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The International Writers Magazine: Sunday Story

The Pleasures of Life
Julia Gordon

It was midday and I was sitting around my house in my underwear reading John Updike. This experience gave me an incredible sense of pleasure. It was a Sunday and the sun was shining brilliantly outside in an October sky of cool, cloudless blue. The days had finally begun to get cooler, preparing for fall.
It was true there were many other things I was supposed to be doing that day. For instance, I was supposed to go down to my college and watch a digital video of myself that had been recorded the previous Wednesday. It had been of me doing my PowerPoint presentation on Modernism. I was supposed to watch the tape and assess it, assess my body movements and my delivery skills. There was nothing I wanted to do less. First of all, watching myself would be embarrassing. I didn’t want to get a firsthand look at myself looking ugly and awkward and flawed in every way. I would rather skip the experience, if at all possible. Secondly, the assignment was already late. I was supposed to turn it in right after having given the presentation, but my class had gotten out at 9:45 at night, and the next morning at 8am I had been at Westlake High School student teaching. That’s where I’d been Friday as well, and now I’d spent my weekend mostly relaxing a recuperating from my week, getting nothing in particular done.

It was a pity, because I really did have so much to do. I needed to read chapter after chapter in my incredibly boring Research in Education book and take the quizzes that my instructor e-mailed to us and that he gave the annoying name of "Modules." I needed to prepare lesson plans for my week at Westlake High School, where the students would be beginning the Crucible, a play I didn’t even like, and do my reading for my next day’s class, the extremely dull Exceptional Children / Students with Disabilities. Yet and still I was doing none of these appropriate things, and in a way I didn’t even care. I was enjoying myself…didn’t that count for something? I just felt I had too much to do and it was crushing me, literally crushing me under its weight.

In my house I had laid out on my living room floor two new pairs of shoes, and this gave me a strange, senseless sort of satisfaction. I was happy with them - my new shoes. I knew this happiness was a shallow, empty sensation, yet it was happiness nonetheless. My best friend had come over the night before and envied the new shoes and I had to admit to myself that they were beautiful in every way. Both pairs were flats and they were "work" shoes, bought for the express purpose of being worn to Westlake.

My old pair of Maryjanes that I had probably owned for almost eight years had finally given out. They were a wonderful pair of flat, comfortable, black slip on shoes, but the strap had broken on one of them. My mom had even gone and gotten it fixed for me at a little shoe repair place for a really cheap price, but then the strap had broken again and I was nearly out of dress shoes. Another pair of shoes I’d really loved were made of brown leather and they were kind of like sandals. Even though they were heels, they didn’t feel like heels because they were so comfortable, but after around six years of wear the soles of the shoes had cracked and finally fallen apart. All I’d had left were my uncomfortable heels which killed my toes and certainly weren’t meant for wearing everyday. I had these heels and my Doc Martin leather slip-on shoes with the buckles, but these couldn’t be worn with a skirt. So on Saturday I had finally ventured out with my mom to a shoe store I liked and had gotten many a good pair of shoes at, and there I had found my two new pairs of dress shoes, costing nearly $200 dollars, but I figured the price was worth it because I liked the damn shoes and they would last me for years.

When we’d gone down to little Five Points to shop there were all sorts of people in the middle of the square touting Ron Paul for president. I had no idea who the hell Ron Paul was, but it seemed like I’d heard his name before. It sounded like the name of some terrible soft rock singer or something. There was a hardcore band playing music for the event and the lead singer wasn’t exactly singing, he was screaming in the typical hardcore style. "Ruh, ruh ruh, rawr, rawr…" was all I could distinguish of his words. Not that I especially cared what he was saying anyway.

So I bought the shoes. My mom had parked a couple streets away and we had walked down the nice neighborhood streets where in one yard some men were out playing horseshoes in their front lawn. It had been a pleasant enough day and after buying the shoes I felt accomplished. Now there they were, sitting on my living room floor, just waiting to be worn, one bright spark in my otherwise dull and rather depressing life. I found it rather depressing when the things that made my day were John Updike, a pair of new shoes, and a turkey sandwich, but there it was. I had learned long ago that if people fail you there are always the other pleasures of life, like shoes and books and coffee, that will certainly never, I mean never, let you down.

For lunch I had toasted two pieces of bread, spread mayonnaise on one of them, and then put four thin slices of turkey on the other. I cut my sandwich in half and then sat on my couch, continuing to read, scattering little toasted sandwich crumbs everywhere. But really, could there be anything better in the world than a delicious, very non-vegetarian sandwich, and a good book, and a cup of coffee with French Vanilla creamer in it? I didn’t want to get dressed and sit in traffic to go pay for parking downtown, just so I could watch some dumb, depressing video of myself. ‘I’ll do it tomorrow,’ I thought, ‘after my class, since I’ll already be downtown anyway. I’ll finally get it done then.’

When I finished my sandwich I went to get my handheld vacuum to clean up all the damn crumbs that had scattered all over the sheet I had spread over my white couch. I loved the white couch, don’t get me wrong, but it was always getting stained, which I hated. I took the vacuum and got up the crumbs because I knew if I didn’t they would attract a roach. I had learned about that the hard way. One night I had spilled some sauce from a Lean Cuisine onto the sheet over my couch, and I had just left it there to stain. A couple days later, I looked over to see a roach sitting next to me, amiably nibbling at the stain. I wasn’t going to allow such a gross thing to happen again. I vacuumed up the crumbs and cleaned my plate, trying to maintain some semblance of cleanliness around me. Then I went right back to reading my book. It was Sunday after all. I wasn’t going to be forced to move.

I felt depressed about various things- the fact that my house was rather messy and I needed to get back in shape, the fact that it seemed I could never stay on top of all of my responsibilities, and the fact that I had had nothing to do on Saturday night and so had chosen to drink an entire bottle of wine. It had, to its credit, kept me entertained. I felt frustration over my ex-boyfriend, and frustration with myself over bad choices I had made in my past, choices I couldn’t quite reconcile with myself. But here I was today, with a good book, sitting in my house in my underwear, with my two pairs of new shoes displayed side by side on my rug, and I couldn’t help but feel hopeful, and feel that some strange promise was in the air. Tomorrow would be different, I would wear my new shoes. I felt change was in the cards for me. I awaited it, expectantly.

© Julia Gordon November 2007
sushibuca at

Andrew on the Bus
Julia Gordon

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