I remember it was the same week that those black kids threw eggs at me and the weather finally made up its mind to stay good and cold. I stuck my bare feet in some white tennis shoes and threw a black leather coat over my v-neck undershirt. Then I started walking. I had set out to buy some food, but the only places open were the “all Spanish food all the time” stores and I was just so exhausted with refried beans. I drew a cigarette and tapped it delicately on the front of the pack like every respectable ‘50’s businessman and I realized that I was smoking Marlboro Lights when I wanted Camels, I was living on Staten Island when I wanted to live in Manhattan and I was systematically viewing NYPL’s entire video collection when I wanted a job.
They always come in threes, the fuckers.
I have a laissez-faire approach to my own life. He created it, so I expect Him to do something with it. An honorable term for this would be faith. An honest one would be inactivity.
Nothing else for tonight. There were two full-length mirrors resting against a battered fence and I looked into them. It was a boring portrait. Too much hair, not enough meat on his bones. Too sullenly experienced, too sunnily naïve.
Paradoxes aren’t marketable. No wonder I’m not employed.
But those are important things. What was bothering me was the un ones. For instance: I had forgotten to wear a belt with my khakis and I looked like Dick Van Dyke in the penguin scene from Mary Poppins. My mail was arriving everyday with everyone else’s in a community pile in the foyer of the apartment building. I was out of ProActiv and I was beginning to look like a pubescent Richard Burton.
It got really bad as I scooped a big spoonful of sweet potatoes onto my plate. It’s when I realized I was eating someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner, because we never have sweet potatoes at ours. Why would we? We have regular potatoes, we don’t need sweet ones too. But I ate them anyway, and liked them, which made it weirder. When I called my family, they seemed preoccupied with the party. My cousin asked why I didn’t have a job yet.
“I haven’t found something I like. I want to work at something that I enjoy.”
“Well why don’t you get something until then?”
He wasn’t listening. I’m glad my mind was still on the sweet potatoes because if it had been on the present conversation I would have said, “Then the ‘something’ becomes your job for the next ten years. Like you.”
I’d been racking up enough bitch points, though, so it’s probably best I avoided that one. I’d been behaving like a mutated Mankiewicz monster, insulting my roommate’s entire family one at a time, without (or with) their awareness. It could be because I hated them (for insipidly inflated reasons, one being that they didn’t notice my James Taylor record playing pleasantly during dinner), but I think it was really because I hated me – for making my ostentatiousness seem ‘outgoing,’ my cruelty ‘clever,’ and making everyone like me despite my hideousness. It made me want to knock over tables and scream “falsity!” and slap everyone in the room and just weep.
But I didn’t weep then. I wept alone, when I watched The Court Jester with Danny Kaye. He’s this crackpot comedian, letting himself be used so others are amused. But it’s this one line that just killed me, because Kaye says it with such gusto grief: “He lives for a sigh, he dies for a kiss, he lusts for the laugh, ha! He never walks when he can leap! He never flees when he can fight …And I offer myself to you, all of me. My heart. My lips. My legs. My calves. Do what you will – my love endures. Beat me. Kick me. I am yours.”