Glibly and brisk: “It’s when I get to forget about all of this, it’s when I get to feel alive! I get recharged. I’m not the center of attention for awhile…I appreciate how everyone is concerned about me, really I am. But just being among people – a team – and getting to feel equal with them for this time. That’s when I get to feel normal.” But there is nothing normal about it; she is telling this to the local small town paper that is asking all these questions because she cannot avoid being special. And this is all she wants to convey: she wants the normalcy, she wants to be polite too and give them the time they want of her. But it is funny that she is required to do this when her time is known and short. She sums up all the things that are not required of her because of her cancer: she cannot recall the last time she had to write a check, wash a dish or stand in a pharmacy line. There is always someone handy who wants to do these things – family, friends, people she has met since this happened who possess an unhealthy interest in tragedy. So, she has to answer the questions or occasionally represent to the rest of the world every thing that is not normal to them - and she doesn’t have to do all the things that she would love to be doing because this is the time in her life where she should be embracing independence but cannot. She tries to apply a percentage to both, guesses it is a wash – perhaps we are all taxed the same with things we don’t want to do. If only what was left from that were a joy.
No, the rest is maintaining an outlook. A positive one. Not for herself, but for the world who has graced her with its microscope. So they can commend her attitude, so they can say that they wouldn’t handle things nearly as well if they were in her position? She gets a lot of that, and thinks really – you don’t have much of a choice. Kirk and James and she would trade off pithy sayings that she could share with the press, their tender for the world’s superabundance of pity ready to be bartered. When you’ve been short-shifted in life, smart-assed and quick-witted boys are the best relief; they are the cigarette you have to sneak away from the others to have. This is what is keeping her going - not the petitions to ‘never give up’ or the women’s Kayaking Team she gets to take part in between treatments, or the well-wishers and supporters who shower her with good – approaching condescending, in her mind – intentions. When Kirk and James come to visit, she forgets about all the real problems and they all engage in a metaphysical rebellion. Which is what she really needs. It’s what she feels she has coming to her.
Yeah, just not in the mood for writing. At least not here; I've been working on 5000+ word fare, and I'm not ready to burst past a self-imposed 3254 word limit I've set - and matched twice - on these pages. It's been a strange weekend, starting off with an adrenaline boost then decelerating to a welcome, peaceful monotomy. I may throw some fragments on here, but right now I'm trying to maintain a pace slightly beyond an encroaching beer buzz.
Haute Trash was a blast; Bree strutting Michelle's Stranger dress stood out in the bunch. But the rain! WTF? Most all converged on a packed Canterbury for an after-gathering. Some orchestrated, some abdicated.
Saturday was an aimless, carpetmouthed day (I drank at each of the three stops along the way the previous night). I gave over to cat-sitting at friends, which was a little weird - the friend being Michelle's (different Michelle: my ex) sister...and my lack of enthusiasm over dealing with the output of 80 pounds distributed across 5 cats gave away to me, sitting cross-legged on the floor, poring through a dozen photo albums. That, and I fucked up their television - at least the audio. But I did find their porn. Note: never have me housesit / catsit for you.
Today wasn't much different. I tracked down a copy of Stephen Dixon's Gould on my morning promenade. I need to go back and pick up Frances Farmer's autobiography. I didn't want to spend 12 bucks on a trashed pocket-sized paperback, but I have a feeling if I don't, I won't see it for awhile. Oh, and I picked up the Harvey Danger album at Easy Street.
Punishment? I was elated at being able to have the new folk over on the first surprise beautiful saturday of the year; riding on cloud nine, feeling king of the hill. I've existed 8 months of varying degrees of social & mental absentia & general embarassment at my living conditions (M & me split days after I tore up the living room carpet, so I was juggling a ten year breakup and not having a comfortable place to kick up my feet for too long): this was my big night! A definite closure, a hopeful step into the future. Like I could schedule and force a new world.
So I'm trying to get past the notion that the fates saw me smiling and wanted to kick me off my block. Marika was the last person seen with the toilet when it was still alive and kicking - but she was also the first to call 911. I was pretty well gone at this point, having a one-way conversation with Anthony (who wasn't nearly as drunk or gabby as I was at this point in the evening), and I didn't want to hear her complaints that the toilet wasn't acting properly or that the bathroom was flooding with water. Throw some towels down! Sandbags? I'm talking here.
Worse, I woke up the next day with this positive attitude that things had magically resolved themselves in my sleep. Flush once; okay. A second flush brought up backflow in the bathtub and water seeping out at the base of the toilet - okay, we really do have a problem.
The solution is running at about seven thousand dollars right now. I'm summoning all my 'numbness in the face of everything the universe wants to throw at me'; the new muscle I've formed & exercised over the past six months, to sign the papers and commit the funds necessary for a final solution to my plumbing problems.
The window-blind filtered sunlight tracks arrested their creeping advance on his closeted corneas. The warmth on his face and the brightness of the room launched him upright – an act in tandem with knowing he was late, impossibly late – and hopelessly, he fell back and rubbed his eye sockets with the heels of his palms. Screw this, he thought, rotating his hands counter and clockwise. Screw this, I will be late, I’m not really late, I’ve already put in enough hours, I know there’s just a few things that need to be taken care of at the office, the only way I can keep myself from hating this job is if right now, I remove the sense of urgency and just take my own sweet time getting in. It is the only way. He enjoyed being salaried – it offered a lot of freedom – but he did not enjoy the ridiculous hours required of him.
He told himself this is only the short term: this has been a bad week, next week there is next to nothing to do. He could get back to having a social life again. He could get back to feeling normal again. Monday hadn’t been too bad - Tuesday hadn’t been too bad, either. Wednesday night however, his sleep became interrupted with dreams that the cell was vibrating next to him; dreams that he was at his computer and on the phone and the person on the other end was asking him to do all these complex operations that he either could not remember or had never been told how to do. The odd-hour, late work shifts from early in the week were catching up to him – he was catching naps at every possible opportunity, but never resting. He would always awake with a start, his heart and pulse pounding, a dry and cracked throat – wondering where he needed to be, what he may have forgotten or missed.
Weighing himself corrects his mood. One Hundred Seventy Eight pounds; the light dinner has paid off, and so has the online work between 1 and 4 A.M. He woke to the alarm, lifted weights to keep himself alert, and brewed a little tea. The home office is a blessing and a curse. He can’t imagine what it would be like to drive into work to do what he has to do in the wee hours – on the other hand, he never feels completely detached from work either. Acknowledging this invasion into his home becomes one more chip on the scale that he uses to justify going into work slowly. The scale inspires him to dress up today, make a little extra effort – pop in his contacts, shave, dress in slacks and look professional; things he usually foregoes because he has interred the notion that he is too busy, too rushed.
