A Meeting with Bob from Beyond

fishing-lily-pads-862x451

This part about life is true-ish: you can spend your day, or at least some of it, being focused, doing what makes you happy, or spend your day thinking about never having it or obsessing about losing it.

I’m walking down a nature trail. I’m talking to myself. As people pass me by, I hush up because I am too much of a puss to let them know I’m talking to myself.

I have today day off of work. I feel bad about days off, but I really enjoy them, like a lot of people. I try to have plans on those days, which doesn’t always work out. I want to use them to their fullest.

Please be patient with yourself. You smoked a little bit. You forget that you get a little paranoid when you smoke alone. And maybe that’s why you’re talking to yourself at all, so that it feels like you’re with someone.

 I think that you came here for a reason. You want to explore what is going on inside you without anyone else around you. I think this is a healthy thing to do. Recently, you’ve been overly connected to social media, and you’ve been feeling hyper and stimulated. Even when you were in Costa Rica, you were still checking your phone. You’re never free of technology.

Social media sometimes feels like a box, like a way to keep people inside. There are people who take advantage of social media for the right reasons. They want to share with others, give to others. They want people to come along with them for the journey. Follow them through this jungle, on this mountain, through those moments when they marvel on the face of their first child.

Voyeurism has consequences. What about the other chunk of people who are standing still? Just watching someone live their life? The viewer doesn’t even have to dream it up. It can happen right before their eyes. They continue to watch and watch and watch. We have become a new form of TV, this relentless watching of each other.

Today you’re distraught. You lost your journal. It’s this purple, silky thing that you got from Barnes and Noble about a year and a half ago. Let’s be honest; most the thoughts in there weren’t worth sharing with others, but they were worth mentioning to yourself in the moments that you wrote them down. You write in it for your future self. So that you can immerse yourself into what it felt like to be a younger version of you.

I am 27 years old. I miss my journal because it was for me. No entertaining. I could see myself thinking and rethinking in it. Messy. Not the best words I could come up with. Organic. Diary entries. Pieces of poems. I wrote one on Mother’s Day about my mother and how she says the word “fuck” better than anyone I know. She gives it grace.

I wrote about going down to southern Illinois with my dad to watch my sister graduate. I don’t think I finished that entry. I was waiting for it to settle on me, and then I lost it.

A bearded man and his dog just passed me, so I had to stop talking just now. I recently wrote a short story about this man who talked to himself in his garage at night, seething about the government. The only thing that calms the voices in his head is fishing.

I come from an entire family of talkers, and lo and behold, I’m a talker. But I’m also a good listener. Some people don’t need another person on the other side, and this terrifies me. I know someone who doesn’t need another person to listen. I can leave my phone on the counter and walk away for 10 minutes, and they wouldn’t know the difference. No interjections or counterpoints necessary.

Being around non-talkers used to be a big issue for me. Spending time with my boyfriend’s family, for example, made me feel uncomfortable, exposed. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I filled up the silence. Open mouth, open floodgates. I mean, sure they said things, but everything was so matter of fact. Not at all like therapy. Like live wires. Everyone wearing their emotions out all together at once.

I have to pee, but I’m kind of nervous. I’ve had some bad experiences with peeing in public lately. When I was in Costa Rica, I really had to go. I was at a resort, and I found this sort of remote-ish place by the beach, which obviously wasn’t remote enough. A hotel employee had caught me hunched over a pile of sand. He started yelling at me in Spanish, and I was already going, so I kept going. I was drunk, but horrified that he kept yelling at me, not even turning around and waiting for me to finish.

I pee quietly behind some bushes. A mosquito bites my ass.

Now, I’m looking over a pond covered in lily pads that bounce light to each other as the water moves underneath them. There are hundreds of dragonflies flitting in between them, dipping their butts into the water.

