The Age of Anger

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “From the Collection of the Artist.”

A hundred years from now, a major museum is running an exhibition on life and culture as it was during our current historical period. You’re asked to write an introduction for the show’s brochure. What will it say?

Introduction to the Age of Anger exhibit
Welcome to the Museum of the People. This special exhibit focuses on late 20th century and early 21st century American culture. Historians call these “The Angry Years”. This introduction will attempt to provide some context to what you are about to view.

Section 1 focuses on home life. The first thing you’ll notice is the noise; sound mufflers are available if needed, but we really urge you to try and last as long as possible before using them. That ongoing, never ending persistent background noise is from a television, or TV (a sales and entertainment machine displaying 2-dimensional moving content that was ubiquitous starting in the mid-20th century). During The Angry Years, most American homes contained multiple televisions, distributed between common areas and sleeping chambers.

The kitchen area looks stark; can you tell what is missing? If you guessed the lack of a garden and composting area, you are correct. Also missing is solar panels; in fact you will notice a lot less light in all areas of the house than what we are used to.

The idea of generating power through movement, and the positive affect of exercising on attitude, was only just beginning to be understood during this time period. People spent most of their time at home being immobile. What little movement they did was physically isolated from the other parts of their lives. In most cases, Americans sat on couches and watched TV.
There is lots more to see in this section of the exhibit. Be sure and visit the gender defined sleeping chambers for children, which give a good example of the constricting roles assigned at birth based on presumed gender. Take a look at the large garage, and the number of vehicles stored inside. To answer the question that almost everyone asks, yes, it was considered normal for each adult to have their own pollution causing large automated vehicle (or “car” as they were called then).

Section 2 contains a display of a variety of work environments. The Angry Years were the final period of what historians call The Machine Ages. This time period started with the industrial revolution in the mid-1700s and ended around the middle of the 21st century. This was the one and only time in recorded human history when the it was generally believed that people should create a separate environment for focused activities. In addition, the type of activities each person did had a direct connection to their level of power and prestige in society, and even to their ability to procure basic necessities such as food and shelter.

During The Angry Years, in fact during the entire Machine Age time period, most people earned income from “work”, as these activities were called, and that income was required to pay for every facet of their life. Most settings in this section of the exhibit look familiar to us. What you need to envision is that people were required to spend a pre-defined amount of time in these settings with the expectation of being focused solely on work activities.

What does not look normal to our eyes is the “office” work area exhibit. The small square rooms (or “cubicles” to use the parlance of the time) were areas in which people were expected to spend 40 or more hours per week, focusing only on tasks assigned to them. We urge all visitors to sit one of the interactive cubicles to experience a few minutes of what this was like. Now, imagine being in this environment 5 days a week, for 8 straight hours, and doing this year after year. Historians universally agree this environment was a cause of much of the anger and hostility that affected this time period.

Section 3 covers entertainment and activities, with lots of interactive areas. Everything shown here is labeled with the date it was created. It all seems very primitive by our standards, but keep in mind that these items were considered state of the art at the time.

About the Age of Anger exhibit

The big question historians ask about this time period is why there was so much anger. As shown in this display, the average American had a good life. Food and potable water were in abundance, and the environmental crises we experience on a constant basis were infrequent and viewed as unusual weather events. Despite what appears to us as an oasis of plenty and good fortune, the average American during this time period was in a constant state of anger. People formed into self-defined groups based on race, ethnicity, religion or even political affiliations, and focused intense hatred at other self-defined groups. Every activity had the potential to degenerate into an angry confrontation. The number of violent interactions between people seems staggering to us today. Murder was an everyday occurrence. Mass shootings happened weekly. Smaller examples of rage can be found in section 3 by viewing examples of actual comments that people posted on the internet (please note that due to the graphic content, only adults can view this part of the exhibit).

There are no easy answers to why people were so angry. Years of study by academicians in multiple disciplines have resulted in two main theories, which can be very broadly summarized as:

Too much stimulation – this theory presumes that the constant, ever-present level of noise and marketing experienced during this time period was just too much for many people;

The work and life dichotomy – we know, now, that human beings did not evolve to be mono-focused on a single activity for hours at a time. Adherents of this view point to the rise in violence that occurred during the entire Machine Age as proof.

