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A groovy guy who used to work at the front desk at the gym presented me with a plastic ball filled with water and magenta glitter after I admired his. It's like having my own portable, bouncy liquefied Rip Taylor. If redder, of course it would be Dorothy's shoes if they met the same fate as the Wicked Witch. Sometimes I feel sorry for the glitter because it will never be sprinkled onto the damp skin of a disco queen. Other times I envy it because all it has to do is sit around and be pretty, admired and untouchable.
I pride myself on having a very clean refrigerator. Indeed, I'm so proud of it that sometimes I open the door just to admire its lack of sticky spills, bottle-bottom residue rings, crumbs, and crustiness, unfortunate features that I've encountered when peering inside the refrigerators of friends -- often surprising (and sometimes even shocking!) me given the tidiness of their personal appearances. Why do I insist, then, on holding onto a bottle of organic barbecue sauce with a faded label that hasn't been used since the Pleistocene Era, whose lid is sealed shut by a thick ridge of hardened barbe-goo?
Gotta love the pesky friend requests on Facebook from people I've never heard of. They're like notes slipped into my locker from kids whose faces I've never seen. Facebook offers "Yes" and "Not now" options. Instead of a blunt no, the latter seems to mean, in a context far removed from adolescence, "Can't you see I have someone hovering over my shoulder who is my wife/husband/Great Gazoo/possessive whoever else and must act as if I have no idea who you are even though I know full well that you're that attractive mysterious person I met at the speakeasy last night??!?!?"
As the bus lumbers up Sixth Avenue toward 49th Street, I tell myself that today I'll be able to look out the window. Today I won't rummage through my purse for a mint I know isn't there or check my phone for email that can wait until I get home. I won't turn my head all the way to the right and close my eyes, a double-duty avoidance. Today I'll keep my eyes open, take deep breaths, and as the bus passes the corner where I last saw my best friend alive, I will allow myself the luxury of tears.
I should have known something was up when I didn't hear from Faun after I left voicemail for her to return the call. But no, in my usual na´ve fashion, I thought maybe she'd left Tennessee and didn't have a listed number anymore; maybe, for whatever reason, it had become too painful for her to talk to her dead son's old girlfriend from a million years ago. I never seriously considered that maybe she'd died, even though she had to be in her seventies. But sure enough, that's what my internet search yielded. Faun? Really? I thought she'd live forever.
I don't care if your glass is half empty or half full. When you hand it to me for consideration, I care if it's an Archies jelly glass, with a thick lip that feels secure against my own, unlikely to draw blood just by the contact, or if it's a wine glass, with a rim so delicate that any contact beyond a fleeting press is almost guaranteed to shatter it. And if your good taste refuses to allow you to serve orange juice in the wine glass and wine in the jelly glass, I will pass on the drink altogether.
It's 1985 and I'm babysitting these rich brats in their enormous house while their parents are off being snoots somewhere. For dinner, the mom left a package of chicken in the microwave with a note to cook it for 40 minutes. Good. This means I don't have to make a variety of sandwiches for these four boys. I don't have to open cans.
So I cook the chicken for 40 minutes and it comes out dry. Really dry. But the kids love it. "Mom never makes it this crispy!"
That's because she probably didn't microwave it for 40 minutes. Whoops.
Colette coughs and the sweet smell of chocolate lingers between us.
"Sorry, Doc," she says. "Pretty good, huh? This ain't no Hershey kiss!" She rummages through her faded carpetbag and holds out a four-ounce bar of chocolate whose wrapper looks like it belongs among handsome leather-bound books and mahogany paneling, not in my office among the paperbacks.
"It's from Whole Foods!" she says. "I go to the $7.99-per-pound salad bar, put the chocolate on the bottom of the box, cover it with spinach leaves and croutons, put a lid on, and no one's the wiser!"
I pretend to wholly disapprove.
Several handsful of people peer down at something on the sidewalk at the corner of 69th and Columbus, creating a buzz not unlike that of a bee, punctuated with a little kid crying and some woman saying, "Oh, poor thing." Someone moves aside so I can get a better look.
On its back lies a tiny gray squirrel the size of a mouse. In a beret. Which makes his head look like an acorn. I bend down and whisper as closely to his little ears as possible,"I'm so sorry, little baby." He whispers back, "Shhh. It's just an acting exercise!"
