Monday, May 27, 2013
"Are you kidding me?"
"No, I just wanted to make sure..."
"You didn't come here to see how I am. You came here to see how you are, because you know in your heart what you did, you want to make sure you're okay.
I can't even pretend to have a conversation about anything else with you. What it comes down to is faith. What I was hoping you would say is I gave up, I gave up on us, I lost faith. But what you came here for was closure and there is not a chance you are getting that from me. I'm not gonna say I understand, I'm not gonna sympathize with you and tell you how hard it must be for you, but you wanna know how I am?
I am horrible. I am ripped apart. Not because I lost you, but because if it had been me, I would have waited, I would have found the truth, I wouldn't have given up on you. And now I realize what an absolute waste that would have been."
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Monday, October 8, 2012
They took three years and wore me down to the bone. I was full of love and pleasure and now I am empty and fearful of giving myself away ever again.
They were drawn to me because I was light and shiny and they captured me and held me, suffocated me with obtuseness and left me wishing for escape, believing he was there to save me when in fact he was there to starve me.
He made sure I was there and then he slowly took away the loveliness and magic we shared, letting it whittle away, asking for more of me, pressing, always pressing but never giving and taking, always taking, but never giving.
I challenged him as best I could and tried to be the best of myself for him. I wasn't always good but I've never been better. No one has ever gotten this much of me. And maybe he came and captured me to show me that I could love again and maybe that is the hope I should cling to, because the rest of it feels so contrived in hindsight's strong hand, that he was saying all the right things but he didn't know how to do them and that once again I gave my heart to someone that didn't deserve me and didn't respect me and didn't love me and left me hungry, starving for love.
Now I sit, having to resume my life, the life I was shedding, I rejected my home, my city, everything that meant anything to me, even tailored parts of myself to suit him, I feel more devastated than ever, than any of them have left me, even the worse ones, even the mean ones left me better off than this, because I didn't have to give everything up for them, I didn't have to prove myself, I didn't have to embarass myself the way I have for him.
I'm not mad, I'm not sad, I'm not even shocked, I'm simply numb from starvation, from the circumstances the last three years have served from the two of them, how forever I will avoid any of them that say they were born the same day as either of them, because even though they are very separate beings they both had the same obtuseness, that same entrapment under that mountain of insecurity and self doubt, that same murkiness, the depths of which were rarely shown and when I did manage to get a glimpse, even the hint of the darkness they kept so hidden terrified me to no end.
None of that matters now, because they taught me a valuable lesson on exactly who and what to run screaming like a banshee from. I will never try to love another that cannot accept my love and adoration and dismisses it on the grounds of their own self loathing.
All there is to do now is feed my hungry spirit and nurture my starving soul. It is already getting better, but there are so many things that ache with his presence, so many symbols we shared, so much we imbibed with magic and wonder and that will lesson as time passes, but it seems to move very slowly right now and the morsels of life I once enjoyed so easily and readily touch my lips and revive me bit by bit, reminding me that even though I struggled so hard, hard enough to alter myself completely, transformed, whittled down, I am still very much alive. And no matter how much they live, they will never know what that is or how that feels, to be alive, to love and to be loved, because they are incapable of it, they find it all a mystery and that is what nulls any moment's anger I am able to muster.
Monday, October 1, 2012
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Everything is about to change. One way or another. Fork in the road, nothing will be the same, that moment in time you'll always wonder what if? kind of change.
Every day adds a new wrinkle, another complication, more of the anxiousness surrounding big change. The swells are rising, the tide is turning, it's about to swallow us up whole. You can't feel it?
Maybe I'm too sensitive, maybe I'm too observant, maybe I've been staring too hard trying to figure out the depths of the change I'm facing, but it's finally coming to fruition, the change I've been feeling for months, and as I look around, it's happening to him, and her, and them and we're all about to be drowned in it.
All I ask for, all I want, is for it to come, finally, to stop the churning and roiling of indecision, of wonder, of curiosity. I want to drown for once and for all and be delivered to dry land, the security of ground beneath my feet, to see one place and know it as mine, to belong somewhere and feel safe there.
