lonliness

Mini Memoir Monday: The wheelbarrow of shame

Wheelbarrow. Photo by sannse.

Photo by sannse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s hard for a chubby girl with a uni-brow and a lisp to make friends. That’s why I created a secret friendship club when I was seven years old. The club was so exclusive and so secretive that I was its only member. As president, secretary and treasurer, it was my responsibility to find a suitable venue for our clandestine meetings. The basement windows of our old house were surrounded by cement dugouts. These damp, shady pits were the perfect place to hide in the summer. I choose a dugout filled with old building supplies: a rickety ladder, a wheelbarrow, some rusty paint cans, and a tarp.

It’s also hard for a chubby girl to get up and down a rickety ladder. Once I got down in the dugout, I stayed there for hours. This was before the days of helicopter parenting, so my parents probably assumed I was out biking with the neighborhood kids, but really I was spending my days squishing the bugs that came out of the cracks in the cements, and resting in my rolled up tarp bed, reading Roald Dahl books. I always made sure to stock the dugout with Arizona ice tea  and girl scout cookies. It was the perfect haven for a girl who didn’t want to get bullied by the neighborhood kids.

The only problem with my secret club was that there was no bathroom in the dugout, and I drank a lot of ice tea. In the beginning, I braved the rickety ladder and made my way indoors for a proper toilet, but this got tiring after awhile, and the ladder was falling apart. The wheelbarrow seemed like the perfect solution. That’s when I started bringing toilet paper with me.

A wheelbarrow filled with wet paper would not have raised any eyebrows. Perhaps I could have gone on peeing in that wheelbarrow for years, but I got lazy and brazen, and started using that wheelbarrow for something much darker and sinister than pee. That’s right: number 2!

By the end of that summer, my dad, who owns a construction company, decided to have his men over to do some repairs on the house. From the depths of my dugout, I heard him tell Jose to fetch the wheelbarrow. Panic set in. I put down my copy of Matilda and eyed the wheelbarrow that was now attracting a cloud of flies. There was only one thing I could do. I pulled the tarp over the evidence, ran up the ladder, and threw it back so that it crashed against the side of the house and finally came apart. There was no way Jose would be able to get down there. I moved to the bench by the front door and took a seat. My feet dangled in the air as I pretended to lazily read my book without a care in the world as Jose  walked by mumbling, “Where did I put that stupid wheelbarrow?”

I felt a rush of relief when he turned the corner. Just as I was about to return to the house  to get a Popsicle, Jose came back, looking excited. “Now I remember!” he said to himself. He jumped down into my dugout without any assistance from the ladder. I had forgotten that he was nearly twice my height.

Next I heard a slew of what I assumed to be Spanish curses. My dad and a few more men came running. “Is everything ok?” he called down to Jose. I pushed through the crowd of men and clung to my dad’s side. Why is it that criminals always return to the crime scene?

Jose ripped the tarp off the wheelbarrow like a magician revealing his next trick. Everyone stumbled back and pinched their noses closed. My dad pushed me behind him, trying to spare me from the terrible sight. Jose heaved the wheelbarrow up to my dad, and my dad pulled it to the surface. There was a mix of English and Spanish curses.

Jose jumped out of the pit and examined the wheelbarrow. “I think you got a homeless person living in your window well,” he suggested, shaking his head in disgust. “You better call the police.”

At mention of the police, I burst out in tears. I had no idea what they were capable of, but I was pretty sure they’d be able to trace the remnants of girl scout cookies back to me. My dad put his hand on my shoulder. “What’s the matter?”

“I don’t want to go to jail,” I cried out.

Masturbation on the subway

A satyr masturbating. Detail of side B of a Gr...

A satyr masturbating. Detail of side B of a Greek column krater showing two satyrs and a maenad in a Dionysiac scene. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night I ran into Masturbating Joe on the subway. That’s my nickname for him because I’ve seen this homeless guy masturbating on the subway three times now. He’s always on a crowded subway, and everyone seems to just let him do his business, as if it would be rude to interrupt him.

I can’t help but think back to my days of student teaching whenever I see Masturbating Joe.

On my very first day, in my very first class I had a student that I will call little Joe. I asked him a question and he proceeded to slide off his stool and began to rub against it. I walked over to him and repeated the question. He kept rubbing against the stool and wouldn’t look at me. “Joe, you need to look at me, I’m asking you a question.”

That’s when my mentor teacher pulled me aside. She explained that Joe had been sexually molested from the time he was a baby until he was five years old. When he gets scared he starts to masturbate because he was so sexually over-sensitized from an early age it’s the only thing that comforts him. After this abuse was discovered he was put into intense counseling, but after 4 years he still wasn’t getting any better.

