Authors: Jane Borden
I mean, obviously. There
no self-help publication for my conundrum, I said to myself, and threw the flimsy manners guide onto my desk in frustration. But when it landed with a thud on top of the first draft of this manuscript, I realized I was wrong. There is a guide.
I’ve written a book on the subject
Maybe the answer is in my words. Maybe I already know it without knowing it. I only need to read between the lines, find the clues that my subconscious left behind. I’d been combing the wrong
scroll. Once again, even though Aunt Jane could never have imagined this, she’d still delivered the advice I needed.
is a loosely organized collection of stories from one decade in the author’s life. Contained within its pages are no abusive parents, violent accidents, or horrifying sexual exploits. In fact, there is little action whatsoever. Rather, Jane Borden thinks she can tease dramatic tension from indecision, from a childish reluctance to settle down and cultivate a home. Although she should feel privileged even to have a choice, she can’t focus on the bigger picture, possibly due to a substantial preoccupation with food. Muffins, french fries, mayonnaise, brownies. We get it, Ms. Borden; you like to eat. Maybe you should put cookies on the book’s cover jacket.
First, however, it requires an ending; as you said, “it is cowardly to live a life without making choices.” To achieve this end, try following your own advice: “search for patterns and meaning in stories that have already been written,” “see allusions and draw conclusions where a writer didn’t intend them to be.”
“Duh: If I’m not looking at you, you can still see me.”
So now, instead of arguing with Candace Simpson-Giles, Sarah Tomczak, or for that matter Jesus, I’ll cross-examine myself.
“The most perfect relationship I’ve ever had was with a total stranger.”
Wow, straight out of the gate: what a horrifying thing to say. It sounds like the title of a stalker’s autobiography. Read it out loud in a deep, husky timbre. Or, better yet, use a Hannibal Lecter voice and exchange the word
. Either way, that’s not a quote; it’s a cry for help.
“They’d start saying they were tired: tired of hangovers, piles of garbage, and the stench of urine, tired of screaming neighbors, and the constant rumbling of trucks in their dreams. Tired of New York. So they’d leave.”
I wrote the first draft of that essay six years ago. At the time, I recognized the five nuisances in the first sentence as necessary evils. But these days, when a Midtown sidewalk suddenly becomes a man-made trash tunnel with walls stacked four bags high, when I accidentally lock eyes with a pee-smell contributor in medias res, when I’m brought to tears by secondhand verbal abuse, or when I’m startled awake—dunh-dunh-dunh—over and over—dunh—dunh-dunh—by the never-endi—dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh, the experiences leave me heavy, cranky, and in the mood to watch a bad romantic comedy. They make me tired.
And if I agree with the first sentence of the quote, then I must agree with the second, which ultimately leads to the third. Score one for the home team.
“I’d been looking for impediments in my environment, when I should have clocked the faces of people successfully avoiding those obstacles.”
So I’m just following everyone else? Um, if a pedestrian jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would I?
“What beautiful cooperation is born from the perpetually imminent threat of death.”
Another horrifying exclamation. Instead of New York or North Carolina, perhaps I should consider Kabul. Crisis is attractive because it allows the brain a singular focus, commands it to ignore every obligation in life save the avoidance of bodily harm. Therefore, it can be abused as an excuse to procrastinate. The relationship is similar to that of an addict whose only concern is the acquiring and consumption of junk. Hm. A quick word search confirms that this is the fourth time I’ve described myself as addicted to New York. Consider this my intervention: another point for the home team.
“No one spends that much time in a store the size of a minivan unless considering a major purchase.”