REPORT A PROBLEM
Ever had that feeling where you think of the perfect retort just a few minutes, hours or days too late? Last night, I sat in the gray vinyl booth, my thoughts dulled by a few too many vodka-and-cranberrys. I listened to his words and felt tempted to point toward the door with bravado and declare, "I think you should go now." Giving myself a minute, I wrinkled my brow and stared at the floor, waiting for the right words to come. Eventually, they did. It was supposed to be a glorious moment. So why do I still feel like shit?
As a kid, I used to slip tear-stained notes under my mother's bedroom door. ‘I hope you can forgive me,' they'd say. Maybe I'd accidentally spilled nail-polish remover on the coffee table and ruined the finish. Or maybe I'd called Michael a shit-head. ‘I can never punish you as badly as you're punishing yourself,' she would say. I still do it – say I'm sorry even when I'm not sure what I'm apologizing for or worry someone's mad at me when there isn't any reason they should be. But I don't cry nearly as much anymore. I kind of miss it.
‘Shawshank Redemption' is playing on the TV when you curl up under the comforter and swallow the remaining half of your Ambien tablet. You hear the road moving underneath the bus and you put in earplugs to drown it out. The rest of them are fast asleep, and you toss and turn, sweating in your tight dungarees but knowing you can't be laying around in your underwear on a bus full of dudes you barely know. You've slept on buses before, but this time is different. You're not on the job. This is for fun, you tell yourself. Yeah, right.
You can tell the bus isn't moving anymore, and you know you should probably get up. You pretend to be sleeping until he sits near your feet. You pull off the comforter and wipe under each eye with your index finger, leaving it trailed with a smudge of glittery eyeliner. He's wearing his pajamas, and his knees are pulled to his chest. He looks terribly cute and a bit sad, dark brown curls peeking out from his knit cap. Lord only knows what a mess you look like. You hope he doesn't notice, but also wish he would. Just notice.
She knocks on the window and asks the driver, ‘Who's bus is this?' Tells him she's a singing sensation in Indonesia. You're embarrassed for her: she sounds so pathetic. Chris pulls the curtain closed, annoyed. You remark that you had another fucked-up dream last night. He grumbles something about how he hasn't had coffee yet. You get the hint, kiss him goodbye, and head out into the blinding morning sun. You had fun, after all. But, rumpled and sore from an unsettled sleep in a moving vehicle, you feel a bit pathetic, too. And you're not even an Indonesian superstar.
The conversation is animated, and I wonder whether he's as cute as he is funny. I say he should call if he wants to get coffee. He says, ‘Maybe I'll do that.' What's that mean?
We make plans to ‘hang out' later this week. Friday, he suggests. I'm feeling ambivalent, but remind myself that I've got nothing better to do.
It's been 95 minutes, I point out. I want to go home. He's an old friend and I love him but, shit, he sure does talk a lot.
I spend way too much time on the phone.
Did you hit it off with someone, get goofy ideas about what might happen, and then get blown off? Did you obsess about that long-shot professional opportunity, and how it would wipe out your oppressive grad school loan and credit card bills? Did you spend $55 on shit that'll just clutter your drawer? Were you unable to find a single warm body to go see Stereolab with you, and you don't even really like Stereolab but you have to go because you made a fuss about getting on the guest list? Oh, no, that's right – that's what I did today.
My mom's house is a twenty minute drive away – convenient, yet not so close that I feel her shadow casting a pall over me.
‘The night before Thanksgiving, why don't you sleep over?'
Nope, it doesn't make me feel like a capital "L" loser to cram into Megan's twin bed, flanked by stuffed animals, just so I can wake up, gaze at a giant poster of Justin Timberlake and enjoy a few minutes of peace – and not even a cigarette! – before I hear her holler, ‘I'm gonna need you to help me before the company gets here.' I mean, c'mon.
Yup, I got wasted last night. Blotto. Four whiskey sours on an empty stomach and I'm gripping the sides of the bathroom sink at Veg-City Diner, throwing up bits of maraschino cherry, cuz that's all that was in there, folks. Two a.m. A slimy grilled-cheese sandwich – and him, with his vegan turkey dinner – awaiting me. So why did I end up sleeping on his couch, like, by myself? It's purely platonic (well, maybe not purely), but I wouldn't have minded him wrapping his arms around me nice and tight. Maybe it would have made the room a little less spinny.
His voice sounds stuffy, so you ask if he's got a cold. ‘Uh, no, I did a bit of drug-taking last night,' he admits. ‘I'm not going to lie to you.' You refrain from saying something smart-alecky like, ‘Since when?' It wouldn't be the first time he's withheld information. But you're not his mommy and, besides, he's in England and you're here, so what are you going to do about it? And he tells you the whole story – the how, when, why – and it's decidedly dull. A typical doing-blow-with-a-colleague story. You realize that the shine is starting to wear off.
