June 16, 2009

Noises - Elsie Montgomery

There’s that sound again. It is familiar yet I’m not sure what it is. There is a click, then a loud snap, and a brief rattling. Each time I hear it, I feel weak and dizzy for a few minutes.

“Thank you. I will have a piece of cheesecake.”

The first time I heard it was when I was twelve. My friend and I were skipping history and walking in the park. We were having such a great time. She “borrowed” a pack of Export A’s from her mother’s purse and we smoked a few. I felt so grown up and free.

“Yes, thank you. Don’t mind if I do. Do you have a light?”

Another thing my friend and I used to do was spend our lunch money on magazines like Playgirl and some others. We figured why should the boys have all the fun. We had a place where we stashed them and would go there and giggle like fools over the pictures. I used to imagine being with some of those hunks just before I drifted off to sleep at night. That made me feel like a grown-up too. My folks wouldn’t let me date until I was old. It was like being in prison.

“Oh, do you see that fellow over by the fountain. Isn’t he something? I’d like to meet him. You know him? Could you introduce me? Oh, wait until Freddy leaves . . . he doesn’t need to know who I know. He has never known my other friends.”

Finally, I was allowed to date, but not until I was nearly sixteen. It was about the same time that I landed a boyfriend when the noise became more frequent. At first, he and I used to take long walks in the park too, just like my girl friend and I did, but we wound up spending more and more time in the back of his car. I wound up pregnant, but no big deal. I heard that noise all day long for weeks before and after, maybe because I was so scared, but it went away. I wasn’t ready to be a parent and I didn’t want to be tied down. It was a wise decision.

“No, I don’t have children. Freddy and I are trying to adopt but the waiting list is something like seven years.”

The next time the noise bothered me, and I say “bothered” but it wasn’t really a bother, just one of those things, you know, was in college. In my first semester, I had a couple of tough courses and was really afraid I would fail. One of my friends helped me through. He managed to find some old exam copies, and you wouldn’t believe it, but the right answers were filled in. We studied together and both of us passed. I was so grateful. College was a drag, you know. I felt like I was in prison for most of it.

“Income tax gone up, you say? I wouldn’t know. We never pay it. We found a way to declare my parents as dependents. Works like a charm.”

Sometimes the clanking and rattling keep me awake at night. Last week, I had one really rough day at work. My boss hauled me in and told me I didn’t spend enough time on the projects he gives me. Most of them are really intense. People at the office crash all the time because they work overtime and get burned out, overdoing it you know. That’s not going to happen to me. I pace myself, go slow. It’s better in the long run. I’m not going to be a slave to my job. In fact, I’m not going to be a slave to anything.

“Another piece of cake? Well, it IS good . . . sure, why not!”

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