tales of a girl in the city

août 30, 2005

What's Next

The light is changing again. I come out of the office, and it's a little darker already. Obnoxious store windows are already screaming "FALL!!" and displaying scarves and tweed in colors like rust and eggplant. No more linen, no more lemon yellow and soon it will be too cool to let my legs show.

The wind will come soon, along with all of that noise. The crinkly descent. My crunching walk home. Though right now the air is not yet moving or noisy. Appropriately, it's thick and steamed with silence, holding me very still. Holding me in place, even though there are things I should be moving toward. Weighing me down, when what I need is motion.

août 24, 2005


I'm drunk now, and when I'm drunk everything is the swelling of the orchestra, the rise and fall of an enormous string section. If I'm alone in a cab on my way home from too many martinis, I'm thinking big. I'm feeling big. No doubt about it. It's all the final movement of Mozart's Jupiter Symphony and some poor underpaid guy in the back row banging his heart out on the timpani. Alcohol drills out the spaces inside of me, until I'm here, typing away, with the echo of my own hollowed-out self ringing forward, as deep and low as any cello. Rising to the surface. The final notes of some great truth.

I have written a letter that I am afraid to send. The last line of it reads this way: Last night what I missed was you in bed next to me. You sleep so close to me sometimes that you rest your cheek on mine, like books piled together on a shelf. How appropriate. I'm afraid to call it a love letter, though that's really what it is. It's a letter I wrote because I love you, and I'm afraid to send it because I am tired of loving you alone.

I am a detective collecting clues in your absence.

Love me back. What happened to all of my wishes? Love me back. I wish for you to love me back. I wish for us to be happy together. Simply happy. Walks on Sunday mornings, lazy moments in bed. Cooking dinner, reading the paper in separate rooms. Nothing extraordinary, just noons and breakfasts and you picking the music while I pour the wine. Not even wine, in fact. Just water. Just a pizza dinner and Netflix.

I wish for a thousand more wishes.

I wish for...I wish....I wish....

I saw another girl you had kissed tonight. How odd that was. I had expected her to be a cardboard cutout. But to see a real person, standing in front of me. With gestures and jewelry, a handbag and a favorite drink--that was more than I was prepared for. In my mind the way you touch my face at the end of an evening eliminates the world. You can tell me a story about so and so and such and such, and it's all nonsense; a story that happened once outside of our cab window, before your fingers touched my cheek and we remembered one another while we met for the first time.

You are me. I am you.

I have learned this summer that words are just words. The English major in me wants to layer them with meaning: connotation and analysis. The author's use of alliteration in this sentence further illustrates...blah blah blah blah. That is all garbage. Nothing is a symbol for anything. You didn't kiss another girl because of your mother or your stress or your guilt or your fear. You kissed another girl because she was standing in front of you and you loved the look of her lips and the light on her lovely legs made you long to linger longer. See? Alliteration can be wasted completely--can be meaningless. Things are just what they are.

You are me. I am you.

What did you mean? Not what I would have meant. For me, that means: When I wake up in the morning, your face is the first one I want to see. It means lines from love songs. It means a dance someday, in the middle of a room, in front of all of our friends. I'm wearing a white dress and if you are me and I really am you, then you already know what Nina Simone song will be playing in the background. But you don't. We've never gotten to that.

When we went to the MoMA the other day, a lot of things occured to me. That's a museum filled with ordinary. Chairs, tables, a big red car, canvases painted just one color, salt and pepper shakers and a whole room devoted to plans for what will eventually amount to nothing more than a fancy piece of sidewalk. Life. Elevated, certainly. Displayed beautifully and intellectualized a bit, but that's what it is. The message of the museum? This is life. Look how interesting it is. How lucky you are. Notice things, or they pass you by and you die blind and foolish.

I want ordinary. I'm done looking for the palaces and the glass slippers filled with promises of magic everyday. Magic is everyday. Finding a person who learns with you, who knows how you eat your eggs, who wants to make a baby with you that has eyes like yours and hair like its mom. The small pleasure of standing in a kitchen that we painted together. Packing and unpacking. Cold feet in the wintertime that scare me awake. In the end what you give is time: this is the time I have here on this planet, and I want to spend it with you.

