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Marie's having her typical bad time at the party. She hates these things, always has, and sees no chance of that changing anytime in the future. Especially not in the very near future, as in the next few hours that she's stuck in this overly decorated house for yet another obligatory holiday celebration.
So she does her typical Marie thing: sneaks away and hides in the room with all the coats piled on the bed. Burrows deep beneath the fur and wool heap and rifles through coat pockets for individually-wrapped hard candies. And, typically, licks each coat's buttons or zipper.
The prettiest girl on the bus isn't pretty at all. But compared to the rest of the mud-face mugshots clogging the seats with doughy thighs and marshmallow asses, this girl's a real looker.
For the duration of the ride from Chelsea to the Upper West Side, she's It: prom and homecoming queen, a living doll, supermodel, and jerkoff fodder all rolled into one. And oh, "rolled" is right. She's a massive cinnamon bun! But her loud chatter reveals she's not as sweet. On the bus, though, this morning, where she is the prettiest, she is also the sweetest.
The girl in the pink and yellow plaid pants sneaks peeks at the girl in the orange and blue polka-dot coat who just boarded the subway, carried along in a bobbing amorphous mass of dread gray and black. She wants to yell, "Join me, ally!" but shyness paralyzes her.
I don't deserve color
, she thinks.
I should banish myself to black and gray like everyone else.
The girl in the orange and blue polka-dot coat feels so alone. Everyone else is dressed for despair. And that girl at the end of the car keeps staring at her like
Four or six or 118 squealing 11-year-old girls board the uptown M7. They squeal when they greet each other and also when they greet the boys (because yes, 11-year-old boys are on board too). All of them are in jeans, scarves, coats, and hats, and none of them – girls or boys – have any idea that the 30 years separating them from me are going to whiz by.
They also have no idea that pretty soon they'll all be fucking and getting fat and growing bad skin. I smile out the window at the inevitability. I could just squeal!
Mark regards his watch. It's been two hours, and he's ready for the next step. This is the part he likes the most. The rest, he could take or leave, but this is what makes it all worth the pain and wait.
He unwraps the rubber band from around his purple, distended tongue, and luxuriates in its release from bondage for three carefully timed seconds (thank god for his watch's stopwatch function!) before plunging it into the open mouth of a Dr Pepper can. On good days, his tongue bleeds just enough to make the soda taste even more delicious.
He sends an instant message to say they're going to be in the city on Sunday and would love to see me. I pretend I'm thrilled, say I'd love to see them, too – including a smiley-face emoticon and more exclamation points than the situation warrants.
Absolutely! Yes! It's been way too long, and I miss you all so very much!
Friday comes, and I dread the impending visit. Luckily, he cancels via email that afternoon. I feign disappointment and say, "Some other time! Can't wait to see you!" knowing full well that, next time, I'll be the one to cancel.
A woman gets on the bus and fills it with the obnoxious odor of a perfume that smells about as appetizing as a gym sock worn by a rain-soaked summer marathoner with a bad case of athlete's foot. A man gets on and shoves her odor aside with his own fascinating stench of an ancient ashtray in which half-smoked cigarettes are pressed into sticky, dried-up beer residue. The competition is fierce, and I cannot name a winner.
I can taste their respective stinks. If they had any class at all, they'd at least smell like hash browns or eggplant parmigiana.
Lila Kite should be elegant, with a name like that. Lila Kite should be beautiful, with a name like that. Lila Kite should be fascinating, with a name like that. With a name like that, Lila Kite should be a lot of things, they say. But she's not.
She's so unimpressive, they say, she may as well be named Helen Kank. Or Penny Simp. Or any other short-voweled, two-syllable first name paired with a short-voweled, one-syllable last name. Lila Kite, as she exists, doesn't deserve the long vowels. But look at her over there, acting like she does. The nerve!
I accidentally break a Hanukkah candle in half. Its wick spine is still intact, but even so, it can't be used in the menorah. I try to toss it away with the offhand attitude of a person who doesn't think the candle's crying because it didn't fulfill its life's purpose, but three minutes later I rescue it from the trashcan.
The menorah's already lit with whole candles, but I light this one anyway, and let it celebrate a few moments in my hand before extinguishing it. I'm just about to tell myself I'm an idiot, when the candle thanks me.
"He's just some schmuck I used to fuck," I think as he nears the treadmill where I'm down to my last two minutes.
Today, like many other days, I pretend to fiddle with my iPod on the tray rather than look directly at him as he approaches. It's easier that way. Eye contact is deadly. One eye-lock, and all the work I've done to un-like him is undone.
"He's just some schmuck I used to fuck," I think as I leave the gym, having just seen the back of his head at the front desk.
I'm safe for another day!
You know that stuff about "What's in a name?" Well, in Connie's case the name was everything. And people thought her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Scending, purposely named her Connie Dee just for the humor of it. But really, they were humorless, clueless schmoes who just thought it was a pretty name and had no idea their daughter would grow up to live up to her name.
