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He's coughing. Still. He's been coughing for at least half an hour, almost non-stop, and rather than proffer sympathetic words or tender my concern and ask if I can bring him a glass of water, or even merely call out to ask if he is all right, I sit here and imagine myself shoving a sock down his throat or smacking him in the side of the head with the heel of my hand or stuffing a pillow over his face so I don't have to hear the hack hack hack sputter that threatens to get the best of me.
Ordinarily she didn't give out personal pictures, but three weeks ago she sent him a small shot of herself she'd taken with her digital camera. He'd wanted to see her new haircut, so the photo was only from the shoulders up. He told her he'd delete it so she wouldn't have to worry about anyone else seeing it.
Little does she know that he has since enlarged the photo to life-size. And every night, before he goes to bed, he brings his face close to his monitor and squints into her pixellated eyes, imagining himself going in for a kiss.
Every time a service person comes to my apartment – to deliver food, fix the plumbing, install the new cable box, repair my computer – I think he's thinking it'd be really nice if I'd blow him. I think he's imagining me on my knees before him, servicing him as he performs whatever service he's been summoned to do. I think he's tempted to make a move but doesn't dare, because I look like the kind of girl who'd call his supervisor and get him fired. So instead I make the move. Now the cable guy always comes quickly whenever I call!
Lonely Boy never pulled down his shades, but he frequently pulled down his pants and then completely removed them so he could lounge around his apartment nude. Lonely Boy was at least 25 pounds overweight. Sometimes he played solo Parcheesi! I know this because I lived across the street from Lonely Boy and would watch him, in the dark, from between the slats of my blinds, like a shut-in yenta.
"Lonely Boy, you're such a loser!" I whispered fiercely one night, standing at the window in my flannel nightgown, watching him watch TV pantsless. I tossed aside my binoculars, disgusted.
I go to the East Village for lunch and see all sorts of groovy people, including a boy in a knit hat, and instantly want to run off to his little studio apartment with the incense and the Indian spreads and the candles and the guitar, and spend all day with him, running around the Lower East Side like an idiot, chasing butterflies that only exist in the little reality we're sharing. I want to be pierced and tattoo'd and purple-haired and wearing funky clothes and not caring about tomorrow but just about today and this minute and this boy.
Everyone who's anyone agrees that Martina Lubovich's greatest work of art to date is definitely her small "found object" sculpture entitled "Dental Gross" (she prefers that you rhyme "gross" with "floss"), currently installed at a small yet very important gallery in Chelsea. As with many significant pieces, this one took quite a long time to complete. Consisting entirely of dental detritus removed via dental floss from between Martina's teeth during a five-year period of carefully planned binging that led to a substantial (and seemingly permanent) weight gain, it has thus been pressed into the shape of a very small pig.
Since last April, Lisa hasn't spoken a single word. She lives alone and is self-employed in a mail order business that takes orders solely over the internet. When she leaves her apartment, she carries a pad and a pen so if anyone speaks to her, she can point to her throat, shrug her shoulders apologetically, and scrawl the word LARYNGITIS on one of the pages. But lately people expect her to scrawl lengthy responses to inane questions, so she's started wearing a cast on her right hand and just hands out LARYNGITIS cards she pre-prints on her computer at home.
Tomorrow in Show ‘n' Tell, five-year-old Mindy Greenberg will bring her beat-up Barbie lunchbox to the front of the class and hold it in her left hand, in front of her body like a precious jewel. The kids will snicker and wonder what part of her lunch she'll show this week. Generic peanut-butter crackers from the job lot? A slice of day-old bread? Another bruised peach? An unevenly frosted slice of homemade cake? No one will suspect that inside the box is a paper towel concealing the right arm she said she'd give for the other kids to like her.
I don't know why people always tell you not to put batteries in your mouth. Or why, if you happen to have one in your mouth, you shouldn't bite or chew on it. This afternoon I was hankering for a little snack, but didn't have anything in the cabinets and didn't feel like getting dressed and running to the store for something. Instead I took one of the worn-out batteries that I've been meaning to recycle and popped it into my mouth. I bit it. I chewed. And wouldn't you know? It tasted just like Zia Sofia's famous osso buco!
Today I was in a TV studio audience, seated to the left of an obnoxious woman wearing black pull-on pants and a "goes with" TUNIC that was no doubt marked down several times at Dress Barn. By now she is home and has certainly exchanged that stylish and flattering ensemble for her customary poly-blend housecoat. Perhaps she hasn't yet noticed the indelible ink scribble that somehow found its way onto the left side of the tunic while she was busy applauding wildly. But when she does, I hope she remembers where she last wore it and who was beside her.
