Thursday, December 6, 2012

Grand Romantic Delusions—Perspectives: Mary Sue Dagfridchen

     I first met him while waiting in line to renew my license. He had disheveled dishwater-blonde hair worn below the ears, but not long enough to hit the collar of his t-shirt, and a stupid little "soul patch" under his lip. I have no Earthly idea how or why I caught his attention, because I definitely wasn't trying to. I'm nothing special look at and I was wearing scrubby clothes—just an over-sized grey sweatshirt and faded jeans. I was wearing my old granny glasses, too. I had lost my regular glasses, and I hated wearing contacts, so I only put them in for job interviews or special occasions.

     At first there was a man with two little girls between us, but he had somehow managed to dish this other guy in line. I suspected the guy intentionally let the man with the kids in front of him in order to get closer to the apparent catalog model behind me, but if that was his plan, he must have changed his mind at some point. The line was really long, but I had nowhere else to go that Saturday, so I wasn't going to let it bother me. I settled in for a long wait.
     Two days before, my roommate Nita and I had been out for dinner at the little Cuban place around the corner from the house we rented together. She had run into some friends who invited us to a party they were attending. I wasn't in the mood—I've never been much for the social scene—so she had given me her notebook and this large trade paperback she had been looking through for the past couple of days for safekeeping, while she went out and got drunk—or whatever it was she was doing with her party people. She had told me to have a look at it—that I might find it interesting. Standing in line at the DMV, I thought I might give it a quick skim-through, as I had nothing better to do. Looking into my ginormous bag of a purse, I became skeptical as the word Twilight was featured prominently on the cover. I knew Nita was a bit goofy at times, but surely she didn't read juvenile vampire drama! 
    I looked ahead in the line, trying to avoid eye contact with him. He kept looking behind me. I thought he must be pretending to look out the big front window while trying to get a look at the woman behind me. It seemed most of the other men in the place were ogling her. That didn't seem to be the case with him, though, so I thought maybe he was actually holding a place in line for someone. Later I realized he was just pretending to be looking for someone in order to get a look at me.
     One of the people working the counter called for the next person in line. Everyone shuffled forward.
     So then the guy started trying to act all nonchalant by whistling what sounded like a cross between Old Dan Tucker and I Gotta Feeling. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, looked at it, sent a text, then laughed. I couldn't tell if the laugh was for what he'd read or what he'd written. Suddenly he turned as if to lean against a wall that wasn't there and nearly tripped over the post-and-rope crowd control barriers they use to keep the line orderly, dropping his phone in the process.
     What's with this dumb-ass, I wondered, as he gave me an idiotic smile and picked up his phone. I turned away, towards the window, pretending that I was too busy looking for someone else to pay any attention to his antics. If he thought this "turning around and looking out the window" tactic would work for him, maybe I could use it against him.
     When I turned back, he smiled and nodded at me. Ye gods. I was re-considering Nita's stupid book, figuring if I appeared to be reading, it would at least create a psychological barrier between me and this guy—but it was too late: he'd decided to talk to me.
     "Don't you just hate waiting in line?" What a stupid question! Of course I hate waiting in line! Everyone does. I decided to fuck with him, though.
     "I actually find waiting in lines very relaxing," I said. The look of dumbfounded surprise on his face was priceless.
      One of the workers behind the counter yelled for the next person, and we all scooted forward again. The guy in front of me moved sideways, still trying to engage me in conversation.
     "Oh yeah," he said. "I s'pose if you want to get all Zen about it, yeah. But, like, wouldn't you rather be, like, somewhere else?" I'm approximating his words, of course—it's not as though I took notes.
     I looked directly at him and said in the coldest voice I could muster, "It depends."
     "What's it depend on?"
     "Mainly it depends on whether I can ignore any distractions around me," I replied, still in a cool tone. He didn't have much to say to that, so I decided to turn and look out the window again.
     I pulled the book out of my bag and started reading. I hoped he'd take the hint that I wanted to be left alone, and wouldn't try to restart the conversation.
     "What'cha readin' there?" No such luck.
     I pretended not to hear him, but he tried again, and more loudly.
     "What are you reading?"
     "Umm ... Twilight: Another Lunar Cycle." I didn't really remember the names of any of the Twilight books, so I was just making up a title.
     "I haven't heard of that one," he said. "Is it any good?"
     I tried ignoring him again, but he repeated the question. 
    "Is it any good? I haven't read any of those books, but I hear they're supposed to be really good."
     I closed the book, and looked up at him, squinting.
