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Barry Swiff is by far the worst caricaturist on Central Park South. With a few swipes of his black marker, he destroys the self-esteem of anyone foolish enough to part with $15. Moments ago, upon meeting Jeffrey Wilton, a shy 8-year-old from Nebraska with encephalitis, a rudimentary arm growing out of his proper right arm, and a club foot that confines him to a wheelchair, Swiff and his pen spent 45 seconds depicting the boy as an enormous drooling octopus balancing on a surfboard.
"Don't cry," Swiff says, holding the drawing out to Jeffrey's deformed arm. "You'll smudge the ink!"
Marlena comes to my office with a report of a visual disturbance. I remind her I'm not an ophthalmologist, but she says, "I don't care. I think you'll like my symptoms. Let me elaborate."
So, I let her elaborate. And she's right. I dig her symptoms big-time.
Although she suffers temporary blindness for 30 minutes upon awakening, no matter what time of day, once she regains vision she sees everything in vivid, pulsating paisley. However, if she drinks caffeinated coffee, normal vision resumes immediately.
"And your problem is WHAT, exactly?" I ask.
"I've had to start drinking decaf!" she says.
We didn't know we were poor. We thought everyone wore their brother's hand-me-downs and their mom's rain boots. We didn't know four kids didn't always share a bedroom and that people ate lunch on the weekends. We loved school, because the food was better and bigger than our mom's. But Mom made sure we were warm and laughing, and that was what we wanted most from her.
I was 12 when got our first TV. tt was then that I learned, from the people living inside it box, that it was somehow "wrong" to be so happy with so little.
Okay. I need to make a "preemptive strike" here before someone feels compelled to send me a gloating note telling me that I made typos in yesterday's entry. I know people are monitoring my 100 Words, waiting for me to trip up, so they can point out typos that will somehow destroy the very fabric of the vignette and thus invalidate it as a piece of writing.
So, yes, I acknowledge, with an appropriate ass-kicking, that the non-word "tt" should be "It" and the phrase "inside it box" should be "inside that box".
Thank you for not indulging your compulsion.
Carl tells me I'm full of shit. He says I had to have done what he's done, because there's just no way I couldn't have done it, knowing what he knows about my imagination, which is, as he says, "sick, and I mean that in the nicest way possible."
I assure him, for the umpteenth time, that no, I don't do what he does. I do not, and will not, and never will, "pleasure myself" to the image of Florida on a map of the United States, even though it is, as he says, "the country's cock".
I just won't.
Nancy weighed 98 pounds, according to her own hype, and her favorite word, apparent to anyone who heard her speak, was "grotesque". She'd spit the word with so much sibilance that it seemed to sizzle on any nearby surface. She and I, maybe not best but very close friends in tenth grade, were the first and second girls in our grade, respectively, to discover Calvin Klein jeans and to pair them with black canvas Chinese maryjanes.
After her gym class, which preceded mine, she'd leave her gymsuit in her locker, where it waited, still damp, for me to use. Grotesque!
Lisa's parents were weird and religious. That much we all knew. But just how weird and religious we couldn't quite pinpoint. Was it a cult type of religion, like Jehovah's Witnesses? What it ordinary religion like Catholicism? Whatever it was, it was weird and restrictive enough that it made Lisa come to high school dressed like an unpopular girl from the '50s, in skirts that were at least six inches longer and three inches wider than anything the rest of us wore and pilly cardigans that looked like her mom had found them in her dead grandmother's picked-over mothbally wardrobe.
In our pre-house days, when our family was still crammed into my stepfather's bachelor digs, my mom would summon me and my sister into the master bedroom that served as my brother's Greg Brady lair (our parents slept on a sofa bed in the living room, an arrangement that has perplexed me for almost 37 years) and have us sit on the floor with our backs to her. She would then pull a large comb through the unwashed, tangled messes masquerading as our hair. I don't know who struggled more: her, doing the combing, or us, enduring it.
I think my mom pretended the forced combing wasn't meant to be torture, that she was doing it for our own good because if she didn't do it, there was no way we'd do it ourselves. From where I sat, gritting my teeth, scrunching my eyes shut so tight I felt the skin would weld together of its own accord, it felt like my scalp would seep blood.
As much as I loved how smooth my hair looked after the ordeal, I was even more fascinated by the clumps of fuzzy knots and gnarls pulled from the comb.
