Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Cinnamon Girl" A Vignette About Worry

Without waiting to close the apartment door she went straight to the kitchen table to see if she had left her cell phone there. It was. The voice mail app was blinking - two messages. She recognised both of the phone numbers and turned away.

She went back to the hall door and picked up the yoga mat and leaned it against the wall beside the door, then picked up the two grocery bags, closed the door with her foot and put the bags on the kitchen table by the phone.  The phone had palpably begun to lurk.

The voice mail app flashed up and down like a Vacancy sign in a cheap motel.  She sat down and sighed and wrapped her arms tightly around herself.   Without noticing she had begun to rock back and forth in the kitchen chair.

When her hands had begun to shake she felt a wave of disgust for herself. This could not be, should not be allowed to be who she was. But she had been this person for days now.

She got up and switched on the radio on top of the refrigerator. It was set to WNYC the local New York NPR station. It was Saturday afternoon and the Live at the Met opera series was performing a celebration of Wagner's birthday. She listened a moment and sat back down as the lady announcer explained the next act, which was presented in German and it all seemed like bees buzzing in her ears.

The third act began. The opera was recognisable now as "The Valkyrie", with the great "Ride of the Valkyries" theme; the ultimate anthem of martial valor. Seven world class sopranos yelped their mighty and silly sounding war whoop "Hiya-toho!" and the audience was on its feet cheering . She stared at her own feet and let her mind drift.

There had been this cartoon once about that very music. This cartoon.

When she was a girl.  It had been.

When she had been a little, little girl, there had been this cartoon. Once.

It went like this.  Here was Bugs Bunny and there was Elmer Fudd with his double barreled gun and hunting outfit. He was going to kill Bugs Bunny. He was always going to kill Bugs Bunny. That was his schtick. His karma.   His Fate.  That was all he did.  Now, Bugs Bunny runs into this opera house to get away - and there it is - "The Valkyrie" thundering away. So crafty Bugs puts on a horned Viking helmet with long blonde Brunhilde braids and runs right out on stage figuring - Hell - the old coot can't very well shoot a guy on stage in front of people. Not really shoot him. So ol' Elmer, he grabs this other Viking helmet and this big spear and sings along with Ride of the Valkyries - "Kill da WAB-bit! Kill da WAAAB-bit! Kill da WAB-bit." Just like opera.  It was the first time she had heard opera.

Saturday morning cartoons. Those were so great then. Kind of innocent.

The voice mail app went on flashing.

She reached into one of the grocery bags and took out a can. She hooked her finger under the zip ring and pulled the top off. It was filled with tiny pasta rings in bright fluorescent orange spaghetti sauce. She took down a bowl and shook the can out into it. She put the bowl in the microwave and randomly stabbed buttons until it began to dance.  Orange sauce burst against the glass. She turned it off and put the steaming bowl of Spaghetti O's on the table and did nothing.

Saturday morning cartoons, Spaghetti O's with Bugs Bunny.  Baby brother running in his jammies.

. . . . Kill -

She put her fingers in the bowl, scooped up hot Spaghetti O's and crammed her stinging fingers in her mouth.

- Da Wabbit.

She tipped the bowl to her lips and slurped it all down without chewing.

She reached into the other bag and took out a loaf of Wonder bread with its cheerful balloon polka dots. Without undoing the wire tie, she stretched the plastic with her fingernails and clawed the bag open, spilling bread like guts. A bread smell filled the air and she lifted out two pieces of spongy perfect white bread and laid them out. She reached into the bag and took out a bright pink disc of Family Budget Baloney, opened it and peeled off three slices. She put the meat on the bread, tossed the packet on the floor and reached back into the bag. A bright red bottle of Heinz ketchup. She unscrewed the top and splashed a bright scarlet glob onto the center of the baloney and crushed it with the other slice of bread.  Ketchup blopped out the sides. She crammed it in her mouth and took a huge bite reaching all the way to the back of her throat, leaving a half moon sized wound in the sandwich.

She rolled it in her mouth. Years since she had eaten cheap baloney. Oh - fried cheap baloney. With eggs.   Pig Heaven.  She felt vile.  

"Kill da wabbit. . . " her lips moved along with the radio, pieces of meat dribbling. "WAB-bit . . . ."

She sucked the ketchup off her teeth and licked her lips.