This girl, tonight, who you have kissed, asked me, "How do you know him?" And I couldn't answer. What a simple question, and it stumped me for what felt like forever. I finally settled on something that felt like poison coming out of my mouth, "We used to date a long time ago." As though we were high school sweethearts, headed off to a drive-in movie to slurp a Coke and hold sweaty hands.

"I have a love letter in my purse that I'm afraid to send him," I wanted to say. Or, "He is me. I am him. That's what he says, anyway."

Somewhere out there, there must be a man who wouldn't make me struggle for that answer. He can't wait to escort me to a dinner, knowing that the next morning his phone will ring, his email will blink with messages to say, "Your girlfriend is spectacular." He will love that his day ends with me in his bed. When he listens to me laugh, without meaning to, he'll think of the family we'll have someday, wonder which one of our daughters will have my laugh, my smile.

I'm smiling now, just thinking about him. I wish he was here to see it.

août 20, 2005

Makes Perfect

For my first singing competiton, I sang a song about shepherds. It was what voice teachers and singers call an "art song." The kind where the vowels last for pages, running up and down on the notes like flights of stairs. Oh had I Jubyl's lyre and Miriam's tuneful voice. (Who is Jubyl? If I don't have a tuneful voice like Miriam's, why am I singing this stupid song?) And after all of that nonsense, just pages and pages of "ah-ahahaahahahah-ah-ahahahaha-ahahahah-AHH!." I had hated it from the minute my voice teacher Kathleen handed it to me: "This will be perfect. You'll sing this at the competition as your classical piece."

"Oh, Kate, it's really great. It's so interesting," my mom gushed. With that, my fate was sealed.

I sucked at that song. At the competition, I lost my place, forgot the words. My stomach sank in and in and in--my bellybutton drawing ever toward my spine; I squeezed out all the breath I had left, trying desperately to get to that last "Ahhh!." When I did finally get there, the sound I made was like the sigh of air escaping from a leather couch cushion. It wasn't pretty or jubilant or tuneful. It just stunk completely, and I lost.

We went the next day to hear the girl who would end up taking home the prize. Her voice came through her nose as though she had an oboe implanted in her forehead. Her big shoulders were covered by a fuschia sweater, and I knew as I watched her that she would end up teaching kindergarten somewhere, leading hiccuping three year-olds through rounds of "The Farmer In the Dell."

The category that she--and I--had entered was Musical Theater Singing. Unlike the other, more popular Classical Singing, there were only seven or eight students competing in MTS. We had had to prepare two songs from the standard musical theater repertoire, as well as one classical piece. In laymen's terms that boiled down to two songs that you can tap dance to, and one about a lyre and a guy named Jubyl.

The winner girl's classical piece eludes me now, but for her musical theater song she'd chosen something from the show "Once On this Island." Her blond hair shimmied every time she hit a high note and when she really got going she flapped her arms in the air like a useless, grounded bird. The judges loved it.

As my mom and I left the concert we were trapped in a mass of people milling around the young woman. "You're very good," an old lady in a violet rain cap shook her plastic helmet head at the winner, "Such a fun song."

My mom and I exchanged looks.

"You should've practiced more," Mom said at some point later, probably during the car ride home.

août 19, 2005

Playing One On TV

All the doors look exactly the same.

Only behind one is The View, where Star and Meredith are chatting about the latest in teeth whiteners, while Barbara Walters sits across from them and adds in her two cents.

Behind the other is Pine Valley, the version without the smoke and mirrors. It's the set I'm expected to report to, only I can't get there like this, standing as I am in a white nurse's uniform, in front of two huge, identical doors.


Both doors scream this in bright red letters.

I imagine myself making the wrong choice. In vivid technicolor, I can see myself opening The View's door by accident. Stumbling onto the set in front of their live studio audience and that smug Republican what's-her-name. Elizabeth Something-back. Or beck. I'd be barely able to focus on her face as the bright lights hit my eyes. Squint, squint. I'd hear Joy laughing, "Did someone call for a nurse?" The cameras would swing around to pin me down, a white pool of spotlight now making my snowy nurse's outfit gleam so loud it glares. It would be the kind of entrance Oprah makes. Only no one would be cheering.

"Um..... Hi, Mom," I'd say into the cameras.

To silence.