To be lost like this, not knowing what tomorrow will bring, feeling lashed and bound by change which should feel free and pleasant has been an utterly harrowing experience. I've lost weight, I've lost my voice, I've lost my self.
And when I find dry land, who will I be? I'm already forever changed.
Sunday, May 6, 2012
There is nothing more brilliant than an ice skating rink. Like an earth bound moon, it is a disc of opacity, a cold frozen space. First setting out onto it is the hardest part. It is slippery and smooth, a feat of balance, a trick of the body to have faith where wobbling could win out. It's easy to fall, the hard part is staying up.
The coldness is assaulting. It makes you breathe different, it makes you want to move, it chases you around the rink. It makes you wonder what are you doing this for?
Being in the middle just means you have to keep going, no turning back, cutting a path into the ice with skate shoes, deadly weapons of heft and sharpness required to do what looks to an observer easy simple movements. Because it is easy after a while, after you get used to it, after the coldness squeezes you so hard it warms you up.
I didn't know how to skate very well. Even though I'd done it before and it looked easy when I saw everyone else doing it, I couldn't get the hang of it. I wobbled, I fell, I bloodied up the ice. And yet, I still get up and keep trying.
What amazes me most is not just the rink itself, but also the machine that comes to spray it with water and spread it into the cuts and lacerations of that frozen disc. To fill in all the hurt and the pain, to freeze it over so it can be cut up again, what a poetic life the ice skating rink leads, with never a complaint or a sad note, just that coldness that is at once slightly disarming but mostly exhilarating.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Sometimes, I try to see it from her point of view. She came into our family suddenly, she was different, we were different, and the chasm of differences between us were impassable. She was young then, she wore bad clothes and bad hair, her face was a fat blank and her eyes were wide. She learned us quickly. That we didn't talk much, say much, do much. We were quiet. We were simple. We didn't need much to enjoy each other. In just about every way we could be, we were different.
At first, she couldn't do much but stare. Year after year, she took it in, she brought babies to us and we loved them, but with her there was always something in the way, our differences, maybe, and it was hard. In some ways, what made it hard was her constant questioning, her expectations and her pointing out the differences. I feel badly that he had to bear the brunt of her assaults, that her insecurities made her such an intolerable person and it was all our fault. We didn't ever do the right thing, say the right thing, give the right things.
After a while, it turned. Her eyes narrowed with suspicion, rolling whenever something displeased her, a tsk at the ready, a mean retort swallowed. I saw her agonize over and over about us, how could we, how dare we, why did we. So many things and yet she never said a word. She gave him every word like a lash, whipping him with the hatred of us, and soon he began to say the words she wouldn't.
Instead of being understanding, accepting, appreciative, she took our differences and turned them into a problem, a reason to be mean and spiteful, a campaign to wage against him, and the problem is, none of what she points out is wrong, but to be mad at someone for something they did not do, that they did not promise to do, that you expected and didn't get is wrong.
For a long time I defended her, having been in her exact state of mind over similar situations, knowing that what made me so angry wasn't them but the things they represented, the things I was not, the things I didn't have or know how to get. I have been different, a stranger, misunderstood, so I tried to explain her side. I made impassioned speeches on her behalf, I tried to reason with my family, I could see where she was coming from.
And now, now that she has attacked me, made me the scapegoat, asked me the questions, made me defend myself and my family, and given me nothing in return, no compassion, no efforts, even worse, she has made things more difficult for no good reason, she and I, we are done.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
I have this little coffee pot. It's different than the one a lot people have. It doesn't require electricity, it doesn't have a water tank, it doesn't need paper filters, and it doesn't have any buttons or gizmos. It's simple. All you need is water, coffee and fire. And maybe something to hold it above a fire.
When it was new, it was a marvel. Silver and shiny, the metal gleaming from the perfection of never being used. It came with three metal parts, a reservoir on the bottom for water, a funneled coffee filter that nestles into the water chamber and a pitcher on top to collect the coffee. The three pieces meet in the middle and fit together in a threaded column. A slender handle and a tiny knob on the lid made out of black plastic provide safe places to touch and peek at the progress of the brewing coffee. It is small and only makes one cup.
