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Why is it, again, that I convince myself it's a good idea to take Tylenol PM? I always awaken groggy and with that feeling where my head seems to weigh two tons. But sometimes I just want to sleep. Sleep hard enough not to wake up. It was one of those Saturdays where doing nothing seemed like the best possible thing to do. Or to not do. Of course, I'm apprehensive about this bachelorette party tonight. My best friend's wedding – so bittersweet and only a week away. Will it rain? That's what they're worried about. Me, I have other concerns.
Hunkmania: 1) an acute affliction whereby otherwise sensible women shriek like banshees at the sight of a buffer-than-buff dude gyrating his G-string in their face. 2) the New York City nightclub where, for $25, you can expose yourself to said contagion. I'll remember it as the place where my best friend and I got kicked out – rather, asked to leave -- for having what you might call a "bad attitude."
I remember my 11th birthday. My mother took me to lunch at some all-you-can –eat joint and then drove me to North Shore Animal League to get a kitten. I pretended not to know where we were going, but we'd been to the animal league before, and I had a hunch that's where we were headed. Now, Tiffany's nearly meowing at Heaven's door. Waiting to climb into the giant litter box in the sky. If, like Megan, I'd just gotten my ears pierced instead, maybe I wouldn't be spending this fall considering euthanizing the best birthday gift I've ever received.
There are certain rules by which girlfriends are supposed to abide. An unspoken code between women that dictates all sorts of things. Like, don't buy the same article of clothing or pair of shoes as your friend. No matter how much you might want to, that item is now off limits. It works sort of the same way with boys. Once your friend has dated a boy, he is
. Rarely is any dude worth risking a friendship for. So why lose sleep over it? It's part of the girl code, and not to be questioned. Funny, I'm still awake.
Things were so much simpler when I didn't drink at all. During my days as a teetotaler, I possessed a quiet confidence in my sobriety. Not that I was self-righteous or disdainful of my pals who'd get sauced, but I preferred clear-headedness. Now, I guess I've found more rationalizations for drinking. And when I tell myself, ‘I'll just have one or two,' I honestly believe it. Problem is, three or four drinks later, I find myself stretched across my bed watching the ceiling spin. ‘Keep one foot on the floor,' Dorien says. Hardly worth the trouble for a fleeting buzz.
Crankiness is like a contagion, and for the better part of today, it infested my surroundings. Asked, at one point, why I looked sad, I wondered, ‘Is it that obvious?' Why do people ask that anyway? It's unlikely I'll tell them the truth, which would be infinitely more boring than my standard answer: ‘Me? I'm fine.' Kind of like when someone says, ‘You look tired,' just because you didn't put on lipstick or mascara that morning. That's when you realize that you look precisely as dreadful without make-up as you thought. I should put an emergency supply in my desk.
I used to date this guy who I call "The Moth God." (Long story.) He was a man with many flaws, but worst was his inability to be affectionate in public. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm irrepressibly affectionate, even with friends. We were a bad match, The Moth God and I. Last night I was on a date with a new boy – our third date in a month. In addition to being unbelievably sweet and – hello! – a total hottie, he let me sit on his lap at a crowded party. Ladies and gentleman, I think we have a winner.
My very best friend in the whole word is now a married lady. Like, with a real husband and shit. Someone asked me whether I'm at that age where other people's weddings bum me out. And it's not like I claim to be so mature that I never indulge that kind of self-pity. But, while I had tears flowing down my cheeks as I watched her get hitched, the tears came from a feeling of pride and elation like nothing I've ever felt before. Someday, she'll be waiting for me at the end of an aisle, and she'll cry too.
Last night at the wedding, I was standing on the veranda smoking a cigarette when Cantor Benedict approached. A beautiful old man with striking blue eyes, he leaned his mouth toward my ear and said, "I heard an ugly rumor." I smiled and said, "Oh yeah?," thinking to myself, "Is the Cantor getting fresh with me?" He answered, "I heard that you're going to quit smoking soon." And perhaps I will. I woke up this morning feeling like I swallowed an ashtray. I thought, "Maybe the cantor's right." A man of god, especially a handsome one, can be so persuasive.
What would I do if there were a fire in my apartment? Today, we had a scare in my building when the store downstairs went up in flames. What would I rescue first? Which of my possessions would suddenly seem irreplaceable? The cat. Some photographs. My first teddy bear. I'd let the books burn, but some records would have to be rescued. My favorite pairs of jeans. Those purple suede ankle boots I bought last weekend, and will probably only wear for a few more months. Individually, they're pretty much worthless. But without my things, would I still be me?
