26 April 2005

Horton gets a desk

One of the things that I love the most about my job is that I am inexplicably surrounded by people who mean what they say and say what they mean. It is the oddest thing.

I am of this stripe as well, you know, and it is so strange to suddenly have been airlifted into The Land of the Responsible. In a non-profit, no less!

As an example: they decided that I should have my own office, with my own desk. I was thrilled. I was also skeptical. They talked about renovating an under-used room, getting me my own computer, switching from dial-up to DLS, giving me my own phone extension. I said, sounds great! (I thought, yeah right!)

Honest to god, two days later I had the plans for my new desk presented to me (it was built in-house), the next day we cleaned out the space, and today I went in and my new desk had magically materialized in its designated spot.

I tell you, I was speechless.

And tomorrow we have an appointment with the computer guy to hook up my new computer and my new phone line.

I mean, my god.

They say they will do things, and then they go ahead and they do them.

Am I dreaming?

I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent.

from Horton Hatches the Egg, by Dr. Suess

23 April 2005

Down there

I have the greatest best friend in the history of best friends, someone I went to college with and who I devoutly hope to share a room in the nursing home with when we are old and feeble. We share very similar backgrounds: we're both New England WASPs, I was brought up deeply Episcopal, her dad is an Episcopal priest, we have similarly old-school Northeastern families that would have once been considered semi-aristocracy, but whom we now refer to as "fallen gentry." So we mock each other endlessly about these shared traits, because that's what best friends do. They mock.

Last night we were talking on the phone and the talk turned to our sex lives. Now, I'm sure most women gab non-stop about their sex lives to their best friends as a matter of course, but here's the thing: when E. and I are in conversation together, our collective WASPiness produces this terrible crushing weight that forbids any frank discussion of sex. I'm happy to talk sex with just about any passing stranger, but E. and I seem to share this sense of proper decorum when it comes to the taboo subjects of WASP-dom: Money and Sex.

It's actually hysterical how we dance around how much money we each make when the topic arises. In both of our cases, it's frighteningly little, but our blue-blood genes will not allow us to name figures and sums, as if we were turn-of-the-century New York moguls in an Edith Wharton novel building competing "cottages" in Newport.

Even more hysterical, though, was how we danced around explicit talk of sex last night. I mean, don't get me wrong, real and deeply secret information was shared and exchanged, but we slipped directly into WASP Code, talking demurely of "down there" and "what girls do" and "that thing". At one point I burst out laughing and rued the fact that we weren't recording this, because we could totally make a mint by copying the recording and selling it to teenaged scions of the fallen gentry in New England as instructional material on How To Simultaneously Be a WASP and Discuss Sex With Your Best Friend in the Whole Entire World.

I mean honestly.

This was not some giggly chat about how often we were getting any -- E. is a lesbian, and I'm bi (although, of course, happily and monogamously married to a guy -- I still get just as many crushes on girls as I do on guys -- and I am deeply into extra-marital crushes), and our conversation topics ranged from the merely silly to the seriously pornographic. (One of my ex-girlfriends is currently a professional dominatrix in San Francisco. Her name came up repeatedly.)

And yet we somehow managed to consistently speak in euphemisms. I don't think a single "blue" word was uttered. And because we are members of the same tribe, we mutually recognized and internally translated each delicate pause, each "er" and "ahem", and each "and, you know..."

E. and I took sign language together when we were in college, and quickly developed our own signs that only we could understand, like we were twins. I think we still have a sort of secret language thing going on. And now I know where I can find a consistent supply of this. Which, you know, thank god.

19 April 2005

There's lemons on sale again

I was shopping today in my favorite overpriced boutique grocery store with the terrific produce and the organic chicken and the phenomenal seafood. I had a basket full of all of the aforementioned items, brought them up to the register, and paid with my handy debit card which finally has some money to back itself up with again. Since the trip to Amsterdam, things, they have been tight.

Then I realized that in order to accomplish my goal of a dinner of littlenecks on the half-shell and skate wing in browned butter, I needed two lemons. So I had the register gal hold on to my bag of purchased booty and hustled back over to the produce section for a fistful of citrus. I was in a hurry, so I spun around to head back to the front, only to run headlong into a tall blond woman with a radiant smile and beautifully expressive hands, walking excitedly toward me, saying, "I know you!!!"


When I moved back here three years ago, probably the first and best person I wanted to run into again was K. She had been, however briefly, my best friend, and she was from one of those quietly well-off and cosmopolitan families that you would never have known their wealth and worldliness from because of their genteel down-to-earth-ness. Also, they were Quakers, and therefore constitutionally modest and unassuming. God, did I love them.

