another stupid grey day pushed summer way past its quota and i was waiting in the drive-through at taco bell for some petty meal i wasn't eating out of hunger but out of boredom. my car seized and i restarted it and it seized again. finally i left it off, to cool down. the minivan mom in front of me sucked grocery bag after grocery bag of poorly wrapped burritos in through the window of her aerostar. i imagined she was an octopus-like creature and the bouncing children whose silhouettes were visible through the rear window as the tips of her tentacles. i pictured her stuffing bag after bag into some slimy orifice ringed with small, weakened fangs, napkins and hot sauce and all.

beyond the minivan, two women emerged from inside, crossing around the octopus woman's bumper. their legs went clip, clip, clip, neat as machinery. they looked alike - white lab coats, platinum hair dyed to cover grey, frightening real tans, white tights, white pumps. they weren't doctors or dental hygienists. they looked like they were certainly selling something, though it was also plausible that they made their livings squeezing other peoples' blackheads.

shrink-wrapped women, sucked dry, slathering on oil of olay every morning so as not to turn to dust when something touched them. hard and skinny on a diet of salad and mineral water and bland, overpriced non-fat lattes and a routine of nightly exercise in front of qvc and spare time wasted at some health club rich with networking opportunities. soulless.

they would be divorcees with large, tan, childlike boyfriends who worked for car dealerships and lusted after young secretaries and the empty headed spokesmodels of late night cable. they would be status symbols, decorations, like a nice white couch from ikea or an suv dedicated to a clothing company. they'd talk about how they loved the outdoors and nature, but couldn't survive for more than two days out there before running home to rehydrate their cracked shells and find comfort in their ultra-controlled existances.

all they wanted was to appear young. they missed something in their twenties, trying too hard to fit in even at that capricious time, and they wanted it back. but they'd never been free and never would. they were trying to hard to catch up (lacking originality of their own) and would never have time to make or do the things that make people feel like they've lived.

i thought about the older woman at work who looks like a schoolgirl, with bright, happy eyes. she did the whole thing and came back to school and throws herself into what she believes in. and all the older men flock to her like a star, because she's beautiful with her greying hair and wrinkled skin and cellulite. she's beautiful because she never died inside. she's not white gold, polished so long that all the uniqueness is worn away - she's a river stone who's tumbled into everything she wanted and bears the scars and shines in spite of them.

i'll think about all that next time i have a non-fat latte.

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