At the coffee shop, he checks the schedule for what live music is scheduled this weekend. Bands always summarize in twenty words or less what the audience is in for, because if you aren’t a relative you aren’t going to know the band by name. “Metal protest folk with a shot of humor.” “Flute-driven pastoral rock to entertain the serfs.” “Established classical guitarist and instructor.” Nothing grabs his attention, and he notes the first band for the use of the word folk: this is always a default, a warning sign that novices were at a loss of vision. He inhales the murky steam of his Americano and smiles because this is the first jolt, the first external impetus that is going to keep him moving forward through the day.
He ambles to the bus stop. It is a beautiful morning – the sun is bright – but the cold is biting. These are the transitional days where you go to work overdressed then sweat your way through the commute home. As he approaches the bus stop, he sees the girl, the girl he was ambivalent about in some ways and attracted to in others. She stops him short when she smiles and says ‘Hey Steinbeck’ – probably because she doesn’t read a lot – no, her being well-read is something he projected on her – and that is one of a few authors she knows by name. But she does remind him that he’s been doing a lot of writing lately, and the horror is now upon him.
He is figuring dates. They had a nice little talk, it lasted no more than five minutes, and that was weeks ago. Did he mention he had started writing? It was about that time he had started; he may have been excited about it and mentioned it. He can remember everything she said, perhaps because he had to process it…but he can’t remember what he said to her; he can only deduce he said something about it because there really isn’t that much else interesting about him to share. And he didn’t see her after that, she was just an attractive gal he didn’t anticipate getting to know any better - he writes a 3500 word story where they meet on a bus, where he fucks her - twice no less, and goes on this obsessive, creepy rant throughout the rest of the story. He is feeling sick. He does not know what she knows. Whether she read it, whether she figured out it was her or not. He wants to turn and run, but instinct is the most self-incriminating of all options: he decides to meet this facing forward.
“So you’re sticking with the straightened hair. You know my ex did that; she would tie up the bathroom for an extra hour and take all the life out of her locks. The bathroom would reek of hot, cooked hair. Or did you do something different? Something surgical?” Please let this be a red herring from whatever she was going to talk about, if she read it and wants to talk about it. He could feel a hotness creeping up his neck and his collar itched and his ears were on fire. “As a matter of fact,” she laughed – “I do have to get up earlier and it does takes forever. I keep telling myself I’ll give up on it tomorrow, but it’s becoming a habit. You aren’t the first person to comment on it. You get people saying nice things to you and that makes it hard to stop. It is a pain though.” She stops. What else is there to talk about? He could say it is cold. No, don’t do that. Wait; she’s tossing a compliment back to you: “The orange is working for you today. It works with your skin color. You don’t see that a lot, guys who aren’t afraid to wear bright colors.” “Thanks; I don’t know what got me started on it. I like something bold” No – steer away from your boldness – “Anything that isn’t the usual black or grey or blue jean or just, you know, faded. I think it’s because I work at a clothing place. Everywhere it is black, black, black. When I’m in the hallways, I’m walking among anorexic menopausal women who make me think of a murder of crows or abandoned, busted umbrellas.” “Busted umbrellas, that’s a keeper. You should include that sometime.” Shit. Is it going to keep coming back to that? “Oh, I haven’t done a lot of writing lately. And I meant that about the black clothing - present company excepted. You look good in black. I tend to put my foot in my mouth a lot, describing something that could be offensive to the person I’m talking to at the same time. It’s just – the black is everywhere, it’s my own little hang-up.” “No, you can’t offend me. And I see where you’re coming from; you see it all over downtown.”
What all did he write? This is how it happens: you work in the wee hours of the morning, cut off from the world. You can’t just call someone or text someone because they are asleep; you are alone, and you get that “Notes from the Underground” vibe - you are cut off from life as the rest of the world knows it. There’s you, and then there’s the rest of the world. If someone wanted to make a support group for people like you, they would make bank. But since you don’t participate in any of that, you create your own rules, your own idea for what is permissible or not – what’s right and what’s wrong – and you do weird things like this. You think it is okay to write a fictional – well, mostly fictional – story about someone completely tangential in you life. What could be the harm? He is too tired to delineate the potential ramifications of his actions; he is too tired to calculate what possibilities may or may not have occurred or the chances that one occurred over the other. If she read it - he will just have to deal with it. If she figured out it was about her – there’s still a possibility she didn’t quite get that – he will deal with that too. And the bus arrives, the merciful bus - and he politely nods to her as he ascends the steps.
He performs a quick inventory. The person in the story had long, natural curly hair…he remembers ‘tiny frame’; and that’s all he can remember. That’s not a lot for her to go on, though he feels like he is missing a crucial detail in the description here. What about differences? If he recalls correctly, she works in web design – she is not a clothes buyer. He never asks her how many bags she owns; in reality he’s only ever seen her with that one that got stuck in his head because it said ‘L.A.M.B.’ and he just figured it smacked of novelty and trash fashion – you would assume it was one of many, but still – the only one he’s seen. This is a struggle because he remembers very little about the conversation they had and he’s reread the conversation they didn’t have about ten times over, and he cannot separate the two. When he does write, it just comes in from everywhere: a line from a song he’s listening to, a trait or detail borrowed from a person who was just at his desk, or a distant memory that seeps in as he types away. It’s all him, his experience, the loam he sponges from the world’s dynamic phenomena. Something cannot come from nothing. He can synthesize the bits of information, perform some psychological alchemy and fool the world into thinking he’s created something new – a fiction – but it’s all learned technique and known mechanisms and repeatable process.
She sits opposite him, across the aisle – where they usually settle in and he would occasionally glance in her direction because she is very pretty. She has an alluring, classical look about her. Now she is fiddling with her iPod again – another detail, but not the one that is a blue dot getting larger and larger in the back of his mind - but today she is not settling in, she just plays with it and looks a little exasperated with all of it. She fidgets, starts, finally speaks: “Can I talk to you about something that’s been bothering me? I need to air something out. It isn’t a big deal.” “Sure.” He places his book into his bag and slides across the seat and sits next to her, wishing he had pretended a contact popped out on the way. But this is it, he’s here now and his stomach and his intestines feel like they are full of broken glass.
