Bringin’ it home with Part III.
A few days after the God of the Parking Lot Attendant blessed me and washed my blackened heart clean, I exited the parking ramp again. Delightfully, it was David–not his gristly, plucked-chicken, Vikings-loving, puka-shell sporting compatriot–working the booth.
It’s a real crapshoot, the exiting of a parking ramp.
David slid his protective plexiglass open, and I noticed he was wearing a rugby shirt with a huge shamrock over the heart. Hmmm. This shirt choice didn’t smack of “Mormon-raised-on-the-compound” to me…even if it was St. Patrick’s Day. My sense of Mormons raised on polygamist compounds, once they’ve struck out into the secular world and followed a woman who then rejects them, is that they stay away from shamrock-festooned rugby shirts and tend more toward donning a hat and beard like this on St. Patrick’s day:
In its way, this look is a shout-out to Brigham Young and the childhood conditioning of the Angel Moroni.
Thus, I was flummoxed. Was it possible that the entire back story I’d created for David had been woven from my own fascination with origin tales involving buried golden plates, television shows starring Chloe Sevigny, and every last member of the Osmond family (right down to fifth son Merrill’s ten grandchildren)?
Was it possible David was just a normal guy who happened to work in a parking lot booth and who suffered from bunion pain?
Was it possible David had never stolen a truck from his father, the Prophet, and used it to bust off the compound one night to avoid the sublimated pain and jealousy that would run through every hour of every day if he grew up to become a Man of the Principle?
Was it possible David had never fallen in love with a young woman named Arnolene Odanna, nor, when she was expelled from the sect in disgrace for not “keeping sweet,” had he followed her to Northern Minnesota?
Was it possible he had never nor not followed a fictional young woman and actually was a real person himself with his own claim to a personal history not of my construction?
As David greeted me that day, my brain was storming with the possibilities. I was so dazed I almost blurted out, “Are you a real boy, David? Are you more than a Mormon Muppet that I’ve imagined to life? Do you breathe even when I’m not looking?”
Fortunately, while my childhood conditioning wasn’t overseen by the Angel Moroni, it had a goodly dash of “say things that aren’t actually what you’re thinking” embedded into it, and therefore, I was able to give David a bright “Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I like your shirt. Are you of Irish extraction?”
If we removed the childhood conditioning that trained me to play nice, I wouldn’t have wished him Happy St. Patrick’s Day (holidays are dumber than the student who called me at home at 6:25 a.m.), I wouldn’t have told him I liked his shirt (the thing was a blight upon my vision like a plastic bag blowing across a field of sunflowers), but I would have asked if he was Irishy (hoping my question would yield a brief explanation of the history of Mormonism in Ireland, thereby opening the door for me to find out all the names of his 32 brothers and sisters, which I would then post here with annotations).
“Oh, thank you,” said David. “My friend got this shirt for me when he was in Ireland…”
With this, an entirely new chapter to David’s back story flitted through my brain–and get this, you guys: after Arnolene Odanna dodged his love, DAVID REALIZED HE WAS GAY! WHICH ALSO HELPS EXPLAIN THE SALON-INDUCED HIGHLIGHTS IN HIS HAIR! AND NOW A FEW OF YOU WANT TO ACCUSE ME OF STEREOTYPING GAY PEOPLE, BUT I’M HERE TO TELL YOU THAT IF I EVER DROVE UP TO HIS WINDOW AND CRANKED HADDAWAY’S CLUB HIT “WHAT IS LOVE/BABY DON’T HURT ME,” DAVID AND HIS HIGHLIGHTS WOULD DANCE. HA! Screw you, Arnolene Odanna. He never needed you anyhow.
“…and so I wear it every year for Saint Patrick’s Day. As far as my heritage goes, I’m not exactly sure. My great-grandpa was adopted from Ireland, we think, but there’s some question if it might not have been Scotland.”
At this point I chimed in with a quick mini-lecture about the Scotch Irish; clever David nodded knowingly as he listened. Say what you will about the social structure on the compound, but those polygamist kids do receive a solid educational foundation.
