Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Big Deal Day

My husband stares at me across the table. He is concentrating deeply. I see him flip from thought to thought, like thumbing through a library’s card catalog back in the day, pausing, considering, then discarding idea after idea.

“Have you decided?” I ask, my knee jiggling against the tippy cafĂ© table, making ripples in my water glass.

“It’s hard to say,” he replies, astonished at coming up empty.

I have seen this look before. I love this look. I’ve got him.

80’s rock floats in through the open window, I look over and for a minute expect to see some kid walking by with a bulky boom box perched on his shoulder. Instead I see one of those convertible Fiats, clownishly small, crammed with mutantly ripped body builders in wraparound shades.

“Remember when 80’s rock was just rock and we never listened to oldies stations?” I muse. David isn’t listening, he’s puzzling and piecing, looking for perfection.

Already having my answer, I am free to wander through Remembers. The mix-tape I made him after we officially became boyfriend/girlfriend on the Puddle Jumper path, kissing for the first time under the infinite Iowa sky. The mix-CD he made me for Valentine’s Day our first year in Chicago when we were constantly deciding which bill to pay first and banking on the timing of the U.S. Postal Service.

The mix-tape had Eric Clapton and Indigo Girls and Howard Jones.
The mix-CD had Journey and Foreigner and Shakira and Clapton.
The mix tape was labeled KIVID with the #1 and 1991 prudently penned.
The mix-CD had carefully created liner notes slipped inside a plastic purple case.

“I know what it is,” he says, eyes lighting up with discovery. “I know what it is.”

“Okay, what?” I invite. I'm more motivated by the fact that I’m closer to disclosing my answer than true interest in his.

“It would be…” He stops himself and I can tell he doesn’t like his choice, he is back-peddling, discontent.

I groan, “Come. On.”

“No no no, wait wait,” he rubs his palm against his shaved head. I know the prickliness of being on the brink of a major decision. I imagine the prickliness of his scalp against my palm and it softens my impatience at his stalling. I really shouldn’t rush him.

“It’s not like you can win or lose with your answer,” I say trying to ease his angst.

He gives me a look that says he knows what I mean but doesn’t necessarily agree. There is always a better and best to this particular query. And David likes to win. People don’t necessarily know this about him. He’s so laid back, he’s so easy going, he’s so chill, I hear year after year. All true, but he’s also fiercely focused and determined and a persistent pain in the ass when he thinks he needs to be.

“Come. ON.” I say again.

It’s not even one of the cumbersome conversations we’ve had since I married him in my mother’s wedding dress, in my parent’s back yard, under hulking fir trees. It's not about kids or no kids, about renting or buying, about faith or church or politics or environment or in-laws or art.  It’s not like we’re opting between east and west coast after sixteen years in Chicago. It’s not like we’re choosing careers or cars or even a couch.

But like everything he does, David puts his whole heart in and waits until he knows that he Knows.

Finally, he looks up at me and smiles.

It’s our 23rd wedding anniversary and it’s a big deal day. It’s also just another Sunday spent picking out our pirate names.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


...when your neighbors is newly retired and you compliment his landscaping and he asks you if you like succulents and you say yes but that you always manage to kill yours, so he walks you to his backyard, which you've never seen before (even though you've lived across the street almost seven years and he's been there since the 50s) and you find rows and rows of various succulents in different sized pots, scattered all around the backyard and hanging from balcony banisters (next to miniature orange and apple and plum trees) and he grabs a white ceramic pot (the one you would have picked out yourself) from of a pile of different sized pots and begins filling it with the most superb succulent starters, all the while giving you gardening tips and saying he'll teach you because it's the easiest thing (even though it's not easy for you) and you ask, "are you sure?" and he says "of course, i'm so bored" and goes on to tell you you'll learn about orchids next...

