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The only light in the wooded area comes from Keith's headlights as we inch forward to find the ideal spot for him to have his long-haired, teenage-mustached way with me. Our parents' houses are out of the question. But his hatchback? Hoo, yeah, now we're talkin' sexy.
But Keith isn't. Talkin' sexy, that is. No, instead he's telling me about some guy who was found hanging from a tree out here. I'm convinced he's the murderer. I figure I'd better "do it" with him so I won't be his next victim. But why do I think that will save me?
Keith and his mustache are making out with me like mad in the back of the hatchback, on the edge of the darkest forest that's ever been privy to a man murdered by hanging. My eyes are closed, though, so any dead-guy feet swinging mere inches from the back window won't find an audience in me.
A policeman parks a few feet away, waves his nosy flashlight through the windows, and asks Keith to step outside. Keith, displaying gentlemanliness way beyond his 18 years, makes sure to not only pull on his pants first but to zip up as well.
I don't know how much the policeman saw on his first round of flashlighting. I scramble to hide underneath whatever's in the back of the car, so he won't be able to leer at more if he decides to re-invade the space. Perverted thrill-seeker, I seethe. He'll probably force me out of the car, wrapped up like this.
Very little sound, other than Keith's and the cop's muffled voices, penetrate my cocoon.
"Just shout out if you're okay!" the policeman says.
"I'm okay!" I shout, imaginging that he thought maybe I'd been chopped into small pieces for relatively easy disposal.
I wake up to an alarm clock that tells me time I cannot read. It's not that I'm illiterate, it's that I'm unable to see it. And it's not that I'm unable to see it because it's hidden beneath a stack of detritus that I'm too lazy to properly store.
It's that I'm blind. Can't see. Stevie Wonder blind. Ray Charles blind. Double duty double Dutch double trouble double motherfuckin' blind. Blind as a bat. As the three mice. Dark glasses blind. Guide dog blind. White-tipped cane blind. Tin-cup hand out blind. Let-me-sell-you-pencils blind. You know what I'm talking about.
Casey, my guide of three years, goes to the alarm clock and pushes the button with his paw. He does so without, well, pause, almost every morning. He's a good dog. A German Shepherd. Huge. And so damned smart that I swear he knows stuff about me that nobody else does. Stuff I've never admitted aloud. I think he can read my mind.
Casey does stuff I can't do for myself. But try as we might, neither of us can make a cup of coffee even close to decent. Which is why we find ourselves here at the local café.
I think the barrista's ripped me off for a few cents. I'm stewing about it, trying to count the change with my hands, but it's cold in the café, and my hands are numb. I don't wear gloves because I can't feel Casey's lead if I wear them. I lay my palm out flat for Casey to check it out.
"She gave you too much change," he says, and explains the math, his mouth next to my ear.
"She also gave me a free almond biscotti, didn't she?"
Casey pulls his face away and holds his breath.
"Whoops," he says.
Hey, self-centered superstars and socialites and all other manner of cellphone-addicted nincompoops dragging your poor dogs on leashes without even the slightest regard for the fact that these walks you take him on are supposed to be for his benefit, for the purpose of his relief and exercise, his respite:
Get off the fucking phone already. Pay attention to your dog. Whatever you have to say on the phone, that earth-shattering OMG wisdom you’re either imparting or receiving, that diverts your pea-brain from the really difficult chore of tending to your dog’s needs in favor of your own, can wait.
Moments after retiring the old shower curtain liner this afternoon, I remove the three round magnets from its hem, which had held the liner in place against this bathtub and the bathtub in the apartment before this one. The surgery, performed with only scissors and my unwavering hand, is swift and without complication.
You provided a fine and much appreciated three and a half years of service, Liner. But even though your time has passed, you were kind and generous enough to donate your magnets, so they could continue their worthwhile service elsewhere. Part of you will live on, Liner!
He's already cheering and waving as we enter the store from Spring Street. As always, his curly black hair, now reaching past his shoulders, is pulled off his handsome face with a hairband. I spontaneously sprout a third ear because grinning merely from ear to ear isn't enough. I don't know what dazzles me most -- the flash of brilliant teeth; his slender Latino body encased, as always, in black; the hair that I insist on putting my hands in and pulling until he almost squeals; or the fact that he seems equally turned on by me and my boyfriend.
Toby's spirit can barely be contained in his new dad's apartment. I wonder if he'd be so crazed if he'd been allowed to live outside a crate for the first 12 of his 15 months on the planet, and cringe at the thought of him not being able to gambol so floppily that his ears flip inside out, coming to rest atop his head like an inside-out bonnet.
He needs training, yes, but not the kind the first prospective trainer suggested. No way will he ever become the equivalent of an Upper East Side matron. Toby, a Stepford Shepherd? Never.