I woke up, as usual, alone in my bed with my sixteen year-old cat. I put on my red jeans, which used to be my favorites but have been supplanted by newer, tighter ones. The phone rang. "Turn on the TV," she said. I watched, and then got on the bus. Not the train, the bus. An hour later, the world had changed as much as the skyline of my city had changed. I walked back to the apartment, where I was again alone with the cat. She lifted her head just a little, and then went back to sleep.
I've never been able to say the words "easy come, easy go" and actually mean them. For starters, how often does anything good come easily, if at all? As for the letting go part, well, that's something I'm still figuring out how to do. With tears streaming down my face and wetting my neck, I thought that George Harrison's wisdom was more appropriate. All things must pass. This morning, I was sure he was crying as we talked on the phone. I later realized he may have just had a runny nose. A moment of simple vulnerability, still quite adorable.
I've come to a refreshing realization. Namely, that it's easy to convince yourself you're doing something for the right reasons, even when you're totally full of shit. The mind is a crazy piece of work. And clarity comes at unexpected moments. I'm not sure when today's moment of self-discovery actually occurred, but I know I feel like I've just given a Fonzi-style smack to my bullshit detector. It was on the fritz for awhile. So I'm not going to kid myself. I spend way too much time assuming that silly flirtations have life-altering significance. Time to find a
Some mind-boggling advice came today from an unusual source, known to most as "The Coug." He said, "Nothing good happens after midnight." I replied, "Everything good happens after midnight." I couldn't have been talking about this week, when my late night hours were spent doing just about everything to avoid going home. I keep joking about "disaster sex," as if a roll in the hay would help me forget what's happened. None of us will ever forget, and it would take more than a clumsy 1 a.m. shag to fix what's been broken. At least it'd be something to do.
Is it a compliment to be told you remind someone of Betsy Johnson? I suppose that when they qualify it with, "I knew her back when she was just a kid," you've got to assume they mean to flatter you. And, even if the intended flattery comes from a slightly creepy dude who's old enough to be your dad, you try to smile appreciatively. Plus, you are kind of proud of your ingenuity. That frou-frou taffeta skirt looks so much better cut to just above your knees. Everyone says so. It's a wonder how well you do with sharp objects.
Few things upset me more than the empty space where affection is notably absent, and a cold wall of nothing much keeps hands from hands, lips from lips. Walking in circles around the East Village, we didn't even touch. Not that I really wanted him – jeez, he talks a lot -- but it would have been strangely comforting, too. In bed, he sat on top of the blankets in his jeans and t-shirt, while I snuggled alone under the sheets on my side. Take note, Mick Jagger: Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you don't get what you need.
Sitting at the bar, I nervously pulled all of the red velveteen petals off of the rose bud. "For free," he had said, handing it to me. I hadn't invited charity; but he had insisted, and sometimes it's nice just to get a flower. I prefer a new bud to an open one, which always seems gauche and obvious and sad, on the brink of wilting. Later, I licked the underside of one discarded petal and stuck it on the end of my nose. I may not have deserved the flower, but at least I deserved the laughs I got.
Procrastination has one major reward: the satisfaction that comes with catching up on all the things you've put off. Can I sit and write one hundred words when I should be crying or helping or thinking or sleeping? I did little of any of those things this week. Where have the days gone? The time I squandered is lost, but I have days, weeks, years ahead to catch up on everything. Adam doesn't. I looked for his name in the list of firefighters deemed "missing" in today's Post. I realized I don't even know his last name. What a shame.
In times of crisis, it can be hard to keep things in perspective. And I hat e to begrudge other people their right to wallow, whimper or feel wronged. I don't consider myself a Pollyanna, but the way I see it, it's always better to imagine how much worse off you would be if you had to trade places with someone who's going through some really serious shit. You know, the big stuff like death, illness, abuse, loss of love. And I get frustrated when friends lack that kind of perspective. That's probably a character flaw in me, isn't it?
Online, I saw a link for a support group called "Vulgarity Anonymous." I couldn't resist going to their page to check it out. A twelve-step group for chronic cussing? Fucking ridiculous. Swearing is one of those things we do out of laziness, and an inability to find better ways to articulate ourselves. And sometimes, it's a stop-gap while you figure out what else to say. Moreover, there will always be occasions when no other word suffices but an expletive. Let me give you an example: A world where everything is an excuse to 12-step? It's just plain fucked up.
