The BRA

    Just a week into my sophomore year of college and I was already crushing out so hard on this dude who lived down the hall from me in my dorm. He was a freshman, tall, large, fit, on the rowing team, VERY hairy (think: back hair—I cringe now) and probably about the manliest dude I’ve ever found myself lusting after. His name was Dave, but there were already so many other Daves in my friend circle that when referencing him, I took to simply calling him Hall Dave.

One night, he invited me over to watch a movie. The movie he had in mind was Meet the Feebles.

For the uninitiated, Meet the Feebles is this horrifying film in which the lovable muppets of your youth engage in graphic acts of sex and violence, all in the noble name of cult black humor. I was not amused. It was boy stuff, but I endured it. I endured it because I wanted his boy stuff. I wanted to makeout with Hall Dave. I was going to make this happen.

Sadly, as it turns out, and against all odds, a movie that revolves around puppets watching pornography did not get two college students in the mood. I left, awkwardly, a few hours later, doing a (short) walk of shame (after all, he only lived about 10 doors away from me), sans the intentioned shame.

A few days passed. Nothing. Maybe I had blown it. Oh well.

On a particularly crisp fall morning, I woke up, threw on clothes and scrambled to class, late, as usual. On the way out the door, I grabbed my bike, lugged it down a few flights of stairs and took off for a building across campus.

Everything was going fine until I reached The Diag, which is where it became difficult to pedal. My bike instantly froze up—I wasn’t able to move at all. Something was wrong.

I do NOT have time for this, I thought, as I dismounted and leaned over my gears to try to see what the problem was.

To my horror, I saw a bra wrapped completely around one of the cogs.

Now double that horror; I looked up briefly and, out of the corner of my eye, saw that Hall Dave was walking briskly toward me.

Oh, God, I thought. Stay cool, Pensiero. Don’t make eye contact. Maybe he won’t notice you.

"Oh, hey," he said, with a half-cocked smile on his face. "You having some trouble?"

"Uh, yeah…" I replied. "It’s just that…well…I have a bra stuck in my bicycle."

"Uhm…weird," he said. "Can I…uh…help you with that?"

"Uhhh, no…no…I don’t think so. It’s really ok."

He bent down and began to pull at the soiled bra, it’s former white sheen greatly marred by dirt and bicycle grease.

"Jeez, it’s really stuck in there," he said. "Any idea how that happened?"

"Yeah, heh heh, it sure is…nope, no idea."

"Is it YOUR bra…or what?" he pried.

Or what?! OR WHAT!?! It certainly looked like my bra. Last week we were watching a movie in his room and now here we were desperately trying to dislodge what appeared to be yesterday’s brassiere from the machinery of my bike. How could this be happening!?!?

"I’m not sure…but yeah, yeah I think it is," I responded.

After about three and a half minutes of tugging, twisting and untangling, he finally loosened the thing. He stood up and sheepishly handed it back to me.

"Uhm…what are you going to do with that?" he asked.

"I don’t know. I’ll figure it out. Thanks for all your…help," I said, trying to be at once cordial and obvious about my desire to just get this strange ordeal over with.

"No problem. Uh, see you later." He half-waved and continued to walk in his original direction.

Still holding my bike, with throngs of hurried co-eds all around me, I pivoted to throw the bra as far away as I could. It landed, in a mysterious yet salacious position, atop a nearby shrub. Some grounds crew member was going to have a good story to tell in the afternoon.

There were a million questions running through my head. Whose bra was it? Mine? It certainly looked like mine—but how had it gotten stuck in the gears of my bike? How was I ever going to face Hall Dave again, let alone makeout with him?

Unfortunately, I had neither the answers to these questions nor the time to ponder them further. After all, I had a class to get to.

IT’S DISAPPEARING INK!

   My father and stepmother are both management at a large, well-known business newspaper in New York City. My mother and stepfather are both tenured opera singers at a large, well-known opera house in New York City. As a child, I was predictably bouncing between two very different worlds with very different rules, inhabited by very different kinds of people. 

One night, my father had a dinner party. He had some bigwig newspaper and magazine people over. On this particular night, I had just gotten my very first ever bottle of disappearing  ink. I had been pranking people by spilling it all over them all day and I was pretty excited to continue this fun with the dinner guests.

I was having a cordial conversation with the Editor-in-Chief of a startup business magazine, when I sensed my opening. I quickly snatched my disappearing ink from my pocket and flung a few drops onto his expensive Armani suit jacket.

At first, he was startled. Then, he was angry.

"Don’t worry!" I said. "It’s disappearing ink! It will go away in a few minutes."

So we waited. And it didn’t go away.

"Uh. Sorrry…" I said.

