Everything he says sounds like the right thing, I thought, up to my elbows in sudsy water. I thought of his face. He looks earnest when he’s talking to me. I guess he just looks earnest all the time. I guess . . . I need more coffee. It’s the afternoon, I don’t need coffee. I’ll just be up until 4 again.
I don’t know why it’s 4 – the magic hour when I suddenly fall asleep no matter what.
Late night/early morning is the loneliest time imaginable to be awake. Sometimes I feel like the last person alive, and I wonder how many other people are feeling like that, like me, just like me, and are only a few yards away.
“Do you remember when you were successful?” she asked me, turning her face to look at my hair separately out of each eye. I looked at the ceiling. Sometimes it’s easier to disappear with my eyes open, I thought. “Of course I do,” I whispered back, eternally obligated to answer even when I felt like turning over, wrapping myself in my fluffy cotton blanket and kicking her off the bed with my legs.
They’re strong enough to do it, too, even if I never could make them.
I was always told that women who had indiscriminate sex would get labeled and spoken of with malicious winks. Labeled ‘whore’ and – you know all the epithets. As for the women I’ve heard about mentioned that way, I never felt one way or another towards them: I didn’t know them.
I don’t think about people or things I don’t know.
(Do you know where this drift is headed? Maybe you do.) I always assumed that as a preschool teacher who doesn’t wear makeup and doesn’t even know how to flirt I would be firmly relegated to the land of ‘women who are never talked about one way or another’. Sometimes I’d watch a movie with a really sexy woman in it and think Wow! It must be kind of amazing to be sexy. She looks as different from me as a pheasant does from, I don’t know – a mailbox. But that was it. I wish I could say I don’t think about my looks because I am awesome, but really it’s just that I’m surviving. I feel like some sort of arctic explorer jumping from one ill-advised melting floe to another and trying not to count the cost.
I think every time I don’t sleep with a guy he calls me a whore.
I felt the wall move against my back, and I realized that whatever I’ve ever felt, I’d never felt the peculiar stab of finding out that people are literally talking about me, like some kind of nightmare of whispers and dismissive glances. I hugged my knees and felt myself folding up inwardly and outwardly, like human origami.
I think of this blog too often. What I can write, what I can’t. I find myself thinking of it in the shower, water running over my face and into my eyes and my mind is absentmindedly turning it over and over, no I shouldn’t say that, I’ll give myself away. That bit’s too tragic. I lean over, let the water run over the nape of my neck. But is it bad to write so much? It’s writing, after all, not vodka.
But look, here I am in the shower scrubbing my poor damn hair in scalding water (the trauma of the sink is unforgettable) and I’m thinking of talking to my blog, and I’m going to write down what I’m thinking right now. I’m caught in an echo of my own world, I thought, gasping for air a little and shutting off the water.
Suddenly I thought the self-eulogizing youth in Puerto Rican tenement halls and I smiled through my flat wet hair.
He came in and directly lay down on the floor. I didn’t see it – I was making pancakes in the cafeteria, when Amelia came running to get me, mouth open but no sound coming out, and I immediately turned off the stove. “He’s on – lying on the ground,” she stammered, eyes wild. And then I was running, because I didn’t know who ‘he’ was and I assumed that ‘ground’ meant outside the school, and that someone had fallen ill.
Then I saw him, Paco, lying on the floor, arms folded behind his head. “That’s a new rug,” I said, eyes narrowing and feeling a wave of nausea, and relief. “Amish,” he said, eyes closed behind his sunglasses.Why are you such a douchebag? I thought. Why the hell does this fall to me? Why are you on the ground? What will anyone say if anyone were to walk in the door right now, you stupid long-legged spider? What will the director do – “
Suddenly I noticed the rest of the staff behind me, watching. “He’s hungover,” said Amelia, impressed. “Get back to work,” I snapped, realizing with horror that the children were unattended. “The kids are alone if you’re all here! What the hell is wrong with you?!” I heard my voice sound harsh and hollow. That’s better than showing the panic I feel.
“I don’t know why everyone talks about your hair,” Marina’s new assistant told me. “It isn’t really that thick.” I nodded, fascinated by the salon’s backlog of Japanese magazines. “Sure. Lots of hairs are thicker.” She pulled it taut. “Like, all my cousins have thicker hair than this,”
“Okay,” I said, because I didn’t know what else to say. “It isn’t really that shiny, is it?” She asked, frowning behind her glasses. I shrugged. “Maybe, um, not?”
“No it isn’t shiny. And it isn’t thick. Or long. Like everyone in this salon was all ‘Oh look at Lola’s hair,’ and I was all ‘You think that’s good? You haven’t seen much hair.’ ”
I wish I could say that I said something to her, that I didn’t just stare with widened eyes for a second, shocked, thinking I am not misinterpreting this, am I? I am pretty sure that I am not misinterpreting this and that there are a limited number of interpretations and I think I’m getting the point. But all I did was look down at the magazine, while my mind turned itself on its tail, and everyone I told the story to scolded me and told me what I should have said, should have done. Didn’t do.