one hundred seven

“Simon always had a nose for a party.”

That’s how our friend used to describe his ex, although we were unsure whether that meant, in this particular case, a comment on his ability to find a fiesta or that he had snorted his way through many a weekend.

The text came as a shock. “We got married last night at the hospital. For a few hours we were the happiest couple on the planet. Then there was a sudden turn for worse.”

Simon said sayanora.

We’d known about the cancer.  We didn’t know when (or why) they’d gotten back together. 

It’s one of the sad truths about death. Suddenly life is precious again.

And then we went through a host of final moments. 

Deathbed nuptial or sunset on the beach. A hospice surrounded by loved ones or something shiny distracting us from the oncoming bus.  A desperate gulp of sea water with a pocket full of stones. Heart attack atop a hooker? Fiery plane crash.  Alien abduction.  Suicide bomber in a previously tranquil hotel lobby.

All we could agree on was, “You just never fucking know.” 

So we decided to live life to the fullest.

Right after we checked Facebook.

one hundred six

Passengers jabbering away, more on mobiles than to each other. Multi-lingual white noise muffled by the groaning bus engine, occasionally interrupted by chimes for the next stop and HAL’s Catalonian cousin announcing “propera parada …” in a language I tell myself I don’t understand.

A toddler keeps pulling himself up over the seat ahead of me, staring until I look up from my Kindle, then ducks back down, giggling. I eventually surrender, making faces since I don’t know Cataspanish for “Peek-a-boo.”  As giggles become laughs, I reach towards him, pretend to pinch his face and, without even touching him, pull back my hand and whisper, “Tengo tu nariz.”

Terror fills his eyes. “Mama, nooooooo!” he shrieks, and begins bawling, grabbing his nose and pointing backwards.

His mother stops Whatsapping and turns around. Gasping, she draws the boy to her bosom, whispering soothing mothering sounds, shielding his eyes.   

Am I that horrific?

The next stop is mine. Rising towards the exit behind me, I see what scared him. 

Birth defect?  Radical cancer treatment?  Bygone Byzantine barbarism?

Two black holes between her upper lip and eyes. Voldemort’s kindly sister who, even if she wanted to, could never stick her nose into anyone’s business.

one hundred five

We were stretching out, having finished our run near a beachside exercise park. Nothing state-of-the-art, but a number of locals thought it beat paying gym dues.

The breeze was just enough to cool us down, without chilling the evening air.

“Going out later?” I asked Júlia. She was a good training partner — not too chatty and a little faster than me, which kept me on my toes.

“Nah. I’ll probably polish off last night’s Priorat and thumb through Tinder.”

“How goes the hunt?” I leaned into an IT stretch, relishing the rippling rear view of a shirtless guy who was super-setting pull-ups. My hip popped and I involuntarily grunted, “Aye, fuck me.”

“Maybe I’d be luckier with that profile,” she said, pulling her left ankle into such an effortless standing bow that the lesser me sort of wanted to push her over. “I ask for three simple things.”

Be fit. Be vegan. Be straight.

Pull-up guy had been wiping his pits with his shirt before putting it back on. “Prince Charming, six o’clock. Is classy a deal breaker?”

His sleeveless tee read …

Eat Pussy,
Not Meat.

“I’ll let you know tomorrow.” She flicked back her ponytail, sauntering towards tonight’s contestant.

one hundred four

“In ten seconds, I’ll ask you to start your first of six intervals,” the electronic coach tells me.

I’m supposed to run as fast as I can for a minute, then jog for two. Lather, rinse, repeat.  What could go wrong in only 60 seconds?

“Start your interval now.”

I kick up my pace.

Suddenly,  I’m trying out for the junior high track team, 3,500 miles and 35 years away, half encouraged / half-bullied by the coach to “put those long legs to use!”

“Yeah, come on, Princess,” mocked an eighth grader who’d never known the subtleties of half-bullying as he flew past me.

I gave my all to catch him, determined this would be the chance to change my image.

The gravelly track slipped from beneath my Converse high tops, my left leg sliding back, right foot reaching ahead to right my balance, ankle turning under as I crumple into the adjoining lane, tripping not only myself but the sprinter next to me (“you asshole,” he shouted), knees knocking elbows, ass against asphalt, skin skidding off shins in a dusty trail of humiliation.

“Slow down to Zone 1,” my eCoach congratulates me. “You’ve completed your first interval.”

Only five more memory jogs to go. 

one hundred three

She boarded the carriage like the Maharani of Bombay, wrapped in a profoundly purple sari, a jewelled bindi resting on her forehead.  She sidled into the seat across from me, accompanied by a younger maiden in western clothes and middle-aged woman in traditional garb. 

As the train belched out of Calicut, she heaved a discontented sigh while thumbing through Bollywood magazines. Just because they insisted she be a Princess of the People didn’t mean she had to enjoy The Great Unwashed Express.

An hour into the journey, she was simultaneously flicking through her glamour rags and flicking away the unwanted attentions of her lady-in-waiting, who’d grown long bored of her Nancy Drew novel.

“Sisters,” I whispered conspiratorially. “The worst, right?” Neither responded, but the woman giggled.

“It is their age,” she chirped in her syllable-timed accent.

“You’re from here?” I asked, now that the Princess’ ice was broken.

“Yes. Cochin. But haven’t lived there for ages.” She nodded to the Princess and her pest. “We bring our daughters back from the States every year.”

“Ah, lovely. Whereabouts?”

The Princess slapped shut her magazine, glaring at her mother.

“They’re from Kansas.”

Turning as crimson as her bindi, Dorothy’s cover was blown.