Are you an agoraphobe or self-diagnosed shut-in with an eye malady that requires daily, perhaps hourly, drops, have an inability to keep your eyelids open during delivery and have no close friends or family residing with you or willing to come to your residence and assist with your medical needs? Let me recite, in the comfort of your own house (or apartment or mobile home) and directly into your ear via whisper, my recently acquired, rare and heretofore secret incantation known to coax open the eyes of mummified Egyptian kings while I medicate the windows to your soul. Let’s keep your eyes in good shape. There’s TV to watch!

Do the brown, sticky corners of the inside of your refrigerator nauseate you, yet you soon have a dinner party planned and know that one of your guests (whom you simply must invite to show her you’re no chopped liver when it comes to picking out the finest in furnishings) will be an on-again, off-again frienemy who will look into your fridge during the party and launch, post-soiree, an ugly social media campaign mentioning your general slovenliness ? (It could go viral…ouch.) I’ll visit your kitchen as frequently as your cans of Tab explode or your bags of organic rocket in the lower, unseen sections of your refrigerator go unremembered for weeks (forgot the diet!) and turn into a gooey slime that inexplicably escapes the confines of the plastic and invades the nooks and crannies of your Sub-Zero. (I provide paper towels. Cloth towels available for an additional fee.)

Are you a pet lover and owner (of any domesticated species) who understands, knows, appreciates that these little critters are, like you, biological entities that must both consume food and excrete those often foul, bizarrely textured and altogether repulsive stools but find yourself rethinking your decision to be a pet owner during these frequently intradaily defecations and are considering giving little Max kitty or big Jasper dog to an adoptive facility? Keep your ‘lil pal. Call me, I’ll empty the litter box, pick up the stinky BMs and let you get about the business of owning a pet that exists only in a fantasy world. Your fantasy world. (Prices vary according to daily average weight and consistency of excretions.)

Does the sight of your own naked body, due to religious indoctrination or general laziness, cause you undue anxiety, bump up your blood pressure and make your workdays or weekends unpleasant reminders of the awful thing you saw in the mirror only hours before? Throw away your beta blockers and let me size up your head for a rare Chinese silk blindfold, embroidered with your initials (extra fee). I’ll familiarize myself with your toiletry and wardrobe, swathe your eyes in fine fabric, wash you and dress you without comment and ensure your naked body is seen by no one ever again except the undertaker and even then, for an additional fee, I provide a custom, coffin-ready, eternally blissful interment eyesilk so even your body’s last moments on earth can be dignified. (Daytime undressing and bed-ready preparation available for an additional fee. For an extra ten percent, I’ll graze your erogenous zones with both the backsides and palms of my hands.)

Have a new little one in the midst and fuck-if-you-didn’t realize exactly how toxic the vomit of a child is and just what a perfect catalyst this stinky puke can be for you to upchuck your own, recently enjoyed country club lunch of prawn salad and White Russian’s? I provide this service only to those who live within a two-minute drive and will give you an exclusive, customized ringtone on my smartphone so that the moment your influenza-addled bundle of joy begins the process of getting sick all over your freshly steam cleaned furniture, I’ll show up with a kit cobbled together from warzone medical supplies and stay with him or her until every last droplet of bilious fluid has stopped exiting your most precious one’s mouth. (Multiple sick children are welcome with fee-and-a-half rates PER child. Homemade, stomach soothing ginger ale made from my grandmother’s secret recipe provided gratis.)

Are you a man or woman who has heard, in casual conversation with persons you know are extraordinarily promiscuous and sexually experienced and kinky, odd sexual references that lightly moisten or slightly harden you? Have these delicious people mentioned rubbing g-spots or prostate tickling as a way to ensure you’re a fondly remembered lover of everyone you sleep with as these long-forgotten lovers recount their sexual exploits in their twilight, libido-challenged years? Do you wish you knew those tender, interior climax buttons and haven’t as much as heard of a dirty trombone or the pleasures of a taint massage? Give me your time (and money) and I’ll give you my finger. We’ll practice till you are the star of jack- or jill-off fantasies in college dorm rooms and hotel suites or the substitute mental member of coitus occurring between too-familiar lovers and you will (lifetime guarantee) virtually enable a bedspring straining orgasm that leaves the thinker thinking privately of you. And your finger. (Brush-up sessions available once a month for either a long, lazy lunch at a French restaurant of my choice or for an overnight stay at a resort of my preference. Me, overnight, you from eight until midnight.)

