A pretty woman, and a bum

I was lying in bed pondering whether to call Mom for Mother's Day, when there came a ruckus from down the hall, so loud that 'eavesdropping' wasn't optional. Every word came through my closed, locked, and chained door, and every word was angry, and I knew both voices, and pretty soon I knew what was happening. The landlord was telling the skinny white jerk in room 410 to get out of room 410. "Get your things and get out!"

Far out, man. I hate that guy, so this was delightful. Even as they argued, 410 was trying to give the landlord the next week's rent. "I do not want your money, I do not want you. Get your things and get out." It took a while, but eventually Mr 410 got his things and got out.

♦ ♦ ♦  

As for Mom, well… If this is the first issue of Pathetic Life you've read, let me 'splain: Me and Mom go way back, all the way to the beginning. She did a lot of things right raising me, but she never thinks the job is done — every conversation is nothing but come to church, come to Jesus, and when are you gonna get your teeth fixed? For more details, see PL#2, #3, #9, and #12.

Do I love my momma? Absolutely I do, and she loves me, but we have nothing in common but blood. So I ain't calling.

Just because the Hallmark Corporation lobbied Congress to get today labeled "Mother's Day" on every calendar, doesn't mean I have to observe the occasion. Honestly, all the pressure for hugs and flowers and happy moments just makes Mother's Day a little worse than the other 364. And if I called her, it would get worse still.

It angers me, the holiday. It's an intrusion. If you're close to your mother, or if you're not, if your mother's alive, if she's dead, if she's the best person you've ever known, or if she gets on your nerves like my mom, it's personal. Your feelings about your mother are yours, and ought not be manipulated into money for the flowers, chocolates, restaurant, long-distance phone, and greeting card conglomerates.

♦ ♦ ♦  

On Telegraph, I worked between Umberto (who told me he'd called his mother this morning, and seemed to be in a blue mood all day) and Brenda (same). 

That new vendor from last week was back, working just down the sidewalk. Brenda chatted with her, but I didn't. Nothing against her — she looks, acts, seems like an ordinary 40-something lady. I rarely make an effort to get to know people, though, especially ordinary people.

Toward the end of the day, she got into a long conversation with a man who'd stopped at her table, and as they chatted on and on, Brenda said to me quietly but with a smirk, "He's picking her up." I looked over and yeah, they did seem to be getting along splendidly, and I don't think they were talking about the trinkets that lady sells.

"They're going to have hours of disgustingly hot sex," Brenda said with a scowl.

"I remember that," I said, "but it's been a long time."

♦ ♦ ♦  

A half-dressed college babe walked down the sidewalk, and I watched. That's how I spend most of my days on Telegraph — watching half-dressed college babes. But here's something I hadn't seen before:

The young woman was approached by a street vagrant not far past my table, and they started talking. Couldn't hear much of what they were saying, but of course, who cares?

Then the young woman have the bum a long, tight hug, and I felt a jolt of envy. What's that bum got that I ain't got, besides the courage to talk to a cute college babe and get hugged?

When she let go, though, he hung on longer, hands on her hips, pushing their groins together. This I considered excessive, even rude, but maybe they're old friends?

When she walked away, though, still smiling, he called out, "Hey, what's your name?"

"Cindy," she hollered back. "What's yours?"

"Toby," he said.

"See ya, Toby," she said, still smiling, and then she was gone.

None of that made sense to me. Two strangers — a pretty woman, and a bum. They'd never met, they said a few words, they hugged and he groped her, and instead of slapping him, she asked his name.

This isn't a charming "only in Berkeley" story. That ain't the point. There are two points, I think.

First, she should've kneed him in the groin.

And second, I sure do have a wall around me. I'm not introverted, I'm arctic. In my wildest, most good-natured uninhibited moments, I couldn't hug a stranger like that, someone I'd never even met. If the stranger was as pretty and breezy as that college girl, I don't think I could even get "hello" out of my mouth. And I regret that about me, a little.

Like all the other things I regret about me, of course, I don't regret it enough to actually do anything about it.

♦ ♦ ♦   

On the way home, I got a seat on BART because I got on in Berkeley, but in downtown Oakland the multitudes appeared. People were hanging onto the handrails, and everyone was breathing the odor of sweat. There must've been a concert at the Coliseum, is my guess, but jeez — how many people can be squeezed into a BART car anyway? And BART must've known there was going to be a concert or whatever, so why was our train only four cars long instead of ten?

"You're on my foot," came a woman's voice through the throng.

"I'm sorry." A soft-spoken reply, another woman's voice.

Presumably the second voice moved her foot off the first voice's foot, but the first voice said, "I don't care if you're sorry of if you're dead, just don't step on my god-damned feet!"

Except for some nervous titters, the entire crowd was quiet after that, so I said loudly, "'Cause after all, you're the only one on the train who's getting squished."

And at that, the grumpy lady started yelling at me, but there were so many people on the train we couldn't even see each other.

Heck, if I could've seen her, I probably wouldn't have said anything.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Back in San Francisco, I stopped at the corner for a few groceries, and now I'm zapping some ramen in the microwave, fixing four chocolate frosting sandwiches, and trying really hard not to call my mother.

Maybe I'll write her a card later in the week, but… no, not even that. The postmark would tell her I'm still in San Francisco, and I'd rather she didn't know.

From Pathetic Life #24
Sunday, May 12, 1996

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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