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Two Minutes


I'm walking out of Ralph's and the automatic sliding doors are wide open, their sensors being triggered by a train of shopping carts, one tucked into the other. Behind the mass of metal there stands a Ralph's employee, young, with thinning hair and a soft face. He is clad in a glowing orange-yellow vest, the kind they wear while on cart patrol.

He's trying to talk to me over the carts, but he's nervous, distracted, his attention pulled by something I can't see.

"What?" I ask. He starts to point at something, shifting from foot to foot. 

"I don't understand," I say walking closer.

"I'm scared of him," he says, nearly whispering, prying his hands apart and gesturing generally toward the carts. I stop walking and wonder if this guy has just lost his mind and now sees dark demons in broad daylight.

"What?" I ask again. The sliding doors are still open and shoppers come and go around us. I wonder, with two cold cartons of almond milk in my arms (my reusable bag in the car as usual), why me, why not one of them? 

"There." He points passionately, specifically now, so I follow his finger and find a tiny bumble bee resting on one of the carts.

"Oh, it's a bumble bee," I say relieved, as if naming his demon will render it powerless. I half expect him to say, "Oh right, a bumble bee, I'm all good, never mind." I half expect this because I'm not afraid, because bumble bees are one of the only insects I'm not scared of.

I swat at the bee from across the carts, a good effort, and see it lift off, so I start to walk away.  

"He's still there," he yells after me. I turn back and see he is still dancing nervously, kneading his hands. I imagine the sweat between his palms and likely beading on his brow. I imagine the constriction in his chest, perhaps prickling in his cheeks, as his breath shallows and he can't get himself to take in air. I imagine all of the things that happen to me when I'm afraid. 

Not long ago I was walking through this same parking lot and a car rolled up along side me. I assumed it was looking for parking and scooted farther to one side. But as I continued, the car slowed, keeping pace with me. I kept moving, throwing sharp glances through the driver's darkened window in an attempt to say, 'Don't think I'm unaware, I can see you." Which I couldn't. I slowed slightly and so did he. I quickened my step and the car sped up. There were people in the parking lot, I could have called out to someone, but it was hard enough to breathe and walk and figure out when and where to run. Suddenly the driver's window descended and reflexively, I turned and looked. The man behind the wheel stared at me. No words or weapons, just the intrusion and intimidation of his stare. I glared back but by then I was running out of road. The cross street was coming and I'd have to decide which way to turn, so I slowed completely until I stopped, and he slowed until he stopped. 

"WHAT?!" I screamed, completely facing him as he sat in his car. He said nothing, just gave me a sliver of a smile. And then sped off. 

"I can't move these," the Ralph's employee exclaims to me, to everyone, to the universe. How many minutes have passed since he first called for help? Two maybe? How many minutes did that car trail me? Two. Maybe.   

I hurry around to the other side of his shopping carts and shoo the bumble bee away. I keep shooing and keep shooing until I hear him say a quiet thanks and the sound of carts clattering by. The automatic sliding doors finally slide shut as customers come and go.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Pine Cone Rock

It is not the most dramatic of peaks for our sixtieth SoCal hike. Mt. Hillyer near Chilao Flats summits rather aimlessly, leaving both David and I with furrowed brows, wondering, is this it? Regardless, it is a lovely day with sunshine and cool breezes singing through the tall pines. 

David and I crawl up what we've decided is the highest peak. On our way, we spot the most massive pine cone that has fallen down between the boulders, a pine cone nearly as big as my head (no joke). I say I want it, so of course, David shimmies down and plucks it out from the crack, careful not to break its scales. He climbs back up, treasure in hand, but the pine cone is seeping syrupy sap so instead, we perch it at the highest point (a cairn to abandoned desires) and leave it standing sturdy against the growing winds. We scramble down and sit, sheltered behind a nearby rock, and eat the snacks we packed, only then hearing the sounds of hikers, the first we've encountered all day, approaching from afar.

