Tag Archives: habit

“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.

“Sometimes, It Takes A Thousand Tries To Win: The Wait — Is Ova’!”

When did I decide to become a writer? 

LA-LA is in the midst of a major heat wave, and there isn’t enough air to go around.

I’ve woken up not feeling my own limbs:  The day job got the best of me last night.  Or, it got all of me, seemingly; and suddenly, I remember watching boys on my childhood’s playground torture a daddy longlegs by tearing out one leg at a time from its tiny, silly body.

“A resilient sucker!” they roared at their hideously lopsided creation, as the poor thing continued to make a run for it.  It would crawl sideways, clutching the asphalt with half of its legs.  And if it gained speed, the boys would eliminate another limb.

“Oh, yeah?!  Where are you goin’?”

They fancied themselves as gods already.

The handicap creature would battle with gravity, disoriented by this much loss:  Nature hadn’t prepared it for other people’s cruelty.  But then, it would find its way back to its feet, however many of those there were left.

Six years old, I remember thinking:  “Wouldn’t death be better here?”

I couldn’t stay till the end of the torture:  I ran off, crying.  I always felt way too much!

Telling my mother would’ve been useless, so I calmed myself down by hiding out under the first-story balconies of our building.  It would take a while for the sobbing to subside; but after smearing off the tears and the snot, I sneaked inside the apartment and sat down to write down the story, in my journal.

In the morning, when following motha to spend the entire day in her classroom, I passed the site of the torture.  There was nothing left of it.  No evidence of other people’s cruelty.  Not even a couple of tangled up limbs.

I thought, “It would’ve made for a much better story — if there were.”

This morning, it takes me an hour to get out of bed.  In my mind, I’m negotiating with my schedule, dropping things off the list.  Eventually, I leap up:  I’m gonna be so fucking late!

The legs hit the floor.  They are stiff.  I stumble a little.  Battle with gravity.  Slowly, I walk, clutching the carpet with whatever is left of my feet. The ache in my tiny, silly body is obnoxious and the same two fingers on my right hand remind me of an old injury.

When did I decide to become a writer?

At six years old, I used to dream of being anything else:  a pop-singer, a cosmonaut; or a clown.  The world seemed so small back then, about the size of whatever town we’ve landed in.  We had already begun relocating a lot.  My parents’ vocations would take us all over the continent (which is not much, considering my former Motha’land took up most of it).  And at every new school, on every new playground, I would think up of a new vocation:  a veterinarian, a botanist; or a clown.

At six years old, I began reading.  A lot.  It was the first of my education.  I read as if it were my religion, my painkiller, my prayer for getting better, kinder stories out of life.

I would read to cope with transitions, with all of our new landings.  With other people’s cruelty.  I had already learned about losing friends — to distance or egos. When in pain, I would read in hopes of finding someone else’s stories about the same things I was seeing, feeling.

At six years old, I began traveling.  A lot.  First, by following my parents’ vocations. Considering my former Motha’land took up most of the continent, travel would always be lengthy; and eventually — most certainly — we would be subjected to some drastic circumstances.  I would quickly realize that coping with other people’s cruelty made for much better stories.

At six years old, I would write my first story — for a reader.  At the time, I was taking some calligraphy course to prepare me for the first grade, because unlike other people, I was born to a motha with a perfectionist’s vocation.

“Maybe, I could be a calligrapher,” I thought.  “Or a clown.”

My teacher —  a pretty 18-year old intern from the Teachers’ University — was so impressed with the roundness of my vowels, she asked me what I liked to do, outside of school.

“I read stories,” I mumbled.  I was already in complete awe of her, acquiring my life-long habit of empathizing with other people — by falling in love with them. I must’ve blushed:  I always felt way too much!

“You should write me a story,” she said, and I’m pretty sure she reached over to straighten out my hair tie.

I did.

But first, I would show it to my motha.

“You killed off all of your characters,” she commented at the end, ruining my pages with her wet hands, after peeling potatoes.  “Come help me with the dishes!”

