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He awakens to find a female head between his legs, the mouth firmly around his schlong, sucking with all the blind gusto of a starving newborn. You'd think this would happen all the time to a guy named Felix von Streusel, but you'd be wrong. Maybe in the old days when his silk ascot was pristine and his monocle unsmudged, but the past decade or so, ever since "the Crash" of whatever year, and he's taken up residence on a rotted park bench, not so much. He wants to hum "Happy Days Are Here Again", but can't remember the tune.
In the two-part documentary about Woody Allen, we see his workspace, a rather small desk with a typewriter he's had for four billion years, yellow sheets of ruled paper that he cuts with scissors and staples to other sheets as a retro sort of cut and paste. We see his bedroom, a wooden bed with a forgettable bedspread and wallpaper even less memorable on which hang several pictures, a room so boring it would keep me up at nights rather than inducing sleep. This could be the home of a claims adjuster whose lunches consist of soup and a half-sandwich.
She tells me her mind is made up and no amount of sound reasoning, impassioned wheedling, magic potions eased down her throat via Silly Straw, or metal cap atop her head, attached to a hulking machine rigged to exchange her mind with that of a baboon will change it. This is willpower, she says with pride, a sign of strength. I want to tell her that steadfast inflexibility is nothing to be proud of, indeed it's a sign of weakness, when presented with new information or a fresh perspective, to refuse to at least entertain it if not outright adapt.
There's a reason that kind of love is labeled "unconditional". It doesn't flinch if you're the emotional equivalent of threadbare pajama bottoms and a stretched-out T-shirt. If its fold its arms and present its back in ephemeral frustration or anger, and the arms then reach out and beckon, perhaps still confused but steeped with unquestioning concern. It doesn't hear, it listens. It doesn't see, it looks. It zips its lip and offers quiet presence. It offers apology not to ease its own burden but to relieve the other's pain. And it doesn't mind that it's the subject of corny prose.
I'm wearing a new red dress to a friend's bridal shower. I feel forced by dint of the occasion itself to at least pretend to be a regular girl and give a hoot what girls give a hoot about. While waiting on the subway platform, girls are checking me out head to toe. While walking to the restaurant, the same. I feel like they're all wondering how much duct tape it took to disguise my massive manhood. I stride as if it's every day I wear a pretty red dress with sandals, to the imaginary tune of "Venus" by Bananarama.
I want it to rain without end, without even a pause for a sunshine palate cleanser, for at least two weeks straight, but somehow without damaging floods. I want the sky to cry for days, ranging from misty-eyed, soft focus, spritzy sentimentality to full-on red-eyed snot-nosed sniveling sniffing to the point of near asphyxiation waterfall-faced bawling. I want to be able to walk outside and, as the song says, do my crying in the rain, but without the threat or risk of clearing skies or the sun flirting with a cameo appearance. Thunder and lightning, too, for vehement Cooper Black punctuation.
He's dumb as shit, but do I care? Not at all, because he looks like Patrick Swayze as he appeared in "Dirty Dancing" and only a year has passed since its release and I'm still swooning from the final scene. Like Johnny is with Baby, he's dumfounded that I'm with him. "Looking at you, I thought you were married and all set up," he says. I'm bussing tables, I remind him. What kind of rich guy's wife clears her own dishes let alone those of Rittenhouse Square snoots? Please don't speak, I think. And wear that black tank top forever.
On Tuesday morning Tara's phone reminds her she has a dentist's appointment scheduled that afternoon. She hasn't left the house since returning from work on Friday evening and has done little except watch movies she forgot as soon as they ended. She may have taken a shower but she can't remember being under the water. Did she eat? She doesn't think she cooked. A glimpse into the trashcan reveals no evidence. When she opens the door to leave, she's shocked that the world is all still there, and in full color, acting as if it didn't even notice her absence.
Almost every time I see Dave and his dashing yellow lab, Buzz, I stop to say hello. Although Buzz is always happy to see me, it's Dave, with his crooked body and baseball cap and slow walk, who seems happier. "Buzz gets all the ladies," he says, by no means as reference to a competition between him and the dog. He flashes a grin that is genuine in both expression and teeth themselves, and I try not to focus on the splotches of lodged spinach. I must train myself to think, "Good for him for eating greens!" rather than "Ewww."
Try as he might, using every tool available in the version of Photoshop installed in his mind, he just can't make her go away. When the most basic eraser tool refused to work its magic, and each successive tool proved likewise incapable of performing the simplest of tasks, he tried to manipulate the image using color swaps. Although successful, those changes made him view her in a slightly different light, undoubtedly in her favor, which wasn't in keeping with his decision to remove her from his life. He wanted to erase her, not enhance her. Back to the drawing board.
