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A Typo Artist
I might hear your name in passing but donít ask how you are or care about your new job. I didnít know about your grandfather until weeks after, and I expressed generic condolences like any acquaintance might whoíd never known the darkest corners of your soul.
Sometimes, when I kiss other boys, I think about that little freckle on your lip and I know that another girl has kissed it since me, but I donít care in a way that nags or hurts I just wonder if you pull on her bottom lip like you used to do to me.
Iím not sure why I Googled you tonight - I had heard that you had started a business - memory DVDs? Something like that. Iím sure you created some catchy way of describing it.
I found your Picasa - Iíd forgotten. There were all our old photos ... and then new ones of you on Halloween in some scummy Jersey bar. Neither you nor the new girl had costumes. There was a time you'd have never passed up a chance to be silly.
She is pretty - taller than me with bigger boobs. You looked happy, but not nearly as happy as we once were...
I want to write every day until the tips of my fingers hurt from punching the keys excitedly as my hands try to keep up with my thoughts. But some days the words get caught up somewhere between my head and the keyboard - stuck on insecurities and doubts, or modesty, or what exactly constitutes good writing?
On those days I am plucking at words and thoughts and come up with a handful that I assemble haphazardly on the page, and it is a picture of what I might look like through the lense of everything I am trying to overcome.
"Itís luscious mix of words and tricks that let us bet when we know we should fold..."
We had so many pet names - too many to remember. Sometimes Iíd forget to answer when you called ďhey, Fish Geez?Ē from the kitchen when you couldnít find the ketchup.
We also had Stuff to save us from each other: the Jeep, and all the camping gear. The motorcycle and Wii Tennis. The patio and the grill. A flat screen TV for Discovery HD and many Blu-Ray movies.
Without the pet names and the Stuff I would have been gone eight months ago...
I donít care how many times you have been through it or met people who are going through it, finding words for someone who has just lost a loved one is impossible. I donít think any actually exist. So I just hug her. I donít say anything I just walk up and give her a hug. She cries a little into my hair and I wonder if maybe I should have said something? Maybe people say things to distract the person from their own thoughts. But I still canít think of anything so we just continue to hug in silence.
DC is oversexed, he said, chuckling, but it was a joke I didnít get. Obviously, he meant that DC has too much sex, but as far as understanding what ďtoo muchĒ sex is, or how one might suffer from it, I was lost.
I smiled at him and played with my straw without speaking, since I wasnít sure how to respond to his assertion. Whatever ďoversexedĒ means I am pretty sure itís not a problem or that anyone suffers from it. I imagine he took my silence as flirtation because he put his hand on my knee beneath the bar.
When I was a baby my Grandmother had a cat named Harry; fat, but young at heart, still scurrying and bounding on occasion, just not as fast or as high.
Being the first grandchild and perfectly content with being held, carried and coddled, I saw no hurry in crawling. My father worried, naturally wanting his children to be athletes - until Harry intervened.
He befriended me, gently and unassuming, never hissing at my tail pulling or backwards petting, and then sat lazily in a sun patch, just out of reach, silently coaxing me to crawl over so we could nuzzle heads.
Every time I look up from my plate he is leaning forward a little over the edge of the table, looking straight into my eyes with just a hint of a smile at the corners of his lips ... as if my retelling of an incident by where I fell backwards out of my chair during a meeting is the most interesting, charming story he has ever heard. I wish he wouldnít look for so long, what if I have avocado on my face?
I typically donít date men with light hair and light eyes - but clearly thatís been a mistake.
Itís the modern womanís American dream, right? Trade the white picket fence for an uptown condo (with stainless steel appliances and hardwood floors, of course), and the chapel for a destination wedding on the beach, and youíll wear a sundress.
You donít need kids right away, youíll get a dog, because youíre so modern and you have career goals and youíre finishing your MBA, but I bet he still asks you to get him a beer and a sandwich every time you get off the couch and expects you to hand wash his wool sweaters because he isnít sure how.
Five words formed in her mind and lived there, quietly, for some time, held back and hidden by fear and uncertainty. Heís talking, or not talking, maybe crying, sheís unsure, itís all blurry because now the words are pulsing, huge and clouding her vision. Her heart stutters, then races, first with the possibility that she might say them and then with anticipation because yes, she will, and the roof might fall in or even the sky, but it doesnít matter because the words are coming, whether she likes it or not, gushing, red and hot like blood from a wound...