During the rest of my time student teaching, I really grew to love Joe. He was sweet and sensitive, and eager for my attention. While he never stopped masturbating in class, it was much easier to ignore it.

I think about him often. He would be 14 now. It’s one thing for a nine year old to rub himself against a stool, but another thing for a 14 year old. I wonder if he was ever able to stop the habit. If not, I wonder if he’ll ever be able to have a normal life. Who would employ him? Who would date him? Will he become Masturbating Joe on the subway?

What happened to little Joe was so unfair. He was robbed of a normal life. Once I knew about his history, it was easy to look past his unusual behavior, but I wouldn’t do that for the grown man on the subway.

When does that switch happen? When does someone’s disorder go from being understandable to unacceptable? It’s not like the circumstances that caused the disorder change as someone gets older.

I’m not saying that we should all take a seat next to Masturbating Joe and hold his hand. But I do think that we need to have a little more sympathy for people who do things that disturb us. You never know what caused them to be that way.

I’m a liar

OK just a few posts ago I went on on about the advantages of being alone. How it hightens the senses, builds character, pushes you out of your comfort zone. Well Mother Nature must have read my post and thought to herself, “oh really, Tracy? You love being alone? Alright then I´ll put a hurricane in New York of all places so that your boyfriend won´t be able to meet you on time, and you´ll get lots of extra time alone.”

First off, I hope everyone is safe in New York and New Jersey (yes, I care about New Jersians too) and that there isn´t extreme damage. I know people are getting effected far worse then I am, but this is my blog and if I can´t be self-absorbed here, where can I be? Just when I was starting to think I would go crazy being alone for another day, and the only thing that was cheering me up was thinking I would see Mike soon, I find out that no planes are leaving the northeast coast. I go out to dinner and I´m surrounded by loving couples spoon feeding each other and I just want to smack them. I´m remembering what it was like to be single.

I left Salamanca yesterday and arrived in Madrid around 5. It´s a great city, but I don´t think I´m giving it much of a chance because I´m walking aroung with a cloud over my head. I was supposed to meet Mike Sunday morning and then we would go to San Sebastian together. Since he won´t be arriving until the day we were supposed to leave San Sebastian, I guess that´s off. I could go alone, but I´m tired of doing romantic things alone. Drinking a bottle of wine is romantic when your with your boyfriend, but it´s just sad when you´re by yourself. I want to be angry at someone. It be so much easier to curse someone off, but it´s just nature, and you can´t get angry about that. Or at least it´s pointless. Damn you wind and rain!

That said, at least I learned something about myself. As much as I love traveling, I prefer being with people I love. If a genie said, ¨I´ll give you $10,000 so you can travel around Asia by yourself right now, or I´ll let you have one night to snuggle up watching Dexter with Mike.¨ I think I´d have to take the latter.

Well I´m sure I´ll be in a better mood soon. Sorry for whining.

I´m staying at the Cat´s Hostel which is the quintessential hostel. My room has 14 other people. Everyone´s here to party and get laid. I don´t know where they´re expecting to get laid when there´s only bunk beds and your neighbors are about 6 inches away from you, but perhaps they´re more creative than I am. The hostel is a converted arabic style mansion from the 1800s, so there´s an amazing central area (I´m forgetting my architectural terms) with a fountain and original tile. Right now I´m typing in the dungeon. I assume it´s an old wine cellar but the walls are painted black and there´s a low vaulted ceiling.

Yesterday I went to the Prado. It was amazing to see Las Meninas and Garden of Earthly Delights in person. Also Caravaggio´s The Decension was there on loan. I think it´s really strange how people look at paintings from a distance. I´m always standing as close as possible to see the brush strokes and what colors the artists used, and the different techniques. I´m the person the guard is always yelling at to step away from the painting. But you can´t see all those details in a textbook. In one the paintings of a bunch of saints, one of the saints looked exactly like Robert Downey Jr. It makes me think that he was indeed a Saint, and he sold his soul to the devil to be a famous actor for all of eternity. Think about it, Iron Man would have ruined any thesbian´s career, and yet, he pulled it off somehow. He´s had more comebacks than, well, I don´t know. hmmm.

Well this gave me a story idea, so afterward I went to a cafe and wrote 20 pages of the outline. Yes, I was drinking red wine, yes, the streets were coblestone, and yes, there were people next to me smoking and philosophizing, so I guess I had a pretty European evening.