Sometimes it’s exhausting saving the world all the time. And by “the world,” I mean my sanity. But I got it, no, don’t worry about it, just continue sipping your latte and making fun of Blagojevich, I’ll be alright.
But will I? How many more of these scenarios will I survive:
It’s 3am and I’m walking down an empty city street. In fact, this street looks just like the way LaSalle looked in The Dark Knight and this is because I love Christopher Nolan’s storytelling abilities and I love Chicago more and this is my post.
So I’m walking down LaSalle. It’s empty, the moon casts a spotlight on the Board of Trade, and it’s hot because it’s summer and we’re all gonna die from the heat, that has nothing to do with my sanity or this post, that’s just a public service announcement so don’t say I never did anything for you, Alert Power Love Reader, and by the way, when you’re gone, can I have your record collection?
So what you may not know about me is that I frequently walk the streets at 3am because I’m a super hero and 3am is when the crime happens. It’s also when the parties let out and when there’s no crime, I like to fuck with drunk stoners, it’s just a thing, I guess.
But on this night, I’m walking along and who do I see oozing out the alleys? The Shoulds. These guys. Talk about nemesis. Although, there are a lot of them—nemesi? When I’m super hero-ing, sometimes I lose my usually impeccable command of grammar. Do I treat The Shoulds as individual sniping, nagging, confidence-destroying, self-doubt inducing balls of hate, or are The Shoulds a collective noun and therefore a singular entity? Don’t think I didn’t put some thought into this conundrum as I walked down LaSalle at 3am on my way to fight crime.
But after a bit, once I realized that there were multitudes of these guys—like Pac Mans, with webbed feet glued to their undersides, wearing bowler hats, smoking Cuban cigars, pulling them out of yellow-stained teeth with three-fingered hands—and they’re waddling towards me, like a swarm of mosquitoes, but not flying, waddling, and not buzzing, more like clicking their teeth like loose dentures, so not like mosquitoes at all, except for the annoyance factor.
When I fight crime, I find myself more often annoyed, as opposed to scared, and this is because I am actually annoyed. The Shoulds are not to be trifled with, however, that was a lesson I learned after that debacle in Caracas, and they also have shape shifting powers because I’ve recently become overwhelmingly enamored of True Blood, although the shape shifter isn’t really the most intriguing character to me—get over your reluctance to be a dog, dude—Erik is, the hot blonde vampire, mostly because he refers to children as “tea cup humans” and wears gray suits that he doesn’t sweat through and has a penchant for stretching about languorously and issuing threats through smiles.
Anyway, the debacle in Caracas. File that one under Things The CIA Won’t Tell You. The Shoulds are capable of achieving great feats of growth at the most inopportune times and 3am on LaSalle when the night is like a Christopher Nolan film is not the time to underestimate your nemesis/nemesi.
“Mz. Morris,” Leader Should says as he waddles towards me. He’s balancing precariously along the yellow lane line, coming at me head on, so really I see a yellow circle with a hat approaching me. A tumbleweed rolls by my feet, and I kick it out of the way because I ordered the tumbleweed for my next post, not this one WHEN WILL THE PROP DEPARTMENT GET IT TOGETHER?
“Fuck you, Should,” I say to the Leader. I’m not one for pleasantries when I’m crime fighting. The rest of The Shoulds cover their mouths and gasp. They’re lined up on the sidewalks. More of them seem to be pouring in from the alleys.
“That’s no way to treat an old friend,” Leader Should says.
“You ruined my lavender taffeta dress in Caracas, you piece of shit,” I tell him.
“I paid the dry cleaning bill,” he says earnestly.
“You can’t get The Shoulds out of a lavender taffeta dress, you ass. You fuckers leave a stain of regret and self-doubt and do you know how hard it is to remove that? Really hard.”
“Well, you should’ve worn more appropriate clothing for your crime fighting endeavors, then,” Leader Should tells me. He’s right, of course, it’s just that I was in a lavender taffeta dress kind of mood at the time and between you and me, Alert Power Love Reader, I thought the dress was eggplant. Which is why I wore those shoes, which ended up being the cause of my undoing. Don’t think I haven’t been through hours of therapy over that one.
“You shouldn’t smoke so much, it’ll kill you, then who will I fight?” I tell Leader Should. I see him wince. The crowd of Shoulds oozing out on to the sidewalks suddenly hushes and freezes. No one tells Leader Should what he should do. Except me, of course. Tonight, I am not wearing a lavender taffeta dress.
“Perhaps you should rephrase,” Leader Should says.
“Perhaps, my ass—I’m shoulding YOU, jerk. You should clean your apartment, you should be dating, you should be a more graceful leader, you should be prettier, smarter, funnier, nicer, better, more disciplined, more ambitious, more polite, more positive, more travelled, more well-read, more understanding, more patient, more relaxed, more everything you’re not.”
