Friday, September 30, 2005

Last night was viciously cold. I got up several times to put on more clothing and tried to cuddle myself in bed enough to feel some warmth. I didn't sleep much, but I did dream.

In this dream, I was meeting Gutter. He's a friend of mine from high school. We remained friends through college, but since neither of us enjoy our trips home to Victor, we tended to miss each other. Now I have no idea where he lives and his parents either moved or changed their phone number. So now I dream about him.

I was meeting him somewhere outside, but it was enclosed and there was a door to get there, a door I was watching. There were people but they were vague, non-people. I looked around me and he was right there, out of focus but very close. We hugged and hugged... he kissed my forehead. He was wearing a navy blue sweater that looked too small. His glasses kept disappearing.

I wanted him to kiss me, and without saying it he seemed to obey, but somehow kept his lips from me as we tried to kiss. Finally he told me he had to go and moved away from me. He moved too fast... I tried to chase him, and he let a book go over his shoulder, like a handkerchief. I caught it somehow. It was full of notes for me, written in red pen. I didn't want to read what any of them said. I was so afraid it was full of excuses.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Other people's news

I didn't mention that I was sick this week, for two reasons:

A. I'm not sure if I was actually sick or if it was just anxiety, and it doesn't help the anxiety to feel guilty about missing work BECAUSE of feeling sick from anxiety

B. I'm saying less about anything slightly negative that happens in my life. I'm sick of hearing it from myself, and I'm sick of making other people sick of me.

When things get this way, I tend to tell people other people's news. I noticed this the other day, when someone asked how I was and I started talking about Lil Pea. And then when pressed I talked about my niece's birthday coming up. When pressed further, I brought up how fascinating my roommate Ben's job is to me. Not my news. I'm connected, but not living any of that information. It's a weird tactic, something I don't notice til much later, and the result tends to be a sort of hostile isolation. It's the same feeling I got at Shane's funeral and other Shaney party-type things. "You can't help me. None of you know what I know. Telling you will make it insignificant, and then I'm stuck with the shame of feeling too much."

Lil Pea Lil Pea Lil Pea
Don't you dare grow up like me

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

All we like sheep

The Brookline Chorus repertoire includes a section of Handel's Messiah about sheepies a'wandering. The librette:

All we like sheep,
have gone astraaaaay.
We have turn-ed
Every one to his own way.

Of course, when sung, this sounds like,


I have to say, I certainly do.

I love this song already, but I have the sneaking suspicion that I love it because the director loves it, and I have a girl-crush on her. Some of her directives:

For "have gone astraaaay" wandering melodies: "Decrescendo... like you, the tenors, have indeed wandered astray. Perhaps you are headed toward yon cliff..."

For "We have turn-ed!": "C'mon, altos! Come clean! Ya know ya did it! Admit your guilt!"

The last page is a complete surprise. After measures and measures of up-tempo meanderings comes a page of half notes, whole notes, minor chords, meloncholy...

... And the Lord hath laid on Him
the iniquity of us all.


Monday, September 26, 2005

Mmm... bapples.

Yesterday, despite hourly panic attacks over my freelance work, I went apple-picking with Norah, Melissa, and Chris (the third roomie in that apartment). Ms. Chessman organized the thing, but we barely caught up with her crew. Mostly it was our roving band of four scouring the hillsides for Cortlands, Macs, Spartans, Empires, the occasional Bosc pear...

If you haven't met Chris (and in all likelihood, you haven't, O Cheese Aficianado), you won't have the amusing picture in your head that I have. Y'see, Chris is a giant. He's 6'7, maybe taller. Ducks in doorways. Doesn't fit in his own car. Has to cut his own shorts from pants. He's effing HUGE.

So imagine our glee when Chris agreed to come along on our apple picking trip.

"Wow! We won't have to fight for a ladder!"
"It's like we have the Jolly Green Giant on our side!"
"He can carry a sixty-pound bag of apples with his pinky finger!"

All true, people. All true.

Chris also served his apple-pickin' companions well by eating a total of eleven apples, all for the sake of science.

"Yes, but how do we know it's a Spartan?"
"I dunno. Chris, eat one."
"Okay." Chomp chomp. "Yeah, it definitely tastes different."

