A Personal Ad

On the grandest of summer days, beneath a willow tree in the beautiful park that I can see from my bedroom window, I met my true love.

Wait, no, that was only the stupid plot of some sappy romance novel I read a while ago.

Truth is, I’ve never met my true love. How can I, with my line of work, my bad hours, and worst of all, my bad hair? No one could be attracted to this hair, that’s for sure. Sadly, it’s part of the job description.

Nowhere in my very extensive memory can I remember wanting to do what I do. Sure, I was smart. I loved watching all those television shows with chemistry sets and experiments. Yes, I got straight As in elementary, then high school. Of course I got into the best school there could be. But nope, I don’t think I ever really thought that I’d be applying for a post as “Mad Scientist, Female.”

No, no, you’ve got it all wrong. I’m not really a mad scientist. I wish! No, I’m only playing one at the Museum of Scientific History and Literature. It’s an odd place, to be sure. They have all these different characters here, some playing cliches like me – there’s a Frankenstein plus monster, of course – and some taking on the parts of historical figures like Galileo or the Curies. Me? I was fired from my grown-up job at the Modern Science Research Center because of “budget cuts.”

With student loans I still haven’t paid off, rent and utilities due every month, and one mean landlord, I had no choice but to get a job as quickly as I could. So here I am, working at the weirdest museum known to mankind: we’re open between 10am to 5pm, and then from midnight to 5am; we have an Einstein who’s got worse hair than I have and a horribly false German accent; drunk science geeks traipsing around in the middle of the night; and finally, to take the cake, a huge fake library with bookshelves bearing fake cardboard books. What’s with the library? As the sign says when you enter: WE’VE CATALOGUED ALL SCIENCE-ORIENTED NOVELS SO THAT YOU WON’T HAVE TO! People are supposed to walk around and write down titles of books and then see if our amazingly understocked bookstore and gift shop happen to have them. They usually don’t. We get lots of complaints.

But it pays alright, and I’m applying for jobs during every spare moment I have. Oh, the hair thing? Well, it’s a wig, obviously, but it doesn’t agree with my real hair, and so my dull brunette mop is matted and disgusting after every time I put that stupid fake tangle on top of it. The woes of the young and… employed?

I know I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. But not having a steady boyfriend since high-school has started to wear on me. During college I was stuck in my books, during my summers I interned everywhere that would take me, and after I graduated I was lucky enough to get a job at the Research Center. Working there for another four years has gotten me to the age of twenty-six without having kissed anyone since I was seventeen. Okay, that’s a lie, there have been encounters here and there, but I’m pretty ashamed and revolted with all of them, so I try to pretend that they haven’t happened.

Yes, people, even science geeks have needs, you know!

The point is, I really would like, for once, to meet someone who isn’t a) a smoker; b) an alcoholic and c) a complete idiot. Is that really so much to ask for? Apparently it is. But don’t they say that intelligent women intimidate men? Well, I seem to have scared all of them away – although I think the ones I dated were all much too dumb to have recognized me as being super-smart anyway.

No, excuse me, I’m not blowing my own horn, I’m simply stating a fact. I’m smart. I have powerful deductive skills, I grasp new concepts quickly, and if I don’t understand something then I’ll work at it until I do. I also have very small and steady hands which are an asset when you’re working in a lab.

So here I am, ready to break through all the barriers and say that Gertrude Jenkins, twenty-six years old, five-two and one hundred and ten pounds, is looking for a date. Not true love, so don’t get freaked. A good date will do just fine to start with.

[IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT gertrude_j CLICK HERE]

As If (More Jessica)

So Jill finally gets to the store – late again! I swear, she spends more time on her hair than I do, and that’s saying something, you know? I mean, fine, sure, she’s got curly hair so she needs to straighten it every day and that takes time and stuff, but still – it’s not like Mr. Jacobs remembers to pay me overtime. Anyway, she’s finally here and I’m pretty angry by now since it’s almost five-thirty and my shift was supposed to end at five.

