Spitting Image

Jeffery and I rate our day. He’ll G-chat me and ask “How many stars?” and I’ll give an answer anywhere from 0-4. Then he’ll follow-up with “What movie do you give that many stars?” A two-star day, which is pretty much day-default, is like Dante’s Peak: average yet stress inducing, a film whose voice-over of “The Pressure is Building!” could just as easily have been intoned for Volcano (another two-star day.)

Our ratings system is precise. “The Silence of the Lambs,” while a universally acclaimed 4 star, is also dark. So it figures that its day-equivalent must also be dark, that pleasurable dark when suffering insists on a sweet silver-lining— or at least a day like the movie’s description on IMDB: Some totally illogical plot turns are directed and acted with such flair and intelligence that the movie becomes a shining excuse for letting us suspend our disbelief.

(I suspect most of my 4-star days are shining excuses for suspended disbelief, but tend to be outnumbered by 1-star Herbie Fully Loaded days.)

Tuesday started out a solid 2, much like—let’s see— The Holiday, because I figured it would be really long, plus I’d be away from my apartment for most of it which is sort of the theme of that movie. My latte was extra hot; the F train was on time; and I received a series of cute photos of my parents taking turns posing with a praying mantis. (Ah, retirement.)


All in all, 2 stars.

Around noon, I had a surge of creativity. I wanted to storyboard an idea I’ve had for a Reality TV show called The Real Word, which is what it sounds like: a forced and filmed social experiment where writers of all ages and genres cohabitate in a pimped-out house. Think of Yaddo, only with cameras and more hooking-up. The promo would be “Some serious Writ is about to go down!” and you’d cut to Meghan O’Rourke and Amy Tan in the communal kitchen reading drafts of a motherly intervention note for Cormac McCarthy, who won’t come out of his private room.



Then I got a rejection email from The Kenyon Review.


Feeling, well, rejected, this article on Grimace brought me back up to **.


And so on, and so on.

Tuesday evening, I met a friend who is going through a painful break-up. After dinner, after drinks, when I exited the York Street station, a homeless man with a lame foot asked me for money. I suppose it is a little insensitive to say “No” while you’re texting, but it wasn’t like I was reading him Atlas Shrugged. I’m poor. I declined charity in a polite, albeit distracted, way.

On any given day, regardless of how many stars I give it, I’m probably asked “Can you help me out?” an average of 5-10 times. Sometimes these requests are accompanied by talent: one-armed harmonica playing, or back-flips. But on Tuesday night there was no talent. So I kept going.

I had already taken stock of my stars, so it surprised me what happened next—that in mere seconds, I went from 3 to zero. (A zero being The Sweetest Thing with Cameron Diaz?) The homeless man followed me; he called me a bitch; he bumped into me; and then, with cobra-like accuracy, spit in my hair. Repeatedly.

While I know enough to aim for an attacker’s inner thigh, that the knee cap can do unspeakable damage, I also maintain a personal theory than one of the most frightening deterrents to any unwanted, unarmed assault might be showtunes. Don’t get me wrong—a drop kick is effective. I’m just suggesting that so is “Getting to Know You.” It’s psychologically alarming. The jazz hands. The big smile and formal twirl.

I bring up Safety-In-Showtunes not because I actually burst into song on Jay Street, but because I was afraid, because there was no one else around, because it was deceptively early, because I thought he had a weapon, because the blubbery spunk landed above my ear, because all I could do was keep walking, because after everything, the danger and adrenaline and the third loogey, I heard this song in my head:

South Pacific (3 stars?) —that’s what calmed me until “that man” thankfully stopped to feel for change in a phone booth.


Although I don’t recall Emile ever spitting in Nellie’s hair. And if Emile did spit in her hair, it was only because he was singing.


3 responses to “Spitting Image

  1. Jeez trybecca, I have to say, sometimes I worry about you. Though, thankfully, your cork-astrology star system seems to have some merit, and your wicked sense of humor gives further hope that you can survive the horrors of NYC.

    And you’re SO right about show tunes. They dispell terror and bring nausea to satan himself.

    That’s quite the praying mantis!

  2. Thank the Lordy you can four-star write on a no-star day!

  3. Show tunes, mimes and clowns in general, when heard or spotted, make me cross the street and head back in the direction from which I came.

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