Morgan Fairchild was supposed to play my mom in a TV movie
in the early 1980s. Never mind that she is
only 13 years older than I am and blonde, blue-eyed, and pointy-nosed. Never mind that next to her I looked like
Anne Frank raised to the Barbra Streisand power. Never mind that she insisted on mispronouncing
my first name despite being corrected countless times. She quit in a huff for reasons that are still
unclear and was replaced by Meredith Baxter Birney, and I was let go because
the casting director said I could never pass as her kid.
Maura has been calling "Marco!" for what seems
like hours. The sun will be setting in
about an hour and the air is getting a bit too chilly for outside activity,
especially swimming. But she's been out of
the pool since Damien stopped supervising her and banged through the side door
and grabbed his baseball mitt and a handful of pretzels for practice at the
high school. Linda looks up from washing
a dish and gazes out the window. Maura
is sitting cross-legged in front of a sunflower, running her little fingers
through the grass, willing it to respond, "Polo."
Do it right or don’t do it at all, she said. Do it vertically, she said, not
horizontally. People who do it from side
to side across the wrist don't really mean it; they're just looking for drama
and a telltale bandage to let the world know that they were brave enough to try. The truly brave, she said, start on the
inside of the wrist and slice up, parallel to the veins. Those are the ones who mean business, whose
rewards are funeral home packed with crying cheerleaders and guidance
counselors, wet-faced little brothers, stoic dads, and inconsolable moms.
It's easier if he nonchalantly leaves his building in jeans,
baseball cap, and sunglasses, like any other guy on his way out to pick up some
stuff at the corner store, cuts down a side street instead of an Avenue, and
heads south once he's west of Broadway. It's
easier if once he gets here, we just stay inside and order in and watch a
movie. He cringes when I suggest we
watch an episode of one of his old shows, but acquiesces with that smirk I
love, and says, "But only if, later, you let me watch you type."
Write me a story about a boy and his pet bunny, he
said. About how they went on great
adventures together and one day he shared a banana with his bunny and his bunny
shared a carrot with him and they laughed as they sat on soft moss and sang
quiet songs to each other and fell asleep on the moss and woke up and it was
dark and they got lost on their way home but were happy to have each other so
they wouldn't be scared.
"You just wrote it," I said, and he grinned
through his Oreos.
I can't change the facts, he says, but I can change the way
I think about them, right? I say right,
yes, stretching out the vowels as if they're awakening from a nap. His expectations, he says, are too great, his
anticipation too fretful. It's a frenzy
of "what if" and speculation, blown out of proportion, grave
importance ascribed to the most inconsequential details. I applaud him for being aware that he is
driving himself cuckoo with the kaka, and he laughs at my alliteration. He asks if I did that on purpose. Does it matter either way, I ask?
He loved all her parts, really. No, he can't name just one, but if you put a
gun to his head, he'd say he most appreciated her feet. The toes, he says, closing his eyes and
nodding, the toes. They were lined up
perfectly, an elegant place setting. The
arch of the foot, oh, that too. Other
men preferred other curves, but for him, the arch won, hands down.
The foot in his hand right now is nothing like those perfect
feet. Its bunions force his fingers to
make unwanted detours, its long second toe guilty of the same infraction.
One of my favorite ex-beaus texts and we exchange a few
before my signal conks out and I have to resort to Facebook Messenger. He's got news, he says. "News," followed by an ellipsis. He doesn't address the news; I don't
ask. We continue chatting about other
stuff that isn't the news, and I don't want to be the one to ask what the news
is, but I think he's feeling trepidation, so I casually ask what's the
deal. "I'm going to be a dad,"
he says. I say, "Yeow." There are no exclamation points. That in itself warrants one.
Dream shards, jabbing me to wakefulness, but not awake
enough to be able to distinguish between
the awake world and the sleeping. Not
quite nightmares but disturbing enough to keep me awake long enough to fret
over whether they're real or not. What
is reality and what did my brain create; what little twists and turns and tortures
did it manufacture while I was supposed to be restoring myself for morning? Sleep reached out an arm and pulled me toward
it again, soothing me for a moment, whispering apologies for the
disturbance. I trust it, but it betrays
We were a family, the four of us, from 34th Street to 72nd
Street -- you, our 3-year-old son, 6-year-old daughter (forgive me for not
knowing the exact ages of our children!), and I, all in a neat row in our
subway seats, occasionally smiling quiet little smiles at each other like a Hispanic
family on our way to take the kids to school on this, an ordinary morning. That's what I'm sure the young woman across
the aisle thinks. And she's stymied when
I get off at 72nd without as much as a wave at the three of you.
