Go backs

from “The Kentons,” by Wm. Dean Howells.
  1. Tub of pine nuts from Gene’s Sausage Shop. Reason for return: The label says ‘Product of China.’ When I brought them home, Dave mentioned a news story about how some Chinese pine nuts aren’t actually pine nuts and may taste metallic. I got them so I could replicate Justine’s amazing quinoa salad, which she credited to Cookus Interruptus. So I went to a different store and bought Alessi pine nuts. But though Alessi markets itself as Italian, the label on these said ‘Product of Italy and China,’ which probably means product of China. I was so fed up that I used them anyway and they tasted fine. So maybe the Gene’s ones would taste fine too?
  2. Curling iron from Walgreens. Reason for return: Didn’t have time to use it before Oscar party. And as Wendy pointed out, I don’t need curly hair.
  3. Feathered headband. I thought it represented the only time I would enter a Forever 21 store, when I purchased it for Oscar night. Wrong.
  4. Lacy top from Urban Outfitters, along with two pairs of tights, none of which I will ever wear. I hate that I always feel compelled to buy more than the one thing I went to a store for–in this case, a perfect dress I found on clearance. Instead of marching it to the counter, I needed to continue shopping so as to extend my bargain.
  5. Last night’s audition. To get the bad taste of it out of my mouth I went to Bed Bath & Beyond afterward, looking for a 2-Qt saucepan with a spout and a glass lid.
    Before the audition, in all my thinking about the specifics — how it made me reexamine lying,
    whether I should cancel,
    why I was spending so much time making up lies instead of working on my script, which lie to tell,
    whether to go funny or serious,
    where on earth to dig up my acting resume and how to revise it for the new me, etc. — I had totally forgotten about all the very general ways in which an audition can mess with you. How the floor can shift from under you the moment you walk into the audition room. No matter how prepared you think you are,
    no matter how much you might love performing,
    no matter how ready you might feel to share yourself and your creativity,
    the smallest thing can get the escalator moving in the wrong direction, and you’re suddenly scrambling to get back to level ground. Things that should be easy, like saying your name, suddenly sound strange in a room you thought would look different,
    would feel different,
    would have different lighting,
    would have a different combination of people sitting behind a different set of tables, with a different look on their faces. Maybe I’m just out of shape audition-wise, or maybe it’s because I didn’t truly believe in my own lies the way I do when I’m telling them spontaneously, or maybe it really was because I didn’t go with the first thing in my head the way I used to when I improvised, but it was the longest five minutes of my day.
    So I went back to the car and drove Dave to Rolando’s for band practice, then I continued on to BB&B. And because I cannot buy only the thing I came for, and because I was still in shock that things hadn’t gone the way I envisioned them in my head, and because I kept thinking of really great things I could have said and should have said, like “I’m originally from Mars,” yeah that would have killed, I continued shopping.
  6. I found a wall-mounted paper towel holder that Dave wants me to take back. It’s exactly like the one we had at the condo. Even when I put it in my cart I remembered Dave saying he didn’t like it, but I needed something besides the saucepan, especially because I was getting an extra 10% off on it because it was the last one, and I’m tired of not having a paper towel holder. When we got home and I showed Dave, he reminded me of all the reasons this was not an acceptable design. Distasteful prominence of the rubber ball grabbers and how they collect lint, and insufficient roll grip as time goes on, and I forget what else, he lost me at linty balls. “I’m not returning it,” I said, and went to bed.
  7. Removable wall graphic from JoAnne Fabric and Craft. “Songs and Wishes Tree, Black.” “Not a sticker!” “Easy on Easy Off!” But nowhere to put it, now that I’ve begun drawing story charts on the walls in my office.
  8. Cute toothbrush holder from the Chicago Architecture Foundation Store. Dave got it for me because it grosses him out that I keep an extra toothbrush in the shower, right on the soap caddy. But he mentioned it in front of a bunch of our friends, who were all grossed out by the thought of me brushing in the shower. At first I fought back, but over time, every time I shower I think what if I’m getting spit somewhere it shouldn’t be? So I’m giving up. The toothbrush holder goes back, maybe not all the way to China, but at least downtown.
  9. Spring. I don’t care if March steals it back tomorrow, I’m getting my money’s worth today.
  10. Say what you won’t about William Dean Howells, because no one reads him anymore, but I swear to God, I opened iBooks for a minute while I ate breakfast, and out of the blue, he captured life in one line, with a sense of humor so subtle that it would never audition for anything, buy more than it needs, or get seduced by removable wall art.

Nothing but trouble

Everyone dressed up for the Oscars. No lie.

I dreamed I went to young John Malkovich’s apartment to cancel my lie audition. He was about 30 and dressed in evening clothes. His huge 1930s apartment was lit with chandeliers and filled with people drinking cocktails. He came toward me with arms outstretched, very elegant with that leonine Malkovich walk but also like a society hostess.

I’d come to use Malkovich’s computer to email my cancellation, but I suddenly realized the auditions were actually being held right here in his apartment, right now at this moment. Yes, I’m having audition anxiety.

I tried a couple times over the weekend to cancel my audition. I told Dave, “I don’t think the story I came up with is the kind of story they’re looking for.”

“You don’t know what they’re looking for,” he said.

“But I don’t even want to get cast,” I reasoned.

“But you don’t think you will get cast.”

“I know.”

“Go ahead and cancel,” Dave said. “Then you can stay home all day Tuesday and not go out at all.” I have anxiety about turning out like my mom, who never wanted to go anywhere except TJ Maxx. That shut me up for a while.

