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When my hairdresser cut my hair too short in November 2008, against my wishes, I pretended I'd convinced myself I was pleased with the cut, likening myself to Audrey Hepburn in "Roman Holiday". Eventually it grew on me (pause for winking at the camera a la Mr. Roper). "I'm free from the tyranny of long hair!" I shouted to myself in any mirror that would have me. The mirrors, for the most part, dutifully played along, but I'm sure that they later texted each other and ridiculed me. "That's what all the soccer moms say," they said with a sneer.
"When were we ever that tall?" Ben asks Lila, pointing way up to where the tree bark is scarred with their initials enclosed in a raggedy heart.
"You used to be a giant," Lila says. "You had to stoop when you carved our initials there!"
"I was walking as tall as if I were a giant," Ben says. "I felt I soared above all the treetops, damn it!"
"And now look, the heart's so high up we can't even touch it anymore," Lila says.
"What if our tree ever topples?" Ben says."
"Not on my watch it won't," says Lila.
The eulogies at your funeral suck, LJ. I'm disheartened that from all these people in the creative circles in which you'd traveled, not one of them is doing your flamboyance much justice. Although some try, they fail. Your brother is particularly somnolent. Two of your sisters leave me dry-eyed, and one of them manages a tug at my heart but not much more. Your son is as flat as a cracker. I swear I feel you by my side, whispering to me in your raspy voice, "Jesus fucking Christ, for this I died?" and disguise my laugh behind a cough.
Her mom wanted to name her Becca, but her math teacher dad insisted on taking the time of her birth, 8:52, doing some simple division, and coming up with 6.5 as the name of his only child.
"I hope no one calls her Six and a Half, " he whispers one night as he watches her sleep. "Six and a Half Silverstein sounds silly."
"And Six Point Five Silverstein doesn't?" her mother said. "Just think, if I'd held out for four more minutes, we could've called her Lucky."
Her father rolls his eyes at the idea of something so contrived.
By the time you read this, you will have heard me fumble over "Here Comes the Sun" on the keyboard as part of your Valentine's Day gift, cringing mightily each time I mess up the one part that, in the dozens of times I've practiced, I've only managed to do perfectly a handful. I will have told you I play it much better when Shana is my only audience (or perhaps my landlord, listening through the secret microphone in the ceiling). You will have applauded (I hope!). And I will already be worried about what I'll learn for your birthday.
I have no idea how this is going to play out, sweet boy, your staying with me for a month (or two?) (or plus?) while you look for a job and an apartment of your own here in the city, but I adore the thought of us sharing my space for the duration. I don't think I believe in making up for lost time, time we lost while we faltered for several months, but rather for making the most of the time we now have, to make sure it's overflowing with all good things, leaving no room for anything else.
The Valentine's gift I was just about to order when your breakup email came in doesn't know it was thisclose to finding a home. It doesn't know it would've been in my hands in a few days and in yours a few days later and that we both would've cooed over it as if it were my cat and she were rolling around on her back on the floor doing something cute (e.g. breathing). I silently apologize to it and tell it I hope it finds a good home. Still, I know nobody will appreciate it quite the same way.
Just when you think one more kid can't possibly clamber onto the bus and shriek its way down the aisle toward the back, where, until this stop, I'd been basking in delicious silent solitude, another one joins the mix. I want to line them up and run my hand along their faces like Jerry Lee Lewis did with piano keys.
"Two sets of triplets and three single births," the Jamaican woman accompanying them says when she joins the crowd, as if apologizing.
"How long are their parents going to keep trying until they finally get a cute one?" I say.
Yes, those are wind chimes on my patio. Yes, indeed, there are three different tones of tinkly delight sharing their gentle lilt with anyone fortunate enough to share window space in the courtyard here on the Upper West Side. You may find them annoying and out of place, you may wish for me to be deported to somewhere more appropriate for this whimsy, say, North Carolina or the Upper East Side, but you must know that my wind chimes help drown out the racket of your over-privileged, under-supervised coddled brats shrieking non-stop on the rooftop playground of their "day school".
