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We're on the train back from New Jersey, where we'd spent the previous evening celebrating his mother's birthday with heaps of Italian food at a restaurant followed by cake and cookies from Natale's (aside: If you're not a regular rum-drinker, the Italian rum cake will render you an alcoholic upon the second bite). He's reading The Great Gatsby and I am trying with moderate success to block out a baby's bawls with iTunes. He looks up from his book. Oh, how simultaneously handsome and adorable he is, the curl falling across his forehead so beautiful that I could just cry.
Amid the crush of subway pushers cramming themselves into a car not really equipped to handle the stuffing is a chubby Asian woman pushing a wheelchair containing a grab-bag collection of mismatched textiles covering the tiny body of what I assume from the patterns is a woman, perhaps an ancient one. But maybe not, because the head is hanging and the face is obscured, and even the hands, which barely move, are covered with gloves, textured and cream-colored. I feel I cannot speak in the presence of such a being, that to express anything but solemn respect would be overkill.
I'd love to carve the word COWARD, with a rusty butter knife, into the face of the super tough macho piece of filth who stomped on the head of his pit bull in upstate New York. I'd like to do it without the benefit of anesthesia or any sort of wood block between his gnashing teeth to prevent tongue-biting, soulless eyes pried open, in a room that is nothing but mirrors, and have him wear a stethoscope for the duration of the procedure, so he could hear his own screams and bloody shrieks loud and oh so very, very clear.
A while ago, out and about in my neighborhood, I came upon a young mother simultaneously pushing her kid in a stroller and walking her Irish Setter. The dog was focusing all its energy on separating the bagel from the mom's hand and having moderate success. I remarked in passing that the dog was quite crafty, and we stopped for a few moments to chat. I was gaga over the dog, praising its beauty and ingenuity. When we parted ways, I realized I hadn't mentioned the kid at all. "Oh," I said, out of obligation, "and, um, cute kid too."
Unlike other cats I've heard about, Shana has absolutely no interest in the computer. She has no desire to magically appear atop my desk and tiptoe in front of the monitor, commandeer the mouse (while making hilarious remarks about it not looking like any mouse she's ever seen) with a deft paw, or plunk herself down on the keyboard and type something in code such as "ufa89t4aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaari;o839058". She would rather quietly collate somewhere else in the room, check items off a mysterious list on a clipboard using a Sharpie, or arrange her 19-pound body on a small yellow Post-It note.
She removes the lid from the paper cup, its rim when exposed revealing brown stains and gooey coral lipstick, the sixth time in the 10 minutes I've been waiting for the bus, peers inside, and brings the cup to her naked lips. Just short of tasting it, she says to the contents, as if continuing a conversation, "Nope. Still piss," and sighs. She holds a plastic shaker of McCormick's paprika to her nose and inhales what would amount to a "line", looks over her shoulder and shouts, "Fuck I love the smell of cinnamon, Bernard!" No one is behind her.
One of my best friends, B, finds that any time he's in need of guidance or support or is having a tough time in general, a pair of seagulls presents itself to him, one time even on a window ledge outside his gym, high above street level. He'll hear their calls, trace them to the source, and there the pair will be. He's convinced they contain the spirit of his parents, both of whom died many years ago, who sought him out to let him know everything will be okay. Once they see that he's seen them, they fly away.
Long before the store has even begun to climb its way out of sleep, splash cold water on its face, and present itself to its eager public, a line equivalent in length to that of a Depression Era bread line forms on the sidewalk outside, corralled and monitored by guys who have probably just ended their shifts as club bouncers. Thank you, logo store, for affording these dimwits the opportunity to spend exorbitant sums of money they don't have to advertise shoddily-constructed merchandise upon which your brand is emblazoned, just so they can feel they're part of an exclusive club.
For several months, I regarded the corner of 49th and Sixth as a landmark in the demise of our relationship. It was the last place he and I made physical contact while in Manhattan. That's where I perched on his lap like a cat while waiting for friends, I'd think when passing on the bus, and turn my head so I wouldn't mortify myself just by seeing the site.
Now I grimace with disgust, not mortification, choosing to remember instead how, that same afternoon, just across 49th Street, he stood beside me and plucked a nose hair with his fingers!
It had taken so long for Paul and his wife to come up with the perfect name for their unborn baby -- consultations with family and friends and co-workers, texts and tears and fights, lost sleep, admonishment from his brother that the kid would grow up "unpopular and a member of the mathletes with a name like that, and I'm not joking" and even a trip to a psychic just to assuage his wife -- and now this? Can't they just bury the stillborn baby with one of the rejected names and save the good name for the next one?