“Ok. I did read your writing, and it’s been bothering me…is that one story about me? Is this how you get a person’s attention? Because you got it now. I don’t want you to freak out, I’m sure this is embarrassing for you. I guess I just needed to know for sure. I see you around a lot, and I don’t want it to be uncomfortable or awkward when I do. I thought if we just got it out in the open, the sooner we’ll be laughing at it. I can see where it might be natural to you…I guess in a way it is natural to have thoughts like that…oh, you say something. Just give me an answer.” “Ok. It is you. But I just borrowed a very small part of you – I liked the setting, and you are often a part of this setting. I liked that it was awkward, then a hot tryst, then spiraled into a complicated mess. And when I write, I’m unforgiving about taking all these various bits of real that are around me and incorporating them or, I guess you would say, using or taking advantage of them. So yeah, it’s you, I hope you are more flattered than offended.” “You did say I was older than you, and I don’t think so.” This was the blue dot, the thing he forgot: “Of course not! I had a conversation with a woman on the bus the previous day, she was an older woman but you could tell she was really hip – and it stuck with me that I could say you were older.” “Is the character some mix?” “No, just that one little adjective, that was it. At least not with her. I guess I had you in mind; I just obliterated your personality to fit what I was writing. I removed most all the words that we shared, except I think – we did talk about the population growth, right? That I kept. It just seems like something everyone talks about around here, like the weather – its grounding.” She is silent for a few moments before speaking again: “It’s still an objectification, right? You made me out to be some kind of whore, and it’s hard to get past you thinking all these things as you are writing them…” In a quieter voice – “especially the sex. That’s a strange way to think about women, like they’re just waiting for it like that. I can sort of see what you’re saying, but I’d like to think there’s a voice in your head telling you something isn’t a good idea.” “No, I haven’t had that moment yet. Maybe this is it? Right now, I’m mostly hating how I mismanaged all of this – my telling you that I wrote and where I publish in the first place! Phenomenally stupid. I must have gotten all mixed up; you should have never read those things. Just being honest: that’s where I feel like I messed up. I wouldn’t take back the words.” “Then I’d hate being in your head…you would be the only person who knows what the story means, where it came from, and anytime you saw me you would think of these things. You would just continue to accumulate all these secrets – as you write more and more stories - and create all these fears of being found out. I’m glad I called you out on it, too. Once I saw myself in there, I started seeing myself everywhere you had this ‘she’ with no name. I started obsessing over it.” “Then I really do apologize. I know what that is like, I do it too: I read into things, I think the stars are talking to me; I pull concise pictures out of hypnagogic images and especially – see myself as the character in other people’s stories. Mostly when they read like accusations or self-realization or cries for help. There was a girl I liked who told me ‘its all fiction’ – flatly, that was it - when I asked her about her writing. But it didn’t stop me from seeing myself as the pervasive ‘him’ in her stories. It was maddening – because she is inscrutably vague and practices the same obscurantism I do – and in the long run I ended up making an ass of myself. It was never me at all; it was other men, other interests, and I misjudged my importance, misreading all the signs.” “So are you going to take the story down?” “Do you want me to? I would if you liked…but really, it is just a fiction.” “Okay. Okay. I guess having talked, I’m alright with it. I might even point it out to other people at the office and have a laugh over it. But really, do a better job of hiding it in the future! You write some weird stuff, and it would be bad if someone were coming after you to cause you harm for something silly like this.” “Point well taken. I guess even the most benign things can turn dangerous. And I’m glad you did say something. You’re right – when I saw you this morning I was immediately nauseous. I think you’re on to something, and there are some boundaries I need to get familiar with.”
She nudged into him playfully with her shoulder – “Here’s where I get off. We’ll talk more later, I’m sure.” He twisted away to let her through to the aisle, but the brushing against each other brought a clumsy discomfort. New signs, he thought: more things to read into. A playful nudge, and now I won’t stop from thinking about everything that is behind it. “Yeah, I’m sure we will. Hopefully about something else?” “That would be nice,” smiling. And he felt a little closer to her than he felt to the image he created of her, though he cursed creating this ghost that would never die completely. Something positive could have come from this – she seems like she could really like him – but he has already forged this barrier. He had not only called her out, but he had pigeonholed himself, too. Suppose they date: how long before he would do something that recalls the obsessive rant that completes the story. Suppose they fuck: what happens when he grabs her ankle? He knows he can go nowhere with this; the reality would always refer to his bastardized annotation.
He knew he would go into work and feel cloistered again, that he would only get little signs and messages and texts from the people he wanted to be closer to but never can find the time for, and he would over-think them, misinterpret them, and do the only thing he could think to gain some certainty in his solitude: reinterpret them and make them new. He would imagine possibilities, even the impossible ones: he would create scenarios and stories and see all the bitter endings unfold in an applied logic. He would hope for happy endings and anticipate the tragedies. And he would write, he would write it all down, more as an instinct or just to see the final product looking back at him as reward for his effort. But it was an exhausting process, so time-consuming, one that took him through various emotions and distractions. He never put a value on it, but he knew he had these moments of weakness: he would leave bread crumbs, clues and code all along the way. And these cries for help were ineffective, unanswered – he was beginning to see they were doing more harm than good. There is a real world, in the real daylight, and he didn’t need to be a victimized agent of it. And there is this imaginary world at night, where he has dwelled for too long – where he was playing the saboteur.
The first guests are due to arrive soon. Following a week of working nights - sleep deprivation, metabolism abuse and mood swings - I scheduled a dinner party for 8-10 people. I've never done this before. My ex did it plenty, and I would contribute my 12%...actually my contribution would usually revolve around cleaning up afterwards (this was our dynamic, in a nutshell). But I've never initiated a project like this - and never alone. And some caveats need to be pointed out.
1. I don't cook. I will be your cook. 2. I've never mixed a drink. I'm having a tough time resolving Ounces to the little dashes on my measuring cup, though I want to believe there is some mystical correlation. 3. I'm eager to entertain, yet horribly uninteresting at the same time. Just smile and nod. 4. I've been a bachelor for 8 months. Certain parts of the house have an olfactory reflection of this. 5. Though proud of the work I've gotten done on the house - it's only half done. (hint: if you come in through the back door, you're working from the bottom up). 6. Try as I might to fix it: the bathroom sink burps when you flush the toilet. There's a trick - if you run the water right after you flush, there's no chance of anything splashing at you. 7. Don't test the kitten.
Yet, I'm giddy about this too. I thought I'd have to reach a state of perfection before planning this - something I've always wanted to do - then realized perfection isn't happening in my lifetime. I know that once people arrive, all the stress will go away and I won't feel the berating monologue that's been droning in my head for the past week. It will all be good.
Camille, meela, milyoshka, cato, cato loca, kitten, ka-mitten, lucy long-legs, stinker, patooter-tat. Anything but cat. The names I give her are manifold, superfluous – and lets face it – to her, irrelevant.
I did not want a cat. Michelle knew this, and we had a disagreement on our hands – one that seemed like I was winning, since we still didn’t have a cat. Then one night, returning from her mother’s, she carried in a large box, a guilty look on her face, and a story to tell. This will fit my theme of the day: the impressions I have of myself get corrected with a swift kick to the ego...because I immediately fell in love with the kitten.
