As I take a seat on my usual park bench, my mind is empty. I hate not knowing what to think about. Because of this, I have prepared some set conversations for me, myself, and I to talk about. First on the list: umm… Twinkle lights. Let's see, I hate the little ones except on Christmas trees but the big ball like ones are great. Great. Just great. I’m spending my time thinking about damn twinkle lights.
Anyways, new category: pens. Pens are consistently great. I mean banks have to put freakin chains on them just to keep people from walking off with ‘em. And those aren’t even high quality! The main use of pens is writing and I don’t like writing much myself but I do love to watch people write. The way their pen moves can be so soothing. Since pencils break both easily and unexpectedly, I prefer pens. I really like watching people write at the park. There’s this one girl, who sits by this huge birch tree in the park, and writes long, loopy, words in her notebook. Right now I’m sitting across from her and staring at her shoes, red Converse with bright white laces. Better stop staring, since that’s probably really creepy.
Watching her work, I become hungry and dig into my hard starch white companion aka my grandfather’s old suitcase that he bought after his original was stolen in a Cuban airport. It smells like an antique store and I love it! Once inside, I pull out a small cigar box, with a twinkie and a 2’ inch brass pepper mill that I filled with chocolate shavings and miniature malt balls, inside. I like to grind chocolate onto Hostess products. It gives me the illusion of eating real food. Distracted by my discombobulated sponge cake, I see Jane Doe, my name for park girl, leave out of the corner of my eye. She’s leaving early. Weird, she usually heads towards the train station around 17 o'clock but right now it’s 16:15. I watch as she walks out of this chunk of concrete without buildings and into the 7-Eleven across the street. The homeless crowd who usually reside next to the entrance is oddly absent.
After the bus ride home, I decided to put a load of shirts in the wash. I have about 6 that I wear regularly, the other 28 of them live in a cardboard box in my room. Instead of using the coffee maker in my room, I chose to boil the water and use coffee crystals. I will now make the foolish decision of swallowing piping hot black coffee and forcing myself to go to bed. Smart. I sleep in a bobble hat. Also smart. Good to know that you’re inviting epic bed head.
It takes me about 3 hours to fall asleep and 1 hour of pushing the snooze button for me to wake. I finally emerge from my cozy comforter at 6:13. I fold my shirts that have become adequately wrinkly and place two in my suitcase next to the umbrella made out of gears that’s the size of my hand. Today, I am skipping breakfast; lunch is still up in the air though. I think today I’m going to do nothing productive and feel bad about it later. Sounds like a plan. Now, to decide the destination. Downtown. Duh.
I catch the 7:15 bus and get off at First and Bond, 6 blocks before my normal stop because a train of 7 people are boarding and I do not need that. Since I’m walking by this neat little art store, I decided to pop in and look around. Behind the counter is a 20ish man moving his fingers so fast I can think that he can be doing nothing but texting someone of importance. I like to walk around in here and usually buy some random crap that I use for like two days and then never see again. Someday I expect to find a bin full of hundreds of dollars worth of graph paper, notebooks, pens, spirographs, beads, yarn, needles, wax makers (this one I actually get some use out of. I love candles, I’m only human after all.), and collage making stuff.
When I walk by aisle three, a sale on calligraphy pens catches my eye. A purple pen with a rotating tip is on sale for seven dollars. Sure, let’s get it. Welcome, future bin full of art supplies occupant. I disturb the man at the counter by placing my item down. He seemed to have not even noticed my entree and jumps with a start due to the sound of the pen hitting the counter. He puts down his phone and finally attends to his customer.
“Find everything alright?” He’s staring at his phone. Boy, do I love attentive cashiers!
“Yes.” I was in here for two minutes. How much difficulty could I possibly have had?
“Good,” man can’t even fake a smile, how’s he still working here? “That’ll be $7.56.”
Crap. Sales tax. I always forget about that. I pull out a 10 and hand it to him. He gives me back the two dollars and forty-four cents and I leave.
After the art store I walk around doing nothing for about three hours until I get really bored and by then it’s about 11. As my boredom has peaked, I look into my suitcase. I’m one of those freaks who carries a bunch of crap that they don’t need just because they like it, so there's a ton of crap in here. On the lesser side of useless is a Chipotle gift card.
“Hello, lunch money.”
Looks like I’m eating veggie tacos. I walk over to the Chipotle about 2 blocks down and order. At the checkout stand, I decide to get a 10 dollar gift card for Jane Doe. I think I’ve formed a plan. Boredom does force the mind to wonder. I plan to leave gifts and letters for park girl and gauge her reactions; if she responds horribly, I’ll just stop. Or never go back to the park for a fear of awkwardness but eh. This is gonna be fun.
I head down to the park at 16:30. She usually gets there at around 4:45. I’ve decided that I’ll start small, give her the gift card, calligraphy pen, and a small thing of Oreos. I place the items on a low tree branch and tie a bow around them, leaving a tail so she’ll be sure to see it. I grab a book out of my suitcase so it won’t look like I’m just staring out into nothingness. Ready. Now we wait.
What feels like two hours finally passes and I see her walk down the path towards me. She’s wearing different shoes today. They’re light brown Uggs with a fluffy trim. A bit basic, but hey, what do I know? Stop. Do something. You’re being weird. My hand rushes down for my book and it falls to the ground. I quickly pick up the collection of parchment and begin reading. Starting with page 27, as you do. Turns out I grabbed The Boxcar Children. Should be good but I haven’t read it since second grade. Idiot. You grabbed a little kids book. She’ll think that you’re stupid or something.
