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Walsh looks pretty pleased with himself. He's working one of the less plump nurses bragging about pranks he's pulled. "Once, when I had a roommate who took too much time in the can, I blew a whole thing of baby powder under the door with a hair dryer," he says, "Couldn't do that now with you know." Why'd he have baby powder and a hair dryer outside the bathroom, I wondered aloud. He shakes a smirking face at me. "You'll get your April fool, fool," he says winking at the nurse. She's all giggles, unaware of her own fool status.
The second kid with a gunshot wound since we've been here. He looked about seven. As much as I hate him I have to say Walsh is really good with victim's relatives. He knows just the angle to get them to sign, which is good because I some great footage. I should get hazard pay for having to run in those paper booties. Almost killed myself running backwards down the corridor with that piece-of-shit camera. Oh irony. Just my luck, if I ever do brain myself it'll be during a real emergency and I'll have to wait for medical attention.
After bitching and bitching because they only called her to play models despite her age, she's practically in tears when they decide not to use her. They don't give a reason so she's sure it's because she's either old or ugly or both. She's neither. Crazy is another matter. "Laura you weren't even going to do anymore extra work." "But Law & Order shoots so fast, it's easy money." Okay let's pretend that's the issue. I'm exhausted. The phone is literally siphoning away my last ounce of energy. "Shut up." I don't say, "You lived to be older than seven-years-old."
Marni called, Springer's looking for someone to shoot a confrontation segment about 70 miles for here. I'd have to find my own security. It would mean staying an extra day.
"I'm really tired of signs on restaurants requiring shirts and shoes and reminding folks to leave their guns in the truck."
"I'm serious, I picked one up for you."
"You'd have an extra day to let Laura cool down a bit."
"She's really pissed at you."
I reran yesterday's conversation in my head, "What for?"
"Geez, I don't know not all women are as cool as me."
It's not that kind of show, when I'm on I stand with my camera in the middle of the ER and wait. But they told me to meet the ambulance, I hurried to the address they gave me. A man, about 400 pounds had been fishing and fell off the cement wall and into the river. His mouth was just above water, but he wasn't strong enough to pull himself out. A winch, a tow truck, a couple of drenched EMT's and a half hour later he's en route to the hospital, I drive myself. No room in the ambulance.
Finally found the bug up Laura's butt before it ate her insides out entirely. I've been getting calls the last couple of days at the apartment. From women. About that personal ad I posted on Nerve. On Salon. "What the fuck? Would I put our home number in an ad if I was trying to cheat on you when I'm a thousand miles away?" "You would if you were trying to tell me something. Passive-aggressive is in your repertoire." The preference for plus-sized women, though. That didn't sound like me she says, Who does it sound like? I ask. "Walsh."
Mostly I'm embarrassed by the way caller's respond to the ad. To a one they are impressed by the ad's "sincerity". Compare it to the other assaultively hip ads on the site chock-a-block with pop-cultural awareness but with nary a posted phone or email address in sight. The other posters took pains to trot out their wittiest, rehearsed off-the-cuff bon mots to advertise their wares. Of course my ad is sincere in that it speaks so honestly of my faults and in the same truly refreshing fashion, contains not an iota of wit. It was, after all, composed by Walsh.
"Yeah ya got me." Walsh is wink-winking at the nurse. "Now will you get the ad removed or give me the password so I can." He's keeps up about it being too soon, he doesn't believe I've met "the one" yet. It can't be that much fun for him, he has no access to the e-mails I've received. I whisper that anyone who wears scrubs with pictures of puppies is bound to think he looks mean soon if he keeps this up. Especially if I mention how it's upsetting my girlfriend about whose existence I, for one, have been forthright.
Godammit. It's one thing if he goes around lying about being down on Wall Street on 9/11, it's another thing if he puts me there too. Miss Puppy-scrubs is trying to explain to me that Walsh kids cuz he feels so close to me after sharing that tragedy. We were in Las Vegas that week. And Walsh knows I won't correct her because I was stupid enough to tell him about lying to Laura. Said the piece was on professional gamblers, when it was actually on legal prostitution. She just would've stressed over it for no good reason, you know?
You'd have to be Fred Flintstone to find this cave habitable. Ah Howard Johnson's motor inn ambiance. I'll have nightmares about people crunching along the gravel outside my room. If I chased locals like Walsh I could spare myself bad cable movies in my hotel room. Did anyone pay to see
? There's a scene where Keanu Reeves breaks into a room to find Charlize Theron blowing her I'm-so-not-terminally-ill pose by puking on the floor in creamed-corn yellow. She resists his help and they wrestle around the room. All I can think is, hey, there's vomit on the floor.
