The first installment. I had the title Observing Normal, which seems odd now considering our COVID19 not normal. Leaving it as is for the moment. The story follows a man at the center of celebrity and obsession, dropping out of his life and creating his own obsessively observed narrative about what he believes is normal only to find himself blindsided, caught up in a far from normal world of assassination. A few of you may have read some iteration of this a few years ago. Also heartfelt apologies if it is crap, or still crap. Here it is:
Observing Normal – Intro
“Don’t try to comprehend with your mind. Your minds are very limited. Use your intuition.” Madeline L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
If she thought about it, which she absolutely does when needed, she imagines with an ever-present burdened relief, that each of her days appears about the same. Her hair style, clothing, skin coloring, weight, might differ day-to-day and season-to-season, but most of the movements and patterns repeat themselves almost identically every day.
5:30 a.m. wake up, glance at phone, go to the bathroom
5:35 a.m. turn electric kettle on, place favorite mug (solid sturdy white, old timey diner small) next to kettle, drink full glass of water
5:37 a.m. take off pj’s, put bra on from previous day, yoga pants, clean t-shirt and socks, walking shoes
5:40 a.m. walk the dog
6:15 a.m. return home, fill dog’s dish and water
6:17 a.m. turn stovetop on, add coconut oil to pan, grab eggs, bread, salsa, half and half and cold brew concentrate from refrigerator
6:18 a.m. cut hole in center of bread, place bread into pan, crack 1 egg onto bread (yolk intact), drink full glass of water
6:20 a.m. flip eggy toast, turn stovetop off, pour 1.5 oz of concentrate and dollop of half and half into coffee mug
6:22 a.m. slide eggy toast onto plate, stir coffee with fork, lick fork, use fork to add salsa to eggy toast, return unused items to refrigerator
6:24 a.m. place plate with eggy toast and fork on top of refilled glass of water and pick up with left hand. Pick up coffee cup and vitamins in right hand, turn off kitchen light by striking the switch with the bottom of the coffee mug
6:25 a.m. sit down at dining room table for blissfully solitary breakfast, bring up BBC news app, and eat
7 a.m. awaken sleeping family
Moving in a deliberate dance with her environment; to the left, right, forwards, backwards, holding the pan with a hand-crocheted washcloth to protect herself from the heat, bending and reaching, concentrating and stealing glances at her surroundings to absorb the completeness of each moment. She is deeply immersed and incredibly caught up in maintaining these patterns. So much so, that any break in her concentration creates a startling crackley chasm throughout her whole self, felt almost painfully from her brain to her toes. She has carefully taught herself and now learned to quickly repair these shattering cracks by taking discreet deep breaths and closing her eyes for the briefest of seconds. If the shock of breaking reverie is felt too deeply that it seems as if the cracks might be physically revealed, she’ll even allow herself a cough, or gentle murmur mumble sound. If others are present, this might be accompanied by the slightest breath of, “excuse me,” until the crack has been filled with her renewed dedication in pursuit of the next task. Then she continues her delicate dance.
This is her practiced and intentional personal art form and she revels comfortably in it. She has spent years cultivating these patterns, introducing just enough deviations, planned sprinklings of organized thoughtful chaos, to keep herself in the observed normal range of behaviors and experiences. She has had enough of not normal in her life.
As a young child, from as early as her memory would reach until just before she began menstruating at the precocious age of 9 1/2, she was regularly raped and sexually abused by a close family friend. As far as she knew, her parents never had any idea. As an adult, she and her one sibling, an older sister, discovered each other’s shared bond in this experience. They clung to this bond to define themselves as belonging to each other, as it was a rarity that they shared any other interests or experiences.
The consistent dreams she had as a child seem as vivid today as they had then, although she hasn’t actually dreamed them for years. One dream involved walking out of her back door into a variety of different magical lands – princess lands, dinosaur times, fairy islands etc. In these dreams, she was always some welcome positive catalyst for justice, change, or helpfulness. The other dream had her sitting naked and patiently on an open-bottomed toddler style potty stool while tiny workers in overalls climbed up ladders to the inside of her body and cleaned everything out for her. Some of the workers walked up her outstretched arms and worked on the inside of her mouth too. They had soft gentle mops and buckets, some of them even wore funny hats and gentle smiles to try and distract her from their necessary work. It was like being at the Dr’s office, unpleasant, but she knew they were there to help. She has used this cleansing dream throughout her life to absolve herself of many things done wrong both to and by her.