And oh, how condescending the woman is! "Oh, Ethel," she says to her maid, "your beautiful pleather coat goes in the closet along with all our shearling. You're one of the family now!"
It's only 6:12, but Charlie Griggs's day is already made. Ordinarily it doesn't happen until he opens his lunchbox and finds smoked turkey on white and a bag of barbecue chips. But today, he's ahead of schedule. Six whole hours!
He smiles down at the breast pocket of his new Carhart jacket. Inside is his portable tape player, which he just discovered fits perfectly inside. Now he won't have to buy a new one! Oh, life is good!
Little does he realize that inside his lunchbox is nothing but a "goodbye" note from his wife. And no turkey or chips.
Willa swallowed a harmonica on her third birthday, and from that day on, whenever she sighed, a plaintive little musical "hmmmph" would escape her throat. People loved that sound so much that they tried everything they could to make her sigh. Kittens worked from the time she was three until she was eight. Bobby Kendry's beautiful blond hair worked from eight until twelve. Boredom worked from twelve until eighteen. Bobby Kendry resurfaced from eighteen until her death at age 24 (blocked windpipe, of all things!), and for those six years he was the only one to hear her special melody.
Everyone has a grand time watching Billy Boman flop his flubby way down Laskey Boulevard with the rest of the marathoners in smalltown Picton. They've never seen a fatso running down the street barefoot, only in pajama bottoms, his cheeks puffing in a way that's kinda gross but, in a weird way, kinda cute.
He can't keep up with the skinny runners, of course, so why's he keep looking over his shoulder like that? And what's with the tears running down his fat red face? You'd think he'd be happy to see his dad catching up to him so fast!
Lance has it all worked out. He figures since he's down between his girflriend's thighs and he's hungry for other sweetness her body can't provide, he may as well just kill two birds with one stone. He's happy he remembered to pick up a cherry pie on his way to Margot's house.
With his right forefinger, Lance stirs up some of his girlfriend's outrageously sweet juiciness. With his left, he digs for a cherry deep beneath the flaky piecrust. Successful in producing both, he places his fingers in his mouth and allows the flavors to comingle. He's an efficient gourmand!
Oh, that Claudia! She may be forgetful, but when it comes to being resourceful, she's your girl! Just today, for instance, she forgets, again, to buy batteries for her favorite vibrator. And the stores are all closed for the weekend in her two-bit town. So what does she do? This: She sets her cell phone to "vibrate", jams it down her pants, and then, using her home phone, calls the cell phone non-stop (thank god for "redial"!). And here her meddling mother said she never put her mind to good use! If only she could rub this in Mom's face!
Natalie's made of candy. That's why she's always licking her arm like it's no big deal. And why she sneaks pre-dinner licks: her mom knows she's made of candy, and doesn't want Natalie spoiling her appetite (impossible!) for brisket.
Because these things skip a generation, Natalie's mom's not made of candy. What her mom didn't know pre-Natalie, is that no one else can taste the candy except the person made of it.
What Natalie's mom doesn't tell anyone is that that's the only reason she had Natalie in the first place: for free tastes of candy. If only she'd known.
My brother came back from the store with a two-liter bottle of Coke and ran upstairs with it. I didn't care, since it wasn't Diet. Still, I was curious.
Fifteen minutes later, I crept upstairs and saw his girlfriend rinsing the bottle out in the bathroom sink.
They sure drink fast
, I thought. But why was the soda a secret?
Later I learned his girlfriend had DOUCHED with the Coke, to try wash out the product of their unprotected sex.
Nine months later my nephew was born, and he rejected his mother's breastfeeding attempts. The only thing he'd drink? Coke.
Paisley Peterson, Dermatologist, is disappointed in her patients. Every night, wrapped in a cocoon of red flannel sheets, she tries to convince sleep to sweep away her troubles, but instead it laughs in her face and runs away like a brat just when she thinks she has it in her grasp. So she spends another flannel-wrapped night sleepless, more awake than anyone should ever have to be, and frets.
Damn her patients's bump-free skin. Damn them and their over-the-counter remedies. Damn them for regular exercise and eight daily glasses of water.
Awake, she impatiently prays for eczema, psoriasis, and leprosy.
It's hard for Lorna to believe the woman who just opened the door at 146 Morgan Street is the same woman whose photograph has been staring at her from the credenza behind the desk where she and her boss have been groping each other every Monday and Thursday evening for the past five months.
The Mrs. Sherman who smiles at her on the doorstep is a dried-apple faced, frazzled hag. Very pleasant, but still: a hag. Quite different from the airbrushed Glamour Shot in the office. So this is her competition? Lorna vows to find another job in the morning.
Martin spits, and fuchsia lands on the countertop with a solid thud. It's not what he expected from fuchsia: a glorious splash like that of a bucketful of fish heaved into a swimming pool. His favorite sound, that.
This fuchsia, with its dull thwappy thud, is what he'd expect from a color somewhere between putty and beige. And now, come to think of it, it tastes like a color somewhere between putty and beige. He sticks out his tongue, and sure enough, it's not coated in fuchsia at all. Fucking fake fuchsia. Bargain basement colors are just not worth it.
