Cafe J’espere, and the painting “Possibility,” by Heidi D. Hansen, copyright2017
She awoke, again, to dread stomach.
That hollow thud of an ache in the lower gut that something terrible as going to happen, the only question was, where would she be when it landed?
“It’ 8:01 the news is next,” sang the NPR jingle out from the fuzzy speakers of the Goodwill radio nestled next to her pillow.
“I gotta get outta here,” she said to herself, gathering her wilted bathrobe around her legs, swinging her legs out from the covers and shifted, hoisted, and pulled her numb, limp lower body onto the seat of the power chair perched level to her mattress. “Another nowhere day in a dead-end city in a zombie zone of the walking undead, low-class shit-pile apartment.”
With that energy boost of anger, she plunged herself into the highly irritating, painful and often unsuccessful task of dressing and grooming through the tight, stiff electric pain of neuralgic arthritis. A debilitating disease of the body brought on by an episode of acute and extreme stress. Otherwise known as trauma, when supra-high levels of adrenaline to the gallbladder excretes a toxic amount of acid that overloads the nerves and muscles of both joints, muscles, and soft tissue. Irreversable damage done there. All day, all night burning, searing labor-like pain head to toe. Even her belly fat hurt.
It all happened here at the “Crum-Bum Motel for the Deranged and Slightly Deceased.” Othwerise known as “Low-Class Captivity.” Othwerise known as her apartment complex in which she was financially and physically chained to against her natural free, breezy, creative and cultured spirit.
The ruminations about that next-door neighbor who had created that trauma, and knowingly caused her debilitating illness, without conscience, was daily intrusive thought-fare.
That tenant got away with it. Her victimizing acts, repeated and confessed to but would not stop, behavior that management wouldn’t hold her accountable for because she was mentally disabled. So physical assault and felony harrassment is allowed if you’ve got a disability status. Laws, rights of others, the lease contract, don’t apply to the disabled, apparently. And apartment landlords enable it. A steady, predictable cash flow, those disability rent checks. No need to hold a cash cow accountable, eh?
If a person is mentally disabled, it’s okay. One of the perks and pay-offs for being disabled: Anything Goes. No self-discipline or remorse required. No justice or compassion or protection or recompense for the victim, in this case, a middle-aged woman, retired professional, who had already been through several chapters of victimization in her life from white-collar sociopaths. No disabilities. High – level professionals in high-income bracket. “This isn’t Joe Sixpack,” cried his attorney. And the Judge nodded and the gavel came down. In Ralph Lauren attire, no wife abuser was present. The devil comes a-calling in good grooming.
Sometimes she considered if there as a magnet – effect in life. A weird dynamic that victims carry that only predators, users and future misusers can spot. Victimized before, the imprint attracts more of the same. A specialized zone where the rules of civil society will not be enforced. Wait, no. That just doesn’t make sense. That can’t be. Well, it does. Here, it does.
Her laptop now fitted into it’s New York style messenger bag, comfy pants on, strapped into power chair, the radio chimed, “It’s 9:01 the news is next.” She toggled the power chair controls and tootled out of her apartment towards the one item she was willing to go through all that ritual to obtain: The sacrament of hot, steaming specialty coffee in a snazzy jazzy hand-tooled ceramic mug. At Café J’espere, across the apartment grass at the apartment community tv and wifi room. She brought her own mug.
All the regulars showed up around this time at cafe j’espere. This was the community tv room at her apartment where there was free wifi, free cable tv, a daily newspaper, and hot good coffee. All the necessities she could not afford in her own apartment. Especially the free wifi, that robust and dynamic tether to the outside world and its marvels, wonders and mundane miracles where real people get to have real lives and they act like that’s all very normal and natural and their self-esteem was high enough that they would expect — and thus create — their environment to accomodate it.