My name is Roy, and I'm one of three night-time word processors working at the prestigious law firm of Abel, Collins & Finebach, whose posh offices you've no doubt seen featured in glossy magazines at your dentist's office. I enjoy my job, because I'm a night owl, I like keeping to myself, and the pay is really good for this shift. I also like it because I can check out what the day workers leave overnight in the refrigerator. Sometimes I eat their fruit. But most of the time I just lick their uneaten sandwiches. I like to leave my mark.
Hey, everyone! Look at me! For I am an ACTOR! I will not wear a noose-tie around my neck, no! I will not constrict myself in a suit, no! I will not bend to the whim of the harsh 9-to-5 overlord, no! I am an ACTOR! I am special! After I graduate from this awesome two-year program at this two-bit school, I will walk away with a certificate that will get me nowhere! I will gather six of the other losers from school and form a special troupe, just so I can say I am pursuing my craft!
Mr. McGill from down the block likes the neighborhood kids. They wave as they pass on their way to the corner bus stop near house. They even march up the three steps to his porch and wait there for the bus when it rains! Sometimes, for kicks, he comes out and performs magic tricks. The one the kids loved the most was the one where he put a butter knife to his wrists and all this fake blood came gushing out! They wanted more! But the next morning, they couldn't even get to his porch through all the yellow tape.
Darren was cooking me a gourmet dinner at his beautiful house. I had made risotto, and was bringing it to his place in a huge pot, still warm.
When I arrived at his house, he showed me into the kitchen, where he was busy searching for his tomato knife. I pretended I was accustomed to people having special knives for tomato-slicing.
"Ah! Fantastic! I've found it!" he said. He smiled broadly as he showed me how neatly the knife slid through the tomato.
At that moment, I knew I would not tell him I'd stirred the risotto with my wooden leg.
The idea's just crazy enough for Mrs. Miller to lie restless in bed after she comes up with the idea. Zany enough for her to be on pins and needles all day after deciding to do this thing that – poof! – all of a sudden entered her mind like a breeze and then overwhelmed her like a hurricane. She feels her blood coursing through her veins at the mere thought, her heart pounding its way clear through her muscle and skin and light cotton Ship ‘n' Shore blouse. Yes, tomorrow she substitutes butter for Crisco in her award-winning butter pecan sandies!
It's 1978, and I'm so in love with the boy whose locker is next to mine. He's the most fascinating boy ever, with the glossiest, blackest hair, the most kissable lips. I know about kissable lips, because I made out with a boy a year ago! More than once!
At school dances, he doesn't sit still. He and his gorgeous best friend, another boy I admire, both trained dancers, take over the floor. Man, can they Hustle!
I write each of them secret love notes. Little do I know that they are partners off the dance floor. Oh, silly girl.
Somewhere in a small town somewhere, there is a faded photo propped up on someone's dresser, in a tarnished frame that has lost the little felt stand thing on the back, and the person whose dresser it is saying to someone else, "I think she was, like, my great-grandmother or something. Maybe an aunt. I don't know. I found it in the attic. But isn't her dress pretty?" That photo is of me, and it was taken 94 years ago, in September 2003, just 11 days before I bludgeoned my husband, the guy in the photo just to my left.
The days that I don't watch stupid shows that walk me through the huge homes of the ridiculously rich and famous, I think I live in a wonderful palace here in New York City. My apartment, I marvel, is huge by this city's standards. Nobody I know who lives here has as much space in such a nice neighborhood. But the days that I watch something asinine like "Oprah" and see someone like Rob Lowe showcasing his house, big enough to accommodate everyone in this neighborhood if not this entire city, my large apartment seems like a Third World hovel.
Will we eventually wind up fulfilling the wish of my tiny grandmother, who knew the "us" of 20 years ago and who urged us, every time she saw us together, to get married, in a voice drenched with a Russian accent and dripping with laughter? We haven't been together for at least 17 years (discounting that time in the taxi last year when we kissed – something I'd rather not discount, actually), you and I, but does that matter? Somewhere within the next ten years, will we fulfill her wish? Her wish, which, if you really must know, I've always shared?
Apparently the degree to which you are an asshole is directly proportionate to the size of the aperture of the same name, so it comes as no surprise that you have been able to find adequate accommodation therein for your head. Enjoy the stunning view while you have the opportunity.
