Before there was Grand Central Station,
there was Brooks Brothers.
Brooks Brothers advertisement,
I live on my couch because I want to believe in magic. Pan roasted
turkeys. Marriages that stick. Cookies that don't. Dads who
disappear in one episode but return in the next. It's sort of
like a Christmas Eve special when the fake Santa is drunk and
you don't have faith, but you wait up anyway because you want
to believe in something other than folded Gap turtlenecks and
shrink wrapped Baby Phat.
"I believe I'll wait," you
You do a shot every time Cindy Lou Who
says who. You feel sorry for the Grinch because he doesn't have
presents and his heart is small. And so it goes. Then one day
you see that unused gifts are all there ever was, but you keep
working to fill the space. And your heart constricts. Attacks.
So there you are, hanging upside down on the monkey bars. The
sky is blue. Your Hubba Bubba mouth chews out words like Tonka
Truck, Schwinn Bike, Cabbage Patch Dolls. Knees slide from the
rung. You fall chest-first to the ground. The air gets knocked
out. You suck and suck but there is nothing. The bell rings.
Recess is over. You come to on a gurney or in a padded room
and you think to yourself I was closer to the clouds upside
The whistle blows.
You blot a bubble test.
The whistle blows.
You take the SAT.
The whistle blows.
You index reports.
Your files collapse.
The whistle blows.
You spill onto the tarmac.
Things go upside down.
Your skin turns blue.
And it is OK. good. At least the clouds
are visible and you can put down the razorblade.
So begins the day of all days.
And this is how it started. It. This
day that melds into the lexicon gibberish of the next. And you're
not sure what chunk of minute turns that corner of Monday into
Tuesday. One day. It's all one big long fucking day.
My Moleskine says it's been 156 weeks
since I lay down on these velvet cushions. 26,280 hours since
I pasted on this dead Elvis smile. 9,608,000 seconds of tapping
away at this couch lair. I am a leather-tailed beaver gnawing
my own fibula into branch tunnels.
The hole in the wall is clouded with
moss and beaded teeth. I put pieces of me under pillows for
fairies and lovers.
Every day I think about all the nailing
and sitting. I think about Dr. Bob Jones, who can't help me.
I think about my mother, who tells my aunts that I'm actually
a missionary in India working to convert Hindus. I think about
Jerry and Dan from Kelley's Pub, drinking Jaeger. I think about
Heather and Rosalie from Juniata, questing to sell pheromones
and change the world.
My friends used to call every day but
right around the second year, they dropped down to only ringing
on holidays. Their messages warbled into my background like
cracked 8-tracks and Chaplin movies. They weren't real. Nothing
was real but the additions to my couch. The fluffing of cushions
and the newfound ability to stick to a solitary goal of never
I hammer shelves along the back chintz
section and I think.
I think about the way I don't miss getting
flipped off on I-95 or skipped in line at Whole Foods.
I think about the unfortunate lives of
my kids. I imagine they say, "Poor mom, crazy mom, poor
her." Then they turn to eat white pizza with Rolling Rock.
Do they pretend I exist outside? Maybe they explain me to new
lovers who will not understand a mother who has been sitting
on a couch for three years. Maybe four.
She's a voluntary psycho. A 302 commitment.
I bet that's what they say.
This is what I mull at 5 a.m., in the
ass-crack of my life. The holding pattern I have chosen spins
circles and laps up layers of ventricle and knuckle. I see shark
fin implosions. I flip on the movie Jaws just to see
the way girls and boys get chewed and stuck between huge plastic
Spielberg teeth. I see that. What it feels like to be flossed
out for the next scene.
If only I could stop thinking so much.
I mash every little thing into rice dust.
How is a cereal box big enough to
hold the Cap'n Crunch maze?
I can't stop.
I have mental Tourette's. But worse.
Like that. Screams mean nothing beyond the sound bounce, which
is why I think myself into corners. And I can't see a way clear
of this unblued place. This triangle will require body surfing
if I decide to step out.
Fake fat, botulism lips, and boob jobs.
Henry Kissinger, Descartes, and Pac-Man.
I want to create a Camel philosophy.
I will sit here until I'm the new think tank IT KID. I wonder
if they smoked some kind of camel butt shit in the desert to
keep warm. Is that where the idea of Camel cigarettes originates?
