Oh, The To-Do List, Oh, The To-Do List…. Still Undone, Still Undone…

I don’t know what example I’m setting for the younger generation, further dilly dallying instead of going down the to-do list: record monologue, rehearse monologue to record monologue. Rehearse monologue to videotape monologue, file taxes, file taxes, do the laundry, mop the bathroom tiles, place colorful area rug, consolidate shelves, print large landscapes, print small landscapes, write cover letters, inch further with your investigation, re-pot fern, trim geraniums, trim slender birch tree that threatens to drill thru the ceiling to the 8thfloor, and so on. Instead musing on the small delights, small gratitudes, shopping for walnuts, dry figs, vanilla extract, kiwi, red delicious apples, the red skin so dark it’s almost black, bananas, strawberries, making smoothies for junior, GRE test looming, making sandwiches with crème cheese and liverwurst, green beans soup, pork and potato goulash, extra cover piled on him so he can rest, pancakes with ricotta cheese filling, making a good 20 of them, though he warned me he won’t eat more than a couple of them. I’m in the swing of things, the first ones turn out thick like American pancakes, I can’t roll them, then after I mix in the batter more milk, they become flexible and I proudly stack them all golden on the blue cobalt plate. Junior, having had enough of practicing the bloody math workbook, now makes music, keyboard on the kitchen table, headset on. This is bliss, two more ladles of batter, outside it snows, I survey the white parking lot while I wait for the pancake to turn its edges brown to flip it. The snowflakes glisten under the street lamp lights. Not enough, though, to have snowball fights. Caretakers sprinkle their grainy chemicals out of wheelbarrows like the pavement would crack open and swallow the city if the snow would layer up nicely, maybe allowing parents to bring the rusty sleighs out and thrill the kids. Nothing like my childhood’s village, the hills of crunchy snow. We’d play for hours, flying down the slopes. Now it’s just staring giddy at computer screens.  
Junior plays his composition. A wistful, nostalgic tune. I tell him so. Oh, he shrugs my compliments off modestly, I’m his mom. That maybe so, but his music is a far cry from all the angry rappers’ bitch this, bitch that, I’m ready for the red carpet, bitch, money, more money, bitch, bitch, bitch. Why can’t one write a song about taking the GRE test? Far more young people take GRE tests than worry about red carpets. Why can’t someone write about making pancakes? About my potted orchid I rescued and took in, but, when I watered her thinking she’s thirsty, instantly all her white butterfly flowers drooped. I let them dry, cut them and placed them in a jar on my table.  
He slept agitated, he tells me at dawn when I dutifully wake him up. Every hour on the dot he’d wake up dreaming he was late for the test only to see it was only 3 a.m. then 4 a.m. I pack food, 5 hours of examination, God Almighty. He’s not allowed to have his phone, so I accompany him in case we need to call the headquarters because they gave him the run around with his IDs. From one office to the other, all pompously declared that the greencard is not enough of an ID.  They need a State ID. He has his Learner’s Permit. No, not good, revoke it and get a downgrade to State ID. So he does. Still we’re not sure what more grief they’ll come up with. Same utter idiotic behavior like 15 years ago when they sent me from one office to another because my visa was a prospective student visa and not a student visa. Everybody pompous, no, no, no, until one fine day someone higher up told them to stop being imbeciles and corrected the situation in five minutes.  
We walk thru the blue cold. I grab a newspaper, thinking he’ll sleep while we ride the train. He doesn’t. He’d rather stand up. There will be 5 hours of sitting down. We’re alone, leaning on the closed door. The seats are taken by tired people, here, there, a homeless guy with bundles. I shuffle thru the pages upon pages of celebrity gossip. I go for the horoscope, to cheer him up. ‘When the game gets harder, you’re being challenged; this is good. Your winning is not all due to luck; give yourself some credit. Leave the past in the past. Chores interfere with romance.’ Junior scoffs, ‘Today you gonna meet someone.’ Of course I’m gonna meet someone new. Every day I meet someone new. So what?! Why can’t they say, ‘The right answer to this multiple choice test question is D.’
A bulky guy starts his rant. The Bible and the White Man. ‘Oh, dear,’ junior sighs, ‘here we go again.’
