Excerpt from upcoming novel, Neither Here Nor There ....
It happened again. I just can’t understand how, not to mention why. Why do I feel so loose in myself? It’s as if “my self”, my body, my “Kim-ness” is a costume, a loose-fitting costume that I am rolling around in. I can spin all the way around in it without anyone noticing. I can duck my head inside the collar of it and have a tea party, but as long as the costume shows up, it’s all good. I’m there enough for everything to carry on. But me? I’m just a tiny thing wearing mama’s fancy dress and fur coat and sparkly red high heel shoes. I was just coming from class when I ran into some old friends of mine and I forgot who they needed me to be, who I needed to be for them. I messed up and I think I may have lost them. No, they won’t turn their backs on me but they will wonder … and feel the gulf between us. And it will make them uncomfortable. Oh, they will still greet me and joke with me but in time, they will know it for acting and they will drift away from me and I from them. And just like quantum particles, unobserved, we will cease to exist for each other.
I shut my eyes to block out the reflections of my fellow passengers but I’m not stupid. I keep them eyes closed for just a few seconds of peace. I’m on the subway, the Broad Street Line heading home to West Oak Lane and a lapse in vigilance could be a costly mistake. I stare back out the windows, which look onto nothing but the blurred walls of the tunnel we are rushing through. The train stops with a jerk every 3 minutes or so to let a few people on or off, varying the composition of the car but not the mood. Most of the passengers exude the same public transit vibe: a mix of weariness, wariness and detachment. The subway is like purgatory. You are neither here nor there. It’s too loud for conversation, too jarring for reading, and too busy for quiet meditation. So you just pause, wait for your stop to get off, and get back to living. At my stop, I get up careful not to bump anyone, sway to the door as it opens, cross the gap onto the platform, and exhale as the door swishes to a close behind me. Climbing up the grimy station steps, I resume my life as a commuter college student headed home after classes, praying that someone has made dinner because I’m starving! It’s the middle of October and the leaves are just starting to get serious about turning color. The air has lost its humidity and Halloween decorations are popping up here and there. During the two block walk to my house I alternate between admiring the work some have put into their houses and scowling over the equal number of boarded up windows and run-down apartment buildings. My neighborhood has always had these extreme contrasts. Mrs. Harbison’s porch would rival any horticultural display at the Flower Show. Mums and pansies and zinnias, wind chimes and bird feeders and beautiful small statues of the Virgin Mary accompany ferns and palms. There is even a small waterfall over Zen rocks. It should just be a lovely garden, but instead it seems bizarre because right next door to her row home is a house that was owned by a hoarder. It was condemned a month ago, but through the windows, you can see piles of boxes, stacks of chairs, and rows upon rows of thrift store tchotchkes that have not been touched. You can still smell the 37 cats. On the other side, there is no house at all. It collapsed four years ago, the city knocked it down two years ago and now it’s a vacant lot overrun with scraggly weeds growing among the abandoned slabs of concrete. Too little on one side, too much on the other and Mrs. Harbison in the middle doing her best to incite beauty in her little patch of the world. I know Mrs. Harbison because she goes to my church. Or, at least, what used to be my church. I went there my whole life, but my mother got married there seven years ago. Now it’s my mother’s church that she goes to with her new husband. In junior high school, I used to go with them even though I felt like a third wheel. I didn’t care. Going made me feel rebellious. Having discovered my affinity for girls in 8th grade, I knew myself for an outlaw and I knew most sermons to be bullshit. I went anyway, with all my secrets, determined to be seen if not heard. It didn’t last long. My mother could not countenance hypocrisy; consequently, she just stopped reminding me, stopped waiting for me, and then stopped mentioning it at all. They would just be gone early on Sundays and I learned how to make a mean French toast and drink coffee in their absence.
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