Monthly Archives: July 2011

“Paging: Doctor Love to Emergency!”

“I have a 2 o’clock,” I said in the tiny waiting room in which I had never done any waiting before, even though this dental office and I were this close:  //.

No more than six meters in length, that thing was large enough to fit in just a couple of chairs, and a tall fan that was now rotating on its axis next to my thigh, like a head of a kind giant gently blowing at a field full of dandelion heads.  A white cheesecloth pouch was suspended from a pink ribbon from the top of it, with what looked like slices of dehydrated papaya inside.

“Must be for the smell,” I thought and suddenly became aware that there was indeed an inexplicable aroma in the room.  It reminded me…  What did it remind me of?  Nothing that I had encountered before, that’s for sure.

“Yes!  You do!” the receptionist greeted me with so much glee I had to quickly scan my memory for her name.  “You do have a 2 o’clock!”

She was Vietnamese, just like the two doctors and the three nurses on staff, all of whose names I did know.  But this creature — I hadn’t met her yet.  She had to be new, but all too well cast for this place.  By now, she was smiling at me, full force.  No, not smiling:  grinning.  Dr. Josephine and nurse Lisa where now standing in the back of her, grinning at me as well, as if I were here to take their office Christmas card photo.

Had I been standing in a typical American doctor’s office, I would immediately feel weirded out or somehow guilty.

“Shit!  Had I missed a payment, or something?” I would find myself tripping out.  It’s a Soviet thing still swimming in my blood, amidst the platelets, like a strange disease.  Only a few of us possess it, but I can always recognize the symptoms of it, in others:  This immediate access to one’s guilty conscience and the consequential fear of punishment.  I hate it!

But I wasn’t in a typical office.  The tiny women kept grinning at me, and once I was buzzed in, all three followed me to the dental chair, with my name on it. Well, okay:  It didn’t really bear my name, but considering this joint and I were this // close, it might as well have had.  Because again, it’s a Soviet thing, with me:  My mouth is an exhibition of horrific dental work from the old country that took me nearly a decade to correct.  Yep:  My shit’s all fucked up.  I hate it!

And now, it takes a continuous upkeep, which I had done at half a dozen of dental offices all over the country; often leaving behind lengthy records and baffled dentists.  And it always makes me think that if ever my body had to be identified by my teeth, my docs would be able to do so over the phone:

“Oh yeah!  Her shit’s all fucked up,” they would tell my mortician.

And then I bet, they’d call each other up and have a conference.

(What?  Too morbid?  Well, it’s a Soviet thing.)

By now I had climbed into the chair with my name on it and stared up at nurse Lisa — a tiny brunette with permanently smiling eyes — who was getting me hooked up with some mouthwash and a bib.  Dr. Josephine was pulling up a chair on the other side of me.

“What happened?” she said.

“Oh, you know,” I shrugged.  “I lost another crown.”

With her tiny fingers better suitable for a child’s hand, Dr. Josephine was already examining the Crown of the Hour.  I had yanked that thing out of my mouth while sitting in traffic on 3rd Street the other night, after completing an hour of my weekly weight training.  By then, it had been bugging me for a couple of weeks, coming loose and irritating my gums; and performing food storage stints under it, better suitable for the old country.  That night, feeling all mighty and pumped up on testosterone, I finally lost my patience; grabbed a metallic nail file out of my purse, and flipped that thing up and out.

“You could break your windshield that way,” Dr. Josephine said.

She’s a quick one.  They all are:  These tiny creatures that always surprise me with their gentleness and quiet footsteps, but also with their ability to mutter dry jokes while shooting me with anesthesia.  Oh, yes.  There had been plenty of spit takes committed by me in this chair, with my name on it; all quite embarrassing due to my mouth’s temporary paralyses.  But it’s okay. I am certain my tales of drooling laughter and intoxicated whimpers are quite safe around here.

Dr. Josephine began to work her magic:  testing the crown against the gap between my molars, filing it down, then testing it again.  She would do about nearly ten repetitions of that, patiently and so gently that had it not been for the dental mirror with which she moved my lips, I would never know her hands were in my mouth.  But when the crown finally snapped into it place, I swung my feet to one side and said:

“Okay, all done, good to see you, thank you very much, bye!”

She and nurse Lisa began to laugh, again in that quiet fashion of the joint, and I remembered how readily they always responded to my humor.

“Oh.  That’s why they were grinning upon my arrival,” I thought, and wiggled myself back into the chair:  They had adored me.  For years, by now.

While waiting for the cement to dry, I listened to Dr. Josephine’s recollection about her colleague’s experience with some of my fellow ex-patriots.  With my mouth full of cotton and a sour flavor I had learned to know so well, I had to put my comedic routine to rest; shut up and listen.

Back in the decade of my birth year, she had gone to a conference; and at a lecture by her mentor she heard a story of other Soviet immigrants he had worked on.  In waves, these fragile old ladies with a mouth full of crowns would arrive throughout the 70s.

“Was their shit all fucked up?” I mumbled through my teeth.  I couldn’t help it.

“No,” Dr. Josephine said chuckling simultaneously with nurse Lisa who by now reached over to my chin and wiped off some drool.  (Lovely!)  “Perfect mouths.  But what he would find under those crowns…” she lingered.

Yep.  Some fucked up shit, eh?

“Diamonds,” Dr. Josephine said.

Despite her clear instruction to bite down, my jaw dropped.  Nurse Lisa’s gloved hand gently redirected it to its place.

“Yeah,” Dr. Josephine continued.  “Tiny diamonds.  I guess that was the only way to smuggle them out of the old country.”

“Done!” I muttered through my teeth again.  “We’re taking all of my shit out — NOW!”

The tiny women chuckled again — my angels, my godsends.  And it wouldn’t be the first time I would remember the adoration with which they had always treated me.  But then, I would forget it again.

Because it must be a Soviet thing:  This poor memory of someone who’s had her shit all fucked up; but who was recovering — slowly but stubbornly! — with her dry sense of humor and her unfailing kindness in tow.

“You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog!”

I love men.  And I love dogs.  And I love men that love dogs.

