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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rejected by Brevity: "Wannabe Housewife"

I still have a very love/hate relationship with posting personal, revealing things here, but if I'm ever going to be a writer (I guess I already am, but I mean, in a bigger, better way), I have to stop caring about the judgments. So I submitted this to the journal Brevity, a venue I'm determined to crack and learn how to write succinct essays. It got rejected, but since it's set in LA, on the trip before the last one, I thought I might share it here. I didn't go back and re-edit it for this blog, or even reread it. I am grateful for the rejection for forcing me to study and analyze the writing there and try to come up with something that will work. I have a few essays and stories lurking on the edges of my mind.

I will say I spent so much of last year lamenting missing people, lamenting the things I did wrong in so many relationships. I think there is a value in figuring out where I can be a better person, where I've hurt people, but I also think there's a way that can become an endless loop that just makes you feel awful. So I was trying to capture a moment I still remember so well - I wrote my tattoo essay in that hotel room - where I was really happy and hopeful. And I still am, I just am trying not to focus all that hopefulness outside of me and onto other people, and onto the parts of my life I can control and have a say in.

California is such a weird state for me; the Bay Area is like the ex capital for me (more on that later, but let's just say, I'm so glad I'm single), and weird things happen to me in Los Angeles. Hopefully not this time around!

Wannabe Housewife
by Rachel Kramer Bussel

I’m shopping at a Vons at a strip mall in Burbank, California. It’s the middle of the day, and we’re in the middle of a heat wave, the kind where simply crossing the street makes you forget everything you ever liked about the sun and think of it as an evil force you must escape from by any means necessary. In this case, that means a grocery store, plus, I need water. Everything about this is surreal; I live in Brooklyn, I have a 9-to-5 job. Most salient, though, is the fact that I don’t cook, yet suddenly, surrounded by endless aisles of foods I didn’t even know existed, along with some I did, I have this urge to cook⎯not for me, but for him, the boy who’s hotel room I’m borrowing for the day.

I say boy but really he’s a man, of course, but I like saying boy. His hands remind me of a boy’s, small and soft and sweet, unlike the rest of him. He can be sweet, but he can also be tough, prickly, hard to read. Even though he has one of the biggest penises I’ve ever seen, his hands are my favorite part of his body. I held one in mine as we fell asleep the night before in the giant hotel bed, the best kind.

As I stroll past the industrial size packages of beef jerky, I start to think about what he might want to eat, what might be helpful after a long day. I start to imagine myself rushing home to him with groceries, spending the day in an apron, in a kitchen. Not a specific kitchen, not his, or mine, but a fantasy one, in a big suburban house, not either of our Brooklyn kitchens.

Maybe because I’ve never spent a day, or even a night, whipping myself into a frenzy to cook anything, I find this image sexy. I like the idea of him off working and me home, alternating writing and cooking as seamlessly as one might cracking one egg, then moving on to the next⎯if one were good at cracking eggs.

Even though I’m going back home tonight, I say yes when asked if I want a Vons club card. You never know; maybe I’ll be back, right here, in this very same strip mall. Maybe I’ll even be staying with him.

I wind up buying the giant bag of beef jerky for myself, and a gallon of water for him. It’s hot out there, even though we’re in a luxury hotel. I don’t want him to get dehydrated.

We don’t have that kind of relationship, one where we worry about each other’s health, at least, not officially. I feel like such a girl, but, well, I am one, even at 34; maybe I’ll always be. I want to be the girl to his boy, no matter how many women’s studies classes I took deconstructing those notions. I want him to want me to feed him, comfort him, love him. That is what Vons makes me think about, when I’m not marveling over things like s’mores Goldfish crackers and Scrabble Junior™ Cheez-It®s, and wondering when the last time I actually shopped in a supermarket was.

Later that night, on my way to the airport, I ask the cab to drop me off. I was given five sandwiches for free, and, while delicious, even I can only eat so many spicy cold cuts. I’ve saved the spiciest one for him. This is my version of being a housewife; I rush out of the cab and tell the clerk his name and room number. I’ve scrawled my name on the label so he knows who it’s from, texting him to let him know I’m dropping something off. I leave as the clerk is picking up the phone to dial, slipping into the backseat, thankful we’re mere minutes from the airport.

I never hear back from him as to whether he got the sandwich, whether he liked it, and I’m too prideful to ask. “Maybe he never got it,” a friend suggests, and I picture the clerk, who’d seemed kind and professional, putting the phone down the moment I’d departed and helping himself to the soppressata.

I don’t ask in part because I don’t want to ruin the fantasy, to release myself from all I’ve invested in that sandwich. I still don’t know how to cook, despite an hour in the air-conditioned grocery store. Maybe it’s time I learn.

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