Tag Archives: body

“I Change Shapes Just to Hide in This Place. But I’m Still, I’m Still — an Animal.”

I would have much rather gone out for a walk.  But stubbornly, yesterday, I began to run.

I ran mostly out of habit, and because I was running out of time.  But even as I changed my stride, from one block to the next, I still thought:

“I think I’d much rather be walking, right now.”

It had always been my thing:  to run.  In junior high, I’d run long distances.  I never thought of myself as being good at it.  It was just something that came easy.  And it happened way before I knew about meditation or understood transcendence of the mind.  To me, it simply granted the easiest excuse to be alone and not talking.  Just breathing and placing down my feet.  My breath would change throughout the course, and so would the stride.

Sometimes, I’d stare at the ground:  The soggy fields of Russia, and the uneven asphalt of Eastern Germany.  I’d study the way the surface would respond to the impact of my feet.  We had no knowledge of American footwear back then, so the cloth running shoes with thin rubber soles were the only type we knew.  And even as the surfaces would change — as I would change my continents — the thin-soled shoes remained my favorite choice:  In the gravelly passages of Central Park, and the dusty hills of Southern California.  

Other times, I would look ahead.  It was best to do so on an open track.  I wouldn’t strain my eyes for a strip of color marking the end of the course.  Instead, I would let my vision get blurry, and I would study the blending of objects in the endlessness of what’s ahead.  Things didn’t matter.  People would be accidental.  So, I would find the empty spaces of air ahead, and look at those.  That’s why running in the fall of Russia’s coastal cities had always been the easiest.  The fog already blurred my vision, and all I would feel was — the change in breath and stride.

I don’t remember being tired, as a kid; and not until the first menstrual cycles of my classmates, did I begin to overhear excuses for not running.  My thin, balletic body was one of the last to be introduced to its new function that made my female contemporaries embarrassed and secretive among each other.  But even when it happened to me, I kept up with my running.  On bleeding days, I would wear longer sweaters and tighter underwear; but the slow, moaning ache in my lower stomach would not matter.  It would change my stride a little:  I would prefer to run lighter then, as if doing a chasse step across a dance floor.  I’d land on my toes, as I would when leaping over strewn blankets on a lake’s bank in my grandma’s village in the Far East, while I myself dashed for the water:  to join other sunbathing kids and to avoid my motha’s strict instructions to put on sunblock.  (But secretly, I hoped that my silly chasse step would make her laugh and shake her head, with bangs getting into her glistening eyes.)

The days of tiredness that would seduce me out of running would happen much, much later.  They would happen in the late mornings of waking after a graveyard shift at a Westchester diner.  A pair of ugly nursing shoes with sole support and splatters of dried foods would be the only visual reminder of the night before.  And the heavy lead-like weight of my calves would talk me out of running.

“Who’s up for a walk?” I’d holler down the hallway with three other doors.

And if the bathroom at the end of it was free, I’d forget about the lead-filled feeling in my calves and make a run for it, while pounding my heels into the carpeted floor.

Much later in my running history, I would begin to study people.  It had to happen in California where exercise is fashion; and depending on one’s routine, we all belong to little clans.  When running with others, it would propel me, out of competition, anger or inspiration.  Sometimes, I’d follow their footsteps like a shadow of compassion:  The sweaty faces of lonesome hikers in the Hollywood Hills, or the bright eyes of those rad people of San Francisco who’d made a life out of NOT giving up.

When running stubbornly, yesterday, I thought of the history of my strides; and then, began trying them on.  At first, I ran tiredly, as if I was back to working my way through college, in Westchester, New York.  Then, I began to push, hitting the ground with my heel (so unhealthy!) — out of anger and never wanting to give up.  The chasse step would eventually take over, and the lightness of it spread up my body, up to my lungs and face.

That’s when I saw him:  A headless man walking slowly ahead.  At first, I thought he may have dropped something to the ground and was now retracing his steps.  But as he continued slowly placing his feet onto the smooth pavement of the quiet neighborhood, I realized he was a victim of arthritis, age, and most likely incredible loss.  He was hunched over so low, I could not see his head, as I ran up on him, from behind.  I slowed down and began following his footsteps.

