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It's a good thing I look down at the sidewalk to make sure I'm not stepping on anyone (just like Gandhi). Otherwise, I may have squished the rat, casually resting a foot from my foot as if taking a break from its ratty activities. Except this rat wasn't going anywhere on account of a little thing called Being Dead. "Poor guy," I thought, apologizing to its desiccated corpse.
I also apologize to the roaches I take outside after finding them struggling on their backs in semi-hidden locations in my apartment, when I check on them later and find them dead.
Ronnie was tied to his mother's apronstrings, literally, from toddlerhood until his early 30s. Some people looked at the pair askance, especially when one or the other of them had to use a public rest room. His college classmates thought it was cool, though, because Mrs. Rasenbrahn knew a lot about the stuff they were studying and could help them cheat while simultaneously supplying tasty home-baked cookies.
When Ronnie's mom died of a broken back, he married Anna, a girl famous around town for appearing in her dad's window replacement commercials, and rode on her coattails, literally, until his death.
Seventh grade brought with it a new dread: swimming class. Not only did we have to wear bathing suits, but bathing suits supplied by the school (hello, public crotch!). None of this boded well for me, as it was my fervent hope that I would be able to remain dry for the duration of middle school and with as much skin covered as possible.
I was not fond of any situation that had me changing my clothes where the chance of it being witnessed by someone else was quite high. Regular gym class was bad enough. But this?
Continued from 8/3
The locker-room towels were designed to leave more skin exposed than any modest 12-year-old would prefer, so I devised a system that used at least two, one for the northern reaches and one for the southern. Underneath these barriers, I would scurry to tend to the latter first, cringing as I stepped into the public crotch, allow that towel to drop, and in that instant pull the top up and over my shoulders. By some stroke of good fortune, I managed to remove my clothes and pull on the bathing suit without anyone getting a peek.
Little side salad, you make me cry. Not because you told me your mom died or punched me in the face with brass knuckles, but because you're comprised of brown-edged, pallid, watery iceberg lettuce that, as much as I'd like to think has seen better days, probably hasn't, two slices of pinkish anemic tomato with greenish seeds, shredded carrot that even a rabbit would shun, and a speck of what I suspect may be the leg of a fly who lost his life trying to swim up out of the mire of what is probably supposed to be balsamic vinaigrette.
I used some sort of super-duper glue whose label warns that it can bind skin. But does that stop me from getting it on mine? Of course not.
After it dries, do I use some sort of solvent to remove it from the tip of my left index finger and thumb, the two digits that had boldly pressed themselves into the glue? Of course not. Do I chew it off instead, and, in doing so, probably wind up eating off not just the glue but a good deal of skin? Of course.
Do I stop, then?
What do you think?
While out and about with my friends Scott and Jay, I tripped over my feet (a very common occurrence). Although grabbing the pocket of my pants steadied me against an actual fall, both it and the seam to which it was attached suffered sizable tears. Fortunately Jay is handy with a needle and came to the rescue.
Although the stitches are not seamstress quality, they're still marvelous, and I actually prefer their imperfection, because, like a scar, they will remind me not only of the event necessitating the repair but of the special attention someone else paid to making it.
He is an elementary school globe, tipped slightly on its axis, trying to keep himself from teetering and/or tottering when he stands and grasps the pole in anticipation of exiting the bus. He tries to appear as if he's not struggling, but the sweat beading his hairline high atop his head and between his multiple chins, belies this.
His arms are too short for his body, or perhaps only seem that way, given that his enormous girth prevents them from dangling by his sides. The hands are surprisingly small, pivoting on the most delicate of wrists.
Does he feel incarcerated?
On the first day of swimming class, we were tested on our ability and assigned to one of two groups: those who swim in the deep end like adults and those who hold onto the wall in the shallow end like toddlers. I was assigned to the latter. This did not please me.
I was good enough for the other group, I was told, but kept with the flailers to be a good influence on them. I was their example.
Danny W. wailed, clinging to the pool wall. I don't know who I wanted to die more, me or him.
We have known each other since 1975, when we met in seventh grade. We were best friends through middle school, great friends through high school, and remained good friends even when you went away to college. This has given you ample time to know the kind of person I am, especially in the realm of what I find funny and what I don't.
So why is it that you forward me the most fantastically unfunny jokes and cartoons in email? Why do you send me shit I would've deemed asinine even when we were 12?
Years after I stopped seeing Hairy-Backed Bastard, he decided he needed to talk to me on the phone. Was this before or after he called his wife back, I wondered, to find out if she needed him to pick up Pampers and orange juice on his way home that night? I obliged him just to amuse myself.
The call was so riveting that I have since forgotten its real purpose. I do recall asking why he never reciprocated a certain sex act.
