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So much said, so very much said, apologies not just from the hackneyed heart but from places that don't even know they can accommodate an apology -- yes, I'm looking at you, pouty pancreas -- dusted from the secret surfaces like fingerprints, evidence of past mortifications and cringing regret. So much still unsaid, so much that could be whispered like tiny dandelion fluff, or wrenched like the most obstinate of weeds. But without the audience, the ear upon which to press the lips, they float in the air just in front of my mouth bursting almost immediately like soap bubbles.
The rumbling gurgles and classic meows -- so meowy that they're a perfect pronunciation of the word down to the last subatomic particle -- and dinky mews and polysyllabic utterances coming from my darling cat have increased substantially over the past year. "What are you saying?" I ask, peering into her big green eyes, blue-ribbon winners in any staring contest. "What? What?"
Sometimes I actually wait. For what, an explanation in a language I can understand, or, at least, broken Spanish? Would I want to know? I have a feeling it's something of vital importance and I'm missing something big.
His profile offers a list of three mix and match columns of descriptors of what he's looking for in a date, much like a classic Chinese menu, a traditional "I'll have the egg roll, wonton soup, and Happy Family" thing. I swoon mightily at the gerunds, two-part adjectives, and nouns which, when combined in any order, all taste scrumptious. I write and tell him of my delight. At long last, I've found a beguiling, hilarious wordsmith!
On the phone, he confesses they're not his creation; they're Shakespearean insults. Figures my perfect match on OKCupid has been dead for 196 years.
"Oom pah pay cockadoodle cocka day, la fee la fay, la oom pah pay!"
I can't remember where I heard it or when, but from the way it feels in my mouth, I'm going to go with something like Zoom (Boston, Mass 02134) and 1971. Or Electric Company and 1974. Either way, a billion years ago and me with wild mermaid hair that I washed maybe once every two weeks and bellbottom pants and bad posture and paralyzing shyness and an unfulfilled crazed yearning to shout. Instead, crooning the nonsense to myself and possibly my sister like a deranged rooster.
Through no fault of my own, and no instigation or prompting of any sort, all of a sudden, while sitting here, I just imagined a slice of my brain being lowered by a long-tined fork into a clear glass bowl with a medium-thick rim, into several whole eggs just beaten together by that form, being lifted back up by the fork, egg viscously dangling from the long side, and being lowered into patiently waiting breadcrumbs on a butcher-block style chopping board before frying in a shallow frying pan. Will the cutlets become a component in a parmigiana-type dish? I hope!
My eyes are exhausted. I imagine them as hardboiled eggs, easily removed from the socks with a simple teaspoon (no need for a fancy melon-baller tonight) AND placed on a faded vintage salad plate. The yolk, not bright yellow but tinged with gray, somewhat overcooked but not unpleasantly so, when separated from the rubbery white with the same spoon, aches as if bruised, and my eyes ache as if they too are bruised. I don't eat eggs, but I wonder what would happen if I popped the grayish yolk, intact, into my mouth. My left eye flutters at the notion.
The moment I hit SEND and thus part with about $45 for a one-month subscription to Match, I regret it. Within five minutes, I'm pounced on by a smattering of doofuses eager to check out the new girl, to be the first to woo her with "winks" and GREETINGS IN ALL CAPS and all manner of salutations ranging from limp to lame and back again. Yeeup, I'm on a low-budget cruise, on deck with a crew of sad sack landlubbers. Already I long for a lone pirate, to steal me away and set this shit ship ablaze. Girl overboard. Ahoy.
I will not eat over my new keyboard. I will not touch my new keyboard with hands that have been met with juice from an enthusiastic apple or any number of grapes. I will not eat rice crackers anywhere near my new keyboard. I will not eat Trader Joe's perfect canned vegetarian chili, with or without the accompanying sweet potato, Daiya "cheddar", and hot salsa within five feet of my new keyboard. I do not want as many crumbs in my keyboard as flakes of dandruff Ally Sheedy's character in Breakfast Club shook onto a drawing of a winter wonderland.
Gee whiz, you guys! Two unrelated man-centric tidbits:
A guy who checked me out on Match.com quoted the full lyrics to the Bette Midler song "The Rose" in his profile. Without irony. If ever I were to question whether my one-month subscription was worth it, now would be the time I'd race to the top of the Empire State Building and shout a resounding affirmative out into the stratosphere.
A young, very attractive, straight, engaged Italian fella at the GLAAD auction told me, in hushed tones, that I asked him INAPPROPRIATE questions. I have never been prouder.
Boy oh boys!
