The (crazy) Woman
Feeling lost and confused is starting to become abnormally comfortable. Living a life of constant change isn’t what I imagined at this point in my life but it’s definitely what I chose. This unfortunate feeling seeps into my system from time to time and I resort to an activity that I know best: Roaming around Los Angeles on foot looking for clarity.
It’ about 11pm and I just started heading towards a grocery store more known for it’s people than produce. It’s called Ralphs but I found out that everyone calls it “Rock and Roll” Ralphs, why? No Idea. But, I’m making my steps towards Rock and Roll Ralphs and I’m feeling a major mental block with work. Currently I have a writing deadline, I’m supposed to have a writing sample submitted to someone in two days, and in about an hour when it reaches 12am it will be one day.
I’m confused on a few levels. First: “What the Hell am I going to write?” Second: “I’ve had one month to write this, I can’t think of anything, what the hell is wrong with me?” Third: “What if this writers block never leaves? What if my ideas are just somehow gone?”
The typical questions about my placement in this world begin to arise, I try and tell myself to stop looking so much into things but I can’t help it. I start wondering, what does it say about me that I analyze everything? Then - Shit, what does it say about me that I analyze me analyzing everything? I’m starting to fear that I’m the guy who just can’t get things done because I’m too busy thinking about doing it.
This walk leads me no choice, it leads me right into the very busy Ralphs grocery store to sit and people watch. If there’s one thing I need right now it’s to sit and make shallow assessments of people. I wish I didn’t have these thoughts and make these assessments sometimes but I’m human, it happens.
As I walk in I notice the groups of stereotypes. I see the husband and wives, the boyfriends and girlfriends, the single women buying vodka already drunk walking around the store, the single men trying to talk to the single ladies buying vodka. The Ralphs is a gathering of every culture in Los Angeles, and fortunately it has a seating area off to the side by a coffee bean. I’m planning to sit and just let my thoughts go, I’m about 30 seconds away from people watching mode when a piece of luggage is rolled next to me.
The luggage belongs to an older woman, probably about 65 years old, instantly I smell something sour and notice that her clothes haven’t been washed in who knows how long. The woman has a perpetual deer in headlight look, she may have had some eye surgery at some point in her life but I doubt it. She’s got some dirt scattered on her, I checked her hands and fingernails to see if they were clean – they weren’t. But, something was in her hands, a US Weekly magazine (which consists of all the Hollywood gossip) my mystery woman was clearly homeless, and she was standing looking at me.
“Are you waiting for someone?”
Should I lie? Should I tell her I am so I don’t get caught in this conversation?
“No, I’m just sitting here…. I’m Josh”
It was at that moment without hesitation my Midwestern roots popped in and I heard my dad’s voice echo in my head – Always extend yourself and shake someone’s hand when you meet them.
I stood up and extended my hand.
“Pleasure to meet you”
I felt the dryness of her hand hit mine, it felt like I was shaking dirt. I instantly knew I had to wash my hands. I’m naturally a person who likes to use my hands to think, which means I touch my face a lot. I really need to wash my hands, but I can’t be rude so I’ll do it later… just don’t touch your face.
Beth sat down in the unoccupied space next to me plopped her magazine on the table and said:
“I knew he was gay.”
“I knew he was gay. Ricky Martin, I knew it.”
“Oh. (fake smile) Okay”
“My girlfriend was the one who injected the blood into him.”
This woman is starting to fill the shoes of the stigma she carries. Unfortunately many of us have encountered unfortunate individuals who at some point in their lives start losing touch with a certain reality. Which isn’t a bad thing, because something tells me this woman lives in her own reality, and that may be a different place than mine… good or bad.
“You know the man’s blood into his penis. To make him homosexual.”
I just nodded and gave a half -hearted smile because quite frankly I didn’t know what she was talking about. Although I’m about 250 percent certain one’s sexual preference isn’t determined by blood being injected into their reproductive organs I let her keep talking about her US weekly. She proceeded to make assessments about random celebrities and then began to discuss her former life as an actress. Apparently Beth had worked in a few films in her life and now she’s still waiting for her big break.
Beth discussing her former life made my head wander. How can I not think my fate will take her road at some point? It sounded like she and was chasing a dream, a dream that never stopped or maybe never happened. There is something I find admirable about chasing what you actually want to do, probably because I’m currently doing it. But, more so because I like the idea doing what you want to do, and once you attain your dream it’s instantaneously your reality, and for me that’s what makes life exciting.
Beth is all over the place now talking, I should have been paying better attention but I wasn’t. I clicked my head back into gear and started to listen to her talk again, I thought I would engage for the sake of being rude.
“So, what are you doing here?”
“Waiting to cook.”
“I love cooking, and I’m waiting for them to bring the organic flour, not that generic shit.”
“I didn’t know flour could be generic.”
“Flour can be anything.”
Not sure if her comment just then was insightful or completely nuts but I nodded as if I knew exactly what she was talking about.
“You know, there’s a place called Whole Foods just down the street, I think all there stuff is organic, maybe they have the stuff that’s not so generic.”
“No! It’s from here. They told me they’d have it from here but their shipment isn’t in yet.”
I’m uncomfortable and I want to go. My Mr. Nice guy talk to this woman routine is dried up, I felt sorry for this woman but now I feel sorry for myself for even being here. In some odd way I think I was hoping this woman would create inspiration for me to write later on but actually she’s created fear. I’m planning my escape.
“Well, I think, I uh – “
“Will you look and tell me if there is flour?”