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear beautiful, handsome, adorable, brilliant, hilarious, sweet, generous, animal-loving, email-writing, art-creating, music-making, pancake-flipping, cupcake-eating, flower-bearing, dish-washing, bed-making, cookie-bringing, screwdriver-wielding, shiny-haired, best kisser ever boyfriend who I am so fortunate to have in my life and who makes every day worth celebrating
Happy birthday to you!
I present you with a small Oreo cheesecake. You close your almond eyes, make a wish, and blow out the candle. I silently guess you wish for this to never end. (Don't tell me if I'm wrong.)
It's a wish I can make come true.
Even though it's known to be part of Central Park where men "hook up", I wanted to take my boyfriend there because it feels completely secluded, like you're in a sanctuary deep within a forest without a compass. The only times I'd found it before were when I wasn't looking for it, so of course our trek wasn't successful. Finding huge rocks instead, with a secluded alcove near the water, was serendipitous. I wasn't thrilled, though, when upon leaving, I saw that another couple had discovered this "secret" spot and had been 10 feet away from us the entire time.
I won't apologize for sending your husband a note congratulating him on the opening of his new store. Twenty-seven years have passed since he and I were an item and you and he apparently were an item simultaneously. I had no idea at the time, so he is the one to blame for the duplicity, not I. You knew, though, yet you married him anyway. Trust me, harried harridan, I'm not sniffing around to see if he's available. I've got my own Italian boy, way hotter than yours, who doesn't look like he's been eating up all the profits. Basta!
In the event that I should happen to need to be outfitted with a ring for some sort of ceremony that indicates a certain commitment, the only one I want is one that springs forth from the tiny, tiny hands of my gorgeous and glorious solder-iron-wielding Sister Scorpio Slut, the one and only Flannery Grace Horan. I will specify what I want, and this brilliant babe will bring it to awesome and awe-inspiring life, as she does with every brainstormed and insanely perfectly handcrafted jewelry baby I've ever seen birthed from her Arkansas studio/home. Tiffany's can fuck itself.
The ring I commission from Flannery will be one of her impossibly fantastic shaker rings, inside of which will reside minuscule silver charm-like objects (such as a cat and musical note and puppy) that can be viewed via cut-outs in the ring's base. A stone or two, of course, will be featured centerstage, but I haven't decided what kind. Definitely not a diamond, but nothing that could be misconstrued as one. Whatever it is, it will be one of a kind, like nothing she's created for anyone else. How better to symbolize and celebrate the relationship it commemorates!
It would help if the women trainers at the gym looked like they actually lifted a few real weights themselves once in a while, something heavier than the big back to school issue of Seventeen magazine, so they'd give their clients some form of living proof that, gee whiz, this stuff really works. Even worse are those who teach the girl-heavy classes, who look like they treat themselves to a long visit to Krispy Kreme after an hour of sweat obtained while performing a bouncy routine best left on the cutting room floor of a 1980s exercise videotape production company.
Larry reaches across the table for another poppin' fresh roll.
"Nice way to forget to put your wedding ring back on," Marilyn says.
Through a mouthful of dough already crammed into his maw, he offers his wife a crowd of muffled consonants as explanation. She thinks she hears "washed hands."
"Right. But if you'd done that, the light foundation you used to make your finger as white as its tan line from the ring would have washed off. Next time, why don't you just try using a bit of bronzer on the tan line instead? It's a lot less work."
The M7 is at the light, about to galumph its way to the stop, where several people wait to board. I have to make my mind up quickly: Do I take this bus, a local, or do I wait for the limited M5, which I can't see anywhere down Sixth Avenue but which is supposed to be here in a few minutes? The last time I took the M7 I swore "never again" because stopping every two blocks is maddening. Still, I don't want to hurt the bus driver's feelings by rejecting his bus. Like he really gives a shit.
I'm convinced that Poppop has been coming to me in the form of a fly for at least seven years. The first time he appeared was when I lived downtown. He landed on my computer monitor, refusing to budge while I wrote a blog entry, languorously cleaning his legs. Not realizing he was my grandfather, I yelled at him to scram, but did he listen? No.
He came back, both my apartment uptown, in the same fashion, and here in this apartment. Now, though, I greet him robustly, and when he buzzes, I convince myself it's with a Polish accent.
When in Italy almost 20 years ago, I saw a small group of boys beating a largish dog with a stick on the sidewalk. I was beyond livid and yelled at them to stop. It doesn't matter that I didn't speak Italian and they didn't speak English. The tone of my voice was enough to convey that I'd wield that stick on them if they continued. I still cry for that dog and want to find those kids and wring their adult necks for that event and for whatever other hideous acts they no doubt perpetrated in the intervening years.