Razing the orchard with a giant on hand wasn't actually the highlight of the day, however, and I actually had a moment when I nearly decided that I wanted to get my driver's license. I had another spiritual moment - my second in a matter of weeks - when I bit into the hot heaven of a fresh cider doughnut. I said this out loud, shocking myself into yet another spiritual moment:

"Wow, I should get my license so I can come out here every morning and eat a dozen of these."

Be thankful, O Ye Readers, that I don't have my license, as I'm sure you have some kind of vested interest in my cholesterol levels remaining healthy.

Anywho, we got home, and I told myself I'd get right to work on freelance as soon as I had some food that wasn't apple-y. And then I made Teriyaki chicken sausage (TJ's) with sliced apples, potatoes, and onions cooked in gyoza dipping sauce. And THEN I made apple crisp with too little flour and too much ground clove. And THEN I made tea. And then I thought I'd clean my room a bit. And then I had a panic attack. And then I got to work.

But the bapples were worth it.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

A little bit cruisey, a lotta bit boozey

Just imagine... A huge dance floor under the stars, stunning views of a twinkling Boston horizon, planes surging overhead, glamorous people in sparkling evening wear nearly impaling your feet with their spiked heels as they reel from drunkenness and sea sickness...

And when I say evening wear I mean skanky club clothes. And when I say glamorous I mean full of self-importance. And, if I haven't worn out this construct, when I say dance floor, I mean sticky pit of claustrophobia.

It's a dream come true!

Now, I have to say, I was pretty stunned when I first saw the Providence II lit up, booming with music, bursting with people. I had this moment of wonder at the possibility of it all. And then I realized that I'd experienced something like this before. It's called a Frat Party.

So Norah, her roomie Melissa, and your favorite JoBiv sat on the quieter deck for a good portion of the night. We let the wind push us around and we talked of many things: traumatized friends, BC Law School Students (the main population on the boat), the status of the whole big wide world... And then we decided to eat some underheated pizza and join the dance party.

And at times, yes, it was beautiful, surreal, exotic. But mostly, I spent the night dodging women in the aforementioned scary shoes, saying, "that's okay," to their, "sorry! Excuse me's" and trying to dance while my shoes were firmly glued to the floor by a mixture of spilled drinks and what could only be military grade epoxy.

The night could have ended when I was sitting on the bench lining the entire side of the boat, the wind blowing through my hair, and then something wet landed on my face. I looked up, as it couldn't possibly have come from the water thirty-odd feet below. A guy in a suit was leaning over the side, who, as I looked up, spit toward the water. The wind caught it. I dodged it this time. He leaned over further and wretched. I grabbed Norah and launched us into the crowd before we could find out what else would come out of his mouth.

Check. Don't need to Booze Cruise ever again in my lifetime.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Yes, but what does Pea have to say on the subject?

Pea thinks she's talking to me.

I noticed this last week or so. While I prepare her lunch, mushing avocado or hiding cheese in Beech-Nut sweet potatoes, she sits happily in her high chair, chomping veggie booty. I prefer not to watch, because veggie booty makes me ill (just to think of the spinach particles floating about!). When I do look, occasionally, to reassure myself that she's not turning purple due to a firmly lodged booty-glob, she smiles and laughs and tries to charm me.

And then, she pulls the "Now that you're looking" maneuver.

Pea grasps a puff in her right hand. She looks me in the eye. She thrusts her right hand straight out from her body. She deliberately loosens her grip, and smiles. The booty pings lightly on the floor.

Trying not to laugh, I sternly turn my body toward hers and sign "stop" with both hands, a sort of chopping motion onto an open palm. I say, sternly, I swear, "No, Pea. Stop. I don't like it."

She talks back!

Before I finish my reprimand, she yells at me in a stream of indignant gibberish. Then she repeats the maneuver. The episode ends when I remove the excess booty from her tray whilst she complains loudly, and I quickly begin the spooning of the mushy food.

Then today, while we played on the living room rug, I asked her, "Pea, are you hungry?"


I laughed a little. It sounded so definite. I asked again, "Are you feeling hungry?"


Yes ma'am!

Later in the day I asked the same question. This time, the repeated answer was "Ikeee." I've concluded that she understands that I require an answer, but has yet to commit to one word in response.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Keggar at JoBiv's House?

Kegger or keggar? Keggar sounds much closer to the image I have of invading hordes.

I should tell you why you didn't receive the Bea Arthur invitation. Well, those of you who have catapulted yourselves over state lines, that is. My roommates decided we should have a party. This serves different purposes for all of us.

