Wednesday, July 13, 2005


It's GONE. My beautiful bicycle, my lovely green Jamis Tangier, my freedom. From outside the yoga studio. Wire-cutters. My heart is broken, broken, broken.

I managed to resist my 3 AM impulse to take this out on my ex-boyfriend, at least directly. His astral body received innumerable kicks in the kneecaps during the course of a long, sleepless night, but I doubt he would have noticed--his astral body is under constant attack from his own mind anyway.

Renter's insurance----pffft. Useless. They wouldn't cover the bicycle if I was actually USING it at the time, and the deductible is $500 anyway. I've been trolling Craigslist all morning, but I'm probably too raw to get another one right this instant, sort of like adopting a kitten the day after your 14-year-old Little Kitty dies in a tragic accident. The bonding process could be irrevocably disrupted.

I LOVED that bicycle. Just the other evening I rode it to the East Village to hear a member of my artist's circle perform; I was wearing my deep blue sundress and the actress chick told me I looked glamorous in my helmet. After a couple of gin-and-tonics and some fierce disembowelling of the performance at Lucien's, I took it home the long way, through Chinatown and over the Brooklyn Bridge, singing moody Glass Eye songs that welled up out of my art-department days, when it was just us and Kathy McCarty till 3 AM, crashing bass chords and the high unearthly purity of Kathy's voice.

Time has stolen you from me, Christine
Has made each prospect fade with the evening
Like a ghost, you have withdrawn
Like two children you and time are gone.

I thought, crossing the canal at Union street and turning up 5th Avenue, how Brooklyn feels like my own private fairyland at night; the trucks and the crowds have mostly disappeared, uncovering the mystery of industry asleep, and the fact that I sort of know my way around the city now is somehow remarkable, not just a battle for survival. I felt that I was healing; I felt that I was becoming free. I am so sick of this shit.

I wasn't even going to call the police, but could not quite remember whether my insurance would cover this or not, so I decided to get a report just in case. In practice this meant standing on a street corner for nearly an hour, in damp yoga clothing, fighting back tears, to obtain a completely useless piece of paper. The two blank-faced beat cops who eventually arrived were nonplussed and impassive at first, but after ten minutes, during which the black one fumbled and wrote the report with dyslexic recalcitrance, the Puerto Rican one decided I was okay, told me to sit down in the back seat and they'd drive me home. We had a cheerful chat on the way about stress, yoga, and cultural backgrounds, and he called half an hour later to say they'd found a guy on a Jamis, what color was it? Green, not silver, I told him. But thanks for keeping an eye out, I appreciate it. I really did. It pays to be friendly to cops, something my ex-boyfriend never understood.

To numb out my mind for the rest of the evening I re-read "The Man in the Brown Suit," my favorite Agatha Christie novel ever. With every passing year I am more acutely aware that Agatha Christie is cliche'd, redundant, mannered pulp, but when you fall in love with an author at the age of 8, the magic never really goes away. Also, re-reading prose that was the pinnacle of my romantic ideals at 14 gives me some insight into the deeper nature of subsequent expectations and bitter disappointments. Listen to this:

"You look like a witch, Anne," he said at last, and there was something in his voice that had never been there before.
He reached out his hand and touched my hair. I shivered. Suddenly he sprang up with an oath.
"You must leave here to-morrow, do you hear?" he cried. "I--I can't bear any more. I'm only a man after all. You must go, Anne. You must. You're not a fool. You know yourself that this can't go on."
"I suppose not," I said slowly. "But--it's been happy, hasn't it?"
"Happy? It's been hell!"
"As bad as that!"
"What do you torment me for? Why are you mocking at me? Why do you say that--laughing into your hair?"
"I wasn't laughing. And I'm not mocking. If you want me to go, I'll go. But if you want me to stay--I'll stay."
"Not that!" he cried vehemently. "Not that. Don't tempt me, Anne. Do you realize what I am? A criminal twice over. A man hunted're so young, Anne, and so beautiful--with the kind of beauty that sends men mad. All the world's before you--love, life, everything. Mine's behind me--scorched, spoiled, with a taste of bitter ashes."
"If you don't want me---"
"You know I want you. You know that I'd give my soul to pick you up in my arms and keep you here, hidden away from the world, for ever and ever..."

