Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Gum Smacker.

It was silent, except for the constant smish-smash smacking sound of the gum being brutalized and manipulated between the molars of the man’s mouth. When his teeth weren’t man-handling the Wrigley’s that she imagined had been in his mouth since the day before, his tongue maneuvered around to do the rest. (She hypothesized that he was a terrible, terrible French kisser.) His lips were drawn tightly against his teeth as his jaw jumped up and down like a jack hammer on the loose. The longer he chewed the gum, she swore the sound became more amplified…like there was a microphone right underneath his chin and the speaker was wired directly into her head.

She wanted to punch him to get him to stop. And she was a petite girl. She wanted to jump on all fours across the room and straddle his body as though she were a werewolf in heat and them pummel his head with her fists until that damn wad of grey gum he was slurping was released from the slimy captivity of his mouth.

She knew the more humane thing to do would be to politely ask him to chew with his mouth closed. Or maybe ask him something funny like, “How’s that gum tasting?” Or, “Do you have any more gum because you’re sure making that piece SOUND really good.” But, she knew she didn’t have the balls to say anything.

Instead she sat there and got more and more heated as she turned the pages of her magazine harder and faster and huffed and puffed louder and harder…hoping this subliminal message would get him to shut the fuck up.

But then a miracle happened. His name was called and he left. He took his mouth with him. The speaker in her head melted into nothingingness. Her shoulders relaxed. The lines on her forehead relaxed. A smile returned to her lips. She was thankful. All was right with the world.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Missing The Point.

She turned up the radio as she placed her elbow on the warm driver’s side window. Traffic was going no where in a hurry and she was late to work, again. Her opportunity to avoid being late had been consumed earlier that morning. She’d spent fifteen minutes standing in her mismatched underwear in front of her closet. She had stared longingly at the cute clothes she wanted to put on: a tank top, some cut-off jean shorts, a cute vintage vest. But it was Ugly Monday, a day that wouldn’t allow such things. In those fifteen minutes, she’d used every bit of rationing she could to get herself to push some clothes aside and find a skirt and jacket, suitable “Monday Gear”, to then get her to the next phase of the morning: hair and make up. She pushed. Pushed again. And pushed one more time until she found a skirt she felt she could manage living in for eight hours. She reached for the skirt’s wire hanger, but the hanger had turned into an unruly four-year old who’d just been told it was time to leave the playground. The hanger didn’t scream, of course, but it hung onto another hanger like a kid with a strong hold on the jungle gym. She tugged. She wrestled. She cursed. She negotiated. She gave up. Kinda. Angry, she stomped her un-manicured foot and she started to rearrange her closet so that this would never happen again! How dare her closet make her late? Bad closet, BAD! She rearranged for a gooood seventeen minutes. Still in her underwear. Still nowhere near hair and make up. Still just not anywhere near close to leaving for work. (This sorta thing happened often her life. She was working on it. Just not today.)  Once she was satisfied with the tidy effects of her scolding, she had jumped into her gear, ran across her parking lot in bare feet with heels in hand and jumped into the car thinking somehow she had won. …

Through her amber-tinted shades, she glanced up at shadowed palm trees towering in the hazy morning sun. She leaned her head back and tried to allow the sun’s warm fingers to massage her temples as she sang along with Christina Aguilera: “I am beautiful…in every single way…” A tear slid down her face. It wasn’t that she didn’t feel beautiful; she knew that she was, just not all the time. Like right now. She didn’t bother to wipe the tear away. Instead, she lifted her head from its comforting place and reached for her make-up bag on her lap. She slid on a smooth glide of lip gloss. She didn’t need a mirror. She’d had years of practice of getting beautiful in the car. But, to make sure she didn’t look like Jennifer Coolidge in “Best in Show”, she took a glance. As she made eye contact with herself, she knew she shoulda promised herself something else, something remotely encouraging, but instead she promised herself, “No more wire hangers!”.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mirror Image.

I saw her before she saw me.

Her walk was clear. Deliberate. Like a college student after acing one final exam heading to the next. She was younger and shorter than I, and thinner. Petite. Her hair was pulled back into a long sleek pony. She was conservative. Her dress and shoes were not.

I wondered if she was a hooker.

Even in the shade of night punctuated by steel grey street lamps and Sunset Boulevard-inspired headlights, her cherry-bomb red dress signaled like a beacon. Its full skirt swung at her knees as she walked. The halter had a navel-plunging V-neck like those weird-o swimsuits that became popular a few years ago that certain girls wore with jeans. In a different time and place, the dress was demure and fashionable. Something Marilyn Monroe might have rocked. But Hollywood and bad knock-off designers had gotten to it and now, here it was. Serving some kind of purpose.

