We humans call that ‘perverted’

Part I

I thought I had come to terms with the undeniable fact that mice, rodents, live among us in the city.  I could accept their mostly invisible presence in my kitchen.  Even when they made their presence known—once I caught one scurrying across the counter and down into the stove; another time I came home to find a sink full of dishes and two tiny ones hiding among them—I got over it . . . by scooping them up in the colander and dumping them out the window.

Though I knew they were there, around, somewhere, as long as their existence was no more than conjuncture, if I never gave too much thought to the transient wisps with tails ghosting through the walls, it was fine.

The Mus musculus, commonly known as the house mouse, lives in close association with humans, and its survival depends on that association. Bodies range in length from 65 to 95 mm, not including the tail, which is from 60 to 105 mm long.  Weight is between 12 and 30 g.  Not a very intimidating size, is it?  Compared to their strictly rural cousins, house mice tend to have longer tails and darker fur.

Apparently, they are also equipped with bigger gonads.

That’s just what I need.  Gutsy mice.  Mice with stones.  Mice with reckless courage.  Mice that breach the lines of neutral territory and come down the hall to the bathroom.  Mice that enter without knocking first.

I was putting up my hair, about to get in the shower, and only happened to have my gaze directed at the floor, when I saw it shoot under the door, round a quick corner and go under the sink cabinet.  It was so small.  It seemed to move without touching the floor.  I would have mistaken it for a dense gray dust bunny if its body hadn’t had such marked forward thrust.  Clearly, it had places to go, and my towel, which I’d dropped to the floor, blocked its path between the doorway and the heating vent.

My yell began as a groan, a sound of dissenting horror.  I snatched up my towel and clutched it to my chest, only to wonder if I shouldn’t burn it—how close did those little feet come to it?  But by then, I’d thrown the bathroom door open and my roommate had come running down the hall.  We both stood in the doorway while I professed my absolute certainty that I’d seen a mouse and not a hairball and she tried to persuade me that whatever I’d seen was already long gone, and I reasoned that to get long gone, it must have had feet.

When I finally reached into the shower to turn off the water, which I’d already had running, we both heard the scratching of paws from under the sink.  She cracked up and I whined one long, wordless note of misery.

I detest being such a girl about it.  It’s not like I’ve never encountered a mouse before.  We had them in my house when I was a kid.  One summer at camp, I named the mice we saw darting into dark corners of the cabin.  I called them Stuart, Stuart, Stuart, and Little, and I hoped my campers would accept that woodland creatures roam the woods, or at least be more comfortable with their harmless little cabin mates.  Maybe the mice got too comfortable, though.  I was reading on the couch one night when one of the Stuarts crept toward me across the top of the back cushions, trying to get close enough to read over my shoulder.

A curious mouse in a cabin in the woods in the middle of the night is one thing, but Speedy Gonzalez had the pluck to interrupt the dinner hour. He entered an inhabited room under a closed door.  He saw me naked.

And he’ll pay for the privilege.  With his life.

Part II—Humming “All Things Bright and Beautiful” all the while

Love is the greatest gift of all (but these are nice, too)

All I’m saying is, Valentine’s gifts don’t have to be made of diamonds, chocolate, or lace.  Consider the possibilities of brass, buckwheat, and gigabytes.


1. Dangling Hearts Tee from Mariska Hargitay’s line.  Short-sleeved shirt available in white with red or gold foil hearts (or gold on black).  A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Joyful Heart Foundation.  $45

2. American Apparel Long Leg Warmer in Raspberry/Scarlett.  $16

3. Obv.  Apple iPod Shuffle in hot pink (or red). Free personal engraving when you order online. $49-69

4. Classic Swiss Army Knife by Victorinox. One small blade with a nail file, a small screwdriver, and a pair of scissors, fold out of this pink multi-tool.  Tweezers and a toothpick slide out from the end.  $19

5. Nino the Bug hopping toy. According to Kikkerland, Nino is a pollinating insect. That’s a little like a love bug, right? $6

6. Heart Maccents by MacStyles.  Show your laptop some love. $1.95-2.95

7. Bucky’s HeartWarmer buckwheat-filled pillow.  Heat it up in the microwave or chill it in the freezer for snuggleable comfort and pain relief.  Red, lavender, or pink cover is removable and washable.  On sale $14.95 (from $19.95)

8. Brass handcuff lariat by NYC designer Erica Weiner.  One cuff dangles at each end of a 22″ chain.  Fasten them together around the neck of a loved one.  No keys required.  $35

9. L2 Design Collective Valentines. Smooches Gracias and Beating Heart designs, and others at Supermarket. $4.25 each

10. My Beating Heart pillow. Are you tired of sleeping beside that clunky alarm clock like a homesick puppy?  Powered by one 9V battery, My Beating Heart will soothe your beating heart with its carefully metered rhythm.  $35

Not sure what I was planning to do with my cell phone in a subway tunnel anyway

One night last summer, I went out for a girls-only night in a silky black skirt and a pair of four-inch heels. I don’t know what made me reach for those shoes, but I put them on as though it was entirely ordinary. Just as though it was entirely ordinary for me to go out in a whole flock of chicks.