The goal of this exhibit is to provide people with a chance to learn about and experience, just a bit, what life was like 100 years ago. We hope you enjoy this look into the past.

Strong as Hell: The Radical Empathy and Irony of ‘ Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’

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dswidow:

If you haven’t seen this show I highly recommend it. This post, from one of my favorite blogs, does a great job of describing the subversive genius of the show.

Originally posted on Life Measured in Coffee Spoons:

“Unbreakable! They alive, dammit! It’s a miracle! Unbreakable! They alive, dammit! Females are strong as hell!”

As the opening credits, an Auto-Tuned parody interview with a neighbor who witnesses the rescue of the Indiana mole women, faded into a few harmonized “ooohhs” and its prescient concluding words “That’s gonna be, uh… you know, a fascinating transition,” I already knew two things. First of all, this song would probably be in my head until the day I die: an ear-worm that would re-surface at 4 am in library cubicles to be loudly shouted at unsuspecting study buddies, a soaring anthem that I would softly chant to propel myself through the final mile of my run. No doubt, the theme song of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was going to claim it’s rightful place alongside its notable motivational predecessors, “Live every week like it’s Shark Week!” and “Hollaback Girl (This Shit is Bananas).”

Secondly, as footage of little girls posing in tutus and swinging from monkey bars juxtaposed…

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A new career as a winter consultant for films – or my desperate attempt to escape to warm weather

IMG_12911200972753462  1593297401333

Ah, winter.  No time of year looks so different from its actual reality.  For those of us living in Northern climes, the end to this season cannot come soon enough.  In honor of it being March, I daringly unsnapped the hood from my parka this morning, using only earmuffs and a scarf.  Walking proud, I was.

Recently I started watching a Syfy channel show called “Helix”.  It is about an outbreak of a mutant killer virus at a research station, and the CDC team sent to fix the problem. Of course, turns out there are far more nefarious things going on, and the plot twists come so fast and furious. The show isn’t great but it is great fun. 

The locale for this research station is supposed to be in the Arctic, and there are frequent references to the -40 degree temperatures that exist outside.  Despite that, the scenes shot outside the station are among the most laughably lame attempts to show cold I’ve ever seen. 

A typical outside scene in Helix features a wind machine going full tilt, spraying soap flakes in all directions with a great howling wind sound.  The people, however, appear like they are experiencing a balmy late fall day.   No one is shown with a scarf wound around their hood to muffle their neck and provide a way to warm air before breathing it.  Nope, these folks spend their time outside with an uncovered face having long conversations.  Their noses never run and their eyelashes don’t freeze.  When they finally go back inside, we never see anyone dripping snow onto the floor or see them trying to warm cold fingers.

Watching this has made me realize there’s money to be made as a winter weather consultant for the film industry, and I’m ready to be that person.  My shingle is out.  For a reasonable sum and a plane ticket to warm SoCal (or even just for the plane ticket) I will work with the set designers, costumers and directors to ensure that portrayals of cold weather are done correctly.

Among the services I will provide:

Snot wrangler

The all-pervasive, but seldom discussed byproduct of cold weather is over-productive mucus glands.  Nothing ruins the perceived realism of a winter scene than seeing characters without this telltale sign of a truly cold day.

As snot wrangler, I’ll work with makeup artists to ensure that actors are given the right amount of snot at the right time.  Anytime a character goes inside after being outdoors they should be shown with weepy eyes and red cheeks. Directors will receive a snot check-list to follow that includes direction on which character types would carry tissues, and which would use whatever item of clothing was handy.  I’ll do extensive work with costumers to make sure that scarves, mittens and coat sleeves all bear the telltale marks of dried snot wipes.  Finally, I’ll work with the Foley engineers until the absolute right noise is found for snot-snuffling.

Snow-melt surveillance

Newsflash for people raised in SoCal: snow is made of water, and easily reverts to a liquid state.

