Lately, I’ve felt that I have no right to be on the planet, that there is no place where I belong. For example, the bus: Even though I was a paying customer I only paid a quarter because I have a disability card. As I stumbled up the stairs, the driver sighed impatiently, saying, “Move on.” The woman next to me shoved over as I sat down, as if I hadn’t bathed or had grown horns.
Then I stopped at the pet store, which always seems to have more employees present than customers. Why they weren’t happy to get some business is beyond me. I purchased a doggie retrieving toy shaped like a ring, and junk food treats for QB. As I pulled out my wallet, the worker angrily took the cash from me–yes, it was a $20 bill, but it was money, right? I have no right to be here, I thought. They don’t want me here.
I boarded the bus again and got off at McDonald’s. I was thirsty. But I couldn’t find the entrance, only the drive-thru lane. I circled the building and found my way inside after maneuvering my briefcase over curbs and stairs. Families with kids scuttled around the place like bees.
I approached the counter. “What do you have to drink?” I asked. I noticed that the workers were all female, and the supervisor male. The worker looked at me incredulously as if I should know what they have to drink. I repeated my question. “Medium?” she asked.
I replied, “Yes, medium.”
I haven’t been inside a McDonald’s in years. I paid for my cup, thinking, I am a paying customer; I have the right to be here. I poured myself a Diet Coke as McDonald’s is now self-serve for beverages, and sat down. I finished the entire cup in just a minute or two. Still thirsty, I refilled my cup and drank greedily, wondering if I was entitled to that second cup.
Then I ambled over to the ladies’ room, and found an empty stall. The seat was cold as if it didn’t want me sitting there. There was no soap in the dispensers. I felt unwanted and unwelcome.
The question is, what am I? I am a dog owner, a pedestrian using public transportation, a human experiencing the very natural feeling of thirst; all these are true. But do I have the right to use these services? Do I have the right to be on this planet, even? What right do I have to take up space that someone else could put to better use? Is there any place where I belong? I am a dog owner, but does that make me a member of the larger sphere of dog owners, or am I an outsider?
An outsider, yes, that’s how I feel. I’ve taken a few writing classes recently in which I feel I have no place because I’m not a “committed” writer; I am fickle and unreliable. I left graduate school because I felt I had no place there, slid out of the genre of fiction and took up creative nonfiction….I can’t even say I’m a student anymore. I joined a weight loss team and now I feel like I’m competing against, instead of with, my teammates. Like I have no right to go to the gym because I’m too fat, and no right to be on the team because I don’t work out enough. This has been stewing in my brain for some time. I don’t belong; I’m not good enough; I can’t meet expectations.
Today is the kind of day that eases in and out of sunlight and cloudy skies. I have brought my parasol with me, because the Thorazine I take makes my skin burn. What right do I have to prance around with that huge purple parasol? Do I make people’s eyes sore?
The library is a block from McDonald’s. I turned into the side street, then into the rear entrance to the library. The door would only open partially, but a kind woman explained that the door was automatic; I had to press a button to get it to open. I pressed it. The door opened.
The library was cool, quiet, and inviting. I found a seat in the back of the reference section: my seat, plopped my parasol on the top shelf of the desk, put on my reading glasses and plugged in my laptop. Then, I began to write furiously, and the whole world whirled around in that exact moment, and tapped me on my shoulder.
I think it’s still tapping.