For Ben: forces Becca to clean the apartment
For Jake: allows him to use his grill and educate us about beer balls
For Becca: allows her to systematically reject/alienate all of our single friends of the male persuasion.
For JoBiv: benefit yet to be determined.

I thought we'd have a little get-together, each of us corralling five friends or so. Becca's evite list grew to 48 people very quickly.

JoBiv: No, really, do you know these people?
Becca: Mostly.
JoBiv: Are they nice people?
Becca: If they're bringing single men, they're nice.

I brought up the topic of the Flaming Cabbage. Ben seemed enthusiastic. Jake consented with a saintly nod. Becca seemed confused.

Becca: Jo, you should have put something in that evite about "bringing dancing shoes" or something.
JoBiv: Why would I have done that?
Becca: Well of course there's going to be drunken dancing...
JoBiv: Oh, it's that kind of party.
Becca: Um, yeah. What kind of party did you think we were having?
JoBiv: The kind where you get to meet nice people and talk, actually hear what people are saying to you.
Becca: (glare of utter incredulity)

I'm just praying that some of my people show up to balance out her people. But then again, they can't all be like her, right? At 26 and older? Employed or in grad school? Chronically tired like the rest of us?


Saturday, September 17, 2005

Busy bee is me

I got two freelance book projects from Baseline, so my time is suddenly worth a lot more money. TONS more than the Baby Mama pays me, but I'm deluded enough to think I should stick with nannying while I do these projects in my free time.

Which, suddenly, is sparse. Two choirs, finishing painting my room, baby's b'day party, Brookline 300th Anniversary booths to attend to for choirs (which one? which one!)... When it rains, etc.

By the way, my Pea is turning one! One whole year of existence in the breathing world! Impressive, I say. She seems fairly proud of herself. I wonder if she'll show off her mad skillz at the party. She betta.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


If you got an evite that said

 would go, right?

My roommates are so lame.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Good evening, Dr. Jekyll

Maybe Wicked has invaded my psyche more than I expected, but I'm a bit worried about my own potential for becoming a super villain. If I were written into a book, would I turn out good or evil?

I wonder about this when I'm under stress and should really be thinking of other things. Such as, why haven't I bought real groceries for three weeks? What, exactly, have I been eating? I can't answer this question. I've felt sick for a while now. ...Besides the point.

I wonder about this when my parents are either threatening to visit or actually visiting. Like now. They're in town, my mother voluntarily enslaving herself as a house-painter for a few days, and I can't make myself feel good about them being here. THE WOMAN IS SAVING ME BUTTLOADS OF WORK AND FRUSTRATION, and I can't be happy about it. I've lost so much hair this week, it's a good thing I got my hair cut last week. My hairdresser praised me, said that it looked thicker, that I was clearly doing better (yes, she's the closest thing to a therapist at the moment. Shush.). And now my fingertips hurt and my stomach hurts and last time I looked in the mirror I couldn't make my forehead smooth by force of will. I had to smooth it with my hands and it bounced back into its deep furrows.

And so I become Dr. Jekyll, burying my inner Hyde. I carefully dress for dinner, make a list in my head of pleasant things to say and to ask, keep my elbows off the table, compliment my father's wine choice. None of this makes me less evil.

I've assumed that I'm basically evil since I was about twelve. No, I didn't hear the devil's commands in my sleep, but I always hated the conniver in me. I hated the hater. And I've always felt so terribly prone to these things. Perhaps my awareness was a good sign. I told my therapist from high school and college about the terrible compulsive daydreams I would have (I won't detail them here, they're disturbing), and he eventually copied a pamphlet for me about "Bad Thoughts" OCD. (Look it up on Google, I dare you.) The message of the pamphlet was essentially this: JoBiv, you are not evil.

I can't believe that. What does that pamphlet know? It doesn't know that I can't stand to be loved. That must be a sign of true evil.

God, I hope that's not true. Any of it. I'm so tired.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Catch a falling star And put it in your pocket

"And what about your ceiling?" my Mom asked the other day.
"It's okay. A little dingy, but probably doesn't need repainting."
"Well we have ceiling paint, it's easy to bring it."
"Yeah, but it also has these glow-in-the-dark stars all over it."
"We can paint over them."
"Hmm... I think they'd peel eventually... I guess I can take them down."