"Read how the Flatiron District became the fitness
district!" shouts one of the hawkers who every weekday morning stand just
outside the northernmost doors of the 72nd Street station, handing copies of "AmNewYork"
to anyone who makes eye contact and doesn't want to go through the hassle of taking
one from the big unmanned stacks several feet away. His voice, a mixture of the boroughs,
bourbon, and Marlboros, enthusiasm for the daily cover story, and the expression
in his eyes of a guy who's proud to have steady work, never fails to make me grin
and get a little teary.
You've heard, I'm sure, of the 5-second rule or the
10-second rule or maybe even the 2-minute rule that dictates, if food falls to
the ground/floor, a prescribed length of time within which it is acceptable to
pick it up and pop it in your mouth without suffering whatever consequences are
to be suffered if the food lingers longer.
You may be in the camp that gasps in blood-draining horror at the mere
thought of considering ingesting, say, an errant grape or a stray potato chip. If so, in my company you would no doubt find
yourself slackjawed and traumatized.
The gym manager to whom I'd send email expressing mild concerns
wrote to say he was leaving for another branch and gave me the name of his
replacement. Anytime I'd write to him,
he'd reply that he appreciated my email for its content but that he especially liked
how I injected humor and color into his day.
When I sent a humorous, colorful email to the new person about the
recent gym upgrades, she didn't mention
these things but instead included a raucously unfunny remark about "elves". To whom do I direct a letter complaining
about her lack of originality?
I've stopped doing Facebook and other online "quizzes".
I don't want to give the evil, faceless forces
behind them any information with which to market nonsense to me or create a juicy
dossier on me or to craft a piñata or other effigy in my likeness for reasons I
don't want to know. However, I am a
curious girl who doesn't read Cosmo anymore, either, and craves a good
quiz. Thus, I've generated a carefully
calibrated, scientific offline quiz/meme algorithm thing to determine the three
words I utter the most in real life, and they are these: LOLA, GET DOWN.
All week, I wanted to buy bananas from a stand near home. Today
was the big day. Two different vendors sell
five for a dollar (or 25 cents each). I chose
the nicer guy.
"Bananas!" I said.
"Five?" he said.
I said yes. He picked
up a bunch of six and separated one. I
wouldn't have been able to choose which one to abandon, so I'm glad he did it.
I immediately thought, "I should buy that one for a
quarter," but didn't.
I'm tempted to return to rescue it, 1-1/4 hours later. I hope someone beat me to it.
Later, they say, they'll check their fitness apps to remember
all the places they visited on this, their first date. Even as they stand here, face to face at the
subway entrance, they can't remember everything. That big cookie and the ferry ride were
great, they agree.
Tara smiles. Leo
Is he making a
move? It was awkward on the ferry. His arm around her was cute, and it kept her
warm, but this is different.
"I hear the train," Tara says, and rushes away.
She pretends she doesn't hear Leo say, "Text me when
you get home."
This morning my pencils were extensions of my fingers, tickling
the paper, whispering in its ear, even, I daresay, cooing at times. I marveled at the page. Nodded approval. My cat nodded hers but was admonished to keep
her paws away and stay on the bed.
This evening my pencils were gnarled arthritic hands, grasping at the paper, babbling in its
ear. I shuddered at the page. Uttered audible disapproval. My cat steered clear, but had she wanted to
pounce on the pad and tear the page from the spirals, I would have encouraged
her, to save me the effort.
Unlike a lot of Facebook denizens, I don't care to discuss anything
of a serious nature online. Although I
do have strong beliefs about a variety of important issues, I tend to keep them
to myself. I don't like conflict, drama,
or confrontation. Indeed, I choose the
path of least resistance in almost every area of my life, except when doing
"cardio" at the gym. However,
with everything that's going on this year, with an all-important choice to be made
that's polarizing people, I finally need to speak up and say this: I FUCKING LOVE RAISINS. Let the unfriending begin.
Pre-coffee, pre-pee, before sitting upright, turning on the
light, I lie in bed, and the only way I can
tell if I'm sleeping or awake is when the uses my chest as a springboard and
combs my hair with her claws. I'd like
to say it's a wondrous limbo, this heavy floating steeped in not knowing, it's
not. My hair, wet from a just-before-bed
shower, now dry, itches like wool socks.
I want the cat to come back to scratch for me but she's zipping around
the room with enough energy for the two of us and can't be bothered.
Yesterday's entry is what I get for writing whenbarely
awake, in the state of limbo I'd described.
Words dropped from creaky hands, fingers not yet nimble enough to catch
them, reflexes even more somnolent. My
cat is peeved that I left out the first reference to her, causing an awkward
blip mid-sentence, but cuts me a bit of slack for the later mention.
And look at me now, breaking the so-called fourth wall, hours
later, paranoid that someone reading those 100 words will consider the
omissions and errors a woeful lack of skill rather than a simple care of quasi-sleep-writing.