Most people would take one look at this little contraption and think it was a joke. In a world of having the newest, best and greatest, I have an Italian stovetop coffee pot that was popular in the sixties and is still widely used in Europe and South America. Everyone knows how to press buttons and make coffee, but no one gets how to use this little coffee pot of mine. And that's fine by me.
One day, after a few years of using it, a friend of mine who was staying overnight in my apartment decided to try it out, I gave her a tutorial, I explained all the components, all she had to do was follow my instructions. What I didn't make clear to her is that even though it seems like an archaic thing, like it will take forever to brew one cup of coffee, it's actually very fast. So when she set it on the stove, she walked away for a while and the plastic handle melted from a larger than needed flame. She apologized profusely and bought me a new coffeepot to replace the one she felt she ruined. I tried to insist it was fine, sure the handle was a little misshapen, was less shiny from years of use, but it essentially still worked.
I continued to use my little coffee pot. The new one sat in its box for a long time until I decided I would send it to him, my love, my moon and share with him a small pleasure I'd found in life, making coffee with this little coffee pot. I was excited to send it to him as a housewarming gift and finally put the unneeded extra coffee pot in the hands of someone who would use it and appreciate it.
The day after I sent it to him, as I set out to make my coffee that morning, I suffered the cheery blathering of my roommate and as I grumbled to myself, distracted by her loud theater voice and ridiculous airs, I neglected to fill the water chamber and set my little coffee pot on the stove. As my roommate pranced about the kitchen in her mismatched shabby clothing that was her idea of pajamas and expunged on the latest man she felt might become her husband someday, I waited patiently for my coffee to brew. I waited and waited. I pulled up on the little knob and saw nothing inside the pitcher. I checked the flame. I wondered. I knew something was wrong, but my roommate was filling my attentions with idle chatter and I was too tired to realize what was going on.
Finally the smell of burning plastic began to rise to my nose. She smelled it too, but she kept talking. I touched my fingers to the knob on top of the lid to the pitcher and it skated slightly on the surface of the metal, loosened by heat. I turned off the flame and fretted and still she kept talking. I reached for the handle and watched it completely separate from the pitcher, sliding off and hitting the stove with a clunk. And still she kept talking.
Later, after the smell cleared, the kitchen emptied, I discovered my error, but it was too late, I had burned the pot, melted off the handle and ruined my coffee pot and given away a perfectly good new one that I'd never used.
And still, I kept using it. Now I had to use a kitchen towel to hold the pot as I poured it into a cup, but otherwise it still worked fine. Maybe it didn't look so good, maybe I had to be careful not to burn myself pouring it but it still worked just fine.
I'm telling you this so you understand something. Sometimes life is like a little coffee pot. And I'm stuck using the run down broken coffee pot because essentially it still works and seems wasteful to throw away, and no one understands why I'm doing this to myself, day after day making coffee in this debilitated machine, when I could just throw it away and get a new one.
Because that's not who I am.
My love endeavored to get me a new coffee pot, as a gift, to replace this one, the one that I use without regret every day, happy it still works despite my absentmindedness. He was ultimately unsuccessful because the little coffee pot I prefer is not widely available, certain small retail shops carry it, but despite his best efforts, he couldn't find any places that carried it. I appreciated the gesture and mostly that even though he wanted to replace something that to me seemed unnecessary, at the very least he understands me well enough to know not to buy me a big fancy gizmo coffeepot. Because that is really not who I am.
His efforts left me wondering. His frustration at using my little coffee pot led him to want to get me a new one. How much of life do I allow to be unworkable, at a disadvantage, defunct? And why? He thinks I deserve a working coffee pot and he not only tried in vain to get me one, he has me finally reconsidering using this one, the burned, scarred, ruined one I've used for over a year in this dilapidated condition. So now I can still be a person who loves my little coffee pot, but it doesn't have to be a ruined coffee pot anymore. I've embraced the run down coffee pot for long enough. It's time to get a new one.
