Saturday, July 6, 2013

My Day. Tuesday, July 2, 2013



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My younger son sits on a bench on the platform and watches the trains and says the following things: Train's coming!  Oh!  There it is!  There's the train!  Bye-bye train!  He will repeat these phrases over and over again until train-watching time is over.  It's charming, and it's also a grotesque parody of how he is spoken to.

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I am standing in line at the post office, listening to two Japanese women with a newborn baby.  They are sitting in the hall somewhere behind me, cooing in that high-pitched, hyper-vigilant way in which Japanese women coo at babies, a screech almost, a tone that verges on panic but isn't.  Daijobu, daijobu, they screech when the baby cries.  They document the baby's every movement with further screeching: Aketeru!  Me aketeru!  Ah!  Naichatta!  Kuchi aketeru aketeru!  Hai daijobu daijobu!  I can picture them joggling the baby up and down as they screech; this is what Japanese women do with young babies.  Standing in the line, I am reading The Savage Detectives again and feeling very gamine and pretty in miniskirt and flip flops and abominably ungroomed hair.  I listen to the Japanese women and I sway, slightly, this way and that, like a blade of grass.  Now they are trying to get the baby to latch on.  It seems to work.  

As I leave the post office with my package, I look at the women and the baby.  The younger woman, the baby's mother, is wearing the exact kind of clothes that young Japanese mothers wear, but the child is wearing American baby clothes.  She is pink and tiny, no more than 7 pounds.  Neither of my babies were ever that small.

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On the train, I feel young and jaunty, my summer skin glowing brown against the white Priority Mail package.  The woman sitting next to me has her book open in her lap.  The chapter heading is A Stranger Calls.  We are both reading detective novels, I think, though hers may be no more a detective novel than mine is.

Emerging from the station, I look up to see that the woman on the stairs in front of me is wearing a printed cotton skirt.  The back is worn so thin that it sags, and I can see right through it - her cheeks moving with every step, a thong tucked between them.  Does she not know?  Or does she not care?  Or can she not afford another?  Is this her favorite skirt?  It's not an especially fashionable skirt, but it's fine, and I can see how the blue and white print might make it a staple in someone's closet, though not mine.  I resolve to carefully examine all skirts before putting them on.

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I'm suddenly starved, and I must eat huevos rancheros.  I cut across the projects next to the hostel, which has a large grassy backyard with a white canopy and sloppily strewn lawn chairs.  I feel momentarily jealous of the young travellers who will undoubtedly gather here this evening to drink beer and speak of their travels and watch, through the fence, the project children frolicking in the sprinklers.

The restaurant is empty but for one Mexican couple with a chubby baby in an enormous stroller.  Diego Rivera prints and Revolution-era photos are displayed half-heartedly, far above eye level.  The huevos rancheros are disappointing.  The rice seems stale, the beans taste faintly of dishwater, the guacamole is too citrusy, and nothing is quite rich enough.  Even the coffee is all wrong - it's making me sleepy.

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My poop is weird, and so is my younger son's.  I'm at a loss as to what could be causing the change.  Is it the weather?  I suspect that my older son may be having the same issues, but I can't know for sure, because he's now old enough to poop alone and wipe himself, and I am thus no longer a participant in the process at all.

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The first time I pass through the subway station at Times Square today, there are no musicians.  The second time I pass through, a group of five or six middle-aged men are setting up and arguing.  One of the men begins to sing, and within half a minute, the rest have stopped arguing and joined in the song instead, as if powerless to resist the organizing pull of harmony.  The third time I pass through, they are still singing, now with a double bass and a large audience clapping and laughing happily and tossing money into the bucket.  It's the opposite of entropy.

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My hairdresser is moving to Hawaii.  She's my friend, too, and she has been cutting my hair since 1998.  She is getting rid of most of her possessions, and I go to her studio and take a bagful of clothing from her.  The heat has become oppressive, and I feel meaningfully less jaunty and pretty now, carrying a large white trash bag under my arm.  The bag, wet with my sweat, slips back and forth against my body.  I'm a bit dizzy, and I think that I might vomit.  I haven't had enough water today, I know I haven't had enough water today, and yet I don't stop at the deli for a bottle of water.  It seems like so much trouble, and I'm almost home anyway.  My husband is constantly incensed by what he sees as my willful failure to care for myself - he will probably get angry when he reads this.  It's not out of masochism or martyrdom, though, just forgetfulness, preoccupation, busyness, and the inclination to experience as onerous any action that I must perform, no matter how beneficial or enjoyable.  

In any case, I must not look as bad as I feel.  Even after the sweat and nausea and faintness take hold, I get overtly admiring double-takes from two young men, and an older man breaks into song when he sees me.  He sings Walk on By, though, and I'm a little confused as to whether he is serenading me or actually telling me to walk on by, go away.

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I drink a great deal of water and I try on my hairdresser/friend's clothing.  Everything smells exactly like her - like her body and like cigarettes.  I'm enveloped in her scent, and I'm surprised at how overwhelmingly familiar it is.  I don't want to wash the clothes, ever.  I suddenly realize that I am going to miss her very badly.  I miss her already.

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When I was in high school, I had a tiny little book - barely more than a pamphlet - by Jean Rhys called My Day.  I liked reading Jean Rhys very much back then.  It's been so long that I have no real memory of her work aside from a vague impression that it was quite depressing, especially After Leaving Mr. MacKenzie.  Also, I remember that one short piece - I think it was My Day - ends with the speaker recounting a ghost story wherein an old woman closes and locks her front door at the end of the day and then hears a voice behind her saying, Now we are alone.

This doesn't happen to me.  I had thought that my husband would be out late drinking with friends, but instead he comes home before the children have even fallen asleep.

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