I took the pages back and wiped off my motha’s fingerprints.

“Wouldn’t death be better here?” I thought.

The pretty intern would never get to see my story.  I avoided her, for the rest of the course.  And every time, I would leave her classroom feeling heartbroken that she wouldn’t ask me to write for her again.  And sometimes, I would cry under the first-story balconies of our building.

Because I always felt way too much — and often, I was finding myself alone in it.

I would continue changing my mind about my vocations.  Eventually, I would try a few.

And I would continue traveling.  A lot.  On my own.

And I continued to read, in hopes of finding someone else’s stories about the same things I was seeing and feeling.  And to avoid finding myself alone, I began writing down my own stories.

So, when did I decide to become a writer?  

I didn’t.  I’ve never decided to become one.  I just became.

Or, rather:  I am still becoming.

“The Blues Is My Business — And Business Is Good.”

What’s this nauseating feeling looming in the pit of my stomach?  That time of the month?  Or maybe I should just lay off the coffee.

Back in Manhattan, I used to live on that shit.  Now, I limit myself to three cups a day.  On a good day.  Nights don’t count:  Nights keep their own count.

Sometimes, I forget to eat, too — a habit of my student days that hasn’t dissipated despite the new habit, of my non-student days, for daily running whenever my anxiety strikes.  Back in the student days, I could just call up a lover and get tangled up in that mess.  Not now though.  Now:  I just run, for miles.

And, oh, I could run for miles, right now!

But first:  Must have some coffee.

Or maybe I should lay off the coffee.  I hear it invokes anxiety.

Anxiety.  Ah, that.  It looms in the pit of my stomach, and it’s sickening:  this battle of mind over matter.

I lie down on the floor.  I should meditate, I think; or count some fucking sheep.  Whatever it takes to get rid of this anxiety thing, looming in the pit of my stomach.

And coffee:  I should definitely lay off that shit.

There is some drilling happening somewhere in close proximity; and because it’s been hot enough this week to sleep with all the windows slid wide open (come on in, thieves and ghosts!), the sound has awoken me, long before I was ready to get up and do my thing again.

What IS my thing, by the way?

Well, it starts — with making coffee.

Which I do.  I get up from the floor and stare at the drip.

“thinking, the courage it took to get out of bed each morning

to face the same things

over and over

was 

enormous.”

Bukowski.  That old, ugly dog was the bravest of them all, never whoring himself out to academia, yet always producing the words, despite being ridden with vices, not the least of each was the endless heartache of compassion.  And he knew a thing or two about clocking-in every day, at some maddening day job for a number of decades, then over his unpublished papers, at night.

Because nights keep their own count.  And days — are mostly spent with some nauseating anxiety looming in the pit of the stomach.

“and there is nothing

that will put a person

more in touch 

with the realities

than

an 8 hour job.”

But he would do that, until the day job was no longer necessary — and the papers were finally published.  And after that happened, did the nausea vamoose for good?  Poof!  Or did he continue drowning it in liquor, exhausting it on the tracks or in between the thighs of his lover-broads; then getting up for the grind all over again, in the morning?

I stare at the drip as if it’s going to give me some answers.  It reminds me of sitting by the life-support machine and staring at a sack of some gooey, transparent liquid — but not transparent enough to give me some fucking answers.

The pot’s half full.  I think I’m supposed to wait for the whole thing to finish, or it ruins it.  It interrupts the process.  Fuck it.  I pour myself a cup — I interrupt — and take it back to the floor.  I lie down.

Maybe I should count some fucking sheep, I think.  Or get me some poetry.  It has put me to sleep last night, with all the windows slid wide open.  Because the fucking sheep refused to be counted, at night.

And because nights keep their own count.

I take a sip of coffee and close my eyes.  Open them:  The drilling has started up again.  I haven’t even noticed the silence.  I put down the pen, the Bukowski.   Start listening to the drill.

