Melodie wrote me to tell me that she’s not able to make her deadline today (her reasons were good ones), and asked me to select a past column for our readers. This post first appeared on July 24, 2007, and is still one of my favorites.
by Melodie Johnson Howe
I was taking my usual walk up the hill ever alert for my nemesis, my villain, the woman in the Hummer, to come barreling down at me. But the lane is quiet. Even the horse and the mule in the field ignore me. I reach the apex and my Hummer lady is nowhere to be seen. She has begun to stick in my head. Why do I think of her as a villain? It’s not her car. I don’t really begrudge her the Hummer. I just don’t want her to kill me with it. Is it her face-lift? I should pluralize that. No. I have friends who have been lifted. Is it her bleach blonde hair? No. Though God did make me a blonde, I admit to a few highlights myself. Is it her relentless thinness? Well, I’m not thin. Never was, never will be. Is it the strained determination on her pinched face? Not really. Sadly I see that look on the face of most middle-aged women.
I make my way to the back of the San Ysidro ranch, a posh hotel for the rich and famous. Ty Warner (who made billions selling Beany Babies) bought and renovated it at a great expense. That’s why he has to charge twenty-two dollars for a burger. Sorry, Kobi burger. Is that a kind of meat or the name of a basketball player? In any event he has priced the restaurant out of the range of the locals who are lower on the money chain. Why don’t I make him the villain instead of my pathetic Hummer woman?
I stop. I think I see a movie star. Thin, I’m tired of writing that word. Some kind of tattoo on her shoulder. Long, long legs. Big, big sunglasses. Tiny, tiny boobs. She’s blonde too. Does the Hummer lady want to look like her? A fluttering entourage has appeared out of nowhere surrounding and protecting the young woman as they guide her to a cottage. Protecting her from whom? I’m the only one standing here and I don’t even know who she is. I think of my lady in the Hummer. She also needs protection. How has she become mine?
I cut though the garbage can area to a wood gate and open it. Now I’m in what I call The Sanctuary, a quirky wonderful non-denominational and multicultural retreat. I carefully edge my way down a steep dirt path to the paved narrow road. I stop dead in my tracks. My mouth drops open. In front of me are two women flanking a naked man draped in an Indian blanket.
Unlike my Hummer lady, these women are prim with a mid-west perm-and-set quality to them. The man has a gray beard. His wide flat bare feet look to big for his yogi lean body. His eyes appear glazed. His head lolls back. The women are dressed in suits. Skirt suits not pants. Their blouses tie primly at their necks. Are they twins? They smile sweetly at me. My mouth is still hanging open so I’m unable to smile back. They continue past me. I finally get my mouth closed.
What was that, I wonder, heading in the opposite direction of the trio. I bet the guy in the guy blanket is faking it. I bet he’s taking them for every penny they have. I bet—wait. Why am I turning this odd encounter into something sinister? Maybe he’s in a transcendental state and needed a walk. Do you need a stroll when you’re transcending? Why am I thinking he’s ripping them off? He was barefoot on a very rough road. The equivalent to walking over nails or hot coals. My eyes narrow skeptically. It’s only rough asphalt. He could take a few scrapes and bruises on his tootsies for a million. Or maybe the prim twins are taking him? For what? His blanket? I take a deep breath and stare out through the fog to where I think the ocean is. We are having June gloom at the end of July.
As I pick up my pace I begin to consider how I turn the world into something dark and foreboding. What a way to go through life. How neurotic. Then I remind myself that I am a writer. Being a writer absolves me from almost everything. P. D. James once said that when she was a child she thought that Humpty Dumpty didn’t fall off the wall, but was pushed. Of course he was. Unless it was suicide. I try to keep my eyes from narrowing again. It’s not a good look.
I do my loop around the sanctuary and head back down the hill to my house. I look over my shoulder for The Hummer. No sign of her. I wait for her to approach me from the front. But no. I haven’t seen her in awhile. Maybe she left her husband? Never. He’s got the money. Maybe he murdered her? No, I want her alive. Maybe she ran off with the naked yogi and the twins. Maybe they’re all eating twenty-two dollar Kobi burgers at a Lakers game. No not her. As I reach my front door I realize she has become my idea, my creation, and I miss her.