tales of a girl in the city

novembre 28, 2005


Of course there is the point in any new relationship where you see a mark on his chin, a white line across one of his fingers, a queer, circle of pale on his shoulderblade. What happened there? you ask. And out comes the memory. A race downhill on bikes that ended up with skinned knees and 12 stitches. A game of Star Wars on his uncle's lawn that included sticks instead of lightsabers. An angry classmate and a newly sharpened pencil.... The scars are the title page of a story. They're a book report: My Life Then.

I never get tired of telling or hearing these stories. I've got: one of the aforementioned angry classmate/sharp pencil scars on my right hand. There's also a small diagonal mark in between my eyebrows from a game of department-store tag that ended with a crash and a metal clothes wrack. And I've got a deep gash on the bottom of my chin from when I tried to break international speed records with a four-wheeled plastic horse on a gravel driveway. There are others, too, that would tell you: chicken-pox, bad at leg-shaving, grew up on a farm.

There's a certain intimacy that comes when you read the writing life has left. It's a way to get into someone's childhood: were they reckless? Mischievous? Did they have a mother who guarded--who did everything short of shin guards to bed? Was their life filled with brothers and cousins and trying to keep up with the bigger boys? How much did it hurt? What's their first memory of pain? Did they learn about crying that day? Or was that the day they learned to keep it all in--the day someone was watching who told them tears were for girls?

And of course there's intimacy too because these marks can be seen only when you're close enough to see them. If you're talking about scars, you're wearing little but skin. And most of them are hidden, tucked away on elbows and backs or places you have to love to notice. For example, you'd never see the one on my forehead unless you're coming in for, or from, a kiss. You see the one underneath my chin if we're being lazy in bed; your head is on my stomach and you look up and say it: What happened there?

Thinking of all this makes me smile. And that makes the chicken-pock corner of my mouth stretch (you mistook that particular scar for a dimple). I think: This means we're getting closer. That we're coming in to something.

I smile because the wounds and the stories are old, but the meeting--the telling--feels new every time.

novembre 22, 2005

Why Did No One Tell Me I Was Fat In College?

Yesterday was a red letter day for me, big time. Red. Letter. In fact, I had hours to think about what those red letters would spell out while I sat on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn with a 30 lb bag of laundry, 20 lbs of quarters, not a single dollar bill, no cell phone and only the dim MEMORY of the house keys I'd left locked inside my apartment.

Oh, and did I mention it was raining?

I think we can all safely agree that my red-letters said something along the lines of, "Kick me, I'm stupid."

Not that I didn't try to look on the bright side.

Paying for everything with quarters, including a CAB RIDE into Manhattan?

Kind of fun.

Pretending, as you lug a 30 lb bag of laundry around Brooklyn on your back, that you are actually training to be Santa's helper?

Kind of fun.

Getting to spend the afternoon in the laundrymat with the mean Russian man who runs it, as he watches people scream at one another on Jerry Springer, and then watches people scream at one another on Maury Pauvich, and then watches bad actors tell each other terrible, intelligence-insulting jokes on those really crappy sitcoms that are on in the afternoons on UPN?

Not at all fun, but kind of eye-opening in an "any day now this mean Russian man is going to to bring a gun to work and hurt a lot of people" kind of way.

Suffice it to say that there was a lot of internal whining, a lot of digging for quarters, a lot of lugging, a lot of "Ho-Ho-Ho's" (to keep myself in good spirits), a lot of sucking up to the mean Russian man so that he'd let me keep my laundry bag* in his laundry mat overnight, and about 15 minutes of trying to shrink myself enough to fit through my keyhole.

* When I said "laundry bag" he apparently thought I meant "exploding bag of venomous snakes." I know this because of how insulted and astonished he was by my request.

At the end of this lugging, heavy, Russian-man non-rainbow, however, there was a really big pot of Emily's house gold.

Or so I thought.

Because, while spending five hours alone in Em's apartment, finding ways to amuse myself until my roommate could come home and let me back in to my own place, I had a chance to look at pictures from college. Pictures I haven't seen in YEARS.