Well, I mean, really. By the end of the novel young Anne Beddingfeld, orphaned, penniless, unchaperoned and feckless, has received four proposals of marriage, one on-the-fly job as a newspaper correspondent, and not a single indecent proposition. To be fair, she has also narrowly escaped two or three murder attempts. But when she turns down proposal #2, from the strong, silent, Secret Service agent millionaire, he sets his iron jaw, nails the murderer, and then declares,

"Anne, do you remember that I told you I knew what I had to do?"
"Of course, I remember."
"I think I may fairly say that I have done it. The man you love is cleared of suspicion."
"Was that what you meant?"
"Of course."
I hung my head, ashamed of the baseless suspicion I had entertained.

"The Man in the Brown Suit" was published in 1924. Okay, so women had only been voting for four years, and "suitable jobs" for them were limited to parlourmaid, governess, secretary and wife. And for God's sake, it's Agatha Christie. But what I sorely miss about this chauvinistic era, what my heart still yearns for at 3 AM, is not necessarily a steely-eyed, darkly troubled man to fling me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and carry me off to Rhodesia (though this wouldn't necessarily come amiss); it's the baseline tension created by a shared cultural concept of honor. People don't necessarily live up to the code, ever; but at least they know it's there.

At thirty-seven, I don't get as angry as I got at seventeen. I no longer slap strange men, the way I did Carl Kutack, when he sat down behind me at a party, poked my ass with his big toe, leaned over and murmured, "you wanna go for a walk?" It's one of life's common ironies that once you have the experience to handle illicit propositions, you get fewer of them. Yesterday afternoon, though, a fat black man in a silver sports car pulled up next to me at a stoplight and called out, "You sure is beautiful. You wanna give me a ride?" I smiled brightly and said, "Thank you very much, sir, but no."

"Why?" he asked.

"I'm just not interested. But thanks," I replied, rolling up my windows. It took me years and years to learn how to do this; years and years to curb my impulse to be polite, to tell the guy I was married or gay, to give him a lecture on manners and decency, to stop taking it as a personal insult. Now, I take it as a compliment, but that still doesn't mean I have any inclination to accept the offer.


You're not a steely-eyed, darkly troubled man with whom I have fallen passionately in love at first sight, of course.


I hate to break this to you, men, but most of you are not very good in bed. The best of you need several weeks' worth of patient re-education before you can reliably compete with a vibrator. One-night stands do not provide the scope for such training, and are thus, on even the most basic level, not worth it.


Do I need to spell this out? AIDS, pregnancy, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, genital warts, cervical cancer, painful and expensive abortions, painful and expensive children, death. Offensive body odor, kissing like a giant goldfish, bad teeth, bad breath, farting, bizarre noises, slobbering, juvenile remarks. Knifelike pelvic bones that slam into thighs, leaving greenish-yellow bruises. Excessive body hair in unattractive places. Sleep deprivation. Boredom. Betrayal, abandonment, broken-hearted nervous breakdowns.


If you kiss me, Mister, you must think I'm pretty
If you think so, Mister, you must want to fuck me
If you fuck me, Mister, it must mean you love me
If you love me, Mister, you would never leave me
It's as sim-ple as - can - be...(ching)

--Dresden Dolls

For the record, the reason I slapped Carl Kutack was not that I found him an unattractive lout. The reason I slapped him is that I'd had a crush on his heart-rending, crinkly-eyed smile for the last nine months, and he didn't even remember meeting me until that evening, when his girlfriend had dumped him and he was drunk and horny. I slapped him because he had eyes for my behind but was blind to my value.

This afternoon I took the N train to Union Square, and not only were the brakes unoiled, screaming violently at every curve and stop, but something in either the air conditioning, the PA system or the fluorescent lighting was emitting a high-pitched, piercing whine which I found nearly unendurable. I spent the entire journey with my fingers in my ears, and nobody else on the train seemed to notice it AT ALL. Two-thirds of them appeared to be asleep, and the rest were reading or staring blandly into space. When I got off the train I could still hear the whine until I was halfway up the stairs. The rest of the world is deaf.

I usually don't talk about being 'sensitive,' for fear that people will think that I'm a whiny wuss. I didn't even realize I was 'sensitive' for the longest time--I thought I WAS a wuss, and that other people found loud, dissonant noises, fluorescent lighting, horrible smells, emotional tension and superfluous whining every bit as misery-inducing as I did, but were putting a brave, stoic, courteous face on it. Then I read a piece of pop psychology on my lunch break, called "the Highly Sensitive Person," took the test, and whoa, nelly. Finally I felt justified in asking for the music to be turned down, the door to be shut, for my lover to take a goddamned shower and quit being so !@*(&# rough. I'm not frigid, I'm hyper-responsive. I'm also brave, stoic, and courteous. Please don't hurt me any more.

1 comment:

Hired Gun said...

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