“Organic flour, I want organic flour. I need the flour, I need it for my daughter, and she likes the organic flour. It’s right over there in aisle 7 or 8.”
I feel bad for Beth.
“Sure, but I need to get going after, is that okay?”
Not sure why I just asked her if it was okay for me to leave but screw it, I’ll find this organic flour and be on my way. Maybe I should do some more walking and not get stuck sitting anywhere. Maybe I should just go home and try to write and wash my hands. One way or another, I need to find this woman some flour.
I stood up and smiled at Beth and started to make my way to look for some organic flour. As I did I immediately noticed the security guard begin to walk over towards me. Security and cops always make me feel like I’m up to no good, as he makes his way to me I subconsciously put on my annoyed face so he won’t talk to me. But, he talks to me.
“Excuse me man.”
I’m looking back at a harmless 20 something security guard in a grocery store, he’s staring back at me like he knows more than me.
“Hey, that woman over there, she’s nuts man, she’s crazy.”
“The one you’re talking to man.”
“No I know who you meant, I’m just looking for something for her.”
“I know, she always comes in here, she doesn’t buy anything. Man, I’m telling you she’s crazy man, crazy. I always kick her out, but she just keeps coming back in.”
That word crazy stuck out. I admittedly also think this woman is crazy but to hear it from this guy made it sound worse for some reason. Crazy carries a connotation of… well… crazy. It’s a word that get’s loosely tossed around and could potentially actually tell you if someone is crazy or not.
“Well, let me just find something for her.”
“Is it about that flour she wants? We don’t have it, that’s what she’s always talking about, some special flour for some cookies or some shit.”
“Listen man, I’m just going to get going okay.”
“Can you just tell her we don’t have it, tell her we never have it?”
This is just weird now. I walk back to my lady who, I can tell has been eyeing me like I’m in the wilderness. I tell her that they don’t have organic flour, even though I already think flour is organic. She tells me it has to SAY it’s organic, and they never say organic flour.
“Hey, I’m going to get going, good luck, I have to get home.”
As I extended my hand again (MAKE SURE I WASH MY HANDS!) she didn’t extend back. Apparently she knew I had a conversation with the security guard:
“What did the rent a cop say to you?”
“Oh, uh, nothing.”
“I know he thinks I’m crazy, he tells me I’m crazy and I need to go home, but I’m not crazy, I don’t think I’m crazy. Do you think I’m crazy?”
If there is one thing I have learned in my life it’s to never tell a WOMAN that she’s crazy. I don’t care who the woman is, you never tell them they are crazy…. Especially one’s you’re dating… But that’s beside the point. I don’t think you can tell a homeless woman she is crazy because who knows what will happen, she has nothing to lose.
“I don’t think you’re crazy.”
Woah! Her yell caught me off guard.
“Okay good luck Beth.”
As I started to make my way out she stung me with something, whether or not it she meant it when she said it I thought about it the entire walk home.
“They told me they would have the organic flour! And now they don’t! I’m not the crazy one. I’m trying to make something perfect, something that requires the perfect flour, okay! I’m not crazy, I just want what they told me they would have, this is what I want, I want the perfect flour.”
Then she mumbled…
“People don’t understand that passion and crazy are the same thing, and I want to cook all night. I want perfect flour.”
And that was it, that’s what led me to the door. That seemingly odd conversation to an even odder previous set of events had me walking at a fast pace to get home, I knew exactly what I was going to write.
I walked into my house quickly and quietly and headed straight for the computer. I knew I should go and give my girlfriend a kiss and let her know I’m home but I needed to type. I had been gone for almost 2 hours and I need to turn in a story to use as a sample. I began typing at a very rapid pace. It was as if my walk of clarity worked even though I didn’t do much walking, I immediately typed the title:
Adventures of Ingredients
It was about a woman banished to a grocery store, only able to leave when the perfect ingredients come in, and she has to cook her way out.
Sounds cheesy yes, but it was somewhat of a child adventure. Most importantly I was flowing with ideas. Before I knew it, it was 3:47am and I’m not too sure I had moved from the computer. I heard the bedroom door open and footsteps coming to me. It was my girlfriend.
I imagine that when she opened the door only to see the light of my monitor blasting off my face I may have looked like a mad scientist. She said:
“Babe, what are you doing? Come to bed.”
“I can’t, I can’t I need to finish this writing, I’m almost there.”
“How much longer?”
“Not sure? Maybe a few hours?”
“You’re crazy babe, just come to bed when you can.”
My girlfriend meant no harm but little did she know she used the keyword of the night – CRAZY. As she headed back to the bedroom I wanted to yell to her that I’m not crazy I’m just passionate about this and it needs to be perfect, I need to get it done. My perfect ingredients are coming together to make my story and I need to utilize them.
Whether or not Beth knew it she really got to me with those final comments:
“People don’t understand that passion and crazy are the same thing, and I want to cook all night. I want perfect flour.”
Sure, the context sounded completely ridiculous but I get it. The store told her she would have exactly what she needed and now she’s waiting it out, is she really that crazy? Is she crazy to want that perfect thing? Is her craziness what got her to that position in the first place?
My girlfriend gave me a moment to let this all sink in. With some sort of passion there is most definitely some sort of crazy. These two words are holding hands as far as I’m concerned and this is in every area of life …love…work…family’s…emotionally…physically… sport…the list goes on.
I don’t know where this leads me and I certainly hope one day I’m not roaming into Ralphs for perfect food, but I do know that my passion to do what I want is not going to go away, and I’m not sure where that will lead. I’m pretty sure this lives in all of us, and the more we express our crazy the more we express our passions.