Saturday, December 31, 2011
[I didn't mean to disappear. I love writing here, having done it for so long, knowing I can look back and see how far I've come. It's the last day of 2011, and while I don't normally fall prey to such conventions, I know I wouldn't forgive myself if I let this year end without some summation of what's happened.]
This has probably been one of the hardest years of my life, which coincided with the experience of growing the fuck up. It's been swell, young adulthood, it's been great. I had some amazing times with good friends. Some of them are gone, finding themselves in other parts of the world, some of them I've outgrown and some of them I've rediscovered again.
For me, it has been the year of being missing, everyone is saying, where are you? where have you been? where have you gotten back from? All the while I've been working and traveling and trying very hard to make sense of what is happening to me, like if I just pay close enough attention to every single thing maybe it will all make sense somehow and get better, but then there are so many things.
So many factors go into a disappearing act. It's not just one thing. They are all here, transcribed already. Money, family, love, sobering up, finding out that who I am is nothing without love.
And then there's this:
My family has never been close. It's just understood that the love is there and that's that. We don't talk, we don't see each other much except for holidays and we look forward to seeing my brother who has three cheerful wild children. We started to talk more, I won't get into the painful teary why, when you talk to someone who loves you and really wants to talk to you and they are kids it is a big gushy good feeling.
I wrote a story this year. One story. It is part of my novel, the seemingly never-ending source of mockery of my own making. It was an embarrassing story, difficult to write, hard to get out, a cringing unwelcome peeling of something unpleasant over and over again trying to find a way to make something of the effort of trying to figure out the magnet. Sometimes I am asked to explain why I write. This story made me realize that it is less about wanting to and more about needing to, because there was never a story I wanted to write less than that one.
Maybe because it turned out it was time to write some of Peter's story and remember what a presence he was. We miss him. Things haven't been the same since he left. His presence comes to me in strange visions, the sort of thing I've never experienced, I feel a little terrified of them, but grateful all the same because it never feels like the message or whatever I interpret the message to be is a bad one. He appeared to me in a dream, smiling, happy to see me, even though seeing him made me realize I had died and gone to heaven.
As some of my friends have disappeared, either to moves, marriages, or school; I find I am lonesome. I miss Siena, talking to people, discussing things, elaborating on things, remarking on things and there is no one I can do that with anymore. It makes me disappointed and dismayed. Recently, I saw some old friends and I realize I never want to see them again. She doesn't forgive me for saying she wears grandma sweaters (she does) and he can't see me without seeing the burnham. So even though there is time and love and there was some joy, it doesn't mean anything anymore. I can't keep spending time trying to line up and sort out the details of my past. Because somehow, without my realizing it, I have a future.
Being me, and living day to day, surviving, trying to see where I went wrong back there to avoid getting in the same spot again is why I had no future. You can't look forward if you're always looking back. Except the future isn't much clearer, an even murkier pond with a few spots of reflection and no clear view.
This year the moon reached out and grabbed me. He took my hand and helped me out of the darkness. He made the world seem small and simple. He holds a future for me, except to have it, I have to make a difficult decision, but for me it is not difficult. He is what I've been waiting for. So I will bide my time and wait, but I already know I am going to pack up and move one more time. It will be the best move of my life, it will be the best year of my life. I am ready for what will come and excited to share life with him.
I am glad for this year of struggle and sadness and fear. I learned that I can do anything as long as I take care of myself and am true to my own morals and ideals. I am also glad for it to be over.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present. ” Lao Tzu, Daoist philosopher
Sunday, October 30, 2011
It feels like I'm speaking another language. Every interaction feels awkward and obtuse and confusing. Every word I say and hear has to be stripped of its meaning and contemplated.
She's the only person who understands the words I speak. She too is stuck in a whirl of change and is in between two worlds. She chased her rabbit down the bunny hole and landed in a world where everything is topsy turvy.
My head is in Chicago, but my heart is in Edmonton.