“Um, double-you-tee-eff, Jill?” I ask as she comes in.

“Sorry, sorry babes! Oh my gosh, is it really that late? Oh, I’m so sorry,” she’s such a gusher, it’s so annoying! “But Jessi-babes,” and I hate that she calls me Jessi. “You’ve got to listen, the most amzinglicious thing happened. I was walking out of my car, right? And this guy was, like, leaning against this yummilicious Ferrari and he was texting on his phone or something, and he looked so bored and then I tripped, right? I mean, these heals are new, and it was so embarrassing.” Does she realize that I’m still here? I should be halfway home now! “But he was really sweet and helped me up and asked if I tore my jeans or anything, and I said no, but that it was so nice of him to ask and not laugh and we got to talking – and have I mentioned how hot he was? Anyway, so we talked and I gave him my number!” She looks so excited, it’s really so sad that I have to say what I have to say. But I do.

“Yeah, Jill?” I say, and I take my purse from under the counter. “That’s Robbie, he’s my roommate, he’s been waiting to pick me up from my shift.” I can’t help gritting my teeth a little, I mean, come on, she hit on my roommate and that’s a good excuse for making me stay an extra half hour? As if!

Jill giggles. I hate her giggle. I mean, I like her, don’t get my wrong, and when we have shifts together – only on weekends when there’s a rush of customers at the mall – then I kinda like hanging out with her. She can be funny and stuff, but I hate. Her. Giggle. “Oh-em-gee, Jessi-babes! You’ve got a hottie like that for a roommate? Jealous much. So can you make sure he calls me?”

As if. I am so not making Robbie call her. “Sweetie, he’s gay,” I tell her. Ha! I love seeing women’s faces doing that crumply thing they do when I tell them about Robbie. They get all disappointed and then, the inevitable comes along…

“But he doesn’t look gay!” she says. See, now I just kind of hate her a little bit. I mean, come on, not everyone fits a stereotype, you know? I mean, Robbie sure doesn’t. Anyway, I don’t know, my mom said the same thing when she met him when I told her we were moving in together after college. She totally didn’t believe me at first, she was so sure that we were going to get married and stuff. It wasn’t until I told her flat out that I could produce video proof that she backed down. I was bluffing, obviously – I mean, as if, Robbie hasn’t had a date in months! Sweet guy, but he only knows how to hit on girls. It’s kind of funny, really, he’s just this big flirt, but he clams up around guys he likes.

“Well, I’m getting out of here, okay? Mr. Jacobs is in a mucho bad mood so watch out. He caught this rich lady stealing and now she’s saying she’s going to sue and stuff. So, like, be careful.” I air-kiss Jill and I leave the store.

Oh! Text. Let’s see… Oh, it’s Robbie, of course: “Jess, Jess, Where art thou, my dove?” He’s so funny! He was an English major (duh) and he is so funny about his texts, he always writes really long ones and uses capital letters and stuff. I text back “c ya in a min” and I start to go down the escalator.

Bad Hair Day

I have never paid much attention to my hair. I’ve tried, time after time, to care. I’ve tried arranging it in different styles, I’ve tried dying pieces of it to see if my old love of black hair would resonate on my own, I’ve tried to muster up the courage to cut it into some completely different and new shape. But no, none of it’s worked.

My hair is long, right down my back. I’m told that it’s a blessing that it’s so straight and thick, although personally I just feel that it’s rather dull. I’ve been told that I’m anything from blond to a redhead, but yet when I look at it I see a very normal, dull shade of light brown and nothing more. No matter, though. I truly don’t care about it enough.

My default hair-style is a ponytail, tight as can be, so that I don’t feel it tickling my neck or shoulders and so it doesn’t get in my face. Sometimes, when I take the scrunchy off at night, my hair retains some of that pony-tail shape, giving the hair going down my back a funny little dent in it where it had been restrained all day.

