sentimentality is the evillest luxury

she wishes nothing will make her angry anymore. she hates that lump in the throat that shoots pain both down to her heart and up into her eyes. the lump is a water pistol, it squirts tears into her eyes and sadness into her heart. she knows it’s ridiculous to see her anger in these terms. but she’s trying to get at something, that lump in the throat perhaps, she doesn’t know for sure, there’s a kind of pain, and the lump in the throat is a part of it, but say last night, when it happened again, the pain was so overwhelming that she couldn’t do anything but walk slowly to her bed and slip slowly under the cover—already cold from the air-conditioner set at 21 degrees, celcius—and sensing there was still something wrong, pull the cover up, over her chin, over her eyes, over everything, and she stuck her right index finger up like a tent pole into the cold bed cover/tent above her head and she opened her eyes and looked up and she could see the soft light from the lamp in the japanese garden outside her bedroom making exactly the kind of bluish greyish light she used to spend her whole childhood staring at in a real tent her mother used to put up in the back garden of their old house. that house was in the country, and she would then stare at the light and the dark clouds made by fallen leaves from the rubber tree above and which now rest like boats on the sea of her tent roof and depending on which tent her mother had put up, the blue one or the red one, she would say to herself, it all looks so much like the sky, or hell. there is no question of putting up tent or imitation sky and hell in the back garden anymore, she is old now, in a two months she will turn thirty, and that is old. in developed countries that means she’s already lived out a third of her life but here in the outskirts of a third-world megalopolitan, what with all the grey sky and black water and air that smells like dead bodies, she thinks she will be lucky if she has twenty years left. not that that was what was making her feel such pain last night. she doesn’t want to put up tent in her back garden anymore anyway. she often feels sad about that, true, but she realises she hasn’t put up any kind of tent, real or imagined, for ten years now, not anywhere, not in the back garden, not in her sleep. maybe just in her head. sometimes. and she knows this is not good enough. she had read once, one painful night like last night, when she was browsing for ‘sad books’ on amazon and she came across close range: wyoming stories by proulx, on the first review that amazon had put under all the trade descriptions for the book, that as you get older and older, “evidence stacks up.” against your hope, your dreams, that something you had once thought you would make your life into. make something out of your life! someone would scream that to you and you would stick your hand into your pocket and pull out your prepared answer, hand-written one night in the booth of some cheap diner, on a piece of tissue now so crumpled with life you could barely read the words, a promise to yourself that you’ve stuck by and followed for so many years you know it by heart. you’re just doing the pulling answer out of pocket thing for effect. “243 people out of 265 found this review helpful,” and she had smirked, or smiled, because on painful nights like this she easily gets sentimental, and did they find it helpful to work out whether or not they might like the book and buy it or for relieving the sadness they felt that led them to browse for sad books on amazon? haha. she had read on and the reviewer said that he was a middle-aged gay theology professor living in san francisco and ah, she knew then that the right answer would be that 213 people out of the 243 were probably gay. evidence has stacked up, stuck up!, its middle fingers against her. she has not put up any tent anywhere, and that means only two things, that she doesn’t want to, or that she’s happy enough to spend the next twenty years of her life thinking about maybe putting up tents she doesn’t want to put up really on sad nights like now when, looking up into the soft white roof above her, she would feel the lump in the throat again, try to swallow to who knows perhaps the lump will go down with the brief river of saliva into her guts and she would think, the lumps of goose down really look like clouds huh? and she would realise like she does now that she had asked too many questions like this to herself all her life, and no one else had ever answered it for her and her eyes would grow hot and she would close them and the goose down clouds would disappear and the tears, when they come, running hot across her cheeks and into both her ears, would slowly remind her: this is how you get rid of that lump in your throat.

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