Well, it’s been a while since we’ve heard about the Tattoo Girl and her beloved cat Mr. Mittens.
This post is standalone, but if you’d like to read earlier installments, please see links at the end of this post.
Recap: the most recent episode (from last August!):
At times Jaime dreamed about depredation. In her dream she walked in a landscape laid waste by nuclear warfare, by drought and pestilence, by anger and arrogance and technology gone mad. Awaking suddenly, feeling mad herself, she would find Mr. Mittens plopped atop her bedcover, stretched out in a “C” of cat, soft fur tingling her fingers, alleviating her dream panic. White patches of his tuxedo-patterned coat gleamed in summer’s pre-dawn dimness. Purring.
Still, it was hard to shake a feeling of waif-ness, of abandonment, in a barren landscape of dreaming. Frightening. She rejected the idea of a sleep-aid that might numb her against further dreams. These dreams were anything but cursory; Jaime thought they might be trying to convey something critical for her to understand. Mr. Mittens seemed to sense this as well. She began to draw images from her dreams, sketchpad at bedside, pencil making long bristly scritches of comprehension.
Now on to a new episode:
Working with Corey turned out not to be a problem. Once Jaime realized she didn’t need to think of Corey as a potential dating partner she found it wasn’t hard to share the temporary manager position at OfficeCo. In fact, it was better than being alone in the job. There was always another mind to direct the queries to. “I’ll check with Corey and get back to you,” said to a recalcitrant vendor. Or, “I’ll have to see if Corey has any thoughts on this,” said to an employee (“associate”) who wanted more time off.
Corey turned out to be a level-headed person. In the three months that they worked together in the role of manager that Nathan had vacated, there was no drama, and you could say things went well. Jaime sometimes wondered about Corey’s past, and she thought about asking him more about what had happened during his incarceration. But it was too much. Too much to ask. Too much to tell. So she stayed away from the subject.
There was one drawback to the whole arrangement; three months went by and she’d still not gotten serious about another job. Lying awake at midnight she scolded herself for not doing more. She met Nathan for lunch at a vegan lunch spot around the corner from his new office. This was his dream job at Amazon. She almost didn’t recognize him. At OfficeCo he’d worn jeans and plaid shirts. Here he was in khakis and a polo shirt. Gone were the heavy ’90s-style glasses; instead he wore a pair of sleek green and purple frames.
“Nice glasses,” she said, after they’d said hello and sat down. Behind her words she heard: have you really changed?
“Ah,” Nathan said, and one hand flew up to adjust the glasses, as though he wasn’t quite used to them. “My girlfriend’s idea. I like them, though. Getting used to the look.”
Girlfriend. This was new, too. Why was Jaime the only one who wasn’t moving forward?
She studied the menu. “What’s good here?” she asked.
“A lot of us eat here,” he said. “Any of the soups, the Thai salad . . . I like the portobello sandwich. It’s like a huge burger slab, but it’s all mushroom.”
Jaime perused the menu. Mmm. Eating vegan was like visiting a better version of her life. A better version of herself.
“The stir fry is good too,” Nathan added. The server came, and Jaime ordered the portobello sandwich, Nathan ordering soup and a side salad. All around them were the techie-bright stars of the New Economy. Groups of five or six sat at tables nearby, mostly men, a few women among them, all seeming young. Jaime felt a little dated. Here and there were non-white faces, mostly Asians and Indians.
“I might as well tell you,” she said. “The job’s going fine.”
Nathan nodded. “I thought it might. Remember, I said you’d be a good manager.”
But that didn’t mean she liked it, Jaime realized. You get stuck in something and you just never noticed there was more out there. She said, “And you? Life looks good.”
Nathan shrugged. “Can’t complain.” They talked a little about what he did at work (document review), about how he had met his girlfriend (match.com), what they did together (bowling and board game night at the technical bookstore nearby). The food came, and the portobello sandwich was even better than she had hoped. The aroma was woody and spicy and reminded her of lost dreams.
When she was a little girl she had spent all day outdoors. She had tumbled in the dead-end woods at the bottom of the hill from her house. She had played at the open playground in the next block over, she had gone for ice cream bars at the little grocery a few blocks away. She hadn’t worried about what other people thought of her. She had had friends, but she didn’t judge herself by popularity. When questions were asked in class she raised her hand without fear. She hadn’t been bothered by what other people thought.
But then. Her mother remarried after her dad died, away in that first Gulf War. Before the marriage she and her mom were close, there were a team. Her mom was sad, sure, but Jaime had been only six when her dad died, and somehow her mother made it okay to go on. But the stepfather, that was when things had gone bad.
Her art, her art. Could she somehow make a living that touched on her art? It seemed a long shot.
“It’s good to see you again,” she told Nathan as they parted outside on the sidewalk. They’d gone over the girlfriend (“she’s great, makes me laugh”), the job (“learning a lot”), and two seconds on Jaime’s job (“same old, same old”). “Let’s meet again,” Nathan had said.
Jaime resolved to start making some decisions about her life. Next time they met, she’d be moving forward too.
Have you ever felt “stuck” in your life? What do you do to get “unstuck”? Thanks for visiting!