Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tough Girl

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Today was a day of spills. It began in another time zone, as most days do, when a woman who was awake earlier than I was went to her computer and posted the following on Ratemyprofessors.com: “Maybe if you got a boob job, you could keep a man.”

I sat at my computer reading this rating very early in the morning, in my morning duds: slippers, socks, sweatpants, my old Bruce Springsteen t-shirt, my daddy’s old flannel. The zit on my chin festered; my bed-head of hair rose slightly at the roots. My voluminous but walleyed natural breasts heaved with perplexity, as if they had read my mind: Great, now the whole world knows. For however long it takes RateMyProfessors to remove the word “boob” from their web site—not to mention MY rating—God and students and my mother and all future love prospects will see right there in black and white that Professor Mohler is sagging and therefore cannot keep a man.

The wife of one of my former flames had accidentally revealed me to the world. How did I know it was her who left that comment? Because her words had the same ring of truth and good will that my ex’s did whenever he used to comment on my build: “You have the body of a seventeen-year-old.” That’s what he used to tell me back then, and I did. Now, maybe not so much.

Obviously this woman only had my best interests in mind and would now be offering me “anonymous” but helpful beauty tips on RateMyProfessors from a computer located at her work in a nearby state. She didn’t want me to know it was her because she didn’t want me to feel beholden. Awww.

The truth is, I do need a lift. Who wouldn’t, I thought, walking out the door a few hours later to lunch. You don’t carry twenty pounds around inside your chest for 43 years without one or two of them eventually wanting to befriend your belly button. And then on a documentary I watched the other night, a man said to his son, “Firm tits and a tight ass! That’s what a man wants! Doesn’t matter how nice a woman keeps herself; once the tits and ass are gone, it’s over.” I think it was a documentary on backwoods living in Texas.

So, with official and documented information, commentary from The New Wife, and the news I make for myself in my head, I drove to the restaurant. I met and ate with a retired and famous colleague, a genius poet. God looked kindly upon me during lunch: no spills. I cannot say the same for my lunch partner, who had arrived with old food on his shirt and left with new food on his shirt. “I can’t go anywhere without getting food on me!” he laughed cavalierly as we parted ways.

To live the life of a man.

I had no profound thoughts as I left this lunch encounter. I had been asked no questions; therefore, I must have been innocent. That was my line of thinking anyway.

It still is.

I left the restaurant and sallied forth down the sidewalk back towards my car, across the street. I touched South Africa and the Iraq in my mind, feeling like a cross between being green and being hardened, talented and not.

And then, I fell. Does it matter how high my heels were? Did my intentions matter, regarding being timely or clean for my next appointment? No. I was just another girl running in heels to make the light, and I didn’t make it.

I could feel the scoundrel of fate breathing down my neck, four seconds, knowing that I would be falling, trying to prevent it in a hang glider kind of way, hanging on to a stack of student papers, my purse, a Styrofoam container of leftovers. Three seconds: What might happen here, kind of knowing. Willing the universe against it. Two seconds between “I’m so embarrassed” and “Hope nothing breaks” and in the end, at one second: I can’t stop this train.

Asphalt, blue sky, pebbles of asphalt—this is what I recall from falling and then, for some reason, rolling. Fire would not have had a chance on me. I popped up brilliantly and quickly, finding my errant shoe and hurrying off the tough landscape of that situation.

On the way to my car, to the quiet and dreamish life I lead, I knew that most people hadn’t seen me stop, drop, and roll. How stealthy.

Must be the Army Ranger in me.

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