Back in the olden days (circa 1999), I was working full-time at the bookstore and making friends with some of the most magically and majestically fucked up people I have ever known. I had a friend who worked in the stationery section of the store who was an HIV-positive gay man obsessed with Laura Nero. To this day, wrapped up in an old quilt in storage, I have the tapes he made for me of his favorite Nero LPs. The woman in charge of sidelines was a recovering addict and had the infectious energy of Julia Child on speed. A guy named Morgan worked in the music department, and I loved him a little too much for a little too long. I used to go to his house late at night after work and watch movies like Rushmore and Flirting With Disaster; the walls of his basement were covered with paintings that were gifts from his psychiatrist mother's patients...terrifying. There was the quiet, wildly brilliant gay man who worked in the fiction section; he looked like Gerhardt from 28 Days and we used to walk the "runway" together in the upstairs hollows of the storage rooms. He was obsessed with beauty and fashion, and even befriended a fashion model's grandmother who frequented the store. He was also in love with the way new books smelled and at any moment you could catch him at the information desk, fanning a paperback under his nose. There was the hippie woman who had all of the makings of being one of the most bitter divorcees known to humankind. She always hated me. Ruth, blech. A gaggle of recovering addicts worked in the cafe, stuck making minimum wage and slinging cappuccinos to yuppie idiots because the halfway house down the road insisted they get a job nearby that didn't involve alcohol or pills. Betty, the former school librarian, managed the reference section and was rapidly losing her eyesight and her height. Usually you could find her standing on a stool with her face inches from the spine of her precious books, making sure everything was tidy.
A few of us from the store would often make a night out of dinner and the used bookstore, combing through musty books no longer in print and music that was more affordable on our ridiculous salaries. We were at the McKay's in Centreville when I picked up Michelle Shocked's Short Sharp Shocked and my now-ex laughed at me, calling me a lesbian-in-training. I listened to the album for a few weeks, particularly obsessed with one song, and now it's filed away in a massive CD binder that I keep in the deep, dark hollows of my closet.
This morning Seamus woke me up by climbing atop my pillow, wrapping his paws around my face and whimpering. And for the first time in a really long while, I didn't have any trouble getting up. Is the weather shifting? I think it's shifting. When I took him outside for his morning constitutional, the cold air felt different. It's the kind of cold that ripens your cheeks to a soft pink and not the kind that makes you feel like a brittle, achy-boned old woman. Isn't any wonder that I have When I Grow Up on a loop in my head as a result? I've felt like an old woman for most of this winter as it's seemed more oppressive than any other season I've experienced in a long while. The snow has been lovely, and I still hold onto some sadness about it melting, but it needs to go. When I grow up, I'll have time to be an old woman. An old, old, old, old, old, old woman. Just not now.
P.S. The song was used in a commercial a few years ago and featured some pretty spectacular old ladies. So when I talk about growing up and being an old woman, I mean like these fabulous broads.