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She's only been living in this marvelous Upper West Side apartment for three weeks when I visit her and her boyfriend for the first time. Or, really, "my fiancé", she says, affectedly offhand, waving her hand in my direction to display the one-carat Tiffany ring she's already pretending doesn't affect her.
"Guess how much it cost," she says.
"Anything over five and you were robbed," I think.
"Twenty-five," I say.
"Sixteen," she says, with what I sense is a bit of resentment for having to announce a lower number.
"The stone is flawless," she says.
But I've already moved on.
As promised, Linda called her mother as soon as she got home after her appointment at Planned Parenthood.
"I was mortified!" she said, hanging her head, hair in her face, eyes closed, gripping the receiver close to her right ear, forehead heavy in her left hand.
"Well, you know those exams aren't relaxing," her mother said. "You should know that by now."
"Yeah, but this time the technician was some black guy," Lisa said. "And all I could think when he was, uh, down there, was that he was thinking, ‘Mmm ... white pussy!"
"That's because he was," her mother said.
I agonized about what to wear. Deliberated even the color of the T-shirt. White? Black? (Black.)
Spent my last dollars on a pedicure. (Color: Leave It to Diva)
Memorized a poem I hoped I'd get to casually recite as if it'd been in my brain far longer than just the 24 hours since I found it online and marvelled at how perfect it was for you. And us.
You wore gym clothes. Slurped your noodles. Needed a unibrow trim. And spouted off lines of such utter bullshit that, in the end, I realized were perfect for you.
Your loss, jackass.
Corporate drone-clones, packed blue shirt to blue shirt, dark pants to dark pants, in the darkened West Village bar, glasses with third drinks grasped in right hands, left hands free of wedding bands, all elbows bent at the same precise angle, cheering on their blue-clad brothers who shout karaoke under the glare of a white light in the hopes of bagging one of the low-rise jeans-clad sorority girls whose hip-flesh spills over as readily as the martinis do out of their tilted glasses. I want to take the scissors that created these paper dolls and cut them ‘til it hurts.
Her version of what living with a man is all about is riddled with concerns so mind-numbingly cliche that I cannot even pretend to pay them any mind.
"He's driving me insane," she stage whispers. "He'll take a perfectly new tube of toothpaste and squeeze it in the middle! That's just insane! Everyone knows you start it from the end!"
I cannot stop myself from telling her that's nothing to complain about.
It is only a matter of moments, I think, cringing, before she whines that he leaves the toilet seat up and his socks all over the bedroom floor.
I will do anything to make sure the fat lady doesn't sing. Bribe her agent and manager. Stuff a chloroform-soaked sock in her mouth, tape over it with duct tape, seal that with packing tape, bind her wrists and ankles to a steel chair, and hide her in a soundproof chamber. Sever her vocal cords. Change the tune to one she does not know. Wire her jaw shut so if somehow, despite all of this, she can still manage to croak out a tune, the singing won't count anyway because the fat lady won't be fat anymore. Something. Anything. Everything.
Pride and dignity and saving face. What's the fucking point, anyway? Self-preservation and self-esteem. Like I can't have those two by dropping the facade of the first three? I loathe the crippling fear that keeps me from saying to hell with it, that has me censoring my actions and remaining inactive, that keeps me from saying what I want to say and staying silent. I want to do what I want to do. Have whom I want to have. Love openly. Life is indeed too short for such deceit. I don't know whom I think I'm fooling. Certainly not myself.
"It's only Fred," Suzanne yells back to her mother, who heard the door buzzer and sloshed her way out of the tepid tub and galumphed her dripping, towel-wrapped mass of liquid flesh to the open bathroom doorway. She grips the threadbare towel so its two ends, which haven't met in at least five years, don't escape.
Only Fred, Peg thinks. Great. Only Fred, the pedophile plumber here again during his lunch hour to plug whatever's leaking on her 15-year-old daughter. Damn him and his mustache and plunger. Why couldn't he be the pizza guy with her double-cheese sausage Sicilian?
Stomach pains. Again. Twisting, twirling, bubbling. Intermittent, but when they're in full force, enough to not only double me over but to triple or quadruple. What le fucque?
Tapeworm, as long as a roll of gift wrap ribbon, but not as shiny, colorful, pretty, or useful? Big block of undigested Brie circa 1987, fermenting into a particularly potent cheese wine? Irritable Bowel Syndrome, as cantankerous as Archie Bunker but not as loveable? Or maybe an entire universe of teeny tiny rebellious teens burrowed deep within the walls of my intestines, whoopin' it up because, after all, kids will be kids?
The cute guy who'd been peeking at me in the gym for at least a half hour -- once even venturing a half-smile that he could pretend was a workout grimace if I didn't return it – has just taken a place behind me. I've been on the Stairmaster for 50 minutes, so he has 10 in which he can watch my legs pump up and down in rhythm with songs he cannot hear. In the reflection of the glass on the far wall, I make out a blurry version of the two of us. It looks like we are fucking. Neato!
