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Monday, 24 May 2010

Day

In the light of day, Sylvia found patience, comfort, and if not happiness, at least a fragment of contentment. When the sun set, her perceptions darkened with the sky, turning her life into a mix of tears, fears, and misery.

Her mother, Patricia, tried to help Sylvia cope. She would bring her calming music, chocolate, and other treats. She would call her daughter after dinner and try to assist in the transition. But no amount of steering or sweets could do much to counter the physiological aspects of Sylvia's disorder.

Medication would help at times, but after about six months, Sylvia would build up a tolerance and the difficulties would return. Luckily, her doctor only worked during the day, so he was able to convince Sylvia to visit his office, try another treatment, and hope against hope that she might find a balance to her life.

Balance was as elusive as joy.

On a Tuesday in May, she found herself walking a different way home from work. The sidewalk had been torn up by the city for repairs, so in following the detour, she ended up stumbling across a pet shop. She had never been the puppy seeking type, nor did she melt at the sign of a mewing kitten. This shop had chosen, to her surprise, an iguana for the front window, and something about the way the creature would move and then be still, flit and then go stone-immovable, had called to Sylvia's sense of self. Here was a bipolar creature, just like herself. One that was just as comfortable in action, than in fear.

And so, by the time she reached her subway stop, she carried a cardboard box with breathing holes under her arm, and a litany of instructions for constructing a shelter under the other.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Bland

Kim considered herself bland. Her definition had been built on all of the traits that she did not possess; all of the places she did not belong.

She was not a member of a visible minority, nor did she have an unusual weight, height, or appearance. Her job, as a high school teacher, made her one of tens of thousands in her province.

She was not rich, or poor for that matter, she no longer had a husband, and she did not belong to any clubs or organizations. She was an atheist, and even if she could be persuaded to believe in a higher power, her parents, and their parents before them, had all been such non-believers that Kim could not even pin a particular religious label on herself.

When she walked down the street, people did not notice her. Their eyes did linger on her figure or mock her appearance. She simply existed.

More boring than white bread, and just as tasteless, she belonged to no one, fit in nowhere, and could drop dead at any time and no one would notice she no longer inhaled and exhaled.

Remarkably, one evening, as she pondered the pathetic selection of television shows to watch, she decided that rather than picking up a good book to read, she would write one.

A memoire no less.

Because surely she was not the only bland person on the planet. And if she could somehow capture the quintessential essence of bland-dom, she would sell at the very least, a few hundred thousand copies of the book, one for every other bland person, who, like her, made their home in an English-speaking part of the world.

She opened a dollar store notebook, picked up a pen, and wrote, "I consider myself bland."

Monday, 17 May 2010

Guard

Vanessa stood in the lobby of the dentist's office, holding her credit card in one hand and her new mouth guard in the other. Dr. Ren had explained the instructions on how to use the device, as well as providing some helpful hints on how to keep it clean. But all that Vanessa could think about was how embarrassed she would be, the first time she went to bed beside Gus, her boyfriend of only three months, with this hunk of smelly plastic in her mouth.

The secretary applied the charge to the credit card. She must have noticed the dread seeping across Vanessa's face, because she said, "It's about as sexy as old people's feet."

"Exactly," said Vanessa. "My boyfriend won't be my boyfriend any more once he gets a load of this."

"It takes some getting used to, but after a while, you'll find you sleep better when you use it. If he cares about you, your comfort, and your future dental health, he'll understand."

"I'm not sure our relationship is that solid."

The secretary leaned in close. "So get up in the night to pee, and put the guard in. Make sure you're the first one up in the morning, and take it out before he sees it."

Vanessa shook her head. "I don't know if I want to be that sneaky."

"Use your judgement. And if you have any questions, don't hesitate to call."

"Thanks."

"No worries."

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Soft

Her hands had once been soft, like silken gloves on a china doll. But now, after years of soaking in detergents, scouring and scrubbing, they had turned to sandpaper-scored leather.

After Mitch died, her sister had encouraged her to date. What a farce! She hadn't even considered other men, hadn't looked at them, socialized with them, or even remotely enjoyed their company for a decade or more. The idea of scrutinizing them, running down a list of pros and cons, hoping to find some sort of spark or connection seemed not only absurd, but a complete waste of time.

Then along came Stephan. With his smooth words and kind disposition. After several encounters at the check-out desk of the library, they had decided to meet for coffee. And when he had leaned over to lay his hand on hers, he had flinched away almost immediately.

She considered explaining how she worked with her hands, but decided against it. She could have dug through her purse for some hand cream, but assumed the gesture was already futile.

When he excused himself to answer his cell phone, she shrugged and sipped at her latte. Perhaps he would return. If not, she had learned a valuable lesson.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Laundry

Jesse hated doing the laundry. He despised it, loathed it, would wear the same shirt two days in a row, just to avoid the pile for one more day.

Part of the problem was the whole Laundromat issue. He truly felt that coin-washes were filled with losers, with the scum of society who were either too poor to afford their own machine, or two transient to keep one. This attitude stemmed from his upbringing, in an upper-middle-class family, for whom the word "want" never entered their vocabulary. He had grown up assuming this would also be his future lifestyle. However, his parents died, suddenly, without insurance, and to his surprise, with a massive reverse mortgage against their home that left him with virtually nothing.

Then, the infamous divorce, where his trophy wife decided she wanted to be something, or do something, or whatever the hell it was that she said she wanted. After the lawyers were through with him, they sent him an invoice for their services that would have killed a small animal if left opened on a counter. Oh, and also a schedule of monthly payments he had to pay to her, to make sure she stayed in the life she had grown accustomed.

Life sucked for Jesse.

And so, he found himself in the Laundromat, spending another Tuesday evening waiting for his clothes to finish in the dryer so he could slink out and hope to God that no one he actually knew would see him here.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Potato

She had a severe addiction to the potato. Boiled, baked, scalloped, mashed. The presentation didn't matter so long as the potato ended up on her plate.

Her partner, Luigi, didn't quite understand, but he humoured her nonetheless. Can we have rice tonight? he would think to himself. These words would never reach his lips. After all, he loved her too dearly to risk the shock to her system.

One night, over brandies, Luigi and his lovely mother-in-law had shared a secret conversation of a childhood moment. The night Sarah had eaten rice, on a lark, and ended up in the hospital on a ventilator. The reaction could have simply been an alergy, but Sarah had taken it to heart.