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The bright yellow rubber rain boots were cute when you bought them, but now, standing on the subway platform, screaming words I can't hear as my train whizzes by you and your boyfriend, you're hating them because you can't take yourself seriously when your feet look like they belong to a toddler. Had you only known you'd be fighting today, you would've worn your black platform boots with the heel that you'd be more than happy to be shoving up his ass right now. You would've left the mittens home, too. Giving him "the finger" in mittens makes no impact.
The elevator doors close. Immediately the coy smile and eye-flutter she bestowed on him as he leaned in his doorway vanishes and is replaced by a grimace and eye-roll. She stabs the "G" button with her forefinger. Sighs. The 36-floor descent, although swift, takes too long.
He can't walk her to the elevator? Can't expend the energy to pad 15 feet down the hall and press the call button, a small but significant gesture of chivalry that would seal the expression on her face not just for those 36 floors but for quite a few blocks of her walk home?
I've just murmured pointed commentary into his ear about someone I don't know but who is doing something annoying across the room.
I pull my head back, ostrich-style, and narrow my eyes at his profile.
"You've got to be kidding," I say.
His mouth is a lipless horizontal line. His eyes don't blink. He does not turn to look at me, which is fortunate, because if he did he'd see a black glare of disgust. I'm glad he's still in profile, because I can't stand half of his face right now, let alone the whole thing.
Buying used books fits into my way of thinking. The whole recycle/reuse thing is totally in keeping with what I'd call my "philosophy" if could say that without feeling pompous or cliché. Still, I like reading fresh books, whose covers and pages have never been touched by someone else's fingers.
Upon encountering a book for the first time, I like to open it to a random page and press my nose into the crease to inhale the "new book" smell -- something I won't do with used books.
This is part of the experience I just don't want to surrender.
In the eight months since Sam's mother died, his father has eaten at least 32 pies. Sam knows this because every Sunday when he visits, he finds his father sitting in the kitchen, eating pie with his hands, by the handful.
This would make a modicum of sense if, say, Sam's mother was a pie-baker or if she and his father shared a love of pies. But in all of Sam's 36 years, the only time he saw his father eat pie was at a diner in Pennsylvania. And even then he said it wasn't his thing. He preferred cake.
"Have you been making your daily 'to-do' lists, Sandra?"
In 2006, Sandra spent 240 days doing absolutely nothing. And by "absolutely nothing", she meant not even getting out of bed or peeing. Indeed, changing position in bed was more effort than she could bear.
So far this year, she hasn't missed a weekly session with me. Then again, it's only the fifth of January.
"Yes," she whispers, presenting a sheet of paper towel.
I never thought I'd see "Turn off alarm clock" as an event that needed listing. (But this means she's turning it on, so at least there's that.)
It's too quiet," I say. "Let me put on some music."
It isn't too quiet. It's too loud. Too loud with the slurp of his incessant grape-gobbling. It only been ten minutes, but it may as well be an hour. I want to ram pliers into my ears or slam a hammer into his mouth.
"You just want to mask the sound of me eating," he says.
"Not SOUND," I want to say. "NOISE, damn it. NOISE!"
I play music I know he hates. His handful of grapes can't possibly last longer than an albumful of The Decemberists.
Every morning, on the subway, Lydia reminds herself that she is happy. She has an apartment with heat and a window and plumbing, and a boyfriend who takes her to dinner. She's healthy, not fat, and has a pretty face and a job that pays most of her bills. Construction workers still say rude things to her, and the nice Indian guy at the corner deli always throws in a free bag of Ruffles no matter what else she buys.
She is happy, damn it. Very happy. Finger-snapping, head-bopping, puddle-skipping happy. Sing-aloud happy. For 20 minutes she almost convinces herself.
My landlord is at my apartment, repairing three shower tiles that dislodged about a week ago. What this means, if past repairs for a previous tenant are any indication, is that he'll use black duct tape to hold the tiles in place rather than scraping out the crumbled old grout and replacing it with new. What this means is that I'm hiding at a friend's place, just so I won't have to witness this poor execution and fret the entire time. What this means is that I'm ridiculous and should just be there to tell him I don’t accept halfassedness.
"You never should've told me you can tell a lot about a person's mental state by the condition of their feet," Suzanne says at the beginning of her session.
Of course I'm compelled to look at hers. She's wearing dainty silver strappy sandals with a kitten heel. Cute.
And thick tan ragg socks with navy-blue heels and toes. Not cute.
"What's under the socks, Suzanne?"
"I wrote FUCK on my left foot and YOU on my right."
"That would mean I'd be reading it upside down, though," I say.
"No," she says. "Because it's not meant for you to see."
"I smile at men who I think think they're beneath me," Cindy says into her Louis Vuitton handbag. "Garbage collectors, street sweepers, the guys who have halal lunch trucks. Maintenance men at the gym. Bus and taxi drivers, busboys, and the kid behind the Starbucks counter. Copy-machine repairmen. Dog walkers. Oh, and of course construction workers."