It is a miracle that I got laid in college. So, this Thanksgiving, I will be thankful for the "Even Cracked-Out Fat Girls Can Get Laid In College" Miracle.


novembre 20, 2005


"Find your earrings," Harvard says as he heads to the kitchen to make himself some Theraflu. And I'm thinking, "God, what is it with men and earrings? They see them atop a dresser, and they can't just leave them there. They can never put them in a safe place." As I begin to examine the things stashed on top of Harvard's dresser, searching for a familiar glint of silver, I flash to thoughts of M:

I've lost upwards of three pairs of earrings in the the last year. Forgotten after an overnight at my ex M's house, I'd return less than 24 hours later and M would hand me the one--as in single--earring that he'd been able to find. "The other one has to be here somewhere," I'd say, scanning the suit coats and open books strewn about the room. But it would never reappear. Something in the water at M's house, apparently, made jewelry sprout legs and yearn for the open road. One of my favorite gold earrings, lost back in spring, is probably hitch-hiking somewhere in Canada by now, it's tiny little earring-heart swelling with the taste of freedom.

And last night it made me roll my eyes a little as I saw the small space on Harvard's dresser where my jewelry had been; here we go again. This is what relationships mean. Things get misplaced. Small gets lost in the largeness of disorganization. There's mess. There's inconvenience, there's----

I turn to start looking in a different part of his room....

There's a vase of beautiful purple and grey thistles wrapped carefully in brown paper in the center of the table behind me. And, dangling from the edge of the wrapping, are two familiar glints of silver.

novembre 11, 2005

In Which I Coin The Phrase, "Roach/Parent Greeting Sessions of Yore"

I've got a bug problem.

Now, let's be clear. In other apartments that I've had since moving to New York, there have been bug "issues." "Problem," at that time, would've been overstating it a tad. Rather, in the past, there has been the occasional roach (one, single) sitting in the middle of my floor. They've popped by to try the dinner I've cooked, or to say "Hi" when my parents come to visit. Things like that.

And, frankly, I've not minded. First of all, I like a friendly bug. It's kind of cute when they wave, they're kind of fun to talk to, and when the conversation gets boring you squish them.

Additionally, nothing says, "Send more money" to a parent like a roach in their kid's kitchen. Truth be told, roach/parent greeting sessions of yore have been mighty profitable, and have resulted in kind of an understanding between us--between me and the roaches, I mean. The contracts are very small.

Bottom line: they promise to appear only when my mom is over, and I promise not to use a single CENT of the money she leaves me to buy anything that would in any way stop them from going forth and multiplying.

Hindsight being 20/20, I now see the flaw in my plan.

novembre 04, 2005

Wrong Impressions i.e. First Dates

I am across the table from him, telling some of my secrets.

"First kiss?"

"Matt Tiettemahn. Ninth Grade. Sloppy. Tongue-filled. His mom kept yelling down the stairs, offering me soda. You?"

I don't describe myself at that age, in my brother's Batman t-shirts, writing extra-credit poems for English class. Or the fact that, 'til that kiss and 'til that summer, the only thing I'd ever done with boys was make them laugh.

My date is now on to the next question: "Virginity. Who was your first?"

"Freshman year in college. Gustavo. Rich Kid. Grew up in Manhattan, like you. We did it in my dormroom. My roommate may or may not have been in the top bunk."

Again, I don't tell him about who I was then, how wrong I looked in New York, with a strange haircut and a large, brown dress, more "farmhand" than "Fifth Avenue." I don't tell him either--yet--what a liar Gustavo turned out to be. I'm sharing only some of my secrets, like I said.

My date tells me about his first time, and, as far as I'm concerned, it's a Ralph Lauren Commercial: She attended Yale with his younger brother. She long-distanced it on weekends, coming up to see him at Harvard when she wasn't busy playing squash.

This is about the seventieth thing he's said that makes me focus on my biggest secret--the one I'll never tell--which is that I still can't quite believe all this. Can I date a man who lost his virginity to a squash player? Do I own enough tennis skirts? Will his friends call me "Kitty"? Will "summer" become a verb?

Harvard is 6'5" and handsome and...well, Harvard. The kind of guy who goes out with tall, blonde women who have long, slim fingers and datebooks full of charity events. I sit there imagining the rides he's taken in convertibles, the small-alligator logos on all his golf shirts. And, funny, because though I know that I have kid-hands and not even a wristwatch much less a datebook, I can almost see how I look sitting across from him: blond and tall, telling stories that begin, "When I lived in Italy...."

But by date three we'll have gotten past all of that nonsense. Determined to show him that I'll always be the girl who does extra-credit, I use my kid-hands to carve him a pumpkin. He blows his Harvard Smooth-Guy Cover and bungles his lines right before our first kiss. I don't skip over the John Denver from my iPod as it starts to blare on his stereo. He sends me the photograph that won him first prize. And, before you know it, there we are, meeting each other for real now.

In honor of the occasion, next time I see him I'll tell him how, when I was little, I wore my underwear on the outside.