"You Should Go, Everybody Loves You"
I picked out a red color for my nails and took it over to the Russian manicurist. She saw the color, looked into my eyes "of course (sigh)". She was not inspired. I asked her how long she had been in Chicago. 24 years. She had come over from Russia on a visit. But she met a man in the hallway of her friend's apartment building and fell in love.
So she stayed.
I imagined walking out of the spa, onto the street and meeting my future husband.
"You have sauna after this?" I said yes. "You come to right place." Then she whispered that the Asian place next door was horrible. She told me she was whispering because "there was an Asian behind me" and she didn't want to seem racist. But she was. And she told me to never go to an Asian pedicurist because they're dirty.
I went into the sauna after drying my nails. The Russian woman led me down every hall, but they were full. I waited until one free'd up and stepped inside.
It wasn't the cleanest.
"I got a weird rash on my face this summer..."
I was sitting behind two young women in their early 20's on public transit.
One Asian and skinny, the other White and overweight.
"...I've been using this medicine my Mom got from Vietnam"
"Do you take it - is it like a pill - or?"
"You put it on the skin, like a cream."
"Do you mind if I touch your--" the white girl's hand went to her friend's forehead, brushed away a few pieces of dead skin and continued "...yeah, well the skin peels. It's a natural process."
"I hate when girls make fun of you because of your face."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean like. When girls say 'Oh you have too much acne' or 'Oh your face is peeling and that's gross'."
Her friend replied
"Those aren't even good insults, they aren't even well thought out."
It was intermission and I was standing outside of a coffee shop. The Russian man next to me asked if I had a light. I pulled out a book of matches for him.
He asked me what I was doing. "I'm in the middle of a play - it's happening behind this coffee shop."
"Oh ...like Theatre?"
I said yes but he was already over it.
He moved here from Russia. Alone. He doesn't like his family and doesn't stay in touch with them. He has no friends. He tries, he gives people his number. He gave me his number. Asked if we could hang out. I told him to call me on a Monday.
He didn't understand why I would spend my time watching a play. His apartment was made of cement. He could hear the neighbors above him dribbling balls. He tried to contact his landlord about a leak in his bathroom to no avail. He felt lonely. He felt annoyed.
"Life is enough. Why sit through Theatre?"
Smoke filled the sky and made the sun bright orange as it descended. I sat on a bench and watched it through sunglasses while listening to Twist and Shout. A middle-aged man in a blazer asked me if I knew how to use Portrait mode on an Iphone. I said no and showed him my android. He explained how, handed me his phone and asked me to take a picture of him.
He needed it for his website. He told me as we walked down some stairs into the rose garden.
"Make sure to get me framed by roses. Now that's on portrait mode so everything behind me should be blurry."
I took a few practice shots.
"Do I look handsome?"
"Now, see I had my eyes closed there. Let's take another one."
He thanked me and told me I looked like a nice person.
I said "I obviously am."
A meeting at a bar ended early. I stayed to finish my drink.
An older Black man came up to me
"Is it possible for two lonely people to eat together?"
I told him I'd join him at the bar to finish my drink while he waited for his food. He asked where I worked. I said the FBI.
He believed it, but he thought I was in the military.
He told me about growing up in Chester, PA. He grew up too fast. Started drinking hard at the age of 15. "I was a tweener. I hung out with people till I didn't like what they were gonna do. I'd say STOP don't tell me! Then I'd walk over to some other people and hang out with them instead. An 'inbetweener'.
I fit in everywhere. With everyone."
He went into the Army to escape Chester at the age of 18. He wrote multiple letters to his friends while he served but never sent them. He told me that after 30 years of living in Portland, he had found the letters and had a plan to send them. I asked what he wanted in return.
"A letter back"
Had to get a new phone. My screen was broken so I went to the Verizon store. I was there for 4 hours being helped by a Middle-Eastern man. After asking if I had a fiance and why I was single, he breathed out the words "I love Trump."