     "Huh? Oh, yeah. It's ... uh ... very romantic," I replied, reaching. The people who like these  things seemed to hold that opinion. Then I added "I like the supernatural elements."
     "Oh," he said. "Sounds interesting. I always liked those Anne Rice books. Did you ever read any of those?"
     "No," I lied. I had read a couple of those, but I wasn't about to cede him any common ground. I lifted the book and continued pretending to read.
     "I bet Lestat would kick Edward's ass, though! And look cool doing it."
     I gave him my best Fuck Off glare, but he was not going to be deterred.
     "Either that, or he'd rock Edward's world—make him totally forget about that Berta chick."
     I tried the glare again. The line moved slowly forward. He was actually next to the wall now, so he leaned against it in a clear attempt to act cool.
     "You know, because of the vampires in those books all being kinda gay."
     "I understood what you were implying," I said. "No need to spell it out."
     "Oh. OK. I wasn't sure."
     "And her name," I added, "is Bella. Not Berta." I don't know why I felt the need to correct him—it's not like I really cared—but sometimes I just can't help myself.
     "Sorry," he replied. "Like I said, I haven't read any of those."
     "Uh-huh," I began to read more pointedly, lifting the book up to block our view of one another.
     He started whistling again. He persisted, apparently running down some mental list of conversation starters guaranteed to amuse. Or annoy.
     "Hey," he started. "Isn't it funny how the word 'umlaut' doesn't actually have umlauts in it?"
     I dropped my hand again and looked at him with contempt.
     He went on. "You know, like, shouldn't the first 'u' in the word umlauts have umlauts? I guess then it would be pronounced like "yeumlauts" or something, though, huh?" 
     "Yeah, that's funny," I said in the flattest, most irony-filled voice possible. I turned around and looked out the window again, willing him to drop it and move on. I held the book higher, practically burying my face in the damned thing.
     The line moved forward again, as the next person was called to the counter.
     "Hey, so ... you really think the world will end in 2012?"
     "What, now?" I was really starting to get annoyed with him. Maybe even a little pissed off.
     "You know ... that whole Mayan thing. Like in your book." He pointed at the cover. 
     I gave him a WTF? kind of look before I actually looked at the book's cover. I realized what I was holding was not a book on teen vampire romance or anything like that, but one of those crazy Erich von Dänikan conspiracy theory books about extra-terrestrials and the end of the world.
     "Guess I picked up the wrong book." I started to laugh.
     He gave me a big shit-eating grin. "That's OK—I do that all the time." I decided he must be either an idiot or a liar. Probably both.
     He continued. "So, are there even any vampires in that book?"
     I decided to go for broke and admit I didn't actually know. "I haven't actually been reading it. It's not even my book. My roommate asked me to hold on to it for her, and since I hate making small talk with strangers, I pulled it out just to have something to do."
     That should get the point across, I thought. Maybe he'll finally leave me alone!
     "Oh yes, I understand." He nodded sympathetically. "Waiting in line can get boring." He was most definitely an idiot.
     "No, you don't," I said. "I wasn't bored. I don't mind lines. It's people I don't want to have to deal with. I wasn't reading the book. I was using it as a prop, so I could avoid talking to other people. Get it now?"
     He looked at me sympathetically. "Sure, I get it." Then he leaned close to me and whispered, "I don't usually like to talk to the kind of people you meet in the BMV, either."
     My jaw nearly hit the floor. I couldn't fucking believe what an oblivious narcissistic idiot this guy was. And why the hell had he fixated on me?
     I pulled my glasses off and sighed, rubbing my eyes. I think I even started pulling at the sides of my hair.
     The line inched forward a little more.
     "You look tired," he said. Then he went so far as to pat me on the shoulder. My skin crawled. I glared at him yet again. 
     Then he asked, "Have you been having trouble sleeping?"
     "I will tonight." I pushed his hand off me.
     "Yeah, days like this really take it out of you." He was trying to act as though nothing awkward had just happened. 
     He stuck his hands in his pockets and started swaying back and forth. I think he was just trying to blow the whole thing off by acting conspicuously casual.
     "Uh, yeah. They certainly do." I was still kind of flabbergasted, but as I collected myself, I had a thought. I put my glasses back on, and decided to try a different tack.
     "Hey, would you mind doing me a favor?"
     "Oh, not at all!" He was over-eager, as I'd expected he would be. "Just name it."
     "Well, I'm in kind of a hurry, you see ... would you mind if I jumped in front of you?"
     It took him a second to process the request, but he accepted.