And I’ve never had a dog, but I’ve had enough men to know that no other animal in the world is better suited — for a good man.

It just looks right when you see it:  One of those sporty baby-tall boys, tired from a day of conquering the world in the name of his girl, slowly walking behind a leashed creature early in the morning.  They both would be barely awake, yawning their sleepy faces into something so fucking adorable — into something that would jumpstart my ovaries into wanting to give life — and they would rapidly blink their kind eyes at the world that they couldn’t wait to get into:  A man and his dog — the creatures of such strength and goodness, and of such unconditional devotion, so very different from my own feline predisposition.

Their fur would be equally disheveled, either from sleep but most likely from the roughing caresses that woke them, that day.  Before other mortals would summon enough will to get out of their beds, a man and his dog would step out to greet the world firsthand:  both of them aging without ever surrendering their innocence (and neither their strength nor the unconditional devotion).  I would always want to come close to them, and burry my face in their hair, in all that goodness.  If I could, I bet the man’s head would smell like the hand of his girl, ever so lovely; while the dog’s — like his own.  And together, they would smell like a home I have yet to build, somewhere on a hill that would overlook the rest of my life — with forgiveness.

Instead, I am stuck watching them from a distance.  At least, for now.  But willingly, I would smile away at their expense while secretly tearing up from the privilege of being ever so close to all that strength and all that goodness.  My ovaries would get jumpstarted into wanting to give life; but there they would be — a good man and his dog — slowly shifting their athletic limbs in the morning, not yet ready for play.  But give them a good meal and a tender nod, and off they would go:  leaping, running, panting, inventing their games as they went along; yelping contagiously, whimpering for attention; teasing or asking to be teased.  And they would both be finally released from having to tone down their strength and their overwhelming enthusiasm.  And the world would be theirs for conquering — in the name of their girl.

The dog would pull the master’s hand via its leash, as if saying:

“Come!  Be!  Love!  Play!”

“Let’s!” — the good man would follow; because, being so very different from my own feline predisposition, he would never grow out of his habit for a child’s play.  And unlike me, he would never grow up.  Thank goodness!

Then, there are those little dogs, completely domesticated and entirely dependent on a man.  They remind me of plush toys, with their teary eyes and perpetually stumped little faces.  And one would have to be born with a heart of a villain to not want to reach for them, at least; if not sweep them up and stuff them under a coat, next to the heart — as if craving a piece of all that goodness.  They are not really my type of dogs, because the world seems too big for them, and mostly full of danger (and that’s not my type of a world).  So, they shiver and retreat, seeking protection from larger animals.  But then again, in such dependency and trust, I bet I could heal a wound or two on the surface of my perpetually stumped little face.  And perhaps, in this life, I would be able to move on a little bit faster — with a tiny creature stuffed under my coat, next to my heart.

The fancier dogs I treat as pieces of artwork.  They strut with dignity.  They hold their statures with focus and calm.  But unlike cats with pedigree, these purebreds still haven’t forgotten the pleasure of some rough play — a bigger child’s play — or of a rough caress.  To the contrary, because they are best equipped to win, they cannot wait for it.  So, they pull their master’s hand via their leash, as if saying:

“Come!  Be!  Love!”

From one moment to the next, they are ready to topple you over at the door, after you’ve finished your conquering at the world for the day — or to save your life.  And you cannot dare to object to either, because all that strength and goodness — and all that unconditional devotion — dwells in the best of intentions, and sometimes, despite their own.

And that’s just the thing about those sporty good men (good boys) and their dogs:  Once a girl earns their unconditional devotion, their own life is no longer a matter of the biggest relevance.  They may be in the mood for an occasional rough play — or a rough caress.  They may even sometimes be quite child-like in their dire need for a silly toy.  But if a girl can give them a good meal and a tender caress, off they would go:  conquering the world, in her name.

And with all their strength and goodness — with all that unconditional devotion — they have the ability to restore a woman’s heart, into more life and into more love.

“Hush, Hush, Darlin’! Hush, Hush, Darlin’!”

This morning, he wrote:

“I was just giving you room to…”

Yes, I’m often in the mood to dot-dot-dot.  So…

I often wonder about silence:  the way it sits on other people.

I personally wear it like the lavender-colored pashmina of cashmere and silk that I keep in the backseat of my car, at all times.  Sometimes, I loop it around my arm while walking.  Too warm for it right now, I think; but then, you never know:  I might need it later.  Other times, I show up all wrapped in it, and I walk by my lover’s side peaceful, perfectly sufficient, but separate.  It’s my second skin:  within his reach — for whatever exploratory touch he may have the habit for — but then again, it’s a barrier.  A nature’s boundary.  It makes up — me.  It contains me:  My silence.  And no matter the power of empathy, no matter the reach of compassion, there is no way I would give it up, for good.

There are times when I let my companions wrap themselves in the other side of my silence, but only if they have the capacity to share my step and to adopt my pace, for a while.  Most of the time, it is best shared with those that have seen me grow up.  Sure, many loves have seen me change, learn, transform (because once I make up my mind to be with them — I go all in).  But only the selected few — the sacred handful — have kept tabs on me for years.  Many such silent walks we have shared by now, all so specifically perfect because they haven’t demanded a description.  And the accumulation of these shared silences — is what makes up our intimacy.

I watch some get unnerved by my comfortable tendency for silence; and when I tell them I was born as decidedly the only child my parents planned to have, they say:

“Oh, but of course!  Your silence makes total sense!”

I prefer to refrain from saying:

“But what do you mean?!”

Instead, I let them cradle their opinions, projecting their discomfort and their sadly absurd need to be right.  Because a “What do you mean?!” always leaves an aftertaste of despair in my mouth.  (And I am never really too desperate to name everything by its title; even it that title seems to be most truthful in the moment but only turns out to be best deserved, in the end.  So, I would rather stick to metaphors.  Or, I would rather leave it — to silence; leave it — in the mood to dot-dot-dot.)