Gorgeous young swain with whom I had a dalliance in October
contacts me on a whim and wows me with a monosyllabic greeting. He punctuates, so I cut him a bit of
slack. (But not much.) He confesses he has been dreaming about me. I press for details, but none are
forthcoming. He's putting me to sleep
(where I'm sure I could outdream him any day or night). He refers to a fantasy I had once indulged
him, but only in writing, via Messenger, and I tell him that offer has expired. He backpedals like a clown on a unicycle.
He's ordering in Chinese and drinking cheap red wine while
watching a movie on the wall through his projection TV. He's doing all of this in bed, and sends me one
photo that includes part of his foot and the round aluminum takeout container,
freshly opened. He sends me another
photo of a glass of wine with a straw poking out. I tell him, as always, that he's ridiculous, which
of course he already knows. He invites
me to join him, but I decline because I have to get work done. Another time then, right?, he says, and means
"So you're telling me that if Nazis burst into your
house, raped your wife, slit your son's throat, and shot you in the face, you
wouldn't say you had a bad day? You'd
say, 'Well, at least they didn't shoot me in the heart'?" That's right, he says.
"And you're saying if you were a Syrian refugee, running
for your life, you wouldn't consider that a bad day either?" That's right.
Never in my life have I wished my fingers could transform
into rusty grapefruit spoons with which to scoop out someone's eyes as much as
I do right now.
I hope I'm not supposed to be impressed when he tells me the
car he parked in front of the gym on Sunday, the one that was posted on a stranger's
Instagram, is a Rolls Royce "fresh off the line". Tell me it's a vintage model from the '30s,
the kind that made Davy Jones-like stars appear in my dad's eyes when he'd talk
about it, and I may swoon a bit. But
I'll still think you're an imbecile for not only having that kind of car in NYC
but for parking it on Broadway on a busy Sunday morning.
Hurricane Sandy is on its way but here I am in a restaurant
on West 72nd with this guy whose profile I found charming on OKCupid and whose messages
reflected the charm. Face to face is a
different story. I don't know which is
blander: His conversation or the vaguely
Chinese noodles I've ordered. I know
that only one of them is getting anywhere near my lips. He's visiting from Seattle, staying with a
friend in Brooklyn, and woos me by saying I look like every girl he's seen
there. I think I forget his name before
the check arrives.
Yet another chick says she's not dating him for his money. This one suggests an Indian restaurant
instead of the downtown hotspot where he has a table anytime he wants it. Tonight's date says she'll take the subway and
meet him on the corner of Sixth and First.
This way he won't have to worry about parking, she says. It's no problem, he responds; his driver takes care of that. She says, no, she prefers the train.
He's so sick of them saying they like him for his
personality. That's what they said to
him before he hit it rich.
I'm in an Instagram project with the hashtag
choose a creative activity to do for 100 days and post an image of it. Mine is meeting a different dog on the
street, taking his/her photo, and composing a haiku about him/her.
For the first week or so, I took a photo every day. I told myself no matter what, I'd get a
photo. I started feeling anxious with
the self-imposed rule. So now I tell
myself, instead, that every day an opportunity presents itself, I'll do it.
Why make something that's supposed to be fun into a chore?
A theater class instructor I had in the '90s thought it'd be
a grand idea to roll out the mirror game/exercise. We'd pair up and then the thrills would
begin. We'd pay close attention to our
partner while simultaneously pretending the movements we were executing for him/her
to follow (and yes, we could make contact!) weren't making us supremely
self-conscious to the point of wanting to flee the room and demand a refund. I quietly told the instructor I'd recently suffered
an assault and couldn't bear being touched.
Alas, I couldn't tell her she'd just witnessed acting at its finest.
I walk across Central Park to meet my brother's girlfriend
at the apartment they've shared since 1988.
(She's lived there since 1981.)
They're vacating, moving across the country, and she wants to give me
some stuff she thinks I'll want a/k/a doesn't want to pack. I hate knowing this is the last time I'll
ever be inside this beautiful five-story building so close to The Metropolitan Museum
Art. I walk up the five flights and take
a photo of their front door. When I
leave, I ride its tiny elevator for the last time. I'm glad I forgot to cry.
When I tell him I was wearing 1950s dance shoes the day we
met, he says, "Stop it." No, I
say. I was. I was wearing 1950s dance shoes.
"Had I known that then, I would have danced with you
right there and kissed you!"
For wearing those shoes, I say?
"Yes! For not
How we stepped into a conversation about my footwear I don't
know, but when I tell him I have gogo boots, real vintage gogo boots, several
pair, I hear silence on the other end of the line.
"Marry me," he says. "Good god, marry me."