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While in the shower, the water tapping inadvertent Morse code on my old-lady shower cap, suddenly I remember: One day I'll be dead! I shudder and say, "Oh!" much like I do when an insect surprises me by scuttling out of the medicine cabinet. I panic for three seconds, imagine myself not of this world anymore, and then tell myself aloud to knock it off.
Still, as I step out of the shower in my still-alive body, I'm as terrified as I was when I was six or so, lying in bed, coming to that realization for the first time.
I would say that about once every two days I fantasize about how I will come to be dead. Of course, in the fantasies I am able to watch as the fact of my death is discovered or witnessed or otherwise experienced by people around me, including, but not limited to, whoever caused my demise, casual passersby, thrill-seeking rubberneckers, and the usual assortment of friends, Romans, and countrymen all hovering around hoping to steal my shoes.
Of course, by fantasize, I don't mean anything sexual, because although I am proudly perverse, snuff is not a fetish that appeals to me.
One of my biggest fears is rooted in the terroristic memory of my stepfather's driving. Those were the days before "road rage" had a name, before airbags, before seatbelts that did more than serve as clanky belts with unfashionable clunky buckles. Now, just like then, when as a passenger I have no control, all I imagine is getting into a crash so severe that I'm rendered a paraplegic, both hands twisted into gnarled claws held against my caved-in chest, unable to move enough to mop away the new and constant drool spilling from a permanently terrified mouth unable to close.
When I am in a vehicle and I do not feel the high speed is appropriate to the circumstances (Tip: Even when fleeing a bank robbery, we must always remember SAFETY FIRST), I quietly tighten my seatbelt, faux-nonchalantly turn my head to the right, and, while pretending to gaze out the window, close my eyes against what I anticipate may be impending catastrophe. (This, of course, assumes, I am not driving, in which case I would be in control of the speed, or at least we could reasonably assume -- unless, of course, I am Keanu Reeves in a bus.)
Of course, my fear of getting into a horrible car accident increases quite a bit when the streets are icy. I've been in cars that have slipped on ice, and the smooth glide is reminiscent of my brother's old air hockey table but with a touch more terror.
In this accident fantasy, I've been catapulted from the car and am sprawled on my stomach, my right cheek against black ice, my blue eyes ringed with mascara (even though I rarely wear it and my eyes are brown). I'm more concerned about being cold than I am about the usual paraplegia.
Although many of my accident/death/injury daydreams involve motor vehicles, not all feature me as a passenger. (I just realized I cannot think of one scenario that places me as the driver. If this were a sleep-dream, Freud would dictate an interpretation for his secretary to send in for publication in a Cosmo quiz.) Indeed, most of these disasters involve a stranger behind the wheel and me being struck through no fault of my own while standing just off the curb waiting for the light to change. These daydreams don't get much play, though, due to a snoozeworthy lack of drama.
I was 3 when my grandmother, then 56, was hit by a car while crossing the street. She was launched into the air, landed on the hood, and rolled off. The car then ran over her tiny 4'7" frame, crushing her pelvis. She lost her life momentarily but was revived. She suffered permanent brain damage. The beast who hit her slurred a drunken apology.
My mom was in a car accident a few years later and broke her clavicle. I didn't know what a clavicle was, so I was surprised when she came home and was still in one piece.
I'm at the edge of the subway platform, peering down the tunnel for the approach of the train's white light. I've been waiting so long it feels like I'm on my deathbed, awaiting the fabled white light that will surround me as I float toward a bunch of already dead people in soft focus, decked out in matching white pants and tunics.
A guy who's filthier than most shambles toward me. I try to appear casual as I step back from the edge to avoid him pushing me onto the tracks. After all, what's to stop him from doing so?
In my subway death scenario, the focus is not on how I happened to find myself on the tracks -- whether pushed by an unhinged person who, despite my precautionary measures to avoid such an assault, hurls me off the platform anyway, or perhaps sliding off the edge thanks to the unfortunate placement of some slob's sputum -- but how the train's wheels cleanly slice my body through the waist like a deli meat-cutter, each exposed side resembling a perfectly pink, delightfully blood-free cartoon ham, a dot of single thick white bone placed perfectly in the center of each "loaf".
Recently I was in a Mexican restaurant on Eighth Avenue with my boyfriend and two friends who'd just moved into the neighborhood. We'd just placed our orders when an entire Midwestern town of teenaged tourists herded in, cramming their considerable bulk into the back half of the room. Immediately the music changed from festive Mexican to annoying Beyonce.
They left before we did, no doubt on their way to even more fun in nearby Times Square. I wonder what they did instead when they found out that, while they were eating, it had been evacuated because of the bomb scare.
