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The conversation continued unabated for hours. Finally, I blurted, "Do you have a girlfriend?" He said "Sort of," and told me about how they were breaking up and how they were incompatible and blahblahblah. I lobbed back my never-fail line (trade secret) and in seconds we were groping on the porch like pimply teens. Pressed up against my car, the girlfriend came up again. I suggested we quit while we're slightly ahead and sent him off, a big little boy on his bike. Started the car, tasted him on my lips and changed my mind. He was already pedaling back.
The thought of fighting the crowd to see the show was unappealing; later, I did venture back there, where the collective body heat rose visibly, as if from a toaster. I felt sexy mopping my upper lip, so I stopped to say hello and goodbye to a former boy-friend (two words), the kind of boy-friend that looks like a duck, talks like a duck, acts like a duck, but says he doesn't think of you as another duck. He quacked at me for a few minutes, searching my face for a sign of something. Forgiveness? Interest? Ducks have no balls.
Even aside from September 11 (as if anything can be aside from it), I've been feeling rather anti-materialistic for months. Perhaps I've become frugal, but I feel like a fool buying unnecessary things. My family doesn't appear to share the sentiment. They've sent me Christmas lists. Shopping from a list, to me, destroys whatever good lies in gift-giving. But shopping from a list that's primarily composed of gift certificates? Downright Grinchy. I've only partly acquiesced: one from the list, one from me. Anyway, I've already gotten my present -- Mom has agreed to Christmas Eve in New York City.
He said to come over after six. "Land of the Lost" was on the television; a few of the lads were around. After a minute of the Sleestacks, I gave him the eye. He said he didn't know if he could get it tonight. My face fell. "I just need your money," he said, gently. I handed him sixty bucks; he lit a bowl. We talked about Teletubbies: "If all you can do is drool, this is the show for you." Soon, with no prospect of leaving with a bag, I split. I didn't want to waste a good high.
I never had any computer instruction until today. I'm taking an introductory Fireworks class at WestLake downtown -- a class in which I am the sole student. The instructor is younger than me, so our interaction is jovial, like we're in detention. It feels good to learn something new, as it always does, and it's fun to be "in school" again. I sometimes get wistful about the fact that a, I went to art school so I never really "cracked the books," and, b, I was such a slacker in college I wouldn't have bothered had there been any book-cracking.
Another battle one, it feels like. I got a card today that read "Party till people avoid you," and thought, boy, there's something I can do. (I ought to do that with telemarketers. Pretend I'm blind drunk.) A birthday is a goddamn victory party, baby, and if I've learned anything thus far, it's that though the fight may get ugly, the spoils are getting better. I'm building an arsenal, not to protect myself but to preserve what I know is righteous and true. Being at war just reminds me I'm alive. And ready. It doesn't matter who avoids me. Salut!
I am thirty-six today. By the time she was my age, my mother had a going-on-17-year-old daughter (me) and a 10-year-old son. Instead of being consumed with college applications, curfews, concussions and baseball practice like she was, I am contrarily single and fancy-free. That is, I am free to fancy a myriad of possibilities. Everything is choice. Everything is self. If a decision is made entirely by the self, does it exist? Can it, if it is not to be judged objectively as "right" or "wrong?" It's damned overwhelming is what it is. Being fancy-free is no picnic. Thanks, Mom.
Did you think this would be about someone other than me? Sorry! It's all me, all the time, I'm afraid. I'm not one for making up stories. Everything I write is a direct rip-off of life experience, hearsay or previously published material. If I spin a good yarn, it's only because it actually happened and I guess I'm pretty observant. (Also, it gets better every time I tell it.) If I relate an anecdote about someone else, I'm merely gussying up that someone else's facts. And if something I write reminds you of something, you're right. I copied it. Sorry!