Once my family moved into a new neighborhood the summer before I started sixth grade, upgrading from a small apartment to a much bigger house, my brother, sister, and I weren't the weird kids anymore. Okay, so that's not entirely true. We were still the weird kids, but the three who lived in the pink house up the street were even weirder. V, the oldest, was rumored to be a witch. Her brother, T, the middle kid, was a sexy alleged druggie. And the youngest, F, nicknamed F___ Fellatio, well, I need not say what she was rumored to be.
Tomorrow it will be one year since the last time I saw Taxi alive, and I can barely stand the thought. So of course that's all I'm thinking about, because for some masochistic reason I need to not only wiggle the loose tooth but to yank it from the gum, exposing the root to the sharp bite of frigid air that rushes to fill the void.
I cannot believe a year has already passed since I stroked his paw and kissed his head who knows how many times and told him I would see him tomorrow. Thinking I actually would.
Every so often here on the Upper West Side, yet another Mommy and Me type hurries across the street with a double-wide stroller and neither of its seats is occupied by the usual fare. I want to ask if she knows that, in her mad dash across Broadway, her dual babies bounced free in tandem, dumped onto the sidewalk, and are no doubt flailing on their backs (babies land on their backs as surely as cats land on their feet). But I am quite sure they would look at me as if I had actually dumped the babies out myself.
If we thought that having Inauguration Day right after MLK Day was something special, we're really going to lose our shit (technical term) this weekend, what with the rapidfire succession of not two but three special days in a row: Friday the 13th, Valentine's Day, and Presidents' Day. So on the 13th we're unlucky, on the 14th we hope to get lucky, and on Presidents' Day we buy a mattress on sale to replace the one that, if we succeeded on the 14th, we will have worn out.
Here's to hoping your own trifecta is, respectively, safe, sexy, and supportive.
Okay, I know Valentine's Day is retarded, I know it's Hallmark, I know it's overpriced and overrated and overwhatever and on and on and on, but you know what? Fuck it, we're celebrating. True, we don't need a special day set aside to be all romantic and remember that we dig each other, we don't need the calendar to tell us we should be holding hands or making stupid googly eyes at each other. True, we do this just as much on a random day in May or July or Octobruary, but sometimes it's fun to go with the flow!
Thank you, Hooters, for the erection of a billboard that solidifies my position that you're not the embodiment of smarmy bad taste that I have long held you to be. Whereas I used to think you catered only to the flimsy whims of infantile men, I now see you've expanded your ranks to included the wives that many of them not only have but whom they probably would have left home while frequenting your establishment. Now when the buffalo wing sauce competes with drool for chin real estate, at least someone will be there to wipe it away.
I also appreciate, dearest Hooters, that your campaign has not only expanded to include the ladies but has also targeted the children unfortunate enough to be born to the kind of people who would respond positively to an ad written from their point of view:
"Mom! Dad! All You Can Drink Pitchers Every Tuesday Afternoon!"
This, in a font so juvenile that it makes Comic Sans look sophisticated.
It's a good thing, Hooters, that these parents allow their eight-year-olds to drive the family car, the better to ensure everyone a safe return home. Otherwise you'd be grossly negligent.
I have no need to fantasize about sex given that my real-life shenanigans exceed anything I would dream up (brag). I'm thus free to savor a sister-fantasy to the scenario I posed a few days ago about women dashing across Broadway with empty strollers.
An eco-dad pedals up Broadway, the child seat empty behind him. He stops at a light. I rush forward, pointing frantically to the seat, saying, "Oh my God! Your baby! Your baby! You dropped your baby two blocks back!"
"What?" he says. "My baby's home today!"
"Then whose baby IS it, then?" I say in horror.
I'm always delighted when my airplane seatbelt apparently was last used by someone a lot less slender than I am. I imagine that person's girth being contained by the straps, perhaps even straining against them a bit, yearning to burst free. Just as delightful is when the seatbelt is only an inch or two looser than what accommodates me. Then I think, "Yeah, sister, you may be thin, but I'm thinner! Wahoo!"
When I unbuckle my seatbelt upon landing, I'm certain the seat's next occupant will be jealous of my svelteness. And cry as she cram peanuts into her maw.
Debbie's favorite part of her daily sessions to her grandfather's apartment is hearing his stories of "when I was your age." Only then does she see sparks of the grandfather she knew as recently as three years ago, the laughing, shiny grandfather who knew that he'd not only already salted the homemade chicken noodle soup but had turned on the burner beneath the dented aluminum pot that never seemed to leave the stovetop. Was that really the same man whose shaking hand now extends a can of Campbell's toward her, and asks, "How do you get the soup out, Barbara?"
