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Arabella Adorama is not amused. It's bad enough she's the shortest and lispiest kid in sixth grade and her house is built into the side of a hill with grass for a roof instead of black stuff like everyone else's and her clothes are her dad's hand-me-downs because her mom's a nudist and she gets straight A's which, although awesome in their own right, do nothing to bolster her populary. All that she would able to forgive if only it weren't for the added abhorrent alliteration apparent in her full name Arabella Aardvark Amagagmated Adorama. Her parents are A-list assholes!
The rectangular plot of grass adjacent to the projects is the equivalent of a threadbare carpet. What it lacks in lustrous green, it makes up for with small plastic pinwheels, paint-chipped Hot Wheels, primary-color Fisher-Price figures, and bedraggled plush toys who lord over the kingdom like mangy Godzillas. The breeze animates the pinwheels and stirs what little grass there is. Sunlight glints off the tiny cars. The Fisher-Price kids smile, some tilted this way or that from last night's rain. This is not the most beautiful garden in the world. But it's beautiful because whoever created it thinks it is.
And in the end, Jeremy accepted himself with all his faults and accepted her for accepting them, realized she was who he wanted all along, and pedaled over to her house on the tandem bike, her glasses in his pocket, which he couldn't wait to gently place back on her face so she would revert to the dorky girl he fell in love with ages ago and not this "improved" version with the contact lenses, straightened hair, and flouncy dress. He wouldn't even mind if she went back to the overalls, although he must admit, the dame's got some pins.
Dearest Person Who May Be Reading This:
I apologize for the errors in my first entry for the month. I have no excuse for typing "populary" instead of "popularity" or " Amagagmated" instead of "Amalgamated". I have spellcheck, I have eyes (the last time I looked), and I am a perfectionist. So, what gives? I don't know.
I do know that I'm compelled to bring this to your attention in a preemptive strike, in the event that, upon finishing this batch, you planned to send me a smirky message pointing out my errors.
Yours, in abject apology,
The East Side wants me to be fancy. If above Central Park to about 90th, Lexington and west, it wants me to carry a proper handbag with a handle, to wear dark jeans with high heels, to peer at the world through dark glasses with interlocking back-to-back C's on the temples. It wants me to paint my nails the palest of non-colors. If below Tenth Street and east of Second Avenue, it wants me to be fancy in the reverse. It wants tattoos and piercing, to sneer at the world, glasses or not. Oh, East Side, give it a west.
Those morsels you're popping into your mouth at the salad bar are not free samples, and you know it. You know it because after I witness you acting like you're at your cousin's wedding reception at Old Country Buffet, I tell you. I tell you this is not your living room, that you have to pay like everyone else. You thank me with what I take to be polite appreciation and humble humanity, so I give you the benefit of the doubt. Thank you for proving me wrong literally three seconds later, when you do it again in plain sight.
My cousin Glenda glides down the stairs into the game room of my parents' house, where a bulge of 13-year-old boys gathered after my brother's bar mitzvah ogle her and nudge each other with jangling elbows, just in case one of them didn't notice that the object of their attentions is within arm's reach. She's untouchable not just because they've dubbed her "The Goddess" but because she is 15 years old, which clearly puts her out of reach. I am envious of her perfect black hair and red dress. I hate her because the boys aren't calling me The Goddess.
Happiness is a warm puppy, Charles Schulz says, and the pursuit of happiness is my right, the Declaration of Independence says, so does it logically follow that it is my right to pursue a puppy? If so, must the puppy be warm upon receipt in order to qualify? Or is it enough that the puppy have the capability for warmth, and thus I am legally bound, upon receipt of a chilly or room temperature puppy, to warm the puppy to a level of heat sufficient to render it undeniably warm in order to meet the requirements for my pursued happiness?
I wanted to live inside a snow-cone, sometimes nestled at the bottom of the paper cone itself, the soles of my Keds grazing the bottom of the ice, mouth open to catch any errant drips, sometimes wedged into the scoop of perfectly-balled chunky-shaved ice itself, surrounded on all sides by endless fake-cherry red. Never mind the cold and the possibility of a never-ending "ice cream headache". While other girls dreamed of living in Mary Tyler Moore's apartment when they got "old", I dreamed of setting up residence inside an igloo, lying on my side at night and licking its walls.
When I was about eight or so, often I would repeat my name really fast, as many times as would fit into a big breath, and then repeat the cycle with several breaths. Somewhere along the way, I would be overwhelmed by the mere fact of my own existence and presence and place in the world, experienced both from within myself, self-conscious and even embarrassed by the sound of my name, and from outside myself, as a passerby who just so happened to catch a glimpse of something in her peripheral vision, turned to face it, and gasped with recognition.