I have a problem interpreting certain male body language. Say you're at the bar. It's late, so everyone's half in the bag, if not well in it. You're milling about and you notice a guy gaping at you. Not slick, practiced cruising -- a watery, nearly slack-jawed stare. Not once -- several times. His girlfriend is somewhere in the bar. This makes you uncomfortable and a little turned on. Is the guy indicating that he is a, lost in the sauce; b, horny; c, developmentally disabled; d, on the outs with his old lady; or e, all of the above?
The co-worker with whom I've forged a familial bond is a gangly 24-year-old named Patrick. He's got pierced stuff, spiky hair with bleached tips, a wallet chain, clothes several sizes too big. Seen this guy, right? Did you know he's a Britney Spears fan? And Madonna? J-Lo too? He stops at my door ten times a day. It never pertains to work. He just comes by to crack me up, show me something, give me something. Patrick has decorated my cubicle. It's like a refrigerator covered with my kid's drawings. We agree on almost nothing, but it's fun to laugh.
With nothing on his thick, fishy body but a worn towel, he drips over to the CD player. He's already pumped; he's got two cases of Keystone in the fridge and Joe and the girls are coming over. Tonight he might finally get his moist fingers on a bra, which means tomorrow he might not have to jerk himself off for a change. He presses play and starts air-bass-playing with a simian vigor. Ba-duh-duh-duh-duh-dum dum, ba-duh-duh-duh-duh-dum. The towel drops off, so he plays with his dick. He sings to his reflection, dick in hand. "Ow! Give it to me, baby!"
I'm a Supertramp fan. Are those crickets? Anyway, I was initially delighted that the Gap chose "Give a Little Bit" for its holiday campaign. And, with the exception of Shaggy and that asshole from the Goo Goo Dolls, I was pleased with the pimpy roster of singing shills. But, tonight, I found myself not singing along. I thought, as the final frame -- "Give your gift" -- came up: That is just bloody insensitive hubris. It's smarmy, and it trades on the world's recent crash course in "charity." So, Noel means No Gap. Do it for Supertramp. Are those crickets?
Jim Hayes is sitting here not selling me a car because he's been "blackballed" by the Environmental Protection Agency. Branded a "heretic" by Carol Browner under Clinton, he was effectively banned from his profession, and now sells Saturns in Dormont. The chemical poisoning that left his head permanently numb. The FBI shakedown (re: the Olympics bombing) and subsequent search and seizure. The never-aired interview on "Moneyline." The tete-a-tetes with Newt Gingrich and Senators Richard Shelby and Arlen Specter. Need I mention Vietnam? The guy isn't selling me a car. Jim Hayes is sitting here selling me a good fucking story.
Alone. Along. Alive. Life. Light. Blight. Blink. Eye. Wide. Why? Ever? Over? When? Then. There. They. We. Will. Shall. Should. Shoulder. Shrug. Hug. Hold. Give. Get. Let. Learn. Leave. Return. Reunite. Share. Sing. Song. Sound. Sense. Feel. Know. Be. Believe. Behave. Have. Haven't. Didn't. Done. Again. Begin. Again. Undone. Unsaid. Regret. Remorse. Understood. Unconditional. Rebuild. Renew. New. Old. Together. Belong. Beloved. Loved. Love. Live. Seek. See. Touch. Tease. Whisper. Kiss. Consummate. Commit. Adore. Admire. Affection. Connection. Conciliate. Celebrate. Cherish. Honor. Respect. Pride. Principles. Simple. Surrender. Share. Sleep. Spoon. Dream. Wake. Discover. Rejoice. You. Together. One. Not. Alone. All. One. Belong.
The Dutch began producing brandy -- from "brandewijn," or "burnt wine" -- for export in the early16th century. Spanish monks brought brandy to the New World, and soon began producing it in California. Brandy is a distillate of grape wine; essentially it is "boiled down" wine, much like a balsamic vinegar reduction. Most brandies are bottled at 80 proof. Brandy is categorized using initials: C for cognac, E for extra, F for fine, O for old, P for pale, S means special, and V for very special. VSOP, then, means "very special old pale," which means it is darn tooting brandy.
