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We're hanging out on the ledge outside homeroom, waiting for our teacher and her key. Long-legged gawky Wendy saunters over to the girls, in clogs and jeans with wide plaid cuffs and an armful of Bay City Rollers paraphernalia. She names the shaggy-haired band member who is "hers". Even though none of them really appeal to me, I claim Derek, because at 12 I'm partial to blonds and he bears a slight resemblance to Davy Jones. The boys smirk at our contrived allegiance to this new band being foisted upon us, and I desperately want to tell them I agree.
Why the hell is it taking this kid so long to find the "Polo" to his "Marco"? Why is he red-faced and sputtering, limbs flailing with all the desperation of a rubber-banded propeller of a toy airplane released in a bathtub? Why are his eyes screwed shut so tightly his blood threatens to spurt from his ears? Why doesn't he squint instead, and peek to see where the cutest girl is, and do his best frog-stroke in her direction, reaching out with a blind hand to grab a handful of eight-year-old tush? What kind of lame explorer is he, anyway?
Without bathroom breaks to accommodate the consequences of my coffee-quaff, I find it quite difficult to watch a movie in its entirety in one sitting. On average, a two-hour movie takes about six to finish, with breaks sprinkled more liberally throughout than salt sprinkled on a bowl of popcorn. Sometimes the pause is to consult imDb.com ("How old is Anthony Hopkins?"), others because the time has never seemed more right to see if a certain pair of boots "go" with a certain dress. Naturally, this phenomenon is limited to home viewing. Just try pausing a movie at the local AMC.
Because I'm apparently still traumatized from having lived through The Great Depression, I'm emotionally unable to throw out a perfectly good safety pin. The same goes for rubber bands. But whereas I have a cup in which I place the rubber bands, I don't have similar accommodations for pins, so I have to justify throwing them away. Thus, completely disregarding my anthropomorphism , I maim them, unhinging the sharp little leg from its resting place, bending it back so it's no longer usable. Still, I know I'm causing the pin pain, convince myself it's screaming, and feel like a monster.
She reaches for the phone her mother holds out toward her face, but her mother snaps it away. She frowns and reaches for it anyway, even though her kindergarten arms are too short and seem even shorter as her mother stands in front of her, peering down without a smile. She whimpers and pouts.
"Do you see what I'm showing you?" her mother says, holding the phone in front of her face again.
"I want the game!"
"No game. Do you see what I'm showing you?"
She doesn't heed her mother's newly deliberate enunciation.
"I want the game".
"Can you tell me what time it is?"
The girl mumble-whispers the time.
"You're late for school because of the game."
I silently applaud her conviction. I want to catch her eye and smile my approval, but then she holds the phone out to the girl without a word, the game ready to play.
The girl sniffs back tears, grabs it without thanks, and is lost in the game before she even exhales.
For the duration of the ride, that game is all anyone can hear. And here I'd thought the little girl was being taught a lesson.
Patrick Swayze sneaks up behind me and wraps his arms around my waist. I tell him I don't have a pottery wheel or even the desire to make a little ashtray. He slumps against my back and pouts.
I tell him he must have the wrong girl.
"Oh! So you'd rather go to the creek and practice lifts!" he says.
I tell him this is the city. There is no creek.
"Then I guess surfing is out of the question?" He's trying his best to make light of this.
Thank god I wake up before he turns into Whoopi Goldberg.
The verdict is that I write like a man. Or so decides the online writing test for which I submitted a passage to determine if I write like a girl or a guy. A paragraph explaining the analysis is included, but I pay about as much attention to it as a husband listening to his wife yammering on about her book club when he's just trying to get through his eggs. I'm thrilled that my words are more pants than dress, more balls than tits. I feel like swaggering through saloon doors and grabbing a cancan girl for a tumble.
Someone who looks like me is squinting at the awning of a lovely building on West 73rd, trying to make the numbers of its address appear only once instead of twice, stacked atop themselves. She's squinting so hard you'd think she was trying to sneak a peek at an eclipse. Now she's closing one eye, then the other, still trying to perform feats of visual magic, then closing both eyes (while walking) and trying to surprise herself by quickly opening them again to view the awning again. She's having no success. If you see her, introduce yourself as twins, please.
The three keys I must use to access my newly acquired 80-cubic-foot space at Manhattan Mini Storage -- one a clunky white plastic card, another a snub-nosed thing that could pass for the end of a pistol, and the third so nondescript it may as well open a Port Authority bathroom -- are as far removed from the romance of an Art Nouveau brass key as I am from that original era, but still, that doesn't stop me from daydreaming about the space as if I'd just scored a Parisian pied-à-terre and a vintage Hermes scarf to go with it.