Anyone else? I want to ask. But it's 3:50 and her session ends in five minutes. Plus, I really don't care.
"I smile so they won't think I'm just another snooty lady lawyer with her designer briefcase and $400 shoes and fancy fur coat."
"When Charlie's 'making love' to me," Diana says, "I mentally go down the columns of the take-out and delivery menu from Bombay Palace and put together my fantasy feast. Last night it was aloo tiki, samosas, saag paneer, chicken tikka masala, dal, a dosa, and an enormous basket of the puffiest naan ever."
"No mango lassi?" I say, looking up from my tablet, where I'm doodling tits and dogs.
"Oh! Of course!"
"If he 'fucked' you rather than 'made love', would you still be thinking about food?" I say.
"I have no idea," she says. "Have you had lunch yet?"
If you attend Monday Night Magic on West 46th Street, you will want to saw yourself in half, handcuff your top half to a concrete-filled attaché case, submerge it into a padlocked water-filled vessel, and quietly drown without even trying to escape. This, while your bottom half dashes, pell mell, toward the edge of a cliff and then, due to circumstantial blindness, trips and falls headlong (or whatever passes for headlong when you're sans head) down its ragged side until it lands in a muddy ditch. That, or just yell, "Rip-off!!!" every time one of the performers underperforms Peter Brady.
Every Friday morning, before the maid arrives, Marla scrubs her kitchen sink, stuffs socks into the hamper, changes the sheets, dusts, and sweeps. Then she gently pushes back her cuticles, files her nails, and polishes them with two coats of a light neutral shade before heading to the salon for her weekly manicure.
Every year for 25 years, she's woken up two hours earlier than her husband. And every morning, when he shuffles into the kitchen with pillow-marks on his cheeks and rumpled hair, Marla is coiffed, outfitted, and smiling, serving sunnyside-up eggs whose yolks never even think about breaking.
They're all there, glassy-eyed and grab-assy. Captivated. In front of her and behind her and around her, men men boys and men, uncles and dads and cousins and brothers and grandfathers and sons, hanging on to her every insipid Brazilian word. Does she know that all they see is the "blonde" hair and the jumbo tits and the jiggly muffin hips and that none of them could tell you the color of her eyes? So they drool and she laps it up, and they all pretend to enjoy her rambling stories told in an accent slathered thick with extra Portugeuse.
Every morning, for seven seconds, the tumble and whir of her coffee grinder masks the sound of Sarah's screams. And in those seven seconds, she pours out as much anger, disgust, grief, and hopelessness as she possibly can. It is her only respite.
Every morning, for seven seconds, the rumble and screech of an oncoming subway masks the sound of Nathan's screams. Anger, disgust, grief, and hopelessness are his emissions as well. And, yes, his only respite.
Next week, Sarah and Nathan will meet on the subway platform. They'll fall in love. And have each other to scream at instead.
He's the guy on the street carrying flowers to some girl whose face you'll never see. Someone who kisses him good morning and good night and good everything-in-between. He's that romantic guy you occasionally hear about. The one who thinks of "her" on his way home. The one who thinks about her all day and can't wait to see her and knows the flowers will add that special touch because they're not for any occasion other than that he was thinking of her.
I always wondered who that guy was. And now I know: He's my boyfriend. (Insert "awww!" here.)
"Wow, that was really hot," Sam says as he rolls off Sandra and onto his back, where he lies now, legs splayed like the chalk outline of a murder victim. "And hey, you came!"
Sandra rubs her shoulder, where for the past five minutes, Sam's chin dug into it as the rest of his face was buried into the pillow. To say that his cock was buried inside her would be a grand overstatement. As always, she barely felt those four inches of limp sponginess.
Little did he know that her fingers were crossed the entire time she was "coming".
Half an hour after the hands of her immediate family tossed cold dirt atop her coffin, those of family members who hadn't spoken to her in years are pulling at the plastic wrap shrouding enormous platters of cold cuts on the dining room table.
"Jesus Christ. Can't you fucking wait?" my sister says. She looks into the eyes of the one leading the charge -- a cousin on our dead grandmother's side, whose name we wouldn't know even if it were announced on a name tag. She stabs his eager hand with a fork.
Ahh, so there are his tears.
All I remember about certain family members:
* Uncle Dave - looked like a cross between Ed Sullivan and Richard Nixon, wheelchair, Masha's husband
* Aunt Masha - Poppop's sister, flawless pale skin, high cheekbones, Asian-ish look, married to Uncle Dave, smoked long cigarettes (?)
* Aunt Sema - Bubby's sister, porky
* Jack - paternal grandfather, lardo, bigot, chased us around with a camera, tried to attack Dad with knife, spit at Mom at brother's bar mitzvah
* Teresa - Uncle Gilbert's wife/girlfriend, Asian, pretty, laughed as she ate the eye of a smoked fish at Uncle Frankie's funeral
In assessing our own situations in an attempt to tell ourselves we don't really have it so bad, we compare what we have to what other people have. We say, "Well, my job in this mall kiosk, selling shellacked wooden plaque-clocks, isn't the best, but at least I'm not a toll-taker." Or "I'm not thrilled with my Hepatitis C, but at least it's not A or B." Or "I may live in a roach-ridden hovel on Avenue D, but at least I have heat and a bike, which is more than I can say for that homeless guy over there."
