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“I never thought something like this would happen to me,” the burn victim says to the talk show audience from beneath the Ace-bandage-like mask she must wear 23 hours every day, along with a full-body bandage that keeps her impossibly upright in her chair. Her sentiment is echoed by the pre-teen whose legs were amputated by a train and the boy whose head got in the way of gunfire, rendering half of his brain useless.
I don’t want to hear this. I want them to say, “I always knew something like this would happen to me.” That way I’m safe.
Dear Older, Respectable-Looking Lady on Sixth Avenue:
Thank you for being on the sidewalk at the same time as I as we passed the obnoxiously long line-up of lunching construction workers, backs against the building, asses parked on the ground, so their eyes could hungrily feast on passing asses. Thank you, further, for being on the side closer to them, and for strolling at the same pace as I, thus serving as an unwitting barrier and shield from the leers I am cocky enough to think I not only warrant but would surely have received in your absence.
Gary promises Lila that once they cross the state line, he won’t be such a colossal douchebag. “In fact,” he says, almost daring to point a finger at her, “I bet that the second we’re in Ohio, I’ll be a completely different person. You’ll see. I won’t even have to see a sign. It’ll just HAPPEN.”
Lila rolls her eyes. She’s heard this how many times before? His douchebaggery has never known boundaries. Last year, for instance, he was still a douche when passing into Wyoming from Colorado. He’d even be one crossing an ocean, all the way to Hawaii.
I have the potential for incredible bimbosity, and I frequently like to indulge the components that conspire to instill this in me. My babble over high-heel shoes would put Carrie Bradshaw to absolute shame. However, my indulgence in the actual articles is not as financially worrisome. I drool over the sight, or mere smell, of chocolate, and at times, if deprived for long enough, the actual taste is enough to send me into close-eyed ecstasy. However, I’ll never call myself a “chocoholic”, call it “sinful”, or wear a T-shirt declaring my confection affection. My bimbosity, after all, has its limits.
“That’s it,” Larry says. “I’m taking the bullshit by the horns, as you say, Dr. J! This Tuesday, I’m gonna be ‘that guy’. And I have you to thank!”
I tell him I’d accept the thanks if only I deserved it. He’s done all the real work, I say, choking on the platitude. I’m just here to guide him toward being “that guy” people notice, rather than blending in with the woodwork and competing with beige paint for attention – and losing.
His big attention-getting step? Wearing brown loafers to work rather than black oxfords. Oh, that guy! What a maverick!
Sometimes the chill doesn’t just glide up the spine to the back of the neck. Sometimes it reaches into the viscera, grabs a fistful of unsuspecting pancreas, and simultaneously tickles, wrings, and flaps it with frightful purpose. As if your body knows that if only you *had* gone out to buy that soda you’d craved earlier, you would’ve been standing just off the curb, minding your own business, when a speeding truck came out of nowhere, piled into you, and left you jangled and mangled somewhere down the road. So now you wonder, has tragedy been delayed or completely nullified?
She’s already paid but remains in front of the cashier, who’s already forgotten her and is looking toward me so we can commence my transaction: cat food and a six-pack of diet cream soda. All in all, a 30-second deal: Zim zam zoom, thank you thank you, bye. But instead, this fussy matron’s taken root, peering into her plastic bag, sniffing disapproval.
“I need a sturdier bag,” she says, removing its sole occupant – a wedge of cellophane-wrapped cheese half the size of her hand. “How am I supposed to carry heavy cheese home like this?”
“In your ASS,” I mumble.
Yes, my friend, my cat is fat, but the last time I checked, your husband was, too, wasn’t he? And with the ability to make rational judgments about how much food to eat? And with far wider access to a variety of exercise options, including membership to a gym, than that afforded to my cat?
My cat eats “lite” food instead of heavier stuff and bits of bonito flakes instead of fattier treats. But last time I looked, your husband was scarfing down pizza and candy when he knows better.
Plus, a furry belly is only cute on a cat.
When at the gym, please refrain from occupying a bench next to me and doing the same exercise that you see I’ve already been doing. And if, for some reason, you are compelled to do it anyway, despite the feverish telephatic commands I send to you (how can you not smell or feel your brain searing from the intensity?), kindly make sure that the rhythm of your “reps” is not in perfect sync with mine, so it does not appear as if we are doing the weightlifting equivalent of nancy-prancy water ballet or are human cogs in a man-powered machine.
At first, when you shouted “Congratulations!” when I left feedback for a transaction, I smirked at your enthusiasm and pep rally spirit. After all, typing a few words into a little box requires about as much effort and skill as popping open a can of Diet Coke. But has The Coca-Cola Company ever found it necessary to heap on the praise? Please. As if!
The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized you are not the one to chastise. It’s the ingrates at Coca-Cola. How dare they not do backflips over my accomplishment?