I asked him why. I was genuinely curious. I had an exotic perspective in front of me. "He is kind, compassionate..." then he counted on his fingers "He's smart. Innovative. Creative." He told me to give Trump time. He told me he would already be voting for Trump in the next election. For the next 2 hours I disagreed.
He snuck his number in my bag as I left.
I went on a date with a man who wore a blazer. I'm used to sweatpants. He had ordered a plate of Edamame with peanut sauce drizzled on top. The plate surprised me and I forgot how to eat. As we were talking, I popped a whole one in my mouth and began to chew. He said "Wow." I realized my mistake and said "Yeah, I eat them whole." He stared at me through his sunglasses "You eat them whole...like everytime before this too or ...you just decided to eat them whole" I retorted, lying with pride "Every. Single. Time." What can I say? He was impressed. He tried one whole and as he was chewing said
A woman in her 80's saw me sitting outside at a coffee shop and asked if she could join me. She sat down with her coffee. She told me stories of her time working in the fashion industry. New York. The Big Apple. 1950's/1960's/1970's. She had been widowed for 19 years. "I can't believe I've survived so long without him." He was the man of her dreams. They met in a bar in the 40's. "His eyes were as blue as the ocean." I was enraptured. After an hour of conversation, she asked me how my love life was. I told her I had a very pleasing boyfriend. She was stunned. "Well good for you!" She smiled
"You never know if a woman your size can snag a guy."
I had to go to the Social Security office as I'd picked up a temporary job working at an Elementary school. The waiting room was full, so I sat on the floor. A man in his 50's, dressed in a suit with his hair slicked back sat in a seat next to me. He noticed me stretching and told me it was something I should continue to do as I age. I told him I promised my Grandpa I'd be able to do the splitz through age 85. He told me about how his Mother had passed recently. He began to cry as he told me about her. Single mother, 5 children, he was the oldest. Mom worked in the fields all day and would ask her son to rub her legs while lying down, exhausted at night.
"I was so young, I didn't know what rubbing her legs meant to her. I didn't know the pain she was in.
If I had known I would have put more care into making her feel better. She did so much for us. I wouldn't have complained."
I was moving sublet to sublet. The music was loud enough in my room to not hear my housemate knock on the door. He opened it and stood in the doorway. I said hello and apologized for the music being so loud. He said it was fine and offered me LSD. I said
No. But thank you.
He told me I was beautiful and moved out a week later.
There is a popular karaoke bar in North Portland that was hosting a birthday for Mr. Party. I didn't know this when I showed up with my friend. Sitting outside, one of the guests came over and sat down with me. She told me about her nerves. Starting a new job in Educational Administration on Monday. She wanted to work with intent, to hold bad teachers accountable, to be responsible for helping elevate the school's standards. She asked me what I did. I said Theatre. She told me I was a writer. That there was a little girl in the future who would read what I wrote and her life would be forever changed. Mr. Party came outside. Because I was sitting with his friend, he invited me to his other birthday party. It would be everyday in June. There would be thousands of tents for his thousands of friends. There would be food, music, dancing, fireworks, a parade. Every single day.
I'm really looking forward to it.
A woman with uncontrollable twitching, wearing unwashed clothes came up to me while I was on a park bench. She sat down and pulled out a wad of papers. She clenched them in her hand as she spoke to me. She had just been released from jail. She spent all night writing the perfect letter to her daughter. She hadn't seen or talked to her daughter in years. Handing me the papers, she asked me to read all 8 pages. Happily, I did. It was mostly hard to make out. There were a few sentences about love, regret, hopes to reconnect. She asked me if it was good. If I was her daughter, would that letter be good enough.
I said yes.
Hearing from a stranger that I should be a writer really sank in with me on a Friday night in March. I walked in the rain to a dive bar 3 blocks down. There was a seat at the bar, I took it. My ID was checked twice - the second time by a bartender who didn't know it had already been checked and upon realizing it, said "I guess I just wanted to see how good of a picture you had. It's good. It's a really good picture." I ordered a drink. A few minutes later, the stool next to me was taken by an older man who ordered a dark beer. I had been writing in a notebook. He asked if I was a writer. I said yes. He was a dancer in New York in the 60's. He was controversial because he didn't dance to music. That made people upset. He received a gift from the NAE in the late 90's. Or something. I was a little tipsy. He told me to write down his e-mail. I did. He told me to e-mail him about a book he read. A book I should read. About investments. To think about my future. That life means something different to him now that he's older, but being young, I wouldn't understand. He told me to be greedy in my work.