I was all good for the first two hours, which we spent on stools at one place and then perched around a table at another bar. I didn’t last long on the dance floor, though. Even standing still, I felt like individual bones in my feet were breaking in quick succession. If I sat down alone to take a break, I became the target of smarmy guys out on boys’ nights with their wingmen.

There comes a point when discomfort makes me cranky and when I reached that point, I bailed on the girls. And that’s how I found myself waiting for the train at Second Avenue with two hobos passed out on the bench and a handful of 20- and 30-somethings calling it a night.

Nearly breathless from the pain that shrieked from my shins to my toes, I limped to the bottom of the platform stairs and hoisted myself on to the silver railing. It wasn’t a comfortable perch, but if I draped across it at a certain angle and sat up straight, I could keep my balance and give my feet a break.

And if I hooked the heels over the lower crossbar, it bore the dead weight of my feet and eased the throbbing agony.

Once I got situated, I flipped my cell phone open. But I must have overflipped because it flew out of my hand. It was a reflex to reach out and try to catch it. My upper body forgot that my lower body was essentially incapacitated. I pitched forward like a top heavy ventriloquist dummy and hit the filthy cement floor knees first, my shoes still latched on to the railing. Like I’d been strung up by my ankles.

To untangle myself, I had to twist to one side, scraping the back of my thigh on the ground just to get my feet to join my butt on the floor. I felt about as graceful as a beached whale. In stilletos. And a miniskirt.

A few people shot sympathetic glances in my direction (the sound of 130ish pounds of girl and evening bag dropping to the floor from midair had drawn attention). I also caught a few rolled eyes that said, “Hail a paddy wagon. Next stop: Drunk Tank!” I resisted the urge to announce, “I’m not a drunk! I’m just a klutz!” I just smiled. And climbed back up on the railing. That time, I managed to catch myself before I hit the floor, and then I sat right down on the steps.

The bruise on my left knee lasted for two weeks. It was shaped like Australia.

I swore off those shoes. Last night, I left them in front of my building in a cardboard box, along with a few shrunken knit tops and a pair of old PJ pants. By morning, they were gone for good.

This is not a plea for help but can I come over to use your shower?

What I love the best about my friend Al are his patience and his impatience. He gives me encouragement when I most need it and a hard time when I deserve it. Sometimes I’m after some pity coddling and he surprises me with tough love. But before I can pout about my hurt feelings, I realize I needed that dose of tough love after all. And then Al lets me pout a little anyway.

He can tease me and console me in the same sentence. I’ll never figure out how he does that; how he knows just the right thing to say when it really counts. Maybe he’s just a good guesser.

Take today. I called Al to ask, “what’s the difference between you,” a sexy, sharply dressed architectural plumbing engineer, “and like, the other kind,” the greasy-fingered lug with butt cleavage?

Al pauses for modesty’s sake and then concedes, “there’s a pretty big difference.”

“Yeah,” I sigh, “that’s what I thought.”

“Why are you asking?”

I’m leaning against the bathroom door jamb, bracing the phone between my cheek and my shoulder while I rub slick gray tub gunk off my fingers.

“My shower drain is clogged.”

My shower drain is clogged. My bathtub right now contains a plunger, a tea kettle, a bent wire shirt hanger, and a pair of pliers. A pot holder, a funnel, a flat head screwdriver, and a coil of coaxial cable are scattered on the tile floor beside the tub. The drain stopper mechanism lies crookedly in the sink.

I tell Al every idea I’ve had and tried to coax the clog either up or down and out of the drain. The plunging, the baking soda and white vinegar chased by boiling water, the wire hanger down the drain and then down through the hole under the faucet where the drain stopper used to be.

“Finally I tried—and I thought this was genius, and no matter what, I deserve a little credit for it—snaking some coaxial cable down there and I pulled out some gunk but when I tried to go back in for more it got stuck.”

I step into the tub and hold the phone with one hand while I jiggle the tail of coaxial cable leading into unseen depths of my drain.

“That . . . actually sounds like it would have been a pretty good idea,” Al offers, just a playful hint of reluctance in his voice.

Thank you.”

“If it didn’t get stuck.”

“Exactly. But now I couldn’t even call a butt cleavage plumber because I’m too embarrassed to let anyone see that I’ve got coaxial cable stuck in my bathtub!” I make sure to keep calling it ‘coaxial cable’ because I’m pretty proud that I know the technical name for TV-hookup-wire.

“Riiight, right.” Sometimes Al laughs with me and sometimes he laughs at me. I like times like this, when we both laugh at me together.

“Hey, I’ll call you later. I gotta go do guy stuff.”

‘Guy stuff’ turns out to be setting up a new flat screen television. While I sit on the edge of my tub with my phone tucked under my chin, listlessly tugging on the TV-hookup-wire stuck down the bathtub-drain-pluggy-thingie.

With a flashlight and the deformed wire hanger, I manage to free all foreign bodies from the tub. All except for whatever has caused my drainage problems in the first place. There are two inches of standing water in the tub while I wash my hair, but I did undo all the bonus damage I caused by myself. And I can’t wait to tell Al and hear him laugh at me again.