Monday, December 12, 2005

when mortality strikes, buy hookerboots and kick back

The invite already gave me heartburn.  My friend requested my presence at a holiday function for a goodwill organization, and for friendship’s sake i went along. 

There were a few reasons why my prejudiced heart was reluctant: our host was a catholic organization, the setting was a catholic church basement, and the meal would be meaty and chockfull of refined carbohydrates. 

I thought of my upcoming trip abroad and reminded myself to keep an open mind. This was just like another journey, only into an unknown or uncomfortable social territory.  

About seventy people had gathered around long tables with shamrock green plastic covers.  White plastic trees with red tinsel garlands. Green plastic trees with  red and silver tinsel garlands. Doorprizes. Thrift store goods. Santas: soft, hard, tall and thin, short and stocky, chubby, playing violin, shaking a rattle, antique, sporting brown skin and pink cheeks, holding a green bag.

The Audience:
Graceless lighting enhanced the lifelessness in their faces.  Grey skin. Wrinkles...usually, each one tells a story, but here, I was searching the griot within the the epidermal creases in vain. Silver hair. Pink tint. Yellow teeth. Few teeth. No teeth. Thrift shop fashionables proudly presented. It was a goodwill dinner after all. Honoring volunteers.  Why did it feel like no one was alive? Did anyone want to be here? Was there a heartbeat? Is this what it feels like around a congregation of walking dead? We could have filmed “Thriller” right here. Guests with canes stormed the wine table and came back for refills of boxed Franzia.  Still, the deadness was palatable, like at home, where indifference strikes like a clockwork orange hourly, from six until ten.

Board members stood up and urged their audience to volunteer more so they could kill off their eleven full time employees and give even more money to the churches, because 113,000 per church simply didn’t cut it.  My friend, who has been volunteering for three years and would love a full time job, was not amused.  Another board member took the stage and explained the crux with the full-timers: they don’t just get a salary, they also have to get benefits like insurance and such, and by golly, couldn’t we just save this expense so we can send the bishop on more trips to the bush in his private plane?

Then someone had a great idea. Let everyone present introduce him/herself. Puppets were drinking wine and beer, and happily slurred their names and what they do for the organization. “I sort greeting cards,” said the lady with the button down dress, seventh button open.  “I price things,” said another woman. “I do what they tell me to do,” said a board member who also volunteered once in a while.  “I help my grandma sorting toys,” said the boy with the elf hat.  “I’m here with her,” said the young man whose girlfriend was also somebody’s helping granddaughter.  “I work with books, I try to read them all,” said a tiny lady with big hair.

One of the girls came to me after my friend introduced me as “from Germany”. Fun, how there is always a grump in a crowd, and always one who loves to travel and learn foreign languages. We talked “Eat, Pray, Love” and Korean and Japanese, and maybe she’ll end up in a German class one of these days.

After the introduction, everyone warmed up to one another, but i could never quite shake the feeling of being a spectator, this surreal sensation of being in a different reality from my own, of none of this being valid.  Will i end up like this, ever? Dear Lifeforce, no – rather take me now! 

To the woman across from us: Why is it so important to bless yourself? Don’t scold the 20-month-old girl for not getting it right, but stop her from eating the butter packages, or she’ll never smile in her liver.
To the offended one – no, i was not listening to you, because i was overwhelmed taking in the scene and trying to find my spot like a fly on the wall.  Why do you keep drinking cheap wine and getting louder? You are not that funny. Did you notice you were the only one laughing? And by the way, your belly button is open.

Throughout, i was reminded of my own mortality.  Yes, i feel healthy now, strong, vibrant, alive, joyful. And yes, i want to age gracefully. But to me, this means that my mind and spirit stay vivacious, learningful serene, embracing change, continuing growth.  Once that stops, i want to take a bow. Give me alzheimer’s with a vial of arsenic, let me determine, as long as i still can, how and when to go.

Before, however, i want color. No more numbing chlorox.  Give me all shades of brown, pink, and beige, give me a chorus of different tongues and an orchestra of beliefs.
World of humans, be my symphony.

The little girl helped me snap out of it.  Her tiny mellifluous hand held on to mine, would not let go even when mom said to, and the softness of her skin through her iron grip reverberated with a pulse, red warm flowing blood, and life. 

So today i went out and bought a pair of three-inch thigh high boots. Fuck mortality.
Suede, updo, little black dress – i am walking on water the day after tomorrow.

somewhere  in a valley on planet earth around christmas, 2011