She went to the refrigerator and reached behind the bright green bundle of organic broccoli and portabello mushrooms for the carton of Organic Fair Trade Almond-Coconut milk and put it on the table. She took down a hand crafted tumbler of certified Chinese purple clay, good for a woman's yin energy field and poured milk into it. She looked at the phone. Looked at the grocery bags. Looked at the hand made clay tumbler with the almond-coconut milk. She pointed with one finger of her right hand, touched the tumbler lip and tipped it over. It rolled and stopped at the table edge. The milk cascaded to the floor and poured and then dripped and then slowed until it finally stopped.


She had discovered masturbation when she was a young girl of about thirteen, somewhere around then. It was perfectly terrifying. When she felt the sunburst blast of her first orgasm she was sure it was her body announcing a fatal trauma, a major organ failure.   Worst of all it was something she had done to herself.  And then immediately she tried to get the feeling to happen again.

The shower was the best place to masturbate and soon she couldn't take a shower without it. She knew it was a sin. She knew it was abnormal. People who abused themselves could not have normal adult relationships. After a while they'd go insane and be put away and masturbate in a tiny cell until they died. What would her mother say? She tried to stop. God knows. But her body wouldn't let her stop. If she held off for a few days the moment would come when she would enter the bathroom in a kind of nervous trance. Meaning only to wash her hands, brush her teeth which she did sincerely and then her hand would reach by itself for that shower knob. The hand knew what it wanted.  It moved by itself as if absolving her brain of any moral culpability. She'd let her hands undress her as this animal quivering began in the belly even before she had stepped under the hot water. The belly knew what was coming. You couldn't lie to the belly. The anguished quivering below would not stop until the act was consummated. And then consummated again.

As she reached into the bag she felt that same strong trembling in the belly informing her of an impending self inflicted rape. Her body knew what it wanted and she would have to just let it happen without fighting it until it was over. Even without the milk.

She pulled out a box of Little Debbie cakes.

With a grunt, she ripped open the box. She tore open a cookie wrapper with her teeth and devoured it in three bites. The gunk stuck in her throat and gave her the hiccups. She sucked the white sugar paste from her tongue and proceeded to work her way through the whole box.

She wiped the spaghetti from the bowl with the last Little Debbie cake and sucked the neon orange sauce from her fingers. She pushed the flashing message app, leaving a gooey sauce print on the glass.

"Maddy! It's James. Hey, is everything alright with you, Jersey girl? You haven't returned my calls. Listen I have some bad news and good news. Bad news. Listen. Your book, 'The Virtuous Vegan' slipped a notch. Okay? Yeah, its number two now on the Times Non-Fiction list. I mean listen, darling, how many authors would kill their mothers with a hatchet for that number two spot, am I right? It happens sooner or later. But we're better than this. The Hungry Blossum says they can give you another signing gig on Friday the 8th, in the evening. We'll get some wine and cheese tasting going on too. Wear that nice batik dress. That persian scarf. Everybody wins. And listen, sweets, I can definately get you ten minutes on Morning Joe. I know the guy.  Ten minutes is fantastic, am I right? Listen Maddy, I'm not just your agent, I'm your friend. I care about you. I care like, you know, very deeply about you. We all do. Let's get our heads back in the game and flog this thing up to number one again, right? Love ya, babe. We all love you. Call me. Kiss kiss."

She pushed the app again.

"Ms Carter, Dr. Nick Baker calling from Bethesda Oncology. Your X rays are back and we need to have you come in. I don't want to discuss details over the phone, but I've made you a spot on the board for nine o'clock tommorrow morning sharp and I strongly urge you put aside any other plans and see me. I'm sorry for the short notice and any inconvenience this causes. Dr. Alvarez will be there too to explain a few things and we're going to need a series of blood work ups and a PET scan. So no eating tonight after, say, eight o'clock. Just fasting with water. I'll expect you in my office, third floor Oncology, two oh seven, at nine. Make sure you check in at the registration desk. Have a nice day."

She took a deep abdominal breath and let it out slowly through her nostrils listening to the sound. Then another deep abdominal breath, all very correctly puffing out her belly. With a sigh and a whimper she rose from the kitchen chair with ketchup on her chin and went to the living room and lit a cinnamon-rose aroma therapy candle. Then a cinnamon-cedar candle. Then a cinnamon-acai candle. Then a cinnamon-sage candle.

The aroma therapy candles would help, but they took a long time to work.





  1. Wow. I am impressed by how menacing the eating descriptions feel. Also by the way you create mystery and tension, and then control the pace of delivering information.

