Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Posts tagged ‘words’

Elegant Feet: A Story for You

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“I have been told that I have elegant feet,” he said picking her up for their third date.

She had swallowed, tantalized, thinking about those feet. The imagined feet plagued her through the entire night – while he was driving the car, scrounging through the CD store, eating at the upscale restaurant, while playing word games at dinner, and on the drive home to her house. She plotted. “How do I see his feet without actually having sex with him?”

During the drive from her house, he had talked about growing up in Detroit. “The mosquitoes grow big enough to carry away small children.” She had searched the statement for hidden meanings. “Detroit is too dangerous and I left it for Kansas.”

“Oh,” she said dumb with desire for his feet.

“Now political speechwriting keeps me busy. It’s unexpectedly lucrative,” he said parking the car.

She watched him get out of the car – an older man than she usually dated. He had a fastidiously trimmed mustache. Arched eyebrows were neat and all of a length. His spare but well kept hair was gray sliced with youth’s gold.

“Depending on whom I am writing for, I grow, shave, and grow back the mustache,” he said.

He watched her watching him. Mustache, eyebrows and hair suggested light lashes but they were a thick, dark shade framing blue eyes. Startling but still …

They had walked down the street crowded with perfect twenty year olds.

“I was very skinny as a teenager and into my twenties,” he said. “Clothes were a trial.”

Inwardly she smiled at the cleverly chosen clothes covering his tidy body. He wore a comfortably rumpled linen shirt, beige jeans with a handsome leather belt, and a dark fitted blazer. But the clincher for her was the navy blue cloth sneaker with the brown leather stripe mostly hidden in the shoe’s tongue. She was unable to name the color of his thick, ribbed socks. The nondescript color of his socks united the beige jeans and navy sneakers. She concluded that his clothes were well coordinated and deliberately planned to mask the thickening of his body with age. He carried them off with an attractive nonchalance.

Her attention returned to his feet making her silent.

“Your head must get heavy with all that thinking,” he said. When he smiled, the slight padding of fat on his fine English bones made him look a decade younger than his age.

“Yes. Sometimes my hair hurts,” she said with a giggle.

As they continued their stroll, she had been curious about the type and color of his underwear. On the first date, she had taken him for a tightey-whitey kind of guy. Now she wasn’t sure. She thought he might be a hybrid, the type of man who wore the boxer-brief style but in a safe color such as gray or black. Would he be hairy on his stomach, back and groin or would he have the sparse tufts often found on blondes? Would he have freckles? Or moles? What would it matter?

“You may have elegant feet,” she said. “But you have beautiful hands.” Initially, his hands had enthralled her. They were the reason she went out with him the first time. Their hands were the same size. The skin on his hands lay flat and taut lacking the muscular depth of her hands.

“I had wanted to play the piano. Now it is too late to learn.”
“You love music?” she said.
“Yes. I have this good speaker system at home.”
“Oh. What do you listen to?”
“I love to sit between the speakers and listen to the romanticism of Schubert’s songs.”
“Why between the speakers?”
“I don’t know. Maybe better sound quality. The music asks me to sit quietly, very still as the waves of notes pour out. Do you like music?”
“Yes. I grew up in a family of musicians but I was the dancer. My feet always hurt.” She looked away. “I have bad feet.”
“They look perfectly fine to me. They seem to work. We’re walking.”

She fought an urge to cry. “What’s the difference between classical and romantic music?” she asked.
She nodded in attentive silence during his explanation. In awe over his extensive knowledge of music, she was still fixated on his footwear.

“I hear with my cerebral processes,” he said.
“What about your body?”
“It’s superfluous. When I’ve been drinking, I can tap my foot. I don’t dance,” he said.
“Do you think we have the same size feet?” she asked.
“No. I think mine are bigger,” he said with that same smile. She wondered if he would have short Freddy Flintstone toes or if they’d be long and prehensile.

“What do you do with the rest of your body while your mind and head is so active?”
“My body’s useful. It carries around my head,” he said.

She had smiled at the witticism but she was a little confused by the disconnection between his mind and body. It doesn’t make sense, she thought. He is touched to his core by music but his body stays still. She knew she moved her whole body in response to music. Each dancing teacher had said the same thing. “We have to work on your technique, especially your feet, but you’re an unusually lyrical and musically expressive dancer.”

