by A.M. Stewart
It’s cold here. It’s cold in my camper. It’s cold in my office. Everywhere feels cold. But my heart (I know, it sounds cheesy) is warm. Bursting continuously – for the first time in my life. And for the most part, without the expectation of something in return.
I feel I am where I am supposed to be at this particular moment. Like when you find a 20-dollar bill on an empty street – the right place at the right time.
I’m sitting here at my first community association meeting, second day on the job. And in walks a 6 foot 3 man with a pair of square, old school glass frames and vibrant day-old blue jeans. I feel myself pause for breath recognizing this man as my Dad – only younger and happier looking. The clothes, his Alfalfa-like ears and erect posture – all strikingly similar.
Then I notice a sense of excitement wash over me. Briefly seeing this other person tricked my mind (for a split second) to believe this was my Dad. I felt so happy to see “him” venture outside his self-imposed, cave-like existence.
I wanted to get closer – to really see his features. To confirm what I already knew. Nevertheless, I knew if I met this man I would feel a certain amount of expectation and surprise.
If you’ve ever met someone’s ‘twin’ you know what I mean. There’s an automatic response to assign the person’s persona you do know – to the person you don’t know who looks similar. Often the expectation fails. Then all you’re left with are preconceived ideas.
Sitting in my metal chair, my hands feel crusty and cracked. My nose feels wet from the cool air inside the empty church. All my senses are inundated with the newness of what surrounds me. At the back of the meeting, my ears are stretched, trying to hear what each speaker says – their voices reverberating off the empty walls, creating a series of echoes.
Now it’s time for introductions. I assume I would be void of this task. Wrong. So unprepared as I was (again – 2nd day on the job), I’m called to the front of the room. It was like I was in sixth grade – called to the front of Ms. Johnson’s history class to make a presentation on a topic I was supposed to have researched.
So I’m standing there fumbling to find words to describe what I am going to do for this community. And then came the dreaded question: “So … what is it exactly that you do?”
Okay – my problem with this question is that I don’t do anything for this neighborhood yet. You know you have failed in some dramatic way to state your purpose when you are presented with that type of response. So I restate my mission – to bring lasting programs and services to this community.
Feeling my struggle to articulate, a soft-spoken woman in her 70s (a pillar of the community) tries to help explain what my organization has done in the area recently.
My dilemma with this whole scene lies in my expectation of the situation. I was expecting to just observe and not participate at my first meeting. And when you expect anything from anyone or anything – often it’s a let down. Or that expectation ends up hurting or isolating someone. Expecting can put you in a place where you essentially take advantage of the situation. If you don’t have expectations assigned to anything, you won’t feel cheated.
My 55-minute drive home from Charlotte was spent in complete silence. Reflecting what had just happened and why I felt like I failed. Analyzing my expectations.
Just before bed, I turn on a light in my quarter-sized bathroom. From the corner of my eye a shadow scurries across the floor (tickity-tic). I don’t recall how long it’s been since I’ve seen a spider so incredibly enlarged and furry – maybe at a zoo when I was a kid. I start to panic.
My impulses take over. Gasping for air. Throat tightening. A real sense of, “Holy shit! What do I grab?” Not the toilet paper. A girly shoe! Smush-crunch. Its life ended.
I don’t know what delusional state I have been living in to think bugs won’t penetrate my “fortress” – especially living in the midst of a forest.
After decisively smashing the delicate critter and catching my breath – I realized I may have killed Charlotte. I assumed the spider was poisonous. But honestly I have no idea. I acted on a series of impulses surrounded by all the bad press spiders get.
Expectations often serve as the outer shell to the gooey center of assumptions and stereotypes. Both equally high in bullshit content.
It’s not the spider’s fault it gets lumped into the ‘scary Halloween’ category. Or that movies are made to play up this fear. Or that nature has given it eight legs. All the bad stereotypes spiders receive brainwashed me into a rapid state of paranoia.
Logically, the spidey was probably seeking refuge from the cold. Really, most spiders should be welcomed because they are carnivorous and keep other pests away.
After flushing the eight-legged critter down the toilet, I still felt no relief. I wrapped myself up like a mummy in my blankets. A small gesture to keep out unwanted bugs. But really, just to keep warm.
Because even after all this spider-enhanced excitement – it still feels cold. For some reason I expect it not to be.
by A.M. Stewart