In this role, I will make sure that, despite the use of Styrofoam and soap flakes, an adequate and appropriate use of puddles and drips is used in winter scenes.  Never again will you see an actor go from outside to inside and remain perfectly dry.  Set designs will be tweaked to add realistic looking puddles and wet spots to all entry ways.   Actors shown in falling snow will be lightly sprayed to portray what happens when cold snow meets warm skin. 

Schmutz coordinator

Winter’s dirty little secret is that it is the dirtiest season of the year.  Cars are covered with a salt rime and coats are spotted with a mix of mud and salt.  Scarves and gloves are stiff with snot.  Go inside and it gets worse; carpeting is gritty with salt and stained from tracked in frozen dirt.  Floors come in two types; wet dirty puddles or dried with crusted salt and dirt. 

I will make sure that the grimy side of winter is shown in set design and costumes.

Social interaction evaluator

When the temperature is -20 (f), people walk with their hands in their pockets and hunched over to minimize exposure.  Standing is never still; people hop from foot to foot or sway back and forth to generate some heat.  No one wants to stand outside and have a conversation.

I’ll review the script and make sure there are no obvious misses, such as long conversations held in subzero weather. Any conversations that are left in will be edited to match the environment. 

For example, the script may contain this:

Sarah: Sam, we need to talk.  I’ve been thinking about you, and what we fought about.  I realize how wrong I was to let you go.  I love you, and I want you back in my life just as you are, not as I think you should be.  If you still want to start that restaurant, I’ll support you 100%”

Sam: I knew you’d be back.  Welcome to “Sarah’s Diner” (said while pulling down tarp hiding sign on building).

Sarah: Oh Sam, we can finally rekindle our relationship (cut to distance scene showing couple embracing).

Here’s how I would fix this scene:

Sarah: Sam? Is that you?  Great Russian winter hat, it looks really warm.  It’s so fucking cold I can’t stand it.  My eyelashes are freezing shut and I can’t feel my feet, so I’ll make this quick.  My apartment is freezing and I remember how warm you were.  Want to hook up again?  I need a good night’s sleep.

Sam: Sarah!   Yes, it’s me.  I hardly recognized you with the scarf wound around your face.   Sounds good to me, there’s a pile of snow in front of my place I don’t want to shovel.  

So, in conclusion, if you are a Hollywood movie producer reading this blog post, I would love to come out to LA to work on your movie.  Or even for an interview.  In the meantime, I’ll start packing my summer clothes.

What I mean when I say that grief never ends

It’s been two and a half years since I became a widow.  I still grieve.  I always will.

That’s not to say that my life has stopped.  I have friends, I keep busy; I’ve even dated a little.  My life has moved on, and I look forward more than I look back.  Still, Rick remains a presence.  I miss the little things, like being handed a cup of coffee every morning.  Mostly what I miss is knowing there was that one person who really, truly cared about me.  I miss him.

That entire first year, my grief was immersive and all-encompassing, infusing every facet of my life.  As simple an act as buying groceries became a harsh reminder of what had happened.  Every day was a series of events with the same theme: look, you’re alone now, what you had is irretrievably gone.

Time heals.  I became used to buying only the groceries I wanted.  I created new rituals for mornings and evenings, and the silence at home no longer bothered me.    The 2nd bedroom has almost completed its transition from his studio and office to my work room.   I’m now comfortable removing items of his that have no use or value for me. 

Yet, he stays with me, each and every day.  I talk with him as I walk to work.  I daydream about a world where everything turned out differently, and we are planning a celebration of our 10th wedding anniversary.  I still question how much he knew, what he choose to keep from me, and why. 

This is what grief is after two and a half years. It recedes into the background, but it does not disappear.   I am a widow. That term is a description of what I have been through and what I carry forward.  Grief doesn’t end; it doesn’t fade away, or wash off.   It has become a part of me on a molecular level, the same as the tattoo I had done in his memory.  The person I am now and will forever be is that person because of what I have gone through. That is what I mean when I say that grief never ends. 

A year in review – the honest way

I really meant to create an end of year post for 2014.  It would have gone over the highs and lows of the year, capturing what I’d learned and giving an overall sense of the year.  And, of course, it would been so well written as to seem universal, with anyone reading it smiling and nodding in appreciation.

