An Ordinary Life

It takes a lot of courage to admit you are ordinary.

Bob's trophies didn't make him special. They were junk; he resented feeling guilty when he threw them away. Two whole boxes of trophies and ribbons and plaques from his childhood, left out at the curb.

He didn't bother to sort through them first. A passing thought of keeping one for his desk, semi-ironically, was quickly dismissed.

He sorted through another box and found an array of hobby items. Shin guards and science kits and swim goggles. He couldn't remember loving these activities, let alone these objects, so they joined the other boxes at the curb. 

There were some baseball cards, some might have had some value, but it would be too much work to sort through them all. He took out a marker and wrote FREE on the side of the box.

There were a few notebooks he paged through and he decided to keep one. Some photographs, too.

He answered the phone and said he'd be home in a little while, this would't take much longer. The voice on the other end said a few words which he heard countless times, and, even if they had lost their impact, were still a comfort. They came from that voice. 

It takes a lot of courage to admit you are ordinary.


Most people claim they can’t remember much from their early years, but thanks to my autobiographical memory I can recall details from every day of my life.  April 5th 1994? It was a Tuesday. I was wearing a red shirt. It rained in the morning but cleared up by the afternoon. I had chocolate milk at lunch. June 27th 1991? It was a Thursday. My mother took me to the beach. I kicked a kid who made fun of my Ninja Turtles towel. My mother put me in timeout when I got home. December 2nd 1985? It was a Monday. The Bears lost to the Dolphins 38-24. The Cosby Show debuted a Christmas episode. I was born.

My mother’s uterus contracted and I was forced out into the biting cold air. I tell my friends I didn’t cry. That I stretched my arms and said, “It’s about time. Do you have any idea how boring it is in there?” In truth, my lungs and eyes burned and I was grumpy as fuck. I didn’t know what else to do so I just sobbed like a pansy. Catching a glimpse of the loose flaps of my mother’s vagina atop the fouled-up bedding from her bowel evacuation didn’t help to improve my mood either. For years, even the slightest camel-toe impression on a woman’s crotch was nauseating.

The muscles in my tongue and vocal chords weren’t fully developed so speech was not immediate. I had tried to speak while in the womb, but my lungs filled with amniotic fluid and I went into a horrid coughing fit. I tried to decipher language through the muffled conversations of my mother. It didn’t work too well. Having no frame of reference, I was confused easily and only picked up on a few phrases.

After birth, experiencing the pain of hunger caused another outbreak of crying, which my mother remedied by thrusting her tit in my face. Sucking on her swollen nipple seemed repulsive, but the taste of her milk was strangely pleasant. The first time I shit myself I thought my body was disintegrating from the inside, before remembering my mother’s bowel episode during my birth. Realizing this was normal human behavior, I proudly unclenched my sphincter whenever possible to signal my increased perception of reality.

At home, I became addicted to television without choice. My mother watched nonstop and rather than gouging out my eyes as a sign of protest, I became absorbed by the sounds and pictures. Commercials especially aided my understanding of language. Cars make you move fast. Soap makes things clean. Low-fat yogurt makes you happy. Opening a bank account makes you happy.

The full-length mirror in my nursery fascinated me. Whenever I tried to stare at my reflection though, I was interrupted by my mother’s fake laughter followed by inane babble as she coddled me. “Oh, you think there’s another baby over there don’t you?” No, I just want to see what I look like.

Trying to walk during those first months made me feel like I had been huffing ether. I was cognitive of what I needed to do, but my weak body just couldn’t respond. I became frustrated easily and often resigned myself to doing something my muscular restraints allowed: drooling.

I’m surprised that my mother put up with me. I was boring and didn’t make any practical contributions to daily life. There were occasional amusing events. For instance, there was the one time my mother thought I had been drinking chemicals from under the sink. I thought she would have been proud to see me bleach my t-shirt and slick back my hair with shoe polish, but she just rushed me to the hospital. The doctor was also unimpressed with my hip coif and force-fed me a medicine that made me throw up. When he realized I hadn’t swallowed any bleach he said, “You did the right thing. Better safe than sorry.” The vomit-inducing prick didn’t even marvel at the fact that I had unscrewed the childproof bleach container.

Dammit, I thought the shoe polish episode had been a classic photo opportunity. So much less contrived than the one of me sitting atop a golden retriever while wearing a cowboy outfit. I’ll admit that I had wanted to ride the animal like a horse. What sentient being wouldn’t? But I certainly hadn’t thought, ‘You know, it’s just going to look silly unless I’m wearing chaps and a plastic hat.’


