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It arrived today, in the afternoon post. My beautiful Bloomingdale's credit card. (The first, of many, I hope.) Tomorrow I plan to welcome it into the fold and celebrate its position by taking it to its namesake and making it feel at home.
I want to exit the store with a tower of crisp boxes (one round, containing an outrageous hat) all tied neatly with string and topped with a simple bow-knot. I want the rosy-cheeked, brass-buttoned doorman to hail a taxi to take me to my Upper East Side penthouse, decorated in the latest fashion of the year, 1948.
After a great deal of cajoling and assuring her new boyfriend that she really wasn't one of those girls who had a "thing" about feet, and encouraging him to just take his shoes off and make himself comfortable, Amanda slipped into the other room to slip into something more comfortable. When she returned to the living room, Frank was not only shoeless but sockless as well. She gasped when she saw that his right foot was one giant big toe. One giant big toe that right now was smiling at her with love in its eyes – and on its mind!
Today I showed a friend a school photo of my handsome 17-year-old nephew. The first thing she said was, "Oh god, what's up with the earrings?" My nephew has two small hoop earrings in his left earlobe.
Not "What a good-looking kid" or "What fantastic eyes". No. Instead, she focused on the earrings, which are about as noteworthy and outlandish as a stripe on someone's shirt. As if this were 1952 and the earrings were a symbol of my nephew's induction into a super-secret cult where the members all wear hooded robes as they perform ritualistic candlelit blood-letting.
When we got back to the apartment, he tended to a small ceramic sake bottle heating in a pan of water on the stove. Brought out a cutting board, rinsed a Bosc pear and a large apple in the sink. Sliced the fruit neatly, arranged the slices on a little plate. Took everything into his bedroom, including me. We sat on the bed, the plate between us on the comforter. We sipped the warm sake. Ate the chilled fruit. I didn't tell him I'd never been one of sake's biggest fans. And that I thought it tasted like witch hazel.
The lanky length of blond Brit boy brings small ceramic pots of tea to the bistro table my friend and I occupy. When we first saw him, during the second of our three times to this tea house, we agreed that he was as much of a reason to return as the coziness of the place itself.
Today I read innuendo into nearly everything this boy says. He catches my eye often. Holds my gaze. When I pay my bill at the counter, he asks what I'm doing this weekend. I swear he asks because he wants to "do" ... me.
I have been told that I am mysterious. This strikes me as reasonable, given that I do not tend to make myself as available socially as one would think I would and do not spread myself too thin on the occasions when I am out and about among the living. But now that I have spent some time with someone who told me about this whole "mysterious" thing, I fear that quality is in jeopardy. So starting tomorrow, I am going to withdraw again and commit an unspeakable crime so the mystery will be genuine and very important to uphold.
"Those are women's jeans," the salesgirl says to the man approaching the dressing room with an armful of low-rise jeans in a variety of sizes.
"I know," he says. "I like the way they fit me. But I'm not sure of size." He smiles. Enters the dressing room. Locks the door.
"Freaky," the girl thinks. "But this is New York."
Behind the closed door, he licks each pair of jeans in the spot where the seams converge in the crotch. He likes knowing that the women who eventually buy the pants will go home having had his lips on theirs.
It does no good to look back and try to figure out why you said what you said or did what you did. It happened, it passed, and it cannot be changed, so why fret about it? Why waste the tears, the energy, the time?
If only I could set aside my worry. My tears, my energy, my time. Drop it. Forget about it. Laugh about it and make it all go away. Kiss my knee and heal the scrape. But no. Instead I claw the wound open, make it bleed. Bring the knee up to my lips and drink.
Every afternoon at 4:00 on the dot, the clock inside Morton's head turns back to 7:02 a.m., and no matter what he's doing – attending a seminar, taking notes on a conference call, taking a peek at the latest issue of Maxim (those short articles are perfect for the office!), sneaking out of the building for a forbidden cigarette (Penny would kill him if she knew!), examining his face in the men's room mirror for visible signs of aging – he immediately stops, squats wherever he is, and mimes enjoyment of a pretend picnic-box snack of imaginary bagels, lox, and a pickle.
In her digital camera, stashed wherever these things are stashed, are 38 images of Donna "down there". It never occurred to her in all her 47 years that no one would care if she'd checked "it" out while squatting over a hand mirror, or reclining on her bed like she saw years ago in an instructional video one of her friends just so happened to have and which they viewed with a mixture of disgust and excitement one night over popcorn and Tab. Now if only she can learn how to upload before she lets her mother borrow the camera!