A pair of khaki shorts revealed his thin, brown legs, covered with sores and age spots.  His shoes were worn out and the thick white socks were pulled halfway up his calves.  I studied his stride:  He dragged each foot ahead, then struggled to gain balance.  Then, repeat.  Stubbornly.

He would much rather have been walking, yesterday, alone and not talking.  I shook off the idea of offering help (this was the time when charity would have been offensive); passed him quietly, and began to run.

Stubbornly.

“Can I Take You Home — To MY House?”

It was a wide living-room, luminous with sunlight.  There were no other signs, just my own prior knowledge, but I was sure the room was located upstairs.

Or, it could have been one of those houses that sits on stilts in my grandfather’s village.  There seems to be no natural reason for such a structure:  The inland area at the foot of an ancient mountain knows no floods.  There are no rivers that run by it, and the winters tend to be brutally dry and viciously cold.  But when the snow melts, it turns the ground into mush; yet, no river banks can be feared to overflow.  The thick, purple layer of evergreens that covers the sides of the dormant mountain holds its outer layers in place, and I have never heard of mudslides or earthquakes in the entire history of the family.  If anywhere else, there, in the middle of Russia, nature is obedient and tamed.

There was always a calm flow of hours whenever I came to town.  There would be bickering between the two sides of the family, and that would be the only noise I’d hear for days:  The Russian whites on my father’s side would find the brown tint of my skin somewhat scandalous.  My brown motha’s blatant sexuality didn’t help the matters either.  The matriarchs — the mother of the family and her only daughter (a matriarch-in-training) — would always insist on accompanying me in public.

But the town would be calm, and with an exception of an occasion hushing down of the old women, flocking benches at any hour of the day, I saw no outwardly confrontations.  And even those women would express their aggression with silence and gossip, to which I wouldn’t be made privy, because it would unfold behind my brown back.  This was no place for verbal confrontations or domestic fights.  An occasional drunken brawl would be talked about for months.

And then, everything would return back — to silence!

In a wide living-room, luminous with sunlight that’s possible only in August, there was a circle of mismatching furniture:  An old couch with wooden arms and flowery pattern of its material; an armchair of dark blue velvet, worn out and soiled in its folds.  A wooden barstool was covered with a crocheted throw of fluffy, egg-foam-colored thread.  And there was a rocking chair occupied by the ghost of my grandfather — the only member of the family who was always openly thrilled by the fact that I stuck out in all their photographs.

They were all blue-eyed, tall and sinewy; and in every picture, they stood behind me like a white backdrop.  I would look at the lens from underneath my bushy eyebrows, with eyes so dark, no camera could distinguish the ending to my pupils.  And above my serious, mismatching face, I would be balancing a cloud of messy hair, which, before the flash went off, had been aimed at by one of the matriarchs’ hands and yanked into a careless ponytail.

(Looking back at these photos, you can already see that my body would belong to neither my motha’s clan — a curvatious creature of wild nature — nor to the shared lean physique of the white matriarchs.  I would be somewhere in the middle:  My adolescent frame would already exhibit some softness, but the brown legs, darkened by my chronic solitary play in dirt fields and haystacks, belonged to someone who knew how to run.)

Sylvie Guillem by Richard Avedon

In the sunlit living-room, one of those hand-woven rugs took up the middle section of the floor.  On it, I would be permitted to play, occasionally, after the matriarchs confirmed that there was no work left to be done around the house.  Still, I would hide out, until my grandfather’s return.  Like me, he would be ushered out of the kitchen by the women; and while he watched TV, I finally felt safe to bring my toys out of their hiding places and spread them out at his feet, upon one of those hand-woven rugs.

There was no eating on the floor.  No eating was permitted anywhere but the kitchen and the garden bench.  At times, the old man and I would sneak behind the house and curb our appetite with fresh cucumbers or a few unwashed tomatoes.

“It tastes better this way,” my grandfather would wink at me while polishing the giant berry on against the cloth of his knee.