On the day of their move down to Hell's Kitchen, my friend Eric and I are walking his six-year-old Pug, who quickly went blind a few months ago. They've just moved from the only apartment and neighborhood the dog ever knew, which he could've maneuvered blindfolded, so we're not sure how he'll fare. I applaud when he finds a pole and lifts his leg at the appropriate place. A few minutes later, back in the apartment, the little guy sits facing a wall two inches from his nose. I wonder if he's waiting for someone to turn on the TV.
We should be on our way to the next person on our list. The hot food's cooling, the cold food needs refrigeration, yet we're riveted just outside the door of the lady we've just handed food to, who, although neatly dressed (including jewelry), apologizes for not being more presentable. Her sister had recently died, she says, and she was depressed because initially she didn't know where they'd bury her. She'd be buried like a dog, then, in the back yard, she says, her voice quivering.
We hate keeping the next person waiting, but really, how can we leave this one?
Sometimes we delivery people are the only human contact the meals-on-wheels recipients have for days, so by the time we arrive they're hungrier for conversation than they are for the food. One Sunday morning, after Evelyn tells us about the recent death of her sister, she starts in on the days when she met her husband more than 50 years ago. When she talks about him, it's as if she's gabbing with her best girlfriends the day after she met this dashing new boy. I wish we were in the corner drug store, doing this over chocolate milkshakes.
The day after meeting him at a dance, she waited for him outside his place of work. She knew this was bold, but they had kissed, so she was entitled! When he exited the building, she ran to him, beaming, and he grinned back. Funny, but she didn't notice that crooked front tooth the night before. Had it been that dark at the dance? Maybe she'd been so enchanted by his charm that she'd overlooked it? As she struggled to remember, he passed by without saying a word and got into a car with another girl.
Rather than let this two-timer ruin everything, she met friends at the diner as planned. While nearly touching foreheads with her two best as she recounted what happened, he walked in and stopped at their table. She widened her eyes at her friends but ignored him. Still, he wouldn't leave.
When she finally looked up, she was shocked to discover she was seeing double.
"Hi, Evelyn! Your mother said you'd be here," he said. "I'd like you to meet my twin." At her look of astonishment, he grinned, revealing the perfect teeth she remembered from the night before.
When I lived further uptown, an old woman and her daughter lived in the apartment closest to mine on our floor. After the mom died, the daughter deposited a bunch of stuff in the recycling area just outside the service entrance of my apartment, including this: http://needle-exchange.ca/images/neck_glass.jpg.
Apparently this woman, who had all the humor of Hitler at Hanukkah, found absolutely no value in the brilliant Neck/Glass or a mint condition General Electric chord organ (complete with songbook!). Thankfully I found enormous value in these gems and proudly display them in my current apartment, far from the grim, grinless neighbor.
Whenever I go into a store after I just bought something from another store that they also sell in the second store, I feel like I have to hold the item in plain view of all employees and announce, "I came in with this!" and make sure I have the receipt handy as additional security. One time I bought a 20-ounce bottle of Diet Coke at Duane Reade and then, realizing I needed something from a corner store several doors down, put the bottle in my purse because I had told the cashier I didn't need a bag.
As I stepped up to pay, I realized that when I unzipped my purse to get my wallet, the cashier would see the soda there, because of course even the tiny task of gaining access to my money would hold her captive. I cursed myself for only having enough foresight to put the bottle in my purse and not enough to remove the wallet before entering.
I pretended I just remembered I was in a rush, put down the unpaid-for item, and dashed from the store, neglecting to fret about how suspicious I may have looked doing so.
When I was little, I derived immense pleasure from stuff that spun. And no, this doesn't I was fixated on spinning plates, like the kid who was the subject of a book about autism that I read when I was 10, but stuff like turntables, barstools, Spin Art, and -- hands down, my favorite of all favorites -- lazy Susans. If you'd told me that I could spin a lazy Susan as much as I wanted but only on the condition that I eat everything on it, I would have choked down my least favorite food, liver, for the opportunity.
Several years ago when olestra came on the market and was all the rage among chunksters hip to trying the latest ways to reduce their girth without having to make any pesky lifestyle changes (gotta have potato chips, damn it!), the term "anal leakage" was bandied about in giggled whispers behind hammy hands eager to try the stuff but not willing to admit it aloud and risk ridicule. You don't hear much about it anymore, though. Is that because leaky asses have gone the way of the dodo or people are just more discreet about what they do and doodoo?
Before they married and he was still sober, my sister's husband was her perfect match. Tall, bearded, long-haired, handsome, hilarious, and tattoo'd, this motorcycle guy loved animals the way she did, and the two of them transported mice, captured by Have a Heart traps, out to parks for release. Soon after they married, he resumed drinking and all that went to hell.
Recently he was shot and killed by police after stealing a truck (one in a series) and crashing into a tree. This didn't shock my sister. She said she always knew he'd get killed for doing something stupid.
