Someone said, “You should read this book,” and the next day the book mentioned the “Twilight Zone” episode I had just shown my class, the one with an evil child controlling an entire town. This was right after the doctor told me my ovaries were closed for business. Well, that my brain was sending out buckets of hormones to tell the ovaries to go, indicating that my ovaries were deaf, weren’t doing shit.
I have been loving showing my class “Twilight Zone” episodes, which is only related to the subject of the class in that I talk about the plot structure, how they are put together, and what they mean. I love watching their faces at the climactic moments, mouths fall open, they gasp when the man sees the monster on the airplane wing, or the bandages are removed from the ugly woman’s face, or the glasses break.
I was not thinking this clearly at the doctor, I was thinking, she’s being very nice about this, and then, when I went to the bathroom, thinking, I hope she doesn’t worry I’m going in here to burst into tears. I was a good three hours from tears. I’m a slow processor.
I walked out into Manhattan and saw two people I knew, one of them was famous, that is, I knew him and he didn’t know me.
The first person I saw was a former student, I used to refer to him as “Hamlet” because he was such a brooder, he said hi to me, I asked him how he was, he said okay, he did not look okay, I said I was good, although I was not good.
I kept walking because I didn’t know what else to do, I walked and continued my bitter and regretful phone conversations with a succession of people I could get a hold of. I was downtown, so I kept turning corners at random and not knowing where on earth I would end up, finding Canal Street, finding Broadway and following it up, for no reason.
A guy was in front of me on the sidewalk, with a headset on, and he said something to me, and I reflexively said, “No,” because I was not good, and he said, “Okay, you won’t cross the street because we’re shooting,” not sarcastically, totally neutrally, and I realized what he had asked and switched from New Yorker to midwesterner and crossed the street. I looked over at the side of the street they were shooting, and I saw Judd Apatow was standing there.
Of all famous people in New York City, I have seen Mr. Apatow twice on set, once when my friend was working on his movie (so that doesn’t exactly count) and then again that day.
I was glad to see somebody funny, in the very process of making more funny. I was going to need it.
I went into the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, which has been sitting there waiting for me for many years, I have walked past it a million times. I wasn’t on fire to actually buy an ice cream cone. I thought the name was the gag, and it’s a fine gag.
But this could be The Day I First Went to the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop instead of just The Day I Learned I Would Never Bear Children.
I went in and couldn’t read the goddamn menu because the letters were too small. I ordered a vanilla soft serve dipped in pretzels and sea salt and chocolate.
The ice cream was good. McDonald’s soft serve has scarred me. Anthony Bourdain was right: this was different. Satiny.
I went home, I sat on the floor of my bedroom and cried until I couldn’t breathe, took a break, then cried some more.
I hated everyone who told me it would work out. I was relieved that everyone would stop telling me I could still have kids someday, that I could stop seeing friends my age, single and wanting kids, get married and get pregnant, and post their baby’s photos on Facebook.
I made time to hate my exes and to hate myself for practicing such successful birth control, and, for good measure, to hate everyone who kept saying, “Oh, I’m sure you’ll meet someone. You could meet someone any day,” when every day is not any day, every single fucking day is not any day, which maybe could be fine if every day you weren’t hoping it would be a different day than it was.
My mom told me to eat dinner and go to bed, so I ate dinner and went to bed.
The next day my coworker said, “Were you downtown yesterday?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Oh, I saw you, I have a second job down there.”
I had seen, and also I was seen, without knowing. We’re all famous in our own ways.
I took The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao from the shelf of the school library, and began reading it there, while I made copies for my students, and read it in the park, and on the subway, and on the bus, and in bed, and on the subway, 280 pages in two days.
Read it sitting on a bench in the park, in a park where I never stop because it is too close to work and my work is, lately, so awful I want to flee. What a beautiful place, flowers, grass, sun, maybe I didn’t need to flee.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao mentions this “Twilight Zone” episode, “It’s a Good Life.” A kid controls a town with his thoughts. If he thinks you dead, you are immediately dead. He makes three-headed weasels with his mind. Everyone tells him, over and over, “That’s real good.” No one wants to say what’s awful. A man wants to listen to a Perry Como record, and he can’t. He gets drunk and demands the kid kill him, so the kid does. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has a protagonist who has an awful life, and then dies, rather a relief from being hopeful, this idea, maybe things are awful, and we must press harder to feel what feels good, fully good, not shot of whiskey good, not just, but grass and sun and books that go fast and deep, and seeing faces change.
Image: “Street Crowd” by Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Metropolitan Museum of Art