Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Song That Keeps Following Me Around

"Miss Turtle."

"Miss Turtle."

I can hear Mr. Gryphon talking to me, but I can't respond to him. I'm standing in the concrete BART station at Glen Park. It's Friday night and I'm leaning up against a pillar. Trains going to the airport keep pulling up and departing, causing the wind from the tunnel to whoosh around me. Trains going back downtown are not coming any time soon and that's where I need to go. I missed my station because I so upset. I'm sending an email message. Another futile one. Tears stream down my face. People are walking by. I know they are glancing uneasily at me. I'm not sobbing, but my tears are unmistakable. I refuse to look up at them.

I turn away from Mr. Gryphon so I can focus on finishing my email message. I finally do and another train to SFO pulls up. I briefly think of that line from Casablanca. Something about "a man with a comical look on his face standing on the train platform looking like his teeth has been kicked in." Too bad I'm not wearing a putty colored trenchcoat and black fedora. Both look good on me.

The side of the train platform going towards downtown fills up. More people steal glances at me. I focus on the far wall. A dirty stone wall with sharp, mottled tiles. I glance up at the ceiling. The concrete beams seem to be decorated with worn out striped fabric. Very odd, early 70s.

I continually wipe my eyes. The tears have settled on my fingertips like drew drops clinging to a half-closed rose petal. Salt from my tears is starting to dry on my face. Perhaps if I cry enough, the salt will eventually form crystals on my lashes. I hear Mr. Gryphon behind me, but still ignore him.

"Miss Turtle." Mr. Gryphon comes around the other side of the pillar. I don't talk, just cry some more. He hands me one of his handkerchiefs. I really need one. The skin on my face feels tight. I once read that tears release some kind of toxin in your system. I'm not sure what good a toxin would be on my skin, but it doesn't matter I guess.

I'm finally able to talk a little, "Why am I so stupid? Why do I do these things?"

"I can't answer that. I can tell you the decor in this place is really bad. Are we going to wander the airport like accusing ghosts or go back downtown?" he asks. He is looking down at me, arms folded. People move around him, having conversations about co-workers and television shows.

"We're definitely going back downtown." I wipe my eyes some more. They keep streaming like I'd been hit with the white billowing clouds of tear gas.

He nods and leans on the pillar with me. I hear a song starting. One with the following lyrics:

"Does life seem nasty, brutish and short
Come on up to the house
The seas are stormy
And you can't find no port
Come on up to the house

There's nothin in the world
that you can do
You gotta come on up to the house
And you been whipped by the forces
that are inside you
Come on up to the house

Well you're high on top
of your mountain of woe
Come on up to the house
Well you know you should surrender
but you can't let go
You gotta come on up to the house"
(Tom Waits, Come On Up to the House, Mule Variations (1999)

"Are you playing that, Mr. Gryphon?"

"No. I noticed it keeps following you around, though," he says. I smile a little. He's smart enough not to say the next thing and I'm grateful for it.

"I don't know where the damn house is so how can I surrender and go on up there?" I look up at the black BART sign with flashing red letters. It tells me that the train going downtown will show up in 4 minutes.

"You're asking me where it is?" he fluffs his feathers much like how the penguins do when they want to relax.

"No, I'm not. Perhaps we should hang out at the Casino tonight."

"Not a good idea. There's a brawl that's been going on there for the last two weeks."

"I guess we should go home then, Mr. Gryphon," I sigh. I really don't know what else to do. "Why does this shit take so much time? Why do I have to learn to be patient with my bombed out feelings? Why can't I just turn them off?"

"The price you pay for that kind of behavior can be problematic," says Mr. Gryphon. I look up at him. "It's not in your nature to turn off your feelings. You are not a faucet and wishing you were one is a waste of time. Wishing you were anything other than what you are or wishing you'd done something differently is also a waste of time."

"I hate this whole thing, Mr. Gryphon."

"I know you do,"he says. His tone reminds me of someone and I wince.

The train is coming now and everyone moves towards the platform. Before we join the boarding crowd, I turn and look at him again, "I know what to do now, Mr. Gryphon. I really do."

"Then do it," he says. He has to bend down and pull his wings in tightly to get on the train. We manage to find two seats together. We do not speak again for the rest of the night. I am too busy trying to figure out the how of what needs to happen next.

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