hate

“I hate you,” I said, before I could stop myself. “Do you, Lola?” he asked me. “Of course I do! I hate you so much I feel my pulse rise when I look at you and my stomach tightens and – ” I looked down at my arm “and the hairs on my arms stand up, and – ” I bit my lip. He came over to me and looked at my arm, turning it slightly in the light. I don’t have much arm hair and what I do have is thin and blonde and not really visible. But it felt like it stood up, visible or no. He sat down and smiled faintly, and I noticed for the first time that he’s beginning to get lines around his eyes, not smile creases or crinkles but fine little lines. Wrinkles.

And suddenly he looked old, and tired, and lonely.

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for sale

“I’m not for sale,” I said, feeling as if I were turned upside down, standing on my head, and maybe also blind. “Never met a woman that said she was,” he replied, matter of fact, no venom. “But everyone has a price.”

“I don’t.” He was watching me, sizing me up, as it were, and he was holding a very important file. If I don’t say what he wants me to, right this moment, he will close that manila file upon itself and the papers inside will be shut up as securely as if they were buried fathoms below ground. And what will become of me. He closed the file. “What will become of me?” I asked, not intentionally but unable to keep the question unspoken. “I don’t know,” he said, smiling. I thought he looked slightly smug.

In the time since then I’ve relived the moment, and whenever I find myself back there, standing in the shadow of my own skin, I tell myself I would have made a different decision. I should have tried to broker peace. I should have – I could have – in retrospect, it’s a little too facile to point out the flaws.

And besides I know – despite knowing the outcome, despite the carnage that followed – I would always do the same thing, no matter how many times I could theoretically click my heels and return to that decision. I would always turn on my heel and walk out of that office, head spinning and blood roaring in my ears. It was as assured a decision as walking into a freight train – and probably as fair of a fight.

My dignity will be scant comfort one day, I know, if I have no more home. What will I do – or as I asked him, what will become of me?

face

“I’m fine, really,” I assured him. He eyed me. “Look, I have all the papers you requested. We can get to work right away. At least on a plan of action. Do you have the list of questions I told you to work on for me?” He was still eyeing me. “What’s wrong with your face, Lola? Your mouth looks weird.”
I was horrified before I even knew why I was horrified. I guess what’s wrong with your face is just something it’s never good to hear – I mean, it’s rather indicative of disaster, isn’t it? My brain immediately rushed through several possibilities – dry skin? a pimple! hives? not hives – a mosquito bite? Havana scratched me? I turned to his assistant. “What do I – do I have something?”

She narrowed her eyes at me, tilted her head, pursed her lips. “You kind of look like you just had a stroke.”

I don’t think she likes me.

mono + legal

There was a stack of papers waiting for me: contracts that the parents had signed. The words ‘legally bound’ came to mind – but so did the word ‘mono.’

By the time I had read the contracts I had also finished the entire pot of coffee (no cream, no sugar) and, although my hands were shaking and I knew that the euphoria would last no longer than ten minutes I still felt that there was no legality beyond my grasp. I outlined a plan of action on a sticky note, sketching rapidly all possible outcomes into a flow chart.

When I woke up three hours later the sticky note was in my hand and the pen was semi-adhered to my face.

But really on the whole I think it’s almost over – the mono, that is.

mocking turtle

I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing. I thought briefly of Scarlett O’Hara but dismissed the thought as engendering drama – or at least not being adverse to it.

I’m going to see him today. What does it mean? Well, I knew I would have to see him eventually – legally, at least. Before your thought-trains go past points which bear recalling, you probably haven’t been in this situation before. I never said, after all, that I would see him ‘in court’ – I only said legally.

Eventually I’ll get to the point that I won’t need him, but – golly gee whiz! – that seems like ages from now.

My voice doesn’t sound like my own voice when I speak and my writing doesn’t feel like me. I feel like the mocking turtle in Alice in Wonderland, infinitely disconnected and always at a loss.

hemorrhoids vs. misery

I write less when I’m happy. There’s a moral in that, isn’t there? Something trite and digestible about the misery of artists being the fuel of greatness, something all the aunts and coffee mugs in the world will tell you in their warmest, throatiest voices.

And then I remember that I’m never happy, which isn’t the same as never being cheerful. If I could solve my problems by complaining about, oh, I don’t know – what have I heard lately? Lazy husbands, high-strung wives, dirty cracker-eating children who leave crumbs, dogs that drool, bum knees and sport injuries and bunions – then I would.

Although one mother who walked in the door and told me “Humidity makes my hemorrhoids worse,” in lieu of greeting continues to puzzle me. Did she think I’d agree? I wasn’t even legal drinking age.