  2. I was there with her, remembering that Bugsy cartoon, one of my favorites, along with the Barber of Seville one. I heard the singing, I tasted the spaghettios and the balogna (I also prefer it fried, as do my kids.) Such unhealthy choices I'm ashamed to admit the tastes are a permanent part of my psyche. I never liked Little Debby cakes, though, so that's the only gustatory sensation I didn't share.

    And who among us hasn't turned to the joys of childhood when facing something so terrible you want to scream for your Mama because you don't want to be a grown-up anymore? "Take this cup away from me, for I don't want to drink its poison..." I color in Barbie coloring books, or collect all of my Barbies from all over the house and wash the dust of years off of all of them, apologizing to them for my neglect of their hygiene, then I put them all into new outfits and arrange them so they all look happy and well-cared for, because at least that's something I can do well without having to think about it.

  3. Way to tie it all up, Garce. At some point in our lives, serious worries relate to health. There's bullshit and then there's the 'real' shit.

  4. Hi Annabeth!

    Thanks for reading my stuff! My biggest worry was that I wouldn't come up with anything at all. I've got plenty of stuff that worries me but its hard to explain to anybody. Midwestern upbringing.

    I think food is so primal to our survival that over time it symbolizes many things. Coffee. Serving food to a guest. Communion. Or childhood favorites, however shabby when you're scared. I think for me its beans and cornbread. Sort of a Mexican thing.


  5. Hi Fiona!

    I remember Barber of Seville! Bugs gives Elmer this horrible hair cut while he sings. We could do a whole post on comfort foods. Spaghetti O's. my favorite lunch was Chef Boy Ardee canned Beef Ravoli. Chef Boyardee was a real guy, an Italian immigrant who proudly introduced Italian cooking to American cuisine and had a famous restaurant, I think in Chicago. He was horrified and embittered at the way his name was pimped out to cheap food which he felt misrepresented his culture and personal prowess.

    I have a childhood memory of coming home from school early and watching Dad make spaghetti from a mix for lunch and it was great.

    And boy there are so many times, even recently when I wish I wasn't a grown up for awhile. I don't arrange Barbie dolls (well, I'll never confess) but in my case I've always retreated into escapist literature when the world gets tough. Comic books are a life long favorite, now having morphed into graphic novels. Also sci fi pulps and adventure stories. And yes - erotic stories. That's where I began.


  6. Hi Daddy X!

    I think part of us hopes that by eating the right thing or going to the gym regularly mortality will never find us. But in the end no matter how you try, its always the only thing about the future you know for sure. What can we do . .


  7. Hi Garce,

    Sorry to have been incommunicado. Haven't had broadband internet all week, and now the DSL company says "maybe" we'll have it within next week...

    The threatening aspect of food, the conflation of food and sex - uncontrolled urges - reminded me strongly of being anorexic. I'm impressed that a guy could "get it" this way.

    Your description of the urge to masturbate doesn't match my experience, though. I'd be curious to know from the other women readers if they felt this sort of compulsion.

  8. Oh, God, yes! My parents told me the first time they caught me I was only about 3 or 4 and humping the side of the couch. My Mom told me it was wicked and I should never do it again. From then on, I did it as often as I could manage! Of course I'd always feel guilty afterwards, and go tell my Mom so she could shake her head, purse her lips and tell me not to do it again. Which of course we both knew I would.
    When did I stop? Um...what day is today?

  9. Hi Lisabet!

    I admit I was a little worried when I didn't see your comment, sometimes you're the only one who does. I've been off line a bit too because my laptop died and I had to rebuild the hard drive. I'm a renaissance man. erotica and technology.

    I was thinking of you when I was writing this. What the virtuously vegan character is stuffing herself with of course is baby boomer comfort food, but I remember your struggles with food when you were a kid. Food symbolizes so many things in our lives. I know that feeling too when I'm trying to eat healthy or mindfully or whatever well intentioned notion I'm on and feeling guilty when i fall off the wagon over a cookie.

    I think when I was describing the woman's experience with masturbation I was drawing more on my own history. I had my first orgasm when I was about 13 and we found out about sex much later back in those days. I had no idea what had happened and why my dick had acted so strange and what that bleachy smelling sticky white stuff was. I was sure this had never happened to anyone else before and something had just burst inside and I'd fall down in agony, swimming in my blood any second. Well, that didn't happen. I think what makes that experience so compelling is that this is such an intense tactile sensation and it isn;t something that you experience by touching, but rather by invoking - until it happens. Its something you make happen. What other tactile experience is there like that?


  10. That's funny! The side of a couch? I'm trying to imagine how a person does that. I'm going to steal that for a story someday.



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