Oblivious to my judgments about the fine tutelage he received in the one-room schoolhouse, David continued, “So I’m either Irish or Scottish; also, my last name is Livingston, which could be Irish or Scottish, too, I suppose. Anyhow…” [shrugging adorably and making the shamrock on his shirt slink around like a competitor in a Mr. Leather contest at a bar called The Manhole] “…Hey, are you a lifelong Duluthian?”
I hoped my response of “No, I’m from Montana originally” communicated to him that I, a fellow Westerner, had bred into me a sensibility of as long as you stay out of my business, I don’t care what you do and, therefore, he should feel free to tell me anything, anything about his life in Utah, and he could trust that I would listen with an understanding ear.
As is David’s way, he ignored the sound of my thoughts and carried on: “Oh, so if you didn’t grow up in Duluth, you probably never heard of Livingston’s Electrical. My grandpa and then my dad ran a shop for decades here, so I was thinking maybe you’d have heard of it.”
A longstanding family business in Duluth? That very nearly implied that David’s family wasn’t Utah based.
Sigh. My earlier suspicions were confirmed. David was a real boy.
Who, then, had loved poor Arnolene Odanna, if David had never even met her, what with his growing up in Duluth? Had no one ever loved her? Had Arnolene Odanna, consumed by lonely desperation after leaving the compound, been driven to a life of prostitution? Should I be looking for her outside the burned and boarded-up ruins of the Kozy Bar a few blocks down the street? And when I found her, would she be wearing Sasquatch-like boot covers? Did she need both a fashion intervention and for me to hook her up with the community-organization that aids victims of sex trafficking? What the hell was I doing talking to David about shamrocks when Arnolene needed me?
Fortunately, one of my superpowers is the ability to continue speaking casually while my mind is agitating with fictional characters and their plot lines.
Thus, I managed to reply, “Nope, I haven’t heard of Livingston Electrical, but how cool that your family had a business that passed through the generations.” Then, noticing a line of cars stacking up behind me, I realized our time together was nearly over, so I needed to move to the pressing question of the day before pulling forward and letting the next lucky sod bask in David’s company for as long as it takes to hand over a dollar bill.
“Hey, how is your bunion today?”
For a nano-second, David’s face registered surprise. As has always been the case with young men and me, he had forgotten about our previous intimacy. “Oh, have I told you about that?” he asked.
Occasionally, I suspect I might be an international spy, a regular master of disguise, given how frequently people whom I see all the time act like they’ve never clapped eyes on me before. Refraining from pointing out, “It’s been a mere three days since your bunion and I met,” I instead mentally conceded that I did look very different that day, as I was wearing a wide headband that covered most of what the Mormons might term my “crowning glory.” Truly, if I was about to go out and save the prostitute ex-love whom David had never met, the least I could do was cut my favorite Recently-Not-A-Mormon a break. Also, I vowed, in the future I would attempt to be more memorable. Perhaps I would be the lady who always cranked Haddaway’s “What is love/Baby don’t hurt me” every time she drove out of the parking ramp, for instance.
“Yea, I know about your bunion. Last time I came through, you were trying to change shoes really quickly because your foot was hurting,” I told him in a quick re-cap. (Sidenote: Game of Thrones wanted to hire me to do their synopses, too, but then decided to pass after my first submission read “Just don’t get too attached to anybody.”)
His face lighting with recognition, he trilled, “Ooh, speaking of changing my shoes, that’s actually something I really need to do right now. After trying every possible shoe, I finally have discovered exactly the right pair; I’ve had them for ages, but when I bought them, I got them a size too big, so I’ve never really worn them. But now that I need a big, loose shoe, they’re perfect!”
Don’t you guys love that David uses semi-colons when he speaks? Testament to character, that. I fear poor Arnolene Odanna speaks in nothing but comma splices peppered with sentence fragments.
I followed up his excitement with a necessary query, “So what brand are these magic shoes? I mean, in case I ever get a bunion?”
“Oh, they’re Clarks. Something like a Wallabee Trekker–sort of a desert boot,” he told me, reaching back behind his desk area and grabbing one off the floor.
