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The woman behind the counter asked why I was working. Funny question considering she’s also getting paid to pour me hot coffee and make change. In fact, all of us in the place were going into work.
Including the redhead who I see there on occasion.
I don’t know her name but we seem to be on similar schedules. She arrives before 8:30 and always orders something complicated involving non-fat foam. Hardly my type on-- first glance. But we chatted today. I’m intrigued. Despite trying to break my coffee habit, I’ll have to return in hopes of seeing her again.
Funny moment today in the shower: Standing there naked and alone and holding the soap I start to think. My mind wanders and begins to wonder about all the people I’ve hooked up with. I start from the most recent and work my way backwards until I get lost. Then go from the first one and mentally list them chronologically.
Suddenly Jennifer’s name pops into my head.
We never made out, but there’s plenty of time for that. Though what I should do first is give her a call. She’s back in town after spending the year working in Prague.
If the sun has set, that means I can leave my place. In the dark, no one will be able to recognize me. I’ll be less likely to cross paths with people I don’t want to see.
I open the apartment door and listen for noise.
If it’s quiet I can run and sneak down the stairs without the neighbors stopping me, wanting to chat. The first thing I’ll do is get today’s newspaper. But the crossword will have to wait. I’ve got to make time as I race to the liquor store for more booze. That’s all I need.
While mowing the lawn I ran over five fluffy bunnies. The week-old, pure-white animals were nested under a pine tree. I never saw them until it was too late. They squealed in a high pitch that I didn’t know was possible. I was only a boy of eleven years old and ran upstairs to my room, crying.
I heard that same scream just before dawn.
Two wild animals were fighting for territory. It sounded like it was coming from outside my bedroom window. Or worse yet, from under the house. I checked there but couldn’t find any fur or blood.
Why can’t I just be more honest? It’s not really that I lie, but sometimes evade the truth and keep bottled my true feelings. This happened again over a plate of three-egg omelets and greasy hash browns.
She asked if I knew who I’d settle down with.
Of course, no one knows the answer. Yet. But on my best days I dream of sharing a home, back yard and kitchen with her. Though when my mouth opens, my eyes close. I’m unable to look at her directly. I mumble something about not focusing on that question at the moment. LIAR.
I got into a bad habit. When I missed her the very most, I’d walk out the door and down the street. She lived about two miles away. So I’d usually stumble (drunk) down the road until I came to her building. It always smelled damp, moldy. Lots of Boston buildings had that musty smell.
I never once rang her bell.
Either I knew I shouldn’t bother her. Or was way too scared of who might actually answer the door. Our relationship was just that way. We had the best of times when we were together, which wasn’t often enough.
Thinking again about “Chariots of Fire”. It was a British movie that few people saw. But it made me cry. And the same for Kurt. At swim meets we’d (badly) chant and hum the theme music.
We swam faster the days we thought of “Chariots”.
Before the biggest meet of our lives, we went back to the theaters. And we watched it all over again. Athletes striving to achieve the very best. Or then there was the runner, who placed full glasses of champagne on the hurdles. The “better” he practiced, the more booze he chugged. He became my hero.
Her toes are better shaped than I ever imagined. I know I’ve seen them before. But I never noticed them like I did the other night. Long, slender with bulging knuckles. The blood-red paint made me want to fondle them. If I started on those toes, my hands wouldn’t have stopped there. I might have ripped off those pajama bottoms, tossed off that comfy cotton sweater.
But we’re watching a movie-- with her roommate.
“Gosford Park”. I spent the rest of the evening imaging how I’d ravage Kristin Scott Thomas. Tug away at her zipper, Slip off that silky gown.
How do dust bunnies collect? What type of solar wind bundles the little dust particles and cat hairs and coils them into miniature tumbleweeds? One day there isn’t a single glob under my bed, and then suddenly, the floors swarming with dust bunnies.
I’ve got a cheap solution for them.
Use the cats as dust mops. Swing them across the floor by their tails. Wide, sweeping motions back and forth across the floor. Their fur will surely pick up all the excess dust. And they’ll do the rest of the cleaning, licking themselves all day. Hack up a dust bunny.
Gotta let this hen out. Watched in unbelievable horror as a bank robber drove the wrong direction on a one-way street. Speeding forward and slamming into an innocent driver, minding her own business. We were four stories up, tripping our asses off. Smoking Dunhills, chugging bad 40-cent beer and thinking about filling the bong.
Then we heard the smashing metal and cries of help.
Three guys took chase of the robber, who’d tried to escape on foot. A block later, just outside the pizza joint, they tackled him to the pavement. I could never’ve done that. Messed up or not.
We argued over who stole the coke. The party started with five grams, maybe more. And now that it was 4 in the morning, we apparently hit empty. But that couldn’t be the case. I swore she hid half a gram in her purse. Or stupidly misplaced it.
We fought until the sun rose. Greg and Fran drove us home.
