Posts Tagged ‘oh to possibilities’

the ground beneath her feet.

6 May 2009

i met her for lunch at a mexican restaurant near her house. it was the first time i’d seen her since i spent the night four days previously. that morning i’d been awakened briefly by a loud noise before drifting back to sleep, ruling that she had knocked over a hair dryer or similar device in the bathroom and that i had nothing to worry about but catching some more zzz’s.

i woke up again with her sitting on the edge of the bed looking confused and speaking sporadically, as if she were uncomfortable with the english language. i pieced together her false starts and mumbled phrases, repeating questions until i got an intelligible answer, eventually deciphering that she had had a seizure in the hallway, hitting her head when she fell. she suffered a concussion as a result. the rest of the day was spent in the hospital undergoing a battery of neurological tests.

she had never experienced anything like this before, and, as a consequence, i wasn’t sure how to approach her. i ended up taking the less tactful route. over a plate of arroz con pollo which was still too hot to touch, i began listing the hockey players whose careers ended prematurely as a result of too many hits to the head, some who had enjoyed a few very productive years before crisscrossing over the middle, puck on the blade of their stick, with their head down; others who had such promise, high draft picks who never even made it to the national hockey league because of a jarring blow to the head.

the outcome of her tests was largely inconclusive, but, at any rate, the doctors told her that it was nothing to worry about. her fall was an isolated incident that likely would never be repeated. i told her to proceed cautiously, warning her that science was imperfect, uncertain, and perplexing. she laughed nervously as i continued, comparing a concussion to an earthquake (i had read a book by salman rushdie where he had made a similar connection between strokes in the heart and earthquakes, so i figured i was in safe territory, speaking about facts, albeit cold and hard ones).

i said an earthquake, even minor rumblings that do not cause much damage, leaves a mark on the earth, rendering it forever vulnerable. once hit, the potential for another strike remains tucked away, promising to return with more devastating force. i took a sip of horchata, a milky-looking drink made from ground rice, almonds, and cinnamon, hoping that the pause would tone down my message, making it more palatable, less a doomsday prediction than a concerned friend who often gets carried away once he begins with a theory or a joke. all i knew is that i could not stop yet, before i had finished my analogy and united the two events based on this conceived similarity.

your head is the same way, you know? sure, everyone is telling you that you’ve escaped unscathed and you need not change your life in any way, but buried somewhere in your brain or skull or spinal cord (i told her i wasn’t sure which option since i’m not a surgeon) there was a tiny indelible imprint containing the scribbled details of the occurrence, sort of like microfiche. one night she would fall asleep, tucked into a warm bed, calm and whole, only to wake up the next morning bewildered and unsure of how she had arrived in the hallway. some part, an echo of her past, would be missing, like california drifting off into the pacific ocean.

i repeated the last line about california again for impact and partly because i liked the sound of it and was starting to have fun. we asked the waitress to box our remaining food, then walked back to her car, with me acknowledging that i had not delivered the motivational message i had envisioned. my only hope was that she had forgotten most of it as she was still foggy from the fall (that is, if she were a hockey player, she would have to sit out a few more games while her concentration returned and the headaches subsided).

maybe she would only recall that a guy who once treated her to lunch talked passionately about earthquakes and athletes while she ate.


a cautionary tale about cougars.

23 April 2009

(the following was printed in the fall 2009 issue of stir magazine and represents the first time i received payment for a piece of writing)

this is how they do it:

they make some benign comment about men their own age. for instance, in passing, she’ll mention the high-ranking executive with whom she’s recently broken up and how at dinner he once told her she’d look better with more makeup. before you have time to respond, she’ll emit a sound of disgust and say that he lacked spunk and wasn’t spontaneous enough for her.

it’s difficult to look at someone close to your mom’s age and tell her, straight out, that it’s her fault she remains single. you want to suggest that maybe if she tried applying some foundation to brighten her skin and subtle eyeshadow to emphasize her eyes, which, admittedly, are really nice, her problems would disappear; perhaps men her age become more rigid because she meets them for dinner with hair disheveled. it’s not as if you believe in anachronistic roles for men and women, you just think it’s polite to look like you put effort into dressing up when you’re eating an expensive meal with someone whom you are affectionate toward. for now you’ll conceal your values and reply with a knowing nod that betrays your youth and tell her that you think she looks fine just the way she is (and, anyway, it’s true).

