Chasing Cars

When Jen needed a good cry she listened to the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack, particularly the first few seasons. There were so many songs that helped Jen excavate her tears, which were always buried deep underneath layers of smiles and loveliness. Of course she didn’t admit this to anyone because what kind of a freak needs to listen to Grey’s Anatomy songs in order to cry?

Recently Jen had been going to a nearby park where she would sit on a bench, preferably one under a tree and listen to one of three Cry Playlists on her phone. She would sob for a few minutes or longer depending on how she felt. One day a pimply-faced teenage boy asked her if she was okay and she answered:

“Ya, I’m good, just letting out some toxic shit you know? Thx for asking.” Though Jen didn’t normally swear, saying “toxic shit” was her way of showing respect to the young man who cared enough to check on her.

Jen wondered why she had such a difficult time crying. She asked her therapist about it and Dr. Kesselman told her maybe it had something to do with Jen feeling like she always had to keep it all together. Or, that Jen was sub-consciously worried that if she started crying she might never stop. But Dr. Kesselman approved of Jen’s Grey’s Anatomy technique, telling her it was a creative solution.

This morning, under a pink tree – crab apple? cherry? – Jen listened to the most recognizable Grey’s Anatomy song, “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol. It had played during the scene when Denny Duquette died and Izzie Stevens, who was dressed in a prom dress, wouldn’t let him be taken to the morgue. She was lying with him on the hospital bed until Alex lifted her up and took her away.

Oh God what a scene.

Izzie loved Denny so much, they were soulmates. Jen wanted that kind of love. And she didn’t care if most people with Bachelor Degrees thought the idea of soulmates was like believing in crystal healing. Jen had a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and she knew soulmates existed.

Though Jen did not currently have a soulmate, she did have a mate. Jen likened the difference between soulmates and regular mates to the difference between a good lasagna and a poorly made one. A well-made lasagna was hearty, sometimes even a little bit heavy. But, if the lasagna was too light and the tomato sauce seeped out in huge puddles on your plate, well, that was a regular mate.

Jen’s regular mate was Jim. He taught political theory at a local college and he was an avid long-distance bike rider. Every Wednesday night Jim made dinner, each time focusing on a different cuisine and always writing the dish on the kitchen chalkboard. Last week’s dinner had been Authentic New Orleans Creole Gumbo. Jim was a decent enough cook, but no matter how tasty the dishes were the dinners were inevitably ruined by Jim pontificating about the history of the dish he’d prepared, the city or country it originated from and their people.

Last month, when Jim cooked a lamb dish from Western Africa and started talking about the incredible beauty of its local markets, Jen had seriously thought about leaving him on the spot. Like just getting up from the table, taking her phone, laptop and charger and leaving the house forever. What the hell did Jim know about beautiful markets in Western Africa? Pontification should be added to the List of Seven Deadly Sins, Jen would need to write the Pope.

Today’s crying session lasted 7.5 minutes. When Jen arrived home she applied a warm washcloth to her eyes to help them de-puff, then ate cinnamon raisin toast for breakfast. She always took out the raisins first, tossing them in the backyard for the squirrels and birds to eat.

A brief stint of makeup applying and Jen was off to the children’s non-profit where she worked. It was only a ten minute bus ride and she usually spent it reading while secretly checking out the men who boarded. Maybe her soulmate rode the same bus as her and they just hadn’t met yet.

But instead of her soulmate she got Gina Trochanter, one of her work mates, who out of nowhere was suddenly standing next to her. Wearing a lavender raincoat and matching rain boots, Gina was inexplicably dressed for a storm, though there was not a cloud in the sky. Gina spoke in a loud, bold voice except when she was gossiping. When gossiping she whispered sideways into your ear, so that half the words just swooshed by.

Gina had a long list of bad, ineffective ideas which she planned on bringing up at their Back To School project meeting. Today they were brainstorming strategies to get school supplies and clothing donated. The families in the community they served could barely pay their bills, let alone buy new backpacks and sneakers for their children.

When the meetings were particularly suffocating, with everyone jockeying for their boss’s attention, Jen’s work friend Beatrice would pour a little Bailey’s in Jen’s coffee to take the edge off. Beatrice was one of those super cool girls who could pull off paper-bag waist pants, cowboy mules and a mullet and look like she just walked off a Paris runway. Jen was nowhere near as cool, but over the years she had developed a style that suited her: one part something floral and one part something plain black – so as not to look like a walking garden. Today she wore a black pencil skirt with a floral blouse she had found in a thrift store for $5. Jim was vehemently against Jen buying anything secondhand, he worried she would bring bugs into the house. Jen thought he was insane, so she lied whenever she bought something used.