My stethoscope would fall off as they dragged me away.

Back in the hallway, still frozen by indecision, I decide it's like some strange scene from Wonderland. I'd give anything for a white rabbit to spin by. I know you're late, but so am I. Which door? Which door?

Just pick.

So, I do.

août 18, 2005

A Pound of Flesh

Maybe I'll always do it.

Maybe I'll be forty or fifty years old, walking down the street, and I'll still reach down and do it. When I see someone skinnier--someone whose body I envy.

I'll put my hand on my side, and pinch what there is to pinch. Fat. A little shelf of it. For the rest of my life, maybe, this will be my reflex.

It's a habit created, I'm fairly certain, from a series of traceable events.

Fifth Grade: Charlie Radborn came over to me at recess. I was wearing the biker shorts that I'd seen all the other girls in since the weather had gotten warmer. "You shouldn't wear those. You're fat," he told me, then promptly walked away.

I was nine.

Pulling my t-shirt down lower for the rest of the day, to cover the bumps and curves that were indeed--I saw now--different than those of the other girls, I would go home and push the shorts deep into the back of one of my drawers.

Before that day I hadn't cared that my legs didn't leave the fabric of my pants slack and gaping. After it I would walk down the hall and feel my thighs touch. I would covet the spindly legs of the other girls in gym class, drawing my own up beneath my chin.

Sixth Grade: My body was made for dancing. I felt that way. I'd been in ballet forever by then, and I loved the beautiful five positions. The free feeling of a good tour-jete. Pas de chat: step of the cat. I felt clever when I did those. Run-run-LEAP and you were up and off, defying gravity in the most elegant way. Until Mr. Reilly began to ruin it.

I loved to dance because it made me feel that I had no boundaries, no borders, just motion and spirit. Flight. But then he took his tall walking stick, paused for a moment, stopped pounding out the music, and THWAK!, hit my tummy, then hit my rear. The next week, "Boom!" he'd mimmicked my landing as we did a jump. "You dance like a truckdriver."

The insults came every class and they grounded me. I could hardly move I felt so heavy. "You're smart, but you don't have the body," and he'd point to Monica at the front of the bar, all legs and ankles.

I'd never wanted to be a dancer, I'd just wanted to dance. At ten, however, I didn't know how to explain this difference. What I did know: I had loved to turn, to leap.

His last insults, the final few prods and sharp hits, sent me stumbling down the stairs, my tears like lead weights, crashing from my heavy, heavy limbs. Afterwards, my mother tried to enroll me in a different ballet school, but I hated dance by then. I stood at the bar, in front of the mirror, and felt trapped by my own shape. I jumped and heard nothing but the thud of my landing.

High School. I remember standing in line for high school lunches: carton of milk, orange tray, silverware you picked up right after you'd handed the lady your money. I don't remember what I ate, but I remember what I didn't eat. What I wanted to eat but wouldn't let myself. I'd see Jennifer or Elle, Christina, Carrie. Jenny Coles, and back would go the Ho-ho's. The mashed potatoes would be passed by. We'd sit down to eat together, and I'd notice the smallness, the neatness of their meals. The straight silver sides of a can of Diet Coke. The perfect, pale green shine of an apple. Pretzels, I learned from careful observation, make a short, clipped sound when they're crunched.

The other girls didn't seem to want the messes--the slurps, the licks, the gobbles. But, I did. Even the salads I wanted weren't right. I wanted chunks and crumbles, the uneven blobs of blue cheese dressing, the chipped rectangles and fat pieces of real bacon bits. I craved them but denied myself. Instead I chose clean, perfect circles. Carrots, cucumbers, the tight redness of cherry tomatoes. The shape of things consumed me:

Jenny Coles had beautiful legs. Her pointy, angled knees were as squared off as the corners of my nearly empty lunch tray. With Paige it was arms. At cheerleading practice, I'd notice them every day, the little V just below her shoulders. Definite. Sharp as any knife. Each of them had something, some angle or curve, some smooth part of their packaging that I felt I lacked. I pinched the flesh on the side of my waist, spilling over my own edges. I became obsessed with my shape, with space. With the amount of space I took up.

août 17, 2005


The thing I hate most about myself is my need for approval. It juts out from my (mostly) smooth facade in all sorts of ways, the way the ugly corners of coat hangers do when you're trying to stuff them into garbage bags. I sense that I'm on unsteady ground with someone and I start to feel frantic.