Cantankerous? Sour? Known to be a dick and proud of it? Been abandoned by all of your family and friends because of an attitude toward people that would make Charles Manson blush? I have been the cowering, self-critical, no-talkback recipient of infantile behavior from a wide range of flawed adults and have survived it all unscathed and with a particular knowledge of just how to placate the beast in people by absorbing a wide barrage of misguided, utterly misinformed personal, religious, ethnic, psychological, racial and sexual verbal assaults and leaving you, the ‘asshole,’ feeling propped up and, by all stripes of clinical pathological definitions of sociopathy, refreshed and ready to take on the next unsuspecting person who crosses your path. (I provide this service only with an additional direct payment to my psychotherapist for sessions covering treble the length of your abuse needs – one day for you, three days for me, etc.)

The above are my specialties, as I have at least a dozen employment experiences with each. References available upon request (redacted, of course, for confidentiality reasons). If any of these services interest you, please contact me via email and we’ll discuss terms and fees. Off-the-menu services available with non-refundable prepayment and a week’s notice so I can properly research the particularities of your wacky desires. Two week’s notice for any job involving extreme physical pain (so I can build up tolerance by self-inflicting). For anything under the sun, I’m your man.

[This story is broken up into two parts. Part II will appear nearing January’s end. A couple of names were changed to conceal identities.]

An unclad young woman stared at me from across the room. A straight line ran from her pointed breasts to my line of vision. I took a sip from my beer. Topless, unabashed, she positioned herself against the wall in a rather somber pose, half sobering considering the atmosphere. I took a drag from my cigarette, another sip from my beer. I wiped the froth from my lip. She had yet to blink, kept looking in my direction. Some specimen she was, I thought silently.

I exhaled a cloud of smoke and it hung heavy overhead like empty time. I walked her way. As I approached, she titled forward falling. I caught her, stood her back on the wall, and secured the loose piece of scotch tape that kept her shoulders square, her posture in perfect alignment.

Her name was Amanda. She was a sucker for the shy type. She was a late bloomer, she said.

She straddled a Harley Davidson motorcycle and wore a pair of black leather assless chaps. Amanda was one of various nude women, which served as wallpaper in my cousin Gary’s home.

He was a bachelor.

He drank whiskey.

He wore a leather beret.

He listened to Willie Nelson.

He once traded hats with Willie Nelson after a Willie Nelson concert.

They didn’t smoke marijuana together afterward.


It was getting late. The wee hours of the night tugged at my eyelids. My nostrils widened. Blood shot and dry, irritated by the cigarette smoke lingering in the air, my burning eyes did their best to water. I brought my hand to my mouth and let out a deep yawn. Jeremiah looked my way. His eyes closed. His nostrils widened. His mouth opened and springing from the pit of his stomach a deep yawn arose.

“I guess…. it’s like…. they say—” I said to him, finishing my yawn.

“Contagious is right,” he responded.

I dropped my hands to my side.

Wu Tang entered the speakers. The RZA, the GZA, Raekwon, and the rest of the Clan verbally assaulted us spitting more heat than a woodstove in winter….

You can’t party your life away
Drink your life away
Smoke your life away…

One by one, drunken teenagers and young twenty-somethings saturated in wildly wandering hormonal distress stood in a single file line down the hallway guzzling cheap American beer. With all their shouting, grunting, and vocal might they attempted to revive the once vibrant game of Waterfall that had so consumed them an hour earlier.

Their calls were moot at this conjecture in the night. Cal Adams stood tipsy on the tips of his toes, chugging a beer.

One cold can after the next, participants dropped like flies—beer foam all the while dripping from their lips and chins, giving them the impression of rabid raccoons rocking steady to the beat across the room.

I looked in Jeremiah’s direction and noticed him wobbling. His head bobbed from side to side. His hips swayed. His bones danced a jiggly, gelatinous dance. His body swayed like a drunken vessel….

He belched.

He opened the front door. We both trailed out, lit our respective cigarettes, and surveyed the scene.

