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A fellow slicer posted on Monday about the busy-ness of her day, and one of the entries in her post mentioned walking to the corner health food store … and I was reminded of a health food store near an old job of mine.

In the early 90s I taught at an adult education program in the South Bronx.  I was already living in Brooklyn, so my commute was a long one.  Sometimes I had to rush for the train before having time to throw together something to pack for lunch, and there weren’t a ton of good options for quick and inexpensive lunches near the school.

On one of those rush-out-without-lunch days, I noticed an option I hadn’t seen before.  On my walk from the train to work I saw a small health food store, and decided to head back there at lunch time.

I walked in and immediately started to doubt my choice. There were hardly any products on the shelves, and the few items in view were old and sun bleached and none of them made sense for a health food store: cans of condensed milk, a box or two of corn flakes, chips, soda.

But I was undeterred.  I walked toward the window at the back of the shop.  There were a couple of men ahead of me, but they stepped aside and let me take their places at the window.  Okay, weird, but maybe also just absurdly courteous, right?  I ordered the veggie sandwich.  The man behind the counter looked at me a long time, looked at the men who were waiting off to the side, looked back at me and nodded, told me it would be a minute.

The men and I stood around waiting.  None of us spoke, I studied the shelves a little more — a dusty box of saltines, some canned chicken noodle soup — and wondered how serious my sandwich must be to take so much time.

Finally the man came back to the window, took my money and handed me a brown paper bag.

When I started in on my perfectly yummy sandwich, everyone wanted to know where I’d gotten it.  I told them, and they all looked at me as if I’d said something outrageous.

“Stacie, that’s a drug store.” This from my co-teacher.

“No it’s a health food place.  Middle of the block.”

“Stacie,” — my supervisor, ” it’s a drug store.”

“No really, it’s not.”

“Stacie,” — still my supervisor.  “Did you notice that they don’t have much to sell?”

I laughed.  “Sure, their stock is pretty pathetic, but this sandwich is great.  It did take him an awfully long time to make it, though.”

“Because he probably went out the back to another shop and bought it for you.” This from the writing tutor.

“And I’ll bet they were surprised to see you.”  My supervisor again.

“I guess they were a bit surprised.” … and the light bulb of my brain began to come on slowly, still very much on the bottom end of the dimmer switch … “Wait.  when you say it’s a drug store, you mean –”

“That it’s a drug store.” (At this point, surely my supervisor was wondering how she could have hired someone so dense.) ” A place to buy drugs. Not medicine, not prescriptions. Drugs.  You should never go there.”

I looked at my lunch.  “But this sandwich –”

“Is an interesting outcome.”

Yeah.  I kept my next thoughts to myself: how could it be a shop where you just walk in and buy drugs?  That wasn’t actually possible, was it?

But that sandwich … was delicious.  Pollyanna signing off now.

_____

You can find more worldly and intelligent slices over at Two Writing Teachers.

SOL image 2014

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It’s not a thing I say often. It doesn’t occur to me, even when I have the feelings I associate with the phrase.

But tonight. Tonight I took a cab home from work. I had a big package to carry, and it would have been hard to manage the subway, the bus, and the walk to my door.  So I took a cab.  And I was lucky enough to have a driver who seemed never to have learned the purpose of side mirrors, who seemed to think that switching on his blinker magically opened a path for him. I stopped counting near misses after the tenth one and just closed my eyes and decided to trust — in fate, in divine intervention, in the thing my sister used to say whenever we found ourselves in dicey situations: “Mommy didn’t have us to die like this.”

As for my heart, I much prefer wearing it on my sleeve.

_____
It’s  almost time!  Almost time for the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers! Not only does this mean I’ll actually be paying attention to my blog for a change, it means there will be dozens of wonderful bloggers sharing their slices every day for the month of March.  You should join in!  This year, I’m contributing a couple of prizes, so slice every day and you could win one of them!
SOL image 2014

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Auld Lang Syne

“You were always so unsure of yourself.  It drove me crazy.”

He took a sip of wine and gave me that annoying not-quite-a-smile I remembered so well.  I refilled my own glass, held my silence.  I was still trying to fathom the coincidence of walking into a wine bar far from any place either of us had ever lived and having some random old man look up and be him, Claude.

