My stepsisters – those fools with excellent taste! – left the jurisdiction and me the keys to their store. I’m sitting in a retail establishment filled with bright and shiny objects, jewel-tone yummy whatsises as far as the eye can see and bamboo cuttings of startling vigor. Lyle Lovett croons from the CD player above the counter. They wrote detailed instructions so I could do my part to increase the Gross National Product but neglected a few details:
1. Bring lunch and snacks;
2. Bring toilet paper.
Handmade clay fountains and wall-size water features burble. Mobiles and ceiling fans spin in languid circles. Wind chimes whisper every once in a while. Customers stroll in now and then to escape the heat. As the afternoon shadows lengthen, I’ve tried on every ring on the jewelry stand and fallen in love with a lamp. I’ve never fallen in love with a lamp in my life. I’ve just never been that kind of girl. In my advanced old age apparently I’m capable of becoming some different kind of girl, and this one loves a lamp.
Minding a little shop on the main drag of a town where people actually walk around and talk to one another is miles outside of my current comfort zone. Perhaps it shouldn’t be but my current life is carefully circumscribed. I used to live in this town and loved living here. I was sorry to leave when I moved across the river, which I’d forgotten until this morning but remember now like a favorite song I hadn’t heard in nearly ten years. And my job in the library’s basement seldom brings me into contact with the public, so when the public marched in and treated me like a servant – well, I’m nobody’s servant. When an annoying pair kept me hopping for forty-five minutes and bought nothing, I was pleased I hadn’t blurted out what hideous taste they had because – as Jenny Diver sang – you never know to who you’re talking. They didn’t. For all I know, they might’ve been nice people.
Naturally, between moments when I wasn’t saying, “The striking earrings and more demure necklace draw attention to the face and away from neckline,” while thinking, “Sweet Mother of Pearl, don’t make me look at her tits,” I’ve had plenty of time to think. I wonder about me. I think about you. I’m a one-to-one, in-person person. When I was doing full-contact poetry somewhere different every night, I broke down the fourth wall with a sledge hammer delivery my audience often found disturbing – which was what I wanted. I was very confrontational then. Now I’d rather brew Phyllis Schlafly a pot of tea, sit knee to knee with her, and politely discuss why she should be gently poached in a white wine sauce for the hardships and suffering she’s created, overlooked and blandly endorsed. I would like to sit at a lovely table for two with Karl Rove, pour him a glass of chilled green tea and talk about simple justice and compassion, possibly explaining that he should spend the rest of his earthly existence taking care of destitute, institutionalized Alzheimers patients if he wishes to avoid a truly nasty karmic zap – if I feel especially compassionate myself. And I would like to sit with you in a room for just the two of us, beautiful in its own right and for us both. We don’t know one another – unless we do. You are more than I can know, I suppose, without a lifetime of comparison shopping. But I do imagine you. Are we wearing straw hats and sitting on a shady porch with tall glasses of tart lemonade? Are we wearing black Ramones tshirts and sitting at the end of the bar in a room so dark we can’t study the face of our bartender? We can talk about anything you like, you know. I am not afraid to know you now.