One of my friends says his first words were, ‘motherfucker,’ because his dad had a mouth like a sailor. I didn’t believe him, but I wish I could have mumbled something obscene when my mother fed me generic brand baby food. Instead, it took me five months and twenty-one days before I was able to speak. How pathetic. Even more pathetic was my first word: baby. In my defense, it was the word I heard most. ‘Who’s a good baby?’ ‘What a cute baby.’ Etc.

As I entered my toddler years, toys brought me more joy than anything else. I had this really awesome workbench with shaped holes that I could hammer corresponding plastic pieces into. I could do it with my eyes closed on my second try and then began timing myself. Once, my mother saw me staring at the clock and completely misunderstood, “You’re right. It is time for Oprah. I’m glad one of us remembered.” She’d then drag me away from my toys and plop me in front of the TV. As some sort of consolation she would give me a plastic dinosaur to play with. I couldn’t ever resist sticking its tail into one of my many orifices, an act that would always leave me toyless.

My mother would arrange play-dates with other toddlers. These were mostly an excuse for her to meet up with her friends and drink Bloody Marys in mid-afternoon. I loathed the other babies. There was this one girl who would literally piss then moan every twenty minutes. One time I hit her in the face with a puppet and that made me feel pretty good. Another one of the kids was two and a half years older and thought he was such hot shit. “Yeah, I’ve got a Big Wheels, it’s pretty great. I’d let you drive it but it’s not safe for babies,” he’d say. He was ugly as sin, so I’d just let it go, knowing he didn’t have much going for him.

Then my little brother came along and made my life even worse. I was three-and-a-half when my mother had another baby and I hated the crap out of him. June 4th 1989, twelve days early. Twelve extra days I had to spend with that guy in existence. They say that it’s normal for older siblings to be jealous of the attention a new baby receives, but I wasn’t jealous, I just didn’t like the little shit. He didn’t bring anything to the table, the antitheses of fun. I suppose that he deflected some of my mother’s smothering attention, a welcome change, but being siblings, I became part of a collectivized unit known as: the kids. Before he came along there was no, ‘can you watch the kids?’ or ‘kids, they can be a handful, am I right?’ Like I said, I wasn’t jealous, but I didn’t like being reduced to the same level as that idiot.

April 5th 1994? It was a Tuesday. I was wearing a red shirt. It rained in the morning but cleared up by the afternoon. My brother was being a twerp and I pushed him down the stairs. I think he broke his arm or something. I had chocolate milk at lunch. 

You are standing...

You are standing, holding a cup of coffee. You think it might be empty, but are unsure. Why are you still holding it? Because someone is talking to you. Though it would be more accurate to say, at you, because you haven’t been doing much of the speaking. This is hardly a conversation but it’s not exactly a lecture either because this person seems friendly enough. They have even made you laugh a few times or stated something interesting that caused you to pause in contemplation. Why then are you uncomfortable?

Is it because you believe this person might try to sell you something, or maybe ask you for a charitable donation? That seems unlikely, as this person’s demeanor has never indicated a propensity for business. You raise your cup to your mouth and it is confirmed, the coffee has been already drunk. You finished it a few minutes ago without noticing. A nervous habit to deal with this person who is talking to you.

Are you uncomfortable because this person is a stranger? That could hardly be true, you’ve seen this face on several different occasions, you’ve just never met them properly until now. You laugh at another joke, one that you would have only smiled at in a different circumstance. You’re not sure if it was funny, or, now that you think about it, if it was even intended as a joke. You look at your feet and trace your finger around the coffee cup. That’s when it occurs to you: this person is attempting to make a proposition for sex.

You knew that you were looking rather attractive today; in that outfit you bought while vintage shopping. The last time you were near a mirror, your skin was blemish free and your hair arranged in the perfectly messy way you like it. Yes, you were sure that you looked damn good. But still; you see the wedding ring, and in fact, this person has mentioned the loving spouse in question at least once with caring affection.

You’re becoming frustrated now. Doesn’t this perfect stranger have any sense of body language? You wonder why it is not obvious to this person that you have finished your coffee, that you are now ready to do something else with yourself. Your hand grasps your phone in your pocket, hoping that it will will ring and rescue you from this person. You wonder if you’ll greet this person next time you meet or if you’ll pretend you don’t see them.

You begin to speak but then hesitate and apologize for interrupting. The person is polite. There is no strain in their voice when they say, ‘Please,’ and gesture for you to continue. You are flustered now. You can’t possibly make eye contact. You straighten up your body and exhale. You’re not sure what to say. Either something like, ‘Well, I just...’ or ‘I really should…’ or ‘Excuse me, but…’ Yet you say none of these.

You smile again. That smile you do so well. The one that gets you into conversations like this so often. That smile that proves you’re sincere, that you’re a good person, that you’ve enjoyed these past few moments. It’s through that smile you say, ‘Nice to meet you.’