Kasey convinces me to go out with her to Drag Queen Bingo on Saturday night.
I have put a pot of chicken soup with rice on the stove and it is halfway through its making when Kasey’s message comes in. My parents had given me one of those expensive, enameled cast-iron pots for my birthday, and I’d wanted to use it.
Hence soup. Also, if you are not familiar:
After Kasey mentions Bingo, I think on it, and realise that I have a refrigerator, and can take the par-cooked soup off the stove; come home and finish it later. The chicken, after all, is cooked.
I tell Kasey I will see her downtown shortly.
Here’s the thing about the soup: I’d bought the chicken; butchered the thing myself. Struggled with cracking the bones and slicing it into identifiable parts.
How am I not supposed to retch when I can feel the breaking of the bones of this fragile thing beneath my hand?
Snap goes the breastbone; crack goes the thigh.
The first half-chicken was, admittedly, something of a messy disaster, with hacked-up chicken parts strewn across the cutting board. Is that a…breast? A thigh? Perhaps only the wing and the drumstick were sort-of identifiable.
But on to the second half of the bird, and I was confident in the cracking. Methodical. Slicing through skin and sinew. It was not the finest work I have ever done, or the most satisfying. But it got done.
And we must eat in order to live, and I knew had to start living in a different way than I was before.
I had put the chicken pieces in my new pan, and browned them, then I added the vegetables; the stock.
As the soup is simmering, I get ready to go out. I am in one of those Transitional Phases where I feel I have nothing to wear. Things seem tired and worn-out. All my clothes seem Unwearable, and I feel unwilling to spend more money on clothing that will look exactly like the stuff I don’t want to put on in the first place.
I get dressed anyway.
I walk to 86th Street to catch the weekend local 4/5 since the 6 isn’t running due to construction. I have had an Irrational Thing Against Taxis throughout my eight years in New York. So I take the train to Bleecker Street, which is where I used to take the train from Brooklyn Bridge when I was a new New Yorker.
I listen to Paul Simon on the train; Bleecker Street fills my ears. I don’t know why I listen to this shit — it always reminds me of that horrible day when I realised that I understood Paul Simon lyrics in the fundamental that only divorcees can and do. And I laugh at myself a little.
Like a shroud, it covers Bleecker Street.
When I show up at Drag Queen Bingo a few minutes later, a short walk down Bleecker between Sullivan and Thompson, I discover that Kasey and I have both chosen to wear plaid skirts, tights, and t-shirts.
We look like refugees from a girls’ school, I laugh.
A little later in the evening, the Drag Queen’s assistant walks the floor and tells us: That’s HOT. You look like a Catholic school girl (pointing to me) and YOU look like a sexy Laura Palmer (pointing to Kasey.)
The night goes on. I suck at Bingo because I don’t pay attention. Then some boys come around and hit on us. Despite the one’s clean-shaven head, I quickly realise they are much, much younger than we are. They tell us they are lawyers, and they try to impress with their credentials. They were still undergrads when I was done with law school. I stifle a chortle.
But then Bingo is done, and the Drag Queens don leather and masks, and we are Out of Our League. We are school girls, in tartan and talc and roses, so we stumble into the grunge-cum-laude NYU night, where Bleecker and Sullivan meet, and mummy and daddy still foot the bill. And Kasey heads for Brooklyn and I revert to the Upper East Side…
…Where I open the fridge, and I remove the cast iron pot, and I resume my chicken soup with rice.