Breaking points


Last night I got a call from Twila.  Twila hates the phone, despises it.  When any phone at all rings, irritation springs up within her and the look in her eyes is that of a trapped animal.  When it’s her phone that rings, it’s the animal to the tenth power.


She tells me her mind goes through a process like a flow chart:  after the irritation comes the fear—of an unwanted caller, of a wanted caller wanting to talk too long—and, if yes, she’s amenable to answer, she steels herself and answers gruffly; if no, she’s not in a place to deal with it, she presses “Ignore,” and sits for a moment in the spin of what just happened before trying to right herself.


And so it is that Twila rarely picks up the phone to “bother” anyone.  She wouldn’t want to put anyone through the misery of a call that wasn’t either pure business, very important, or emergency-important.


I understand Twila.  I used to work for her.  We’re kindred spirits, both of us soft and sweet dreamers, quiet souls content to be alone and amusing ourselves forever and ever.  We were once pretty, knotty pine pegs now with edges and corners from having been brutally pounded into the constricted square holes of the business world. 


Both of us just ended up in that world.  Our paths meandered that way and parts of us rose to the occasion and enjoyed the status and the money and parts of us rebelled deeply, eternally.  It’s just that I happened to have a little more resistance to stress built into my DNA than Twila does.  She had to leave to try and grow pretty and knotty and full of creative potential again.


And I stayed.


“Humans are more playful than I remembered…” she told me.


“Remembered from when?”  I asked.


“From when I only thought like a hermit and lived less like one.  From the days I had to show up at an office every day and act like I knew what I was doing…”


“Oh, right,” I said, smiling to myself.  “What brought this on?”


“Facebook,” she said.


“What on earth are you doing on a social networking site?” I asked.


Twila blew by the question.  Her hollow-sounding voice continued like her mind was off wandering, trying to make sense of things, while her mouth was getting distant signals from her mind, just moving, relaying remnants.


“People are more playful…  More like playful puppies than I remembered,” she said.  “And I realized I’m more like an old, mother dog…  Of course I’m not old or a mother…  But it’s my mind.  My mind feels old and tired, impatient with all the tail-chasing…  Do you know what I mean, Zan?”


“I know it like me, like you, Twila,” I said.


“I signed up to interact with Gina.  Do you remember her?”


“Yeah, yeah!  In Legal.  What a sharp lady!  Man, I admired her…”


“Oh me too.  Anyway, that was fun until others started finding me and I thought that was fun until I started getting invited and tagged and interviewed and poked and chatted to and my wall written on and the blow-by-blows of everyone were snowballing—Dick is now friends with Jane, Sally is barking at the moon, Bobby is pulling out the wedgy Suzy gave him—all threatening to roll me up until I became part of the impending, absurd avalanche…”


I waited a moment, heard her swallowing back a rush of emotions.  I thought maybe comic relief would be good about now, so I said, “Just a little too much like the work world, eh?”


I could hear the relief in her laugh.  And I could tell she’d broken free of being balled up, that she’d figured it out, what she needed to do, just in the telling of it to me.




“But nothing seems to change,

the bad times stay the same,

And I can’t, oh I can’t run.


Sometimes I feel, sometimes I feel,

Like I been tied to the whipping post

Tied to the whipping post

Tied to the whipping post

Good lord, I feel like I’m dyin”


“Whipping Post,” Allman Brothers Band



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