COOKIE AND FRIENDS
by Tsipi Keller
1. Nocturnal Pyrotechnics
She had gone to bed at 11pm and woke up at 2am., five hours too early.
Unable to slink under, Cookie rose, rinsed the dinner dishes in the sink, and
made breakfast: coffee and half a scone she found in the fridge. While eating,
she read a novel about a young British couple, living in Rome. She didn't
believe a word she read, and instantly dubbed the author - British, Male,
White - a BMW. Somewhere in the back of her mind, the thought lurked that
she might call friends and alert them to the fact that she was awake. Instead,
breakfast over, she went to her desk.
2. Deidre on Speakerphone
Dear World, she wrote. You're so peaceful and still at this hour, so
quiet. What if your End were to arrive, and I'd be the only one to witness it?
Cookie - she doodled on a pad in calligraphic loops and curves. It
wasn't her real name, it was a nickname her friend Deidre had lobbed at her,
and it stuck. Deidre of the many tongues and the small nose. At this late hour,
Cookie imagined Deidre at her altar of plastic pleasures, frowning,
rearranging her dildos.
Observing the dark sky, Cookie pondered: A Jetlag Without the Actual
Travel? Or, conversely, maybe she did travel. Twenty-four-seven she floated
on her impressions, which took her places. She was a space cadet – some
people, those who had jobs, thought this of her, not realizing she saw it in
their eyes; discreet, they sought to hide it from her.
In this, at least, she had the upper hand, even though she stayed behind while
they raced ahead, super-slim cellphones in hand, slow radiation frying their
A fried egg, perhaps? Over-easy? It was 3am, and she was hungry
again. Into the kitchen she went to think it over. No eggs. A toast, then. And
avocado. As an afterthought, a slice of tomato on top of the toast and
avocado, and a sprinkle of kosher salt. All kosher things considered, being
hungry was a good thing, it meant she was hungry for the things of life. Her
mother - Cookie remembered - loved avocado; when her mother was alive,
Cookie hated avocado.
We're all emotional orphans, she thought, while chewing the toast.
Even Deidre, so tough and so very toasty herself; flinty, people said. Lithe
and flinty and cruel, people said approvingly. Cookie longed to be like
Deidre, but it wasn't meant to be. Some people were born weaklings and that
At 4am, she went back to bed, still reading BMW. Soon she tired,
turned off the light and lay in the dark. She had a vision of herself, spread
wide on the white bed, floating over the city, over the skyscrapers, waving a
stylish arm at invisible wriggling worms down below.
Deidre rearranged the collection of dildos and sex toys on her desk. One of
her current lovers, Jon, was on his way, and, deliberate as ever, she was
planning their evening. Someone had to take charge, and invariably she did.
As she contemplated her altar of plastic treasures, the phone rang. Deidre hit
the Speakerphone button, and soon Cookie's ever-cheerful voice filled the
room. Deidre listened distractedly, remembering she must turn down the
volume of the answering machine so that she and Jon would not be
interrupted by callers, possibly other lovers who suddenly felt a pressing urge
to see her, or someone like Cookie, a friend, yes, but, at the moment, a
nuisance. She was tiresome, Cookie was, but often useful. Sometimes, even
"Got to go," Deidre said, hitting the Off button and turning down the
volume. She allowed a small, twisted smile—Good! She felt nasty now, ready
3. A void Full of Confusement
And so, as one day turned into another, Cookie thought of ways to checkmark
each day and make it special. Today, walking home after her morning jog,
she marked the tall blonde in the red windbreaker whose three white poodles
suddenly began to bark at Cookie, effectively blocking her passage on the
narrow sidewalk. The woman pulled on the leashes to make room for Cookie,
who had slowed down, a hesitant, benevolent smile on her face as she
observed the excited dogs, trying to decide if their barks communicated
friendship or hostility; hostility, she concluded and looked up. The blonde,
Cookie realized, was smiling at her, so Cookie, relieved, broadened her smile,
tempted and willing to stop and exchange a few neighborly words, but the
blonde, pulled by her dogs, continued on her way, and Cookie did, too.
How important were they, these small, seemingly insignificant
encounters between strangers? She would probably never see the blonde
again, and yet, for a short spell, a connection was established, the kind of
connection Cookie sought.
She made another connection later in the afternoon when she was out
on the street again and a man stopped his car and urgently called out to her:
Was there a store nearby where he could buy a large plant? Obviously,
getting a plant was very important to him, and Cookie imagined that a friend,
or perhaps a daughter, had just moved into a new apartment in the area, and
the man, on his way there, didn't want to arrive empty-handed. She directed
him to a store a few blocks down Second Avenue, and the man thanked her
When she couldn't mark and day and make it special, she became
despondent. Winter had arrived, and her friends, it seemed, were cracking
under the pressure of living, relinquishing the struggle and giving in to
chaotic impulses. Jean was allowing herself to be evicted from her Chelsea
studio. Kathy became afflicted with mysterious stomach spasms, yet refused
to consult a doctor. Sheila was wallowing in depression and suicidal
thoughts; her husband, Bruce, had just walked out, deserting her after thirteen
years of marriage. Lois complained she hadn't had sex in eighteen months.
