Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Half Empty

     I left the memorial service early to go on a date. The memorial was for a man I knew from high school, a Taylor Williams. He killed himself. The date was with a man I met at a party, a Jared Taylor. He worked for a bank. You might say I had Taylors on the brain.
     Jared Taylor ordered us a bottle of champagne. I am no aficionado of champagne but I am pretty sure it was an expensive bottle as the waiter raised his eyebrows and quickly looked at me. Then he nodded. We weren’t allowed to fill our own glasses, the waiter did that for us. It made me uncomfortable.
     I stared at my date from my side of the red leather booth and thought about high school Taylor. Taylor Williams had pointed at my legs one day in homeroom—usually covered by a long, flowing velvet skirt my mother had repeatedly begged me to throw out—and commented, “You have really white legs.” It was one of the first things he had ever said to me. I made sure from that point on to wear stockings under the skirt so my paleness could not be identified.
     “Have you ever thought about suicide?” I asked my date.
     He frowned and signaled the waiter to pour me more champagne, though my glass was still half full. I took that as a yes and was thankful I wasn’t the only one who lacked follow-through.
     Taylor Williams and I had ninth grade history together. He sat behind me and always smelled like the Big Red gum he chewed. Sometimes during a test I could hear him smacking behind me. It got to be so annoying I would make sure to switch seats during an exam day.
     Once, when we were both early to history, I asked him why he chewed gum. He said it was to stop him from smoking.
     “You smoke?” I asked, horrified that a fourteen-year-old boy had picked up the habit my parents informed me would kill me before I was thirty.
     “No. But it’s to stop me from starting. It’s something to do with my mouth.” And he offered me a piece. I accepted, though I preferred spearmint.
     Taylor still died before he hit thirty. At the service, his parents cried and I offered them a tissue that they accepted without remembering my name.
     My date asked me if I liked my job. I had forgotten that I had lied to him and told him I was employed as a receptionist at a Cosmetic Clinic specializing in face-lifts and liposuction. Reality—temping while I wrote the archetypal Angeleno screenplay—was just too typical and uninteresting to tell.
     “I love it,” I said as I took another sip of my bubbly. “Sometimes I save a little bit of the fat we slice off and use it in my cooking.”
     My date gagged a bit and excused himself to the restroom. I knew he was actually going to call some buddy of his and tell him what I just said. I would have done the same thing.
     I should have tried to make it work with the guy, my friend Susan said we’d make a really cute couple. But after the memorial service it seemed like an awful lot of effort to go to when, in the end, we’d both be dead. Perhaps via self-inflicted measures.
     I took a piece of fancy sourdough bread from the breadbasket and started to rip it into tiny little pieces.
     “Why are you doing that?” I imagined Taylor Williams asking from across the table.
     “It’s something to do with my hands,” I would reply.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


     She knows he can’t imagine her eating all that.
     Blind Date #23 sips a dignified spoonful of butternut squash soup. A freckle of creamed orange remains on his thin lips but she makes no attempt to alert him. Instead, she slices into her filet mignon. Blood leaks out like old nail polish.
     Blind Date #23 tries not to stare as she quickly and methodically bisects her meat. She cuts the flesh into perfectly square, bite-sized pieces and one by one pops them into her mouth like a snack enjoyed during a movie. Every now and then she breaks for a sip of red wine (his choice) or a bite of her side dish (pommes aligot). By the time she has finished her meal, he’s only consumed half of his soup and a few bites of his Lobster Cobb Salad (the dinner special).
     She smiles sheepishly at him and bats her eyes twice like her neighbor Christine taught her. “I guess I was hungry?” She raises her voice at the end, making the statement a question that requires his assurance.
     He laughs and informs her he likes a woman with an appetite. They both know this is not true, and she traces hearts onto the white tablecloth with her finger while he finishes his meal. Programmed muzak falls softly from the speakers above them.
     When the waiter offers them dessert, they ask for the check.

     Blind Date #23 wants to come up for a drink. He doesn’t say so outright, but when his glossy car purrs up outside her apartment he looks at her expectantly and says, “Well, here we are.” This is the point in the play where the comedic relief runs on stage and declares a joke. This is the point where the audience laughs and everything is okay. She should take the cue, no doubt her fancy fifty-plus meal earns the man at least one kiss and one good laugh, but she doesn’t have the energy. She’d rather stay backstage. If his conversation weren’t so monotonous she’d remain curled up in the passenger seat with the seat warmer on, listening to Miles Davis and enjoying the new car smell. Opening the door takes so much effort.
     She forces a smile. Her chapped lips crack. It’s easier to fake an orgasm. “I had a lovely time,” she says. “Goodnight.” And with all her might, she opens the car door.

     She takes care not to alert Christine of her presence when entering her apartment. She’s in no mood for Christine’s false chipperness—Mr. Right is out there somewhere! The question is, what if she doesn’t want to find Mr. Right?

     The cat is waiting for her, his long, back tail gliding back and forth on the wood floor like a snake. She doesn’t bother to take off her heels as she walks into the kitchen to crack open a tin of cat food. She dumps the wet chunks into the cat’s bowl and throws out the can. She doesn’t recycle. She doesn’t see the point, the homeless man by the dumpster will do it for her.