Livin' The Dream
Last week, I’m drivin’ back from Bangor, where I’d spent a lovely afternoon getting a root canal. I know! Just the thought of it sends chills down your spine. But, it really wasn’t all that bad. I went to a place where all they do is root canals. I mean, they crank ‘em out, ‘bout a gazillion a day. They got it down.
Even so, I was kind of wiped out when I left. ‘Cause it’s not the pain, it’s the anticipation of pain that does me in: gripping the arms of the chair, body all tense, trying to go to my happy place but never quite making it. Yeah, sure, there’s that part of the drop ceiling where they’ve replaced one of the tiles with a picture of blue sky with clouds floating by. But between that sky and me is a bright light and the dentist with his mask and the sounds and the smells of a root canal. Oops! I better stop here, or I’m goin’ to lose you, right?
Anyways, it’s all catchin’ up with me on the drive home, so I stop at a Circle K (well, we call ‘em “the OK” in this neck of the woods), somewhere on the outskirts of Bangor, to get some coffee. There’s a guy behind the counter working the register, one of them fellas you know isn’t as old as he looks: scraggly hair, tooth missing, reeking of cigarettes. Behind him, also on duty (why else would she be wearing that smock) is a woman, middle-aged, uncomfortably heavy, long grey hair hanging down, sitting on a stool, starin’ into space. “Pam,” it says on her nametag.
As the guy’s checking me out, another fella who’d been makin’ a delivery comes up to the counter. “Hey, Pam, how you doin’?”
And Pam goes, “Livin’ the dream, Frank,” no expression in her voice, her face, her eyes. “I’m livin’ the dream.”
Well, wasn’t that a Stephen King moment? I hightailed it outta there before the world outside that particular OK seized to exist.
On the way home, I got to thinkin’ about Pam. I’m probably never going to see her again, or the scraggly haired guy, or Frank for that matter. Cause you can bet, I’m not goin’ back to that particular OK. But every time I drive past that place I’ll be thinking of Pam, frozen in time, livin’ the dream.
Do you ponder things like that? I’ll see a guy passing me on the highway and what’s he doin’? Picking his nose (or “minin’ for boogers,” as our third grade teacher, Mrs. Wilson, used to say). I’m thinking, this is the only time our paths are ever going to cross, and he’s picking his nose!
Or, there’s a couple across from us in a restaurant and they’re not talking to each other. I mean, the whole meal, not a word. They probably have a great relationship, and just had a fight, or bad news or something before coming out. But for me, they’ll always be that poor couple who had nothin’ to say to each other.
Or, a teenager with those little earphones singin’ as if he’s alone in his room. A mother trying to quiet her kid who’s meltin’ down in the Wallymart. An old man helping an old lady into a car in the hospital parking lot. It’s the only time our lives brush up against each other, and this is how I see them.
Gees, Louise. I’m getting a little woo-woo, aren’t I? My niece Caitlin must be rubbin’ off on me. Or I’m havin’ a delayed reaction to the novacane!
Anyhoo, I hope you truly are livin’ the dream. Or tryin’ to, which is the best we can do, right?
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side! Listen to Ida's podcast.