Somewhere on fringes of my frayed mind roosts a memory of going with someone to fly a kite. I can't remember whether I was a kid and it was with an adult or it was a date, whether I went of my own volition or whether I was dragged or maybe somewhere in the middle, as in the case of a date, where I would have pretended I was into it but only agreed to go so my date would think I was the kind of chick who would fly a kite and not tell him to go fly one.
I was on OKCupid for a day and already the cretins wanted meetin's. Just because I had no work for the day and was whiling away the time chatting, one eye on eBay, another on Facebook, and the third barely paying attention to our chat didn't mean I'm interested beyond this point. In a moment of magnanimity, we became Facebook friends, which I regretted within the hour. When I told you I wasn't into getting together, you said it's a shame because we would have had "epic sex". Had there ever been a deal, that surely would have broken it.
I'm on the keyboard playing "The Rainbow Connection". Shana is three feet away, lolling on her back, little round front paws curled under her fuzzy black chin, green eyes reduced to sleepy slits, and the slow rise and fall of her meatloaf chest and slight twitch of a back leg indicate she's been lulled into a gentle snooze. It's so heart-meltingly cute I could just scream. But of course I won't. I tiptoe back to my desk a few feet away, to my other keyboard, the one that makes words not music, hoping the clack doesn't disturb her sleeping beauty.
No one has the heart to tell Nelly her sponge-painting isn't welcome anymore. What started out as a hobby after her daughter's birth and she suffered from post-partum depression and, as she will only admit in a whisper, boredom, has now overtaken every inch of what used to be happily pristine walls in the homes of everyone with whom she has even a marginal acquaintance. Why no one says no to her is a mystery, and why she feels it's okay to show up with a sponge in one hand and a gallon of paint in the other is another.
A friend tells me she's being transferred to Cincinnati. She tells me why, but her explanation may as well have been delivered by an adult in a "Peanuts" cartoon for all I could understand. I know it's not a good thing, though, because she's frowning, so I frown too.
"Well, it's not like I wanted to live in New York forever anyway," she says, holding my gaze in the locker room mirror, and I know she's trying to convince herself she doesn't want to scream.
"Yeah, I get sick of New York sometimes too," I say, not even convincing myself.
She chirps, with all the enthusiasm of Gidget hopped up on a surfing high and a Moondoggie kiss, "I'm a people person!" She shakes your hand as if it's the first and last she'll ever shake, locks eyes with you like she'll never set yours free, grins a grin from ear to ear and has to sprout a third one to accommodate the span. When she goes in for the hug, even bears raise eyebrows and mutter behind their paws, "Now, that's overkill."
You wonder how long it will take for the severed heads in her subzero freezer to surface.
I cringe ever so gently anytime anyone on "Dancing With the Stars" (and here YOU cringe, perhaps not so gently) does a certain part of a "quick step" routine where one person jumps with his or her feet apart and the other kicks a foot into the space and then, vice-versa, really fast (hence the "quick step", yes?). It always makes me think of bratty kids on a playground, one of them saying, "Nyah!" and the other saying it back, someone sticking a tongue out, and a whole bunch of whining. Or maybe it's just the whimsy. Either way, ugh.
He tells me his name really is Wright O'Way. I tell him he's Full O'Shit. He throws back his head and guffaws raucously enough to push the moon into the next galaxy. He places his left hand a foot from the back of his head, as if trying to keep a large hat from falling off. I ask if his Stetson is a phantom. He says that rhymes. I say no, actually, it doesn't. He tells me I'm a pistol. I tell him if he blows on his finger and points it at me there will be hell to pay.
Shana, my cat, used to "tweet" her feelings about meowing a few years ago, memorializing the ins and outs of her daily mews for an audience. That she had an audience at all was quite, yes, amusing ("Don't you mean 'amewsing'?") (of course I do) (shhh), but that she continues to collect stray followers from time to time, despite a long hiatus, boggles me. She has now expanded her repertoire to include her thoughts about her food and napping, which I hope does not disappoint her established fans but instead invites an expanded base eager for her kicked-up kitty twitter.
The peanut-sized teratoma in the case at the Bodies exhibit doesn't know why everyone who peers in points at him, makes an ugly face, and turns away in disgust. Although the thick glass muffles sound, he can still read lips and facial expressions, so he knows no one's exactly saying he looks like a pretty princess. His three teeth persist in their lopsided grin, though, and he wishes he had a comb because he thinks his little tuft of black hair may be a touch unruly, and he wants to look nice despite the not-so-nice reactions people have to him.
Five dollars gets you three shots at trying to toss a tiny ring onto Ursula's McAlistair's uvulva. She'll lie on her back on the splintered counter of the vacant booth in between the traditional ring toss and the Whack-A-Mole run by her dad, open her mouth wide, and blink twice, give you the thumbs up, and then you can try your best to win the game. There is no prize, just the memory of having tried to toss a ring onto a pretty girl's uvulva at the county fair, and no doubt losing. It's not as easy as you've heard.
