MARCH OF THE MONSTERS: FOXY'S FIRST DATE
The window reflects the interior of the bus like a dark, oil-smudged mirror. House lights move by outside, interrupting my reflection. I see myself in the breaks between the lights, too young, hair too curly, chin too narrow, ears too pointy. Under that, where you can't see in the mirror-glass, too-small breasts and too-pale skin. People call me elfin, but they're just messing with me. I've looked and looked, trying to find the elfin girl, but I just see the narrow muzzle of a fox and eyes that don't dare look at you for too long. Afraid to invite scorn. Afraid to summon laughter.
I lick the window. It tastes like hair. Not my hair of course, but someone's hair, someone who's been using too much of something on it. The window begins to dissolve, letting cold air in.
Someone is hissing behind me. I don't look back. The looks of scorn I could do without.
And how are you any better than me, Mister Hissy? Don't judge me. I get off the bus because I think he might be thinking about following me. I'm three stops early. I walk home, hearing the footfalls of my stalker, who has made himself invisible, following me all the way home.
Alpha-Momma used to say I ruined everything I touched. That was why she wouldn't let me hold the baby. My brother C.J. I used to call him Gamma, because he was third. Alpha-Momma was afraid I'd drop little Gamma. I wouldn't have, I swear. I loved Gamma.
You know who dropped Gamma? My brother Beta. He really did. Alpha-Momma went down the street to buy water, because she said we couldn't drink the tap water. Except for me. I was special. Alpha-Momma said it was okay for me to drink the water, because I couldn't possibly get any weirder. She was right.
Alpha-Momma came back, and Gamma was crying like a baby, and Beta said I did it. I was just lying on the floor in front of the TV, drawing, and Alpha-Momma came in and whacked me and made me stay in the naughty closet for an hour. Later on, she said she had only meant for me to be in there for a few minutes. I must have misunderstood her. I am like that sometimes, Alpha-Momma can say “five minutes” but I hear “one hour”. I imagine stuff. I probably also imagined that I cried and begged her to let me come out, because she said she never heard a word of it. I get scared easily and start to imagine things, and then I ruin everything I touch, like the closet full of shoes that turned into a small puddle of slime the day Beta dropped the baby.
Today is a big day. Today I will change. Today I will let someone see my room. His name is Vince. I call him Rho for short. Am I nervous?
Is the night dark?
I am very, very nervous. But I have promised myself that I'll be brave. That I'll take a chance. I've seen Rho a bunch of times, and he's never been mean to me, never judged, never said that I was a funny girl or that I broke stuff. He's the perfect gentleman, perfect. I met him at the museum, staring at a painting of a woman with two eyes on the side of her face. I didn't talk to him that day, but I watched him walking around the museum, and it really seemed to me that he had a special fascination for paintings of women who were a little strange, a little broken. I really liked that about him. From that very first day, I had an idea that if there was one man who wouldn't laugh at me, it would be Rho.
I didn't call him that, of course. I didn't know him that well yet.
I run around cleaning up my apartment, putting away everything that Rho might laugh at. The Tweety Bird cookie jar goes in the kitchen closet. All the Nora Roberts books go behind other, better books. Monster-foot slippers, in the closet, quick quick quick. We will have no monster feet today. We will present dainty, feminine feet, the kind of feet that belong to a girl who does not break things. The kind of girl Rho will praise and call pretty and witty.
Maybe not witty. Witty means funny, and I don't want to be funny. I've been funny all my life. I don't want to be the funny girl anymore, I want to be the sexy, self-assured mystery girl. I told myself I would be this girl, and I will.
Rho is late. I don't know why, he hasn't called or anything, but I'm getting nervous again. No, no, I tell myself. You're overreacting. He's five minutes late. No big deal. Sit here and wait for him, and he will come. He's late, but he'll come. The lasagna might burn, but Rho will come.
But I had everything planned. The right song was going to be playing when he knocked on the door, the candles would have burned down just a tiny bit, I would be looking ever so presentable. I can't plan the song right if he's late. What do you do about that? I can't just start the song when he knocks on the door, it has to be halfway through, just getting to the bridge, or it looks suspicious, like I set it up for drama. Nobody wants to see the girl who puts so much effort into planning her entrance. They want the girl who gets out of bed looking like Angelina Jolie.