And so over the past few nights I have left my light on for an hour, attracting the moths who have taken over the apartment, then turning it off, standing on my bed, I grope the ceiling to pull down the stars. It's funny, the same thing happens with these stars that happens when you look into the night sky; if I stare at one intently, it suddenly disappears. I resorted to scraping my fingers against the textured ceiling, searching for the flat paper stickers among the cheese grating.

I was sad to take them down. On my first night in the new room I was pleasantly exhausted, looking up at the fake stars, looking at fake constellations. A backwards big dipper, a too-tight Cassiopeia. My father had just mentioned to me how charmed he was that when I was last home, looking up into the starry sky was the first thing I did after emerging from the car at 1:30am. My mother reported to him that I found Cassiopeia right away. My father was impressed with his own teaching skills from way back when.

But the glow-in-the-dark stars have other memories tied to them. During the summer of 2000, when I worked at the YMCA camp, I was almost-dating a guy named Paul, who was the music teacher and had his own cabin/classroom. He was staying with his rather stodgy aunt and uncle that summer, and sought refuge in his little cabin, painting it, decorating it, cleaning the lush carpet. The kids loved that room, its comfy bright softness.

I was a little in love with Paul, with what he might do for me. I thought he could rescue me somehow, with his jazz guitar, his vegetarian enchiladas, his soft-spoken respect. He was careful and confusing with me, making huge efforts to see me outside of camp, then not returning phone calls, then begging me to go on the road with him. During our once-a-week overnight, we'd get the kids sleeping, then the counselors would take shifts to go down to the dwindling bonfire. Paul would play his guitar, I would sing everything I knew. The other counselors would dazedly burn marshmellows and put in requests.

One week I helped Paul bring his two guitars back to his cabin. The carpet was so soft and nice. I couldn't help wishing we could sleep there. The other counselors called it "The Love Shack," and at that moment, with the bright mothy fluorescent light buzzin, the guitars settling into their cases, our hair smokey, fingers ashy, I felt all of the possibilities rushing into me.

"Do you want to see something?" he asked.
"Sure," I said.

He ushered me into the middle of the room and walked over to close the door. Then he turned off the light.

"Look up."

On the low raftered ceiling, he had meticulously placed a hundred or more stars. Many of them made constellations. There were so many, it was dazzling. No one else would know they were here, I thought. No one is here at night. Was he sleeping here? When did he have the time?

"This is amazing, Paulie!" I whispered. Darkness always makes me whisper.

"Thanks." He brushed through the air toward me, stood in front of me as I gazed up. The cabin had good storm doors and blocked all light. There were no windows. The darkness was complete, except for the stars. I could only make out his silhouette against them. He was nearly a foot taller, and I was looking up, wondering if I could somehow find his eyes in the dark. They were blue. They should have glowed.

What did we talk about then? Whatever came out of our mouths was surely nervous bullshit. My whole body was pleading him to kiss me. I felt the entire dialogue; how he'd said he couldn't date anyone right now, how he'd said I was so talented, how I tried to find a closer place to him when we watched movies on his aunt's couch, how he touched my arm so lightly to get my attention, how overwhelming my loneliness could be, how his eyes lit when I sang with him. It all funneled to this point, right here.

Kiss me, jackass.

He cleared his throat. "We should go."

Paul found the door quickly, shakily opened it, let me pass through, careful not to touch.

Standing on my bed last night, my fingers sore from searching out stars, I felt that same juvenile confusion for a moment. Paul and I kissed, eventually, once, on my porch, some night before I had to go back to college after a short break. I never could tell if he did any of it for me - the stars, the enchiladas, the kiss. He always seemed to act out of some higher moral sense of duty that occassionally allowed him to dip down and serve me somehow.

I asked myself, are glow-in-the-dark star stickers juvenile or romantic?

My arms, head, fingertips aching, I decided. Juvenile.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Sleep snot and other spiritual matters

So I auditioned for the Brookline Chorus, and lo, I got in! As mentioned below in quite a lengthy, but necessary, post. I perhaps should keep private the fact that I found out about this chorus through a Coolidge Corner Community Choir member who was two-timing with the auditioned BC.

No longer private. Whoops.

And so. I showed up on time last night, despite the Great Forces of the Universe attempting to slow me. I found my way around, found my two-timing choir friend, met his lovely wife, and sat myself down in the back row of the alto section.

