I kept the condoms in a bowl on a shelf in the linen closet. Don’t know why. Used to toss packets of throat lozenges I’d swipe from work in the bowl too. Condoms and throat lozenges all mixed together. Remarkably similar packaging. Used to keep a couple packets of those lozenges in my pocket all the time. Just reach into the bowl in the closet without looking and shove a couple of the packets in my pocket.
One day at work I reached into my pocket for something—I can’t remember what—while in an elevator. There were three women in the elevator car with me. As I pulled out my hand a packet of the lozenges slipped out and fell to the floor. I hadn’t noticed. One of the ladies in the elevator quietly cleared her throat. The other two were busy with their phones. She cleared her throat again, a little louder. I looked at her. She glanced at the floor. I looked down and froze. It wasn’t throat lozenges. It was a similarly shaped packet but a darker green, and packets of lozenges didn’t spell out Trojan in huge letters. Or they seemed like huge letters in that elevator. Huge dayglo letters screaming you’re fired. I felt myself turning ruby red in spite of all efforts to be casual and covered the suddenly terrifying packet with my foot. The elevator stopped on the third floor and the other two ladies stepped out, still lost in their phones. The elevator doors shut again and the remaining lady giggled. I reached down and picked up the wanton condom. Can I have that? she asked. Sure, I said, standing there like an idiot with a Trojan in my hand. As the elevator doors opened on the fourth floor she plucked it from my palm. I’m sure I looked utterly dumbstruck, a giant guy in an elevator giving away a souvenir condom. She smiled and waved goodbye with two fingers and a big green Trojan packet. I felt myself blushing again.
Neither of us ever mentioned it again. I never explained. She never asked. It’s not the kind of thing one talks about in the office. But when I got home that night I took the rubbers out of that damned bowl and stuck them in a drawer. By the bed.
I remember a party here and some stoner in a Black Sabbath shirt kept requesting Iron Man. I’d never seen the guy before and he was way high and quite insistent about hearing Iron Man. I am Iron Man he sang, dum dum dum dum dum/da da da da da da dah/dum dee dum. I gave in. So you want Iron Man? Here ya go, and I put on Eric Dolphy. Ba ba ba da be da/da be da. That’s Iron Man, I said, and showed him the cover. He looked bewildered, even hurt. I almost felt guilty and jacked up the volume. Dolphy screamed a solo. He left. Jazz can be cruel.
I remember driving through Missouri River bottomlands on the Yankton Sioux reservation on the summer solstice. Dusk faded slowly and the air was full of fireflies as the sun took forever to set. We stopped by a bridge to get our bearings, reading the map by the last rays of sunlight. Somewhere past 9:30 it was finally nighttime and we slunk through Nebraska on the south side of the river in the dark, the air fragrant with loam and alfalfa and slow water.
I remember the time a doctor told me I was an alcoholic. But I barely drink, I said. He gave me a look. Denial, he said, was part of my problem. But doctor, I scarcely drink. When I go out to I’ll have a drink or two, and just every once in a while at home. I barely qualify as a social drinker. I’m writing you a referral for our alcoholism counseling service, he said. But I’m not a drunk I said again. It will be OK, he said.
A friend asked if I went to the counseling. No, I said, I’m not an alcoholic. I barely drink. You didn’t go to the AA meetings? Of course not. But this is Hollywood, he said. A former drinking buddy of his met David Bowie that way. I don’t care, I said, I’m not going to go to AA meetings. It’s your life, he said.
Got asked for the zillionth time last night how we’ve been married forever. Well, I said, it’s been thirty eight years of me mansplaining to an Indian who’s not gonna listen to a white man no matter what. Fyl laughed. The earnest questioner was as bewildered as before. Maybe you think about it too much Fyl marriedsplained, and the tenor player began a gorgeous, perfect Skylark, Fyl closing her eyes as jazz love filled the room.
Today’s the day that all the Eastern Orthodox kids had their second Christmas. That’s all I knew about the Great Schism when I was a kid, that the Greek kids down the street got two Christmases and the Irish kids just got one. Anyway, Merry Christmas, Greek kids.
The pad is utterly Xmas free again. Every year there is a Christmas explosion that fills the house, and then just as suddenly it reverse explodes back onto the closet shelf, all of it but the tree (which goes wherever sacrificed trees go), a crazed Christmas party’s worth of stuff reboxed with an inherited Germanic efficiency that my Irish half observes with lazy poetry.