For all that, I can’t cut it. I have dreams of getting a cool new haircut, shorter than it’s been since I was just a tiny tot, but nothing ever comes of them. I’m scared of the change, I suppose. Still, even though I find my hair to be rather dull, I’m blessed with never having had a bad hair-day. Day started on the wrong foot? I’ve got those. Days where I seem even clumsier than usual? Got those, too. Days where I just wake up and think something’s absolutely wrong with my life and the world? Yup, those are around as well. Day where I wake up and think about my hair being problematic? Nah. Not at all.

A Painting of Marie

The painting was by an artist whose name I don’t remember. I never looked at the name of the painting. I don’t remember what gallery it was in, nor what country the gallery was in. I don’t even remember how old I was when I saw it, only that it had to have been in the last few years. Still, despite all this, the painting is clear in my mind’s eye as if it were hanging in my room.

In the painting sits a girl. She looks like she’s in her early teens, just blossoming into womanhood. She is sitting on a nondescript and unimpressive wooden chair, and the backdrop behind her is just a gloomy sort of brown. It’s unclear where she is, nor why she is sitting down. I named her Marie.

Marie has skin the color of milk chocolate- dark, but not very. Her hair, black as coal but looking a little matted, is tumbling around her shoulders, though I get the impression that it’s normally pinned in a quick bun and has only just tumbled down. Her lips are red and full, and she’s not really smiling, nor is she frowning. She’s simply gazing into space, not focused on the viewer of the painting but rather seems to be looking right over your shoulder, at someone behind you. Her eyes are a wonderful dark brown and seem intelligent but tired.

She’s wearing a blue dress with a white apron over it. She looks like she could be a maid, or perhaps a shop-girl sometime in the 1700s in the United States. For some reason, I feel like she’s a dweller of New Orleans, and I can picture her running barefoot through the dusty streets, maneuvering herself between pirates, privateers, salesmen and prostitutes.

Her hands are folded on her lap, and it looks like they’re not used to being idle in this manner. They look rough and work-weary, just like her.

When I saw Marie, I sat before her for maybe an hour, maybe more, just looking at her. I wanted to speak to her, hear her thoughts and dreams, laugh with her, walk down the streets of her life with her. But she stayed in her painting, caught forever by an artist in this one moment of repose.

The Teacher

The Teacher heaved a deep sigh as she clasped her worn brown bag. Her hands, no longer slender and delicate, were riddled with swollen veins. Her wedding ring couldn’t come off her finger even if she’d wanted it to. Thankfully, she didn’t. Her marriage was the one thing that still made sense in her life.

The Teacher’s hair had been dyed red so many times that it had taken on a slightly metallic orange tint. She knew she looked like a joke, and she definitely knew the various nicknames she was known by throughout the student body, but white hair meant being a grandmother to her. That word hurt her too much. Grandmother. She had almost been one, and if the loss hurt her, she could only imagine how much it had hurt her daughter. Hurt enough that she had cut herself off from her parents because, in her words, it had been too difficult to see their eyes wander to her barren stomach and then fill with tears.

The Teacher picked up her case and walked slowly down through the empty halls, littered with crumpled paper and the occasional forgotten textbook. She sighed again as she walked. teaching didn’t make sense anymore, and for the last few years, this simple fact threw her whole life out of skew.

Her students weren’t different. Perhaps there were more cellphones in class, more kids copying essays off the internet, but all in all, high-school hadn’t changed all that much since she herself had been a twelfth-grader. No, it was some general something that irked her. Maybe it was the fact that so many parents didn’t seem to care what or how the teachers taught anymore. Maybe it was the fact that Bobby Jones and Nora Lessinger kept showing up to school with no text books because the funding for students like them who came from very low-income families had run dry. Maybe it was the fact that her daughter wasn’t speaking to her, and every teenager she looked at in her class seemed to somehow remind her of her personal life.