Not long ago, I was earning nearly twice the salary I earn now. Never mind that I'm happier today -- the plain truth just hit me in the doorway of a WalMart. It was "Close Encounters of the Hillbilly Kind," an abject picture show of the bewildered and screeching, adrift in a sea of marked-down, mishandled merchandise. I instantly realized that Christmas shopping this year was going to be acutely, malodorously humbling. But I kept telling myself "I'm thankful for what I have," again and again, put my head down and got a lot of Christmasy shit for seventy bucks.
For a long time now, I've been involved with 25-year-olds. I'm like Wooderson: "I keep gettin' older, and they just stay the same age." But I've noticed that today's 25-year-old guy is nothing like the 25-year-old guy of ten years ago. He's scared. He's so scared he's creating petty problems and witless situations to divert his attention. He's so scared he can't keep an erection. But he's gotten really good at talking and being sensitive -- and isn't that what we bitches want? No. Fuck, no. Sleep with me, don't call me, and please don't worry about breaking my heart.
"Thursday, which is Good Friday, we're having a Father's Day party for mother's only. Admission is free, pay at the door, pull out a chair and sit on the floor. Late one night in the middle of the day, two dead soldiers got up to fight. Back to back they faced each other, pulled out their swords and shot one another. A deaf policeman heard the noise, got up and shot the twice-dead boys. If you don't believe me, ask the blind man who saw it all, through a knothole in a wooden brick wall." (No, I didn't write it.)
I can't stop fantasizing about two people. I am in no position to be fantasizing about either of them; hence, the fantasizing. As soon as my eyes open, my thoughts invariably drift to him (or him), inventing heartbreakingly romantic events which both impel and thwart our communion. I've always worried that this intensely detailed daydreaming would preclude the imagined events from actually occurring. But since I'll never know, I'll go on imagining the ardent looks between us, how we'll steal a first perfect kiss, thinking with our hearts and not our heads, and how we'll just know and won't care.
Remember when a guy with a guitar could convince you of anything? It didn't matter if what he was selling wasn't on your shopping list, because he was in charge, wooing you with his bravado, his falsetto, his fat leads. If he sang, he sang about how bad a girl treated him (he still got shit from girls, because he was that kind of rock star). He didn't preach, he didn't plead and he didn't hide behind his fretboard. He screamed, he growled, he allured; his fingers were hummingbirds. He made you want to love him, know him, be him.
A prosaic experiment in tense: "I shut down my weblog tonight, for the holidays. For a number of reasons, I decide to leave my trusty laptop at home while I'm in Sleepy Hollow; the most petty of them being I can't be bothered with disconnecting the DSL and going back to dial-up. I fool myself I'm going to write my one-hundred words each day on Mom's PC. (I do fool myself. I'm writing this at home a week later.) I think about whether or not I will miss it. (I don't. I still haven't reopened my weblog.)" That's a hundred.
The last time I was in love with the person I was sleeping with encompassed, or was encompassed by, a month-and-a-half-long bender. It was five years ago, a page in a diary plastered with rock & roll stickers. Jimmy and I loved Wild Turkey, music, laughter and fucking. We talked about marriage; I guess only I meant it. When he dumped me, we were sober, sitting at the Savoy Diner, much too fluorescent for the ensuing scene of extreme pathos. He said, "I wish I met you five years from now." I cried shamelessly. I haven't touched bourbon since then.
Who is my father? He's here with me, but I have no idea what he thinks or why he seems so angry. I remember a buddy of his telling me that my father was so proud, that he talked me up often. I remember my father and I being drunk at a party and him hugging me, telling me I was a good kid. I remember him telling me he was leaving my mother, before he told anyone. I remember being able to make him laugh. How can my father be this man, sitting here frowning, barely looking at me?
