Kent enters my office mumbling to himself and
self-flagellating with the wool scarf that he told me last week "itches
the stitches" out of his neck. He
scowls at me in passing, and I raise an eyebrow back at him. Behind his back, I bare my teeth and imagine
the word "Hisssss" in a cartoon speech bubble.
I'm not going to guess what's bothering him this time. That's not my job. I want to taunt him and ask him if he's still
pissed off at willow trees for no good reason, but refrain.
I am nothing if not completely professional.
The knock on my office door is impatient. I recognize it as belonging to Peggy G., my
3:00, who usually arrives at 2:58. Today
it's 3:02. Her knock suggests panic, as
if it's 9:00 p.m. and everyone is gone for the day.
I let her knock several more times, the urgency building. I smoke an invisible menthol cigarette,
regard its tip, flick its ashes into my palm, and then tap them into the
I tiptoe to the door, peek through the peephole, and hear
her mumbling, "Bobby Marinara, Bobby Marinara," her odd mantra.
I make her wait another minute.
Gary tells me he's suffering from "marginalia confabula
retrodigitasma." Apparently he has
a thing for nonsensical polysyllabic words ending in "A". I toy with telling him, but he's on edge
enough as it is and I'm not a fan of witnessing him gnaw his cuticles and spitting
flaps of skin into a Dixie cup, as he's doing right now.
"It's like everything I want to remember is on the edge
of my memory and I can't quite put my finger on it," he says.
I eye his chewed-up index finger and think, "Ew. Don't put that thing on anything,
"And in the background are yellow flowers. I think they're buttercups or daffodils. And there's this boy with bad teeth on the
left and he's smiling because I don't think anyone told him anything about braces
yet. He's in a red and blue striped
shirt. Oh, and it's sunny with a 40%
chance of heavy rain."
Rita is telling me about the photo that comes with the frame
she just bought from Target. I ask about
the frame itself. It's either this or
more of last week's rambling about dreams.
Metal? Or wood? Why does that even matter?"
"It's my money and my time, and if I want to spend the
entire 50 minutes telling you about my lunch, describing for you the texture of
the sourdough bread, it's my pejorative to do so!" Glenn says.
I would tell him he means "prerogative", but I
don't want to hear him define either word for the next half hour. I'd rather hear about his sandwich and his
preference for Bugles over Fritos.
Of course, I keep my mouth shut about my preference. (Bugles can't even come close to Fritos. Please.)
Apparently the little matter of his bedwetting can wait.
"When I was a little girl," Rhonda starts. My internal groan is manifested by a fake
"Would you like a swig of my Yoo-hoo?" she says,
unscrewing the lid.
"They still make that?" I want to say, but don't,
to avoid hearing about how, when she was a little girl, she'd drink a bottle to
"wash down" the Wise potato chips she'd cram into her face by the
fistful. I merely decline her offer.
"Anyway, I used to line my coat pockets with razorblades
so I would curb my enthusiasm when dipping my fingers into the Russian
"As always, I had to be the voice of reason,"
Marina says. "I had to say what I
know everyone else was saying but was too scared to say!"
She peels a long strip of dried mucilage from her left palm
and places it into a baggie "for later".
I want to know what she's referring to but don't want to let
on that I do. Fortunately she tells me
"Everyone was cooing over Claire's baby. I was the only one willing to tell her it was
a pineapple! And not even a very cute
one at that!"
Yvonne and Dana don't know what the problem is. If their boyfriends were made out of Snack
Pack, they'd be happy to share with me.
I tell them to get their own pudding.
It's not my fault their moms pack them Dannon yogurt they have to mix up
"I like Jello chocolate better than Snack Pack anyway,"
"Um, I can hear you," Tommy Barletti says from
where he sits in my left hand, expertly balancing the plastic spoon in his swirly
Don't hurt Tommy's feelings," Dana says, thinking it'll earn her a
This is the third week in a row I've refused to call him
"Panama Phil, Everyone's Favorite Uncle" and the third week in a row
that he won't stop calling me "Ma'am, Ma'am."
In January, I told him he didn't need be formal and call me "Doctor"
and that if he didn't mind, I'd prefer to call him by his first name rather
than "Mr. _____". Anything to
make him feel comfortable that didn't have him removing his shoes, which he
said were "super heavy like killer submarines deep in the blue sea,"
which I didn't even want to question.
Who cares that Dairy Queen has named its new Valentine's Day
offering "Single Blizzard Treat".
If you're seriously up in arms and think you're being singled out (OMGLOL)
as a pathetic lonely unloved dusty spinster or whatever the male equivalent is
of a pathetic lonely unloved dusty spinster, you're buying into the same
marketing malarkey that commercializes silly ol' Valentine's Day in the first
place. I'm just pissed that DQ thinks we single people who spend 14,000 hours a
week in the gym just to attract a SOULMATE would want to desecrate our fine
bodies with this oily putrid garbaggio.