The “disappearing” ink was subsequently destroyed, another casualty in the bloody, bloody war against overpriced business casual apparel.

YOU’RE SPEAKING BRITISH and I’M SPEAKING AMERICAN

1. On my first visit to the UK, in roughly 1997, my parents and I went to Kew Gardens (not THAT Kew Gardens). There was a class of 7-to-8 year-olds there as well. In the gift shop, I heard a small voice say, “I got a very fine rubber!” After a triple take, I realized that the kid was holding up an eraser. I breathed a sigh of relief.

2. On my second visit, circa 2000, I was hanging out with my friend Matt and some of his friends. We were in a stationary store when one of his friends asked if I would hold his fag for him. Hold your derogatory term for a gay man? Hold your small bundle of twigs? Hold your something else? I just stared at him in complete confusion, until Matt zipped in, grabbed the guy’s smoke and said, “he means the cigarette!”

3. Finally, while living in London in 2004, I had gone out to a drag show with a friend. She was dressed in drag and we were running for the last train before the tube shut. An old beggar came up to her and started asking, somewhat incessantly, “ARE. YOU. A. GEEZER?!?!” My friend, in a faux-English accent, replied, “What?! You think I’m an old bloke?!” I had to explain later that “geezer” is slang for “dude” or “man.” And that, my friends, I learned from listening to The Streets.

SUNFISH

   Have you ever seen sunfish? They look like this:



image



You are probablyjust dying to learn more about them.

When I was a kid, we would occasionally go visit my great aunt and uncle’s summer house in Connecticut. It was near a lake that was stocked full of these motherfuckers. One day, when I was about 8 years old, my uncle and I went down to the water to catch some.

We brought some bread to use as bait and the sunfish we so down for it. We threw a few hunks in and the fish DEVOURED them instantly. My uncle showed me how to cast and reel. I practiced a few times. I was ready!

"Now just hold on one minute," said Uncle Andrew, "I forgot my hat at the house. You just wait here and I’ll be right back."

I did not wait. As Andrew walked away, I put a small morsel of bread on the hook and cast my line into the water. Within seconds, I had a bite. For some reason, even though I knew that the lake was teaming with savagely hungry sunfish,  I had not expected this to happen. Or for it to happen so soon. WHAT NOW!?

I reeled the sunfish in and just started screaming at full volume. It seemed like the right thing to do.

The fish thrashed around with the hook in its mouth. I pulled it out of the water and watched it dangle on the hook. Then, I put it back in. Then, I pulled it out again. I kept screaming. 

My Aunt Cheryl bounded down the hill that separated the house from the lake, yelling, “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!?!?”

I stopped screaming.

"Oh," I said. "I caught this fish and I don’t know what to do now! Can you help me?"

"Whhhheeeere is Andrew?" she asked.

"He went to get his hat," I said.

"I most certainly cannot help you," said Cheryl, "I don’t know the first thing about fish."

"Oh," I said.

For a few more minutes, I continued to do what I had done at first—watch the fish swim around with the hook in its mouth, occasionally lifting it up out of the water. Every so often it would catch a burst of energy and fight me.

Eventually, Andrew emerged and scolded me for having put the hook in the water.

"You shouldn’t have done that if you didn’t know what you were going to do next."

This is not the kind of statement that a child will ever understand.

Andrew reeled in my line. He took the fish off the hook and threw it in a bucket.

"OH. YOU’SE a LADY!"

   There is this guy who hangs out on my street. I don’t want to call him a bum, because he has a home. Or at least I think he has a home (I theorize that he stays with some relatives of his, who are my next door neighbors). But I digress. My girlfriend tells me that being a bum is not the same thing as being homeless, so let me start over. 

There is this bum who hangs out on my street. He is bald and appears to be perpetually drunk. I have come to the conclusion that he isn’t actually drunk from the drinking he is doing on daily basis, rather he has pickled his brain into a state of constant drunkeness from the drinking he has done over the years. Not that this technicality matters much, as the end result is the same.

The first time I met him, he stumbled up to me and shook my hand over the gate that separates what you might call my “patio” (but which is actually just a place to put trashcans) from the sidewalk.

"Hi," he said. "I’m Brothaman!"

"Pleased to meet you, Brother Man," I said, whitely.

A few months later, I was taking out the trash when I heard a slurry voice call out from behind me.

For the record, I am a bisexual lady who prefers to date other ladies and to this end, I tend to dress rather boyishly. That said, I also have ENORMOUS tits, and so, while I have been “sir’ed” occasionally in the airport, the mistake doesn’t get made too too often.

"Hey man!" yelled Brothaman, "HEY! MAN!"

