tales of a girl in the city

juin 29, 2005

Happily Ever After

What happens is that Jason tells me he has blue balls.

I don't know what that means, but the way he talks about it makes it sound awful, and it seems to be my fault. I add it to my growing list of unpardonable sins.

He stands and looks at me for a moment. I begin to stand up too.

"I'm gonna go," he tells me.


Rewind. I want to rewind. Let's start over. My favorite movie is "Last of the Mohicans." I like kissing you, but I don't really know what I'm doing. Is that ok?

I hate feeling ordinary again.

"Jason?" I speak quickly, to get it all out, "Will you kiss me good-bye?" It's the only way I can think of to apologize.

He says yes.

I will never know why.

This kiss doesn't transport me or make me leap. It feels like a penalty. Our noses touch too often and I'm thinking of his hands on my skin before. How long ago that seems.

Then it's over.

I am done with kissing.

Jason is holding his hand out, and for one second I think God has given me a miracle.

" need my shirt?"


I take it off and hand it to him.

"Sorry," and then, "We're probably a little late. You know. For lights out. So...."

"Yeah," I say, though this is the first time this thought has occurred to me.

He turns to go. I start to follow him.

"I meant," he looks at me, "That...I mean, we shouldn't leave together. We don't want them to know we"


"You know your way back?" I am a bird he's knocked out of its nest.

"Oui," I lie.

I watch him get paler and paler as he moves farther away. Then he's out of sight completely.

juin 16, 2005

Not-Pretty Women

Yesterday I was shopping for work clothes. This means that I didn't want to spend a lot of money.

Why did I not want to spend a lot of money?

Because work clothes are not fun, and therefore not worthy of frivolous spending.

For example, at no point in my life, when I am sad or in need of something to do, will I ever go over to my closet, pick out my best "work outfit" and traipse around my apartment in it, imagining the faxes I will someday send.

I do not see a blouse and think, "That is the blouse I want to have on tomorrow when I turn on my computer."

Perhaps this makes me odd.

I'm not sure.

I'll have to talk to Lenny about it later.

In any case, yesterday I headed to the Upper Westside to shop for work clothes, thinking that what I was after were some inexpensive basic items that I could mix and match every day.

On my way there, as a punishment for thinking the words "mix and match," I made myself mentally summarize the argument of an essay I wrote in college in which I deconstructed Toni Morrison's novel Jazz using the semiotic principals presented in Roland Barthes's S/Z.

Then I tried to think of all the words to "We Didn't Start the Fire."

Upon my arrival at 72nd street, I walked over to Amsterdam and stopped at the first of the usual stops: Olive and Bette's. I have, admittedly, never bought anything at this store. I find it to be a not particularly well-organized chain of boutiques with merchandise that is, for the most part, uninspired.

But, you never know.

At this point, I'm open-minded.

I begin to browse, thinking: Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California baseball, something-something, homicide, children of thalidomide...

Then up comes a sales girl.


The way she says it, I can hear the exclamation point.

"What! are! you! looking! for! today!?"

"I'm just browsing really," I tell her with a smile. Then, I'm mentally back to my favorite verse, the one with the "B-b-bah Buddy Holly, Ben Hur" beginning. Love all those "B's."

"There's! nothing! I! can! help! you! find!?'

I sigh. "Work clothes," I offer, hoping she will leave me alone.

Instead, she brightens, and I realize my mistake; I have given her a purpose.

She trots over to a skirt.

"What! do! you! think! of! this!?"

I half expect her to finish with a one-handed cartwheel.

"It's nice," I say, thinking that it isn't. It is tie-dye looking and rather billowy. It's not right for work--unless my job were selling organic butter in a park somewhere. Never mind that she didn't even ask me what I do.

"Want! to! try! it!?"

I finger the tag just to be nice, and can't stop myself when I see how much it costs, "Not for three-hundred and forty dollars." I can hear my mother and grandma gasping into my ears, "Goodness gracious! It's not even lined."

