Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Awkward Complex

I've been very pessimistic today.

Which is something I don't particularly enjoy, especially when it isn't the sort of pessimism where I sit in my room and grumble to myself while wishing I didn't have so many nick-knacks on my shelves. Today I was at work from six in the morning until two in the afternoon grumbling to my coworkers.

And it was embarrassing.

I'm not particularly pessimistic. Granted, there are the semi-occasional pessimistic thoughts that penetrate my otherwise happy-go-lucky firewalls, but I don't often vocalize them. And if I do they are monitored and vented at my parents who generally seem to understand me.

But I have this complex which I have just decided to refer to as the "Awkward Complex." When forced so socialize with a group of people I've just met or barely know, I inwardly panic. This panic shuts off the blood flow to my brain and blocks any cognitive abilities I have hitherto possessed. Thus the Awkward Complex begins. Being physically unable to form a mildly intelligent sentence, but still feeling the overwhelming urge to be myself (which, unsurprisingly, includes some form of speaking), I begin to talk about whatever awkward subject I can; to break the ice. But the Awkward Complex makes me overly aware of how awkward I am feeling, and to avoid appearing awkward it seems reasonable to talk about how I'm feeling awkward, thus eliminating any notion that I'm actually feeling awkward.

As I said, all cognitive abilities shut down once the Awkward Complex is in full swing.

Unfortunately, as I stumble through kindergarten grammared sentences about how I'm feeling so out of place, I tend to attempt to lighten the situation by talking about whoever I am with. But what few appropriate sentences my mind can create get lost in all the shut tubes and blocked barriers from my brain to my voice box, and I say something that, at any other time, would have most likely been a witty and charming statement, but under the Awkward Complex emerges from my lips a biting remark about how my companion is a horrible person. My companion is most commonly Erin. I, victim to the Awkward Complex, have unintentionally called her a whore, a low-selfworthed moron, and a dirtbag, the latter of which translates into a donkey's rear-end in my cleanly vocabulary.

And duly unfortunately for both myself and my not-so-horrible-as-I-happen-to-say-she-is companion, the Awkward Complex also abandons all use of the Restraint Gland. This gland is the particle of the mind that informs you when it is proper to continue to speak, and when it's best to just shut your mouth. With the Restraint Gland out of the picture, the Awkward Complex brings me to rambling non-stop, attempting to recover from my mistaken friend-bashing, but only digging me in a more awkwardly inarticulate hole. And in the depths of this hole I remember how awkward I'm feeling and begin to speak about that again.

And as soon as my companion adds to the "conversation", I once again dim-mindedly retaliate with a statement that makes us both look like foolish, rude vagrants.

This outburst makes me feel beastly awkward, And upon feeling awkward I begin again to draw attention to my awkwardness.

It's a rather vicious cycle, that is usually only broken by whomever I was speaking to breaking the conversation and scurrying away, and is shortly followed by Erin getting upset that I made her out as a dirtbag, and by me apologizing profusely about how my mouth only gets away from me when my brain shuts off, but my apologizing is just as jumbled and awkwardly rude as any other previous statements.

And then comes the Guilt.

But today I wasn't speaking about my awkwardness. I was complaining, and much like the symptoms of the Awkward Complex, it seemed best to stop seeming like I was complaining by continuing to complain.

But there's a difference between complaining or sounding brutally idiotic to someone you just met against complaining to two middle aged women you respect and have worked with for two years and who know you are normally quiet and well-mannered.

People express grief upon failing their parents expectations and losing their trust over something like lying about where they've ventured to. I'm pretty much feeling that now, but it's not so much disappointment at making someone disappointed in me as it is knowledge that I let my half-framed opinions leak in quick and violent succession from my lips and that these women have every right and ability to share my phrases in the gossip circle that is the Bakery.

It feels good to complain on rare and lighthearted occasions, just a statement or two max. But to become victim to the Awkward Complex's close cousin the Complaining Complex, and allow your ill-hearted and vastly untrue complaints to spill out of your pores for hours on end in an attempt to make conversation and not seem like a pessimistic complainer is among the top ten Foot in Mouth moments of your life.

Unfortunately, if counting each Awkward Complex moment individually rather than as a whole, I have some fifteen top ten Foot in Mouth moments.

And today makes sixteen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Fortunately Found Forgotten Fragrance

I have this shower gel that smells like my great-grandmother's house. It's innocent enough in the bottle, pleasant even, but once I begin lathering trouble brews. It's that near putrid aroma I've associated with my great-grandmother since childhood: a mangled cross between a freshly opened box of Wheat Thins crackers and a fermented peach, moldy and oozing, squelched to its shelf by its fluid. But the peach thing might just be because my great-grandparents owned farmland and an orchard that may or may not have grown peaches.