The best part about it is that when she puts it in her mouth and lights up, no one can tell her she can't do that here. No one can tell her, in the non-smoking section of her favorite diner, or in the no-smoking-at-all bars of New York City, that she isn't allowed to do that here. And oh, the looks she gets when she's perched prettily on a vinyl barstool, a singed knockwurst clutched between her teeth, puffing away on the thing like it's the tastiest cigar this side of Cuba. "Who's the knockout with the knockwurst?" everyone wonders.
If you listen really closely, deep in the dark of night, when the radiator has finally stopped hissing and the idiots are all inside the nightclubs and not out on the streets hooting and hollering, and everyone in the apartments above you or below you or on either side of you is doing the slumber thing, well, then you can hear the cancerous cells of your pancreas multiplying like mad and waiting patiently for tomorrow morning, when they will declare war on the rest of your viscera. Be quiet, and hold your breath, or you won't be able to hear.
The Sandman is not going to visit you tonight, little Katrina, no matter how tightly you squeeze your eyes shut or how quickly you count those sheep. He's not going to kiss your eyelids like a butterfly, or pass a loving palm across your brow, or silently sing lullabies as soft as a summer breeze. No, tonight the Sandman is sending his evil twin, the Dirtman, who will toss handfuls of his namesake into your mouth to silence the screams he knows you'll make when he does things to you that your uncle told you never to tell anyone about.
There's a reason why every photograph of Helene only shows her from the neck up. There's a reason her face is carefully made up and her hair expertly coifed and her smile so mocking. Like she has a secret you don't dare even ask about. If you did dare, though, she still wouldn't tell you that she does all of this because from the neck down, she's made entirely of pudding. And not the good kind of pudding, either. Not a name brand. Just some off-brand, poor-person pudding from her midwestern supermarket. Oh, and it's tapioca too. So no wonder!
Because you've told me you like finding strands of my hair on your pillowcase after we've been together, today when you get into bed, you will find not only those that happened to detach themselves and attach themselves there, but also a few that I hand-picked just for you and placed there just so. As much as I like making my mark without knowing I've made it, I like doing so on purpose, so I know for sure that the marks are there. And they are there, today, waiting to remind you tonight of me and our most perfect afternoon.
Say what you will about her husband, Arnold – his hair is thinning quickly and without pattern, his breath could do without the coffee or the cigarettes, he chews with his fish-lipped mouth open, like a cow or a dog or a horse, he ain't the brightest bulb or the sharpest tack – but at least he doesn't have that certain disgusting something that the other women at the laundromat always complained about: those telltale streaky faded marks in his white underpants that showed he didn't know how to wipe properly. That much Margie Pawpack could say about her Arnold. And proudly.
Melanie knows she looks her best when she looks off to the right and into the distance. Not if she turns her whole head, but only if, when facing straight ahead, she averts her eyes to the right as if she doesn't see the people coming toward her on the street. She knows she looks her best this way, her most fetching, her most appealing. She knows because she has practiced this sidelong look in the mirrors that make up three sides of her studio apartment bathroom. It is her best look. It is important for her to look right.
Instead of the spread of a can of Redi-Whip, pint of strawberries, and squeeze bottle of Hershey's syrup that's the stuff of banal juvenile encounters, Mike and Judy, both self-proclaimed "foodies" with discerning tastes, lay out an adult picnic of epicurean erotic delights sure to dazzle even the most selective of lusty gourmands. But it's for their eyes and bodies only, of course. And how delicious it is, Mike marvels, to lap up baba ganoush from deep within his lover's lower maw! And how utterly scrumptious, Judy sighs, to suck Beluga caviar from the deepest reaches of Mike's fishing hole!
For the better part of a week, Lorelei had been focused on remembering the last name of a woman named Eve with whom she worked in a law office half a decade ago. She did not like this woman. She did not like the law office. Still, she found her thoughts returning to the elusive name of the despised co-worker whenever she had a free moment to wonder. All she knew was that it began with a "P".
Panicbutton? Picklepacker? No.
Pedalpusher? Permapress? Pressurepoint? No, no, and no.
Finally, at 11:52 on Friday morning: Parker?
Stop sending me your bad writing, wrung from a place you think is deep. Stop sending me your pathetic poetry and your pointless plays. Stop sending me the banal book you've been laboring over without a clue that it blows, because I haven't the heart to tell you. Stop asking me to take a look at the next few endless chapters. These installments are evidence that your choice to pursue writing is the wrong one. Doesn't my silence speak volumes? Don't you realize that if your writing was good, I'd tell you right away? Can't you read me at all?
Everyone who left comments on Tilly's online journal claimed to be enchanted by the slightly blurry, often angled, always overexposed images she posted. They likened the blurriness to feminine notions of romance and softness. Considered the angling evidence of Tilly's unique perspective. And regarded the overexposure a metaphor for her willingness to share herself with the universe, no holds barred. Of course, talent-free Tilly did not mean for her digital photos to come out the way they did. But she was more than willing to accept the purblind praise and pretend that the results were exactly what she had intended.