"PINE CONE ROCK!" a young voice rips through the rabble. "I want to go to Pine Cone Rock!" We sit silent and unseen as a batch of unruly Boy Scouts race up the rocks. We smile at each other realizing they are talking about our pine cone rock.  "DON'T TOUCH IT!" the tallest boy demands. "Leave it as you found it!" he states authoritatively. I know this phrase, I know respect for the wilderness, I have been taught well. I imagine my David (proud Eagle Scout) as a curly haired boy, wandering through woods, naming birds and plants and trees, steadfast in the ethics of the outdoors, leaning in close to inspect, but never touching. I feel equal twinges of pride and guilt knowing my David (proud Eagle Scout) as a shaved-headed full grown man, will scuttle down stone, to get me the biggest of pine cones.     

"It could be a marker," another boy suggests. "But HOW did it GET here?" David and I stare at each other, eyes wide, trying not to laugh. "A marker for what?" The questions hang for a second in silence, then the first boy explodes, "BUT I WANT IT." 

He wants it, like I want it. I wish I could sneak up there and stuff it in his backpack without his troupe seeing. I want him to have it, to get home and find it (hopefully with the sap fully dried), and stash it under his bed in a shoe box he keeps for secret things (although it's probably too big for a regular shoe box). Or maybe he'll take a chance and boldly display it next to his 4H trophies on the highest shelf in his bedroom. 

"But you can't have it! Nature doesn't belong to just you!" 

Oh. Bless. 

I don't want to know what happens next. I don't want to know if they keep fighting or if it accidentally gets tipped off the highest rock and tumbles down down down. I don't want to hear gasps or whose fault it is or reprimands from their leaders for being too close to the edge. So David and I slip away, leaving the Boy Scouts what-if-ing, and travel fast down the mountain, passing a thousand pine cones on our way. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

this far

...we were lying in savasana and our yoga teacher told us that she was driving to the studio and got totally overwhelmed. she said, "tomorrow is my birthday, and i just felt totally overwhelmed." i expected her next words to be some realization about aging, about how quickly life passes, how she's running out of time or feeling her mortality. but instead, she continued by saying, "i've made it this far. so much has happened, and i'm here, i've made it this far." such a needed reminder to acknowledge all of the journey, the times we've soared and the times we've barely survived. she went on and affirmed not just the distance covered, but the immeasurable road ahead. what will we do with our next breath? in a year that has brought another death to my immediate family, shrinking us from seven to four in just five years, i remind myself that i am alive, so much has happened, and i'm here, i've made it this far. here's to the journey, to surviving and celebrating, and to those lovely spirits who guide us along the way...

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Another Question...

I left my earphones in my other purse and the two women next to me are talking so loudly that I'm not sure if I'm more frustrated with myself or them. I choose them. They chatter on about the villa she stayed in, about the water, the weather, the pastries. One woman is perched eagerly over the other woman's phone. "That's a tall giraffe." "Yeah, we saw a lot of that, it was awesome." They are flipping through photos on the twiggy woman's phone. She wears suede boots up to the knee, a gold zipper from the heel all the way up the back of her calf, like a seam. "We ate at Africa House, it was awesome." She holds her phone in her left hand while running her finger across the phone screen. I see her ring finger wrapped in diamonds, a band of sparkling white, each stone nearly the size of my singular solitaire. Faster and faster she flips through the photos. The perched woman wears black leggings under a black skirt of the same material and can't stop coughing, asking clarifying questions, and interjecting opinions that the other woman swats away with minimal detail and maximum disinterest. "Why are you going so quick? I want to see!" she exclaims, leaning in closer. "It's not all exciting," her friend says as she tries to get through the slideshow. "Everything is exciting," she replies between coughs.