We were within a few yards of each other. Our heels tick-tocking on the pavement in unrealized time. Her heels were stilettos and Gladiator in style while mine were Jessica Simpson 1940s faux-crocodile replicas. I too wore a full-skirted dress. Something Marilyn Monroe would have rocked. Mine was longer. Black.

To the naked eye, we could have been the same.

The gap separating us diminished. She wore black square rimmed glasses. And no make up. Maybe she was a college student. And a hooker. But what hooker doesn’t wear make up? As we passed each other, she discretely pulled the top of her dress closed a bit.

I thought I said hello. If I did, she didn’t return the greeting.

It was . The traffic around us continued to thrive as though we didn’t. As though we were just two ordinary women walking the street. Alone. At night. At . On Sunset Boulevard. Wearing dresses. As we passed each other, I turned back to see if she was thinking the same. If she was, I’ll never know.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


She barely bothered to look up from her library book as the drone of a conductor announced over the crackly intercom that there would be a delay in service. There was always a delay in service. Just like her life. Delay. Delay. Delay….Delay. She closed her book and placed it squarely on her lap as the train slowed and she thought about her destination. She was headed to a Sperm-a-rama in Chelsea. A donation clinic. Yes. It had come to this. She hadn’t had the fairy-tale romance with the cute Biology nerd in high school who would have turned into her Prince Kinda Charming. Instead, she’d had decades of non-relationship relationships that turned both her psyche and her romantic notion of futuristic nuptials into a confusing heap of nothingness. (At least that’s how she’d recently described it to her therapist.) And it didn’t help that the first boy she’d brought home in ninth grade was thoroughly rejected by her parents. Yes, he’d been to a correctional facility, but wasn’t the key word “correctional”? She’d long ago learned not to trust herself.

But, she was trying to change all that. She didn’t necessarily long for that Kodak moment where the coolest most trendiest photographer captured her blissful day of bountiful red roses and that magical kiss at twilight on the white sands of  Kauai. Yeah, she no longer longed for that. She now longed for her future…one that didn’t involve only herself, a pilled yellow blanket and her cat. She felt she owed herself more than that. She owed herself a family. Whatever it looked like, and however it came about, it would still fall under that definition. And she wanted that.

She looked up. There was something different about this delay on the N train. People were whispering; actually talking to each other in tones that didn’t resemble crazy shouting. She wondered what all the whispering was about.

“What’s good, yo?” (She didn’t really say this. Being in New York made her want to be cool like the Brooklyn boys, but she just was not.) What she did say was, “Hey, what’s going on?” She said to her neighbor whom she had gently nudged off her shoulder twenty minutes earlier around 96th street.

“Suicide,” the lady slithered. She was missing a few teeth. (Other than that, and having fallen asleep on her shoulder, she was all good.) “Someone jumped on the tracks, dearie.”
“Suicide?” She discretely swiped the lady’s slithered spit from her cheek as she looked around the somewhat crowded train. The shock and horror was registering on the brown, white, blue (yes, blue), yellow and beige faces around her slowly like a gentle wave on the Hudson.
“Gross,” she thought. The train had slowed to a snail’s pace. Maybe slower. The roar of them tunneling through Manhattan had subsided to the whir of a spin cycle on a new Kenmore. Some passengers had risen from their plastic gum-n-graffiti stained orange seats to peer out the scratched window of the caboose. Apparently, their car was the one that did him in. At first, she thought bad things about those crass people running to the window to see a potentially dead body on the tracks. Then, honestly, she thought, “Why should they have all the fun??”

She hoisted herself up from her seat, careful not to drop her book on the scummy floor. She took several slow paces down the aisle toward the window and nudged herself between a Wall Street guy and a Bronx babe. Like a true transplanted New Yorker, she fit in where she didn’t fit in. She leaned in to the cloudy bullet-proof glass and peered into the darkness of the tracks. And there it was. Her first dead body.

It was slumped over backwards like a wonton. She could really only see blue jeans. The upper torso was hidden. By the large size of the legs, she assumed them to belong to a man. He looked lonely. The shrouded subway tunnel had lent itself nicely to his situation.

Yes, she wondered why he jumped, but her concern centered more on why he didn’t want to live. She knew she’d never know. Even if she scoured the Post and The Times and watched NY1 every morning for a week, no bits of sensational news would ever give her the insight she needed from this stranger that could only have been obtained by having walked with him and held his hand on the 57th Street platform right before he jumped.

