Vanity of the Bearded Lady

“You’re something of a handsome woman, Boss.”

My eyes drift to see the feline stretched lengthwise in front of the television as if willing the attention of the room to be drawn to her instead of the screen behind. She will not be upstaged.

“Beg pardon?” My thumb tucks between pages of the book I’m reading.

“There’s something distinguished about you. It could be the regal way you hold yourself or it could be that moustache. I’m not sure which. Either way, girl, you workin’ it.”

Insecurity overtakes my free will and I touch the area between my nose and upper lip. It doesn’t feel like there’s a grizzly moustache growing, but you never want to be the bearded lady who is unaware that she is the bearded lady. I toss the book on the table next to my water and grab my iPhone. The camera turns on so I can see myself in the screen. I approach from several angles, holding my face with my free hand so I can’t run away from myself to go cry in a corner.

She strokes her whiskers in a cavalier manner. “It’s mostly sprouting from the sides; with how long it’s getting, you’ve got kind of a fu-woman-chu. It’s pretty neat. And cultural.”

“You, talking with all those  awful words, are not making the situation any better.” The natural light helps illuminate the blonde hairs sprouting atop my lip. Oh god. It’s real. All that father/son time I spent working on cars with my pops and now I’m a man. I’m so sad for myself right now.

“My sincerest of apologies. I thought you knew. You stare at yourself in the mirror often enough.” Fat jumps down and wanders into the kitchen to start rooting through the junk drawer.

“Disaster. Such disaster.” I close the camera on my phone and go into my list of contacts until I find Stripped Wax Bar. It only rings once. I poorly conceal the frenzy in my voice. “Hi. I have a moustache. When is Heather free?”

“I could take care of that for you. We have duct tape, right?” Fat pilfers through the random hodgepodge of spools of thread, empty keychains, matchbooks, and hordes of extra ikea parts. She’s not a quiet rustler so I have to amplify my voice.

“Nothing sooner?”

A triumphant paw lifts high into the air holding a roll of the industrial tape. “Eureka! Boss, we’re in business.”

Oh. My. God. No.

“It’s okay; Thursday is fine.” I watch as Fat starts picking at the end of the roll of tape, “I’ll just hide behind a hand fan like a debutante or geisha until then. Thanks, bye.”

I groan and my head hits the back cushion of the couch. It’s a good forty seconds of silence before Fat leaps up beside me and forces her head under my hand for a pet. I sit up, reach for the glass on the table and sit there sipping while I scratch the feline’s head.

Fat’s eyes close with contentment. “I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s probably hard enough to deal with being pregnant without me making you feel self-conscious about your hairy face.” In the midst of relaxation, her head lolls to the side.

I choke on my water. “What?”

“Aren’t you…” Her inquisitive green eyes open and travel to my stomach region. “My mistake. Big lunch, right? You’re probably just bloated.”

A Curious Understudy for My Heart’s Desire

“I want mac and cheese!”

I swear the sound of muffled laughter follows my announcement. My neck snaps to look downward to Fat, sitting calmly at my feet by the entryway. I grab my keys off the hall table and shove them in my pocket. The intense eye contact persists throughout the small action.

“What?” Fat’s eyes narrow, trying to dissect the look I give her.

“I’m serious. I want mac and cheese!”

“Boss, calm down. There’s no need to yell.” Fat licks a paw and rubs it against her face.

My eyes widen. Yell? I thought I merely made a statement declaring my strong desire for carbohydrates. I had no idea such a tremendous want came with amplified volume. My voice adjusts to an indoor level. Ever since I started thinking of Bestie’s mac and cheese last week, the memory of its creamy deliciousness haunts me. It’s complete addict behaviour.

“You know what this is, don’t you?” Fat finishes washing her face and gives me a knowing gaze. “It’s addict behaviour.”

“I just said that.”

Fat shakes her head, “No, you didn’t.”

My brain abandons its lust of pasta to pursue recent memory. Maybe I just thought the thing about addict behaviour. Either way, it’s concerning.

“I think I’m going crazy.”

“Stating the obvious, lady. That’s why you made me your therapist.”