He's ten minutes late. That's exactly how long Alpha-Momma said it always took me to break something, and she was right. I pour myself a glass of wine to help calm myself, but the wine is all gone before I can stop myself, the glass is empty and I have to make sure Rho doesn't see how nervous I got, so I eat the glass quick quick. Now there is only one glass on the table, and Rho is fifteen minutes late.
I should call him, I know. He probably has a perfectly reasonable explanation for being so late. But is there really an explanation for making a girl feel so stupid? I can't believe that a man who really likes a girl would do that to her. Make her feel insignificant, so unimportant he can't even be on time for their date. I'm getting really nervous now. Twenty minutes.
I'm pacing around the living room that I cleaned up so nicely, holding the phone that I bought especially for conversations with him, so I would have an untraceable number in case he turned out to be really mean like all the other men. You can't be too careful these days. He's half an hour late now.
Okay, so I'm going to call him. The phone rings for a long time. Ring ring ring twenty times, then it goes to voicemail, this client is not available. I don't want voicemail, I feel like an idiot when I leave messages on voicemail because what do you if your tongue tricks you and you say something stupid and it's there forever on his voicemail, forever? You can't take that back, you can't recover from it. Voicemail is the enemy of girls like me. Voicemail is for glamorous bitches who always know what to say.
I hang up and call him again. I can't believe this. How many times has this happened to me? How many more times will it happen before I learn? Guys like him are never available. I should go over to his apartment, find out what happened, confront him. I can't let him just stand me up like that. If I was braver, I would do exactly that. But I think I'll just sit here and wait for him to call. And maybe eat a good book or two.
On second thought, no. I will not do that. I will not be the girl who waits for the call. I will be the girl who goes over there. Alpha-Momma would be proud of me. I mean, if she wasn't dead. Which of course she is, because here I am going over to Rho's apartment, and if Alpha-Momma wasn't dead he would be Pi. Look, it's very simple, all right?
I get dressed quickly and catch the bus. It takes forever to get over to Rho's fancy apartment building, but I very prudently do not eat the windows. I eat my cellphone instead. I don't really mean to eat it, I just kind of nibble on the corner of it, but my spit starts dissolving the plastic and I have to eat the whole thing before somebody sees the smoke.
Rho's building has a doorman, but he doesn't really care who comes through. He's one of those doormen that fancy buildings have so they can say they have a doorman. I smile at him, doing my best impression of the girl who knows where she's going even though inside I am nothing but confusion and guilt and inadequacy, and he smiles back as I walk to the elevator.
And shazam, i'm knocking on Rho's door and he answers it and I ask him, where have you been? And he says what are you talking about? And I say we had a date, sweetheart, did you forget? Was it that unimportant to you that you just decided not to show up, or was it so completely meaningless that you really forgot? And I'm not trash, do you know that Mister Pretty Vincent, I might look funny and I might break things but I'm not just trash that you ignore. People are important, Vince, even the funny-looking ones.
And he says do I know you? And I say very funny, Rho, and he seems to be freaked out about something because he's stepping backwards and trying to close the door but I'm not having that, I came all the way over here to talk to him and he's going to talk to me now. And I reach out and push the door open all the way and Rho can't believe how strong these snow-white matchstick arms are but that's going to be the very littlest surprise Rho gets tonight because I am fucking pissed off and I've got my claws around his neck, where there is just a tiny amount of blood now. And I think well, damn it, if he wants to dump me, fine, but the bastard owes me at least one kiss, one kiss so I know what he tastes like before I go back to my crappy life and my crappy apartment and my monster foot slippers.
So I kiss him.
He doesn't taste very good.
After a while, when I'm sure none of him tastes very good, I wash my face and go back downstairs. I'm very disappointed. I really thought Rho was special. As I'm leaving, the doorman sees me crying, comes over to me and asks me if I'm all right. I sob no, I'm not all right, I'm not even a little right, and I wipe my nose on my sleeve and look up at him to ask him if he has a tissue and I catch a glimpse of his name tag. His name is Jamie.
He has a really sweet face, a caring face. He's a little overweight, the face is more fleshy than I generally like, I can just imagine how scrawny I'll look lying under him in bed with my narrow fox face, it's just ridiculous, but he looks kind, and his name is Jamie.
And I say, hello Sigma.