Suddenly, the sales girl ceases to be my perky best friend. She is now the new Homecoming Queen, and I am a Nerd Girl Sound Technician who just ruined her victory slow-dance by accidentally playing Baby Got Back instead of Lady In Red.

"Oh," she sniffs haughtily and the exclamation marks fall from her voice, "Well, let me know if I know."

Then she goes back behind the counter, I assume, to have an urgent conversation with the other sales girls about which of the new line of summer accessories most screams "Fun in the Sun!"

As she returns, I hear one of her companions ask, "What was she looking for?"

(I hear her ask this because I am standing only FIVE FEET AWAY.)

The Homecoming Queen Sales Girl looks at me over her shoulder, then back at her friend. "We don't have anything in her price-point," she says.

Now the other girl peers around Homecoming to look at my jeans. Queenie follows her gaze, and the two of them exchange a "knowing" look: Old Navy. $24.99. Poor.


At this point, it is hard for me to remember that I am actually wearing jeans, and not--as the situation would suggest--a white and blue midriff-baring cutout dress that barely covers the thigh-high patent leather HOOKER boots I've had on since last night when RICHARD GERE PICKED ME UP AND TOOK ME TO THE REGENT BEVERLY WILSHIRE.

I stand there dumbfounded....

juin 14, 2005

Fuckinges Bitchertap

Is what I called one Maggie B. in my fifth grade diary because, apparently, I could not even write a swear word when I was eleven. Even in my own journal.

I think of this now because I just got my first rejection email from a literary site, in which they said my piece was filled with too much foul language and, as a result, "too angry to be really funny."

Fuckinges that.

juin 13, 2005

Suzuki Method

I learned to play violin on a cardboard box with a ruler taped to it. Because I was very little, the box had a yellow sponge rubberbanded to its underside so I could fit it underneath my chin. I bowed with a stick and there were big, purple footprints laid out on the floor that told me where my feet went. During lessons with my teacher, whose name I can't recall, I stood with my chin on the box and my feet on the purple, putting my small left hand somewhere near the ruler's eighth inch. I had to imagine the music.

My earliest lessons on the violin-box involved memorizing the parts of a real violin. My teacher would point to my cardboard square wrapped in Christmas paper, and let me know what would be there, eventually. Next she'd give me worksheets so that I could label all these parts with my big scrawly handwriting. I filled in the lines over and over again, picturing the smooth, curved pieces as I did. Finally she would hold up the three-quarter sized violin that belonged to her youngest daughter. We pointed to and named all the parts.

"What is this?" she asked.

"The scroll," I said. It was beautiful, a tight swirl, like the shells we looked for on trips.

"And this?"

I touched it. The bridge.

"Be careful," she reminded.

You had to be gentle or it might break off.

"And these? What are they called?"

F-holes. My favorite. You could squint your eyes up to the openings and see the instrument's pale inside. And sometimes, you'd think to try and slip in a hair barrette or a penny.

But you wouldn't dare.

But you'd want to.

juin 12, 2005


Emily and I spent yesterday on Coney Island, in the company of Eak the Geek, a man who lets tourists from Florida crunch a bed of nails into his tattooed belly for a living, and about four hundred fat women with "Caliente" written across their bathing suit's ass.

Well, truthfully, only I met Eak. Though Em and I both forked up the five dollars to get into the Coney Island Sideshow, about thirty seconds before entering we got wind that someone known as The Human Blockhead was going to pound an icepick into his nasal cavity. I thought it might be a better idea if Em didn't actually come along. I was afraid she'd barf.

About five minutes later, I was afraid I'd barf as Diamond Donny V addressed the audience with the handle-end of a spoon shoved up his left nostril. But when my stomach calmed down, and I got used to the visual, all I could think of was my cousin Krissie, who'd once had to be taken to the hospital after putting raisins in her vagina. I wondered if she and Diamond Donny would hit it off.

