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In the early '80s, my parents counted among their freaky friends a guy from Russia named Alex. Alex's English was quite good, and I was enchanted by the way his accent and pronunciation added depth and texture to words and phrases that, spoken by anyone I already knew, especially in Philadelphia tones, sounded pedestrian.
I especially loved his liberal use of definite articles, not used in the Russian language, before almost every noun. I was charmed by stuff like "I enjoy the sports, especially the baseball."
I wonder if he would've understood why I secretly referred to him as "The Alex".
As soon as I enter her apartment, I'm as charmed by Elli's puppy-like enthusiasm as I am by the whimsical layout. I've barely taken three breaths before I notice the shower is next to the stove. Just as I'm wondering how long it'd take before reality overtook the bohemian novelty, her boyfriend excuses himself to use the bathroom, which is outside the actual apartment, in the hallway. And this is all overshadowed upon his return, when we're are all sitting in E's bedroom, where, thanks to the shortness of her dress, I'm afforded a clear view of her polka-dot panties.
I should be in bed, getting at least four hours of sleep before the alarm goes off, but no, I'm on the phone with K, having agreed to take her late-night call. She's cramming my head with details of yet another fight with her live-in boyfriend with the beard that makes him look like a homeless pedophile, a fight that, yeah, is leading to their umpteenth breakup in the 10 months they've been together. The next morning, when she tells me, in so many words, that they're still together, I want to send her an invoice for my stolen slumber.
Bedbugs are back with a vengeance here in New York City, no doubt causing an upswing in panicked insomnia among people who were warned by their parents, albeit jokingly, in singsong pre-sleep rituals as kids, not to let them bite. No one's sleeping tight. The only thing snug as a bug in a rug are the bugs themselves.
Is this surge a harbinger of more horrors? If I knock wood, will I stir up termites? What's next to creep out of that woodwork? Locusts? Will the killer bees finally ascend? Will polio limp back onto the scene? Dare I ask?
Shana's latest shenanigans involved a rather covert deposit in the center of my bed of a substance ordinarily reserved, by less nefarious and spiteful cats, for the confines of a litter box. Although I heralded the discovery with no fewer than half a dozen shrieks of "What the fuck!" and "No!", I must admit, behind Shana's back (which is of course turned to me), that I was impressed by her choice of venues. Where else could her gift be better disguised than in the multi-colored, brown-rich floral pattern of the bedspread? Perhaps, though, it's time to switch to simple solids?
I'm having trouble selling my piece, "How to Keep Him Around By Letting Him Play Around!" to Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, and Good Housekeeping, the Big Three whose readers would most benefit from the wisdom imparted therein.
Is my premise -- that setting your man out into the wild on a scheduled day of debauchery, to fornicate with stranger(s) of his choosing to his hard-on's content , coming back to you after that same night, however late, and not discussing the details because, really, does it matter, may actually be good for your relationship -- really too hard to swallow?
Until I drain their blood and replace it with embalming fluid, I still consider the bodies brought to "the body shop" as human, endowed with life force, even though now silent. Most I leave alone and go about my job in the detached manner I've honed after three decades in the business. But those whose deaths were accidental, who weren't circled by family and friends who held their hands and stroked their hair in hospital beds, who weren't kissed good-night at the end of visiting hours, well, it is those whose lips I gently kiss before I start the process.
It is rumored that the 42 minutes of lyrics contained in "MacArthur Park" go beyond the cake out in the rain nonsense. However, I guarantee that 9 out of 9.5 people, if asked, would stammer, "Someone left the cake out in the rain, that much I know. I'm almost positive it took a while to bake and they lost the recipe. But who cares anyway because that crap about leaving a cake exposed to the elements is ridiculous. Who does that? If transporting it outside, wouldn't you put it in a sealed Tupperware carrier? I have no time for this."
Instant messages are evil. Unless you are merely using them to remind the person on the other side to bring home a roll of paper towel, the latest "Us" magazine, and a four-pack of light bulbs, they should be avoided like spoiled milk, rotting flesh, and Carrot Top (I realize that is redundant). With instant messages, unless you place an adverb in parentheses to indicate how you would like the line read, you risk your innocent message being read with an inflection you did not intend and your whole day going to hell in a handbasket with razorblades for handles.
We're on the platform waiting for the train to Little Italy. I'm eager to start with pasta and then onward to cannoli (who am I to refuse Sarah Vowell's urging to take it?). I'm annoyed because the VEGAN AS FUCK pin on my bag is missing, punctuation to my oration about striving for cruelty-free living. I'm annoyed even more that you don't know what tofu is. And more when, in the next heartbeat, you tell me you once shot at quail. "But I missed," you say. You don't get why that still counts. You're out, before even the third strike.