Michelle was a great storyteller. In this tale, she and her mother saw the van careening away; they investigated the overgrown yard of a deserted home and found 3 abandoned kittens – all of which they were able to catch. Michelle took one, her mother’s neighbor offered to take another; the third was passed on to the relative of a friend of her mother’s boyfriend. I had to question the feral theory when the kitten took to the litter-box immediately, and I appended her storytelling with a “she stole her out of a neighbor’s yard because she was that adorable.” And she was: diminutive, skinny, soft white fur with tan and black markings. Her colors have sharpened with age, but she still has her blue eyes, pink nose, and two enormous bat-like ears. The ears are her most irresistible trait – a fleshy, orange-ish color that makes them look like caramel kisses, yet when the sunlight hits her from behind, become translucent.
Camille was named after a Prince song-writing pseudonym. It was a pretty immediate concession made by Michelle, a nod to my being so understanding to her bold move. I wanted to pay homage to the part of Prince that wrote Housequake, U Got the Look, If I Was Your Girlfriend – the entire freaking Black Album – Prince at his most playful and irreverent. It was perfect for my little Calico & Siamese mix, the right amount of precociousness and aloofness that earned her the tag ‘saucy’ from her first encounter with a veterinarian.
This would be her most amicable vet encounter and the least stressful for either one of us. There’s the time she decided to eat yarn, something that prompted x-rays and required intravenous hydration before the offending item passed quite naturally – leaving us to wonder if we’d unnecessarily spent 300 dollars. Or when she developed a urinary tract infection: we hemmed and hawed, thought we should wait it out – but simply could not go to sleep comfortably - knowing she wasn’t feeling well. This resulted in a midnight emergency room trip for what turned out to be a rather benign problem, and we learned another financial lesson in rapidly escalating when the kitten showed any signs out of the normal. Which can be difficult, if you know cats: they go through spells and behavior that make you think they aren’t right in the head.
There’s also the time I fractured her pelvis. I had just come from putting Michelle on a plane to Osaka, Japan; while out south I hit a bucket of golf balls and picked up a couple pieces of furniture from IKEA. I was going to get as much of the bathroom redone as I could before she returned, and after all the running of errands, I entered through the back door with a large, 40 pound, tombstone shaped box – which I stupidly left upright – and a raging full bladder. Even after going to the bathroom, I’d forgotten about the box…until I heard a sharp slam and the cutting combination of Camille screaming and growling at once. I’d just as soon not hear an animal in pain like that for the rest of my life.
I managed one office visit on my own, where they called it muscular pain and prescribed anabolic steroids. Michelle wasn’t satisfied with this – rightfully so – and we had her x-rayed again. There was definitely a fracture. We took Camille to a surgeon, who gave us two scenarios: go in and fix it – which would cost about ten grand – or put her on 5 weeks of cage rest and risk her not being able to jump around a lot in her later years and the possibility she might need surgery anyways. We opted for the second, knowing we would second-guess the decision for the rest of her life. On the other hand, Camille was attended to, hand and foot, for a long time.
Or recently: Camille developed an abscess on her scenting gland. This resulted in her having to wear ‘the collar’, eat soft foods, have a drain installed that was basically a rubber tube running underneath the stitches to release ooze down her hind quarter. I had to hold a warm compress to her behind for ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the evening. I had to constantly reconfigure her plate of food because she would push it away from her with that damned collar. There were numerous vet visits; always the scare when such a tiny animal is put under anesthesia – but I really didn’t mind being housebound for a couple weeks to take care of her. Mostly, I was concerned this degree of familiarity, and indignity for her, was going to result in her loathing me.
I don’t know exactly what to call the instinct that kicked in from day one. I dote over her. I treat her as though her 7 pounds are fragile. I talk to her in a raised voice that would embarrass me to no end if someone caught me doing it. I treat her like a person. I fuss over her. I take her into consideration when making plans. I’m anxious when I come home at night for fear that someone has broken into the house and let out Camille. I worry that one of the pine trees in the back yard will fall on the house and she’ll get hurt again. I watch her reaction when I introduce people to her to get the final word on whether they’re all right or not. Is it maternal? Is she the child I never had, and that’s why she’s so precious to me? Probably; I’m not too embarrassed about it. If anything, the positive feeling of caring this much – even about an animal – is something I want to feel good about.
Michelle acknowledged this when we split up. It was strange; there was no question about who was keeping Camille.
My kitten is about 9 years old now: in her 60’s, people-wise. It’s a scary thought. Her character has mellowed out since the abscess, when we were thrown together to be a little too close. Since that last episode, she’s been less aloof - downright clingy with me. She cleans herself less – we used to joke how she had to spend an hour cleaning the ‘human stench’ from her if you so much as pet her. She just doesn’t do that anymore. It’s as though some differentiation between her and I was lost, and she accepts being a closer part of me. It’s a nice feeling.
It was taking its time coming up for air. I’d been warned about getting in their way; they have to do this every thirty minutes or so and there have been cases where so many people amassed themselves above them, that they suffocate themselves on the ocean floor. Hard to believe or digest – I thought anything that wanted to survive would do the little things like breathing to continue to do so – but just to be safe, I floated a few yards away and patiently waited, waited until one of the three turtles launched itself from fifteen feet below to come swim with me in this brilliant azure.
This was the paradise I fought for several months. It wasn’t my lesbian friend’s commitment ceremony; it wasn’t my group of friends; this wasn’t my deal at all. I didn’t lift a finger in the planning or the coordination of any of it - not the booking of flights or the car or the condominium rental. I would graciously turn over my credit card whenever needed, I did at least that much - but I was adamant that I not be relied on for a good time. This was my wiring. I’m not a vacation person; I enjoy the comfortable routine of the work week and the two remaining days I keep empty of plans to recharge as I see fit. So I came here begrudgingly, and in the several weeks that ticked down to our flight, my agitation crept to a point where it manifested in several biting, negative comments – by the time I was boarding the plane, I had secured my own sense of dread. I am not a joy to fly with, I know this, and I tried to spare myself and my companion with a lengthy nap.
The nap proved unnecessary. I could have delved into McMahon’s Happiness: A History, and let my chagrin wind up like a beehive hairdo caught in a ceiling fan; it wouldn’t have mattered. Alighting from the plane, I was already swimming in a humidity and climate where negative vibrations go flat-line. I didn’t have the energy to be a brooding bad time and welcomed having my itinerary set, my decisions made for me, as we joined a dozen couples, marriages, partnerships – choose your poison – heading for Costco to stock up on supplies and making a cavalcade to the same beachside condominium in Kihei, west Maui. I gave away to, and suspended my judgments, about being a part of a herd and the herded.
The first three days were a concentration of wedding activities and back and forth trips from the condo to Lahaina, where the wedding would take place. Some of these activities required my support, some I was told to make myself scarce…I had no problem sitting on the lanai, reading my book and occasionally looking up to watch the whales breaching several hundred yards out. We scored the best room – others lamented their carpeted floors, glass-surfaced coffee tables or jarring Victorian furnishings. We had stone floors that invited bare feet, aggressive water pressure that invited long showers, and we suspected: owners who lived on one of the other islands who decorated to make themselves feel at home.
