It’s Saturday. My superhot evening plan is to go grocery shopping. Not everyone gets cranked about trolling the frozen foods section but I do, and I wield coupons without mercy. Just before nine tonight I walked out of my apartment, put my car in gear and saw the nearly full moon. “Crap,’ I thought, ‘car accident. Please don’t let me be the idiot.’
Last night, I was so exhausted I could barely keep my eyes open by 9:30. Through sheer determination and serial viewing of screwy Law & Order: Criminal Intent episodes, I managed to sit at only a slight angle until about 11:30, when I gave up and quit resisting gravity. That meant I quit resisting wakefulness at 5 this morning, which was way too soon, so I took a sleeping pill and resisted consciousness until noon. I toss a pot pie into the oven and brew some coffee. Sometimes living alone doesn’t suck.
Today, I stared at the pieces of my IKEA computer desk for about an hour until I knew what to do and assembled it. An hour of staring. Ten minutes of assembly. I am a genius! Miss Sasha calls half an hour later.
Miss Sasha: He’s a fool!
Tata: Well, everybody does smart things and stupid things. Not everyone understands this.
Miss Sasha: What?
Tata: I just put together my IKEA computer desk without instructions. Know what I’m doing now?
Miss Sasha: No…
Tata: I’m kneeling on my stove. Guess why! Guess!
Miss Sasha: Ow! Fishing for change?
Tata: I dropped my one and only potholder behind my oven.
Miss Sasha: D’Oh!
Tata: I’ve got red spots all over my face, Guess why! Guess!
Miss Sasha: Mom…
Tata: I made really delicious polenta and spashed it all over my face. I’m speckled!
Miss Sasha: Mother! Your kitchen is too dangerous. Brick it up immediately.
Tata: Being smart doesn’t help you if you’re arrogant about it. Humility is smarter than stupidly shouting about how much smarter you are than everyone else. Because you’re not. He just doesn’t understand that, which isn’t brilliant.
Miss Sasha: Did you buy a microwave?
Tata: I wanted to wait and see what would fit the baker’s rack.
Miss Sasha: What?
Tata: Friday, when I got home from work there was a perky little post-it on my door from UPS. I have to sign for it in person.
Miss Sasha: That’s evil!
Tata: Yep! By the way, I cannot reach that potholder with kitchen utensils and the velcro on my Ace Bandages. Next, I’m gonna try the rusty industrial ice tongs. And it’s a good thing I like being upside-down.
Sometimes I wish I still smoked. I did some of my best thinking while I was avoiding thinking about lung cancer. Perhaps if I were smoking and not-thinking while I was dangling upside-down behind the stove with rusty industrial ice tongs I might not have panicked when the call waiting I didn’t know I had beeped.
Last week, I dropped my mouse into a glass of iced tea. Today, it works again. Hooray! I feel lucky! I stare at the phone, wondering what this plastic gadget’s new noise means. I push a button. Nothing happens. I push a button. Paulie Gonzalez glumly says he missed his flight and his dad is determined to buy a too-small house while Paulie’s in Rome. Since I can’t truthfully tell him his dad’s going to come to his senses before the next open house, I mention I’m kneeling on the stove and Leo Sayer’s Thunder In My Heart is stuck in my head. Disaster is all relative.
We talk for a while and the phone beeps again. I’m pretty sure I look like a cartoon x-ray of myself.
Miss Sasha: You put me on hold for like fifteen minutes!
Tata: I what? I thought we got disconnected!
Miss Sasha: You’re retarded!
Tata: There can be no other explanation, can there?
Paulie’s next flight leaves just after 10 p.m. I call him from the cleaning products aisle in the Pathmark on Route 1 to tell him I put the TV, my boom box and about a dozen framed pictures on the IKEA computer desk and boy, do I hope I put that together right. Also: that Just the Two of Us is playing over the loudspeaker and I further hope Bill Withers isn’t waking up in a ditch somewhere.
Paulie: You wouldn’t believe what you can get done in an airport.
Tata: You’re at Newark Liberty? You might have to leave the airport for that.
Paulie: What I got shined was my shoes. No scuffs!
Tata: You sound fine. I gotta go. There’s a creepy guy lurking near the depilatories and I’m almost out of Nair.
You can tell it’s Saturday night and the inmates have taken over the asylum. I’m reading cans of clam chowder when about half of the overhead lights go out. It seems like they should go back on again but they don’t. Maybe an hour later, I’m picking yogurts. I have coupons and inner conflict. There’s a break in the overhead music.
Voice: Happy birthday, Kathy.
I cackle. A boy stocking shelves nearby hears me cackle and cackles himself. There’s another break in the music.
Voice: Thank you.
Awesome. I live for stuff like this, and watching the register tape print as the coupons tick off the dollars. As I stuff the groceries in the car, I see the moon looks a little less full. I must be imagining that, I suppose. I’m driving down Route 27, keeping a good distance from the other cars; I’m watching in the distance for pedestrians. I’m slowing for the traffic light on Raritan Avenue at Fifth when it happens. The car behind me bumps me solidly. I look around. There aren’t even any other cars nearby and I didn’t see her there before. Where did she come from?
We pull over. I move my head. It feels fine. Am I hurt? I am not. I mouth in the mirror to the other driver, “Are you okay?” I get out and look at the back end of My Mechanical Nemesis. There isn’t even a scratch in the paint. I walk toward the driver, who rolls down her window. I laugh. She is so young she doesn’t ask me if I’m injured. She’s just embarrassed and blunt.
Dummy: Nothing happened here, right?
Tata: Everyone does this once. Just don’t ever do it again.
I get back in my car and realize Miss Sasha had a car accident on this very spot four years ago on graduation day. The other driver and her look-alike passenger both resemble Miss Sasha. It’s a little eerie. White Wedding plays on the radio and when I get home to my uncomfortably tight parking lot I find a parking space across from my apartment.
It’s like winning the lottery.