Someone says baboons have musical prowess. Someone says humans are ridiculous. I am somewhere in between, in the space of doubt and self-recognition that could be called confusion – or perhaps maturation, depending on the circumstances of definition. I’m riding a ferris wheel in the middle of January and I’m surprised I’m not frozen to bits quite yet. I’m riding a ferris wheel and it feels like February, but January presses beyond me, into the person I haven’t yet become, into a silhouette dawning tomorrow, when February breezes by. I’m riding a ferris wheel and someone says that baboons have musical abilities, and I hear this and think that person must be crazy. But then he says that humans are ridiculous – “Humans are ridiculous” – and I’m inclined to think the genius has been henceforth disguised. Humans are ridiculous, and the fact that I’m not the only one riding a ferris wheel in January goes to show it. If it were February I’d be less surprised, but January? That’s the kicker.
His name is Trevor and he’s got a knack for figuring out girls on ferris wheels. “You’re the January type,” he tells me, and I melt into my hot chocolate mug, becoming some emblem on his vodka bottle, halfway between his thigh and my bent knee. I’m wearing shorts in January; they’re his large gym shorts, or I associate them with a gym. Maybe he’s the kind of person who buys a gym membership but never really goes but buys the shorts once, just in case. Maybe I’m the first one to wear the shorts; maybe he’s worn them once but not washed them. I’m wearing his gym shorts and he looks scrawny there, sitting in his white, stretchy boxers. I can see the hair on his thighs, which looks manly, but I’m distracted by the fact that he’s so pale and scrawny. The muscle is defined, but it’s not large, and something about it tells me that he hasn’t thought much about what he wears to bed.
He covers me in blankets and calls me “cupid darling” and “January glad.” I feel somehow perfected, in my cocoon, in his gym shorts.
In the morning he has to go to work, so I stay in his apartment, overlooking Navy Pier and the ferris wheel. It feels like January now; it really does, and I say to myself, “January, aren’t you glad?” and laugh into the mirror that Trevor owns. I wonder if these gym shorts are as big and loose on him as I imagine, as I shed them in favor of my own sweaty skirt. It’s black, but it wasn’t meant to attract anyone. I wore it simply so I could say I rode a ferris wheel in January in a black skirt. I wanted to be an emotional teenager. But I’m not an emotional teenager, and I feel more like a fragile twenty-year-old who’s sick of the cold. Perhaps the gym shorts would be a better outfit for the ferris wheel, but I don’t want to steal from Trevor, so I put them neatly in his first drawer, making sure to note to myself the whiteness of all his boxers sitting there, neatly piled.
On second thought, I put the gym shorts back on, because my skirt is too old and wretched for a girl Trevor might want to know. I wonder what time Trevor will get home from work. I tell myself he’ll mark me off on his calendar – “January 3rd: Met January Girl.” I find Trevor’s coffee machine, but I can’t find any coffee, so I make myself some earl grey and become entranced by his collection of New Yorkers. Trevor is evidently a self-made intellectual, and he must know something of international affairs. When I find a National Geographic all about baboons, I instantly forgive Trevor for thinking of him as an imbecile, and I decide simultaneously that he must be my prince. Trevor knows about baboons and music; he knows baboons have music; he’s musical; he’s not a baboon. Trevor, the prince for me – me, January Girl.
When Trevor comes home, he brings with him a motley pile of refreshments: mozzarella, basil, and vinegar, with wine and bits of gouda. I find I’m unable to eat much, because I’m still so frail from the previous night.
I remember, when I see Trevor, that I went on the ferris wheel with someone else, that I’ll probably never see that person again. I forgive myself for wearing a black skirt, hide it in my purse, keep on Trevor’s gym shorts. I wonder if Trevor thinks I’m a waste or if he sees my pale stomach. I wonder if Trevor is embarrassed by his obvious lack of gym expertise and his lack of muscle definition. I forgive myself, then, for wondering anything negative about Trevor – Trevor, my savior from the ferris wheel.
“Baboons,” I say. “They have musical ability?”
He looks up. He grabs a magazine, holds on to it as if for safety, tells me, “Yes, and an apparent aptitude for measurements. Those in San Francisco have tested nicely.”
I feel bored by Trevor and I remove his gym shorts. I hate myself for feeling bored, but baboons aren’t that interesting after all, and anything involving tests gets on my nerves. I’m standing there, sitting on his bed in my white underwear, and I wonder when the last time I shaved my legs was. Trevor looks at me, shocked, and offers me some wine. I down some and forgive him for being a dork, and we sit there on the bed together, and he suggests watching Nova, and we do.
Trevor is not too boring for me after all. I decide he’s okay when he takes off his jacket. It shows he’s comfortable with me. I’m wearing a different pair of gym shorts now, and these are white too, and Trevor keeps looking at the crotch and feeling embarrassed – I can tell. Trevor’s wearing a button-up shirt, and I admire his collar at the same time as I wonder whether he likes it. Trevor is not the intellectual I thought he was, but he’s more intellectual than I am, and I wonder if Trevor will be ashamed of me.
Trevor asks me if he’s happy I went on the ferris wheel the previous night. I tell him I’m okay with it, and I ask if he needs his gym shorts back. He tells me they’re his underwear, not gym shorts, and I ask why he then has boxers in addition to the gym short underwear. He tells me he changes from day to day, style to style, depending on how warm it is. I tell him I’m surprised he changes underwear styles. He tells me I’m pretty frisky for a January girl. He looks surprised as he says it, as if he’s uncomfortable using the word “frisky” around a girl.
I wonder if he works with animals, but I don’t ask. I wonder if he works with computers, interacting with animals through the machines, petting them through artificial commands with fake limbs, interacting only technologically. I wonder if he’s studied mice and kangaroos. I don’t bring up animals, fearing he’s never touched one himself.
I keep the underwear on, but I still think of them as gym shorts. When he tucks me in for a second night, I get uncomfortable and leave him. But I still think of Trevor as my safety blanket, and I’m still wearing the gym shorts. I doubt Trevor’s been to the gym. But he studies baboons, and I’m his January girl.
(Written in 2009)