In the entire en tourage, there was a single male my age I could kill some time with. Craig was reading Moor’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. Being an atheist, I had to bite my tongue. “Can you imagine what it would be like growing up with Jesus? Always being one-upped by the savior like that?” No, I’ve already exhausted my imagination believing there was a Jesus at all. Chances were, it was probably Paul, in the library, with the candlestick. Oh: and with a hit of mescaline and pen and paper. Despite Craig’s interest in super-market checkout line theology (actually, he had a degree in theology), he was an affable guy – and was well versed in scuba diving and island living. He would tell me about all the other islands that I needed to check out – Oahu, the Main, Kauai – expanding his picture to the Caribbean and Belize, where all the best scuba diving is, and I had to internally chuckle at the amount of travel you can accomplish on a theologian’s salary.
This was the frame of mind I was succumbing to: screw my core values, my unreligious bent and my uber obnoxious sturm und drang. If it wasn’t about immediate ease, it was tossed out with the bathwater, and my inadequacy in preparation facilitated this on the trip: I had left behind my music, my instrument, my books, all the little things I do that are all about me. I left behind every sign-post distracting and directing me to what I would usually do next and instead gave heed to my surroundings: an annihilated sense of urgency interrupted by bouts of bacchanalia. Even though there were appointments and responsibilities in the first three days, I embraced them adequately pickled and positive.
I was attending a wedding that didn’t have a dress code. Is there no greater gift? A short sleeved linen shirt, shorts, and sandals – my gal looking splendid as the maid of honor and me, whoozy on Heineken and trying to maintain a steady photographing hand. The ceremony was beautiful, though the beach was public. Participants in a volley ball match a few yards away suspended play as the harp played (the harpist was hired when I, yes I – fell through on playing the guitar because a) nobody would tell me up until the last several months what song was desired, b) I’d never played in public, and c) the impending sense that I was going to be asked to play a country song adopted by lesbians as anthemic). Me, I just did everything I had done at the dress rehearsal, the much drier run. At the reception, I did my best to be a stand-up accessory to my lady, arm in arm and introducing ourselves to every last soul in the room; checking in on everyone’s buzzed well-being. There may have been one incident: I asked our waitress, who had a very soft-spoken voice and what I thought was an Australian accent (so hard to tell when it isn’t booming, crikey) – where she was from. “Well,” – shying away as though I’d asked for her phone number – “I don’t really like to talk about it or go into detail. I was born in Australia, yes, but I picked up a lot of it in Alaska and Thailand and now here.” Right: no, you don’t want to go into details and no, that synopsis wasn’t an invitation to a dozen more questions.
Then there was nothing. The wedding was past, and we had five days to fill with no idea how to go about filling them. Couples would abdicate, one by one, and we would set lunch dates and dinner dates and outings as we could, before no one was left. We tried to make plans: I wanted to make a day trip to Hana, which would require a helicopter ride, but the morning news brought this tidbit: a crash, three dead, one person each from three touring couples. Hana was definitely out. But this was okay; we seemed to be happy with the unplanned state of things and would sneak away when there was a loose hour or two for a quickie, a randy romp and roll. I don’t know what to blame it on – change in metabolism? - but sexually I become a different, more insatiable person.
Without holding ourselves to eking all the tourists’ trappings from our trip, we both settled for compulsive snorkeling to fill out our days. We had no problems with it: so we wouldn’t be able to answer for the ‘Road to Hana’ or the Haleakala bike trip or a day trip to Molokini. I could care less about bragging to friends back home about which golf courses I played. Oddly, the cheapest thing to do in Maui is the best.
We made our way south along the coast, past Wailea and Makena, past Little Beach and past Big Beach, where we found one lost little cove – the last stop before the road gives way to endless horizons of volcanic rock and signs warn you that you’ve voided your car rental contract on proceeding. I could see where this might not be the most popular spot to embark…the beach was rocky, the water a little rough from the land’s enclosure. But it was cozy and private. Craig showed me how to spit in my goggles to create a seal and keep them from fogging up – something to do once I get past the disturbance of the waves hitting the beach. I was something to laugh at: struggling in water two feet deep, trying to advance feet first and repeatedly losing my right fin. I copied a child who was having more success: just float on your belly, don’t be afraid of scraping your belly on the rocks or the shallow water. Did I not tell how much I hate swimming? I do; I did - this was the last frontier of dissolving self-imposed limits.
And wasn’t it the last frontier? I followed the land to the end of the world, and I was happy to find there was no end – just another world waiting for me to enjoy it. From even the tiniest vantage point, where I could still use my arms to propel myself forward like the oars of a gondola, life was teeming all about me. I learned to breathe through my mouth and made my way out, joining my friends as we swam hundreds of yards from the beach. We awkwardly tried to get each other’s attention to direct each other to some new, fantastic thing – but we were mostly sealed and separate from each other, just floating on our stomachs, looking down like angels. Occasionally, I would hold my breath and dive to the bottom, just to touch the coral, just to prove I could still do it. Then finally, I was satisfied that I could not touch the ground at all.
I’ve developed an odd enthusiasm for Live Music DVD’s. I well up with excitement when I see them at the local independent; I get the archiving completist’s itch to own every accessible item put out by my favorite artists – then I get the thing home and don’t know what to do with it. Sometimes it gets filed immediately, sometimes I go so far as to flip it on – note that my favorite artists are surprise! – playing live music, or surprise! – editing in footage of how normal and boring their lives really are when not performing; just like you and me. Either way, I feel like it’s a waste or a wash – I don’t have the patience to watch a concert in my living room; I don’t want to spend money to watch you dissolve the mystique.
This, to explain how I could sit on Dresden Dolls: Paradise for several months before bothering to watch it. Despite my Amanda Palmer shrine, screen saver, and perhaps someday: a framed restraining order. Chalk it up to a lack of time: I could make a second career from watching her YouTube videos or keeping up on her blog. Amanda has taken the fast track to rock worship despite my – I like to think – pretentiously high standard for what does and doesn’t sound good.
Whether solo or with the Dresden Dolls, Amanda embraces art in process - separating this DVD from so many others. She’s riding a bike where the visual and the auditory are pedals kept in constant motion, creating an effect of over-stimulation. Since there is no competing market for ‘punk cabaret’, the Dresden Dolls have created a new universe all to themselves, and you are invited to watch how they want to populate it, what natural laws they want to govern it, and no – they aren’t going to demystify it, because this is their world now. Even the attempts to show the drudgery of maintaining this movement will build no bridge back home; even the footage bereft of spectacle will make you feel like a foreigner in a new land.
