It's not about the house.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Burning and Raving

The weather this week has reminded me of a story I started a month ago and couldn’t find a good enough ending for. I’ve been thinking about it all week, because the weather’s been the same, and then yesterday the ending fell right in my lap. Well, not exactly in my lap, per se, but – well, you’ll see. It’s a longy, so bear with…

At the time this tale begins, it was what you call unseasonably hot. Unseasonable for where I live, that is. Not unseasonable for, let’s say, the bayou, or the Amazon. In fact, I’m sure there are lots of places on the planet where 95º in early June is normal, but the Massachusetts Bay ain’t one of them.

And humid! Sixty-five percent! I thought I’d die!

Now, it just so happened these were the exact same days the car was broken. The second time the car was broken. You remember, about Chuck and the water pump and everything? I don’t usually drive all the way to work unless I’ve done something special to deserve it, like had a bit too much to drink the night before, but I do usually drive to the beach and walk to the train from there – about a mile each way. That week, though, because Chuck was broken on the days it was 100º with 80% humidity, I had to take the bus.

Except, you see, I do not take the bus. I’ve lived in and around Boston for (good lord) eighteen years now, and I know the subway map like I know the crack of my own ass (i.e., I know where it starts and ends, and try not to think about every little stop it takes along the way), but until we moved here to the ’Vac, I had ridden the bus exactly once. And that was only because, as a fresh-faced newcomer to the city, I didn’t trust myself to drive from Eastie to JP without getting hopelessly, Dupont-Circle lost.

Anyway, the point is I’d managed just fine without above-ground public transportation till we got here – and even from here, for the most part. The only time I take the bus from here is when I’m going to and from the airport, because I have a Scottish gene that will not allow me to pay for long-term airport parking. And oh, man, was that a fun trip-before-a-trip: walk, bus, train, other train, other train, shuttle bus. Ugh. But they opened a new line last year, and now it’s not so bad: walk, bus, train, other train – that’s it. And really I ought not even bother mentioning the walk: I’ve been known to throw pickle jars greater distances when the lids refuse to budge.

But still, I hate it. I hate how it only comes every however-often, and not even then if enough people ask for it to stop along the way. I hate how, if nobody asks for stops, then it gets there before you do and you have to wait who-knows-how-long for it to come again. And I hate that, when you finally do see it creeping over the horizon after two-times-however-long, half the time it turns out to be full, and unless it has to stop to let somebody off, it just whizzes by.

As much as I hate all of that, though, I hate the ride home even more. Because it has all of those joys plus the added bonus of the Quincy Center T stop (where I get off the train if I’m taking the bus) being the end of the line. Which means the driver always gets out and takes himself a leisurely stroll. I’m sure this habit’s not designed to make the blood drip from my ears, I’m sure it has something to do with a schedule adjustment to make up for all those late and early stops along the way, and I’m sure that, if I were a bus driver, then I, too, would rather stretch my legs if I had time to waste instead of staring at the inside of a dumb old, idle bus. I, however, would first make some sort of announcement.

I would not sit there like a bump while passengers filed in. I would not collect their fares without returning a smile or a how-de-do. I would not shout at them to keep moving along and then, when everyone is in and settled, heave a big old farty sigh, power down the farty bus (including reading lights, a/c and everything), and leave, without giving my captive, paid-up charges any expectation of when they might look for me to return.

And actually, that isn’t fair. I might do this once, if I’d polished off an Extra-Large Turbo Ice or something and then had to pick up passengers at every single stop along the way. Still, though, I’d like to think I would at least shout reassurances over my shoulder if this were the case. And anyway, this did not happen only once, or with just one driver. It happens every time – and, of all the driver-backsides I have watched recede into the implacable distance, not one of them looked to be in a bathroom-related rush.

So anyway, back to that week in June. Like I said, that week was hot – 110º in the shade, and with something like 95% humidity. The car was broken, so Monday I took the bus to work and back. And I took the bus on Tuesday morning. But I just couldn’t stand the thought of it on Tuesday afternoon. Something had happened at work that day – I don’t remember what, but it sent me to the edge of earth-shattering, tooth-grinding frustration (I probably got a blister on my thumb, or they forgot to put mustard on my cheese grinder again) – and I didn’t have the patience to play Waiting for Ralph Kramden.

So I walked.

I’ve never been the most rational of thinkers when patience is involved. I’ve been known to drive 25 miles out of my way rather than sit in two miles of traffic, just so that I would be moving (I got stuck in traffic on the flip side anyway and wound up peeing off the Tobin Bridge; but that’s a story for another time). So, yeah. 125º outside, 114% humidity, and I hoofed 2½ miles rather than risk having to sit in an air-conditioned chair for seven minutes. And do you want to know how bad I showed those bus drivers? I let two of ’em pass me on the road, just to piss ’em off.

Boy, were they sorry.