I mean, who the fuck sat there in some ad agency or smoke factory
and said, "Camelslet's do camels"?
A frustrated salesman? I suppose.
I get the Marlboro cowboy thing. The
slinky-sex Virginia Slims thing. Yes. But Camels? I don't get
Camels hump what they've hoarded. They
plod on forked hooves. Survive sandstorms. Where is the smoke
link? The hazy thing I'm missing? I think this as I curse my
Harley lighter, which I'm always losing. I scrounge with my
Yeah, a camel in a tuxedo with hooves
crossed like arms. Call up Vogue, Cosmo, Playboy.
I imagine being humped under Joe Camel's
fur like a ball of rubber cementeach layer stickier and
dirtier than the last. My legs and eyelashes fade in the slow
whiskered pucker. He sucks. There is no water. Next rest area:
seven hundred ninety-nine miles.
He drinks me from a striped accordion
straw that winds from his mouth to my bellybutton. A reverse
umbilical cord. Body parts clump the folded straw and it grows
fat in the center like Bavarian donuts full of lard and sugar.
He pulls and gnaws at me like Laffy Taffy. Purple nipples give
way as all my good parts slide past his Adam's apple. What's
left in the IV pouch is chunky like tin can chicken, which tastes
somewhere in the middle of tuna and salmon.
Buy one, get one free.
A chocolaty piss leaks from my face into
the armrest. I drip onto the tongue and groove floor like evaporated
milk, sticky with pumpkin pies and cheesecake.
The phone rings.
Takes a message.
It's Mom again.
She raps the door in the hall. Knowing
I won't let her in. This armrest is at least four feet from
the door. She's crazy to think I'm getting up to let her in.
She calls up from the lobby.
"Beep me in. I've got beef stew."
I've never liked beef stew.
I buzz her up and scribble on a fuchsia
Post-it note: 1. camels. 2. google.com. 3. lung cancer.
I realize my obsessions are weird.
I can't focus on Mom-gobble, so I don't.
She sets the TV table up in front of me with the food. I blow
her a kiss. She leaves.
The TV is stuck on seven. The god channel.
Somewhere in behind the sound stage, men are practicing their
Jesus speeches. I like the matinee performance.
I get up and skulk along the wall in
the shadow of my couch. I have to pee. The need drives me to
cushions I've lined along the wall. As long as my feet don't
touch down, I'll be OK. I skulk to the bathroom. Never touching
Skulk. Skulk. Skulk. I love that word.
It's in Four Weddings and a Funeral. So realistic. Love
in four episodes. Death in between. And laughter.
My shoes screech and creak. I sort of
hate crawling to the bathroom in these leather metal boots.
The floor sweats beneath the pillows. It's clammy with fever.
I paid $6000 for this tongue and groove in '92 when everyone
was doing the hardwood-natural thing. We all joined Greenpeace
and then put in pine floors so we could meditate on saving nature.
It's such a pain in the ass. Crawling.
Staying as far off the ground as possible. Clinging to my loveseat
Fashion is wondrous Fun
in Mary Jane's Let's Play collection! Colorful happy cottons
with embroidered play motifs; designed by Betty Barker, America's
foremost designer of little girl fashions! Sizes 3 to 6x. About
Mary Jane Dresses,
1350 Broadway, New York, NY, 1948
As soon as I build a bigger couch, this
will be unnecessary, but for now, I wobble across the couch
cushion bridge in six-inch platform boots, which I got for $250
at Bobbi Jo's Leather and Lace Boutique on Fritkin Street. The
saleslady said they were worn at a Jersey concert by the originally-original
hair band KISS. Clown face and testosterone. Yeah, baby, yeah.
Normally I don't wear shoes but yesterday I felt myself drifting,
as if my skin could no longer hold me in, so I built a wall
with all the shoes I've ever owned. I lined them around my couch
in a heel-to-heel circular stack. When they got over four pairs
high, there was a fear of tumbling, so I strung phone cable
in and out of the arches and toe holes. Huge knots anchor my
fortress of soles.
It's a weird stability, having my life
strung together by shoes. It reminds me of a Druid fortress.
Something you'd wander through in bluish moonlight. Maybe slit
your wrist for pink lemonade and climb out refreshed. And you
would feel on top of the world until you saw the cops there
outside the barrier. Stonehenge belongs to the public. Do not
touch. Pay five quid to see. And you scream and scream, "But
these are my rocks! I was born here
This is my home."