Having been lost for a long time, spending months and years in the abyss of limbo, wondering where to go next, what to do next, it is no strange surprise that being found is just as alarming. At least being lost was familiar, being found and stuck is worse.
He doesn't know this, but the first time he made the cold hard knot of hate that was my heart ooze hopefully was from a sentiment contained in a caption of the view from his balcony. I don't remember if his feet were in the picture, characteristically crossed at the ankles and propped up. I don't remember which portion of his view it showed, most likely the river valley and all the trees along it, because all I remember thinking is, my gosh, I would love to be there.
And the caption, corny, but sweet, went something like, looking for someone to share this with. A plaintive wail thrown into the dark night; a message in a bottle that I found and treasured. I never imagined I would get to see it for myself, I never thought I would prop my feet on the railing alongside his, I never considered something that seemed so far could be reached.
So to go there and be there again and spend time being found makes everything here feel like an obstacle. Even myself.
The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.'Who are you?' said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, 'I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.'
'What do you mean by that?' said the Caterpillar sternly. 'Explain yourself!'
'I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir' said Alice, 'because I'm not myself, you see.'
'I don't see,' said the Caterpillar.
'I'm afraid I can't put it more clearly,' Alice replied very politely, 'for I can't understand it myself to begin with; and being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing.'
Monday, October 24, 2011
It's been three years since that day. Three years since I came home in a drunken stupor and found him sitting up at two am in the dark texting a mysterious someone he tried to pretend was his brother. Three years since I woke up an hour later as he snored next to me and read the words that broke my heart. Three years since I discovered the other woman I'd been accusing him of looking for the entire time we were together. Three years since our relationship died in an instant despite lapses and breakups, crackling chemistry, intense passion and fiery love.
That I caused it makes it doubly agonizing.
That he withstood the machinations of that cold hard knot of hate that was my heart, the testing, the fights, the hurt, the endless and tiresome questioning of his mind, body and spirit is a testimony to how much he did love me. And all I gave him back was fear and jealousy, spiteful words and bad behavior that I loathed performing but found myself unable to stop.
Facing those demons isn't easy. Especially when they writhe in such delicious joy from causing so much pain, manipulating every word, twisting every scenario, searching for the proof of infidelity where there is innocence and fun being had. Because the demons don't like it when someone is having fun without them.
The origin of them is simple enough. Someone very important wasn't there, and every man that stood in his spot vanished eventually (from death, divorce, or despair), which was tangled up with witnessing my grandfather's heart attack from our apartment window across the street on the second floor. I couldn't do anything about it, but somehow it became my fault. And if I'm the reason they left, then I could never trust one that wanted to be with me in the first place.
And so it began.
It played out many times, many ways, with essentially the same underlying pattern being repeated. I let them love me, but I wondered why they did. I didn't want to be left alone so I would leave them first and find someone else. It wasn't until my heart was in it and his wasn't that the stakes got raised, and the demons slithered out from the despair I felt at his betrayal, whispering how I should have known.
Because looking back, I did know. I knew there was something between them. Everyone knew. Except he was in denial and she was sad thinking she lost him to me and I was just the catalyst that caused love to spark between them. I was so innocent, having just had the shocking metamorphosis of self as adult, which he bore witness to and encouraged and inspired.
And worse, he lied to me about her, didn't come clean for a long time, so the demons grew stronger in my rejection, in my assurances that I was right, in the sadness of losing him and being alone.
I barely had time to recover from this before I met another him, and eagerly enjoyed the air balloon of romance offered by a man who wanted to be something better than he was. I knew it was wrong, but I let him love me. It wasn't until our relationship felt threatened in a way that felt too familiar to what had happened before that I began to question him. He faltered, with me throwing stones at him with the repetition of a deranged lunatic. I beat him down so hard that it shames me. I have never been so cruel and so unkind and I hated myself the entire time I did it but I couldn't stop myself. I promised I would never be in another relationship if that was what I would do, because I couldn't put another person through that and I couldn't be that girl again.