Take this current silly dilemma. I borrowed my roommate's earrings without asking; she's in Mongolia. Then I promptly left one of them at a boy's house. Now I'm panicking. I feel awful for borrowing the earrings in the first place. Awful for leaving one of them behind. Awful for needing to bother the boy's friend about coming over to look for them. Awful, awful, awful. My roommate won't like me. The boy's friend will think I'm crazy. I'm a horrible person. I've done the wrong thing. People will be angry, annoyed, disappointed, inconvenienced, and it's my fault.

I've been spiraling around this for days.

Make me feel better. What terrible things have you guys done?

août 11, 2005

To The Cleaners

She's wearing a t-shirt with a tiny purple duck on it that looks out from behind a large daisy. "Peeking Duck," it says across the top. A grown woman with a purple cartoon duck on her chest. I'm finding it hard to be mad.

But, still.

She's handing me back my white suit, wrapped up in plastic. Even through the covering, however, I can see the coffee drops still on the lapel.

The coffee drops that were there when I brought the suit in to the drycleaner.

To have it cleaned.

The idea being that the coffee drops would NOT be there when I picked it up.

Or, at least, that's what I was thinking. Maybe she just thought I was paying her to keep the thing for a couple of days. You know. Let it hang out with some other suits over the weekend. Mingle. Maybe find a boy suit to love. Kind of a suit social outing, with Peeking Duck lady as the events coordinator.

I should really say something, I think.

Times like this, I find it is best to rely on communication. I mean, no sense in me getting mad if she really was under the impression that I was dropping my suit off for a weekend-long suit-getaway. Because, in that case, judging from all the other suits in plastic hanging up behind her, my suit had probably gotten it's twelve dollars worth of fun, and I really couldn't be angry about the coffee stains. I mean. I like my suit. I want it to be happy.

Or, what if this was, in fact, my fault. What if I'd misunderstood the sign outside her shop: "Dry-Clean." Maybe that sign was implying that the customers had to make a choice--did you want whatever items you dropped off with this woman to be returned to you dry? Or clean? One or the other. That would be an easy mistake to make, considering that most dry-cleaners actually automatically aim for both. Perhaps the real problem here was that I had not been specific? Or, even worse, had unknowingly chosen "dry" when, in fact, what I wanted was "clean." In which case, my suit is indeed dry. I can hardly, then, blame her for giving me what she thought I had asked for.

We need to get to the bottom of this.

"Um. You know, I'd actually been hoping you'd get the coffee stain off of the front of this suit. I wanted it clean," I say.

I always like to be clear.

"Oooooooooh," she says, as though this concept is new to her. Then she looks closer at the suit through the plastic. She fingers the stained spots.

Wow. She seems so taken by this idea. Maybe she did think I just wanted it returned to me dry. Huh. Is that really a service that people value and pay for? Is there some sort of flooding epidemic in our neighborhood? Pipes bursting in all the homes around me? Spontaneous rain clouds--like the ones in cartoons--forming over the closets in my area? People running into her shop, "Please. Keep this dry. Just for a couple of days. I'll pay you."


"Oh-kay," she says. "We work on it next time."

Oh good, I think. So the stain can be removed. She just was busy keeping the suit dry this time around. Introducing it around to the other suits probably too. You know. Socially. Hence the twelve-dollar charge. Next time I pay her twelve dollars she'll focus on the cleaning part. Excellent.

For a moment, as I hand her the money, I feel like a total fucking sucker.

But then I notice the cute little cartoon duck again. And the beanie-baby frog on her cash-register. The picture of a chubby little baby being licked by a fluffy white puppy that is in direct eye-line view of every customer who walks in the door. And I feel ashamed to have even thought about being mad at someone who is obviously cheerful and sweet.

Though as I leave, I swear I hear her say, "Hey, Eddie. Stupid "Peeking Duck" t-shirt work again!"

août 09, 2005

Pine Valley

I'm off to "All My Children" this morning to be a "Canadian Nurse." Because people who aren't my parents have offered to stay home from work to watch for me, let me remind you that I am only filming today. Never fear, however, I will let you all know when the episode airs. And, you'll have another chance to see me next week when I return to shoot another episode on Monday. Canadian Nurses, apparently, are in demand in Pine Valley.

