Thursday, April 29, 2010

on keeping my distance

Would rather be alone than where I was.

So I had to boil myself in the shower to figure it out. Lesson learned—and learned well.

Now we play a little game called risk.

When Planter guy asked last night, "what are you afraid of?" he was trying to get me on board the gravy train. His gravy train. What he accomplished was quite the opposite.

This evening, after a week of that thing called 'space,' I called him. (No, not him. Jesus, keep track, people, we're coming to the denouement here. Or we will do. Eventually.) The G.I.Q.

I was walking home and it was Spring and I thought, hell, if I'm going to build myself up for the inevitable bust, I might as well be rejected for being me. Maybe it hurts a little less, but where's the integrity in corners?

Time to get real, bitches. Time to get real.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

ain't gonna sit, ain't gonna stay

Day two of this experiment in juror-dom. I remain aglow.

I made a friend yesterday who lives not eight blocks from me and generously offered to drive me home and back—no minor boon when our county courthouse is located in bum-effing Egypt. Of course, once I hopped into his nondescript finance-man's car, I realized that A) he could have been an axe murderer and B) abduction and violent mangling in the immediate aftermath of jury service would be a pretty damned ironic way to go.

No such problem arose. This whole business is overwhelmingly tolerable. You'll never convince me otherwise.

My new buddy was selected for a wrongful death case this morning, and I am on my own once more, parked on a vinyl bench with a view of the Q43s chugging down Sutphin Blvd, and the lawyers and drifters who orbit the building and constitute this little courthouse microsociety.

They've put on the afternoon movie, 13 Going On 30, but—plugged into my reverie—I'm reliving last night in a series of flipbook images, sore feet and stiff hips. I practiced, paying excruciating attention to torsion and balance. I danced.

Confused as I am, I'm starting to calm down. Allow myself to be amused. Because who could possibly predict the twists of this unnavigable nightmare? The flighty peaks and flesh-eating valleys have a life all their own; they ebb and they flow.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

on civic duty

If jury duty means sitting in a big room like a bus station, clacking away at my laptop while two hundred would be jurors watch Mrs. Doubtfire on the flatscreens overhead, I don't see why people complain.

Seems to me, there's no better way to spend a shitty grey Spring day than in this human sea of Queens, the most ethnically diverse county in the country, waiting for my name to be called.

This room is worthy of its reputation as a low-ceilinged government outpost, don't get me wrong, but it beats the hell out of the office. At least here I get a little humanity—and some natural light. The officer in charge of our motley herd is shockingly humane, and an aged and Honorable Judge Someone-or-Other gave us quite the momentous pep talk this morning about justice and the fulfillment of the American Dream. They showed a video of some poor medieval bastard being hog tied and thrown in a river, then told us how valuable we are, how much they appreciate our service. Talk about warm fuzzies; I've gotten more respect in six hours of jury duty than in two years at work.

I'm just waiting for Jerry Orbach to descend from the elevators to make my Law & Order fantasy complete.

This is no dead room of misery and tedium. I just witnessed the simultaneous cracking of two hundred eggs, bored-faced men and women erupting in a wave of uncontainable giggling at the antics of a man in a rubber boob suit. Women are wiping their eyes, old ladies are cackling, grown men are jiggling in their seats. There are no cool kids on jury duty. This is laughter which transcends race and age and color and demeanor. No one can help it. A shrimp flies through the air and it is infectious. They are daring us to bond.

As if this whole exercise in civil service, a jury of one's peers, is meant to remind us of and reinforce our own essential sameness. Flying shrimp are funny. Bureaucracy sucks—and so does sitting in a concrete lobby for eight hours. But we do it. Because it's the civilized thing to do.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

got no future got no past

For now, kiss me on the street. Greasy rain tapping surface puddles lit with neon piss green and red. Kiss me just like that. Under the spit drizzle, dodging neat little piles of vomit.

Quote Melville and put me in a cab.

That'll do. That's enough.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pavlov hits me with more bad news every time I answer the phone

I must have a romantic shelf life of about 48 hours.

Looks good in the window, fellas, but get her home and she'll start stinking up your fridge. Thank you, Non-date, thank you Planter man for this startling insight.

And thank you, G.I.Q.

I did not expect to see him Friday, nor did I expect a text at seven about chacarera class, nor the call at T minus forty minutes to say, "I'm freaking out again," "rethinking" (his word or mine?).

Knowing my insatiable, masochistic curiosity in matters of the heart, you should not be at all surprised that I went. That I met him in an Irish pub, chugged a Smithwick's and averted eye contact (both of us avoiding any mention of the immediate conversation), then made may way to the dance studio to humiliate myself attempting the finer figures of folklore.