Ever receive the "I fucked you over" hug? The arms of the person administering the hug only faintly wrap around the person receiving the hug. Sometimes, there's a weak pat on the back that goes along with the IFYO hug. But always there's this icky feeling, like you're being blown off all over again. It's a hug that says, "I like you enough to still be friends -- the kind of friends who feel compelled to hug." It also says, "I don't ever, ever want to see you naked again." I've given the hug, and, today, I've gotten the hug.
Maybe it's the glass, angular and impractical, and impossibly clumsy. Holding that thin stem and trying not to spill diluted olive juice on my lap, I always feel silly, like I'm trying to imitate something I saw in a Fifties B-movie. And then there's the taste, warm and acrid like a liquid punishment. Even the olives – normally, a favorite nosh – is spoilt by its association with the martini, its flavor destroyed by soaking in vodka and vermouth. Plus, it's got too many varieties – dry, dirty, with an onion, shaken, stirred. Maybe I'm just hopelessly unsophisticated, but I don't like martinis.
For almost an hour, I held the phone loosely in my hand, wanting to hang it up and walk away from it. The tears were already drying on my face, though a stalwart tear would every now and again escape down the side of my nose. I listened to her sobbing on the other end, making that choking sound you learn as a child, weeping over a broken toy. And it made me think, "So here we are. She's fifty-one years old and it's happening already: We're switching roles. Like Cheryl's sister says, raising parents is so hard these days.
I measure time differently now. Days, weeks, hours, minutes – the clock keeps resetting itself back to September 11. I don't mean to be melodramatic, because I've been doing well enough. I keep telling people that I'm OK, and by now I've said it so many times that I'm starting to believe it. And, really, I am OK. Which is to say that I'm glad to be alive. It's a strange, happy-sad feeling. But I still keep wishing I knew where everyone was, and wondering who's worrying about me, if anyone. Even I've stopped worrying about me – for now, at least.
My stereo sucks. It's the same cheesy hi-fi my mom gave me eons ago, back when I was living in the little bedroom in the front of the house. The futon took up a third of the room when it was unfolded. So the speakers don't work so good anymore, and if I adjust the volume any higher than two or three, the sound gets static-y. The receiver picks up the odd conversation between gypsy-cab drivers. They tell me I can get new speakers for $300. I'd rather buy thirty records, and listen to them on this piece of crap.
How's this for awkward second-date conversation?
Him: "I'm pretty obsessive-compulsive."
Me: "Yeah, me too."
Him: "No, I mean, really."
Me: "Yeah, me too. I take medication for it."
Him: "I don't like to take drugs. Like, of any kind."
Me: "What about Tylenol?"
Him: "Well, I'll take Advil."
On the way home, I deleted his numbers from my cell phone. God bless modern technology, when a person can be obliterated from your life with the press of a button. I wonder if he's deleted me, that crazy girl he went out with twice. He talked too much anyway.
When we were kids, my brother and I would have burping contests. I don't know why it took me so long to figure out that he was an unbeatable adversary. After all, he was eighteen months older than me, and so he'd had a year and a half more practice at being really disgusting. He could list all of the vowels in one long belch. "AEIOU," he'd burp, in a proud, triumphant grunt. It was hilarious and impressive. When he felt really ambitious, he'd aim for the whole alphabet, consonants and all. He never got past "H," I don't think.
Got a call yesterday from a friend who talks so quickly, he exhausts me. I waited a full day to return the call,then silently reproached myself for being so intolerant of someone so dear to me. I wonder how he does it, though. Does he know how fast he's going, and for how long? I hung up the phone and rushed out the door, late – as usual – for my hair appointment. There, things seem to have returned to normal – friendly, affectionate -- with the boy who, just a week ago, gave me the "I fucked you over" hug.
I spent the day with my mother, who is almost a transformed person in the wake of this bullshit with Bob. Still somewhat manic, but not as crabby. It was strange to see Bob, but he looked good and we had a warm embrace when I arrived. I tried not to walk on eggshells, but the room was, after all, cluttered with them. The diploma for my M.A. had arrived in the mail, and I was surprised by how proud I felt holding it in my hands. More surprising was how genuinely proud Susan seemed. Have we broken new ground?
"Now I lay me down to sleep…" I used to recite it to myself as a child as I rubbed the soft pillowcase between my thumb and forefinger. "I pray the Lord my soul to keep…" We didn't have "religion" in my house, but I knew what it meant to pray. It was like wishing on an eyelash before Mom blew it from the palm of her hand. "If I should die before I wake…." I'd say my little prayer for life, peace, safety. There was plenty to fear. "I pray the Lord my soul to take." There still is.
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