My life is monotonous at best. I imagine my routine as a tiny accountant dressed in gray, following behind me reciting the same numbers in a pattern: 17, 19, 25, 29, 36. His ill-fitting suit clings to his chubby torso, round with too many Hostess cupcakes. That tiny accountant is a reminder of a life I am not brave enough to live. I blame my monotony on the fact that I hate the taste of coffee.
Cameron Crowe released the movie Singles in 1992, a romantic comedy about twenty-somethings living in Seattle, wearing Doc Marten 8 eyed boots, flannel shirts, and all the while drinking ample amounts of coffee. This is the life I wanted. A life where my friends and I sat around discussing things like evolution and politics while people buzzed about us, oblivious to just how astute we really were. At the time Starbucks either did not exist in its current form or was just not available in Paducah, but our mall did have a Tennessee Coffee Company, and Kara and I set out to become part of the cool kids. We had plans to sit around and drink a latte while discussing evolution and the Scopes monkey trial. (I live in some weird world where people who are smarter and cooler than me discuss nothing but evolution and Elvis Costello. I have no idea why.) We ordered our lattes and carried the steaming cups to our table. We were ready to drink and be cool. After the first sip our eyes locked and we silently had a conversation.
“This is the taste of hell.”
“It is like drinking hot dirt.”
“Let’s leave and just dump it.”
“You go first.”
We left the shop and quickly dumped our coffee out of sight of the barista. I could not wipe the taste of burnt dirt off my tongue fast enough. I also could not wipe away my shame. I knew that I wasn’t going to a normal four year college. While my friends had been picking out colleges, I was shoving wads of toilet paper into my bra to keep breast milk from leaking on my shirt in Social Studies. I questioned my intelligence, and my drive was sex related only. If given a choice between planning for my future and being in the midst of an orgasm, I would pick the orgasm every damn time. However, this choice may have led to a life of financial difficulty and mediocrity. If I couldn’t be the cool person drinking coffee, who was I going to be? From what I could tell I had no discernible talents. I can’t sing, dance, draw, or sculpt. I liked to write, but bad poetry about sex and chubby fingers adorned with gold did not seem to be the thing that would make my mark. My fear was, and is, that I have no mark to make.
Kara and I went with Kiaya to New York on her senior trip. It was a trip meant to be taken by Kara, Kiaya, and Mom. I was on my mom’s trip. Her bucket list all rolled into a five day adventure. We buried her just a couple of days before we left and Kara and I started every conversation with, “You know our Mom just died.” The flight attendants would just give us weird looks and ask if we wanted a soda. We needed to explain to the world that our mother all but demanded we take the trip before she died – we were not callous and just taking a quick vacation. I would love to think that Mom had some sort of grand plan, that this trip would forever bind Kara and me together and help us to deal with a devastating loss. It did bind us together, but the real truth is that Mom was incredibly thrifty (i.e. cheap) and even death would not let her waste the money she had paid on the trip. New York was many things for me. It was both an exhausting and exhilarating trip: I got to ride a subway and see the Statue of Liberty. I watched a woman with exposed nipples stand next to a bodega, her strange breasts vulnerable like it was normal and not a scene out of National Geographic. I loved being in a city that was always busy. This fantastic busy city also made me aware that I had not lived up to my potential. There was no reason that I couldn’t have lived in a tiny apartment in a borough of New York or any other city for that matter. I am smart and dedicated and now it was time to apply those attributes. When we returned home, reality smacked us in the face and we each settled into a nice long depression. With the guidance of two friends and $50 from another, I registered for school and started the long voyage to a master’s degree. At age 36 I (finally) picked the future of my family over the orgasm.
For 37 years I have lived my life with no direction and a great deal of self-doubt. I started back to college to prove to myself that I am smart and can be focused. The outcome has been overall positive and I am glad that my friends helped me to make that jump. If not for being an “adult learner,” I wouldn’t have met a teacher who gave me such positive feedback it made me think that writing isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility. I owe him an apology because I publically mocked his pleated trousers. Each post feels like a little victory, but the self-doubt lingers and eats at me.
The little man is behind me as I write this essay. He repeats the numbers and walks with quick steps. I know he is there, following behind me. His presence the constant reminder that my life may be too monotonous to be of interest to anyone but me. He whispers in my ear that soon I will run out of things to say. He whispers that the only people interested in me are those that know me and I will never have readers on a larger scale. He whispers what a waste of time this is for me. He whispers, “17, 19, 25, 29, 36.”