I am on the witness stand, dressed in lady-like finery straight out of a 1940s movie, including a wide-brimmed hat that leaves my left eye in shadow and leaves the right one fully visible, the eyebrow arched in perfect Joan Crawford fashion, the better for the jury to witness its subtle raise when, in response to the opening question from the prosecuting attorney, who is intent to wring the truth from beneath my aloof fašade, I offer a calm, "I will take the Filth Amendment."
"You mean the Fifth," he says with a chuckle.
"No, I fucking don't," I say.
Most people in the audience want to see David Hyde Pearce, but I'm more interested in his co-star Joanna Lumley. Yes, seeing "Nils Crane" is cool, but I've seen him twice before. The thrill is nothing compared to being in the same room as cigarette-dangling, mini-skirted, tall-haired, foul-mouthed, Bolly-boozy British bitch "Patsy Stone".
Her entrance, as a princess, is heralded by what appears to be large golden flakes of Mylar and glitter, either a marvelous trick of lighting or actual material blown onto the stage.
From now on, I will imagine myself so accompanied every time I enter a room.
While my nails dry, I face a wall of mirrors that allows me to observe a woman whose back is to me, facing her own wall of mirrors. I hope that if, in her mirrors, she sees me looking at her, she'll get as confused by the direction of my gaze as I am by hers and won't be able to determine if I've been looking at her. However, when it appears that she catches my eye, yet does not smile, I jump to the conclusion that it's not because our reflections didn't line up but because she is rude.
When I lived in Philadelphia, this chick named Maritza, a counter-girl at a lunch spot, had a crush on my boss/friend Kevin. On days she didn't let him slip by without paying for his heaps of food, she'd come to our table and bring him additional treats, wholly unsolicited. One time it was extra dipping sauce for whatever he was eating (the guy used bread like a particularly thirsty sponge). One time it was a free piece of cheesecake the size of my foot. Once presented, she eyed our table from her cash register perch, making sure he didn't share.
One of the most annoying things about not having an assistant is that I'm forced to maintain my own calendar. Although for the most part I can keep track of it in my head, sometimes an appointment slips through the crack and I'm left standing, it seems, out in the middle of Broadway without my monocle or ascot.
Today was one such day. When Carmella appeared for a 4:00 session I didnĺt remember, I was still in pajamas, sipping a "sport drink" through a Silly Straw. Oddly enough, this was the afternoon of her big "breakthrough". Maybe I'm onto something?
The guy who delivers my Japanese food at 8:30 doesn't give a crap that I'm wearing pajama bottoms big enough to accommodate the two of us and his bike, a shirt with a hole in the left forearm big enough to serve as a second way for my hand to exit, big floppy socks, and my hair looks like my cat mistook it for a scratching post against which she won a battle. He holds the bag out with a big grin and effusive hello, both of which I return. This is the nicest human contact I've had all day.
She signs her notes, "As always, nice tits", followed by a lip-shaped smear -- not in the perfect pucker seen in magazine ads, but in a fuzzy-edged whisper of a kiss that makes you wonder if it ever even happened, was it all a dream? The smear is a mixture of a peachy-pink gloss and a few crumbs of whatever she was snacking on at the time she kissed the page. This time it's orange, like Cheez-Its or cheese doodles. I want to lick the yellow Post-It for the salt, but don't want to mar the perfection of her signature.
I'm on the subway platform with a person who works for a very well-known animal advocacy organization. We're wearing sandals, like many other people waiting for what seems like ages for the arrival of an air-conditioned train to relieve us of this misery. Without warning, she unscrews the cap from her large water bottle and dumps the contents all over her feet, not only causing splatters to reach me but to douse the concrete. Amazing, how someone who seems so selflessly devoted to the comfort and safety of animals can't extend that same courtesy to those of her same species.
The floppy-haired little boy, about five years old, bolts ahead of his dad and plops into a seat that faces the center aisle of the bus. I'm all the way in the back, on the right, in a forward-facing seat, but I keep my head down, pretending to forage in my purse for an elusive mint. The boy can't take his enormous brown eyes off me. Even when his dad talks to him, he ducks his chin into his right shoulder and peers up at me with a smile he's not quite sure he's allowed to present to a stranger.
I have no idea who I'm trying to impress by wearing my mother's favorite necklace, a small lapis heart surrounded by diamonds. Hello, I'm a mall interviewer with a clipboard! What kind of 19-year-old idiot thinks that housewives between the ages of 25 and 34 at this mall, impressed with the sample of depilatory I give them to try at home, are going to give a hoot? I almost deserve the panic that ensues when, at home several hours later, I can't find the necklace and panic for an hour. (Epilogue: It was trapped in my bra. Now that's impressive.)