"Because my boys weren't involved," he said, without a touch of irony.
Boy oh boy. Man oh man.
Although I appreciate your willingness to hover over my shoulder like a hummingbird jacked up up and away on a palmful of high grade amphetamines, I will not know, until I have tasted what you have just placed before me, whether or not I would like you to supplement it with freshly ground black pepper via the enormous mill aggressively pressed against your chest like a rifle. It is in exceedingly poor taste to chirp an affirmative without first sampling the food that someone with much more skill with a skillet than I can ever hope to achieve has prepared.
This space is reserved for a moment of silence in memory of my sweet Taxi, the dog who was the love and light of my life for just over eight years, who left this world six months ago today:
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I love you my beautiful boy, and miss you even more than ever.
Ahhh, yes, once again I'm somewhat phobic of the agora. No desire to be out and about, hither and yon in the city I love with the same intensity as that ordinarily reserved for shoes and dogs and tofu and my talldarksexyandhandsome boyfriend. I don't want to leave the comforts of this color-crammed and -crazed haven I've created for myself, to be face to face with anyone's face but that of my green-eyed, fuzzy black cat.
Actually it's more like avoidance. I just don't want anyone seeing me. I don't mind the versa-vice. I just don't want the vice-versa, y'know?
"All I can say is if you don't want me leering at your baby, you won't give him teething toys that look like double-ended dildos."
I stop in my tracks. I believe the word is "dumfounded".
Um. The relatively normal-looking guy who just passed by did not just say that, did he?
The baby's mom's face mirrors what I think my own must look like, but topped with fierce maternal instinct, like a maraschino cherry but not even a fraction as pretty.
"He couldn't just say 'dildo'?" I think. "He had to go with 'double-ended'?"
"Sick scumbag," I say instead.
I don't want to believe the smudged dark blue marks on the white-haired man's forearm are what I know they are. I want them to be the fading reminder of a youthful whim, a drunken dare.
He and his wife quietly eat their lunch in a booth 15 feet away, oblivious to covert glances my boyfriend and I steal. My boyfriend confirms the tattoo is a string of numbers ("A 5, a 6"). My food loses all taste. Head bowed, I reach for a tissue from my purse. I can always count on these numbers to make me lose it.
No one here in New York City has to know that Paige was known as Peggy back in her hometown somewhere in the Midwest. She had considered playing off her real name, Margaret, but presenting herself to the glamorous new friends she was sure to be sharing private limousines with as "Magpie" or "Marge" just didn't have the same appeal.
On the subway back to the fifth-floor walkup she shares with two Russian manicurists in Flushing, Queens, she daydreams of Oprah introducing her as the author of the best-selling memoir, "Turning the Paige" to a teary-eyed, heart-clutching, arm-flailing, hysterical audience.
I thought we'd be bringing him home. At the gym, on the dreadmill every day he was away, I'd listen to triumphant-sounding music, envisioning a lavish scenario where he'd come home, patched up and weak but on the mend, soon to be the same big goof I'd fallen in love with years ago. When I stroked his paw that Tuesday afternoon, kissed his head and whispered I'd see him tomorrow, I meant it. I didn't know that in less than 24 hours my sweet boy would be gone. I'm glad I didn't know. I wouldn't be able to say goodbye.
Years ago, after an employer had the audacity to fire me after four years of impeccable service, I found myself rather happily unemployed and even more happily eligible to collect compensation. It felt daring and somewhat reverse-glam.
On the phone with my mother before my first unemployment office appointment, she gave me several pointers, including this advice: "And don't go getting all dressed up in one of your fancy outfits, either." I feigned exasperation that she would even suggest such a thing, as I silently cringed and wept that I would have to be seen in something sensible, shoes included.
Among the purchase orders and business cards cluttering the bulletin board in S's office is a creased and smudged photo of her brother, killed a few years ago thanks to wrongful prescription of medication. He collapsed on his sailboat, his passion. He left behind not only my friend but a wife and kids. He was my age.
His handsome tanned face smiles out from the photo, creased not in flesh but in print from having been removed so many times from the bulletin board, smudged from the thousands of times S's lips press against it and ears cry onto it.
His mezzanine seat affords an unobstructed view of my private stage. Seeing no curtain, perhaps he is anticipating the start of a show?
I don't know how long he's been standing there, peering out his window down into mine, where I've been lounging on the sofa reading a book, brightly lit by the ceiling fixture. I jump up and flip and lower the blinds in one swift movement.
And now I remember: He was probably waiting for an encore of an earlier show, where my boyfriend was the one lounging and I was down below in the orchestra pit. A-ha!
