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Frank's parents have to take back all the toys they and their friends and family bought in anticipation of his birth. It's not that they're American Girl dolls or anything else that would've accommodated a baby they would've named Francine. They knew they were having a boy. But out come the receipts and back go to the baby-sized footballs, stuffed alligators, and math kits, anyway.
Maryanne and Bill hope that one day they'll be super-excited that their firstborn has a violin where one hand should be and a bow where the other should be, but for now it's just inconvenient.
Thank you for not naming your dog after one of his physical traits. He does not want an adjectival moniker like Fluffy. He does not want a noun-created-from-an-adjective name like Blackie. Although he won't be pleased if you name him Snowball if he's completely white, when you meet him he will merely roll his eyes in a silent plea to not make fun.
He won't object if you call him Mr. Tenderpaw, or, if he's a girl, Mrs. Tenderpaw, but in the latter case you should make sure she's okay with being presented to the public as a married woman.
In ninth grade, kids from three middle schools were lumped together, and nobody yet knew who were the "cool" kids and who were the rest of us. Seated in front of me in homeroom by virtue of alphabetization was Kathy, a tiny blonde cheerleader who wasn't as cute as I wanted her to be but who, because she was a cheerleader, held an odd appeal for me. I hated that I was drawn to her because she was a cheerleader, but thrilled when I discovered her bizarre sense of humor that would at least warrant my befriending her.
Continued from 12/3
When Kathy suggested locker-sharing, I was as thrilled as if Marcia Brady had chosen me as her new best friend. We passed notes with decorating ideas. I was particularly enthralled with the notion of fashioning a sling/hammock that would span the 10 inches or so of the locker's width, where some of our stuff could lounge. A mirror would, of course, adorn the inside of the door. I wished the school had a photo booth, so Kathy and I could stick a strip of grinning black and white evidence of our friendship behind that mirror.
Continued from 12/4
Kathy was a sloppy lockermate, and I wasn't much better, so any hopes we had of our locker being an adorable shared lair were doomed from the get-go.
I remember very little about its décor. Or, really, what was a glaring lack extending even to the hoped-for mirror affixed to the inside of the door. So traumatic was this turn of non-events that I have repressed the memory as a way of coping.
I moved back into my own locker, on whose top shelf I stored a large bottle of Diet Coke to help drown my sorrows.
Amanda likes to play with her food. Not at the table, where she knows she'd be admonished to get her hands out of her mashed potatoes, but in her doll-heavy, pink-crammed bedroom.
"Food is for eating," her mother says. "I hear there are starving children somewhere who would be very happy with those beets."
When her mother turns her attention elsewhere, Amanda slides the beets into the sock hidden in her lap.
happy with the beets, Amanda thinks moments later, smiling to her mirrored self as she swipes a fingerful of the magenta goo along her jugular.
At first Carl thinks he’s imagining it. Surely his eyes are playing tricks on him. Again. Wasn’t it just Tuesday that a snowman held hands with 7-foot tall silver scissors in a field of daisies who appeared to be giggling even though no sound came from their smiling mouths? And then, when he looked down at his ice-diluted lemonade and back across his field again, the only things in front of his eyes were the customary stray dandelions struggling to thrive in the patchy gray lawn and the rusted seat of a swing that hadn’t swung in decades?
Continued from 12/7
But this isn't just inanimate objects. This time it's Marjorie. He sees duplicate copies of his wife of 50+ years scattered around the house like the kicked-off, still-tied shoes she never would have allowed such unorganized repose when she was still alive.
There's a Marjorie draped over the recliner arm as easily as a doily. There's a Marjorie, mixed in with the nickels and pennies in the loose change jar. There's a Marjorie, folded into thirds among the warm laundry.
Here's a Marjorie, wrapped around his wrist alongside his watch, telling him his time is almost up.
It’s a good thing I’ve finished my fudgsicle already, because its wooden tick could’ve put my eye out when my cab swerves to avoid colliding with a silver BMW hatchback pulling away from the right-hand curb. Our light, about ¼ of a block away, is green, but the driver stops in the middle of the road and turns around to look at the BMW’s driver in dismay.
“Fucking bitch!” I say. “She gave you the finger.”
Indeed, she had simultaneously jammed her brakes and displayed her skinny blonde finger in response to the blare of the cab’s horn.
Continued from 12/9
(N.B. "Tick" should be "stick" in the previous entry. I point this out so you're not compelled to dash off a note bringing this to my attention.)
There's no room for the crazed blonde to cram her car ahead of my cab, but that doesn't stop her from trying. I imagine she has had similar misguided experience in the past with too-tight denim and a zipper that refused to accommodate her frenzied ministrations.
My cab driver is more distraught with her finger-showing than he is with the possibility that she may just ram his car.
Continued from 12/10
The driver looks directly at me and says, in a tone ordinarily reserved for friends having an intimate tete-a-tete, "Why did she give me the finger?" His eyes are tearing.