Words had always come in abundance for her. She was growing them now as a hopeful cash crop, sown and harvested by the cerebral hectare in hopes of selling and publishing and getting enough money out of this apartment and live and work somewhere that matched her free, creative, cultured spirit steadily decaying by the day living here.
And, since her body was no longer in total cooperation with her spirit and finiancial goals, her mind and its ability to write would have to be the resource to rely on. She wanted to move on, get out of this place, to a city a town a villa a Mars science experiment pod, a mountain alps, a theater district, a sheep ranch, the janitor’s closet of a top-drawer museum. Anywhere but here.
Anywhere with good bookstores, plays and concerts, places of higher education or training in the arts or cuisine, where like – minded people gathered to discuss book and movie reviews, easy access to social justice meetings and the decision – makers at City Hall. Anywhere where the people had self-respect and respect for others. Anywhere but here.
So she wrote. Every day, in some way, she wrote. Usually in her mind, thinking and daydreaming it into arcs and storyboards and character development and plot twists. Pages of word doodles in her mind until it all brimmed over and needed real paper — or a computer screen – to absorbe the spillage. Then she went to cafe J’spare for wifi and coffee to bring it to fruition.
A mental crossroads of sorts had frustrated her in the last few weeks, some call it a writer’s block, which she doesn’t believe in. She preferred to say her mind has gone out to play and hasn’t come back in yet for supper.
She scooted her power chair over the grassy compound areas — an untended carpet of dog – poo that used to be grassy picnic and play areas — to cafe J’espere. Going through the parking lots and sidewalks was dangerous — so many potholes, drunken and speeding drivers. Some of whom just enjoyed playing “chicken” with a fat old lady in a power chair. The thrill of seeing someone jump in fear. So she traversed the Poo Swamp and arrived at cafe j’espere.
She poured the sacremental java into her artsy mug, freshly scalded and slighlty charred but hot and strong and fresh and she sipped it down quietly to herself, parked in the corner of the room, until the restoration of the bean seeped into her limbs, strengthening them with energy and confidence, clearing her mind, bringing back a sense of perspective and clarity and like a train on freshly cleared tracks, her mind began to work out a rythym of words.
The regulars trickled into the room. She booted up her laptop and clicked the wifi connection and watched the regulars and drank her coffee and waited for the pop-up ads finish their dance of irritation across her hard drive.
Willy stumbled in. Groggy from his schizophrenic medications, walking that stiff shuffle that long-term anti-pscyhotic drugs create. His towering, broad shouldered frame shifted to the coffee carafe and he poured three cups, shuffled to a seat, muttered a “good morning” and began his stream of consciousness out loud. Laughing out loud to his private jokes, the conversation with himself taking on new topics and renewed form as he narrated the hopscotch trails of inner thought, theories, vast paradigms, deeply philosphical questions, all skewing and tilting with tangential corners and outbursts of glorious laughter at privately held humor. Having forgot to put in his dentures, the spray issuring forth with each gust of howling laughter cast a wide range. The power chair in the corner backed further into its corner. Soon Willy was thumping his knee in uncontrollable laughter at the inevitable mirth that comes with swimming pools, apples, credit cards, hot rods and Bill Gates.
To avoid making eye-contact — which would have instilled new vigor in Willy’s repoirtate — the power chair woman focused on the tv. An infommercial was on, featuring a very hyper young couple so much in love with a copper skillet one of them was sure to pop the question anytime “Will you, magic copper skillet, be mine to have and to hold..”
Then something new caught her eye. On the wall next to the bookcase stuffed with Nora Roberts paperbacks, was a bright, colorful painting hung fresh on the wall. An inviting, energetic painting — an original, not a print — framed under glass. A large piece, featuring impressionist color blocks that brought a city street scene to life. She was drawn in to study the color and form, while keeping one ear and one eye on the cafe regulars.
Willy was talking loudly about how he was going to get a car, a good car, and drive so he could get a job, a good job, and get as much money as Bill Gates and get a girlfriend, a good girlfriend, and drive her in his new car to Buster’s Steakhouse for a prime rib dinner and then to a party at Bill Gates’ mansion.
