This One Time, 45

This one time I decided to take a complete vacation from who I was and, you know, left the house. It wasn’t the first time I had done it. I certainly don’t do it often, because it usually ends miserably. But I work at work, and then I go home and work, and in those rare times I pick up hobbies those also kind of turn into work, and sometimes I think that I want that missing hobby to be another person, though, when I’ve done that, that definitely turns out to be work too.

It’s a good thing I don’t really mind work, but sometimes I’m sure there has to be something else to life. I keep hearing about it, and sometimes I catch a glimpse of it on television. But television isn’t real. Those people sitting at a bar by themselves on television are doing it because someone put a check in their hands and told them to look like they belonged there. When I see those people in real life, I see people that are out with friends, which I really don’t have too many of in this city except a couple that seem to be just as busy as me, and I see a couple of people who are desperate to not be home because there’s something at home that makes them so uncomfortable that they want to be elsewhere.

Maybe sometimes I go out just to remind myself that home is, you know, okay. And sometimes it seems as silly as holding your breath to remind yourself that oxygen is kind of cool. But  I do it anyway, every now and then, and I’m really not sure why, at the core. I don’t know what I’m looking for.

I’ve been told that bookstores are great places to meet people, because it helps to have a common interest, and when you go in, there is everyone, milling about but probably not too much, and if you look up at the ceiling or the top edges of the shelves or wherever the signs are, you can see everyone there is conveniently filed by topic of interest. I suppose it works best for people who read. But there are also music stores, or movie stores, or stores that do all three at once. Or hobby stores. Or…. I don’t know. I don’t have a lot of passion where my tastes in entertainment are concerned, and I’m not sure I’d have a lot of patience with someone who did.

Where I do have a lot of passion is in doing whatever I do competently. And I was making a hash of this. As I always do. I don’t like feeling like I’m out of my depth.

So I went to a bookstore. I milled around a bit, more than most people. I visited every section to see if anything would grab my interest. The thing that grabbed me most was a huge art book that was far outside my price range with pictures of a sculpture exhibition, but the pictures didn’t do it justice. Flat pictures of three-dimensional work hardly ever do, but it reminded me that I like to look at sculpture. And that made me wonder why I never visited the museums in this city when I felt I needed to get out of the house. Unfortunately it was too late in the day to go visit any of the museums, but I pulled out my idea notebook and wrote a note reminding myself that I should. And I went to the magazine section to find one that reviewed exhibits, including some of the ones here in the city, and I bought that.

And because I have trouble dealing with cafes of the sort that bookstores have in them, I left to go find one that was a bit more to my liking. And two blocks later, I was sitting down with a latte and my magazine.

The table I got actually had four legs, but it acted like maybe it had only three. I sloshed a bit of my latte into my saucer and onto the table, dousing the napkin I’d brought with me. As the coffee spread into the napkin, I idly tore off the damp part while I flipped through the magazine. The wadded dampness pretty quickly reverted to a pulpy mess in pretty much the way you hope most napkins won’t if you’re going to trust them to do their job, and while I read I found myself squeezing out the extra moisture and using the rest of the napkin to soak up the squeezings and to dry my fingertips between page-turns.

I was about half done with the magazine when I actually looked at the mess I was making. Without even looking, I had rolled it out, stood it on end and squashed it down. With my thumbnail I’d tugged some of the pulp away from the main body and formed two legs sticking out straight in front of it, even formed tiny upturned feet. Setting the magazine aside, I teased out two largely still-intact corners to make into arms that reached down to the table and twirled them until they were slender, spreading out the very ends to make tiny hands. With a little bit more work I made a reasonably realistic head.

Using a disk torn from the dry remnant, I made a wide-brimmed sun hat, and more scraps made a tiny pinafore that I wrapped around the little thing, dabbing a finger in more latte to tack it closed behind her back. And then it was pretty obviously done. And I sat there in shock.

But that was nothing compared to the shock of when I looked around to see if anyone had watched me do this thing, when I saw in a corner of the shop a small play area, with children’s books and loose toys, where sat a little girl, with latte-colored skin, in a white pinafore, sitting in much the same position. The only difference was the sun hat.

I wasn’t even sure this little cafe had a play area before now, and I usually only notice children when they’re being a nuisance, or, occasionally, a charming nuisance. And here I had created, in nearly complete ignorance, a tiny replica. Only because of the order in which I had noticed things, it seemed that I had created the real one by making the tiny model first. I knew that that was impossible, but I was dumbfounded regardless. I felt shattered, dislocated.

I got up and got a to-go box of the sort they give you when you take out pastries and cupcakes. I teased the little mannequin off the table, not too difficult as it was mostly dry now, and put her gently in the box, collecting also her fallen hat and the pinafore that had come open at the back. And I grabbed a small stack of the napkins, maybe ten or so, just in case it would be harder to replicate the trick with paper of higher quality.

And since then I have made little sculptures of maybe a hundred things that I would love to actually have exist. Just in case the magic ever happens again.


February 14, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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