For her birthday, my daughter wanted a wedding cake.
Not one of those art project cakes, though, sculpted in thick fondant and airbrushed into an exact replica of a limousine parked in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. She wanted something more old school. Six tiers, white frosting, yello(more)w flowers, confetti drizzled around the base, and a plastic bride and groom on top.
“We can’t afford that,” I told her. Meaning an eight-year-old can’t have a wedding cake.
“We can make it ourselves,” she replied. Meaning she knew I could afford it just fine.
“You need all those different sized cake pans,” I said. Meaning there was no way I was going to hassle with any of that.
“It can be just a one-level cake,” she said. Meaning that from here on, she was going to play hardball.
“Where are we going to get all that frosting?” I asked. Meaning, Where were we going to get all that frosting?
“I have a recipe,” she said. Meaning she’d found the ‘Dora the Explorer Cooks With Kids’ book I’d been saving to give her for Christmas.
“What about the little couple for the top of the cake?” I asked. Meaning that although that would be the easy part, I wasn’t about to go to the store.
“We’ll get it at the store,” she said. Meaning you’d better stop stalling, dad.
“It’s eight o’clock. The stores are closed,” I said. Meaning that includes every store on the planet, young lady.
“We can use one of those pictures of you and mom,” she said. Meaning that she’d been going through our wedding album.
“But we’re divorced,” I said. Meaning I shouldn’t have hidden the album next to that Dora the Explorer book.(less)
“You look pretty today.” Although I had been trained from a young age to say Thank You after being complimented I ignored this one.
“You do look pretty.” I ignored that one too.
(more) I knew they were just telling me this because I was wearing something other than my giant sized t-shirt and blue jeans. I’m not sure if it was their way of saying “You should wear nicer clothes more often” or their way of saying “you look better when you pretend like you actually care”, but I wasn’t going to encourage it by saying thanks. I used the excuse of it being morning to make a noise that could be irritation or could be a form of thanks and walked out the door.
Wearing a skirt and a nice shirt changes nothing. It does not mean I have become a different person. It will do nothing but keep me from kicking people or running down the hallway and will do a wonderful job of prohibiting me from jumping or skipping. Their compliments mean nothing because they are not true. If I can’t be pretty in a giant sized shirt and blue jeans then I am not going to suddenly become pretty by changing my clothes. But they live off of compliments. I know they are just trying to make me feel good for the effort of wearing nice clothes. Too bad it is wasted on me.
I dress up for no one.
I looked up to see one of my friends. I smiled at him as he caught up to walk next to me. “You’re looking quite fancy today. What’s the occasion?”
“I forgot to do laundry.” I lied. So maybe I do dress up for one person. (less)
The sky was blue grey, the shade that can indicate urban light pollution or the hour before dawn. Tasha and Drew had walked down the hill after everyone else had cleared out or fallen over. Drew had been sober for four months and Tasha was too much a lightweight(more) to keep up with anyone. She had downed a manhattan and a Heineken hours earlier, and now she had a light headache and she smelled something syrupy when she exhaled, as though she were lightly congested with Denny's pancakes. Bourbon always did that to her. Drew suggested, a few blocks from her house, that they head to Minnies, the place he remembered getting all night breakfast with her when they'd met.
"Minnies. Oh! They closed ages ago! And I couldn't do breakfast now."
Drew favors his left side, so he walked around Tasha so that she would be to his left, though he doesn't know why he should care where anyone else is. But he wants to eat and wants her company and he's making no strong case for himself so guts are in order and he can't do it if she's on his right.
"We should eat. I think there's a place down the street that has a limited late menu. Gourmet burgers and stuff?"
The word gourmet makes Tasha feel hostile the same way she felt when her aunt called her cousin gifted. But she's hungry and it's been a long time since they've talked and he can't go into her place now.
Three more blocks. He opens the door with his right hand and she enters. He puts his left hand on her shoulder. They take a table by the window. Tasha notes it is light pollution, not dawn, and they order two burgers, which are not gourmet. (less)
Incessant bass thumping
Rhythm of a thousand rave ballads
Magenta hair spraying sweat in
Showers of electric love
where delirious tongues
stretch and strain
(more) for the magic beads of revolution
that dissolve the errors of the past
Constructing a new reality
love free from boundaries
Identity no longer the stamped
black barcode engraved on the psyche
A place where razor blade stiletto heals
march through the flesh of repression
"Oh my!" she exclaimed as the garnished lobster tail walked in on the hand of a vested waitress.
"mmmm!" said Tessa, drowning her burning sarcastic streak in a heavy gulp of champagne.
(more) Her mother turned to her, affected by her typical ebullience. "Isn't this wonderful Tessa?"
"Yes mother its really quite fancy". The excitement at the lobster tail was deflated as her sarcasm was this time detected.
"Tessa darling, why don't appreciate anything at all lately? Honestly nothing is good enough for you any longer".
Tessa took in a breath, "Mother, it's too good. I'm just so exhausted by this show"
"What show?" asked mother.
"THIS!", " you can't see how all of this is a sham?", "The way we dress up, the way the waiters dress up, the way the plate is dressed up, the way the fork MUST go there, Oh no not there, there's no f-ing' honesty!"
Mother cringed a bit at the obscenity although Tessa had bitten down and truncated it.
"How else should we do things Tessa? Suppose we come to dinner in our pajama's and the waiters just bring everything out in pots and pans", "is that how you're insisting it should be?"
"yes mother, I suppose that is what I'm saying", "I suppose I'm saying that we should all stop living our lives according to a prescription and we should cuss, and sit on the floor cross legged, and cry when we're sad and say 'oh fuck!' when we stub our toes"
"Are you on drugs dear"?
At this point the ears at other tables are surreptitiously aimed in the direction of the table with lobster.
"HA!" "you see! if I try to be honest you actually think I must be high". "I love you mother but I'm so sick of this".
"I always thought, it's called Fancy Feast--can't actually be *fancy*. There is no the great American novel, no best tacos in the southwest. But then I tried a can and, you know what? It is pretty fancy." I met each of their gazes in turn. Something had changed--they'd glazed(more) over; without turning, I subtly followed the one's gaze to the moth flitting around the tea light. I finished a scratch softer than I'd started: "And so, ah, that was my most surprising culinary discovery of the last year." I cleared my throat but didn't hack anything up. I'd taken a risk with my answer but I was pleased with it, come what may.
"I completely agree with you, " the petite one said, leaning forward, as though we could bond over this shared taste, as though she were nudging her favorite mangled toy toward me to share. I watched all three other pairs of eyes turn on her. She shrunk back.
I joined them in their visible disgust. She thought she was being kind to me. This organization isn't about kindness.
They said they'd be in touch, they said they'd let me know.
I met Tasha at Bertoccelli's. It wasn't my preference, but she loved it so that I'd never refused her. She'd gotten an excellent spot and she was already lapping at her drink. She was stunning, as always, and I hesitated for a moment, just watching her.
I'd never told her about my interest in the organization, so she certainly didn't know where I was coming from. If they accepted me, could I keep up the ruse? Would I still want to? Which pride did I crave from her--that of admiration or of fear?
I stepped out of the shadow and into the light. She looked up, smiled.(less)