I turned around.

"Yes?" I replied.

"Oh," said Brotherman, "YOU’SE A LADY!!!"

I could feel every ear on my block perk up around me. 

"Yes," I said, rather defeatedly, "yes, I am."

I finished taking out the trash and went inside.

LOCKED OUT and LOCKED IN in HARRISON, NJ

   I graduated in 2005 from a Midwestern college that considers itself very sophisticated. I hung around the town, drinking too much and occasionally smoking, for a year and a half. I worked a few weird jobs and lived in a small apartment in a pretty house with my boyfriend and my cat. Life was good, until it all just got so boring.

In 2006, my then-boyfriend (let’s call him Brad) and I (and our cat) decided it was time to move to the New York City area, which is where I am from. The problem was that we had no money. As a teenager (read: desperate person), I fantasized about living in this strange little town called Harrison, NJ. It’s affordable, because it’s mostly (illegal) immigrants. It’s also got its own PATH stop, which makes for an inexpensive and convenient way into the city.

In October, we moved into a very cheap (read: very sketchy) apartment in Harrison, NJ. The floor was all covered in these weird tiles, like the kind you’d see at in sleezy doctor’s office or warehouse. We had roaches—and not the good kind—and yes, there are a “good” kind, in comparison to the bad kind, which is what we had. The bad kind are little roaches. They live everywhere and they’re impossible to get rid of. We also had some interesting neighbors. One of them was a girl who we nicknamed “drunk girl.” She was often getting into loud domestic disputes out on the street below our window.

On one of the first nights we lived there, we had a lot of garbage to take out. We had been assembling furniture (read: Ikea) and moving in. All that activity had all produced more than a few bags that needed to go out. Our landlord, who we later learned was a bonafide Newark-based slumlord, was strangely invisible and the building’s super barely spoke English, so we were justifiably confused about where this trash was supposed to go. We took a reasonable guess and put it behind the building. I had done this once already, with success, so I decided to repeat it. Brad came down to help.

I opened the door that lead to the back area behind the building and we shuffled out. Once Brad was out, the door slammed shut.

"Uh oh," said Brad, "are we going to be able to get back in?"

"Totally. My key worked before," I said.

"Phew," he said.

We dropped the garbage bag and I reached for my keys. I didn’t have them.

"Oh shit," I said, "I don’t have my keys."

"I have mine," said Brad, handing them to me.

I tried the first key. No luck. The second. Nope. The third. Not that one either.

"Shit," I said, "these are NOT working."

"Let me try," said Brad.

We took turns trying all the keys for a few minutes. It was obvious that I must have had a different key that let me in. We were stuck.

I looked around. The patio was sunk about two stories into the ground, surrounded on all sides by a high concrete wall. There was a metal stairwell that lead to essentially nowhere, a high fence with barbed wire. At the top of the stairwell, there was a gap between the fence and the top of one of the concrete walls. I thought about trying to jump it, but one bad step would land me face down in concrete and Brad talked me out of it.

"Well, damn," I thought, "what do we do now?"

"I don’t know," said Brad.

I remembered that the door to our apartment was unlocked and that our cat was in there. We hadn’t been there long, but we had been there long enough to realize that a. the building wasn’t filled with particularly savory characters and b. our cat could escape by nudging his nose on the door. It was stupid, but these thoughts were enough to trigger panic.

"Maybe we should call somebody," I suggested.

"Who?" asked Brad.

It was a valid question. We didn’t really know anyone in the neighborhood.

"I don’t know. What do you do in these situations? Maybe we should call 9-1-1? Otherwise, we might be out here all night!" I replied.

"Oh, God, I guess so," said Brad.

I didn’t have cell signal, but Brad did. He called 9-1-1 and I listened as he talked to the operator.

"Hi. My girlfriend and I…we’re…um…stuck? Oh…yeah…we’re trapped. Yeah, it’s 213 Harrison Ave. Yes, we’re behind the building. We can’t get back in."

In seconds (the fire station, it turned out, was three blocks from our apartment), we heard sirens. Harrison is a very small town and it doesn’t have much crime. The police and fire department get really bored. This sounded like a big deal to them.

A few minutes later, roughly ten firemen ready for ACTION! busted through the door, hat’s on and walkies spewing weird codes for different kinds of potential disasters. I think they expected to have to break it down, so when they realized all they had to do was turn the handle, open the door and let us in, they were a little let down.

They asked for our names and our phone numbers and left in their giant, flashing truck, sad that nothing dramatic had happened. Just two stupid white kids getting themselves locked into a weird space behind their building. Just another stupid night in Harrison, NJ.

Our apartment was untouched. Our cat was asleep.