They both wear wigs, the nice ones that you can't tell are fake at first glance, the ones I only notice in this part of town where the men wear black suits and cover their heads and are seen walking to synagogue on Friday nights. "If you said, let's go on safari I'd say let's wait a few years, but now I'd totally go again." They talk about the friend who owns the villa. "Wife?" "She converted." "Huh." "Whatever." She brushes it off and moves on to talk about parachuting and the view from the balcony and more animals and breakfast and the kids the kids the kids. They talk so fast it sounds like someone is playing a tape at a jacked up speed. I keep waiting for the tape to break or for one of them to pause. It makes my chest feel tight and I have to remind myself to breathe. 

"So that was my trip. How was Pesach?" I am pleased that I know Pesach means the same thing as Passover and it makes me smile to think of my first Seder dinner just a couple of weeks ago. "Not as exciting as yours," the cougher replies and laughs and instead of answering says, "Two more questions..." It feels like she's stalling. She asks, and off they go again, same routine, same interjections, same lightening speed. More about the weather, the food, the massages, the villa, the friends who own the villa, how her husband loves to be the center of attention, how you could go if you were single but only if you're a super social person. 

Finally the coughing woman takes her turn. She has the stage and slides back into her seat. She slouches to be eye to eye with her suede-booted friend, who is resting the lid of her Starbucks cup against her suddenly still lips. But as it turns out, she doesn't have much to say. She throws out a few details about Seder and the kids the kids the kids and speaks so quickly her hands can hardly keep up. There is an apology in her body, like she doesn't deserves to be center stage. I find I can't even follow her train of thought. The bigger she becomes the more she fades, until she is invisible, and all I see is her tossing the conversation back to the other woman, another question about the kids the kids the kids. 

Saturday, December 05, 2015

All Three

A girl who can't be more than twelve years old is telling her mom about Donald Trump, the church of Scientology, and how dimming a cellphone's screen saves the battery. Her younger brother sits across from her, nodding and interjecting his agreement. The kids nibble cheesy croissants and sip iced drinks with whipped cream piled high inside the domed plastic lids. It seems like a special occasion. The girl is lanky and freckled and tucks loose strands of hair behind her ear. She tells her mom things her dad says (about Donald Trump), and things her uncle says (about the church of Scientology), and how her best friend is getting her ears pierced and she wants to too but wonders how much it will hurt. The boy pulls apart his cheesy croissant and contently swings his oversized feet beneath his seat. "I don't like it," he says suspiciously, "It's going to hurt."

The mom listens and nods and looks from child to child. She reaches out and touches the boy's perfectly pink cheek, and he leans in like a puppy dog, lapping up her love. He can't sit still, swiveling from croissant to whipped cream drink, and I imagine all the sugar being absorbed by his little body. "It's just craaaaazy," the girl says emphatically, having moved on to a new topic, pushing her hair out of her eyes again. "So craaaaazy," the boy agrees. All three laugh, throwing their heads back, heads with versions of the same dark chocolatey hair, the same texture and weight. 

A stranger walks by and greets the boy, tousling his hair. The boy receives this gesture with disinterested familiarity and the girl tosses him a haphazard 'hey,' the kind kids give most adults who are taller than them. I listen as the stranger introduces himself to their mother and I'm surprised to learn she's actually their aunt. School is out all week for the Thanksgiving holiday and family has come to town. All three seem bored with the stranger's chatter, although they are kid-polite and adult-friendly. I peek around to get a look at the aunt's face and wonder what the mother looks like. 

As soon as the stranger leaves, the girl leans in toward her aunt and brother and says something secret about the stranger. The boy agrees and drapes his arm around the aunt's shoulder. All three giggle, their heads nearly touching, and conspiratorially continue their conversation. They whisper. Heads bobbing, feet swinging.

I picture myself, less than a decade from now, with Hopper and Marty perched on high coffee shop stools like these, with no need for help getting on or off. I wonder what their pre-teen voices will sound like, I wonder if they will even eat cheesy croissants or be fervent vegans because one of their best friends is vegan. I wonder if they will be the same height, or if one will have outgrown the other. 

