BOTTOM RUNG.

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SOMETIMES IT'S INTERESTING TO BE THE GIRL WITH THE RIDICULOUS STORIES. SOMETIMES
[posted 01.01.2002]

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6 A.M. OCTOBER. MY BEDROOM. In the dream I am alone, unsheltered, lying atop a mountain in winter, covered only by a thin sheet the size of a towel. As the wind blasts me from every side, I shiver, eyes clamped shut against the cold, desperately inching my pathetic wrap over my shoulders, then back down over my feet…. I am freezing to death.

It sucks.

Slowly I become aware that I am not on a mountain; am not, in fact, asleep at all. I am, however, freezing my proverbial balls off. I open my eyes. The room is dark. It is colder than a slab at the morgue, a place I have the distinct feeling I may actually end up if something is not done, and soon. What the hell is going on here? I have a functional radiator, it is only mid-October and I am indoors under a blanket. I check the clock and wince — my status as a member of the great unemployed affords me few pleasures, but sleeping in is one of them. I commence attempting to will my room to get warmer, since obviously my radiator has turned traitor in the night. I focus on thinking warm thoughts: deserts, tropical islands, sex…nothing. (Proof it’s always better to work with things you can relate to.) Ah, well. A failed attempt, but a noble one.

I get out of bed, my feet icy on the floor. Rush around for socks, sweatpants, slippers, a sweater. Anything that starts with an S, apparently. Is there a store of burning coals being tended by strapping young lads? A young English maid bearing steaming cocoa and a hand-knitted shawl? No such luck. I go to the windows. Egad!

Problem solved: Cold air is pouring into the room via my ancient, shitty, good-for-nothing, unsealed windows. What to do?

Storm windows, I think. Maybe there are some available. Excellent. I open the window, spot the storm windows above and practically cheer with joy. It is now about 7:30 a.m. and the birds are chirping. Bouncy neighborhood children are filing down the sidewalks toward school, undoubtedly off to learn how to identify prime numbers and to make jack-o-lanterns out of construction paper, skills that will undoubtedly come in handy some day when it’s time to update those résumés. I shove the window screens up and attempt to pull down the storms. Nothing. Frustration mounting. Is that a patch of frostbite forming on my arm? Terrific. I inspect the storm window with waning patience. Press the tabs in and—-

It crashes down onto my knuckles. Disaster. Blood, pain, fury. Here’s me, screaming “Fuckity fuck fuck fuck!” out the window, and the children are smiling up at me and giggling and I want to boil them in oil for being bundled up and warm and able to move their fingers and I don’t care if I’ve corrupted every last one of them with my terrible four-letter words! And then…the whole damned thing falls out of its groove and despite my pinched, bloodied hands I lean out and catch the window (which is FAR heavier than it looks, of COURSE), and I’m pulled over at the waist and am left hanging out a three-story window for dear life, and this is how I began my day.

Typical.

How I ended up as God’s source of daily amusement, I will never know. (Obviously. I mean, who’s gonna give me the scoop, the Big Guy himself?) But sometimes it’s interesting to be the girl with the ridiculous stories. For instance, I’m the only person I’ve ever met who, despite scrupulous applications of SPF 45, wound up with sunburned knees that swelled like footballs and spent half of spring break bitterly reading Cosmo in a sketchy Cancun hotel room. (Though I’d bet money I’m not the only one who puked out of a bus window after too many tequila shots.) Speaking of buses, I’m also the only person I’ve ever met who managed to drive into one. A large, brightly-lit, moving one, at that.

These are the days of my life. And sometimes, just the mornings.

So one major thorn in my side is, like all Jewish girls, I have a particularly vocal and argumentative mother (who shall come to be known as MARCIA). She and I have often disagreed on certain things. Most things, as it happens. Here’s a good and pertinent example:

Should you look ahead of yourself or down at your feet when you are walking???

My answer: FEET.

Hers: AHEAD.

Why does she say ahead, you ask? I’m so glad you did. You probably think it has something to do with taking in the sights around you, enjoying the fresh air, spotting a 50 percent off sale notice in a nearby window…but no. The correct answer is: If you look at your feet when you walk, you will look like a turtle crossed with a hunchbacked whale, which is highly unflattering. Results of walking while looking at your feet include a spine like your grandmother’s and the fact that no promising boy will ever approach you and offer to buy you lunch. (This is, of course, the same reasoning that may spur the demise of certain trends including kerchiefs on heads, “natural look” makeup and platform shoes.)

Now let me ask you this: How many turtles/hunchbacked whales have ever unwittingly walked directly through a sidewalk composed of freshly-poured cement? None, would be my guess.

So. There I was, shopping in the West Village, looking for a Halloween costume, something in the sexy/clever/scary category. Sloping along down 8th Street. Looking around, head high, back straight, feet, um…stuck. Stuck? Yes, and not just stuck, but…sinking. What the $^%@?!

If you happened to be on West 8th Street at around 2 p.m. yesterday, right around the corner from MacDougal Street, you might have seen a man in a vibrant construction vest crying. Weeping, really. He and I are no longer on speaking terms.

You know, I’ve never actually been encrusted in anything before. I am now able to pity those sesame-crusted tuna steaks and other roughly slathered concoctions the chefs of our fair city so delight in offering their patrons. It’s sort of an indescribable feeling, a mix of heavy wetness and crumbly, sticky dryness that makes you shudder. (I’m making it sound better than it is — believe me, it’s nasty.) Especially when it seeps into your shoes. Be advised: I have highly sensitive ankles. Well, that’s an overstatement, really. Moving on….

I have to say that the crowning moment of the whole event occurred when I got stuck and actually fell down into the mess, much to the whooping delight and astonishment of my shopping buddy, Allyson. To her credit, it was she who found the Starbucks bathroom and spent 20 minutes helping to chip and soak off the fast drying, industrial strength, horrifying cement that I had managed to imbed myself in. (We saved the shoes, thank God.)

If you think this story has an ending that involves a handsome young man asking my un-turtle-like self to lunch, you can guess again. I spent the rest of the afternoon clomping around Greenwich Village in soaking wet shoes and chatting with drag queens about something called the Miss Continental pageant after watching Allyson try on 16 different belts at the Gap. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop (no pun intended, of course) wherein something fabulous and good happens. I’m still waiting, especially after this morning’s 6 a.m. awakening starring me as the shivering bundle of frozen limbs and potential violence. To be fair, however, the boy I’ve been waiting to hear from all week did finally call today. AT LAST, hoorah!

He called to tell me he’s leaving for Ireland for two weeks, starting tomorrow. Life is this magical carousel of anguish, isn’t it though?

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meredith zeitlin is a writer and actor in new york city, where she is currently struggling with the chronic unemployment that seems to go hand in hand with those professions. she is a graduate of northwestern university and likes ice cream a whole lot.