Of interst to you perhaps
Is that I gave up whittling
For the bagpipes
Even though I know we both always made fun of them
And would make slightly salty jokes about kilts
I have no use for the flute I thought I'd make now
Or splintery lips
Of interest to you perhaps
Is that my lack of desire to have kids is of no significance
To the new guy
Who wants to adopt a baby of every color
Like Brangelina or Benetton
At least he doesn't shoot quail
He knows what tofu is
It's of no interest to me
I wonder if, the night before, I prefaced my acceptance of wine with the information that I'm a lightweight. Apparently one glass turned into two and two into however many resulted in my awakening in an unfamiliar apartment. Light filters into the bedroom through two windows crammed with multi-colored bottles, a mosaic effect impossible in my own cave-like space. I reach under the blanket for the guy responsible for bringing me here and move closer to wrap around him. My hand finds a warm mound of smooth flesh where I was expecting furry flatness. I hope my gasp isn't audible.
Whoever sampled the blue nail polish earlier failed to secure its cap. When I pick it up, it clatters to the floor, unbroken, and at my feet lies a splatter in turquoise not unlike something Jackson Pollock would create as a study.
I alert a saleswoman to the spill, with an embarrassed chuckle, "Rather Jackson Pollock, wouldn't you say?" She pretends she knows what I mean. Apparently Art 101 is not a requirement for Sephora staff.
The perma-eyebrow-raised customer with her glares at me as if I'd poured the polish directly onto her Talbots blouse.
Oh, how I want to.
It wasn't bad enough that you looked like Alvin the Chipmunk but sounded like him as well. No, you had to have the misfortune of having parents who named you Richard Schmick and insisted on calling you Dickie. Nobody, especially an eight-year-old, needed to be tethered to that name, especially someone who wasn't an uncle pulling quarters from his nephews' ears, barely four feet tall with chronically wet hands and a perpetually bloody nose, and who insisted on dragging around a hamburger on a tattered leash and calling it "Panda, my pretty poodle puppy." Kudos on your alliterative tendencies, though!
Not only should I have known better than to give out my real number but to answer a call from an unfamiliar number, in my real voice. But here I am, insisting I have no idea who you are. You're asking how I could be so callous especially since "what we shared." I wrack my brain. Did I have my hand in someone else's fries on Friday? Split the fare on a cab at the end of the night? Still, as perplexed as I am at what you're saying, I'm intrigued that you're a girl. Who the hell am I?
I passed by your house in a car you wouldn't have recognized because it's been years and you'd only remember the brown MGB convertible I used to park in front. You wouldn't see me anyway because I was driving fast, and even though in my mind I slowed down and tried to glimpse inside to see if you were there making granola like we used to, I sped by as if you and your house were just any other old person and place I used to know. Never mind that you're dead and don't live there or anywhere else anymore.
I don't say this about very many people, Kerry, but you were the shit. You were the biggest fucking freak I ever knew, and that's even including my family, a veritable houseful of Munsters in which I was the Marilyn. You didn't give a damn who saw you prancing down the aisles at Pathmark or in its parking lot, who saw you leaping like a gazelle through the woods. You didn't care if anyone made fun of the pink shirt, because I found it devastating and I couldn't take my eyes off of you in it. Rest in sweet peace.
What was I doing on January 3, 2008? I scroll through my Google calendar for hints. I should know better, though, given that I don't keep much of a calendar. My days of writing down every little thing -- including what I wore and ate -- are long gone. That was the stuff I did when I dated your son, Kerry, 25 years ago.
What did I wear that day, what did I eat? Who did I see? Nothing as significant as what you were doing, which was leaving this world. Give our boy a kiss for me, sweet Faun.
What the hell happened to my keyboard overnight? Last time I used it, its keys were clacking like those charming wind-up false teeth, allowing the swift appearance of words across my screen, giving me no headache, no cause for concern, no lip. Doing what it was supposed to do and doing it rather well. So why this morning is the space bar responding only sporadically, and even when cooperating, doing so grudgingly, like it's got better things to do? Did I really just hear it say, "If you'd stop eating juice popsicles at your desk, this wouldn't happen, you jackass?"
How many times in one afternoon can one person possibly sing "Out Here On My Own" (from Fame!) to a YouTube karaoke video without being evicted? Three? Ten? More times than she has fingers and toes, even if she's from another planet where distal extremities are mutated to include more digits than in a two-pound bag of baby carrots?
If I ever run into anyone in the front hall while retrieving my mail they ask me what's going on in here, I'm prepared to say I'm a singing coach for a determined teenaged warbler. Yes, that's what pays my rent.