I had to break the pattern. I was the problem. I shut myself off. I threw myself and my belongings into a tiny studio apartment and spent long nights staring out the window and wondering who I was, who I wanted to be, what the fuck was wrong with me. I smoked. I drank. I wandered through everything else. If someone came around I made sure to push them away. I built emotional walls with high standards, a tough exterior and rough edges. No one would ever hurt me again and I would keep myself from hurting someone the way I did him.
And then time passed.
Being alone felt good, doing what I liked to do, being solitary and not having to explain myself, enjoying the silence, no questions, no answers; no relationship, no demons. I thought I was healed. I felt confident in myself and who I was and where I was going. I thought since I had better friends and better days I was ready for this new relationship when it arrived unexpectedly.
At first it was careful and polite, then it was a surprise, an avalanche, an unstoppable force of nature, and as the days settle into a routine, and the words build up between us, and things in my life fell prey to a slew of unfortunate circumstances (my family, my friends, my jobs, my living situation all taking dark twists), the demons began to waken after their long slumber.
And more than anything I want to stop them. I will name them, call them out, shine all the lights on them that I can, because I don't want to be the girl they make me and more than anything I don't want to hurt him, my moon. The more I love without their voices behind my behavior the closer I get to being free.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
At first, a year ago, the descent was a tiny spiral staircase, worn smooth on the sides from constant hands rubbing past: a pay cut, less hours, one of my many odd jobs finding a conclusion, someone not paying me when they should have. The nature of my "work" is constant fluctuation and getting used to never knowing much in advance.
Then I moved, which cost a lot. And went on two trips, which was expensive. One of my best clients moved. And then, I quit a job. I absolutely had to do all of those things, the move, the trips, quit that job. Except, ever since I've been desperately broke. And it's been a long five months.
It's funny how being broke has changed me. First it was the little things, cutting out the trips to Starbucks, eating out less, waiting until something was absolutely out before I bought a new one. It felt temporary, because I've always been busy and working a lot and making enough money. So whenever I'd get a little bit of money I'd spend it all, not listening to the new meek voice in my head saying not to spend it.
You start to see how money affects your mood. When you have it, life is great. When you don't, life fucking sucks.
A month went by and then another, where it was not just hard to pay rent, but hard to pay my cell phone bill and buy groceries. And not only could I not pay the bills, I have a debt or two hanging over me that I cannot even consider paying. I started really scrutinizing where I was wasting money, and my sights settled pretty fast on drinking. So I quit going out. It coincided nicely with moving farther west and having a harder time getting home.
I went on a spending freeze. I looked for ways to make extra money. I started to use up the resources I had on hand that I was too picky for when I had all the money I needed, eating that bag of quinoa I had forever and using up all these toiletries I'd accumulated over the years of trying to find the perfect potion. No more socializing because socializing cost money. The few people I did socialize with are stubborn, generous or managed to catch me on a week when I had a little cash to spare.
And the worst part? I developed a horrendous case of worrying. My brain was like a nervous squirrel, digging, testing, wondering, scavenging, never ceasing its activity of adding and subtracting and worrying about money and when I was going to get it and how it would get to me before rent was due. The one characteristic I hate the most about other people I'd stumbled into and relied upon because I felt like I had no other choice.
I felt like I was drowning. I felt like I'd rather just give up than struggling so hard. I had to endure well meaning helpful suggestions from people who don't understand my livelihood. I can't really get another job unless it fits in with babysitting and my personal assisting gig (both of which are flexible, but never consistent). I can't really quit either of those jobs. I started to expand my pool of clients for my organizing business, but got disheartened when it seemed I never had free time that wasn't me sacrificing having dinner or an evening to myself at home. How could I be so busy and not have any fucking money to show for it?
And then, a long anticipated event finally arrived. I was due to go on vacation with my boss, a gift she extended me which was an all expense paid trip to Europe. All I had to do was leave my life for two weeks and go along for the ride. In some ways, it should have been the most wonderful gift, but all I could think about was how much it was going to cost, how hard I would have to work afterwards, how am I going to pay rent if I'm not working for two weeks? The meek voice turned nervous squirrel became an angry endless churning.
