LIGHTS ON on the ice cream truck. At its entry HOPE stands and speaks to the audience:
HOPE: "I SAID: MY NAME IS HOPE. What's yours?"
I repeat to the guy.
But he's still just staring at me with his eyes twinkling like he was a cartoon character. Like goofy, or... Mickey Mouse. That's it! He got big ears too. So I figure I'll call him Mickey ya know? 'What's in a name, right?'
Anyhow, so the guy is just STARING. With those Mickey Mouse eyes of his. Not saying A WORD.
His mouth is kinda open, looks like he's gonna say something.... but nah - he's just DROOLING.
I figure he must be dehydrated, the poor thing. So I offer him some water.
I always carry gallons and gallons of water with me. The fountain of youth you know?
I give some water to Mickey's barking dog too. And I make sure I have enough water left to take out that fire on the hood of Mickey's car! It's a ferocious one. So I go straight to the rescue: I take three gallons of water from the ice cream truck. Leave the music on because it lightens the mood, you know? And I load them out to hand them to Mickey. But the poor guy isn't even helping!
He's just standing there and staring at me. Like I was...I don't know... a GHOST.
"Yo! What's going on with you? You make a woman do all the heavy lifting!?"
That sets him right up to his feet.
Always gotta prove something. And be "strong." And "tough." And... "Manly." Whatever that means.
So here we are taking out that fire in the hood of Mickey's car. It's a relentless little thing, like the little engine that could it goes on and ON! Chewing up that water like it was nothing! And there's so much smoke.
So I run back to the truck to put on my rainbow colored gas mask that I brought with me to wear in Burning Man. And some more water to take out the little devilish fire.
Mickey is once again STARING at me.
Staring at my glittery gas mask. He probably thinks I'm weird.
I'm guessing he's not a burner...?
So if he's not headed to Burning Man... what the hell is he doing in this sad little part of the desert?
All by himself? With his car burning up?
OH. Shit. Did he come here to... to die?
I suddenly get filled with tears underneath the gas mask. Like, an AVALANCHE OF TEARS.
I got this... um, this sickness, ya know?
What sickness? Well, it's called... 'empathy.'
My therapist says that my heart is so big it can't help itself but feel what other people are feeling.
Some people don't have an excess of empathy like me. They have the RIGHT amount. Which is none at all.
But anyhow, so I'm in the desert, with poor Mickey mouse, and his strange dog that won't shut up, and a fire that won't go away, and I'm crying like my eyes are the Niagara Falls!
The fire won't go away, and neither do my tears.
So I take my mask OFF - hoping my tears will take out the fire once and for all.
After about a minute of crying into the fire.... the little devilish fire quiets down, and finally - stops.
Even the dog is in awe.
I'm pretty proud of myself at this point.
Who knew that my sickness would be so... useful? Definitely not me, or my therapist.
I turn to Mickey, with my eyes twinkling like his with all the sparkling tears in them, and the leftover glitter, and say: "Can you give me a hug or something?"
And without a word - he does.
We hug, for like... a full minute. But it feels like hours.
And I find myself wondering if he has the sickness of empathy too.
To Be Continued...
In April 2020, while experiencing her first ever global pandemic, Tamar Pelzig pledged to write something every day, even if it's only a word, so she welcomed to the world a daily blog to keep her creative writing wheels rolling.
Header Art: Daniel Landerman