Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sweepstakes Winner


Tonight I have lots of contests to enter. I enter them monthly, after I receive Lucky magazine, which features giveaways in the back of each issue. I won a pair of shoes once - around the same time I won a $500 travel gift certificate from work, when I thought I was on a roll. That was at least 6 months ago, and I have yet to win anything since. But still, I am compelled to enter, and to dream.

My therapist told me to stop and smell the roses more often. Focus on being in the present. But I have never lived in the present. I remember waiting for my brother to get out of soccer practice and playing one of my many imaginary horse riding games - I was maybe 10 at this time. My mom asked me what I was doing and I tried to explain. "I always live like I'm riding a horse or writing a book," I told her. One night during college, dancing at the Oberlin disco I had a flash of realization that I was not doing this -- that I was enjoying the moment, not pretending to be doing something else. For a second, I felt naked without my make believe scenarios, my imaginary horse, the distance of a third person narration.

The rose plant I have was cheap, a $1.99 impulse buy from the grocery store. It seemed stunted after repotting, and suffered through a fungus that discolored its leaves. For the first six months I waited for it to die. The leaves now seem healthy, and it blooms continuously, although the flowers do not smell. The leaves from my tomato plants, so green and fuzzy almost to the point of sharpness, do. They smell a little like soil: verdant, brisk and alive. The tomato plants grow quickly, the unripe fruits already weighing down the vine. The constraints of the pot cannot stop them. My basil also smells strongly, wafting around from the back porch, scenting the air but not flavoring my margaritas. Do I need to mottle it, like mint? It strikes me that a basil margarita might be the perfect drink to sit on my porch and enjoy the twilight with, before coming inside to the computer and on-line contest entry forms.

The twilight is beautiful, it is my favorite time of night. Traffic on the block is minimal tonight. It seems to ebb and flow, like tides governed by a moon I cannot see. 12th Street is always busy, a never ending current of cars, rolling along like waves, their noise consistently washing up on the sidewalk beach. A car turns off 12th Street onto my block and I watch its headlights approach as I sit on my stoop, basil margarita in hand. The bass from the car stereo sends a muffled pattern of thumps into the night. The song is like a quiet Morse code to me, like Braille, and I cannot recognize it. My friend Joanna teaches at a close-by inner city school and prides herself on knowing the hottest urban hits. I comb thrift stores for Brooks Brothers suits and imagine how I would decorate my office in a corporate law firm. Turn left onto 13th, I will the car. Leave me alone with my plants, my cocktail, the chirping crickets, an occasional firefly. The car obliges, and I feel a little victory, like when I ordered a prostitute off the block yesterday. I was surprised by how quickly she acquiesced to my demands that she meet customers somewhere else - 13th, 14th Street, anywhere but on my block. "All right," she said, and set off briskly around the corner. "Have a nice day," she called out over her shoulder.

I just want them - the hookers, the johns, the drug dealers, the junkies -- out of my sight. Leave me my shaded, grassy yard, my plants, my park across the street. There are kids biking through the far edge of the park, beyond the fence that demarcates the community baseball diamond. The wheels of their bikes are obscured by the solid part of the fence, I can only see their hunched torsos, gliding along like ghosts though the night. They don't come down my way, maybe because they see me out on the stoop. I wonder what the neighbors think of me. The bitch, carping at people drinking beer in the park. The racist, gathering her white friends behind fences under burning tiki torches. The crazy woman, gardening in an Asian sampan, covering her pale skin with long sleeves and oversize sunglasses. "Why do you want this place?" my first Eastside landlord asked me when I called about the apartment I used to live in.

"Are you a student?" The hairstylist in the unit downstairs inquired. She was stumped when I said no. "Well then what…" her voice trailed off. "What are you?" seemed to be the uncompleted question.

Maybe I am naive, to have bought a house here. Maybe I am presumptuous, to try to change the neighborhood. Maybe I am kidding myself that I have made a good investment, that someone will soon rent this house and pay my mortgage, that I will buy more property and be free of these shackles of poverty someday. My 30th birthday is 5 months away and I want to celebrate with a luxury vacation. Hot springs in the mountains, a spa in the hill country, facials in the desert. This, I think, will bring me peace, satisfaction, relaxation. It is time to go inside and start on the sweepstakes entries.

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