elephant in living room

Ever have one of those Kleenex recollections? The kind you don’t want anyone to know you had, but you’re afraid it shows on your face? That people might be able to read your mind? That strangers can tell when you’ve got your panties in a bunch? That sometimes, even on a crowded elevator, the guy right behind you can tell you lived with wedgies all through 7th grade? Had a crush on Marlon Brando, then Ted Dansen, then Angelina Jolie? That practically everything is an excruciating experience for you? No? No . . . well . . .

Then there was the rest of the time, the rest of your life. When you decided to go to cooking school, to make the most of curries and sobas and deep vats of roasted tomato soup, parting like the red sea, parting lips, tongue reaching out to take it in. Is there such a thing as too much garlic? Too much sun, salt, sex, smoking, drinking? Rolling on the rooftop in a strange tropical city, Bermuda maybe? You lying butt naked on the rooftop singing out loud, happy as an alto in a Baptist choir, but with infinitely better juices? Rolling off later, not alone, caught in a public dragnet for being a doped fiendish impure nasty thing. Might as well be a talk radio host with a life like that.

But back to shame and secrecy. Here it is, time to fast and pray, time to write your confessions on little bits of paper and slip them into someone else’s fortune cookie. Surprise! Marlon Brando, mmmm-mmmm good, a million moments of ecstasy with shrimp on little crackers, pâte on nipples, baguette and crumbs in the bed.

No, no! You, up there, on the rooftop! Come down right now! No more fantasizing!!! Don’t forget morning breath, eye strain, regret, afterglow, smooth skin, all the fragrant rollover happiness of  . . . hey!!

Look, therapy is the logical answer; reductionary but sterile. Close your eyes and picture yourself, a soda jerk in 1950, working at the malt shop, wiping off the countertop. There’s a smell of bleach, a juke box, a ceiling fan and a girl in bobby sox. In walks James Dean, holding hands with Johnny Depp and Marlon . . .

Ok, that’s not what I meant either. What I meant to say is have a healthy lifestyle, live the way your grandmother did. Which is to say that what I mean is we don’t actually know that much about the sexual habits of our grandmothers, do we?

women in pant suits Not that they talked about it. That’s the problem. The problem is in talking about it; that’s my point exactly. Do I wear panties? I’m not saying. And that is the right and moral way to talk about my unmentionables.

So I went to cooking school, learned to make a roux, learned to rue the day, learned to wonder what was under that apron (that one over there), and I learned to stir and be stirred. I learned to admire excess and restraint, the plethora of pleasures, the strong afterbite of surfeit. I learned to admire Kool-aid as much as paella, marshmallows as much as clarified butter. I learned to stand still and smell as the winds changed from season to season, to season with care and without a care.

I learned about seeds, the diaspora, the timepiece of tides, the heavy salt smells. I can pretend in past-tense and in future. I could have pretended in past-tense and future. I could have held my pretense still and rigid, could have had a kiss-and-tell moment, could have held walnuts in my hand, could have crushed them and watched the pieces fall to the ground, could have ground them and mixed them with dried apricots and cooked them with Turkish spices. I could have, but I did not.

No kiss and lie, no slinking, suddenly revealed succubus draining me, drowning me in shame. There is a difference between a natural fog and a smoke screen.

Ever have one of those moments when you hear revelations and wake up covered in someone else’s soot? No?


And don't keep your mouth so wide open! All the ashes will get into it -- !



4 Responses to “Scandal”

  1. 1 loren October 6, 2006 at 12:11 pm

    Unfortunately, or fortunately, I’ve had far too little of that in my life, except rueing the day, but I certainly enjoyed reading about it.

  2. 2 Lollyloo October 6, 2006 at 12:42 pm

    Mmmmmm …. good.

    Hedonism and morality go together like pasta and parmesan. Never trust an ascetic.

  3. 3 Teresa October 6, 2006 at 3:23 pm

    Thanks, Loren. I think rueing the day may be easier, like gravity or how frowning only takes three muscles but smiling takes a dozen. Ah well. Carpe mañana, as we say here in the hinterlands.

  4. 4 Teresa October 6, 2006 at 3:24 pm

    Lolly, re pasta and parm — you are the expert.

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