Numerous friends of ours lay before us in Gary’s front yard. Some were curled up in the fetal position. Others were slumped over the rail on the stoop blowing chunks of Natty Light and Pabst Blue Ribbon from their jowls.

In spit-filled slurs slung sideways, they promised empty promises: “I’ll never drink this much again,” only to drink that much and more the following Friday down in the boonies of southern Virginia.

Phenix.

Drakes Branch.

Red Oak.

Red House.

Aspen.

Keysville.

Charlotte Court House.

We all were born and raised in a county without a single stoplight. We celebrated our boredom the same way every weekend. We had no music venues. We had no bars. No clubs. No movie theater save the drive-in.

We celebrated our existence, our invincibility at Gary’s on Scott Rd.

“This is the famous Budweiser beer,” I said flicking my cigarette, walking back into the house. “We know of no brand produced by any other brewer which costs so much to brew and age. Our exclusive beechwood aging produces a taste, smoothness, and a drinkability you will find in no other beer at any price.”

“Get this bumbling idiot some water,” Gary said.

“Who me?”

“Yes, you. And tell your buddy, what’s his name—” He pointed in the direction of my friend Derek who was passed out on the couch with a cigarette still in his mouth. It had burned its way down to the filter.

“Derek?”

“Yes, Derek. Derek Smith. Tell him not to come over to my house again unless he’s wearing a shirt. Do I need to post a sign on my front door that reads, ‘No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service;’ huh, do I?”


Derek rarely wore a shirt anywhere. He wasn’t some macho asshole. He just didn’t like to wear a shirt. Half the time he didn’t wear pants. That night at Gary’s he had on pants: camouflage cargo pants. Derek had signed up for the National Guard. He was due to leave for boot camp in a few weeks.

Derek used to sit in the parking lot at B&D Mart in our hometown of Phenix, Virginia, in the broad daylight in his tighty-whitey boxer-briefs with a Camel unfiltered hanging off his bottom lip, shaving his face with the Norelco electric razor his parents had given him. He shaved his face everyday with that razor. He kept it charged in the A/C adapter, this all despite having minimal facial hair at the time. The type of facial hair you have when you’re in high-school.

Unless you were Dwayne Davis.

Or Jimmy Lovelace. Also known as Paco. Or Mustapha. Whether he looked Mexican or Arab depended on the season.

If it was summer or fall, Jimmy looked Arab. If it was winter or spring then Mexican.


Jimmy got the nickname Paco when the two of us enrolled in summer school after 9th grade. We both had flunked Algebra II.

There was a kid named Deron that used to always ask him for lunch money. He hassled Jimmy a lot. Gave him a lot of shit.

Then one day Deron walks up to Jimmy, sort of nudges him. They were serving tacos that day.

“Yo Paco. Let me hold a dollar. I need a Taco, Paco.”

It’s been fifteen years. I still call Jimmy, Paco. He passed Algebra II that summer. I didn’t. I took it once again in 10th grade. Third time’s a charm.

The year before, we pleaded with Jimmy for nearly an entire semester in 8th grade to shave the Superman logo in his chest hair.

“My mom would kill me.”

“How the fuck is your mom going to know,” I asked him. I was pissed. Jimmy used to do anything I’d tell him like bark for a piece of chewing gum in 7th grade. Now he protested.

“Bark for a piece of gum and I’ll give you a piece. It’s Teaberry. Teaberry is fucking awesome,” I said chewing. “Man, this is some good ass gum.”

“I’m not barking for a piece of gum,” Jimmy whispered back. Our teacher had her back to us.

“Guess you won’t be getting any gum then. By the way, your breath smells like dog shit. Did you eat a turd for lunch?”

A few minutes passed. I had swallowed my gum by that point. I used to always swallow my gum despite my mom telling me it would take seven years to come out the other end.

That was bullshit. I remember seeing chewing gum in my shit when I was six years old.

“Ruff!”

“What was that,” Mrs. Clark said.

When Jimmy barked, I had switched over to Sugar Babies and had crammed my mouth with a handful of the caramel and chocolate treats developed in 1935 by the James O. Welch Co.

I began choking on my own saliva.

The saliva was thick and sugary.

It tickled my throat.

“Who just barked,” Mrs. Clark demanded.

