I can’t stop thinking about the girl. God knows I’ve tried, but this city won’t let you forget.
She’s the bloodstain on the sidewalk, the one that looks like a question mark. She’s the crack in the window at City Hall and the smell of bread on windless mornings.
The girl is my ghost; her memory, my penance. Things will never be the same now, I know that. The dealers keep dealing and corruption still runs deeper than the canals, but things have changed. And I can’t get the girl out of my head.
And done. What? You thought I could continue with that hard-boiled kind of narrative? A dead girl and the legacy of crime and despair she left behind?
Give me a break, man. It’s February. Blood runs thick as mashed potatoes. Inspiration is as frozen as spit in a parking lot. You can call AAA for a jump start, but they won’t know where to put the cables. That hateful groundhog advised that there is plenty of winter left. Say what you want about that rodent, he’s still several degrees smarter than the journalists who chase him around with cameras.
At least they have something to do. You know what I’ve got? If I knew how to spell bupkis, that’s how I’d describe it. On second thought, the hell with the spelling. I got bupkis. I work a beat that’s as frozen and lifeless as a snowbank crusted with ennui.
I hate February. Always have. And I know what you’re thinking, too, you rosy-cheeked Februite. You’ve got that hot chocolate mustache and a knit scarf wrapped so deftly around your neck. If I give you half a second, you’ll start singing some festive song and I’ll have to kill you. You’re thinking: But Mark! February is prime time. There’s still plenty of winter to enjoy — can I get a fa la la? — and yet the bright light of spring glows at the end of the tunnel. What’s not to love?
I just threw up a little. I know you. You’re the crazy soul who celebrates February by having people over for Swiss Miss and Pictionary. Or Mad Gab or charades. A G-rated swinger, is what you are. When life hands you lemons, you pull some Martha Stewart voodoo and make lemonade. You probably have other guests tied up in the basement. Backup in case one of the current visitors dies during a round of charades.
OK, that was a little harsh and I apologize. I’m not right, I tell you. February wears me down and rubs me raw. It’s like a noogie, a wet willy, a reverse drumstick and a knee to the groin all in one 28-day package.
Or 29. Wait, is this a leap year? Are you kidding me?
That’s another thing. February claims to be the shortest month. Look at me, it goes around claiming. I’m just a wee little month, but I sure am fun! Fiddly Dee! Would you like little marshmallows in your hot chocolate, my dear?
But February lies. February is like the girl who claims she just wants to have a good time. Doesn’t want a serious relationship or anything like that. And the next thing you know, she’s flying her folks in to meet you and there are bridal magazines all over your coffee table.
You think it’s a coincidence that Valentine’s Day falls smack-dab in the middle of the month? February wants a commitment. It wants to be a part of your life. And so, when you could be at home watching the pre-spring-training baseball (live coverage of your favorite player packing his bag and getting something to eat before boarding the plane) on the MLB channel, instead you’re hustling off into the single-digit cold, braving snowbanks and the Swiss Miss crazies to buy your honey candy in heart-shaped boxes. Or expensive jewelry. Or a house.
Because that’s how February rolls. It’s not enough that you’re bored and cold. February wants you to be broke, too. February wants to make you cry.
And so, seconds after writing that previous line — I mean literally seconds — I wandered into another part of the house to look out the window. You know. Trying to unclog that inspiration jam. And what to my wondering eyes did appear out there in the freezing white afternoon?
Nothing, that’s what. Because the moment I stepped into the sun room, my feet went splash. And I thought: Well, huh. I don’t remember us having an indoor pool. Especially one with floating books.
Which we don’t, of course. Which could only mean that a pipe had burst and that part of the house was underwater. Which it was. Underwater, that is. And I spent the next six hours bailing, wringing out, ripping up long sections of carpet and carrying them out into the frigid dark.
The pipe needs fixing, the floor needs mopping and there’s the matter of all that water damage in the basement. I can’t help thinking that if I had refrained from complaining for once, February might have left me alone. She’s vengeful. I pay a high price for speaking out but I never learn. So now, if you’re keeping score at home: I’m cold, frustrated, uninspired, and soggy, on top of everything else.
Yet interestingly, I find that I’m no longer bored.
Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. You can invite him over for tea and Twister at firstname.lastname@example.org.