"Because she thinks she's above reproach," I say. I explain the term "entitlement bitch" my friend Judy favors.
"But she's not," he says. "Why did she do that?" It's as if his wife has betrayed him. "Can you talk to her?"
What? Me? Talk to her?
I don't know what's funnier: That he's asking me or that he thinks I'd be the voice of reason.
Continued from 12/11
"Talk to her?" I say. "What is there to be said?"
It'll be okay, Sensitive Cabbie. She's an angry person, don't take it personally, I'm sorry your wife left you for the Fresh Direct delivery guy, you'll find someone new, but it won't be me because if you can't do your own bidding, you're not my kinda guy. Plus, tears over this? Sorry, but -- ewww.
Somehow, the blonde crunches by us and zooms through the intersection.
"Fucking bitch!" he says.
"Yeah!" I say as he speeds to make the light. "Now we're on the same page!"
Although she won't admit it aloud, the only reason Terri has stuck with Terry for so long is because she loves being referred to as "The Terri-able Twos" by friends.
To distinguish between themselves, and to avoid saying "Terry with an 'i'" or "Terry with a 'y'," they instruct people to call her "I" and him "Y" or "Sometimes" in honor of Y only sometimes being considered a vowel.
But if they wind up divorcing, she plans to say, "Too bad we couldn't stick to our vows as easily as we stuck to our vowels."
Either way, she can't lose.
I admire people who can concoct, from only the contents of their kitchen that they have on hand at any given moment, something that's not only edible but actually tasty and worthy of a repeat effort. I do not have this skill. Faced with only a can of stewed tomatoes, Batter Blaster aerosol pancake mix, a frostbitten bag of edamame, a Diet Coke, chocolate-covered espresso beans, and a shaker of curry powder, I'll starve.
Throw me a handful of mismatched words, however -- blatherskite, pusillanimous, go-cart, travesty, hyperventilate, coagulate, cholecystectomy, blue -- and I'll compose a sentence worthy of admiration.
For years I'd dreamt of my brother drowning in a variety of bodies of water. Pools, lakes, oceans all killed him. Still water or waves, it was gonna get him. Frozen water was treacherous too, but the trouble was limited to one occasion, when I was 8 and he was 10, and his leg snapped off after he fell on ice on the driveway. He was safe from steam.
I read that recurrent dreams indicated an unresolved issue in the dreamer's life. I didn't care about resolving whatever that was. I just wanted my brother to stop drowning.
Continued from 12/15
He was a strong swimmer in real life, but in my dreams he was no match for the water, which was much stronger. He could hold his breath underwater for more laps than anyone I ever knew, but that admirable ability, perfect for Marco Polo in the pool, was worthless in the dreams in my head.
He went away to college to become a marine biologist and lived in a house in Brigantine only a block or two from the ocean. I was proud of him for following this dream, but terrified of my own.
Continued from 12/16
In 1983, immediately after graduating college, he was awarded a long-term assignment in Jamaica. Having a brother who was a marine biologist trumped Marcia Brady having a brother be Johnny Bravo any day. Imagine! My brother was cooler than Greg Brady!
The day before his flight to Jamaica, I dreamed that, while swimming out into an enormous wave, my brother was pulled down by the undertow, never to appear again. The next morning, I told my mother, and she told me that if I told my brother, he wouldn't want to go. I kept mum.
Continued from 12/17
He lived in Discovery Bay for several months, and planned to accompany his team on its next project near Saudi Arabia, until his girlfriend, who'd made frequent visits, became unexpectedly pregnant.
I'm sure that making such an enormous lifestyle change at 24 felt like drowning in an undertow, but in some way I think his having to take on a different kind of responsibility was like being pulled from one.
Oddly enough, I never had one of those water-death dreams again.
(And here you thought I was going to tell you my brother had succumbed, didn't you?)
As we walk toward the stairs leading up from the 42nd Street platform, I realize I've left the theater tickets at home. I'm disgusted with myself, but my ever-calm boyfriend suggests we go back, he'll race through the snow to retrieve the tickets while I wait inside the subway station, and we can just arrive late and be "those people" we usually hate. So we do that. Once in the theater lobby, however, he says, "Oh no," and indicates that the show, nearly three hours long, started at 7, not 8.
"Okay, NOW it's fucking hilarious," I say.
Continued from 12/19
We arrive just in time to see Billy Elliot do his big dance at the end of the first act. The lights go up for intermission, and I say, "Wow, it flew by!" I almost say, "I just flew in from Cleveland, and boy are my arms tired" for an encore.
After the show, which we deem borderline excruciating, we walk in the falling snow to an Italian place place we went to when we first started dating. He wants pizza, I want eggplant parmigiana, and we both want garlic knots, so he suggests all three.
