REPORT A PROBLEM
One evening in early 1972, my parents summoned my brother, sister, and me to deliver the news: they were getting a divorce. I was shocked. I cried. I told myself I would cry forever, but by the next morning I could summon no tears. The few I managed to contrive fell almost dry.
I remember almost nothing about the night I learned the news. The biggest standout was that the hamburgers my mom's friend Marilyn had served us kids that evening, as my parents prepared themselves for the talk with us, had huge chunks of not quite cooked potato inside.
He's written his final note to me for the night, and now it's time for their images to find me in dreams.
The hours of emails we exchanged this evening weren't necessarily out and out sexy or descriptive of what I know we both want to do when we get together again, but still, they left me breathless and panting. Actual panting.
Although raunchy repartee can certainly get me going, I know I prefer merely suggestive banter. The restraint and careful choice of words placed "just so" for fullest impact ... the potential for explosion upon contact is that much greater.
The woman who stayed with the man who beat her with wire clothes hangers when she was pregnant with her first child wonders why her third child returns time and time again to a husband whose hands have flicked a cigarette toward that child's body, thrown a drink in her face, and wrapped themselves around her throat. She does not understand why her child would put herself through this, why she would not just leave once and for all and save herself the anguish. Has she really forgotten it took her 17 years to walk away from the same situation?
Two week ago tonight. Two weeks ago. Already. I wish I could say it seems like yesterday, but really it feels like it was two years. Two years since I was pressed beneath the chill of the sheets and the warmth of his skin, feeling what I'd been dreaming about feeling for almost two decades.
I don't even have to close my eyes or sink into deep reverie to feel what I felt those two long weeks ago. All I have to do is think his name and I swear I feel him all over, around, and inside me again.
I have a life outside him, I do. I do. I have, you know, things to do, people to see, food to eat, you know ... a life! My own, independent of him and his and the email we exchange. I just have a compulsion, you see, a compulsion to click on my email SEND/RECEIVE button ten times a minute even though I set the program to automatically check every five minutes. Really, I can go five minutes without checking to see if he thought about me in the last five minutes. I can. Really. My god, why hasn't he written???
The first time we were together was so brilliant in its perfection. Breath-taking and mind-blowing and word-less-ing. To put it mildly. I never imagined I would actually be with him, although for years I'd dreamed of it. Even now, the thought sends my mind reeling, my thighs pulsing, and the place between them aching for more.
So now what? I waited more than 17 years for the first time. The second time I will have waited not even three weeks. I don't dare try to recreate the perfect brilliance of the first time. I pray it'll be even more magnificent.
Just whom do I think I'm kidding, trying on these ladylike sundresses in the Ann Taylor dressing room, flirting with skirts and pretending I'm quite all right with the antiseptic me fake-smiling in the mirror. Why all the energy devoted to appearing ladylike and a bit prim, when really I'm a slut, a whore, a bad very bad girl who, during our nice dinner, will only be thinking of being rammed from behind while jammed face-forward into a brick wall and hoping a passerby might just so happen to catch a glimpse enough to make his eyes and pants bulge.
By fourth grade, Margie had tits. Or at least what passed for tits in fourth grade. And already, at eight or nine years old, she was really playing them up by wearing a bra with cups that must have stood on their own with padding, because there's no way those shiny new tits could have been so perfectly shaped before she was at least 12 years old.
Margie was already celebrated for her long, straight, blond hair, parted in the middle just like Marcia Brady. I didn't think she could get any more ideal ... and then the tits came along.
My hand, high up on the front of his thigh, feels every fiber (100% wool) of his pantleg and can count the number of threads that make up every inch of the weave. My fingers, curled over the hard curve of his inner thigh, can count every tiny stitch sewn to make the seam that keeps the pantleg together. I am a blind woman, skilled in Braille, reading the most fascinating book that I've waited a lifetime to read. I want to feel every bump of every letter and touch every last word of this page-turner. Then read it again.
I really wish they wouldn't do that thing with their hands where they push my head down further on their cocks so my eyes water and almost pop clear from their sockets. My god, it's like their cocks try to reach down my esophagus and into my stomach so they can mix with my lunch and quite possibly bring it back up thanks to their invasion. I wish these men would just let me go about the job with the precision and skill I've accumulated over the years. I don't need their hands for anything other than applause, damn it.
I wanted everyone in the train station to think he was my husband. My handsome husband in the raincoat, driving me to the station so I could go about running out-of-town errands while he went off to work with his briefcase and his newspaper. My husband who kissed me so-long and called me "sweetie". My husband who called me after his deposition to tell me how it went, if I remembered the dry-cleaning, and asked me if I wanted to meet our friends for dinner that night. I wanted everyone in the train station to think I was his wife.
