Friday, January 13, 2006

Glass Truck Model Day!

You didn't know how to get out of Pittsburgh in 1998, so you faked your own kidnapping. You did it because you and your father had conflicting interests. Your father wanted a son and he wanted a wife that was still alive. You wanted to be a model and you wanted a mom that was still alive.

His father taught him that what a man does is he builds a business and he builds a family and when he's gone he gives his business to his family. Your Mom used to sit behind the counter and talk friendly to the customers while your father called around for necessary parts. You were fourteen when she died, and the day after the funeral it was expected that you would be filling her seat behind the counter. Throughout high school you spent every afternoon there, smiling disinterestedly at customers and telling them what grade you're in now when they asked.

Your dream was to go to New York and be on magazine covers. But if you mentioned pursuing anything but ceiling fan store management, your father would pretend you hadn't spoken and he'd just ask that you drive the truck to work that day because his eyes were bad (he had been battling a steadily worsening vision impediment for years but refused any sort of corrective surgery). The one time you actually cried and begged for the chance to go out on your own, he became enraged and didn't speak to you for the following week, only yielding after you'd apologized. But you only made your apology after you had already made your arrangements.

You were sleeping with an older boy who had graduated from high school a few years before you, and you continued sleeping with him long enough to get him to help you. His name was Michael and no one ever saw the two of you together. On a Thursday night in the summertime, when your father was at his weekly rummy game, you had Michael come to your house in new clothes and shoes that you bought for him and you told him to throw the furniture around. You kissed Michael goodbye and ran off to New York. But not before mailing a ransom note to your father. The police believed the note was credible since they'd found a man's footprints in the house. Plus, they had nothing else to go on. They waited with your father for the next communication from the kidnappers. It never came.

Today you're in New York City and you have work as a glass truck model. It's for a fat free snack promotion. You and another glass truck model will be wearing bikinis on a fake beach contained inside a heated glass cube on the back of a flatbed truck. Officeworkers in Manhattan will walk out to find lunch on this cold winter day and they'll be able to peer into your glass cube and watch two beautiful girls sitting at a plastic table on a sandy beach, enjoying an array of fat free snack cakes. The truck will travel twelve blocks every half hour and park outside of skyscrapers and invite people to think ahead to summertime, when girls in bikinis will be enjoying snack cakes that are not a threat to their figures. You're not to engage the onlookers. You're not to even acknowledge that they are there, no matter how hard they might pound on the glass and scream for you to remove your bikini tops. You are only required to sit at the table and smile while unwrapping snack cakes and keeping the packaging visible. You are also under orders not to actually eat any of the snack cakes.

Today your father is also in New York City. He's being taken to a Broadway show as a treat before he begins radiation treatment for prostate cancer after the weekend. You'll see him crossing the street, being led arm in arm by a woman you won't recognize. They'll come straight towards you. They'll stop near the truck and they'll peer into the glass cube and smile. The woman will spy a shoe store on the block and she'll leave your father on the sidewalk while she runs inside for a quick browse. Your father will stay there next to the truck and he'll stare inside your cube, smiling right at you. He'll smile the way tourists smile at the lights in Times Square. He'll look amused. You'll have turned to a mannequin, a snack cake held in the air right next to the look of terror on your face, and you'll stare back into those eyes that must by now have deteriorated to near-total blindness.

His smile will fade while his stare is still trained on you. You'll think he's recognized you, and you'll be ready to crash through the glass and run from the block when his ladyfriend returns and takes his arm. His smile will return at her touch and they'll walk away.

Maybe he'll think he saw you. Maybe he'll only be reminded of you. But he'll go. You'll see him there today, on the other side of the glass, and he'll look right at you. But he'll go.

Happy Glass Truck Model Day!