It reminds me of my never made dental appointment for a check-up.  A check-up?  What the hell do I need a check-up for?  Just to see how much damage life has done to my enamel — with all that coffee — the timid receptionist called Lisa quietly explains, in so many words.  She is always kind, whimpering her messages into my answering machine like a cornered-in mouse.

Goodness.  Thank goodness — for kindness.

I should meditate, I think, after all.  I take a sip, close my eyes.

Whatever happened to that girl, I wonder, remembering a colleague gloriously succeeding somewhere in this town.  I had known her for years by now, but haven’t seen her for half of those.  We began to lose touch, two of my lovers ago, after a row of coffee dates were meant to be broken.  Eventually, the colleague and I forgot whose turn it was to make plans for the next date, to choose the next coffee shop.  It must be a self-protective thing with her, I realize.  She is successful:  It’s hard for her to relate.

Oh well, I think.  I’ll just keep in touch by overhearing some good news, on her behalf; and keep drinking my coffee alone, outside of coffee shops.

But then, I bet she too gets up to the grind, every morning.  She too must feel the looming nausea in the pit of her stomach until she forces herself to meditate.

Because after years and years of getting up to do my thing, I realize that it pretty much summons success.   

Success is simply getting up again.

But then again, there must be more to it.  Certainly, there must be more to life — than getting up.

I get up, take my coffee with me.  The drilling has stopped.  I stare outside through the windows slid wide open.

“I listen and the City of the Angels

listens:  she’s had a hard row.”

I remember:  I’ve got to start the work.  Because isn’t it what I’ve gotten up for?

I pour myself another cup.  I begin.

But what’s this nausea looming in the pit of my stomach?

“the impossibility of being human

all too human

this breathing

in and out

out and in

these punks

these cowards

these champions

these mad dogs of glory

moving this little bit of light toward

us

impossibly.”

I take another sip.  I continue.

The nausea begins to vamoose, giving room to the acidity of my coffee, incorrectly brewed; interrupted.

“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.

“Don’t Need No Hateration, Holleration: Holla, Holla, Holla!”

How about:  I start with gratitude?

There are days when the ego wakes up early on me, and like a petulant child nagging his mother for junk food in line at a supermarket, it gets going before I decide to open my eyes and admit to the start of a new day:

“But, but, but…” it whines, throws fits and manipulates itself into more convenient emotions — the junk food for the human spirit:

–  Contempt:  That one always promises to be easier; but so obvious its wastefulness, I haven’t tried my hand at it — EVER!

–  Anger:  A real dilettante, claiming its expertise when leading to solutions; but then, it always runs out of air on me, long before the finish line.  Oh, but it has tempted me enough times to have learned my lesson, by now; so, I don’t follow its lead.

–  Expectation of justice:  I might as well resign to never allow another human to affect me, because such an expectation — is a moot point, fo’ sure; and it certainly cannot be an objective in any of my actions.

–  Self-pity:  I’m altogether allergic to that sucker, so I haven’t seen its face around here, for ages.  Same goes for jealousy:  In my universe, it’s a leper I prefer to keep at ten-foot distance.

But take this morning:  I woke up tired.

“First of all:  I am tired.  I am true of heart!

And also:  You are tired.  You’re true of heart!” *

So, that must be a starting point, for most of us.  A common ground, eh? Perhaps, that is why many prefer to be in love; for in those glorious beginnings of an affair, it gives you reasons to get up.  Exhaustion does not seem to matter.

(The work?  The work surely comes later.  The ghosts come out to play:

“Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man…”

The patterns play hide-and-go-seek for a while; but when the lovers lose their libido at trying to impress each other, the hidden qualities crawl out:

“You’re it!”

So, in comes the work.)

But take this morning:  I woke up tired — and not in love, with another.  For a while, I tossed my exhausted limbs in bed and dismissed the temptations of the ego to start weaving its through-line for this new day.  I checked the phone:  No visible commitments.  Where to start, I thought.

