Friday, January 27, 2006

Brief Update from the Eye of the Hurricane

There was a sketch in the 70's play "Pfeiffer's People" about a guy who dreams about "boxes upon boxes upon boxes. And as I stood there gaping and staring at all those boxes, they all came tumbling down on me!"

Welcome to my world.

The movers are coming at 8:00 AM tomorrow. This week has been really weird-- not sleeping at night, pacing restlessly, sleeping from dawn til 10 or so-- I'll be glad when it's all over. Assignations that fail to actuate. Letters I haven't answered.

Nothing's seemed straightforward. Except perhaps the boxes.

Today I spoke harshly to someone I love. Who truly deserved harsh words, and perhaps a smack upside the head. But because he was a dick, I didn't follow through with something I'd promised to do for him. And now I feel conflicted. Like I should do the thing even though he was a dick, because I said I would. But I don't want him to think it's okay to be such a dick. And yet-- He does think it is, because I've always shrugged off his dickishness before. He IS kind of a dick. I've known that for a long time. It's all about him. I've kind of liked that, the way I like it when someone orders for me in a restaurant. It takes the pressure off. And unless they order lambs balls stewed in squid ink or something, I probably don't care that much what I eat.

See-- this is why my New Year's Resolution was BE SELFISH. I'm too damn easy-going about most things.

But now-- Now I don't know what to do. Follow through on my word? Or say to myself, "I'll save my energy for people who are nicer to me."

Yeah, I know. I know what the Dear Abby answer would be. I also know it's more complicated than that, and that I don't have time to embark on a rambling tale of karma and committment. (Much to your collective relief, believe me, my blog-reading friends.)

I have to go back to the packing. I'll write something more later, perhaps. I just wanted to reach into the blog-world and send out a word to clear the pipes to the larger world, like in Horton Hears A Who.

We are here, we are here, we are heeeeeeeeeere!

Oh, friends. Send me good thoughts. I am sad, and my world is swirling. I am in the eye of the hurricane, but the storm still scares me. A little. Well, okay. Maybe a lot.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Another Ex-boyfriend Story

My ex-boyfriend Pat's father died when Pat was twenty-two. They hadn't spoken in several years. His relationship with his mother was strained by this, though with her he kept in touch by telephone. Not often, but enough. Still, she was his mother, and the night his father died, even though he hadn't spoken to her for months, not even over Christmas, he could tell from her voice even before she uttered the words.

He hung up his phone and looked at his roommate Steve. Steve was sitting on the sofa reading an album jacket (B.B. King, as I recall--) and Steve said, "What is it, man?"

Pat's stricken expression told him everything he needed to know. "I'll get the car," Steve said. "I'll drive you home."

It was January, and they drove for two days through endless snow and blistering, bewildering cold to get to Pat's home town in time for the funeral. Pat did a lot of crying in the car, and Steve did a lot of not saying anything, the good kind of not saying anything, where you know the other person knows there's simply nothing they could say.

The funeral was going to be in the morning. Pat didn't want to go to the church part, but he knew the graveyard where his parents had plots. When he was a boy, his mother had pointed the cemetery out to him as they'd driven past.

"Someday, your father and I will be in there," she'd told him. "It would be nice if you'd stop by once in a while."

It was still early when they pulled into town. There were a couple of hours before the funeral time. Steve suggested breakfast, but Pat didn't feel like eating. He asked Steve to drop him off at the cemetery. He wanted some time to himself after the long drive, before being welcomed back to the bosom of his estranged family.

He hadn't been back in years, but he remembered how to get to the cemetery. Steve let him out at the gates. They'd agreed Steve would meet him back later, when the funeral was happening.

The cemetery was set on a hill. A winding road plowed through the snow, circling through the gravestones. Near the top of the hill, a lone grave had been dug, solemnly awaiting a new arrival. The dirt looked odd, turned inside out, sitting on top of the snow.

Pat climbed the hill and waited for the procession to arrive. The cold somehow emphasised the desolation of the scene.