I breathe in deeply. It doesn’t matter. She doesn’t even know your name. Good thing too. Hel isn’t the most inviting name. Thanks, mom, and dad! What? Were Shi and Cra already taken? Mom says that hel meant to conceal or cover up in Norse. Glad to know she took a class on Norse Mythology in college.
Ok. Jane Doe sees the string and pulls on it. Crap. My small package falls on her head and breaks apart. She says something that I can’t quite make out. She gathers up my disaster of an offer. Damn. I should have given her some milk. Who gives people Oreos without milk. What kind of bastard am I!?! She seems weirded out but oddly enough she eats the Oreos. That’s good. This is good. I will take this. She’s slightly disgusted but still compliant. Tomorrow I’ll leave a note.
The rest of the day went as days usually do; with Jane sketching out words in her notebook, even using her new purple calligraphy pen, and me sitting and fiddling around. We both left at our normal times and went in our normal directions. I spent my bus ride looking out of the window and contemplating what to put in tomorrow's letter.
Once home, I eat half a can of refried beans with sour cream and cheese melted over it for dinner. When I head to my bedroom, I find a letter on my door from my mom. It reads:
I’m sorry thAt youR fathEr and I haven’t been around much lately. Dad’s on a business trip. Sorry for the lack of notice but ? f??g?? ?? ?????????????????? ???????? ????. AS ????????? ?????? ?????????? ???????????????????? ?’?? ????????????? ?p??u??t??t??i??n??g? [??i][??n] long days as of late. I hope that you’ve been doing well. I saw you were running low on supplies so I left you a package. Take care!
My parents’ and I always write to each other in newspaper clippings, It’s a lot more fun that way. Another thing my parents do, that I have mixed feelings about, is work insane hours and go out of town all the time. This means I can come and go from the house as I please. As a result, the house gets really messy. I miss my parents occasionally, but when we’re together all we really do is go see movies. An activity that's famously known for its lack of socializing.
As for Mom’s care package, inside I find a jumbo pack of napkins, a ton of premium chocolates, this super cozy blanket, a $50 gift card to Barnes & Noble, a $100 gift card to Kroger, and a 6-pack of Sprite. Thanks, mom! I guess I’ll give Jane a soda with my note.
I go to bed after indulging in some chocolate and bury myself deep in my new blanket. The hot and limited air supply makes breathing a pain. But I manage to pass out anyways.
The next day, after suffering over the pain of getting out of bed and waiting for 10 hours, I place the gifts in the tree. Today’s selection includes a little sugar skull and a Sprite. No letter because that involves courage and pffft. You think I can spare that crap. The package was well received and Jane leaves a thank you note reading:
Thanks for the pen and food!
I think that I know who you are…
“Jessie! Her names Jessie! We’re making progress.” I yell out in excitement. Probably not the best move given it’s a warm and sunny day in late autumn, not a very common sight here, and families are walking through the area giving me confused looks but at the moment I don’t give a s***. I just focus on the cool sweet smelling breeze blowing gently through my long hair and make my exit.
I continue to leave gifts for Jessie, receiving the occasional thank you note, for about a week and a half now. It’s all my days seem to consist of. Wake up. Go downtown. Wait. Wait. Wait for what feels like forever. No. Forever barely scratches the surface of how long it feels like I wait each day until finally, plant the daily gift. Watch. Smile. Go home. Sleep. And repeat. I’ve started waking up later and going to sleep earlier in a desperate attempt to cut down wait time but it’s still just as painful.
I wake up at 8:45. I eat a piece of toast for breakfast. I take the bus downtown. Go to Target. Buy a notebook, $50 Olive Garden gift card, 2 boxes of Tim Tams, and a 12oz bottle of milk. I wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. I walk to the park. I place my offering in the tree. I grab a twig and pocket knife. I wait. Jessie appears. She sits. She grabs her gifts, opening the notebook. She writes. She puts it back. She leaves early. My heart beats at a fast pace. It continues to beat. I wait for two minutes to pass. I walk to the birch tree. I grab the rejected present. I wait a minute. Beat. I open the notebook frantically, knocking off the disregarded card, cookies, and milk. The milk’s lid pops off and the cold liquid seeps into the dirt and gravel. Beat. I stare at the first page. Beat. The pencil marks read:
Who the hell are you?
Don’t answer that. Stop giving me s***.
Don’t expect to ever see me here again!
I grab my “s***” and leave.
First bus home. That’s the one I’ll take. A bus doesn’t come for 20 minutes. Great. Just great. I wait. I breathe in and out and wait. And the bus comes shortly. And I don’t get off at my stop. I breathe and I ride. I ride for an hour. I ride until the sky turns from light blue to dark blue and then from dark blue to bluish black. I get off. I take a breath and the smell of metal intoxicates my senses. The bus stopped on a bridge that I never knew existed in a part of the city that I’ve never seen before. I look out at the wave’s bumping into each other soothingly. Then I look up. I see the city with all its lights twinkling peacefully. The wave’s soothing crashes mixing with the bustle and flow of cars and their bright lights. I hear my breathing keeping time with my heart. I sit on the cold steel side of the bridge. I’m getting shivers but at this point, I don’t care.