look at this from another angle though. for a moment, take the view that the woman who is asking you about her appearance is not only close to your mom’s age but is hypersexual. suddenly you’re no longer merely giving her relationship advice. instead you’re playing an awkward game of cat and mouse where the mouse (you) is blind and the cat’s house smells like cheese (i know, it’s a terrible comparison and worse simile, but work with me on this).

by day, she works as a physician or lawyer or widow with inherited fortunes (she’ll let you know which is the case as soon as you begin talking with her), but at night she wears as a dress a piece of clothing that was originally sold as a shirt. it’s extremely form fitting and features a combination of writing about dark subjects, with cyrillic thrown in for good measure, and images, including at least one of the following: hawks, swords, religious iconography, or skulls. she talks quickly, with a kind of chirping cadence, in order to confuse you and appear much younger than her years. in short, she is on the prowl.

i’ll tell you that all older women do not look like demi moore. but, then again, you yourself are no ashton kutcher, even if you did once bring a picture of him in to your hairstylist. maybe you’re still intrigued. as is said, appearances are not always what they seem. for instance, maybe you don’t realize that two of the toes on mr. kutcher’s left foot are fused together (yeah, i read an unauthorized biography, but not because i’m obsessed with him or anything).

i’m still going to attempt to dissaude you from continuing when she denounces men her age, not because i necessarily think persuing her is a bad idea, but, more so, because i like assuming the role of the voice of reason. in the future, simply tell her to keep putting herself out there, sooner or later she’ll find someone who can match her spontaneity and overall lust for life. it’s not you, though, so excuse yourself and walk away. do not, under any circumstances, stick around as she tells you she lives in the same building as your friend and then suggests that you knock on her door the next time you visit.

whatever you do, don’t joke with her. she has no time for humor. don’t tell her that one of the biggest draws of your friend’s apartment is that he has a drum set and ask if hers has similar amenities.

she’ll smile, the wrinkles around her mouth and eyes resembling a map of tributaries leading into the mississippi river, oh, so you’re looking for something to bang.

causes of teen pregnancy.

20 January 2009

i’m dismayed by the fact that many convenience stores are placing condoms behind the counter or otherwise cordoning them off from the consumer. obviously the extra security does little to dissaude me from purchasing, but it’s not hard to imagine a young girl, already worrying that she will be labeled dirty for having sex, choosing to remain unprotected rather than face the added stress of conversing with everyone in the store about her body.

there exists this idea, whether perpetuated by customer or clerk, that items one buys together have to be used in that manner. sure, a cart containing spaghetti, tomato sauce, mushrooms, and one pound of beef will always generate a comment about tonight’s dinner, but handing the cashier a carton of eggs and a bag of apples doesn’t mean we’re preparing fruit omelets later. certainly, then, there can exist some detachment in regards to association.

condoms are not afforded the same respite though. if you don’t believe me, bring a pornographic magazine, pregnancy test, and box of condoms to the register. bring any two things — condoms and razor blades, condoms and bananas, condoms and diapers, condoms and duct tape. on one level you want to buy something else to deflect attention to the condoms, on another, that practice only further emphasizes the condoms in your hand.

we are embarrassed because, for some reason, we think the person behind the counter is going to be judgmental, even though we are having sex in a comforting environment while they are restricting patrons from purchasing cough syrup under fluorescent lighting. why not make the transaction fun then? joke about the big night you’ve planned. flank the condoms with a couple bottles of wine.

on a recent trip to the pharmacy, i notified an associate to unlock the case. a younger man motioned to an older woman, directing her to help. which ones do you need, honey? in shock, i replied, magnums…ob-vi-ous-ly. from behind me, an elderly black man, sitting beside his wife and waiting for his prescription, began to laugh. i turned, pointing at him, he knows what i’m talking about.

i proceeded to the cashier, on whose face happiness reigned, as she spoke with a woman and her two small girls. she waved excitedly until the family had exited through the sliding doors. then it was my turn. her expression completely changed, as if a stopper had been pulled and her spirit instantly drained, as i handed her the black-and-gold box. she spoke in a robotic, rehearsed manner, asking if i had one of their discount cards, giving the total, bye.

next time i would tell her that she is the reason so many teenaged girls get pregnant, but i bought a twelve pack, so it’s unlikely she’ll still work there by the time i polish off the entire box.

arrectores pilorum.