Nancy knows that one day she'll be a guest on "Inside the Actor's Studio". When it comes time for that famous questionnaire, she'll pretend to spontaneously create her answers rather than let on that she'd spent several years coming up with answers guaranteed to wow the crowd.
When asked, "What's your least favorite sound?" she'll close her eyes, shake her head, and a wry smile will play about her lips. "The sound of silence," she'll solemnly say. And the audience, which had been waiting for her response in a silent hush, will rush to fill the space with raucous applause.
Ask anyone who knows her, and they'll tell you that Melanie McCally doesn't acknowledge Christmas anymore. They'll tell you she stopped celebrating it five years ago, without explanation, and then, just two years ago, when a newcomer asked why hers was the only house on Mulberry without decoration, she acted like she didn't even know it was Christmas. "It's like she thought it was August or something," the newcomer said.
Behind the drawn curtains of 252 Mulberry, Melanie drops hard-boiled eggs into a threadbare yet perfectly pressed red felt Christmas stocking, and drinks secret eggnog. No one has to know.
Marla's mom serves pate from the finest gourmet shop in all of Trainersville, Connecticut. The neighborhood kids sure seem to like playing with Marla every afternoon after school, but they're just there for the pate, served atop very small square slices of chewy pumpernickel bread.
The gourmet shop burns down one night when Marla's at the library working on a book report, so the next day her mom only has peanut butter on Ritz to serve. She's baffled when the kids don't show up and when Marla's teacher calls to tell her Marla failed to hand in a book report.
Oh no. Someone save me from certain spew. He's cooking something in a frying pan that smells like a stomach-churning, soul-wrenching, eye-watering, please-kill-me-now-oh-dear-god blend of a filthy, sweat-soaked jockstrap, a three-day-old syphillitic corpse riddled with maggots, and vomit covered with sawdust in an elementary school corridor.
Alas, the reek is only eggs with gorgonzola cheese.
Why oh why is it that everything he cooks smells like it's been torn from the inside of a slaughtered beast's diseased viscera, even when it's something as seemingly simple as a piece of fish? And how oh how can he eat that putrid slop?
His feet, in multi-color striped socks, protrude from the ends of his stick-straight legs like leaden afterthoughts hammered onto the wooden appendages of an uninspired puppet. He's slumped on the sofa, his body almost supine, and those feet are propped atop a small chair, pulled from a nearby dinette set to act as an ottoman. His toes, and the nails that haven't seen a clipper in months, threaten to tear through the strained cotton. I fantasize about hacking those feet off with a cleaver so sharp it can cut by telepathy. Those feet make me want to cut and run.
She's got big big BIG plans for New Years, that's for sure. Ask anyone who knows her, and they'll tell you Candace Truman is THE party girl not only of Edgeview Hills (Apartment 1D is the place to be!) and the Marlton branch of "Curves", but also the wildest and craziest of all the legal secretaries at Oberlin & Marsh, the biggest law firm in town. So why is it that Candace is alone in Apartment 1D at 11:59 on December 31 with a big bag of Doritos to her left and her cat, Mr. Jeepers (a/k/a Jeepers Creepers) to her right?
He is watching his friend's dog this week while the friend is out of town. He tells me that the dog's been sleeping on his bed with him and his cat. That, alone, is enough to make me fall in love with him a little.
But when he tells that when he woke up and looked over and saw the dog snoring with his mouth open and then looked over and saw the cat snoring with her mouth open, and he thought it was all so very adorable, I fell in love with him a lot.
It doesn't take much.
My most impressive bulimic patient is a girl named Darla. Not only is she impressive because she can make herself vomit without even sticking her finger down her throat, but she managed to eat all of the following in one sitting and still have room for an entire Pepperidge Farm angel food cake with coconut frosting:
Two loaves of thick-cut french toast (made with raisin bread)
Banquet "family size" roast beef au jus
Three bags of Nutter Butter peanut butter cookies
One can of Duncan Hines buttercream frosting
21-piece bucket of fried chicken
One Milk Bone
Viva la overachiever!
One of my most memorable patients was Tomas, a handsome Spaniard obsessed with cleanliness, ice cubes, and his own urine. Every Saturday afternoon at 2:00, Tomas filled his bathtub with bags and bags of ice, leaving an open space just big enough for him to wedge himself into. Once situated, he'd close his eyes and imagine the water that had flowed to create the ice. The mere thought caused him to pee.
Tomas sat in the tub for as long as it took for his pee to melt the ice. In the winter, Tomas missed an awful lot of work.
Amazing. His teeth are the size and color of Niblets corn, his hair covers barely one-third of his head, his shirt is stretched over a gut streaked with stretch marks and spider veins, his fingernails are as jagged as the edge of a saw, yet he still thinks he's entitled to make remarks about the appearance of every girl that passes by him in the park. "Her tits aren't big enough," he says of one. "She'd look better as a blonde," he says of another. "Fat chicks are disgusting," he says, as a slightly chunky girl looks his way. Amazing.
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