My trip to Prince Edward Island included an excruciating day-long excursion to Avonlea Village, an Anne of Green Gables theme park. It was as exciting as not only watching paint dry but watching it dry on a black-and-white 13" TV crammed with static. There were times I thought I was going to bleed from the ears. I was even hoping for it, so an ambulance could be called and I could be rushed from the premises. Then again, since everyone stays in character while there, I'd probably be carried away in some sort of rickshaw contraption to a leech farm.
While in/on/at Prince Edward Island, my host takes me to a gathering called a "ceilidh." At first, I'm more interested in the spelling than the event itself.
"So, it's kinda like Kylie as in Kylie Minogue," I say, "except with an 'a' sound instead of an 'i' sound."
On the way there, I open my mind to the possibility that it might not be as hokey as I anticipate. This is popular entertainment in this town, so who knows? I might be surprised, even pleasantly so.
We arrive, and I could swear I'm at a "mixer" circa 1978.
Continued from 8/23
I've never felt more out of place quicker than I do at the ciedlih. At home, stylish, olive-skinned brunettes are as common as the dog shit we routinely dodge while stomping down the avenues in our don't-fuck-with-me pumps. But here, orthopedic shoes are eveningwear.
Once the musicians start, the tame crowd is whipped up into more of a lather than anything seen in a shampoo commercial. The old guy behind me is more zealous in his participation than an evangelist. I cringe, perhaps audibly.
At evening's end, I'm not even that interested in the word's spelling anymore.
Jane never utters the five words aloud. She daydreams about allowing them to escape into the air, though. Sometimes the words whisper, dangling limp like decrepit balloons. Other times they shout, strung proud like party lights. Either way, the daydream embarrasses her, and she cannot believe her audacity in affording it even a tenuous existence.
It's not that she doesn't believe the words, it's that she doesn't want to hurt her sister's feelings. Still, the truth needs to be set free, so tonight, at 9:50, under cover of darkness, she'll state them plainly to herself.
"I got the good hair."
Although I stand under the sign that indicates this spot is indeed a bus-stop, which means the bus must heed that direction, I still feel I must not only have my Metrocard in hand as the bus approaches but flash its yellow side in a studiedly inconspicuous way. I don't want the busdriver thinking I am actively "hailing" the bus.
Later, I push the tape on one of the bus' walls to indicate I want to exit at the next stop. I approach the back door while the bus is in motion, just to ensure the driver stops.
Continued from 8/26
I always get anxious as the bus approaches my destination. Even though I take care to wait until I know the busdriver will be sure to hear the tone when I press the tape to announce my stop, I don't trust his awareness or hearing. I stand to indicate I'll be exiting, but this assumes he pays attention to movement behind him.
Turns out my anxiety is not for naught. Twice in one week he did not heed my request, and I had to shout out, "Hey! I want to get off!" -- my biggest bus-riding fear.
"I was in middle school the first time I saw a picture of women lined up outside the so-called showers at Auschwitz," he says. "I didn't know what they were at first, so I jerked off to the photo. Later, when I found out what the picture was all about, I still jerked off to it."
I glare at him over my iced coffee.
"Hey, porn is where you find it, right?"
I ask if he ever masturbated to the famous LIFE photo of the Vietnamese girl running naked down a street.
"Of course not!" he says. "I'm no pedophile."
He's dropped me off at the end of our weekend together. I'm putting away my laundry. Less than ten minutes later, he calls from the car. He's north, at 96th.
"Do you want to see the George Washington Bridge all lit up?"
"Yes!" I say without hesitation.
He'll be by in a few minutes to pick me up.
All I see are green lights, a necklace spanning the Hudson's neck. This is exciting enough. As we get closer, and I see the bridge lit up from within, I'm completely delighted by the bridge -- just as I am with him.
The young locksmith ambles down the hallway toward me, his bright grin reflecting off his shaved head. I grin back and say something introductory, like, "Welcome to paradise, handsome." Okay, so I don't say that. And I'm not really wearing a negligee, mules, and touching a long cigarette holder to my ruby lips, but I may as well be for as much as he's grinning.
He's quite the charming chatster as he replaces the cylinder in my ancient lock. Learning I'm 44 and not the 28 he guessed doesn't daunt him.
I make sure to insert "boyfriend" into the mix.
My boyfriend buzzes at the door. He doesn't have the new key to my place.
"You have to come out! Now!"
Although he doesn't sound like he has a cleaver embedded in his back, I dash out anyway. His lack of injury is confirmed.
I look down the street and see the cause of the commotion: a tiny fuzzy yellow puppy, just sitting looking up at its dad.
They approach. I squeal, crumbling to the ground to play with the little guy.
I don't know what's cuter: the puppy itself or my boyfriend for knowing this would make my day.
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