At my age, I had honestly begun to despair of ever finding love again. Once, when I sauntered into Carlos ‘n’ Charlie’s on Sunset Blvd., lovely young women would pout and stick their breasts out as I passed. In the past 25 years, though, no woman I haven’t paid has seemed so much as to notice me. I blame the fact that my ears and nose are almost twice their original size now, and that the hair that no longer grows out of my scalp is growing instead out of my nostrils, in profusion. I blame no less the fact that my neck resembles poultry’s, and that, however much Old Spice I might douse myself with every morning, it isn’t nearly enough to make up for the stench emanating from the diapers into which my incontinence has forced me.
But the old Dean Martin favorite turns out, to my infinite relief and delight, to be true; somewhere there was, and is, a someone for me. Her name is Consuelo. I am unable to pronounce her last name, as it isn’t familiarly Spanish — not Gomez or Lopez, not Ramirez or Martinez — but a weird Indian one. She is from Honduras, not entirely legally, I don’t think. She speaks no English, at least that I can hear, but that isn’t saying much, as my hearing took a powder at approximately the same time my continence did. I have a hearing aid, but it amplifies everything, rather than only that which you’re trying to hear, and is unpleasant to wear. Consuelo and I communicate primarily with our eyes.
She is a member of the staff here at GoldenYears, without a space, to which my son and daughters condemned me after each of them had taken a turn trying to accommodate me in his or her respective home. Todd’s brat children couldn’t bear the way I smell. Edie’s prima donna husband LaMarcus got bent out of shape about having to help me out of the bathtub a few times, and about my peeing in it, and Ella got even more bent out of shape about my going for a walk on the freeway one afternoon when I was supposed to be looking after her two kids, who aren’t much more palatable to me than Todd’s.
So I occasionally call them by Todd’s kids’ names! You’d think they’d admire me for being able to remember any name at all, but no. They act approximately as Mary Ellen [surname withheld] did when I swallowed my pride and applied for a greeter’s job at Walmart in ’65 or ’75 or whenever it was. I’m pretty sure there was a 5 in it. She had me put a bunch of index cards in alphabetical order — real difficult! — and then had me fill out this Minnesota something-or-other “inventory” to make sure I didn’t believe aliens were trying to communicate with me through the fillings in my teeth, and only when I’d passed both with flying colors did she finally offer me the job. I, trying to be sociable, trying to do that Dale Carnegie thing of pretending to find the other person interesting, asked when she was expecting, and she wasn’t expecting at all, but was just big-bellied, and you should have seen the hatred in her eyes!
I guess there were legal reasons she couldn’t retract the job offer just because she felt insulted, and it was a good thing, because with three children and a wife who every afternoon like clockwork went through a fifth of gin, and was absolutely nobody’s idea of a “good mother,” may God rest her poor, troubled soul, I badly needed that paycheck.
But weren’t we talking about something else?
Oh, yes. I remember now. That girl I’m in love with, the little Mexican one. No. I beg your pardon. Honduran, as from Honduras. Tegucigalpa, to be exact. And don’t think it didn’t take me a good couple of weeks to memorize that particular mouthful. The Goosey Gulper is how I remember it. I know that doesn’t make a damned bit of sense, but neither does 80 percent of the American public thinking President What’s-His-Name is a Muslim. People didn’t used to be so stupid when I lived out in the world, where everything isn’t beige like it is in this goddamn hellhole.
There. I’ve said it. Hellhole. It’s reasonably clean, I suppose, and I can imagine that less expensive places probably smell worse, but I can tell you that after a month or two surrounded by all this beigeness, by all the artificial flowers and pleasant music and taped birdsong and tasteless, texture-less beige food those of us who have any hair left are darned near pulling it out by the handful.
Obama. President Obama. Our first Irish president. Get it? O’Bama? I've always had a sense of humor. That's one thing no one can take away from m e.