I'm still not down with the V word. I can do the C word, the T word, and the P word, but not seriously and without sputtering and giggling like the nine-year-old boy I not so secretly am, but the V? Nope, sorry, not gonna do it. The few times when I've said it aloud, jokingly, I've cringed so hard I thought my uterus would shatter and exit my body through my C/T/P. Years ago I signed up to work as a volunteer for a rape hotline, but never followed through, anticipating I'd have to say it without audibly flinching.
My biodad emails a Polaroid of me, my brother, and sister from 1976 or so, loitering around a touristy wigwam on a vacation I couldn't remember if you paid me (to take a vacation nowhere near a touristy wigwam). My brother rocks denim overalls, boasting a Jewfro that couldn't host a yarmulke even if it wanted to; my sister wears an expression on her face that I can only describe as Bobby Brady looking like he's got a secret; and I sport Farrah-esque locks hair, showing off perky little boob slopes that, oddly, don't win me popularity in high school.
When he emails and asks if he can send her "X-rayted" photos, Claire assumes he means x-rays taken after a car accident that shattered his leg, requiring scads of pins, rods, screws to repair. She's excited, because she's always been inexplicably fascinated with hardware stores. At long last, a guy on a dating site who's not only cool but a walking, talking storehouse!
When he wrote, "You're gonna love my bone," she thought "femur". So when she opens the photo and it's an XXX-rated X-ray of his "bone", her hopes for this guy are as shattered as his leg. Next!
You write your wish on a small tag and tie it to the post along with others, over which the word HOPE presides. You feel a bit sheepish, but not like a sheep, because your wish is specific, not just stating a hope for "peace" or something in the abstract. And you don't scrawl, you take care to print it as neatly as possible given that you're crouched and you're using your knee as a surface. You don't call your wish a wish or a hope. You are not "trying", you are "doing". You're stating the reality you will create.
I hope the autoharp I eventually buy appreciates how much zealous attention I'm going to give to learning how to play with more proficiency than the last time I laid hands on one almost, what, 40 (ouch!) years ago. I hope it will forgive me for the discordance that is sure to result from my initial attempts and will remain patient in the face of my discovery of what I can create with it. I know that whichever one makes its way into my lap will be as cherished there as if it were a cat and stroked as lovingly.
I can't very well tell Ellie, the lady I occasionally see in Central Park with 13-year-old German Shepherd Buddy, that I got off the bus several stops before the one that takes me closer to home in order to rush over to the two of them and get in a morning "smoosh", can I? Will she think I'm nuts? I don't risk it, so I tell her I just so happened to see them as I was walking in that area of the park, and oh, what a treat this is. She and Buddy never fail to make my morning.
Not even one block away from my apartment, and already I'm wanting to turn around, go back home, politely ditch the bike, take a shower (again), and opt for the subway downtown to meet my friend for girl-gabbing over tea (iced, natch). Still, I press on, determined to fulfill a self-imposed double-duty transportation/workout. By the time I get down to the Flatiron, maybe 25 minutes later, my pants (why did I choose jeans, even though cropped?) are a leaden lump and my shirt sticks to me like a Colorform. I may as well have done Bikram in a sauna. Stunning.
Plans delayed, not happening as I had thought, at least not for now, but I won't let it throw a wrench or a hammer or a chainsaw into my day. A temporary setback (sorry you're sick!), and although I don't have a set Plan B, I'm happy to readjust my weekend to include anything that comes my way or to turn my back on that anything and do nothing in particular, just lounge with my cat, watch movies, read, take a walk, ride my bike, nap, daydream. I have faith that the Plan A will come to fruition another time.
I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to spoil your plans to cheat on your wife (and daughters) while you were out of town. You do realize, though, that you weren't going to get anywhere with me even if you were actually divorced and coming up here on a legitimate business trip, right? That sort of setup might work with any number of the desperate housewives who no doubt fling themselves at your handsome feet, but it takes a lot more than a flash of perfect teeth and a chiseled jaw for some of us. Save it for your wife, bum.
Ahhh, yes, it's that time of year when my thoughts turn to crisp air and crisper leaves and Central Park turning all shades of Thanksgiving table colors, me in a scarf and boots and jacket, hair at long last restored to bouncy splendor thanks to humidity's retreat, daylight dwindling earlier and making the city seem more grown up. Public skin and blubber hidden once again, toes tucked, a return of elegance to strolls. The onset of "the holidays", the promise of cold hands warmed by hot chocolate, and dogs in little jackets. Autumn in New York, you can't be beat.
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