After work Jen usually went straight home so she could have a little time to herself before Jim arrived. Tonight they were having pizza. Every Tuesday night they ordered pizza and every Tuesday morning Jim wrote it on the kitchen chalkboard: “take-out Pizza night.” But tonight Jen wanted something different, she just didn’t know what. She felt this weird tingling, almost tickling sensation all around the edges of her body. As if someone had traced the outline of her with one of those feather cat toys. Though she liked the feeling, she also wondered if it was perhaps some weird form of neuropathy.

Jen decided to try a local bar that she had walked by a million times. It looked straight out of the 1940’s and appropriately enough was called Bogart’s. Usually she would feel self-conscious going to a bar alone, but today she didn’t. She sat at the bar instead of a table and when the 60-something year old bartender asked her what she wanted she found herself saying:

“A Whisky Sour please.” Jen had never had a Whiskey Sour before and had no idea what the sour part was. Lemon? Lime? But it sounded like the right kind of drink to order in a bar like this, on a night like this, when her body was electrified.

“Thank you,” said Jen to the bartender. “It’s my first time here, I wanted to try something different.”

“Here’s looking at you kid,” he said as he clinked his glass with hers. Jen smiled at the Bogart reference.

The drink was delicious and for an instant she felt cool, like Beatrice. Beatrice would order a Whiskey Sour. Beatrice would never order a Pinot Grigio which is what Jen usually drank when she was out. Jen swore to never ever order another Pinot Grigio. There was no way she would find her soulmate and the life she craved if she was drinking Pinot Grigio.

Finding a soulmate would involve taking chances and living boldly, or at least boldly-ish and tonight was Jen’s first step: instead of being home reading the new Sue Grafton novel and eating goldfish, she was at a bar by herself, with her electrified, possibly neuropathy-laden body. Ready. Ready for it all.

E is for Ethel

“Would you like to try a sample?  It’s our newest praline, coconut & chocolate coated, they’re just delicious!”  A very large woman wearing a pink felt hat – in June! – graciously accepted a sample.  Ethel smiled at her and then moved along, pausing to take a sip of orange Gatorade to keep her energy up.  She kept a small bottle in her apron pocket, though technically speaking it was more of a Gatorade Cocktail.  The vodka allowed Ethel to sail through her day and not be bothered by the loud tourists, the sticky fingered kids and the rich ladies who looked down on Ethel, even as they picked out the chocolates that they would later binge on.

“Ethel – it’s time for your break!” shouted her Manager, Mary-Jo.  Mary-Jo believed in crystals, colour therapy and past lives.  She dressed in purple because it was her “power colour,” “I’m a Goddess Warrior when I wear purple!” she was fond of saying.  She also wore huge cuff bracelets – Wonder Woman style – several ornate rings and dangly amethyst earrings.  “Ethel -” she lightly touched Ethel’s arm, “we need to get you dressing in your power colour – turquoise.  Your life will manifest ten times its beauty once you start honouring your inner Goddess!”  Ethel had absolutely no idea what Mary-Jo was talking about.  She continued on into the break room and opened the fridge to get her lunch.  Ethel ate the same thing everyday – carrot sticks and a tuna sandwich.  She figured this healthy eating cancelled out her daily vodka intake.

Ethel slipped off her Easy Spirit loafers and took a bite of her sandwich.  She looked forward to finishing her shift and getting home.  On Wednesday nights her friend Marg always came over.  They would order Chinese food and drink a couple bottles of wine, sometimes three.  Marg was twice divorced and lived with seven cats.  Ethel couldn’t stand the smell of Marg’s apartment so Marg always came to Ethel’s place.  They had met each other years ago at an AA meeting and had remained close friends.

As Ethel munched on her carrots and read a magazine article about celebrity dogs, a large crystal suddenly appeared in front of her on the table.  “Ethel, I bought you this sacred, healing crystal to help you start out on your journey of transformation.”  Mary-Jo was looking at her intently, like one of those zealots who were always handing out pamphlets.  “Christ on a Crutch!” thought Ethel.  Just then, Julie, a part-time worker, buzzed the intercom: “Mary-Jo, I need your help out here, I’ve got a line-up.” “Find your power Ethel!” said Mary-Jo as she raced out – Goddess Warrior style – to help Julie.  Ethel finished her sandwich and carrots, then stretched out on the old, white leather couch to take a ten minute nap.  She left the crystal on the table, next to the roll of paper towels and packets of sugar and salt.  “I’ve got my own damn power, thank you very much,” she said to herself as she dozed off.