He looked in the empty grave, imagining that soon his father would be in there for the rest of time. It was hard to put the man in that spot, and hard to imagine that he would stay in one place. He couldn't imagine his father tolerating that sort of impertinence, pictured him rising up out of his coffin to yell at Pat for somehow orchestrating this eternal insult. Pat of course had nothing to do with it. But that had never stopped his father's ire before.

It was overwhelming, the confusion of feelings tumbling around like socks in a dryer. Loss, and love, and anger. The guilt of being a disappointment, the outrage at having done nothing to deserve that designation.

Nearby, there was a tree. Pat walked over and leaned against it, burying his face in his arms and wailing to the open sky.

"Why?!" he yelled to the invisible ghost of his father. "Why did you have to be such an asshole and then die before I could figure out how to like you anyway?!"

It was freezing cold and his nose ran and the tears stung his face, but he wept and railed, railed and wept. His father had been a stern man, a dentist always finding fault with his only son, drilling away at Pat's self-esteem as if it was some form of decay that needed to be removed and filled with some device of his own, better design.

(Forgive the appalling conceit. I heard a lot about the Dentist in the course of my relationship with Pat.)

Finally, after the hours of fury and desolation, when his feet were solidly frozen and his teeth decidedly chattering, a hearse appeared on the road beneath. Behind it trailed the cars of the funeral parade. Slowly they mounted the hill, parking near the grave. And one by one people emerged from vehicles, talking in the hushed voices of the living in the presence of the dead, or golfers at the putting green.

Pat had not been home in many years. And when he had lived in this town, amongst the people who were his kin, he'd never quite fit in, always feeling like the odd man out. As his family members walked towards the grave, he felt no tie to any of them. They looked like strangers. No one even looked at him, acknowledging his presence. He was an outcast even at this funeral, and he felt it sorely.

And then he looked again at the crowd, and realized that in fact, he didn't know any of these people. He had never seen them before in his life. He was at the wrong funeral.

Eventually Steve arrived and picked him up. He'd brought an Egg McMuffin, which Pat ate as they drove to his parents' house. There, they found the tribe assembled over a post-funeral brunch, where neckties were incrementally loosened as the tone of conversation lightened up.

"Well, where the hell were you?" Pat's mother asked as he and Steve opened the back door and stomped the snow off their shoes. "I thought you were going to try to make it for the funeral."

It turned out that years before, his parents had sold the plots in the cemetery his mother had pointed out. They'd bought other ones in a graveyard across town. Nobody'd thought to mention this to Pat.

"So even in death, I disappointed him," Pat told me sadly, shaking his head.

"But you didn't have all the information," I reasoned. "How could you have known?"

"It wouldn't have mattered. To Dad, it would still have been my fault."

Ah, Pat.

He was a beautiful man. He looked like he'd stepped out of a Frederic Leighton painting of a knight. Chiseled cheekbones and long dark lashes, tall and effortlessly muscular. And he had a sad, dry wit that appealed to me, although at the end of the day I would have had to kill him if I'd stayed with him any longer than I did. I'd meant to break up with him for months, but every time I saw him, thinking, "This is the day I'll tell him"-- his beauty would stop me in my tracks.

And there's something beautiful in this story, I think. The innocence of hope-- the wish that we can somehow fix things that may nevertheless forever remain broken.

But God, there's just something so damn funny about this story too. I can't put my finger on what it is, but if you need me to point it out, you'd never understand anyway.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Swimming back to shore

Last week I had one of those dreams that hangs around. Like when you sleep with someone and the next day keep smelling his aftershave in your hair. The dream weaves in and out of my thoughts, coloring everything a little. And then the dream pops up in focus unexpectedly, or I find it at the corner of my thoughts. And it's all back again.

In the dream, it was a gray day, and I was walking along a beach with my sister. (In one of those inexplicable details of dreams, I know that we were walking north.) And my sweet dog Casey was running along side us, playing where the waves reach as far as they can, stretching onto the shore until they are shallow and thin, a tiny lace of bubbles disappearing into the sand. She was barking at the froth it left behind.

I was talking to my sister about something else, something unimportant. But I was enjoying watching Casey play at the water's edge. And then I remembered the awful fact that Casey's dead.

