I saw this guy walking outside the train station, gazing down at the sidewalk. Murmuring (to himself, I think), “Fuck! Fuck! God dammit! Fuck! Fucking shit! Fuck!” I wanted to ask what was troubling him. But I was a little reluctant to approach. So I followed him for several blocks, through the park, past the discount shoe store, past the Panera, past the fake Chinese restaurant, past the mall, down the stairs outside the mall and finally beneath the highway underpass, where he turned around and said, “Don’t worry. It’s not your fault.”
I was greatly greatly relieved.
And then I continued following as he walked several blocks ahead, along the river, past the old foundry that was now a condo development, through the construction zone, until we reached the parking lot of the IHOP where he turned around again and said “Excuse me sir, would you happen to know anything about the universe? There’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask it.”
I said “I personally don’t know the Universe all that well, but one of my cousins is fairly close with it. She lives in Iowa. I can call her now, if you like.”
He said he appreciated the offer but that he preferred to speak to the universe directly. And I said, “Totally understandable. If I didn’t have a cousin, I would probably feel the same. Do you mind if I ask what kind of question you would like to ask?”
He said, yes, he would mind. Then he said, no, he wouldn’t mind. If only he knew how to put his question into words.
I told him that my cousin always says that if you ever have the opportunity to speak to the universe, you had better watch every word you say.
“Well, I’m not sure how to word this, but I’d like to know what the universe has in store for me. Like what are its intentions? Because things have not exactly been going my way and I wonder if it’s something I’m doing wrong or if there’s some reason behind all of this. Maybe that’s too generic a question.”
I said, “I think my cousin would be a good person to ask because she happens to work as a psychic. She’s pretty attuned.”
He scratched his left ear which I took to be a sign of interest.
“No, wait.” I said. “Now that I think about it, she might not be the best person to ask because she’s more of an animal psychic. Mainly farm animals. Livestock. But she might know somebody who might know somebody who might know the universe.”
He said, “Hmmmmm … I have to think about this.” And then he walked on.
I followed him for another few blocks, into the Walgreens, past the skincare and the antacids, through the grocery aisles, into the cereal section, where I found him scanning the shelves. I interjected, “It’s a pretty terrible selection, isn’t it?” He said it didn’t matter because he wasn’t really sure why he was there in the first place. He had plenty of cereal at home. “More than enough,” he added.
Suddenly he broke down into tears and scrunched down onto the carpet. First a stifled weeping, and gradually volcanic convulsions of tears. I knew I had to do something. At least make an attempt. At least a gesture. But I thought if I called too much attention to his weeping, that might embarrass him. And then I would feel embarrassed. That was way too risky for me.
So I said, “If you need me, I’ll be in the vitamins and supplements section.” He probably didn’t hear me, I thought as I walked away, scanning the shelves for gingko biloba. I could not find the brand I was looking for, or maybe it was there, but perhaps I had mis-remembered the name. I think it was Norwegian. I was trying to think of the person who recommended this particular brand to me. It might have been the nutritionist at my allergist’s office, or maybe this woman I had dated 7 years ago. She seemed to know a lot about naturopathic medicine. She seemed to know a lot about a lot of things before she ghosted me, never to return, which was so disappointing because I really thought we were hitting it off during our 45 minutes together. She never did tell me her name. But I wondered if there was really any difference between brand name and generic, The generic was probably just as good as anything else. For some reason, I never quite trusted generics. Which was really dumb because that’s all I could actually afford. I don’t know how I became someone like this. Someone who lives beyond their means and then complains about being broke all of the time. It reminded me of that Traffic song, The Low Spark of something or other, was the title.
The percentage you’re paying is too high-priced and you’re living beyond all your means. And the man in the suit has just bought a new car from the profit he made on your dreams
This was so odd. How could I remember something like that, out of the blue, and never anything really useful? I could even hear the synthesizer solo playing in my head. Every note of it. I think it was a synthesizer. Maybe it was an organ. Or a guitar with some sort of fuzz amplifier. Maybe the song didn’t even have a solo and it’s my memory that is the fuzz amplifier. Should I be worried about this? I guess I should be worried.
Now I’m really worried,
So overcome by worry that I had nearly forgotten about the new friend I had abandoned gosh, I don’t know how long ago. I promised him I would return. But then again, technically speaking, I had not promised him anything, All I said was, “if you need me.” I guess I would have liked to feel needed. But it felt like a promise. Another promise. So many promises I never fulfilled. Yet I always mean well, I told myself. I liked to think I always have good intentions, which is almost a consolation. But how can I transform my intentions into actions? There must be a way. There must be a way I can learn to do that, if it isn’t too late.
Eventually I found my way back to the cereal section. All of the boxes were still in place. But my friend was nowhere in sight.