Just when David seemed as perfect as his Good Lord could have made him, he went and got even better: this guy wears Clarks, and he even knows the name of the model of shoe he sports. Oh, David, DAVID: it is a very special former-fundamentalist-Mormon-but-not-actually-one-at-all who is acutely attuned to the details of his footwear!
Since David was standing there, waggling his Wallabee at me–an apt euphemism for what Arnolene Odanna was dealing with down by the Kozy Bar–I decided to give him the moment: “Heck, I’m here, and I’m happy to hold all these other cars at bay while you make the shoe change. I’ll just idle here for a minute while you slap that shoe on your foot, okay? Just let me know when you’re ready for me to pull forward.”
With that, David dropped out of sight, his highlights dripping toward his Wallabee. As I waited, I hummed “What is love/Baby don’t hurt me” quietly under my breath, passing the time until his ailing foot was properly shod.
A moment later, his head popped back up and announced. “There. Much better. And I want to say more than thank you. Today wasn’t going very…well, it wasn’t good. I had this stupid thing happen earlier, and it just put me in a bad mood, and I couldn’t shake it.”
I squelched my impulse to yell, “DID SOMEONE MAKE YOU FEEL BAD THROUGH HIS OR HER INTERPERSONAL COWARDICE?” Instead, I said, “I’m sorry you were having a tough one. Was it anything specific that made you gloomy?”
“Hey, that’s exactly the word for how I’ve felt all day. Gloomy. No, it was just a random moment where a guy in a car almost hit me, and I truly almost died, and even though it was a near miss, I just can’t get past it.”
“Nor should you,” I assured him. “Those moments are scary–when we realize how one tiny blip can make all the difference. All that adrenaline hits and then the anxiety sets in, and both brain and body get all out of whack. I totally understand that.”
A beam more powerful than highlights threatened to spread across David’s face. “Yes, that’s exactly how it is. I keep telling myself I didn’t die, and these things happen, and that I should let it go. But I just kept feeling down all day. It’s so dumb that we finally have a beautiful day outside, yet I just feel like the color of the sky. I don’t want to be blue when the sky is blue. Now, thanks to your thoughtfulness, my foot feels better, and I feel better. No more blue.”
What can a person say to that? Especially when she’s already been sitting at this guy’s window for a couple thousand words already? Yes, she could wax on about karma and how he doesn’t know it, but a few days before he pulled her out of exactly that kind of crap mood with his own kind words. She could compose a little ditty about “the good you sow is the good you reap.” She could leap out of her car, ask him to join his latex-gloved hands with hers, and twirl him around as she sings “What is love/Baby don’t hurt me.” She could freak the Brigham right out of him (that there’s a “compound” phrase, incidentally) by implying that she and he apparently have been cast into meaningful roles for each other–that somehow the Universe, or his God, has determined that they shall serve as each other’s pick-me-uppers on the worst of days.
However, the cars behind me were starting to get angry-looking headlights, so it seemed best to keep things simple: “I’m really glad. That makes me happy, too. Now, I hope both you and your foot feel great all day. Have a good one.”
As I started to pull forward, he leaned over the silver ledge that separated us. “Wait, what’s your name?”
“It’s Jocelyn. I should wear a name tag, like you. ‘Cause I already know you’re David. Have a great day, David. No more blue.”
“Oh, thank you, Jocelyn. You have a good one, too!”
As I put the car into gear and began inching out–carefully, so as to not hit any pedestrians–I thought to myself, “Yea, like you’re going to remember my name is Jocelyn the next time I come through.”
No matter. I don’t have to be his Jocelyn.
But he’ll always be My Special Was-Nearly-Raised-By-Polygamist-Mormons David.
(This is one of my all-time favorite scenes from a tv show–it’s from My So-Called Life when Delia and Ricky help each other feel better after all the world has been a big bummer)
This thing nearly spiraled into Part IV when a student stayed after class the other day to tell me about her sister’s bunion and impending surgery and how Crocs are the only shoe the pain-ridden girl can wear. There was absolutely no reason for this student to come tell me all of this. Clearly, the energies of the world have knighted me Bunion Whisperer. I should start a Tumblr of bunion-friendly shoes.