Instead, as the temperatures plummeted and the amount of sunlight shrank, I spent my time drinking Tom & Jerry’s and binge watching TV.  January, on the other hand, is the perfect month for deep introspection.  January exists as  the hangover to December, the Jiminy Cricket of months when you face up to everything wrong that needs to be fixed. 

Therefore, I am going to do my 2015 year in review now.  Why wait?  This will ensure me of completing it, and I can smugly sit back in realization that I will be the first person to have completed it. 

January 

This year I resolve to fix up my house and myself.  Joined a gym and spent $300 dollars on a gym bag, shoes and clothes.  The first week I went 4 times, proving what a good idea it was to buy all those clothes.  Since I’ll be looking great in just a few months, I signed up for a 6-month membership to an online dating site; I fully expect to meet someone wonderful within the first month or two, but 6 months was a better deal. I’ve also cleaned and vacuumed the entire house and brought 3 bags to Goodwill. 

2015 will be my year!

February

Going to the gym 2 – 3 times a week; 4 times a week was just nuts.   I plan on waking up at 5am to do yoga; spent $200 on yoga pants and DVDs.     I’m bringing healthy lunches to work every day.  Have been busy contacting likely looking single men from the dating site – 4 meet and greets this month!

This is my year!

 March

Decided it was too hard to get to the gym after work, so am going on weekends only, when I can spend a lot  longer exercising.  Also, it turned out that  the cat thought Yoga was an invitation to jump on my back, and 5am is way too early to do anything but sleep.  But that’s Okay, because I’m still exercising once or twice a week.  The dating site meets were a disappointment.  All the men I met were kind of blah, except for one – I really liked him.  He didn’t like me. 

I hope this will be my year. 

April

Something smelled weird in the fridge, realized all the vegetables I bought  had turned to green slime. Made it to the gym twice this month, yay for me!  Stopped bringing lunches to work, instead I’m just eating chips from the vending machines –only 220 calories per bag, so having 1 or 2 per day is fine.   House is a mess, but there is no point cleaning until winter is finally over.

May

Warm weather finally arrives!  No reason to go to the gym because I can exercise outside.  Signed up for a tennis class and plan to go jogging on the days when I don’t play tennis.  Spent $300 on a tennis racket, clothes and shoes for these new activities.    Really excited about this, I plan on playing nightly after work and weekends.  

June

Tennis is hard, and it hurts my knees.  I need at least 2 days rest after playing a game.  Jogging is okay, but so far I haven’t gone more than a few blocks. Have given up on eating healthy lunches at work – the job is stressful enough without having to obsess over lunch. 

July

Remembered I had joined the stupid dating web site when I saw the automated renewal on my credit card bill.  All the men who look good to me want to find women 10 – 20 years younger than they are.  The house is a mess.  

August

Too hot to do anything outside.  Went to try yoga again, but couldn’t find the DVDs anywhere.  The cat had ripped a hole in my yoga pants.  Went to a farmer’s market and spent a lot of money on health, fresh vegetables.    

September

Decided to start going back to the gym, but couldn’t find my clothes.  I spent another $300 on a new gym bags, shoes and clothes.  Went once, but it was crowded.   House looks dusty and dirty, did some cleaning.  Found the old gym bag, shoes and clothes.  Cleaned out the refrigerator; more slimy vegetables.

October

Bought 10 pounds of candy for Halloween.  Ate 10 pounds of candy.  Bought 10 more.   Went to the gym twice, but didn’t see any weight loss. 

November

Ate the 9 pounds of candy left over after Halloween.  Thought about going to the gym, but was too depressed because it now gets dark at 5pm.  This year sucks.

December

What a shitty year this has been.  Next year will be different.  Next year I will exercise on a regular basis, learn yoga, meet a nice guy and keep my house looking gorgeous. 

I can’t wait for 2016.

