Still, I want so little out of life, and I get so little of that. People are always letting me down. This whole thing started as a noble effort to put the scales of the universe back in line.
Really, I never meant for it to get out of hand.
All I ever really wanted was a regular job. My father would never let my mother w ork, although she had a master's degree in Classics, which is why she named me Circe. He traveled for a wool-products company, and she sat home and read the Iliad and the Odyssey over and over again and died when I was in high school.
When I graduate d from college, I got a job, a good job, working as a flight attendant on a commuter airline that ran regular flights between New York City and nine small regional airports.
But it's a nonunion airline, which is why they were able to put me behind the reservations desk when I got caught trying to avenge myself on a couple of fellow employees. They said I was a danger to passengers, which I certainly wasn't, because I've never done anything to any of them.
That's even though I can usually get away without getting caught. I didn't get caught when a chief purser who made me work the coach section three weeks in a row found his phone number listed in a want-ad. It said he had a parrot to give away free because he had no time to talk to it, and that people were welcome to call at any hour. Apparently he got dozens of callers, some of quite irate when they found out there was no parrot.
I also didn't get caught when I got back at one of the other flight attendants for reading a French-language nov el while he was supposed to be helping greet passengers. He'd bought a bunch of those novels from the university bookstore in Albany, trying to show all of us he could speak French and was sure to end up at a better airline. While he was doing beverage service I went into his sack and ripped out the last page of every book.
I did get caught, however, when a pilot I wanted to notice me wouldn't, so I took his wallet, figuring he would have to at least speak to me to get it back. The police were calle d, and the plane got delayed in Buffalo for awhile, and after that he was transferred to the Allentown route and I ended up on the reservations desk.
But here at the desk, I've had a lot of time to think. Not many people want to fly to desolate citie s in upstate New York during the winter. What I realized is that when it came to tormenting people who had been unfair to me, there was no reason to put myself at risk.
Instead, I'd make them torment each other.
is the Devil's workshop. It certainly was my workshop. I had a lot of time to just sit at my desk, playing with the software programs in my computer.
One made very realistic bills.
Another was able to print out letters that looked like handwriting. Another made very realistic flyposters, the kind rock bands put up on telephone poles.
Playing around with the computer, I created a rock band poster: "Mike Feerick Sings Songs About Fruits and Vegetables." I could put it on telephone poles around the bank where he worked, and people would ask him about his second career. But he might just laugh that off. He wasn't really a sensitive gu y, except about his thinning hair.
That's when the idea of matchmaking creeps was born.
See, I had another old boyfriend who worked at a hair replacement clinic. He was just the accountant, and he had a full head of hair, but the management didn't m ind letting people think he'd gotten that great hair from them. Jim Tummy. Boy, was he a nasty guy. He took me to a party once and started talking to all the other stewardesses. Today, Jim wrote a very nasty letter to Mike Feerick about an overdue ha ir replacement bill. Working with my computer, I enclosed a convincing version of an invoice. To prove it wrong, Mike would have to show up at the clinic and point to the fact that he really did have no hair.
That took me most of a morning, and that afternoon I had to spend on actual work, since the airline was running some kind of special.
But something nameless was bothering me all day, and when I went out to mail Mike's letter that afternoon, I realized what it was. Jim was just as big a cre ep as Mike, and it didn't seem fair that he was getting off so easily, only having to agree that Mike Feerick was bald.
That was just a small idea in my head until my last call of the day, an annoying call from an effeminate man who wanted to bring his dog aboard without putting it in a box. It reminded me of what a homophobe Jim Tummy had been. I remembered, at that same party, how terrified he had been of the male flight attendants. He physically ran away from one who offered him a cocktail weenie .
Jim couldn't get a computer-generated, handwriting-font gay love note from Mike, whom he would be meeting during the hair bill debate, but he could get one from another old boyfriend of mine, Sebastian Vliet. Sebastian , come to think of it, may ha ve actually been gay. He never wanted to kiss after a date. Anyway, Sebastian would send a passionate letter to Jim, confessing an unquenchable desire born of a single stolen glance. I stayed late, working on it. Just for good measure, I had Jim send the same letter to Sebastian, who might enjoy it. I had each include his phone number in the P.S. I left with a feeling of job well done.
