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Every day around 12:52, Carl watches the girl with the black bangs that hover over cat-eye glasses touch the base of the angel statue as she leaves the park across the street from his office building. Sometimes he notices that he stops chewing just so he can wait for her small pale hand to reach out and touch it. Two heartbeats after she does, he wonders if anyone notices the wad of chewed-up Wonder bread and Jif perched in his open mouth, dangerously close to tumbling onto the unfolded Post he uses as a placemat on his lap.
"I find Ed Harris incredibly attractive," Linda says, running her fingers along the nape of Chad's neck, hoping to "accidentally" discover the tape holding his peruke in place. "And Bruce Willis? Not so much in 'Moonlighting', but now? Oh yes."
She's been coming up with names for five minutes. Sean Connery, Stanley Tucci, John Malkovich. Ron Howard!
She can't possibly think he doesn't know what she's hinting at, can she?
"Oh, just come out and ask me," he says, hoping she can't feel the grin on her shoulder.
"Are you -- ?"
"Yes," Chad says. "I am a famous actor."
This wasn't the way it was supposed to happen. In all the years she'd been fantasizing about the possibility of scaffolding collapsing onto her while walking underneath it on an ordinary afternoon, never did she envision it happening on a little-traveled side street in the West 30s. Or that it would be long-forgotten scaffolding that only reached the second floor of a squat building housing a tiny dusty-windowed storefront locksmith. This news won't even make the pages of the free newspapers handed out at the top of the subway stairs. What a colossal waste of a perfectly good broken clavicle.
Twenty years ago or so I found an old pink rotary phone (desktop, not princess) at a thrift store for about $2.00. It was filthy with years of neglect or perhaps just dirty ears, but otherwise was intact, complete with a phone number in the center of the dial. I didn't care if it worked or not, I just wanted to own it, if only to put my finger in the clear plastic rotary, guide it to the little metal stopper, and then release it to experience that weighted sensation and the sound I hadn't heard in years.
The phone’s bell rang only intermittently, but I was so thrilled it rang at all that any call so heralded would be answered without question. After all, it could be Doris Day or Ann-Margret! Or, if I was especially lucky, Rock Hudson on a party line!
After a while, the phone didn’t ring anymore, and I designated it my special outbound-call hot line. There was something just so delightful about being tethered to a rather limited radius thanks to its corkscrew-coiled cord. Even as the calls felt more fanciful, they felt that much more intimate, important, and connected.
An enormous WHOOPS and apology for leading you astray almost “at the gate”. The first entry of this month indicates that it will be continued the next day, yet doesn’t deliver. You are left scratching your head (or other body part of choice), wondering if maybe I just left off the italicized notation at the top of the entry that indicates it’s a continuation of the previous day. Well, scratch no more. March 2 only follows March 1 insofar as its rightful place in the calendar is concerned but not as any part of March 1’s, um, “arc”.
The utility pole reaches high into the sky, higher than any beanstalk Jack could ever reach. It looks like something Jack would try to climb, though, given that it's been specially outfitted to resemble the coniferous trees above which it towers here on the side of the highway. It's not fooling anyone, though. It looks like a cop in disguise, trying to go undercover to bust up a high school drug ring. Or a really tall kid trying on a fake mustache to get into a bar. It tries to acclimate itself, though, by saying, "So. Where you guys from?"
Underneath scaffolding somewhere in the mid-40s just above Times Square, the clothing displayed in the two plate glass windows of the new little store boast prices so exceedingly reasonable that even a Midwestern tourist weaned on JCPenney wouldn’t suffer sticker shock. Fringed banners in primary colors look like eyelashes above the windows and mylar balloons tied to the scaffold’s support beams do their best to appear more festive than garish. I admire the store for its earnest attempt to welcome itself to the neighborhood. Nobody enters the doors above which GRAND OPENING hangs. I want to cry for the misnomer.
The daytime talk show features “regular” people who have suffered accidents that left them disfigured, and a pretty blonde in a dress and sandals walks onstage to a standing ovation. She sits, crosses her legs, and relays the story of how she’d become an amputee. It’s gotta be an arm, I think, looking for a prosthetic hand lying inert in her lap. But no, it’s a leg, and there this pretty lady is, smiling, as the camera zooms in for inspection. I am instantly enchanted, not only by her attitude but by the perfect red pedicure on the artificial foot.
My stepfather used to lecture my brother, sister, and me for hours about who knows what. The subject didn't matter, if there even was one. I don't even know if he knew what they were about. All I know is that if he asked a question and we answered the best we could, he would tell us, no, that is NOT the answer. I grew up believing what I said had no relevance, no meaning, no consequence because it's not right anyway. I learned to choke it down. My opinions and views were worthless. I had no value.
