Go to a public location and make a detailed report of what you see. The twist of the day? Write the post without adverbs.
I rolled into the same, well-worn parking lot of the local 7-11 with its faded, yellow parking space lines, its various ruts, grooves, and the intermittent pothole filled with either water after a rain or paper scraps discarded by those who don’t much care about or consider the ramifications of such thoughtless behavior as being a litterbug. Or, perhaps they just don’t care how ugly the world ends up looking with all that tossed-aside refuse scattered thither and yon.
As I exit my car in the stunted, knee-ache way of a woman thirty years older than me, a thin man with white hair pushes the wrong glass door open, exiting the 7-11. His face is littered, too, with that lifetime of regrets and woes look often seen on the faces of homeless, abandoned, and war-torn people in magazines. He’s short and skinny, or would that be malnourished? Dressed in casual wear that consists of the ubiquitous faded jeans and an even older print t-shirt. In his aging hand, he clutches a brown bag – the way any wino does as they head off in the direction of escapism, to drown their punishing thoughts in whatever form of brew their pocket change affords.
“Poor thing,” my mind consoles, him and me. “If I had a thirst for alcohol, I just know I would be in his shoes right now.”
Upon entering said establishment, its icy, conditioned air running at full bore smacks me hard in the face, making me want to turn and head back outside, into the refreshing warmth of a late spring morning in the upper sixties. The rains came overnight, leaving the remains of where puddles once stood, now dotting streets, lots, and sidewalks with their dark, tell-tale shadows. The air is damp with humidity, making my hair kink and curl even more, and for my clothing to somehow feel rather form-fitting even when I’m wearing sizes that are larger than me. Vanity dictates that I do whatever I can to hide my imperfections.
Cold air isn’t conducive to any amount of pleasure after being infused with such dampness.
My aching knee starts to throb now, and the ankle I twisted three times in two years is beginning to pulse, reminding me that Dr. Scott was right, and that as I age, those twists have come back to haunt my joints. As I lumber in the direction of the pop dispenser at the back of the convenience store, I’m finding myself bending my right arm a few times, to get a new ache out of that elbow.
“Silly people and their air con mentality,” I grumble to myself. “If they only understood the negative effects this modern convenience has on the body, they might be less inclined to want to turn it on and waste energy. In a heatwave, sure, I could see the temptation to want to indulge then, but now? In spring? When it isn’t even going to go past 72, and the chance for more rain is up near 80% ? Silly, silly people.”
A head pops up in the candy aisle, tearing me away from my grumblings to glance in that direction. It is a she; a woman maybe ten or fifteen years older than me, and her everyday look is meant to convey the fact that she is about as happy with her life as I and the derelict that walked out with his 48 ounce bottle of malt liquor.
Stern, hard lines on what was likely (sic) to have been a pretty, excitement-driven face in her youth. She is sporting the prerequisite short-short hairstyle of a woman her age, shaved at the back of the neck and curling iron poofed on top. Dark roots mixed with gray and silver strands. Salt and pepper variations is how some might describe the color. She is also dressed for a day at the beach in mid July. No sleeves tank top and jean shorts. The clothes are old, worn and faded, but they still fit her small, thin frame.
“Lucky witch,” I’m thinking on my way to the fountain. “What I wouldn’t give to be able to wear jeans again, and even if they were throw-backs. I’m not what you would call fat, and yet the stubborn flab lingers since college. I’ve been hiding behind over-sized shirts all that time, too. Hiding.”
Before I can ask myself why it has to be this way; why everyone else can get away with the things I want and not give them a second thought, Jean has arrived in such a stealth mode as to take me by surprise, standing beside me at the fountain without my having heard her approach.
“Hi!” I offer in as vibrant and enthusiastic a tone as I can muster, smiling ear to ear at the only friend left to me in this cold, cruel world. “How’s it going today, Jean?”
“Fine,” she replies in her loud, accented voice, barely able to smile herself. I wait for her to move so I can press the Diet Coke tab and dispense my daily, caffeinated dosage of wake-me-up into a 32oz cup for .79c through July.
Jean stretches an arm out full length to remove the clear, plastic covering on a long stack of 32oz cups and uses a hand and her knee to shove them into the slot under the fountain. As she wads the plastic in both hands, she offers me a weary, I’ve been here too long now smile.
“You look tired, Jean.” My tone and expression show her the concern I have for her health. She is the type who refuses to relax, let go of the routine, and learn how to have a good time outside work. “When are you going to hire someone to take your place?”
She laughs. I smile. I know this laugh, this boisterous, lean back part way laugh. It has filled the store and my ears at least three times per visit in the time it takes to mosey on to the back of this aging yet clean store, dispense my liquid chocolate addiction, and then saunter up to the well-worn yet immaculate counter, to pay for said delight.
“When I can find someone who will actually (sic) do the work, then I will hire someone and take a break.”
“Jean, Jean, Jean,” my mind is singing as I smile at this crazy woman in the required red 7-11 smock uniform. “What you really mean is, when you find your mini-me, then you’ll think about letting go.”
(Maybe I’m not as thoughtful a writer as I imagined, or hope to be, but I write the way I write, in my own style and not the way others who are famous write. Still, this was another struggle that I appreciate being forced to grapple with, because regardless of my thoughts on opinion topics, I’m still being asked to write outside my comfort zone, and this can only help with my goal of improving my craft.)