Three weeks in here and I’ve figured out I’ve got two choices. I can go gentle into that good night — that is, I can let all the beige and artificial flowers and pleasant Muzak sedate me into not knowing for sure if I’m alive or dead — or I can make the choice to live, and nothing says you’re alive so much, at least if you’re a fellow, as wanting to shoot a gal full of sperm. Just the other night I saw on the National Geographic channel that nothing makes clearer to a zoo that a pair of animals is adapting well than their conceiving offspring.
Deciding that I’d much rather die while screwing at 82 than of boredom at 87 or 88 was the easy part. The much harder part was figuring out whom to screw. I could have had any of the female inmates in a heartbeat — after 75, the gals outnumber the fellows by about eight to one — but the sad fact is that I could picture it feeling like screwing my grandmother. I may actually be older than a lot of them, and I might have cataracts, but when I look at them, it’s through the eyes of the 27-year-old version of myself.
I began looking at the help in a new way — first, of course, at the few English speakers, because I thought a lot of things would be easier with them. After dinner one night, I worked up the nerve to ask one of the little waitresses if she thought we should go into the darkroom and see what developed. I guess that in this era of digital photography, it was stupid to imagine she’d have any idea what I meant, and she didn’t, so I tried asking instead if she’d consider a roll in the hay. As she put two and two together, a look of horror that ought to have been on a movie poster set up camp on her face. She said, “Eww!” and dropped her armful of plates. She looked, as she scrambled for the kitchen, as though she might upchuck.
I thought maybe I’d better stick with immigrants, who were a lot more likely to be impressed by my having a few bucks in my wallet — not that I was very often able to remember where I kept it hidden. But of course I’m speaking metaphorically. I do indeed misplace everything, but have no need of a wallet in GoldenYears, and don’t carry one. What I have is a nice chunk of change in the bank, well into the five-figure range at last count.
In any event, I asked a laundress, Rosa, whose English wasn’t sensational, but a whole lot better than my Spanish, if she’d be my translator. When I told her my intentions, I think her feathers might have been a little bit ruffled by my lack of designs on her, but come on now; she's not exactly Jennifer Lopez. She asked how much I had in mind to pay. I guess the days of anybody doing anything out of the goodness of her heart are long gone.
It occurred to me that even immigrant girls might respond better to a more subtle approach than I’d used on the little white waitress, so what I had Rosa ask the first two she approached for me was if they wanted to grab a bite after work on New Year’s Eve. Rosa didn’t understand “grab a bite” at first, and seemed to think I had mayhem in mind. To spare myself embarrassment, I asked her to talk to the girls when I wasn’t around. One of the first two had a boyfriend back in Guatemala, and the other dated only Catholics as devout as she, and I haven’t been to confession since the early ‘70s, if I ever went at all. I may be Episcopalian or some goddamned thing for all I can remember. Back to the drawing board.
After three more failures, Rosa came to tell me that her new assistant had agreed to go out with me last night on the condition that I keep my hands to myself. This, of course, was Consuelo, who isn’t exactly Jennifer Lopez, but in the service we had a saying All cats purrs the same in the dark, which is to say that if you’re horny enough, Phyllis Diller’s as good as Jennifer Aniston or whoever. We saw Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, which I wouldn't recommend, but apparently in Consuelo’s country Ben Stiller is lusted after as openly as Johnny Depp is in this one. I bought her an $8 box of popcorn, but she’d finished by the time Stiller has his threesome with Scarlett Johanssen and Angelina Jolie, and afterward described herself as hungry enough to eat a [large rodent indigenous to her country, not heretofore heard of by me, and I’m not going to try to spell it].
The hostess at Applebee’s insisted, though, that she had no tables, even though the place was maybe half-full at best. I think it may have had to do with my not having been able to make it to the little boys’ room at the multiplex in time when we were leaving, and with these supposedly deodorant diapers my daughters brought me at Thanksgiving not being very effective at all. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out they were made in China. Or maybe even goddamn Honduras.