinked, as if surprised that I was still there. "I would recommend that you put a bandaid on it," she said. Comforted by the authoritative nature of her speech, I bundled up and left Student Health, headed for the pharmacy.
During first semester, Tad and I walked to school together about three days a week, or whenever our schedules coincided. The University was five blocks from Tad's house. I'd arrive on her doorstep at eight thirty, my lungs aching from the frosty air that was getting frostier with each passing day. Tad would emerge at about a quarter to nine, zipping her coat and struggling to shoulder her hefty backpack, her face moon-pale, eyes sore and sleepy. As we shuffled down the walkway to the street, Tad would always pause at the eighth concrete slab. She'd reach into her pocket and lean down, puffs of steamed breath trailing in the cold, to lay something on the grass beside the walkway. Sometimes it was a leaf or a pebble. Other times, it was a piece of food Tad had saved from breakfast, a snippet of cold scrambled egg or a wrinkled cereal flake.
"Why do you do that?" I asked her one day as we trudged towards school. I'd asked her before, so I knew what the reply would be.
She shrugged. I'd expected that. "It's just, ah, to pay respects." To a dead pet, or something?
"No." To a relative? To a god, or a demon, or some kind of weird pagan spirit?
"No. Just...to pay respects. In general. For things."
I didn't understand. I don't, now that I've had years to mull it over, and times have changed. (Still, it was nice to see a fellow student doing something that wasn't steeped in cynicism.)
I was eight feet in the air, clutching the pommel of the saddle with gloved hands, when I deemed it wise to become a little philosophical.
Philosophy has so many purposes, but only one purpose is truly useful: philosophy can distract us from the painful, pointless, numbing reality of everyday life. And so I philosophized while the bronco did its best impression of an ungraceful ballerina on speed, and my legs whipped like blades of grass in a hurricane.
Getting on the horse was pretty easy, I thought. He'd been penned and restrained, and I'd been foolish and cocky. I'd fastened myself to his steaming, rank back with what I believed was the strongest grip known to modern Man. I hadn't reckoned that my legs would be dislodged in a microsecond, or that I could actually increase the strength in my hands to the point of powerful aching, out of sheer terror that I would return to the ground faster, and from higher, than my spine would appreciate.
Yet, while Getting On was child's play compared to Staying On, there was one further maneuver that made Staying On look like the shooting some very stupid, very slow fish in the proverbial barrel. This maneuver was Getting Off. As the bronco threw its forefeet to earth, sending a shock wave of powerful energy through its monster shoulders to every fragile bone in my frame, I thought about how much safer I was on top of the beast than, say, under its feet. Staying On also seemed appealing because I would have to choose between a number of complex options for de-horsing. I could jump off and roll, I could slide off and run, I could throw myself off forward, or backward, or to the left while distracting to the right . . . and so I hung on, feeling stupid, looking stupid, wondering how many different life situations could be laid across my structure of Getting On, Staying On, and Getting Off.