How's this: Doctor, he's aboot to have a heart attack, eh?

août 07, 2005

She Said

Sonya carried pocket-books, not purses, and whatever pocket-book she carried, you could be certain that it matched her shoes. This, her PhD, and the fact that she was planning her wedding, made her my first adult friend. She was twenty-eight to my twenty-one.

Sonya told me two very important things.

The first one, I didn't want to believe.

"There is such a thing as timing," she told me. I protested, but she continued, "You'll see it as you watch who the people around you are dating. The guys especially. You'll meet their new girlfriend--someone great. I mean, someone who is put together and smart. Someone who is pretty, funny, vibrant. You'll watch her with your friend, and you'll think, 'Man, are they right.' They'll date awhile, but you'll also start to see little signs that he's not ready for her. They'll break up. Then two months, two weeks, two years down the line, there'll be a different new girlfriend to meet. This one will," Sonia wrinkles her nose, "She'll be fine. She'll be nice enough. Kind of cute. They will get along fairly well, and all of that--but this one isn't fantastic. She's just...there. But, he's reached that point. His job is set. He's dated around enough. There's more pressure around him as his friends are getting married. Whatever the turning point was, it's happened. And before you know it, this girl and him, they're engaged. They're married. That's it. There it is. It's not always about who was his best match. Sometimes it's just about timing."

The second thing was easier to hear.

"Saying 'I love you,' might not be as important as you think it is. If he doesn't say it yet, big deal. It takes some people awhile. The real question to ask yourself is, do you feel loved. Does he show you that he feels it? Some men can say 'I love you' and mean 'I like you' or 'I want to sleep with you' or 'I'm glad you're around because I hate being alone.' But it's almost impossible for them to fake the ways they show you that they love you. But, 'I love you' itself? Gets faked all the time."

I'm thinking about what Sonia said this morning.

That's all.

août 05, 2005

Bizarro Kathryn The Anti-Muse

I made my debut last night on national television. In a manner of speaking.

There was a grotesque version of me tromping around my tv screen last night--pathetic, simpering, desperate, dumb. S's new show premiered and there he was, inside my tv, sitting next to Bizarro Kathryn on the subway, asking her out on a first date. He had his wardrobe department outfit this poor, half-woman half-monster in her non-superhero uniform--an ugly green dress that stressed him out in the story-line: I couldn't she fat?

The dress was hideous, but nowhere near as ugly as what was to come.

Bizarro Kathryn was gifted with a series of non-powers. Able to speak in an English accent with a dick in her mouth. Boring men to tears with a single conversation. Born without a backbone, Bizarro-K was 25 years-old and incapable of self-respect or pride. She was, without a doubt, the single-most disgusting representation of womanhood I have ever seen on a television show.

She was payback.

And that's new for me.

But, I won't bite back. I was classy when I ended things with him--nicely rejecting the last of his phone calls and emails--and I will be classy in my response to this. I hated watching him paint such a heinous, weak version of me on national television, of course. I hated that my mother watched it even more. But I loved that every one of my friends who saw it and "knew," has called me to say things like, "First of all, you'd never wear shoes that ugly. You're also much prettier." I loved that my mom said on the phone with me this morning: "We all know who you are."

They all know who I am. And, more importantly, so do I.

I'm obviously not writing the name of the program here. If you saw it, you know. If you didn't, you don't. If you write specifics in the comments box, I'll delete them when I see them. If you want to vent with me, in private, the email is on the right. If you've no idea what I'm talking about, just read the archives and laugh about this crazy man I dated once. And revel in the mystery of it all: Who was S? What show is she talking about? Oooh. Aaah. Like fireworks.

What I'm taking away, is this. When I moved to New York almost ten years ago, I never dreamed I'd live a life big enough to be a plotline--however fictionalized--on a television show. Never imagined that next Tuesday, I'd be going in to film my real national tv debut on "All My Children." So you never know, do you, what can happen? What might be possible....

Maybe I'll even sit down and write my version of my time with S. Now that would make a great tv show. And, clearly, the networks are starving for something good.