Not only had we fallen out of love, but we lost all respect for each other. That was the last major battle. The final one was brief, though. She slapped me. I turned the other cheek. Walked out the door.
That half-gram was in my shirt pocket. I was too stupid see it, though. The argument raged with the coke was right under our nose (funny thought). I discovered the folded paper weeks later. I’d moved to a new apartment and needed to do laundry.
What, to my surprise, is this?
I never told her where the coke went. We weren’t on speaking terms any longer. I took that half-gram and made it last for three nights. Used my handy mirror. Cut lines on the dining room table. Watched a little TV, cracked open a cold Budweiser in the can.
Sweaty palms holding hands. Never wanting to let go. Make this feeling last all week long. We’re only getting started. Spooning in bed, groping foreign territory. Sharing the shower, sharing the same side of the booth, sharing plates, forks and desserts. Trying desperately to remember every single detail. Not wanting to miss a glorious moment. Planning a weekend trip. Packing my favorite boxers. Realize we’re rushing this. How can we say goodbye? A hug, a kiss, a grope and if this goes on any further I’ll be late.
No wait, I want to tell you something: “I Love You”.
Smell the fresh bike. Clean grease on the chains, sparkling crank, and the seat doesn’t have a single crease. One long, dusty ride on the trail. Fresh smell is over. Now, the bike is broken in. Broken, needs repair. Suddenly it doesn’t feel like such a great deal, the way it did at the shop.
Can you return a mountain bike once it’s muddied?
I won’t try. I’ll do like I did as a boy. Turn it upside down. Wipe down the shafts. Grease up the chain. Spin the back wheel as fast as possible. Watch the speedometer needle twitch.
The snows started coming down in the evening. Silently fell while we slept in our drafty rooms. At morning, I jumped in the Jeep, raced off to the pool. Not many people made the trek. It was still snowing and the plows hadn’t done much to the foot or so on the roads.
We gathered the troops-- Ellis, Alfred and Mark-- and made tracks on our day off. Stared at the abandoned cars. Wheels spinning as we gunned out of stop lights. And then there was the snowdrift. Plowed right into it up to the axels. Stalled dead.
I can’t believe I’m actually saying this: High thread count sheets are absolutely delightful. Got new ones the other day. Shopped and shopped and finally found a great purple shade to put down on my queen size bed. The sales lady like my choice, too.
Not frilly, not too feminine and not obviously masculine.
Climbing into bed is a silky experience. Got new pillows, too. The cats love them. I find them in the afternoon perched on top of my pillows. When I’m felling especially sexy, I climb into bed butt naked. Me and my purple 290 thread count sheets.
Showed up at the party. Was fashionably late, but afraid to delay too many hours. The hosts schedule it to start at six O’clock. Six? On a Saturday night, a party starting at six is comparable to going to church at four in the morning. Chugging Jack Daniels before the Noon hour. Having sex before work is over.
It’s too damn early.
But I got back at them. Went down to my favorite hardware store (locally owned) and went to the aisle for cleaning supplies. Picked out a bristly blue and white toilet brush. Gift-wrapped and delivered it. True story.
How is it that therapists keep their patients separated? I’ve never once seen another one of Isabel’s patients. I need to see the other clients. I need to measure my sanity against theirs. Not that I could possibly diagnose it in a brief introduction. That’s her job.
But you know how those things go. Shallow hunch. Assuming by their looks how they behave. What their deep-seeded problems really are.
I’m pretty good at doing that. I make stuff up. Assign it to that person and then they spend months trying to shake off the bad reputation. Friends just love me.
We went shopping on Antique Alley. She was looking for something, anything. I played grown-up and wondered if there’d come a time I could afford this junk. One store is filled with refurbished hardware. I was looking at art deco sink fixtures, when she appeared:
Rose McGowan in low-rise camouflage jeans.
Her black panties were showing and I noticed a teensy bit of her butt-crack. I saw her once before. At a funky restaurant. We were celebrating Lew’s birthday. And she arrived with Marilyn Manson. But that’s all over. She’s moved on. Got a new boy and a TV gig.
Another Sunday brunch outside on the deck with a friend and her brother. The place has become more popular that I remember. The line was about a dozen parties, it could be half an hour. So we strolled down the street and shopped the windows. That’s when we crossed paths with the crazy bisexual who’s pregnant.
Anne Heche was shopping for Moroccan rugs with her husband.
At first, I didn’t recognize her. Nor noticed that she was pregnant. She had black, over-sized rock star sunglasses and her hair up in pigtails. I never would’ve guessed it was her. Great disguise.
It was the middle of the day. Happened to be a holiday for most but I took some time off from by workday to meet a friend for coffee. The place was bustling with stressed-out people as always. But every time I’m there (about once a month), I see the exact same faces. How busy can they really be? And then she walked in:
American Princess and Figure Skating Queen, Tara Lipinski.