Glenda's aunt, Bluma Ostrov, was born in a can of evaporated
milk in 1948. It was a nice place to
lounge for a bit but she was relieved when her mother used a can opener to pierce
two small triangles into the lid and poured it into a baking pan to make quick
'n' easy fudge.
"What if she didn't think to make fudge and forgot about the can in the
back of the cabinet just like she did all the Junket?" Bluma says.
Glenda hopes nobody sees her spit her piece of quick 'n'
easy fudge into her napkin.
Pam Watkins thinks she's better than the rest of us because her
sheaf of wheat can talk and most of the other kids' can barely whisper. Miss Gorsham, our third grade science
teacher, tells us it has nothing to do with anything Pam did or didn't do, that
some wheat develops the ability to talk sooner than others and some wheat is mute
for life, preferring to simply observe and nod their quiet heads with solemn
and dignified understanding. Her fiance,
she tells me apart from the other kids, is the silent kind of wheat and we're
the lucky ones.
Marjorie Shankbinder is 15 years old and the president of
her local 4H. I ask her where in New York
City one would find a 4H, and she says, "In my heart and soul." I can't decide if I regret having engaged her
in conversation as we wait for the bus or if I'm delighted to have made her
I confess that I don't know what the 4 Hs are.
"Home, Hubert, Ham Sandwiches, and Hachachacha,"
I laugh and say, "No, what is it really?"
"Home, Herbert, Huarache Sandals, and
Hachachacha," she says.
Thank you, Marjorie Durante.
My cat asks me if she's attractive.
I tell her, yes, of course she's adorable and gorgeous and
the most beautiful girl in the world.
"Yes (and thank you), but am I attractive?" she says.
I repeat what I just said.
She repeats what she just said.
"Yes, you're very attractive," I say.
"I am an attractive cat?"
"Very much so."
She asks what I find attractive. I list all the things she and I have gone
over many times, whispered at bedtime and on rainy afternoons.
I ask if I'm
"That's not for me to say," she says.
Well, the steel-cut oats have decided to boil themselves
into a close proximity to concrete yet again.
They think it's funny. I can
tell. When I lift the lid in
anticipation of stirring, and am met with the scorched mass rather than the
creamy delight I had expected, and let out an "Oh come on!" that is
perhaps tinged with whininess, it says, "Well, what did you expect."
I tell it I expect it to cook like the package says. I tell it that I followed Bob's Red Mill's
The oats try to blame the new oven.
My third grade class contained two girls named Yvonne. I remember nothing about one of them. The other I remember as pretty in an exotic
way that perhaps wasn't readily apparent.
She was no Debbie Van Slyke, though, with her long straight blonde hair,
blue eyes, and perfect teeth. Yvonne was
more accessible. Except she
smelled. I don't recall what the smell
was, but it was enough to keep most people away, which of course made her less
I wish I could see both girls now, 40-plus years later, if
only to see if Yvonne evolved into a knockout.
Martha's fresh air sandwiches can't be beat. At least that's what she thinks. She thinks that just by saying it, the good
people of Harlington, Delaware are going to believe it. She's only been living there, what, a month,
and already thinks she's gained their trust?
Truth is, hers are
really good. The bread is home-baked
with just the right amount of salt and caraway seed, and the oxygen is
top-notch, like nothing anyone in Harlington has ever tasted, but anyone who's
anyone knows that lifelong resident Laura sets the standard, even if her bread
is stale as hell.
No one in Spain is crowing "PERRO spelled backwards is
ORREP!" in an attempt to show their allegiance, awe, and admiration of
man's best amigo.
I used to think the DOG/GOD thing was kind of cute in a
simple way, even though I'm only convinced of the existence of the first item
in that pairing, until one day, while snowshoeing in the tiny country of Ecalppeudam,
I paused to praise "God" for the magnificent sunset, but, not knowing
their language's word, uttered their word for "Dog" backwards and was
almost killed by a firing squad for insulting their president's mother.
"Something about it just drives me out of my
mind," Donny says. "You know
what I mean?"
I don't answer. I prompt
him to continue, pretending to take notes on my pad, when really I'm jotting
"Lentils, tomato paste, quinoa" so I don't forget to pick them up
after this, my last session of the day.
When his time is up, Donny lingers, saying, "I'll walk
you out!", obviously hoping to witness me tying and double-knotting my snow
boots. But no dice. It's not my job to indulge his newly revealed
fetish. His insurance doesn't cover that
kind of service.