I’m on a bench outside a museum somewhere in Athens, hunched over yet another bag of pistachios. I’ve eaten more pistachios in the three weeks of this vacation than in the rest of my life, combined. But I’m still not sick of them. In fact, I’m more interested in being on this bench, in the cool late October sunshine, jostling pistachios in a big bag, licking the salt from their grinning mouths before cracking them open with my bottom teeth, than I am in anything inside the museum that we’ve spent tons of time trekking through the city to find.
Margot flops the item on the counter and says, “I’d like to return this. When I got home I realized I didn’t need two of them, so I’m bringing one back.”
The shop girl rings it up and hands her the receipt. Margot turns to leave, head bent over it, and quickly turns back, holding up an index finger, “Whoa. Wait. You only gave me back half what I paid.”
“It was a buy one/get one deal,” the girl says. “What’s the problem?”
“I’m returning the one that was full-price,” Margot says. “I still have the free one at home.”
If I needed proof, years after defecting from it, that I’d outgrown Philadelphia, my four-day interlude there last week was it. Although it's much improved thanks to the new restaurants, cafes, and shops that sprouted up since I left, it still feels fake, like a "tween" desperately throwing on its big sister's clothing and trying to pass itself off as her when her blind date comes to the door to pick her up. Now, even more than when I lived there, my stride was too long and fast. I was moving top speed in a city built for slow motion.
We both have the same little electronic device on which we play a variety of “brain teaser” games. Occasionally he asks how I’ve been scoring. And always, he doesn’t tell me how he scored until I’ve told him how I did.
“Eighteen out of 30,” I say, for example. “Not too terrible, but I know I can do better.”
“Ahhh, I got 22,” he says.
“I don’t like that game as much as Sudoku. Last night I did one in three minutes minutes,” I say.
“This afternoon I did one in two and a half!” he says.
But of course!
I knew it was bound to happen. With a terrible lack of vices in our regular life, I knew something was gonna hafta give on our weekend jaunt to Vermont. Several hours in an outlet-intensive town had the potential for disaster, but somehow we avoided overindulgence. However, once we scanned the menu at the adorable silvery diner we stumbled upon and realized our veganism couldn’t really be accommodated, we knew it would be the site of debauchery.
Home fries and onion rings would’ve sufficed. But buttermilk pancakes, a grilled cheese sandwich, and an enormous dish of macaroni and cheese? Ohhh!
I didn’t need to see the surprisingly large clump of flesh between his thighs as he stretched on the mats. Didn’t need to see his face perilously close to his own flesh-clump, thanks to the bizarre position in which he pretzeled himself. Didn’t need to realize that underneath the ever-present black track suit and white socks and stunning black Crocs (yes, Crocs at the gym) and never-sweated-on towel draped around his scrawny, turtle-pokey neck, there roosts a body part that apparently isn’t proportionate to the rest of his underdeveloped form. Thanks for serving me my morning cup of bile, fucker.
Two rotund throat-clearing, hack-coughing guys alight from the bus from different doors, and for about half a beat, they wobble in place, face to face, before one of them lurches around so he can lumber down Broadway in the same direction as his near-doppelganger.
Moments later, two scrawny-like-Rick-Ocasek guys ostrich-run for a different bus that, fortunately for them, has just been detained by a red light. These two stand face to face, panting, before boarding.
Later today I expect a pair of very medium-size blokes to congregate in a fashion that involves a bus. And then the world can implode.
Dear jaunty, apple-munchin’ guy loping down the street on your way to the office:
The doctor’s not the only one you’ll keep away with your painfully studied casual approach to breakfast-on-the-go. You’ll keep the ladies away, too, with the mindless awful jawful and the loud, crisp crunches, the holier-than-thou-who-eat-bagels-and-doughnuts facial expression complete with bored eyebrow raise, and the stride teetering somewhere between arrogance and contrived awww-shucks-ness.
As I pass you, I hear every tooth pressing through the apple’s peel, and I want to smack your cheek with enough force that it will compete with the apple for redness.
If you want to turn me off and for me to tune you out, all you have to do is start talking about the really cool shit that some dimwit or another posted on YouTube. If you want me to delete your email without reading it, make sure it includes not much more than a link to someone’s hilaaaaaarious hijinks memorialized on YouTube.
What makes you think I’m going to think that four minutes and 22 seconds of your round-headed, lopsided baby gurgle-drooling every time you blow spit and air into a kazoo isn’t a colossal waste of my time?
The “American” tourists are the ones with the white tits. Those who, before this jaunt to the Greek islands, maintained the propriety that had been started the very moment they were old enough to have something to “hide”, and on whose chests remain vestiges of past tan-lines. I never sunbathed long enough to earn them, so when I remove my bikini top, not wanting to be considered a prude “American”, I fit right in with those who never felt they had to hide. Still, as I walk to the water’s edge, I wonder if anyone knows I really want to.
“I’ve never really had a desire to own a grandfather clock,” he says.
I'm greatly amused. Owning a grandfather clock doesn’t strike me as an event that a person would ever give much thought to. The way he says it reminds me of someone saying, “When I was little, I always dreamed of being an astronaut or Greg Brady!”