If only I'd recognized him at a round table in the corner of Gobo a few years ago, instead of only recognizing one of his companions, Wallace Shawn (that profile! that voice!), I could be a big, big star by now. Yes, leave it to me to think of this guy, a bit perturbed, "Who's the grizzly guy who keeps looking over at me and smiling?" as I'm making my way through a delightful vegan lunch with a friend, and to realize, much too late, that he wasn't just some random bearded smiley wanker but one Mr. Steven Spielberg. Whoops.
If he tells me his last name, he says, I'll Google him and find out all sorts of stuff that he'd rather tell me in person. Apparently he's so awesome that he doesn't want me overdosing on his awesomeness either before our first date, where he'll tell me but without specifics, or until our second, where he'll supply details, at which time he can witness me swooning so hard I'll wish I'd brought along a portable Victorian fainting couch to collect me. And yes, he'll be so fucking awesome that he'll know where to find vintage smelling salts as accompaniment.
My supersonic turbo ergonomic keyboard decided to get lazy on me, so I ordered a new one online. In the interim, I decided to clean the lazy one, hoping that would be the impetus it needed to stop being such a recalcitrant nincompoop. Instead, it rewarded me for the cleaning by having the "Q" key stick and inserting an errant "Q" in words that have absolutely no relationship with that letter. I am now forced to use the rinky-dink keyboard that came with the computer, which hurts my hands. To the persnickety ergonomic slattern, all I can say is, "FuQ."
No one in the West Village diner is weird enough tonight. I'm wishing it were 40 or 45 years ago and someone more colorful than the "dude" and his lackluster girl seated across from him, or the rest of the woodwork-faded table-dwellers, were here so I could feel like the city I call home isn't ready for a nap instead of refusing to sleep as is its legend. My date, half my age, orders cheese fries and hot chocolate, and makes me guffaw so much that if I had a time machine propelled by crazed laughter, I'd get my wish.
At first, when the den mother/traffic cop type person corralling us in the queue outside Tatzu Nishi's "Discovering Columbus" installation in Columbus Circle informs us we must limit our time inside to 15 minutes, I think, well, that's not enough bang for the buck, even though admission is free. But once inside the specially-built penthouse six flights up, I feel like I'm at a party I want to flee, unimpressed by a host's home that's supposed to wow me. Fifteen minutes is more than enough, and there's not even a bowl of cashews or chips with which to divert myself.
As much as I say I need a change of pace, a change of face, a change of space, I must confess that what I want is the old pace, the old face, the old space. If I could find Cher and sing along with her to turn back time, I would gladly do so in the middle of Times Square at noon, walk backwards to Penn Station and wait for a certain someone there. I want to see the now-familiar face again for the first time, as if for the first time, and gasp again at its perfect imperfection.
In a middle school or high school class, we were asked to write what weíd want for our own funerals. I donít remember why. I wrote that I wouldnít want anyone to cry or wear black. Indeed, I wanted laughter and rainbow colors and frivolity, none of the traditional somber gravity, no no no, not for me! When a friend read hers aloud, she said she wanted everyone to be black-clad and wailing. She wasnít going to pretend she wanted it any other way. I admired her for saying that, knowing that thatís what Iíd secretly wanted to say too.
Weíre going to Pastis, my band of Indy boys and our Chelsea photographer connection, land of Kelly Ripa and celebutantes and all manner of sundry poseur in search of being seen and tourist hoping to see someone being seen. Itís a jangle of elbows, waiters, and a bit more whimsy than Iíd anticipated. Vegetarian options are sparse. I have fries in a paper cone and green beans calling themselves haricot verts to justify being $9. ďBecause itís New York!Ē has been my salvo to explain anything the boys donít readily comprehend. But this? Come on, New York, thereís no excuse!
Archleyís brain does not comprehend the words, ďI donít really drink.Ē Heís pouring the remainder of his glass into the screwdriver Iíve been tooling with for the bulk of the evening, and Iím protesting but not too much. Ehh, what the fuck, tonight at the GLAAD auction will be one of the times when I really DO drink. So I do. I wind up dancing with some of my favorite people like itís Studio 54 circa 1977 and Iím the prom queen among queens, the belle among balls, doing my 1960s dress and vintage white vinyl gogo boots justice. Líchaim!
I'll be going to his apartment so he can play some of his stuff on the acoustic guitar. "Prepare to be impressed," he texts. I cringe because I know he means it. Already I don't want to go. But I do.
I go. He plays. And sings. I'm impressed with the guitar-playing. But the singing? Is he kidding? From the look on his face, he's not. I want to tell him to focus on instrumentals.
"We should give each other massages," he says a bit later. I see to it that we don't.
I'm out. Half-impressed and fully dressed.
