Vertically Inclined


Obi threw out his back dead-lifting an opera singer at a rehearsal for that not-for profit, union-busting Succubus of an institution where art goes to die. Sunday morning finds him supine on the hardwood floor of his apartment, soul searching, instead of drinking coffee with me. Just when I need him the most.

No one to talk to, nothing important to do, a little too much time on my hands, I harass my dog with rambunctious displays of affection until she hides under the bed.

As summer makes a speedy exit and my dog eyes me with distrust, I’m left to rattle around in the house of my imagination, and I’m pulled towards the attic where memories live. I’m tempted to dig through boxes, handle clues, and search for Where It All Began.

The task is more than useless. It’s problematic.

First of all, no life can be reduced to a single “it.” Rather, life’s a series of “its.” Like an “it” tree. All the “its,” attach by overpowering magnetic force, spawn like an endless display of flowers and buds, or cling to fine filaments of spider silk.

The attic of memories looks suspiciously like the attic of the house I grew up in. It’s an unfinished crawl space with boards laid across the beams from one end to the other. The room is stuffy and hot, no matter the season, and packed with dusty old toys, suitcases of ancient gloves and hats, and haunting portraits of people I assume are relatives, though no one could ever tell me who they were.

In the attic of memories in the house of imagination, boxes are crammed with impressions, recollections, remembrances, and dreams. All it takes is a thought, fleeting feeling, a turn of a phrase for that fucking attic door to tumble open.

Why the hell was Obi dead-lifting an opera singer? You’d think he would have learned a thing or two when he was cast to perform naked yoga at that opera at BAM. I call him to tell him so. He doesn’t pick up.

What I most want to talk to Obi about were the instructions a recent date presented to me should I decide to break up with him. He gave his guidance on our first date, which leads me to believe there might be a second date. And a third, and maybe a fourth. We might even date beyond the point where changing one’s phone number or moving out of town is a sufficient strategy for breaking up.

As I tend to locate the exit doors to all my relationships prior to take off, knowing how things should end before they begin strangely comforting.

The instructions:

If and when I decide to break up with him, all I need to do is make him a perfectly seasoned, nicely breaded, baked until golden brown, topped with melted mozzarella and a subtly nuance tomato sauce, zucchini parmesan.

They say the way into a man’s heart is his stomach. I guess it’s also the way out.

When he says this, the attic trap blows open and a certain box, rattled by the wind calls to me.

I have history with zucchini.

My father was a city boy. He grew up on the lower east side of Manhattan, decades before it was a desirable neighborhood. The only vegetables he knew were pickles, black olives, and over-cooked peas. It wasn’t until he was well in thirties, installed in a house in the suburbs with a wife and children and an ample lawn, that he decided to have a vegetable garden.

In this garden, with the help of his reluctant daughters, he grew carrots, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, radishes, corn, and zucchini.

I don’t know if you know about zucchini and how it grows, but it grows. And grows. And grows. If you don’t take the zucchini off the vine, it grows. Perhaps he believed the length of his zucchini a testament to his green thumb. His zucchini grew to mythic proportions. tall as a six-year-old child, as durable as a baseball bat, as fat as boa constrictor. The zucchini grew big enough to eat us.

My mother, a terrible cook, incorporated zucchini in every meal. She baked zucchini bread so heavy and moist that it soaked through our lunch bags. Then there was stuffed zucchini, zucchini pasta, zucchini crudite, zucchini boats, zucchini casserole, and soggy zucchini parmesan.

My father, a terrible cook, stewed the leftover zucchini. He bought a freezer to store it in.

Winter, spring, summer, and fall, zucchini plagued my family. Even after my father died, my mother and I worked through the rubbery, frozen zucchini my father left behind. It was when I left for college, that my mother finally tossed the remaining leftovers and gave the freezer away.

Breaking up zucchini style makes perfect sense to me.

But, what are my break-up instructions? I have none. I think I should figure something out. Something easy. Something fun.

Break up by zucchini doesn’t work for me, as I’ve healed relationship with the melon. I don’t know any other foods that would prompt me to end a relationship, no matter how bland.

I look to the bookcase and pull the dating reference tome “How to Succeed With Women,” by Ron Louis and David Copeland.

Chapter 13 in “How to Succeed With Women” offers a comprehensive overview on how to break up. This counter advice is woefully omitted in the their lauded follow-up book “How to Succeed With Men.” No matter. I’m well prepared to break up with someone via zucchini. All I’ll need to do is a little food shopping, a little food preparation, and turn on the oven. What I need is to figure out the easiest, nicest, most pleasant way for someone to break up with me.

They instruct on the pre-work for a breakup:

* Don’t date a woman for more than a month.

* Get all your things out of her apartment first.

* Make sure she doesn’t view you as a long term man.

* Don’t plan events with her in advance.

* Don’t be the perfect boyfriend.

All helpful hints, but I lack imagination when it comes to the actual event. The rest of the chapter is no help.

I try Obi again. He picks up.

He’s still supine, but bored with soul searching. I read him the break-up chapter.


“Asparagus,” he says.

“I like asparagus.”

“When I was young, my mother made us harvest wild asparagus from the graveyard. I can’t even look at it without thinking about dead people.”

“I don’t have those issues.”

“Yeah. Definitely asparagus.”

I guess everyone’s got their thing.20140914_084300

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