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Welcome to the Slaughterhouse

by MISSY BEATTIE

Mercurial I am.

Took a walk after dinner last week after submitting my “Annie” article.  Down to the center of the Kingdom.  “Prosecco On the Patio” at Donna’s Café was teeming with flesh, a lighthouse for the lonely, a lantern to the lost.

I made my way to Chris who coordinates these “events.”  “What is this?” I asked.

“Two Meet Up groups,” she said.  “For singles.  Join us.”

The women outnumbered the men at this desperate-times-call-for-desperate-measures-goody bag.

Suddenly, I was talking with a woman.  She was ready-set-go hot.  Plunging neckline.  Cleavage.

At Cindy Sheehan’s Soap Box, I’m listed among the bloggers.  Cindy calls me a “radical” with the caveat, “Looks can be deceiving.”  I thought about this as I scrutinized the Meat Hook Up.  I was wearing jeans and a white, tailored shirt, a veritable anarchist in this tits, ass, perfume, sweat, and testosterone cauldron of carnal opportunity.

Welcome to the slaughterhouse.

A man approached.  He didn’t tell me his name.  Just said he’s a lawyer, divorced two years.

“How long were you married?” I asked.

“Twenty years.”

“And how many of those years were happy?”

“Oh, seventeen.”

“Well, anyone who’s had 17 years of happiness probably wants to remarry.”

“Someday.  Not soon.  All the women I meet want to move in or marry.  What do you want?”

“I just want equanimity,” I said.

“What’s that?” he asked

“I think you should mingle,” I said.

I left for the bank, my original destination, to withdraw cash from the ATM.   Turning, I headed home, walking past Donna’s chaos.  I felt my own.  “I’m not right for this world.”  Nausea.

“I’m not right for this world.”

At home, I poured Pepto-Bismol into its plastic dispenser and chased it with water.  And, then, I imagined a drink for the heartburn-ed:  Pepto and Prosecco.  Hmm, Pepto and Prosecco on the Patio.

I laughed.

Later, I lay in bed.  The positive mantras I’ve said the last few months weren’t there.  “Everything is all right” became “I’m not right for this world.”

Another storm ravaged the Eastern US Friday night.  The ceiling fan faltered, stopped, started, faltered.  The lights flickered.  Then, the outage.  Usually, these are brief.  I awakened early morning to a motionless fan.

Outside, tree branches partially obstructed the road.  I walked with neighbors, surveying the damage.  Someone said we wouldn’t have power for a couple of days.  I said it could be worse.  “What if we lived in Iraq or Afghanistan?  What if we were looking at the aftermath of a drone attack?”

He said, “You’re right.”

Little Ms. Sunshine, I became, spreading messages of gratitude, for all we take for granted.

I walked to the Village Square Café.  No air conditioning but plenty of food, a place to charge batteries, and access email.

Later, I entered my almost dark apartment.  Too early to go to bed.  Not enough light to read. I decided to try meditation.  No, that’s not misspelled.  I did not intend to write “medication.”  Think about it:  Replacing “t” with “c” is a huge difference.

Now, where was I?  Oh, yes, nightfall.

I positioned comfortably, hands on my legs.  And I began to breathe, concentrating on each breath. Breathing, breathing, breathing, focusing on the inhalation, the exhalation.

And, then: “You don’t know what you’re doing.  Okay, picture a STOP sign to prevent invasive and occupying thoughts.”

Breathing, breathing, breathing.

Another intrusive thought.

“Shut up.”

And, then, finally, a nice calm in the smooth stillness of a power outage.

There’s a world I’m not right for, a labyrinth of aging sorority and fraternity rushees.

Yet, there’s this place I entered, a shelter from the storm, where I was able to cast off some negatives, for a while.  I know they’ll reappear, leave, and reappear.

Equanimity.  It’s possible.  With practice.  On purpose.

Missy Beattie continues to work on meditating in Baltimore.  Email:  missybeat@gmail.com    

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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