Laura, the director, started us off with breathing exercises, scales, and harmonizing exercises. She had complete and utter control over every aspect of the choir from the minute she told us to begin, and more than that, the choir was capable of response. This may sound strange. I mean to say that in the old choir, the members come from "all walks, all skill levels." This is to say that many do not know what choral singing entails, how to produce good tone, how to attack a note, how to follow a director, even! And so, when Laura pointed to the sopranos and asked them to sing a high arpeggio, I allowed myself an anticipatory wince.

And that's when the spirit invaded my formerly wandering soul.

HOLY CRAP, people! They could SING! Not sharp, not flat, not nasal, not wavering. Perfect, ringing notes lilted from them, and something in my chest fluttered with absolute satisfaction.

Laura then repeated the process with each section. The tenors made me shiver. The basses made me tear. And my own alto section sent me to some pillar of exhaltation I could not have previously imagined.

Appropriately, we started singing from Mendelssohn's Elijah. As we started on "He watching over Israel" (recently added to my repertoire at the CCCC), the choir read the new-to-most-of-them material almost flawlessly. After ten minutes of work, we had achieved something near angelic. We had surpassed, by LEAGUES, any kind of performance put forth by the community choir. At some point I thought to myself, "Wow, this would be PERFECT if I could make my sleep snot joke!"

This is the joke: (warning, not a good one.)

The Mendelssohn text loops and layers the words,

"He watching over Israel
slumbers not nor sleeps.
Shouldst thou, walking in grief, languish,
He will quicken thee.
He sleeps not."

When singing en masse, choirs often ellide end syllables to make the consonants crisper and to create a more fluid, graceful sound.

So, to me, "He... slumber snot nor sleeps." Similarly, "He sleep snot." Tehehehehehe.

In a serious choir, one is not allowed to utter such things, as one is working terribly hard to keep up with the director. Therefore, I nearly shit myself with happiness when Laura advised us to sing, "Slumber snot." My tenor friend leaned back in his seat, caught my eye, and raised his eyebrows significantly. The look said, "You belong here."

One of my 43 things is...

to be able to log in to All Consuming. What the hey?

You deserve it

What a freakin’ week… The following things occurred but are not the subject of this entry:

- interviewed for and found three roomie candidates, all but the last flaking on us. (His name is Jake and he’s joined the Good Side in the “good god can we get rid of this clutter?” war.)

- On Thursday, moved my bed from my old place to this place by hiring help through Craigslist. Had to accomplish all the coordination with Pea in tow.

- Same day, moved out of my temporary room into the Red Room. I’m still in boxes, but at least they are conceivably unpackable.

On Friday:

- Helped Jake move in a bit

- Auditioned for The Brookline Chorus, was invited to come to rehearsal on Tuesday! (This means I may have to give up on the rose garden for this season.)

- Went salsa dancing (the subject of this entry, actually. I’ll get to it.)


- Went to the Cape to see the Edward Gorey House and have yummy lunch with Bloomers, Meera, Rossamatoss, and Meredith R. O’D.


- Cleaned this apartment! With gusto! Thank goodness for Jake and Ben, who scrubbed and moved furniture and hauled trash alongside your favorite JoBiv

- Sang at the Cantab’s Sunday Night Blues Jam. Gotta love Monday holidays.


- Norah’s Labor Day BBQ Madness!


- First Brookline Chorus rehearsal. Perhaps I’ll tell you about that sometime.

But let me tell you about Salsa dancing. The Havana Club holds lessons and a dance party (is that even the right term for salsa dancing?) for a low, low, wish-it-were-lower price of $12 a person. For the first hour and a half, a very energetic, shaved-bald man with a slight accent, think his name was Ivan, leapt around on a stage enthusiastically, piping directions through a headset over loud music and the sound of tippy-tapping feet. I couldn’t actually see his feet from where I stood, but gleaned the basic steps from those around me. And then I remembered, “Hey, I already learned this somewhere!” (Twice, actually, in high school P. E. and in a Spanish wine bar in Ireland under the tutelage of an Italian.) It ended up coming pretty easily.