Then I wondered if kissing him would taste like spoon.

Diamond D. and his amazing sinuses aside, however, I was most attracted to the girl whose act involved electrocuting herself and putting a snakehead in her mouth. She was absolutely bald and had a bull-ring through her nose, but neither of these hid any part of her beauty. I could tell, also, that she had a terrific sense of humor. She made belly dancing seem a little wry, somehow, and I figured that was harder to pull off than the snakehead bit any day.

I thought a lot about her. About how boys must feel when they find out what she does. Snake charmer, she'd say to the guy at the party. How lame he'd feel, then, to say, "Math Teacher," or "Contract Attorney," or anything, really, short of "Swashbuckler" or "Duke." But though she could belly dance and had beautiful eyes, I bet she'd spent a lot of nights trying to convince boys not to be afraid of her. Or the snake, for that matter. And then I considered that boys who were very into the snake, were probably not as at ease with ideas like "monogomy" and "meeting mom." So I was pretty sure she got lonely--obviously she got lonely. You don't end up bellydancing for something called a "freak show" if you've never had a moment of feeling you don't belong.

Later on, spread out on the beach with Emily, she looked around and told me that sometimes she feels like she sees girls there on weekends who must be just like herself. Girls who are great and funny, but who just haven't managed to find in Manhattan a big group of friends to whisk them away. Girls who like the sea, and the sunshine. Who can do for themselves.

I thought of the snake charmer, and agreed.

juin 10, 2005


I'm currently having a very complicated relationship with love songs. At the nail salon today, up to my calves in lavender-bubbled water, I found myself having an overly dramatic interior dialogue about every one of the lyrics. "Yes," I told Roxette, "Yes. I will listen to my heart!" "God," I conspired with Ms. Benetar, overcome by her simple profundity, "Love really is a battlefield."

Believe me, I am aware that this is incredibly silly.

Even sillier was my reaction in Barnes & Noble the other day to The Beatles. There I am, standing in the poetry section paging through some perfectly written Mark Doty, and the song they're playing in the store starts to get in my head:

When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, "Let it be."

"What?" I thought to myself, putting down the Doty book, "Hold on a minute."

And in my hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, "Let it be."

"Wow," I think, "The Beatles so did not get girls."

I find myself fighting the urge to turn to the person next to me and share my revelation. Instead, I listen further, becoming a bit indignant.

"No woman would ever say that. I don't care if she is a virgin."

Doty is back on the shelf at this point, and I'm just standing their listening and thinking to myself:

"Pffft. Women do not just "let things be." We obsess about them. Let it be? What is that? I mean, come on. And we certainly don't give out that kind of advice. I promise you, Beatles, no version of the following conversation has ever taken place:

'So there I am, walking by his place on the way home from a party, and I see him kissing that slut Lucy! I mean, we've been dating for four months. And I don't know. Do I tell him I saw? Do I not tell him saw? Do I tell her saw? I mean, for fuck's sake, she's my cousin! What should I do?'

'Stacy, I've got three words for you: let it be.'

'Wow. You know what? You're totally right. You're so great at this. I feel much better. Hug?'

If I had a problem and Em told me to "just let it be," I'd kick her in the teeth. And I'm sure that people felt the same way about Mary if that really was the kind of advice she was doling out when she was around. They maybe just didn't have the nerve to say it to her face what with the possiblity of facing the wrath of God and all. This is a stupid song."

The real highlight of the moment was when I decided to sing "My friend Gary" softly over the real lyric whenever it came on: I woke up to the sound of music, my friend Gary comes to me....and so on. I found it made me feel better.

Bottom line is, I'm not listening to any music for the next couple of days.

Also, it may be time for medication.

juin 08, 2005


At the conference, the Authors sat behind a long table, wearing neutral colors. They had nondescript haircuts and ordinary shoes. Five men and one woman. The man farthest left stared off into the air while he listened to his fellow panelists, as if reading a written version of their comments off of some invisible computer screen. He squinted a lot while he did this, and it made him seem smart and thoughtful.