The girl starts gathering her garbage and the boy and aunt follow her lead. They chatter on as they slide off their seats, almost bundled together, as they scurry out the front door. I watch them leave and wonder if, a decade from now, Hopper will want me to know her secrets, and if Marty will still let me touch his cheek. 

Saturday, September 05, 2015


David and I are sitting at Caffe Vita, next to the windows, where I watch an old man using tweezers to trim his beard. He holds a small round magnifying mirror and I keep expecting him to tilt it and catch me. He's engrossed though, only interrupted by the pigeons, which he flicks away with his bony black arm. I sit on the other side of the glass and wonder about using black as a descriptor. I wouldn't think to use white, were it so. When I describe someone who isn't of color, I notice their hair, their size, their shape. Maybe I mention freckles, or a birthmark, but usually skin is noted for race and race is noted when it's other than white. I find this surprising and disturbing. You could chalk it up to numbers, a matter of majority, but I think it's more insidious. 

The old man with the tweezers pulls my eye again. The brim of his dented fedora hides most of his face. This time his arm waves, more circular and grand, but I see no pigeons in my periphery. He is speaking with animation, turning his head so I can see his profile. I assume he's talking to the air, or someone only he can see. I assume this because he's still mid-tweeze, and because I believe him to be a little crazy, and poor, and possibly homeless (although he has a raggedy old pocket-sized notebook in his shirt pocket and there is a folded green bill sticking out). I ask myself why I assume these things. Is it because he has a stain on his jeans, or because he's now tweezing up around his ears, or because he's talking to the birds, even after the birds have disappeared? But then I see smoke waft into view and as I lean a little left, a tattooed hand holding a lit cigarette. Notice I don't say white tattooed hand? Interesting that the mention of skin is quite often about being other or marked in some way. Interesting that if I just lean a little left, an old crazy man becomes sane. 

The tattooed man gets up and walks toward the entrance. I remember immediately that someone wrote 'kill white men' in small pink letters on Caffe Vita's front door. I was startled by the marred wooden surface even before I absorbed the meaning. I wonder how it feels for white men to open that door today? How rare it must be for them to feel singled out in such an intimate way, on a Saturday morning before nine, at their local coffee shop.   

The old man with the tweezers has his pocket-sized notebook out. It's opened to the last page. I read what he has written. 


The first two lines are in black ink. The last in blue. I presume the last line was just written because he now waves a blue Bic at the birds. The tattooed man returns with a fresh cup of coffee and their conversation continues. 

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Babo & the Dentist

When I was little I didn’t have a favorite stuffed animal or favorite blank-y or binkie. Instead, I had A Big Red Plastic SPOON with a smiling face and black hair painted on. It was smooth and hollow and I loved to rub the curve of the face on my elbow to comfort myself or bite on the handle when times were tough. And there are tons of pictures of me with that Red Spoon. Me on the swings with the Red Spoon, me chasing the dog with the Red Spoon, me eating the dog’s food with the Red Spoon (although that one kind of concerns me, ‘cause my parents ran to get the camera instead of stopping me from eating dog food). I would tote that thing everywhere, even to Sunday school where Mrs. D let me sit the Red Spoon on its very own chair. It was my most favorite childhood treasure and I loved it. And the Red Spoon loved me, smiled back at me day in and day out. 

Then one day, no more Red Spoon. I can’t remember how it happened, can’t remember if I outgrew it (just woke up one day and found it devoid of comfort) or if there were comments, like “You really are getting too big for that spoon,” or “Big Girls don’t need a spoon” or “People will think we don’t feed you.”  Maybe I just started to notice what other kids had on the playground. Like Cabbage patch kids, and Hello Kitty purses, CD players, cheerleading uniforms, 4.0’s, laptops, condos, Prada sunglasses, BMW’s.  Maybe, because I know I looked for substitutes. Like, Gabriel for the Red Spoon. Gabriel was this tiny boy my mom babysat on Tuesday’s and Thursdays. I wanted to own him, tried to carry him around, tried to bite on his elbow. But Gabriel out grew me (literally, I couldn’t pick him up) so the search continued. It was books for the Red Spoon, then ballet and all-school plays for the Red Spoon. Then Jesus for the Red Spoon, martinis for the Red Spoon, then Dunhills, yoga (hatha, vinyasa, ashtanga, bikram), cheesecake, cheesecurls, bicep curls. However it happened, I let the Red Spoon go.

