Last Tuesday, I worked long and hard. At my computer by 7:45am, I completed a detailed online review for a local business, a tight, pithy anecdote for a grant report, a short story, and an edit of another short story. I updated my Texas Public Library email list (15 Excel pages, nearly 600 entries) and sent introductory emails, some of them personalized, to half the people on that list. I took only a coffee break, lunch break, tea break and chose to forego walking and yoga so as to feel smug and self-righteous at the end of the day. Which came at 6:45pm after nearly 11 hours of labor. Now I wait for the piles of cash to roll in, right? Welcome to the life of the self-employed arty farty. And if it sounds as if I’m blowing my own trumpet, well, so be it, but it’s really more like self-encouragement, balancing the days where I do nothing, sweet Fanny Adams, sweet f*** all. Such days also play a huge part of the life of self-employed artist.
Anyway, at 6:45 p.m. all I could think about was WINE. I need WINE. There was nothing fitting that description in the house, unless you count an aged box of red, now answering to the name of vinegar. Better nip ’round to Fresh Plus, our nice, local, expensive corner store and get a bottle. “Need anything?” I called as I departed. “Beer!” was the response. “Sierra Nevada!”
I didn’t look in a mirror before leaving home which, since turning fifty, (this is how I avoid saying, “as I approach sixty…”) tends to be a mistake, especially when I’ve been alone all day with only cats for company. I thought about that as I walked towards the store and caught sight of my bedraggled self in the sliding glass door. “Did I brush my hair this morning?” I speculated. “Did I brush my teeth?”
I knew what I wanted and went straight there. No Sierra Nevada available in the Beer Cave so I got a 6-pack of Shiner IPA. The Sauvignon Blanc I selected was within my reach price-wise, but just out of it, height-wise. I beckoned a tall shop assistant who was happy to help this short, elderly woman. That’s not how I’d describe myself, you understand; it’s how this young man looked at me…with a look completely void of any kind of sexual interest, closer to that special brand of old folks’ home flirting, where young men feel safe flattering the ladies because, well, clearly, no one’s going to misinterpret it and think that they might actually be interested.
I made my way to the front, picking the checkout with two young men (high school? college?), one at the register, the other bagging purchases. They didn’t acknowledge my presence as a human, but they did notice my purchase of two different types of alcohol. Seemed to me they gave each other a side glance that meant, “Whoa…a boozer…” To defuse the situation, I smiled and said, “Guess what I’m doing tonight!” They looked up for the first time, staring, frozen. Finally the cashier said, “Er, I dunno. What are you doing?” I put on a swagger and an appalling Texan accent. “Drankin’…” I said. No response. Complete blank. Their bug-eyes and slack jaws were so precious, so funny, that before I could stop myself, I released a loud cackle. Both lads literally jumped back, which made me laugh again. I fumbled my bags off the counter so I could escape without further display of weird. I was still laughing as I walked to my car, still laughing aloud, I mean. I imagined them telling their friends, “Served this crazy old bag lady today…” And you know what? As I curled up with my glass of crisp, citrusy New Zealand white in front of Finding Your Roots, it dawned on me that, after 11 hours alone at a computer, I probably fit that description rather well. And I’m not entirely ashamed to admit it. They should be grateful I wasn’t still wearing my panda pajamas.