I suspect the kid’s something of a dimwit, but I keep it to myself, because his mom, who’s probably a dimwit too but who’d know I’m talking about her kid because he’s the only one rooted in front of the cupcake display with one hand practically up his ass and the other halfway up his nose and the other pointing its filthy fingers at the display and making random clucky noises like a particularly confused chicken.
But I guess I’m thinking this stuff a little too intently and loudly, because the mother shoots me a look like, “How could you?”
If you were my son, I'd be telling you how beautiful you are and how handsome. How your hair has never looked better and your clothes have never flattered you more. How you never looked as impossibly dashing as you did in your stylish new suit at your cousin's wedding. I'd tell you how proud I am of everything you've accomplished since starting your life over in a new town. How happy I am that you've found a girl who seems to think you're the sexiest man alive.
But you're not my son. So I tell you as your girlfriend.
Grandma Feffernuss was just “like that.”
“That’s just her way,” her daughters (my mom and her three sisters) would say with a good-natured shake of the head and a wry chuckle whenever anyone not familiar with Grandma Feffernuss’ “way” witnessed her doing something the rest of us were accustomed to.
My husband was quite put off the first time she offered him a raisin, plucked fresh from her cleavage by her nimble fingers, and told him it was a “bit of sweet heaven.” But now he’s used to it and even asks her to produce a raisin before she offers.
Quite often I’m privy to knowledge about my clients that I’d rather they keep to themselves. “You’re the only one I can tell this to,” they say. “I know you won’t judge me.”
Sorry, but when Norman tells me that immediately after pulling up his pants upon “takin’ a dump”, he has to “go” again, but 40% of the time he’s not fast enough (“Whoops!”), I’m forced to suggest he come up with a better system.
Oddly enough, he’s offended when I call these add-on events “Post Shits”, like little postscripts tacked onto the end of a letter.
Ordinarily, The Company Store, I wouldn't tell someone how to do his job, but sometimes I'm justly entitled. Recently, during a call in which I expressed my displeasure over a backordered item that your organization should've foreseen given your history with the particular line of products of which this item is a part, your representative offered a flip and too-sassy-for-the-occasion, "I can't snap my fingers and, like that, magically produce pillowcases." I suggest you remove this sort of response from the customer service repertoire unless you want me coming over there smothering this classless, impertinent twit with a case-less pillow.
She stole my boyfriend 22 years ago -- or, really, he let himself be stolen -- and yeah, she was a major skank for the obvious reason, but also because, in the process, she discarded my cousin with whom she'd been living in a longstanding romantic relationship. My cousin, although no angel herself, didn't deserve to be stepped on by this bucktoothed homewrecker's clogs.
She's freshly dead now. Does this make the boyfriend, who eventually turned into her ex-husband, an ex-widower? What's the proper nomenclature?
And why is it that all I remember are her bad teeth and worse shoes?
I’m on the M5 to get to the GWB station, where I’ll catch a jitney to my boyfriend’s town. Once the bus turns east on 135th, the new passengers boarding are mostly Spanish-speaking.
An older woman directly front of me, in an aisle-facing seat, turns to her left and starts talking to someone in Spanish. At first I don’t realize I’m her focus. When she realizes this, she smiles and says, in English with a heavy Spanish accent, “English or Spanish?”
I hate having to say “English.” I could get by with Spanish, but I’d feel like such an imposter.
You're a really cool chick. I'm totally digging you in person, here across the table in the tiny Thai restaurant I've chosen to finally meet you face to face after years of online correspondence. You're more soft-spoken and reserved than I'd imagined, but I, you say, are exactly what you expected.
Ahh. Outrageous loudmouth? Narcissistic bitch?
"Yes," you laugh and add, "Gorgeous."
Good night, Irene!
Still, as I ramble on, I can't stop thinking about your blog and the photos of the half-completed blueprint for a butterfly tattoo, enormous in size and cliché, that spans your entire back. Why? WHY?
Through the kitchen window at my parents’ house, I spy on my mom and sister as they unload a flurry of flimsy white plastic bags, the results of their latest Wal-Mart trip. They’d asked if I wanted to tag along, but I’d declined, as these are my least favorite sorts of excursions.
In my form-fitting shirt, jeans that actually touch my legs, girly sandals, and managed hair, I feel odd and out of place with them, in their oversized hoodies, cuffed jeans, funky sneakers, and odd hair configurations.
Every time I leave, I thank “god” I’m the odd one out.
By eighth grade, Jamie, safely tucked into plaid shirts and dark jeans, already looked like a frumpy suburbamom. Her body appeared to have slid directly from pre-pubescence into middle-aged dump, completely bypassing any charms of mid-development. The Dorothy Hamill haircut, extraordinarily plain face, and obsession with horses didn't help her cause, either.
Her concession to girlishness was her sneeze, a cartoonish little apology that never failed to make the more jaded of us 12-year-olds roll our eyes. The giggle that followed in its wake was pure overkill. Still, many found it delightful.
I shudder to imagine her evolution into orgasm.