What really surprised me was ending up in Koreatown, talking Dostoevsky over Bi Bim Bap with his friends (a couple seemingly under the impression that we are also a "couple"), getting dragged back to the milonga at midnight in grungy jeans, and—then later—sobbing into a pillar in the 34th St subway station at 2 am.

Perhaps, in my deer in headlights skittishness, I skipped a step. That's what my new shrink says. "What would the world look like, do you think, if you thought you were worth the time?" Because what kind of man breaks up like that?

(I changed my mind. I'm done. But, by all means, I would still really like it if you came and spent the evening with me... Please?)

Normal social dicta would recommend not communicating your whereabouts to the girl you're trying to slough off, let alone inviting her along. "It will make you happy," he said. "Come. Have a beer, feel better."

So maybe I missed a cry for help, maybe I failed the test of muster. Maybe I should have just said, "I'm scared too."

If a tree shows up in her own head, does anyone know where she stands?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

when blossoms go flying

"This isn't working."

No shit, Sherlock, I'm thinking. And seething. All the while attempting to preserve an air of icy dignity and resignation. I came here tonight to break up. Or be broken up with. That is how any reasonable human would interpret the events preceding. And I would prefer to get this over with and go home to lick my wounds with a brownie (or twelve) in bed.

We begin to tenderly negotiate the terms of our talk. He admits to resistance. I admit to various tactics of self-preservation. He is not one to only "sort of" show up, he says. Sure fooled me, I say.

He continues to circumnavigate. I continue to steel myself for the inevitable. We are discussing the awkwardness of halfway, of half-assed, of flying half mast. It is too.... "Nebulous." I complete his sentence. Expediency is key. "Exactly," he says. Here it comes. "What we've been doing . . ." he starts, and I fire back with, "It's basically book club with semi-weekly sex."

For a second, I think I have offended him. But he laughs. And I laugh. We are laughing. The waitress comes and pours our chilled Cynar and we are still laughing when she plunks down a teapot and two saucers and goes back inside. Tender green leaves, damp from the evening drizzle, are waving over the wall of St. Pat's. It is chilly and we are outside the café, for the quiet. I must hear every word of this rejection.

I wrap my hands around the wrought iron teapot. It is too hot to hold, but the warm is good. I feel rooted now. My hands have someplace to be. "I guess what I'm saying is . . ." I turn to face him, my fingertips scalded, clutching the potful of chamomile rooibos and trying to look casual.

"I want to try and embrace this. For real."

Wait. Really? "I'm . . . surprised. That is not what I expected you to say."

"Me neither."

And—just like that—it's Spring.

(And the world is mud-luscious, puddle wonderful. At least for today.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

outer boroughs

When I come home at night from tango, my neighborhood smells like bread. Cinnamon raisin bread, from the bakery out-kitchen across the street. Lately, it also smells of lilacs. Wet, dewy, midnight lilacs that won't last very long, but—man, are they beautiful.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

the truth is in the tupperware

My dear anonymous commentators, I know. Somewhere in there, I know I deserve more than I currently ask for—from men, from the world, perhaps even from myself.

That doesn't mean we choose who ensnares us, which spider webs we trip into, getting a face full of silky threads we spend the next few months wiping out of our hair.

It has been a weekend free from distraction by the opposite sex. Don't we all have those moments, positive or otherwise, when we realize we could be alone forever? When we stand at our sink and rinse our dishes and drink our coffee, and prepare and maintain an existence so solitary it seems endless?

Isn't this what being a grown-up is all about? Running out of dish soap and finding you have already purchased a back-up bottle and stowed it under the sink? Having your best friend for dinner and thinking, "Jeez, I wonder what I can do with this asparagus Fresh Direct told me to buy this week," only to realize you already have all the ingredients for risotto?

Sometimes Spring days are cold. And sometimes moments of victory are grey and lonely.

They are victories all the same.

Friday, April 16, 2010

to go skating on your name

In the world of this blog, names are changed to protect the innocent. Myself most of all.

It is one thing to hopelessly entangle yourself with the playboy of the Western world. It is quite another to be discovered in so doing by a mutual friend. Suddenly, you are forced to remember what a bad idea you knew this to be four months ago.

I don't mean to be a player hater here. I knew who he was from our first conversation about Anna Karenina, our first Sunday afternoon close embrace class. I knew he was a player. But I had convinced myself he only played one woman at a time. And that, I think, was naive.

Naive verging on stupid.