My sister saw me stiffen and take in my breath.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"Casey," I said. "She shouldn't be here. She's dead."

It was horrible realizing that she was dead, that she'd have to leave me again and couldn't play on the beach. It was like opening a wonderful present and then being told it has to go back to the store, you can't keep it.

"No, it's okay! " said my sister. "Don't you remember?"

"Remember what?"

"That we THOUGHT she was dead, but she really wasn't. She'd just been pulled out to sea by a big wave. But she swam back to shore. She was just down the beach, and we found her. Remember?"

In the dream, suddenly, I did remember, and I was happy again. And we continued our dream walk, and Casey played with the little waves.

When I woke up, I was smiling. And then of course I remembered that oh yeah, she really IS dead. And it was horrible again, as it always is when I remember that.

That fact is like spilled mercury. It's broken into so many pieces that I can't quite grab onto and collect, because it keeps rolling away from me and breaking into more pieces for me to retrieve. And all of them are cold poison.

But there's another way of looking at it, and I'm trying to focus on that. Maybe dying is like being swept out to sea by a big wave. And maybe somehow in time I'll find her again down the beach.

You wouldn't think it would hurt this much, would you?

Jesus wept.

Listen to me. That's three morose postings in a row.

It's this moving thing. Really. It's stressing me out. I mean, I am not walking around crying into my teacup. I'm making lists and hanging out with friends. My best friend's wedding was this weekend and I had a great time. I've got some money coming my way, and the guy who plows my driveway in Vermont called today to tell me that my house is still standing and that as of 9:30 this evening, the heat was still on. (This is a very good thing. An empty house in Vermont in sub-zero temperatures can be a costly proposition.)

But all I have to do is sit down to write and I become Miss Doom and Gloom. That's the way the tension comes out, I guess.

Time passes and things change. I know that. And as James Taylor sang, "the secret of life is enjoying the passing of time. "

It's just that on top of the rest of the planning and organization stress, and the ordinary stress of change, this move means that I will be living in a house that Casey will never live in. Whereas now, here, there's a space that is her absence. I know all the places where she once was, and all the places that, now, she is not. One corner of my bedroom is where Casey used to sleep, and a tree in my backyard is where Casey every morning she used to stand, looking up, barking at squirrels. Next to the sofa in the living room, there's a smudge on the wall (that I can't bear to wipe off) where she brushed against it every night, turning around three times before lying down.

I'm moving. And someone else will find that smudge and wipe it off. Someone else will just see it as a smudge on the wall, not knowing that it was left there by the sweetest dog who ever lived. One squirt from the bottle of Fantastic and swipe of a paper towel, and that will be the last of Casey. Except in my heart, of course. There, her mark is indelible.

Maybe the last day I am here, I'll wipe the wall smudge off. Take control of that, doing it myself instead of leaving it for the new owner of this house, who won't know that it's a memorial of sorts. Who won't look at it and wonder what happens when we die, if the tide can bring us back in, if we can swim back again to be with those who love us.

Good Lord. That's it. Tomorrow I'm challenging myself to write something uplifting so you guys don't think I'm about to jump off a bridge.

Stay tuned. Better, happier thoughts ahead.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

a lesson from a fuck-up

The first time I saw the boy who became my first love, he was moving into the house next door. The moving van was stuck in the snow, and he appeared around the corner of the van, talking to the movers, probably about ideas to extricate the vehicle.

He was beautiful. He was tall and blond, and he gestured with graceful animation. When he smiled, the gray day appeared to be transformed to dazzling sunlight, like sunflowers laughing in the sun.

I started baking cookies right away. It was a snow day from school. I had time to be neighborly.

As soon as they were finished, I took them over. It was love at first sight.

We spent the next two weeks together whenever I wasn't at school. He was helping his family unpack and didn't start school right away. When he did start, things got weird because I ran with the theatre crowd and he was a stoner. It didn't mesh. We still hung out. He had a bad relationship with his stepfather, and sometimes he'd come over to my house after they'd had a fight.