“Look, I’m not trying to upset you, but you asked what happened with us, I’m telling you.  I wanted a strong, aware, confident woman.  At that time, you –”

“At that time, I was only twenty years old,” I said.  “A child, living away from home for the first time, certainly not needing some man twice my age coming at me with all of his needs, expecting me to be someone I wasn’t.”

“So it was my fault?”

I looked at him a long moment.  He wasn’t frail, exactly, but was on the way.  With effort, I could still see the man I’d found so dynamic.  He’d called my name when I’d walked into the bar, and it was his accent that had helped me find him in my memory, not his face.  When I’d met him almost thirty years earlier, my first thought about him was that he was so old.  How little I knew.  Then or ever.  “Some of it was your fault,” I said.

He nodded.  “And now?  We can share a bottle in this dark bar and none of that matters, right?”

I hated giving him that, but of course he was right, so what did my reluctance say about me?  I hadn’t thought about him in maybe twenty years, but I was dredging up old hurts to poke at him?  I reached out and took his hand.  “None of that matters.  It’s actually nice to see you.”

He laughed.  “You mean it’s nice to know I’m still alive.”

I smiled.  “That, too.”

(source: Photos.com)

__________

I think I need to decide what I’m doing with these stories.  Yesterday and today have been a little too random for me.  Not that random is bad.  I’m a big fan of random …  Still.  Maybe I want a theme of some kind, a thread I can follow through the month.  Maybe not.  Maybe I just need to get out of my way and write.

30 Stories in 30 Days / Facebook
30 Stories in 30 Days / Tumblr

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Yes, really.  Oh, it’s not my idea.  I stumbled onto the event page on Facebook and then found my way over to the Tumblr site.  Am I pretending to be able to do this?  Maybe.  Anything to get my pen moving, yes?

So here’s my first entry:

__________

“I wanted all of us to have something nice to remember from the trip,” Annabelle said.

Brian laughed.  “You mean other than the yelling and dad’s desperate beer runs down to the hiking lodge?”

Annabelle ignored him and kept working.  She’d spent more than an hour scrabbling through the icy creek searching out five perfect stones.  She’d polished them with oil and had set about carving hearts into each.

“You can’t make us a family with pretty rocks, little sister,” Brian said, turning from her and walking toward the cabin.

He was right, but she kept at her work.  Pretty rocks were what she had.  She couldn’t lift the ones large enough to knock any kind of sense into their hardened skulls.  River-smoothed pretty ones would have to do.

(source: Photos.com)

__________

On to the next!

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(Originally, this post was called, “11:44 and still no post?”  I’m sure if you dig around in a Google cache somewhere you can still find it.)

Yikes!

Isn’t that really all there is to say?

It seems clear that my illness is really only my illness, not me spreading food poisoning around to my friends.  And that makes me happy … except that I’m still sick, and that part doesn’t make me happy at all. 

Left work and put myself to bed and woke up five minutes ago.  I was wondering what made me wake up.  Were the cats making noise?  Did the phone ring?  Was I cold?  No and again no and no … I actually think the SOLS challenge woke me up!  The realization that I hadn’t posted anything.  Crazy, but maybe true.  In any case, I’m awake and it’s not midnight yet, so here I am.

And instead of yammering on about nothing for another couple hundred words, I’m going to share my latest 420-character story and put myself back to bed.  Here’s hoping I’m less sick tomorrow.

_____

The train’s white-noise rumble eased Jess’ head back, coaxed her eyes closed.  She had at least four hours before she’d need to think.  Richard understood, had stopped trying to reach her, even as her husband’s calls achieved panic status. What did she owe him, she thought as she shut off the phone. Let him worry. He’d feel vindicated when whoever was first on her trail rang the bell. Her brain shut down in sleep.

This one comes from the same “they all turn dark” place that the earlier ones came from, but with a twist.  A 420-character opening moment of a mystery film?  That’s kind of what this one sounds like to me.

Check out the rest of today’s slices at Two Writing Teachers.

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Ah, don’t we all feel so very much better now that Anthony Weiner has finally admitted to being not only the subject of the crude twitpic, but also the sender?  I know I’ll be sleeping better tonight.  This whole story is so predictable, stupid, annoying, tired.  Why can’t these men figure it out?  No, I will refrain from adding to the 4,273,899 Weiner jokes that have made the rounds lately.  I do hope, however, that Weiner has learned to keep his mouse in its house and spare the rest of us.