I mutter, “You’re a self-appointed therapist. If you were court-appointed I might pay more attention.”

“With your stupid behaviour I imagine that is only a matter of time. You need to distract yourself from this fleeting obsession with cheesy, fatty pasta. Get out of the house.”

My phone lights up to show me the time. “I’m trying. I actually need to get to the bank before it closes.” It’s going to be a close one. I might even have to run.

I open the front door as I wrestle to get my sandals on. While bent over, my untamed hair cascades, putting a divide between Fat and I.

“Well that’s interesting.” The sentence sounds broken the way Fat says it. The odd breaks between her words makes me curious. I part my wild hair like an explorer in an overgrown jungle so I can observe the feline. She looks beyond me and at the doorway, head cocked to the side as though perplexed. I turn and see it too.

A lone box of Kraft Dinner occupies the space within the door frame. Fat and I exchange confused looks and both race to look up and down the hallway for a hint as to who left it for us to find.

Fat eyes Jesse’s door with accusation. I follow her stare and recall the laughter after my initial loud announcement.

“You think?” I watch Jesse’s door for a sign of life. Nothing happens.

“If I may quote myself,” Fat looks from the neighbour’s door to the box of KD, “that’s interesting.” IMG_2672[1]

Bestie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

“Do you look sad because it’s raining? On tv, people are always sad when it’s raining.”

I stop staring at the summer thunderstorm and look at Fat. She’s chewing on the ear of a toy mouse with frenzy but she still manages to read my face. The bell inside the stuffed rodent jingles as she thrashes around with it.

“No, Fat. If rain made people sad, Vancouverites would be the most miserable people in the world.” I stare back at the mesmerizing litres of water falling from the sky. Maybe it will turn everything green again. “Not to say that some of them aren’t.”

Fat rolls backward almost losing grip of her mouse, but manages to snag it by the tail with her claws. “Maybe all those miserable people are just on their periods all the time – both women and men. You know, I bet it’s a side effect of the red tide.” Fat freezes dramatically as if struck by an epiphany. “Is that where the phrase ‘surfing the crimson wave’ comes from?”

I almost smile. “That’s from Clueless, Fat.” I watch the puddles forming on the balcony. “And I’m not sad, I was just reminiscing.”

“Oh yeah? About what?” Fat abandons her toy to jump up beside me on the couch. When she purrs, I’m inclined to pet her.

The rain sounds like the rat-a-tat sound of children pretending to shoot guns. “Bestie used to live a five minute walk away. I’m still getting used to her not being right there.”

“I thought you said she moved to East Van.” Fat’s head tilts with misplaced comprehension.

I nod. “Yeah. She did.”

“So she’s like a fifteen minute drive away. Not something to be mopey about.”

“That’s dependent on traffic,” I announce with the dramatic flair usually reserved for teenage angst. “Fifteen minutes when there are no other cars on the road maybe.”

The feline’s jaw falls open and just hangs there for a moment as she assesses my sincerity. “This is a problem for you?” Her eyes light up, “oh my God. You care.” Fat bursts out laughing.

I turn away from her and stare out the window again, “Shut up, Fat.” It’s hard to hide emotion for something so close to my heart.

The good doctor laughs so hard the sound disappears and all I can see are the shudders of her shoulders as she shakes with giddiness.

My phone beeps and I check it as Fat heaves with a massive case of the giggles.

“I completely forgot it was gym day today.” I groan and reply to the message that I can be ready in five minutes.

“Who are you going to the gym with?”

“Bestie.” I almost add ‘duh’ after the mention of her name. I don’t go to the gym with anybody else; you only let true friends see your disgusting, sweaty gym self.

“Problem solved I guess.”

“What problem?” I frown when I realize that I still haven’t washed my gym clothes from last week.

“You said you missed Bestie.”

My nose wrinkles when Fat misunderstands my wistfulness. “I didn’t say that. Don’t misquote me. I miss living near her. It’s raining and I want homemade mac and cheese. That woman makes the best comfort food ever.”

I’m Spinach?