He'd sit, brooding, and we'd make a fire. Sometimes we'd make out. We still liked each other, but the chasm of our high school groups made it impossible to be together in the holding hands in the hallway kind of way. Finally I lost my virginity to him on the floor of my basement. I loved it. I loved him. I knew it wasn't going to change anything about the situation, but I was glad to have that kind of closeness with him.

That night, he went went home slightly after curfew. His stepfather yelled at him. My boy turned on his heel and left, hitching to the highway and going to live with his brother in Albany.

He wrote me to apologize. Then he enlisted in the navy. He wrote me once from a battleship in the Pacific.

Collette wrote, "First love is the only thing we die from."

She was right.

Sorry I'm so depressing. I'll get over it. I think it's the stress of the move, plus something someone wrote to me yesterday that was like a kick in the gut. That's what made me think about that boy.

Here's why. A couple years later, he came back from the Navy, showing up at my house out of the blue. His family still lived next door, but he kept most of his waking hours at my house. It was summer and I was home from college.

I wouldn't say it was his finest hour. He was a trainwreck. He'd been awol for months, and was drinking and doing a lot of drugs. He'd been doing porno to survive. When he showed up at my house, he was overly animated and flushed, talking too fast and saying nothing. After he'd been around for a couple days and I saw that he was in pretty bad shape all around, I took it upon myself to set him straight. I lectured him severely. Told him he was flushing his life down the toilet, etc. I was pretty harsh. He didn't say a word.

That night, I took him to a party I'd been invited to. He was a total embarassment. He was stoned and sloppily, charmlessly drunk. He knocked over a table full of drinks and my friends were glaring at me like "WHO IS THIS IMBECILE?" Finally I said, "Let's go home."

In the car, he didn't say anything for a long time. But then he said, "You know Cupcake, I have a lot of faults. But one thing I never do is make someone feel bad about themselves."

He said it quietly, and clearly, and with more dignity than I'd have guessed he possessed at that time. And I realized he was that drunk and stoned because what I'd said had upset him tremendously. I realized that I'd made him hate himself. Which only made things worse.

There were other ways I could have said the things I said. I could have tried to have compassion. He must have been really confused at that time. He must have been regretful about dropping out of school, and about other things he'd done. He was probably scared. And he was probably hanging around at my house because I felt safe to him, and he trusted me to love him unconditionally. But instead of helping him find his way out of pain, I told him how his ways of dealing with his problems made him a fuck-up. And feeling like you're a fuck-up just makes you fuck-up more.

and then he went away. forever.

I wonder how he is. I wish I could tell him, now that I know a little bit more about life, about how sometimes pain and loneliness and confusion make us do strange things-- I wish I could tell him that I'm sorry.

Things That Rankle

It is night. Now do the leaping fountains of life leap higher.

It is night. And my heart too is a leaping fountain.

When I lived in Glasgow, the summer I was 20, there was a multi-tiered Victorian fountain on a hill in a park, near Glasgow University. They didn't have it running, so it was dry, sort of like a stone wedding cake. I used to climb up there and sit, reading. That was my summer of Nietzsche and Iris Murchoch. I read Nietzsches words about the leaping fountains of life there. So I've always pictured that fountain when I've thought of those lines. Though naturally I pictured it with water in it.

Now, when it's night and my heart surges longing, sometimes I feel like I'm still 20, still sitting there in Glasgow.

It was a long time ago.

Iris Murdoch was alive, and I wrote to her. She wrote back. I asked her if she considered herself a feminist, and she replied, "If by feminism you mean that women should sit up and join the human race, then I'm all for that."

I wish I still had the letter. It got lost in a move somewhere. Or I think an ex-boyfriend appropriated it. (I've no idea why. He'd never heard of Iris Murdoch until I found the letter one day and showed it to him. As far as I know the only books he'd ever read were "Mastering Pac-Man" and a series about the right way to gut fish and tan hides.)

Why am I telling you all this? Because my heart is surging with that same longing, and there's nothing I can do about it.

Sometimes there's just so much longing that I think I am drowning in it.

I wish so much I could go back to that summer I was 20. I know now which forks in the road I ought to have taken. That when the head of the Amherst theater department said he'd get me into Amherst because he wanted me in his department, I should NOT have said, "But I'm going to Rome next year. Sorry."