He tells you he's ‘sitting in bed, re-reading Ulysses, listening to Mahler and drinking beers.' It would sound pretentious coming from anyone but him. Maybe it's the accent.
It's late, and you're dying to ask, ‘Where's what's-her-name?' You don't. Heading into the kitchen, he says he doesn't like to open the refrigerator at night. The light lets people on the street see into his window. ‘And I'm naked.' It's not an invitation for smutty talk, just a plain statement. You're not sure you like the visual: Him, ass-out by fridge light, digging for another beer. You wish you hadn't called.
On my way downtown, I phone Richard to tell him I'll be in his neighborhood. He's a strange ranger, and our relationship is more than a little antagonistic. But I'm alone, and I just want someone to come meet me. "You should have called yesterday," he whines. "Whatever, dude," I say. "I'm just telling you where I'll be. Do what you want." Predictably, he shows up, gets annoyed when I don't interrupt my conversation to talk to him, and stomps off in a huff. I wait until he's not looking and sneak out the door. God, I'm such a bitch.
He's wearing the same grey turtleneck and corduroy pants he had on the night we met. 'It's always so good to see you,' he gushes. I smile obligingly. Aveda pomade. I can tell he still uses it. I consider telling him that he smells great, but decide not to. He rambles about what a shitty night he's having -- some girl he's into isn't into him, blah, blah, blah. Tells me, in excruciatingly elaborate detail, about the plaid wool pants he bought at Barney's that afternoon. 'Dry clean only,' he adds. I can't believe I actually slept with this guy.
'It looks like Yucca Flats after the blast.' That's what my mother would say when my bedroom was in shambles. (I didn't know what Yucca Flats was until a Google search last year, but I caught her drift.) I'm a reasonably neat person, but I can slob up a room real good if I want to. Right now, my bedroom is so messy that I cringe just thinking about it. Somehow, keeping my room clean isn't a priority right now. And I guess the Yucca Flats analogy is particularly poignant since 9/11, isn't it? Thank god my mother never visits.
Peering into my window and eyeing my unopened pack, the gas station attendant asked, ‘How much you pay for those Parliaments?' Five bucks, I told him. Annoyed, he said, ‘I sell for $4.85. Come here next time.' Two days later, he put oil in my car – I was only half playing dumb when I asked for his help -- and, as I got in the car, he declared, ‘You buy your gas here next time.' Jeez, who knew the gas station dude would be such an aggressive salesman? Too bad I won't have a car anymore in a few weeks.
I showed up late for jury duty and had to sit down on a long wooden bench at the front of the room. I noticed Paul McCartney was waiting for a seat, so I scooched down to make room. We exchanged a few words – nothing terribly memorable – and I asked him how George was feeling. A few minutes later, he reached over and put one hand on each of my breasts. Not in a sexy way, but not in a clinical way, either. I don't remember what happened next. A relatively banal dream compared to some of my recent doozies.
If an ex-girlfriend of a guy I've made out with (like, last week) drunkenly dances with me while he watches, and he dumped me for her in March, do I have to pretend I'm into it, even if she looks ridiculous, and he seems to think so too? What if one of his homeboys attempts a lil' bump-and-grind, and he's kinda icky, and squeezing me so hard I think I can feel his pancreas and I'm still wondering whether the first dude is likely to put the moves on me when the night's over? That's all I want to know.
I'm on this Woody Allen kick, after years of hearing, ‘Gasp! You've never seen Annie Hall?!' Bought a copy last week. Maybe I'll watch it again tonight, though it's already one a.m. and I should try to sleep. One more cup of tea, two more cigarettes, and – shit – I have to take out the trash and go buy toilet paper, because my slack-ass roommate hasn't bought a single roll in the year he's lived here and would sooner wipe his ass with last week's Time Out New York than buy something for the apartment. Yeah, I'll be awake for awhile.
I realized that the joke at the end of Annie Hall about the guy whose brother thinks he's a chicken sums up all of my recent romantic entanglements. I should call him and him – each probably imagines he's the only one with his ‘options open' – and tell him the truth: That the relationship is too complicated. Too many miles, too many incompatibilities, too many obstacles, too many white lies, too much drama, too much game-playing, too imbalanced, too unrealistic. Too painful for me, and too easy for him. And too sad, too. So why don't I? I need the eggs.
That's how you'd begin. It was all round edges and soft tones, her German accent. You imagined her cradling the phone, curling her silvery blonde hair through her fingers.
She didn't reprimand you. You kind of wish she had. A letter, though? That would probably be wrong, or worse. What would you say to make it better? You still don't know how she survived Stuart's death, and now this.
There was no point in holding back the tears, and you're sure she could tell you were crying.
But is that why you're sorry? What a pity. Pity, pity.
