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Not long after the vintage Moonbeam clock moved into my apartment, it made its presence known. I was taken aback at its insistent and not exactly quiet tick-click-click, tick-click-click. How was it that I hadn't noticed this from the get go?
"Well, now," I thought. "That's annoying as all fuck."
I moved it from its perch atop the bedside bookcase to the vanity a few feet further from my ears. Problem solved, I thought. Amazing, how a small adjustment could make an enormous difference.
A few nights later, the tick-click-click, tick-click-click was back, just as insistent and loud.
Continued from 1/2
What the hell was this? A newfangled version of "The Telltale Heart"? Was my antique clock trying to tell me something? Did it contain the secrets of the universe, the mysteries of the ages?
Was it alive?
I devised a system of sleeping on my side with one ear pressed into my pillow, another pillow balanced on the exposed ear, which obliterated what by then was an unbearable racket. For a few nights I convinced myself this was an acceptable solution.
But I'm good at calling bullshit bullshit and bunkum bunkum. And this was both.
Continued from 1/2
I spent an inordinate amount of time fretting, scouring the internet for repair services, hoping to find a solution to the ticking that now bordered on arrhythmia. I wrote to several places, but they all claimed they couldn't help. I even bundled the clock up and took it to a whimsical shop in the West Village, but the loupe-eyed proprietor told me it would cost $200 for even the least invasive inspection.
I wanted to ask her if she was on the clock, but her stern countenance told me she wouldn't get the lame joke.
Continued from 1/3
Without so much as a smile, the shop owner told me, in a monotone, that she could replace the clock's internal mechanism for $79, but doing so would disable its trademark feature, the blinking light that serves as an alarm.
I wanted to fall to the floor and flail and froth at this preposterous notion. It was bad enough this woman had no soul, but to extract that of my clock as well? I hoped that because the clock was unplugged and thus not ticking, it didn’t have the ability to hear this disturbing exchange.
Continued from 1/4
Heartbroken because nobody was willing to fix my clock the way it deserved, I went to the source where I'd bought it: eBay. I found a seller who listed several authentic Moonbeams and sent him a note explaining my distress. Much to my heart-jumping delight, he wrote back promptly, and after a flurry of correspondence, I called him in Illinois, per his suggestion.
We talked for at least 45 minutes. He told me his mom had worked in the Illinois factory for years and he taught himself how to restore these clocks, in her memory.
Continued from 1/5
If I sent him my clock, he said, he'd do whatever was necessary to silence the click-ticking. He could even replace the motor with one from his collection of vintage Moonbeams. The cost to me? Nothing!
Still, I dreaded sending my clock away and having it come back to me with some of its parts removed. I wanted to keep it intact, and if that included its eccentric noises, so be it.
I have since grown to not only tolerate its erratic heartbeat but to love listening to it when the rest of the room is silent.
The telephone books cower outside by the door, bound not only by tight-fitting plastic but by a shared experience of neglect, confusion, and embarrassment. They didn't ask to be born, and they didn't ask to be left on a doorstep for passersby to mock and the building's residents to reject. It's not their fault that people don't want to flip through thousands of yellow and white pages when the same information can be accessed online with a quick click. No one's fingers will be walking through these pages. The plastic will probably never be pierced by even a single one.
Not long after she was out of diapers, my cousin would cry when the toilet was flushed and her shit went bye-bye.
"She thinks part of her body is going away," her parents said.
My initial reaction was that I wanted to smack sense into her, even though by the time I heard about it she was old enough to be mortified by her parents recalling the anecdote. After careful consideration for two minutes, however, I deemed this notion not entirely worthy of ridicule. After two more minutes, I flushed away notion #2 and wanted to smack her in retrospect.
Mary Etta Jones' court-appointed attorney has warned her to keep mum. "Ain't nobody gonna buy that bullshit" he told her five minutes before entering the courtroom. Atempts at getting through to her by using proper English had failed.
Still, that doesn't stop Mary Etta from jumping up from her seat during the prosecution's opening statement and shouting, "If I'm not s'posed to shake the motherfuckin' baby, then how the hell'm I s'posed to get it coated with the Shake 'n' Bake, bitch? Tell me that, huh? Huh?"
"Have fun roasting in jail," the judge says the next day, during sentencing.
In elementary school, in order to avoid censorship or censure from highers-up, we took to lovingly taunting the objects of our pretend scorn like this:
"You're a bundle of sticks!"
Which replaced this: "You're a faggot!"
We even directed this jeer to the girls. After all, our hilarity and softcore jibes did not discriminate.
After a while, those whose censure we'd tried to avoid told us to stop using this alternate phrase. The words may have been different, they said, but the intent and meaning was still there.
But we didn't give a frig. Or, for that matter, a fuck.