One of my friends is the crafty sort. Two Christmases ago she made a wreath from balled-up magazine pages, glossy and colorful and gorgeous, and hung it on her front door, much to the ooh and ahh delight of friends. She pooh-poohed our wows, saying she stole the idea from someone else. For a moment I thought, "Well, then it's not that outstanding," but then realized, wait, yes it is. Someone had to come up with the idea. So instead of being quietly jealous of someone I knew, I transferred the jealous into a louder version, to an unknown. Lovely!
My landlord knocks on my door as if I'm his daughter and he's letting me know, on his way out to the garage to put away the lawn mower and the rake, that Mom says dinner will be ready in 20 minutes. I close my eyes and hold my breath, knowing he wants me to open the door. I call out, like a panicked Jan Brady washing her hair, that I'm busy. He announces that the exterminator is coming tomorrow. I open my eyes and expect to see Neil Young's "Harvest" LP in my hand and to smell Hamburger Helper.
A man carries a fuzzy black puppy down Sixth Avenue, pausing only to kiss the top of its tiny head. I'm transfixed, unable to get on the subway unless I meet the little darling. So I do. Turns out the man had become the pup's guardian just ten minutes earlier. The way I carried on, you would've thought he'd given birth to it, but neither man nor pup minded at all. This was the first Scottie I ever met, and I told the man, "I'm overjoyed that it gets to be this beautiful little guy." Swoon to the woof degree!
You know, I'm all for broads/skirts/dames/chicks asserting themselves and refusing to be little namby-pamby pushovers, for looking up and speaking up instead of hanging back and barely making a peep, but I don't have it in me to use Oprah-inspired bingo-lingo like "empowerment" and "goddess" and "unleash". And I don't have the need to chant "cunt" in a vaginacentric theater audience in response to a monologue that makes me want to tell its mouthpiece to "Stifle it, Edith", like Archie Bunker. If you're woman, roar, damn it, but just act like you've always been doing it, without need for fanfare.
I quaffed enough coffee to choke a horse, even a horse with an enormous throat and lack of a gag reflex, with my last crazed bout of caffeination occurring around 5:00 p.m., so why am I surprised that here it is, 1:30 a.m., and sleep refuses to share my bed, avoiding me like my cat avoids the peas in her food, even though I've been awake for 21 hours? I know I should be drinking water instead of coffee, but really, come on, who among us prefers a pristine cheek kiss to a full-on hair-pulling makeout session? Oh, coffee whore!
I hope you're enjoying this month's "batch" of words. I hope you're reading them when your hair is kind of disheveled the way it looks after a roll in the hay or on the sofa or the bed or wherever we do our rolling these days and that you have one day's worth of scruff on your face. I hope you've just eaten a cookie and the sweetness is still on your lips and the delight still in your eyes. I hope Foley is on your lap or at least nearby, meowing. I hope you're smiling.
We're the only two left in the subway car, but she doesn't move even one seat to her right to put space between us. I don't move, either. I don't want to offend her.
"My mother died last week," she says without turning toward me. "All I've been doing is riding the subway ever since." Our only eye contact is in the dark reflection of the window opposite us. "It's the only place that keeps me from crying. The closer I am to people I don't know, the better I feel."
"Then allow me to not introduce myself," I say.
My seventh grade teacher divides the class into groups to perform skits, and my group, all girls, chooses to portray "Our Boys". I vie to play John or Jeff, the two boys we think are the cutest, but instead I'm stuck playing Danny, the outcast. My costume consists of tight striped pants, a fantastically mismatched shirt, and my usual blue Converse. Midway, my pants split up the back, earning hoots and jeers, and I'm mortified in a way that suits the real Danny's everyday circumstance. I'm the hit of the skit. Especially with Danny, who's just happy to be included.
Ahh, yes, the ever-charming internal monologue:
Keep the hair long, or chop it off? Keep the hair long, or chop it off? Keep the hair long, or chop it off? Keep the hair long, or chop it off? Keep the hair long, or chop it off? Keep the hair long, or chop it off? Keep the hair long, or chop it off? Keep the hair long, or chop it off? Keep the hair long, or chop it off? Keep the hair long, or chop it off?
Lather, scream into pounding cascade of water, rinse. Repeat 365 times a year, minimum.
My mother won't think less of me if, for her 75th birthday, I don't get her the best flannel robe ever created on this or any other planet, but from the way I'm searching online, you'd think that she'd, if not disown me, then downright refuse to accommodate my non-dairy-ness the next time I visit. My search yields a robe for about $70, at least twice as much as I know she'd spend on herself. As I hit SEND, I remember having to use regular half and half in my coffee at my last visit. Too late now, damn it.
While a guest at your house, I will not bother going through your medicine cabinet to see what kinds of salves, ointments, potions, prescriptions, makeup, toothpaste, old baby teeth or new dentures you have, or how many bags of peas are defrosting there. I have no need for that sort of standard information. I will, however, lift your toilet seat (the bottom one) to see if it's free of splashes, splotches or stray hair. And if your toilet paper is on the roller with the paper coming from underneath, I will change it so it comes out from the top.
