The Wandering Ball
My friend once dated a man with a wayward testicle. He’d been kicked in the nuts by a horse, and one of the balls became dislodged from the scrotum. When he got excited, it would move around under his skin, roaming free. She’d get distracted by it because she never knew how far it could go. Untethered, the ball had a life of its own. The relationship was short-lived because my friend did not like disorienting sex. She liked to be anchored—nailed, you might say. In the dark, skin to skin, she could feel the migrant ball moving about. It always returned to home base after its adventures, but for her, it was always too late.
Early in the pandemic quarantine, an exercise ball found its way into my driveway and was waiting for me one morning. In front of the garage door, motionless. I have a long driveway and you have to move into it with intent. Where had this giant ball come from? Why did it choose me? I didn’t play with it. I didn’t even touch it. It waited for a day and then moved on. No one saw it arrive or leave. Certainly not me. I was too busy looking at the inside of my own skull.
I think the driveway ball dislodged something in me because since then, I’ve been on my own explorations. Quarantine travel restrictions can’t contain me. The way I roll, it’s easy to travel light. I just need my eye and my finger—on the mouse, in Google Maps. In Satellite View, I love to walk down residential streets at random. Interesting to compare the colorful homes and enthusiastic plants of say, Mexico City, with the glum dignity of a neighborhood in Reykjavik. Fun to try and peek over hedges of bougainvillea in Palm Springs to glimpse swimming pools.
I’ve also become a connoisseur of parking lots. My favorite is at Boulders Beach in Cape Town, where you can even spot penguins among the cars. Of course I enjoy city strolls, too. I highly recommend the old quarter of Hanoi (Phố cổ Hà Nội), where history meets North Face factory outlets and people on scooters. I’ll go anywhere. Never can say no to a winding road, especially if it’s lined with cypresses. Even when I couldn’t access the Sacred Monastery of Kaisariani (Μονή Καισαριανής) in Athens, it was okay because journey, not destination.
I used to say I couldn’t travel because I didn’t have the time, but now I’ve got all the time in the world because the world isn’t using it. Sometimes in Google Street View I see someone I’d like to touch. A blurred face, I can look past that. There’s plenty more to a person. Too bad I can’t bring one home.
In the ambulance, I asked the EMT if you could die from embarrassment and they said I was not the first to ask.
How it happened: I had been dreaming of a spinny dildo. But I didn’t have any such thing on hand in the house. I did have a glue stick with nice lid ridges. I washed it so I wouldn’t get glue in my canal but, somewhere in the manual spin, I lost the lid. I tried all the methods: tweezers, BBQ tongs, bearing down and attempting to give birth to it, but it snaked up and behind, shy and wily, hidden behind something environmental like that octopus in that documentary. It was a large glue stick, so I couldn’t limp well with the lid and had to call 911.
The EMT told me it would be a career highlight to see a person die of embarrassment. He promised to let me know if it ever happened. He kept me calm with stories of worse play than mine: clamshell phones sent up cooches, PlayStation controllers, burled wood. Lucky you’re just a lid lover, he said.
In the ER, they sent me to surgery and my luck continued. I woke up to the surgeon telling me exactly this. You got lucky. If you hadn’t lost something in your vagina, you might not have lived very long. Sometimes accidents save our lives. We got the glue stick lid out, but then we noticed something else and we explored further and discovered your uterus was a bomb about to go off. All the bad bits are gone now and I filled your womb with quarter minus gravel, so you don’t have to worry about getting pregnant, which for you would not bode well, as your uterine lining is so barnacled even an oyster would be hard-pressed to hang on.
It’s weird to learn you’re inhospitable at a hospital. When I got out, I felt strange, knowing that nothing I grow on purpose will ever come out of me. But I’m over it now. I don’t think about what can’t come out. Only what can fit in.
I put my grandma in the cuckoo clock. She needs to be contained. I learned how to do a thing with my hands and now she’s in the cuckoo clock, replacing the OG cuckoo.
My grandma has always been small but mighty. Maybe you’re picturing the cliché grandma shouting at everyone. My grandma wouldn’t lower herself to shout. Her compliments are insults and her insults are compliments. It’s hard to explain. She’s just always there, weighing in, and telling everyone to stop interrupting her when she’s the one who does all the talking. But now she only comes out on the hour and I can plan around that.
This clock came from her side of the family. Was made by her family. Her parents were Swiss Jews. During the Nazi times, they just shut the fuck up and made clocks and hoped those wishy-washy Swiss wouldn’t say anything. My grandma has been making up for her parents’ silence ever since. Constant comments from the couch. On everything you can imagine and things you can’t. She’s always had it in for me the most. So now she’s in the clock, behind a small painted door. Don’t feel too sorry for her. She probably likes it up there. She can still feel like she’s ruling the roost and, technically, she would have a point. But now, when she’s got something to say, she better make it snappy because those little doors don’t open for long.
I’m not sure what my parents will say when they get back from their trip but I think when the shock wears off they will be grateful to me for reclaiming our couch and repurposing our grandmother. After all those years doing nothing, she can now be of use. Because even if she loses her shit, she will keep the time.