Sunday, December 6, 2009

somebody in new york loves you

(transcribed from cocktail napkins)

it's one am somewhere in the east village on a sunday night and I've been walking aimlessly since my movie let out in the upper west side, despite the screaming protests from my tender bunion addled feet. I've been on them since eight when I woke up for my brunch shift, scrunched in a quasi-fetal position on my midget sized couch that is too large to be a love seat but not quite sufficient to allow a normally sized adult human to convalesce in a comfortable fashion. less relaxing still was the realization that my blanket was actually my winter coat, in a final desperate act to keep from freezing to death in the basement a la the Little Match Girl after using my bedding to improvise a method for soaking up the flood from a freak plumbing disaster the night before.

I reluctantly lumbered to the doorframe of the bathroom and observed what I had earnestly hoped was a dream, which in unreality, would have been much more comical. around 5 hours earlier I had returned to my apartment from a successfully executed girl's night on the town at my favorite local watering hole and though the memory was vaguely shrouded in a jovial whiskey mist, I recall that I was guffawing at some crack that alida had made regarding the possibility of latent lesbianism. I tossed my red tresses back in gleeful abandon, carelessly allowing my butt trajectory to be thrown off course, which caused it to make contact with the lid rather than the seat, which clattered violently into the holding tank, which then proceeded to shatter. it only took me a moment to stop laughing (and peeing) as to my absolute horror, I watched as a tidal wave of water erupted from behind me that shot across the floor in an ominous unbridled overflow. I shrieked at a decibel that made rufus flatten his ears to his head and make a squeak of confusion and alida turned to see me aghast with my pants around my ankles, horrifiedly watching the domestic disaster unfolding before my eyes.

"what did you do?!"

"fuck! FUCK! the toilet... exploded!"

"I see that, but how in the hell did you manage--"


consumed by panic, I crouched by the tank as the water continued to rush forth, and I scanned my mental rolodex for any information that might be relevant to rescuing myself from drowning in the basement. lifting a bus off of a baby, sure. frying an egg in an orange rind in the woods, fine. I'd never anticipated the notion that I would ever have the need to employ plumbing expertise. alida was behind me propping up my soggy mattress and throwing bedding in front of the rapidly expanding flood like she was sandbagging in a hurricane, and a few moments later I found the valve behind the bowl that was my redemptory killswitch. I panted and sighed in disbelief as I pulled my jeans back up, and observed rufus sitting on a textbook for html tutorials that was floating in the kitchen, flicking his tail in the puddle disinterestedly.

admittedly, the whole ordeal seemed strangely apropos. I feel like I've been managing various shitsplosions just in the nick of time in more ways than the unlikely accidental smashing of my porcelain throne. sunday night found me in an introspective mood that would lend itself perfectly to a long walk followed by an even longer writing session, so I did just that. I toured the glistening gunmetal streets of the lower east side, lit by hanging christmas garlands on every block, each littered also with skeletons of busted umbrellas that rolled like metal tumbleweeds into garbage heaps, spokes poking obscenely through crumpled canopies like broken bones through skin. for a few minutes, I saw no one at all, and I mused to myself whether or not I'd possibly come across the one block in manhattan that sleeps when I noticed the dimly lit door of a speakeasy looking place in alphabet city. I'd found my spot.

naturally, I generally try and limit my activity in bars to revelry and shenanigans, but tonight was meant to be between a pen and I in a place where no one could ever find me. I picked the far end of the bar in a position where I could see most everything, but almost no one could see me, partially obscured by the jukebox in a shadowy corner of a village dive. when I was so deeply engrossed in my scribbles that I practically had my nose to the paper, a waifish wisp of a blonde girl slid unctuously onto the barstool next to me and asked in a husky, implacable thick accent, "have you ever written on an airplane puke bag?"

I was shaken from my trance and I looked at her, as her large caramel eyes peered at me inquisitively. she was disarming as she was tiny, and she focused her doe-like gaze on me as the folds of her long grey cashmere sweater settled around her in a notably elegant manner. her beauty was undeniable but subtle, with an almost elven quality to it that was accented by the tips of her ears poking slightly through her long golden hair.

"no, actually, I haven't." I smiled. "I've written on a lot of other weird shit, though."

"what are you writing?"

"honestly? it's nothing of terrible consequence."

"sure." she said, curling her lip coyly, unconvinced.

"I'm writing about how I broke my toilet."

"what are you really writing?"


she paused, unsatisfied with my answer, and then replied, "you're fucked up, aren't you?" I shrugged, bristling into slight self consciousness, unsure of how to respond to the query without having opened up with even the lightest conventional formalities.

"it's okay, you can tell me. I'm fucked up, too. how'd you break your toilet?"

"I'm a klutz."

"ah. you think you're fat, don't you?"

"no... that's not quite it."

"you can tell me. is it a boy? it's amazing, these things strangers can say to each other in bars. don't you think?" she had the effortless and soothing temperament of a traveling gypsy queen and her wiles were dangerously attuned. "your heart must be broken, I've seen that look in the eyes of others... let me tell you a story," she went on and I anticipated her confession, "once, I mailed a puke bag break up letter."

"oh? to whom?"

"an african man that I was in love with. it was written on the plane back to costa rica, and I hope that it never arrived. when I was twenty-two I'd gotten unexpectedly pregnant by him and we were going to get married, but I had a miscarriage when I was dancing at our wedding, and we just couldn't survive the strain. when I left him I moved to new york. it's funny, you see, the most tragic things in life always end up leading to shaping your life into what it was meant to be, and it's for the better."

"wow. that hardly compares to my toilet story, I don't know if I can follow up with that now."

"you're not fat." she said, putting her small, dainty hand on my thigh. it was childlike and genuine, and suddenly I wanted to hug her.


"listen," she went on, chewing on the straw of her vodka soda, "you can't take yourself too seriously. some people will say you're not sensitive enough. you know what I say to that?"


"sometimes your clit's too big, and sometimes it's too small. you just have to have faith that someone out there has the right touch."

the bartender, a surly man in red with a mammoth goatee, had begun to eavesdrop and raised a pint glass to cheers to her whimsical meme.

"here here!" she said. "simpatico!" as she lowered her arm her sweater fell askew and exposed a small scripted tattoo below a rising sun on the top of her wrist.

"what's it mean?"

"funny you should ask about this; perfect example. I thought it would be so cool to get my tattoo in arabic, despite the fact that I don't speak the language and have no tie to the culture. I thought it would be thoughtful to have a saying on my wrist that everybody knows, in writing not many could understand. I thought it said, 'this too shall pass' for a year until a tunisian classmate of mine pointed to it and asked me what 'that too shall pass' meant. figures, no? forever in my skin is a grammatical error, the thanks I get for trying to be too cool."

"you could always get it covered up to say 'this clit shall pass'."

she laughed melodically and slipped me a cocktail napkin with her name and address on it in swirling script. "promise you'll send me a puke bag someday."

"next time I fly."

with that, she gracefully lowered herself off of the stool and left me to my stack of napkins in the shadows, and the scruffy bartender who looked on with piqued interest.

I raised the empty glass of melting ice I'd been absentmindedly clutching and spoke up again, "you know how natalie portman does this thing where her tongue hits the back of her front teeth when she smiles very sincerely?"

"course." he said.

"I fall in love with her a little bit, every time."


lydiaw said...

so good.

sarah said...

you are lovely.

cassandra said...

so so good. don't ever stop writing!

Manjari said...

I have a collection of puke bags covered in writing from over the years. No joke.

Kylie said...

Very moving.

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