Last Friday night– My gay boyfriend R. and I are at a gala, glammed up, drunk, and in a perpetual state of rolling our eyes at the local elite: 40 Under 40, reads the banner swishing in the nightclub air at the center of the room. I find myself wishing– just a tiny one, just a baby, an eyelash slipped from the bottom row and landed on the crescent moon scar on my left cheekbone, plucked by a new lover in a moment of whimsy, blown from her fingertip by my painted red lips– that, in an homage to my childhood love of science fiction films, a T-Rex would stalk through the room and destroy the six bony broads grinding on the stage, taking the banner with him: I see it float in waves over their heads, imagine it gracing the one girl’s catsuit and tattooed bicep as T-Rex shakes her in his mighty jaws with the ease of a cat with a mouse: no dice. The girls dance on, impervious to disaster. R. says, “I think we’ve culled everything we can cull from this.” Having ingested at least four lollipop lamb chops and been served extra wasabi deviled eggs from a cocktail waitress in her underwear and thigh highs (“Here, take the rest,” she said, winking at me, her perfect skin and hair and breasts glinting in the blue light of the club, when she noticed my sheer delight) I am in agreement. No interesting men, and we’ve already selfied with the new gay mayor. Yawn. If this were an episode of Sex and the City, I’d have met a hot 40-something politico and made 79 wretched puns about his age and the gala title (Later that night, I was under 40 in more ways than one…); as it is, I’ve spent the majority of the evening watching my old friend C. moon over her new boyfriend whilst shoveling game and dairy down my throat and suckling Nicholas Feuillate splits.
Earlier in the evening, I ran smack dab into a guy I went to high school with– the sum total of what I recall about this fellow is his first name and that he once told my friend Dan that he thought I was hot after seeing me read at the Dodge Festival, a poem that began “If I didn’t write, I think I’d sing the blues,” and went onto detail many (as yet) imaginary evenings wherein I tumbled into bed with “faceless men with stubble.” This is proof of one of two things: I’m either clairvoyant, or I unwittingly carried that poem around with me for years like a kind of how-to for my 20s. In any case, my former classmate was an honoree (why I can’t tell you) and said, “Are you an honoree?” with all the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning.
“No, I’m just here for the passed hor d’oeuvres,” I said, eyeballing another Borgata babe with a shimmering tray of meat on sticks.
“Oh, ok,” he said, making a hasty exit.
“Who was that?” asked R., sipping a $15 Manhattan, cherry sunk like a pinball at its burnished center.
“His name is Justin, we went to high school together, that’s all I got.”
“Is he 40 Under 40?”
“Yes.” R. and I had gone over the likelihood of either of us ever being included in this group previously, and decided it was highly unlikely. As I had said to my girlfriends D. & E. a few weeks ago, “All we do is work and take care of our kids, no one will ever take notice of that.”
I had agreed to go to the gala with relatively high hopes; I bought a cocktail dress and had my hair cut– heavy 1960s-style bangs and long layers in the front. The young woman who cut it had scissors wrapped in roses and the words “xo mom” tattooed on her right forearm; she rubbed a clear solution between her hands like magic potion and said “I don’t know if you’re into product, but my hair is really fine, too, and this stuff works wonders for me.”
“Oh, really? Can I get it here?”
“Is it expensive?”
“It’s fifty bucks,” she said nonchalantly, replacing the bottle, roughly the size of a small container of Tabasco sauce, on her table with its bevy of lotions and scissors and combs and diffusers.
“JESUS CHRIST!” I said, placing my hand to my heart like my father’s mother did the night she first read my high school poetry.
At least I gave her fair warning.
At home, I put the finishing touches of my make-up on and style my new bangs accordingly whilst C., my new gal pal who’s doubling as a sitter, chases Hank around downstairs, pretending to be Thor to his Hulk. I hear R. knock and enter, kiss her hello, greet Hank as though he’s a grown-up boy. My heart warms. I glance in the mirror, feel suddenly inadequate– the dress looks like a sack of potatoes on my ample hips instead of the knock-out it resembled in the fitting room at BCBG. The shoes help– red suede heels with a t-strap. Fuck it. It’s too late to change. I run a nude gloss over my lips and thunder down to meet R.
I had wanted to dance and make merry and cap the night off with sex. I had wanted a kind of playacting– why not replay that poem? Why not sing the blues? After all– what I want is a song. Or at least, a record player: scritch-scratch of the turntable, and out comes my voice, finally, the anguished, layered wail, the welling sob, the never-breaking note: I can sing. Here is the record of my life, compressed into 4/4 time, into a wall of sound: my voice is a cocktail, a beehive hairdo, my voice is three minutes you will want to hear again and again each day for the rest of your life: What kind of fool do you think I am?
I am a very particular kind of fool, a fool for love, a fool for language. Language and its ever loosening thighs. You know you want to, it whispers to me, slyly. I can never resist. Listen: not three months ago, the man I thought would love me forever leaned his head into mine as I lay beneath him in bed, as he moved inside of me, and said, I want to marry you, and before we had even finished the act, I could hear his brain backpedaling madly–
“I meant we should have Bloody Marys at brunch, it’s so nice out–”
“I meant I think we should finally take the plunge and have that threesome with Mary, the new girl at work–”
“I meant it like Shakespeare, like an oath, like Wait! like God, this feels so good–”
Reader, alas. He did not love me forever. He needed more space. He has, or so says the almighty Facebook, grown a beard. A disguise. He wanted to rejoin the faceless. And so I, Dear Reader, rejoin you, a Laminate single woman once more. Is it a sin to say that nearly the very first thing I thought upon being dumped, unceremoniously, by someone I have adored for the better part of 15 years over the phone was “Well, I can pick up the blog again, anyway”?
Well. It’s true.
If I didn’t write, I think I’d sing. The blues. Ugly, scratchy. Janis Joplin. Faceless men with stubble. Bodies make strange shapes in the moonlight. My hair has grown long; late at night, in the bathtub, I watch it stream out and float above my breasts: I feel pre-raphaelite, I clutch my book in my right hand, obstinate pinky smushed against Hamlet or Dante, eyes crossing with exhaustion, one ear tuned for Hank– hawks from handsaws, live men trapped in trees–