There once was a pupil named Jane
Who lacked an intelligent brain
She got some uranium
To rub on her cranium
And she never felt stupid again.
- Original prompt: Learning Style, January 17, 2016.
I get up as late as possible, telling myself I will shower after work instead of before work. Makes logical sense.
I complete my assigned tasks. I’m a professional. The day drags, and I become weary of smiling and listening to the same banter, the same jokes, the same complaints and petty politics.
Once back home, a large drink is in order. I don’t feel creative enough to cook, but defrost something instead. We eat in front of TV, with a bottle of wine.
More wine, more TV, then finally, bed, where I dream I am the master of a herd of wild horses.
On the weekend, I sleep later. It’s physically very hard to drag myself out from under the cool white sheets and plump duvet. I meet friends for late lunch. There are jokes and banter, complaints and petty politics. But the pizza is filling. The glass of wine I drink with lunch makes me drowsy, and I nap, dreaming I am a time traveller.
I wake in time to make dinner. We had planned to go see a movie, but I feel a bit tired, so we have steak and salad at home. I’m not very hungry, but have a few more glasses of wine.
Finally it is time for bed. Finally. The day passes so very slowly, it is almost painful. I feel pricks of hurt, and aches in places there should be no aches. But at last, I can turn out the light, and return to my dreams.
For me, this is partly what depression feels like. The day passes agonizingly slowly because there is no joy in it. There is no connection, only numbness. Yet you have to meet and speak to people as if everything is perfectly fine; you have to perform everyday tasks as if they matter. There is only one real and meaningful thought: This will soon be over.
Some depression is triggered by an outside event. Sometimes, it is nothing but an inexplicable shift in your feelings of self and of others. People who are depressed can’t help it.
If you have such feelings, please speak to your doctor. There is relief for depression, whether it is counselling, medication, or a combination of the two.
If you recognize depression in a friend or family member, realize that pep talks don’t work. They need actual, professional help, and you can encourage them to seek help by pointing out there is no shame in depression, and that there is effective help available.
If the shadows grow too long, and the day passes so slowly that you are desperate to hurry the night, please call an emergency hot line. You can feel better.
Prompt: Saturday Night (Repost with new image)
Dear Agony Ant,
What are the worst possible things that could happen on a Saturday night date? Because I think they just happened to me.
Without question the two worst possible things are:
1. Going out on a double date with your boyfriend’s best friend.
So, you and the best friend don’t get along, mostly because he is everything your boyfriend is not: cocky, arrogant, self-absorbed, sexist, and is none too fond of you, either. You are an adult, right? You can handle this. What you can’t handle is your boyfriend, as the evening wears on, soaking up the friend’s assholery like a sponge, so that when you are alone in the car, driving home, he turns into his best friend. This leads to an argument.
2. Arguments in the car.
There is no escape when you and your fellow combatant are stuck in a moving car. Crawling into the back seat does not help. Shouting sounds twice as loud and three times more hostile. Silences are highly tense moments when you both think of something even worse to say.
And when the boyfriend stops the car, opens the passenger door, and in a grand gesture worthy of his best friend, snarls “Get out!” you have a decision to make.
Do you exit the car in the dark on a country road and hope you get assaulted so boyfriend will feel terrible? Or stay put and stew silently, planning a revenge which includes no sex, ever, for all eternity? Either way, catastrophic.
So avoid the above two situations.
By the way, WTF, what happened to you on your date?
Peace and love,
Dear Agony Ant,
I met my new boyfriend at a hotel bar, and he just disappeared, leaving me alone on a bar stool. Second, I lost my purse, or it was stolen. So I had no money and no phone. Then the hotel called the police and I was arrested for prostitution because I asked the guy on the stool next to me for some money. What’s worse, I think the boyfriend stole my purse.
Love and peace,
Prompt: Unexpected Guests (Repost)
After coming home from a visit to the doctor, I approached my front door, key in hand, and noticed that my neighbour’s dog was peeing on my rhododendrons. He stopped, lowered his leg, and gazed at me mournfully. He was always escaping from my neighbour’s yard, and always came to pee on my plants when he did.
I entered the house. It felt cold, and I heard voices. Who else had the key to the house? Only my son, who now lived in Hamburg. I had talked to him on Skype early this morning. I heard a woman’s laugh, and it gave me the courage to move from the hall to the living room, where I encountered a man and a woman.
They were sitting close together on the couch, giggling and nudging each other, as they ate hazelnut cake. They were rather sloppy eaters, and crumbs made a path down the front of their clothes, and littered the carpet. They looked up at me and smiled silently, their mouths full.
“What is going on?” I asked. I didn’t raise my voice, despite the fact that I felt I needed an answer to the question immediately.
“We heard about the bake sale,” the man said at last.
“We heard about your cake,” said the woman simultaneously.
“The bake sale is on Tuesday. In the church basement,” I said.
“It’s delicious,” said the man. “By the way, I’m Trevor, and this is my wife, Nancy.”
I took a few steps and glanced into the kitchen, where I noticed two things: the deadbolt on the door to the garden, which was the only other entrance to the house, was still turned and locked; and the counter beside the stove was clear.
I returned to my guests and said, “How did you get in?”
“Oh,” said Trevor, and a shadow of a frown crossed his face. “The laundry room window. The thing is, when we broke the handle, we must have left a sharp edge.” He set the napkin which held the remains of the hazelnut cake on the coffee table. He stretched his left leg out and pointed to a snag in his pants. “I seem to have damaged my trousers.” He and his wife bent over the small tear with great concern. Nancy rubbed his upper arm consolingly.
“I baked four hazelnut cakes,” I said. “Don’t tell me you ate all of them.”