I sometimes imagine words are a finite resource and I wonder if mine are put to good use here. I suppose this exercise is therapeutic, but in a self-absorbed, vain sort of way, always writing about how I feel and what I see. Are words wasted, being used in this way?
I get frustrated when I write more than 100 for an entry on any given day and I have to go back and push delete, delete, delete and watch them all disappear and Iím afraid I wonít be able to make them appear again when I really need them.
She was pregnant once, when she was in college, too young to care for a child or even, really, for herself, so it was easy for her to imagine that when, at 19, her mother found out there was something growing (perhaps ďlivingĒ) in her body, that she felt scared and annoyed and maybe even resentful at that growing thing (person?), like, who are you to take up residency here, uninvited and unwanted?, like a houseguest that shows up a few days, or rather a few years, early, and doesnít even bring their own hairdryer.
Still, she couldnít forgive it.
One drink, she promises. She shows up late. I havenít seen her in months, but I can smell her before sheís barely through the door.
We canít keep our hands off each other. People are looking but I donít mind, at least not as much as Iíd mind my roommates looking, or her boyfriend, so this will do.
Outside, we kiss until I feel light-headed, maybe from the smokers or maybe from her hand squeezing my waist. If you were a boy I could take you home, I think, but if you were a boy I might not want to.
Itís slow and easy and full of heavy breathing and lazy, open-mouthed kisses. He looks at her a lot, but she has her eyes closed, mostly. He stays so close to her body, and she feels he might crush her but strong arms on either side of her head hold his weight off just enough.
Heís all fair skin, freckles and hazy gray-blue eyes and though she is smaller and prettier she feels she is somehow more masculine.
Later, thinking back on it, she will have a hard time believing it was her lying there. Sheíll remember in third person.
I didnít mean to ignore everyone, itís not like me, but he is so engaging. It was a perfect day - the sunset was fiery pink, offset by the amber fall leaves lining the Potomac. The boat was rocking more than usual and he insisted that drinking on a boat intoxicates you faster than drinking on land. I laughed and spilt my beer.
When everyone went inside we stayed on the deck and pretended to clean up so we could make-out. It was a really good kiss. The edge of the boat was right there - I should have just. jumped. off.
The tension was unbearable. The movie was three hours long and every time he put his hand on my leg I got tingles up my spine. Itís been a long, long time since I have denied myself from having a boy I like, and I had forgotten how tangible anticipation can be.
The movie ended at 1:30... on a school night. Somehow, before I could even make a decision, we had kissed our goodbyes and I was in a cab headed up 7th. I almost called and suggested he follow, but decided a little more build up definitely canít hurt anyone.
No one is home so I tell her to come over. Iím not sure what she tells her boyfriend and I donít ask. We watch CNN and a Tivoíd episode of Itís Always Sunny, not touching at all, and then suddenly touching everywhere, as fast as we can, like some race we canít win.
What if someone comes home? So I take her up the curvy staircase. She holds my finger like a child, trailing me. We donít turn on the lights but the streetlamp illuminates her profile beautifully as that mane of black curly hair falls over my hips.
The color a woman chooses for her hair says a lot about her, unless of course, she doesnít color it at all, in which case she is in an entirely separate category of women who donít color their hair about which one can assume something completely different.
Most women dye their hair blond, which communicates outgoingness, or at least the desire to be outgoing, and pretty, of course. Dyed red hair communicates rebellion and the desire to be viewed as a challenge.
But she dyed her hair jet black and hoped to communicate nothing but the unwillingness to reveal anything.
My phone never rings anymore. People just text me and my phone chirps all day with short weekend anecdotes, Monday morning greetings and inquiries about concerts and happy hours. When people used to call I could choose not to answer, thereby avoiding knowing about whatever it is they wanted or needed. But with a text there is no choice; it just appears there, glaring at me with big, boxy font, sometimes interrupting me mid-sentence like an ill-mannered child, or nagging me to read it with its white hot urgent glow and blinking light from the other side of my desk.
Sometimes he answers my anecdotes and assertions with silence and slightly squinted eyes and tilted head, still contemplating what Iíve said, not feeling the need to fill the silence. I fight the urge to step in an fill it myself. Eventually he speaks, and his words are never hasty or wasted - theyíre all carefully chosen and fully believed.
When he touches me itís soft but deliberate - never with a lazy, flitting hand, or with idle fingers absently mindedly wandering over skin, but always with a destination and a purpose, which he fully achieves. His quiet self-assuredness is alarming, perhaps unnerving.
She calls at 10:00am. Her boyfriend is away. Come over and spend the day with me, she says, Iíll make you breakfast.
