Oh, don’t mind me. Just pretend I’m not here and go on about your business. I don’t mind being ignored. No, sir, I’d consider it a kindness and a flipping miracle.
Attention gives me the willies, frankly. I’ve been trapped in the harsh, uncomfortable glare of the spotlight my entire life. Not because I’m talented or smart or glamorous; because I’m willful. No one approves of willful. Babysitters, especially. Teachers, too, they watched me like hawks. As did neighbors, coaches, crossing guards, meter maids, nurses, bosses, you name it.
The constant attention didn’t make me any less willful, but it sure made me feel guilty. All the time, for everything. Including the Lindbergh baby and Jimmy Hoffa. The endless suspicion has left its mark: every passing word, thought, and deed is written on my face in big, neon, sans serif letters. Futura Bold, maybe. I’m a flipping billboard.
Last week, as I sailed through the doors of my apartment building, the intercom sprang to life and said, ‘Lisa, come to the office.’ Quick as a wink, the old, familiar dread came flooding back: oh, god, what had I done now? I ran through a quick checklist of possibilities — I’d paid the rent, I was fully dressed, I hadn’t sold liquor or fireworks in the elevator. Nope, I was clean, so I fought the urge to raise my hands and face the wall.
I wanted to look innocent and law-abiding, but the ladies in the office aren’t stoopid. They’re on to me — particularly the one whose voice had summoned me. She’s tough to fool, that one. I’ve tried, and get a look that pins me like a bug for my trouble. She’s a charming person, deeply good-hearted, but she brooks no nonsense. And what am I if not nonsensical, hmm? I’m camped in her crosshairs.
At the office, I stood and withered under a level gaze that drew me up short and erased whatever it was I’d planned to say. Or do. Or think. It was discombobulating, to say the least. This, my friends, is a woman with standards and expectations, so I braced myself for an earful. Or a stern talking-to. Something bad, anyway.
I got a terrific, fully prepared dinner, instead. Fork and everything. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather and perhaps that’s the secret, diabolical plan: to kill me with kindness. Yeah, well, I’ll show them, I’ll start adoption proceedings.
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