But it does mesmerize me to watch others, in their silence.  Most of the time, they aren’t my beloveds, but utter strangers incapable of handling solitude at all.  I study their fiddling away with their radios for the best-suited background track.  They click away at the buttons of their phones — their mobilized egos that promise to grant them a life — for some distracting stories in which they can tangle themselves up; as I tangle myself up — in silence.  So discombobulated they are with their aloneness, so unsettled by the sudden lack of diversions from the truth, they reach, they grapple, they grasp.

There are others, much lovelier in my eyes; and in their silence, they are still curious.  Surely, they must be loved, by someone, I always assume.  They must be waited for, by others, at home.  But in the moment of their solitude, they seem to possess the talent for temporary surrender.  They sit in silence with an open mind, a ready fascination; as if the most unexpected gives them the biggest thrill.  And it does make me wonder if their esteem — this comfortable wearing of their skin — comes from being so loved; comes from being waited for.

Because having a home to come back to — gives them a firmer ground to stand on.  Because homecoming is always a deserving point of reference.

And then, there are the very few that dwell in silence permanently.  It may not be because they are best equipped to deal with life’s ambiguity.  But in the acceptance of their solitude, I find a grace so powerful, so contagious, it makes me want to interrupt it and say:

“But how do you do that?”

And I used to think that such ability for being had to have come from a healthy life and a kind past; from parents that wait for their children at Christmas with their favorite meals, loving anecdotes, and with boardgames in front of going fireplaces; with their childhood bedrooms still intact and photographs lining up into chronologies of their lives on hallway walls.

But not until I myself have learned to wear my silence without any secret desire to surrender it have I realized that it also sometimes comes from having lost too much to want to hold onto it.  Because it gets too heavy, with time:  all that loss and all that seeming injustice. So, I have learned let go of it, so I would never bring it into my new loves (because how can a love not fail with all that baggage in tow?).

Instead, these days, I wrap myself in silence as if it were the lavender-colored pashmina of cashmere and silk that I keep in the backseat of my car — within my reach — at all times.  And I walk — alone.

And if ever walking with another love wrapped in the other side of it, through the shared silence, I tell him:

“I was just giving you room to…”

So…

“Can I Get A… ?”

“Flirting is a promise of sexual intercourse without a guarantee.” —

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

She bore a name from my former side of the world, somewhere from the old hemisphere that to this day wows the planet with its women with porcelain, statuesque bodies and baby-doll faces.  This kitten, however, was a bit closer to my own type:  She stood no taller than 5’2’’, with enough give to her curves to want her, for the mere potential of her womb.  But then again, underneath all that softness and sex, one wouldn’t dare to doubt her strength, and the perseverance that would be out of this world — or from the other side of it, at least.  Her hair was longer than mine — the color of fire engine red — but it was just as wild; and when she brushed her fingers through it, she made herself purr, in some foreign phoneme.

“You smell nice,” was the first thing I told her, when I stepped inside her store and noticed her in the corner, rearranging the already aesthetically pleasing merchandise into color schemes better suitable for the coast of Brazil; not for my dusty neighborhood populated  by exhausted artists.  (We live here, temporarily, but permanently on the verge of breaking through.  And in this balancing act between hope and timing, we manage to become better human beings.)

“Do I?” she said, while hanging up a floor-length dress of titillating design by stepping on her tippy toes; and when she came down, she flipped her mane of fire engine red, ran her fingers through it, and made her way over to me:

“Sure it’s me?”

In response, I began to sniff her.  Tickled, she came even closer, leaning in her tan shoulders one at time toward my nose.  To others, she could’ve appeared indifferent, or stoic at least.  But she had come from my former side of the world; so I knew how to read that perfect mishmash of her old ways and the flamboyant ones, typical of the American womanhood.  As I upped the speed and the intensity of my sniffing, she shimmied her shoulders and smirked:  Oh, she was tickled alright!

With my face close enough to her chest to get the aerial view of her breasts, I delivered my verdict:  “Yep:  It IS you!”

“I just got my hair done, today.  So, it must be from their product,” the Slavic kitten responded, took out her hair clip and shook out her mane, purposefully releasing more scent into the air.  She knew the extent of her power:  She owned it — in spades.

“Rrrrr,” I purred, with a phoneme from my former side of the world.  “Delicious.”

As someone with enough confidence in the appeal of her merchandise, she would leave me alone while I absentmindedly floated through her store, pulling out one cloth after another — one more titillating than a previous one — and leaned them against my exhausted shoulders.  (I had been at it, for days at a time — for years! — in this dusty neighborhood. In the balance between my hope and timing, I had put in the work, willingly; hopefully becoming a better human being — but never taking a break long enough to notice the difference.)

Yet, at all times, I was well aware of her vicinity; and I would occasionally sneak a peak at her shifting around of our surrounding aesthetics, always finding further limits, more room for perfection.  And she would continue to purr — hum, perhaps — with phonemes, from the other side of the world.

I pulled out the floor length dress of titillating design, swooped up the spider-web textured sweater; snatched a backless shirt (or was it just a shawl?).  The strategically colored frock, with slits and cutouts on its sides made me think in Spanish; and the streaked feather earrings tickled me with my dreams of Barcelona.  Once all of my aesthetic choices were draped over my shoulder, I made it for the dressing room.

The Slavic kitten immediately appeared by my side:

“I want to see you, in all of these!” she purred while hanging up the clothes, one at a time.  “Ooph!” she exhaled-whistled when glancing at the strategically colored frock, with slits and cutouts on its sides.  “This one was built — for a girl like you!”

She was right:  When in it, I slid the curtain of the dressing room, I found a reflection of the woman of whom I dreamt back in the brutal clasp of my anxious, uncertain, un-confident 20s.  The creature of tan heath, with enough give to her curves but equal strength — demanded more life, and more beauty, and more adventure.  And much more sex.

“Mmm-hmm,” the kitten was immediately purring at my side while kneeling down, with her engine fire red mane in the vicinity of my upper thigh.  She looked up and I caught myself wondering about her tickled stoicism, if in the nude.

“This — is my favorite part,” she smirked — and with a confident pull of a index finger, she undid the cutout above my hip.  The cloth gave.  The slit pulled open, reveling the tan lines from my dainty bikini bottom, and the giving curve of my lower stomach, leading to my womb.

“Where the fuck did my breath go?” I thought.  “How dare she steal it like that?”