I finally left home at 24, finally free from his browbeating. It came back to haunt me, though, in a different permutation. Having struggled so long to suppress the expression of my opinions for fear of retaliation, I now held on to whatever opinions I'd formed, no matter how "right" or "wrong", for dear life. No one was going to sway me. To yield at all meant I was surrendering the prize. I still clutch that hard-won trophy with knuckles as white as if I'm hanging from the ledges of buildings I used to fantasize about jumping from.
My boyfriend and brother's girlfriend are in the living room talking about science fiction. My brother and I are in the kitchen talking about non-fiction, childhood horrors that we only discuss with each other. We laugh because, as the cliche goes, if we don't we'll cry. So, in direct proportion to the tears we know could come otherwise, we throw back our heads and laugh what my brother calls beefy laughs. As much as I wish I didn't have this stuff to remember in the first place, doing so confirms that I didn't make it up. And I feel validated.
Grover, a shaggy Airedale-ish guy, has something in his mouth that he doesn’t want to give up. He’s chomping on it with all the slow nonchalance of a cow grazing in the pasture, not giving a hoot that the man on the other end of the leash is reprimanding him to the point of a near-shout, “Drop it! Grover, drop it!” Grover’s like, yeah, whatever, man, whatever, not even blinking an eye, thus causing the man to whip himself up into a further frenzy. As I pass, I telepathically send Grover a high five. I swear he winks at me
You'd think that when I flush a dead cockroach down the toilet, I would want to watch it swirl its way into oblivion, just to make sure it's actually going away and not somehow reconstituting itself like an astronaut's lunch, regaining use of its nimble little legs, regaining its considerable wits, roach-paddling with single-minded determination up through the roaring depths, and once surfacing, scurrying to cling to the cold underside of the rim like a fugitive underneath a fast-moving car. But no, I shut my eyes and the lid, hold my breath when I lift the lid again, and hope.
My mother really wants me to remember an enormous spider web that laced across a window in the old house on Macon Street. I try to see not only the web itself but the spider creating it, and the sunlight she describes. I try to dig up some vestige of a memory about the excitement she insists surrounded the sighting, but it was more than 40 years ago and I can't. I do remember, however, swallowing quite a toddler handful of orange-flavored St. Joseph's baby aspirin, in those days before child-proof caps. A girl never forgets her first suicide attempt.
I'm not in the mood for the usual salon chit-chat, I just want to enjoy my pedicure in peace, so I feign laryngitis, pointing to my throat and forcing out a quasi-Brenda Vaccaro croak of a whisper in demonstration. Somehow I forget, though, that laryngitis is not a two-way street, so I am held captive to way too many one-sided monologues of well-meaning salon personnel determined to provide the entertainment since I am, apparently, unable. The next time I try this strategy, I'll take care to invent and present a malady that is the aural equivalent of laryngitis as well.
Any run-of-the-mill crumb-faced, snot-fingered, pudding-slurping little kid can create an imaginary friend. All it takes is combining all the best traits of the next-door neighbor’s Cottonnelle puppy, a smiling dolphin from Sea World, Ariel (for the girls) (Batman for the boys and less annoying girls), and the most popular kid in school who doesn’t know you exist. However, it takes a truly remarkable kid to concoct an imaginary enemy out of Adolph Hitler, the school nurse, that one uncle with the all too eager “knee” to bounce on, and the most popular kid in school who doesn’t know you exist.
Today Shrdze would’ve been 36 years old if only she hadn’t left this world 24 years ago. My girl was gypped in the longevity department, given that Lhasa Apsos are supposed to live into their teens. Alas, she never got to go to her first school dance.
I will always remember her running down to the basement where I was watching TV, a flurry of fur propelling herself by the momentum of her excitement. Somehow she’d snagged a whole unsliced bagel from the kitchen and stopped in front of me with an enormous dough grin. Oh, how the heart swoons!
In a moment of rare clarity, I came up with a brilliant scheme that I’d like to share with the readers of my 100 Words first before springing it on every media outlet from Thomas Paine Elementary School’s fifth-grade class’ newsletter, “Paine in the Class” to The New York Times.
I propose that we increase the number of months per year to 36. However, because certain top secret insiders inform me that we’re not permitted to increase the number of days in a year beyond 365 (or 366), we can only decrease the number of days per month.
A 36-month year would facilitate the missions of people who rely on the start of a new month as a marker, an "official" start date of a new project. Their eagerness for a fresh month is directly proportionate to the number of times they failed in preceding months.
New parents, impatient to announce their baby's age in terms of months, could gain more frequent satisfaction. Plus, the baby would feel like he's really growing up faster, and that much closer to dating.
And then, of course, we would have more, albeit shorter, batches of 100 Words.
Uncle Gilbert was married to a wide-hipped, flush-cheeked, thick-ponytailed matron who made sure that everyone in her acquaintance knew that yes, she was indeed part of the family whose last name was associated with an extremely prosperous chain of department stores. When he divorced her and married a sleek-waisted, high-cheekboned, slick-haired Asian no-name, we were thrilled. Years later, at the shiva for Gilbert’s and my father’s oldest brother, the Asian beauty plucked the dried-up eye from a smoked salmon and put it in her mouth, laughing as she chewed. I had to laugh, imagining how the first wife would’ve reacted.