The concert is amazing too – warts and all. It’s an interesting song set (surprising to not see Coin-Operated Boy, though a different live performance is included in the extras), mostly for the covers and surprises. A love song to the person who just interviewed you before you took the stage, cutting away to the audience to film his reaction (Christopher Lydon)? Covers of Black Sabbath & Carole King (Pierre, with lyrics from the Maurice Sendak Children’s book)? It is the beauty of the Dresden Dolls, that they take inspiration from such unlikely locales and are adept at turning them into something immediately relevant.
Isolated from one another, they would project this untouchable transcendent aloofness on one another’s thoughts. This would have to do for now, since they really had only tragedy in common. Day by day, they could solidify their feelings of mutual abandonment by the other. Day by day, they reinforced the notion that the other simply did not care. All in error, for they were in each other’s thoughts…
They each sought an accessory in self-knifing, since no story should end with an unannounced character holding the blade.
It is a thing to hold up and laugh at, when there is some little irony to it…but lacking this twist or punchline, this moment of realization that something could be gleaned from it…left the whole ordeal mired in a perversity.
“You can’t make me do this. I can’t be your lover and your confidant. Look. This is what you are to me: strong, confident, a validation. Do you know how many months I waited for you? Do you know how long you kept me waiting, not knowing if you were even slightly interested, before you made a move? I had to watch how you would interact with other women, you were so smooth about it and they were all about playing that game so they were smooth about it too. It wasn’t fun for me. Okay, so you tell me you weren’t interested in any of them, it was always me you were after – and I won’t lie to you, it made things all the better when we did finally get to spend some time together. And when we fucked, it was incredible. It still is, and I think that’s because we haven’t gone to this place…but I can’t have you going all soft on me. Don’t think I’m some safe or happy place for you; I never asked you to do that for me and you should have friends or family or something you can go dump that shit on. Try therapy. You tell people what a crock of shit therapists are, but you have to get over it and go see one. I can give you a number. No, not mine, she’ll refer someone. That’s what they do. That way, if you have a problem with me too, you got someone to go cry to. Because I’m not the one who’s going to change. Why should I? I mean, you’re a great guy and all, but I’m set in my ways. Take a look at me: this is what you get. I don’t have any secrets, no skeletons in the closet, I’m not screwing someone else on the side: nothing like that. I don’t get how you can get to this point with me, we put in this time together, and now you think you have a problem with this or that. Oh, I’m sorry, it upsets you. Worries you. Makes you sad that I do it. Whatever. It isn’t like we are waking up together and going to bed at night together. We both like our space. The time we do get to spend together is quality. Just don’t go and ruin it with your problems or your problems with me. If you can do that, everything should be fine. Do you know how much I love going into a club or a restaurant holding your arm? We turn heads. I can feel everybody’s eyes on us. I love being at the center of that, and I never felt like I had that before you. But this, this I never signed up for. This was supposed to be fun, that’s what we said at the outset, and now you are getting all serious on me. And don’t tell me you don’t get something out of this too. I’m not stupid. There’s a reason we’ve gotten this far without you getting all squishy on me, and that’s because you love it too. I just don’t get this. I don’t get why you want to mess up a good thing. Unless you’re just a really good actor, you wouldn’t be the first, and you know how to hide all your true feelings and schmooze through all your interactions with people and go to bed with a smile on your face if you score a little tail but when things aren’t going your way, you fall apart. You become a little boy all over again, needing you’re fucking friend to be your mommy. Do you know how sick that shit sounds? It isn’t healthy.”
He was doing his best to see things from her perspective. After all, he saw her as his equal – actually, he put her on a pedestal and often deferred to her needs. But he saw her as an equal voice. And yes, she was right. Things had changed and he was the one responsible for trying to change them, and he felt small and smaller as he played with the ring hiding in his coat pocket.
He realized he was alone, all alone in his car, and this was a problem. He’d been running around, running errands, lifting stuff, just generally active, and this was going to be a problem. Wasn’t it. How could it not be?
His mind had been blissful until he hit that ramp, where you can’t just stop and put it into reverse. He was really on it now.
He performed his usual calculations: his blood sugar at sunrise was a little high, 180, but it’s usually higher in the morning. He had 2 beers the evening before that should not interfere. He had soy milk instead of usual milk with breakfast, but this shouldn’t be a great factor. He made a trip to the junction, picked up cat food and candles and spent a lot of time at the record store. Not that it amounts to a lot of activity, but it isn’t sitting, either. And he was walking briskly. He thinks that he should be even. Perhaps even a little high, not too high, but safely high.
But he was shaking and his heart was racing and he could feel the tickling at his scalp, and it started once he got on the freeway.
His breath was labored. He has to be suffering insulin shock. And he is stuck. He is captive of this vehicle that continues to go forward, and even if he stopped, then what? Running back would burn him out to a finish. Even if he managed to wave a car to a stop, they would have to have food. What are the chances of that? His arms felt heavy on the steering wheel. He resolved to just go forward and pray there are no delays and that it doesn’t take more than eight or ten minutes to get off this freeway and to a small drugstore or market where he can collapse, no maybe he’ll have time to grab a sports drink or something and he’ll make it but fuck, eight minutes? He knows he has half that, and there is simply no way. He has four or three or two.
His heart rate gets faster and faster, but that is it.
He doesn’t feel like he’s losing consciousness; he doesn’t feel like he is dying. He only feels the stress and the panic, and he comes to feel that that is all this is. Panic. Because he made a bad turn, got into a situation where he wasn’t in control, where he was a bug trapped on his back to chance’s indiscriminate heel. He feels a little silly about it.
Because it undermined his logic. Ever since day one, he had taken the diabetes in stride. He was neither depressed nor catastrophic about it when diagnosed: the doctor even commented on how calmly he took it in as he listened to all the things he would have to do, all the changes he would have to make. There was a simple reason for this. He had already absorbed his own death as a possibility, as a scenario, imagining it in hundreds of contingents. The diabetes meant nothing to him but to bring death a little closer. He had already desensitized death to make life more enjoyable – something he was thankful for on those first nights home from the hospitable when he would go to sleep not knowing if he would wake up in the morning. The panic attack proved he was somehow afraid of death. He felt like he was ending a long run of irrational bravado. And he could not figure out for how long this fear had been creeping into his mind. All of this he thought as his shoulders shook and his heart went mad with beating; that these were the signs that he wanted to survive.