So you run. Leap into a parking lot full of cars and realize
that the mystery of life is just a tourist trap.
I got these heavy metal boots from the
south end of the wall, third down to the left by the sandals
and clogs. I found them among the seventies and eighties shoes,
which I have tissue-wrapped into filing boxes. These Are
the Days of Our Lives.
You could say it was a fetish or you
could say it was the thing that kept me alive. The way I bought
sandals instead of toilet paper. Pointy buckled boots before
vegetables. There was no rhyme. No reason to the charging of
soles. I had six closets jammed with pairs and pairs.
Now I label everything because I'm going through a neat phase.
It won't last. And I don't recognize myself this way. It's not
Gone. F is for the clear plastic spikes
that have fish painted onto the soles. P is for the cowboy boots
with the round silver and turquoise buckles. The toes are squared
off for kicking. I puked up Jack Daniels many times during that
urban cowboy phase of riding mechanical bulls. My hips were
full of volt and electric. Plug me in for Juicy-Juicy Couture.
Thank goodness for the clogs. Each one is my story. Without
them, I might forget that hazy time of 1979.
I even have the yellow rubber galoshes
from kindergarten, when I fell in love with Ms. Cooper. She
wore red velvet platforms. I wanted to be her so badly. Goddamn.
I never got them, but I did get some red rubbers to protect
my saddle shoes. You could jump in the mud and never get your
church shoes dirty, which was crucial.
The patent leather Mary Janes are on
the windowsill. I've planted cannabis and aloe between the buckles.
Every few days I scrabble across a plank that balances from
the couch back to the window seat so I can water living things.
I also have special silk red platforms
like the ones Mrs. Cooper used to wear on Wednesdays, which
she said was her night out with her husband. She was four-foot
eleven and those sandals took her all the way up to five-foot
four-something. I don't remember what I learned in that class.
Finger-painting? Long and short vowels? Who knows? I was thinking
that if I could just wear those shoes, I'd grow up. If only,
then, I'd understood why her scent made me squirm. It wasn't
roses. It was more like earth dirt and stone. No. Or honeysuckle.
Hot in the sun. I'd smell her and get goosebumps to the ends
of my pigtails and in my knee bends.
Tulips and chalkboards.
One day Mrs. Cooper said she liked my
striped denim jumper, so I wore it every Wednesday.
What ever happens to kindergarten teachers?
I wonder. This is how I spend my days.
I wonder and I draft plans for the couch extensions. Living
room forecast. 70 degrees. All stations go. No immediate plans
Mom says that if I'm going to sit here
and rot that I should at least sell off some of my shoes. She
says I could feed the poor with the profits or donate to one
of the poor stores. Now what in hell would Goodwill do with
my sweet shoes? And how would my girls breathe?
She doesn't know me. She never knew me. That would be like giving
away my heart to the witch in the candy cane house. I can't
have a stranger editing my fairy tale.
I've tried to explain feng shui a million
Never wear lived-in things.
This goes here.
That goes there.
Marching in a high school band. Stepping
in time. Beat. Beat. Crash. Run. Touchdown.
I put on my shoes when I need to feel
St. Michael's. Lou's Cappuccino. Peggy's
Place. Motel 6. Greece. The Miami Nutcracker Ballet. I-95. Step
aerobics at Bali's. Abortions at the Front Street Clinic. Women's
Lit. 302. A Streetcar Named Desire. Brunch at Martha's.
Finger-fucking under the Halifax bleachers. Jaws II.
Entry Level positions. The Dania head shop. Dylan at the Jazz
I don't know how to put this to understanding.
To diagram what no one gets about this sit in. All I can say
is that I walked before crawling. It feels like I've skipped
crucial moments of absorption. My lips can't open wide enough
to gulp the swirl back inside. It's all here. In my cowboy boots.
Each loopy swirl winds into the next. And I have to know where
it ends and until that happens I'm not getting up. Doing so
would be disastrous.
So I don't go out anymore. The last time
was a disaster. There was a buzz so furious in my thick head
that I missed a client and a lover. I remember it best in the
black Prada pumps.
The salesman and the drummer.
The one with Dow Jones connections, the
other with a Cadillac penis.
The one, the one, the one.
Agent Smith and Neo.