I hope you had a good extended weekend and were able to celebrate Independence Day to your satisfaction, whatever that may be. Todd and I went to visit some I-hesitate-to-call-them-friends. Although I cant say the entire experience was miserable, I didnt feel I was quite "in my element", as they say.
I swam in a murky pond in coastal Maine. I took a giant leap off the dock, which was coated with dried granules of duck feces. As Darius and Paulina (Todds friends I dont think youve met them) watched disapprovingly from the enclosed porch, just up the hill, I practiced my water ballet routine, bobbing above and below the surface of the brackish, deep green water. The ruffled skirt on my favorite floral-print bathing suit kept flying up to reveal giant, yellowish, cratered thighs, while I studiously reviewed my scissor-kicks for next Tuesdays performance. I have been taking water ballet classes in the evenings after work. Its always been my dream to engage in a spiritual, yet decorative communion with Water. There are fourteen women in my class and we all wear floral-print bathing suits and bathing caps with purple, plastic violets.
I paddled around a bit and then submerged into the water. Through my blue-tinted goggles I saw small, seemingly transparent fish circling my giant rump. I worried that they might swim into my suit. I searched for a smooth, even patch of pond-bottom where I could impress my palms, in order to practice a handstand. In this move, only my legs poke above the surface of the water, straddling and splitting, alternately: straddle, together, split, together, straddle, together, split, together .
I am so calm, I thought to myself, smiling and upside down.
My only wish was that Darius and Paulina werent so silently critical of me. I am always nice to them. Every time they invite Todd and I over to dinner (I know I am only included out of politeness its Todd they truly want to see I am just an unfortunate, inextricable part of the bargain) I bring flowers, I tell Paulina how pretty she looks, I ask Darius about his job (hes a podiatrist). What more can I do? Paulina has never asked me a thing about myself. In all the time Ive known them, which is over a year, neither of them have asked me about my job at the laboratory, my novels in progress, my water ballet classes nor my pet turtles. Paulina, Darius and Todd just pretend Im not around, jabbering about topics which are totally unfamiliar to me.
To make matters worse, Paulina seems to think I am frightened and skiddish, but Im not. I dont know how she has developed this idea, considering she knows next to nothing about me. She will often refer to me in such a way that simultaneously enhances her qualities and diminishes mine, as though I am her foil, the perfect fool to her grace and sophistication. I dont want to hate her, Ken, but I do. And I know Todd is disappointed in me, although he wont say so.
The more I think about it, the more uncomfortable I am around them. It seems that this state of permanently wanting to please them only ensures that I never will.
Oh, Ken, I miss those simpler days when we worked at the dairy farm and drank buttermilk all day long. Remember how it would form a crust around our mouths? And how wed lean into the cows, pressing our cheeks against their warm stomachs and squeezing their utters in meditative, interlocking rhythms, creating music from the acoustic spray of fresh milk into metal pails?
Oh well, we all have to grow up some time.
I hope you can make it to one of my water ballet recitals. There will be three more before the end of this season. Ill pay for half your ticket, if you cant afford to come. Oh please come, Ken. I know Ive painted a less than exemplary portrait of Todd, but truly, hes a wonderful man and hes never asked me to diet.