The fisher in my short story, the one with the voices in his head—he’s addicted to painkillers and alcohol. His kids keep finding him passed out in the bathroom. His body fails him. He was the funny one, the one who made you feel sane. Everyone’s favorite uncle. His kids and their cousins used to dog-pile on top of him every Christmas. Now he can’t even remember his kids’ names.

The intro of the story starts with a text message. A wrong number. From some guy named Bob who wants to go all-night fishing. The narrator is lonely, so she messages him back for the sake of conversation. She evens sends a fish emoji. The conversation ends once the mysterious texter figures out they are texting the wrong person.

I watch dragonflies clash into each other. It sounds like the crinkling of candy wrappers. A pier moves underneath my feet. An elderly couple shuffles next to me and onto a bench that’s bolted to the pier. They look out across the water, past the lily pads. The man is wearing a baseball cap with the word “veteran” on it.

“Do you see the lotus flowers?” he asks me. I look toward where his wrinkled index finger points. Fleshy pink petals poke out from the water.

“Yes, they’re beautiful,” I say. Suddenly, I feel like a tourist.

“Where are you from?” the stout woman asks, peeking out from the side of the man.

“Northwest ‘burbs,” I say.

“Terrible drivers over there,” she says with a half frown.

“That’s why I’m here. To slow down,” I laugh.

“This used to be a lively place,” the man tells me. “Every summer, people would rent out boats, and there would be concessions. Tons of people. Now it’s a ghost town.”

“What happened?” I ask.

“The state didn’t want to pay for it anymore,” he says and nods.

He points again. “Look at that barn swallow,” he says.

I watch a brown body pierce the air like an arrow. Then it dips and dives, making sharp, acrobatic turns.

Since fishing is on my brain, I tell the man that I tried fishing recently, and I still have yet to catch my first fish.

“Oh, have you been up by McHenry? Plenty of good fishing spots over there,” he says.

“I will be sure to check that out. I’m gonna get lucky next time, I can feel it,” I say.

“You will catch one, Sweetie,” the woman tells me.

I thank them. Their encouragement pulses inside my chest, and I am aware of the sun’s warmth on my face.

“It was so nice meeting you. I’m Sarah,” I thrust my hand out formally. I’m not sure why, but then I realize I want to touch their hands.

“I’m Sandy. And this is Bob,” the woman says. Bob smiles.

The worst kind of pimple

Image

The worst kind of pimple

I drove myself to the eyeball clinic one morning before work. The night before, I ate Italian sausage for dinner, watched part of Blue Planet on Netflix, and went to bed. All was well. Not a mouse stirring. When I woke up my left eye was on fire.

What the hell was happening to me? I scuttled into the bathroom like a blind crab and lunged toward the mirror. No signs of mutation or dysfunction. That’s weird, I thought, so why is my entire eye socket throbbing in pain so sharp I’m grinding my back molars together? After pacing around my kitchen, cupping my face in agony, I determined my painful eye an emergency.

I was the only person under 70 years old sitting in the waiting room, probably because people my age don’t have time to sit around in a waiting room, determining the fate of their mystery eye ailments. “You’re catching up to me,” this old gentlemen said and winked at me, and I laughed because I thought he was talking about age when really he meant that I was next in line after him to get my eyeballs fondled. So, I shut my left eye, and the older gentleman and I squinted at an episode of Dr. Phil about a girl who cried “rape.” And poke, poke, poke through the whole thing until the doctor called me into a room.

It’s been years since I’ve seen a doctor, let alone an eye specialist. I still have yet to turn over my new insurance card and locate a primary care doctor. I know, how irresponsible, right? But if you can believe it, until recently, I was one of the millions of young adults without health insurance. Thanks, Obama (?)

But in all seriousness, I truly feel for those who aren’t insured. I remember shaking over an entire flight of stairs, clinging to a railing tight after catching myself, and thanking the heavens for not letting me collide with the earth. Being uninsured at any age is terrifying. Things can happen to anyone, and medical debt can devastate lives for people who are already struggling or just finally getting ahead.