That smell was her house. Though now that I think of it, the AstroTurf of her "mud room" and the general musk that must have been grandpa mingled in with the cracker/peach fetor, creating a scent that was singular to that two story hope house in Ogden.

Which is why I know it so vividly. That house, for me, was not the gardening wonderland my uncles and aunts reminisce on. All I knew and all I remember was the faux turf grass carpeting in the mud room and sun porch, the rotten fruit smoldering in the orchard and cellar, the sun-bleached yard gnomes and critters, and the well that had been sealed and used as a home for potted plants. I knew stripped wood sheds the size of the house stretching back farther than I was allowed to go. And the pine-needled floor that lead to the horses who I only remember because grandma said if I clenched the apple like that instead of just resting it on my open palm the horse would get my fingers for sure.

Thank you grandma, for that three year fear of horses.

But I digress.

I only smelt the stench when entering the house through the back door that lead to the AstroTurf mud room and hidden door to the dank cellar, and when passing through the kitchen that got more and more cluttered with each passing year, and when visiting grandpa and his TV broadcasted subtitled basketball game in the living room with the fuzzy faded green couches. And in the pink tiled bathroom with the large window overlooking the backyard that, for my later years, seemed always to be broken, supplying what I sarcastically knew to be heaps of privacy.

I'd wiff it seldom other times, and when it crept up I'd recognize it immediately, but I never knew what it was that created the scent. I was always miffed, when walking past that house on the corner on my way to elementary school, and one out every three hundred times I'd smell it. I'd always taken it to be a secretive mix only feasible through my great-grandmother's elderly clutter and aging fruits. But there was the smell, like a disembodied voice, uncalled for and confusing, unwanted and unknown.

In spite of the displeasure I seem to express whilst describing this odor, it does bring a certain waft of nostalgia (pun unintended), as exemplified in my near two paragraphs of blithering nonsense.

But while the memories are bright and blissful, the scent itself is dank and disconcerting. So you see my trouble with a body wash that has mastered the scent of that house. But still I continue to use it, aside from each nagging fear that it does not grow agreeable as it soaks in the skin, but rather stays the same, and as my luck should have it I'll have chosen to wash with it instead of some other soap and that day be approached by a prospective mate who, upon smelling my aged rotten grandmother-house stench, politely steps away never to come a'calling again.

It's odd to hold that bottle in my hand, seconds before dumping some of its contents on my loofah, and know all along the scent has had a name: a reasonable name, one I would never have pegged for such an off smell. It makes me wonder if the contents of my great-grandmother's house really had anything to do with the smell that resided there. Perhaps it's in the little-old-lady handbook to obtain a bag of dried plant bits infused with this scent and sprinkle pinches of it in every nook and cranny, behind every dusty trinket and unplayed piano. Perhaps it was just her favorite flower, and she was so stuck on it she abolished all use of any other and only employed scent of iris in her home.

Or perhaps my body wash is just as fermented as that peach, as fermented as that dear old woman, and it's not the flower at all, but the funk of age in general.

What We Love is What We Become

To the man who changed my life:

I never liked artificial light. Perhaps it was that my walls were grey, and domed florescents made them prison-like. Or perhaps it's due to my days spent outside, and the youth and imagination that accompanies sunlight. Whichever the case may be, I've spent my life with blinds pulled up and sun coming in.

But there was something missing in the light of nature. There was a chink in my happiness;and without knowing you filled all the gaps, and then those that weren't ever gaps to begin with. I had music now to explain my heart. I had words and a voice that fit all I was, and all I would be. But more than that I had a jimmy for the lock that kept my windows shut. I had a flattened screwdriver to wedge in the wood and moment after moment pry open.

And then the words in song became words on screen and I learned by reading the soul behind the voice, the person behind the guitar. And more than that I learned writing as a mortal against writing when linked to the heart of the universe; writing plugged in and charged to the rhythm of the organism earth. I learned all I'd ever prized myself on was the simplicities of man,and that beauty did not come from labored knowledge. Beauty comes from open windows and tentacles of the soul strung out and tethered to the nerves of life itself. I learned in your words that I am part of a cyber network quite unlike the one that fed me your phrases. I became able to channel the network of hearts and write their emotions, all because I felt it enough in you.

And this is too long to say, and perhaps too disjointed. I wish you could read it all. I wish I could tell you. But you'll never hear of me, you'll never see my face, you'll never read my comment on your parting swan song. But I hope you'll feel my heart, and find yourself opening the windows to the network of love and humanity and hearts and feel all I have to offer.

Because I'm only able to offer it due to you.

I regret having fallen from following you, but you should know what I've read has taken me the way it all did in the past. Whatever you write next, and wherever you write it, will be well enough for me. As long as your writing still comes; as long as, through you, I am able to recall that I am now a connected heart.

To the man who changed my life: a solemn thank-you will suffice, in the words of mere man. A connection of hearts is too much to conscript.