Nancy laughed again. “Oh heavens no. You just missed Ruth and Paul. They were most impressed.”
Trevor took his wallet out of his pants’ pocket and took out a silver toothpick, with which he delicately sought the remains of the hazelnuts stuck in his teeth.
“So you each ate a whole cake?”
“My goodness, of course we did not!” Trevor said, putting the toothpick in his pocket. “That would be piggish. The twins ate most of it.”
“Yes, they would still be here, they so wanted to meet you, but Eric had to catch a plane. And you know the twins, where one goes the other follows. They are inseparable.”
“Literally,” said Nancy.
I felt a headache coming on. I went to the cupboard and took out a book. I put it in my bag. Then I went to the front door, opened it, and went outside. I closed the door behind me.
My car was parked at the curb. I went to it and started the engine. As I did so, the dog, who had been rooting around among the snapdragons, galloped like a horse to the car. I leaned over and opened the passenger door, and he jumped in.
We drove away.
Prompt: Sink or Swim
The most beautiful deep blue, cloudless sky I have ever seen occurred during one of the worst days of my life. It reminded me that terrible things happen in happy sunshine.
In this case, a monster of a hurricane was headed our way, and in the wake of Katrina only a few weeks before, people decided not to hang around for Rita. Don’t go east, the authorities told us, because people were still evacuating west out of Louisiana. Can you imagine?
We had a friend who lived near Dallas, so that was our destination. Very early, while it was still dark, we set out in the truck with a few belongings; most of the bags were full of food and supplies for our dog, who was comfortably ensconced in his crate. The streets of Houston were entirely empty, the morning clear, and even the entrance to the freeway was completely abandoned, and we felt pretty good about this adventure.
It wasn’t quite clear sailing to Dallas. By the time it was light, traffic was heavy. We drove by boarded up homes, and trucks passed us, rigged so the occupants could retreat with as many as their earthly belongings as possible: besides gas cans, there were chairs, mattresses, and all manner of furniture.
By the time the traffic came to a halt it was close to noon, and the temperature was close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This extreme hot weather was part of the storm system, we were told. It would get hotter.
People got out of their vehicles and walked around in the sunshine. Our dog got a nice walk. We moved north, inch by inch.
We talked to local friends and associates by cell phone while we were still in range. We were all keeping tabs on one another— which routes were taken by whom, and what progress was being made. If any.
Rita was relentlessly pushing through the Gulf of Mexico on her way to rip us apart and blow us away, and we were sitting on a paved prison, stuck with thousands of others, running low on water and gasoline. Like most people, we turned our air conditioner off to save fuel. It was 120 degrees out there by now. The route north is flat and treeless and there were no facilities until Spring, a mere 25 miles north of Houston, and still ten miles away, now a seemingly impossible distance.
People did run out of fuel, and we crawled by them. Some of them were crying. The kids were crying. Some of the cars were abandoned. Where did the occupants go? Most of the cars passing by were full to the brim with no room for extra passengers. Where could you walk to, in that heat, with no water?
There was nothing like a police presence, or any government presence. We were, all of us, completely on our own.
Finally, getting low on fuel, we reached Spring, Texas. We were able to pull in to the gas station, like a few others. It was busy. There was no fuel, not at that station or anywhere.
I went inside the little gas station mart to use the bathroom. There was a very long line. The air conditioner was on, which was a relief, but it wasn’t cool because of the constant stream of people in and out, in and out. A woman in front of me in the line was reeling as if she was drunk. She wasn’t drunk, but dehydrated, because she hadn’t been drinking water, because there was nowhere, until now, to pee. She fainted. A lot of people fainted.
After half an hour I got to the front of the line. The toilet was full and unflushable. There was shit and piss everywhere. I did my best, and as I left, warning those in line behind me, a saint appeared with a mop and bucket. It was the cashier, the only employee in the place. She apologized to me for the condition of the bathroom, then went in and, I presumed, cleaned up that horrendous mess so the people in line had a clean place to relieve themselves. She could have left us to it. There was no gain for her in making that one thing bearable for a bunch of strangers. A saint.
We had a decision to make. It had taken us eleven hours to travel the 25 miles to the Spring gas station. It was another 200 miles to Dallas. The day was still blazing hot, bright and sunny, but nightfall was coming. Did we want to get back in the traffic trying to escape north, and risk running out of fuel? Could we spend the night —or longer— at the side of the road? Would we be safe when the hurricane struck? Would we be safe at all?
One of the great ironies of that day was that of the four lanes of the highway to Dallas, two were gloriously clear. No one was driving south to Houston. The two lanes driving north, stinking of wasted fuel, were bumper to bumper.
We decided to go home and weather the storm. We had just enough gas. We got back to Houston, flying down the empty highway, in half an hour.
In Case You Missed It:
February 14, 2016
My love is like a red, red rose
With velvet skin and thorny toes.
…Now that’s not true, his feet are heaven,
Soft, with toes of three and seven.
That’s ‘ten’ in case you cannot add,
That’s just how many toes he had.
And still does have, I’m trying to rhyme,
It’s tricky as I’m short of time.
But still, my love has silken eyes,
Whate’er that means, and when he sighs,
My heart leaps up—but that’s not so
‘Cause that can mean he’s doesn’t know
What’s in my head, and that frustrating
And not a state worth celebrating.
But when he sighs for love of me,
Then my heart plays a symphony.
My lord, this poem has gone astray,
But I’m not done, please let me say:
His hair is mostly there, and grey,
And when he laughs, I want to pray
And thank the gods for his accent
Which is of Lancashire descent.
For when I want to smash his face,
He’ll drop an H, and we’ll embrace.
My love is like a red, red rose
With velvet skin, and thorny toes.