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Tired, oh so damned fucking absolutely drained exhausted no thoughts in my head other than falling asleep immediately can't get to bed quickly enough tired. So tired that the dominant thought (only thought) right now is a heavily billowing, all-encompassing daydream of how and where I will be less than five minutes from now: flopped on my stomach on my bed, cocoon-cozy, wrapped in red flannel sheets and piles of other bedclothes, a lightweight purple down "throw" over my head, and no thoughts at all except Ahhhhh. All this glamour, all this beauty, and it's not even 8:30 p.m. Bliss!
From the ages of five through eight, I lived in my grandparents' house somewhere that I know I couldn't find now. Any time I was driven there, I'd fall asleep in the back of the car, so I didn't know where I was. But once within the house, I discovered places that no one else in my family knew existed.
One time while hiding in the linen closet, eating all my grandmother's orange-flavored Vitamin C tablets, I found a secret passageway behind an old laundry basket tucked in the corner. I crawled into it and emerged in the Bermuda Triangle!
When I devised my plan this morning, it sounded like a very good idea. I'd go to Kiev (the restaurant, not the city), order pierogies and potato pancakes (small orders), and survive the double dose of fried food without so much as a whimper from my stomach. I'd burst with Eastern European pride, I would, and, once home again, settle comfortably in front of my computer to write all about it. Well, such was not to be. Eight hours later, I'm barely settled and certainly not comfortably, and bursting all right, but not with pride. And my stomach? Full-blown wailing!
In the end, she wound up wearing the same skirt she always wore, with the matching top she bought to go with it, not the new sweater she'd considered briefly and then discarded after realizing it showed way too much skin. Clavicles were one thing, and risque enough on their own, but a quarter inch of midriff exposed? Scandalous. Yes, sure, the indecent exposure could only occur if she lifted her arms way above her head, but still. There was always that chance, and she didn't dare risk it! So clavicle exposure it was, and my, didn't she feel dangerous!
To explain why I didn't call as promised, I will create a lie. I will keep it simple so it's believable, and not overstate it. I will send e-mail rather than call, in keeping with the particulars of the lie, which mandate that his number is only accessible via my cell phone, which I left in my brother's apartment and cannot retrieve until he returns from vacation with his family. I will apologize, but not overly so. But the truth is that I am not sorry. I had no intention of calling him back that day. And have none now.
Just because you have cobalt blue hair pulled back by a bandana and an anthology of "beat" literature on the table in front of you, and you're wearing a black belt with silver grommets and sunglasses with lenses that color your world not rose but a hideous shade of green (not unlike the bile I feel upon looking at you), doesn't mean you're the coolest thing since bongos. And peppering your Valley Girl speech with the occasional "fuck" at higher volume than the rest of your conversation? That doesn't mean anything either. Shut the fuck up and eat your lunch.
Parlop sink matzi par zim boh? Klastu mantezk cjap dor plow? Ha! Spu aplso pip cranek kimmpor sem, taki klaymish konner bonner pop! Pistu? Nef! Miniu jorsek, miniu porsek, coust wenter simkwoe rembuy. Matzi cjap perb platzishmor. Platzishmor esmo cjovak corsovarp, perb ogyuz sink vepjum lishutok paraplanset. Setud, rishoc ubhold alomin uvocar.
Taki nes pou aplso nechoru palakon, fizpur spu crakoniu manzaw quapyop jorsek, coust tolimoc. Carabuxir somiu pop clershivet parascor ruckoshet? Nef! Yoi, esprisht vukumig esmo pep lishmax kalam. Taki nes pouy gregir. Taki nes pouy negascox. Uvoj pamim berashot esmo perb bilishan zloxmit. Parlop sink matzi dor plow?
So I guess I shouldn't've bragged that I could eat 1,000,000 fries without getting sick -- and by sick I mean throwing up, like a coupla years ago at Peggy's birthday party when I ate ice cream cake roll and had to leave early. ‘Cause now I'm stranded in a french fry forest, and each fry's as tall as a tree, and there's a voice telling me the only way I can ever go home again is if I eat my way through every french fry here. From now on I keep my big mouth shut ... in more ways than one!
The thing is, I dunno what's the big deal about keepin' heads in my freezer. It's not like they wasn't already dead when I found ‘em. It ain't like I killed ‘em or nothin'. When a fella's in the woods ‘smuch as I am, he's gonna find some strange shit, ‘specially if he brings a Bloodhound. And Hopper, boy, he's got a nose like nobody's business! He digs ‘em up ... brings ‘em to me ... all proud! There's never no bodies neither. Just heads. So I freeze ‘em at home ‘cause it's real sad to leave ‘em laying alone like that.