Chapter 5 – Dropping the Veil

victorian widow

Congratulation, Ms. Widow; you’ve made it through the first year and then some! In the 19th century, this would be the big moment to switch from heavy, concealing black dresses to heavy, concealing navy blue dresses.  Of course, if it were the 19th century and you were me, you’d be stuck somewhere in Czarist Russia worrying about Cossacks coming to rape and pillage your schtetl, and choosing the right clothes would be the last thing on your mind.  However, I digress.  It’s been over a year, and time for the widow’s guide to provide that gentle push to the next stage of your life.

It’s now time to drop that grieving attitude and march smartly into YOUR NEW LIFE.  Perhaps you are unsure what to do next, or how to act.  Never fear, I, your guide to all things widow, am here to help.  While you’ve spent the past year grieving, I’ve been busy researching the vast multitude of culturally acceptable archetypes for widows. 

After exhaustive research I’ve determined there are very few categories :  Sexy, Not-sexy, and Stuck.  However, don’t despair!  Whichever archetype you select, it’s still up to you to personalize it and make it your own.  Just like those paint sample cards, you can create a whole world of different shades of the same color.  I’ll review the 3 archetypes and even provide a few subtypes for each. 

Sexy Widows

black widow person

Choosing a sexy widow persona means you will still be wearing black, but in a whole new way. 

The sexy widow has been a staple of male imaginations for ages. She’s part of the time-honored misogynistic myth that women fall into three roles: mother, virgin, or whore. The genesis of this role is that once married and introduced to the arts of love by a manly man, some women become so unhinged when their man goes away they still have to have that manly love.   

Black Widow

black widow

No, not that kind – this kind!

dangerous widow

Closely related to the Sexy Widow, the Black Widow is her darker, more dangerous sister.   The Black Widow feeds off men and then destroys them, much as her arachnid namesake does.     

If you want to be a sexy widow, the most important thing is your age.  Don’t even consider this archetype if you are over 50 years of age.  Do not indulge in ice cream and pizza for months on end, as the sexy widow needs to conform to standard ideas of female beauty.

Perhaps becoming a Sexy Widow seems to difficult, or perhaps you have interests in things that don’t involve fulfilling standard stereotypes about women.  If that is the case, you might be interested in the next archetype…

Not-Sexy Widows

Not-sexy is mandatory for anyone over the age of 60.  Of course, this only applies to women; as we all know, the attractiveness of men over 60 is calculable by the equation of income times power, minus age divided by 2.  As a simple check of any media outlet will prove, the outlook for women is considerably grimmer.  Hugh Hefner, who looks more and more like a horror film extra, is married to a 20-something woman; but a woman dating a man 5 years younger is considered a “cougar”. 

If you decide to go the not-sexy route, Grandma or Dowager are both good role models.

Grandma 

Satisfied senior woman with eyeglasses

Adopting the grandma persona frees you from ever having to think about weight.  Think Mrs. Claus, but in in more comfortable clothing.   Grandma-widows get to wear fleece every day, and dressing up means choosing the outfit with a row of small ducks across the front.  Your focus will be on family, and you’ll devote the rest of your life to doting on them. 

Your life will be filled with such exciting hobbies as baking cookies and re-posting treacly bits of homespun wisdom and cat videos on Facebook.

For those without grandkids, a “favorite Aunt” version can be used with relatives and neighbors.

Matron

dowager

Similar to grandma but with sharper edges, the matron becomes the guardian of all that is correct and proper.   Matrons share a lack of any romantic life with Grandmas, but their clothes are less comfortable, which may be why they tend to be cranky. Perhaps the strongest aspect of the Matron role is a general dissatisfaction with anything that occurred since becoming a widow.

Still shopping for an acceptable archetype?  There is only one left, and that is…

The Stuck Widow

stuck

She is the saddest of all.  The stuck widow never progresses.  She remains forever anchored to the past, unwilling or unable to resume a normal life.  Being stuck starts off as the easiest widow persona to adopt.  The gist of it is to never, ever change.  Keep everything in your life exactly the way it was.   Make sure you keep doing the same things over and over again, so the impact of having lost your spouse never goes away.  Focus only on the negative, never on the positive.

Though not technically a widow, Miss Haversham is a great role model for this archetype.

