THE WEARINESS OF EXPERTISE
It’s getting cold. Consumers will feel the pinch this winter. Soon, we’ll pay dearly for our pantyhose and bleach and disposable diapers. On East Quality Street, a suicide mistaken for a Halloween decoration hangs from a tree.
I discuss it with an acquaintance at the doughnut shop. She’s reminded of a mutual friend of ours, a kleptomaniac dead “these twelve years.” She tells me she became a Buddhist after he died. “The Buddhists do death really well,” she says. “Even now, I can feel him around me as just--energy.” She licks some powdered sugar from her lips.
Even reduced to energy, I doubt Justin would ever condescend to haunt a doughnut shop. His travels were always more whimsical. Once, he flew to Luxembourg and jumped from the most ornate bridge he could find. In his letter, he reminded us that there are 30,000 suicides a year in the U.S. He preferred not to be a negligible statistic.
Afterward, I went to his room to collect the things he had stolen from me: a few records, an ashtray from Graceland, and my Unrest t-shirt with the glittery logo. Myself, I once stole a Pixies CD from a boy with an artificial leg named Ben; he called his good leg “Sydney”. Anyone who indulges in gratuitous Mary Poppins jokes deserves to be robbed. I believe in treating the handicapped as equals, except for the blind--they should be feared. They can hear our louder thoughts. To protect myself, I distract them by whispering, “You know, the Lions Club has been collecting old eyeglasses for ages.” I sprint away before they can recover from their shock.
As for Justin, I have fond memories of him rifling through my attic, looking for hidden listening devices planted by a shadow. “They’re waiting for you to utter your fondest desire, so they can prevent you from attaining it,” he said. I tried to dispel his paranoia by telling him that my fondest desire was a stewardess covered in foam. His disapproving look cut me to the quick. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I meant a flight attendant covered in foam.”
He was too exacting. When he saw me with my notebook, he chided me bitterly: “You’re going about it all wrong. All the great Victorian poets, not to mention James Agee, wrote without pants. You’re just wasting your time.”
Perhaps he was right. And now it’s nearly winter, and nobody knows when I don’t eat. I need to find a moisturizer for life and a new perspective on my dining room. I want to live in an Italian atmosphere, but I don’t know who to call. Still, I’m sure I’ll remember his words the next time I find myself sitting on a curb, handcuffed and shivering in the cold, while a detective knocks on the door of my seedy motel room.