I started to laugh. My eyes watered. I had too many Sugar Babies in my mouth.

Jimmy was shaking with laughter. I was shaking with laughter.

Old, fat women in bikinis, I thought to myself. I was trying to think of something not funny. It wasn’t working. I could hear Jimmy barking over and over in my head.

I started to cough. I thought my eyes were going to burst out my head.

Then I threw up on my desk. It looked like cat shit, kind of. I thought Jimmy was going to throw up too. Jimmy used to always throw up when other people threw up. I used to always throw up when other people threw up too. I remember once in 1st grade when Larry Wade poured milk over his tuna ball that sat on top a piece of lettuce in his lunch tray. Someone had dared Larry an orange push-up he wouldn’t eat the milk, lettuce, and tuna mixture.

Larry did.

This overweight kid I used to call Skipper threw up watching Larry eat. He called me Little Buddy. His mom worked at a chocolate factory. Every Valentine’s Day she would come to our class for Show and Tell. The Skipper’s real name was Chad.

When Chad threw up, I threw up. Then other kids started throwing up all the way down the table. My cousin Brandon threw up. He was in the middle of an argument telling all the other kids that Santa Claus didn’t exist when he stopped to throw up. He had a rat-tail. So did Erik Ragsdale. I’m not sure if Erik threw up.


Jimmy’s mom knew everything her children did. He was terrified to go against her or do anything he thought would upset her in the slightest. His older sister would later become pregnant out-of-wedlock, carry the baby the entire length of the pregnancy having never been to the doctor for a single check-up, and go into labor one day at the high school. She was a teacher.

She had graduated college, had a salary job, and was still terrified of her mother.

Jimmy would later tell me about the situation. He prefaced it by saying, “Man you aren’t going to believe this shit.” The conversation went sort of like this.

JIMMY: By the time I get off work, get to my locker, and check my phone I have like ten missed calls from my mom. One missed call after the next. One new voicemail.

“Jimmy,” my mom said. “Please call me when you get this. Call me as soon as you get this.”

She was extremely upset.

Crying. Fucking delirious sounding, man.

Naturally, I’m thinking someone has died. Somebody has definitely died. I start to panic a little. I’m almost scared to call her back. What if something happened to my dad or sister? I’m a little fidgety, antsy about returning the call. I’m going to do it. I just need to calm down first. I light a cigarette. I’m shaking. I’m hot-boxing that bitch. Then my phone rings. I look down at caller ID. It’s my mom.

She’s sucking back snot.

“What’s the matter I ask her? Mom, what’s the matter?”

“Melissa had a baby,” she says.

(Jimmy pauses, looks at me, eyes big as saucers, and laughs)

ME: Yeah man, that shit came through the grapevine. I heard about it all the way in Charlottesville. I didn’t even know she was pregnant.

JIMMY: Neither did I.

ME: What did you say?

JIMMY: The first thing that came to mind: “Are you fucking kidding me?”

That triggers my mom to bawl more.

“When the hell did she get pregnant,” I asked her.

I was floored. Dude I was fucking floored. My sister had a baby. Do you believe that shit? She was fucking pregnant for nine months and never told anybody. I mean shit. How do you pull that shit off? Thing is, you couldn’t even tell she was pregnant. You know my sister. She doesn’t exactly win the gold medal for most physically fit but still—pregnant? Nine months? Had a baby? Fuck!

(laughs)

Suddenly me dating a black chick isn’t the worst thing in the world for my parents.

(laughs)

ME: How’s that situation going?

JIMMY: Same ole, same ole. Don’t come home unless you’re single or got a white girl on your arm.

(He pulls on a cigarette)

ME: Your folks need to be more understanding. Do they realize you don’t even look white? You look like you’re from the United Arab Emirates. And you’re balding prematurely.

JIMMMY: Hey, fuck you.


Finally, the owner of B&D confronted Derek about his lack of outerwear. He was shirtless and had on no pants. He wore army boots and white boxer briefs. He had been polishing his boots since we got off from school.

He was standing at the Coca-Cola machine, trying to straighten a dollar bill on the side of the machine. I sat at the picnic table with some other friends: Rick, Ricky, and Brian.

Brian had a stuttering problem. If we were all having a down day, we used to get Brian to sing “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive for kicks.

