This one isn’t for the faint of heart. Really.
One day I will write something blithe and Wobegonian about the “joys” of hamlet life, but this is not that day. Today I have other fish to fry.
See, I’ve been here close to a year and still find the place —specifically the people and their behavior— mystifying. There is a certain predilection among the locals to consciously, even blissfully, engage in activities which are demonstrably stupid and which generally result in harm—mental, physical, even metaphysical—to their persons.
By way of illustration: a true story.
I managed a now-defunct retail concern here in town. Early one weekday morning my phone rings. It’s one of my employees, asking if I can cover her shift.
“What’s up?” I ask.
“It’s hard to explain,” she says. “I’ll come by the store later and talk to you.”
“Wait,” I say. “You can’t come to work, but you can come by work to tell me why?”
“Uh-huh. You’ll understand when you see.”
“Oh. OK. Whatever. I’ll cover your shift. Come see me soon as you can.”
So, I head to the store, auto-pilot my way through the morning routine, blah-blah-blah, and at around eleven, in she rolls.
I’m not drawn up short often, but that’s exactly what happens when I get an eyeful of her.
Someone has kicked the living crap out of the woman. Two black eyes. Broken nose. Small cuts on her face. And best of all, bruises on her neck shaped like fingers.
“What the fuck?” I shout “What happened?”
“My Ex. We got in a fight.”
And me thinking: Yeah, no fucking shit.
She’s told me stories about this asshole. He’s violent, paranoid, and subject to fits of irrational jealousy, all side effects of his ongoing crystal-meth pastime. He spent three years in the can for repeatedly abusing a woman, and choke-slamming her four-year-old son through a coffee table. I don't pester my employee for any details about her adventure, though she does divulge that the cocksucker had broken her nose via the delightful expedient of hitting it with a propane tank.
“You go to the hospital?” I ask.
“No,” she answers, with a dismissive wave of her hand.
“Call the cops?”
The question makes her mad. “Fuck no! Why?”
“Why?!” I holler, stopping myself just short of adding: Why the fuck do you think?!
“It wouldn’t do anything. Most’a the cops in this town would take his side.”
To which she responds by changing directions. “So… I don’t really want to be out in public for a few days.”
“Sure. Of course. I’ll help cover your shifts for the rest of the week. Is that long enough?”
“Of course.” I wasn’t done, though, trying to spark some glimmer of survival knowledge in the woman. “You know, the more women report shit like this, eventually the cops will have to react.”
“Yeah,” she says. “I don’t want to talk about it, OK?”
And off she goes.
Flash forward about six weeks.
I’m working the day shift, and she’s closing. She bops through the door all grins and giggles, practically vibrating with some giddy inner energy.
“What’s with you?” I ask. “You look like Sylvester with a mouthful of Tweety’s ass.”
Her response comes in pantomime. She waggles her finger at me. Her ring finger. It’s sporting a fair sized rock set in a white gold band.
“I’m engaged!” she hoots.
Yes. Engaged. Docketed to exchange vows with the same dipshit who’d pulped her face not two months ago.
“What?” she asks, perplexed, perhaps wondering why I’m not flailing around in paroxysms of delight.
“Are you out of your fucking mind?”
And she stares at me, genuinely, nakedly surprised that I’d say such a horrible thing. Then, after an inward-looking pause —a brief inward-looking pause— she defends her plans by saying, in a tone that indicates both my profound ignorance and overall assholery: “He’s off meth.”
As I understand it, they stood up in front of a clergyman ten days ago.
Do I feel for this woman? Of course I do, but only up to a point. My sympathies went south about a nanosecond after she announced her impending nuptials. I mean, what the fuck? It’s not like she’s some dopy kid, or anything. She’s in her thirties, for fuck’s sake. No one forced her to do a half-gainer into what will certainly turn out to be a matrimonial cesspool. No, her own surreal decisions got her there, and if she’s too needy, or weak, or —let’s face it— stupid, to suss out the big-ass-fuckin’-neon writing on the wall, then ya know what?
I’m sure I’ll hear all too soon that they’ve procreated. And thus will the Great Wheel of Stupidity will keep right on turning.