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I didn't mind that he bit his nails, really, because he kept them trim and neat in a way that I don't think he could have achieved with scissors or clippers, and, in choosing this self-contained method, I didn't have to cringe audibly at the sound of him using either implement or have to scowl at the sight of them in my medicine cabinet. I did mind, though, that the only reason he cited for not tending to his toenails was that he was not flexible enough, but that his newfound love of yoga was going to change all that.
He does not understand how my story can be narrated by the dog at the moment he's euthanized, how, if the dog isn't around after death, he can still tell the story. His confusion confuses me. Not because his questions are just, well, how do I put this gently -- fucking stupid -- but because they're coming from the mind and mouth of the instructor, who pauses for us to sigh with well-earned melancholy over his own story in which his father's name, written in the sand, washes away at the moment his mother calls with news of his death.
According to the comments posted below the baby's photo, it's unanimous: The kid's a knockout. In all possible ways, he's the baby to beat the band -- the best-looking, the smartest, the luckiest -- even earning an accolade expressed in the most annoying fashion known to mankind: "Cutest. Baby. Ever."
Are they seeing the same alien troll I'm seeing? Are they seeing the unruly hair the color of an orange Creamsicle rotting in the sun, the loose and drooly lips, the pin-dot eyes, the facial expression that smacks of irreversible catatonia?
Oh, how I fantasize about commenting: "Blindest. Commenters. Ever."
They brought me home in the back of their car and planted me in the front yard where I've heard an enormous true once stood but had to be chopped down because of the fear that encroaching rot would render it a falling risk. Although I am thrilled to have a home to call my own, I can't help but feel self-conscious in this spot where such greatness lorded over the property. I wish they'd left the stump from the old guy to anchor me and let me know that I can do this. I feel like such an understudy.
Until May of last year, I hadn't ridden a bike in ohmyfuckinggod decades, and was terrified as much by wearing a helmet (did they even exist in the late '70s?) as by actually riding the bike. Both caused me immense self-conscious consternation, and I was sure the eyes of everyone whose path I crossed wasn't just taking my existence in stride but scrutinizing every detail, from the fit of my Great Gazoo helmet to the way my fingers perched on the brakes, ready to squeeze tight at the first hint of a downward slope. What a difference a year makes.
When I got my bike at the end of May last year, I wanted to stick to the sidewalks like a seven-year-old girl, any gumption I may have amassed over the years eradicated by an attitude that was the equivalent of training wheels, pink streamers, a helmet the size of Connecticut, and a wicker basket containing a blonde-braided American Girl doll that had its own miniature American Girl doll. A little over a year later, and I'm tearing down Tenth Avenue in rush hour traffic, cursing at taxis and errant pedestrians like a ninja bike messenger hauling top secret microfiche.
When hirsute haha honcho Robin Williams is a guest on a talk show, why can't he just walk out on stage, sit the hell down, and talk? Is there an unwritten law somewhere, or is it etched on a stone tablet, Commandment-like , that he must do his schtick/schpiel/thing constantly, like an excruciating, breathless run-on sentence, with no relief or punctuation in sight? Has a faceless, nameless secret entertainment/government society threatened his family's life if he fails to provide a non-stop source of mania? He, and we, would be better served with more "Good Will Hunting" and less "Mr. Happy".
I never liked your old house. It was trying way too hard to keep up with Joneses it probably never even met and wouldn't like even if it did meet them. The powder room, with the copper paint and cobalt glass sink and colorful "art" on the walls; the living room, with the enormous flat-screen TV and leather sofa; the kids' playroom that rivaled FAO Schwarz; the master bathroom with the Jacuzzi; the closets that could double as a studio apartment in Manhattan. All of these nouveau riche appointments and poses, and not a shred of genuine happiness contained within.
It's past dark now and my brother, sister, and I are still out on our rollerskates. You wouldn't think we'd tire of rolling around the apartment complex to our hearts' content with nobody to tell us what not to do, but we want to be rid of wheels and have our regular feet back. Our parents aren't responding to knocks on the door, which makes us want to cry, but we don't. Instead we sit on the ground in silence and look at each other. And wonder why weren't not being let in.
Almost 40 years later, we still wonder.
The only way I can muddle through the narrative of these deposition reports is if I make little movies in my mind about the people involved, envision what a 53-year-old man was wearing when he twisted his ankle in a pothole, or the frenzy with which a plaintiff used her own fingernails to scratch up her arms after a beach-type umbrella blows off of a ledge and lands on the pavement near her, in an attempt to convince doctors, lawyers, and employers that she cannot return to work and is worthy of a settlement figure in the high five figures.