He worked late and so he took a later bus. There was still sunlight and this was a consolation. He read his book and the bus filled with passengers he did not recognize and this always happened to him: the empty aisle seat adjoining his remained empty to the last. It never failed and he blamed it on his broad shoulders making the space appear too limiting. When the bus made its last stop before the freeway, a woman he recognized from the morning commute took the seat next to his and he appreciated her tiny frame because he never liked getting too cozy with strangers. This way, they maintained their own space. He had noticed this one before: an attractive woman a few years older than him. Her hair was big and had natural curl that made him think the weight might cause her neck a problem. She looked informed on the latest fashion, dressed expensively, and he wondered if she worked for a clothing store or had a rich husband. This was the first time he saw her on the evening commute. He only saw her mornings before, where they would have never sat together because there were more available seats to choose from. As every one settled in, she motioned to put in the ear plugs for her iPod then told him that she had read that book before and absolutely loved it, couldn’t get through it fast enough. He normally would not talk to people on the bus. He would normally use the book, and his attentions to the book, to create an imaginary wall between himself and others. But he talked about the book and where he was struggling with it and asked her when she read it because it was not a book one casually reads, it is a challenging read, did she read it in school? “I did, I had to write a paper on it. It was funny because the t.a. gave me an A for my in depth analysis and then wrote all these comments about what the author was really trying to say, it was stupid. I think those English teachers are just happy to have you in their class.” And pegging her as some sort of professional at what she does for a living, he asks her what she does and she tells him she is a clothing buyer. She shows equal interest and asks what he does and he tells her and they talk about their recent histories. She has lived here only a year, moving from Sacramento. He has always been here and went to college here and had the same experience with English teachers, though confesses the easy to come by grades almost made him want to get his degree in English. They compare hang-outs and haunts and are surprised they don’t run into each other more often, only on the bus and only on this rare occasion when it is evening do they finally get to talk to one another. He tells her this is nice, because it easily might not have happened, and they would never have met. He goes back to reading. He reads a page then thinks to ask her, how many bags does she own? Every morning she has a different handbag or purse. She tells him she owns two dozen but she borrows samples from work. Test drives them for a week; returns them. “It’s true, it is a big perk, and it isn’t just the handbags. The problem is, you are in this competitive world - you always have to maintain this edge and look this way to have any credibility. It takes forever for me to get ready in the morning.” “But you always look your most attractive, like a million bucks. It must feel like you’re always ready to be whisked away for a night on the town.” And she tells him how it is all surface, and they talk about impressions and wrong impressions and how funny it is – the way people think about you and the way you really are. They talk about quiet nights at home and the comfort they bring. He talks to her about more personal things, and he tells her about his divorce and how it was simply time to end and how he has come to appreciate being alone. She tells him how she feels the same, though the severity of her break up is what pushed her decision to move to the city to be closer to her family. He has to extricate himself from this honest talk and points to the window and a building being torn down, tells her how the grocery store they are building is the last thing the neighborhood needs and how traffic will be a nightmare once it is complete. She tells him she worries about all the neighborhood growth too. She wraps the earphones around her iPod and tucks it into her purse. He feels like he is losing her attention, the attention he did not ask for in the first place. He was doing fine with this day being like any other, and then she had to drum up all this talk. He does not always do well with casual conversations: it is a struggle for him and he relies heavily on being introduced or announced when meeting new people, or the good grace that the woman he is meeting loves to talk a lot, and in most cases this is not a problem. He begins to feel resentful that she is going to make him carry this when she asks him about independent films and he says he loves movies. They talk about their favorite directors and films and he talks at great length about Fellini, whose earlier films he loved, and he is so excited that she has seen Nights of Cabria and now he feels that they have this small connection because you have to get past the more obviously popular, avant-garde, later work to appreciate the overwhelming emotion in his lesser realized early films. She asks him to ring the bell and he does so. He tells her he was meaning to get off at the previous stop but that he had to respect his favorite director, and it is rare that he gets to meet someone who has seen even one of his films. “We can walk and talk”, she says to him. “My condo is a block away. And the weather is so nice. I love when the trees are blooming”. And he instantly replies yes, that would be nice, and he feels his heart quicken because this is new territory for him and he feels each moment that he doesn’t know what the next moment will bring.
They walk slowly and he is animated now. She laughs when he imitates Woody Allen, and he notes that for this entire little walk a smile has not left her face. Her building faces West and all of the windows are lit up rose hued by the setting sun. “Well, this is it.” And it sounds like a transition more than a closure to their conversation, he hears this in her voice, and without invitation or goodbye she unlocks the door to the entry way and steps in and he follows her. He feels like they are cohorts now, and questions are unnecessary. But he wants to ask her what she wants from him, how she could possibly trust him not to be some rapist or killer or even just a common purse-snatcher. He stops himself. He takes a deep breath. All this time she is talking, not missing a beat, and he can only take in half of her words as he follows her up the flight of stairs. “The maintenance fees...” “I hate that it’s so new, there’s no personality to it…” “it takes forever to warm up in the winter…” He tries to remain casual, and he does not ask her the questions nagging at him. And they reach her floor, and they walk down the hall, and when she reaches her door she again says nothing but lowers her head and unlocks it. His adrenaline and his heart are racing and he would just as soon she turn to him and tell him goodbye but she does it again, she just walks in and he thinks she expects him to follow so he does so, and he thinks to himself that she has to be as nervous as he is. He took a speech class once where he learned that public speakers are never as visibly nervous as they think they look from the podium: the physical manifestations – the shaking, the quavering voice – aren’t necessarily picked up by the audience. So it can go both ways, and he simply can’t see how nervous she is. He takes her shoulder and he kisses her. They stumble into her place together, and she takes his hair in her hand and twists his ear to her mouth and she tells him to not hold back. They tear at each others’ clothes; he pushes her to the wall. She is so small he can lift her, and he is thankful that from the first kiss all doubts have been alleviated and everything in suspension is broken free and he has stopped his own shaking and he can be deliberate and mechanical again. He can go forward in confidence and his assertiveness doesn’t have to be second-guessed. He pushes her to the sofa and completes the act with her bent over the arm of her sofa, one of her legs dangling over the side and her other ankle firmly in the grip of his right fist – his thumb rubbing back and forth over the flexor hallucis longus. He only knows this odd muscle name because his ex-wife was a nurse and she thought it was strange that he loved to do this, that this is how he finished, and she told him on more than one occasion that it was not an erogenous zone for her but he refused to believe it because it felt so right, so comforting to him, he could not imagine it being anything but. He fell back into a rattan chair and let out an audible sigh. She turned to look at him and smiled and said she’d never done anything like that, off the cuff, and she figured he couldn’t be that bad a guy and wasn’t going to just leave town and then joked about how easy he would be to track down anyways. She offers to make them tea and he says yes, he could use a glass of water too and he picks up his dress shirt and hands it to her to put on. They talk about what they will do next. They order Chinese take-out. They eat together, talk about families and their childhoods and their occupations. She has a movie she wants to share, and she starts the DVD and proceeds to talk through the movie, every once in awhile interrupting her own words to mention how she loves this part or what he should be paying attention to next or he will miss it, before continuing to talk some more. He watches her light a couple of scented candles and decides he will not tell her he loves candles but hates scented ones, he will not tell her this today. By the flickering light of the television and the candles they couple again, this time he is more attentive to her needs and there is more rhythm and their bellies are full, they are energized and it is less intense for him but he can tell that this time she may have climaxed and he feels like he could leave having made this impression, that he is not some selfish lover but can be very thorough and attentive and tender. He does this, and feels it is an okay time to leave. They exchange a nuzzling in the doorway. “I’ve never done anything like this either. I will be sure to call you, it would be great if we can go out.”