The Teacher exited the school building, and the sun flooded down from between a few grey clouds. In the parking lot, as always, was her husband in their old dark green Fiat. She could faintly hear the first Led Zeppelin album playing inside. She smiled at him, gave a little wave, and walked over. At least something still made sense in the world.

Boots [Part I]

Boots, black and full of silver buckles, beckoned to Sandy from a store window containing a couple of corsets, a long velvet skirt, a collar with spikes on it and a jacket with so many artful rips in it that it didn’t look like it should be on sale. Unlike the other items in the window that rather alarmed Sandy, the boots seemed beautiful, like roses – tender and elegant but full of dangerous thorns.

Sandy realized she’d been staring at the store window for some time only when a red-haired woman appeared in the open doorway. She cocked one perfect eyebrow at the sight before her – Sandy, light brown hair tumbling in the wind, wearing a flowered white sundress and staring open-mouthed at the boots in the window.

“Need some help, Honey?” the red-haired woman asked. Sandy jerked out of her reverie. The wind died down just at that moment, and her bangs settled back on her forehead. She ducked her head, hiding behind her hair, shook her head “no” and walked away briskly. The red-haired woman ambled back into the shop, and knew that she’d be seeing that shy, flowery girl again soon.

All week long, Sandy thought about the boots. She tried not to, but couldn’t help it. She also thought about the red-haired woman a lot – there was something in that woman’s gaze, in her voice as she said “honey” so casually, that exuded a confidence that made Sandy profoundly envious.

It kept coming back to the boots, though. The red-haired woman had been wearing boots very like those in the window, Sandy remembered it well – the way the boots reached up all the way to her knees, with black and white striped pantyhose peeking above them. The boots, with their multiple-inch heels and the silver buckles along the sides, had made the red-haired woman’s legs look endless, beautiful and deadly. Sandy felt that if only she could have boots like that, everything would feel better.

By the end of two weeks, Sandy made up her mind. She collected her paycheck from the diner’s manager, changed out of her yellow waitress uniform and into one of her favorite pale blue dresses, walked to the bank to cash the check and then strode, with more confidence than she felt, right into the shop where she’d seen the boots.

The red-haired woman looked up from behind the counter, smiled, and said “Well, hello there, Honey. I had a feeling I’d be seeing you again.”

The Countess

The Countess sat stiffly upon her throne-like chair. Her face was unreadable, except for the eyes. Those eyes were like endless black tunnels, drowning whoever dared look into them – the iris’s were such a dark brown that they seemed black, and it was difficult to tell the difference between them and the pupils. The Countess’s skin was a smooth, deep shade of bronze, perfect and without blemish. Her face, although expressionless, was built of contrasts: her eyebrows were a shade too thick for fashion, but were arched strongly and proudly above those cold eyes; her mouth was wide, her lips full, though her nose could almost have been seen as hawk-like on a less imposing woman; her cheekbones were high and sharp, though her chin was more rounded. The Countess’s hair was a tumble of ebony curls, pinned in an elegant knot at the back of her head and covered in a sheer veil.

The Countess was resplendent in a black gown, cut low to bear more of her smooth skin and to accent her long, slender neck and full bosom. Although black, the gown shimmered with a hundred points of light that came from the tiny crystal beads that were sewn into it, making the Countess glimmer and blind those who stood before her with every shift of the cloth, as those beads sparkled in the light coming through the tall windows.

The Countess was feared through-out several lands, and respected and feared in her own. She knew this. She used her power. She wrote laws, built bridges, waged war and made peace, all while sitting stiffly on her hard, wooden chair, gilded in gold paint that was never allowed to chip. Her power seemed limitless to those who were in awe of her, and unnaturally so to those who feared her. The Countess alone knew, and pondered, that a day would come when her stiffness would give way to fatigue and her convictions would shatter in the face of weariness. She alone knew that she would not last forever. But until the rest of them realized it, she would never, ever, let it be known that she knew it.