If she’d said, “I love Desperate Housewives,” or “I love Twilight” with the same amount of feeling it wouldn’t have registered, despite the loud, nerve-grating voice. I would have walked on by, navigating the crowded street corner with my hands full of heavy grocery bags as I’ve done a hundred times before. I would have continued mentally berating myself for, again, shopping at happy hour when I know the path between the store and my apartment is full of bars, and not noticed her at all. I hear that voice all over Philly, that nasal, screechy sort of female voice that pierces my ear drum exactly the way a soft, southern drawl would not. You could hear this girl talking a block away.
But it wasn’t her voice, it was the words she said, and the way she said them that caught my attention. She said, with passionate intensity: “I love not drinking.” Then, when the circle of expelled smokers around her questioned the absurd statement, she insisted, “Really, I love drinking too, but I love not drinking, it is so much fun.”
Huh? My brain twisted into knots in its attempt to sort out words and meaning. I missed anything else she or her companions said as I coped with my befuddlement. Like the way I have to struggle through a double negative. For example, “There wasn’t nothing in the bag, mom,” from a conversation I overheard in the grocery store. (“was-not-no-thing,” not and no cancel each other out, so the result is, “was-thing”) So there was something, then?
How does one love the ‘not’ doing of something? Would she say, “I love not listening to silence,” to indicate her enjoyment of music? Or, perhaps, “I love not standing still,” to say she loved walking? The possibilities of this sort of statement kept popping in my mind, each one more ridiculous than the last.
“I love not being awake.” (sleeping)
“I love not standing still when music is playing.” (dancing)
“I love not starving.” (eating)
Ok, to be fair, I think what she meant was: “I don’t mind being the designated driver, because I enjoy being sober around a bunch of drunks.” Which still doesn’t make any sense. To me anyway. The only way I can enjoy the company of drunks is to be drunk myself. The worst part about walking around that corner at happy hour is dealing with the stupidity of drunk people. It is hard enough to navigate through a crowd of sober people, but drunks are like babies just learning to walk, they bounce off other objects to keep themselves upright. When that other object is little me, loaded with down with bags, (contents including, but not limited to, a gallon of milk, a pound of coffee beans and that big ham that was on sale) the ‘bounce’ will not end well.
Who loves being a designated driver? Maybe someone who loves talking care of toddlers. Maybe she is a nursery school teacher.
And this is what I love about not living in the suburbs1. I don’t have to worry about designated drivers, I can walk to any of the half-dozen bars nearby and drink or not-drink as much as I want. I can walk to my grocery store and not steal2 food. And I can overhear delightfully strange statements from the delightfully strange people I pass in the streets and amuse myself for hours by not hand-writing3 it all down.
1,2,3 – Translation: city-life, buy, typing, respectively.
One thought on “Writing in the Negative”
Perhaps she was an alcoholic who had just recently gotten clean & was enjoying the experience of being able to go out for an evening without drinking & so she was expressing her pleasure at “not drinking.”
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