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Tomorrow morning at 8:00 I will be at the Pilates studio for my standing appointment. I hope with all my might (or at least a great deal of it) that the fat, frizzy- and mousy-haired, flatfoot barefoot "gyrotonics" instructor with the singsong voice is not there. On Memorial Day, I saw her there at 8:30, and she was way too enthusiastic, bright-eyed and bushy-fucking-tailed for her own and everyone's good. "Not everyone is CHAI on life, you hideous Up With People, let's sit in a circle and examine our womanhood in hand mirrors ASSHOLE!" I wanted to yell. (I didn't.)
Oh, tourists of my fair and lovely city, why do you insist on doing everything in your power to make yourselves the target of my silent, head-shaking ridicule? Do you see anyone, aside from other tourists, sporting a T-shirt that says I SURVIVED A NEW YORK CITY CAB RIDE! and a fake Statue of Liberty crown made of foam? May I suggest a trip to Macy's Herald Square, which doubles as a quasi-monument and source for appropriate clothing? Have you not heard of "When in Rome, do as the Romans do"? It applies in New York City too, you know.
You and your opaque pink painted nails and your book ("Potatoes Not Prozac") on the uptown 6 train. You are all riveted on me. I have all your attention. You have some of mine, but not nearly as much. You (all of you – eyes, nails, and book) were fixed on me even before your ears joined in upon hearing me say, with a laugh, "Dairy products make for sour jism!" to my extremely receptive male companion. Your stop comes before ours does. You go home to a lone potato and wish for Prozac. And throw away your carton of milk.
"You're so adorable," says the garrulous grizzled freak who's just told me he's really shy underneath it all and has to put on an act to appear otherwise. "Your teeth are like ... rabbit teeth!" And then he feigns embarrassment at having said something so inane (rabbit teeth? not even close!). "I guess that's not the sort of thing you say to a girl you want to ask out, is it?"
Oh, how I beg to differ, stud! Because when you said RABBIT, I instantly pictured myself devouring the shriveled little carrot cowering in your jeans. Yes! You are a winner!
We sit across the table from each other, saying nothing. Every time he swallows a mouthful of food, I cringe at the gulping sound. I shudder. I don't think it shows.
We have nothing to say to each other, he and I. We've had nothing to say to each other for a very long time. These dinners are torturous.
We do not even look at each other, he and I. If we did, we'd see in each other's eyes that we should not be looking at each other at all, but at other people who have something – anything – to say.
It's sunny outside. He's on his lunch break.
"I AM happy," he says to himself inside his head. "I'm young. I'm quite good-looking. I have friends who laugh at my jokes, a good job, and an apartment that is comfortable and in a fine neighborhood. I'm not that snarling guy over there in the wheelchair or that fat guy with the dirty pants. I have everything anyone could possibly want! I have no reason to be depressed. I'm happy!"
He waits for the light to turn green so he can cross the street.
"Who am I kidding?" he asks himself.
He sits at his computer on a warm, sunny Tuesday morning, coughing softly from time to time as a concession to the fabricated "cold" he used as his excuse for not going in to work. The blinds are shut. He doesn't want to invite any light into the room other than that which comes from his computer monitor. He's feverishly searching on KaZaA for the kind of porn that he always pretends disgusts him. The kind that promises him incestuous 14-year-old sluts and German frauleins using each other's faces as toilets. This is how he spends his sick day.
I have no sympathy or compassion for people who don't stand up for themselves. People who allow themselves to be bullied. People who, in effect, by dint of not defending themselves, fold their arms behind their backs, raise their chins to their oppressors, and say, "Here, hit me. Smack me on the cheek. Then cuff my chin. And while you're at it, please feel free to blacken one of my eyes ... or, if you prefer, both."
I'm all for the underdog. For the little guy. But only those who fight as if they were giants and won't stand being overwhelmed.
In Apartment 12-C of the South Tower, lives a little man the size of a flaxseed. He is a nice little man with a nice smile, bright eyes, and a very pleasing sense of humor. He doesn't make much noise and he doesn't complain when others do. The only time anyone can hear him at all is when he sings opera along with the radio. And his voice – it booms! In his day, he was quite well-known. And regular size too. Then one day – poof! – he was no bigger than a flaxseed. But my, his voice was still lovely.