It was 1988 and we worked in a hip Center City Philadelphia restaurant called The Commissary. He was a bartender who looked so much like Patrick Swayze in "Dirty Dancing" that I would have leapt off a stage and into his arms if he'd had the consciousness to hold them up to receive me. But he was always too high. On what, I'm not sure. I'm sure he would've dropped me. And anyway, he was just too stupid. After all, he thought I was "set up" and had a rich husband. Yeah, right, Swayze. Then why was I a busgirl?
Julie looks really great, doesn't she. There on the bus, watching Fifth Avenue through the window on her left, her arm resting atop two big bags full of shopping on the seat to her right. You dip your Metrocard in the slot and swagger down the aisle toward her as the bus pulls away from the curb.
You say her name, and she turns toward you. Her right eye twitches ever so slightly. And in it you see pain so deep you stagger. Pain caused by you.
You wish you'd waited for the next bus. Or taken the subway instead.
Her teenaged virgin sister's teenaged virgin boyfriend, several months before he and her sister finally did it. One of her parents's best friends, twice her age of 17, one winter night after everyone else was asleep. Her best friend's husband, many times, most recently when the friend was dropping their son at daycare. Her brother's best friend, when her brother was out of the country and even when he returned. Her married boss, 26 years her senior, when she was still on the clock. Her married Parisian hairdresser, who barely cut the price of his service in return for hers.
Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh.
Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh.
Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh.
Hmm. (What in fucking hell is this?)
Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh.
(What time is it?)
Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh.
(Oh god. Is he still fucking me?)
(Wait. Is he still doing it?)
Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh.
(I really shouldn't have paused the movie.)
Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Oh. Oh. Oh.
Oh. Oh. Oh. Uh. Uh.
(Come on already.)
Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh! Ah!
I was only with the new guy so I could get my mind off the old one. I wasn't with the new guy for his own sake. Under other circumstances, without having known the old guy, perhaps I could have enjoyed the new guy and considered him on his own merit instead of compared against the standard of the old guy. A standard which, months after the old guy was out of the picture, was now impossible for anyone else to meet. A standard that even the old guy never attained. Poor new guy. You never stood a chance. Sorry.
They forced me to stand, barefoot, on the slimy edge of a stone well. The air surrounding the well was freezing, but the dank air hanging above it was even colder. I swear it swirled. And giggled like a maniacal three-year-old high on sugar when I reached a hand out to touch it.
Without warning, they unceremoniously pushed me over the edge. At first I was buoyant, floating atop the cold swirl of air. Then, as quickly as I floated, I was sucked into the well.
The lower I go, the colder it gets. But I still haven't touched earth.
Every day at work, B and I amused each other via email about everything in general and nothing in particular. It certainly took the edge off the mind-numbing, heart-stopping, tear-inducing boredom of our respective hated jobs in our respectable hated law offices.
One particularly stagnant day, we held a competition where we tried to decide who was the bigger neurotic. We compared obsessive-compulsive habits, shared secrets we'd never divulged to others, and revelled in our oddities.
I learned he could not eat eggs that were handled, even while in the shell, by anyone else. He was the winner, hands down.
So I travelled to the Upper West Side the other day and had sex. Sex with the ex of an ex-friend in what I suppose is called a "classic six" just off Broadway, in a pre-war building complete with awning and nice lobby. He fucked me in the same bed as he fucked her, atop the baby blue duvet he said was the one good thing she contributed to the apartment. The sex with the ex wasn't necessarily that great, but it was an adventure that was long coming. I only wish I could say the same for the ex.
Why I must torture myself by listening to music that reminds me of people who have not proven to me that they wish to be in my life, is beyond me. Why I choose to play and replay and replayreplayreplay ad nauseam songs from "Life for Rent" by Dido, when the entire CD reminds me of someone who told me he has "forgotten" me, is beyond me.
Today that all ends, though. Today I fill my head and brain and heart with songs that never had any meaning for me in connection with anyone else. Today my maudlin muddling dies.
Several years after "we" ended, and he's married to a typical strawberry-blond girl next door, he tells me over the phone that the reason he took me home early sometimes, after I'd already occupied his bed, was that he had to smoke cigarettes alone in his bathroom and jerk off to the image of me lying on that same bed I would have just been in, smoking a cigarette while wearing white lacy underwear.
"You didn't have to take me home," I say. "I would've done that in real life."
"Really? But would you have inhaled?"
"Of course," I lie.
Today's theory about my chronic visceral pain involves a gut-sucking parasite clinging to my intestinal walls, attached only at one point as if thumbtacked. Each free end, each with its own mini-multi-toothed mouth, gnaws and gobbles whatever it needs to allow it to expand exponentially overnight.