That I shouldn't have bought a certain property that I'm longing to dump right now.

That I should have agreed, when an old boyfriend asked me to move in with him, rather than bolting to another state and then wondering why the relationship didn't move forward.

Hindsight being 20-20 isn't necessarily a good thing. I wish I was just blind to the mistakes in my past. Instead, sleepless nights like this one.

And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
for unremembered lads that not again
will turn to me at midnight with a cry.

I shouldn't write after midnight. I just get morose.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Boxes upon Boxes

I'm moving soon.

I don't know when exactly. The house I am moving to is not vacant, and the family living there hasn't said exactly when they're leaving. Every day, I ask my realtor and my lawyer if there's a set date yet. Every day, the answer is vague. "Towards the end of the month." "You can be sure they'll be out of there by the first." Stuff like that.

Every day, the people moving into the apartment where I am now, (the new owners of the house) call to ask when I am leaving. I tell them I don't know yet. As soon as possible. That as soon as I know, I'll let them know.

I've moved a lot in the last eight years. From Boston to a farm in Vermont. From the farm to the house on the mountain. From that house to the West Village. From there to Tribeca. From Tribeca to an apartment in Jersey City. From the apartment to this house. And now to the new house.

Someone told me once that three moves is as good as a housefire. You get rid of all the stuff you've been carrying around-- the A++ book reports from Eighth Grade, the college text books you'll never look at again. It's true. I just through away the handouts from one of the most interesting classes I ever took. Figured I haven't looked at them in a decade. Why would I look at them now?

But the houses get bigger, so the furniture gets bigger. Which means the bookshelves get bigger. Which means...more books. And one thing about books: they're not light.

When my Uncle Arthur died, his sister Louise flew in from Oklahoma. His house was wall-to-wall books. (He hadn't moved in 50 years.) Louise looked at them, snorted, and said, "I always told him these things were nothing but dust-catchers."

While I was out of town, she sold all the books to a dealer for $300. He had a collection of first edition Hemingways. Heaven only knows what else. I've always regretted that I didn't get to go through the books before she got rid of them. But I just realized how many more books I would have if she hadn't done that, and in a way, that's a relief.

Anyway, I didn't want to post about books. I wanted to post about how, because I've become such an experienced mover, I decided I wasn't going to wait to the last minute to start packing. That I would pack a box or two a day as soon as I knew I was going to move. I thought that would be less stressful.

In a way, it is. And in another way, it isn't.

I am surrounded by boxes. It's surreal. I keep thinking that this would be a very good time to die, because it would be easy for my family just to call the bookdealer right now. And the furniture dealer. And -- well, that's about it, other than clothes in various shades of black and a couple of very eccentric dogs.

But it's strange to see cumbersomeness of possessions. I spend so much time wishing I had things: a Michelopoulos painting, a bust of Napoleon, better TV---- okay, well, that's it, really. Jesus. That's all I want? That should be easy enough.

Yet what I have is barricading me in. I can't stand to be at home because it's like being in the back room at a warehouse. Everything is encased in cardboard. Towers of boxes lurking ominously in corners. I catch them out of the corner of my eye-- actually, out of ANY angle of my eye, because wherever I look, there's another stack of boxes. And I want to yell, "WHAT???? What do you want from me?!!!!"

So it's just a different kind of stress. I guess there's no way around the stress of moving, however you box it up.

When this is over, I assure you, patient readers, scads of delicious, witty, well-written interesting prose. You'll say to yourselves-- "That Cupcake! Such a prolific and insightful girl! So very entertaining!"

You'll all link to me, mention me in your own posts. My readership will triple (somersaulting into the double digits!) and all will be well.

When we get to the promised land, that future where my new life will start, where I can unpack these boxes and begin again.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Big Box of Bananas

When my exboyfriend John was turning five, he was very excited about his birthday.

People would say, "What do you want for your birthday, John?" And he'd dance around the room and think about the toy firetruck he wanted more than anything in the world.

But he never told anyone he wanted it.