You can't expect people to not look into your windows at night if your shades/blinds/drapes are open and your lights are on. So, don't get your braless tits in an uproar and take hasty measures to capture your modesty and privacy, like you didn't think someone might possibly have a peek at your peaks when you were flouncing around with your bouncy flesh on display. Please.
Your semi-nakedness was incidental, Your Royal Huffiness, secondary to my real purpose in glancing across our common courtyard: I am intrigued by your apartment's layout. I am envious of your hallway, not your tits.
"I don't really believe in this stuff," he says, "but let's do it anyway, just for fun."
I don't want to know my future, I say, even though I don't believe the woman behind the thick curtain knows it either. He should do it, though, and report back.
He disappears behind the curtain.
"She says you're not The One," he says upon reappearing, "but we both already know that."
He does. I do. We do. Conjugation plus!
And although I don't even want to be The One for him, I still want him to want me to be.
Continued from 1/12
A month or so later, even though I'm not The One, he asks me to be the one to accompany him and his two kids "down the shore". I decline for a variety of ridiculous reasons that have nothing to do with any level of commitment.
Although he sends me a hilarious gift in the mail while away, I never actually hear from him again.
Three years later, I find out he drowned on that trip.
This confirmed the woman behind the curtain was a farce. Shouldn't she have been The One to know this would happen?
Lance likes that Laura does not flinch when she reaches out her pink satiny hand toward him and says, "Let me be the first to shake your hand."
See, most girls aren't too eager to shake a hand that's growing out of the side of a guy's head, where his right ear should be. Even when the guy's a famous concert pianist, like Lance.
Laura resists the urge to ask if the third hand has any musical ability.
"No, it doesn't," Lance says, reading her mind, using one of his ordinary hands to tuck her hair behind her left nose.
Thank "God" all the humans survived after the plane dove into the frigid Hudson River this afternoon. I'm sure those people will celebrate, claiming their lives are changed from the experience. Blah blee bloo, the usual stuff about how life's too short and little things don't matter and they're happy just to be alive and zzzzzzz.
But what of the birds? What of the geese with whom the plane collided?
"There were no fatalities."
Try telling that to the geese who lived. Who's interviewing the geese who may have survived or the geese back home?
I'm so sorry, feathered friends!
My grandmother, like many grandmothers, wore a mink coat. Although I have always been anti-fur, I never begrudged her for it. When I was really young, I secretly liked petting the coat, even though it made me incredibly sad to think that hapless animals were killed so my grandmother could feel fancy.
Whenever I see older women wearing fur coats, even now, decades later, I think, okay, that's disgusting, but they're ignorant, they just don't know better.
However, when I see a woman around my age or younger wearing fur, I think, "Damn it, you're young enough to know better."
The trash truck's toothless maw balances the mattress on its lower lip, savoring the moment before the devouring. This is no ordinary breakfast consisting of the same old pickings in dark green plastic bags not even intriguing enough to have stirred the interest of rabid homeless men. This is eggs Benedict on a curb chock-a-block with stale cornflakes.
One on hand, I'm thrilled the truck is afforded such an unexpected treat. But on the other, I feel sorry for the mattress as the truck sucks the mattress in. Did it know, last night, that that would be its last sleep?
Can I call myself a vegan or a vegetarian if I tear strips of ragged, dried flesh from the sides of my thumbs with my teeth and not only chew on the skin but occasionally swallow it, without even thinking about it, like it's quite all right to be, in essence, eating myself?
I read somewhere, a while ago, that some vegans don't consider mollusks as forbidden food because they supposedly don't have nervous systems that allow them to feel pain. But what of my own flesh? It certainly hurts when the mindless gnawing draws blood. Am I a carnivore?
Every once in a while I remember that Poppop and I used to play dominos when my age was still in the single digits, and it makes me wish I remembered it more often and in greater detail. But all I remember is the long rectangular box, with the dominos stacked neatly inside, and how gorgeous all that black and white and dots looked when spilled out onto the table and how delicious the smooth clack was when I'd mess them up on the table between us. I adored the game, too, of course, and having Poppop all to myself.
"One thing you should know about me is that I don't have any secrets," Neil says to Lisa on their first date.
I wish I could say the same, Lisa thinks, secretly hating his Corvette Stingray even though she'd gushed over it when he picked her up.
Halfway through their chimichangas, Neil produces dental floss and busies himself removing jalapeno from between his molars. Before Lisa's first gasp is complete, the floss is out of Neil's mouth, his glasses are pushed atop his head, and he's got the floss about an inch away from his eyes. Lisa shudders.
Continued from 1/20
What's he doing with the floss so close to his eyes? Will he floss them, too?
She pretends to be intrigued by the chips' crispness, the salsa's zestiness, and the guacamole's creaminess. Who knew Chili's was so authentic?
"What do you do for an encore?" she thinks.
As if reading her mind, he sniffs the floss.