But seeing a skeptical glimmer from underneath my bushy eyebrows, the old man would reaffirm:

“You get all the natural vitamins when the tomato is unwashed.  Trust me.”

The secret would be to chomp it down quickly, before the matriarchs came out to the garden to collect some scallions or a bouquet of dill for the dinner salad.  So, we would climb back up the stairs (the house sat on stilts, remember?); and reassume our positions of most safety:  His — dozing off in his rocking chair, and mine — conducting stories upon a hand-woven rug.

But in my last night’s dream, the wide living-room, luminous with August sunlight, was filled with other people.  They were loud and beautiful; and they laughed with such violent joy, I noticed the open windows of the house and the shimmering dust suddenly visible in that angle of the sun.  We would be heard, I realized; and what would happen to the silence so strictly protected by the locals — it, at times, eliminates all life?

The beautiful people kept laughing, though.  The women with golden hair intertwined their limb in ways that only women do with each other:  with an intimacy that comes with tenderness and, most importantly, a lack of angst.  The children straddled the wooden arms of the couch; climbed onto the women’s knees and crawled all over their feet.

My grandfather’s chair sat empty.  I watched it from the corner of the room, where I had wedged myself in under an armpit of a tall man with laughing eyes.  He, too, was in on the joke; and he kept shooting over loving gazes my way that seemed to say that I was the pun of it.

Is this what families are supposed to look like?  Is this the way I wanted mine — to feel?

I had so little to remember them by, that all I seemed to want to keep was the empty rocking chair and my grandfather’s ghost.  The rest was up for my rewriting.

“She Works Hard for the Money! So Hard for It, Honey!”

“I am… um… parent.  Every-thing changes.”

She stands at about my height.  I rarely see much difference between me and other women, though:  And unless they’re tall enough to grace the covers of beauty magazines — or the streets of Manhattan — I consider them pretty much my height.

Although born on the coast of Mexico, her skin bears the same caramel color as mine.  Her face, I can tell, used to be very pretty, even doll-like.  Her formerly black hair is snow streaked with gray highlights; and it is gathered in the back of her head into a thick ponytail of luscious curls.  Rich women would kill for thick hair like that!

I catch myself wondering how much she would have aged — had her life not been so hard.

I bet there is an encyclopedia of domestic tricks up this woman’s sleeve:  Washing her hair with egg yolks, making masks out of avocado and honey, moisturizing her heels with Bengay.  I’ve seen my own motha invent a few of those.  We are immigrants:  We get crafty, in survival.  For life is relentless:  It takes a toll on all of us all, but it’s most unforgiving — to us, women.

“I come herre… twenty fah-yv jears,” she formulates her words slowly.  “I am… um… sixteen jears.”

“Me too!” I say, and I begin nodding and smiling aggressively:  Just anything to make her feel understood.  “I was sixteen too!”

I want to tell her to switch to her native language, because I am pretty sure I get the gist of her already.  Despite the difference between our birth coasts, we seem to speak of the same tales.

But then again, maybe not:

I keep flaunting my American education in order to impress employers with gigs at a higher rate.  She — cleans houses for a living.  I tend to get hired to work the phones and to organize the lives of others that have gotten cluttered with too many demands.  She — creates order in other people’s homes, with her no longer soft, but womanly hands.  Besides the existences of my bosses, I am responsible primarily for myself.  She — has three kids to take care of, and a boyish husband.

“You?  No marr-rried?” she asks me.

The importance of family defines happiness in her culture; so, I get slightly embarrassed for a moment.  Despite the difference between our birth coasts, I so very much want us to be alike.  Is it this woman’s approval that I’m striving for; or just her empathy?

In one breath, I deliver:  “NoIamnotmarried.”

“In a couple more years, you’ll be middle-aged,” a man has declared the other day.

This woman’s arms are cradling a tiny dog; and in the folds of her stomach, he easily goes to sleep.  Her figure belongs to a mother:  She is fuller, curvier than my boyish frame.  Her hands are more sure and seemingly more knowing than mine.