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet
B-B-B-Baby, you just ain’t seen nothin’ yet
Here’s something that you never gonna forget
B-B-B-Baby, you just ain’t seen nothin’ yet

Brenda, the co-owner of B&D Mart (the “B” stood for “Brenda”), knocked hard with her knuckles against the drive-up window that was duct-taped shut. Derek looked her way. I looked her way. She had a mean snarl on her face and pointed at Derek.

“You stay right there,” she said. You couldn’t hear her but you could read her lips. She was fuming. Then she proceeded out the front door and began berating Derek.

She finished, turned around, walked back inside. She stood at the window looking outside at us.

Derek looked at me and said, “Shit. What’s her problem?”

“You don’t have on pants,” I said.


Gary turned his attention back to the fizzled out game of Waterfall. Then Jeremiah stumbled back into the picture, wobbling across the carpet like a pregnant woman, her water about to burst.

He squinted.

“Are you alright,” I asked Jeremiah.

No response.

He narrowed his eyes even more trying to fix his pupils on one of the three of me he saw. Assuming he was staring into the image of me located in the middle of the other two blurred images of my form, he asked if I was ready to leave.

“Are you ready to leave,” he asked.

I was.


To read Part II, please click here


In Vladimir Nabokov’s short story, “Signs and Symbols,” the narrator says of one character that, “Living did mean accepting the loss of one joy after another, not even joys in her case—mere possibilities of improvement.” I have always found that line to be profoundly depressing and if you’re reading this, I wish with all my heart that your life is not an acceptance of the loss of one joy after another.

My own life, I have realized, can partially be characterized by the acceptance of one embarrassment after another. I have decided to chronicle these embarrassments (the list will never end as long as I am alive and participating in the world) starting with the Blue Ribbon for the Most Embarrassing Thing Ever:

My first husband and I had just moved to Toronto from the Bay Area. We were renting a basement apartment with no kitchen. We used the window sills, where the winter temperature hovered around 20 degrees, to keep milk and juice, and ate all our meals out. I had no friends, no job and nowhere to go. I spent a lot of time reading in the apartment and a lot of time walking around and looking at things.

And then I joined a gym. It was a yuppie place near our apartment with lots of good-looking twenty and thirty-somethings’ who thought they were cool because they were at that point in life where they had just started to make a lot of money but didn’t yet have kids, dogs, ageing parents and the things that remind you that you are not really that cool and that the world around you needs less cool and more hard work. My husband and I were young enough and dumb enough to think that we were cool, too.

The first day at the gym I went to a yoga class where I stretched and twisted and roped up my very limber body with the thought that no one in Toronto could possibly be as flexible as someone from California. In short, I was showing off.

After the class, I followed the other yoga students into the locker room where they proceeded to take off their clothes and step naked into the hot tub (it was a single sex locker hot tub). I took off my clothes, too, and also stepped into the hot tub even though I’ve never really liked hot tubs. They’re too hot for me. I like warm tubs.

About ninety seconds into the soak, I began to feel light headed. I sat on the edge of the tub for a moment, then stepped out and started to walk toward the bathroom, as I was feeling a little queasy. Before I could make it to the bathroom I unexpectedly hurled a shooting stream of vomit onto the gym floor. As the vomit was coming out I could feel my vision shutting down, like a computer screen turning off.

I passed out on the vomit on the floor.

This little episode is the Blue Ribbon of embarrassment because it combines the three most humiliating human events into one tidy, pool of shame. It has, 1. Public nudity. 2. The projectile externalization of a body fluid in public. And 3. Passing out in public.

To have done them simultaneously, and then to have so perfectly lain my body atop the vomit was, in my opinion, quite a spectacular feat.

I called the gym the next day and cancelled the membership. And then we joined the Y.

Hello, my name is Zoë Brock and I am a hopelessly hopeful romantic.

Love and I have a long and sordid relationship. We’re stuck to each other with that cheap, tacky glue that never dries properly and gets hairs and other bits of icky dirt and effluvia stuck in it and ends up looking like a coughed up owl pellet, minus the skeletal bits. It’s horrible, trust me.

Sometimes I feel as if I live my life adhered to the cheap pulpy paper bound between the flowery covers of a Harlequin romance novel.