Life is so fragile, she thought. Especially when you are hit by the N train. Still glued to the window, she thought twice (actually one hundred and twice) about what she was on her path to do before this guy had derailed it. Maybe he’d saved her from a big mistake. Maybe this was the one delay she’d ever needed in her life, because suddenly, spending $4000.00 on several vials of some stranger’s volatile sperm to create a kid that may end up not alive on the tracks of the N train seemed like a total….waste.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I stood in front of the old stove with one hand on my hip and the other shoved deep into the pocket of my fraying, quilted robe. My guilty fingers played with two stray brown buttons I’d hidden there. The bubbling water bouncing the boiled eggs I was hoping would sustain me broke the silence of the deathly quiet house. Once as beautiful as she had been and as trusting as I had been, the house was now a tomb that had been given to me by my grandmother after she’d been called to the Heavens. The flowered wallpaper was peeling in some places…not so much because of age, but because on some days I would pull back tiny sections of the paper where I’d hoped no one would notice. (But who was there to notice? No one was allowed here unless they were capable of telling the truth. One by one, everyone had failed to tell the whole truth and nothing but. So, they’d been banished.)

I thought maybe the truth was in front of me, near me, around me, planted for me by my grandma…so, in my solitude, I was compelled to find it. I’d moved the couch once and crawled along the wooden baseboards like a mouse that I hate until I found an upended corner that, had I not been in my right mind, I would have thought was waving to me. I’d felt silly in this position, it wasn’t becoming: me on my hands and knees with my butt in the air, but I’d felt justified in my actions. The truth had to be discovered. There, I’d crouched on my knees and willed my fingers to carry out what one voice in my head was telling me not to do. I’d leaned deeper into the wall, near the paper and whispered “Hello” to the waving corner. The strength of my whisper swirled the cottony dust balls into a micro cyclone and tickled my nose. My nails were already dirty and uneven; perfect tools for the job at hand. I’d picked, picked, picked at the wall paper as I had the skin around my fingernails, and peeled back the tiniest section. I needed to know what was hiding underneath. Kind of like myself. What was the mystery, the history, the pain and please God, the potential joy hiding behind those layers of ancient fabric and dried amber glue? I was careful not to go crazy with the peeling as I had in the past because I was now consistently scolded by my grandmother’s 6ft-tall cuckoo clock which unwillingly covered the secret tear in the fabric behind it. I didn’t want the couch to get in on the action, too. (Who knew what it was capable of doing.) I’d peeled the parchment back slowly, waiting for something to appear, hoping for the yumminess I could scoop and hold and rub into my skin like warmed body butter. I held my breath and there, there behind the paper, there it was again. Nothing. But wood. Wood? Even in the shitty depths of its grainy ancient dried out veins, it offered nothing. It was a dead end of hopelessness. Where were the layers of paper with patterns of the past which would foreshadow the behaviors of the current? Where were the different colors of paint underneath the foreshadowing layers of paper that could provide the color to my moods as absorbed and transmitted by occupants of eras gone by? Where were the glue and the sweat and tears and trickles of blood that held it all together for me to find it in this very moment of truth that would explain to me why I was the way that I was based on the way people had been? Where was it?!

I wasn’t about to be fooled as I had been by the piece behind the cuckoo. I knew there was more to be uncovered, to be revealed, learned, explained, unleashed, freed, warranted, accepted, acknowledged, unearthed … seen. I’d kept tearing and tearing, searching until the bird in the clock warned me to stop. But it was too late. I’d gone too far. I’d stood. Brushed the clinging dust from my robe and gently pushed the couch back against the wall hoping not to wake it. I’d become embarrassed by the dirt under my nails as I’d stepped back. Bad move making that couch an accomplice. I’d secretly known this might happen when I’d first crouched into that unbecoming position. The couch sighed awake and grinned at me. The buttons, the two big brown round buttons in the centers of the swamp-green cushions were beady eyes. Eyes that bore into me with mirth and greed while its crooked mouth wanted to twist itself and say something really mean to me. I’d stepped forward and hastily rearranged the seat cushions, attempting to shut it up; but now it frowned. It frowned at me with disgust and contempt, as my grandmother would have done had she still been alive to see what I’d done – was doing – to her now-dying home. I’d kicked the couch. It kicked me back. I’d lunged at it; tearing its eyes out. I couldn’t have it taunting me like the clock was about to do in just a few minutes. I’d snatched the blanket from its back – it was the one she’d used to cover me with when I’d been a kid and all was right with the world. Like Zorro’s cape, I threw the blanket over the beast and shrouded my dirty deed with it. The couch had been silenced. Thankfully. Temporarily. I’d calmly swept away the spidery hairs clinging to my damp brow as I thought about the last time anyone but me had sat on that thing. It was the last time they’d all tried to tell me nothing was wrong. That everything was ok. And would be for all time to come. They had lied.

I squeezed the brown buttons in my pocket and thought about what I would do with them later. I laughed. But I wasn’t sure why, so I turned up the flame under the pot and reached for the handle and jiggled it a little. The eggs continued to bounce around. Suddenly, one cracked. Just like me.