At the CD store, he had gone looking for a vinyl copy of a CD she had played for him on their first date. She left him to wander in search of the more formally structured music she loved. She was struck by the selection of new and used CDs watched over by a young pimply girl in her late teens. The pimples covered her face, neck, chest, back, and upper arms. The scattering of wounds did not appear to upset her in the least. Clad in flip-flops, her feet were flawless – pale skinned, soft, and smooth. The young girl’s disregard for her wounds and her beauty shifted the focus to other factors, such as the proliferation and diversity of music in the store. She watched her date walk up and down the aisles of pressed discs. His feet did a fine job of moving through ankle, arch, and toes.

At the restaurant, he ordered a non-alcoholic beer. She had a lovely Portuguese white wine. “Do you mind me having a glass of wine?”

“No. I’m just tired after raking my yard all day. I don’t want to risk sleepiness driving home after a drink,” he said clicking his non-alcohol to her alcohol.

She fretted over his plans for the evening. She didn’t think he had plans to show her his feet.

Sitting at an outside table, they had shared a Caesar salad that he gallantly dished onto her plate. She move moved a toast point onto his plate after he knocked one off serving her a portion of the salad. Talk was easy and light. His feet remained tucked under the table. She sprawled on her chair. Her naked toes peeked out from under her jeans. Sandals left her feet chilly in the rapidly cooling fall air. His feet stayed under the table. She was sure they were thoughtfully arranged.

When their main course came, she had laughed with delight. Her shrimp were a fragrant pink on their woodland bed of onions, mushrooms, and grits. His tuna was seared brown with a rare red middle. She wiggled her toes in her sandals glancing over at him. He was eating away with a gusto she hoped would be available for other activities. At the dark table, their lone candle created a fuzzy halo for their meal. Arms, mouths, and faces moved towards the food and each other. The bottom halves of their bodies were quietly waiting.

They had walked back to his car, warm with food and talk, carried by their two sets of feet.
“I have something to tell you,” he said.
Looking into his serious face, she held her breath.
“I have peripheral artery disease. I don’t feel much below my knees.”
“And your feet?” she said.
“Not much feeling,” he said shaking his head. “But it has other implications in my life. I want you to understand what you might be choosing in a relationship with me,” he said.

They had stopped walking to turn towards each other. She laughed with recognition and relief. He looked hurt.

“What’s so funny?”

She smiled at him as she told him a story.“I have a friend who was a Buddhist monk. Now he sells used cars. He said, ‘After a while, all cars have issues. So I keep a mechanic on staff and don’t sweat the small stuff.’”

“Small stuff like feet?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she said.
“Do you know any mechanics?”
“No but I know someone who might,” she said laying her head on his shoulder.

They had continued their walk back to the car, fingers intertwined, and their feet in concert.
That night, with much laughter, they showed each other their boo-boos.

“I’ll rub your elegant feet,” she said.
“I’ll brush your heavy hair,” he said.

It was these acts of kindness that started their love. Some days he limps and other days she gets fixated on ideas. In this life, you never know where feet and head will take you.

Love Without Words

earring 2Sometimes words are unnecessary. Such a weird thing for a writer to say. Coming up on Valentine’s Day, I want to remember what it is to be in love, astoundingly, courageously, heart in my mouth, love. When I started thinking about this post, a series of images took flower in my heart, bittersweet, opening my eyes to how lonely life had been for years.

Nineteen years ago, I went to dinner at what was for us, a fancy restaurant. After ten years together, finally finished with my graduate schooling, Rod had scraped together enough money to go for our first Valentine’s Day dinner out.

I was excited, toe-tingling, searching my closet for something pretty to wear, putting on uncomfortable lingerie, excited. After an hour of primping, usually I’m done in 30 minutes, 45 if I have to deal with animals; my hair looked okay, eye make-up subtle, mouth a bright red for the holiday, my husband walked into the bedroom. I thought how happy I was to be married to a man I adored … and who was so handsome. Thick black hair shot through with silver, soft kissable mouth, green eyes lively with intelligence and humor.