The one in all black was more immediate; when he said "fucking" later, I realized I'd been waiting for him to swear. He was my favorite. He was all accident and fear. No degree. No teaching position. No certainty. No purpose, other than to write down the things that needed to be written. Take a walk when you want to be outside. Eat when you're hungry. Write when that's what you need to do.

Mostly, though, they were just grocery-store ordinary. Not angry or colorful or pompous or sad. Carver fans, certainly. In awe of good structure. But, on the outside at least, five men and one woman. One who squinted. One who said "fuck."

I'm not sure what I expected. Why was I suprised? Maybe coming from the theater world I was looking for a show. Some outward indication--larger than foul language--that would decorate their inner madness. And, having not yet met many authors, I'm sure there are those who choose large hats and eccentric dress suits, magnets in a pool of lead shavings, bringing Experience to them wherever they go.

But these were not that sort.

How odd, then, to hear these writers, all eyeglasses and ordinary, describe such violent urgency. Picking at their tan shirt cuffs, they recalled the sweat of it. They became veterans, suddenly, leaning forward from their deep leather chairs to speak about heaving out words before the battleship sank. They described the last bloody surge that won them the victory. Then back to their coffee, shaking their heads.

And odder still that we knew.

That we sat there, in our own glasses and blue jeans, holding onto our water bottles, "yes-ing" along. That we recognized inside our normal selves was the same slamming, paradoxical need. To slaughter life so that we might save it. The desire to immolate our every day. Offer it up. Exhume it.

Write it down.

I see God in these moments--as present as books and paper, as physical as sweat. I see that he has secreted away in each person a fragment of divinity. The something which commands us. So that, faced with nothing more than coffee or a squint, we find some reason to battle. To sit down and begin:

This is how it happened.

juin 03, 2005

Today On The Subway

They're in the middle of the subway car. His hands are above hers, wrapped around the metal pole. They've shared a night. It's possible they share an apartment.

She is long, smooth hair to his baggy jeans. She is dressed; a crisp purple shirt, a tiny handbag and careful make-up. He is rumpled; light blue, untucked. Their hands are close, but not touching. She stares up at him as he looks out the window. He must feel her eyes on him, but he never acknowledges or smiles.

After a minute or so of his not noticing, she stretches out one pinky to weave in between his hands. The movement is small, but important. I think of birds. Of windows and tentative taps.

I watch her continue to find little ways to seek out his attention. Her focus is complete. Once more, and then again, a tiny, crucial movement towards his hand.

Having stood before my own versions of this boy, I can't take my eyes from them. I know their morning. How the closeness of the night before, the week before, the year before, has evaporated and led to this. Now, confused by his indifference, her gesture is its own hopeful flight.

Eventually, he looks her in the eye briefly, then shifts his hands upward to where she cannot reach. When a seat opens up, he nods for her to take it, but doesn't move to stand near her.

My last view of them is of him with his back to her entirely, as cold as any stranger.

juin 02, 2005

Out Loud

If I could stand apart from my morning--look into it from outside, as if through a window--how familiar the scene would be. True, the room is different, but the bed is the same. The books. You reading aloud. And us. Different, certainly; older, but also still there and together, legs vined around one another, growing toward either shelter or erosion.

I love you.

And I even say it.

But, I say other things too. At dinner last night, all of these words tumbled out of me. They fell out like marbles, and the minute they skittered away, I wanted to scramble around, find them all, bury them again inside my pockets. Leave it to me to spill my guts and cry over the three forks necessary to get through the "Waltz of Appetizers." In front of the wine sommelier, our two waiters, the people at the next table, and the bread guy, there I was, wiping my eyes, covering the table with my thousands of perfect, round reasons for you not to love me back.