She liked to take her time. That was part of her problem. The world often went too fast for her. She never had time to decide what she really wanted to eat, and usually settled on something that she had before, that she felt safe with. The same thing would often happen when shopping for a new dress. The familiar florals comforted her, and she felt she didnt have the luxury through all of the “can-I-help-you-ma’am’s” and “do-you-want-to-try-these-ons” to try out the new, bold, striped outfit that she wanted so desperately to wear. She was an aggressive woman trapped inside of a wallflower. Her mind got mad at her often. Why did she stick to these annoying habits?
Like right now. Susan was standing in front of the ice cream selection, and it looked like she may be here for a while, being too polite to ask for a test spoon, and too hungry to wait much longer. Her menstrual cramps were begging her for some sugarcold sugar. With a cherry. And some chocolate sprinkles. Just chocolate. Anything chocolate.
Her menstrual cramps often spoke to her in fragmented segments. They made demands like the sharps waves that had her slightly doubling over that counter. Her long brown hair was falling into the test spoons, and since she didnt notice and the teen boys flipping scoops of ice cream into the air did not care, it lingered there for a while.
“Just let me know when you are ready,” Brown Eyed Boy Number One said to her, as he turned to make a milkshake. This was a sentence Susan was very familiar with as well. Any drive-thru line, any salesman, waiter, hairdresserall had muttered this phrase to Susan while quietly rolling their eyes. Susan never noticed that she took time. On the contrary, she often felt she made decisions too quickly. Like now. She knew that she was interested in trying out the blueberry-raspberry, but she knew that the power of her uterine wails would make her shout out the words “Chocolate Chocolate Chip” before she could stop them. And then Susan would have gone with the Same Old Thing again. She was aware of the pity she could attract from her therapist if she told him that she disappointed herself even buying ice cream. If she had a therapist.
Then Susan wondered why every time she fantasized about having a therapist, her brain automatically assumed it would be a man. Always a man, in a little suit. With little feet that crossed at the ankles so he could lean forward when she said something interesting. And, boy, would she be interesting. She would allow that man to get so deep into her brain, he would find her beyond intriguing. He would become obsessed with her. She would find little notes taped to her doorknob that said. “Too bad I missed you. I can almost smell you on the woodwork. Love, your Therapist.” He would be any man and every man she had ever been looking for. Intelligent, thoughtful, funny, and truly, truly interested in her. “Susan, can’t talk now, I miss your brain. The way it works. If you need anything at the store, let me know. Love, your therapist.” Thoughtful.
Susan then wondered why her therapist and her menstrual cramps had the same speaking style.
“Excuse me, if you aren’t going to order just yet, can I go ahead? I’m in a bit of a hurry and my kids are in the car. Thanks.” Rude Woman Number Seven of the day had just cut in front of Susan to feed the children that she could hear singing “I’ve Got Something In My Pocket” out in the car. Girl Scouts. Susan had been a Girl Scout, back in the day. A Brownie, actually, and Susan remembered that it was actually a Brownie song the children were singing. Maybe she’d order a ice cream covered Brownie. Rude Woman Number Seven was taking her time ordering cones and licking the edges of the melting ones she held in her hand. Susan noticed her lipstick, as some of it was smearing on her hand as she tilted her head and ate more of the cone than the Scouts were going to get. Brownies. They were probably Brownies. The song. Susan knew that shade of lipstick immediately. Not because she owned it, but rather it owned her. Tranquil. Susans last name.
When Susan was seven she noticed that her mother’s lipstick had their name on it. She spent two weeks telling her classmates that her family made lipstick. She was the heiress to the lipstick fortune. “Who, me? No, I cant go to the trip to the pumpkin patch, my family is into cosmetics.” It was reason enough for her, and apparently for her teacher, who never questioned why she wouldnt want to go with the rest of the Troop to pick out this year’s soon-to-be Jack o’ Lantern. Once Susan had decided that school took too much time away from her days counting her gold coins in her room, her mother got involved and handed Susan a small thesaurus.
Tranquil. Composed. Agreeable. Gentle. See Serene.
Susan decided that she most definitely wanted the French Vanilla with a double scoop of Mint Chocolate Chip. Or maybe just a chocolate shake. Brown Eyed Boy Number One had just finished making one for Rude Woman Number Six and was about to start on the woman behind Susan when he stopped to clean the counter. Susan saw that this was her time to decide. She had been reading the menu over and over again and she noticed that she had been standing in that way that used to make her mother furious, and smack the back of her neck with her hand. Because her mind moves faster than her body, Susans head usually hangs forward, like shes about to move, but her hips and feet stay grounded. It appears as if Susan will fall at any moment, or that her head may very well snap backwards if a good breeze came through the room.
She knew that she was almost certain that she was going to try a new flavor this time, that she had found a good groove in the room, and was no longer rushed. The power of her Powerful Yet Sensitive Psychiatrist Husband whose name was now Henry was filling her body with positive vibes. They had been working on her taking control of her body for a while now, and now that little Samantha was in school, they had more time to take with each other. More time to hold each other. More time to find their smiles.
“I’ve got something in my pocket, it belongs across my face,” the children began one more time. Susan snapped her head up to get Brown Eyed Boy Number Two’s attention. “I keep it very close at hand in a most convenient place.” Susans hair had caught around one of the spoon handles, and when she flipped her head, she also flipped about six spoons into the air. They danced around for a moment, and Susan thought she might have heard a little Schubert playing them along. They were graceful, until they hit the counter. “I’m sure youll never guess it if you guessed a long, long while..” The spoons clattered on the counter and off the counter, into vats of ice cream and onto the floor. Brown Eyed Boy Number Two began to pick them up, but Number One had had just about enough of her up to this point, and he began to laugh and applaud. “So I’ll take it out and put it on, it’s a great big Brownie Smile!” It appeared Number One was applauding the little girls in the back of the Blazer that had just finished the seventh rendition of that song. Rude Woman with the cones was struggling with her purse and was on her way out as she bumped Susan.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she muttered.
“It’s okay, you’re wearing my name.” Susan mumbled back.
That seemed to be patched up and time was running out, so she turned to make her order.
“Chocolate Chocolate Chip,” her cramps spoke, moving Susan’s mouth like an expert ventriloquist. Two seconds later the cone was in her hand and Susan was out the door. Don’t attempt what isn’t safe. She was sure she had heard Henry tell her this before. But as she walked down the street to catch her bus Henry melted away with the cone and became a swim instructor named Gina, who wanted so desperately to teach Susan mouth to mouth. Susan stopped at the bus terminal to pick the route just as she had decided to reapply for graduate school.