Every year around Thanksgiving, I think I want to volunteer somewhere. I think I want to serve food at a homeless shelter. Tie on a white apron, grab a ladel, and fill plates and trays with all sorts of food. I think I want to smile and say, "Happy Thanksgiving." But every year I also think I would be doing that just so I could tell someone I did it. So I could pretend to be the sort of person who does that sort of thing. And then I realize that that'd make me the kind of person I hate.
The thing is this: You tell me all this stuff, and I just don't care. You tell me things that are important to you, that I suppose I "should" care about or that should affect me or that should make some sort of dent in my brain or soul or wherever these things make their impact, but I just don't care. I can barely feign caring. I'm just thankful that you tell me these things via instant messages, so I can yell at the monitor, "I REALLY DON'T FUCKING CARE!" And what's more, I don't care that I don't care.
"I am so in love with my dog, it's not even funny," I say to Betty.
"I know what you mean," she replies. "I love my Cinco so much too."
"I don't think you're hearing what I'm saying," I say, somewhat more insistent. "I just said I'm in love with my dog."
"I am too," she says. "With Cinco. I love him to bits and pieces. Don't I, Cinco? Don't I!?"
And she talks to her dog in doggie-woggie talk like he's a human infant.
"I'm guessing she won't be your bridesmaid," my dog whispers to me behind his paw.
I hate the guy who lives at 142 Carbuncle Road in that small town just outside this city where I live. I hate him and his house that needs painting and his yard that needs mowing and his wife who needs a proper burial already. You'd think that after gouging her eyes out with a butter knife (it's difficult to do but not impossible!) and skewering them like shish kebab and waving them around like a brave man doing battle, he'd have the good sense to do something with her remains, but no. Oh, how I hate that lazy man!
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday hi Tuesday Wednesday hello Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday hey Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday are Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday you Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday actually Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday reading Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday this Friday Saturday entry Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Sweet little girl in pink halter top and shorts, looking at me shyly and smiling, sounding out words and drawing on the train home to New York with your tired yet patient mom: I adored you. You and your little metal drawing supply box with the handle. Tiny pens with boa feathered ends. Polka-dotted vinyl life preserver.
I want to know how you'll grow up. To see you when you're 15. And 20. I want to take you to tea. As a little girl and then as a young lady.
I miss you already and I never even knew you.
She used to bring him a big glass of water every morning. Some mornings she'd bring him hot chocolate. Some days it would be both. She'd walk down the hallways of the office with his drinks and hope that he'd realize how accommodating she was and then think, "Hey, she'd make a great girlfriend!" But she doesn't think he did. Instead, she wound up on her knees in his office after hours, with his dick in her mouth and his hand on the back of her head, forcing himself deeper and deeper into her throat. Yes, she was so accommodating!
I hate to tell you this, but when you said that your toes were really ugly, well ... you weren't lying. My god. I didn't expect them to be that bad. I thought that when you said, "Feet are ugly" you were making a statement about the quality of the general foot population, but no. Apparently you were talkin' ‘bout your own. Now I see why you don't expose them. Now I see why I've never seen you in sandals. Why then, today, did you decide to take this big step and twinkle your toes for all the world to see?
I noticed right away that your hair was different from the last time I saw it and you several weeks ago. I didn't like the new look. I preferred the old and wish you hadn't done anything to it. But because the change was pretty obvious and you looked a bit self-conscious about the change, I felt compelled to say something.
"I love your hair!" I said. "It looks great."
I was a liar. But if I didn't say anything, you would be even more self-conscious and think I didn't like your new hairstyle.
Such a to-do about your ‘do.
Would you please oh please just take the fucking picture already and knock it off with all the pretentious garbage about camera angle, composition, framing, and whatever other crap you think you're impressing people with? Enough already. Stop thinking about it so goddamned much. Just squat down or reach up or step around and snap the shot. Don't fuss about all the so-called technical crap. Stop trying to make every picture you take some sort of important, relevant "statement". Who can hear what you're trying to say with all this fuss and nonsense? And really, who even cares to listen.
After a while, she didn't even really desire it much. Or miss it. Occasionally a craving tried to overtake her, the way chocolate chip cookies or french fries tried to do when she was on one of her "no junk food" regimens, but eventually it subsided. It floated or wafted away, and within minutes she wondered if it had even been there at all.
Amazing, how years ago all she could think about was getting her fill of as many men as she possibly could. But now the mere thought of sex, much like food, leaves her less than thrilled.
One day Jeffrey was on the sofa watching cartoons the way he always did after a hard day at kindergarten, when suddenly it swallowed him whole, like a Venus flytrap. (Except it didn't hurt and he was still alive.)