And just how much was she willing to vow before finding herself in the midst of breaking my heart?

The dress — would go home with me, that night.  She wouldn’t.  But she would smirk — with that tickled stoicism of someone from my former side of the world — ever so slightly.  And while already kneeling at the thigh of the next girl, she would purr:

“Come and play with me, here.  Anytime!”

“Told You I’ll Be Here Forever, Said I’ll Always Be Your Friend…”

Someone had once said that there were no closures, in life.

I had read that yesterday afternoon, while I waited for LA-LA’s haze to clear.  It never did.  Because by the time I saw the anticipated clarity of the sky — something we all think we’re entitled to, around here, on the daily basis — the smog had already crawled in, like just another cloud; and it was time to call it a night.  Or, it was time to call it an evening, at least.

So, I kept on reading, sprawled out on the floor among my books and collecting random bits of opinions by others that have come — and written — before me; in possible hopes that someone would do it a little better than them, down the road…

But then, someone had once said that there were no closures, in life.

That life — didn’t really work that way.  That it consisted of choices — poor choices and those that were slightly better — all conducted in reaction to complete chaos.  And then, of course, there would be consequences to those choices as well; and more choices — poor and those that were slightly better — would follow, in reaction to more consequences.  And on, and on, and on:  Life would carry on, with the better of us learning to commit slightly better choices.  And a life with the biggest majority of better choices, I suppose, would make for a life, best-lived.

Pretty bleak, that thing that someone had said once.  And it would keep me distraught for the rest of the day.  I also knew it would keep me awake, when it would finally be time to call it a night.  Or, to call it an evening, at least.

So:  By the time it became clear that LA-LA’s haze would never clear yesternight, I left the house for the other side of town, speeding through its residential streets, in search of a catharsis if not an adventure.  Occasionally, I would wave at other drivers to let them have their right of way; and most would appear slightly surprised — at my better choice.  When the exhausted joggers and the defensive pedestrians waited to be noticed at intersections, I would make eye contact with them and nod.  And at some, I would even smile:  Like the sporty Jewish mother in her Lulu pants with a pretty but androgynous child inside a baby carriage, on Robertson.  Or the tired Mexican man, in dusty clothes, pushing along his cart with leftovers of souring fruit, from his selling island on Venice and Fairfax.  Or the two young lovelies, who despite the never cleared LA-LA’s haze, decked themselves out in delicious frocks; enticing me with their tan legs and taut arm exposed, on Abbot Kinney.

I nodded, I smiled.  I waved, on occasion.  In some odd state of calm resignation, I found myself in adoration — with the never cleared city.  That mood, ever so close to surrender, would be my slightly better choice, for the evening (even though I wouldn’t think about it long enough to realize its further consequences).

But then, someone had once said that there were no closures, in life.  That life didn’t really work that way.  That is was all chaos, random choices with their even more random consequences.

Later, while I waited for a rendezvous with a man so luminous and kind he would make me want to forgive all others that came before him, I lost track of time in a conversation with a friend.  A friend that had been a comrade at first, then a lover; until we would make a poor choice to put an end to it; then a slightly better one — to preserve what was left.  He had once asked me why I kept in touch with those that had come before him.

“For the stories,” I would respond, immediately surprising myself with the clarity of my choice.

At the time, he would find that choice slightly poor.  But yesterday evening, he had to finally see it — as a slightly better one.  (Redemption, at last!)  Because in my stories, I had become a researcher of consequences.  And perhaps my act of defiance had come from the fear of being forgotten — the fear of being inconsequential — but I would choose to remember, him and those that had come before him, and I would keep track of our stories.  And also, I would keep track of our choices — however poor or good — in possible hopes that at least one of us would do it a little better, the next time, somewhere down the road.

And no matter the choices, no matter the consequences, all along, I would insist on kindness.  That way, in the end, in addition to the intimacy that could soothe a broken heart, there would a new sensation:  Something, that for the first time yesternight, to the two of us, would feel like grace — some sort of stubborn choice to be slightly better.

Yes, someone had once said that there were no closures, in life.  That life didn’t work that way.

But last night, in the midst of the never cleared LA-LA haze, I dared to differ:  Although others indeed could not always grant closures for my own life — or for our mutual stories; I would always make the slightly better choice for forgiveness.  And isn’t forgiveness — just another name for closure, anyway?

“Didn’t You Know I Was Waiting on You?”

Waiting rooms:  They are like fishing ponds where most amateurs lack the patience to get the goods.

But I know!  I know, now, how to wait for long enough to pull out a story or two.  Didn’t used to know.  Before, I would join the others in their absentminded flipping through tattered magazines, often donated by some overzealous patient; other times — and in more expensive offices — subscribed to, by the M.D. himself.  And in any office offering free consultations, I would be stuck with a three-fold brochure.  I mean:  Somebody, wake me when they call my name.  I’ll be waiting.

In my immigrant life, I’ve had to do a lot of it:  Waiting.  Waiting for someone’s approval, which would theoretically make me feel better, in the end; except that I would be so exhausted — from the legwork, from not knowing any shortcuts, and from all that fucking waiting! — that I would feel calm, instead.  And grateful:  to be outside, among the rest of the living — no longer among the waiting; freed from the bolted down chairs and the white lights, and all that waiting to hear my name.

From some offices, I would leave with a referral to someone else’s; and with a sense of nagging anxiety, I would want to procrastinate at following through; because there would certainly be more fucking waiting:  Waiting for a number, waiting for a signature, waiting for a stamp; for an opinion, a verdict, an approval.  Waiting for to be considered legal for work, legit for travel.  Waiting for a “Go-Ahead, You’re-Good-Enough — For-Now.”  Waiting.

(I think another immigrant has written a novel called Waiting.  I hated that thing:  Couldn’t wait to finish it.)

These days, I’ve gotten much better at it.  Perhaps, it’s because after years of waiting for the waiting to cease, I’ve realized, it’s a part of life.  Maybe, it’s not a part of everybody’s life — but it is definitely a part of mine.