John's parents were very young when they had him. And though they loved him very much, he had already learned that they were somewhat irresponsible. (Another story is about how he begged his dad to lock up his bike, but his dad said, "Nobody's going to steal it, son..." And guess what? Somebody did.)

So when the birthday was looming deliciously on the horizon, John knew better than to entrust his wish for the firetruck to his parents. He knew they'd just mess it up. And he knew that the hope of having the firetruck was beyond anything he could dream of. At five, he already knew that the bitterness of disappointment was worse than the bittersweetness of longing.

He told them, when they persisted in asking, that he wanted "a big box of bananas." When he told me this story, many years later, he held his arms aloft to show how very big a box of bananas he wanted. He was such a good story teller that I could see him as a small box, stretching his arms out, the look of excitement on his face.

He figured they couldn't mess that up. There were usually bananas in the house, and he did like bananas.

The parents and other grownups marvelled at what a cute request this was.

"Are you SURE that's all you want?" they kept asking him.

That was all he wanted, he assured them, showing tremendous enthusiasm for the request.

His birthday fell on the same day as another little boy's birthday. The neighborhood was invited to a joint birthday party, where they had two cakes and sang the birthday song twice. And John was presented with a big box of bananas, which he acted really happy about.

The other little boy got the toy firetruck.

"What was that like for you?" I asked him, many years later when I knew him. "That must have sucked."

"Oh, it was okay." he said cooly, not looking me in the eyes. "I did really like bananas, and we didn't run out of them, of course. We had that box til they got brown and mushy. There were fruitflies in the house for months."

"But what about the firetruck? Didn't that piss you off that the other kid had it and you didn't?"

"Nah. I used to go over to his house and play with it. I just pretended it was mine." There was something in his tone that let me know it was time to change the subject.

I think about this story an awful lot. I thought about it at Christmas this year, when making my Christmas list. I'm not a child of five. Things I really want, I can getfor myself. Part of my gift to my parents is to ask for easy things, and to not really care about the presents, anyway.

But there are always those things I want so much I don't ask for them. Not from God, not from anyone.

There's a certain thing that for years I've wondered why no one buys me. It's so damn stupid. I should just buy it for myself, but year after year I wait to see if anyone ever figures out that it's the perfect gift for me. Nobody ever does. Here's what it is: but don't tell my friends in real life, because that would be cheating.

It's that refrigerator poetry kit, the one for dog lovers. How my friends can pass that in shops and not thing, "Wow! Is that Cupcake or what?!" That baffles me.

Yes, yes. I know I could buy it for myself. But I don't. It's sort of like Tiffany's, in a way. I personally feel that if a woman has to buy her own jewelry at Tiffany's-- well, it's just a little sad. Now, I'm a big fan of costume jewelry. I wear it almost every day. But if I ever go to Tiffany's and buy myself a bracelet, it's because I don't think anyone will ever buy me one as a gift. (Mercifully, someone has done so. And when he gave me the robin's egg blue package, I felt the same relief that I felt the minute I'd lost my virginity. "THANK GOD THAT'S OVER. AT LEAST I PASSED THROUGH THAT RITE OF PASSAGE.")

So I wait, wondering who in the future will buy the dog-poetry refridgerator magnet kit for me. Someday, someone will. But I haven't ever asked for it.

And there are so many other things like that. Toy Firetrucks so dreamed of and cherished that I dare not name them. In some cases, I have played with other girls' trucks and pretended they were mine. I understood John's coolness. When you think you can't ever have something, the nearest you can come to it is still pretty good. Or at least better than nothing.

And yet--- what if I asked? What if I said, "This is what I want, destiny be damned! I claim my right to it, even if it's never truly mine!"

Nah. Easier to eat the bananas. And then the fruitflies buzz around, nipping at you like tiny reminders of fear.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Things I remember

Some memories keep showing up like pop-ups on the computer. Some of them go away when you click on the x-box in the right hand corner. But some don't. Sometimes they even crash the system.

Here are some pop-up memories in the computer of my brain.

Good things:

1.)This one night after the company Christmas party I went home with this very sweet, smart, handsome guy that I had a secret crush on. We made out under his Christmas tree. We never ended up together, but he became a good friend. I wonder how he is.