But then Scheherazade called when I was at Walgreen’s, buying a curling iron for yesterday’s Oscar party. She’d heard about the audition and said her impression was that it was more for guys who would be one-upping each other with outrageous stories. “Like drinking stories,” I said, trying to choose between a 39-dollar ceramic curling iron and a 9-dollar non-ceramic one.

“Exactly,” she said.

“It’s not that I’m scared of auditioning,” I said as I pulled a 19-dollar compromise curling iron off the shelf, ceramic but only two heat settings. “I just feel like there are more important things I need to be working on.”

“If it’s not your thing, honey, don’t sweat it,” she said.

“Exactly,” I said, “it’s not my thing.”

“So don’t sweat it.” I love Scheherazade.

I typed up my story and had the lady from Final draft read it. At the Oscar party, I told my friend Xeena how this lie thing is taking too much time when I really need to be working on my play.  “So it’s not a fear thing,” she said.

“No, not at all.” I love Xeena, but she has these crystal clear eyes that seem to stare right into your soul. “I don’t think so. Maybe a little. But also I need to write a new scene for my play.”

“Hm. It’s hard when it’s both.” I got another plate of food from the Oscar buffet. My favorites were the spinach balls, blue cheese gougeres, mini fruit tortes, Nutella sandwich cookies, some kind of cheese that you put on a tiny skillet ‘til it melts and you put it on flaky cracker, peanut butter buckeyes, and champagne grape focaccia slices. All homemade by Vandamm Lovely and Kismet. I’ve given up drinking for Lent so I ate as much as possible.

When we left, a lovely young woman who was extremely drunk was also leaving, so we walked her to the train. Dave asked if she was from London and she said, “No, Pakistan.” Then a minute later she added, “I’m sorry, that was a stupid thing to say. Yes, I’m from London. I’m really sorry.”

Then she asked what we did and when I said Dave was a violinist she said, “That’s brilliant. No one plays violin anymore. Everyone plays fucking guitar or fucking bass, I hate fucking bass.”

“I play bass,” I said.

“Oh God, I’m so sorry.”

I laughed, “No I don’t. I was just messing with you.”

“Oh God,” she said, “I’m always saying these stupid things. Why do I–”

“No,” I interrupted. “I was lying.”

She didn’t seem to hear me. “I don’t know why I say these things.”

“But I was lying,” I said.

She didn’t seem to hear. “I’m British so I’m always bloody polite even though I’m always swearing and saying something insulting and then I’m always apologizing.”

“But I really don’t play bass. I wasn’t insulted.”

“I’m really sorry,” she began again. We were still a block from the train. This lying business is nothing but trouble.

One good lie

blurry crowd
What’s not to believe?

I got an email inviting me to audition for a show filled with lies. For the audition, I have to tell a three-minute lie, as outrageous as I like. How hard can that be? So I accepted and figured something would come to me. But now the audition is just days away and I’m starting to panic.

I’ve come up with two so far, one about a friend’s strange restaurant behavior and one about accidentally killing my piano teacher. Both sound good in my head, but when I start telling them out loud, I trail off. I lose my sense of purpose, which at least tells me something about why I like true stories, even when they’re not outrageous. They’re true, so they reveal something about something, even if I don’t always know exactly what the something is. But what does lying reveal? So far, I’ve lied only to hide things. But then again, a lie is just a fictional story and I’ve written those, so this shouldn’t be any different. But it is. I’m thinking about cancelling my audition, but I don’t want to chicken out.

Last night my brother Rolando came over. His friends have opened a hardware store, Matty K’s, and we were going there for a sort of gardening pep rally. Rolando came early to bring us gifts of dog food. Their dear old family dog passed away last month, so they had boxes of treats and bags of food which I coveted. My plan was to pass it on to Zoe’s new owner, because the Katharine Hepburn of Horner Park has also passed on, and Zoe was now living with one of the B’s.

There are two B’s, B-e and B-y. For months we’ve emailed each other to schedule Zoe’s walks. We’ve also tried to plan a dinner together, because the Hepburn sisters gave us checks to dine at Blackbird, as a Zoe thank you. We’ve tossed dates around and B-e even made reservations twice, but something always comes up. Yet when Miss Hepburn died, we found ourselves suddenly able to wrangle ourselves and husbands and bottles of beer and whisky for pizza at a local BYOB. It was soon enough after Miss Hepburn’s death that it didn’t feel real, and we had a boisterous time.

I planned to email B-e and tell her I had food to pass on for Zoe – it’s even her brand – but B-e had already emailed to say she’d brought Zoe back to live with Miss Hepburn’s sister. She convinced her that we didn’t mind continuing the walks, and Zoe is good company and good protection. So in a little while I’ll go over and pick her up for a walk. But first, I need my lie.

Last night, after Rolando parked the car and we had dinner, we walked over to Matty K’s. We passed a man dressed in a plumed page’s costume. He looked exactly like a royal chicken, with a plumed headpiece and puffy satin middle and tights. I wished I had my phone out, but he didn’t look like he would appreciate a picture. He was smoking a cigarette and adjusting his headpiece. We continued on to the store, where we had cookies and root beer and got fired up about gardening.

When we left, the royal chicken was still standing on Western, greeting people going into an event. If this were a lie, something outrageous would happen right here. But because it’s true, all I have is a blurry picture, because I grabbed my phone in time but didn’t stop to focus because I was afraid of getting yelled at. I don’t know if I’m cut out for lying, if I don’t even have the nerve to get a decent picture of an outrageous apparition placed right in my path like a golden egg.