We surface midtown; we pass by a discontent crowd in front of the Footlocker shoe store. Junior predicts their horoscope said, ‘Anyone who stayed up all night long waiting to buy shoes should get a life. You’re nuts.’ At One Penn Plaza black glass skyscraper doors are locked. Several other GRE candidates poke at the revolving doors to no avail. A cleaning man pushing a garbage bin tells us to go around to the 34th Street entrance. Junior goes on with his horoscope predictions, ‘You shall bang at doors and no one shall open them for you.’ I add, ‘But a guardian angel in the shape of a sanitation officer shall direct you to the right Heavenly Gates.’ In the warm hallway, the receptionist is satisfied with his papers and tells me to go my merry way. I am not to accompany a young man who’s not under 16. I am sleepy, but my son says my mission has indeed been accomplished. He shall overcome. I pass him the victuals and I walk across town to take the bus uptown, and to experience the city in winter on a Saturday morning.  
Not much. Piles of black garbage bags like rocks in front of beautiful buildings with lovely lace like embellishments, a shiny pink marble wall, then as I stand in the middle of the crosswalk the far off horizon at the end of the long avenue sided by skyscrapers. A few people walk their dogs, huskies with blue eyes seem to be the rage. A rickety old gentleman clambers a few steps with his walking stick. Bushes with dried leaves, or evergreen leaves, partially covered by the white of snow. The sunshine dresses the mute city colors in golden hues. In the bus stop, two wrapped-up women. The ticket machine doesn’t release my transfer receipt. I call the MTA to tell them the machine is not doing its job. A smiling guy shows up in a hoody and military camouflage parka with unlaced Timberland boots. He picks metro cards from the sidewalk and inserts them in the machine. When the MTA worker responds, I see my ticket coming out of the machine. Problem solved without uncooperative debates.  
Finally, the bus comes. I bask in its protective warmth. I do not wish to be out in the cold. How frail to be a human. We pass by stores. Same Duane Reads, same Starbucks, same Walgreens every ten blocks or so. Last evening, a fellow bus traveler talking on her phone about how one of her clients managed to fire 4 of his therapists. ‘He’s a sociopath by the casebook,’ she says loudly. A gorgeous guy with a head of long white hair smiles amused. I am reluctant. Maybe he’s high on something, maybe he’s mad. Still wouldn’t it be nice to meet someone who finds same things that I do? Only I wasn’t up to the occasion, all wrapped up. I got off and my umbrella flipped over from the wind. I threw it in the garbage in front of my building. First time I’ve behaved ungreen. Throwing broken umbrellas like everybody else instead of fixing them. But they chip at my image. I could have made a friend. He was so nice to look at with his hair, his swarthy face, his black coat and blue jeans. Even the shoes. Oh, well.
I went straight to bed. At noon, junior arrives. Done. Good enough grades to get him into the colleges he wants to go to for his Master’s. ‘They didn’t even ask for the State ID. Greencard was enough. And what kind of test was that?’ ‘Told you so.’ ‘Yes, you did.’
He goes to sleep for half an hour. I’m positive he’ll sleep for hours and hours. I plunge into the screen. I jump up when he bursts into the kitchen ululating. He teases me that he often has to repeat his answers to my questions. I suggest he should volunteer them twice unasked. He jokes about our nonsensical conversations. I say, ‘Titerborough Bridge.’ He says, ‘Chestnuts.’ Right.
Laughter again in our kitchen. Damn GRE. He did it. Yes, he did it. I want to make myself useful. He fills the orange laundry bag. He leaves for his friends, energized. I snuggle in bed reading humorous British stories.
Oh, the to-do list, oh, the to-do list…. still undone, still undone… and yet, mission accomplished. For one month he was at it, preparing for the dour GRE test. And I had his back. Smoothies, goulash, pancakes, stuffed peppers.  
Oh, the to-do list, oh, the to-do list…. Still undone, still undone…

New York,
Saturday, January 26th, 2013

Proofreading by Ethan Black,

Well, here you have it: If you’d like to throw a bit of money my way to keep my endeavors going, and also enable me to spread the money to my various causes, freedom of speech and the right to pursue one's happiness being among them, I’d be grateful.

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