Monday, June 30, 2008

Midsummer Pentimento

Teenage hell has me back at the Psych office which requires an early morning start, no sleep. Another UWS apartment-- museum posters on the wall, leather chairs, the kind-faced woman who listens while I weep like it’s Pavlovian….the therapist encouraging me to come, come…she is willing to accept my pittance for the magical challenge of unraveling why a talented person like myself is touring on a luxury unlimited monthly metro-card and traveling across town to celebrate dysfunctional high-school graduation alone in the rain with a $1.25 pretzel which are getting harder to find but worth the trip. This kind of thinking is keeping me in a sort of cage, she explains.

In the elevator down, a kind older woman comments on the Linden trees, obviously noticing my red eyes. They are in bloom— but her words-- from some old poem…resonate, provide comfort in a way the therapy will not. We walk a few blocks. She faces forward so I don’t feel self-conscious…remarks all over the city she sees weeping women every day. My favorite Picasso personification ever—in the Guernica, and out… the Weeping Woman…the one he may have glorified in his painting—as a symbol—but the one men hate in reality.

I acknowledge this woman, agree there are women crying everywhere, with the perfect faces. Reluctantly I leave her-- do not embrace her as I am inclined—do not ask her if she will take my $20 weekly and walk with me-- pretend to be my therapist, my angel, my mother. I need her.

On 79th and Broadway there is a guy with a cart—maybe Hispanic—clean, clean. $1.25 for hotdogs and pretzels. Beneath his khakis on this humid summer afternoon, the guy is lean and hard. His skin looks buffed, his smooth tattoos are approaching middle-aged blur. Facing his cart always with the line, because people in uniforms—the laboring kind—are willing to wait to save a few quarters…will tip the guy the way they never tip the 2-buck vendors. Plus he takes his time. He focuses. He has this routine— 8 shakes exactly of the dogs as he pulls them from the liquid—the perfect slice open, mustard back to front, ketchup same…five shakes of the sauerkraut. Then he asks if you’d like it wrapped…calls you honey—the fresh-mouthed black highschool girls, the John Does, the nurses and Filene’s employees. Doesn’t look you in the eye. His cart is immaculate. I get a pretzel, bagged with the same technique, the same care. I trust this guy. The food feels ritualized-- blessed.

On the bus home savoring my pretzel not just because it’s cheap, but it’s good… I remember last night on the 4 AM crosstown…3 women, like a Chekhovian mini-play—one showing me a yellow jacket she bought for $3, admiring my shoes, $10. The third woman removes one of hers, we name our favorite thriftshops, we laugh and tear up a little—we embrace. Brief sisters, the way my real ones never are these days. Open hearts, no malice. I’d have given my shoes to either of them. So this is my daily therapy— the weeping women of New York— the ones who don’t botox out their life, their sorrow, their joy. Random women on a bus who help me forget, for a moment, the ripping ache of teenage single-motherhood, the missing ex-husbands and estranged lovers, the unpublished manuscripts and unsung songs. Or maybe they help me remember.

Poised we are, midway through the midpoint of the year. Pivotal days that pass, tip the balance of the past into the future. If I got a tattoo it would be the weeping woman, crying tears that spell the name of my cruel son...a tattoo of the hot-dog guy, with the tattooed arms. But I won’t. I’ll spend the required $20 on another useless prescribed therapy session and hope to see the Linden tree lady in the elevator next week.

1 comment:

darrolyn said...

family members and close friends often only see you as a mom or a daughter, etc. Your random women see you as a person..just you with no labels attached. I find that wonderful. it's the kindness of strangers that gets me through the day.
i love your writing and you too.