It Hardly Matters

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I just hid from some trick-or-treaters. I was sitting on my bed watching Oprah and underlining the funniest bits of a David Sedaris story with my green pen, when the doorbell rang. I leapt up, rolled the plastic blinds shut, and ran to the back porch clutching my pack of Parliaments, hoping the goblin or Elmo on the front stoop didn't see me.

Before you call me a horrible, child-hating, unfestive, soulless cretan, let me say that I'm a girl, and I'm home alone. And I live in Brooklyn. Which means that day or night, if my doorbell rings and I'm not expecting someone, an electric bolt of fear runs through my body. It's a sensation similar to the pre-wretch shiver I experienced every hour for the three days following the plate of bad Thai shrimp I ate two Easters ago. Cause: Doorbell yelps. Effect: I freeze, and weigh my options. Should I climb to the top of my closet and retrieve the illegal taser my male friend FedExed me this summer, after my roommate was mugged in our doorway? Slowly reach for my phone and dial 9, then 1, then wait for a reason to press 1 again? Run to the kitchen, grab a steak knife, and run out the back door screaming? In the case of fight or flight, I fly. I flee.

After my cigarette, I figured I better prepare for the doorbell ringing again. I put on my new coat, walked down my dark hallway (lights of any kind only encourage them), and headed to Fine Wine and Liquors. Outside, I navigated through mini Minnie Mouses, kids in street clothes and skeleton masks, parents fishing through orange plastic bags for razor blades, fairy wands tucked under their armpits, clowns on skateboards, and hipsters that were either dressed up or just wearing their regular clothes. Fine Wines and Liquors was brightly lit and contained a basenji, a wine salesman, and two scruffy employees eating soup from large to-go containers.

"We're out of candy," the wine salesman droned in between his pitch. Dejected, whatever little ghost or surgeon had tramped up the steps turned back toward his or her bored-looking parent and yelled, "They don't have no candy!" I handed Scruffy #1 my $20 and walked out. The sun had almost completely set.

Now I'm sitting in my dark apartment, trapped. I just remembered that I have a bunch of Dum Dums in a candy dish on one of the side tables in the living room. But it's too late now; the Elmos have given way to the big kids, the ones with no costumes except menace. I'm getting egged, I know it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


I just wrote for four hours. I feel like my head was squashed by a large truck. But I feel good. I'm learning to just sit my ass down and write. A lot. Dialogue is a new thing for me, and, working with it now, I'm realizing how essential it is. It provides a moment of rest from the relentless paragraphs. It lends a quality of the real to the piece. I can't believe I just wrote "a quality of the real." I guess grad school is worth the price of tuition.

My backpack that I swore I wouldn't carry to school is breaking because it has been repeatedly packed too full with a laptop, plugs and chargers, a notebook, my phone, and a million books. Now I have to pay the Russian shoe guy five dollars to fix it. Can I write that off?

I'm in love with being back in school. It's my new boyfriend. It makes me think, gets me out of the house, makes me feel like I'm on fire. It gives me a reason to jump out of bed at 8 AM and a reason to go to sleep reading Alice Munro stories. It gives me compliments. For the first time, I can't imagine the relationship ending. But of course, it will, in 17 months. And I'm already depressed about it.

I like asking my writer friend Katie if she's "on campus." I like swiping my ID at the copy machine in the library and seeing that it says I have 494 copies left for the semester. I like copying the liner notes of by Delta blues CDs I have to listen to for my History of Jazz class. I have a girl crush on my workshop professor.

I even like that I hate an aging beauty queen numbskull that somehow got into the same program as me and sits in my workshop class exclaiming "In this piece, the city is also a character!" about every goddamn story we read. If she's the only negative thing about school, I can live with it. Little does she know (for she hardly knows anything), I'm already thinking of her as a character in one of my stories. That's how I'll get my revenge (palms rubbing together, eyebrows raised, the evil writer chick--me--rears her power-thirsty head). I just knew that her first story was going to be about the Holocaust or something. Oh wait, I'm sorry, it's about September 11th. I'm serious. How dare she.

Enough of her. Anyone know of any good student discounts in the Tri-State Area? My loans are dwindling and I may have to make collages out of Brooklyn Lager bottlecaps and New Yorker poem fragments for Christmas gifts. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Way, Jose

Last night, after being a bitch to my newest friend because she was 30 minutes late to meet me outside the Brooklyn Lyceum, I saw God. I just said that for effect. What I really saw was Jose Gonzalez dressed in monochromatic navy blue perched on a chair in the middle of a spare stage playing the bejesus out of his acoustic guitar. And singing.

He looks like a potential terrorist, or a parking lot attendant, or both. Before he opens his mouth, before you hear it, you might imagine that he is on a watch list somewhere. With his cheap, dusty black shoes, close dark beard, and downward glances like a bashful deer, he is a poster child for unjust subway platform searches conducted by first-year policemen in spanky new uniforms, guns tingling on their hips.

But he's not a terrorist. He's a musician, and he's amazing. Katie and I repeated that word--amazing!--so much that it became meaningless. Fingerpicked notes fell to the ground like crisp leaves on asphalt. When he hit the low E string, it sounded like all of the instruments in an orchestra burst out together, coming in at the exact moment of crisis, lending weight to his spare, wistful songs. His voice was a cross between Medicine Head and Christopher Cross, if Christopher Cross had never sung a pop song and grew up steeped in the Delta blues.

The more he played and sang, the more my bitchiness melted away. Jose had mesmerized me, and everyone, but a guilty panic was threatening to squirm in and ruin everything. I felt guilty for being annoyed earlier--which is annoying. I looked at Katie, legs curled on the floor below where I was sitting at an uncomfortable angle on a partially-hidden guitar amp. She looked up, and smiled. We were still friends. It was amazing.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Make Out

We’re on the deck, my startling Brooklyn deck. I'm giving him a tour: my landlady lives there, the morning glories are there. Then he talks. I nod and laugh.

After ten minutes of this, I figure he’s either gay or scared shitless. If it takes him more than ten minutes to kiss a girl lit up with white wine and moonlight, he might as well be both. And a space alien.

There have been other men on this porch. Ones who have wanted to kiss me but wouldn’t dare, ones who kissed me across state lines from their girlfriends or wives, ones who kissed me once but never kissed me again. They all sat in my plastic white deck chairs. One even feng shui-ed the place by moving the circular table to the corner with more sun. I moved it back after he left.

I tried to plant things on the deck, once. An Easter package arrived from my suburban mother containing seed packets and small rust-colored pots. I was supposed to loose soil from tightly-packed disks with a table fork, water, and wait. Oh how I waited.

Weeds grow, though, freely, fearlessly, from a shallow Chinese porcelain pot my roommate’s boyfriend bought when he lived with us. One morning I came outside and the weeds were two feet tall, fed fat by the May rainfall, fed tall by the delicious spring sun. I ripped them out with a metal spatula, then washed it in scalding water so I could flip my pancakes.

The sky is clear and the moon blindingly full. He’s still talking but I can’t make out the words. I can’t make out, period.