How about:  I start with gratitude?  

So, I got up, mostly out of habit, got the coffee going.  The first obvious choice of action — was to clear the space.  I’m in control of it, this year — my space; but even that takes some discipline.  Because I no longer can blame any outer — or inner — clutter on my bunkmate.  My space equals my freedom equals my problem.  My responsibility.

“It’s a question of discipline.  When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet.” **

And so, I did that, mostly out of habit, but secretly letting the faces of my beloveds slip into my memory.  Perhaps, they were in the things that I shifted around my space.  These things either tended to originate from all my loves or to lead me back to them, in unpredictable ways:

There was that one, on the furthest coast, who mattered the most — she was heard from, yesternight:  She always justified my love.  My brothers, scattered all over the continent because they are that much restless of a kind — they all came forth throughout the last few days.  The lovelies in this city, where, for whatever reason, it’s much easier to get distracted:  They too made their adoration for me audible.

And then, there was a boy:  A boy from last night, who with his youth and beauty, insisted that even though I was tired — I was true of heart:

“I thought you were really cool,” he said, sitting underneath a yellow light on the floor of his hallway.  “But I didn’t know you’d be so different.”

(He would later make me laugh, make me lighter; tease me, teach me; make me sit still — underneath the yellow light, on the floor of his hallway — while respecting my tiredness.  He was not a love.  Not yet.  But oh, so lovely he was, in this city where, for whatever reason, it’s so much easier to get distracted.  Perhaps, it was the late hour of the night…  (Or was it the early hour of the morning?  I never know the difference.)  Perhaps it was the late hour of the night, but the mutual ghosts did not come to play:

“Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man…”

But I was already too tired and true of heart — too wise, beyond my years — to not notice the patterns peeking out their turned-up noses from underneath the door of his apartment.)

But take this morning:  I woke up tired, not in love with another, but slowly, seemingly in love — with so many.  I continued to shift things around, organizing the space, getting ready to do my daily work.  Slowly, the sleepiness evaporated.  The exhaustion — suddenly didn’t matter.

I was loved, I thought, or at least adored — by many.  And they were all so magnificent:  These hearts, equally tired and true, searching for something just a little better than survival.  And whenever they chose to remember me, they gave me reasons to get up.  My tribe.  My comrades.  My witnesses.  My better selves.  They made me matter, rebuilding me every single time I was too tired to start a new day:

“You are fabulous creatures, each and every one.

And I bless you:  More Life.

The Great Work Begins.” ***

With the space cleared, it was time — to do the daily work.

“But where do I start?” I thought.

How about:  I start with gratitude?

 

*  Dave Eggers, A Heart Breaking Work of Staggering Genius.

**  Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince.

***  Tony Kusher, Angels in America.  Part Two:  Perestroika.

“Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On!”

the best of you

I like more than you think.

the others don’t count

Charles Bukowski, One for the Shoeshine Man

“Do you know which word you say the most?” he said.

“Oh here we go,” I thought.  “Another one, trying so hard.  SO hard!  Why can’t he just let me be?”

But he didn’t wait for my answer:  “Grateful!” he said.

I hummed, surprised: I guess I’ve never learned how to receive a compliment.  

I’ve always had the skill to listen, you bet cha; and to admire them, pro bono.  And over the years, after enough cynicism (which I camouflage with my wit), I’ve even learned to rebut their self-serving inquiries, with unexpected grace.

So, when they say:  “So, what do you do for a living?”  

I read:  “I need a shortcut to your character.”

They hear my accent and too quickly spit out:  “Do you like it better here or over there?”  (Some even dare to over-enunciate.)

This one, I’ve learned to back-up with a comedic routine because no one wants to sit through my nostalgia or watch the ruins of an immigrant’s life.  They want me to be “grateful”.

“How old are you?” they say; then startle themselves, linger to recover and quickly add, “…if I may ask?”

