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26 December 2005


Accidental Tourist

I am the world’s worst tourist.

When my ex and I traveled to Turkey one vacation, he photographed the sites. I photographed the people. My favorite is a shot of an old man sitting on a stool in the middle of a sidewalk, carving wooden spoons. I guess I am just inclined to look past the obvious for the unusual/weird/bizarre.

I once made a pilgrimage to the world’s largest ball of twine. I have vacationed in Cleveland because I thought it sounded...unexpected. I tend to seek out the hidden spots, the funny shops which sell party favors and antiques side by side where you can sit and talk with the owner whose cat is roaming the dusty shelves, navigating between cans of Silly String and the sunbleached skulls of large animals.

New York has plenty of weirdness. It’s also filled with tourist spots, naturally, and when I was planning this visit I let it slip that I’d never visited the city in December. I think I heard Viviane’s ass hit the floor in front of her computer.

“Oh, my dog! Maddie, we have to take you to see the tree in Rockefeller Center! It’s gorgeous! And the ice skaters!”

Viviane has appointed herself my culture guru on everything NYC. I think it’s great, and I’m game to see the tree (I can take a photo and show my kids, right?). Better not let her know that I’ve never been to the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building (oops…too late).

After the concert, we were all so high. Viviane had a few people to say hello to, and Jefferson and I said we’d meet her outside. We had our coats draped over our arms as we started down the stairs. Halfway down we were stopped by our reflections in the enormous mirror on the opposite wall.

“Hot damn, we look good!”

“Let’s go back up and walk down again!”

Jefferson went to find the men’s room while I stood watching a group of students wearing jeans and Birkenstocks and handknitted scarves, their arms wrapped around each other. Suddenly I was thirsty. I turned and walked a few steps toward the drinking fountain.

Around the corner came the senator and Mrs. Kerry. They walked quickly and he nodded at me as they passed. Maybe I smiled. Of course, I was smiling already.

By the time my brain registered what had just happened, they were several yards away, his pink scarf around his neck. I turned to look back at them.

“Hah, John Kerry, you don’t know it, but I was there, on the back of your neck just a little bit ago, and you smelled good.”

I got my drink and saw Jefferson walking toward me.

“Jefferson! Did you see who just passed?”

“Oh, you mean John Kerry? Yes, I just blew him in the men’s room. He said to tell you hello.”

“Shut up! He just looked down my dress and said to tell you thanks.”

We walked outside, pushing through the people gathered to watch as the Kerrys got into their Escalade and were driven away. We met Viviane out there.

“Did you see John Kerry?”

“Yes, we did. It has got to be such a drag for him…all those people coming up and shaking his hand saying, ‘Hey, man, sorry you lost the election.’”

I laughed as we walked down Seventh Avenue, stopping for swigs from Jefferson’s flask. My headache was returning. I tried to ignore it, cursing the cold air and my uncooperative sinuses. We rounded the corner into Rockefeller Plaza and Viviane announced, “There it is!”

The plaza was alive with people standing around, snapping photos of the tree.

I looked up and thought to myself, ‘Now that’s a big fucking tree.’

Sort of like the time I went to the Grand Canyon, got out of the car and stood at the edge, thinking, “This is one big fucking hole.”

Not because it wasn’t impressive. It is damn impressive. Only I’d seen so many pictures and film footage and had studied it in Geology classes, the magic was lost.

The tree was sort of like that. Viviane posed us and took photos. (“For the boys!”) She sent me the best photo the next day. Jefferson and I look like a very respectable couple, out for a stroll after a show. I almost don’t recognize us.

We moved closer into the plaza, past the tree and Viviane said, “Come see the skaters! Ooh, Madeline, come over here, you can get a better view!”

“Why, did somebody wipe out?”

“Ach, you’re impossible!”

“I know, I’m sorry…it’s just that I have this headache and it’s fucking cold. Can we go home now?”

“Of course; you guys wanna come back to my place? I’m way too energized by that concert; I’m gonna be up for hours.”

“Do you have food? Because we haven’t eaten dinner.”

“Of course,” Viviane said as we walked, “Oh, Maddie…look! Christmas Window Displays! But, then, you’re not interested…”

Actually, I thought the displays were pretty cool. And if the night were slightly less frigid I’d have stayed to look.

We took a cab to Viviane’s place. She poured drinks and set out a late supper of soup and baguette. We talked about the concert and the Gay Sex DVD we’d watched earlier. I was quiet. My head and neck hurt and I was goddamned tired.

“Let’s move to the couch; I want to put my feet up. Maddie, I can work on your headache if you’d like.”

I sat on the sofa between Jefferson and Viviane. She pressed on the acupressure points at the base of my skull. Jefferson held my hand.

“This is actually supposed to hurt …let me see if I can get more leverage.”

“No, baby, you’re fine. I can take a lot of pain, remember? It’s working; it’s just that I am so tired. I want to go to bed.”

“Why don’t you go lie down in the bedroom? You two can sleep here.”

Viviane’s arm was across my shoulders, my head on her chest.

“I think I should take Madeline home, honey. It’s late, and we’ll be back tomorrow night for dinner, right?”

“Of course. Just know that it’s no trouble at all, you know, if you don’t feel like schlepping across town this late.”

“We know, thanks. Come on, headache girl. Let’s get you home to bed.”

I felt a little guilty leaving Viviane alone, energized as she was from the evening, but I also knew that leaving her place the next morning in the same clothes I was wearing tonight, without having brushed my teeth would have felt worse.

We hailed a cab and I leaned against Jefferson’s shoulder, closing my eyes. He petted my hair and kissed my forehead and roused me when we were about to drive through the park, because the snow was so pretty.

My accidental tourist mind recalled the group of people we’d passed in a crosswalk earlier, each one wearing a santa claus hat. The life-sized SpongeBob SquarePants hanging out at the entrance to Rockefeller Plaza. The judge sitting next to me in our box at the concert who let it be known, in no uncertain terms that she marries people, casting a sideways look to Jefferson.

We got a lot of mileage from that exchange during my visit.

We walked into the apartment and he took my coat. He led me to the bedroom where we both undressed. I joined him in the bathroom where teeth were brushed and faces washed. I stayed an extra few minutes removing the mascara from my eyes and smoothing on moisturizer.

When I walked into the bedroom the lights were off and he was in bed. He held out his hand and I took it, climbing over him, sliding beneath the duvet.

“How’s the head?”

“It’s feeling better; Viv’s thumbs and the Tylenol I took seem to have worked.”

“Pauvre chere. Your face smells…citrus-y!”

“It’s my new moisturizer…baby, I had such a nice time tonight. It really was wonderful. Thank you.”

“Honey, any excuse to get dressed up with you I’ll take, but seeing you in a box at Carnegie Hall…well, that was my joy.”

And for the first time, an evening with Jefferson was not ending in sex. We were relaxed, exhausted and warm, my head on his chest, his arm behind me, talking quietly as we do.

We kissed and fell asleep.


Blogger Olympia said...

It's lovely how everyone is so sweet and loving.

Also, you mentioning pain reminds me of a term and idea highlighted in a well-written fantasy trilogy by Jacqueline Carey.


A person who gains sensual/sexual pleasure and orgasmic release from pain.

Blogger Lexi said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Frenchy said...

sometimes love sets in quietly... in other news , my favorite pic of amsterdam is nuns singing xmas songs in front of a window full of dildos. je te comprends.


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