“Is good you no married so soon,” she says.  She must’ve picked up on my embarrassment.  “Life more hard.  I am… um… parent.  Every-thing more hard.”

I ask her about her kids:  She nods and smiles when describing each of the three:  a two-year old baby-girl and a little boy.  Her oldest daughter wants to be a nurse.  When she speaks of her husband, she averts her eyes; and despite the slow manner of her chosen worlds, she quickly switches the topic to his job.

“Is good…” she concludes.  “Warehouse.  Down.  Town.  Is good!”

The little dog shifts on her stomach and extends his fluffy paws toward me. I take them and rub the un-callused pillows on the bottom.  She laughs and teases the bangs above his eyes; and when her hand brushes against mine, I notice that her skin is tougher than the one I’m rubbing in between my fingers.

“You…  work?” she asks me.

“Of course,” I say and begin listing my gigs.  This is the first time I doubt she understands me.  To my own ears, I begin sounding busy, and slightly fussy.  So, I stop.

I interrupt my list.  “Everybody works here,” I conclude; and the woman begins nodding and smiling aggressively.  She is getting the gist of me.

I study her eyes:  She stands at my level, and most definitely — at my height!  But then she leaves for work; and I reluctantly begin mine.  It’s life — at work; and in its working, it is especially unforgiving to us, women.

“Hey, Girl! I Can See Your Body Movin’!”

“Gentlemen!  Be gentlemen — and pee in the bushes!  Let the ladies use the bathrooms.”

Oh, so that’s how I get to start my day:  On the other side of the gate on 36th and JFK, in the midst of a foggy park that, despite this early hour, is already overwhelmed with humanity?  Okay!

In the endless line to the portable bathrooms, my fellow marathon runners are in all shades and sizes.  Many have just stepped off Michelangelo’s podiums.  Others — are more modest, in size or definition.  But all — are quite beautiful, and very, very human.

I slide in somewhere in the middle:  I’m an a’right-lookin’ shawty myself, with a newly perfected ass, recently acquired from all my running and the running away; and that ass is significant enough to snap one of the drugged-out wanderers of this City into alertness.

(You think I am in love with myself?  Oh, you bet yo’ ass I am!  You bet your own magnificent ass — with which I am likely to fall in love, even if just for a second, as I watch you pass my life and never be inconsequential.  And yes, I’m in love with myself — in YOUR likeness.)

“Damn!  Look at that ass!” the tripping-out wanderer hollers after me, in a blip moment of sobriety from his stupor.

“Please, do!” I think.  (Yes, I’m in love — with myself!)

And so, I slide in, somewhere in the middle, in between a stocky Filipino cutie loaded with some fancy running equipment (me:  I travel light) and a handsome gray-haired player who in a few minutes would indeed be “a gentleman — and pee in the bushes”.

The man in charge of regulating us looks like an aging, forever inspiring school teacher I have never had in own my life; but heard so many of my comrades mention, in theirs.  Let’s call him Mr. Chips, shall we?

And so, Mr. Chips carries on with his routine:

“Gentlemen!  Unless you need toilet paper…  You know what I mean?”

We laugh.  My fellow runners are at ease, with the task ahead and apparently with the very task of living.  It must be this City:  It has taught them that — how to live well, and with a sense of humor. 

At the bathrooms, the Japanese kiddo directing the line (now mostly consisting of women) does not take his job seriously either.

“This one is now open,” a fellow female runner points out when he turns to us, now basking amidst all these ladies, in different shades and sizes.

“Don’t know whatcha talkin’ about,” the kiddo delivers with a well-practiced deadpan.  “And I didn’t see YOU — skipping the line and sneaking past me to use this one bathroom, NOW OPEN!”

We laugh again, and it suddenly becomes a bit of a free-for-all:  The women start slithering under the tape while exposing their magnificent asses to the rest of us.

Mr. Chips greets us again, at the starting line:

“At the end of this thing,” he hollers through a megaphone, “we’re gonna hang the shuttle bus driver that made some of you late today.”

