I began reading Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five last week, and read a section about a character who is under a lot of familial and fiscal pressure who has just been a bit short with her father. Vonnegut lists her substantial tasks (which I currently identify with and stand behind her verbal affront to her crazy father) and defends her (albeit sarcastically) when he writes, “All this responsibility at such an early age made her a bitchy flibbertigibbet.” And I thought: someone’s got my number. That is what I’ve been for the past 3 weeks. Nearly had to turn in my “kindness” badge on more than one occasion.
I had reached the zenith of my stress-o-meter this past Friday, so last weekend had to hold a few cartwheel/bubble bath-type events, or it was possible this girl would self-destruct, like Inspector Gadget’s messages. My relationships were beginning to feel the impact of my anxiety. I may have overreacted, for example, when decorating the Christmas tree, I found that an ornament (with no sentimental value) was broken.
“ How could this HAPPEN!?! Who DID this???” is how the futile grilling began. I was clutching the ornament to my chest like it was a wounded bird, and glaring suspiciously at my co-tree-deckers.
So, Sunday night, I linked arms with a friend to go to a charity event at a local bar for the homeless in our area. I was a bit conflicted. For one thing, the last time I served the housing-challenged, I was criticized, followed, then made fun-of (DC homeless-folk are often smoking whatever they can get their hands on, was what I kept telling my wounded ego. That, and I don’t look my best first thing in the morning), and for another, it felt wrong to go spend money drinking booze on behalf of people who can’t afford it, but legitimately need to be lit in order to keep warm.
The local talent, when it comes to music, was quite pleasant. The local talent, when it comes to art, was “meh”. I mean, thank you for donating your work to a good cause, but please don’t quit your day job.
Now, the highlight of the night, nay, of my month, was when I went to the Ladies’ to relieve myself of a few spirits. I don’t have to paint you a picture, but I was there, in the Ladies’, and there were 2 other water closets, besides mine, that were occupied. Enough said. So- I’m doing that thing you do, and can hear one of the evening’s vocalists crooning away back at the bar, when another voice interrupts business to yell,
“Ladies! Ladies! Ladiiiiiies! We. Are. All. Beautifulllll.”
Have you watched So I Married and Axe Murderer? Then you know what a form of slam poetry sounds like. Usually, there’s a similar voice pattern throughout, using inflection/intonation, and in this woman’s case, hiccups and lurches, ‘cuz she was very many sheets to the wind. So, this inebriated woman in the loo, while the rest of us “saw a man about a dog ” (as some Irish drinking buddies of mine once called it), was providing us with inspiration, Greek-chorus-style.
“We all have. The Voice. Of. That. Singer. Out therrrre. Deep inside of us.”
“Not me,” I called back, “My voice does NOT sound like that, unfortunately.”
“YESSSSS!,” she cried, “You. Do. We ALL do.”
Then, from the stall to my right,
“I WISH I had it deep inside of me.”
And, predictably, from the stall to my left,
“Oo. OO! That’s what she said!”
We all began to laugh, and I chortled,
“I don’t think I’ve ever had such fun while, you know, going wee wee!”
“Ladiiiiies,” interrupted our bard, “You do. You all have the voice. We are aaaaall. Lovely. SO. Beautiful. We have that voice. You. Have. A VOICE.”
This frustrated the poet deeply, and we all made our way to the sinks to wash our hands. The sight of this act inspired a new line of poetry: how different ladies are from men. Her face was flushed with renewed passion, or booze, and she waved tight fists around maniacally as she began anew,
“We. WASH. Our hands! We have…..” then began the anatomical discrepancies between the sexes, and I am nothing if not a verbally immature 30 year old, who still refuses to call anything on the body by its proper name, so I took that as my cue to head back to my table, but I did so with a grin on my face. The first in weeks.
Thank you, artists of Norfolk, and crazy/hazy beat poet lady who resembled Dame Tilda Swinton a la The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. “…for I dearly love to laugh.”