Molly wears a shiny, slightly puffy royal purple coat that looks as if it were tailored to not only fit but flatter her petite Maltese form. Her white fur is marvelously bright on this gloomy morning, and, as always, she smiles when I say her name. Her coat has a hood and two zippered pockets. I hope that in one pocket is a tiny rose-colored lipstick and a shiny new penny, and in the other a wallet-sized photo of a boy dog on whom she has a crush and a miniature Milk Bone to give him should their paths cross.
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New York City is not waiting for you like a bar mitzvah that requires your presence in order to proceed. It's a party already started, no bouncer at the door, no velvet ropes, so jump in where you can and introduce yourself, to no one in particular or someone in general. Contrary to what you might think, New York City won't tell you to fuck off. But it also won't say, "Oh, hello, we've been waiting for you" and show you where the cheese platter is. Part of the fun is making the party whatever you want it to be.
Four years ago today, you left this world, my beautiful sweet boy. I miss you like mad every day, I see your face in every German Shepherd I pass on the street, and when I say hello to them and wrap my arms around them (asking first, of course!), I am hugging you. When I rest my head against their sides, I am with you, I am feeling your warmth, your panting, your fur. I thank you for being the cosmic conduit I need to believe exists for me to let you know I haven't forgotten you and never will.
I had planned to revisit "our" tree with you on the one-year anniversary of our first (and only) evening with it. I had planned to stand with you beneath it again, whispering sweet nothings, somethings, and anythings under cover of darkness, pillow talk with no pillows, trusting you and our tree to keep our secrets safe. I wanted to trace our initials on its bark with our fingertips. I wanted to lose my hands in your hair. And lose myself with you. Instead, I lost you. And I couldn't find that tree on my own now if I wanted to.
If the good people at my high school had audited the shelves of its library between August 1977 and July 1981, they would have discovered that at least one-third of its cookbooks disappeared from the shelves during that timeframe. They could have then gone to the yearbook for the class of 1981, scanned the pages to determine which of the feathered-haired freaks would've smuggled books between the covers of loose-leaf binder decorated using a Bic and a Sharpie and pored over them as if they contained the answers to a calculus test, and landed on me and my crooked grin.
One of the two flowerboxes on my patio serves as a cemetery for two birds and a mouse. One of the birds my cat brought to me a couple of years ago, the other is a bird I found on Broadway, and the mouse I found on my street. Every once in a while I am moderately tempted to disinter one of them "just to see", but I know I'd be haunted by whatever I saw for the rest of my life. It's bad enough I have nightmares with no provocation. Do I really need to dig around for fodder?
There's a law at the gym that in order to use a Swiss ball, you must bounce it from its point of origin to the spot where you plan to use it for your workout. You must bounce a minimum of three times, either right at the beginning or spread out along the course, but if you want to demonstrate allegiance to the gym's governance, you'll bounce it as many times as possible during the way.
If I brought my own handle, affixed it to the ball, and bounced on it like a Hippity-Hop, would that be following the rule?
Oh yes, these too-cool-for-school New Yorkers, so engrossed in cell phone calls up and down Columbus that they don't realize their big clomping feet can do damage to an enthusiastic little dog out for her walk. They're the only people in the world, they are, they and the unseen parties on the other end of those all-important calls. It's like they WANT to stomp on the little dog and to bump into the person whose attention is focused on making sure the dog isn't stomped on as she innocently sniffs at something another uncaring lout has tossed on the sidewalk.
I've been thinking about it for as long as I can remember: Is a bagel happy to be eaten, knowing that is what it was "born" for, or does it want to be left uneaten, even though it knows the "goal" of a bagel is to be eaten? Does it approve of that goal, and wait with great breathless anticipation for its fulfillment, or would it prefer to be preserved in a freezer so it can remain intact longer, or would it prefer to be passed over at brunch and risk eventual mold, never having been put to any use?
Chris is at least two inches shorter than I am, and at least 40 pounds heavier. His hair is short and spiky and he's wearing glasses big enough to rival Carrie Donovan's. With pronounced eyebrows and thick lashes, rosy cheeks, and cute little T-shirt and capri pants, his arm hooked in mine, he looks like my spunky lesbian date for a breezy afternoon of veggie burgers and fries at the Boat Basin Café. Other patrons check us out, and I feel like a bit of a dick when I think, "No, this is a BOY. I like my ladies thinner."
