Athletes are lucky. They train and they practice, but when it comes to the game--- there are referees, there are coaches; you're not responsible for bad decisions; your coach is. But when you make the touchdown, it is yours. And your attitude--- like that guy Sherman who finished off the interception-- and saved the game for his team, just like that--- he had to throw it in the face of his opponent, who was in the exact opposite position of having lost all for his team. All or nothing. But the referees-- the announcers-- the analysts-- you are praised or penalized for sportsmanship, the way no one does this in our lives. They are lucky, these guys. They know if they have won or lost. And they get paid, whichever side they are on. For the players, all bets are on.
My friend's wife has an eating disorder. I have tried and tried to figure out her thinking. I have thought--if we could only vomit up the bad years… and leave the good. And there is so much regurgitated time… so many of us back it endlessly through some kind of wringer--exploit it, publicize it-- until all the truth has been squeezed out. Or these girls…with their eating disorders… maybe it is the excess… we all get too much of what we don't need and not enough of what we do. We are stuffed and starving. Personally I'm not sure what I need. I'm so obsessed with proving why I don't need anything these days, I've become a reverse-hoarder-- an emotional minimalist.
My older sister still has her 40-year-old wedding gifts in boxes (both weddings, actually, even though one is unmentionable). What is the meaning of this-- that she can hoard fresh new love away until she needs it? That it will stay wrapped in the box? When we were small, she stashed hundreds of packs of M&Ms under her mattress… every single day I shared mine--- and when I saw the layers and layers--- it was astonishing. Like a bank-heist. I wonder what happened to all of them-- all the things we don't need-- in a massive pile, all our old memories sewn into a football-field-sized patchwork quilt.
I've figured out what bothers me about that woman Martha… the Roman Catholic kleptomaniac bag lady. Maybe like a distorted mirror in a Flemish Painting, she is the hideous image of what I can become if I keep on this path of fierce independence, of refusing to 'need' things. They say kleptomaniacs don't really need what they take (not so for thieves). She can't possibly need all those paper towels unless she is burning them for fuel. The grocer maybe just lets her get away with her petty pilferings of biscuit rolls and tinned meat. Take them… go ahead. If I was the check-out girl
I would look her straight in the eye, I would look at her with the eyes of a judge.
But tonight I watched her from behind a locker door, stuffing things in bags…bags for socks, for sneakers… for the stolen toilet tissue and kleenex and paper towels…for the hand towels…. for the bags she tears off rolls, the super-sized lotion dispensers she somehow makes off with... bags of bags of bags. I watch her with disdain and antipathy that shames me. It's Sunday; I'm not supposed to have uncharitable thoughts. Today my unequivocal attitude seemed to nearly dare her to speak to me. I would have replied I was in a non-verbal mood. The Patriots had lost, after all (I hate the Patriots); and she would surely have walked over and in the most time-consuming way possible explained how she doesn't care about sports, and I would have had to say 'who's speaking of sports?' and she would have had to think about the Fathers of our Country, etc.
What possible reason does this woman have for belonging to a gym? Because nowhere else will allow her daily access from morning until night including facilities and showers and opportunities for human conversation? For her it is a sort of group home? Why is everyone else able to ignore her?
There is a young guitar player that likes me. He claims he can see my soul and he tells me that he loves me. I feel pain when I think about him--- the kind of pain I associate with love…but I can't oblige him because I know one day he'll look at me and see Martha. Her hair is the color of an elephant, and her skin is like an old shoe. Maybe I am the only one who sees her--- like a reverse Wim Wenders angel, she hovers-- my own personal gargoyle-- and a bleakly terrifying version of my own future.
But I want the Wim Wenders version of angel. I want him to have the beautiful liquid eyes of Bruno Ganz and the intelligence of a philosopher. I want him to understand me without words, the way the guitar player does not. And I want the future-mirror to reflect a gracefully aging woman who still writes poetry and plays cello with finesse. I want a personal referee to tell me it's okay I haven't won, and that my bandmate's behavior was abominable and not that I am necessarily right, but that I am not wrong, and Martha is not my problem, and it is okay that she steals from other's lockers because she needs these things, or maybe because she doesn't need these things. And despite the existence of extreme greed and extreme want in this world, there are hoarders of gold and hoarders of garbage, the over-fed and the starving--- we are all consuming time in precise unison-- no more, no less-- and the four quarters of our 'game' will be scoreless or filled with touchdowns, wins, losses, injury, bench time, disputes and joy.
Many years ago I bought a Seahawks pillowcase for my son who loved sports. He was about 7, and he looked at me like I was some kind of moron. So it was only 99 cents, and I liked the color---what did I know about football? I looked for it in the back of the closet tonight. He's all grown up and is now a Seattle fan….and is lucky enough to be going to the actual Superbowl game. So maybe I'll leave it in my locker tomorrow for Martha.