Oddly my friend Dana has also entrusted her cat to me while she's away. Foolish girl. The second she left I ate all the peas out of her freezer and tried on all her shoes, too. She must have 30 pairs; clogs, mules, patent leathers, red reptile-skin print. Jesus god, I just realized I've never seen her cat! I should go back to make sure it's still in there, right? I mean is that too much to ask?
And Lary! I asked him to fix the doorknob on my hall closet, and he came over that day. I didn't even have to leave 40 phone messages. He was quite cordial about it, as well, tooling around in the tornado of broken stuff that normally trails me everywhere. Things break around me all the time; little things you take for granted until they snap and turn your world into a toilet spin. Like try living without a phone jack or an overhead office light or a hall closet. One day the doorknob just quit working, spinning round and round without releasing the inner latch, virtually locking me out of my own closet. There's stuff in there I need, too, like mothballs.
Not the actual mothballs, but sometimes I like the way they smell. I remember when I was 7 I took a trip with my mother to Palo Alto to visit her aging friend, who kept yarn covered in mothballs in her hall closet. The smell made my eyes water. One afternoon the three of us ate lunch at a restaurant that had walls encrusted with hundreds of cuckoo clocks. They chimed madly every hour, and we stayed all afternoon so I could catch the show over and over. The waitress didn't even act irritated with us. "I promise to bring you back," my mother said as we finally left. I never saw the place again, but every time I open my hall closet and breathe I am brought back. I tell Lary this and he looks at me.
"How're you doing?" he asks in a way that sounds like my answer actually matters to him.
"Christ, what is with you?" I say. I mean, God! This is Lary we're talking about, a guy who, when I discovered I was pregnant, figured the biggest favor he could offer as a friend was to kill me like a lame horse. "I just need to smell in there, is that too much to ask?"
Because it's not like my life is loaded down with luxury these days, and beyond that I don't want to complain because I know it could be worse. For example, there's this homeless guy in a wheelchair who used to live under an Exxon sign around the corner. At least I think it's an Exxon sign, I should have paid more attention. I just know that he sat there all the time, even in the rain, even at 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving night, surrounded by all his stuff. It looked like an attic had cracked open like an egg over his head and spilled its insides on him. One day I drove by and saw him clutching a stuffed bunny, it was the kind of toy a baby would have. After that I'd meant to take him one of our surplus patio umbrellas, but I never gathered the courage to approach him because he was so scary looking, just like all the miscreants who hang out in the same parking lot.
So he continued to sit there like a softened ball of wax, day after day, in the rain, with his stuff. Then one day there was just his stuff. It lay there intact for awhile, then eventually began to get picked over. Now what's left is a trodden-upon piece of the permanent debris characteristic of that corner. I don't know what happened to the homeless man in the wheelchair with a face like a bucket of paste -- a face completely incapable of concealing its utter misery -- but I have a patio umbrella propped up in the corner of my hall closet to remind me I never knew his name or lifted a finger to increase his comfort. And I keep thinking about that bunny, and how he clutched it like it could love him back, which makes me want to get in the closet again. Lary pops it open effortlessly.
"Quit caring about me," I tell him. "Is that too much to ask?"
Maddeningly, he doesn't even debate his answer. "Yeah," he says.
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