And long gone was my carefree happiness, my gladness and my joy.
Finally, the voice of reason broke through. I realized I wouldn't be able to work much if my boss was away. And, being a nervous squirrel worked. I had saved up some extra money. I worked hard and had more money than I needed. I felt a sense of quiet relief after I returned and realized everything was just fine. I still owe money to my friend, I still owe money on my student loans, I still have no idea how I am going to pay rent at the end of the month, but I'm tired of being held hostage by money or the lack of it. It never had a hold on me before, why should it now?
Sunday, August 21, 2011
She emerged at my twelve o'clock on a bicycle. That same doughy face with the smallish mouth and big nose and eyes pressed like raisins on top. I knew her at first glance and I turned on my heel hoping she would not see the beat of recognition in my face. I cowered under my umbrella. I hoped that she would know better than to say anything to me.
So of course it was no surprise that she rode over and stopped her bike to ask if it was really me. The doltish gesture was followed by an expectant gaze to which I had nothing to say. Nothing at all. Not a single word. The bus was coming, the bus I needed to get on was arriving, I was already late, but that wasn't just it. I had nothing at all to say to her.
She seemed to nod in some sort of understanding at the panic in my face and the lack of words. She pedaled away strongly as I boarded the bus and I watched for some time her figure gain some distance then lose some distance until suddenly she was gone again. And then I breathed.
There many ghosts here, even though it is big and full of people, I have lived here for a long time and there are many people I have cut loose, cast aside, let go of, and in some rare cases been let go. These ghosts sometimes cross my path without meddling with me, choosing to disappear into obscurity, some forgetting my face, lost in the hum of their own thoughts. When I see them I consider the things that led to our departure from each other, and usually those musings involve some small coins of regret that when tossed into a fountain had been hopeful wishes but have since become unrealized and forgotten.
She meant a lot to me at one time. She was in my life at a time when I was a giant mass of uncertainty and she helped shape part of who I am today. She had been a coworker then good friend and perhaps a best friend at some point, and when I needed her the most, she took a critique I made about her behind her back and to a mutual friend and made it mean everything.
I knew I was somewhat in the wrong to do so, a lesson that has since affected me in always saying out loud and to the person that needs to hear it everything I feel. What bothered me was not her anger about it, which was reasonable, to some degree, it was her embarrassment that her behavior had been questioned at all, and by me, someone who was her friend, to someone else who was her friend that did not know the behavior in question. And all of this high school tomfoolery arrived when things between the burnham and I were in a state of despair, because I had done the same behaviors and it cost me my relationship. And so, in the span of a couple short weeks, I lost my boyfriend and my best friend.
They both returned some time later, him with more success than she. We never really saw each other again after that summer night, when she tried to convince me that talking about her with our friend was a very bad thing and I just wouldn't let her be right. Part of me was ready to throw away that relationship, it had become tiring, I could tell she was no longer interested in my many twists and turns of testing out who I was or might be, she didn't seem to care anymore, we had grown apart and it was a long time coming. So when she crawled back into my life in the most discreet way possible (through blog comments and emails) I made no motion to ban her, I responded to her as best I could with the advantage of time to ponder my reply.
Even then she was tiring. Assuming things that were not true, pinpointing the most inane details, pressing books of great interest to her that I found droll and uninteresting, cheerleading that reeked of tail-between-the-legs earnestness all without any attempt at clearing up the rift or an apology. So it remained, for me at least, unresolved. Oh sure, time has lessened the sting of it, and since I was feeling less than enthused by her friendship I didn't miss her very much at at all, but I still felt bad that someone out there somewhere in the world had tried to mar my good name while I was already down no less. I have no doubt that she trotted out the scenario to any of our mutual friends who would listen to her lisping tiresome storytelling. And that to me, that was the overriding hypocrisy that cancelled out my own rock crashed into the still pond of our friendship.