What difference does it make if he lives in this city or another, on the same street or on one hundreds or thousands of miles away, if we don't even see each other that often anyway? When he first mentioned his California interview, my heart sank, because I knew if he moved, there'd be no chance of lunches or dinners or hanging out anymore. But now I realize that tomorrow makes it three months since I last saw him, even though he only lives a few blocks away. So really, what difference does it make if he stays or goes?
So she ate me a week ago, and I'm still hanging out in her stomach waiting to make the big passage that everyone around here raves about like it's a trip to Mars! Last guy who made the trip, a big chunk of meatloaf she didn't chew well (the glutton!), got all excited the day he was leaving, and said he'd heard good things about what happens once you leave the stomach and make your way through the rest of the digestive system and out into the real world. But me? Well, if I can be honest, I'm scared shitless!
People say to me, they say, Eddie, why you still workin' in that ladies shoe store when you could be doin' something so much better with your life, like be a singin' waiter, ‘cause you have that voice like Frank Sinatra, everybody says so. Why you still at that nowhere job?
Ain't nobody's business why I stay on here. And ain't no way in hell I'm gonna tell anyone I stay ‘cause I get a free show every once in a while, and more than that, I just love their sweaty hot feet. Now THAT, boy, THAT makes me sing!
Sometimes when no one's looking, Sonya opens the refrigerator and pretends she's looking for a snack to enjoy while watching her favorite cartoons after school. Every time she takes out the same few things (they're always there). Although her mom leaves individually wrapped slices of cheese on a plate for her, and there are always grapes (seedless, and washed, of course), and sometimes a cold slice of pizza from the night before, she passes them over. So what does Sonya take? Three pitted olives and one egg, all of which she licks and then puts back where she found them.
I am the 15-pound turkey that's waiting to be part of the televised food fight between two dimwit early morning talk show hosts aired live in your suburban living room. I know you don't think I can think because, (1) I'm a turkey, (2) I don't have a head, and (3) I'm kinda dead and all, what with not having a head. And I'm roasted too, although not very thoroughly, because I was cooked especially for the purposes of this food fight. So taste doesn't matter. Never mind the extraordinary bad taste of wasting my life for this bullshit.
Yesterday I learned that a young "up and coming" writer I'd never heard of died in a plane crash several months ago. I read one of her short stories just to see why she was regarded as up and coming. It was mercifully short, but a struggle to read anyway. I didn't get what all the fuss was about. I did, however, feel somewhat jealous of her recognition for a story that I thought read like a college experiment, when I know I have much better stuff out there. And I felt a strange evil satisfaction that she was dead.
We're in the bookstore, my friend and I, looking through a book about Baryshnikov. Lately he's been in her ballet class, and I'm more enchanted with that than with the images in the book. She, however, is fixated on the two-dimensional representation. "Oh god, it's so sad," she says, pointing to one photo. "Look how old he is." She flips back to a photo of him from 27 years ago. "From this," she says, admiringly, "to ... this," she says sadly. Where is the tragedy? I ask her. I think he's even more beautiful now. But she can't see any beauty.
Every afternoon around 1:30, without fail, I take a fresh package of chicken parts out for a walk in Madison Square Park. Sometimes I push it around in an old-fashioned pram. Sometimes I carry it in a modern baby sling. And sometimes I just use an ordinary stroller. But no matter how I choose to transport it, I always make sure it's bundled up carefully so it's not exposed to the elements. And I sing traditional lullabies. (Oh, and you should just *see* the adorable snowsuit I bought for this winter!) No one can say I'm not a good mother!
Inside Kevin's chest where his heart should be is snuggled a half pound of bologna, sliced thin and wrapped in white paper. No one knows about it, and he doesn't really think about it too much, actually, except those lean times when business is slow and his take-home pay can barely cover his rent. Then, yeah, sure, he thinks about it, when there's nothing in the refrigerator to eat. Then he thinks about slicing open his chest, pulling out the package, and making bologna "roll-ups". But when all is said and done, he doesn't have the heart to do it!
This is my last Sunday as a 39-year-old. Every day this week will be the last of its day that will exist for me as a 39-year-old. On one hand, I say, "So? It's just a number. Turning 40 is no big deal. I can't help it, so why even think about it?" And on the other hand, I feel like it is a big deal. I feel a little nostalgic or sad. Something I can't quite identify. But whatever it is, the FORTY-ness is at the core. Should I admit that it's a big deal? And IS it?
"I'm sorry," she says, "I cannot meet you today, because blippityblahhhhwhateverwhocares." Her mother cut her foot on a huge hunk of glass and she must tend to her mother and her foot and make sure one of them is propped up and the other doesn't try to get her own lunch. She apologizes profusely to me, and I, ever so genial, tell her it is fine, it's just fine, just take care of your mother, we'll do it another day, oh don't worry! Meanwhile, I'm thrilled because I didn't want to meet today anyway. Thank you, huge hunk of glass!
