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"Don't my legs look great like this?"Marina asks as she flops down onto the hardwood floor and leans back into a supine position, her legs at a 90-degree angle, skirt gathering around her hammy hips.
I tell her to get up and pull her skirt down.
Her legs look thinner this way, she says. If only they looked this good when she stood, she wouldn't wear long skirts - or hire someone to pull her around town in a red wagon, as she lay thus positioned for all the world to see how great her lumpy legs can look.
"Remember feng shui!"she says.
I tell her I will. Yes, of course I'll heed the principles of feng shui when I move into my new apartment. Absolutely!
Obviously my Philadelphia friend knows nothing about the quirks and vagaries of Manhattan rental units, including odd window placement and layout. I want to tell her I can't be bothered to make sure my bed faces a certain direction and that I'll be happy if my bed fits in the bedroom at all.
Feng shui, and its insistence that nothing be stored under a bed, has no business hanging out in Manhattan.
I haven't seen him since we met on the subway in March, and we've only communicated briefly by phone and via instant messages and email. So why am I sitting on the sofa, in the dark, murmuring occasional encouragement into the phone as he strokes himself to the sound of my barely audible voice?
Although his stamina impresses me, I want to tell him to save it for a live encounter, because I'll be pissed if, after he "gets off"and I get off the phone, I discover that I missed most of an old Molly Ringwald movie for this.
"This too shall pass,"I say. To myself, aloud sometimes, just above a whisper. Most times silently, but shouting with impatience inside the silence.
The recitation of these four words is about as "zen"as I'm willing to get now. The "this"that I'm waiting to pass has gone on for way too long, and I just want to race around it like a dog herding sheep and bark incessantly at it and force it to do what I want it to do. Which is, of course, to pass already, so I can get on with my life again. Finally.
Margie and Jeff daydream of being the couple that wakes up early on Saturday mornings and greets the sunrise while seated on rattan furniture on their professionally planted veranda, sipping fresh-squeezed orange juice out of crystal goblets. They want to be the couple that plays crisp sets of tennis without fail every Saturday morning, the couple that runs in Central Park every Sunday even when it pours.
Instead, as always, they're still asleep at 2:30 on Sunday afternoon, sprawled on a sheet-tangled bed littered with Chinese takeout cartons, pizza boxes, and empty cigarette packs, where they've been since Friday night.
The next morning, I'm pleased to learn that Leslie Nielsen didn't die, tragically or otherwise, overnight. This is a huge relief, because I cannot say that Milton Berle or Billy Wilder were so lucky.
In both of their cases, they died the day after I'd wondered, aloud, if they were still living. "Is Uncle Miltie still alive?" Yes, the day I asked. But the next? Nope. Same with poor Billy Wilder.
As soon as I thought I'd cursed Mr. Nielsen the night before, I wanted to call and warn him to be careful. Now I see I worried for nothing.
It was the wrong day to be eating a bagel. The wrong day for his mouth to be churning, for cream cheese to be lingering on his lips, for him to be wiping crumbs away with the back of his hand and then to be licking the crumbs off, exposing a tongue sticky, gloppy, and white. The wrong day for the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen in Manhattan to pass by the deli and catch him thus indisposed, seated in a booth by the window, and to look upon his messy mastication with a mixture of shock and revulsion.
I want to smack the pink-cheeked face of the kid trampling down the aisle of the bus, who probably has no clue that the little white peds he's wearing with his miniature shiny old-man loafers make him look like an even bigger idiot than the miniature old-man khaki shorts and accompanying plaid shirt. I want to smack him for being dressed like he's 60 when I'm sure he's no older than 5 and for acting like he owns the bus. I know it's not his fault he's such a cocky little fuck, but still I want to smack him anyway.
"Oooooh, nice,"I say as I enter his bedroom for the first time in over a year.
Gone is the horrifying, gasp-inducing, white plastic-y platform bed and accompanying side tables. Gone is the poster (with obvious fold lines) of an airplane cockpit thumbtacked (or taped?) to the wall. The room, now outfitted with a matching "suite"of furniture that he calls "manly"(half in jest, and half I'm sure not), finally looks like someone in his 40s occupies it.
And I loathe it.
Still, I say "nice"and silently add, "in comparison to the schlock you had here last year.-
Is it possible to actually vomit just by thinking about a text message?
The other night this guy I used to see "texted"me something about "shoving [his] tongue up [my] tight, quivering ass-. About having done it in the past. I retched over the word "quivering"and informed him that the tight-quivering-ass tongue-shoving never happened and that he is "all talk-.
"We should rectify that,"he says. I agree. And I'm sure this all-talk-no-action filth-talkin' bum has no idea that now I'm the one who's all talk. I don't want any part of him near any part of me.
Myra's devotion to "the underdog"may be jeopardizing her health, but who am I to tell her? I'm just her therapist. I'm not a real fucking doctor, damn it. At least that's what she spits back at me when I gently suggest she may want to stop eating rotten fruit.
