September 23, 2019 by The Citron Review
by Eleanor Levine
Milos and Bill were not enamored of my musical ability because I don’t have one.
I tried playing the violin.
They all knew, no, she can’t even play a tuba, though I knew a Jersey boy who recently played the tuba with the Rolling Stones.
That said, I am always the dumbest, though I think I’m the smartest, in English class.
I’d like to, of course, be in the preeminent English course, with the new professor, with whom everyone wants to read I and Thou by Martin Buber.
No one wants to be pedestrian.
No one wants to ensure the Pythagorean theorem of mediocrity catapults them into the universe.
No one wants to be a hedgehog if they can be a porcupine.
Porcupines have more pricks and are less genteel and people enjoy watching how offensive they can get in a classroom.
I tried to get into the honors class. The one where the new instructor was not the least bit interested that I received a B+ in a course on Thomas Aquinas’ legal views. He wanted to know, quite simply, if his predecessor, who is now dead, recommended me for his class.
“I don’t care if you read The Fixer in 7th grade. You are destined to inhabit a seminar of students who discuss flounder, not juxtaposition.”
More depressing than not being selected in the cutting-edge I/Thou course, is the revelation that your affiliation with your dog is upended.
My brother Harold spends more time with my hound, Eliot, who now prefers Harold. Eliot sleeps with Harold and plays and barks and walks with him.
I commute two hours to work, and when I get home, Eliot humps me.
Mind you, he doesn’t hump Harold.
Eliot bows before Harold and licks his toes; with me, Eliot’s my unsolicited Lothario, though after that is over, he ignores me.
Shit, I would lovingly give Eliot my bed, at least half of it, to rest.
Eliot doesn’t care about the comforts of a mattress from the 1990s I procured illegally from my other brother. I began slumbering on it and the sibling couldn’t move it because I weigh more than the mattress.
It has to do with white nectarines and my ex-girlfriend. I want to eat potato chips and write my ex-girlfriend, but the vending machine downstairs doesn’t take credit cards, not my credit card, and my ex-girlfriend, well, she doesn’t take me.
My AA sponsor recently accused me of stalking and said, “she could easily get a restraining order if you don’t stop.”
Yes, my pot-smoking, hot-looking, Howdy Doody ex could tell the police, or the FBI, that I have proactively become a pendulum swinging in her direction. I’ve made friends and unfriended her boyfriend. I’ve sent her books by Norman Mailer. I initiated a non-existent relationship in my mind. The truth is, she never wants to kiss me. She would not be opposed to reading my poetry or seeing me in drag. Even a tuxedo when I’m thin.
But I’m not getting thin because I want to. I’m getting thin because the fucking vending machine downstairs doesn’t take my credit card and all I can do is eat this second-rate white nectarine that is infinitely smaller than last year’s crop. It’s global warming. It’s my ex. It’s corporate America wanting me to be boney and ancient.
I pour the words on my page. Sit alone in the diaspora of Jews who can’t wear yarmulkes in Berlin—70 years after Hitler. The Germans don’t like us.
I don’t turn on my ex. As discussed above, my dog prefers my brother.
My ex is dating a man.
My dog has switched owners.
The AP English teacher is dead and didn’t believe I could comprehend Martin Buber with other young minds.
Given a chance to play the violin, I couldn’t. I wasn’t musically inclined. I can barely play badminton.
Few things I can do well. I can’t even drive my car without crashing into the cement wall of a parking garage.
At work, I need to stay under the radar. But when I see a pterodactyl on a polo shirt of a corporate vice president, I ask the Wharton School grad, “what does the fish on your shirt signify?”
I’m the girl in your office who can’t use her credit card to buy Doritos.
I’m the girl in your office who spills white nectarine juice on the Ben Sherman shirt that finally fits. It’s been spoiled. Not until it goes to the dry cleaner will I be able to get the juice out.
I would like to stalk my ex.
To go on Fuckbook and see her latest smile, the way she twists her hat.
See why her boyfriend brags about how much he loves her, and they have pictures and I might as well be Sylvia Plath in The Bell Jar—her favorite book.
I read The Bell Jar, and next will be Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. These are the only books she’s read in her lifetime. To some that is—oh your lord—the one you worship—who you fixate on when the yuppies in the elevator with pterodactyls on their shirts laugh at you—she is an icon of your faith whose bibles are The Bell Jar and On the Road.
I want to send her a message.
Break her eggs.
Turn the other cheek.
Find her bewildered by extensive harassment that’s better than any drug I’ve used.
But she likes her new boy.
It is what it is.
He adores her.
She adulates him.
I didn’t make it into the Martin Buber class.
I can’t play the violin.
I listen to the hum of the computer.
No potato chips.
No dog in love with me.
Just a Hebrew girl who doesn’t wear a yarmulke, though Germans could probably figure out I’m Jewish.
Eleanor Levine’s writing has appeared in more than 70 publications, including Fiction, Evergreen Review, The Toronto Quarterly, Faultline Journal of Arts and Letters, Maryland Literary Review, South Dakota Review, and others. Her poetry collection, Waitress at the Red Moon Pizzeria, was published by Unsolicited Press (Portland, OR) in 2016. Her short story collection, Kissing a Tree Surgeon, was accepted for publication by Guernica Editions.