Leader Should is suddenly ten feet tall, and he looks like a robot. The rest of The Shoulds are robots now, too, only they’re only six feet tall. “We should go to war, Mz. Morris,” Leader Should says.
His Cuban cigar has been discarded and lies at his cinder block feet. His bowler hat is blowing away into the night, which is weird because there’s no wind. Leader Should raises a hand, as though he’s about to wave, but no, he’s not gonna wave because there go his fingers—suddenly turning into swords. Predictable.
I take a deep breath. I find my center. I should eat better, I think to myself and then I shake my head. You see how insidious The Shoulds are, Alert Power Love Reader? We’re not even two seconds into the fight and they’re already inside my brain. I take another deep breath. I am glad I’m wearing a backless deep green dress and killer shoes (John Fluevog heels, strappy, with scalloped detailing around the heel, I mean, really!)
Leader Should whips lightning out of his fingertip swords. Again, predictable. Did he learn nothing in Caracas? “You should get a new game plan, fucker,” I yell at him. The Shoulds are lined up along the sidewalks, they gasp yet again. They’re gonna get the hiccups if they keep doing that. I’m about to tell them this, except my attention is taken by the bolt of lightning hurtling towards my face.
I reach behind me, to my back, and pull off one of my star tattoos. I hurl the tattoo like a ninja star at the lightning bolt and the lightning disintegrates, like the tail end of sparklers on the 4th of July.
Leader Should is taken aback. He pauses and stares. The Shoulds on the sidewalks follow his lead. The moon chuckles. The moon and I? We’re like this.
“Learning, you are, Mz. Morris,” Leader Should says. Sometimes he likes to pretend he’s Yoda. He’s got this whole Star Wars thing going. I don’t reply. Instead, I peel off the sun tattoo from my left ankle and whip it to my left, at the 209 S. LaSalle building, which has a cool winding staircase, or used to when I was10, FYI.
My sun tattoo hits the building at the perfect angle and flies back down with great force, slicing off the top of Leader Should’s head. It clunks to the ground unceremoniously. Now Leader Should is operating with half a head.
I reach around to my back and pull off another star tattoo, I spin in circles, not unlike Wonder Woman, and when I’m at maximum velocity, I flick the star tattoo. It flies through the air—starts at the southeast corner of Adams and Jackson, flies down the east side of LaSalle, chopping all The Shoulds in half, Shoulds fall to the ground, squirm, then expel their last breath, the star tattoo changes its direction, flies up LaSalle on the west side, chops up The Shoulds over there, and then the star tattoo floats over to me and eventually rests in my waiting, open palm. “Learning, I am,” I tell Leader Should.
He spits blood out on the street—his blood is really discarded trash and the dudes from Streets and San are gonna be pissed tomorrow. “This is not over, Mz. Morris,” Leader Should says. I can see him trying to fiddle with his Bat Man belt, but his sword fingers aren’t nimble enough to unsnap the pouches. If he stays true to form, he’s looking for the smoke potion, which will render me utterly nonfunctional and I’ll collapse to the ground in a puddle of fear and doubt.
Suddenly, I’m tired. I’m tired of fighting The Shoulds, I’m tired of questioning myself, I’m tired of worrying. I reach around to my back and pull the angel wings tattoo off my right shoulder. I cradle her in my hands for a minute, and then I release her into the air like a dove. The angel wings tattoo flutters for a second, confused, I’m sure, because this tattoo is all about peace.
But then she gets it. She flies over to Leader Should and floats in front of him. She waits a moment for him to look at her with his one working eye, and then she says, “We’re going to be kind to each other now.” And then she kisses him, sweetly, and floats back to me and places herself back on my right shoulder.
I watch Leader Should take a deep breath. He’s clearly confused. He falls to his knees. I say, “You owe me for the lavender dress, Should.” I feel my angel wings tattoo flick me and—ow! “But don’t worry about it,” I say,” I don’t look so hot in lavender anyway.” I hear a soft approving sigh from the angel wings.
Leader Should stretches out on the ground like he’s about to take a nap. “If we don’t fight each other, what will we do with all that time?” He says. He’s sleepy, and his voice is like a kid’s who’s falling asleep but trying desperately not to.
I look up at the moon. “I have no idea,” I tell Leader Should. I walk away from him. Then I head out through the Loop and walk over to the lake. I step out on to the lake’s surface—in John Fluevog shoes, you can walk on water, which I do—and start heading north, up the lake, towards the UP, but maybe I’ll make my way to another lake. Maybe I’ll make my way to the ocean. Maybe I’ll make my way to the moon.