Natural chronological processes
My dear friend Sedentary O’Meara of the Bangor Dreadful News, who like myself is a former newspaper hack and now merely a weekly scribbler, roundly criticized my column on the foundation of social justice, last week. He did not take issue with my arguments from history and theology about whether America ever was a Christian nation, but he was deeply irritated that I mentioned neither the concrete towers where I live at the foot of Mechanic Street, nor the Four Seagulls of the Apocalypse which share my solitary habitation. In the end I had to buy him dinner on Saturday just to shut him up, and does he take some shutting up, but at least he will be unable to level the same complaint at me this week.
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Since I moved up here to the west tower two years ago, I have noticed that certain ordinary social niceties have begun to slip from my grasp. Things are falling quietly apart. As an example, presently I have one pair of trousers and one reasonably respectable corduroy jacket that are slowly becoming old clothes, not just as a result of natural chronological processes but because I cannot be bothered to sew buttons back on them. It’s not that I have anything against sewing buttons, and in fact I know where both missing buttons are, I just find I can no longer be bothered. My threadbare but otherwise warm winter peacoat has three pockets that resemble shreds of spaghetti, to the extent that nothing is safe in them anymore. Can I fix them? Who knows and who cares? Not me, apparently. It gets worse. I find that even when I have waited until the last minute to take my derelict laundry up to the kind ladies on Park Street, I can never remember to pick it up again when it is ready. Often a week goes by before I remember that I have clean clothes in fairly good condition somewhere about town, and meanwhile I end up wearing an extraordinarily unacceptable collection of really old and broken-down clothing, some apparently retrieved for me by the wretched Seagulls from ancient shipwrecks in Penobscot Bay, and all the while hoping I still look fairly normal from a distance.
It’s not just my appearance that is going all to pieces, but other things are falling apart too. For example, I continue to find an increasing number of typos showing up in this column, glaringly stupid errors which obviously I cannot be bothered to track down and fix. And like my pockets, my social skills are also coming apart at the seams. I find I can’t even have a decent conversation with anyone unless I have known them for 10 years, and the consequence of this ineptness is that I never meet anybody new. Not that I would know what to do with them if I did.
Not only all that, but my domestic arrangements are becoming increasingly decrepit too. As a case in point, I can’t even bother to deal with the leaves up here on the roof of the north tower. Leaves, I hear you say? Yes, leaves. Those bloody Seagulls drop leaves up here all autumn long, just to taunt me I think, but perhaps (more kindly?) to provoke me into some sort of vague physical activity, such as actually doing something about them. Maybe they care that much. By Christmas the roof up here is covered with leaf litter, a sort of shivering brown mess which quickly freezes to the asphalt and lies there as a sort of psychological condemnation to me all winter long. Mind you, I do use many of them as insulation, in my socks, my undershirt, my bed clothes, and frequently for kindling fires or wrapping sausages, etc. But there are more than I can get rid of. Eventually I do tackle the problem, although only when I am completely sick of them. I even have a method. Once each summer an old man visits me, a strange fellow who I tricked, using sweet lies, a story about the Warren Sewer District, and a fake English accent, into hiring me for a reporter at The Courier-Gazette in 1989, the same day some damn young fool shot a Rockland policeman (or was it two? — how memory fails) near South School. The policeman lived. Using a frayed rope made of rusty lobster line spliced with old McDonalds or Burger King drinking straws for strength, we haul the old guy’s ride-on lawnmower up the shortest side of the concrete tower, and when he recovers from the effort about an hour later he mows the jellified leaves to dust for the cost of 14 beautiful American dollars and a cup of tea made from a salvaged tea bag, also provided by the Seagulls. In good times, so few, I might have about me spot of something a wee bit stronger to fortify his tea with. He is easily pleased. Once he’s done mowing, the leaf dust blows away on the balmy breeze that visits the South End for seven hours each July, and presumably it lands on some long-suffering neighbor’s property. Nothing grows up here.
David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by climbing up the shortest side of the east tower.