He waits a week to call her. He gets an answering service and he does not leave a message. Two days later he tries again and she answers. “Where have you been?” “It’s just a buyer’s convention silly, a group of us were flown back East to attend some conferences and a few of the showings. It’s a huge event.” “Okay, I’d love to hear all about it. It sounds exciting. Maybe we can grab a coffee. It’s funny we’re just five blocks apart, and I never saw you, and it just seemed like you dropped off the face of the earth or something. And you didn’t answer your landline, so I admit I was a little worried. I don’t know. Do you want to grab a bite to eat?” “I’m really tired. You just caught me getting in and getting settled, you can understand that, right?” “Sure, no problems, no pressure, I totally understand, maybe some other time.” And he looks for her at the bus stop all week but she is never there. Some days he takes a slightly earlier bus and on others he takes the later bus. He settles on showing up early one day, not getting on the bus at all, and just waiting for an hour for her to show up so he can surprise her on accident. She never shows up and there is no chance encounter. “I started driving to work. I finally broke down and bought a car, it was long overdue. I know, I should be more environmentally conscious and all that, but I occasionally have to drive out of downtown to one of our sites and I have to go through all these hoops to either borrow someone’s car or coordinate a ride. It just makes my work life so much easier.” “Oh, don’t think I’m accusing you or anything; just, I thought we would get together sometime after what happened. I think I made some assumptions, and I’ll just leave you be. The last thing I want to do is creep you out or anything. You have my number too, feel free to call me anytime you need a friend.” “I don’t think anything horrible like that about you! I think it’s totally natural. Look, I had a great night. You know I’d noticed you so long before that, how handsome you are and how studious you are. I thought you were pretty hot stuff, how does that sound?” “Well, I’m always reading, so I’m pretty oblivious to people. But thank you, that’s a kind thing to say. So really, when are we going to go out? I haven’t totally forgotten about you, you’re on my radar; I just never get to see you. Can we set a date to see each other some time? No pressure.” “Well, things are pretty hectic still, so I’ll call you in a week. I promise.” He cannot wait a week, and takes a circuitous route walking from his bus stop that goes by her condo building. Since she’s driving now, she should be around by the time he gets home. He imagines false excuses. This is the only Quickie Mart that carries his favorite beer. He just wanted to head by the park because the weather was so beautiful. He stopped in at the gym to join, something he’d been meaning to do for awhile. And he never saw her and only one night was there a light in her condo but he couldn’t bring himself to try the door, knock on the door or go home and call her because that would be too much coincidence. He sees her at the pet store one day and makes an ass of himself. “Oh, you have a pet also? I didn’t even notice when I was over.” “It’s been horrible – my friend had a terrible accident rock climbing, he’s going to be in traction for six weeks and I offered to watch his cat. So I’m picking up some little toys to keep the little guy entertained.” “I love cats, I have one myself. Look, was it that horrible? With me? I don’t get it. I thought we had a blast, I thought it could start or lead into something…I’m not trying to make you feel uncomfortable, but I feel like I deserve an answer. It would be nice if you gave me some answers.” “Well.” She clears her throat. “No, it has nothing to do with you, I thought it was great – I had a really, really great time, and I’m just not looking for anything like that in my life right now. Not a relationship. You’re a guy - I thought you would’ve gotten a kick out of it, no strings attached.” “It isn’t just that, I mean, we could have a relationship without it being a relationship you know.” “I know, but I’m truly busy at work. Really. I think we should just let it pass; I need to take care of a friend and I don’t want this to feel serious or add some new complication to my life. I feel like already it is going to be serious now, no matter what is said.” “How is that? Because I just wanted to know? I think it is perfectly natural to have the reaction I do. But if this is what you want, that is fine. Don’t call me for a hookup, I don’t want to hear from you.” “I’m sorry you feel that way, just don’t make a big deal of this to people we both know, we have some mutual friends and I don’t feel like it will reflect well on either of us if you complain about me to them. I feel like you are mad now.” “No. I’m over it. There’s nothing to get over. Don’t worry.” But when he sees friends who know her, he asks after her and about her. He lies to them and says that they had coffee once, seemed to have a great deal in common, and do they know if she is single. They tell him that as far as they know, she is. He asks them to put in a good word for him. Perhaps it will help. He hears back from them: “She really wants you to leave her alone.” “Really. She said that?” “Yes. She feels like you are stalking her. You frighten her. That must have been some weird coffee date to make an impression like that.” “Look, you don’t think I’m some creep or a jerk, right? Is she like crazy or something? This is really upsetting.” “Don’t stress over it; you just probably weren’t someone she was interested in. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes people will write you off with a first impression, then they have a vicious sense of humor about it. So you guys didn’t hit it off - no big deal. If it helps out at all, I do not think you are some stalker or a jerk or anything like that. And I don’t think you should be interested in anyone who would talk of you like that anyways. Cross her off your list.” “Sure, okay, that shouldn’t be a problem. You’re right. I was just curious, you know.”
And my other recent addition - as of a couple weeks ago: finally, a home for my books. I can't believe I've survived to this age settling to relegate these books to the basement.
This proably accounts for 1/4 of the books I'm happy to say I read, and a system of superficial requirements were engaged to eliminate the bulk:
1. Penguin Classic? You had to go.
2. Vintage Books look pretty.
3. Non-Contemporary Hardback? You're in.
4. Have I read you four times without breaking your spine? You're in.
5. Do I remember reading you? You're out.
6. Do you make me look smarter? You're in.
Also pictured: Studio Gibson Les Paul, adored because it has a stained, NOT a laquered finish; guitar tablature open to Uncle Remus by Frank Zappa - a song that has no business being played on guitar (it was meant for piano); binder case chock full of printed guitar tablatures from the internet (thank you company resources); framed print of the last thing I drew in 1989 - dessicated body; rat-sized dust/cat-fur ball angling for escape via air vent.
Not entirely honest about doing NOTHING over the weekend. I did take the time to develop a compulsion for house plants.
But I did it dude style. By girth, volume, and breadth, I wanted to overwhelm and shock. Was there any heed to complement or harmony? Hell no. “This’ll take up a lot of space”, “this’ll be ten feet tall in two years’ time”. I lodged a tiny jungle in my home. If you are not taller than this sign, you can’t get on the ride. You get the idea.
Camille loves it. Those were my requirements: tell me it likes sun and tell me it’s non-toxic. I was overjoyed what I could accomplish with 120 bucks. I learned later that day – it’s the pots, that’s where they get you. Juan is over tomorrow to straighten things out and work her organizing magic...