You didn't hear it ring, but when you pulled your Nokia from the bottom of your purse, the words ‘1 Missed Call' were registered in black letters on the green screen. Listening to the message, you rolled your eyes and wondered why you even bother. Still, you returned the call, mostly because you're a glutton for punishment. Aggravated, you turned your attention back to the plate of dumplings in front of you, more than enough for one person. Later, you headed to the subway for a night when possibilities should be endless. Like these dumplings, they mostly went to waste.
Woke up feeling like it's any other Thursday. It shouldn't seem such a chore to visit, especially on holidays. But it always has, and does today, too. ‘I'll save you the celery to stuff,' my mother says when she rings to find out my ETA. Goodness fucking gracious – another year of sitting at the kitchen table, spreading chive cream cheese into pieces of celery. Peeling potatoes, I get a blister on my thumb; mom says I'm being a sissy. These are my domestic duties, as the eldest daughter. Michael produces an heir, I produce hors d'oevres. Fair enough, I suppose.
I'm fairly inept when it comes to household tasks. I'll scrub up, whether or not I'm expecting company, and I've gotten good at figuring which cleaners will take the filth off my tub. Cooking? No. Sewing? Uh… no. Other than putting the Fancy Feast into the cat's bowl and mixing it up real good, I can't prepare anything even remotely fancy. (Oooh, is that store-bought hummus? Mm-mm good.) Sharon insists that I'll never use the sewing machine I asked my mother to get me for Xmas. Collecting cobwebs in the corner, it'll just give me something else to not dust.
I saw his name appear on the screen of my mobile, and thought about not answering. ‘I'm not answering that,' I told myself, as I reflexively picked up the call. Caught off guard, I agreed to meet him and then rushed to call Shandy for advice. Poor Shandy. She's had enough of hearing about this one, whom she finds even more objectionable than his predecessors. I guess she's right, but I hardly ever take my own advice, let alone someone else's. I never did learn well the lesson that if you keep touching a hot stove, you'll keep getting burned.
Broke my tooth on a pot brownie Thursday night. Which is particularly lame considering that I don't even like pot, let alone pot brownies. Brad looked at me suspiciously and asked, ‘You know what kind of brownie that is, don't you?' ‘Duncan Hines?' I replied, facetiously.
So, yeah, I broke my tooth. Well, it was actually a cap. A bummer, nonetheless. Expensive.
The guy who brought the pot brownies felt so guilty (though it could have been weed-induced paranoia), he couldn't stop asking me whether I was mad at him.
All that trouble, and I didn't even catch a buzz.
Your hand gripped between his, you can't stop thinking you should pull away. If common sense could prevail over this warmth – illusory, though it may be -- you'd be home right now, drinking chamomile tea and listening to the Velvet Underground. Really, he's been such a jerk.
3 a.m., you stop at the Super Deli Grocery. The teenaged cashier says you ‘look pretty tonight.' As you walk home, you think about how many girls he's fed that line. Startled by your cynicism, you wonder whether, like his moustache, it grew overnight or did you just never noticed it before?
He put something up his nose a couple hours ago, so I have a hard time taking him seriously when he dives into the deep end of the conversation. He works hard to exude cockiness, but as the drugs wear off, his face sags with sadness. His mother died a month ago. Cancer, they told me, but I suspect years of drinking may have taken their toll on her. He went to live with his grandmother when he was twelve. ‘Her skin was yellow when she died,' he says plainly. What can I say? We barely even know one another.
There was my visit to Detroit this spring. He took me to the casino in Greektown. Neither of us knew how to play roulette, but with a couple Jack & Cokes in us, we were willing to make asses of ourselves. I left a little richer, him a little poorer. At 7 a.m., my mouth was dry from so much talking. "I'm going back to the casino," he said. "Come with me." I told him he was crazy when he swore he'd play 22 and win. Half hour later, I was awaken by the phone. "I did it!" he hooted.
We've exchanged a dozen goofy emails. ("What're you wearing?" he likes to ask, half joking.) He'd tell me about his motorcycles. And girls he's fucking. And how he's gonna be a rock star.
It's 3 a.m., and he's telling me he'd kill himself if he didn't believe in God. I squeeze his hand hard. So hard my knuckles go white. I want to tell him I love him, but I'm not sure I do. I'm sure, though, that I don't want him to off himself. And I hope there is a God who can help him not to. Please.
All Things Must Pass All Things Must Pass All Things Must Pass All Things Must Pass All Things Must Pass All Things Must Pass All Things Must Pass All Things Must Pass All Things Must Pass All Things Must Pass All Things
Must Pass All Things Must Pass All Things Must
Pass All Things Must Pass All Things Must Pass
All Things Must Pass All Things Must Pass
All Things Must Pass All Things Must Pass All
Things Must Pass All Things Must Pass All Things
Must Pass All Things Must
Rest In Peace, George.
The Tip Jar