After her husband died, following the lead of other fashionable American women, she believed she needed lots and lots of wisdom from others. And she did need help, some of which she got. But abundant inane platitudes and bad advice also ensued.
From a genuinely loved friend came “God wanted your husband with Him,” words that became anthemic to her growing atheism.
From a sister came the surest path to absolute ruin: “Sell your [owner-occupied, Chicago] three-flat now and split the money with your husband’s brothers,” who were attempting to steal the property, her home and only asset, right out from under her. Further, had the advice been followed, she would have sold at the precise nadir of the Great Recession and its collapsed real-estate values.
Shreds of impressive intellect and outrage, odd bits of driftwood in a tempest, bobbed in her depressed, grief-addled brain. She did not mourn lost wisdom from those two erstwhile confidantes.
After a few years of enduring the lunches, the phone calls, the prying!, she became fed up. Like a bruised leaf stuck unwillingly to the damned tree of life or whatever, she was twisted up, down, east, west, upside down, backwards, by incessant blasts of incongruous input and life in general. And maybe by that sentence.
When she walked away from her final intolerably greedy corporation and its contract for a startlingly high hourly rate, she restored the long-lost pink streak to her unblow-dried, self-inflicted mop. She used real-estate data, not opinion, to plan the very lucrative sale of her three-flat. She moved from the beloved but haunted city that, in the end, broke her heart.
“Go to hell!” became her favorite cry. Sometimes the words actually popped out. She worked as hard as her old body let her. She made per hour what she made at that last corporate contract minus its zero. Her husband had never judged or scolded; he had only loved. What she liked most about being alone was the absence of all those others.
When the electronic warning of low gas glowed red on the dashboard, no twenties were there for the borrowing. In fall, squirrels carried off the acorn missiles, but leaves and branches lay where they fell. When she arrived at her weekend, the Dawn on the counter had not become conjugal with the dishes in the sink. Like an aged It Girl fleeing Sunset Boulevard’s uncharitable spotlight, well maybe, she waited reclusively for her own fade to black.
She sometimes depended on the kindness of strangers. More than ever in her life, however, she did whatever she wanted. Thanks to Sirius radio (“unnecessary expense!” was the wisdom), she broadcast treasured Cubs games via hometown feed while she mowed her own lawn, thank you very much. She often wished the Dawn and the dishes would elope. Underneath all the long years of her previous life, she had always borne the curse of being a writer and artist, and she finally listened to her own damn self.
There was impressively all that.
Elizabeth G Fagan is a writer and artist who resides in southeastern Wisconsin—a place she calls Lake Michigan’s Left Coast. She’s endured the curse of being a writer since she attended a private arts high school in Connecticut, where the bad habit was encouraged. She also became a photographer at that high school. She spent all the time she could in the school’s darkroom, creating black and white images from film. Alas, as a second bad habit acquired.
Follow Elizabeth G Fagan on social media