Right now my fridge, whose name is Dios, which means God in Spanish, is beeping out of context. It appears to have lost its mind. My wife Jina and I can’t figure out what’s wrong with it. Maybe it needs a doctor. Perchance it’s crying, “Help me! I’m freezing to death.” Or else it wants to retire and move to the Bahamas.
The wonderful Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano has a book entitled The Upside-Down World.* His most famous work, Open Veins of Latin America, I’ve yet to read. He has a clean, simple style that manages complexity well with a healthy dose of irony. I saw a clip of him being interviewed once, and although my Spanish is as rusty as a ’69 Chevy with a 396, fuely heads and a Hurst on the floor (I’m simultaneously quoting Bruce Springsteen and speaking in tongues, as I have no idea what any of that means), I did know what the following words meant:
“Este mundo es de mierda.”
Essentially, “The world’s a piece of shit.”
So is my new smart phone, by the way. I can’t figure out how the gosh-darned thing works. I’d throw it against the wall if I thought it would help. My old phone let me send text messages regardless of length; the new one is picky and doesn’t even show me the phone number of the person who’s left a message, so I have to look it up if I want to call them back instead of texting. My wife claims it’s because the new model was put out by a different company. Put out, indeed. She says I have to wait until the new policy kicks in before it will start functioning properly. But she added that I should start sending shorter messages. I told her that was impolite, that a lot of the messages I receive are work-related. I.D.K. mA-B shs rght.
In yesterday’s entry I mentioned a momentous conversation we had over breakfast the other day in which she lamented that we didn’t have a baby ten years ago, back when we were both young enough so that we wouldn’t have to worry that she’d give birth to a Chimera (according to the Random House Word Menu, that’s a “flame-belching monster, part goat, part lion, and part dragon”). Well, maybe we would have anyway. And if we had, Jina would tell the baby, “You look just like your daddy.”
Remember the downstairs neighbors I told you about a few days ago who like to assemble and say “Hallelujah” as fast as they can over and over again until they sprain their tongues? They’d woken me up and this time I was in a less charitable or forgiving mood, so I went downstairs and rang the doorbell. No answer. I rapped on the door with my knuckles. The door opened and two women stood before me. They looked friendly, so I decided not to wax too indignant. I asked them semi-politely if they could stop making so much noise. They explained that they were praying (as if that made it all right to be a public nuisance); I told them I was very sick (an exaggeration: I had a slight cold) and needed to get some sleep (mission afterwards aborted). I probably looked a little scary with the black eye and evil face of a foreigner from hell (and a heretic, no less).
I asked them if they could please pray more quietly, as the racket they were generating was annoying. At first they seemed nonplussed by my request, but at last they acquiesced. I thanked them and went back home.
When I mentioned the above incident to Jina, I expected her to be a bit annoyed herself–not by the neighbors, but by me for being so presumptuous and un-neighborly. Instead, she surprised me by saying she wasn’t angry, although she was embarrassed. She went on to say quietly that she wanted a divorce.
As the words leapt from her lips, I couldn’t help noticing how good the orange I was eating tasted. But I thought it best not to bring it up at that moment. Instead I asked her why, just to be polite.
She said if the neighbors’ manic hallelujah chorus got on my nerves, her own speaking in tongues must have made me likewise uncomfortable. I said it didn’t bother me much, as I knew how important it was to her. (In order to be sustained, brainwashing must maintain a meticulously methodical, painstaking ritual; once you get used to acting like a robot, you forget how and who you used to be and don’t mourn the loss of your humanity or the robbery of your soul–at least that’s been my experience. If only Gregor Samsa, the man in the Franz Kafka story “The Metamorphosis” who wakes up to find he’s been transformed into a giant cockroach, had the presence of mind to find Jesus. Then he could make his peace with the world as his sister tries to stomp him to death.)
She asked me for the four-hundred zillionth time if I believed in Jesus. As usual, I hedged, being coy.
“Sometimes,” I said, so as not to hurt her feelings. (The following morning while we were lying–not to each other, only ourselves–in bed, she asked me if I wanted to be baptized–again. “Maybe,” I replied in a tone that said, “Hell, no.”)
She asked if I believed in the resurrection of Christ.
Somehow, we managed to change the subject and move on, and suddenly everything was hunky-dory again. I guess she figured, “Well, at least I gave it another shot.” It’s touching, in a way, when someone goes so far out of their way to share their delusions with you. I’m truly grateful for the attempt–failed though it was.
As usual, I haven’t written what I set out to, so I suppose I’ll have to save it for the next post. My health woes continue to plague me, and my moods bounce up and down on a Willy Wonka-like glass elevator between heaven and hell. But most of the time they’re lodged in purgatory.
In case I do drop dead today–which always feels like a distinct possibility these days–feel free to check out my other WordPress blog under the pseudonym Mort Hawsen (an anagram of my name, Stew Harmon), mortalchortle. I haven’t added anything to it in a long while, but most of the contents aren’t time-sensitive anyway (poetry, short fiction, plays, etc.). Not to toot my own horn too much, but there’s also a Simpsons parody there you might like.
If not, please don’t waste your time.
Take care, have fun, toodle-oo.
By the way, do yourself a favor and check out the interview New Yorker journalist Elizabeth Kolbert gave Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! about her new book The Sixth Extinction. Suffice it to say, the planet is absolutely fucked**, thanks to us. (**which means we must be too–funny, I don’t feel fucked–unless I was speaking figuratively. Maybe if I were, my heart wouldn’t be in such rough shape.)
As Dana Carvey would say in his incarnation as the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live, “Well, isn’t that special?”
* More proof that the world is upside-down in the next entry!