Thursday, December 27, 2007
Although it’s not January 6th yet, I’ve had an epiphany.
You see, I got to enjoy a revelation this past Christmas week.
It was not a star, a star, shining in the night that drew my focus.
There was no Baby Haysoos in a pile of hay what got my attention.
It was not the fact that the best sales stampedes commence at 6 a.m. on December 26th that made me lurch out of my prone position.
Rather, my eye-opener, my spine-tingler, sprang from a spontaneous moment of generosity out of one of my neighbors. The giver? Generally, he’s an asshat of a wankiedoodle.
In the three years that we’ve lived next door to The Wank, he’s never held a conversation with me about anything but himself. I know his high school hockey team’s winning record (25 years ago); I know where he buys his cars and why they are superior to all other vehicles; I know that he treated himself to a Rush concert for his birthday this year. About me, in return, he knows two things: my name is Jocelyn (in his brain, “Jawsslin”) and—more importantly—I live next door to him.
I would expect such constant self-absorption from someone who’s younger. But he’s 42. I would expect an inability to give and take from a confirmed bachelor, from someone who’s lived alone for three decades, someone who eats his tv dinners with his best friends, the cast of HEROES. But he’s married with two young kids.
However, despite being surrounded by people who need him, he’s engineered his life so that he remains the Star of His Own Stage and Screen. He doesn’t so much talk to his wife or, you know, really look at her. He’s never helped bathe the kids or put them to bed. How could he fit those activities in when there’s guitar playing to be done out on the back deck and when there’s woodworking to be done in the garage?
Wank has mad avoidance skillz.
Annoyed with his character as I am, I generally do the gradual backwards-easing-foxtrot-of-‘I-think-I-hear-one-of-my-children-losing-a-finger-and-thus-must-dash-now’ when he tries to engage in random Wank dialogue about the color he’s going to paint the trim on his house or how he’s been using a new hair-growth-stimulant to fight off the balding.
But he got me the other day. And I was revelated. Epiphanized.
No, he didn’t suddenly prove to be a man of depth and intuition. He’s no Charlie Rose. He’s no Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s no John Stewart.
Not that I have an obsessive crush on any of these uniquely-gifted and strangely-attractive warlocks of lust. Their names randomly—completely without forethought--popped into my noggin. It has nothing to do with the precise intelligence and raw, animal magnetism that rage through their pulsing beings that make a girl weak from elbow to knee. So stop asking, ya big Nosey Nellie.
I was talking about Wank, you’ll remember, and he’s just a lummoxy dolt, not the leader of a talk show or a country or my heart.
Yet this douchebag swayed me in the palm of his hand, gently, for just a minute the other day. And I have to admit, his charm was completely raw and animal.
See, I was over at Wank’s house, chatting with his long-martyred wife, when he entered the living room. Somewhat apologetically, he asked, “Hey, so do you guys eat meat?”
Pretty sure this opener was his way of launching into a story about a bratwurst he had eaten one day during Open Lunch in middle school, I nodded warily. Hell, I eat meat like Amy Winehouse snurffles white powder and wanders around the streets in her bra in the middle of the night. Neither of us wants to be rehabbed for our little problem. Just give me a tender steak and a firm foundation garment, and take your mewling concern elsewhere. We’ll be fine, Amy and me. Just fine.
But Jerk Neighbor actually had a point:
“So I’m really good at bartering. I mean, once I got a cap put on this tooth right here [insert finger into incisor] for $20 after I gave a guy an adjustment,” Chiropractor Wank continued, paying no attention to my tightening body language. “And I just made a killer barter today: one of my clients paid me in half a cow. It’s really good beef, too; it’s grass fed, so it’s all tender and stuff. So, even though I shouldn’t be trying to pawn off meat on you guys, would you want some?”
I waited a beat. Then another. Waiting. Toe tapping. Waiting. Waiting for the price point he was going to assign to the beef in his basement—“and only seven dollars for a ribeye, but I’ll make it two for twelve for you guys.”
It turns out I was waiting for a number that never came.
Instead, Wank clarified, “You’d actually be doing me a big favor if you took some ‘cause I can’t get the freezer closed. You like a roast? I’ll run down and get you one. Just hang on.”
Snap it if he didn’t come back two minutes later toting a plastic grocery bag weighed down by not only a roast but also two T-bone steaks and a pound of hamburger.
Twittering, futzing, shaking, I crumpled to the floor in a faint of delight. Then I laid there for awhile, sopping the tears off my cheeks with my collar. After that, I mentally rewrote my will, making Wank the beneficiary of one of my great-grandmother’s landscape paintings. Next, I lifted up the skirt of their couch and noted all the toy remnants living under there; they had set up a makeshift village and elected Buzz Lightyear mayor.
Finally, I heaved myself up and, with trembling fingers, clutched at the Bag of Beef. I tossed out a few “Hosannahs on the Highest,” kowtowed a little bit, and muttered my thanks in five languages as I stepped out their front door and turned, ebulliently, to cartwheel and fa-la-la my way home through the snowbanks (never once releasing my grip on the Dead Cow of Profound Joy).
While beef is definitely my bag, Christmas never really has been. I don’t respond well to the pressures of expectation and tradition and ritual. Plus, in junior high, I really wanted Billy Joel’s Glass Houses album, and even though I put it on my Christmas list and hung that list on the fridge, I didn’t get it. In fact, I never really got anything off my list; I just got a bunch of clearance junk, the cost of which roughly equaled the price of Billy Joel’s Glass Houses album. Common sense says I should have stopped making lists and deadened childish hope, but instead I decided to start dreading Christmas.
Then, this year, with clouds parting and a ray of sunlight spearing down towards earth, Wank gave me the Bag of Beef.
It was the best Christmas present I’ve ever gotten. It was unexpected. It was spontaneous. It suited me to a T (-bone). It was thoughtful. It was specific to who I am. It reminded me that people are always more than they seem.
His unanticipated, uncharacteristic gesture--completely bare of snowman wrapping paper and a big silver bow--managed to deck every single one of my complicated maze of halls.