Sign No. 1: “DON’T BE A PUSSY…”
(Tacked onto streetlight. Eastern Avenue and Sienna Heights Drive, Henderson, October 2012.)
My neighbor has a three-car garage. For weeks, he’s parked two of his cars on the street, in front of my house, nearly blocking my driveway. Parked them in front of my house like I’m running an impromptu auto auction. Parked them street-side to make room for his storage needs: his teetering boxes, his supersize gun safe, his motorcycle. The bike he revs, over and over, into the evening.
I’m waiting for the HOA to intervene.
I run in the mornings. I hate it, but my pants have grown tight in the seat, so I’m trying. I’m average — not great, but I can plod along. I’m better, at least, than the woman who lumbered up alongside me at the gym. A woman wider and older than I. A woman who then stopped me mid-stride, motioned for me to remove my headphones, and said: “You’d run faster if you moved your arms more,” slicing her limbs back and forth like a broken bird. A stranger happy to interrupt with shit advice I didn’t solicit.
I yelled out, “Thank you!” as she ran off.
I’ve worn good grooves into my mouth guard, an etched terrain that traces the contours of my sleep, which often ends abruptly around two or three in the morning with a jaw ache and a pitting dread: You’ve blown it. You’ve failed. Then comes the mini-movie, the feature film I loop nightly: The mud-flaps truck that cut me off today, the teenager at the gas station who sighed as I fumbled bills back into my wallet, the fool I made of myself in that car freshman year.
I always feel better by day, because I’m distracted.
A middle-aged woman used to spray my house monthly for bugs. She wore an exterminator’s plastic bladder of poison on her back. She used one arm to fan her spray wand, the other hold my small dog against the side of her stomach. She’d work the whole house this way, cradling my pet. Then, before leaving, she’d spend 15 minutes hard-pitching me on a vitamin sales pyramid scheme. I pretended to be interested for months and then, sensing I could no longer duck and weave, I stopped hiring her over to spray.
The microwave has been invaded by ants. Cockroaches crawl up from my sink.
Sign No. 2: “LOVE YOURSELF”
(Nailed to abandoned frame. South Rainbow Boulevard and Oquendo Road. February 2013.)
I had a heart operation several years ago. This sounds more dramatic than it was. Doctors threaded long, blistering catheters through veins in my neck and my groin, routing the burning ends to my heart, where they cauterized away some extra flesh that was jamming up the works. I spent the night in the hospital and home the next morning, cured. Still, sometimes I have a spell of extra fast, extra hard thumps: boom boom boom boom break. I’m just like anybody: mostly water.
Lately, I’ve been receiving flirtatious text messages meant for someone else, in Spanish, from an international number. I have a friend translate. The last message came just after 9 in the morning on a Tuesday: You’re the star of my sky, the moon of my nights, the destiny of my life, the beating of my heart. I don’t reply to the texts. I don’t erase them, either.
I know so many obnoxious people. I’ve spent years smiling and seething. It’s taken a toll. Now I’m trying to cut my rising acid tide with sham kindness, faking nicey-nice until it’s real. It’s working, which almost angers me.
My house is perpetually messy. My carpets are a crime scene. I like to think this is because my life is too full and exciting to spend time cleaning, because my special creative soul is too wild to waste on taming the laundry. I’m an ace at this kind of gymnastic logic — it’s a skill I’ve honed razor-sharp. I can cut through all sorts of red tape. I can patch up any old broken thing with a bit of my sticky reasoning.
I’ve amassed an incredible collection of sweat pants and hooded sweatshirts. Comfort is the only attainable thing really worth striving for. This may be my finest insight to date. I don’t care too much what people think. This may be my greatest act of self-love.
You should see my bathrobe. It was an expensive gift I received years ago. It’s down-filled. It ties at the waist in the most unflattering way possible. It was white once. I shuffle it around the house, and into the yard, and across the street, to check the junk mail.