So, I think, maybe, I’ve surrendered to it.  Finally.  And maybe, despite my chronic impatience toward the crawl of clock hands, I have accepted that when the only activity is to wait — time is, suddenly, in my hands.  And maybe, after finding a dream for which I am best suited, I’ve been made privy to an insight that every event and every person could be a part of it — a particle of a story, waiting to be told.  So, I am not really waiting these days:  but waiting it out.  Like a female sniper.  A fisherwoman.  A crocodile hunter.  You get the point.

In one such waiting room, I found myself the other day, watching a couple of medical assistants entertain each other out of boredom.  Assistant No. 1 appeared to be joyless, and when I had checked-in with her at the counter, she seemed immune to any of my forced niceness or my feigned interest in her occupation:

“Busy day for you today, eh?”

(I am usually a charmer with people in her position:  Sure, she is someone not expected to grant me the sought service; but she could fuck my shit up so seriously, it would cost me more waiting.  No joke!)

“Fill this out,” she said, slipping half a page under her window, “and take a seat!”  (‘Scuse me, Nurse Ratched!  ‘Scuse me — for existing.)

Assistant No. 2 — was more to my liking:  A flamboyant, disarmingly chubby young man, he was quite good at making sarcastic remarks at the expense of whatever patient’s file was being pulled up on his outdated computer screen.  Occasionally, he would demand the attention from Assistant No. 1:

“Now!  Would you look — at this?!”

Assistant No. 1 would smile, but her commentary would be so eviscerating, I would make a mental note to stay out of her way, for the rest of the day.  Or, for the rest of my life, really.  But Assistant No. 2 would appear tickled to no end.  Perhaps, like the rest of us, he was sick of waiting out his life next to people like his joyless colleague; so, he chose to do it with some humor and a thicker skin.

I carried on pretending that my self-purchased issue of Vogue was so captivating, it had to be possess the secret to my own life on its pages.  But truth be told, I can’t read, while waiting:  I’m too distracted by humanity.  I would rather be writing down some obscure thoughts into a journal, but that always attracts attention.  And I would get carried away too, writing fast enough to set my pen on fire; and wouldn’t notice some nosy creature, looming at least a foot above me while deciphering my scribbles over my shoulder.  So:  Vogue it is, in waiting rooms.  While waiting.

After twenty minutes, the waiting finally got interesting:  Assistant No. 1 decided to come out with the tale of her failed love story.  It seemed she had been waiting to vent — waiting to be asked about her horrid mood, about her suffering.  And once the floodgates opened, every soul in the waiting room was made aware of her grief.

Off she went:

“He was, like, ‘I’m just not ready’.  So, I was, like:  ‘Forget YOU!’”

“NO!” Assistant No. 2 chimed in, perhaps, a bit too empathetically, while staring ahead at his screen.  “Men!  So typical!”

That sliver of empathy was enough for Assistant No. 1 to carry on:  “I mean:  Good luck to him!  I’m so over it,” she said and swung her chair back to face the counter.

“Good for you!”  Seemingly, Assistant No. 2 was all about it.  But he did linger for a minute, then said:

“But, um…  Did you really love him?”

Ooh.  Interesting.  Certainly more interesting than my very captivating issue of Vogue.  I looked up:  Assistant No. 1 looked contorted:

“Ugh!” she exhaled and swung that chair around, again.  “Whatever do you mean?!”

“I mean:  Don’t you hate it how, in the end, you find yourself in love with some better version of the person than he actually is?” said Assistant No. 2, stumping Assistant No. 1 — and the rest of us, listening in.  “In the end, you just want to say, ‘But don’t you know how much better I’ve imagined you?  Can’t you just change to match my fantasy?  I’m willing to wait.’”

“Well, then!” I thought, “That — was worth the wait.”

And having waited out for long enough to get the story, I started setting my pen on fire against the pages of Vogue, while waiting to hear my name.

Run, Lola! Run!

“I feel like I’m suddenly living in a body of an athlete,” I texted to a comrade the other day:  Someone who has witnessed my coming into my own from the last miserable stretch of my 20s into the chiller version of me, in my early 30s: cooler, confident, more comfortable in my skin.

“You are,” my comrade responded.  “You are an athlete.  You are a pugilist (pounding out pages) and a hurdler (watch her leap over unworthy douche bags in a single bound).”

(They are like that:  My people.  They are eloquent, empathetic and overall — on point.  And how they adore me!  How they worship!)

I’ve always been a runner.  Blame it on the nomadic predisposition inherited from a long-time-ago gypsy, but when struck by anxiety or edgy uncertainty, I prefer to pound my feet on whatever ground I’m calling “home,” at the time.  And I never need to go far:  I just peel on my running shoes — and I get going, zipping past the unknowing, the unaware or the undisciplined.  And when life has caused me some serious grief, I’ve been known to run for kilometers, as if running for my life.

It started back in my childhood — in my perpetually disheveled but always somehow magnificent Motha Russia that makes for one fascinating terrane to cover with one’s feet.  In the beginning of a school year, we once showed up to an early morning phys ed class only to find our gymnasium with a collapsed rooftop (so typical for my perpetually disheveled Motha Russia).  For that day — and for half a year to follow — we would be locked out of the facilities; until the bureaucracy of the city’s administration and the innate laziness of the building contractors would delay the repair no longer.

Our instructor — an aging Don Juan in the younger Jean Claude Van Damme physique (and that same buzz cut) — was not prepared for such a shift of circumstances that morning.  For the hormonal dry-humping of ropes and poles by my male classmates and the whining by the pretty girls who would flirt with him to sit out the class due to “that time of the month” (chronic, for some) — Don Juan was prepared for that.  But for thirty pairs of eyes, with dilated pupils from all the excitement in an anticipation of a cancelled class — nyet-nyet, for that he was not ready.

He lingered, that morning:

“Nooh…” he said.  (Russian for “Fuck me!” — depending on how you say it.)  He took off his hat, did the roll call, then lingered again.  Breathlessly, we waited for the verdict.

“Tell you what:  Today, we are running — OUTSIDE!”