Every year in Paris, the same hotel, the same heavy-eyelidded man with the individual hairs of his beard waiting to do battle on his chin, soldiers marching toward 5:00 p.m. to create the shadow that always appeared when we’d come back for rest after a day out. Every year we’d greet this man with recognition in our voices, yet no recognition was anywhere to be found on his part regarding us. Our faces were only two of thousands he no doubt saw in between our yearly visits, but still, I wanted him to remember them the way we remembered his.
I transfer my fingers from the keyboard where words are formed, sentences are composed, paragraphs are given flesh and breath, to the keyboard where music is created. That transfer is smooth, the interruption barely perceptible, the adjustment easy, even though my skill with the former is more advanced then the latter. Although I struggle more to form music than words, the shift to 88 keys from 26 is comfortable. Is it because I don’t feel as much pressure with music and thus allow greater freedom to “fail”? The transfer back to words leaves my fingers feeling oddly out of sorts.
He comes here to read the entries about himself. The densely packed encapsulations of parts of his personality or behavior committed to a two-dimensional presentation for all the world (or the population who knows of this medium) to see, most of whom will never have the opportunity to see or know him in the more diffuse three-dimensional reality. He likes knowing that people who are faceless to him will become somewhat acquainted with certain faces of him I select for them to know. But I know that they are only a public fraction of a much more intriguing private whole.
I point out the dog hair on my coat, to preempt anyone else's observation that from neck to knees I am covered in Border Collie. It is not difficult for a coat to appear to be made more of orange and black and white fur than black wool, even after the briefest round of canine-cavorting.
How is it that no one sees that an entire Border Collie puppy has formed itself out of the stray fluff and fur and is now clinging to me, piggyback style, its soft and warm paws wrapped around my neck, its snout nuzzling my neck?
Greta does not like the merry-go-round. When confronted with having to ride it every summer at the fair held on her old high school grounds, she slumps on one of the stationary pew-like benches instead of perching on one of the horses. She feigns motion sickness and nausea and disappointment at not being able to be more adventurous.
The horses' faces are painted into happy smiles and wide-eyed benevolence, in cheerful colors that little kids can understand. This is different from the horse her father carved into a "carousel-quality" rocking horse that he unveiled for her fourth birthday.
Continued from 12/25
The rocking horse was too big to be wrapped, so Greta's parents told her to close her eyes and not to peek as her father brought it into the family room with a red ribbon tied around its neck and a matching bow atop its head. Greta put on a big show of scrunching her eyes tight and pressing the heels of her hands over them. This time, unlike others, she wouldn't peek.
"Okay, you can open your eyes now!" her mother said when the gift was settled two feet away from Greta's scrunched eyes.
Continued from 12/26
Before her first scream could fully rebound off the walls of the split-level house, Greta's father had snatched her from the sofa and plunked her onto the back of the rocking horse.
"Hold on tight!" he said, shoving the wooden horse so hard that she fell forward to grab its neck. Despite the cacophony of her own screams and those of her mother, she could hear the horse's voice curl into a murmur.
"Big girls don't cry like babies!" it said. "Where's your diaper, crybaby?"
Leave it to her father to create the world's first mocking horse.
If Jean-Dominique Bauby can blink out an entire book using only his seemingly tireless left eye and not only have it make sense but to be so gorgeously written, then certainly I, with both hands intact -- speedy hands that see like four at times -- can tap out a mere 100 words every day.
In moments of puffery, I've claimed that it's not as easy as you'd think. This is a craft, I've said. And while that can be true, it's a pompous circumstance to claim when you realize how much you have and how much you squander it.
There's no mistaking who it was: Peter Gallagher and his eyebrows, twin black caterpillars conquering his forehead and threatening to take over his entire face. Quite a good sighting, on the sidewalk outside Joe's Pub one night a few years ago.
And then, making it a very good sighting: A pink and white bespectacled blob, thinning blond hair falling over his flushed and jowly face -- Phillip Seymour Hoffman hurrying toward Peter Gallagher.
Grins abound. PG to PSH and back again. K's and mine richocheting off each other and careening toward the two guys, who have no idea we exist.
I am sitting on my haunches on the sidewalk, buried face first in dog chests, dog snouts, and dog ears, paws flailing and flopping to shake my hand, tongues lolling and curling to lick my nose. I swear I'm going to spontaneously sprout a tail, because human expression does not seem adequate to convey my elation. The dogs are whimpering and squealing, occasionally yelping pure joy, and all I can do is grin so hard that the edges of my mouth feel like they're going to tear through my cheeks, releasing sunshine and rainbows and daisies out into the universe.
Snow angels are easy. Anyone with a back, arms, legs, and enough snow to lie down in can make one within a matter of seconds. Oh, look at me! I made a snow angel in your front yard!
Big deal. Snowflakes are unique, yes. But angels made in a heap of them? Not so.
Make me a slush angel. Plop yourself down in a foot of exhaust-fumed slush, face first if you're feeling extra daring, and flail like mad. Oh, look at you! You've made a slush angel in the middle of Broadway! Now that's a creation that deserves admiration!
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