“Dare I ask why you are eating a bowl of spinach leaves in the manner one typically munches potato chips?” Fat jumps up beside me on the couch. A leaf is pinched in my fingers, which pause on the way into my food hole. I look up from the phone in my other hand; I finish and send the text before I address the feline.

“Wonderful observation, doc.” My legs cross at the ankles as the coffee table magically transforms into an ottoman. It’s important to look for furniture pieces that double as other things when furnishing an apartment as small as my own. I also use the ottoman/table for a karaoke stage when I’m in that hazy place between drunk and passed out, but that’s another matter entirely.

“So…” The vowel sound continues for seconds longer than is necessary. Fat’s eyes stare inquisitively at the bowl of greenery tucked gingerly into the crook of my arm.

“The simplest ideas are by far the most brilliant. You recall the other day when you suggested I go on vacation?”

Fat nods.

“I thought you might. It really broke your heart after when you found out you wouldn’t be invited.” Fat’s head bends into the small bowl to look at the salad greens up close. She recoils almost instantly.

“S’okay. When you feel guilty you compensate by giving me enough cat treats to trigger diarrhea.” Her smile broadens and becomes murderous-clown kind of menacing. Note to self: convince Boyfriend to change the litter box.

“Gross.” Any desire to consume the spinach leaf held between my fingertips is gone. It falls freely back into the bowl. I bounce back from my disgust quickly; the upside of having three brothers is one gets a lot of practice repressing vomit-worthy thoughts. “So I might go to Ontario for a bit and I might go to Mexico. Maybe both. I don’t know. Still trying to figure it out.” If I could make both work, that would be seven kinds of sensational.

Fat’s head leans back as she dramatically rolls her eyes. “Oh yeah. In that case your current action makes the most sense in the world.” She frowns in judgmental afterthought, “Ontario?”

“One does not go on adventures with a fat ass, dear feline. Therefore, I’m recreating my snacking stance,” I proudly show off my lounging position with a grand arm sweep learned by watching Vanna White on Wheel Of Fortune over the course of my childhood. “I’m still in winter carb mode; I just need to dupe myself into thinking this,” I nearly empty the bowl as I grab a fist full of spinach and wave it under her nose, “is better than it actually is.”

“Seems like the perfect metaphor for your relationship. You’re the bowl of nasty ass spinach and Boyfriend has convinced himself that you’re potato chips.”

“A slight? Really?” I don’t know that I entirely disagree, but I feel like I need to defend my own honour.

It would appear that Fat doesn’t feel the need to expand on the parallel she has drawn. I’m sure my mind will obsess over this comparison for the forseeable future. I’m stunned into silence for a couple reasons, one of which is the cat’s next sentence. Fat’s pulls this line from the holster like a cowboy in the old west, “YOU GAVE ME DIARRHEA.”  I’m not certain how long she’s kept this line at the ready, but it’s a conversation ender.

Fat should write a book on how to win an argument. Sorry, honour, I can’t defend you against a sentence like that.

Because I Love You…

“How’s the V.D. going?” Fat jumps up on the desk beside me and stares at the open window on my laptop. The pictures of shrimp and noodles momentarily capture her attention.

I glare at her. “Can you let that go already? It’s not my fault syllabus and syphilis sound similar. It was 2008; get over it.”

“Let’s reminisce once more for old time’s sake.” Fat snickers as she repeats a quote that has haunted me for the last six years, “I checked out the syphilis from my Marketing professor. That shit sucks.” The feline’s head dips down as she laughs, her forehead rests on the edge of the computer screen. “That poor woman. If only she knew the accidental lies you told about her.”

“You done?” I watch Fat’s belly jiggle as the laugh gradually works its way out of her system. Thankfully, this was a sentence shared with a feline and not another human.

A grey paw dabs the moisture from her left eye. “You are too precious, boss. I meant, how’s the Valentine’s Day going?”

“Huh?” My brain takes a moment to process the fact that her previous question was not, in fact, about venereal disease.

“Today. It’s Valentine’s Day.”

“Uh huh.” My finger uses the touchpad on the laptop to scroll through the page one more time. I’m not sure why, I called twenty minutes ago to order the food. Now I’m wishing I added the spring rolls. Damn it.