Cookie, to thwart off her demons, and following Lois's example and
advice, sometimes went to meetings in a local church's basement where
people, mostly women, confessed to terrible deeds and thoughts. Cookie
wanted to confess, too, but came up short, unable to find something real and
painful enough she could put into words. Whatever painful memory she held
onto for a moment as a possible offering, she immediately dismissed as too
trivial and banal and possibly boring.
Was something burning, she wondered. Was something burning within her,
ready to explode? How else explain the nervous energy, the restless hours
spent on her back, trying to fall asleep? In desperation, Cookie, never a great
believer in the self-help industry, and a silent cynical mocker of the new crop
of Eastern/well-being gurus, now found herself grasping at different systems
and techniques. She gave herself completely to self-hypnosis, fervently, even
beseechingly, shutting her eyes in great and deep concentration, willing
herself to float on the soothing, seductive taped words of the various leaders
and guides, and, once or twice, actually felt herself entering, however briefly,
new levels of consciousness. She learned to lie on her right side and breathe
through the left nostril to better connect with her female energy. She
surrendered herself to Jin Shin Jyutisu practitioners and willed herself to
believe that by pressing certain points she'd synchronize the pulse in her body
and achieve harmony. . For a while, she allowed herself to be seduced by Qi
Gong, and its promise to activate the body's own internal flow. She especially
liked the injunction to "clear anything you no longer need," and the
realization that by simply swinging her arms, she was actually "knocking on
the door of life," namely the base of the spine. One day she even ventured
into a Psychic Reader's den on 10th Street, and after a brief glance at
Cookie's palms, the psychic said, with not even a shimmer of a doubt, that
she sensed in Cookie "a void full of confusement."
What now? She thought, with alarm, early one morning as she jogged
and, inadvertently, let one of her sharp, precise spitballs land on the shiny
shoe of a man with a briefcase. For a tense moment they stared at each other,
Cookie trying to penetrate through the dark lenses of his glasses to determine
the man's reaction. He reeked of what she liked to term, Good Housekeeping,
namely order and soap, probably Dove or Ivory, which he and the wife
probably bought wholesale at Costco's, an odor she associated with the vivid
image of foamy, scrubbed genitalia. Still, she was willing to make contact,
and, since he moved not one muscle, she gathered from his stance that he
expected her to wipe the white dot off his shoe. So, she bent down and moved
the sleeve of her shirt across the shiny leather and, before she had a chance to
rise and create a small moment, a connection of some sort, he walked off,
leaving her kneeling on the sidewalk. Passersby glanced at her, and she
blushed as she imagined them wondering what she was doing on her knees in
the middle of the street, and worse, wondering what she'd offered to do for
the gentleman who continued on, ignoring her.
The next morning, she jogged back to the same spot, at the same exact
hour, hoping to see the man again and this time spit in his face. She arrived a
couple of minutes early, and proceeded to jog in place, waiting for him. She
felt an unwelcome, but unavoidable, malevolence brewing in her. And fear.
Every so often she hit a period when everything seemed to conspire against
her, and she, the spellbound co-conspirator, was unable to walk away from
the path carved open before her. Now, determined to recognize him, and, if
not him, then his shoes, or sunglasses, she stared hard at the men who busily
marched past her, clad in suits, swinging their briefcases. A few of the men,
discomfited by her stare, stared back with what she thought was near-hatred;
she was a blot on their morning routine, disturbing their preoccupation with
the day ahead.
He didn't show - Cookie felt cheated. He didn't show, or perhaps he
did and, glimpsing her, his avenger, managed to slip by undetected. She
waited a while longer, then continued down the street, feeling like a discarded
joker in a game of poker. She tried not to think about the man, and yet she
knew that this desire to spit in his face would become an obsession until
fulfilled. Waiting for the light, she noticed an empty Snapple bottle at the
edge of the curb, and a series of images flashed in her mind in quick
succession, whereby a pedestrian, inadvertently, kicks the bottle onto the
road, a passing car crashes the bottle, shards of glass puncture its tires, the
driver loses control, jumps the curb and slams into a crowd of pedestrians.
Looming above these images, as a kind of headline, was Cookie's presumed
duty as a good and orderly citizen. Also present were the people on the street
who would witness and appreciate her good deed, which would inspire them
to act similarly when confronted with the opportunity, and so a spirit of
goodwill would spread across the city, across the country, across the entire
continent. Cookie picked up the bottle and threw it in the trash.
Copyright 2007 by Tsipi Keller