As power chair lady leaned into the painting to study closer, she noted the artist had painted in a park in a fading background. A trimmed park with nice iron fencing and flowering trails. And the one back wheel of the bike tire — or was it the front tire — where was it going? Who was riding it?
Chimney Bob had strolled in, tethered to a walker that toted his oxygen tank. He was off cigarettes 3 weeks now, after his heart attack and the fact that he would blow up the oxygen tank if he lit up again. His nicotene – leathered face and bleach-blond wisps of hair (how old was this guy? Looked 220 or so, but probably in his 60’s). He was spreading out his medical bills and announcing that he was now a preacher and had ministered at his church yesterday, but his throat-burned voice was not entirely understandable, so who knows. Nobody ever really knows what Chimney Bob is saying. It’s his saving grace that he always wears starched, ironed white sunday shirts tucked neatly into belted black dress slacks. Otherwise, the way he gets into people faces and mutters and slurs and blurts out garbled random statements, and perches day and night at the smokeshack staring into windows, he’d have been pegged as a pervert long ago. The lady in the power chair thinks he really was one, once, because he mentioned doing time and said he had dedicated his life to “keeping his nose clean.”
Back to the impressionist painting. The streets were cobbled stones, only a back wheel of a bike and the back end of a red truck on the streets. Unlabelled buildings, stores, shops, cafe? A striped umbrella — person’s or sidewalk table? Could be a european city street?
No, that’s Willy’s new shiny red Ford pickup, and in it he’s got a girlfriend who marvels at his manly prowess and is giddy with laughter from his ability to charm a room with his humor and picking up the tab for all. To her, he is the sun rising and setting. She is beautiful and depends on him for the future he has so masterfully crafted for her, and they are driving off towards it now, full tilt.
And that building in he background with the pointed rooftop? That’s the chapel where Pastor Bob has channeled the Holy Spirit for his flock to drink of the everlasting waters, come to know Jesus, and be saved as only charismatic, generous and salt-of-the-earth- honest Pastor Bob could do.
Biddy Jane comes in now, strident with her cane. She is in a snappy outfit, tailored and carefully purchased on her social security budget. Her tidy tennis visor is set over dark glasses. She is on her morning power walk and has stopped the office in to pay her rent a few days early. She got caught up in the news, which is now blaring on the tv. Some teenager has thrown a firecracker into the woods while on a family hike and now a quarter of the state of Oregon is being consumed in unstoppable wildfire. Biddy Jane starts in . A repeat of her usual lecture about how kids ‘these days’ just don’t have a care for anyone but themselves, are stupid and selfish and ungrateful for the easy life they’ve been given, and criminal acts is the thanks we get for raising them in luxury. They don’t work, they don’t care for property — not as she was taught to work, in her day, children worked, were responsible, and she has always worked, and gall darnit if she just can’t believe how there are just too many privileges given to kids these days, too many privileges given in general to undeserving folks in general. Well, they need to get those kids into adult jails and throw away the keys. And so on. The “tch tch” shaking of her head, wagging of her finger, onto other litanies of gripes. Christmas coming too early in stores — it’s all about money now, in my day christmas meant something. The kids in the dollar store getting into puzzle packages and she just won’t shop there again, no sir, that store has lost a customer now…and so on.
Hmmm… This painting drew power chair lady further into itself. Crossing over into a parallel universe of color and blank, open streets. The simplicity, the bright colors? There’s that lovely park of towards the back, the tree tops dappled in sunlight. Maybe Biddy Jane can walk there. The cultivated trails surrounded by a stylish wrought-iron fence. The kind of park that likely has a fountain, or a boat pond. Probably people go there to people-watch, think, or just visit. Perhaps pick a few flowers of which undoubtedly there are plenty. It looks like that kind of a park. Perhaps a kind of a park where Jane could meet a fellow of a certain age wearing a tailored wool blazer over a golf shirt with a pocket that carries his reading glasses, who sports a cane and gets his news from a paper. And look, there’s a crossword puzzle in the paper, yet to be done. Perhaps they could sit on a bench and do the puzzle together. I’ll bet he’s the kind of gentleman who carries a sharped Number 2 pencil in his shirt pocket.