Before we left, we stood looking at each other. If there were words, they weren’t memorable. We drove to the restaurant in his beat-up Corvette. For five courses, smiles and eye contact were our form of communication. Words would have muddled the time. Before dessert, Rod reached into his pocket to pull out a box. Without breaking our gaze, he presented the box across the table. Opening the box, I found a pair of garnet earrings bound in silver wire – these from a man who professed a disbelief in gifts. Silently, I put them on. They were small rectangles of a soft red, the color of blood. Plates of berries and cream interrupted our contented sighs. After a final glass of champagne, we tootled the mile back to our house.

Immediately, I felt sick. Running to the bathroom, I vomited raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and cream all over the bathroom. Rod got a pillow for my knees and held my long curly hair out of my face. The projectile berries created quite a firework display covering the bathroom floor, the walls, and me with blotches of red, purple, blue and pink.

Between explosions, I said to Rod, “I’m so sorry. I was excited about the night and now I have a whoopsie tummy.”
He ran towels under water ands started to wipe off my face. Another explosion of berries.
“Not a problem. What an ending to the night,” he said.
“I ruined it,” I said tears mixing with the stains on my face. Caring for me like I was a sick baby, Rod took my clothes off, chucking them in the trash, wiped clean my body with cool towels, and scooped me up.
“You are a mess,” Rod said laying me in the bed.
“Yes, but a mess who loves you with all her heart,” I said.
Rod put a wastebasket by the side of my bed and a washcloth on the nightstand. “Just in case. I’m right here.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too. And you are my mess.”
I took out the earrings to wake up with them still held in my hand.

Less than three weeks later, Rod contracted a virus. His heart bled out.

Maybe this Valentine’s Day, you can use action to show someone how much you love them. Celebrate their foibles, little quirks, and whoopsie tummies. I am going to wear my garnet earrings in remembrance of love.

Un-Cursing Myself

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I said aloud, “I am cursed.”
“Yes,” she said.
“Since Thanksgiving things have sucketh mightily as my family says,” I said after a lousy run of luck over the holidays.

My book came out at a weird time before the holidays. It’s not a typical holiday read (a collection of short stories and/or workbook about breasts – yep people will be delighted to have that under their Christmas tree and/or Hanukah bush). Somehow I think even the pagans will have a difficult time justifying it as a Winter Solstice gift. Definitely not a hostess gift.

For a year, I have been limping through my yoga classes, teaching duties, counseling appointments, and onto stage to read my scribblings. I have a Morton’s neuroma, ganglion growth between the toes, necessitating some combination of painful shots, foot binding reminiscent of the Inquisition, and eventual surgery with an awesome recuperation in an attractive surgical boot.

Then there was the massive brouhaha with the heating/air conditioning/duct work/zoning/dampers replacement. I have heat and more than likely a fractured or chipped ulna. For over a month, I have griped about pain in my arm and numbness in my fingers to the point I can’t hold a cup. Probably happened moving carpet from the attic, down through the hole in the closet, down from the second to the first floor, then out the door across the parking lot to the dumpster.

When I tell people, “My right leg and arm are going to be in either a cast or brace of some sort,” they have not exactly been helpful or maybe I’m touchy.
“I can’t drive with my foot in a surgical boot. I have a manual transmission,” I said.
“Wait. It’s your right foot that’s broken?”
“Yes.”
“Well you can’t drive an automatic either.”
“Yeah. Guess you have a point.”
Notice, he didn’t say, “And honey, I would love to drive you around when you need me.” What are friends for – good times it appears.

This morning I had a difficult time getting up. Stuck like a turtle on my back trying to figure out how to use my left arm to roll onto my right side to hoist myself out of bed. The cat watched for a whiie, meowed, sat on my chest for a minute to scamper down my leg knocking my foot against a book. Fat cat. Great, it feels like I have a collapsed lung, broken arm and great shock waves of pain rolled up from my foot into my hip. Tears, lots of them, not such a great way to start the day.

My yoga classes are composed of breathing exercises and standing poses avoiding anything on the ground and my imitation of a turtle stranded on its back.

I could go on with this laundry list of troubles. My shower has a leak that rivals Niagara Falls. My computer is running hot (I need a better porn site). My office is like the Arctic – luckily I hand out blankets as people come in for sessions. My iPod has developed little lines though it and that can’t be good. My Fiat has a poltergeist – the windshield wipers come on whenever. My plans for New Years collapsed along with my engagement. Yick. If I were a horse, I would shout me.