A guy, too good-looking for public transportation, enters the subway and stands just outside my peripheral vision. Out of the corner of my eye, I see him looking at me. I'm sure he's thinking the same thing about my appearance and existence on the subway. The only way I can bear to look at him is in the blackened reflection of the window next to my left shoulder. If I turn to look at him face to face, one of us may have to make a move, and I don't want to know if he'll be the one who won't.
We let our tiny warm plump of a grandmother go on believing the still life pears and apples on the wallpaper were real and ready to eat, and that the twinned cherries on her freshly pressed cotton apron were ripe for the pickin'. We didn't have the heart to tell her they were otherwise, so we had to develop the stomach to devour the pies and cobblers she set before us. We marvelled at how she managed to get the crusts, cardboard cut-outs from store-bought box-fronts, so flaky. And how we managed to get so incredibly fat from these treats.
Marla has never shared her worries with the world. She's never had friends good enough to trust with her secrets, and even if she did, she doesn't know if she'd be keen to divulge them anyway. So she unburdens herself each week on a fresh half-carton of eggs she buys each Monday for this purpose, and every Monday through Saturday, tells a different egg a new secret. One Sunday her mother pops by unnanounced while Marla is in the shower. She prepares a large omelet. "Why didn't you tell me about the abortion?" her mother says on her way out.
The big surprise in 1968 was that Caroline's father finally returned from wherever it was that he went six Christmases ago (half her lifetime!) and settled back into the tinselly living room of her mother's shabby duplex. Knowing her daughter's love of sparkly Christmas trees, Mrs. Horvath insisted her husband diguise himself as a six-foot spruce. That way he'd be assured of seeing love in her eyes, at least until he revealed his identity. But who knew this would be the year the one bad bulb caused the rest to burn out and the tree to go up in flames?
The one and only time Marla went ice-skating was when she was eight, and her mother and stepfather-to-be dragged her to the rink along with her brother and sister. She couldn't understand why everyone was so eager to be cold. And so willing to fall down. But she went anyway. She had no choice. So she was cold and fell down. Some random kid ran over her left hand with his skate, completely severing it from her arm. But she knew big girls didn't cry, so she flung it over the fence and stuck her handless arm in her pocket.
Do you deserve me? Have you earned me? Paid the dues necessary to win a spot beside me, in my bed, my arms, my heart? Showed me you are worthy of the honest poetry of my letters, the nuances that should knock you over with the force of their subtlety? Or are you just another undeserving dolt possessed of an illiterate heart and soul? Do you even know what I'm asking? And if so, do you know how to answer? You do not know how to win me, because you think I can be won the way others have been.
Martin's blood tickles when it flows through his veins. When his blood gets pumping extra hard, it tickles that much more, and sometimes it gets him into embarrassing situations, such as when he's entertaining a special lady in his bedroom and the blood is flowing mightily. He doesn't mean to laugh, really, but he can't help it. One night when particularly amorous, he laughs so hard that as he unzips his pant, his prized manhood gets caught in the zipper's teeth. And wouldn't you know it, he doesn't bleed at all. Instead of blood, out marches an army of ants!
In third grade, I had no qualms about cheating on the math test in order to win the prize of a picnic lunch in the woods with Miss G., the statuesque teacher whose long hair and short skirts I aspired to emulate once I attained her advanced age of perhaps 23. I had no problem pretending to switch test papers with my best friend when it came time to grade each other's work, and correcting all my wrong answers with the tiny broken-off pencil point pinched between my thumb and forefinger. The ham sandwich and Miss G. were worth it!
The best part about a long ride home in the car was the moment when we finally reached the driveway, and our parents, thinking we were really asleep (it's all in the breathing) and not wanting to wake us, would carry our leaden bodies (we mastered the fine art of becoming "dead weight") inside and put us into bed. The best part, aside from knowing this meant we wouldn't have to wash our faces or brush our teeth or change our clothes, was that this also meant we wouldn't have to walk that endless twenty-step walk to the front door!
If you want to disgust me, you monstrous ruddy-faced chunky motherfucker in a trench coat and worn-down shoes, and I believe it is your unwitting mission to do so, you will slouch on the subway platform this afternoon and fumble with a foil-wrapped floppy sandwich that cannot be contained within your hands or mouth. The sandwich will smell just like warmed-up Underwood Deviled Ham dumped on squishy white bread, and bits of it will fly from your flailing grasp and onto the subway tracks. You will be oblivious to the obnoxious behavior I cannot overlook. I will pray you choke.
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