On the way home, looking out windows of bus as it drove through Astoria towards the subway stop, I suddenly sme lled the perfume my mother had worn when I was a child. I could even picture the bottle.
There are a lot of creeps in the world, not all of whom are my ex-boyfriends. But there were enough of those to keep me busy matchmaking creeps for a week. Andy Cherry would be ordering a dozen monogrammed shirts from a J. Crew clerk who had stood me up for a drinks date; Sudsy Galena would be sending an envelope full of roaches, with return address, to a good-looking former neighbor of mine who had nev er paid any attention to me at all.
And after I read a Times article on government surveillance of terrorist sympathizers, Jed Garfield and Bobby Hadley wrote a long letter to the Oklahoma City bombers. It congratulated the bombers on their technique, and suggested that if they ever got out and wanted to blow up something else they consider the Pan Am building in New York City, because it was really ugly. I figured that would merit at least a courtesy visit from the FBI. At the end of tha t wonderful week came a sunny Saturday, and the streets were full of people. I opened the window. I felt good.
We were still dealing with people who had bought tickets during the special, and it's a general rule in the airline business that the people who pay the least for their tickets are the most irritating. Today, a woman in a giant fur coat wanted a free upgrade to first class on her discount ticket.
"We want just two seats across, like first class," she said. "I want to sit with my new husband. My niece can sit in another row."
I saw no husband, but I saw the niece standing back by the windows of the terminal building. She was probably 15 years old, dressed in that graceless hot-tamale way girls do when they're j ust discovering their sex appeal. She still had her baby fat; she was shaped like a little Cornish game hen. Her miniskirt tilted up in back.
"The first-class seats will only go empty if we don't sit in them," she said. "I've seen it before, on thes e flights to Rochester."
"Madam," I said, exasperated, "you didn't pay for first class, so you can't GO first class."
People in the line behind her were starting to fidget.
"I don't know why you won't accommodate a couple of honeymooners," said the woman in the fur coat.
"I don't know why you're willing to spend half an hour fighting over a 35-minute flight," I said.
The husband reappeared, and a moment later and I saw the niece at the back of the terminal carrying an armful of flowers, purcha sed by the husband, I guess. I don't even know where he got them, in the middle of winter. My dad sent my mom flowers once, from the road, and she loved them so much she slept with her arms around them.
"You know," said the woman in the fur coat, " if you were a nicer person I'll bet you'd have a ring on your finger yourself."
I think I snapped.
"I saw your new husband kissing your niece," I said.
I know that's the kind of thing I should have put in a letter, if only for my own safety, but I just couldn't help it. I mean, I wasn't supposed to take revenge on the passengers, and it wasn't matchmaking, anyway. But, my God, it was what she deserved.
"I saw them there in the back of the terminal building, kissing," I repeated.
Her mouth opened. She turned around and walked back towards the two of them, and I saw their eyes widen as she confronted them. The husband, who was a mild-mannered type, denied it strenuously, but the wife wouldn't believe him, and she yelled and cursed while th e niece stood to the side crying. After a while, the three of them just wandered outside the terminal doors. None of them got on the plane, and it was all a hassle for security, which had to have their luggage taken off.
Well, people shouldn't mess w ith me. They shouldn't mess with the new, stronger me, because I'm no longer just a flight attendant, just a person who rides wherever the plane takes me. Now, I decide which way things will go.
Coming out of the terminal building after work, I saw the niece, sitting on an icy bench by the side of the building. It seemed the aunt had abandoned her. She was all surrounded by snow.
I walked to the bus stop in the early winter darkness, and as I sat on the bench I remembered one of the first tim es I'd waited for the school bus after my mommy died. Maybe that innocent girl was suffering because of what I did, and maybe people would, but that still doesn't pay me back. I will fight this world of shame and pain. What else can I do, except let it eat my heart away?