However, since the current circumstances leave me no choice but to shove my foot up your ass, I would appreciate if first you would kindly remove your firmly wedged head, as I am not at all eager to put my foot in your mouth. Only yours, dear fool, belongs there.
I didn't know if when they announced my name as one of the nominees, I should stop applauding when the camera focused on me, or if it was OK that I continued applauding even though it looked like I was applauding for myself because I wanted to win. And I just knew everyone else was wondering why I was even nominated. Like I had a chance to win anyway!
But really, what I just can't live with, is that I winked! Winked! When the camera focused on me, I winked! Why couldn't I have just smiled enigmatically like Jennifer Aniston?
The scary thing is that I can actually picture myself standing over my cat in the dark, scissors in my right hand, open to accept the tiny tips of her ears, then bending over, grabbing one of her ears between my left thumb and forefinger, pulling it taut, and quick quick snipping the tip. And then doing the other. I can see myself going into the kitchen to get the scissors. Walking back to this room with them. And doing it. Of course I know I never will, so why does my heart pound so viciously at the revolting thought?
Today a fat, poorly-dressed, stringy-haired woman tried to be convivial and add a light-hearted comment to the conversation I was having with my friend. She wasn't trying to intrude or include herself in our conversation; she didn't want to be drawn in – she just wanted to add a brief suggestion that she thought would be helpful. "The bus is the best way to get around," she said with a smile. I acknowledged her comment with what could only be called a withering glance, a cold "Yes, but I walk everywhere," and an obvious turning of my shoulder. I am ashamed.
What you don't know is that your cats do more than purr and meow. What you don't know is that when your wife gets back to the city, with your two young kids in tow, and she's in the bedroom changing into something comfortable, humming happily to herself because her family is together again, the cats are nuzzling her face, and the bigger of the two, the one whose purrs and meows are louder, whispers in her ear that you had me over while she was gone and we were clothesless on the sofa where you wait for her now.
Amazing, how small a space 100 words take up. If you imagine each word in this entry as a year, you see what a small handful it is. A pittance. A snack. And you may as well face it: you probably won't live to be 100! (Cover, say, 15 or 20 words with a piece of paper to get a better idea.) But hey. You can either weep because you don't have very long to live, or you can get out there and ... live life to the fullest? Oh, please. Just get out there and invent a time machine, you dolt.
One month from today, I will have a "milestone" birthday and enter a new decade. I like to pretend it doesn't matter, it means nothing, that age is just a number, a meaningless number, and I'm only as young as I look and/or feel, and I look ten years younger and feel 20 years younger, and in fact have never looked or felt better in all my almost 40 years ... but still. Still, I can't believe I'm almost 40. And I can't believe I can remember my mother saying the same thing more than two and a half decades ago.
Her husband stands before her, defeated, and says he did not get his paycheck this Friday. They will have no money until Monday, when he swears he'll go in to the boss and get that check that's due him. They have enough food in the house to last a few more days, so she doesn't say anything. Just goes into the back room, closes the door, and reads. She reaches under the tray of her old jewelry box, counts the money she told him she was using for a ceramics class, and knows Monday is the day she finally leaves.
All of a sudden, the dark nail color that I've been choosing at the salon every week for the past month makes my fingernails look like talons of an eagle (or vulture), or claws of some sort of predatory wildcat. Anything but the elegant fingertips of a stunning city girl, the way they used to look. Now they look like they can lash out, slice someone's cheek with even the barest graze, and then retract back into my feathers or fur or wherever they hide in my otherwordly flesh. This Tuesday, I change colors -- preferably before I slash someone's face.
His tongue is thick and dark, and textured and sized like the biggest pickle I ever pulled from a large refrigerated jar of kosher dills. It is at once cold and warm. Slick. Slathered with saliva so thick it's almost viscous. Or like mucilage, the kind you spread with a brush. It repels me and enthralls me. It fills my mouth. It slobbers. It expands. Drools. I realize it is a kiss and I am dreaming. I realize it is HIS tongue, HIS kiss, and I don't want to wake up. I want it to loll in my mouth, awake.
Growing up, my brother and I looked like twins. We liked to pretend that one day we'd get married and be the next Shields and Yarnell minus the burden of mime. We'd have twin bowl cuts, lithe bodies, and an eponymous TV show.
But once we reached our teens, he rebelled. Grew his hair long and curly. I kept mine short and straight (in keeping with our plan). We never got our show. To this day I resent him and express my resentment wordlessly, while wearing a black and white striped shirt and presenting him with a wilted red rose.
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