So today I have a dentist appointment, which I hate. I hate dentists. Not my dentist specifically, he's great, but dentists in general. So maybe I should say, I hate dentistry or dental work. Yes, I absolutely hate dental work. Not as a concept. It's a really good thing for health and wellbeing and the ability to bite and chew and eat things, but I hate it as it pertains to tremendous physical discomfort being forced upon my personal person. 

I always cancel my appointments. At least twice (once I canceled and rescheduled 4 times, I hate it that much). When I finally work up enough courage to go, this is what I do to prepare:
- I reschedule for 7 in the morning so I’m not fully awake. 
- I wear clothes as close to pajamas as possible to maintain the illusion that I am still asleep.
- I take 3 Ibuprofin and my anxiety meds a half hour before the appointment.
- I pack earphones and a pair of socks 
-I slather balm on my lips, especially at the corners because dentists (generally) seem to purposely stretch the hell out of the corners. Probably because they want to hang things there, like that saliva sucking thing, which I also hate (specifically).

So I park the car outside the dentist's office and already my neck is aching, anticipating that chair and that strange head mold thing that's suppose to... I don't know what it's suppose to do.  I parallel park and while I’m looking over my shoulder I see my pillow.  Actually, my pillow is this stuffed animal, this Ugly Doll (that’s the brand) called Babo. David got it for me to keep in our car, he calls it my car-pet (get it, CAR. PET.). It’s for the long trips to my in-laws' farm, the five hour trips that are a pain in the neck (literally, not a comment on the in-laws). I always promise to drive part of the way and I never do.  I sleep. Complain. Sing show tunes really loudly and complain some more. Usually about the pain in my neck. So David bought me Babo who is gray and flat (and yep, ugly) and soft and the perfect size for the crook in my neck. It makes a big difference. Now I can just sleep on those long drives, and not complain. At least not about the pain in my neck.

So before exiting my car, I decide to grab Babo from the back seat. I tuck him under my arm and smear on one last coat of lip balm before entering the dentist’s office.

The ladies are not very friendly this morning.  Maybe because it’s early and I’m their first customer.  Or maybe because I’m THAT ONE who keeps canceling and rescheduling (whatever). I slide into a seat in the waiting room where some cheery Morning Show is being broadcast on the Spanish Channel. Babo lies in my lap and I play with his flat arms and legs, his gray fuzzy fur absorbs the sweat from my palms. The silliest thought strikes me, can he see the TV? I turn him so he doesn’t have to strain. No reason we should both have a pain in the neck.

When it’s my turn I’m lead to my very own private hellhole and I sit and wait for the dentist, Dr. Frank (who's great, really, he is, although he seems to wear a perma-grin and chuckles through everything I say, even the serious questions about receding gums and grinding my teeth at night). He comes in to give me THE SHOT which I hate, because it's administered inside my MOUTH, my GUMS for chrissake. Sitting there already numb with dread, I wonder how other people stand it. Like, older people and younger people and… well… all the people? I squeeze Babo tight to my chest, but not so tight he can’t breathe.

Dr. Frank sits down on one of those rolly-swively-stools. He chitchats to distract me while swabbing pink stuff on the spot that will become the bulls-eye. He is about to lean in with the massive needle I know is hidden behind his back, when I remember that I’ve got Babo and I need to slip him under the crook in my neck. My arms come up, Dr. Frank makes his move, and Babo and the needle nearly collide, a CLOSE CALL. Babo looks at me and seems to say, “I woulda done it, I woulda taken one for ya.” And I think, “Thanks buddy, you really are a good Ugly Doll.” 

