Variations on a Theme by Julie Otsuka




She had a bad experience at the Taco Bell two blocks down the street, across from the grocery store. She had a bad experience in Alabama once. She had a bad experience with Georgia too. She had a bad experience with the ocean and she had a bad experience with flying, so she was trapped in the sunshine state, which she had sub-divided into places where she had and had-not-had bad experiences.

She had a bad experience at the intersection just outside her apartment. She had a bad experience on I-4. She had a bad experience at the liquor store on Lindell, and the one on Orange Blossom, and Walden, Travis, and South Richards. She has-not-had a bad experience at any of the others yet, but suspects the people at Travis have talked to the people at Glen Oaks, because they act like she has had a bad experience there, when she hasn’t.

She had a bad experience with a law enforcement officer across town near the beach when trying to cross the street. She had a bad experience with her ex-boyfriend when she ran into him at the Sunoco near the park. She had a bad experience with a harpy mother in the park who was screeching at her to stop going there. She started going to the other park instead. She had-not-had a bad experience at that one yet. She has had a bad experience on the way, and it takes her a long time to get there using another route.

She has-not-had a bad experience at the Walmart nearest to her apartment, but the harpy mother works there during the day, so she has to go during the night. She almost had a bad experience there when someone knocked everything off the shelves near her and ran away, but she got out of the aisle fast enough to not get blamed again for breaking things. She had a bad experience with her last neighbors. She has-not-had a bad experience with her new neighbors, because this apartment is the last one that will take someone with her kind of credit, so she can not afford to have a bad experience here. She almost had a bad experience with the neighbors last night, but acted polite enough when they had come to talk to her. Later last night she had a very bad experience at the park where she wasn’t supposed to go, but had forgotten. She had a bad experience in police custody, made worse by the bad experiences she’d had in police custody before. She had a bad experience trying to warn them that she didn’t do well in situations where she had had a bad experience before. She had a bad experience trying to walk home however much later.

She had a bad experience figuring out how she would pay her rent with these new charges. She had a bad experience trying to think of how she could leave her apartment now that she had had bad experiences everywhere else. The city was like a tomb. She had a bad experience in her apartment when she realized that.

© Ray Underscore Thompson, April 2017