For our fiftieth anniversary they send us on a cruise.
We’re in bed in our stateroom aboard the Belle of the Caribbean watching “Love Boat” reruns when the wife says, “I think a threesome might spice things up.”
“This is family television,” I tell her.
“I meant for us, something to get us out of our rut.”
“How about a tattoo?” I say.
“I’m serious,” she says. She rolls over and grabs the remote with her well-manicured hand.
“I didn’t see ‘Hot Three-Way Action on the Promenade Deck at noon’ on the activity poster,” I say.
“It sounds like fun,” she says. Her plucked eyebrows jump when she says ‘fun’.
“You wouldn’t know where to start.”
“I googled it. I’d just dive right in.”
“What kind of threesome are we talking about?” I say.
She clicks off the TV. “I hadn’t thought about that,” she says. “Does it matter?”
I snort. “Well, actually, yes, it does matter.”
She slides over and curls up next to me, nibbling on my sunburned ear. “Are there some combinations you would consider?”
“Sure,” I say.
“Assuming you’re there.”
I sit up. “Now I’m not even in the room?”
“You could watch,” she says. “Or run the camera.”
“I could tweet it.”
“We could find somebody onboard. The Pirate Lounge looks promising.”
“Like Johnny Depp?” I say.
“Remember Amy? I think she’d be up for it,” she says.
I meet my wife’s eyes. “Amy? From snorkeling?”
“Amy from snorkeling.”
“I don’t like redheads,” I say.
Category Archives: Mike DiChristina
Z was President-for-Life, but inside his plump body he was a dancer. Sporting his trademark Napoleonic bicorn and gold lamé tunic, Z went viral on YouTube whenever he danced in public.
On La Fête Nationale, Z delivered an impassioned speech from the palace balcony and then tap-danced to the roar of his minions, helping them overlook the perpetual State of Emergency and the recent disappearance of a Nobel laureate.
At the following week’s UN conference in New York, Z stole the show by slipping out of his titanium-reinforced limo to breakdance with tattooed American youths on the sidewalk. The Daily News dubbed Z the “(Mentally) Ill Duce.”
Back in the Maghreb, when the French ambassador stopped in for a sanity check, Z leapt off his throne and executed thirty-two consecutive fouettés, matching Baryshnikov’s legendary Swan Lake performance at the Ballet Russe.
M. L’Ambassadeur pronounced Z a superb dancer before departing to Paris for “les consultations.”
At Z’s last cabinet meeting, as the citizens of his emirate rattled the palace’s gold-plated gates, Z hopped onto the table and performed a grand jeté that left his ministers speechless. When the crowd surged into the compound, Z and the Royal Dance Instructor were whisked away in a helicopter from the palace roof.
Z trained for months in his Alpine redoubt. Finally, the call came from America. Z jetted to Hollywood, where, dressed as a gaucho, he stuck his nose between the breasts of a fawn-eyed goddess and tangoed on Dancing With The Stars.
Paul D, a character in Toni Morrison’s Beloved, is one of my favorite characters in literature, a model of hope, strength and resilience.
Still human, still capable of love, after years of wandering through a vicious world, Paul D finds Sethe, a woman he knows from their days at Sweet Home, a Kentucky plantation.
Sethe welcomes Paul D into her house outside Cincinnati, and the two survivors soon become lovers. It is not long before Paul D realizes the house is haunted by the ghost of Sethe’s baby. Learning of Sethe’s role in her baby’s long ago death, Paul D runs off, fearful for his life and sanity.
Ultimately, Paul D forgives Sethe for her tragic act.
Returning to Sethe’s home a second time, a prodigal lover, Paul D opens the front door and stands for a moment in the quiet. Thinking Sethe must be up in her bedroom, he turns and climbs “the luminous stairs.”
When I first read Beloved, I wished Morrison had ended the story with that beautiful image.
“Less is more,” I said to my wife as we lay in bed reading.
She slid her always cold feet under my legs.
I went on: “The last few pages put you to sleep – Paul D finds Sethe; he touches her face; he holds her hand; he tells her ‘you are the best thing.’ It’s all there in those luminous stairs. End of story. You have to leave some things unspoken.”
“Shut the fuck up,” said my wife.
Canastota, New York. August 1969. Eighteen.
Working the onion fields down by the lake, dark chocolate earth forever, the muck, we call it. Warm liquid air wilts the world.
Denny leans on his hoe, bandana-hatted, t-shirt hanging out his back pocket, brown concave chest. Adams apple bobbing, he chugs the canteen, tossing it to me saying, Screw this I’m out of here. You know who they got lined up this weekend? The Who. The Band. The Dead.
Then go with Darryl I say, sucking down the gritty warm water, suddenly cool wind on my neck, all around us the muck scored with mile-long rows of spiked onion plants unraveling into the haze, never converging, melting into white sky.
We leave now, we catch Hendrix, says Denny.
We leave now, our asses are fired, I say. After work, I’ll water ski with Charlene, carving the lake with that swish of her hips.