He stands just inside my front door, the cold still on his face and hands and coat. Cold doesn't affect him the way it does me. Is it because his body produces so much heat (and this, even when standing still!)? I don't know or care. All I know and care about now is that he's here, hugging me, bending down to accommodate the height difference.
He hugs the way I've always wanted to be hugged. Big, snug, and with his whole body -- as if he means it (and he does). Hugs like sighs. He is, indeed, a "keeper"!
"You've met your match!"
How many schmucks have said this to me? I'm not sure. But I think it's somewhere between two and ten. And every time it's been said, I've been shocked and repelled.
My match? If I'm your match, then that means I have all the sexual stamina and prowess of a quadriplegic asthmatic eight-year-old Amish kid. Fellas, you are limp, lame, and inert at best. I've felt more powerful thrusts from tired mosquitos drawing blood from the backs of my knees. More passion from my grandmother's kisses. More "aroused" from a trip to my gynecologist.
My hair is getting in the way of my getting to sleep, so I jump out of his bed just long enough to grab a hairband and secure a cheerleadery ponytail atop my sleepless head. I look like Pebbles Flintstone. Or a pineapple.
"It's not your best look," he says with a pre-kiss smile, "but I like that you're willing to be yourself in front of me."
Translation: "You look like an idiot, somewhat." (Therefore, I am one.)
I don't want to be slightly insulted, but I think I am. Not enough to lose sleep, literally or otherwise, though. Whateverrrrr!
How much of a loser do I feel like when I think, "I can't come up with 100 words!" when I know that Jean-Dominique Bauby, paralyzed completely except for the ability to blink one eye, wrote an entire book by blinking out each letter to his assistant?
How feeble I am. How outrageously ridiculous I am. Me, with two blinkable eyes, ten typeable fingers, and some toes and a nose that could serve if they absolutely had to?
I'll realize this for the next half hour or so, and then, I'm sure, whine again when I feel "blocked".
I am far less interested in how the "rich and famous" go about living their lives in houses with more rooms than they have fingers and toes than I am how those with next to nothing live theirs. You read about these families in "human interest" stories who have 14 kids and live in a house the size of a celebrity's bathroom and who manage to feed all those mouths with food the celebrities wouldn't deign to feed their dogs. Hand-me-downs and no hand-outs. No free designer gowns and "swag". These people are far more remarkable, more impressive, more compelling.
I'm out with the boys. They're buying me gin and tonics galore -- and for a lightweight like me, two is "galore", so the three that they've set in front of me, in rather rapid succession, are more than I should consider handling. But hey, this go-getter loves a challenge!
I stumble out of the boy-bar and call my boyfriend. Would he like the stumbly me to come over right now? Why, of course he would.
I arrive to candlelight, his handsomeness, and one of the sexiest nights I've ever known. (And it has nothing to do with the drinks.)
Almost every morning I think, "This could be the day I die." I picture my tombstone, with that day below my birthdate, chiseled by the expert beak of a bird from The Flintstones.
Just like I remember the days for my grandparents, someday someone will remember mine. When will that be? What will be the day that that person says, "Jodi died on this date"?
Usually I picture a year that will have indicated I lived a long life. I never envision, for instance, "1963-2007". I don't think anyone thinks, "I'm going to die before my time."
Oh god. Knockwoodknockwoodknockwood.
When I think about how we almost could have never met, I get chills like those I get when I don’t look at the streetlight and almost get hit by a car. Chills of panic and relief.
"Just think," I've said. "We so easily could have missed each other. How sad would that've been?"
Yet we never would've known, so, really, it wouldn't be sad. But now, knowing each other as we do and having "connected" this way, I think that somehow, deep down, we would have both been aware of an overwhelming loss, even if we couldn't identify it.
"Don't sit on it until it's hard."
My landlord has just caulked around the bottom of my toilet to keep it from rocking when someone sits on it.
His instruction causes an uncomfortable beat of silence to hang between where I sit at my desk and where he stands at the front door. I don't know if he's even aware of what he said. Or, if he is, if he thinks I thought something salacious.
I don't acknowledge it with a customary nervous giggle or saucy comment. Still, I nauseate myself thinking about sitting on his "it", hard or otherwise.
I'm desperately seeking a "Q" on license plates, billboards, street signs, and strip mall stores. The rest of the alphabet's been easy so far. Being in New Jersey always takes care of the potential difficulty of finding a "J".
I'm anxious about "X" and "Z", but comforted that the search will demand my attention. If I didn't have this game as escape, I'd have to pay attention to my father's rage, directed at who knows what. I don't even want to know, though, because I'm not playing that game this time.
(As long as it's not one of us kids.)
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