So, there you have the results of my research.   As mentioned, there aren’t a lot of good role models out there.  Personally, I hope to create a new archetype: The Wise Widow.  I want to be someone conversant with the dark side, but who chooses not to live there.  A fully functioning human being capable of being sexy and nurturing, good or bad.  I want the freedom to be any or all of these archetypes but not to be bound by any one of them.  Mostly, I hope to create my own path forward, not adopt one created by someone else.   And I hope you select the same.

Weekly Challenge: My Greatest Regret – Nursing Home Guilt

Hindsight is 20-20
I can still conjure up the smell of the place: a mix of stale air and antiseptic, faint tinge of urine and body odor, with a light dusting of air freshener.  During my high school years I worked in the kitchen of a nursing home.

Elder care and rehabilitation were different then, with the latter scarcely existing and the former not yet carved into distinct niches.  My parents, now in their late 80s, reside in a senior living community.  They live in a 2-bedroom apartment.  The building has two dining facilities, both run like restaurants, for when they don’t want to cook.  A full slate of activities is offered, including concerts, discussion groups, field trips, and classes.  If needed, rehabilitation and assisted living care are available.  I like going there for dinner; the dining room has a top notch chef and the meals are the equal of a fine restaurant.

The nursing home I worked in was an institution, and not a nice one.  Rooms had tile floors and were furnished with beds, dressers and a chair.  They looked like temporary rooms, but for most of the people there this was their permanent and final living space. 

Within those small, sad rooms were a mixture of people.  There were bed-ridden individuals no longer cognizant of whom or where they were, simply waiting to die.  Some people were deep into dementia, wandering around in worlds of their own making.  A surprisingly large number seemed fine, and I couldn’t figure out why they had to live there.  I learned, later, than some had been institutionalized for years in the large mental hospitals that still existed then. Others were physically frail and just needed a bit of help.  A few people were there temporarily, recovering from strokes or other ailments.

Pictures still live in my mind: a woman there for rehabilitation after a massive stroke, eating dinner in the dining room with her husband, breaking down in tears; a man who would spend hours in the empty dining room playing  jazz tunes on the piano and smoking cigarettes; the Swiss truck driver, missing both legs from an accident, telling me to be grateful for having a family as he had none; the frail older woman with dementia who would ask us for extra food for her family, who she was convinced were being held hostage by Nazis. 

I would sit and talk with them, coming in early some days, even visiting when I wasn’t scheduled to work.  The food we served them was terrible; bad even for institutional, cheap as possible and designed to make a profit.  When I graduated high school several of the residents gave me a small party; I still have the card, signed with shakily written names.  I went home and cried that night.

I am now closer in age to those residents than to that young girl serving dinner and washing dishes.  I worked there 40 years ago; there are not 40 more years in my future.  At some point, perhaps sooner than I expect, I will be that older person needing help.  I don’t want to live to the point where I end up helpless, dependent on the good will of others and the luck of being in the right place or having enough money to ensure decent care.  My nightmares have changed; where they used to focus on my time working in that nursing home, they now feature me as a resident. 

I wish I’d acted differently.  I wish I exposed the terrible conditions, taken pictures, called the newspapers, arranged for a film crew to come in.  I could have provided a voice to these people; brought in a tape recorder and captured their stories.  Instead, I did nothing.   I followed the rules.  The rules of conduct for a part-time, high school age employee to just do as I was told. The rules for girls that stressed being supportive and kind, but never confrontational.   Back then, my 15 year old self lacked the courage to break those rules.  The lesson I learned (apart from the one to not live longer than your money, health or mind) was that there are times when rules should be broken, when the right decision is to do what the rules say is the wrong thing. 

Daily Prompt – Lament of the Failed Murderer

Trio No. 3 Create a post that mentions a dark night, your fridge, and tears

Nights are the worst. Darkness shrinks my world to the circle of light shining from the neighbor’s garage. Sometimes I see an animal trotting across the lawn, darkened in shadow.  In summer the most prevalent noise is the deep thrumming sound of insects; night time is theirs, not ours.

I’m not a morning person, never was, so I’m up late almost every evening. I don’t like the switch away from daylight savings time.   More time to think. I do like the early twilight that starts around 4pm, that time of purple shadows and cold breezes.

