Dialogue of the day: Marta, my best friend from Barnard College, describing her two new goldfish:
Where Gatsby wishes he were today... On this rainy Friday in Los Angeles... He wants to close his eyes and mysteriously reappear in Lancaster where he can run around freely and jump in the water and play endlessly... preferably with bones hanging from the sky!
Cruel, cruel summer…
I was in the sixth grade then – well, on my way to seventh. It was a sticky, hot Jersey summer. A Cruel, cruel summer as the song goes. And I had this friend Rachel whose mother happened to work for my uncle who was a therapist. So, I remember my parents calling him on the phone to get some advice. And I could just picture the graven look on his face. His mustache seemed to make things more serious, as if it were hiding his true mouth – a frown or a tremble or maybe even a smile – like things will work out.
I held onto this idea just as I held onto my stuffed animal dog-bear – one of those terminally cute, but what was he exactly? Kind of stuffed animals. He was a Gund. I took him with me to Rachel’s townhouse where she and her Mom lived and I held him and somehow felt safer. Rachel and her Mom took me in like the good Jewish broken family they were. And we talked about things.
“How is your Mom doing?” Cheryl managed to get out, her smallish eyes, red on the edges. “She’s with my Dad,” I replied, my fingers digging into Dogbear’s neck. Rachel stared into the mirror and swung her one leg out in front of the other, which created a sort of displeased, chic look which we were all searching for when we were twelve. We wore Benetton and Esprit – but we wanted to look a little upset about everything, pissed off really at the state of things. And Rachel had mastered this look – her head slanting, about to fall off her neck, her feathered hair in place. And her sleeves always pulled up, as if ready for some hard work. Hard work never to be done.
And here I was. In the middle of them – “What would you like for dinner, Kieren?” Cheryl managed over her dust busting in an attempt to clean up the globs of hair her Persian cat had most recently shed. My eyes were puffing up from the fur. “Oh – whatever you have, is fine,” I said, my mouth barely smiling. I secretly loved being taken care of – by another Mother. Something about it felt so special – Cheryl’s Coke and Cheryl’s salad. The other once again. The middle once again. Ahhhh… I was home – just not mine.
And the thing is, Rachel was also super popular then and that’s what I wanted more than anything – to be one of those girls – the popular crowd in junior high is akin to royalty and Rachel was the queen. I was merely a kid who went from roller skating while singing Muppet Movie songs with my decidedly unpopular neighbor, Christine -- to being recruited into the popular crowd – made up of girls from mostly divorced parents, out of Brooklyn, Jewish, and ready to gang up on you at any given moment. Part of me was thrilled; internally swooning, that I was an easy recruit – the thrill of the potential gang-up, the envy over the Esprit outfits they flung around haphazardly, the feeling of being wanted by the best was intoxicating and still… the other part of me longed to be roller-skating. But I had to grow up – I was now twelve and elementary school was a pebble in the dust, a forgotten road. I had arrived. I was going to be cool – I was learning the ways to dress and I was noticing boys noticing me. I was a constant phone talker. I wore Reeboks and quoted from, “We are The World.” I led the girls around school as if they were my pups and I even became President of my class. Also, my Mom was dying.