Be Longing

Shannon Wardell
Be Longing
A Short Story About Peer Pressure vs GroupThink, and the Senselessness of Broken Zippers
Stand-up Comedy as a Modern Form of Ancient Greek Rhetoric

In her short red nightgown she sat in the corner of the bed, her arms wrapped around her folded legs, her chin on her knees, her bedhead looking unbelievably cool and wild, yet her soft voice sang somewhere between Patsy and Piaf:
I am lost in life
And don’t know where to go
Tired of making it up
Each day at a time;
I’m wishing for a plan
To take me by the hand
And lead me safely through this land
Of pain and woe -
From the next room she heard his voice, “That song reminds me of something a nearly-retired laboratory professor once told me one afternoon while developing a high protein strand of rye, which he was convinced could well provide a major contribution to the ending of tasteless Reuben sandwiches in NYC – along with true hunger in other parts of the world. Our slogan was, ‘Why Rye? Wry High!’
“While cleaning his favorite microscope, Prof B started talking to it: ‘You are a wonder. You let me see things that I had no idea existed in this world. If you were human I would marry you, immediately. But you’re just an exquisitely made tool that inspires me to find and chart out microscopic lands. I wish I knew where you want to lead me; it would give me more confidence in our own safety. Naturally, I realize the poetic truth of The Uncertainty Principle. My problem is that I don’t know what I want other than documenting all that you allow me to see through you. I feel like one of those priestess junkies at Delphi coked out of their minds who witness “divine” truths during drug induced trances. My drug is coffee, and Led Zeppelin. I can only trust that it will end well, however it turns out.’
“Another time he said this to his ‘scope, ‘15 days and we have seen no change in the Z-rate of Sample 34c. You are driving me f------ crazy. I can hardly concentrate anymore with all of your suggestive looks and come-hither ploys. “Just look over here a little”; two hours later you say, “Oh sorry, thought that was something important.” Do you know what you really want?’
“Another time, ‘To engage in social work because that work is a clear enrichment to a broader community is ironically similar to the lab rat who engages in loner, loveless work because that work in his own consumed mind will certainly enrich the broader community of humans on this planet. The former have friends, however.’”
Immune to his banter, she sang:
I may be lost in life
And don’t know where to go
But I know it will turn out
In the end;
I’m wishing for a plan
Not a castle built of sand
But all I want right now is
Some pizza in the garden -
Still clasping her legs, now with her right cheek on her knees, she looked up entranced by the plays of candle-light and shadow swaying gently on the walls and ceiling. She felt her tense psyche relax, stretch and smile. She felt none of the fear that so often wrapped around her heart making it difficult to live or love as she truly wanted.
The end of a day decides how the next day begins and develops, she thought. How I spend my evening governs what I am able to do tomorrow. Without question.
As she watched the light flicker in the dark, she began to hear music in her mind, more of a fabric of sounds than a catchy tune: the base boom-boom from that close-windowed VW Golf waiting at the light as she crossed the street earlier; the squeaky roller of the shopping cart at the store; the waves of traffic along the avenue around the corner …
Then from the next room she heard him continue.
“Coincidence you should sing that: you want some of this last quarter of pizza? The idea of eating it is consuming me so much I don’t know who is eating whom anymore. I know you’re busy, but I thought I’d ask anyway. You know, a funny thing happened just now. I put on my black sweater and discovered that the front zipper is broken, stuck completely tight at the top. Now I can’t close it. Cutting out the entire zipper and sewing a new one on is too much work. But the sweater is still nice, except for that one moth hole. But then I remembered that indoors I never zip it up anyway, so what’s the big fuss. Then I realized that a broken zipper is like a broken record: why do we call it broken when it can’t be fixed? Which made me think of broken world records, like in the Olympics, or the Tallest Building or the Most Hot Dogs Eaten in One Minute. In 2012 the largest pizza in the world was – get this – 1261.65 square meters in size filling a large hall in Rome. They even gave it a name – ‘Ottavia’ – supposedly in homage to the first Roman emperor, but I bet that pizza was so not-with-love-made, so let’s-break-a-world-record-big that later when the slices were passed around, everyone there had one, but no one honestly enjoyed it. Like a broken zipper.”
He would try anything for a smile, she thought. As though that was some kind of cure-all. As though laughing at something frees you of its hold.

I was lost in life
Not knowing where to go
But now I know just what
I want to make and do;
I do what I love
And mind that all ends meet
Making sure that what I do -
Doesn’t screw up anyone else’s life -

Her voice continued to sing, but now in her head: I trust in the process of life. I am ready for change and everything good that it will bring. I am ready to release myself from the need of wanting this change. I look behind me with love upon that last, past chapter in my life, and I regard in front of me with eagerness this surrounding new world. I am free. I am happy. I am loved. I am determined, and I am always safe.

She opened her eyes, and caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror across the room. In her mind she spoke to this reflection:

Desperately wishing to belong makes us unbearable as company. Instead -
Be longing for a worthwhile goal in your life, and you will find deliverance from all that holds you back from being the leading role in this romcom adventure film which you are now experiencing, your own default subjective reality within this larger context we all call life.
Be longing for the chance to actually live your dream of how life could be: without anger, hate, insult, power-games of calculated love.
Be longing for a way to change bad habits into productive sources of creative energy.
Be longing for someone to sing a song to you alone and you will belong to that group of explorers in our human history who have risked life and limb in order to chart out the intricate coastline of that most elusive island in our psyche: the one that only you have ever seen.
Be longing for a safe place where there is warm food, welcoming family and friends who help you live your dream –

Suddenly, she then called out aloud, “Hey, Mr Yer-Zipper-Is-Open, is there any pizza left?”

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