Perhaps I’m mistaken, though. Maybe somewhere in a little town that no one’s ever heard of, a wide-eyed little boy, covers pulled up to his chin, lies awake at night daydreaming of the glorious day he’ll finally own a grandfather clock.
Like it or not (my vote: not), I have to pass my landlord and my floor neighbor on my way to the front door to sign for a package. They’re engaged in a conversation in which I have no interest. I just want to dart by, anonymously and unheralded. Do what I've gotta do and flit, delightfully bra-free, back into the silence and comfort of my cave.
“Jodi! Hello!” my landlord says. “Have you met your neighbor, D___?”
I meet my neighbor, D____.
All I think is, “Chain-smoker.”
And he thinks, “Ahh, so
is the loud, nasty slut.”
Try as I might, I can’t get back to my apartment quickly enough to avoid being seen by Amanda, who, as always, is accompanied by her toddler son, who, as always, is drool-babbling something unintelligible even for a two-year-old. She’s indulges his blather, and for some reason I’m compelled to say, "Is that so, Robert?" (I have never heard Amanda refer to him with a diminutive. I feel like telling her that unless and until he can form coherent sentences, I will have to call him "Bobby".)
"He’s getting so big!" I say.
Translation: "This is not a cute kid."
I know it’s Poppop from the moment it parks itself smack-dab in the center of a fresh Google page. “Hello, Poppop!” I say to the enormous fly, who then puts on quite a show of langorous leg-cleaning befitting a man-fly of his standing.
This is the same fly that’s been buzzing around for days. Who rooted himself to the mirror and watched me “do” my hair. Who fussed around my head while I was grinding coffee beans.
Several days later he’s gone, and I wonder, what was he trying to tell me? Or was he just there to say hello?
“I’ve waited 32 years for this,” the bride says to the man who, in three minutes, will be her husband. Everyone in the church smiles, some mindlessly prefabricated because this is what’s done at weddings, and others genuine because they’ve been weaned on Hallmark. Meanwhile I roll my eyes beneath the index finger and thumb that pretend to rub an itch there, and think, “You just turned 32 last month. You haven’t been waiting since you were a month old. You probably started daydreaming about this when you were eight, like all other good girls in your suburban development. Please.”
You’d think that just because today is my birthday, I’d be begging you to send me email (after the fact, of course, because the day will have already passed by the time this entry is published) wishing me the hap hap happiest. You’d think I’d be begging you to tell me I don’t look a day over however old you think I want you to think I am. You’d think I’d be begging you to send me thick, fudgy (not too cake-like), slightly warm yet firm brownies (with walnuts) a la mode (soy ice cream, please). And you’d be right!
Within seconds of plopping into an aisle-facing seat, she’s fast-flipping through her Post. The “Page Six” magazine flops out, and she stuffs it into her totebag. This she’ll devour at lunch. For now, she feeds her hunger for celebrity gossip, reading with lips more as much as eyes. I’m somewhat interested in knowing who the celebrity is on the exposed page, wearing a hideous plaid cape, so I’m thrilled when she leaves the paper behind. I wait until she’s off the bus before reaching for it, because I’m not sure of the protocol. Would I have had to thank her?
This morning, like every other, Marla hoists each of her long, limp tits into the hand-sewn bra-sling that she’s found is the only solution to even marginally containing them. She heaves a sigh with each heavy handful, and when everything’s in place, she says, badly impersonating Porky Pig, “Well, tit’s all folks!” and laughs not only like she’s never heard it before, but like she’s not the one who’s been saying it every morning for the past 20 years.
This morning, unlike any other, however, mid-Porky Pig, she stops abruptly, realizing, silently, “No one HOT will EVER suck these things!”
The only other time I went to Vermont to ogle foliage was in 1983, with my then-boyfriend, R. We lasted only one night at the bed and breakfast, due, in great part, to my unwillingness to participate when R assumed an air as pompous as a sweater tied around his shoulders, actually posing with one foot up on the hearth of the flagstone fireplace, a stance that suggested he should be smoking a pipe, while conversing with some Republican type about something I knew he knew nothing about but which he was adamant to prove to this schmuck he did.
“So what if it rains? We’re in Paris! Sure, we’ll be wet, but come on, we’ll be wet in Paris!”
I think I actually believed my own claptrap. That, as we headed out that morning for a full day of aimless wandering through the Right Bank, no rhyme or reason among the arrondissements, the mocking French sky dripping its first drips chastising us for not toting umbrellas, I actually wouldn’t have a problem being seen in this stylish city with a decidedly unstylish head of soaked frizz plastered to my scalp.
I quickly realize that I am full of merde.
My attempt at slicing a mango for a snack this morning could best be described as “mangling”. I amused myself mildly by thinking “mango-ling” as my knife sawed instead of slid through its smooth flesh. I saw rather than slide because it’s when I’m trying to be delicate that I often injure myself.
As the mango messed my hands, I was reminded of a certain type of person I can’t stand: Those who would never put their hands in fruit-slop, who squirm when the different foods on their plate touch. I think, “Wow, you must be really exciting in bed.”
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