Like many men his age, Carl spends his afternoons on a park bench, talking to the squirrels and pigeons who flock to him for bread scraps. This is much better than taking a bus to the mall to become invisible on a bench. which he'd declared undignified after 30 minutes.
He reaches inside his tote for the small brown bag whose top has been rolled down and up so many times that the paper has softened to a cottony finish almost soft as his wife's hands. How he'd trade these afternoons for the chance to hold them one more time!
Rachel hasn't been face-to-face with this guy for 15 years, but when she sees the two-dimensional version "tagged" on Facebook through a mutual real-life friend from school, all she can think is, "Egads, had I known this is what he'd wind up looking like, I never would've touched him way back when."
The nose that had been merely Jewish-large before now claimed more facial territory than any nose should be allowed. The once-lush espresso curls are shorn, revealing a misshapen scalp. The boyish body is now grandmother-soft.
So, why is she "friending" him, with a message saying, "You look fantastic!"?
You don't want to change anything about the crazy old ladies with lipstick smears for mouths. You see them on Broadway, usually minding their own business, sometimes also minding the business of an imaginary friend or adversary, squinting into the brilliant sunlight that encourages their thick, frosted eye-shadow to settle firmly into the crow's feet and other sundry wrinkles caused by equal parts age and squinting. You don't want to wipe off their clown blush with a tissue. You don't want Stacy and Clinton swooping down and making them over, toning them down and making them less spectacular. You don't.
It wasn't that Monica's mom was more attractive than Cindy's. In fact, neither of these two ladies was what you'd call a looker. The real difference lay in their attitudes. Whereas Cindy's mom would enter any room regardless of the quality of the light and even laughed at the autopsy-green tinge her skin took on under the glare of fluorescent tubing, Monica's would turn her back on any room that didn't offer the cushion of rose or amber light. However, Cindy's mom's "inner beauty" still couldn't compete with the fact that, in the end, Monica mom's was, simply, better lit.
The lone mushroom escaped from the masses and was in peril of being squashed by a Croc-shod foot or six. I didn't want to return it to the display for fear of a rabid Whole-Foodser telling me that was a filthy thing to do (ne'er mind the inherent filthiness of mushrooms themselves), so I palmed it. Several aisles later, I surreptitiously dropped it into my handbag, where it languished for two days. Even though it was desiccated, I popped it into my mouth last night. I loathe waste. I didn't bother washing it, thus proving I'm dirtier than a mushroom.
My sister and I were playing the "If you had to either ____ or ____ (and you have to pick one or they're going to kill Mommy)" game. We didn't want "them" killing Mommy, but the scenarios we concocted made us think maybe we could sacrifice her. We could make our own lunches, right?
"Okay: Eat a chunk of skin or drink a cup of blood?"
"How big a chunk of skin?" my sister said.
I held my hand palm up, as if grasping a softball.
"Big enough to fill your hand. Maybe a chunk from someone's arm."
"I don't know," my sister said. "That's a big chunk. All right. What about the cup?"
"A full cup," I said. "Eight ounces."
"A lot of blood," she said, unsmiling. "I don't know."
"Yeah, but you've gotta pick. No 'Neither'."
"Is the blood warm or cold?" she said.
"And the skin?" she said. "Just in a big chunk?"
"Yeah. A chunk. No chopping it up, no shredding, no making it into a burger."
"That means lotsa chewing," she said.
I don't think I'd want either of us preparing lunch.
She chose the blood, chilled.
Mommy was spared.
Two and a half years ago today, just this side of midnight, I stood under a lamppost on the corner of 44th and Eighth, risking being misidentified as a hooker, anticipating the moment when we would meet face to face after five days of rat-a-tat repartee online. I'd finally see if you looked like the small photo you'd sent by email. I'd hear your voice. I'd be taking you to my apartment (okay, to fix my apartment), which probably didn't make me much different from the kind of person I was risking being taken for.
Happy two-and-a-half-year anniversary, my love!
On weekdays, I wake up before anyone in his right mind has a mind waking up. I understand this is unusual, and I appreciate that other people's plans include remaining asleep while my day begins. Therefore, I take pains to go about my wakefulness with a minimum of noise. I don't run my vacuum that early, and even wait until after 10:00 to do so, just in case some people need even more sleep.
But now, with the new noisy neighbors acting as if they don't have to adapt their lifestyle to anyone else's, all bets may indeed be off.
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