If I squint really hard at the space you used to occupy, I can make out traces of floating sparkly dust that vaguely approximate the outline of your body. Up until third grade, I thought these particles were atoms that only I, with my superhuman vision that rivaled the most magnificent microscopes of the day, could detect. Now I know better, that the atom-glitter is comprised of decomposed insect parts, skin flakes, hair, bits of kitty litter and the contents of the box from which it was kicked, and other manner of detritus. What a charming tribute to your memory.
The only photos I have of you are those I took with my mind, where they've remained undeveloped for 15 years. I wish there were a contraption to process them for viewing in hard copy, even if it meant they'd have to pass through my mouth and be spit into my palm. I'm as impatient with my faded memory-graphs as I used to be with my dad's Polaroid, which required yanking the paper from its body and peeling back a thin plastic sheet to await development, flicking it between the fingers to expedite drying. And still it's not fast enough.
"You must think I just fell off the turnip truck," he says as he hands over a dollar for the banana I just tried to charge him three for.
"Not only fell off," I say, "but got mistaken for a rutabaga."
Why doesn't he know a banana is only 25 cents?
The next day he returns to my stand and hands me a ten for a banana. He accepts a five back and repeats the turnip truck bit.
"Not the turnip truck," I say, "but the banana boat!"
Neither of us has any idea what the hell we're talking about.
On my way home from the gym, I came across a small grayish bird lying on the sidewalk on its side looking as if it were taking a break from its morning duties or having just toppled over in a bout of narcolepsy. It was completely intact and looked soft and, I daresay, fresh. There was no indication that any feet or paws of any kind had come anywhere near it and the insect world had yet to be alerted of its availability. Instantly, my heart pounded furiously and I struggled not to cry. But was not successful.
I apologized for his lost life and told him he was lucky I found him rather than someone else who wouldn't even stop to regard him, let alone give him a second thought.
With a piece of piece of paper towel found on the sidewalk (litter serves its purpose!), I scooped up his little body, marveling that something so light could make my heart so heavy, and placed him in a planter by a restaurant, under a bush/tree. A real life still life.
Halfway to the bus stop, I knew I'd be back for him later.
Six hours later, I returned with a Ziploc baggie and paper towel, hoping the bird was still where I'd left him. He was. I scooped him into the baggie and whispered, "You're okay now, little guy, you're coming home with me."
I hate to say it but I had to put him in the freezer when I got home. He roosted among the edamame for several days until the burial ceremony on my patio, in the same flowerbox where I'd buried a "present" from my cat.
I told him I loved him, a tearful eulogy.
Bye, bye, birdie!
I recently learned that a straight friend I'd never considered as a romantic prospect -- indeed, the thought that he had anything between his legs other than bunched-up underwear and maybe a handful of popcorn -- had a thing for me for quite some time. One afternoon, frustrated with work and in need of diversion, he dangled bait and I bit, asking him to describe for me what he would do with me. His response included, "Are mouths and tongues collide". I didn't know what what churned my stomach more: the tongue-collision or the use of "are" instead of "our".
So, another night of drunken misery, another "soulmate" down, another knockdown drag-out cacophony of abusive shit streams of accusations, another falling to the ground and suffering trauma, this time a concussion, all resulting in another email to me providing fuzzy details, a storyboard with individual panels missing, lending the story a jagged feel, complete with jump cuts and shaky camera. Supremely amateurish, if only the subject matter weren't so fucking serious.
I won't support her anymore. Won't visit her in the mental hospital. Won't buy into her mash about her being the victim here, an innocent bystander in the drama.
I've been at the back of the plane for five minutes, waiting for the bathroom's occupant to exit already. My eyebrow is cocked, ready for its silent commentary on the activity I suspect the room has been entertaining, which I semi-hope will be confirmed when two people stumble out. A muffled laugh as the lock is slid back and forth adds to the suspense of my suspicion. The door folds open, and a woman larger than the space she just occupied squeezes her way past me, leaving in her wake not the smell of sex but something scads more offensive.
Even though it's the afternoon, almost everyone on the plane is asleep, either sated on Fresca and peanuts or escaping from the reality that this is as good as it gets and there will be no TV-dinner-style meal to pretend to hate but secretly enjoy.
In 9B, a man with white hair and no seatmate touches his lips to the screen of a phone I wouldn't think he knew how to operate. With each kiss, the fuzzy face of a big yellow dog zooms in, until finally, when his lips retreat, all I can see is a big black nose.
The Tip Jar