I have always liked children’s books, LPs and roses.  To boot, I’m pretty enthusiastic about the color apricot.  My walls in Brooklyn were apricot, and a shirt I once had from American Apparel matched perfectly.  Susannah took a photo of me posed against the newly painted walls.  

I used to say I’d dress my bride’s maids in apricot, because my mother said it didn’t look good on anyone but me.  A wedding, after all, would be…my day.  Would be.

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I love the cat.  People shake their heads in embarrassment when I ohh and aww over her, cradling her small body like a baby.  But, if they felt the sense of relief I get from her curled, shrimp-like stature and kabuki white face, her littles snores and sighs in the night, watching as she stalks a may fly or calls out to a humming bird—I know they would only be jealous.

For reasons of preservation, I am trying to recall, specifically, what appealed most to me, upon meeting my boyfriend.  It seems like such an important thing to know.

I remember loving his height and quick, sweet smile.  The way he laughed at himself but was still at ease, calling himself a “man baby.”

He was alone on a trip to New York in winter, a stray Californian who was always without gloves or a sufficient coat.

If I didn’t call him until noon, he would answer his phone from some interesting place.  Canal Street, just to see it, or a bar in Brooklyn where he talked and made friends with strangers.  He didn’t have a problem drinking before five.  That seemed liberating.

Memories are strange things, what stays and fades.  I can always see the dirty interior stairs of my Nassau Street apartment, the torn cheap lace of a curtain covering a window that wasn’t there, my hand poised for the doorknob.  The second before and the one after are entirely gone, swallowed up by my brain.

He told me his last name, and now it is so strange there was ever a time when I might have not known it.  The name on letters in the mail box, on the taxes I file and the papers I keep in a fire-proof safe, printed beside my own on our car registration.  

But at that moment, in the foyer in Brooklyn, I had no idea that name would matter more than any other.

I spent the weekend with Jo-Jo, my seven year-old soulmate, who, chattering in the backseat, her legs kicking the back of me, sees new things and loves them immediately.  ”Ohhhh!  SUPERCUTS!”  She screams and I say “Do you get your hair cut there?”

Jo-Jo has hair that dangles past her darling rump, and it’s hard to imagine she gets it cut anywhere, except her bangs, which, she tells me with the large lovely eyes of a horse, “my mother cuts with kitchen sheers.”

“I’ve never been to Supercuts,” she says.  ”I’ve just never seen it before.”

When the cat bites her she cries, confused by Kitty’s fluffy body, sweet face and harsh communication methods.  One moment Kitty is curled on Jo’s stomach, the next she is swatting at Jo-Jo’s fast moving hands.

“I wanted to make FRIENDS,” Jo wails, while the cat still watches like a huntress, her tail swishing, as Jo’s hands wipe at her tear-stained face.  The cat’s eyes are wide, the pupils black, ready to pounce.

“She looks so nice and soft!”  Jo tells me and I nod, cradling the disdainful cat, her foxy tail swinging in waspish annoyance.

“Unfortunately,” I tell her, “Things aren’t always what they seem.  Especially kitty cats.”

At a coffee shop I decided to try to be more like Pam—quick to laugh and wonderfully laden with friends.  I have always liked the idea of being popular but lack the agreeable and consistent sort of disposition to sustain such a thing.

I love people, but I often find myself temporarily disliking them.  It takes a special sort of friend to see through the bad moods and peevishness, to get to the loving and loyal center.

Unrequited Love.

I wrote a love poem to a boy who lived in the single-story house behind us.  His back yard met up to mine at the property line.  I was nine and the year seemed suddenly all about boys—loving them, giggling for them, wishing they could tell you something about who you were or what you would be.

For the most part, they ignored me.  A few hated me for my loud voice, but mostly they made me feel like there was a glacier bobbing up and down in my stomach.  I was supposed to like them, but it also felt forced and frightening.  

Ricky was different.  I stared at him during breakfast and recesses, and he was nice to me, a few years older, even and benign.  When we walked home through the yards of the houses on Main Street, we dragged our feet in fall leaves and just talked, the way you might with your parent or best friend.

I’m not sure why I wrote him a love letter.  I wasn’t a good writer.  At nine, my 2s looked like 6s and my bs looked liked ds.  I knew they were usually wrong, but I could never tell how.  I was certainly aware of my writing issues and deeply protective of them.

Ricky’s letter was on pink paper and I sent it to his house via my next door neighbor, Timmy, who was fat and couldn’t keep a secret.  The plan was, Timmy would say the letter came from another girl in my class, and I would stand outside, waiting for Ricky to come out and ask me about it.  It couldn’t have been a worse plan.  Even for a nine year-old.

I can only remember one line, which he repeated when he walked through his backyard to where I stood, holding my salmon-colored letter as though it were trash or chicken bones.

“I didn’t write that letter,” I exploded.  No one had said a word yet.  ”But, I know who did!”  Nine year-old me thought this was my “in” to offer and have “key” information.  But Ricky was 12, which is a lot older than 9.

To my shame he said, not even with intentional cruelty, “Jamie, how do you spell hair?”

I blinked.  ”I don’t know and I don’t care.”

He handed me the pink sheet of paper, the hot pink pen barely visible on such a close background hue.  I love the way your hare goes.  It said.  Hare.  It seemed wrong, it must be wrong, but something also looked so right.  I walked in alone, leaving the letter in the dirt, hating all the tricky words curving up all the pages in the world.

Easter Bonnet

I’ve never cared much for candy, so Easter was all about the dress.  My mother, who had been a child of the 40s and 50s believed Easter meant pastel dresses and tights with gloves and lacy hats that looked a little like eggshells covered in lace.  I also was entitled to the purchase of one mock-patent leather plastic “purse.”

Each dress is carefully documented in front of some seasonal neighborhood scene—the neighbors’ azaleas or Mrs. Callahan’s tulips.  The year my brother turned fifteen we got no further than the driveway before he decided he’d done his part of Easter festivities.  My white hat, gloves and tiered dress match my mother’s Honda Accord.  My brother’s scowl matches the slate gray sky.

But my favorite image is from years before, when I’m still a baby and my brother is a little kid, too.  My plastic purse is slung over the handles of my big wheel and the crotch of my lacy tights is drooping past my knees.  Chris’ hair is cut short, styled into a spike he was too young to feel self-concious in, and our giant tom cat, George is lurking behind us both.  I don’t remember actually being there, but I think the purse-big wheel placement says a lot about two-year-old me and those first Easters.