30 September 2008

the first time i met her, slightly over six years ago, we went to an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant in manhattan that was recommend to her by devin ratray, buzz mccallister from the home alone movies. during dinner she threw a piece of nigiri at me, which landed in a little dish of soy sauce, splattering on my arm and clothes.

now we were sitting across from each other, at woodfire grill in atlanta, working through the three-course chef’s tasting with wine pairings accompanying each course. many things had changed since that first meal, the most welcome change being her use of conversation rather than thrown food to fill silences. before the meal, our sommelier, whom we wanted to take home with us so he could pair everything in our lives, told us he had opened a lot of great bottles and he was going to have fun with us. he was knowledgeable and beautifully verbose: describing an area in spain, for instance, he rambled about how the soil couldn’t really be considered soil, it was more like rock, grapes grown from rocks. the wine produced there, which was served to us with a wild arctic char tartare, was reminiscent of mineral water, bubbly and sort of gritty. he gave us a stubby bottle of beer with a smoked bacon, wild mushroom, and onion ragout with cornmeal fried okra and a cayenne pepper sauce. this was him, he repeated, having fun with us, as the beer paired well with the saltiness of the dish. rose wine was poured to accompany a taste of figs and goat cheese, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. the main course, a wood-grilled pork-leg filet, was accompanied by a wine with a strong buttery finish. it was served with bubble and squeak (cabbage and potatoes, fried together) and squash puree. we were told by our server that the dessert, sweet potato panna cotta with candied walnuts and marshmallow sauce, was poised to win an award for best dessert. there was a newspaper food critic dining near us.

one always expects something like lobster to taste wonderful, but it’s fascinating when something as simple as, say, squash puree can completely change the way you think about, well, squash puree. there’s another atlanta restaurant, watershed, that has altered the way i think about chicken salad sandwiches, and, quite possibly, the world. their recipe contains golden raisins, pignolias (we’ve been over this before), and white truffle oil.

it’s also nice when this happens with people. obviously, i understand, before going out with the smartest person in the world (not this guy), my intelligence will be matched, and when i meet up with the most beautiful person in the world (regardless of people magazine’s views, definitely not this girl), i know i’ll be greeted by my equal in the looks department. yes, i realize, i am about to compare a girl with whom i had a wonderful dinner to squash puree in human form, but i think that’s fitting. later that night, via text message, i tell a friend who has been depressed and contemplating suicide that this is why we push against the sometimes debilitating sadness, because maybe wading through life is worth it when you’re confronted by one of its surprises. maybe you even find something, some food or some person, that continually surprises you. these you try to keep near you.

my sister is my chaperone.

3 September 2008

for most of the last month my sister has been trying to set me up with one of her friends, and, in turn, trying to set up one of her friends with me. we exchanged a few text messages that first day we became aware of each other’s existences and we’ve since added each other on myspace, but tonight we finally meet with, in an awkward but not unwelcome twist, my sister as chaperone.

via text message my sister insisted that we should go out because i’d make a good wingman. i told her straight out that i play second fiddle to no one but i would of course let all the attractive boys know that i am her brother and i will not interfere in their dalliances. she, for her part, told me that she would let all the attractive girls know that i’m not gay. although i do appreciate her watching out for me in that respect since it is a constant problem, i let her know that i’d be fine. after all, the girls would be aware of which way i lean, even if by lean i mean an almost imperceptibly slight shift to one side, when i was removing their panties later.

fast forward to tonight then when i meet a girl who previously has known of my family only through my sister. my sister has urged me to wear a shirt with a skull on it. when i pressed further as to why, she explained that her friend’s former boyfriend was a tattoo artist, then she changed her mind, perhaps realizing why this other guy was former, saying that i should just be myself.

at any rate, i’m going to let my parents know not to bother waking me up in the morning if there’s a bra hanging on the doorknob.

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