You know that 1966 song “96 Tears” by Question Mark and the Mysterians? Its writer, Question Mark himself, changed it from “69 Tears” because no radio station would play it otherwise. When I first heard that story as a college freshman in 1998, I laughed, since one of that year’s most popular songs, “Too Close” by Next, dealt in its entirety with some guy getting a boner while dancing close to his girl. Both hits from one-hit wonders who didn’t know about my virginity, now my forever virginity. Not that I expected them to, I guess. You can’t know everything.
I hated Windows 95 ’cause every time it crashed at work, that meant the computer guy would visit. “I have no problems with Windows,” he’d tell us haughtily. Then he’d stare at my breasts. Finally, one time, he did more than stare; he “tripped,” fell toward me, and grabbed a handful. “Oops,” he said.
I kicked him in the crotch. “Oops,” I said. The boss—an overgrown fratboy who’d stare at my ass—fired me. It took me forever to lose the lawsuit I filed. Now, twenty-five years later, I really hate Windows 95 ’cause it’s gained nostalgic hipster cachet.
Due to some nasty tweets from right-wing Christians, my employer, WebFresh International, briefly considered scrapping its young-adult e-comics series, Radical T, featuring retro-Eighties, teenage trans superheroes who wear headbands. So during one (socially-distanced) breakroom break, noshing on my artisanal cruller, I said “I hope when those Bible-thumpers die and end up sucking cock in heaven, they don’t forget to lick the scrote.” My coworkers laughed. Finally I’d paraphrased that classic movie, The Exorcist. But someone ratted me out to HR, and now I have to waste a couple hours this Saturday in virtual sensitivity training. Moral: Disney movies suck nothing.
Okay, okay, I heard you the first time. I’ll buy it after the game ends….No, they’ll still be open….Of course I’m sure. They have extended hours on Fridays, everyone wanting to stock up for the weekend. You of all people should know that….Yes, I have to watch this. Do you have to watch your fucking shows?…Well, too bad. Maybe you shouldn’t be a pothead then…Yeah, yeah, I’m a boozer….Okay, fine, I’ll go. But you gotta give me a blowjob first. Just don’t block the screen….Well, fuck you too….Bye, pothead……..When’ll they have real audiences at these games again? Fucking COVID.
The one argument too many, the death knell for all marriages regardless of the spouses or the American presidential administration, has arrived, caused by his, for the umpteenth time, having clipped his toenails several feet away from the wastebasket, keratinous crescents lying on the bedroom carpet, her usual annoyance over his thoughtlessness exacerbated by his refusal to apologize; instead, sitting in the living-room recliner, watching Eighties rockabilly videos on his phone, he chuckles deprecatingly at her, welcoming what follows as validation for his having mentally (and secretly) divorced her ass months earlier. Plus, bonus points, she can’t fucking stand rockabilly.
Another morning, another commute. Sitting in his car, stuck in traffic, he wonders if he should move to the city so he could live closer to the office, partake of high culture, and have his pick of fine ladies. But he realizes that even if he could afford moving, preferably to a gentrified area—low crime, unthreatening minorities—well, not minorities, you call them POCs, persons of color, now—well, eventually, the economy would contract, and that gentrified area would go to hell. Everything in the city goes to hell eventually. But suburbia endures. White bread’s packed with preservatives. Yum.
The Nineties, the Nineteen-Freaking-Nineties, started with that recession where I lost the clerical job I’d had for fifteen years. Buh-bye health coverage. And hello breast cancer. One lumpectomy later (including radiation therapy and reconstruction), and I had to go bankrupt. Then I started drinking. Then I got involved with a bigger drunk, a guy who liked beating me even when sober. Then the breast cancer returned and—not even that Seinfeld episode about Elaine’s nipple could salvage that decade. Plus I still miss the building where I’d had my clerical job. That place lacked so much character, it had character.
Alone in her dorm room at two AM, pounding away at her laptop, almost somewhat close to finishing that report due in seven hours, jacked up on energy drinks, Morgan speculates for some reason that her mother’s yoga instructor’s unmarried, childless, middle-aged, rabidly-Catholic, permanently pursed-lipped cousin, Bonnie Gurman, is probably either a virgin or a closet lesbian or both. For a few seconds, Morgan thinks she herself—a nonvirginal pansexual—should beneficently have sex with Bonnie.
Nah, not my type, Morgan decides. I like tawny skin. And big boobs. Does that sound shallow? Sorry, Bonnie. Hee hee. Why the hee-heeing?
When I was five, my mother decided I should learn piano, so I’d get cultured. This lady named Mrs. Birchak would visit for an hour every week, teaching me pieces such as “Tumbling Puppy” and “Ode to a Dumpling.” I grew to enjoy playing that instrument. But after a month, she told me at the beginning of class, “Well, dear, maybe you consider doing something else.” And she left. I never saw her again. Or played any instrument again. Seventy years later, I’ve started making colored sand bottles at the senior center. That counts as doing something else, I guess.