It's the mid-1980s, and my boyfriend and I are perched on a stiff sofa in the impeccable upper middle class home of his married friends. I can't believe anyone who isn't yet 45 would live in a house like this. I wonder if we should have worn better shoes just to step inside. But hey, these people were really cool in college, you know? Liberal and whatnot, free thinkers. They whisper about how they're fined if they set their garbage out at the curb in anything but white trash bags. I marvel that the neighborhood acknowledges they actually produce any.
Doug is on the fence about Lila, not sure whether he wants to bother wasting time trying to get her to remove her pants. Mid-kiss, she mentions she's invented the best recipe for chocolate chip pancakes west of the Atlantic, east of the Mississippi, north of the Mason-Dixon Line, and south of the North Pole.
"I don't believe you," he says.
"I'll prove it," she says, tightening her belt.
She whips 'em up, and by gum, he's a believer. He helps her remove her pants, and that's that.
In two weeks, he'll find her recipe in a cookbook from 1959!
At long last a sweaty tourist isn't posing where John Lennon was murdered, grinning while waiting for a companion to learn how to use the camera. The dog I'm walking had been eyeing the Dakota from the other side of Central Park West with impressive patience while waiting for the light to change, but now, eager to seize the rare opportunity to do what he's always wanted to do, he pulls me across the street. He's too much of a gentleman to raise his leg on a German tourist, even though I telepathically encourage him to do so.
Alas, there are no tourists, German or otherwise, right now whose legs my canine friend can anoint by raising his own, but he is even more excited that he finally gets a clear shot at the exact spot on which the never-ending clot of tourists poses. I'm so excited for him I almost pee my pants, but I don't. I let him do the honors on the wall.
"Hey, he can't do that here!" the guard yells.
"Oh, please. You know John would've found this a fuck of a lot more appropriate than the photo shoots," I say.
You're the only person on the bus who's not tuned out, plugged in, fiddling with a phone, a book, or putting on makeup. You're the only person who's smiling. Your eyes are fixed on something on your lap, but I cannot see what it is.
At long last, the bulky person crammed in the seat next to me to gets up to leave. Now I can side effects what you have. Is it a newborn kitten snuggled in a sock? A strip of photos from a photo booth?
No, it's a sandwich on what appears to be very nice bread.
Alvin has not been to the gym for a month. The morning of his return, he presses his right index finger onto the little pad at the front desk to check in and grins at the computer screen when his photo appears, confirmation not only of acceptance within these walls but of his existence in general. Beneath his photo are those of two members who preceded him. One of them, a male, is someone who will be sure to have noticed his absence. But first he needs to be noticed by the front desk girl before he proceeds.
The girl who usually mans the counter doesn't appear, nor does anyone else. Alvin lingers, his size 14 feet seeming to grow as long as skis, hoping a member who still uses a card to swipe in enters so the girl will have to materialize to take the card. He'll be able to grin at the member as well. After two interminable minutes, he wills movement back into his feet and skulks past the desk. The only sign of life is that one skinny girl who always ignores him. He grins toward her anyway, happy to be back.
Chances are that, left to your own devices while in someone else's house when looking for the bathroom (yes, there are some people who don't give "the tour" within moments of your arrival), you will not find it behind the first door you open. (This assumes that its door is closed, which I've always found odd.) I assume that anyone visiting my apartment will know which of its three internal doors is the one they seek. When they open a closet door instead and say, "Whoops, wrong one!" I say, "No, it's not," and insist they pee among the hangers.
One-minute rule, 30-second rule, F]five-second rule, two-second rule? Don't eat it at all if it's been anywhere near the floor or the ground, no matter how clean it may be? Does it matter if the shoe-level ground on which the food falls is grassy and not concrete, since grass is kind of like lettuce and no one would object if you dropped a potato chip into a salad?
I don't have any rules. I mean, you're talking to the chick who'll eat a stale pretzel lodged between sofa cushions that haven't been turned in months. I'm hardly one to judge.
My landlord knocks on my door to tell me the exterminator will be by later in the day. I tell him I can't come to the door because I'm not "decent". I'm quite sure he knows that anyway, in other ways, because he installed secret cameras throughout this place the last time he knew I was away for a few days.
I wonder what he thinks I'm wearing when I say I'm not decent. What does that mean to a 70-year-old hippie-artist type? Does he know it only means I haven't brushed my hair and am not wearing a bra?
Perhaps Not So Irrational Fear #1
I will open a container of dates (or sun-dried tomatoes) that has been in my kitchen cabinet, original seal broken (by me), pluck one from the clump and pop it in my mouth, start to chew, and notice it tastes a little "off". I will spit the partly-chewed mass into my palm and its legs will be moving slightly. I will think, "Wait, I don't think dates [or sun-dried tomatoes] have legs!", empty the contents of my palm into a napkin, run to the computer to Google it, and discover that no, they don't.
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