Tourists are the only people who are so amused by the pre-recorded admonishment of "Stand clear of the closing doors, please" that they repeat it in delighted singsong fashion while wrapping both doughy hands around subway poles, wholly unaware that they're coming into contact with the body secretions of countless grubby filthmongers. I cannot even pretend to be charmed by a giggle-gaggle of slouchy yellow-haired girls grasping the pole in unison like it's May 1st, chanting their new favorite refrain, the one they will no doubt incorporate into their Midwestern lives long after they even remember what a Metrocard is.
If you know me at all, you know that I don't ever want to see photos of your vacationing bare feet lounging at the end of a hammock against a background of the whitest sand and bluest sea. I don't want to see them, still bare, propped up on anything, at sunset. I don't even want to see them in shoes, on pavement, toe to toe with another pair of shoes, especially if you're a girl and the toes of your cowboy boots or Fluevogs are turned in like a little girl and/or you're a guy and you're wearing Converse.
On my desk is a finger-painting, 2-3/4" by 2", displayed on a tiny wooden easel, the creation of an artist friend of two good friends, in Indianapolis. I adore it on its own merit, just for what it is, a burst of orange, cold, and red depicting a cityscape, but also because it reminds me that our canvasses don't need to be enormous. So now, as I've considered in the past, I may change the size of the page upon which I type these words so I am not daunted by the vast emptiness of the rest of the screen.
I saw about 20 girls who looked just like you in a 10-block stretch of Broadway, all saying nothing although talking six miles a minute, all wearing gladiator sandals even though I'll bet bet none of you could define "gladiator" if I paid you the same amount of money you're dropping in Juicy Couture, all laughing that same laugh that sounds like it's tinged with a Southern accent, all blonde and some by no fault of your own. Y'all think you're unique, precious snowflakes, but there's not a snowball's chance in hell of anyone being able to tell you apart.
Just a few of the very useful things on my bulletin board:
Rectangular magnet of a "Dick and Jane"-style boy and girl with thought bubbles over the heads, "Puppy love" for the girl and "Doggy style" for the boy
Postcard from New Zealand featuring the face of a lamb
Doodle of my prized teratoma sculpture, courtesy of the artist
Postage-stamp sized photo of an unknown Asian man, found at the cashier counter at the American Museum of Natural History
Neon yellow FUCK YOUR GENDER sticker from Gay Pride 2010
Business card of a sassy sextugenarian crossdresser I met last summer
Yes, Roy, I think it's odd that you keep a desiccated turkey drumstick in your knapsack, yes. It's odd. No, I don't think it's quite as odd that you've been searching on eBay for a rabbit's foot keychain just like the one you had in 1970, but I do worry that you cry when you say it has to be blue, has to be blue, has to be blue, yes. It's bizarre. I just hope you don't see the severed dog paw I was using as a back scratcher moments before you burst into my office, early for your session.
At 72nd and Broadway, I dread the inevitability of the frightfully cheerful MTA worker with the clipboard who waits with prospective passengers, because after everyone boards, he'll stand just outside the still-open front doors and gab and laugh with the driver. And I'll fume and scowl, muttering from my perch in back, "Shut the fuck up, go away, close the door, let's MOVE already."
In the time that we're held up by this exchange, I could walk home. It's only two short stops away. So, from now on, I will. Why did it take me so long to realize this?
In profile, my friend had a good nose, a strong chin, a fine brow. When driving, and he was focused on the road, I'd think, "Not too shabby!" He'd turn to face me, and the spell would be broken.
How could everything that looked so lovely in profile conspire to look so frightful when faced head-on? I struggled to position myself so that only his profile would face me. No doubt he thought I was encouraging romance at restaurants by insisting we sit on the same side of the table. Sorry, friend, I'm merely trying not to lose my appetite.
Oh, coffee, I've counted on you for so long to kick my ass from here to next week, but for quite some time you haven't been able to lift your leg at all, let alone kick my ass even to Tuesday. Why so lame, old friend? Are you just not feelin' anymore? Are you not being paid well enough to do your job? Has someone made you a better offer with more convenient and comfortable hours that don't require you to accommodate my predawn demands? Has deadbeat decaf been filling your bean with all kinds of no-good notions? What gives?
None of the other kids had a mom who was made of roast beef, and quite frankly, it was more than just a little stressful for Emily to have to explain to the other kids, just before parent/student talent night, that her mom wasn't like anyone else's. Lisa said she understood, because her mom had eleven toes, and Roger said he'd think it was neat if someone's mom had a glass eye or used a wheelchair. None of them were prepared, though, when Emily and a sandwich sang "High Hopes", although they did admit the sandwich was great on harmony.
I'm the B side, the minor key, the back door, the corner brownie with the burned edge that resists the spatula at first and then sizzles against your teeth. I'm the place setting with the mismatched fork, the banana with the bruise that is otherwise sweet, the rain on the parade you didn't want to attend anyway. I don't want to march to the beat of a different drummer, I want to beat up the drummer and sell the drum for a tambourine I can shimmy and shake like Davy Jones in orange and red and purple striped bellbottom pants.
