Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Of Mice and a Man

Never a dull moment in the downtown apartment… Yesterday morning, 8 a.m.
“Ya’ gotta lotta papers ‘round. Whadya doin?”
“Writing a book, testing recipes,” I say, touching my topknot, firmly tying my kimono robe around my waist. Sip of coffee. I’ve never been comfortable with inquisitive workmen. A stranger—one of 8 million—has just gained entry into my very personal space by virtue of his profession and he feels he can do anything, ask anything. Questions, raised eyebrows, scratching and prying.
“I could write a book.” He adjusts the metal tank of poison strapped to his back.
“Oh, yeah?” Please stop talking, please stop talking…
“Lotta interestin’ thins I seen.” He stops spraying the baseboards, turns, waits. He feels he’s due a reaction.
“Being an exterminator must be fascinating.” Killing cockroaches and red-eyed mice is fine and well (and certainly mildly satisfying—tangible results after a fine day’s work is done). But the real joy, for the voyeur, would come with aforementioned access to private spaces, twisted sheets, piles of dishes with bits of last night’s salmon and chives. Sniff, sniff. Citrus. A gimlet with the evening news?
“Nah, not that.”
Dropping clues, building tension. All right, all right, the exterminator had a story. I’d bite. “Oh no?”
“I exhumed my mother’s body.”
Throw back the last of my coffee—sugar and grounds, sweet and textured—like a shot.
“Yeah, uncle and I did it. We got good and hammered first, I’ll tell ya that. Went out to Jersey and dug up her bones. Don’t trust those cemetery workers. They’d steal her rings and her femur. Want me to spray outside for ants?”

Thursday, June 21, 2007


I plucked their eyebrows. It was my thing, my only thing, the one thing they loved. Arches—haughty French circonflexes—rendered with the utmost care, smooth sweet half moons, serious slashes for the serious eighteen year-old. The line outside my freshman dorm room stretched clear down the grey, linoleum corridor of Richardson Hall out into the common room where Coca-Cola and Mentos and fried pork skins were sold. Well, in my mind anyway. Very Strange Roommate marveled and told me to start charging $5 a brow, we’d split the profits. Who was going to ask for just one brow to be tended to? I wondered.
They came to me before every big dance, banquet or dinner date. Girls that I had ignored or those that had ignored me (inevitably members of the lacrosse team hailing from South Carolina and Virginia) sat on the narrow little bed, lit by my 100 watt desk lamp, next to pictures of my Italian boyfriend, his hand-written letters and recipes, my official rejection letter from Ruth Reichl (kind and concise). They glimpsed what I’d never reveal. And what did I see? Pores, clogged pores, brilliance and light. I’d never have observed any of this at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Crosby Stills & Nash mixer. But if I caught them looking too closely at me? I’d pull a hair beneath the white, virgin skin of the arch, make them tear up a bit. Don’t worry. It was brief and they learned a lesson and they always came back.

Plucked from obscurity. That’s how I look at it. I was a one trick pony but that was enough—more than most people have. I leveraged and I maneuvered and I met all the Alpha girls that way. I never much cared for their cocktail parties and mindless banter but the invites felt good. Meaningless invitations had a way of staving off loneliness—still do.  
A college campus, my New York City… nothing more than big buildings filled with vulnerable people. You can expose them, they can expose you. Garner their respect for one thing, no matter how small, and move on.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Good Day at the Market

Scratch that. It was a perfect day at the market. John Cougar Mellencamp, Willie Nelson and the season’s first heirloom tomatoes made an appearance at yesterday’s Union Square Farmer’s Market. Needless to say, I was more than a little surprised to find Willie, John and Mayor Bloomberg at my favorite produce stand feeling lettuces and crunching on snap peas. If I hadn’t been sweaty and unpresentable in my gym gear, I might have walked straight up to Willy and told him that he and those squeezable, summertime red fruits were always on my mind.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The First

How do you forget the boy who gave you your first cast-iron skillet?