We laugh.  We yelp.  We are impatient and content with the task ahead.  (Yes, it CAN be both ways.  Just run a marathon — and you’ll find out.)  And we all must’ve learned something about living by now, because this — this very moment! — is about how to do your living well.

There is no whistle that goes off; not any sort of fake gun shot to launch us:  On a gentle count by Mr. Chips, we all…

Just.

Start.

Running.

I notice that no one dashes ahead, propelled by their ego juices.  No one shows off; even though many, looking like they have just stepped off Michelangelo’s podiums, no doubt can kick ass at this thing.  But they have done this before — these magnificent asses ahead of me, in all shades and sizes — and they pace themselves, for the task ahead.  For the living ahead!

Because this is how you do some good living:  You pace yourself, you measure your strength, and you do it in pursuit of your health.  And if you’re in love with yourself — you’ll go far, and longer.

“What a way to start!” I think.  “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.  And thank you.”

I start my running music.  Curtis the III winds up his track, setting the pace.  My feet do their thing and not once do I fancy dashing ahead of more than an a’right-lookin’ shawty ahead of me with thighs so large, I can see their edges from behind.  Instead:  I stay on her ass.

“But bein’ a little off landed me on top of the charts,” Curtis mumble-sings into my ear.  Well, you’d know how it is, Mr. “Metaphor for Change.”

I pass the a’right-lookin’ shawty, look back.  She’s more than a’right:  She’s a 10.

“Which one?  Pick one!  This one!  Classic!”  I start taking my orders from Eve ‘n’ G.

From behind, I come up on a baby-tall.  I cannot figure out his age yet, but his glorious headful of Tom Brady-esque hair sends me spinning into my dreams of my future.  His back is exposed, with some Zen symbol tattooed onto the left shoulder blade.

“Behind that — is his heart,” I think and slide underneath his elbow, on the left.  For a bit, we run side by side:  A perfect fit.

“I got somethin’ to lose, so I gotta move,” Kanye begins grunting into my brain, scratching off the last mildew of the departed lover with his perfect teeth.  The African drumbeat kicks in.  I start leaping.

Who knows just how long I’ve been running:  I am not watching the distance markers.  They’ll only psych me out.  And I’m:

Just.

Going.

The distance.

It’s all in the mind. I have heard a fellow female runner state that once.  The game is all in the mind.  So, I rein mine in:  Don’t judge other humans, and don’t compete!  This thing — is in the very doing of it:  You against you.  And if you do it for the love of you — you’ll go far, and longer.

This City has taught me that.

(But, um, how long have I been running?  Anybody knows?)

(To Be Continued.)

“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!”

“Don’t Need That Money When You Look Like That: Do Ya, Honey?”

You girls in sensual summer dresses:

You forever rob me of the reluctant negotiation with my parting sleep; and every morning, you remind me that beauty — is always worth waking up to.

I just saw one of you, from behind the opened shades of my bedroom window, walking your dog along my sleepy street.  It is still that lovely hour of the morning before Angelinos, obliged to obey their hideous parking regulations, start crawling out of their beds to grumpily tend to their vehicles.  The traffic has not wound up the common vibration of annoyance in this city’s air.  Not yet.  The sounds of perpetual Los Angeles constructions and Mexican leaf-blowers are yet to jolt us all with reminders of other people’s harder jobs and more strenuous existences.  The ice-cream man:  He knows better than to taunt my neighborhood’s children with his tunes, because the adults have not finished resting yet.  Not yet.  And the laughter and the thrilled yelps of those same children splashing around in blown-up pools in their asphalted backyards have not lightened my forehead from frowning.  Not yet.

But you, my curvaceous messenger of beauty — you are already doing your part.  Clothed in a single layer of a red-and-white halter top cotton dress, you are, if not teasing, then politely suggesting for my eyes to remain open.

And you are, most certainly, worth waking up to!

