Several Snippets

Once, Mr. C., who was one of my high school’s performing arts teachers, posed this question to the class: "Where do you go for peace and quiet?" 

When it came my turn to answer, I said, "The beach." 

Truthfully, whenever I sought “peace and quiet,” I’d go to my bedroom. Boring, right? Perhaps a sensible answer would’ve been the local public library. But the beach seemed somehow poetic.* 

My lie impressed Mr. C., and that was my aim—to impress—because, in that particular place, and at that particular time, he was in a position of power. 

In a way, he still is. 

That teenage memory resurfaced earlier today, as I traversed a rocky beach in my bare feet. My eyes were drawn less to the gently lapping expanse beyond, and more to the broken beer bottles and castoff condoms strewn along the shore.

~  ~  ~

Here, from wall to wall, from floor to ceiling, from smell to sound—Pop, Betty, and moi—we're cocooned within a world of cozy vapidity. If not for the daily patronage of so many lightly seasoned citizens, and the nightly convergence of restless suburban whippersnappers, this establishment could not have remained in business, as it has, for as long as I have been alive. 

Aw, but heck, when I hit eighty, I'll likely be a regular here, too—bussing the tables and washing the dishes. 

At last, a server brings our drinks. By the time I de-sleeve my straw and suck nearly a quarter of my beverage through it, Betty flicks hers across the table at me. (Not her beverage, but her straw.) I feel a sudden, fleeting kinship with a barroom dartboard. In response, I cease my slurp, arch an eyebrow, and look up at her. 

"A spare," she explains. "In case yours is defective." 

With regard to the means through which Betty obtains her liquids, she is, shall we say, particular. When it comes to water, she prefers it in a plastic cup without ice. But that’s only for water. She'll drink cranberry juice out of a glass, no problem. At Pop’s house, she won’t drink out of the same glass more than once a day, regardless of its cleanliness—that is, unless it's water from the plastic cup designated as her own. (By “once,” I don’t mean she’s done after one sip.) 

5 August 2006 

*[06/12/22: Several years later, in college, an acting professor asked the class what we like to do when we’re alone. Since actors are often encouraged to take creative risks, I took a small one. “I like to get naked,” I said. This was a lie. Sure, if I had a hot bod, I’d flaunt it whenever and wherever. But I’m somewhat pudgy, so I don’t. This lie left me feeling uncomfortable—not because it was a lie, but rather because it felt like I was oversharing. But then one of my classmates said she liked to get naked, too. And right there, during class, she proposed that we get naked together sometime. It didn’t seem like she was joking, either. But I never took her up on it. I was a fool. Still am. As a consequence, I take fewer risks, stay inside for as long as possible, and growl at the young, frolicsome passersby nine stories below.] 

[06/12/22: At restaurants, Betty only ever ate half of what she’d order. Even when she split a meal with Pop, she’d only eat half of her split. But she’d always request a doggie bag. And, sure, she’d bring the leftovers home, but she’d never eat them.] 

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