She walks into streets causing cars to stop, regardless of the light, sure they will stop and, so far, they always have. Her stride long and musical, seeing her in the middle of a street you're taken aback by your inability to control time and examine the moment. Her super-hero power, the ability to repel automobiles, was the first things that drew me to her. But it wasn't long before I started trying to save her from her own invincibility. "Sweet," she pats my cheek when I grab her arm, "What do you think I do when you're not around?"
I've always wanted to be the kind of man who, when people meet me, they want me to like them. You know the kind. If you don't lucky you, maybe that means you actually are that man. As my stomach gets softer and more inclined to drawing attention to itself for some reason that is no doubt less than useful or admirable, I begin to fear that instead I am that person who asks questions loudly in public with forced cheerfulness. "Do you suppose these batteries are actually fresh? " Seeming not warm and expansive, but rather scared and pathetic.
Laura has apartmentmania, convinced we must buy one, now. Only place we can really afford is Co-op Village. Everyone in our shoes has come to the same conclusion. Leaving yet another packed Open House we're approached by a young, doughy Orthodox man, "Psst, wanna see a three-bedroom?" Inside, he and an elderly football-shaped man speak Hebrew. The apartment's furnished with shiny, gray-laminated furniture. Each bedroom has two twin beds. The paint is cracked, only held to the walls by prayer. Family portraits of groups of men in black hats dotted the walls. We try to act like we're not looking.
The pope is "touched by anguish over sexual abuse". The phrase appears as a quote in Salon, but is it exact? What language did the pope express this sentiment in? Polish? Italian? English? If not English is this a literal translation? If only the article had said exactly where the pope was touched by anguish, aside from his wallet of course. I like the idea of the pope carrying his own wallet, it'd make it easier for him to whip it out at a bar and buy a round. If there's a God, he was touched in the bathing-suit area.
Marni's pissed at me for turning down the Springer. It's not like it pays, she just likes having absolution for watching. Probably she's pissed I said that. This job's supposed to be some kind of punishment I think. Some sort of rinky plastic vegetable chopper. She forgets I like shooting commercials for gadgets that argue their worth. You need this. What you have isn't good enough. This need to persuade strips away any pretense of artiness. It's all I can do to keep the camera from shaking as the client's niece demonstrates how difficult it is to operate a knife.
It's been almost three years. Three years of softness radiating from my middle. The man in front of me at the deli was waiting for something and I realized I was staring at his ass. It was flat (didn't project) but was round on the sides. He was wearing very clean light blue jeans and he had a wedgie. I like to think I'm not a man who checks out other men's asses, especially not weird-butted men, but here I was. Which is worse, paying $6.25 a pack to start smoking again or being hypnotized into describing a man's butt?
This is a sign. I'm not a person that looks for signs, but sometimes they come looking for you. Laura is dead set against me taking the job in Africa. But record 90-degree weather in the mid-April can only be Africa calling. It reminds me of the summer our dog Elephant got so sick when he ate the egg I tried to fry on the sidewalk. People are dazed and a bit wild-eyed as they navigate through the waves of heat, their thoughts in balloons buoyed along above them. "Is this the global warming all the kids are talking about?"
One of those patterned paper bags for people who find gift-wrapping entirely too daunting was sitting quietly on the counter with the deposit slips. The one person at the ATM left without casting a single look back at the package. It occurred to me it cold be a bomb, but damned if I didn't have to look. On top was a small bag of gourmet dog food. Maybe the bomb was under that. But it was just more dog food, a couple bags of "Beggin' Strips" and a small plush dog that resembled Spuds McKenzie. Some dog's forgotten birthday present.
At first I couldn't place the sound. The crash and rattle made no sense or matches in my memory. Shrieks, all female, or maybe all shrieks just sound female punctuated the roar. It was the wind. But wind like driven by Norse gods, hitting building so hard it made them sigh. Plastic bags, loose papers and dirt swirled by my fourteenth story. An even darker cloud descended from above. I turned on the news. The two big headlines currently being covered by all stations are the cancellation of Ally McBeal and a small plane crashing into a building in Milan.
"Do you ever worry that I don't find your father attractive?" Actually that makes me pretty happy I say. I'm feeling ornery so I don't ask her what makes her ask. She loves to fancy herself a provocateur. Thinking up questions then springing them on me like oh-so-prettily-polished non sequiturs. I know I'm supposed to ask, and then be charmed as she elliptically explains the way her mind works and just what she means in her studied obliqueness, all the while hiding this series of events that contrived this seemingly whimsical moment. It's actually that space that I find interesting.