Your hair clipped-up into a romantic disarray on the back of your head is revealing a neck that could resurrect Modigliani from his own eternal sleep.  And oh no!  Your back’s porcelain skin should not be exposed to the already aggressive summer rays and equally aggressive elements from perpetual Los Angeles constructions and Mexican leaf-blowers.  But I am surely grateful for it:  That skin is so evenly white that the bleached sheets on the old Armenian’s clothesline at a nearby cottage fade in comparison, when you pass them.  The high waist of your frock ends somewhere around your diaphragm, glueing and undoing its seams at your every breath.  And the skirt balancing on your hips, like the starched Easter dresses on tiny baby-girls with frilly ankle socks, ends at a diplomatic distance beneath your behind.  It’s long enough to warn me about your boundaries, but short enough to question my own.

Or, you, the spunky creature of last night, who served me and my partner with sushi and and all-you-can-feast of your healthy bod peaking from underneath the littlelest of the Little Black Dresses I’ve ever seen.  I myself have been living in a body of an athlete; because with age, there surely must come more perfection.  I’ve insisted on it!  I’ve had to upgrade!  So, I’ve peeled on the tight muscles of my calves and biceps; doubled the size of my thighs and demanded some upright dignity from my back ‘n’ spine.  But on you, physical activity sits with ease and a little bit of a give.  You are still all woman, unless you are the young girl — the teenage waitress on roller blades with a summer gig at a vintage diner — when you slide past our booth and make either silly or nonchalant faces that make me whack the table with my giant ring and scream out, every time:

“I love her!”

You stick your silly-lovely-nonchalant face back into our booth and quickly tap me with:  “Settle down there, buster!”

Your joy, your youth, your hysterical ambition (for, surely, you got here to dream a little better, and maybe even to better belong) — they are contagious to the rest of us.  That includes the blonde, aging waitress who could so easily be bitter and crass, had you not started the outright obnoxious Karaoke to the Madonna mix blasting above our heads.  And the unhappy woman in a coupling squished against the wall would much rather complain about the iciness of her iced tea or the rawness her raw salmon, had it not been for the series of your familiar leans against her table while doing your job with flying colors:  She’s got nothing on you; nothing on your joy, your youth, or your hysterical ambition!  The lonesome Japanese chef forced to work on a national holiday could probably be disgruntled, or stoic, in the least.  But you have cracked enough jokes with him — and a couple of bottles of Jamaican beer — that to him, to all of us, this is suddenly the perfect coordinate for a celebration.

And the boho-chic brunette shifting the hangers on the outside clothing rack of a Berkeley-esque boutique store:  Is that a striped feather in your hair, or an earring?  And is that a toe ring sparkling in between the leather straps of your Athenian sandals, or a fallen down star?  And how is this long, thick-belted skirt, long enough for you to throw over your bent arm — how is it constructed so perfectly for your mixture of Zooey Deschanel and the young Kate Winslet?  Or is it all — just another layer, your second skin?

The Caribbean import in a lavender slip-on who, like me, didn’t think twice about throwing on a bra:  For it is so bloody hot around here, tonight and always!  You are so perfect in your skin, glistening from the balmy night, that when you pass me, I pay you a compliment, up front:  just to thank you for letting me stare at you as if I myself were thinking you up on a canvas.  And thank you, by the by, for the self-assured smile you pay me back — just another detail of you-ness to splash with my brush, once I take you home.

You lovely creatures of my half of the race:

You heal and restore, nurture the resigned and the reluctant back to the living. You give without knowing, leave behind without minding.  You resurrect, inspire, even if with a promise that is never meant to be kept.

You lovely girls in sensual summer dresses:  Yet again, this morning — and always! — you are worth waking up to!

This Is a Man’s World. This Is a Man’s World. But…

“You’ve gone completely boy crazy!” a former male lover scolded me last night.  “Even I would make a better lesbian than you these days!”

Yah.  Maybe.

But then, excuse me… ahem:  What’s that part called?  That part on a man’s lower torso, right at his hip joints?  That V of a muscle cave that slides under the wide band of his underwear and down to his crotch, like an arrow commanding for a yield?