Your version of a "beautiful day" differs from mine. That much is apparent, as I exit the gym into a barking and meowing downpour, lift my face to receive it, throw my arms out to the sides as if preparing for flight, and let out a rollicking, "Yes!" You, everyone else, wear a collective scowl, some with your own personal black clouds hovering just above your heads, ducked beneath umbrellas that try their best to shield you from that same stuff you stood under maybe an hour earlier, in the steamy comfort of your own bathrooms, with soap. Good morning!
There was never a time when I reveled in bars packed with bodies and booze and music so loud it makes my pancreas cringe and my eardrums feel like they're going to not only rupture but tear clear from the coziness of my ear canal and fling themselves on the mercy of a beer-sticky floor, begging to be trod upon by legions of uncaring outdated shoes. Maybe I was born a granny, because I prefer music that leaves my internal organs intact, and if I like it and turn to tell the person next to me, he can hear me.
He brings me errant eyelashes, multi-colored jimmies, and pencil shavings, tiny circles of loose-leaf paper from the "trap" of a three-hole punch, hearts and stars and clovers and the rest of the marshmallowy charms from stale cereal, apple stems and pear seeds and snippets of thread clipped from just-sewn buttons and minuscule safety pins from dressing room floors. He places them in small yellow envelopes sealed with a sticker, or in tiny baggies like drugs. I shake them into my palm and wonder why he gives this to me, but don't want an answer. It's enough that he does it.
Wheeling my bike through the front hall, I notice the handlebars are askew -- reason to make me want to walk myself and the bike in reverse and resume self-imposed sequestering. Maybe I can ride this way, I think, even though the bike shop is two blocks away and they'd probably adjust it free of charge. Once outside, I notice the humidity, thankful the bike helmet hides my hair. Still, I consider reconsidering my ride. Once the bike guy pulls on the handlebars to adjust, wordlessly, and I'm on my way to Central Park, I'm thrilled with my choice. Breathe.
Two years ago he flew me out to Iowa for a four-day change of pace. I hadn't yet met him face to face, but when I did I was overjoyed that he was even handsomer than pictures had suggested. His dog, too, was even more of a delight than anticipated. We knew it wouldn't turn into anything "real" because of the distance, but it didn't matter. Next month he's flying me out to New Mexico, his new state, for another change of pace and face. Now I know what to expect, so it feels more like a homecoming. Even better.
He'd told me, in chat, that his voice sounded like what a tree would sound like if trees could talk. I didn't dare ask if he made that up or if someone else told him or if maybe he swiped it from a celebrity or a line in a movie. So, when I went out on a limb (shoot me for that) one day and called him, without warning, to hear what a tree sounded like, I was surprised that a tree sounded so ordinary, like some blue-polo-shirted guy at Best Buy directing you to laptop cables or a microwave.
I passed by the restaurant where we had pizza six years ago on one of our first dates. I was thrilled that although he was vegan, he would still eat pizza, just without cheese. After dinner, when he gave our leftovers to a homeless man, my dismay that I wouldn't have lunch for the next day, was overshadowed by my being smitten with him. And when he joked that the guy was going to look at the bounty, realize it was vegan, and throw it at us, shouting, "Vegan fuckers!" I thought I'd struck gold. Alas, it was fool's gold!
She is Auntie Mame when she wants to be, sparkle sparkle, unstoppable Technicolor glitter, bursting into the room, making her way through revelers as if on silent rollerskates and flaunting an invisible cigarette holder, shades of Holly Golightly, mixing her movies and mayhaps her metaphors, part of her charm they say and actually mean it. Other times the burden of fabulousness is too much and she clomps around her own darkened apartment, alone, like a hulking big-headed, slump-shouldered monster in a black and white movie with crappy sound, dusty in the projector. Oh, if her friends could see her now.
He hasn't been in a decade, way before either of us knew the other existed. From our chats, I get the feeling his last trip was one of those breakneck tourist annoyances, big on doing what out-of-towners think they're supposed to do thanks to friends who have visited or what they've seen on The Today Show. I want to show him how a real New Yorker lives, where the biggest price tag is the rent, how "the attitude" is a farce, and that we don't all go around chasing celebrity chefs and the cast of CSI. (Times Square anyway? Hmmm.)
New Mexico for a change of pace and face, the opportunity to go to a state I've always wanted to visit, at the perfect time in my year, to hang with someone I dig and a gorgeous dog I'm crazy about. I'll take my work stuff, and set up at my friend's house. A bike awaits, if I want to use it. There's sunshine a-plenty, which ordinarily isn't that much of a selling point, but I could use Vitamin D or whatever part of the alphabet it wants to bestow upon me. Oh, and airfare is on my friend. Sold!
Spurred by the gorgeousness of Molly's homemade bread, posted on Facebook for all her world to see, I dashed to Amazon.com and clicked clicked clicked and bought the book she suggested, which assures me that I don't need to knead, I don't need a machine, it's all easy easy easy, which is the way I need to roll. I was going to make bread! I was going to find a guy to make bread with! It was going to be all romantic and stuff, like it was with her and her boyfriend! Two years later, I'm still loafless and loveless!