Among the usual scattering of menus in the vestibule rests a similarly-folded piece of paper from a neighborhood dry cleaner. I pick it up because, among everything else, it's the "one of these things doesn't belong here" of the bunch, and I always side with the outcast or the underdog.
On its face, under a quirky drawing of three items hanging on a rack, it says, "Qiality You Can Feel". My instinct is to not trust a dry cleaner that doesn't spell-check. Then I remember my grandfather spelling of "pinochle" as "pinokl" and choose to admire the pamphlet's charm instead.
My sister and her boyfriend take me to the Trenton train station after a weekend at my mom's house. Sis hops out of the driver's seat to help me get stuff from the back of the SUV, and we laugh about her ensemble of pink pajama bottoms, a thermal-type shirt, fluffy green slippers, and enough jangly bells around her ankle to summon up Christmas. I suppose she doesn't care if, god forbid, she gets into an accident and this is the outfit in which she makes her grand entrance into the emergency room. "Thanks," I say. "And please, drive safely."
The two available seats on the subway are opposite each other. One is next to a white-haired man in a gray suit and polished shoes, his pale, doughy chin divided by the lipless line of his mouth as he pores over a stapled group of color-coded charts, the other next to a scraggly-haired man, probably the same age, in a cap and dusty shoes, cane by his side, his brown face a topographical map of Peru on the verge of meltdown. I swear the second man settles in a bit more comfortably when I take the seat next to him.
Two months before his fourth birthday, his dad commits suicide in the garage of the grandparents' house while they're on vacation. He knew his dad was sad because the family wasn't together anymore, and he was sad too, but now he doesn't understand why there has to be even more sadness, the forever kind, and tells his mom he doesn't like the pain. The day after the funeral he draws a picture that, in typical kid fashion, has to be interpreted by the artist. "Dad was mad and then he died," he says. "This is him eating cupcakes in heaven."
A year after it fell off after sustaining a run-related injury, the toenail on my left big toe has finally made a complete recovery. This feat was heralded with a fair amount of fanfare and merriment, the likes of which the Upper West Side hasn't enjoyed since gaining attention 50 years ago when spry young men jumped around in grand gymnastic fashion for Jerome Robbins in a movie based on the rivalry of gangs in its neighborhoods. I congratulate the nail on its triumph and it beams up at me, marvelously modest in its starfish-like acceptance of its own wonder.
I can see how you'd be terrified, tourist-man, of the white dog the size of my shoe, the one with the black coloring around her one eye that makes her look like a classic cartoon drawing, the one who's bouncing over to you on legs the size of cigarettes, wagging a tail as menacing as a Q-tip. Yes, I can see how as she approaches you, you'd need to scuttle backwards as if performing a particularly bad and manic tap-dance. I can't understand a non-English word tumbling from your mouth, so I imagine you can't understand when I say, "Pussy!"
I'm officially 100% over both the 99% and the 1%. The only place I have any time to occupy is the chair here at my desk, where I spend about 50% of my waking hours in order to make enough money to ensure that I don't wind up sleeping in a park with or without a tent. I'm grateful as all get-out for the job I created for myself, for what little money I scrape together to keep this lifestyle a reality, no matter how frugal it is. I go without what I don't need but need whatever I have.
Woody's is two years old already, his mom-guardian, Carol, tells me. I can't believe a year and nine months has passed since I first saw them on West End Avenue and had a fit of flailing over the bundle of butterscotch fluff at my feet. He was such a goofy puppy, and is now just as goofy a dog, that the name of the breed/hybrid, goldendoodle, fit him to a T (or is that a G?). The way Carol looks at and talks about him makes me just as happy as getting down on the sidewalk to play with him.
Liquid warmth trickles from my left nostril to my top lip, wishing it could gain enough momentum to take advantage of the sliding board of my filtrum and thus enter my mouth with more ease. Ahhh, yes, is there anything more simultaneously delightful and frightening than awakening to the taste of warm pennies courtesy of a middle-of-the-night nosebleed? In the bathroom, I make the Pollack proud with my copious splatter and consider saving my toilet paper canvas. I know the thrill is limited to the moment, though, and flush it before I can convince myself I'll still be enchanted come dawn.
A Facebook friend posts a Hallowe'en contest photo of a baby in a bright red lobster costume, crouched in a large stainless steel pot, plastic googly eyes bobbling above her face thanks to the hood to which they're attached. Everyone's commenting on how adorable it is, but that oh, the baby must be uncomfortable in that position. All I can think is, yeah, well, think how a real lobster feels when similarly situated. I leave a comment saying the photo saddens me. My friend tells me to just see a baby in a funny costume. My blood boils. I'm done.
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