I looked at my reflection in the window, like I had so many times on that train. Something about the pitch of the windowpane reflected something approximating my "good side." The train surged through tiny tunnels, pitch black, into the glints of streetlights and bridges on the river, and then back, creeping toward the last stop, into the bowels of the city, the smell like dry cleaning, piss and motor oil, the air starchy and close with anticipation. Once upstairs, I looked around and then up, not caring if I looked the rube. The ceiling read, "Season's Greetings from NYC."
This Christmas was my first with no grandparents. Nana was the last to go, at age 93. Before she went to the home, I interviewed her. "When I met Nero, he had on a striped suit, striped tie and striped shirt; ‘My god, look at that,' I thought. ‘You're a good dancer,' he said, and held me close. At the dance marathon at the Garden a few months later, he asked me, ‘Supposing you and I get together.' So I moved in. I'd had a miserable life until then. Nero made me stop looking for what I thought I needed."
My entire family is "shacked up with Irish"; that is, my mother, father and brother are in long-term relationships (or, in my brother's case, wedded bliss) with people named Walsh, Connelly and Brearton. We've got some Irish blood, from my paternal grandmother. But her maiden name was Rega; she was Italian, I had always thought. (This never quite fit -- she possessed neither a sense of "la dolce vita" nor culinary skills.) Late in life, she confessed that she was a Mick named Regan whose family had fled to Italy when the war started. Always a story with my folks!
You think about him until you can't remember how he looks. You can see his glasses, maybe an eye, or his crooked teeth, or the cowlick at the crown of his head, but all of it together eludes you. Photographs are useless; they look like someone who looks like him. So you think in three dimensions -- him smiling when he sees you, swigging a beer, banging on his drums. When at last you picture him, it's unexpected, fleeting, like a single frame in a film. You get stuck on that image, and it becomes as useless as a photograph.
A list of words from randomly selected pages of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, which I mean to use in conversation or, in some cases, Scrabble: "apothegm" (a terse, witty, instructive saying), "confute" (to prove to be wrong or in error), "fantod" (a state of nervous irritability), "georgic" (of or relating to rural or agricultural life), "jim-jams" (the jitters; delirium tremens), "longeur" (a tedious passage in a work of literature or performing art), "oneiric" (of or relating to dreams), "priapic" (of, relating to, or resembling a phallus), "sericious" (silky), "toper" (a chronic drinker) and "weal" (prosperity; happiness).
Like Freddie Mercury sang, I'm in love with my car. I'd never experienced automobilist pride until now. Cars always humbled me: I totalled my first, left my second idle for months till it was finally stolen, gave away my third and just turned in my fourth, a leased economy sedan. Now, I've got a 2002 sport coupe. It's like a big flaming dick; a gleaming orange rocket; a cayenne pepper with wheels and a 124-horsepower, dual overhead cam, 16-valve engine. It's fast and I like speed. It's sexy and I like sex. Now, I am an unstoppable, irresistible, lead-footed pimp.
The population of Pittsburgh has steadily declined since 1990. Ask anyone who's never been here to describe it and they'll say "steel mills and hillbillies." But Pittsburgh is neither of those (steel died two decades ago and the hillbillies are an hour west, in West Virginia) and, though Pittsburghers may be growing weary of espousing our city's "livability" -- stunning topography; ninety ethnically diverse neighborhoods; booming high-tech and healthcare industries; hometown pride and Midwestern hospitality; and a flourishing arts scene -- and may only dream of a Seattle-like population infusion, that doesn't keep us from sweeping off the welcome mat.
I woke up this morning with eyelids of lead. The clock told me I slept seven hours. It felt like seven minutes. When the projectile sneezing started, I recognized an old friend, my annual winter cold. So, armed with Dayquil and Kleenex, I stayed at home and watched the ball drop on MTV. I finally tired of the phrase, "New Yorkers are resilient." Resilient enough to bounce back from frostbite, I hope. At midnight, I felt both relief and ineluctable sadness, shed what I hope will be my last tear over September 11 and went upstairs to hug my pillow.
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