That afternoon, the Salvation Army came to pick up the sofa. Jeffrey's mom had redecorated. The new furniture would be delivered the next morning.
Jeffrey resurfaced three days later in a shabby apartment in a neighboring town. With the change he'd found under the cushions, he bought candy, and then sunk back into the old sofa. He loved his new home.
Just because your half-senile aunt and country cousins laugh at your crazy antics at family gatherings, and the nice man who takes your bagel and coffee money at the corner store every morning laughs at your jokes, and the girls in the office are always entertained by your hilarious recaps of the latest reality TV offerings, is no reason for you to think that you can assemble all of that outrageously good humor into an "act" and bring it onstage for all the world to enjoy.
"I really want to try standup!" you tell me.
I suggest you remain seated.
When I last saw her a year ago, she was thin, the way she always was. Reed thin but strong, like a dancer. So when I saw her last night, I was really surprised to see that not only had she packed on quite a few pounds but had amassed a roll around her waist and a lot of padding on her hips and thighs. And now she had tits.
Everyone told her she looked much better. "You were too skinny before," they said. I saw in her eyes a pause of pain and disappointment. "Yes, I was," she said.
From first to third grade, I lived next door to a girl my age named Wendy. Wendy was very "experimental", as was I, so I didn't know if she was telling the truth when she told me that the slightly older neighborhood boys would take her into the woods behind our houses, make her take off all of her clothes, and then imprison her in a hammock that they would push back and forth. I was seven, but it excited me in a way I couldn't even identify, and I wished I could watch it all without them seeing me.
Yes, it is hot. Yes. Yes, we seemed to have skipped spring altogether and leapt directly into summer. Headlong, pell mell, willy-nilly. Whatever. Who cares. Yes.
I detest talk about the weather beyond the first observation. "It's 91 degrees today!" And even then, why even bother mentioning it? "It's hot outside!" Really? It's the end of June. "It's snowing!" Really? It's January. "It's raining!" Really? How fascinating.
Nothing like stating the obvious, is there? Nothing like someone who has nothing to talk about but takes quite a lot of time and energy to make it all so woefully clear.
When you are travelling across the street to buy a pack of gum, you do not need to pack a suitcase and write a long letter of explanation to your family telling them you are going to try the cinnamon this time instead of the tried and true spearmint. They will not care. If they even bother reading your carefully worded letter, they may indeed wish you well and tell you to be careful and look both ways before crossing, but really, they'll just think you're being somewhat too dramatic and wonder why you're still chewing gum at your age.
When the lights went down and the stage hands were setting up the next scene, everyone around me applauded. It was tentative applause, offered politely and without passion. Fake. I did not participate. I couldn't. I tried, but my applause embarrassed me. So instead, I sat quietly in my seat, in the dark, staring straight ahead, dreading the next scene, mouthing words that no one could hear. THAT SUCKED, I said. THAT WAS BULLSHIT. But I sort of fluttered my hands a little so the woman on my right would feel the breeze and think that I was clapping too.
When oh when will the brains at Johnson & Johnson wise up already and start sealing their boxes of Band-Aids with some sort of protective shrink-wrap so people like me won't consider taking a few bandages from one box and transferring them into the box she intends to buy? Will it take a midwestern housewife buying a box and noticing once she gets home that it contains only one lone tiny round bandage? Or will it take someone else finding, inside a newly purchased box, a bloodied severed ring finger, complete with a scorned engagement ring (platinum setting, emerald cut, to-die-for)?
I was hungry, that's why. I hadn't eaten in what seemed like days, that's why. Because you didn't go food shopping this weekend the way you said you were going to, when I asked you at least fourteen times, and you assured me you were going to go, and I had no choice because there's no way I was going to do the shopping myself, that's why. Because it looked tasty and inviting and indeed it was, and I enjoyed every last mouthful, that's why. That's why I picked the severed head in the refrigerator clean of all its meat.
Last night as I was writing, I heard several BOOMS and the occasional downward-spiralling whistle of what I identified as missiles or bombs landing squarely on and around the Empire State Building half a mile to my north. I sat, shoulders hunched, looking up through the skylight to see if the sky was illuminated, wondering what I would take if I had to evacuate immediately. What what what? I chided myself for not packing a little bag in advance. I wondered if I should change my pants, because I wouldn't want the panicked populace to see me looking so schleppy.
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