The jitney bounces and rattles across the George Washington Bridge, transporting its load of happily chattering Spanish-speakers, mostly moms and kids, and one semi-Spanish-speaker (here I raise my hand) to various points in New Jersey. Someone’s playing music, not just aloud but loudly, from what I’m sure is a 1980s-style “boom box”. I don’t turn around to look, because I don’t want its owner to think I’m doing so as a tacit reprimand to turn it off. I don’t want it off. I want it on and loud and spirited. Esto es una aventura, just the way I want it.
The fresh start of a new month was exciting enough just because it meant a new picture on the calendar. But nothing was more thrilling to a 12-year-old, bored to tears by the mundanity of middle school, than a fresh-from-the-mimeograph sheet of paper, drawn up like a calendar, on which every day's cafeteria lunch was listed.
A quick scan for the grand prize -- pizza buns with Tater Tots! -- revealed to me how many days that would otherwise suck could be significantly brightened just by knowing that each one that passed brought me that much closer to the gold.
In the entry immediately preceding this one, I used a word that isn't really a word. Although I've been known to create my own words -- because, really, the 14 googafuckajillion that already exist in the English language just don't suffice -- that is not the case here.
The offender: "mundanity".
Ahh, look at me. The carpenter blaming her tools. Mais oui!
If you know me at all (and studies show that precisely 0.00000000162% of you do), you'd know that if I'm going to create a word, it's going to be a whole lot more pondacious than that.
Some of the bad days are worse than the others, and still some are the absolute worst. On the best of the bad, I can think about beautiful Taxi and, while misting at the idea of his face, still manage a smile and a laugh about something ridiculous he used to do. On most of the bad, I sob as I kiss his photo, sink into intense sorrow, and can barely muster a grimace masquerading as a smile. And on the worst, like tonight, the pain is just as ragged as it was when the unspeakable happened 2-1/2 months ago.
Dear Prospective Shoe-Buyer at Tip Top Shoes:
If I'd had a choice, I would not have witnessed your unsuccessful attempt to cram your hammy beast of a bare foot into a non-responsive deep red patent leather slide that, on a less monstrous appendage, would have been quite fetching. But there you were, displaying its impossibly flat broadness, its pinkish-purple hue, its Flintstonian toe-stubs of strangely mismatched lengths punctuated with poorly-shaped, pearlized-mauve-painted nails -- right there next to me. I did have a choice, though, to flaunt my fabulous, flawless foot just for your benefit. So I did.
Twenty-five years have passed since I used to stop by your psychology department office for a locked-door visit that resulted in us on the floor, making out like teenagers. I was three years out of my teens, and you were three decades past yours.
Today at the shindig honoring a colleague, the first time I’ve seen you since then, not only do you not recognize me, but when introduced, you confuse me with another Jodi. Still, your hand accidentally grazes my ass. Does it alone have a good memory, or do you think you’ve got a chance with “fresh meat”?
Many of the things I rate as staggeringly subpar receive sweeping superlatives from my mother. The bed my boyfriend and I sleep in when we visit, hailed as being fit not only for Moses and the pea-bruised Princess but Fonzie as well, is equipped with a decrepit mattress that causes scoliosis. The Chinese food hailed as delicious and the best around all tastes the same, from the bland “Szechuan” tofu to the comatose moo shu. And the flavored coffee. I mean, that one just goes without saying.
Sorry, Mom, Iloveya ‘n’ stuff, but you have no idea what’s truly fabulous.
By 4:12, no one has complimented Mariette on her new sweater, and she's starting to sweat. She doesn't want to sweat, because she's going out to dinner in this new sweater. She's not swift enough to get that "sweat" is built into "sweater". But even if she got the joke, it'd be no laughing matter, because all she wants to do is cry. She's been waiting for two months to debut this spangly cowlneck from Spiegel.com, anticipating admiration and envy from the other girls. They have 48 minutes to do so before she deems them a bunch of jealous cows.
My flannel-clad mother is in the dining room, already obsessing over the 10,000,000,000-piece jigsaw puzzle my sister gave her as a gift. At 9:10 a.m., she’s already been at it for at least half an hour. The box top, displaying the artwork that is her goal – a black and white Escher -- is propped up on a pair of candlesticks in the center of the table, as a reference. Although she mutters frequently to herself, I know she’s doing it for attention as well, so I pointedly disregard it.
Is this puzzle supposed to reduce her anxiety or produce it?
As soon as she boards the bus, all prominent nose and dark eyes and eyebrows unfamiliar with tweezers and graying dark hair unacquainted with scissors, wrapped in a mismatched and not even close to coordinating long skirt and print top, her ankles thick above the tops of her sturdy shoes, I know that somewhere in her day's activities she'll be making whatever variety of dumpling is most identified with the country she used to call home. I know that if I were to lift her hands to my face, they'd smell faintly of onions, and not in a bad way.
The Tip Jar