2.) Watching the sun rise over Waikiki Beach and thinking that maybe everything would be okay. I was reading, then, the same book I am reading now. I just realized. Glamourous Powers by Susan Howatch, a book about ego and redemption and finding one’s true relationship with God. A novel. But it’s easier to learn from someone else’s mistakes, eh?

3.) An American girl in the Sydney airport who paid the $3.00 Australian so I could take the shuttle to the other wing of the airport, because I was afraid I’d miss my flight to Perth if I went to change money. She didn’t even hesitate. On the shuttle, she told me that she was Jewish and it was the first day of Hanekah. And suddenly I understood why I had impulsive bought a dreydl the day before I left, slipping it into my purse with a confidence that I would need it soon. “Happy Hanekah!” I said to her, tossing it to her as I got off the shuttle. Her face lit up.

4.)Walking down the Avenue of the Americas (aka 6th Avenue) my first day back in the states after 6 months abroad, a doorman approaches me and wordlessly hands me a huge bouquet of red, white and blue balloons. I walk down the street thinking, “Home. I am home.”

5.)Standing on a rock in a state park, too afraid to climb down or jump into my cousin John’s arms. John went to get my dad, and I jumped to him, knowing he would catch me, that I was safe.

Bad things:

1.)Last February when Casey was having a seizure and my new dog Meredith ran away. By the time I got Casey to sleep and went to look for Meredith, she’d been hit by a car and killed. I found her just as the snow was starting to cover her little body, and I carried her home with such a horrible feeling a sadness and guilt. I didn’t even have a chance to get to know her. She ran away because she wanted to go home. And I guess she finally did.

2.)Driving in the car with Andrea, wondering how long it would take her to get around to mentioning that she’d slept with the guy I was involved with. I’d smelled him in her sheets. I was looking out the window at the traffic thinking, “Jesus, girl, at least have the graciousness to admit it. At least step up to the plate and declare yourself.” She never did. Finally I said, “So…are you ever planning on telling me you slept with my boyfriend?” And she babbled out a stream of excuses but not one of them stood up to a straightforward, “I’m sorry.” We’re not friends any more, though I really had loved her like a sister and could have forgiven her (eventually) for the betrayal. (That boy just wasn’t programmed to keep the thing in his pants, but he had many redeeming qualities and I learned not to take it personally.)The betrayal was one thing. He was too damn seductive. But the cowardice afterwards? That showed me more about her character than 100 episodes of sleeping with some guy.

3.)The day my “partner” at the job from hell viciously accused me of lying on my resume to get the job. I said, “I think our manager should be present for this conversation.” When I came back with the manager, my partner calmly told her that I’d made up the entire previous conversation, that she would never be so unprofessional as to say such things, and that she really didn’t know what to make of me as it was apparent to all that I was a pathological liar. I nearly puked. I realized that I’d made a terrible mistake in taking the job without a better idea of who the players would be.

4.)My car sliding through the deep slush beyond my control into the only other car visible on the road for miles. The crush of the metal.

Perplexing things:

1.) The dream I had that my aunt came to me crying and said, “I don’t know what to do, Cupcake! Help me!” and I said, “I can’t help you. I have my own mess to sort out.” I woke up to the sound of my nightgown flapping against my shins as I ran down the hallway. In the morning, I got a phone call that she’d died that night, quite suddenly.

2.) My playwrighting mentor telling me that even though my play was better than a certain other girl’s play, he was putting hers in the final round of the festival and not mine. I still grapple with that. It goes around in my brain like a continuous loop. He is not my playwrighting mentor any more.

3.) A certain boy telling me he loves me. I can see his perfect lips forming the words, but it seems like I’m watching it from the wrong end of a telescope. Everything is wrong about the admission. The next morning, he kicks me out of his house. Which is the point at which I realize that in fact he was speaking the truth. In his own way, he loves me. And for him that’s a treachery I’ve committed, which he’ll never forgive me for.

4.) The 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. How? Can? That? Have? Happened? And how will we ever get the power back?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Deer in the headlights

Always, the first weeks of January make me feel like a deer in the headlights.