“Maybe you didn’t hear me. It’s Valentine’s Day.”

I stop scrolling and my head tilts to look at Fat. “Did you finally give up on the phony therapist thing and decide to become the world’s most annoying calendar instead? I’m aware that it’s Valentine’s Day.” I stress the word for her benefit.

“And you’re here with me waiting for Chinese food to arrive. You must be what they call an old school romantic.” Fat silently moves to sit behind the computer screen.

Fuck it; I’m starving. I get up and open the door to the snack cupboard. Puffy Cheetos. Yes. The bag crinkles as I pinch the sides and pull the plastic open. I don’t respond to Fat. Instead she watches me snack on the toxic orange puffs. After only a couple Cheetos, the fingers of my right hand become coated in a fine simulated-cheese dust.

“Why are you staring at me like that, Fat?”

Her head has lopped to the side, and her mouth hangs slightly open in a disgusted kind of way. “I was so surprised when you landed yourself a man but it would appear that you have no desire in keeping him. And he loves you in spite of the V.D.”

“I don’t have V.D.”

“That’s not the rumour around your old campus.” Fat smiles with that all too familiar evil glint in her eye.

“You’re an asshole.”

Fat shakes her head insistently. “No, you’re the asshole. Today of all days you need to give Boyfriend attention and show some kind of emotion of the loving variety. He puts up with all of your stupid shit and your one redeeming quality is that you call to order Chinese food? Happy Valentine’s Day indeed.” The bitch feline seems genuinely disappointed in my lack of Valentine effort. I close the laptop leaving orange smudges from my fingertips.

“Christ.” I sit and think for a moment. “I have to do something, don’t I?”

Fat quickly nods, “I would.”

“Well fuck me,” As the words come out of my mouth I glare at the cat, “Swallow those words in your mouth right now. The V.D. train has left the station. No more comments. You’re done.”

Fat steps back with fake surprise mimicking a young  ingénue, “I would never…”

“Shut up, Fat.” I wipe my Cheeto fingers on my jeans and grab my purse. I holler in the most romantic tone I’m capable of – something that makes me sound like a bona fide woodsman, “Boyfriend, grab your coat, we’re going out.”

Boyfriend comes out of the bedroom, delightfully surprised that the plan is no longer to stay in tonight doing nothing.

God damn it, Cupid. You win this round.

An afterthought: I forgot about the Chinese food. Probably won’t be allowed to order from there anymore…

Still Waters and Mud Puddles

“I peed on that pillow that’s been under your head for the better part of an hour.”

As if spring-loaded, I bound off the couch; my state of relaxation brutally murdered by the foul words from the feline. Now on the offense, my slapping hand is at the ready, twitching in anticipation of striking the obtuse cat. At this moment I’m certain I’m about to make Zsa Zsa Gabor proud.

“Put those arthritic digits away. I’m fibbing.” Fat jumps onto the coffee table and sticks her head into the empty potato chip bag. Her words mesh with the rustling of the foil, “You were playing possum long enough, I needed to get a show of life out of you.” She backs her face out of the empty snack bag, “What’s rattling around that old bean bag of yours that keeps you so statuesque?”

Slowly and cautiously, my slapping hand lowers. It’s a good automatic reaction to have, but I worry that one day it won’t be so easily controlled. The slapping hand has calmed to an inquisitive state and it grabs the teal couch pillow tentatively. In an uncharacteristic show of bravery, I bring the pillow to my nose and take a quick whiff. No signs of ammonia must mean the grey bitch wasn’t lying about fibbing. This pillow is sans cat pee — she’ll live to annoy me another day. Still, I toss the pillow to the far side of the couch for comfort’s sake. My knees buckle and I flop on the sofa. I recline, not finding zen comfort now that I’m aware my movements are being tracked by unblinking green eyes.

