Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Posts tagged ‘pickles’

The Pickle Story

picklestoryAN EXCERPT from a short story published in the anthology, Robot Hearts. (A woman performs the Heimlich Maneuver and goes out on a date with the man she saved.)

This month has been hard.  My clients are doing the usual two-week ramp up before the Christmas holidays.  They talk about their parties, hangovers, family brouhahas, and impulsive sexual escapades.  The entire month makes me want to act out with them. So I did.

My holiday escapade began when I made an awkward phone call to the man from synagogue that went something like this:

“Hello.  I’m the woman from Friday night services.”

“Oh, I didn’t think you would call.”

“Well, it was sweet of you to come out to my car and say thank you.”

“It was amazing how far the ruggelah flew.”

“Yes. The rabbi was surprised.”

I tapped my fingers. Reconnected with my eye twitch. Good bloody grief.  I cut to the chase.  “What do you think about dinner?”

“I like dinner,” he said.

“You had suggested we go to dinner.”

“Oh yes, I forgot.”

“What kind of food do you like?” I asked.

“Oh most things.  Hamburgers, meatloaf, chicken soup, ice cream.”

I had a moment – a long moment of wondering, “Is this worth it?” I decided to carry on.

“Do you know Mitch’s Tavern?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Well.  I know Mitch and he can make some great chilli and sandwiches but not hamburgers.”

“I don’t like spicy food.”

“What, never mind. When are you thinking?” I said.

“What?”

“Do you have a date, a time in mind?”

“No.  Do you?”

“How about Tuesday?”

“Okay.”

“So we have the date?”

“Good.  I’ll be there,” he said.

“Good.  But what time?”

“After work.”

“Okay, let’s pull this together.  Tuesday at 7 pm at Mitch’s Tavern?”

“How will I know you?”

“I’m the one who saved your life.”

“Oh yeah.  Short, skinny, red hair, but God you were strong.”

“Looking forward to it,” I said.

I was sitting at the bar, talking with Mitch, the owner when a series of clunks echoed up the gloomy staircase.  David clomped his way over. “It’s good to see you getting out,” said Mitch and winked before strolling off.

A cute, college waitress showed us to our booth.  She smiled in first date sympathy as she handed over the menus.

“I’ll give you a few minutes to figure out your order.  What would you like to drink?”

“Knob Creek. A few ice cubes.”

David’s eyebrows shot up into his hairline.

“Budweiser.”

I smiled at him. He did not smile back.

“You’re prettier than I remembered.”

“Thanks.  It must be the lighting.”

We studied our menus like college students cramming that last little factoid before a history exam.

The waitress appeared with my bourbon, two waters, and his beer.  “Mitch said it’s on the house.  What would you like to eat?”

“A Rueben with fries,” I said.

“Ham and cheese.  Hold the pickle.  I don’t eat pickles,” he said.

“I’ll eat your pickle.  No, no wait.  I won’t eat your pickle.  Well not tonight.  Maybe later.  Another time?  NO.  Keep your pickle.  Not that there’s anything wrong with your pickle.  I’m sure it’s a perfectly fine pickle, just not a pickle for me tonight.  No, no pickle for me.  I gave them up.  All that brine has got to bad for the mucous membranes.”  I sputtered, feeling this deep pull in my belly.  A spasm, a fit, a seizure, a visceral understanding of the absurdity of the situation.  I started to laugh.  Really laugh like I hadn’t in a long time.  The waitress and I were rolling, wiping tears out of our eyes.  The table shook with us.  She had to sit down.  I offered her my bourbon.

David locked eyes with me.  His gaze suggested I had disemboweled his dog.  The waitress moved away.  The table was cocooned in a judgmental silence.

Dinner was fast.  We politely shook hands.  David walked away.  I went back to Mitch’s Tavern.  The waitress and I stayed up late drinking bourbon and trading war stories.  We decided to just walk away the next time someone chokes.

Lying face up on my bed sifting through the night’s events, I watched the first apricot rays of dawn dance across the floor.  Rod would have understood the pickle story.  He would have fed me the pickle, spending our last twenty bucks to buy bourbons for the four of us (me, him, the waitress, Mitch).  He would have made crude remarks for years about green vegetables.  The pickle fiasco would have become a little tease, a pickle tickle about the connection between sex and love and laughter, another little curlicue in our goofy love story.

 

Avenue of the Pickles

greentrees

I have been thinking a little, okay a lot, about love lately.

Who gets love? According to Janis Ian, “Love is meant for beauty queens/and high school girls with clear skinned smiles” … well that knocks me out of the picture. I’m not even close to young with wrinkles and acne. My smile is lopsided.

Why do we fall into love? I think this might be a question for the biochemists – scientists charting pheromones, hormones, and genetic markers. And for the real estate agents chanting, ‘location, location, location.’

How do we fall out of love? I have come to the conclusion that someone always leaves, by death or by choice. Harsh but … the truth.

Could I buy some love if I had a stupendously large limit on my VISA? Would PayPal guarantee it? Maybe I could rent love for a night or a weekend. I’m not sure I want to use my expendable income in this manner.

Okay, so maybe I haven’t figured out too much. I’m a middle-aged love neophyte.

But then I was driving down the AVENUE OF THE PICKLES. What? You don’t know the AVENUE OF THE PICKLES. C’est une catastrophe! (That’s French, the so-called language of love.)

Every holiday season, an outdoor shopping center nearby outlines their trees in lights. Until five years ago, the lights were green. In combination with the shape of the trees, the green lights made an avenue of pickles standing on edge. High in the sparkling trees, speakers blare out holiday songs.

When my husband was alive, we would laugh with joy and excitement over the pickles. The trees with their green lights seemed so incongruent, surreal, and even bizarre in contrast with the stuffy matronly shops they surrounded. In amazement, we would clasp hands and walk through the shopping center oohing and aching over the PICKLES. Giggling. Too old to be giggling but maybe it was love we were feeling. The odd display reminded us of all the times that we walked together sharing silly times and tragic episodes.

One year, we walked the three miles from our house to our favorite seafood restaurant in the shopping center but without our usual delight in the decorations. It had not been a great year. His work stressors and my dissertation disappointments had forged a silence between us.

During the walk home, I was dry-mouthed with the realization that this was the slippery slope to our love’s end. But looking up at the green lights, the lines of goofy up-ended pickle trees, I had an urge to hold his hand – like I had done in previous years when walking the Avenue of the Pickles. In my heart and my head, my wish to feel love and my Russian peasant fatalism fought each other. After a long, breath-robbing stalemate, I exhaled “Fuck it,” and picked up his hand. He smiled at me. My face wouldn’t move. A flash of insight occurred. This was a man I had loved in the past and I could choose to love him again. This was the choice point. Gulping, big caterpillar tears crawled down my face, I smiled back. Not my biggest or most convincing smile, but still a smile. We walked the three miles home holding hands.

Today, the trees are lit up in green, red, purple, blue, and pink lights. How fantastic. And love inspiring.

While I still don’t know who or why or how we fall in love, I do know that there are easy times when love has a tight hold on us and other times when we must choose to hold tightly to love.

The little squiggles of light-trimmed trees, the crazy histories we make with people, and even language return us to each other. They remind us – we have the choice to love.

Maybe as we collide willy-nilly into the holiday season, we can stop wasting our time on questions of little consequence. Then we can look for all the little signals to choose love and wrap garlands of twinkling lights around our love histories.

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