Bait

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Baiting, he says, “You’re a procrastinator.”

I ignore it a full three seconds and then bite:

“Some people have more to worry about than themselves.”

To which he replies, “You’re full of shit.”

I abstain.

“Why do you have to push everything to the last minute?  You know we had to get gas before we leave for the doctors…”

Just keep driving, eyes on the road, I insist to myself. I know he’s baiting.

I know how he deflects the dissatisfaction of an 82 year old man who needs to be driven to doctors now, and I pray for patience and composure to rise above my own self pity.

“I mean, it may be okay for you who always runs out of gas…” 

“Dad, I haven’t run out of gas…oh maybe once, but…”

“Yeah, don’t give me bullshit; you run out of gas the way you put everything off.”

Fucking traffic at 7:00 in the morning…it’s my one day off before I work tonight…

“You like living like that but I don’t like ruining cars like you do…”

“The car did not need gas; it was not even below a quarter of a tank, and your fucking neurotic obsession about insignificant bullshit doesn’t change that fact!!!”

“Yeah, sure, you know best. I’m not as smart as you. We all can’t be as smart as you.”

Shaking my head in silence, the anger spat out of me like a solar flare, scarring its landing like the faint white stitched line just below my abdomen ever reminding me that we evolve, leaving behind ancestral appendages no longer useful to us as outgrown beginnings. 

Baited, I bit. Again. Just waiting for the flip side…and three…two…one…

“But I appreciate everything you do for me. Really I do. I can’t thank you enough.”

And so it goes, we two relics, this dance we substitute for conversation underneath which lies halved relationships lost to time, decay, disorder and disease. 

On the Eve of Yet Another


Sitting across the table from my oldest at our favorite eatery, I could not help seeing what others must have seen in me 36 years ago: a tall, lean vibrant girl with a hyperactive, inquisitive mind and over burdened sense of responsibility for the buoyancy of the conversation. 

I love to watch her gesticulating hands, the petulance in her sea green eyes and the force of her concerns and wishes. She is all youth and wonder, strength and conviction.

My own youth is like an old 35 mm flickering reel, some parts skipping in fractured movement. The plot always seems to nearly unfold just as the threads run wild and loose. Just like me to crave the missing cracks, what lies in those stuttered jumps in the movie, however slight and seemingly insignificant.

If I could make a real movie of my teens to twenties, I would splice together actual footage of all the moments, days and weeks of laughter. So much laughter. My friends and I knew how to chuckle and wheeze ourselves into spasms, once we broke the ironic smirks broadcasting our quick savvy and adoptive world weariness.

The range of emotion exaggerated on a face, the wide-open eyes in surprise or indignity, the outstretched fingers flung from the span of taut exasperation palms, I recall to fleeting memories evoked by my daughter’s questioning advice on relationships, friendships and the state of the world.

She asks me who in their right mind would have a kid with our sadly looming future. And at the peak of her voiced question mark, I hear my own 20 year old voice chiming in, silently mouthing the words with her in grainy film footage. 

If I squint my reality a tad, she is me. 

But on the eve of yet another birthday, one of those off years signaling no milestones, no edges to encroaching decades or mid-split 5’s, I find myself repeating to her: “If I could give you one thing, my most valuable gift, I would export the revelations I gained both wasting time and suffering, just to push your learning curve so far back your starting point advantage would increase the laughing years twenty fold.”

Which always draws a blank green-eyed stare of indulgent tolerance.

By the time she gets it, hopefully I won’t be mere flickering light through film base covered in gelatin emulsion. 

Bar Talk

 
 
I must look safe, the one least likely to intrude in a bar. The uninterested.

She sits down next to me when there are so many other stools to occupy.

All dolled up, clearly she is waiting for someone special to occupy the stool to her right.

I am to her left.
 
Happy hour, bruschetta is half off as are select beers.
Of course, my selection costs its usual six and change. No discounts for the IPA’s–ever.
 

Some have accused me of having gout deluxe, but I say, “nah.” Simple woman.
My tastes range from pleb to elitist. Depends on the thing, the subject. 
Food, wine and beer, yes, I enjoy top of the line. Clothes, functional.
Not a shopper, no interest. That’s why the guys say, “You’re like a guy.”
 

Other reasons, I prefer conversation about what matters: the world, the local and
all in between. My interests range the span of my experience, read, written and lived, 
relationships only one among many. Frankly, I don’t care much for confession.
Keep the distance, please. Tell me about what matters to you as a member of the world.
 