The Hare Krishnas, all citrus-colored flowy robes and flat-footed sandals, shorn heads and shiny happy skin, in a state of euphoric frenzy in Washington Square Park, the drums beating a bare outline for them to fill in with freeform flailing to celebrate – what? – the pure, unfettered joy of being one under the brilliant sun and the impossibly beautiful blue sky? I don't know and I don't care. All I know is that as I stand there in my shoes with heels, I want to kick them off and run to join them in the celebration. If only for ten minutes.
Sundays with my bio-dad were torture, and not just because he'd play sports radio during the ride to his Levitz-decorated townhouse in some non-descript New Jersey suburb. They were also torture because we'd be forced to eat his girlfriend's chicken parmigiana, which was nothing more than unseasoned, breaded chicken parts (with bones!) covered with bland tomato sauce and barely melted cheese. Why the hell did he want to be with her, I wondered, when my mother's version was superior? The only fun was checking out "Match the Snatch" in the Hustler magazines hidden in his guestroom closet, with my sister.
When Katya was four, she used to lie on her stomach on the rust-colored shag carpeting in her grandparents's family room and grab at the pile with her corn-niblet teeth. Often she was rewarded for her efforts, and a loop would find its way past her lips, down her throat. The rug was lush, though, so no one ever noticed the missing pieces.
When Katya was 34, she went to her doctor complaining of horrific stomach pains.
"Surely it's cancer," she wept.
"Not at all," the doctor said. "It's intestinal wall-to-wall carpeting. Rust-colored. Why must you have such poor taste?"
Maintaining a bitchy attitude is so exhausting. The care and effort it takes to come off as jaded and uncaring is just not worth the damage. Damage not only to others who must witness the bitchiness or be the recipients of its product, but to the bitch's own soul and psyche as well.
What a magnificent relief, to release the mindset that defines bitchiness and confines the bitch to a roster of rules and regulations that keep her down. What a joyous relief, for the bitch to realize she doesn't have to put others down to make herself feel "up".
Things were going great for me and D. We saw each other almost every day and were clearly enamored of each other. Met each other's parents and seemed to meet with their approval. At 20, I'd been with enough losers to know that this one was a winner, and I'd be a fool to let him get away. Not like he was going anywhere, especially not now, when it was clear he would lose his virginity to me any day now.
Except he never did. To me, that is. One look at his "outie" bellybutton, and I was outta there.
Margo wants to be just like all the other girls in her second-grade class. She hates that, of all the little girls on the playground, she is the only one who's not allowed to do cartwheels or hang upside-down on the monkey bars. Or wear cute little skirts to school. Instead, Margo must sit on the sidelines in long pants and not do anything that would expose her secret.
What's wrong with having a colorful pinwheel between your legs, anyway, she wonders, wiping back a tear? It's so pretty when it spins in the breeze! And it wows the boys!
Sometimes when he thinks no one is looking, Carl, alone in his wood-panelled office with the shelves stocked with hardbound books full of laws and precedents, sneaks his hands between his jeans-clad ass and his leather-covered chair seat and releases a gentle poof of gas. His palms cup the gas and bring it up to his nose, which sniffs it with the all-knowing finesse of a seasoned sommelier. Ahh, such a brilliant bouquet! Such vibrance!
Carl is completely unaware that his secretary has seen him do this every day for the past two weeks. And now she's doing it too!
"OK, but this is the last time," Tara said as she knelt in front of him, sat back on her heels, and waited for him to undo his belt and unzip his fly. "I told you I'm not doing my friends's husbands anymore."
"It's just a blowjob," he said. "I'm not telling you to do me."
Thank god, she thought. None of these husbands could fuck to save their wives. No wonder Marcy took painkillers. No wonder Rita overshopped. No wonder Karen aerobicized to exhaustion.
What would she turn to, now that she was turning away from their fumbling husbands?
She glared down at me, stringy strawberry-blonde hair pushed back off a bulbous forehead shining like the light affixed to the hardhat of a miner, narrowed watery blue eyes spitting undisguised disgust in my face.
"Your hairline is reeeeeeally low," she said with a sneer. "Do you know that?"
I stared up at her, my eight year old eyes not quite understanding why those set inside the face of the new student teacher would hate the sight of me so much for no reason.
Was it my fault her shiny forehead was the size of a drive-in movie theater screen?
He writes me email and leaves voicemail that could just as easily be written to or left for his guy friends. Tells me he played golf, has a long drive ahead of him, watched a TV show about the OJ Simpson trial. Stuff even his guy friends probably don't want to hear.