"If I don't eat the grapes no one else wants, who WILL?"she asks. "Who else will give ignored, overripe bananas the attention they deserve?-
I'm not lying when I tell her that I, too, rescue sad fruit. But unlike her, I draw the line at apparent mold and wormholes.
The members of the talk show studio audience are thrilled that one of the guests is a renowned animal handler from a zoo out west. They can't wait to see the wide-eyed, big-pawed tiger cubs drinking from baby bottles. The chimpanzee in a diaper, peeling a banana and munching with better manners than their own families! They're ready to murmur a collective "awwwww"as soon as these furry babies are brought onto the set.
But wait. What's this? A snake? A lizard? These aren't cuddly! These - things - can't entertain them! What a waste! They can barely be bothered to applaud.
The apartment has always been rented furnished, and, the landlord says, the furniture has always been arranged this way. The configuration seems to make the most sense.
Nonsense, I think. Vomitously boring, I think. Where are the quirks? The surprises? My brain instantly scrambles to reconfigure the space into a less traditional layout using the furniture I will bring to it. When I move into the place, I want it to make sense without being stultifying in its sensibility.
Is there an unwritten LAW that dictates that if a fireplace is part of the room, the sofa must face it?
We're in the stodgy shoe store in Philadelphia to find loafers he can wear without socks. The mere thought makes me shudder, because earlier in the day he told me he's been plagued with (pause for cringe) toenail fungus. So now I'm forced to imagine crusty moldy mossy yellow-green toenails pressing against the reverse side of leather, yearning for fungal freedom. It's all I can do not to vomit.
Also vomitous are the shoes he selects and raves about. I'm not so secretly thrilled when they don't fit properly. I swear even his fucked-up fungus breathes a sigh of relief.
He kept telling me she was so pretty. Why, I have no idea, since he was with me now, not her, and I hadn't asked him anything about her in the first place.
So I imagined she was drop-dead gorgeous. Certainly she had to be if he was raving about her without provocation.
Did I want to see a picture, he asked. He was at his computer. Of course I did.
There she was: standard-issue attractive. Pretty? Eh. Marlo Thomas-esque. Devoid of individuality.
"Feh,"I thought, and wondered why he would rave about her, given that I'm so much better-looking.
He laughs, and every H and A hangs in the air between us, stagnant, unsure whether to waft around the room and disperse like real laughter or to just remain suspended, helpless, above our heads.
The Hs and As aren't stupid. They know they're part of a laughter string that's as fake as they come, and they wish they'd never gotten out of bed this morning to go to work. This is the kind of job they despise.
I laugh internally at his fake laughter. My Hs and As gather behind my lips, tickling them for freedom.
What's the point of having a kitchen with high-end stainless steel appliances and enough counterspace to prepare Thanksgiving dinner if all you do is heat canned food in the microwave and use only one burner on the range to boil the occasional egg? You show it to me like I should be impressed with all you have. Instead, I'm depressed that I'm wasting my time with someone so wasteful.
Meanwhile, the abundant cabinetry is home to a mishmash assortment of warped plastic cups from a wealth of convenience stores and your alma mater and not a single pair of plates.
When Marisa consulted with a doctor about her candidacy for weight-loss surgery, he told her she met the criteria, and they scheduled a date three months from then for the procedure.
She was so elated with the news that she didn't stay home at night anymore, cramming Oreos into her head. Instead she celebrated by going dancing (in near-dark clubs).
When she returned to the doctor for the procedure, he told her she was no longer eligible. She'd lost 60 pounds. "Congratulations! Clearly you're capable of losing it on your own,"he said.
Furious, Marisa threw out her dancing shoes.
He's huffing and puffing as if he's a cigarette-smoking asthmatic who just ran a marathon at top speed. His chest heaves onto mine, threatening to crush my ribcage with each labored breath. The entire length of his exhausted body covers mine on the bed. Doesn't he realize that, at 170 pounds, he weighs about 150% as much as I do? How would he like a 255-pound beast atop him?
Meanwhile, my heartbeat has barely accelerated, I'm dry as a bone, and, when I'm not thinking, "Jesus Christ, get the fuck OFF me!-, all I can think is, "So. That's it?-
It's 8:17 and Lily's in the bathroom. Marvin flips through the papers on her beside table with the tip of his ring finger. It's not really snooping if he doesn't use more than one finger, especially if he only uses the weakest finger of the bunch.
Let's see: Banana Republic receipt ($92), blank bank deposit slip, Metrocard, today's "to-do"list ...
How neatly she prints! Nothing like his careless scrawl! He smiles at how artful she's made "dry cleaning"look. (The "g"in particular looks typeset.)
And then frowns at the sight of "Sex with Marvin T., 7:00 to 8:15 p.m.-
How difficult would it be to offer a simple compliment on the way I look when we go out? Does "You look fantastic!"take much effort? How about a monosyllabic "Wow"- a word that doesn't require you to waste energy closing your mouth upon completion?
Too much? Apparently so.