He did his best to up-sell it to us, but the only way to stop the moaning and the complaining by the girls; and the sighing, and the spitting, and the swearing by the ballsier of boys — was to let us have it.  Which he did:  Don Juan barked, in the manner of someone with enough Army training to cover up his insecurities for the rest of his life.  He was the boss around here, no matter how ridiculous most of us found him to be.

“SHUT UP!  OUTSIDE!” — and he led the way to the school stadium that sat in the middle of a forest.  (Back in my perpetually disheveled Motha Russia, we’ve got plenty of those forests-thingies.  So, no one is particularly shocked when they find themselves in the midst of some mutilated ground, torn-through, ravaged, utterly misused — and typically disheveled.)

The morning was cold and wet, which caused more moaning, and more sighing, and swearing.  At the sound of Don Juan’s whistle, the boys tore to the front of the line-up and started running for their lives.  I?  I paced it.  Somehow, I knew better.  Not paired up with anyone, I calmly passed the group of daintily jogging popular girls who would eventually start walking, after the first 100 meters; then, flirt with Don Juan to sit the whole thing out.  I then caught up with the teenage beauties that took the exercise slightly more seriously — and passed them as well.

The shortest boy in my class was running alone, along the outer edge of the track, in his school uniform and his father’s rain boots.  Being from the country side didn’t make him popular; but being humiliatingly poor — had made him into a leper, among us.  The only dyke of my group kept me company for a while, and although we didn’t exchange any words, I felt we were definitely on the same page; or the same pace, at least.

I would catch up to the boys soon enough, and they wouldn’t as much as tease or patronize me, as my skinny ass squeezed in between.  A late bloomer, I had nothing on my body to entice them with; so, they would let me be, for a loop or two.

But they did get their feathers ruffled when I continued to pass them — 200 meters on top of another 200, and another!  And when most had left the course while faking sudden ailments to save face, I still found myself running.  Perhaps, I was running for my life; because that year, it had already struck me with the first serving of anxiety.  And Don Juan would have to holler to summon me and the only dyke of my group; and with a pride of someone who’d known it all along, he made examples of us, that day.

For the entire year, my late bloomer’s body would keep me running, on my own and in regional competitions.  And when finally, I started trying on the features of my own womanhood — it would take a slight adjustment in gravity, but I would continue to pound the ground I called “home,” at the time.

And when at the end of my second decade, I took off for a whole different continent — away from my perpetually disheveled Motha Russia — landing in a balmy Southern state I had only seen in American movies:  Every morning, I would peel on my running shoes — and I would get going.  Because in my mind, I was indeed running for my life — for a better one!  Oh, it would be an upgrade, fo’ sure — a choice that to this day, makes my father take off his hat to me and linger:

“Nooh…”

 

“On Lonely Nights, I Start to Fade. Her Love’s a Thousand Miles Away.”

It’s 2 a.m.  Here come the monsters.

Cute little buggers they are, whispering quirky thoughts into my ears while nibbling on my earlobes or jumping rope with my braids.  My hair has gotten longer by now and has taken on that sun-kissed frizz of LA-LA’s summer.  But if I leave it untamed, my little monsters get tangled up in it while playing thumb wars and building castles out of my mane — fluffing up magnificent pillows for their hairy elbows and messy heads; and then I’m up until dawn, cutting off their cruddy nails and wiggling out their paws — to get them out of my hair.  And then, they’ll whimper, aiming at my dormant ovaries.  So, I’ve learned my lesson by now.  I know better.

In the kitchen, the humming buzz of the fridge should be enough to make me doze off, but the girl next door has gotten one of her terrible chronic cough attacks again; and I cringe away at my desire to fetch her some cough syrup, or water at least.  She is lovely, from what I’ve seen; quite luminous.  And she has one of those laughs that make you check the corners of your joint for the little girl that may have gotten lost there; and while waiting to be reclaimed, the girl-child plays house — a make-believe, much kinder than her reality.

2:17.

The birds outside are going bonkers.  What could possibly be in dire need for their negotiation, at this hour?  I’d like to think they are planning their next destination, or dissing the previous one:

“Whose idea was it to slum it, in Texas?!”

Or, maybe, they are just like me:  Insomniacs with misbehaving monsters roughing up their feathers, after midnight.  I attempt to tune them out, get reacquainted with the humming buzz in my kitchen:  My early morning lullaby.  It reminds me of my basement quarters in the Bronx.  Those days I fancied myself a Master, waiting for his pornographic witch of Margarita.  She never descended though; but all that waiting in the daytime and chasing monsters in the dark has created quite a bit of inspiration, but never quite enough poetry.  So, I’ve learned my lesson by now:  Leave the ghosts unattended.  I know better.

Aha:  A bath!  That sounds like a great idea, tested by time.  Who said there was no ailment of the mind that a perfectly drawn bath couldn’t fix?  It had to be a woman writer, with a closet full of ex-lovers’ ties and head full of stories; someone who knew how to put pen to paper — then, mind to rest.  The water is of perfect temperature, but only in the summer.  Perhaps, the secret is in the juxtaposition of body to air, skin — to the world.  I submerge.  Immediately, I am aware of the throbbing exhaustion in my limbs; and while I count to ten, I hear my little monsters clasping their manicured fingers over the ledge and pulling up their funny faces, wanting to crawl in.  I let them, pushing up a few hairy bottoms with my palms.  Some prefer to keep hanging on the ledge; and with their breath, they drill caves through the while peaks of my bath foam.  Cute little buggers.

2:41.

I get out:  Much better.  At least my limbs are mellowed out, and the mind is slowing down its pace.  I let the skin get air-dried and walk out into the living-room:  Body to air, skin — to the world.

From the window, I can see the Observatory on the top of the hill.  It stays lit up at night, and it always makes me wonder if LA-LA’s angels go there, for naps and foot rubs, and maybe even nightcaps.

The patter of little feet with manicured nails tick-tocks across the kitchen tiles.  I turn my head:  There they are, my cute little buggers; and they hang back, making funny faces and imitating my frowns, and they wait for me to wave them over.  I do.  They yelp and leap, slide their wet feet across the floor, bodysurf on the doormat, do cartwheels on the carpet.  They climb the poles of my chair’s legs and the ropes of my braids.  One of them clasps and unclasps his paws, asking for a lift again; and he whimpers, aiming at my dormant ovaries.  I give him my hand:  He sniffs it, then climbs in.  I sit him down on the windowsill.  I’ve learned my lesson by now:  It’s better to not resist.