K. and her family took me in the summer of my sixteenth year when my mother had gone off on one of her church-sponsored "mission" trips to build houses in Zimbabwe for two months, incidentally leaving me and my two older brothers alone and unsupervised in the house with Crazy Mary.

Crazy Mary had been our neighbor several years back, and I had been close to her daughter when we were in, like, second grade, when suddenly Mary's mental illness had become apparent, her kids were taken from her, and she was put in the mental penitentiary in Framingham. A few years later she had been released, and had called everyone she had ever known from her life on the Outside to try to find a place to stay.

My mother was the one who said, "It's the Christian thing to do."

So we took her in. For a couple of weeks, which turned into a couple of years, during which she kept us up all night typing away in her bedroom on the first floor, filing suit against anyone and everyone whom she had ever perceived as having slighted her. Including every school district that had ever fired her for roughing up students when she was a substitute teacher, which was every school system that had ever hired her.

See, she was a violent paranoid schizophrenic, after all.

When she had court dates, she was invariably late and they would hold her in contempt, but she just stormed back into the house, railing against the local gang that she swore was equipped with walkie-talkies, who waited to see her leave our driveway so that they could then pull their cars out onto the road and create a deliberate traffic jam, causing her to be late and held in contempt.

See, this is the woman my mother left us alone with while she wielded hammers on the other side of the world.

I continued to feel relatively safe from Mary as long as it was just the rest of the neighborhood that was in on the conspiracy, and that my brothers and I were perceived to be on her side. But I should have known that couldn't last.

One day, I came home during a break in work for some lunch. I wheeled my bike up the front steps and dismounted, then got a distinctly queasy feeling as I heard the muted sounds of frantic raging inside the house. I remember that I just wanted to get my sandwich and go.

I slid open the big oak front door of our crumbling Victorian house and snuck in the living room. Mary was in her room with the door closed, ranting and throwing things around her room (it had been our library -- I pictured her throwing my mother's Philip Roth books against the walls, as Mary was deeply anti-Semitic), so I sped into the kitchen and slapped a peanut butter and jelly sandwich together (this is very important: the bread must be wheat or oat, never white, the peanut butter must be crunchy, and the jelly must not on any account be grape -- definitely raspberry preserves with seeds).

I thought I was home free as I made my way back to the front door through the living room when Mary suddenly erupted from the library with her hair in her face and a knife in her hand.

Man, did I ever run. Fuck the bike. I ran like hell down the street to the main drag where there was a pay phone and called K., who had a car. She picked me up a few minutes later, and made me sort of slightly laugh when she pointed out that I had somehow managed to grab my prized Elfquest comic book on my way out the door. I have no memory of doing that.

Her family let me live with them for the remainder of my mother's stay in Zimbabwe. My brothers stayed at home, with Mary, who had apparently only included me in the conspiracy against her. There were no further incidents between Mary and my brothers, and Mary was sent back to Framingham shortly after my mother returned from Zimbabwe.

So I saw K. again today for the first time since I was 18, when I was only two years past that insane summer. Is it any wonder that the sight of her has filled me with an overwhelming sense of relief and joy and a certainty that all shall now be well?

08 April 2005

The good life

Right now, this moment, things are as they should be. It's my last night off -- ever, I think -- and I am lolling. Man, oh man, am I lolling. I am a state of serious sloth. Mmmmmm... delicious sloth.

I am sitting in front of my computer with my feet up and my black cat on my lap, curled around my left arm as I type this one-handed. I have the Yankees game radio broadcast playing softly in the background, and I'm deeply into Suzyn Waldman replacing Charlie Steiner as John Sterling's sidekick. I really, truly wanted to like Charlie last year, but he seemed constitutionally incapable of saying anything off-handedly, or in anything less than his most stentorian, Voice of God affectation.

"...and the On-Deck Circle... is Being... Swept..."

Suzyn is a refreshingly low-key announcer. She also doesn't annoyingly get basic facts about the game wrong, like the pitch count, or who's on base, or what teams are playing, like Steiner often did.

Really, I wanted him to be good. But he wasn't, and I'm so not in charge around here. Yay Suzyn.

My brilliant husband did the dishes today and vacuumed the floor, so I could concentrate on a pesky bit of editing-for-pay that I had to finish today. After I got this out of the way, I mixed myself a well-deserved martini, lit the four votive candles that I always ceremoniously light when I have a night entirely off and to myself, and even lit some incense to establish the mood as firmly as possible.

Then I had pad thai for dinner.

But tonight... (now I sound like Charlie Steiner) TONIGHT... it is me, and my cat, and the Yankees, and pad thai and candles and a wee dram of vodka.

Why yes, yes, I do know how to live. Thank you for noticing.