The only pet I’ve ever kept: a goldfish I gave the obligatory, loveless name of Fishy.
Fishy did not live long. Memory has hyperbolized Fishy’s lifespan to an afternoon, but maybe it was a day or two. A bag of neon colored gravel remained in the house far longer, in the cabinet underneath the sink. A colorful reminder that our desires for companionship or novelty can become pointless dominion. Also a reminder that the pet store that sold Fishy closed a long, long time ago, probably because it wasn’t very good.
At the mall, my parents buy me Squeaky the Mouse, which I quickly rename Squeakers. He’s from Ty Warner’s “Attic Treasures” line—a sibling to the popular Beanie Baby line, but definitely designed with a grandma’s aesthetics in mind. Having seen real Steiff animals since, they definitely weren’t that level of quality. But that’s what the Attic Treasures were attempting: to look like vintage, jointed, European-style plush. Ha. Strange, growing up among so much pastiche.
Anyway, the mouse became my favorite toy of all. I still have Squeakers. In fact he’s staring down from a bookshelf at me this very moment. He’s lost a lot of weight over the years.
I find them hidden underneath a chair when I wake up: a set of nine Pokémon cards in a clear acrylic file. A special promotional set to announce a new era. They’re all in Japanese. Three are holos. INSTANT. AWE.
Mom, we’re listening to Björk in the car today.
My bestie and her roommate throw me an actual party! I invite a weird assortment of friends. The party is funded with stripping money and so is reasonably lit. Enough so that jello shots feel an overindulgence. I don’t sleep much, and at 6 a.m. end up walking around Providence in search of a notebook to record my self-hating thoughts. I, ungrateful cur. Needing training still. I told you I wasn’t good with pets…Down, boy!
Midnight. A friend of Husband’s sister says: C’mon, you gotta do a shot. it’s your birthday.
OK…I glug. And a few more glugs after that. Drunken staring at the moon.
Some hours later: morning. Now inside the Wadsworth Athenaeum. I carefully pull open every drawer on a reconstructed Wunderkammer. Weird little things in their exact places. My most favorite kind of thing, in my most favorite kind of arrangement.
Husband, we’re listening to Prince in the car today. Right before we go walking in the woods.
After, we arrive at our hotel, and find ticks all over our clothes. At least three or four huge ticks. Thick little bugs with fat behinds that I’ve never seen before. Tiny ticks are scary on account of their smallness. These fuckers were just ungodly beasts. Sometimes it’s better not to know the names of demons.
We start freaking out. And we realize there are still ticks in the car. They’re crawling out, seemingly, from inside the dashboard. OMg omg Omg OMfgggg….
We try recuperating over burgers. Then we drive to a bookstore 20 minutes away, an old barn full of tomes. At my birth time, I take a selfie, having just browsed a section labelled “gulag memoirs.” I buy Lynda Barry’s comic One! Hundred! Demons!, an aching and heartfelt exorcism. Plus an English translation of selections from Mao.
The Mao intrigues the older clerk.
Bookseller: Are you, a, uh, student?
Me: No. Just a reader.
I smile. And then, the car ride back: more ticks. Crawling. From inside the vehicle.
We pull an all nighter. Listen to a CD I made. As well as a new kpop song that slaps. Take a nap. Eat pad thai. Oodles. Delicious. Just perfectly satisfied. My best friends in Animal Crossing—a horse, a cat and a sheep—give me a piñata to whack apart. Then they remind me, obliquely, that I’m gunna die someday.
The Worcester Art Museum. I meet with the curator, having emailed a few days prior with hopes of seeing a few pieces from storage. The curator happily obliged. And so for a half hour, I hang out with a Joan Mitchell, a Twombly, and two Arbus prints. The Twombly is functional, somewhat ordinary for him. The Arbuses crisp. And the Mitchell has a lovely, childlike palette of primary red and blue, with fizzles of black at the bottom. It looks celebratory. And still it shakes with Mitchell’s typical boastfulness.
The curator clues me in: There’s a big Mitchell on the museum’s third floor. On the way out, the curator’s assistant wishes me a happy birthday. Feeling joyful, I sprint to the Mitchell. A painting named Blue Tree. Everything in it gravitates around a confident blue.
Joan Mitchell: her brush could ravage. Her colors tear you apart. A remembered waterfall rushes back over me. Inculcating force. I’m not a mouse anymore. I promise myself: in this year of my life, I’ll be more like this painting.
I spend the day’s remainder in a hotel pool. A thunderstorm chuckles outside as green swimsuit glides through unnatural blue. No one else is around. Supreme contentedness. I have pad thai for dinner again. I drink red wine and laugh, probably for the first time in my life, at Rick and Morty.