It was their idea to go to the street fair. (I say, I didn't know you needed socks. Laura does that "ha, ha, ha" thing that means she's not laughing.) But, we stumble upon the most delicate torture -- walking through a New York street fair with a fervent vegan. Did Jenny forget she was a vegan? You could see her knees buckle slightly, and her face pale every time we passed meat roasting, which was so often she was walking with this strange hitch. I'm surprised people didn't throw money, thinking the fair provided an eccentric dancer as entertainment.
I could get used to this living at home and working thing. It's been so long since I've had a good extended job near home. Calling it a "good" job is a bit hopeful. This last week being back in high school has put me in a mood, or so Laura tells me. I wonder how they found a school that'd let us do this, let alone kids and families that signed off on being used as documentary subjects. No-one's winning a million bucks. "Documentary" sounds so much classier that "reality television." I'm always underestimating the lust to be televised.
"I'm pregnant." For a moment I'm not sure which side of consciousness the words came from. "I'm pregnant," the whispered words rustled the hairs in my ear. She located the lone wild whisker on my ear grown back since it's last shaving and teased it back and forth. I opened my eyes and stared. "It's seven, I turned off the clock. Did I alarm you?" "That was a joke." She laughed from the next room, "I made coffee," as if that proved her kind intentions. Leave it to Laura to make an alarm clock the gentlest segue into the day.
Too predictable for words. She is one of the only students who refused to sign a release. We were given a list of names and yearbook pictures of the few who are not participating, not that it matters so much to me, it's really the director and the editor's responsibility. I can shoot her, they have to cut her. Not that she's one of the mean girls I'm supposed to focus on. The kids filled out questionnaires naming the top five most popular classmates of each sex among other red herring questions. No doubt my crush appeared on no-one's list.
"What movie star do you think I look most like?" She has that ubiquitous slack-jawed diction. Turns out Laura's been great preparation for maneuvering the labyrinthine rules of lunchtime etiquette of teenaged girls. They've forgotten about the camera strapped to me. Still I got squat on an answer, but I know I'm supposed to come up with a compliment and if I dodge the question, I'm dead, "Madonna?" "Ugh," she wrinkles her nose, "She's like my mom's age. If I looked like someone old I wish it was like Julia Roberts." My producer gets it right, she says Tara Reid.
I've been having hair-trigger blackouts sometimes after as few as two drinks. But being back in high school I'm coming to embrace the erased sections of my brain. It's comforting rather than threatening to know they too shall forget much of this. Today I sat in on a current events class where the teacher asked for a show of hands. "Who's Catholic?" Ah the common sense and intelligence of the people teaching our youth. Across the room my girl (as I've come to think of her) casually raised her hand without raising her eyes from the book she was reading.
It's a pretty ballsy gambit. She's talking oh-so-casually as we're heading off to dinner seemingly spurred by a couple crouched in front of their toddler in the middle of the sidewalk, who while averting their toddler's crisis nearly trip a huge swath of pedestrians. "New Yorkers have one child and they make that one child the center of the universe. It's unhealthy. Two should be the minimum allowed." She muses, "Of course if I want to avoid that only child thing, I'll have to have the first one soon." She tactically drops the subject at dinner. I'm on to her.
I need to give Marni an answer on the job. Ten days in Kenya and ten in Ethiopia. Laura's trying to pretend that she doesn't want me to go for my own safety, as if filming scientists studying women who move with unprecedented conservation of momentum while carry heavy bundles on their heads in Nairobi is more dangerous than her substitute teaching in New York public schools. Besides she's all into me losing weight. Spending time with Ethiopian distance team during training has got to do something for me. "Yeah, you'll be running barefoot with your camera and a cigarette."
She's forgiven me for the Madonna insult. I ask her about my girl. She rolls her eyes and confides--the producer and I have chosen correctly in focusing on her and her friends. My girl is "not the kind of person that anyone would like representing their school." She spoke in a way that certain self-possessed young people do around adults, but adults who are who have some redeeming quality so a concerted effort not to talk down to them is made. "She used to be part of our group, but she didn't follow the rules."
Whisper: "She's a stripper."
I told Sandy my producer the stripper story. Seems its common knowledge. No-one knows where the story started, but it's popularly accepted. She used to be part of the in-crowd then she wasn't and the story grew sometime after that. At least one teacher knew the story. He shook his head, "Where?" I think the question was meant to underline the ludicrousness. Sandy's excited. Perfect example of relational aggression in girls, or a normal high school with a stripper, either will work as angles. She's mumbling, "Oh, she'll sign a release". I decide it's time to speak to my girl.
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