I'm out with K, and I want the poetry-discussing, coffee-quaffing, raucous-laughing Benetton-ad-worthy group of suspected lesbians at the table next to ours to think K and I are a couple. It's not too far-fetched, after all, me with my boy biceps and tank top and Birkenstocks, K with her tattoos and girly dress and Fluevogs, and the intensity of our low-voiced conversation. After I come back from the ladies room, having put on the gorgeous necklace K created for me and just presented me with, I hug her and kiss her, hoping the other girls notice. What a fucking poseur.
I've been left out in the cold by two friends I introduced to each other about a year ago. Although they said the three of us would get together, we were only in the same room twice, and those times were with other people as well. I've seen each of them maybe twice by themselves, but I think that even that's a generous estimate. Email sent to either is ignored wholesale. Their little lovefest on Facebook is enough to make me gag. I think a twin-pack of "defriending" may be in order, but for some reason I am hesitant. Why?
Saturday night in Chicago, and I'm holed up in the hotel room in pajamas, on the bed, with a large box of Saltines, two containers of cut-up fruit and an apple, and a dozen cans of warm ginger ale, watching back-to-back episodes of "All My Children" on my iPad while my two gayboyfriends and my boyfriend are running free in Boystown. While they're mingling with a virile variety and ogling the well-formed, barely-clad buttocks of upside-down go-go boys, I nibble Saltines and discover to my delight that I can keep fruit down. Still, I almost throw up onto Erica Kane.
I once transcribed a brainstorming session involving a former prime-time soap opera diva who now hawks a line of eponymous skin care products. How delightful it was to hear a serious-voiced exchange about how to get around the fact that the "red algae" touted as a key ingredient in the featured product isn't red algae at all. They concocted ways to create its redness, though, claiming stuff just as ridiculous as King Kamayamaya bleeding on it in 1842 or some klutzy painter spilling red paint in the ocean where the regular ol' algae resides. Those were her principal secrets. Shhhhh.
I've made my bed every day since I moved into this apartment four years ago. When you live in a studio and want to live in tidy quarters, the lack of a door behind which to hide an unmade bed discourages that neglect. But at this point, just as much as for maintaining tidiness, I do it so I don't break the streak. I wonder if it counts if, on June 1st, I make the bed 30 times that day, making a bed-making deposit from which I can withdraw the task on days when I don't feel like doing it?
Claws tap-dancing on the hardwood floor by the door, whine of simmering excitement threatening to boil into a bark, then the game of bowing the head as if to allow the donning of the collar but dodging it at the last second, all with him laughing and winking and flirting and me pretending to be exasperated but "secretly" loving every minute of it.
Once outside, although there's no way he can't know I'm at the other end of the leash, him looking over his shoulder to make sure I'm still there.
I am, sweet boy. I wish you were too.
Just because I bought a bike, I have no designs on becoming one of "those" bike people, with the bright jerseys, Lycra shorts I can't even look at without getting embarrassed, and special shoes, forcing my bike to lose enough weight to qualify for aerodynamic anorexia. So, I was thrilled to learn of an entire underclass of bike-riders called "The Slow Bike Movement", whose adherents are the kind of people who get more of a thrill out of the trill of a bicycle bell than out of how fast they can get somewhere. I love knowing something like this exists.
I scooped up Shana, sat her on my lap, wrapped both arms around her considerable girth and squeeze-hugged her, kissed her a few times on the side of the head (thus keeping it platonic) while making the appropriate smooching noises, and said, "SOMEBODY in this apartment is cute." She said, "Well, it's not MEW," jumped off my lap, and is now sitting bolt upright like a person, licking her belly, while her right front paw dangles and bobs in concert. I guess if I want to be cute, this is what I have to do, too. And so I shall.
While it's true that if you've seen one Manhattan street fair you've seen 'em all, that doesn't mean you still can't get a frisson of a thrill when you stumble across one, especially when it's so close to home. While I don't care about buying socks or sunglasses, I'm delighted to receive a red and white checked paper container of Pad Thai (even if it's not even that good) and spring roll, a big juicy triangle of baklava several blocks away, and, as an afterthought, pink lemonade that makes me want to skip the pirouette instead of merely walk home.
After hours of research, I finally ordered a bike helmet online that I deemed wasn't totally hideous, an ideal blend of retro-dork and person-of-this-century. After waiting two days for its arrival, an eternity for someone with my level of impatience, I placed it on my head with a thrill befitting a newly-crowned Miss America.
Then I looked in the mirror. The thing is ENORMO and makes me look like The Great Gazo except less fuckable. Back it goes, and I preserve my sexiness. (Until I try some in a real-life store and realize that even *I* can't "rock" a helmet.)
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