panda face

Sometimes I stay up too late, writing. I tell myself at least it’s not Facebook and that gives me a righteous few minutes but it is late at night and my face will bear testimony to it tomorrow. And what can I tell my co-workers? “Yeah, stayed up real late. Writing and shit, you know. Real cool stuff.” No, I mean – no.

Ever stay up way too late and look like a panda the next day? I texted Elsa.

Ya. She replied. I waited a moment.

Why? What doing? I asked.

Facebook haha she replied.

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to need a man

“I need a man in my life,” I told Vicki, poking at the green foam in my glass with my straw. Green. Inventive. Her eyes widened. “Oh come on,” I told her, “a guy. You know?”

“You need a man?! Like,” she leaned in closer, “Like your body needs a man? Or like, marriage?”

“Oh my – ” I choked before I could finish. Maybe green was not an indicator of potability. “Is that all that men are good for? I mean, I clarified, I said a ‘guy’, and that’s what I mean – a guy. A friend.” She seemed confused. “To fall in love with slowly?”

“No, when I say a guy I mean just a friend, a dude, a bro. I’m just tired of talking to girls right now.”

“That means me too, doesn’t it?” She frowned. “Did you just drink that whole thing?”

“That’s what I’m talking about! Every time I go out with you and your friends,” I sighed, rephrased. “It just seems whenever I go out with girls I’m told how inadequate I am, we all are, and I’m sick of it because the minute I challenge any of it I’m told I just don’t understand yet, or accused of being anti-girl.”

“What?” She was completely still, watching me.

“I’m tired of hearing about diets, and surgeries, and body modifications, and what this or that article says about when you should biologically reproduce. I don’t want to make the point of my life – why did any of us go to school or do anything other than embroider if it all leads up to this? I don’t want my life to be this one huge search for a ‘wonderful man’ with the right lifestyle it’s just sickening it just . . . My life needs to mean more than a huge diamond one day.”

Vicki looked at me steadily. I was looking down at my folded hands but I could feel her eyes pass over the bridge of my nose, my glasses, the top of my head like a hot searchlight. “You can get a sapphire, you know. They’re beginning to be in style so if you wait to get married it’ll most likely be in vogue by whenever that is. Sapphires are really pretty so you shouldn’t feel badly about not wanting a diamond – ”

“Was there some poisoned well I neglected to drink out of?” I interjected, even though I knew there was no stopping her description of wedding trends.

Or reaching her.

more advice

Why does anyone feel the need to advise me, anyway? Is it because I’m polite? Because they know I’m never going to tell them to get lost, just grit my jaw and look bored and hope that the body language conveys my point.

“Why do you let people burden you with their baggage?” Isolde asked me with a snort. I frowned. “Don’t oink at me – its not something I want happening to me. I’m actually like, kind of torn up about it. Really.” I looked at her feet, propped up on my bench. She looks like a vagabond but the soles of her feet are always clean. “Do you get unsolicited advice?”

“Constantly.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“What do you do about it?”

She sat up and looked at me, annoyed. “I tell them to go fuck themselves.”

“Really?”

“No, not really.” She sighed. “I try to cut them off before they get to the advice part, and if that doesn’t work I try to politely like, hand it off, you know? Like ‘oh that’s nice look at those strawberries’. And if it stilllll doesn’t work I say ‘Well we all have our lives to live, don’t we? And nobody can learn from anyone’s mistakes but her own.’ ”

It actually sounded good to me. “Think I could use that at work?”

“Sure . . . when you want to get super-fired.” She mimed a giant explosion.

in praise of mumbles

I am not always brilliant or well spoken. I think the people that are – it has to be affectation.

Sometimes life is very simple. Sometimes you will be asked very practical questions and to expound upon your answers will leave your audience breathless with annoyance. As in, “Could you go for a hamburger?”

There is no dishonor is answering “Sure,” or even “Could totally go for that,” or some variant with ‘bro’, ‘dude’, or ‘man’.

eekamouse

“What’s that she’s got?”
“Who?”
“Your cat. Havana. What does she . . . it’s a mouse! Oh my God she’s killing it!”
“I don’t have mice,” I sighed. I’m sure it’s just some, you know, thingie.”
“For fuck’s sake Lola I know when I have seen a mouse and I think she’s killing it oh God -”

I picked up Havana, pried the mouse from between her teeth. She squeaked angrily. She squeaks entirely too much; I suspect her miaow mechanism is faulty. “Look, it’s a bow.”
“Bow?”
“The thing you put on presents.”
“Oh. Well. What kind of a cat carries around a bow like that anyway. Like, carrying like it’s live prey kind of carrying it. What’s up with that?”
“Cats who don’t have any – um, many toys. Poor people’s cats.”
“Oh.”

blood

“You look like you’re bleeding,” he told me, suddenly stopping and tilting his head to look at me. “Are you bleeding?”
“No, I’m not bleeding. Now, as far as the non-competitive clause goes – ”
“Are you sure you’re not bleeding?” I shrugged, not in confusion, but defeat. Once he had a thought he would pursue it to its end – whether it was logical or completely fantastical. He had gotten hold of the idea I was bleeding and he was going to – well, he was going to shred the idea as thoroughly as the director’s French Bulldog shreds used tissues.