Cooking is a solace for me, a way to shape my world and create something of value. The fridge is starting to fill up with containers of soup and stews. There’s an apple pie cooling on the counter; I’ll have a piece of it later on, in the darkness, its sweetness providing a counterpoint to whatever grim crime show I’m watching on TV.

I thought that house arrest would be easy, a slap on the wrist, a way to evade real punishment. I was wrong. Sitting here, alone, day after day, I have to face what I did. The conditions are strict: I am allowed out once a week for 2 hours, with an escort.   Some weeks I just go for a walk, other weeks I run errands. Most of what I need can be ordered online and delivered, but I still prefer to pick out vegetables and fruits myself.

The fridge is the guide to my life. Before all this happened, back when things were normal, its contents showed a busy and productive life. There was always at least one container of spoiled food shoved in the back, forgotten and alone. Restaurant leftovers were everywhere. These days, my fridge is spotless, gleaming inside and out. The shelves are stocked with fresh, homemade foods.

No almonds, of course. Too close in flavor to the arsenic-laced cake that resulted in my confinement. I thought I’d get away with it and that no one would notice. Now I weep bitter tears each night, as bitter as that cake. My problem was not adjusting the recipe. Had I added more sugar… well… my life might have been different.

I realize, now, what a fool I was. Our relationship was awful, but there were better avenues I should have pursued than the one I did. I hate to lose: that was the root of the problem. Filing for divorce, moving out; all the normal signs of a failed marriage, seemed undoable to me. I was too proud to admit my friends and family were right, that I’d married too soon, for the wrong reasons, to the wrong man. I couldn’t face up to letting go of my pride, to admitting I’d been wrong.

My plan was for a quick and simple death. My tears would be interpreted as those of a grieving widow, when in fact they would have been tears of joy. It didn’t work; he noticed and I was caught. I did get out of the marriage, but not the way I’d hoped.

And that is why I sit here, in the dark of night, with tears of grief and loss running down my face, and only the fridge for company.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Nighthawks

Untitled1You’ve seen the picture; everyone has. It shows a diner almost empty but for a couple leaning on one end of the counter and a lone man with his back to the viewer. Both appear to be watching the soda jerk behind the counter, the only subject in the picture moving.

What didn’t show up in the picture was me. I’m sitting on the bar stool just to the right of where the picture starts, invisible from the angle Hopper used. I didn’t make the cut. It’s the story of my life. I’m the guy who checks out 2 people ahead of the millionth customer, the sap who watches the winning home run ball bounce over his seat; just close enough to see something great, but never able to be a part of it.

Working behind the counter is Stan.   Back then he was the night manager. That’s not as impressive as it might sound; he was also the night cook, the night dishwasher, and the night cashier.  He’d grown up in the city, the oldest son of an immigrant family. When this picture was painted Stan was at City College, working nights and going to school during the day.   In a few years he’d be back at the diner, but as its owner.

The guy sitting with his back to the window was Jim, one of the regulars. Jim was a lush, what we used to call a booze-hound and now, in far less poetic language, an alcoholic. He was sobering up before heading home and to bed. This was back when Jim was still hanging on the perception of being in control of his life, still with a wife waiting for him at home and a job he’d show up to late the next morning. It wouldn’t last; within a few years he’d lose both, and the ability to blend in with everyone else. No matter how low Jim got, and he got plenty low, the night staff had standing orders from Stan to let him have coffee and a sandwich.

The couple were relative newcomers, young marrieds that had moved to the neighborhood just a few weeks earlier. They were theater people, used to having dinner long after most folks had gone to bed, and were ordering a meal from Stan. They’d just reached the point where their names were known; soon they’d be regulars, sitting down at the counter and more comfortable eating there than in their own dining room.

Edward Hopper, the artist, was another regular. He and his wife lived in the neighborhood, and came in often. Nice folks, not pretentious or “arty” in the least.

As for me, well, I was the one who, a few nights earlier, had suggested to Ed that this place would make a swell night picture. I was right, but I still didn’t get a chance to be in it. But then, as I said earlier, that’s just the story of my life.