NOCTURNAL SUBMISSIONS | By Sami Zahringer
OVERHEARD IN OJAI
When out and about in the tea-houses and bars of Ojai, you might occasion to see a pale, etiolated, approximately female figure, hunched not unattractively over her beverage. (Not the sexy sort of tea house, you rascals, but she’s bad at coffee so coffee-shops to her are ever tea-houses.
Or tea palaces as she calls them, on those giddy, grandiose days when wearing silk knickers and a feather boa with her largely regrettable sweatpants seems like really the only way to trapeze, one arm waving free, etc. over the howling chasm of empty, modern existence.)
Anyway, she will have a ludicrous accent which need not concern you but makes every trip along the Subway counter for her a journey of misunderstanding, befuddlement, resentment, a brief purpling of rage, and, finally, weary resignation. She’s constitutionally quietly-spoken though, so chances are you won’t hear her at all, unless she whispers.
She has a booming whisper which has been known to send whales thousands of miles off course.
If this wretched, deceitful creature appears thoroughly absorbed in her book, you should know she is not. If she is steepling her fingers and staring into the mid-distance as if deep in the mysteries of the universe, she is almost certainly not. If this unprincipled tea-monster is scowling at a spider or shuddering at that one inevitable person-of-coffee who, following each sip of latte, leaves a thin, milky line between their dreadful lips, she is both doing these things, but also not.
Indeed, if she appears benign, absentminded, aloof, insane, or in any of the late stages of constipation, it is all a damnable lie. Her bowels are actually in tip-top condition and she has no problems in that area, she probably wants you to know.
What this dreadful human being is doing is eavesdropping, possibly on you. If she drops something on the floor and picks it up, it is a deliberate ploy to see if a person is the sort of person who wears socks with their sandals. She cannot help herself for she is pathologically interested in the human condition, or “nosy” as unkind people might surmise. Her notes from the field though are always interesting. As she is my good pal — indeed we are inseparable — she often reports them back to me. Here then, for your prurient edification, is the latest in a vast collection of what she has Overheard in Ojai:
10:14 a.m.: Java & Joe. Subject female. Beverage — hibiscus tea. Snack — yogurtcovered raisins. Overheard on phone talking to suspected friend:
It’s over between him and me, Shirley (real names disguised by means of using other letters). I accidentally hacked into his phone last night and found a whole bunch of texts from Shiana. Yes, that Shiana, the one who was two-and-aquarter girlfriends before me. They were grocery aisle sweethearts, remember?Kept bumping trolleys in the cereal aisle, which led to corny ‘let’s have breakfast together hahaha’ jokes (completely unfunny and rather pathetic, in my view) which led to ‘urgent’ (puh-lease) and apparently ‘exciting’ sex (yawn) round the back of ‘Eggs and Potatoes’ which led to a deep love unlike any he’d ever known before (until I came along) and which would have been abiding had NASA not transferred her to take over at Cape Canaveral. Yeah, that Shiana.
Anyway, listen. The text said she was lying on her sofa, eating salted nuts and drinking bourbon, and laughing because she was was remembering the time they’d got splashed by that taxi in a rainstorm in N.Y.C. Drinking bourbon! Remembering a taxi! That utter trollop! (Subject now hissing.) And he had responded ‘Hahahaha!’
Well, it was clear to me from that, that they’ve been carrying on some sort of salted-nut online orgy and, Shirley, I just can’t be with a man like that! Which is difficult, of course, because I live with him and we have poodles together but nevertheless. Well, no, there weren’t any other texts but ISN”T THAT ENOUGH?
Anyway, what I did was I kissed him very coldly that night at bedtime — I think he knows something is up — and listened in silent fury as he said “‘Night, baby” and fell right to sleep when he should have…, no, he KNEW, I was upset about something. Well, by 3 a.m. I realized I had no choice but to seek this woman out and ruin her life.By 5.15 a.m. they were both dead, the victims of a horrifying bloodbath.
By 5:23 a.m. I was attending his funeral in a dignified but darling black veil and that dress I showed you from ‘Camouflage’ near Vons. I eventually fell into a deep but nevertheless upsetting sleep and woke to find I’d chewed almost right through my hairbrush. I don’t know what’s happening to me Shirley. I am one hibiscus tea away from becoming a headline.”
Wait … no hold on … there is some pale, etiolated, approximately female person who has just pretended to drop something but is looking closely at my shoes. Now she’s huddling not unattractively over her cup and writing something in a notebook! Look, Shirley, this is weird. I’m moving coffee shops. I’ll call you back in 10….”
What was my point in telling you this, dear reader? Well, because, this pale eavesdropping woman, friend as she is, is an undoubted public menace. She ought to be stopped. Somebody ought to write a letter.