     "No," he said, moving sideways to let me by. "Go ahead." 
     Now I could face away from him and not miss anything that was going on at the head of the line. Ignoring him would be much easier now, provided he kept his damn hands to himself!
     I waved at one of the little girls in front of me, and started playing peek-a-boo with her using the book as cover. In this way, I figured I'd make it as difficult as possible to carry on a conversation.
     Everyone in line stepped forward once again. The man in front of me was now next to be served. After a couple of minutes, I dared to hope I'd finally shaken the idiot. Maybe he'd finally discovered Miss Fashion Plate standing behind him.
     "Anyway," he started again.
     The feeling of hope drained right out of me. What would it take to clue this guy in?
     "What were we talking about?" He continued. "Vampires? No! It was the year 2012! So do you really think the world is going to end? That's what a lot of people are saying. My friend's pastor said it was right in line with the Bible, too. I don't really understand all that prophecy stuff, but I figured I could go to church with him tomorrow, just to hear what they have to say."
     Despite my best efforts at ignoring the fool, I couldn't ignore such an asinine statement. I turned back around and faced him.
     "No," I said. "Not even for a minute do I think that the world is going to end in the year 2012. If there were something disastrously wrong with the planet, or the sun were about to explode, or if we were about to be hit by an asteroid or anything like that, I'm sure NASA or JPL, or the ESA or some scientists, somewhere would know about it before your local pastor."
     "Yeah," he countered, "but what if the Mayans are right and there's a secret dark planet that telescopes can't see, and that's going to hit us? Or maybe that's when the aliens promised the Mayans they'd return, and when they get back, they're gonna be pissed that we haven't changed our ways, or something, so they're gonna wipe out humanity and take our planet."
     "Do you have any idea how crazy that sounds?"
     He opened his mouth to respond yet again, but before he could say anything even more mind-bogglingly stupid, I continued.
     "If there's a dark planet out there that telescopes can't see, just how do you suppose the Mayans would have known about it? And besides, there are no Mayan prophecies about dark planets. You're getting your doomsday scenarios mixed up. Then again, it seems everyone else in the world is, so why not?"
     Some of the workers put up "Out to Lunch" signs at their stations. Oh no! That would slow things down. I felt a wave of despair come over me. I would have to tolerate this dolt even longer now!
     "OK, but what about the aliens?" He asked.
     "What about aliens?"
     "I mean, what if that's why the Mayans ended their calendar in 2012—because of aliens."
     The woman behind him must have been listening, because she suddenly chimed in. She had a Russian accent.
     "I have heard that calendar ends because it begins of new age of peace."
     We both turned towards the woman. Great—another idiot.
     I asked her, "What the hell does that even mean? New Age of Peace. Pfsh! Suddenly people are going to stop fighting over wealth and power, and everyone's going to start sharing, and then some mystical race of space aliens is going to come on down and Buy the World a Friggin' Coke?"
     The woman tilted her head to one side, her eyes narrowing. It seems I'd annoyed her almost as much as she and this other dumbass had annoyed me.
     "I don't know," she said. "Is just something I heard on the tele-vision." The pronounced television as if it was two words. That's when I realized she was faking that accent!
     "Besides," I continued, "the Mayans 'ended' their calendar in the same way the calendar on the wall over there 'ends' on December 31st."
     The guy smiled at me. It was like he enjoyed being a fool—or enjoyed my pointing it out. What a weirdo.
     "It doesn't mean the world's going to end," I went on. "It means you start a new calendar. It's a new year. Or, in the case of the Mayans, a new calendrical cycle. Or do you panic every year when you get to the last page of your calendar?"
     He suddenly looked a little dismayed.
     "OK, you're probably right," he said, waving putting his hands out, palms-down, as if to diffuse a dangerous misunderstanding. "I was just theorizing, you know ... because of your book."
     The man with the girls was called up to one of the two stations that remained open at the counter. I was next. This whole stupid ordeal was finally almost over. Still, these people were getting on my nerves.
     I asked, "Have I mentioned how this isn't my book?"
     "NEXT!" Thank goodness! I turned on my heel and went up to the counter.
     The idiot and the fake Russian woman appeared to be continuing the conversation. Good, I thought. She seemed to enjoy his company. Hopefully they would go out on a date and die in a car accident before they could get married and make a bunch of little idiot babies.
     It wasn't until I pulled into the driveway and started digging through my purse for Nita's stupid book that I realized I had left the damned thing at the DMV. There was no way in hell I was going back there for it now, though.
     It would have to wait.

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