I’m here to collect on some debts. Some very old debts.
What I am owed is: Sympathy.
Sometimes you have little accidents doing something stupid. You don’t want your stupidity revealed. When you hurt yourself being a dumbbell, you kind of have to keep quiet about it.
Pretending everything is fine when it isn’t may save face. But while avoiding embarrassment means that no one knows what a dumbbell you are, it also means that nobody feels bad for you either.
But I’m old now. And I don’t really care anymore if I look like an idiot. I want my sympathy.
Overdue Sympathy #1: I’m eleven and taking a test. I’m chewing on the end of my pen, and suddenly I suck when I should have chewed. I have a mouthful of ink. And a mean teacher who yells. Who makes me cry at least once a week. I don’t even have a Kleenex to spit into. I swallow. And keep my mouth tightly shut until recess.
What I want now: The school nurse miraculously swoops in to say hi, takes one look at me and my blue lips, and hurries me to her office, which is a closet with a cot and some band-aids. She cleans my mouth of all that terrible ink and gives me a root beer to get the taste out of my mouth. She says, “It’ll be our little secret, honey.” The honey part is important.
Overdue Sympathy #2: I’m fourteen and bowling with my sisters. I’m wearing a gorgeous necklace that my parents gave me for Christmas. It’s a large locket that looks like a crown – all encrusted with gold and rubies (gold-plated brass and red glass). This bowling excursion is my first opportunity to wear it. I look very fancy with my precious locket and rental shoes. I do that swoopy-skippy dance to throw the ball. When I stop abruptly at the end of my approach, the heavy pendant swings up and hits me dead between the eyes.
What I want now: My oldest sister puts her arms around me and give me a kiss on my throbbing forehead. She had never kissed me on the forehead before – or since – but nevertheless.
Overdue Sympathy #3: I’m in high school, hustling to my next class. I go to push open the door at the top of the stairs, but there’s no pane of glass where I push – the frame is empty. And my arm goes through that empty space at full speed. Of course, my whole body doesn’t go through. I come to a excruciating halt when half of my armpit is shorn off.
What I want now: Jane Beckwith, Homecoming Queen, runs over and picks up my scattered books. She says, “Oh my God, you need to put something soft against that terrible scrape. Why don’t you borrow my cashmere cardigan for the rest of the day?”
Overdue Sympathy #4: I’m working a second job at JC Penney’s for extra cash over Christmas, and there’s a long line at my register. I’m the best temporary cashier in the whole store. Every department wants me. My queue is moving fast because I’m quick and accurate, right up to the moment where I staple the customer’s receipt, not to the bag, but to my thumb.
What I want now: The cute security guard rushes to me and gently lays me down. He has a pillow from Home Furnishings and puts it under my head.
It’s not so much to ask. I’m not asking for those accidents not to have happened.
A I just want a root beer, a kiss on the forehead, a cashmere sweater, and a pillow.
Really, is that so much?