ETC.


TICK TOCK:  A NOVEL

This is the first chapter of a book I’m been writing (a large portion of it written on the Metro North). They say you should write what you know. I haven’t actually gotten pregnant intentionally by a one-night stand or been part of a pregnancy pact at 16, and I definitely haven’t ever plotted to steal a baby, even though some of my characters have. But I have taken a pregnancy test or two, so I figured that was something. 


"Claire"
She went into the bathroom, unpeeled the wrapping and peed on the stick. It was two days before her period was even due, but the box promised accurate results up to five days before. So she figured she had waited long enough. Couldn’t wait any longer. She was waiting alone. She tried not to look. Started singing a song. An old U2 song, “I Still Haven’tFound What I’m Looking For.” Not because the song had meant anything to her (though if she’d actually listened to the lyrics, she might have realized they did, in fact, have meaning), but because she actually knew the words. It was something she couldn’t really say about too many songs written after 1995. She was married once…but that ended two years ago when she walked in on her ex (she refers to her ex often, so often in fact that it is considered both unhealthy and slightly awkward for those to whom she’s relaying the story). She wished she hadn’t walked in, wished it had just been a rumor that she could have actually ignored, brushed aside. At least until she’d had her kids. Not just one. She wanted two. Deserved two. Two was what she’d always pictured.
But she’d never heard the rumors. Not that they weren’t being spread. Especially all over the 23rd and 24th floors of the Harvey B. Richman building where her husband, her ex-husband,worked as an Account Supervisor at an advertising firm, as did his lover, the woman who would destroy her plans to have those two kids before she was 35 and escape being considered at-risk, old, a granny mom.
But now here she was, 12 days exactly after a one-night stand. She picked him because he wasn’t ugly or short. And more importantly because he was an anchor on a late night cable news channel (or so he had said, she hadn’t actually recognized him), so she figured she might have a good shot at some decent child support. She’d need some, not a lot, just enough to give her child the things Claire couldn’t afford to give on her own – private school, music classes, clothes without labels that said Old Navy. She’d gotten him drunk enough that he didn’t wear a condom. Not that he didn’t reach for one. But she not so accidentally knocked it out of his hand and it was far too dark and they (he) was far too drunk to get off the couch and find it.
It wasn’t that she didn’t think what she was doing was wrong. She’s wasn’t crazy. Crazy people don’t know the difference between right and wrong. A crazy person would have had sex with a stranger in an effort to get pregnant and not even think twice. Claire did think twice. In fact, she thought about it three or four times at least over the course of the night, as she sat at the bar at The Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Station, an impressive room with a massive stone fireplace and a 20-foot high, decorative, beamed ceiling. She’d picked it because she was looking for an after work crowd. Men in suits, not boys in ripped jeans. She sat alone, told people who didn’t ask that she was waiting for a friend, dressed in a slim-fitting top that was tasteful, not cheap. She didn’t want to be mistaken for a hooker.
She had taken an ovulation test that very morning. Not the cheap stick kind, but the expensive one, a kit that cost her nearly $200. It had informed her for the past two days that her fertility was high, but that this was the day. She got a slight flutter in her stomach the moment she saw the oval egg in the window of purple and white plastic orb. Not just because she was excited, nervous. No, it was something more, a sign, a premonition, an instinct, a knowing feeling in her gut.
The first man to approach her offered to buy her a drink. She didn’t accept because she knew he wasn’t the one. He wasn’t the father of her out-of-wedlock child. He was tall, but also loud, and he had terrible fashion sense. A BlackBerry clipped onto his pocket and an unattractive tie. It wasn’t that she was looking for Mr. Perfect. But she wanted the baby to have a father he or she wouldn't be embarrassed by. Someone they could look forward to seeing on alternate Saturdays and the occasional Sunday.
As she sat there sipping a glass of the house cabernet, scanning the crowd, she continued to reassure herself that this was something she had to do, that the alternative, being childless, was much too scary. This was something she really wanted with all of her heart, and hadn’t she’d always been told to go after the things she really wanted. Not to let anyone or anything stand in her way, including a ticking biological clock? And what was so wrong about it anyway? Was she really being any worse than Madonna, who’d actually taken out an ad in a newspaper, or so she’d heard. What kind of effect would that have had on a child?
When she saw him, she knew. There was a group of men dressed in smart, stylish suits looking to blow off a little steam, and he was among them. He entered the room laughing. She waited a while, hoping he'd approach. She usually waited to be approached. She was never comfortable making the first move. Which, now that she thought about it, may have been partly responsible for her lackluster dating record. In spite of the fact she was a prettier than average girl, with features that were just a little off, which made her face memorable, interesting. Although she liked knowing she was capable of making people take notice, she rarely if ever refrained from hiding her face, which tended to make her come off as cold and aloof.
When he didn’t approach, she realized she’d have to gather up courage. That she’d have to act more like her friend Sam. Sam wasn’t as pretty as Claire, but she wasn’t afraid to flirt. Sam had a way of turning a simple move like reaching for a napkin into a sexy come-on. It didn’t matter that she was married. Claire knew it was never about getting the guy for Sam, just his attention. Sam wanted attention, nothing more. And she nearly always got it. And that’s all she got. Not because they didn’t want to offer her more.
At first Claire simply tried to make eye-contact, staring over at the group from time to time, hoping to catch the chosen guy’s eye. But they were oblivious. No doubt keeping themselves amused with interoffice gossip and politics. Consumed with fear this group might leave, that the father of her unborn (and as yet-to-be conceived) child might head off to dinner or a party or whatever other single guy thing he surely had planned, she ordered another drink before ungluing herself from the security of her velvety chair.
“Hi,”she said as she walked up to the group. “I’m Claire.” She was amazed at the effect of a simple introduction. Every man in his company immediately stopped and refocused their attention, all of it, on her.
She explained that her friend was a no-show and that rather than head home, she thought these guys looked like fun and would they mind if she joined them. As it turned out they were, in fact, going to a party and of course they'd love to have her along. What they didn’t know was that one of them would also be going home with a 38-year old, ovulating woman who desperately wanted to have a baby.

