The Peculiarities of Feelings
Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick. Time flowed by like the consistency of a mass produced honey substitute, too fast to be the real thing but sweet enough to linger on the palate.
Maria watched the clock hands slowly meander down a translucent plain of existence that dared to categorize time as something that could be observed, noted, controlled. She waited. Waited for results on the final exam she just took, waited for her microwave to “ding” with the familiar tune that would signify that her microwavable pizza snacks were done, waited for love, waited for a lot of things, which was, according to a formerly famous song, the hardest part. We’re all waiting for something, it seemed to her.
She slouched back on a couch that had seen better days, crumbs stuck onto pleather coldness, colors fading away into something that could not be remembered when you tried to picture the room in your mind, and she watched society bombard her. She watched the TV. The TV did not watch back. Images suffocated the frontal cortex and neural pathways until money is shaken out of a wallet or purse and deposited into a temporary dopamine rush that arrives in a small brown box in the post exactly two days later, all thanks to the modern mechanizations of society.
Maria considered herself better than that, but when stress and anxiety copulate, the mind loses track of its own barriers and conspires against what one might consider rational, or self-preservatory, or anything along those lines.
Paint the walls. That’s what Maria wanted to do for awhile. Bland, bland, bland. Beige is bland, everything is bland in beige, the carpet is stained with forgotten memories thanks to ethanol rushing through the bloodstream, but who is counting at this point, just the microwave. She lives here alone, now, anyways, her last boytoy moved out over a disagreement in centrifugal forces relating to but not necessarily congruent with the messages that the TV was still firing off. He had too much stuff. Stuff, stuff, stuff. Collected it. Stacked it. From floor to ceiling he defined his life through fossil fuels molded into consumer goods molded into temporary rushes of enjoyment but permanent losses of green paper rectangles emblazoned with “In God We Trust.” The only God was the stuff. He trusted in that. Maria didn’t trust in him.
Melted processed cheese bubbled with the consistency of artificial slime, layered with salt infused meat products and a doughy exterior that was firm but chewy, the melty explosion of grease and salt and cheese in the mouth was euphoric, a euphemism for orgasmic pleasure, erogenous tongue darting playfully between crumbs and oil. Maria ate them all.
Later that day, she would meet her friend Jake, who would drive his old, rusted car the 7.3183 miles to her house that she rented to own, or some such, contracts can be tricky that way. He arrived, accordingly, about 2 minutes after the pre-selected time - there’s that concept again - like he usually did, which made one wonder if, as the plans these days did indeed take into account that habit, he was really late anymore, and not simply some manner of “on-time.”
Jake is some sort of amorphous blob of a human, undefinable and forgettable in many respects; a bipedal Homo sapiens who looks generic enough that he could star in a commercial for a big corp, you know, the kind that doesn't want to alienate white America with color or equality or anything that causes fearful parents to exercise a few sections of their brain that were cast off over a bad trip 30 years ago in the backseat of their friend's pickup truck, or some other similar location. Location, location, location. That's how it is with all things, really.
“Hey Maria,” he left his shoes on because he stood in the doorway, leaning inwards as if some sort of invisible child gate blocked him from his torso down.
“Hey Jake,” Maria responded, generically, fittingly, that’s how they usually greeted. They had been friends for about six years now, greetings were meaningless niceties they no longer needed to extend to each other, they knew better than attempting to fill the space with empty questions about how each other’s day was. If something was important, it would be shared willingly and listened to willingly. Maria had concluded that that was what friendship truly was.
“You got everything?”
Three hours to the concert. That was the closest major city. Three hours of driving, of rubber and gravel, of random creaks and crunches, of occasional verbal and nonverbal communication.
“So, what did you think of the professor?” That was Jake, referring to a class the two had embarked on in an effort to learn to be more knowledgeable, ostensibly, but in reality it was in pursuit of an $80,000 paper that signified employment availability. As an amorphous blob, Jake could talk without seemingly moving his mouth or turning his head in Maria’s direction, which was good, because driving required utmost attention, would hate to run over a stray squirrel or raccoon or child.
“I think he’s lonely.”
“Hm. You got that impression? I felt a more… nouveau riche angst. Existential crisis, age 50-60. Teaches young people like us to try to cure it.”
“I still think lonely. I think that’s why he talks so much, because now he knows someone is listening.”
Jake quickly swerved the car to avoid a pothole that had been filled with the mud and mire of a decaying civilization.
“You shouldn’t swerve when you go 80, you know,” Maria said, condescendingly. She quickly took off her shoes and stretched her feet out on the dashboard in front of her, light blue socks in contrast to the dark blue 90s interior, no leather, no power windows, no airbags, no CD player, an old car that had seen better days and whose fabric felt cheaper than the rugs one could pick up at a supermarket on discount sales designed solely to ensnare those who felt daily purchases were necessary.
“What about 90?” Jake asked, rhetorically, while simultaneously easing off the gas a bit. The car lurched forward before it began slowing down, as if in protest.
Maria ran a hand through her hair, shook it out, then reclined her seat. She stared up through the sunroof, where the sky was gradually turning royal blue and sunset hues crept upon her view.
The concert was good, exciting, captivating. Music blared from speakers, rattling ear plugs and ear drums, stone faced security in front deaf to the extravagant volume. Maria danced and sang and flirted with random people she bumped into during the in-between time. It was a sensuous experience, concerts, full of hormones and alcohol and drugs and bodies and sounds and the smell of sweat soaked dermis. Maria loved it like she loved the crunching sound dead leaves made underneath her feet, or the taste of the ocean on her lips, or the smell of coffee in the morning, she loved these experiences, these moments, more than the stuff, more than the God, more than whatever other nutrients she subsisted on, because she subsisted on the feelings created with emotional attachments.
They spent the ride home quiet, taking in everything at the concert, contemplating, correlating, processing, understanding that what they experienced was fantastically temporarily addicting and profoundly unprofound in its simplicity, all it was was noise and crowd but they come together so well, to Maria, like chocolate and coffee, or eggs and cheese, or bread and butter, although she considered that last one a bit bland.
“Do you think…” Jake asked, as they pulled into Maria’s driveway, the amorphous blob having actually transfixed his gaze on Maria. As far as amorphous blobs go, he was traditionally handsome, occupying a swimmer’s body and with a wry, cocky crooked smile out of some pulp sci-fi bounty hunter’s arsenal, you know, the one that kids grew up on in the 70s and 80s, but Maria and Jake weren’t that old, so they existed on what they knew.
Maria knew the question, hadn’t been asked it before, but gathered that the time and mood was right, gathered that the question was inevitable, that Jake was still too much a heteronormative guy of average needs and wants. He’d been through the rigor of school and employment, still unaccustomed to failure due to his success in both, unaccustomed to having the opportunity to reach out and touch something he’s never thought about touching as more than caring for as a friend, the seats in the car seemed to groan with embarrassment but he still looked on.
“No,” said Maria, a dash of a smile, a quick brush of Jake’s face, and then she was out, gone from the car, gracefully gliding to her front door, letting herself in, and transmuting to a plane of existence known as sleep, all in about 5 minutes. By then, Jake hadn’t moved, he was still thinking, about life, about the concert, about Maria, about honey substitutes - after all, why were they so bad - about things out of his control that he didn’t understand were out of his control, and so, in the end, he left, he drove away, and also went to sleep.
Maria dreamed of things she couldn’t remember the next day, but the taste of a stranger’s lips nestled in among her subconscious like a comfortable blanket, and so, she moved through time with the rapid sensation of not knowing what would happen next, and yet, to her, that was ok. The clock above her bed ticked blankly, making note of things as they were.