Issue 117, Winter 1990
I really hate these readings, the famous author comes and reads from his book and then there’s a discussion afterwards, and you can ask questions, I was the first to raise my hand, and he said, you have a question? And then he goes home and reads his bank books, and you go home and stare at the blank piece of paper in the typewriter, and the laundry was really piling up in my apartment. Thus, in the middle of the night, mysterious knocks on my door, a voice hissing, do your laundry, bitch! I called the police, but the police said, do your laundry, bitch! too. And a message left with my answering service: Landlord called, understands you have a big pile of laundry in your apartment, wants to know if you are going to do the laundry or what, suggests you read the terms of the lease of your low rent and still rent-controlled apartment which you still occupy after all these years and which does not provide for the piling up of laundry.
I think the mysterious knocks on my door, etc., may be from the laundryman who lives in the basement with the laundry machines and he’s very hostile towards me, or maybe it’s Marcos, the super, who has a sperm problem, but will he listen to me, no. And he said, you have a question, he said, the famous author, not Marcos. He was here to do a reading from his major new novel soon to be a major motion picture and all that garbage, and starring Meryl Streep, no doubt, I said. And he said, you have a question, he said. And I said, how about that Out of Africa, I said, it was not one of your better readings by an author from a new work, you could barely hear him, it was such a lousy sound system. But as the psychiatrist said, who listens. And he said, you have a question, he said. And I said, yes, I had a question, I said. They have this big telescope now, I said.
The audience rustled, restless; the place was crowded, standing room only, they hated my question about the telescope, and someone yelled, go home and do your laundry, bitch! and he said, you have a question, he said. I popped a calcium pill into my mouth and chewed quickly to prevent further bone loss. The question about the telescope seemed to have aroused his interest, aroused something; he sat there scratching at his zipper; perhaps he saw the telescope as a phallic symbol, his writings were filled with the phallic. This from a man who may not even have any real sperm, I’m not saying he does, I’m not saying he doesn’t, what am I, his sperm bank?
Marcos, the super in my building, was always scratching, he wore these incredibly tight jeans, which is where the problem with the sperm came in, but will he listen to me, no. Marcos was always down there in the basement with the laundryman, the laundryman who did not scratch; he wore a metal crown on his head with six points, each point a different color, red blue gold green, etc., and he was just too elegant to scratch. He just sat there looking at me, hostile, that was because he didn’t like my laundry. This feeling about my laundry frightens me sometimes, he frightens me, but what can I do, live my life for the laundryman; excuse me, it’s enough trying to live my life for myself, and the common good, to vote, to support public television, not to wear fur, and lest we forget, the woman in the elevator, the dead one, which was an integral part of my question about the telescope, and he said, you have a question, he said, and I said, yes, I had a question, I said. I stopped for a moment to listen to the gentle snore of my immune system asleep on the job. They have this big telescope now, I said. That was the question, I said. I could hear the sound of brain cells dropping away in my brain pan, millions of cells a day, all irreplaceable, I really hate these readings.
They’ll probably create an award for it soon, for Best Reading by an author from a new work, and the winner is, you have a question, he said. The winner is definitely not me, I said. I had no new work. Excuse me, I said, what I had was a pile of laundry in my apartment waiting to be cleansed of pizza stains and coffee and soy sauce and some brown blotchy stuff I couldn’t name. And he gave out such a yell.