one hundred ten

“What cocktail is he on these days?” my cousin, the newly minted life coach, asks as our bus lurches away from the its stop into the summer squall.

“Gin and tonic,” I say. “Same as ever.”

“Ha ha, no. There’s all kinds of new meds, no?”

I realize I have no idea, nor would I know who to ask. He’d switched doctors several months back because of HMO changes, and we’d stopped talking about it all, gosh, years ago

Odd how a one-time death sentence can slowly morph into a manageable disability and then become something one only thinks about every few months when getting their bloods done. Like changing out your electric toothbrush.

“Let’s get off here. I need to hit the pharmacy.”

“To find out about his prescriptions?”

“Nah, just remembered we need Sonicare replacement heads.”

Stepping onto the sidewalk, he grabs my arm and motions behind us. “You know, he could get hit by that bus, and you wouldn’t know what to tell the hospital.”

I nod, sheepishly. “You’re right.”

“What are you gonna do about that?”

We dodge kamikaze pedestrians wielding umbrellas like gladiators with shields.

“I’ll make sure he doesn’t stand in front of busses.”

one hundred nine

They’d had a couple mojitos in South Beach a few weeks ago. 

They’d more than likely kissed each other. 

It was their honeymoon. It’s 2016, who doesn’t kiss on their honeymoon?

In the aftermath, they read it wasn’t terrorism. Just a lone wolf acting out because he saw two men kissing in Miami. In front of his 3-year-old. 

He. Was. Just. So. Angry. 

They bandied their anger triggers.

People on busses with mobile phones. Televangelical hypocrisy.  Welfare cheats. Politicians dodging issues while circumventing their (lack of) consciences with lobbyists’ loot.  Cyclists running red lights. Adam Sandler movies getting green lights. A man getting so upset his son might see something he doesn’t agree with (or perhaps can’t accept within himself) that he takes it out on scores of innocents. 

A world where murder and a fatherless son (the one you said you wanted to protect)  was a better option than saying, “love is love.”

His anger unleashed a storm of bullets.  Their rage spawned tsunami of tears.

Did their kiss orphan his son?

Knowing the world could never give them an answer, they focused on what they could provide the world.

More kisses.

More love.

More tears.

No more guns.

one hundred eight

“Suddenly, life’s precious again.” 

Laia pointed to her ear, shaking her head. “No puedo oírte.” The RiRi remix wasn’t that loud, nor had she misunderstood.

“You’re the DIAMOND” he said, pointing to the speaker. She heard her eyes roll. “Want a mojito? They’re awesome.”  His American accent was as strong as his cologne.  When did Paco Rabanne launch “White Male Privilege”? He motioned two more from the bartender.

She smiled, holding up her vermut. “No, gracias. Estoy bien.

“You’re very bien,” he said, flashing a smile that would have made Bon Jovi proud, save the mint-bedazzled bicuspid.

She’d seen him earlier at her best friend’s chirringuito. She was studying for next weekend’s CPE, and liked eavesdropping on tourists to hear “authentic” English. He’d complained rather loudly that his bravas needed salt. Then he mansplained to his companion how to peel her shrimp. After demanding mustard (already on the table), he bemoaned, “The thing about Europe is it’s just not classy.”

“Come on, baby.” He nudged a mojito over. “We’re not gonna let a little foreign tongue be a cockblock, are we?”

“Cariño,” Laia said, sliding the drink back and sliding into perfect English. “Your personality’s taken care of that.”

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.

one hundred two

“Would Madame like some water?”

The flight attendant, who with each Lilipudian-sized bottle of gin reminded me of more and more of Aunt Clara, was looking directly at me. I pulled out my earbud.


I’m not especially hung up on gender honourifics, but calling a guy “madame” was a bit of a surprise outside of the gayest of cocktail parties.

Aunt Clara nodded towards my dozing neighbour, clearing up an empty mini-bottle of Chardonnay. “Will Madame want some water when she wakes up?”

Having no idea who 2D was, let alone her predilection for hydration, I pulled the international “haven’t a clue” face.

“Oh,” Clara twittered. “You both have the same eyeglasses, so I just thought … .” 

Glancing over at Snoring Beauty I noticed that, while our frames were completely different, hers were, like mine, a shade of blue. Not unlike Aunt Clara’s eyeshadow. 

“My my my,” she said.  “How fluky.” She set down a bottle of water, mouthing, “Just in case.” 

Motioning to my empty glass, she said,  “Shall we call Doctor Bombay once more before landing?” 

“Come quick, right away!”

Reaching into her trolley, she pulled out a doorknob. “Oh dear, that’s not right. I’ll be right back.”

one hundred one

It was towards the end of my eleventh straight double, and my feet were throbbing like a drag queen’s in stilettos two sizes too small.

The campers in the corner banquette showed no signs of leaving. The businessman was leaning back against the bench, his date sidled up next to him, adjusting the napkin-covered tent he was pitching.

The things customers think we can’t see. PDAs are fine, but if you’re in a 4-star hotel’s restaurant, can’t you go back upstairs for your hand job?

While setting up tables for tomorrow’s breakfast, I heard a small crash, a giggle from her and an “Oh, fuck,” from him.  Turning around, I saw her wine glass was turned over, and her ever-unwrapping VonFurstenburg wrap dress was splattered with Malbec.

With index finger raised, he beckoned me.

He. Snapped. His. Fingers.

They’d spilled red and I was seeing it.

“We’ve had a dining mishap,” he said. “Bring some soda water.”

“You know, white wine gets out red,” I said, handing them fresh napkins. “Do you like the Slag’s Lap?”

“Beg your pardon?” His Viagra-flushed cheeks began to turn crimson.

“The Stag’s Leap Chardornay. It’s delightful.”

I got my rosé slip the next morning.