Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Girl Fight Tonight

Sunday morning, I was up before 8:30, in part because I'd flopped onto my bed at midnight the night before, which I haven't done except under the influence of influenza in nearly twenty years, but also due to the presence of Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul. He lodged an urgent request that I refill his water bowl first thing, and he did so by standing on my chest with toenails I'm still trying to cut when I can catch him. So I got up.

After some coffee - a lot of coffee - and a little breakfast, I laced up my old trainers and marched out my door. I walked all over Highland Park, saw an old friend of the family, saw all kinds of beautiful trees, interesting animals and exciting flowers in maddening colors. Birds sang. People smiled. I remembered the words of a man I once loved, "The woods are my church and my religion." He was a selfish bastard but he treated his dogs well. In the park, I walked along the glistening Raritan, past morning softball players and pensive children half-heartedly dribbling basketballs. Up on the avenues again, I observed the details of homes and yards carefully maintained and fitfully neglected. A house I lived in years ago has an overgrown patch where I grew tomatoes, cilantro and basil. The family store was locked up and dark, which surprised me. I walked a random path back toward my apartment when my path intersected with Anya's family's. It was almost miraculous. Anya didn't even say hello.

Anya: Did you know that 400,000 people have been killed in the Sudan? I have got to watch the news more!
Tata: Since the beginning of the conflict in Darfur? You're not going to find it on the news.
Anya: When the pastor said that I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. Our church and the temple you got married in are sponsoring a joint action. We're adopting refugees. Would you spend a dollar a month to take care of a child?
Tata: I would! That's great, I'm glad you're doing this. But because I'm totally stupid, I'd give you $12 for a whole year, okay? So you're just coming back from...?
Anya: Church. And you're coming back from...?
Tata: The park. Same deal. Hey! I went to Monday's bridal shower.
Anya: Omigod, you hate those!
Tata: Am I still twitching? By the way, do you know why I can't find recycled paper products at the grocery store in our progressive town?
Anya: Aren't Marcal products recycled? Isn't that their thing?
Tata: Thanks! That sounds vaguely familiar. I'll check.

Before Anya got married, had children and opened a business, she was an energetic single woman who ran around with Irish artists and Australian communists and swore up and down she'd never have children. Of all my siblings, she was the best-informed and most politically astute. Her moral outrage was as good as a grenade at family dinners. Also: even when I painted my toenails black I was wearing ostentacious color by comparison. Baby, those days are over. We're all too tired for a food fight and we care about the china.

I kiss my little nephew and niece on their foreheads and march back to my place, where I scour my bathroom within an inch of its tiled life. Then I turn my attention to the kitchen. Before the bridal shower, I'd baked for two days and my kitchen is both sticky and greasy. It's as if I redecorated with PAM, and the new tacky texture clashes with the curtains. While I'm at the store Monday morning looking for a natural and non-toxic degreaser, I stand in the paper aisle for twenty minutes and read labels. I don't find any recycled paper towels or facial tissues but the Marcal toilet paper does indeed have the "paper from paper, not from trees" logo. I stand in line for a few minutes at customer service to ask why there aren't more recycled paper products and green cleaning solutions but then the woman in front of me in line says, "There's no one behind the counter!" I say, "I'll...come back when this puzzle has a sailboat."

Well then, I've developed a new brand loyalty. At least until I try it.

Monday evening, I discover yet another thing I actually know, which is making me feel like a poor student at the head of the class: going for a walk after dinner is great stuff. I walk hither. I walk yon. I knock on Anya's door. Children are running everywhere. Dinner and store-related chatter are wrapping up. I hand Anya $12.

Tata: I promised!
Anya: You remembered! You're out and about a lot lately.
Tata: I made the mistake of stepping on a scale and saw a new number. I don't mean I'd never been near that number. No, I mean I'd never seen that number on a scale before. I jumped off and shouted, "LIAR!"
Anya: Ooh, I hate when that happens.
Corinne: Did you smash it with something and throw it away?
Anya: Did you decide it was obviously broken and forget to replace it?
Tata: So many options!
Corinne: What did you eat to console yourself?
Tata: A fistful of Nutella. However did you guess?
Corinne: Just lucky.
Anya: Our Sudanese boy's name is Lucien. Do you want to see his picture?
Tata: No, thank you. Ahead, Irony Factor 6. Engage!

I used to lose weight and keep myself thin through the magical combination of poverty, vigorous exercise and a convenient eating disorder. Those days are also over. I'm trying out a new plan in which I eat reasonable portions, exercise vigorously and keep walking when I see boro residents I used to date. And their dogs.


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