Don’t get me wrong:  I adore women.  Worship them.  To me, there is no higher aesthetic — no better divinity to obey — than the curves of the female nude.  And the way they are all soft, malleable to the touch, each one entering the space like a foaming wave, with its indistinguishable yet very detailed aromas:  It makes you want to grab a pen or a brush, or an empty sheet of music.  Suddenly, you wish for talents that just aren’t in your nature.  You want to name things about a woman; but so busy is your mind soaking her up, so breathlessly humbled you are when she soaks you — you fear wasting a single minute on letting the mind depart in search of the right words and, god forbid (Shiva forbid!), lose her.

I watched a boy do that to me the other night.  LA-LA was still in its San Franciscan mood — something he “did NOT sign-up for!” when he moved here six months ago — but as I shivered in the fog, hiding behind my frizzy hair and wrapping myself in the wide bottom of my gypsy skirt on a very San Franciscan street of my neighborhood, he couldn’t stop talking.  Name that tune!  Name that perfume!  Name it!

“I’ve never seen a purple skirt like this before — this much purple!”

“What exactly is the color of that feather earring peeking through your hair?”

“That’s one unusual jacket!”

The darling boy-child was overwhelmed:

“You are…” — he kept saying, then lingering for the next big adjective he could remember from his undergrad.

But they don’t teach you the swagger of a man back in college:  How to approach the unpredictable nature of a woman; how to size her up, then seize her with the exact words she’s been dying to hear since the beginning of her sex.  When and how to touch her, how to hold her down without crushing or offending; without letting her slip down and in between your fingers.  Where to tap.  Which buttons to push.  How to make her breathless or wild.  How to unleash her humidities, to let her want to soak you.  How to make her stay.

So, my dear boy-child struggled, visibly; working overtime to memorize and to decipher — to possibly impress — not even knowing that by the mere choosing of him that night, I already found him enough.

“You are…” — and he searched my face, my collar bone and the modest canyon between my breasts with those dark eyes he’d inherited from the other hemisphere, while unconsciously chewing on his lower lip.  (I could make a meal of that thing!)

But while he lingered, I too found myself devouring his youth.  The long-sleeved, slate-gray henley shirt with just the two top buttons undone clung to his shapely chest; and all I could do to keep myself from reaching across the table was to rewrap my shivering body in “this much purple” of a skirt.  I could see the swelling of his pecs underneath, and I suspected that the tautness and the give of him was a testament to his youth and regiment.  He was still in the midst of figuring out his own shape, his style — of coming into his own; but it would take a love affair with a woman — a woman with an experience for pushing his buttons — to learn about how this whole thing he’d inherited worked.

And he stood so tall!  (I love that, about men.  The way they can hold their ground, with all that body mass; some with a very laid-back grace, others — with an adorable apology for taking-up so much space.)  When the boy-child walked me home that night, I measured myself up against him, and while still shivering, took the liberty of figuring out how I could fit into his side, for the first time ever.  I looked for my nook — an intimate invasion along the body of a man I have not yet explored.  This way?  Or maybe, if I put my head here and catch my hand on his back pocket?  Or, can I push my hip against his upper thigh and balance in his stride?  While I adjusted and nudged; moved, shifted, and held onto, my hand slid along his lower stomach.  I rested there, studied it:

Excuse me, but… ahem:  What’s this part called?  This part — this V — on a man’s lower torso, right at his hip joints?  This groove leading to my life-long addiction?

But then again, this is the very first chapter of my life in which such open admiration of his kind has started.  I’ve begun to admire men’s shapes, not just conquer them.  I’ve started examining their skin, like some curious continents, with histories I no longer flippantly dismiss due to my own anger, or angst, or pride.

“Where is this scar from?”

“This beauty mark, above your lip:  How long have you had it?”

Name that tune!  Name that scent!  Name it!

I find them funny, charming and intense; childlike — wonderful! — with having to give me what my worship of women cannot.  Suddenly, in the company of men, I’ve begun to rest.  Because for the very first time, they are — enough:  Good enough and then some.  They are enough, for me — yet so differently magnificent! — especially when they are sufficient, in their own skin.

But, still.  Ahem…  What IS that part called?  That part, on a man’s lower torso, running parallel to his hip joints, but then detouring to heaven?  What IS — that V?  Name it.