Tomorrow afternoon, I will see him for the first time out of the context in which we always see each other. How odd to see him outside the confines of the gym and the persona he projects while training his clients. Outside, in natural light. Where I can see the real color of his skin. And see him in clothes other than those his job requires. And he? He will see me non-sweaty. In boots way sexier than my running shoes. I am nervous and way more excited about it than I thought I would be. What am I? Fourteen?
He's out of context, wearing clothes that are cuter than what I'dimagined, and a knit hat that accentuates his cheekbones and brings out the green of his eyes. (I'd never noticed were green before.) Away from ordinary circumstances, he's much freer and goofier and handsomer than I would've expected. Away from the place where we're safe together – safe because it's familiar territory where we have to watch what we do – we have the most amazing time I can remember having. I have a crush. Here I am, four days from being 40, and I have a crush. Is it 1980?
All it would have taken was one move. A two-part one-move: the edging of my chair closer to his combined with the leaning of my body toward his. That's all it would have taken for him to quite possibly get the idea that all the crazy laughter, all the fantastic conversation, all the marvelous little seemingly inconsequential things that made up our five-hour afternoon together all added up to the one spectacular fact that I wanted nothing more at that moment than to kiss him. Just one kiss. A kiss and one caress of the gorgeous angle of his cheek.
Every day I come across so many people who would truly benefit from a meeting of the back of my hand across the side of their heads. Every day I feel a simmering rage that wants to express itself by smashing someone's face into a brick wall, or, lacking brick, something with particularly aggressive stucco. The level of sheer stupidity is so astounding, so overpowering, so all-pervasive, that I can't help but desperately want to "act out" against it physically instead of just verbally, which is fun in its own right but really does nothing to calm my shaking hands.
Underneath Margo's fingernails lives the tiniest of kittens. She first noticed the kitten when she brought her left index finger up to her mouth to gnaw on the fingernail during a particularly boring science class, and heard the faintest of mews.
Then: "Please, miss, don't destroy my home!"
She brought her finger closer to her eyes to get a better look, but all she saw was a tiny speck of fuzz, like lint.
She placed her finger under the microscope at her lab table, and there she saw the tiniest orange tabby!
"Everyone should have Margo's initiative!" her teacher said.
I stayed up past 1:00 last night, so even with the turning back of the clock, I'd be assured that I went to bed 40 and not 39. I didn't want to go to bed 39 and be shocked to wake up 40, so I thought I'd better go to bed and rise at the same age. That way, I would not feel like 40 snuck up on me while I was busy sleeping. That way, 40 would just be there in the morning, gently wiggling its fingers in a pleasant hello over a cup of soothing breakfast tea. Lovely!
You are not your past,
I told someone in email this weekend.
You are what you become.
She responded that it was an "interesting p.o.v." (because "point of view" is too much to write out). I didn't think it was particularly interesting – just a statement, neither interesting nor truly noteworthy.
But then again, not many people seem to realize this. "You see Jim over there? He used to be the star quarterback of his high school football team! And so handsome!"
Oh yeah? So what? Now he's a puffy, bloated, no-good deadbeat with a receding hairline and a missing tooth.
I have the discipline to work out two hours a day, five or six days a week, so why don't I have the discipline to sit my well-toned ass down for that much time and exercise my hands and fingers on my keyboard? How is it that I am so focused in the gym, and no one can distract or deter me from getting there almost day, but when it comes to sitting at home, safe and warm, wearing deliciously comfortable clothes and with all the coffee I want at my disposal, I just can't seem to get in gear?
This afternoon when the dogwalker arrived, I was in bed, trying to nap. Of course the nap also served as a way out of having to go out front and engage in conversation. When he brought the dog back 20 minutes later, I was still in bed, buried like ice cream under mounds of whipped cream. (Except warmer.) He called my name. I cringed under the covers, made sure I was completely hidden in case he decided to have the gall to come back here, and held my breath. "Who the fuck am I? Anne Frank?" I whispered to myself.
Casey is a nice enough little boy. Actually, some would say he's too nice, or, if not "too" nice, then just nicer than you'd expect from a five-year-old. Especially one with a physical difference that most people in his small midwestern town haven't encountered. At first you don't notice it, and he looks like a very handsome sandy-haired boy with lashes as long as a llama's and eyes greener than acres. It isn't until he extends his right hand to shake yours upon introduction (so polite!) that you notice it's made of half-baked pancake batter. So don't squeeze too hard!
The story is finished and shipped off to its destination. It is, quite literally, out of my hands now. And of course I will be hesitant to read it once it's published, just like an actor is reluctant to watch himself on-screen after the movie has been filmed. I will read it, but through my clasped fingers, as if watching a horror film I've watched many times before and therefore know when the girl in the white nightgown is going to be slashed and beheaded. I just hope I won't want to kill myself when I read it in print.
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