(You might be wondering how I am writing at the moment. One word – oxycodone. When it wears off, I better be at home, in bed, with the remote in my left hand and my foot up).

In my general clumsiness from the foot, arm, and escalating grumpiness, I knocked over a pile of photos. Trying to clump them together with my left hand and right claw, while swearing with pain, I picked up the photo posted here. My second husband took the picture after years of medications, two chemical menopause episodes and an eviscerating surgery a week earlier. I was ecstatic to be home from the hospital. My hair – on my head, eyebrows, eyelashes, everywhere – had fallen out and was beginning to grow in. I had lost twenty pounds. Had absolutely no make-up on. My first husband was telling anyone who would listen that I had died. I was 29.

My friend took the photo.
“You look like Lyle Lovette here,” she said.
“I can live with that,” I said.
“Good bone structure but not your best picture,” she said.
“I didn’t die and that was all I was asking for,” I said in conclusion.
It was a long recovery. Twenty-five years later, I complain about the little, painful, annoying but not lethal, indignities of living. While mechanics, techies, orthopedists, and a pharmacist would be helpful, mostly, I need this picture.

Throughout this new year, I want to remember – with gratitude – I am not cursed.

Use Your Words

pad-black-and-white Innocently enough, a friend asked if I wanted to hear some bluegrass music. My response was, “Bad bluegrass sounds like a cat being run over by a lawn mower.”

“My, aren’t you the princess of snark?” the friend said.

At which point, I took offense. Snatching my coffee, I moved to another area of the coffee shop.

“Hey, am I the princess of snark?”

People looked down at the stained cement floor, out the caffeine fogged windows, and picked their nails. I narrowed my eyes waiting.

“Okay, when did I become the princess of snark?” I asked.

“I’m not saying you are or anything but it probably happened over the last ten years.”

“Ten years. What the fuck happened at least ten years ago?”

Wrangling with that question kept me at odds with the world until I realized, I stopped using my words after my husband died.

Using words started out as the way I lived an interfaith marriage. The ethics and sweetness of my Jewish heritage, taken for granted at times but overall ingrained, in bone, twirled through my molecules, needed the practice of atonement during New Year, the period from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur.

Each Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Rod had little interest in attending services or fasting. Feeling ambivalent about services at synagogue – a double helix of ritualistic pleasure and dyslexic fumbling – we started another tradition.

Every Yom Kippur night, we would go to a special dinner. Order good food and a bottle of wine. Sitting with paper and pens, we would make our individual lists of Nasty Habits and Bad Deeds. Fearfully, we would pass them to each other. Overtime we learned to withhold the little passive-aggressive comments such as,

“I didn’t know you were capable of that much insight,”

“Usually you swim with the minnows in the shallow waters,” or my favorite –

“My haven’t you been busy … duplicitous … mean … manipulative … “

We started to delight in each other’s growth. We made commitments to change one thing. We atoned into nicer, more thoughtful people.

At a point I can’t remember, other people started turning up.

“When’s Yom Kippur this year?”

“But you’re not Jewish.”

“Yes but I want to atone.”

“Really?”

“Yes. It was a bad year.”

“Must have been.”

So friends joined us, wrote their lists, passed around the papers, keeping a flat face when our fears, gossip, and theories were confirmed. To the table, we committed to changing a facet of ourselves feeling vulnerable but connected by our communal confession. Rod would smile and nod. I would sit in wonder. The lists go back to 1987.

When he died, I stopped writing the words that kept me connected to community, kept me honest, held me accountable, and made me go deeper into my humanity. My Russian peasant fatalism had needed to be tempered with Rod’s kinder humanism. I had become the princess of snark.

That is the power of writing. Life can wear us down but writing keeps us honest. It calls bullshit. Words and the process of writing lead us by the hand from the shallows down to the grotesquely beautiful abyss of the self.

So ya’ll, write shit down. All the unacceptable stuff. Everything you want to hide and disown. Find someone or create a small tribe to write with and listen to your words.

Tonight I am going out to hear bluegrass with friends. Friday, Yom Kippur, I write my way into a kinder, gentler princess of snark.

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