Monday, September 04, 2006

Still Here. I Think.

I read this on another blog (apologies for not remembering which), and it suits the moment: I'm not dead, but I am buried.

I feel like I'm lying down and there are 547 (not 546, not 543. 547) itchy, wet wool blankets on top of me. Every time I complete one of the often ludicrous tasks on my list, some unseen presence peels one blanket back. I don't know where the blankets end up, but I hope it's not on top of you. The good news is that 1) being buried and all, I am only dimly aware of the unprecedented mess that currently constitutes my home and 2) I should be free from most of the blankets by this time next week.

Which is my roundabout way of saying that I'll be leaving the nest for a few days, my lovelies. I'm going to sign off with an excerpt from the story I'm writing. Or, to be more precise, the story I'm theoretically writing. When I return, it'll serve to remind me that writing is something I do.

'Cuz I keep forgetting, dammit.

Anyways, here's a little bit of it. No title, no nothing:

It is Marivic’s idea of what an old white woman might like: loose black tea, a tin of English lemon biscuits, petite cubes fashioned from pink sugar, and—Marivic loved this best—a tea strainer in the shape of a house. She’d packed it all with exaggerated care into a floral gift bag and tied it with raffia. But when she smiled and handed it to Mrs. Harrison, she knew immediately she’d made a mistake. Better to have brought a bottle of Scotch or a ladies’ polo shirt from Pebble Beach. Marivic made a mental note to always take her new mother-in-law’s subtle hints at face value: “Tish? Tish once played golf with President Bush! The older one, mind you,” she had said. And also, “That Tish loves her cocktail hour.”

“Well, thank you, sweetheart,” Mrs. Harrison said. She fingered the raffia as if it were the hair of an ugly child.

“You’re so welcome. Thank you for having us, Mrs. Harrison.”

“Oh, call me Tish. The only Mrs. Harrison I ever knew was my mother-in-law!” She passed Marivic’s gift to a small, doughy woman who seemed to have emerged from the kitchen for just that purpose. “Now let me look at you,” she said. She held Marivic’s chin in her hand—her fingers smelled of tobacco—and turned the young woman’s face from side to side. Marivic wondered if she should open her mouth and allow her teeth to be inspected. “Lovely, Jonathan! Lovely.”

“Thanks, Tish. It’s great to see you. It’s been too long.” He embraced his mother’s childhood friend, crushing her thin body to his chest.

“You always were just too, too handsome,” Tish murmured. She excused herself then, explaining that she couldn’t miss her afternoon soap opera. The doughy woman—whose name turned out to be Penny—showed Jonathan and Marivic to their room.

“You look familiar,” Jonathan said. “You’ve worked here a long time, haven’t you?”

“Yes, sir, I have. I remember when you were just a boy. What a firecracker you were!”

Jonathan laughed and turned to Marivic, who usually couldn’t get enough of hearing stories about his childhood mishaps: the time he mistook shaving cream for whipped cream, for example, or his uncanny ability to break a window whenever a ball of any sort left his hands.

The first time Jonathan took Marivic home to his parents, she spent an inordinate amount of time leafing through the family photo albums, ever alert for any picture in which he appeared. Early on, Jonathan attributed this fervent curiosity about his childhood to her upbringing. After all, not only did the Lozada family know everything about each other, they made sure to know everything about anyone else who innocently wandered into close proximity. Jonathan thought of them as a human vacuum or—on his less patient days—as a giant preying mantis sucking all available information out of passersby. He had yet to recover from the time one of Marivic’s aunts—he couldn’t remember which; there were several—asked him how much his house had cost. “Excuse me?” he’d said. And she repeated the question a little more slowly, thinking that her accent was standing in the way of proper communication. Jonathan skillfully responded not with how much his house had cost, but with how much it was worth on the market. The aunt was mollified.

But today Marivic wasn’t interested in the firecracker of a boy Jonathan used to be as he treaded the well-kept sidewalks of Albany, New York. She wasn’t laughing, or even smiling. After Penny had left the room and shut the door behind her, Marivic said, “What, exactly, were you thanking her for?”

“Who? Penny?”

“No, not Penny, for God’s sake. Tish. Were you thanking her for saying that I was ‘lovely’? That so does not make any sense, Jonathan.”

At times like this, Jonathan realized what an excellent mother Marivic would one day be. He admired her unwavering idea of what constituted acceptable and unacceptable behavior. He loved the way she smirked when angry. The hand on her hip, the tilt of her small, perfect head. She had no idea that her scolding only made him want to remove her clothing as quickly as possible. “But you are lovely,” he said, tackling her onto the bed.

1 comment:

thelastnoel said...

I understand. Take a break. Come back when you're ready. Enjoyed the story, too.