The birds are still at it, dissing another suggested locale:  “Why the hell would we go to Canada, in September?”  And, by the way:  Where the fuck are the coyotes when you need them?  We could all start a bloody choir around here:  Us Versus the Moon.

3:02.

A ghetto bird flies by:  A treacherous, dark hunter.  How come I’ve never heard those, in the Bronx?  Perhaps, there, all hunting — is done on the ground.  Speaking of ground control:  I hear the police sirens.  They seem to echo a lot longer in this city, especially when LA-LA’s angels takes nightcap breaks at the lit up Observatory, on top of the hill.

But:  What was the name of that lullaby he used to sing to me, after midnight?  He left a while ago, and by now, I’ve learned to wane myself off his voice in the daytime.  But at night:  Alas, at night, it’s a whole different tune, around here:  Us Versus the Moon.  Between the humming buzz of the fridge in the kitchen and the clicking tongues of my nibbling little monsters, my memory gives out.

Perhaps, I would be better off, putting pen to paper.  After all, I am a writer, with a closet full of ex-lovers’ ties and head full of stories; who’s learned her lesson by now:  It’s better to not resist.  It’s better to surrender.

It’s 3:32 a.m.

And here come the words.

“Hey, Baby! Hey, Baby! Hey!”

My reading was interrupted by a shriek of a boy balancing on his mother’s lap like a midsize chimpanzee.  He could’ve been five, had he inherited his father’s stocky stature.  But even if he were an overgrown 3-year-old, judging by the size of him, he was already in dire need of outgrowing this habit for women’s laps.

Seemingly, something had crawled up his ass a long time ago, possibly, at birth; because he could not bear to sit on it, still, as the slightly intimidating, but definitely imposing walls of my gynecologist’s waiting room were suggesting.  His mother — a hefty brunette with a teased hairdo and a stomach that protruded forward (was she slouching or pregnant?) — was hiding her face behind a fashion magazine.  For a moment, in another attempt inspired by his ADD, the little creature entertained a sport of imitating her:  With his curled fingers, he picked up the closest publication — Parents — and started flipping its already tattered pages with an unusual aggression, in front of his face.

I had seen this before:  this violence to which many children are prone.  I would study their small tensed-up faces and clenched fists, so full of destruction, and I would wonder what was brining it on:  Was it the result of poor parenting or a messy gene pool?  Or was it their preview to the understandable, but never just human anxiety?

By this point, the little creature had entirely given into his, and the glossy pages of Parents were failing to hold up against his violence.  The other pretty women in the waiting room, in unaffordable flocks and midsummer tans, had to have attempted to charm him prior to my arrival; because by this point, they were pretending to be undisturbed by the sounds of tearing pages and the grunts of the little man causing them.  And they continued to remain unaffected when his next ADD-inspired urge made him fling the dainty pamphlets across the room, one by one, their skinny bodies flailing through the air like the feathers of hunted down birds.

Finally, after the horrified receptionist mumbled an inaudible, passive-aggressive complaint, the boy’s mother lowered her reading material.

“Joh-nathan!  Stoop it!” she said, with an accent of an unclear origin, entirely undisturbed by her son’s behavior.   At all times, she was determined to have access to one of two emotions:  annoyance or boredom.

“Stoop it!” she repeated.

But by then, “Joh-nathan” was entirely under the influence:

“Nnnah!” he responded; and with a masterful eye contact with his mother, he picked up the next issue of Parents and sent it across the waiting room.  The mother rolled her eyes (annoyance?), and reached for her giant purse.  The multicolored bag was parked between her protruding stomach and the destructive creature on her lap; and the woman began rummaging inside.

At this point I was no longer pretending to read, but studying the interaction: Mother versus Firstborn.  As pretty, shiny objects emerged from the giant bag, “Joh-nathan” continued to curl his fingers to grab, to clasp, to tear out — for surely, they had to exist primarily for his entertainment.  After applying an unnecessary layer of carrot-colored lipgloss from the tube immediately wrestled out by her son’s hand, the woman returned to shifting things inside the bag, with her lower lip rolled-out (boredom?).

“Joh-nathan” carried on with his terrorisms.  Armed with his mother’s tube of lipgloss, he crawled off her lap, ungracefully; then, scanned the room until stopping on my judgmental gaze from underneath the yellow floor lamp.  “Joh-nathan” wobbled toward me, then stopped.

“Not cute, for your age!” I thought, and made sure my thought was clearly translated onto my face.

“Joh-nathan” took a few more steps.  Audibly, I slammed my book closed.  It was a stand-off.  A stare down.  And no way, no how was this little bugger going to beat me!

Luckily for him, the little man’s ADD got the best of him, and after surveying me and the yellow floor lamp, he plopped down onto his ass.  (“Not cute, for your age!”)  He crawled past my feet, and past the lamp, toward the corner outlet.  Quicker than his mother’s bored mouth could spit out another “Stoop it!”, I blocked the child’s hand with my own, from yanking the plug.

“Dangerous,” I said.

“Joh-nathan” studied my face for a moment then rolled out his own lip into an imitation of his mom’s.  Either due to my relentless frown or his shock at the introduction of “no” into his short life, the little man’s head split into two hemispheres, at the mouth; and he screamed out so loudly, that every pretty woman in the waiting room had to wet herself.  (We had all been holding it, by this point, until our turn to relieve ourselves into a plastic cup.)

The mother gave me a glare, rolled her eyes, but said nothing.  The little man was carried off; and while blubbering into the woman’s chest, he pointed his curled finger in my direction.  Soon enough, “Joh-nathan” was back to balancing on his mother’s lap and smearing his wet face on her chest.  Both of them would shoot me a couple of intimidating looks, but I was back to being unimpressed, like all the other pretty women in the waiting room — so tired, by now.

I would ignore the loud thud of the boy’s fist against his mother’s breasts, followed by yet another:  “Stoop it!”