Oh, dear, speaking of the unsolvable question of what to do with kids these days, the room conversation has turned to President Trump playing tv news.
Paranoid Pete has arrived, a 70-something troll. He never seems to bend his knees when he walks, and his over-sized hippie jeans makes him look like he’s gliding on a hoverboard instead of using feet. Pete defends Trump by claiming it would all be so much worse if Hillary was elected. Because she ordered assasinations, ordered that ambassador’s plane to be blown out of the sky, because she has Parkinsons and the CIA knows and he, Pete, once offered top-level government security clearance (which he had declined), knows it. He knows it because he has specialized knowlege and is very clever, too clever for ordinary people to ever really recognize. But he knows, he knows the inside scoop. Like the fact that if you have lots of money you can pay for silence and special surveillance and assasins and privileged favors, just like Obama paid for that fake birth certificate. And besides, Hillary reminds him of his second wife whom he had to have committed because she was always so unstable and crying all the time and “I’ll tell you, she needed the fist from time” and man, if she were still alive he’d show her the fist now, again, and he doesn’t care what the liberals cry all this political correctness crap about so-called domestic violence. A man’s got to be allowed to be a man. It’s all just a scam by the liberals to get your money and give your jobs away to the mexicans and make the blacks and the women just like everyone else. There’s no such thing as this “domestic violence” — if my wife needs the fist, she’s gonna get the fist, and no black or mexi is going to take our jobs, either. This is all fake news, all made up liberal conspiracy like Black Lives Matter. Bull, Paranoid Pete goes on, huffing into his gray mustache and squeezing his rhumy eyes into Knowing glinty orbs — it was scientifically proven by eugenics that the blacks don’t have brains as big as the nordics. Praise God for Donald Trump because finally america can speak truth again, and we have a president with the balls to blow Kim Jon Un out of the water. And then he goes on to discuss the Asian conspiracy that tricked America into taking the blame for Guam.
The lady in the power chair, now typing heartily onto her laptop, is no longer comfortable, and she has to pee. She packs up her computer and as she zooms out of the room to the loo. The painting winks at her from the wall. The yellows of the sidewalk, the purple of the cobble stones, the oranges of the store fronts, the blues and lavendars and hot pinks of the sky. Composed in impressionist shapes. The artist had written in the title of the painting by her signature. “Possibility,” it read. There’s the bike tire turning the corner. Maybe Paranoid Pete could ride on that bike, or maybe he really is riding a bike already, straight into insanity, but maybe he could ride that bike to stretch his legs and oxygenate his brain before complete atrophy sets in.
The floor of the bathroom next to the tv room is all wet from someone having changed from the swimming pool, and power chair lady decides not to risk slipping, so she zooms out of the clubhouse, back to her apartment, and opens her laptop.
There was the photo she had snapped of the painting. She booted up the Word page she had jotted notes on, and began to write the story of the painting. Perhaps she was writing it from the purple building in the painting, the one with the bright blank yellow sign, which was perhaps, a public coffee house somewhere in Spain, or Italy, or Iceland. Iceland where there are active volcanoes and outdoor ice sculptures of chamber orchestras that really make music and, where they have the highest per capita books read than anywhere else in the world.
Type type type. Click click click. The train bringing in words from their play.
——————————————————————— “Possibility” is a new, original acrylic on watercolor paper by Heidi Hansen (copyright2017). 22″ x 28.” To make an inquiry for purchase, or about any other of Heidi’s art and services, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She accepts major credit cards via safe, secure Paypal.com. Thanks!