Denny nods to the west.
Half the sky purple, we drop our hoes and walk sprint to the old wagon in the middle of the field a half-mile away and when the storm breaks we crouch under the wagon, arms wrapped around our knees, streams of rainwater gush lightning-thunder-wind. The Muck a black quagmire, onion plants flashing silver undersides like the chopper-whipped rice paddies we will soon patrol.
I stare down at my red Chuck Taylors stuck in the black earth. Rain cool, then cold on my neck and I look up to see Denny gone.
George was the dessert man at the prepared food counter. He was short and round, and sported a black caterpillar mustache. His buddy the butcher called him ‘Vanilla Pudding.’
After his Saturday shift, George went home to clean up. On the way to Ming’s apartment, he stopped by an ATM to extract five crisp twenty-dollar bills.
George had continued to visit Ming even after she fell ill and there was no chance of any carnal pleasure. Ming’s thirty-something daughter Helen opened the apartment door and wordlessly returned to the kitchen to read her books.
George and Ming watched a dancing show on the TV in the bedroom. He sat in a chair next to the bed, while Ming lay with her eyes closed, fingering the synthetic jade necklace George had given her years before. George left his twenties on Ming’s night table before kissing her hot white forehead.
In Ming’s final weeks, George and Helen gave Ming sponge baths. They laved Ming with warm soapy water. George held his breath to avoid breathing in Ming’s stench. After drying Ming off, they changed her sheets and pulled a nightdress over her body.
Ming died in March. For several weeks, George stayed home on Saturday nights. One Saturday night in April, George walked over to Ming’s, stopping at the ATM along the way. George knocked on Ming’s door. Helen opened it. She wore a pretty blue dress, her hair swept up, revealing her long white neck, upon which hung Ming’s jade necklace.
Anne-Marie squinted as she read the sign next to the octopus tank at Sea World.
“Convergent evolution,” she said.
Jimmy rapped the aquarium glass, but the pink octopus remained motionless, tucked in its cave, its unblinking eye catatonic.
“We evolved on different paths. Humans and octopuses. Octopi?” said Anne-Marie.
“Octopussy?” said Jimmy. He slipped his hand into the back pocket of her cargo shorts.
Anne-Marie said, “We both have eyes. Evolution found a different way in each case.”
Jimmy stood behind Anne-Marie, wrapping his arms around her waist. He pressed into her sun-warmed body, nibbling her ear, tasting lotion. He slipped his hands into her front-facing fanny pack.
“Wow,” he said.
Anne-Marie continued reading.
“Eyes have different anatomy, same result: sight. Like bat wings versus bird wings. Different anatomy, same result: flight,” she said.
“A poem,” he said.
“The octopus did us one better, though,” she said, “No blind spot.”
He covered her eyes with his hands. “We have a blind spot?”
“Back of the eye. Where the optic nerve enters the retina.” Anne-Marie ducked away and flip-flopped toward the stingray tank.
“I never saw any blind spot,” Jimmy said, following her.
“Your brain fills in the blanks. They have cool experiments that prove it,” she said.
He leaned over the railing and scratched a baby stingray’s back.
“Where next?” she said.
“Squid?” he said.
Anne-Marie said, “Or we could go back to the hotel and make our own eight-legged monster.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” said Jimmy.
Standing in the dark morning cool of the front hall. Summer. Everybody snoozing – Ma and my little bros still crashed. Garbage truck grinds down on the street five floors below.
I open the door. Ricky from 12G, a knapsack on his back, hands in his pockets.
“Yo,” Ricky says. He blows a purple bubble.
I ram a handful of Cheerios into my mouth. I put my Yankee cap on crooked. My old man’s army bag slung over one shoulder, stenciled with his name my name all my eleven years. Pat my back pocket make sure I got my camp papers.
I follow Ricky down the stairwell, outside onto 157th Street. We get an egg sandwich. Ricky rips it in half and we eat it on the A train down to the Port Authority.
“Gate C5,” says Ricky.
We take the escalators up, standing close, our shoulders touch. At the gate, a table with a sign for the camp, boxes of donuts. Lady with a clipboard. A couple kids in plastic chairs.
“You boys Fresh Air?” the lady says.
I take a chocolate glazed.
“Have a donut,” she says.
Me and Ricky with fifty boys on the bus. AC. Seats soft, clean. Tinted windows. The bus spirals down the concrete ramp, into the Lincoln Tunnel.
Tunnel’s tiled walls stained brown. Lights turn everybody green.
At the end of the tunnel, we whoop.
Ricky grabs my hand and squeezes it tight as we rumble into the sun.
I met Iboni at the Global Oncology Summit in Geneva in 2005.
Everything about Iboni had a fine edge: her naked shoulder blades above a scoop-backed blue satin gown; her nose and chin in profile; and, when she turned to meet me, her thin-lipped smile and Queen’s English. A turquoise snake pendant coiled in the little hollow at the top of her breastbone.