Sometimes I wonder if some sticky-fingered house-wife isn’t pouring over the sordid details of my love-life, swooning, moaning and gasping at the more elaborately descriptive paragraphs as she takes a break between episodes of ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ and ‘Days of Our Lives’.

Sometimes I feel like I’m getting paper cuts on my fingers as I try to escape from my papery jail.

It’s useless trying to escape, of course. There is no way out of yourself. I am what I am.

And I just love the Love.

For example- The other day, while standing at a downtown street corner waiting for the lights to change, I started fantasizing about the moment when I will see My Person again after a long absence. I think about this scenario a lot. We’ve been apart a few months, and still have several weeks to go before we can look at each other and assess the changes and evolutions we have both gone through on our own. My mind wanders to that moment and I drift off into completely fantastical scenes, replete with soaring movie music and zoom shots into locked lips before wide pans up into blue sky.

I gross myself out a lot.

Sometimes these thoughts involve hurried needful sex or desperate kisses. Sometimes they involve me fainting, weak knees giving way, eyes rolling back in head, tall girl dissolving into a pile of floppy limbs and crumpled emotions.

No one has ever accused me of having no sense of melodrama.

Anyway, back to that corner- I’m standing there, weak kneed and gooey, envisioning him as he walks across the street/room/playa- tanned, athletic, half naked, like some stud from a bad Arabian Nights illustration (vomit, I know) and I realize the lights have changed and that I’ve missed my chance to cross. More than this I realize they have changed several times and that I have been standing on the corner of Market and Geary with a stupid look on my face long enough to attract the attention of the nearby flower vendor. He inquires about my well being and I nod, flush, and scurry away in a pink cloud of girlie embarrassment.

Ugh.

Yesterday, while walking home from an adventure at the gay hardware store (a whole other story) I was stupid enough to fall victim to my romantic impulses again. This time my mind was co-erced into dangerous idiocy by the melodic strains of KD Lang singing ‘Hallelujah’ on my iPod.

Oh dear.

Did I listen to it once? Did I listen to it twice? Or did I listen to it three times and send myself into a spasm of mind-fucking that involved such details as sordid spontaneous sex, declarations of eternal love and devotion and, most shamefully, full-blown confetti-strewn matrimony? You guess.

Yep.

And I almost got run over as a consequence.

I should have my own sitcom. We could call it Zoe loves Chachi.

(Did you know that Cha-Chi is the Mongolian term for penis? [Actually I made that up {but it’s funny, right?}])

Of course not all of my romantic moments are light and fluffy. Some of them are downright dark and brooding, morose and gloomy. More of a “Jane Eyre” than a “When Harry Shtupped Sally”. More “Donnie Darko” than “The Notebook”.


Sometimes my romantic reality is heavy and smothering and desperate and tragic. My need for someone can be overwhelming to them and to myself.

(Excuse me, a cat needs some attention).

I’m back. Where was I? Romance. Dreams. Vomitous imaginings wrapped in pink lace and scented tissue.

If the adage “have dick, be dickhead” is true then surely the same must be said for women. “Have vagina, be a giant bloody pussy”. Sorry, Nana, I know you’re reading this.

But after much agonizing and mental self-flagellation I’ve come to the conclusion that being a romantic isn’t so bad after all. Sure, it’s a bit embarrassing. Sure, I cry in commercials and stupid fluffy movies. Sure, I’ve been known to stare at people kissing in the street with a big goofy grin on my head until they think I’m a pervert, but it also means I’m open to the whole damn thing, despite more than a few disappointments and broken-hearted escapades (see archives for further reading material), escapades that could have made me bitter and twisted and far too scared to indulge in this type of thinking.

And, this way, if I’m not getting romanced, cuddled and loved-up in reality, I can always escape to the Fabiolicious fantasies inside my own mind, right?

Cor! Look at him! If you knew where my finger was while that picture was being taken you’d be shaking my hand, children.

Or not.


*ALL PHOTOSHOPPING WITHIN THIS STORY WAS MAGIC PERFORMED BY JOSH ‘DR CHOP’ FLECHTNER. MANY THANKS FOR HIS WIZARDRY, MAY OUR COLLABORATIVE EFFORTS BE LONG-LIVED, COMPLETELY DERANGED AND INCREDIBLY SILLY.