Awakening, I will casually scratch my nose, and from each nostril will slither one of these two heads, which will flicker tiny forked tongues at each other as I look down my nose, cross-eyed, and shriek my way into a state so traumatic that I am left catatonic and frothing at the mouth forever.
Listen, fellas. About this whole "I've been feeling blue" and "I've been depressed" nonsense, used as excuses for why you haven't called or written. It's not flying. It's not only not flying, it's not even flapping its wings. In fact, it doesn't even have wings to begin with. So there's no way in fucking hell these lame, limp, white-washed, brain-dead excuses are going to work. "I'm a namby-pamby two-bit two-year-old toddler cowering in the body of a so-called man, sucking the one thumb that isn't rammed up my ass" would work just fine. And at least it would be truthful.
"Yeah, so his father found his body hanging from the front porch of the house one day when he got home from work," I say.
"I can't believe he did that," she says, her voice barely a whisper. "He wasn't the best actor in the class, but he did have something."
"It's sad," I say, "but suicide is so lame. Did he really think he'd be able to float above the scene after the fact and appreciate the drama?"
"I'm just impressed that he went through with it ... and succeeded," she says, touching her own wrist where she had failed.
That vein in his temple. The one whose pulse I see clearly through the skin when he does squats or crunches. Or even when he just chews gum. That vein in his temple, obvious thanks to his shaven head. That vein, yes that one, is the one I want to press my finger on. Gently at first, to feel the distinct pulse, and soon, between pulses, less gently. Then, abandoning all notions of gentleness, I want to press my finger so firmly against that bulging vein and its pulse that the blood has nowhere to go except out his ears.
Just like that, life as Martin knew it was over.
He'd always wondered if there would be a turning point in his life that he would be able to look back and say, perhaps to a teenaged son, "Yes, Bertram, I remember the day very well. Like it was yesterday. That day started off just like any other. Who would've guessed that by 8:00 that night, I would be sliced in half, straight down the middle, by an Amtrak train, and I would be half the man I used to be?"
So now Martin doesn't have to wonder. He knows!
It's better that he chose to be a dick and cut out before things between us progressed beyond the first awkward stages. He would not have passed this test: Would he, after putting me in a taxi or watching me board the bus, wait as it moved away and stand there and wave to and smile at me as I turned to look out the window to wave and smile at him?
Of course he'd fail. Because he never put me in a taxi. And I always walked to the bus, on my way home after our afternoons together, alone.
Charlotte's cat mews and meows and meowrls incessantly in the front room of her small apartment. She knows Charlotte is in the bedroom. She knows she can get there easily. She knows all it takes is a minimum of exertion for her to get where she wants to be. Sometimes Charlotte will surrender and go out to "rescue" her, but most of the time she lets the cat "suffer".
She would never dream of hitting the cat to make it shut up. Too bad she can't say as much for her lifeless infant son, finally cooling beneath his warm blanket.
After the pageant, "they" drained Miss Oakdale's 2004's brain into a pint-size decanter. They were amazed they could extract even that much thought fluid, given that the girl didn't think very much, and when she did, none of the thoughts were very original and thus didn't require any juice to fuel them.
So they drained. Added water. Sweet ‘n' Low. A dash of red food coloring (brain juice isn't a pretty color on its own). And served it to all the girls at P.S. 112 who were doing "much too well" at math and science.
It worked like a charm!
Today as you hoisted your blonde peasant stock client up onto the pullup bar, your hands had occasion to squish into the generous supply of cellulite decorating her pinkish-white thighs. I hope that as you strained to assist her, you recalled the firm, dimple-free skin of my firm thighs. And how silky and light they felt as you gently lifted them to your shoulders. So you could slide into me as smoothly as silk. I hope the strain with her forced you to remember how effortless it was with me. Or maybe you're diggin' lumpy lard these days. Poor you!
April is going to be "my" month. April is the beginning of Spring, even if the calendar says it started a week and a half ago. April will debut my pink quilted jacket. April will find me buying open-toed shoes with flowers across the instep. April will have me buying a dress or a skirt. Maybe even something ribbony. April will see me in much less black. April will have my fingers showering down on the keyboard, watering watering watering the seeds that will finally produce my May flowers. April will have me dazzle. This is my promise to myself.
March 31, 2012 was ambivalent about its ancestors. March 31, 1921, a real bust: just the same old "21 skidoo" and zoot-suit/flapper/Prohibition nonsense. March 31, 1956, a bit better: color TV and bras that transformed even bookish girls's tits into luscious cones. March 31, 1972, a wash: Or, rather, unwashed ... leftover hippies and headbands a-gogo. March 31, 1995, a slight improvement: Money in the bank, nice wife and kids. March 31, 2004, superb: a big sale at Bloomingdale's, yielding great-fitting pants and a shirt. How could it have gotten any better than that? 2005 through 2012 passed in a blur.
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