The Sweet Life on Cherry Street

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Lorraine fell back on the couch and sighed. Sometimes life just sucked. Poor, poor Lorraine!  “I am the most unlucky person in the world,” she thought. She picked up the remote, turned on the tv, and learned she was just in time for the nightly news.

First she saw images of the after-effects of a massive earthquake in Mexico. A school had collapsed and children were trapped in the rubble. Rescuers raced the clock to dig out the survivors, calling for silence when they thought they heard tiny voices crying out. Mothers stood vigil outside the school praying for the rescue of their young children, crying on each other’s shoulders. Lorraine changed the channel with the remote.

Another news station was reporting devastation in the Caribbean as Hurricane Irma swept through. Thousands of residents were trapped there as the winds and rain tore their homes apart. A few lucky people were able to flee the islands as far as Puerto Rico, but unhappily, Irma followed them there and destroyed that once beautiful island. The reporter interviewed the Governor of Puerto Rico who begged for aid and speculated that many people would not regain power for at least six months. It was impossible to estimate the number who would die.

“Bunch of whiners,” Lorraine thought. And speaking of wine, she opened a chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and poured herself a crystal goblet full. “To you, Suki!” she toasted. And once again she began to cry.

Downstairs, Salty and his girlfriend Irma were also just opening a bottle of wine. They had lots to be happy about. They had been dating for almost three months and had not killed each other yet. Also, once again, Irma had gotten her period. Big sigh of relief. Furthermore, Irma had won first place in the women’s division of the Collard Greens Eating contest. She had consumed more collards than any other woman at the Hendersonville event, and she won first prize, a lifetime supply of Gas-X.

Salty opened a bottle of bubbly and put on some polka music, and the two of them whirled around the room, carefully avoiding the massive drills and saws that filled the living room.

Lorraine awoke to the sound of thumping below her, making her head pound. She swallowed some Ibuprofen, and lay on the couch with a cold compress on her forehead. She fell back asleep and had a dream she had had before.  She was teaching a full lecture hall of students. First, she couldn’t remember what she was supposed to teach. Then, she couldn’t get them to stop chatting with each other so she could start her lecture. But worst of all, her hair was a mess, she was wearing no make-up, and she was naked. Naked and fat! All her flab was displayed for all to see.  And while she was standing there exposed in front of two hundred students, not one of them looked at her or even realized she was standing there.

She remembered hearing Carolyn Heilbrun, feminist writer and author of the Kate Fansler mysteries speak. It had been Heilbrun’s fiftieth birthday, which she had explained was cause to celebrate. At fifty, she said, women became invisible to the male gaze. We no longer exist to the guys on the street, nor do we need to worry about catcalls from construction crews we pass.  Why celebrate? Heilbrun went on, “We no longer have to hold in our stomachs.”

Still, Lorraine burned with embarrassment that her flaws were so exposed. Whimpering, she woke herself up. She decided then and there to go on a strict diet. To reinforce her intention, she decided to go to the mall and buy some Eileen Fisher outfits in a size extra small.