This eye examination wasn’t just a “stare at the text and recite your ABC’s” kind of thing, it was a “press your face into this Hannibal Lecter contraption and don’t move while I slip your eyelids inside out, fold them into a paper crane, and proceed to scrape scum off your retina with a pointed tip” kind of thing.

The young doctor who looks like Hayden Christensen was impatient with me when my aching eye involuntarily protested against three rounds of liquid drops. “Haven’t you ever had your eyes checked before?” Um, for glasses doc, when I was 8.

Oh, and dilated eyes basically means that you won’t be able to see much for the next 3 hours. I felt like the Men in Black just flashed me with their memory-removing laser, except unfortunately mine was still intact. I quickly remembered that I was being tortured.

“The dilation will make it hard for you to read.” I tried to be funny. “I’m an editor, but that’s okay I don’t read much.” Dr. Christensen wasn’t amused and told me to sit still. A toddler getting a haircut. I would rather have my vagina examined while getting a tooth pulled then have to go through this examination ever again.

And it turned out that the lengthy process was all for nothing. There was no life-inhibiting infection brewing under my eyelid; it was the early onset of a stye, or fatty, blob of an oil and pus buildup, the equivalent to a pimple (yum!).

When I read about the causes of styes, my face grew red with shame. I guess it happens a lot when people rub their noses and then touch their eyes. Eww. Or when they don’t remove their makeup before going to bed (guilty). Or a lot of things that amount to not washing your hands enough. I felt like a slob.

Why am I writing about my stye of all things? Well because this microscopic pus mound is making my life miserable right now, and I’m trying to have a sense of humor about it. It’s insane how one small little thing can have such a huge effect on your day-to-day life.

I know this is pathetic, and I sound like a wimp, but humor me and take a look at all the things that this stupid, little stye is doing:

  • Decreased productivity

-Google: “Can you go blind from an stye?”

-WebMd: Self-diagnosis.

“It’s been 15 minutes since I last steamed my eye pimple, I should probably do it again.”

-Google: “Images of styes”

-Google: “What it’s like to go blind.”

-Text Sean: “Babe will you still love me if I have a glass eye?”

-Text Dad: “Hey Dad, do you still have that eye patch from your Halloween costume?”

-Google: “Can you take more than 10 Advil pills in one day?”

-“If someone offered me heroine right now, I might pause a few extra seconds before I say ‘no.’”

-“I should probably finish editing this press release, but I’m going to write a post about how this stye has been hindering my life.”

  • Lower amounts of self-esteem

-I somehow feel fatter, bloated

-I feel like the left side of my face is drooping

-Every now and then, goop creeps to the corner of my lid (sexy).

– I feel like Chris from Family Guy, the episode where he has a talking pimple telling him to think and do bad things. Mine hates my guts and keeps telling me to act as miserable as possible and lash out at people because they don’t understand how much pain I’m in.

  • Phantom objects- That “there is something in my eye” feeling. All day. Oh yeah, it’s a pimple poking into my eyeball.
  • Increased road rage

-Snails with wheels inching in traffic. And poke poke poke poke. Dude cuts me off. Oops, and there goes my middle finger.

-“What red light?”

-“Excuse me, but I have to ride the median, this is an emergency.”

-“No, I’m not actually crying, stop trying to scoot your ass next to me to see if I am.”

-“I can’t wait to get home and shove my face under a scalding hot shower.”

  • Loss of appetite- I’m so digusted with this thing, it’s tarnished my want for food.
  • Swelling, headaches, muscle fatigue of the neck… because of a pimple
  • Loss of dignity

There it is, folks. Over 1,000 words about a stye. It can be done if you have enough petty bullshit to complain about. I hope it was mildly humorous.

I understand that there are a lot of worse things to deal with when it comes to pain that aren’t so funny, but my response to that is along the same lines. When you feel trapped inside your body because of pain, your best bet is to mentally fight back. This stye does not own me. Say: Fuck this pain.