She opens the door and kisses me and the smells are overwhelming; her hair, her perfume, her lip gloss, vanilla candles - I feel dizzy and think about turning around. How can I take all this? Itís too much her, she is smothering me.
She is cooking, talking about her boyfriendís bad habits. I block it out and concentrate on her curly hair bouncing as she flits around the kitchen making runny eggs and burnt toast we donít eat.
My phone is beeping somewhere. I imagine it must be noon and Iíve likely received two or three texts. In his living room a wall of floor to ceiling glass floods the room with early afternoon light. The new high-rise across the street was foreclosed on and stands empty, so I slink around naked, too high up to be seen from the street.
My phone says 1:30pm. Texts request morning appointments - coffee? brunch? Eastern Market? I put my phone on silent and go to the window to take in the street and the sun before crawling back into his bed.
It came on fast. In the fitting room the nausea became overwhelming and the cold sweat broke out on the small of my back. In a near panic I threw my purchases over the door at Sarah and stumbled to the bathroom. I remember my knees on the cold floor, the first fits of vomiting, and fighting the black spots swimming before my eyes.
Waking up with a dirty, metallic taste in my mouth. The bathroom floor hurts but I canít move. The paramedics come in and Iím losing consciousness again as they wheel my stretcher through the housewares aisle.
Her name is Sally, or Sue or Janie or something else so generic and sweet that it isnít either. She wears lace (somehow in a way thatís not overly feminine) and vintage dresses from consignment shops on which she spent far more than youíd expect.
She likes black, opaque tights and shoes with modest heels and ankle straps that might be from the 50's. She folds all her summer skirts, meticulously, on the first day of Fall, and stores them in a cedar chest.
She doesnít have tennis shoes, but if she did they would be plain, worn, retro-looking Asics.
One day she came home from work and there was a stranger wearing an old-fashioned three piece suit on her window bench. He sat upright, unnaturally so, and wore a 50's-style wool hat. Sometimes he held a Scotch, sometimes a pipe, but never smoked in front of her.
She ignored him, assuming heíd go away, but for two weeks he stayed, always sipping or not smoking. She began dressing in the closet out of modesty, and perhaps respect, since heís been so polite.
Heís gone now, but she still changes in the closet, just in case he comes back someday.
We had a lazy afternoon together, eating a late breakfast and then talking until we fell asleep, entwined, on his couch. I left around 5:00, the turkey would be carved at 5:30. I walked by Target en route. People had already started lining up with summer lawn chairs that looked out of place next to bundled up teenagers in hats and gloves. I closed my eyes and recalled the comfy nook between his arm and the couch and anticipated the warmth of friends and wine. I have a hard time imagining a bargain that could drag me away from either.
His name always alludes me, but Iíve met him before. Heís even taller than I remember. Later, when heís laying beneath me, naked and stretched taut, Iíll also realize heís thinner than I remembered, but those piercing blue eyes below the shaggy, jet black hair make up for a lot of short-comings.
I think I served him leftover pumpkin pie before we went upstairs. Itís mostly a fumbling, clumsy, drunken blur but I do remember those eyes, like icicles that might fall from the roof at any moment, you know they wonít hurt you but they look like they could...
On mile 2 everything falls into place. The sidewalk opens up near the Georgia Ave metro. The road is wider here and the space between the buildings lets the sun bleach the ghetto grime. There is a new high-rise on the corner, all glass and metal, and I feel as strong and tall as it stands.
Slowly, the road narrows again and the houses are low and small and the trees hang over the sidewalk and everything is quiet and shady again. I feel trapped even as I run, and alone on these neighborhood streets. Iíll stick to the city.
I leave him but my thoughts do not. Unsure of my feelings for him but sure there is something about him the draws me towards him, perhaps reluctantly.
On the metro my thoughts are interrupted when she calls and I know she wants to see me, but I am drained and the thought of even kissing her is exhausting. By the time I reach the top of the escalator it is a calm dusk. I need a shower. I need silence. I need to be untouched and still.
I canít move towards either if I am constantly moving towards both.
The sun wakes her but she doesnít open her eyes. Down the hall a door shuts and the shower is turned on. She knows the floor will be cold if she allows her feet to touch it and the distance between her bed and the bathroom suddenly seems too far. She pulls the comforter tight over her warm nakedness.
Outside a car honks. Donít they know people live here? Must they honk so early?
I should get up, she thinks, I should get up and to work early.
So begins every morning. And she will arrive no earlier than 8:53.
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