When "Good Will Hunting" was released 15 years ago, I dismissed it as nothing I'd enjoy. It took me 13 years to get around to watching it, at the end of an evening out on a date with someone I'd met 10 years earlier on an Amtrak train. I stretched out, alone on his sofa, grateful for him leaving me alone since any interest in him had evaporated hours earlier. Exhaustion led to dozing, and he led me to his bedroom, where he got the release he'd wanted for a decade, after which I dismissed him as nothing I'd enjoyed.
No online dating sites, no fixing up, no friends' discards or ill-advised suggestions. No "speed dating". No bars. No "singles" anything. No retreads from past cities. No one recycled, upcycled, reupholstered. I don't want your brother, your uncle, your cousin visiting from out of town. Your dad. Your dogwalker (well, maybe …). I'm not putting myself out there on that kind of mission. If I meet someone, it will be "organic", as a result of doing something I love, being somewhere I love, acting the way I am when I'm happiest with myself. It won't be a competition, an audition.
Ever since he was old enough to appreciate the simple function of the hourglass, Jordan has preferred to wear one strapped to his wrist instead of any number of "real" watches presented to him as gifts and offered to him as bribes to clean his room, take out the trash, empty the dishwasher, or any other number of sundry standard chores expected of a middle-class kid. And because everyone is so enchanted with his allegiance to the hourglass, they overlook the fact that he, with his penchant for exuberant gesticulation, has never in his life been on time for anything.
I didn't know they'd be our "lasts", but I remember them anyway, the way people remember where they were when Kennedy was shot or when the space shuttle exploded. Last dinner, last hug, last movie. I don't have to close my eyes; I do it with eyes open, while washing dishes or talking to someone on the street. Anytime, anywhere. But I can't turn it off. I wish all it took was to either open my eyes or close them, and the memories would shut off like a record in a portable turntable I loved as a kid. But no.
This is at least the fifth time during my workout that she's given me the once-over, the kind I've learned is one of competitiveness. She pretends she's not sneaking peeks at my weights. She acts as if she just so happens to do what I do, even though she struggles. (I know because I'm pretending I'm not sneaking peeks at her. See how that works?) I want to saunter over when she's done her set and say, "Honey, even if it were a competition, there'd be no competition. I'm twice your age. Let's see where you are in 24 years."
Dear Trader Joe's Raisin Bran Clusters Cereal,
There's no easy way to say this, but I have to stop seeing you. It's not that your perfectly crunchy enormous sweet clusters don't make me almost believe in "God" or that your raisins aren't the ideal plumpness or that your flakes, however scarce, aren't substantial and crisp. No. It's that I have absolutely no self-control when you're anywhere within a 100-foot radius, I ignore all other food friends when you're around, and I cannot stop fantasizing about you even when I'm not hungry. It's not you, it's me. I'm sorry.
Why it seemed so important that he select the "perfect" flatware is beyond me. Or why he choose the "best" bathmat. Or why the blue walls of his bedroom be given more consideration than Goldilocks ever devoted to any of her choices. Why it seemed so important that he understand that yes, there is a difference between satin and sateen, and no, that's not burgundy it's maroon. None of it mattered to him, so why did I try to force it to? I cringe when I think not only that I thought he should care, but that I ever did.
I don't want to miss him. I don't want to think about him. I don't want to devote a single solitary molecule, atom, or subatomic particle of my brain to thinking about him, yet here I am, thinking about him like mad, like crazy, like an absolute insaniac. First thing I think about when I wake up, last thing I think about when I go to sleep. Never mind the daydreams and the asleep dreams. He haunts me, he taunts me, follows me everywhere I go. I know it's in my power to stop. Maybe I just don't want to.
She's telling me stuff that she thinks I'll find hilarious, and because I feel oddly compelled to confirm what she thinks, I laugh along, even though I don't find it even marginally amusing and am even embarrassed to be laughing just in case someone at a neighboring table overheard/eavesdropped, deemed it just as not funny as I did, and is now looking at me as if I'm an idiot to be amused by something so stupid. Inside I'm cringing, and outside I'm grinning so hard my face hurts, like when you overexert yourself trying to blow up a dud balloon.
I like to envision myself as a girl on a solo cross-country road trip, confident behind the wheel of a either vintage pick-up truck or convertible. If the former, my hair in twin pigtails low on the back of my head, dusty old boots, and maybe even some kind of floppy hat. If the latter, a groovy scarf keeping the hair off my face, big sunglasses, and Capri pants. Either way, tinny music on whatever radio came with the vehicle, stations changed by pushing buttons. I'd fill up my car at nearly abandoned gas stations. Eat Pringles by the stackful.
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