My New Year's was quiet. I resolved (again) to BE SELFISH, to take up more room in my life rather than playing Jeeves to the Bertie of Life. Someone I trust once told me that I have attributes which could put me in the limelight, but whenever that light turns toward me, I slink away. It's true.

And yet I love to sit next to the person in the limelight. I realized this again last week when I hung out two nights with a friend who is going to be very famous very soon. I won't say who he is because many of you will have seen him on TV -- and if you haven't, you will. (Right now he's one of those faces you recognize without knowing the name. But you'll know the name soon-- believe me.)

Everywhere we went, people would come up to us on the street and say, "Oh my God, it's YOU!" He'd shake hands and chat. Most of these people were out of towners because New Yorkers don't even act that way for DeNiro, usually-- but it was sweet and he'd blush a little and they'd take pictures and leave us full of "I can't wait to tell my friends back home!" exclamations. There were points where we couldn't get 20 feet down the sidewalk without people rushing him. It was funny, in a way. Mostly it was exciting to watch, because I've known him since I first moved here and his star just keeps rising.

And I felt a weird sense of pride that I'm not sure I like, being the person with him. I mean, I am really happy for my friend, and I am psyched that he's getting there. He works hard and he deserves it.

But getting in a taxi with my friend after a gushing group of Texans encircled and leapt around him, I thought, Cupcake-- yo! Why aren't YOU working that hard? What in fact are you doing with your life right now?

It's not that I want to be a star. I'm too shy for that. I do theatre because I've always done it and I feel safe, for the period of time I am onstage. It feels secure to me because for that period of time I am performing, I know exactly what will happen to me in the next several minutes. It's a relief. I feel invulnerable because there are no surprises. I'm a very good actress, and with a longer set of nails and thinner thighs, I might have pursued it as a career and been successful. But I don't have long nails, and no one ever called me svelte. And at the end of the day I am a realistic girl, and I know that the lack of those things-- and mostly the lack of driving ambition-- means that it wouldn't have worked out.

But like everyone, I want to feel good about what I am doing. And right now, all I'm doing is waiting. And the waiting gets me in a funk, and then I don't write and I don't feel good about myself when I'm not writing.

What am I waiting for, you ask? I'm...

Waiting to sell a crappy apartment building I own in Vermont. The deal may be dead in the water, or it may simply be moving at the speed of continental drift. I can't tell, but it's driving me nuts. Vermont has it's own time-frame and continental drift seems speedy there.

Waiting to move out of this house where I'm sitting, the one I used to own and into the house I am buying. As I type, the new owners are working on the illegal apartment they're building in the basement. I went down earlier and discovered that yes, they are still using my electricity to do their construction. I am surrounded by an ever-growing forest of stacked boxes, and it's starting to feel surreal.

Waiting to delve into three free-lance jobs that I've been sort of working on for two months but not really able to move forward on for various reasons.

Waiting for my best friend's wedding which is Jan 14.

Waiting for my car to die.

Waiting for a check for $6000 for work that I did three years ago. The person I did the work for died, and the judge has to sign off on the invoices that were sent in by the lawyers. It's been "any day now" for the last year.

I feel like my whole life is on the other side of a glass wall. Every day I make calls to push things forward, to try to jump in the pool that will be my future and then just as I'm about to leap off the edge I look down and notice there's no water in there.

Shades of Seymour Glass.

I miss Casey. I felt at least while she was alive that I was grounded. I knew where I belonged, because Casey was there. That loss messed with my head, more than you'd think it would. Now I'm feeling like I need community and I don't know where to get it. I guess I should try to find a job that isn't essentially self-employment, but I also know that nobody gets rich working for somebody else, and I am hesitant to join another firm that might be as soul-killing as the job I left in October.

Listen to me. I'm in a funk. It's the damn First Week of January thing. That's all.

I'm shutting up now and going back to make phone calls to move things forward.

My acting coach says "When you encounter something that that gets in the way of your work-- That thing is your work."

So I'm going to have to work on my attitude, I guess.

Send me good thoughts, guys. Fan positive energy through the ether in this general direction.

Happy New Year. Meh. Okay. I guess I mean that.