I want to take him by the shoulders and shake him vigorously like a snow globe or Etch-a-Sketch, and say, "My god! You had sex with me! With luck, it'll happen again! This is not the sort of thing a girl you have sex with wants to hear!"
She has had three books published and tonight is reading selections from the fourth. I don't know how many people are gathered in Barnes & Noble to see and hear her, but from the sound of the raucous laughter behind my second-row seat, I can tell it's a lot more than when I first sat down half an hour ago.
In person, she's not even funny. Her writing isn't even good. Yet everyone's acting like she's the reincarnation of Gilda Radner and Dorothy Parker, all rolled into one fat package in an ill-fitting dress.
Still, I bought her book. But why?
Every morning, with only one eye (her right), she watches him dress for work. The other eye is pressed into the rumpled pillowcase, along with the left side of her rumpled face, blind and numb to what the other one witnesses.
How flat everything looks, without the benefit of both eyes's participation. Amazing, how full perspective depends on these two little gooey balls propped just above her cheekbones.
She wonders if his ass is really so flat, when viewed with both eyes. Still, she doesn't adjust her head to find out. Two dimensions are all she can handle right now.
How long can I tolerate "standard" and "normal"? Just how long will I be able to put up with a guy so straight and narrow, so unabashedly suburban in his striped button-down Polo shirt and pleated (pleated!) khaki pants, before I run screaming – ears bleeding, hair flying, arms flailing, mouth wailing – from him and his neatly tucked away house with the wall-to-wall carpeting, lightweight doorknobs, cheap bathroom vanities, and bookshelves stocked with hardback volumes about Presidents and other Important Historical World Leaders? Will I be able to accept that he is not an artsy urbanite dressed in head-to-toe Kenneth Cole?
Will I be the belle of the ball? It is up to me! And so it shall be!
It is my hope that I come away from this July Fourth party (suburban! with a pool! a green lawn! and, I hear, a pond!) as the girl all the women want as a friend and all the men want as a mistress. I plan to dazzle the dames and razzle their men: praise for the hors d'oeuvres for the wives and raised-eyebrow coquetry for their husbands.
I will be the firecracker they most admire. Everyone else will fizzle in my wake!
Despite repeated invitations to get together, she hasn't taken me up on any of them. She tosses me limp excuses. She's crazy busy at work, she says. (Yes, but I don't want to see you during work hours.) She's exhausted and wants to just hang out at home, she says. (I don't mind. I'll come to you. We can sip tea at your apartment for an hour and I'll go home.)
I wish she'd just come out and say, "You're not my cup of tea." And be done with it. But now I realize she already has said it. Wordlessly.
Bert really didn't pay his dog too much mind when, one morning out of the blue, from his resting place by Bert's kitchen chair, he told him he smelled like cheese.
"If I'm not mistaken," Quingo said, "you smell like Gouda."
Bert continued crunching his Wheatabix and reading the nutritional panel on the side of the cereal box.
"Or maybe a very creamy goat cheese, such as, say, Boule de Quercy," Quingo said.
Bert continued to get his fiber fill for the morning.
"But who am I to say?" Quingo said. "One class on international cheeses – and I'm an expert?"
When riding the subway, a girl without music in her head or a book in her hands must find something to occupy her mind if she doesn't want to rehash the old thoughts she ordinarily reserves for hashing while trying to no avail to fall asleep at a reasonable hour. She turns her attention turns to the most attractive man in her car, and envisions herself blowing him however he's situated at the moment. The tall one hanging on the pole, staring up at the ads for language school? She's on her knees before him, saying, "You like?" in Croatian.
The party will be at the house of a rich lawyer somewhere in the Philadelphia suburbs. I envision it as a "classy" affair where the men are wearing pressed pants, ironed shirts, and proper shoes. The women are similarly attired, perhaps from the sort of stores that manufacture this kind of sexless suburban clothing (J.Crew, anyone?). So why do I fear it will be even worse – and these people I imagine as refined will be doing cannonballs off the diving board and holding each other's heads under the water? I can't wait to see which version is closer to reality.
Twenty-four hours without a single calorie, and I feel fine. There were a few shaky moments when I thought I'd falter and go back on my promise to myself that I'd fast today, but I didn't. Perhaps most impressive is that I was at home all day, where, even though the food isn't the most exciting, the temptation is always greater to just take a handful of nuts here, a spoon of Soy Delicious there. I am so very proud, I want to celebrate. But with what? Water? Alas, I cannot, because 24 hours is not enough. Forty-eight should do.
The Tip Jar