Over the years I hear of her in little snippets, like news items, and I find them mostly to be good things for her, that she too has been trying to figure out her place in the world and who she is as a person. Some of the news I found corresponded to that loathsome quality of hers in which religion was her anchor and bringer of great guilt. I felt badly that she erased parts of herself to suit her beliefs, but to each their own.
Sometimes our rift causes one of our remaining mutual friends a bit of concern over who not to invite (I suspect she alternates our invitations in the interest of fairness) and I feel bad that I'm partly responsible for a delicate situation. I don't like having these sort of emotional land mines to navigate, preferring things to be cleaned up at the parting.
So all of that was running through my mind when her leg halted her bicycle next to me and she obtusely asked if it was me. And then, even though I have found myself, known myself, I couldn't reveal myself to her and I still couldn't lie and pretend seeing her was anything but alarming and unwelcome. Even now, a week later, I still have no idea what I could have said to her. Because none of it really matters until you start asking questions. And I could not say yes to her.
Monday, August 8, 2011
It was a coach house, which meant you had to walk around the front house on the lot. Next to the house was a concrete path, the gangway we called it when we were kids, but on the other side of the gangway was an empty lot for cars, it was a sea of wood chips and walking on them was the best feeling, like walking on sponges or sand. At the end of the woodchip lot was the community garden. The plots were marked off in irregular chunks and varieties of plants in various states of growth sprawled across what could have been a backyard.
The coach house was this pretty little white house. We lived in the basement. An artist lived on the other floor. His name was Bob and he was the most marvelous conversationalist, he would bump into you and wonder about something and you could spend the day shooting the shit with him and felt like you learned something or went through something profound with another human being in a way that you just don't feel with any old human being. And he rode a motorcycle, sometimes he parked it out front of our house. It was an old Italian motorcycle and sometimes I watched him work on it when I had the day off and the sun wasn't too bright. When I had to leave there, Bob took my green plastic molded chairs on wheels and gave them a good home with the appropriate reverence and delight.
There was a privacy fence that was about eight feet wide and six feet high and three or four bunches of clematis draped over it, big bursts of purple flowers and the green of the leaves snaking up along it made me smile when I saw them. I decorated the roof of our front entrance with strands of glass squares on fishing wire and delicate crackled aqua ornaments. And then there were the cosmos I planted, the only seeds I ever buried in dirt and watched grow. The white wooden planter in front of our door held them and they grew into large stalky plants only one of which ever had flowers and the flowers were small and sad and shriveled up quick. Oh, but the stalks of those cosmos, the delight I had watching them grow, how I would stare at their shadows on the white painted bricks. They looked like a forest of trees in their shadow and I would sit and smoke and trace with my eyes every single leaf and I adored those plants.
Outside the house was almost like a room in our house. It was all paved, cement, but there were things from Bob that he'd collected and deposited there, collages of found objects, stacks of like items, a giant husk of a rusting metal cross that he filled with every profane thing he could find. He liked stuff. His van sat on the other side of the privacy fence and it was covered, so covered I don't remember what color it was, with doll heads and stuffed animals and vintage toys and pretty much anything you could imagine a guy who liked stuff would attach to his van.
I would walk the length of the house and stare at all these pieces stacked on giant wooden spools or cement cinderblocks. We grilled out as much as possible and ate at the table outside. We loved being outside and enjoying the wonderland that was our place. It was quiet, except when the neighbors were loud, it was serene, it was peaceful.
I remember the best times we had were in the garden, tending to our little plot, looking for where the snap peas cast nubile green tendrils up the chain link fence as we hoped, pulling ripe raspberries off someone else's underwatched plot and eating them straight from our fingers, watching with delight as the broccoli grew, staring at the asparagus that someone had in the back corner, watching with interest and then concern as the melon vine grew and its fruits spoiled or were half eaten by squirrels or rats. Our little garden was the best part of our meager lives, we touched and palmed and stroked so many plants, it was a delightful seduction.
We always got along well, spending our days in monk like silence and keeping to ourselves, meeting somewhere to eat after work, our nights curled into each other's limbs, but the garden and that space outdoors littered with the found treasures and whimsy of the artist Bob, it was where we learned to love each other again.