Now at 35 years old, she is exactly where she needs to be. Her community knows her as married for almost ten years to a humble, devoted, catalog handsome, all-American sports enthusiast who has a moderately successful career as a government contractor actuary. She ended her own career as an informatics specialist when she became pregnant for the first time. Both of her full term pregnancies (with a few heartbreaking miscarriages in between) were the result of IVF interventions due to “unexplained infertility challenges.” Those prolonged rigorous medical protocols proved just the right touch of struggle to develop much needed deeper support networks and connections with local friends. They both feel blessed to have two beloved children; Eva, age eight, and Edgar, age five.
She and her family live in a sprawling ranch style home nestled into the top side of a hill, part of a uniquely sectioned area of town in between more mainstream postcard suburban areas. Those neighborhood McMansion style manicured-lawn places were too demanding of her senses. Their Stepford style had her feeling as though everything was screaming at her, hungrily, relentlessly, constantly demanding her attention, depleting any reservoirs of thought, self or strength. leaving her nowhere to look or listen or just to be, without incessant overwhelming noise. She knows that she cannot survive in this life without someplace to rest her senses in order to concentrate on being normal. Possibly the only input the realtor and her husband heard from her during the house hunting, was, “The plastic of these places doesn’t appeal to me. I’d like to see some homes with more character and potential for things like backyard chickens without a neighborhood fuss.” Here she used her bitchy grown-up sorority girl voice card, which was reserved for uniquely special occasions. She determined that house hunting fit that criteria.
Their two acres seem like much more since they don’t have a clear view of any of their neighbors, due to the curve and slope of the hill. Looking out her back windows, she can see acres of forest. Looking out the front windows gives the feeling of living in a tree house with a direct view to the tippy tops of the immense tree line down the hill’s slope. The children and she spend many hours using their binoculars to watch local wildlife across the hills as if they are in the clouds soaring with the eagles, and in the backyard, playing at being wilderness fairy explorers and wild turkey chasers through the forest.
Unlike their adjoining neighborhoods, they don’t have any housing association keeping tabs on their grass length, holiday decorations, or other general curb appeal issues. Their area is somewhat of a no-man’s land for reticent residents and weekend bikers seeking the thrill of the pitches and curves around the hills. There are no sidewalks or through convenient access roads connecting one of something to another side of something. Their neighbors are mostly nameless faces with whom their only connection is the desire to not be bothered unless needed after weather disasters. Everyone seems to implicitly know who has the snowblowers, gas chain saws, emergency generators and heavy trucks. When a disaster had hit the area (lingering hurricane weather, thundersnow, thick ice), these people rallied together willingly and seamlessly to clear long winding steep driveways, felled two hundred-year-old oaks, thick sheets of ice etc. Once the disaster’s destruction was dealt with, almost immediately everyone retreated to their private personal space. All of the lots were at least two acres, and some were as big as 45 acres. This situation was ideal for her. Easy access to the center of town and community amenities, with very little chance of unwanted attention and forced neighborhood communication under the guise of friendliness (her definition of prying).
As with most adult women with children, her figure is not as perfect as it had been when she was in college, but is lovely and toned enough to turn a few heads other than her husband’s. She does not acknowledge any of that attention. She spends regular time with her family and friends swimming, at yoga classes, mild hiking, playing at local parks with her children, and walking the dog, to maintain a level of fitness comparable to her circle of friends. At 5ft 5inches, she is taller than a few of her friends, and shorter than a few others. Her American father’s height at 6ft3 balanced out with her Columbian mother’s petite 5ft frame and reflects in her, meeting somewhere in the middle of their opposites. Most of her clothes have some give to them for versatility moving between regular daily activities. In her closet, everything is color coordinated for ease of dressing, with few patterns, but allowing an obvious well thought out and put-together look. Her hair, described by her third grade daughter, is, “blondish, brownish, reddish – with tiny bits of sparkles.” The sparkle hairs are the white ones. She does not mind them, too much. She also does not mind the little wrinkles beginning at the sides of her hazel eyes, but applies extra sunscreen and lotions just in case she might mind them in future years as they inevitably increase. Looking at herself, she feels numbingly comforted and deeply relieved that she appears as what she needs to – normal.