He looked at my feet. “Is it going to start falling out of you?” I rubbed my face with the back of my hand. “Dude, that doesn’t even make any sense.”
“Alright then, is it collecting somewhere in your internal cavities?”

slope

Sometimes I still wish I could see him. Acting on that wish would be unconscionable, so I don’t think I’ll see him. No one ever runs into anyone else in this town. I don’t know why.

The thing about a married man – and this is when backs stiffen, lips press together, and the most stereotypical of judgmental looks are employed, because every decent American knows that you do not enter into anything with a married man. If it’s a friendship that got complicated, that slid from a very regular, happy place into a murky gray area where the intensity level was far too high – well, it won’t net you any sympathy. It’s a forgone conclusion that you – I – was a bad Lola.

But the thing about an unhappily married man, the thing you will not expect and most definitely have mixed feelings about, is the way in which he makes you the center of his universe. He is sad, after all, and he is just realizing that much of the little things he pinned his self-worth on are nothing more than mile markers, and will not comfort him when he is lost. And then you –

I should say I. Then I, without realizing it, became the thing that made him happy, the sole thing, and he gave me attention and moral support and we shared sandwiches. If there is anything which I can picture as the absolute of two happy people, it’s sharing sandwiches. When I understood what power I held in his life I shivered all over. I don’t like power, not even the word, and most certainly not the implications. I don’t like unhappiness either, and it’s a point of pride that I’ve always been the sort of person my friends know they can call in any sort of duress. By this time we spent so many of our daylight hours together – I was on a sabbatical from the preschool, pursuing another career entirely – that he’d become, in essence, my only friend.

I was halfway down the slope, and as yet had no idea.

marilyn

“I didn’t mean to,” I told her, sitting down at the table and slumping forward, head under arms. “He pushed me and I pushed back – and he shattered.” I sighed. “I can’t say I’m sorry because I had no other recourse at the time, but I can’t say I’m happy with the outcome, either.”

“He was out of control.”

“I know.” I closed my eyes underneath my arms. The world felt muffled. “It was like tit-for-tat but suddenly it was tit-for-armageddon. He said he didn’t care if I left. He said he’d be better off without me anyways. How was I to know he’d . . .” It isn’t like it’s easy to leave when you’re not wanted, either. I kept my spine straight and my chin up but being told how quickly and easily I was going to be replaced – it reduced me to a commodity, an object, a thing.

“That he’d what?” she asked.
“Oh, I was thinking.” I pulled my arms off and stretched.

“You had no way of knowing that he was going to lose his shit over you to the extent he did. God, Lola,” she looked me up and down, “What is it that you do to these men, anyway? It’s like they can’t function if you’re not in their life.” I shrugged slightly. I should feel flattered, right? Look at you, Lola, driving men so very literally mad out of love. Only I feel a hole in my solar plexus because, well –

“And I told her ‘Why the hell would you want that,’ because why would she, right?”
“What? I’m lost – told her what?”
She sighed. “I told her that it isn’t a good goal, to emulate Marilyn Monroe. Why would anyone want that? To be greatly desired is horrible and actually lonely because everyone wants you so much they don’t even see you as a person – I mean, look at you. And you’re no Marilyn.”

I smiled, for the first time that night. “No, I am definitely, definitely not at all a ‘Marilyn’. She was the best at being Marilyn.”

fat oscar

“You’re like Oscar Wilde,” a friend once told me “You haven’t got any family, so there’s nothing to hold you back.” I considered. “Oscar Wilde had a wife. Children too.”

“Okay, not Oscar Wilde – the other one. The fat one.”

“Fat and named Oscar?” I asked.

“Or Duncan. Um, you know. Ate ten avocados at once and an entire ham. Fat bastard. Funny as hell.” I shook my head. I knew of no such Oscar, and said so. Lou was exasperated with me – he insisted I loved this fat Oscar. “You saw that movie of his that time.” I still shrugged. I was beginning to get a headache. “Do you mean John Candy, maybe?”

“No! Huge movie . . . Citizen . . .”

“Oh no, really? ‘Citizen Kane’? Orson Welles?” “Yes! Yeah, that dude – Orson Welles. You could be like him.” He paused for a moment, thought. “Hey, how’d he die, anyway? He’s dead, right?”