“Just thinking, Fat.” I stare up at the ceiling. What was I thinking about? Everything and nothing all at the same time. Unimportant things that carry the weight of the world and important things that are easily dismissed. I was thinking about moving and staying and/or becoming a roaming gypsy. I think about transporting anchors in wheelbarrows. I start thinking about tea on Sunday mornings. Spending hours telling stories out of my fingers; inventing people and places that don’t exist outside of my head. I think about owning a charmingly strange bookstore with my best friend that isn’t lucrative by any stretch of the imagination, but is one damn good time. I think myself into a strange silence and I don’t even realize until–

“You’re doing it again. If you’re not going to share, just stop. You’re acting freaky.”

I roll onto my side and see Fat sitting on the table licking sour cream and dill crumbs off her paw. “What kinds of things do you think about, Fat?”

She finishes licking the remaining salt off her foot and sets it on the table. “Important things, obviously.”

“Like what?” I know this is a loaded question, but the one thing about not sharing a brain with anyone else is you have no idea what messages their synapses are firing. “What kind of evolved thoughts go through your little cat brain?”

“You know how I love visualization; I think about taking classic saying and breathing life into them. For instance, I literally desire to give somebody butterflies; they’d be dead of course – the butterflies I mean – you know I love to pounce on those things. Not that you let me outside anymore.”

“Not that I ever did. You must be thinking of a former life.” For all I know she was found pouncing on moths in a field before she was brought to the S.P.C.A.

She ignores me to continue. “I’ve also been thinking lately about the great gas mileage you’d get on the highway to hell.”

Laughter takes me by surprise and I start to cough. Once I can breathe comfortably I have to ask, “How do you figure?”

She shrugs as though the answer is obvious, “It’s all downhill.”

I reach over, lifting Fat under the ribcage and put her down beside me. “I’m going to tell you something I don’t say too often; I fucking love you, Fat.”

Porker Face

“It would seem there’s a reason this is called Pocket Pie and not Purse Pie.” I’m crouched on the kitchen floor rooting around my oversize purse. I pull my fingers out of the bag, covered in strawberry rhubarb. It makes one wonder about the appropriateness of the name; I can’t imagine the judgemental looks I would get wandering down the street with strawberry rhubarb oozing out the back pocket of my jeans.

“And where were you this evening?” Fat watches as I lick the tangy sweetness from my fingers and fish around my bag for the now-barren pastry shell.

“We went down to that night market. Artisans everywhere. The food was amazing.” In the sticky mess of a brown paper bag I find the remainder of the Pocket Pie, squished and broken into flaky pieces. I fling it upward; Fat flinches when it lands on the kitchen counter with a ‘thwap’ sound.

“Yes I can tell. There’s a garden growing between a few of your teeth.”

I make no move to pick the food from my teeth; there is something far more distressing that commands my attention. I usually lack the tendency to gasp at shocking discoveries, but I suck in breath like I’m preparing to dive into the briny deep.

“And all over the bag of kettle corn too.” I weep when I pull out the small plastic bag that looks like it was shot by 1920s mobsters with machine guns.

Fat’s head pokes into my bag and sees the explosion of pie filling. She pries her eyes off the crime scene and slowly her head turns so I can see her vacant expression. “This reminds me, I’m hungry.”

I hug the bag of popcorn to my chest protectively. “Fat, can’t you see I’m in mourning here?” Pie filling on the outside of the bag adheres to my shirt and hair.

Fat rolls her eyes dramatically. “Of course I do. Did your kettle corn leave behind a widow and children? Where should I send flowers?”

“Oh Christ. You don’t have to be an ass about it.” A few hairs are pulled out of my head when I pull the popcorn out of my embrace. I wipe my berry-dyed hands on my pants and grab the bag of cat food. The kitchen echos with the tinny sound of food filling her dish.

Dinner beckons her like a seductress and Fat dives right in. I undo the twist tie around my popcorn and my purple fingers shovel it quickly into my mouth. Watching Fat mowing down her food like it’s a last meal makes me think only one thing that needs to be shared.

“Puh-puh-puh-porker face, puh-puh porker face.”

She swallows the enormous mouthful of kibble. “Lady Gaga? Really?”

I escort another handful of popcorn in my mouth. “Lady Gaga and calling you a pig at the same time.”

Fat stares at me, making sure she has my full attention before she offers her rebuttal. “You’re not even a savant. Just an everyday idiot.”