Iboni was Egyptian, educated in the UK, her father imprisoned in some hellhole outside Cairo.
We talked of the Nile and its cataracts, of Akhenaten and the lost city of Amarna.
She touched my arm. “Thank you for not mentioning King Tut,” she said.
Iboni sat across the table from me at dinner, a candelabrum forcing me to watch her flirt with a handsome German doctor through flickering flames.
“Iraq,” someone said.
“Bush,” said the German, fire dancing in his glasses.
“America,” said Iboni.
Accusations swirled around the table.
“Imperialists,” hissed Iboni.
I dropped my fourchette into my moules provençales and stood. I leaned forward, my fists on the table.
Iboni glowered at me, her aquiline face immobile, her black eyes burning like oil slicks.
I stalked out of the ballroom, through the lobby onto the Quai du Mont-Blanc to stare at the choppy black waters of Lake Geneva.
Years later, I am watching the video feed from Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The revolutionaries show the scorched tear gas shells stamped Made in the USA and I remember Iboni’s ebony eyes.
“I shit you not,” says the guy who looks like a St. Bernard in 13A. He folds his tattooed arms over his chest and looks out the window at the Jersey Shore, far below.
St. Bernard’s sweaty arm sticks to mine. I hunch my shoulders and twist away from him.
The pug-faced guy wearing a wife-beater in 13C says, “That’s un-fucking believable.” He slips a toothpick into his mouth. A sleek, longhaired flight attendant swooshes by like a best-of-breed Afghan Hound gliding down Park Avenue. Pug’s nostrils flare as he breathes in her scent.
St. Bernard cracks his knuckles. “Nothing surprises me any more,” he says. He coughs, his jowls quivering with each wheeze.
The lady in 12B slams her recliner back into my knees, her white poodle hairdo peeking over the top of the chair.
“What’s he gonna do now?” says Pug. He twirls the toothpick in his open mouth, making it do little backward flips with his tongue.
St. Bernard laughs. “Nothing. He’s fucked.” He pounds his fist on the armrest between us.
I scooch further away from St. Bernard.
“Hey buddy,” says Pug.
Pug taps me hard on the shoulder, his fingernail a black smile.
“I’m talking to you,” he says.
I turn, our noses just inches apart.
“Move over,” snarls Pug. “You’re in my personal space, Scooby-fucking-do.”
Two days after open-heart surgery, Gerber went to physical therapy down in the cardiac ward’s TV room.
“You work on Wall Street?” said an old guy with greasy hair sitting in the chair next to Gerber. The guy had a faded Marine Corps tattoo on his forearm.
“Sort of,” said Gerber, who was an actuary. He looked around the room – a bunch of old zombies. At forty-five, no doubt Gerber was the youngest person there.
“You look the part. Wall Street fucked me over. Fucking Ponzi scheme – rotten inside and out,” said the Marine. “Looks like it screwed you pretty good, too.” He cackled like the Penguin.
“Sorry to hear that,” said Gerber. “Name’s Joe.” Gerber held out his hand.
“I don’t give a rat’s ass who you are,” said the Marine. He crossed his arms over his chest.
The therapist said, “Okay, people, let’s work those lungs. Hug your pillow to your chest and breathe in.” The patients blew into plastic tubes with little balls inside. They worked their cores, waving their arms and lifting their knees ten times.
“Never cross your legs,” said the therapist, “that could cause clots.”
A bird-like lady misunderstood and kept on crossing her legs, flashing a toothless smile and way too much of her thigh. Finally, the therapist let her sit there with her legs crossed.
“Hey lady,” said the Marine, “You got your legs crossed.”
“They are crossed,” said the lady.
Right then, Gerber decided to quit eating cheeseburgers, cold turkey.
Joe called his son Tom on All Souls Day to confirm Thanksgiving.
Sure you’re up for it?” said Tom.
“No problem,” said Joe.
That night, Joe sat at the kitchen table with a calendar opened to November, a clean sheet of notepaper, and a pencil stub. Licking his pencil as he wrote, Joe made two columns on the notepaper: one for food, the other for chores. Then, he transferred each item to his calendar, making a neat entry on the day he would perform the given task.
The next day, Joe started upstairs with each of the bedrooms, washing the linens and cleaning the floors. When each room was in order, Joe closed the door.
Early in the month, Joe acquired non-perishable items, such as canned squash or frozen corn. He bought corn muffin mix and cranberry sauce.
Later, he focused on downstairs. He placed a pillow on the kitchen floor to protect his knees and waxed the linoleum. He disinfected the downstairs bathroom and left the window open to keep it fresh, though the seat was cold.
On Monday of Thanksgiving week, Joe purchased perishables – eggs, milk, bread.
Joe set the table on Tuesday. There were six places. He put chocolates at the kids’ seats. He laid Saran wrap over the table to keep the dust off.
On Wednesday, the store manager walked the turkey over.
By late Wednesday afternoon, Joe was ready. He sat in the dusk at the head of the table and practiced his talking.