“Whoops,” Dr. Frank says.

“I brought him as a pillow. For my neck. I get a pain in my neck." I say.

Dr. Frank laughs, his perma-grin and chuckle starting to freak me out. But he says, “Sure, no problem at all," and rolls back out of the way. 

Babo slips under my neck and I instantly feel comforted.

"Did you think I brought him to keep me company?" I ask.

Dr. Frank says, “I thought you brought him to hug.”

We both laugh and grin and chuckle but then he swiftly swivels in and jabs the needle deep into my flesh and it’s all I can do not to bite him. The POISON is seeping into my gums and I get to thinking. Why not? Why not bring Babo to keep me company, why not bring him just to hug? I could have brought a rolled up towel for my neck and Babo JUST TO HUG. Can’t that be okay for a 43-year-old woman to do? To bring her car-pet to her dentist appointment just for comfort?

As I lose feeling in my lips, my chin, half of my tongue, I try to gauge the amount of time that has passed. It's been maybe five minutes, I think. I’m really concerned with the speed in which THE POISON wears off. Just this week I read an article at the gym that says anesthesia wears off faster for women than men, so what if my dentist (even my favorite dentist Dr. Frank) dilly dallies and the anesthesia doesn’t outlast the procedure? What if, mid-drilling, my nerves come alive and I start flailing uncontrollably? I could gag on the saliva-sucking thing or get gouged in the eye by the drill, It Could Happen. So I like to keep track of the time, just in case. From under my neck Babo whispers in my ear, “Just bite your lip a little, just a test.”  So I do, still numb. “Don't worry, we’ll make it,” he says. 

I relax my neck into Babo’s cushy tummy and think of a lady I’ve seen on the Western bus, the 207. She looks like she could be 207. And she has a doll. Maybe you’ve seen her, seen them. They are both equally ragged and simple and somewhat empty behind the eyes. They both have black hair and dirty hands. She is always whispering to the doll and stroking its locks, stroking the side of her face with the baby doll’s face, cheek to cheek. And she is ugly and the doll is ugly (from wear and tear and living a hard life it seems) but you can tell that this doll is just oozing with love, it has absorbed years and years of tears and kisses and whispers. The lady cradles her doll having somehow managed not to outgrow her childhood comfort. Or maybe she's just crazy.

Man, I wish I had a little bit of that kinda crazy right now. Some soothing. I wish I had the Red Spoon, wish I could rub it on my elbow (or bite on the handle). I imagine the Red Spoon’s painted-on face smiling at me, congratulating me, acknowledging that I’m making it through an especially tough time. That would be nice. I sigh and even through the drilling, Babo hears. He whispers, “Hang in there, you’re doing just great.”

So when I’m finally done, they usher me out of the hellhole (just in time, because my rubbery lip is starting to tingle). I pay my $290 (yes I PAY for this insanity) and schedule my follow-up appointment where they will, I’m told, “deliver the crown,” and I think at $290 it better be jewel encrusted and come with a scepter.

I get home and eat mandarin oranges from a jar (because I don’t have any cheesecake). I eat them before my jaw thaws which is a bad idea because mandarin oranges feel like cheek and I run to the bathroom and see the inside of my mouth is bloody. Standing there in front of the mirror I wonder, what will give me comfort when I don’t have any teeth left?

My jaw aches a little, but for once there’s no pain in my neck. My neck, my bare neck. I’d already forgotten. No Babo. He’s still in the car, where I haphazardly threw him. So I run out to the car. He’s doing a handstand, tipped precariously against the passenger-side door, face smooshed into the seat. Some thanks, huh. I lean in, give his ugly arm a grateful squeeze and sit him comfortably, facing forward, so he can see.