"I don't know whether to be turned on or terrified," I say to Jose.
He, like other friends I've informally polled at the gym, is of the mind that the chick with the body that's a cross between Madonna, David Beckham, and a length of polished caramel-colored marble, is "too much". This is quite something, given that we're all are insane enough ourselves to spend two hours at the gym every weekday morning.
Aloud, I agree with Jose and the others. But every time I see her, I feel like she's a crisp cookie and I'm a bowl of pudding.
FIRE FIRE FIRE
FIRE FIRE FIRE
Or so says the smoke detector when I'm busy neglecting the potatoes in the oven. It's my fault, not theirs, and I apologize to the apartment itself for the intrusion on its silence as well as the potatoes themselves, who were hoping to be a lot less crisp than third-rate potato chips.
This time, I poke the center button in the smoke detector with the old police lock pole by the front door rather than smash it with a broom handle. It pleases me that I have one fewer apologies to make this time.
We've both been waiting for the bus about the same amount of time, and as it crosses 23rd Street on its way to where we stand just shy of 24th, she glares at me out of the corner of her right eye and millimeters her way slightly to her left and toward the curb, a challenge if I ever saw one to dare to try to board before she does. She apparently doesn't know that I am her elder and that she should be deferring to me. I decide to "be the bigger man" even though I'm half her size.
Gidget a-gogo awaits, with and without Moon Doggie. As does Jack Lemmon. Rock and Doris and Tony. And Audrey, especially paired with Gary Cooper, and with Fred Astaire. Robert Mitchum, in a Christmas movie I'm betting you've never seen. Gene Hackman. More Jack, from skinny to fat. Valley of the Dolls and beyond. Movies you have to read, movies in glorious black and white, movies of all stripe and polka dot. I wish, even in August, for a freak snowstorm and nothing to do but stay inside in pajamas under a blanket, with hot chocolate, windmill cookies, and never-ending Netflix.
The media is doing a rip-roarin' admirable job whipping us into a frenzy over the approach of Hurricane Irene. But as annoying as their contribution is, it's people on Facebook whose faces I want to slap.
Yes, the same people from East Shithole, U.S.A. who are telling those of us who have never experienced a hurricane before that we're acting like a bunch of pussies are the same white-sneakered, fanny-packed, slow-moving lumps who, while tourists in my city, get all freaked out by a cab ride and buy T-shirts to wear back home, declaring that they survived the event. Dicks.
The calm before the storm, they say, and I attribute the new sense of calm that I feel -- as I prepare to sink into my sofa with my tofu salad sandwich and tortilla chips, the plants from the patio in the hallway outside my apartment, wind chimes lying silent on the little table by the kitchen -- to the fact that I did laundry this morning. The purchase of a billion cans of canned chili and six one-gallon jugs of water in preparation for the whoricane Irene didn't quite do it for me. But fresh sheets for tomorrow? Yes.
Just because I wasn't affected by Irene (indeed, I didn't hear the wind whisper let alone howl), I am NOT downplaying anyone else's experience here or in any other region. If you're one of these insensitive, selfish, me-centric dicks who's calling the storm a "fail" or complaining that now you have all these bottles of water you didn't really need or that, damn it, you really believed the media's "hype", I'll gladly hold your head down in my bathtub (I have yet to let the water drain), A Clockwork Orange style. Except I won't be as charitable as the droogs-turned-cops.
At the reception following my friend Linda's memorial service, I sat transfixed as I viewed the slideshow projected onto the wall via someone's laptop. I only knew the older version of Linda, the ballsy blonde in a little black dress with the loopy handwriting to complement her often addled affect and the raucous, throaty laugh that erupted from the volcano of her rounded body. It was enchanting to see her in other incarnations, in other ensembles, and not so blonde. And in every photo, except one posed portrait as a little girl, she was either laughing or on the verge.
I cringe as the black man in the tiny fedora warbles a Michael McDonald song on the subway platform , not just because it sounds as if the words are being forcibly removed from his pancreas by way of rusty forceps, but because I cannot stomach The Doobie Brothers. I try to focus on his keyboard playing instead, but it too sounds as if it's being painfully wrenched from somewhere deep within his viscera, perhaps trapped behind a particularly stubborn coil of intestine. He smiles as he sings, which you'd think would endear him to me anyway. You'd think wrong.
Once every two weeks, her Boston Terrier pulls her toward the glass elevator shaft at 66th and Broadway and waits patiently until he sees the elevator rising from the subway platform. As it makes its way up, he stands transfixed, peering down into the shaft, ears perked up, legs rooted, completely still, and barks. The moment the mechanism comes to a stop, he unfreezes, looks up at his mom, who has been waiting just as patiently as he has, and leads her back home. How long has this been going on, I ask. For years, she says with a smile.
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