Somewhere in my mom's house is a photo of Poppop when he was about 70, in her dining room, wearing a dark blue short-sleeve knit shirt that seems to be just as much "him" as his ubiquitous cigar, tan and handsome, hair clipped (courtesy of me and my sister) in at least a dozen colorful clips like a little girl on the subway, eyes scrunched, mouth contorted into an idiotic grimace/smile, face turned to the camera (Instamatic!). How I wish I could climb into that photo and thank him for showing me that you're never too old to be ridiculous.
Random thoughts on a regular weekday:
Okay! Yes! Let's get this, um, party, like, started!
Gross. I can't believe I even thought that let alone sorta said it to myself in the mirror.
Man oh man, Fiber One Raisin Bran is the best raisin bran on the market. Even better than Trader Joe's. And fuck the "two scoops" Kellogg's nonsense.
I should NOT have eaten the entire box last night.
Why couldn't I stop after the first three bowls?
Why was that last bit at the bottom of the bag so salty?
I'm never doing that again.
Right? (Right.) Right.
He has been carefully going through two boxes of old china at the yard sale. After 20 minutes of watching him place every piece in a stack of rejects, I saunter over with mock offhandedness and say, "They're all perfect. Can I help you find something?"
"I was hoping for something chipped," he says, "or at least scratched."
"Are you planning to break it to make a mosaic or something?"
"No, I just prefer the underdog," he says. "You think I'm nuts."
"Quite the opposite," I say, thinking of the cracked gravy boat out of which I eat dry cereal.
Eighteen hours after devouring two vegetable samosas, an entire order of malai kofta with rice, and garlic naan with one friend, I'm back in the same seat across the table from another friend, ordering the same thing with a wry smile and a faux-casual shoulder shrug. In the interim between my two guest appearances, the host of this show, our taciturn waiter, has no doubt taken the orders of quite a few other patrons, yet I'm convinced he remembers my order from yesterday, is comparing it to today's, and is having a hearty chortle with his cronies in the kitchen.
Red beans and white toast on a pale blue plate don't understand that they sorta remind the person about to eat them with a plastic spoon of a washed-out American flag. They just think they're there to do what they were created to do, which is to provide a little nourishment to whomever plunked down 49 cents for the can of beans and $1.89 for the loaf of Wonder bread at the local strip mall "job lot". They're grateful to do their humble yet noble part, but that whole patriotism thing, if explained to them, would fall on deaf ears.
Nothing pleases me more, my lady, than being snuggled on your blanketed lap while you watch Mary Tyler Moore at night, your left hand warmed by the side of the bowl that contains me, your right clutching a spoon that you dip into me with delight as you anticipate the slightly tacky smoothness of my surface enhanced with the faintest trace of amber maple syrup. The way you close your eyes in joy when the spoon meets your lips is something I, a bowl of steel-cut oats, never thought I'd live to see. Now I know how ice cream feels!
The very long off-white Pathfinder motor-home van type thing that I've been seeing parked at various locations in my neighborhood ever since I moved here almost six years ago is now resting in front of my building. Its teal and orange stripes make me think it's a mobile middle school from 1976, and if I peer inside I'll find a poster of Vinnie Barbarino taped to faux wood-paneled walls and a few cans of Tab rolling around on a rust-colored shag carpet remnant, and maybe my parents, in bellbottoms and platform shoes, hair way too long, on a lost weekend.
I don't know why it's so hot in the space where this event is taking place, if it's testament to the effectiveness of radiators or the bright lights or the collective heat from the swarms of alcohol-fueled gayboys in hot finery, but man oh man, I feel like I'm going to pass out when the room is darkened and we're watching the video presentation. I sway and press my hand against the wall that I'm fortunate is beside me. I'd give anything for a Victorian fainting couch, and would gladly battle any queen who'd try to beat me to it.
Even though I don't have a real desire to hold my friend's baby, I feel it's my duty to ask. My request is granted without having to file paperwork in triplicate. After I fulfill the apologetic instruction to avail myself of hand sanitizer that contains enough alcohol to render the baby drunk through skin contact, her mom passes her to me and I commence pretending I'm the type of person who enjoys holding babies. The baby cries, my friend tells me not to take it personally, and I laugh through my grimace, thrilled to be relieved of the squirmy burden.
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