Monday, November 13, 2006

The Poseidon Adventure

I just passed an eerily familiar looking old woman in the street. She was wearing a long, threadbare faux leopard coat with black stockings and black boots. Her whey bleached hair was skinned back from her face in a ponytail so tight, that it must have given her a headache. She was wearing thick Cleopatra-style liquid eyeliner and a crimson slash of lipstick. This ensemble was identical to the one I had first seen her wearing almost 15 years ago.

I was 19 years old, 6 months pregnant and waiting in line at the post office. This particular branch is in located the heart of Chicago’s yuppie town and the line seemed endless as I shifted my weight on my sore feet and silently cursed marble floors as some kind of cruel misogynist torture device – so hard on the feet and back and causing every syllable uttered to keep echoing around the room. I realized at that moment that the entire time I had been standing in line, the same sound had been repeated. I looked up and noticed Old Leopard Coat Cleopatra Lady talking loudly on the payphone next to the mail slots.

“….I…D…O…N. Didja get it that time? P..O..S..E..I..D..O..N. P…O…S…E…I…D…O…N…P…O..S…E…I…D…O…N”

I looked along the line and up at the clerks. No one caught my eye or grinned or seemed to be even remotely aware of this ostentatiously dressed woman loudly spelling Poseidon over the telephone. I wondered if it was the beginning of some kind of psychotic break brought on by my third trimester of pregnancy or the anxiety of impending single parenthood.

“P…O…S…E…I…D…O…N…P…O…S…E…I…D…O…N. Poseidon. Yes, Margaret read it back to me. Yes, Margaret, that’s it! Poseidon, Poseidon. His name is Poseidon. He’s the gate keeper and you’ll want to give him a call. Tell him you’re a friend of mine. Yes, Margaret – he’s the gate keeper and he’ll give us some shelter when it happens.”

At this point in the conversation, I was just rudely staring at the woman with my mouth agape. Still, no one else in the entire Post Office seemed remotely cognizant of this woman’s presence or strange conversation.

“Yes, Margaret, call Poseidon. He will protect us both– it’s his duty. And anyway, this whole country is going to sink just like Atlantis. We better have a back-up plan. Just like Atlantis, you’ll see. I give it 15 years. Goodbye.”

She hung up and briskly walked outside. Not even a ripple emitted from the rest of the Post Office. I started laughing hysterically and the sound bounced across the marble floor and all the Yuppies turned around to glare at me.

By my calculations, it will have been 15 years this coming February.

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