Every woman - even those who pretend to be low maintenance or unaffected by the opinions of others (feminists be damned) - wants the man she's about to spend the night with to indicate his appreciation of the energy she's expended to make herself look good for him.
Carla knows she has to manage her time better, but she doesn't have the time to learn. At least that's what she tells me in her session that's been whittled down to 25 minutes thanks to her lateness.
"I couldn't leave the house this morning until I successfully Google-searched Ãƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬ËœIs Kelly Ripa anorexic?',"she says.
I have to literally bite my tongue, because I really want to ask, "So? IS she?" Instead all I say is, "You're not making any headway, Carla.-
My patient after her cancels, and I spend that hour Googling what I must know. (I don't succeed.)
Suburban strip-mall restaurant Chinese food for my family, when my adorable maternal grandparents were visiting, always included the following:
* Shrimp in lobster sauce - for Bubby
* Pepper steak - for Poppop
* Spare ribs - for me
* Egg foo yung - for my parents
* Lo mein - for everyone?
* Who the hell remembers - for my brother and sister
I hated being told I had to accompany my mother when she picked it up. But oh, how I loved the drive home, the huge hot cardboard box of food resting on my lap, and my head bowed over the bags inside it, in anticipation of the feast.
"I was so happy it finally stopped raining, that I actually went outside and ate my lunch in Washington Square Park,"Marla says. "But it was a big mistake.-
"Did it start to rain again?"I ask, doodling parades of "8-s with stick-figure feet on my notepad. "Forget your umbrella like last time?-
"No,"she says. "When I ate my hard-boiled egg, the pigeon next to me was crying and asked me how I could eat an unborn baby.-
I tell her the pigeon didn't know what it was talking about, and thankfully tell her her hour is up.
Stuart is never late for his sessions. In fact, he always arrives at least ten minutes early, and insists that my receptionist time-stamp the index card he produces from his breast pocket. "Gotta catch the worm, Susan,"he says to her over his shoulder when I allow him access at the scheduled time. "Gotta catch the worm.-
I know he wants me to acknowledge his punctuality. So I don't.
One afternoon he bursts into my office 45 minutes late, and claims that aliens shaped like worms caught him.
I know he wants me to take the bait. So I don't.
If they didn't want me eating their candy when I occupied their desks while they were on vacation, then they should have either eaten it all before they left, taken it with them, entrusted it to another secretary, or stored it in a locked drawer (and taken the key).
I mean, come on. Surely I wasn't the only temp who, in a fit of near-tears boredom, snooped through their drawers in search of who-knows-what and came upon the bounty of an already open bag of individually foil-wrapped chocolates. Right?
Silly trustful full-time secretaries. I hope I taught 'em a lesson!
I'm 12, Sis is 11, and we just pledged $2 and $1, respectively, during a telethon for a charity we can't even identify. All we know is that we talked to guest star Henry Winkler (he's 30!), so it's well worth every penny. Actually, it's a bargain!
A few years later, I'll sit in the third row of a Broadway play starring Henry and hope he doesn't look my way. Because I know he'll recognize me as half of the sister duo who only pledged money in order to talk to him. And I won't be able to handle the shame.
Martin tells me he's going to "pad" his resume. He's sick of potential employers passing him over for jobs just because he isn't proficient in Excel or doesn't have the required number of years of experience. I don't like condoning it, but I do anyway, figuring it can't really hurt. After all, it's not like he, a lifelong file clerk, is applying for a position as a surgeon.
He cancels his next session the night before it's scheduled, without offering an explanation. That day, I get a call from a well-known Manhattan medical center, asking for a reference for "Dr. ____."
Why can't he pronounce "glucosamine" and "chondroitin" without crowding consonants where there are none, creating bizarre new syllables, and making both words sound oddly German? How many times does he have to say these words before he pronounces them not only properly but with ease? It is that difficult?
And what of the word "avenue"? I can't tell if he purposely enunciates a "liquid u" or if his mouth just gets curiously jumbled, resulting in almost literal tongue-tying between the "n" and the "u".
I gnash my teeth, and imagine bashing his in. (Who knows ... it might improve his pronunciation.)
I'm obsessing over the arrangement of the new apartment I'll be occupying come July 1. I don't have a good enough floor plan to make accurate judgments, but that's not stopping me from configuring and reconfiguring the room on a near-constant basis. It's even invaded my dreams.
Red table as room divider? Bookshelves? Placement of the bed? Sofa/loveseat on an angle?
Speaking of the sofa/loveseat ... I don't have one. Which of course leads to obsessive online searches even though I don't know the size the room will accommodate.
I can't wait 'til I'm settled. Not being settled is so ... unsettling.
It's gotta stop.
Today I initiated e-mail with two schmoes I was involved with over the past year. Although I used to be gaga over them, now the thought often induces gags. One, with his way too hairy crotch, the other with his way too shaven; both, never deserving of anything having to do with mine.
So why did I write to them? Did I really expect them to have changed? I'm the only one of the three who's changed at all, and this exchange seals the realization for me: I should have no further contact with either.
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