Claire looked down at the test. Positive.


GUEST BLOG POST

I love being a guest blogger from time to time. I don't have to keep up with my own blog, yet I still get to rant my thoughts to the world. This is a favorite post I did for a blog called "Drinking Diaries." They asked for a holiday essay that could be serious or funny, and the only requirement was that it involve alcohol. I was in.
"Vodka with a Splash of Co-Workers"
It’s that glorious time of the year again, when spiked eggnog starts flowing, cocktail shrimp is a plenty and inappropriate comments fill the air. Yes, my friends, ‘tis the season of the office holiday party, when we eagerly swap our turtleneck sweaters and wool blazers (in the 4th floor ladies’ restroom) for plunging necklines that leave little to those junior account execs’ imaginations. Give ‘em a few free cocktails, and who knows what could happen next. It’s likely they won’t even remember. At least they’ll be able to count on a few co-workers to fill them in, possibly with pictures.
Okay, perhaps I’m vaguely remembering my own office holiday party, circa 1997. I’m sure your company party is a much more dignified affair. Still, it seems like a good time to remind everyone of a few rules to follow when mixing alcohol with a roomful of officemates.
The first one is simple: Pace yourself. This rule is so simple, in fact, it shouldn’t be surprising that so many people with above-average intelligence manage to completely forget it. Perhaps they need a more challenging rule: Drink one glass of Perrier per every two vodka martinis and shot of tequila, followed by three olives, a whole lemon and a scotch on the rocks. Seriously, I don’t know what it is, but offer free drinks to a group of people who spend the majority of their day in a swivel chair and somehow you’ve got the cocktail version of a cruise ship buffet. Sure, they might not spend a dime, but they’ll pay for it later…and all the next day.
Rule #2: Wear dark colors. It’s inevitable. If you are wearing anything lighter than charcoal grey, red wine will spill on you – even if you’re drinking vodka straight up. Not only will this glaring red spot take your fabulous quotient down a few notches, it’ll also make the biggest teetotaler in the room look like a clumsy drunk. Not the look you’re going for as you await your holiday bonus. Which brings us to:
Rule #2A: Be especially careful if you’re a hand talker. I was once at a meet-and-greet party for the parents of kindergarteners when I was telling a story with a glass of wine in my hand. Needless to say, my Italian heritage kicked in and the next thing you know, my arms went from telling a story to splashing Chilean merlot right in my face. I wish I were kidding. The one saving grace: I was wearing black.
Rule #3: The more you drink, the more you should question your urge to dance. I know this rule is particularly challenging as the more people drink, the more likely they are to bust a move. But remember this, while you’re feeling like Britney Spears out there, you’re more likely looking like Elaine Benes from Seinfeld. That’s why I’m going to suggest that before the vodka fountain starts flowing, it might be wise to choose a “designated dancer.” This should be someone who actually does possess some impressive moves (preferably with hip hop abilities) who can steer the attention away from you in your moment of weakness.
Rule #4: Don’t try to get chummy with the boss. I know, I know, you’re thinking, “But what better time to get to know the person who’s responsible for my employment.” Actually, I can’t think of a worse time. In this sort of setting, it’s easy to imagine the hierarchical wall has suddenly come down. The boss is laughing, he’s nearly done with his fourth Belvedere and tonic. You can’t help but see it as your invitation to get honest with him. So you talk about the office and life in general and eventually, because you’re feeling so darn comfortable, you decide to ask if the rumor about him and his 23-year-old secretary is true. See where I’m going?
Rule #5: Don’t go in a closet. I know this one sounds obvious. I mean, who would go in a closet during an office party, right? Well, let’s just say, you’d be surprised. In fact, 79% of juicy office gossip involve closets. Okay, I made that fact up. But let’s just say I’ve heard a story or two. And no matter how cute the guy or gal next to you suddenly looks, or how persuasive they may be, heading into a closet with them is a surefire way to become Monday morning’s water cooler talk. So please, if you remember anything, remember this: good things don’t happen in closets.
Speaking of Monday, here’s Rule #6: Keep Monday in mind. It will arrive. And only you can decide whether you will be able to approach it with your head up or down. I love having fun with my co-workers. And I love free drinks. But I know (partly through experience), that you really do have to be careful mixing the two. Believe it or not, there is something worse than remembering what embarrassing thing you said or did…and that’s not remembering what embarrassing thing you said or did. At least with the former there’s the ability to do some damage control.
And finally, we’ve come to Rule #7. The most important one of all: Have fun. Honestly, even if you do drink a little more than you should, or you get a little too chummy with the boss, or you do somehow end up in a closet, don’t let yourself worry too much. After all, you’ve been working hard the whole past year; you definitely deserve to have a good time.


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