For years, I’ve watched other women get coquettish or cutely offended by that question, some acting more sincerely than others.  And I would often lose my own hard-on, on behalf of the poor suckers who still had to shag them, eventually.  And I’ve tried that coquettish act myself:  It reminded me of waiting for my motha in Soviet hair salons while trying on lice-infected wigs.  Contagious — but what a fucking act!  And how boring!  

So, I always tell them my age instead — straight out, hard! — because whether it’s enough or not enough, it has most likely already been determined.  Or, it’s in the works.

No matter how habitual, how well-practiced their routine, when they look at me for the first time, there is a glimmer of curiosity.  Perhaps, they are relieved that they don’t have to hide their gazes any more (or their hard-ons):  They’ve already spoken, so they’ve gone beyond creepy.  So, they soak me up, scanning my modest endowments.  Some lick their lips.  Others just smile like 7-year-olds in love with their preschool teachers.  (Oh, you darling darlings:  How I adore you!)

And before they begin comparing me to others — for I know no man who hasn’t been changed by “that one woman” — I let them look.  I revel in it.  

Oh, how I wish there were a way to have this electricity of the initial attraction last!  To last past the mundane habit of hearing them pee with open bathroom doors; and past their own disappointments in my inabilities to live up to “that one woman”.

And when they look, men tend to need more time.  They don’t have the lightening-speed askance of a woman who scans a suitor while simultaneously going over her own list of prerequisites.

“Check, check, check,” a girl is always thinking.  (Trust me, I know:  I do it all the time.)

But men are not like that.  They either go with their gut or they go with their habit.  Those who are gutsier, will ask you an unusual question:

“Those earrings:  Where are they from?”

Or:  “You aren’t from around here, huh?”

(I prefer for them to be surprising.  Always.  It gives me a hard-on.  Or for me, to be surprisingly interesting — to them.)

The simpler types — God bless ‘em!  Really! — they always speak in quotations; and I often wonder how many back-up choices they’ve already earned on their speed dial that night, with that same routine.  What chaos, I think; but somehow I don’t mind it.  Most likely, they’ll soon get distracted anyway — and let me be.

“If beauty were a minute — you’d be an hour.”  (Oh, c’mon:  Why don’t you mind my laughing at you?)

“I like perfection,” another threatened me recently, while whipping out his phone; because his arrogance must work like a charm on other women.

“Is that why you’re talking to me?” I responded.  (What did I tell ya?  I’ve learned to rebut, you bet cha.  But still, I prefer to be surprised.)

“Are you gonna make me chase you?” another one commented on my impressive stunts in heels; and even though I’d outrun him, sooner or later, he decided to follow me for a long enough to get my number.

“Yep.”  (Don’t you know you aren’t supposed to waste your breath in marathons, buddy?)

But those who stick around for the first date usually tend to take their time figuring me out.  They study me, like an ancient spiritual text, of no particular religion.  They shuffle through universal concepts and bigger theories.

Like that adorable one, catching me off-guard with my own speech tick of “grateful”.  The entire night, he’s been wanting to play the tug-o-war of “You, Me, You, Me.  Me, Again.”  He was young and ambitious, quite contagious and still altruistic.  He was so beautiful to look at, in the way that only the young can be.  And in those moments of his trying so hard to like me — or to be like me; to get the gist of it all, to figure it all out; to stand on his own, but then dive into his empathy head first; to equate me, please me, surprise me; to make me laugh, to make me vulnerable; to get me; to earn me:  I found myself grateful, indeed.

Because I knew better than to hold onto him:  No one lasts.  Or they haven’t lasted so far, and I can’t expect them to.  But I can expect them — to be.  I can let them be, just as they are.  

And because, for a change, someone was letting me be as well, I suddenly felt surprised — at my own magnificence — and I wanted so much to return the favor!  

And yes, I already knew that the electricity of the initial encounter wouldn’t last, but I reveled in it, if only for that night.  But secretly, I began harboring a glimmer of hope that maybe it was my turn — to be “that one woman”.