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April 16, 2009

Not irrefutable proof, exactly

This has been a very trying week, so much so that Drew called me up on Wednesday and asked, "What the hell is in Uranus?" and I said, "Mars is in Uranus and my Uranus and make it go away!"

(This is only funny if you 1: follow astrology and 2: are a 12th house Cancer such as both myself and Drew.) (And also are a big dweeb who laughs everytime someone says Uranus, which is just not often enough.)

Sometimes when I have a bad week I self-medicate with wine and chicken tacos. The taco is truly a perfect food, much like a cheeseburger. Sometimes when things go poorly, I fantasize about stapling things to people. I am often not a very nice person. Jennifer used to say they were reserving a special little room in hell for catty wenches such as ourselves, but anyway the company down there will probably be more fun anyway.

Whenever I question the blackness of my shriveled soul, I try to remember the one time I was faced with a great temptation to become even more morally bankrupt and I passed. Which is not exactly proof of being a good person, but is a step in the right direction.

It was a few years ago -- 2004 to be exact. My then-husband had just all-the-sudden up and moved out and on the same day he was packing up all the good DVDs and moving off to his new life, my job was transferring all of us to a new building downtown, so I went into work on a Saturday and pretended everything was hunky dorey and unpacked all my stupid design books and stupid sharpies and pasted a smile on my face and acted like a general crazy person.

The new building has all kinds of safety features the old one didn't have -- it's like the pentagon around here. You need a badge to get into the hallway where the elevators are, a badge to punch any button in the elevator and then you swipe in again on your floor to get into the office. We were all getting used to this and the security guys in the building were helpful, and nice, and not nearly as cheesy and mackdaddified as the security dude in the old building.

That whole period of time is a big hazy ring of smoke. Mostly from despair and also a LOT of smoking. I was smoking at least a pack a day easy, and I would go out on breaks to the smoker's annex behind the building and sit alone and stare at the ground and smoke.

One of the security guards at that time was a friendly older guy, we'll call him Andy [not his real name!] Andy was from West Africa, and he had that lilting accent that is kind of soothing, and he was in his late 60s, and he would walk the back of the building and he was kind and grandfatherly and never lectured me about smoking, because he was a smoker too. Ah, I miss smoking. Anyway, before long he would offer me a light for the ever-present Capri cigarette in my hand and one day out of the blue he gently asked me why I was so sad.

"What...?" I asked. Because surely I was holding it together SO WELL.

"You just seem a little sad is all," said Andy.

And as the weeks and months passed it was nice to have someone to say hello to on my smoke breaks and I did eventually tell Andy that I'd been dumped unceremoniously and I wasn't taking it too well. Which was kind of obvious to everyone but people are kind, and keep up appearances for you sometimes. He was a good listener and a nice smoking companion for ten minutes a day.

One day I was working late and it was dark outside and I was leaving the building and Andy asked me if I wanted an escort to the garage. The garage is a few blocks away from the building and it's a creepy walk alone at night, so I said yes and thank you. As we walked he asked me how I was and it was just bad timing, I think, but I did that horrible thing where I burst out into tears (it happened a lot around that time) and told him I was pretty sure my husband was seeing someone else and wanted a divorce and I told him about the awful financial mess and the DVDs ("He took Billy Jack! He hated Billy Jack! Why didn't he just leave Billy Jack with me?") and finally I stopped crying and we had a smoke on the benches outside the garage then I thanked him and apologized profusely and went home, ashamed and feeling stupid for always embarrassing myself with the crying.

A few days passed and Andy found me out back, smoking behind the building.

"I have been thinking of your dilemma," he said. "I think I have a solution for you."

"You do?" I asked. Because I'd racked my mind for months and no solution had come. I was definitely open to solutions.

He looked around discreetly to be sure we couldn't be heard by the other smokers covertly cowering away from prying corporate eyes.

"I know a woman," he said, in his lilting accent. "She is a Nigerian .... doctor. Sort of doctor. She can make spells and she can help you, if you want. I can put you in touch with her. She is a very special person. I think she can make your problem disappear."

And maybe it was just the way he said it. Or maybe it was some of the stories I'd read about voodoo and I don't even know if that's what he was talking about, really, except I kind of did, because I had goosebumps, and not the good kind. It was just the way he said it. And for just a minute I thought about it -- I have a wild imagination and it only took a second -- and then I just sighed. I was too much of a wuss. I'd be lying if I told you the idea of pulling an Angel Heart and going all voodoo on the ex was enticing, but I just couldn't do it. I just couldn't.

"Andy, thank you, I really do appreciate it, but I'm going to do it the old-fashioned way," I said. "You know, with a horrible, overpriced lawyer and a lot of wine."

And he never brought it up again, and eventually I stopped smoking and then a few months later he stopped working at our building and I haven't seen him in years. I actually I forgot about it for a long while, that whole conversation, Andy's offer of help. It wasn't until much later when I met a woman at one of my booksignings who had just gone through a horrible, long, expensive divorce herself and she said, joking of course, "It would have been cheaper if I'd just offed him!" and I remembered Andy and the witch doctor. Because I feel very certain that's what she was, just from his tone of voice, the way he described her.

And while it isn't proof exactly of being a good person, it is at least proof that when faced with temptation I do try to tread on the side of not-heinous.

Posted by laurie at April 16, 2009 9:32 AM