I would pretend to devour my pages when the terrorizing chimpanzee lifted the poor woman’s shirt:

“Baby?” he said in a baby voice.  Not cute!  Not cute, for his age.

“Yes:  baby,” the mother responded and pouted (annoyance?), confirming that she was indeed pregnant, and not just subject to poor posture.

“Joh-nathan’s” next slap came right onto the belly inside which his baby sibling was using up the mother’s resources and attention:

“BABY!”

If only the little man could murder his competition before the sibling had a chance to be born.  The woman didn’t as much as block the next blow.  Or the one after that.

Suddenly, I realized:  Her resignation was fully justified.

Most likely, she had once asked for a simple dream.  But it had cost her — the surrender of her youth and beauty, of her joy; and the burden of being in over her head.  And now she was waiting for that same disappointed dream to finally run its course, as if it were just another tantrum of her ADD-inflicted firstborn.

And while her son, her new little man, continued to abuse her body — sticking his head under the front of her shirt as if aiming to crawl back inside womb; then rummaging through her bra in search of a nipple — she sat back, pouting.  Not cute.  Not cute, for her age.

“What You Waiting, What You Waiting, What You Waiting, What You Waiting, What You Waiting FOR?!”

Wake up early.  Do the work.

This is the only time of day when you’re allowed to lose track of time, or your phone; of your anxieties; of other people’s anxieties and their intentions or moods that you may have set off earlier — unknowingly, most of the time.  Don’t check your email.  Ignore the pile of laundry.  Don’t balance the checkbook.  Don’t return the call to your motha.  Not now!  

Do the work.

Unplug all alarm clocks; tape a post-it onto the never disoriented time panel in the corner of your laptop:  This is the only time of day when you’re allowed to lose track of time!  Measure the minutes by the number of brewed pots of coffee and your bathroom breaks (that also reek of coffee, but regurgitated). Acknowledge the arrival of noon by the jingles of the ice-cream man looping through your neighborhood.

Do the work.

Because if don‘t do the work, it will nag you like an increasing toothache, when you know damn well it’s gonna cost you a root canal when you just can’t afford health insurance.  It will slip into your encounters with others:  You’ll be edgy, impatient; and the poor suckers in random or scheduled interactions with you are going to set you off — unknowingly, most of the time.  It will nibble at your heart — this urge to do the work, now! — and you will judge yourself for having wasted so much time already, in pursuits of silly professions and unworthy loves; and the partially worthy curiosities — but then those, at least, have given you some specific stories, in the end.  You can tell yourself that, but unless you do the work — now! — every single day, it will nag you like an increasing toothache.

So:  Do the fucking work.

And if you happened to wake up in the bed of another, slip out before he wakes.

You normally don’t sleep over anyway, unless he’s kind — and so boyishly lovely — he turns your ovaries into raisins.  Most of the time it’s pretty clear though:  Sex is sex, and you both know it.  It’s clearcut and cannot be confused for affection.  After it’s done, you may get up, clean up.  Watch him get up, do that bathroom thing they all do; and if he’s a sweetheart — he’ll bring you a glass of water, to bed.  You may linger for a while, to talk — and maybe even to cuddle, if you’re already friends enough — just so that neither of you is left feeling guilty or used.  But you’ve gotta be a moron to assume he is not already thinking about the game he’s prerecorded that afternoon, in order to have you over; or the cold slice of pizza he’s dying to devour, once you’re gone.  And you:  You are tripping out on having to get the fuck out, just so that you don’t come off needy or, god forbid, in love.  And even if you’ve got nothing waiting for you at home, still, you’ll feel better once inside your car, speeding.

Because it’s the sleeping over that fucks with a girl.  When you start sleeping over — you start giving a damn.  Soon enough, your pillow talks will cross boundaries into the topics of mutual failed affairs, regretted lovers, permanent heartbreaks, and anecdotes from lousy sex.  (If you’re a smart girl:  Whatever you do — do NOT talk shit about your exes.  But you will, giving him the ammunition to judge you later, when your own story runs out its course.  And when that happens, if he’s a smart boy, he won’t use it against you, in your last fights.  But he will.  And then, he’ll talk shit about you.)  During this intimate learning of his sleeping patterns and sounds — that’s where a girl starts slipping.  And in the shared waking — when neither is armed with vanity or fear — that’s where she falls.

And it is only biological, really:  But sooner or later, while you are listening to his breathing change while he falls asleep, with his heavy arm resting across your breasts, holding you down in obedience to his calm gravity — you’ll dream of your firstborn.  And when you do — shake him awake, and say:

“The game’s just changed its rules on you, buddy!”

Or:  Slip out, before he wakes.  Like a ghost, stumble your nakedness through the dark, collecting your things that he’s peeled off you two hours prior.  Remember:  Did you show up wearing a bra that night?  or stockings, for his pleasure?  And your earrings:  Don’t forget those fucking earrings!  You always do!

Don’t leave anything behind:  It’s better that way.  Don’t look back.  Don’t linger.  Confront your secret desires head on:  That maybe, he’ll wake and ask you to stay; that maybe, he is — like you — god forbid, in love.  And if you catch yourself studying the profile of your firstborn on his pillow, tousled with the locks of hair you wish you could cut off and store in a locket, shake him awake:

“The game’s just changed its rules on us, buddy!”

Get yourself home, speeding through the town that rarely knows such absence of traffic.  Zoom past all the other girls, slipping out of their boys’ beds, like ghosts, in various degrees of disarray:  Like you, they got dressed in the dark, lingering above the profiles of their firstborns and forgetting about those fucking earrings. They always do!  Drive past the closed diners and dives, and even though you know better, scavenge for a late night cup of coffee.

And it will make you miss New York, where such deeds are less noticeable in the crowds of those in the habit of getting to bed by dawn and those that wake up early — and do their fucking work.  There, humanity is constantly changing the guard.  Between the insomniacs and the insane — and those who are contently unsettled by their unworthy loves — you feel less pathetic or criminal; and you somehow avoid confronting your secret desires head on.

Get home, wash off — sleep off! — the budding infatuation with the boy (unless he’s kind or boyishly lovely).  Rest up.  And once you wake again:

Do the fucking work.