With a jalapeno-free grin, he says, "I love the slight rot scent!"
"I can honestly say you're the most repellent man I've ever met," she says.
He cannot understand why she refuses another date. He thought he'd finally met his match.
In early November, I came upon an abandoned plant in a white plastic pot lying either among curbside trash or on the wall in front of someone's building not far from my own. Its few branches were straggly, Medusa-like crazy, making no rhyme or reason, its sparse leaves struggling to stay green. It showed minimal signs of viable life. But life was life. I had to give it a chance.
"You're home now," I told it as I carried it into my apartment and placed it by a window.
The next day, its branches thanked me with small pink flowers.
Sucking on a purple/grape Dino or orange/orange Barney or a red/cherry Wilma gave me enormous pleasure. My mom was happy I was getting the recommended daily blahblah of the truncated alphabet printed on the box the vitamin bottle came in. I was happy I was getting mom-sanctioned candy. This was perhaps even more of a thrill than the orange-only chewable vitamin C I crammed into my maw while hiding in my grandmother's linen closet.
Eventually a new variety was introduced, with a metallic boost of iron on the Flintstones' flip-side. The party, and my love affair with vitamins, was over.
Melissa's mother glides into the dining room as if on wheels and sets a large platter onto the middle of the table. Melissa can't help but wrinkle her nose.
"Smells divine, Penny," her father says, using one of those girly words that makes her cringe almost as much as this -- this -- this THING her mother is inflicting on the family. "Pass me your plate, please, Melissa."
"Why are the peas so green?" Melissa says, peering down at the plate after her father hands it back to her. "This looks nothing like the picture from the recipe box!"
Continued from 1/24
"Of course it doesn't," Penny says. "I've had that recipe since before you were born, so in 15 years the colors in the photo were bound to fade."
"Well, it looks splendid," her father says, "and I cannot wait to dig in!"
Melissa sighs. She doesn't want to waste her time with this tuna casserole from 1988, its peas so green they seem to have invented the color, its tuna chunky and albacore white. She wants to eat the faded tuna casserole from 1973, with its grayish-aqua peas and faded tuna pink like cat food.
Continued from 1/25
Melissa knows her grandmother would've supported her in finding all of this color not only alarming but positively depressing. Although Nancy died before her birth, Melissa has always felt a kinship with her that she didn't feel with her own mother. Maybe these things skipped a generation?
Nancy had no time for the frivolity of color. Wasn't it was obvious from the fact that she existed only in black and white, as evidenced in the tiny snapshots in the family album?
Her mother's snide remark that "we didn't have color film back then" falls on deaf ears.
"I allow myself two 'free' meals a week," he says, as the waiter sets a plate full of dry lettuce and dryer chicken on our table, "and this is one of them."
It wasn't bad enough that, during a cringeworthy discussion about working out, you asked to touch my bicep, and then felt compelled to flex your own and insist I touch it, was it? It wasn't bad enough that you bristled when I said, well, of course your muscle was a bit harder, given that you're a man and younger than I am to boot, was it?
Continued from 1/27
Where are the french fries? The onion rings? The gooey cheese dip? This is the best you can do for fun food?
If this were a date, you'd be going home alone, buddy boy. Thankfully, it's not, and you can go home to your wife and enjoy some dry escapades in your music room equipped with all of the latest and greatest audio equipment.
You text me later and ask me if I'm jealous that you're whipping up egg white omelettes and oatmeal for the two of you when you get home. And you're not even kidding.
While Melissa is busy in the upstairs bathroom trying not to blink as she applies black mascara the way she saw in Seventeen magazine, the boy whose beauty could cause tears that would ruin it is downstairs with her mom, captive to a stack of photo albums and scrapbooks that no one in the family has ever asked to see.
The boy doesn’t know what to say. Nothing his own mom had told him about the way to act when meeting a girl's parents for the first time could have prepared him for what he was seeing now.
Continued from 1/29
"This is a photo of Melissa crying after we told her that the dog hadn't really run away that summer but that we'd abandoned it in the woods off the side of I-95 on the way to the shore," Mrs. Lewis says. "She was such a sensitive girl."
The boy balances a piece of Bundt devil's food cake in his palm. Mrs. Lewis hadn't offered a plate or napkin.
"And here's one of Melissa on the rollercoaster for the first -- and, oddly enough, only -- time. Look at the tears! Crying, because she wanted the merry-go-round!"
1986, and my date orders, as his entire dinner, an appetizer of Fettuccini Alfredo. He eats half. I've ordered an entrée, like someone who is not a toddler, and finish it. I also finish the other half of his.
I have sex with him after this, believe it or not. And it's terrible.
2006, and my date orders, for the two of us, three entrees, two appetizers, and bread. We devour everything, using the bread to wipe up every last molecule of our Indian food.
I need not tell you how the sex was. And how delicious it still is.
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