It took about an hour to get home. It really isn’t a bad walk; I’ve done it several times before (what? You think this is the first time my patience got the better of me?) but with the Africa heat and all, I was moving kind of slow. At one point, about halfway there, I ran into the friendly Indian guy who runs the package store around the corner from our house, and he offered me a ride. I said “No thanks! I’m walking for the exercise!” but the truth was: he already knows how much I drink, I didn’t think he needed to be privy to how bad I sometimes smell. If he’s as nice as I think he is, he’d feel obliged to contact social services.

Anyway, by the time I was over the bridge and one turn from my house, I was veritably plodding. My socks were squishing in my shoes. My heels were muttering something about dry-ice. My underwire had rusted and run down into my underpants. And the last leg of the journey is uphill.

Not a big hill, certainly – it is still at sea level, after all – but certainly an incline. You might not even notice it if you’re driving in a car, but on foot, on the last leg of an hour walk, in 1200 degree heat with 700% humidity, it’s freaking Kilimanjaro. Only Kilimanjaro would be better, because there would be snow.

Anyway, I got up it. Past the dive shop, around the bend, and on the straightaway. I could see my house. I could crawl from here. But I wouldn’t. I would keep on walking. I was at least in the shade now, anyway.

And then, when I was on the sidewalk of my very own yard, just making my way those last twenty-five feet to the end of the fence where I could turn and legitimately flop into my very own grass, a youngish man in a big black pickup truck pulled over.

“Do you want a ride?”

The first thought that went through my head was “What are you, a moron?” But that went away quickly and I figured out that this must be a friend of Johnny’s from the pub. He must know this was my house; he must be joking. So I laughed, waved a limp arm in the direction of the AssVac, and said “I’m here!” He gave me a funny look and drove away.

I got inside and dissolved into the futon. Johnny was in the kitchen and he brought me a cold drink. Once I’d revived a little, I found the voice to ask him “Who do you know from the Sandtrap that drives a big black pickup truck?”

“What?” says Johnny. “No one. Why?” So I told him.

“Nah,” says he. “Nobody I know. Kid must’ve been hitting on you.”

How sad is it that this thought had not occurred to me? I mean, I still wasn’t entertaining the possibility that it could be true, but apparently I am so far out of hit-on range that the idea no longer crosses my mind even briefly enough to be discarded. I was pondering this clear sign of impending hunchbacky, used-tissue-up-my-shirtsleeve biddyhood when the real truth came to me in a hot flash:

Not only am I not cute enough to be hit on by young men in pickups anymore… I am old enough for them to offer me charitable rides.

Oh, my head.

* * *

So that’s where the story ended a month ago, more or less, with me all fat and old and sweaty and feeling sorry for myself. I didn’t run it because, although it has its moments, that’s not a punchline at the end so much as a complaint, and I didn’t want you all to think I was looking for shore-uppance. Instead, I saved the story and went on a diet. Started working out again in earnest. I’ve lost ten pounds so far, and lord knows I’ve got at least ten more to go, but my back hurts less, and I’m not quite so sweaty in the heat.

It’s hot again this week, in fact, although 1200º with 700% humidity is not quite so unseasonable in mid-July. Yesterday, I decided out of the blue that I wanted to wear a wife-beater tank top and my good overalls. The overalls that don’t have the straps tied on to them with baling twine. My Osh-Kosh. I haven’t worn them in two years because they’ve been too small, but something told me that if I climbed up and pulled them down they just might fit. And I was right. A little snug, perhaps, but one good squat took care of that.

See, here’s the thing: I don’t care how I actually look in my Osh-Kosh, I feel cute when I wear them. Not in a grown-up woman, hot-and-sexy sort of way, but like the tomboy I used to be before I cared what young men in pickup trucks were thinking. Especially when I wear them with a men’s tank underneath, because it’s thin enough to feel like nothing, which is what I used to wear beneath my Osh-Kosh when I was a girl. Although of course, these days, I do need that underwiry support.

So anyway, yesterday, in my Osh-Kosh and undershirt, I drove Chuck to the beach and walked from there. It was hot but not too hot, and the humidity was mitigated by a strong seabreeze. I was reading the Sunday Times Magazine as I strolled along, an article about how and why people commit suicide, and it actually made me happy – grateful that I’ve never had that impulse, can’t even imagine it, not even at the apogee of one of my myriad neurotic pity-parties.

And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a big white van slow down. It was coming in the opposite direction, so I didn’t think it would be offering me a ride, but there wasn’t a cross street or even so much as a driveway that it might be slowing to turn into. Johnny does know some people in this neighborhood, so I thought it might be someone who recognized me and wanted to say hello, but I kept walking with my eye in my magazine and waited to hear my name. Instead, what I heard was:

Nice tits!”

And then they peeled away.

Aw. Thanks, boys. You have no idea what it means to a hunchbacked old biddy to hear that sort of thing once in a while.

And no, there will be no final indignity in this one. I’m ending it here before I find out they were only making fun.


jen said...

Who would make fun of a hot mama like yerself? They totally wanted you, baby!

Khurston said...

HEE i think my favorite part of that whole story was the labels at the end.