Two beauties sitting on top of each other taking selfies. In another bar, that might be suspect.
 
But this is not that kind of bar. Affluent, beach, blonds.
 
And the texts on my phone: bad news about the revenge of cancer, someone out there, on my mind.
And the stranger narcissist filling my inbox with doings, wishes, manifestations.
 
“I can’t go out with someone I am not attracted to says the made up late fifty something with the silver shiny horizontal studded stripes in her blinged out black warm up jacket.
 
Ping…the cancer returned after five years. I thought I was done.
Ping…I love the way she feels…
Ping…but I am afraid to go through it, the chemicals, the time off…
Ping…Egyptian, her parents moved from Cairo…
 
“Everything doing okay here?” The bartender wants to know. “Yes.”
 
Happy hour at its edges now settles into its middle.
 
“The grass is always greener on the other side….she’s got to pay her dues,” says bling jacket. The babe next to me moves kitty corner with her guests, two other women fresh from work, twenty somethings, nearing thirty somethings. One curly blond, and two brunette: the Asian with the “whatever” bun and the white girl with the straight slung hair parted down the middle.
 
The time difference lets me off the hook. “Good night, sleep well. Dream healing dreams,” I genuinely wish and type.
 
There is a four year old behind the bar, and I watch her skim her hand over every glass and bottle she passes down the row on her way out of the bar well.
 
The device speaks: ring. “Yes, I am at a bar. Come meet me. We’ll eat. Want me to read you the menu? Braised beef ribs…bleu cheese sliders with Angus beef, poached halibut…okay, see you soon. Yes, chill a pinot or merlot, something interchangeable…feeling marinara or fish. Bye.”
 
Boys at the end of the bar closest to the television pin their eyes to football and the commercials that go with, men with pizza slices and desire written all over their orgasmic posed faces, Mercedes mini van advertised as affordability (right) and something computer and football combined, guys at desks and a football player fish out of water, Ameritrade. And then the Cardinals line up at the 40 yard line.
 
Honey, you don’t look as if you can handle the double IPA. Stick to your happy hour house wine. She just moved in and made it clear to the bartender that she was ordering for her boyfriend who was on his way. She is two barstools away: young, neat, attractive, twenties, trying to keep herself entertained, phone, looking around, the silk scarf around her neck shifting with each turn of her head from the wine cabinet to my left and the incoming guests. We are at the entrance. And he arrives. This is a new boyfriend. I can tell by the kiss they greet each other with–something between a peck and I-recognize-the-sink-into-the- thick-of-your-lips. They are still something stand-offishly, sweetly polite. He is soft and quiet, appetizers smartly waiting for him by her selection. He digs in with gusto, eats obediently, appreciatively, while she authoritatively introduces her informed choices. She will make a fine mistress of the house.
 
Isn’t this great?
 
“Who is training her? Their job is to come in, check in, go down the hall, check the laundry…” bling says to her patient hearer, the one who asked the bartender to turn down the lights, which bother her eyes. Bling speaks for the crowd to hear. “I’m not bashing her. I haven’t said nothing about her for weeks…”
 
The girl friend returns from the water closet with her hair bunned up. Why? What’s the projected look trying to achieve? I’ve never been good at style and signals. I do New York bag and that is the extent of my “style.” And that was a long time ago. Now I just dress whatever-is-clean-and-top-of-the-pile. It used to be important to dress with purpose. I am nearing golden, no need.
 
The symmetry of a wine cellar on display soothes, the circular slotted holders sprouting capped spouts or the buddy bottles snug lined up along a leisurely reclined shelf to feature chillin’ wine bottles, casual, seductive. I hope the temperature behind that glass is 58 degrees Fahrenheit. Nothing worse than room temperature wine, the myth of the uninitiated–says a pretender.
 
The beer has done its work. It only takes one, especially after a sleepless night of sacrifice: term papers and morning frolics in missed motel beds. The buzz combines exhaustion with hops, and I am content. School’s out. Time to eat: transition from bar denizen to restaurant patron.
 
Wait, the four year old swiper’s parent just came on shift. Maybe just a few more minutes….
 

credit: 1stdibs.com

Conversations

  
A woman I know told me, “Do what you love,”
but I loved her and she was taken–with someone else,
so I couldn’t do her.
 
A man with very short hair, shorn I would say, advised,
“Don’t be afraid to let your hair down sometimes.”
My hair was longer than days back then.
 
A fellow friend asked yet again, “If we were lovers,
would we still be friends?”
Friends don’t let friends ask sleazy hypotheticals.