Then Ivan instructed us to form pairs. A very nice, slightly hesitant gent matched up with me, and Ivan modeled how we should touch. My partner was slightly more comfortable with the less intimate embrace – only touching hands, my fingers folded over his. I could feel his pulse racing, his palms sweating. What agony for this guy! After learning a few more basics of dancing with a partner, the instructor made us switch. New partner, new anxiety, new steps. The same rabbit-like heart beat with each new rotation. The same attempt not to say, “one-two-three, five-six-seven,” aloud. But it was fun! Slowly, we shuffled toward some kind of near-graceful movement. Simply mirroring and achieving the steps was enough for me. I pitied the men a bit, with Ivan repeating that it was their job to lead, to signal the “ladies” (love how often he used that term), and to create space for us to move safely. By the end of the three minutes I spent with each new partner, we had almost gotten a feel for each other. Just in time to rotate to a stranger.

Near the end of the lesson, I ended up with an Indian man who, despite his best efforts, had not yet mastered the simpler steps. I had been excited to learn the new parts Ivan modeled on the floor with his partner, but instead spent the time showing this man how to lead me. Of course, that didn’t work. At one point, he spun me and pulled my hip so that my whole body was flush against him, and I felt a momentary terror. I wanted to scream out, “Don’t touch me!” But it was a mistake. It had to be a mistake. He was just nervous and uncoordinated.

Eventually, Ivan came over. He stood next to the man and took over, allowing him to mimic Ivan’s every step. Ivan held my hands in his with the gentlest pressure, and with the slightest of moves on his part, I felt my feet move into the right steps. It was as simple as if he had pressed a button somewhere. He left me with the bumbler again, and I felt somehow bereft.

As the night wore on, I ended up watching from the sidelines. Acutely aware of all of my flaws (real and imaginary), I became a thirteen year old at a school dance. The men were many and brave, approaching women willy-nilly, the energy of comaraderie filling the place to bursting. Everyone wanted to try out their steps, and very few seemed daunted by the risk of embarrassment. I couldn’t shake my fears, however, and sat back to watch the many characters sprawled across the floor. A man at the next table, latino, maybe 35, dressed all in black, kept glancing our way. He tried to catch my eye several times and smiled widely. Was it a friendly smile? A blonde guy with blazingly blue eyes cruised the perimeter of the dance floor for women to dance with, his shirt soaked with sweat after the first two or three dances. An older black man with two-toned shoes and a belly seemed to delight in spinning women to nausea. One young latino had this slick style of approaching women that kept me laughing. He would approach a woman with very little eye-contact, then sidle up to her, turn his back to her, somehow get her hand in his, and pull her behind him onto the floor, stepping to the beat. Oddly, every woman he approached went along with his grand plan. He was a good dancer, a little bit creative, and had a tendency for dipping as a grand finale.

It was all very fine to watch him dance with friends, but suddenly his red shirt took up my entire field of vision, and he had my wrist in his hand. Gently, he pulled me out of the seat. I protested, evidently weakly, and he pulled me onto the floor. I was suddenly nervous, much more than when I had been forced to dance with strangers during the lesson, and hoped he knew that I didn’t get to learn the fancier steps. How would he know that? He seemed to gauge my abilities fairly well, and respectfully held my hands instead of embracing me, allowing me space, guiding gently. He brought out some fancy footwork and I tried to copy. We ran into the next song with our sort of call-and-response dancing. Toward the end I was positively enjoying myself, and then he pulled me to him to kiss my cheek.

“Thank you,” I said, kissing back and attempting to lean away. He said something into my ear, but the music had started up again.

“What?” I yelled.

He leaned in again. “You deserve it,” he said.

He wandered off to other women, and I sat back down, my cheeks burning, stomach roiling. I couldn’t help but think the worst of what those words could signify. You deserve it… in spite of how you look, how you dance, how you act. Even you, you wart on the face of the dance floor. You deserve it. He somehow saw the deep and secret ugliness in me, I was sure of it.

I went outside for a while to get some air, where the bouncer decided to chat with me. He was black, I think Caribbean, and introduced himself as James.

“Why is this the first time I’ve seen you here, girl?” he asked, very flirty.

“I hadn’t heard of this until now!” Why did I feel the need to answer such a weird question?

“Oh that’s no excuse! A girl like you… Mmm… I should have met you sooner!” He winked at me and barely saved his eyes from raking my body.

“Ooookay… back to the dance floor for me!”

“Girl, don’t do that to me… Hey, what’s your name?”

“Johanna.” Why lie?

“Johanna, you come back out here and visit, yes?”

“Well I’ll definitely see you when I leave, won’t I?”

Back inside, another latino worked his way through several friends. It was the man in black who had smiled at me hours ago. This man was a little older and exactly my height. I couldn’t tell if he was skeezy, but he seemed mellow on the dance floor as I watched him. Eventually, he worked his way to me.