I'm surprised at how ordinary their vows are, these two women who are finally allowed to be married to each other, who traveled to my state in order to do so. When I heard they'd written their own vows, I expected something with more verve, more life, more passion. I expected vibrant color, blazes of purple and magenta and puce. Instead, here I am, their witness, in my purple boots and coordinating fishnets, my ears filled with beige and vanilla, uttered in a tone that sounds like it could be used for a shopping list. My eyes remained completely mist-free.
We're in the coffee place, face to face for the first time. He's graciously given afforded 30 minutes before he scoots to an Upper East Side dinner party. I compliment his natty slim-cut suit. He asks if the pants are too tight. When I jokingly balk, he says no, really, he just had the suit tailored, and he's not sure.
He lifts the back of the jacket. The pants are slyly making their way up his ass. But I lie and say no, it's fine. I have a feeling he's an asshole and doesn't deserve the truth. And I'm right.
"It's not good," my mother says on the phone. The next call, it's worse. I'm on a train to Philadelphia where the worst will be happening over the Thanksgiving holiday.
He's not looking good, my father. His small wire-rimmed glasses, which would be thick as Coke bottle bottoms if it weren't for advanced technology, are on the hospital room counter. He grimaces through his breathing tube, eyes never to open again. I unfold and put on his glasses. He's as blurry through them as he is when I remove them, where tears impede my vision as much as his lenses.
Not long ago my dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer, but underwent a series of intravenous treatments that, although they left him weak and groggy, seemed to be doing their job. His voice on the phone sounded weak and small, but I knew it would only take time for that voice to match his burly body again and for him to be laughing the laugh I'd come to love since he came into my life 40 years ago. We joked around that this was bullshit. Cancer should know better than to try to take down my Jerry Garcia lookalike dad.
So here I am at his bedside, with waterfall face. Stroking his thick forearms, the fine hair on his temples, touching my lips to the top of his head, which has never looked more innocent or vulnerable. I press my lips against his ear and whisper, "You're a crazy old fuck, Daddy, you know that? Thank you for marrying my mom. I don't have soccer player legs and you know it." If he can hear me at all, I know he's laughing inside his head. I tell him over and over that I love him, something I rarely said aloud.
I dread the first time someone inevitably says my dad is "in a better place". I dread the torrent of rage I'll feel, the overwhelming sadness, the excruciating pain in my brain, heart and soul, thinking that anywhere but here -- with us, being a pain in everyone's ass, sticking his fingers in the food before it's done cooking, watching endlessly stupid TV, entering a room and uttering inanities -- is the better place for him to be. His body is ashes, his energy has joined the galaxy, cosmos, or whateverthefuck. And I just want him back, chewing chocolate-covered cherries forever.
We had thought he had beaten this thing. But the weekend before Thanksgiving, his body started to swell, a biopsy was performed, and he stayed overnight at the hospital. That Sunday, his blood pressure dropped perilously low and he was put under sedation. He never learned that his body was riddled with the most aggressive lymphoma the doctors had ever seen and that, given a pre-existing heart condition, there was nothing they could do except keep him as comfortable as possible. Instead, there he lay in a bed that was far from the comfort of home and his goofy dog.
A day or so before his hospitalization, we talked on the phone. "What the fuck are you doing over there, Daddy?" I said. "I know. It's bullshit," he said. His voice was weak, but he laughed, and I could imagine his smile peaking from behind the gray and white shrubbery of his beard. Right before we hung up I said, "Love you," words I can't remember ever saying to him.
My mother told me, on Thanksgiving night, that he told her about it. Clueless idiot that I am, I had no idea it would have meant so much to him.
He's a lovely fellow, this one, this gentleman who shakes my hand upon meeting me at the restaurant for dinner. He's chubbier than I'd expected and looks nothing like his profile picture, but I know it is he because I saw other pictures of him online. We laugh quite a bit during dinner, but after about 45 minutes I'm ready to be back home, in flannel pajamas and the cat on my lap.
He's a widower, looking for someone to bring home to the suburbs and his two preteen sons. He has to know I'm all wrong for the role.
I owe it to the memory of my wacked-out erstwhile psychedelic groovaholic dad to not give a shit what people think of me, to strut and pirouette and sashay and stumble up and down the streets and boulevards and alleys and unbeaten paths in crazy boots and an attitude to match, to laugh in the rain, to cry in the sun, to turn cartwheels in the grass and to sing loudly in key and even more loudly off key, to face the world with rage and fire, to attack, to pounce, and, when I want, to retreat on a whim.
So, yeah, this date's a vegan and cute, but, big surprise, that's not enough to sustain my interest for longer than 15 minutes. No sooner are we led to our table than he's up and running, exploring the restaurant because he's never been here before. Yeah, but, um, he's never been with ME before, either, so isn't this just a tad rude? "Points off!" I say aloud, to my napkin. I say it again, silently, when he takes a call once he's back at the table. And here I am, wondering if I'D be rude if I just walked out.
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