He had come to listen to the drummer in the band.
She saw me, walked over to me, hugged me. She said she would be with me through all of my life.
We were both crying.
That woman does not know how beautiful she looks tonight to someone else.
She does not know.
Last time I saw her she talked about the new home she was in. And sometimes she would just stare out the window. I asked her if she liked anyone else in her new home. There were two women she got along with. One was named Nancy. "I play a lot of bingo." Grandma Dora said with a smile. "You know, Bingo has really come back around. My friends in New York go to Bingo nights. Are you a Bingo shark?"
"I've won 9 dollars before"
I was impressed
"We play with dimes"
"I knew it, you're a shark."
She chuckled "Well...I don't know...
...Sometimes I'm playing Bingo and I think - why am I here?"
Walking down the street listening to white noise and rain sounds, I saw a woman waving at me from her sleeping bag in front of a church. She had giant blank blue eyes. I took my earbuds out and heard her telling me to buy her a pizza at the 7/11 down the street. She walked a few feet ahead of me on the way there and went into the store well before I did. She grabbed a fountain soda, asked why they were out of pizza and ordered 2 toquitos while I was grabbing water for myself in the back of the store. I turned around to find the woman in an argument with a lady at the register. The woman thought the lady was me.
"You said - you told me - you said you gonna buy me a soda!!"
"I didn't say I was gonna buy you anything! I don't know you! I've never seen you before in my life!"
I stood in shock. Both women stormed out of the store yelling at each other. I walked up to the register, bought my water and 2 toquitos. I walked back to the church. The woman was drinking her stolen soda, sitting on her sleeping bag.
"Are you the woman who brings clothes?"
I said no and handed her the taquitos. She threw them in her mouth,
"You don't want these?"
I played keyboards in a band and fell off the stage once.
At another show, I thought a group of three guys who kept yelling at me were telling me I was hot but after the show they clarified they couldn't hear anything I was playing and
were trying to get me to turn up the volume.
I was doing dishes one afternoon in my first floor apartment right off of 21st, a trendy street. I heard a young boy screaming and crying, throwing a tantrum. "Gerald, get up."
"Gerald I swear to God get the fuck up"
The frustrating loss of control of the situation only escalated in Gerald's Mother's voice. I looked out my blinds at the drama happening right outside. I saw Gerald, a 3 year old, on the ground not budging. Mom had lit a cigarette. Mom looked young, stressed out, like she wasn't wearing the clothes she would have chosen to wear. She was thrown together.
"People are gonna call child protective services on me!!
Get Up. This is not a joke."
I walked outside. I said hi. I told Gerald's mom I had heard her yelling at Gerald. "He just flopped down, I swear, I didn't do anything -" I know, I said, I live in this building and heard it all. I told her she seemed stressed out and wondered if she wanted a little break, to talk to an adult for a bit.
"Portland people are so nice."
She let me know she had moved into the women's shelter
down the street last week. Not from Oregon, but showed up here. We made fun of some extra posh people walking by, feeling important and in demand. Gerald watched me enjoy his Mom. He watched me listen to her talk about how stressed out she was, how she was just trying to do her best but had gotten out of a bad situation. She was trying to figure it all out but it was hard. She told me how small her room was at the shelter - the one she shares with Gerald. Down to the bed. She was awarded a three month stay. She told me the rules of decor - no painting or attaching anything to the walls. A daily reminder this isn't a home, this is a temporary space - don't nest here. Eventually, I introduced myself to Gerald. He got up and dusted his pants off. His cheeks were red and tear stained from crying. He shook my hand. I told him he had a pretty amazing Mom and that she was going to need his help.
I went back in and finished washing the dishes.