Every dog, no matter how young or old, waggy or dejected, mange-riddled or notch-eared or three-legged or two-legged or otherwise legged, no matter if its tongue is unfurled and lolling out of its mouth because of edentulousness, blind or deaf, spastic or spry, no matter how seemingly common and unremarkable, deserves to be treated like royalty. I often make a fuss out of "ordinary" dogs, those I'm sure don't get special attention from passersby or aren't the ones any observers at the dog run would choose to watch. I insist that every single one know it is admired and loved.
After her divorce, Michelle decides to only seek guys in wheelchairs so she won't have to worry about enduring dates that involve horseback-riding, rollerblading, skiing, mountain-climbing, dancing, trampoline-bouncing, sky-diving, or paddle boats.
Anything else, I ask?
Sky-diving, she says with a shudder, remembering Bruce's suggestion years ago.
What about that disabled guy on TV, I say, pulling a mythical guy from my ass, who piggybacked onto an able-bodied friend for a jump?
I just can't win, she says.
I suggest she date morbidly obese guys for the same effect.
She tells me that's the most ridiculous thing she's ever heard.
You, at my door, your arms full of flowers, your face full of smiles, your hair full of sunshine and wind, your knapsack full of whatever you need for our weekend together here in my apartment. Five months in, and I'm giddy knowing you were on the subway on your way to see me, giddier imagining your walk up Broadway and down my block, and giddiest when I finally see you after daydreaming about this moment all week.
I greeted others like a cat, aloof and sidelong. But with you, I'm a dog, all floppy and goofy and tail-waggy. Woof!
Yesterday I watched Oprah's "Most Amazing Person" episode, the fourth to the last one ever, and still feel like I need to have my brain scraped with one of those wire brushes they used to use in elementary school when kids would fall off their bikes or off the monkey bars and get gravel stuck in their knees.
The noxious, cloying patronization that oozes from her pores sticks to and is embedded in my flesh like so much gravel. I would sooner endure a three-minute blast of Bactine to such bloody wounds than witness one more moment of Oprah ooze.
It's my own fault for getting involved with the "dog people" on Facebook, my own fault that now, because I'm "friends" with these people, the faces of so many abused and neglected dogs appear in my news feed, either smiling as if they don't know the odds of their being rescued or pleading because they do. I cry every day for these dogs, for their noses and paws and ears and bellies and hearts, not just when I see their photos before me but when I close my eyes and go to sleep. Sometimes I wish I just didn't care.
A girl who apparently spends way too much time in tanning beds raves, bordering on giddy lustfulness, to a pale female counterpart about how the sunflower butter she's buying is superior to peanut butter. As she turns to proceed in the opposite direction, I ask what they're talking about and I put a jar in my cart.
"I'm a health and exercise freak!" she says, as if the broad shoulders, athletic stride, kale, overabundance of spandex, and T-shirt announcing some competitive event isn't enough of a giveaway. I could say the same about myself but refrain, thinking, isn't it obvious?
The young Venezuelan woman whose face literally melted off in a fiery car crash 15 years ago sits across from Oprah and says that contrary to the first time they met, she now allows herself more than five minutes a day to be sad about what happened. For a split second I think, "Wow, and here I am fretting over a tiny blemish that'll be gone in two days, I should be grateful that's all it is." During a bathroom break a minute later, though, I grimace at my reflection and wonder how I'll leave the house with this monstrosity.
All right, so I watched the last four episodes of Oprah's show -- including the two with surprise celebrity guests/friends/sycophants who apparently couldn't speak from the heart (Hi, Katie Holmes! How's it hangin', Madonna?) but robotically recited poorly-worded tripe from a teleprompter and an excruciating rendition of "Amazing Graze" by a scarily sleeveless Aretha Franklin that took about five over-the-top minutes for the one verse that was televised -- and I must say, I did have an "a-ha moment" -- the one when I realized that, yes, no matter what, I'm still not buyin' what she's sellin'. O, so sorry.
One of Myrna's most endearing yet frustrating qualities was her total inability to grasp logic. Once, when stopped in a cab at an intersection, she was afflicted with more than her usual allotment of impatience and asked how long we'd be waiting for it to change to green. Probably 30 seconds, I said.
"How long will it take for the other side to change to red?" she asked.
"The same," I said.
"How does that work then?" she asked.
Fortunately she found a stray M&M in the bottom of her purse just then and I was spared having to explain.
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We are headed into our sixth month, our half-year, a milestone that doesn't sound like something a number-happy toddler would hold up severak gummi-bear-sticky fingers to count. At the end of the coming month, we can say, when people ask how long we've been seeing each other, "Oh, we've been together half a year," without sounding like the kind of people who count the months, the weeks, the days, the hours, the number of dates they've been on, and how many times they've been to that cute, romantic Indian restaurant uptown and how many times they ordered the malai kofta.
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