But there are two things this story is making me think.  Plenty of people are calling for Weiner to resign.  Plenty of others are saying resignation would be the second mistake of this whole pathetic episode (really the third: sending the picture and lying about sending the picture would seem to hold the first two slots).  I’m on both sides.  Do I think a man shouldn’t hold public office if he can’t keep his pants on?  Not really.  But do I think someone who is foolish enough to send crotch shots of himself over Twitter should hold public office?  I’m thinking maybe not.  He couldn’t figure out what a stupid move that was?

This next bit isn’t just for Anthony Weiner.  It’s more of a public service announcement for men in general.¹  Women really and truly don’t want to see your penises.  We don’t want them flashed at us on the subway or in the park.  We don’t want to open an email and find photos of them.  Know this, men: your penis isn’t pretty.   If we are wildly attracted to you, madly in love with you … then your penis would have some appeal (and even then that’s really only true some of the time, often it will just make us chuckle because it’s such a strange little appendage).  But even if we’re in love with you, we still don’t want to see your little congressman without prior invitation.  Trust me.

Men don’t seem to know this.  It’s something I realized during the craziness of e-dating.  I wish I had five dollars and a memory eraser for every time some man sent me a photo of his penis after one email exchange, after one phone call. What is that supposed to do for me?  Is there really a woman somewhere who gets excited by the sight of a penis?  Sure, we might look at the guys in Playgirl, but we are looking at the whole guy, not just one little bit of him (though I have to say: for me, a naked guy reclining under a willow tree or hanging out of a police cruiser looks more comical than come-hither).

I know that men can’t help the fact that they think like men.  They know how thrilled they would be if the women they liked — or perhaps just any woman — sent them unsolicited topless photos.  But you know what?  Women aren’t men.  And breasts are a lot prettier than penises anyway.  Penises are a private matter.  No one is ever going to love them as much as you do, so you need to keep them to yourselves.  When we want to see them, we’ll let you know.

__________

¹ And yes, I know all men aren’t the same.  I know and appreciate that fact.  Still, sometimes a little generalizing more appropriately fits the bill.

Update, thanks to Molly: If you haven’t yet seen Kristen Schaal’s hilarious piece that makes the same point, go check it out!

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Sari

And if I was a length of silk
I would run through your hands
like a gleaming sari
turn slightly for you in the light
sometimes gold
sometimes amber
sometimes the flame of a tiger lily
wrap myself around your waist
remind you fine things
love
to be loved

— Ruth Forman

_____

Had a long day, with some strangeness, some amusement, some inspiration … and the pleasure of conversation with a man I like very much but who is utterly off limits.  I really want men to start walking around with flashing neon signs over their heads that inform unsuspecting women of their relationship status.  Had I known, in the moment that I met this man, that he was married, I would have thought, “What a nice guy,” gotten to know him, maybe made friends, not had anything to worry about.  But I didn’t know and had time to develop a serious crush before I “discovered” his wife.  Hence the “utterly off limits,” but what do I do with my feelings?  What do I do with the fact that I might like to be friends but the rest gets in my way?  What do I do with the fact that he is so comfortably physically affectionate with me (in a “friend” way, not a “grimy” way — as my students would have said)?

Well of course, you know what I do: I write another nove otto!  Because it’s not as serious as all that.  I do like this man but even without his wife, the idea of him is fairly untenable.  He lives forever away from here and my head is currently a little too full of AC to leave much room for anyone else.  Still, seeing him today was an unexpected reminder of just how interested I let myself become before I learned his status.  See how handy that neon sign would have been for me?

A friend’s kiss, his arms around me.
It’s nothing more for him. I see
that, know it. Of course. Yes, of course.
The distance, yes. And, too, his wife —
starve my desire, choke its life.
Or try to. It’s here still, full force
waking me up on this grey day,
pushing me, warning: “Walk away,
the end of this path is remorse.”

It really isn’t that serious, but that’s how the poem came out.  Tomorrow I’ll be spending the whole day working with him.  I think I need to get over myself and just sit back and enjoy the view!

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