I would never have recognized her had she not been pointed out. Her entourage consisted of an older lady, who could have doubled as a gas station attendant.
Ran out of shaving cream. Too lazy to walk down to the store and pick up a new can. Orange lid. Black cylinder. Green gel oozes out into my hand. Apply it to my scratchy beard. Shave against the grain, then with the grain. Maybe sideways along the jaw line.
I shave by following the instructions on my shampoo bottle: rinse and repeat.
The second time I put razor to face, I get a clean shave. How long have I done the two-shave morning routine? Probably since I started shaving only every-other day. I make up for what I missed.
My nipples completely itch. I scratch them in the middle of the night. When I’m nervous, too. There are times I’m scratching at my nipples and never even notice. Sometimes I just rub my shirt across them. Other times I stretch my neck collar, force my hand and arm down the shirt to get at my pink nipples.
They’ve actually started bleeding.
Not the healthiest thing, I know. Lotion doesn’t help much. I’ve tried it. Lubriderm seems to help a little. But I might use up an entire pump bottle in a week. Had to turn to soothing cortisone cream.
He had the best wedding band ever. Pure silver, the size of a huge hardware nut. It was square-- not round. Probably three-quarters of an inch wide. He mentioned the name of the silversmith, but it didn’t register anything to me. His wife has a matching ring, not as big, or square but clearly made to belong.
I’ve got a thing about rings.
Where they come from, what they mean, their symbolism. Everyone has a story about each ring. Engagement rings especially. What woman doesn’t know exactly where she was, how she felt, what she wore and how he proposed?
Silly little love songs. He refuses to play it on the radio. No doubt, it’s silly. Hardly McCartney material. But a huge seller, nonetheless. No, he goes for the harder stuff. The Harrison songs, especially from his first CD. McCartney before he got silly. That probably includes anything between ’75 and ’95. Some songs by Paul within the last few years.
Absolutely no Ringo.
And John Lennon has his own thing going on. Troubled, angry and a prick. The claim is he’d be a hated man had he not been a Beatle. Heroin and Yoko certainly didn’t help his disposition.
Pumping the car full of gas before heading off to another party. This one is way out in the middle of nowhere-- development suburban hell. Needed that tank of gas just to make sure I could get all the way out there and back. The station attendant walks out and asks how my evening is going.
It’s still early, maybe 6 O’clock, but I expect lots to happen at the party.
So, I tell him “Good, but I think I’ll be doing much better later this evening.”
He replies, “Oh, so you’re playing the lottery? It’s 29 million bucks tonight.”
Riding home with fast food in the car. It’s from one of those places where they must spike the food. I’m always craving it, but only minutes after finishing the “meal”, I’m completely sick to my stomach. But the story isn’t about that.
It’s about a teenage cheerleader who noticed me.
It must have been my unwashed car, or something else putrid that caught her eye. With windows rolled down she told me that I was that same guy from a mile back and 15 stop lights. I slowly replied, in my best Jack Nicholson impression: “I’ve been following you”
I only say she was a cheerleader because she never stopped moving in the passenger seat. Hands twirling to the same pace of the music blaring from the top 40 radio station. I think it was KISS-FM. The occasional hand and arm thrust.
Half “Bring It On”. Half “Saturday Night Fever”.
Her red Nikes would pop out of the open window. Kick, kick, shake and ball change. Head bop and twist to the left and back to the right. I watched in amazement. When was the last time I had so much pent-up energy that just had to be released?
A few simple self-imposed rules: Always sit down to breakfast. Don’t exaggerate. Be honest. Obey the speed limit. Manage to be on time. Old comfortable clothes are better than new stuff off the rack. Call mom twice a month. And never, ever hook up with a friend’s girlfriend.
At times, I’d like to erase the last rule.
I’m unsure when it was carved in stone. Nonetheless, I obey while secretly thinking I need to break it. It’d certainly complicate a few relationships, but also scratch that itch. One sloppy night, then I’d go back to being a good boy. Promise.
I feel it coming on. Spring. I sit and watch the evening sunset. The time gets later. The sun hangs longer in the sky. The days aren’t any warmer. There’s still the cruelest month to go: February.
But I’m sure winter is waning.
I watch the migrating sunsets. The western hillside, where the sun sets day after day in winter, makes a 100-foot plunge. As the sun travels north along the horizon, I’m about a week away from an extra half hour of light. I notice my upcoming good fortune. My lovely sun is about to migrate past the plunge.
The end of the month. Twenty-one days in the water. Most days at 6, well before sunrise. Others at 5, when it’s still pitch black. The only thing lit in the sky is the occasional plane.
Either way, the pool was always crowded.
The coach set up the rules to join the polar bear club: 21 days of January workouts. What was accomplished? Over 72 miles swum. All 50 meters at a time, outdoors under the invisible stars. Only twice was the deck cold enough to freeze water. Otherwise, another mild January. Real Polar bears would’ve been sweating it out.
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