At first, I didn’t understand the difference in this dance. It wasn’t completely comfortable, but it was suddenly easy to keep up. He looked me in the eye and guided me so gently and tenderly. I realized the difference a few minutes into the song; it was respect. The elegance of our dance came from a complete infusion of respect that seemed to travel through his fingers and into my body. I could feel that he thought of me as a lady, as Ivan had been fond of calling the women. He was taking care of me, allowing me, praising me with the slight pressure of his fingers on my hands. As soon as I realized this, my body seemed to fall into step as it had with Ivan. I could play with the steps more, swing my hips more, look in his eyes more. This was utter elegance.

At the end of the second song, he leaned in for the customary cheek-kiss and thank-you.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Johanna. And yours?”

“Miguel. What’s your friend’s name?” He pointed to the women sitting nearby.

“You mean the redhead? Norah.”

“Oh… yeah. I mean, what’s her name?” He pointed to the elegant brunette I had only met tonight. She danced with a perfect fluidity, having taken lessons beyond our twelve dollar special.

“That’s Senele. She’s good, isn’t she.”

“Yes, she’s very good.” He seemed to remember for a moment that he was supposed to be talking to me. “You’re good, too!”

“Thank you… and thank you for the dance.”

He bowed a bit and we parted.

I felt somehow grounded after my dance with Miguel. I felt a bit of a rush, too. My body had not betrayed me, and he had been respectful, whether or not he had preferred another girl’s dance. His eyes didn’t lie when he said I was good, and I hung onto that little bit of praise.

At 1:30, with men still roving for dance partners as though it was 10:30, my companions decided they’d had enough and I had to agree. On our way out, James reached for my hand.

“Hey, now you have to come back, Johanna.”

“Oh, we’ll see,” I laughed.

“You laughing at me?” He pretended offense.

“No, no… it’s just that you’re so charming,” I said, mocking a faint.

“You’re trouble, you are, girl. You come back and visit your charming James.”

“Goodnight James.”

“You say you’ll come again.” He pulled my hand to his chest.

“You say goodnight.” I pulled my hand back, laughing.

“Oh ho! Goodnight then!” He raised my hand to his lips, smiling endearingly.

I swung my hips as I walked away. Gloatingly.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Nanny Nail Salon: I'm sorry, we're closed.

“And Jo, this is kind of an odd request.”


“Would you mind trying to cut Pea’s nails today?”

“Whoa… umm… I dunno…” I broke out in a mild sweat. I can barely change the little tumbler’s diaper these days without injuring her or myself. How would I wield scissors anywhere near her?

“Well, you’ve seen the scratches on her tummy…”

“Oh yeah, of course, I mean, I’ll try. I might give up fairly easily, but…”

Baby Mama laughed, “Yeah, that’s fine. I usually try to sneak up on her while she’s sleeping. She still manages to squirm away.”

And so I was left with a crazy unforeseen anxiety. That day, the baby slept in her crib as I planned my attack. How sleepy was she? If I interrupted her nap I’d be furious with myself. Her naps are my only chance to take a break (after taking care of dishes and cleaning up). What would I do if she was sleeping on her belly, as she often does? It could be the perfect excuse to call off the procedure. Right then I decided that she was probably asleep on her stomach and I really shouldn’t disturb her. Besides, I didn’t know where the nail scissors were. There. Decided.

The next day I found the scissors. Now I had a problem. I stood at the door to her room, having spent much too much time on dishes and tidying and repacking the diaper bag and cleaning the scissors. I could see her through the rungs of her crib, sprawled on her back, not having moved from when I put her down, a sack of tiredness. I thought, I really don’t think this was in my contract. And then I thought, do I have a contract? (The answer: tragically, no.)

I stood there, scissors in hand, one foot over the threshold, and tried to convince myself that the worst that could happen would be Pea waking and cutting my break short, and I was just being selfish. But actually, that wasn’t the worst that could happen. The fears that first occurred to me and throbbed in my heart as I stood there were completely irrational and completely terrifying: what if I cut her? What if she wakes and moves so I poke her in the eye? What if I somehow slip and… tears were suddenly running down my face. My heart raced and I couldn’t breathe.

I forced myself to take a deep breath. “Another day,” I said aloud. And then I walked back to the living room, repeating it to myself. “Another day. Another day. Another day.”