I want to go rolling skating in quad skates in an
old-fashioned rink. I want to eat
crinkle-cut fries with a toothpick from a red and white checkered paper
container that was kept under a red-light heated lamp to keep it warm. I want to go to a drive-in movie with the
thing that hooks in the window. I want
to go bowling at lanes that use paper score sheets and wear cracked shoes with
my size on the heel. I want a cherry
Slurpee. I want a cola Slurpee. Pringles.
I want a cake from an E-Z bake oven.
When I was growing up in the '70s, I obsessed over the
clothing of the '50s, thanks in part to "Happy Days". I'd look down at my junior high and high
school duds and think, "No way is anyone ever going to be nostalgic about
Until a decade or so ago, I said, of the resurgence of some
of the styles, "If I wore it back then, I'm sure as hell not going to wear
Fast forward to the last few years, and everything
"new" in my wardrobe could have been plucked from by Mary Richards'
WARNING, KIDZ! MAY
A this point I'm watching Downton Abbey just to get it over with, to see if
Mary winds up with anyone, if Edith makes public the knowledge of Marigold's
birth, if Robert's health scare pans out into anything beyond the alarming and
disgusting burst ulcer, if Mrs. Patmore and Mr. Mason get together, ditto with
Molesley and Baxter, and if Thomas ends up finding employment with Mrs.
Patmore's new B&B or winds up killing himself, as I think we may be
supposed to think he will do. Meanwhile,
I'm just happy for the new puppy.
Every Instagram photo filtered to high hell and low heaven
and back again, so any line or fold or shadow or, gasp!, wrinkle is not merely
muted, smudged, or softened but eradicated completely so the face appears so
impossibly smooth that babies' asses feel threatened that they will be unseated
as the sought-after cliché standard of skin perfection.
Faces appear to be cut out of untouched vellum, buffed to a
velvety sheen, not flesh because, no, flesh is, horrors, imperfect. I do not trust a philtrum-free face, a
photograph that itself appears to been injected with a boatload of Botox.
I was never much of a fan of the elliptical machine until I
used a certain one at the gym when the row of preferred treadmills was
temporarily inaccessible. This one
offered a wide array of programs, so I chose "Glute Blaster Plus"
because it was the one most worthy of a combo-pack reaction consisting of a
dismissive eye roll and a derisive smirk.
With a little tweaking (that's an "a", not an
"r") of the programs variables, it does earn its name, even as I
cringe to see it on the display for the duration of the, uh, blasting.
The United States Parcel Service has now surpassed Time
Warner Cable as being the biggest heap of garbage service/provider I have ever
come in contact with, far far FAR surpassing many disappointments of years gone
by courtesy of SEPTA and Amtrak and perhaps a bank or manufacturer or two whose
identities, by now, have been forgotten, thus proving that although they were horrible
at the time, their transgressions and shortcomings and failures were not egregious
enough to warrant eternal memory. "Going
postal" doesn't just apply to it disgruntled workers anymore; it extends
to customers as well. Where's my fucking
It's his 50 minutes, so he can do with it as he pleases, but
I wish Paul wouldn't waste one of his monthly sessions on show and tell. Last month, when I suggested his time could
be better spent dealing with real issues, he told me he had a
"humdinger" for next time and promised that if I wasn't "wowed",
it'd be the last.
So when he places a mason jar in my hands inside of which
floats a fetus in fetu, who am I to say that every session next month has to
deal with his crippling social phobia?
We are Those Kids in That House. You know, the new kids with the long dark
hair that looks like it should always have leaves in it, or squirrels, or tiny
nests. We're the three you think may be
triplets of different sizes. You wonder
if that's possible. You don't ask,
though; you just stare at us and our bare feet and our long hair and our
clothes that we think are groovy but which you probably think are far out in a
not-so-groovy way. You won't play with
us, but that's okay. We have our
imaginations and each other.
Marina is exasperated.
Her mother has cut off her access to spoons since the last incident,
saying she can't be trusted and it's just too dangerous. Marina reminds her mother that she is 14, not
a baby, and it's not like she's running around the room with them, scaring Mr.
Fiddles the Cocker Spaniel from Planet Nushnik.
Her mother quietly opens a drawer on the sideboard and hands her her seventh
grade school photo.
Marina says, "So?
I did a great job that year."
Her mom sighs and hands over the gardening shears.
"Here," she says.
"Please. These are
On a whim, I recently arranged the configuration of my apartment
in a way that I thought was slight. By angling
some furniture and associated items in a certain way, the "flow" was
altered and it now feels like the room has opened up and is somewhat
larger. I had always sort of raised my
eyebrow at the notion of feng shui, and have no idea if what I've done has
accomplished something positive within its tenets, but I do know I feel a lot
more welcome in my own apartment, much more relaxed, and so much happier. Fung yay!