Somewhere around here, most likely in the three-inch stack of paper ephemera waiting atop my small red cabinet to be sorted, is a two-part receipt from Banana Republic documenting the progression of my purchase of a coveted dress on sale and a subsequent price adjustment so outstanding that it had me simultaneously pirouetting down Broadway while belting out a song in honor of the transaction and standing riveted in one spot, rendered speechless over what transpired. From time to time, I come across it sort while sorting through the stack and take a moment to marvel over the incredible bargain.
Although the Keds-clad tourists were thrilled to tops of their teased bangs with the authenticity of the horse-drawn carriage rides at Central Park -- the driver's top-hat was a nice touch! -- if it were up to them, they would've eliminated the horrible part where the shaggy old horse had to (whisper) do its business. Ten years from now, when the man powering the horseless carriage pushes the button that produces the recording of the hoof-clomping, they'll smile and close their eyes and create nostalgia about their earlier experience and wrinkle their noses at the smell of the driver's sweat.
Because Shana is an ingrate, she turned her nose up at the shrimp I bought her at Whole Foods, which I had chopped into cat-bite-sized pieces with a diamond-encrusted platinum knife and placed in her wet-food bowl (yes, she has one for wet and one for dry) with an antique silver spoon that once belonged to the original Morris. I left the rest of the shrimp stash outside on the patio ledge for the birds, thinking they'd be delighted to receive what my cat had rejected. But apparently those bastards are snoots as well. Poor shrimp died for no one.
Five years ago, I had the fortune to get into the cab of Paul Hintersteiner. He sat tall behind the wheel, in a proper chauffeur's cap even though, at 5:15 in the morning, no one would've noticed if he wasn't wearing it. Not that anyone really expected it, of course, because, well, the headgear of choice among many cabbies is a turban and not a traditional "Western" style cap, especially not one of the formal chauffeur variety. I thought perhaps he was off his rocker, as many cab drivers are, so I was hesitant to remark about it.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and did a cannonball.
"I like your hat," I said. "Very fancy."
It was authentic, he said, from back in the day when he drove fancier cars for a living. "I turned in my black car for a yellow one," he said with a chuckle.
He handed me a card describing his simple philosophy of kindness. And although I appreciated his soft-spoken nature, smooth ride, and the quiet afforded by the lack of one-sided cell phone jabbering, I wanted to tell him to step on it, goddamnit, step on it!
I am not enjoying this altercation with my boyfriend on the bus. I do not enjoy any altercations with anyone, but I especially do not like them with him. I also do not like public displays of altercation. But hey, here we are, being the kind of “couple” I do not like. And I am at least 50% responsible for its existence. The only solace I have is knowing that the bearded hipster to my left, seated at the back of the bus, is feigning disinterest while eavesdropping, and we are providing him with Twitter fodder for an entire afternoon.
Utsav's buffet makes me almost sob with delight. Yesterday afternoon, my plate was laden with a glorious arrangement of muttar paneer, malai kofta, palak makai, and an amazingly spiced chickpea creation served by a sentinel/server. He wasn't there when I went up a second time, but I helped myself to one of the small dosai perched on the edge of the chickpea pan.
I'm convinced this guy serves as a tacit deterrent from going up to the buffet more than twice. I could kick myself for not taking full advantage of his absence and feeling ridiculously shy about self-spooning chickpeas!
I used to set my bedside clock three minutes ahead. I set its alarm for five minutes before the time I wanted to wake up and 20 before I actually had to get out of bed. The snooze only afforded four extra minutes. Somewhere in there was a math word problem dying to be composed by a man with chalk-dust hand-prints on his frayed chinos, to be grudgingly solved by a "volunteer" plucked from among his students. The only thing I asked myself, though, as I lay snug, was, "Why do I have to get out of bed at all?"
Recently I lost my keys somewhere in my apartment and I have yet to find them. I know they’re around here somewhere because I needed them to get in and didn’t leave the house at all that day. I only discovered they were missing when I wanted to leave the next morning for the gym. I looked everywhere – the freezer, the refrigerator, a box of cereal, under the bed and sofa cushions; the toilet tank, trash, and litter box; x-rays of Shana’s stomach – to no avail. The only rational conclusion I can come up with is IT’S THE GYM’S FAULT.
My boyfriend set me up in his office so I can finish my Words. I'm not accustomed to facing a window or having so much actual sunlight. What a difference a change of scenery makes! I close my eyes for inspiration from the swaying of the trees and the brilliance of the morning, the song of birds and kids and the hum and gurgle of suburbia.
My boyfriend breaks the reverie by calling me into another room so we can watch two birds DOING IT on the roof. Now, if that's not inspiration, I don't know what is! (Thanks, doll!)
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