Tuesday, November 28, 2006
One of my aquaintances in graduate school said that she'd rather strip naked in the town square than write something creative. I'd been writing fiction and poetry and couldn't quite square it with the rigors demanded in the art of stripping, but I saw her point. It's a tough business and usually met with all sorts of reactions ranging from indifference to outright scorn. This woman was also having an affair with one of the younger married professors, who I'd heard her call Bri-Bri on the basement telephone, a communal area since we didn't have individual office phones. My then-boyfriend had also seen them making out in the parking lot on his morning jog, and he, as the saying goes, was not one to talk or make things up. I wanted to use her situation in a story, but I could never make it fly -- there wasn't anything fresh in my rendition since I stuck close to reality -- the professor was a bit of an arrogant dolt, the girl a scrappy ambitious little piece of work, and the wife was clueless. I found myself hard-pressed to make any of them seem less than wooden. Needless to say, the professor never became Bri-Bri to me in the course of putting words down on the page.
In retrospect, I see the situation that would have been far more interesting. I used to clean houses every now and them to supplement my great (NOT) salary as a teaching assistant and one such house belonged to one of the most hideous-looking women I had ever met, a fellow graduate student with two kids and an extremely wealthy husband. I assure you this description is not gratitously cruel -- it will play in later. She had a body like a character off H and R Puffenstuff, a distribution of enormous weight (she was little over five feet tall and weighed about 300 pounds, most of it near the middle of her body). Her husband, by any standards, was handsome, and she slept with nearly everyone. How? Shotgun approach, as my friend Hank used to say. Ask a 100 people to sleep with you, someone will. The woman in this story did something fatal to her lifestyle -- she fell in love with one of her conquests, a snaggle-toothed man named Dave who wore a ratty beret in all seasons. She and Dave became tight, although it was clear that he had the power in their relationship. She could often be seen at parties, sobbing, bottle of Smirnoff in hand, asking what to do. Did she have to give up all her money for this man? Did she go slowly mad with longing? I consider of the possibilities inherent in the story and think that real life is far weirder than anything else. She moved her lover in her house, kept the husband, and the kids called her lover Uncle Dave. Man, I'd think, scrubbing her toilets, only someone who looks like Isabella Rosellini is supposed to get away with that! Head in someone else's toilet, that is where my story begins.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Something came along/ and I grabbed ahold of it/ it felt like a ball and chain." Janis Joplin
Drinking music suggestion: 18 Essential Songs Janis Joplin
Benedictions and Maledictions
First published in Taproot
Eat Before It Gets Cold
I'm not going to ask you where you've been.
I know, I don't know. We do what we can
to make things bearable. So much is out of our
control! Take your time. We can hang on this
cross for as long as we want as the waiter has
forgotten about us. I scan the menu, only see what
I don't want. Needless to say, I've been here before.