I don't have any incontrovertible proof of him carrying around a jailer's key chain of women, just the inference of a third-party observer. But shouldn't that be enough to convince me to walk away?

Here I am, TGIF-ing and hideously rundown (though this from the sweet fatigue of tango muscles and not altogether unpleasant), the circles under my eyes as pale and deep as tile grout. And now I must confront the silly sound of my own hope, tinny and ridiculous, fold it up with my winter sweaters, and remember that I am in no way special. But hey, don't hate the player, hate the game.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

dr. freud, your slip is showing

Critics of my taste in men, beware: I am lobbing you some very easy balls here.

Strong evidence in favor of my alleged daddy complex: This morning I sent a text to my father. Only . . . I was underslept. It was barely eight in the morning. And "Dad Cell" beginning, as it does, with the letter 'D', well, I sent it to the G.I.Q. instead.

Yes, it was embarrassing. It included the phrase "greatest dad in the whole world," a reference to my fear that he might be "getting sick of me" and—worst of the worst—a graphical smiley face.


Imagine the pee-curdling panic that ensued when I discovered my mistake. Imagine.

I am duly mortified.

We, the G.I.Q. and I, take one step forward and two steps back.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

all that sex, all those words, nothing lasts, men are turds

By popular request: the monologue I delivered this weekend in the cabaret. Bear in mind, this fit within a greater context and is by no means indicative of gospel truth. License was taken and facts stretched where effect dictated. (Though, the statistic about pie crust is 100% citeworthy. See? I'm topical.)

So I have this vision of myself. Making meatloaf. No, really. I'm in my kitchen in a little ruffly apron, grooving out to Bob Dylan, and I am up to my elbows in ground cow.

I went to Smith College. I'm supposed to burn my bra in protest and subvert the dominant patriarchal hegemony. And yet, here I am, sculpting this big bunch of beef for my imaginary boyfriend. And I'm a vegetarian. A vegetarian with a magnet on her fridge that reads: A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. So why am I making fantasy meatloaf for some unnamed, erudite suitor who is going to someday show up for dinner in wire-rimmed spectacles and a sweater vest and sweep me off my feet?

I must be the only girl in recorded history to have graduated from lesbian boot camp with a Betty Crocker complex. My mother can barely mash a potato, and here I am with all these domestic "tendencies." Because I have other fantasies too, you know, like . . . steam cleaners and . . . hospital corners . . . and . . . bundt cake. That's right: bundt cake.

Maybe I'm so conventional, it's unconventional. I mean, I'm still a feminist. I want to wear pants and vote and see the world and everything, but really I just want to go steady. I want a little fraternity pin on my cardigan. I want "his" and "hers" bedside bookcases. And yes, someday I want babies and banana bread. Does that make me so old-fashioned?

According to the New York Times Sunday magazine two weeks ago, 84% of women today can't make a pie crust. 84 percent. So really, when you think about it, I'm on the damned cutting edge. I'm like—Feminism 2.0.

Once I started shaving my armpits, I figured it wouldn't be that hard to find a man who would love me in spite of my incurable housewifery. I mean, come on fellas, I can bake a pie. And I like it.

But no, y'all aren't biting. And so I'm going to end up like Sylvia Plath meets June effing Cleaver and stick my head in an oven.

I know I'm the weirdest girl on the planet. I read too much, I swear like a sailor and I'm kind of a nerd. But I can do things with a waffle iron that you've never dreamed of . . .

I had to learn to dance tango just to get a grown man to put his arm around me. And that is a sorry state of affairs. But, in spite of it all, I still believe he's out there. That unicorn of men. The dill to my pickle. The guy who knows a good piece of meatloaf when he sees one.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

being used to travel I anticipate it

Forgive the lapse in eloquence here, but men are pigs.

This is not to say they are gluttonous, fornicating mud-lovers. Strictly speaking, I have no beef with pigs as a species. They can be quite endearing. Maybe I just mean this: they have their little pens, their little needs and to hell with the rest of the animal kingdom.

As it stands today, a chilly Tuesday in April, anno domini 2010, I am the untamed fox.

Counting my blessings, I realize my own ripeness. I scrape the slapdash chunks of dried paint from my corroded canvas, and grow increasingly apprehensive about the bareness underneath. What the hell will I do with it? Here I am, a mere germ of a woman, unburdened and unattached, still far enough from 30 to ponder calculated acts of insanity and to be reckless with my own heart.

But this is not without loneliness (plural, multiple, infinite). Lifeboat on an unknown sea, disoriented, no borders in sight. I make these efforts easily and wait only for the hurt to happen.

Non-date mystifies. His absence louder than his presence. My anger is piqued, but my pride bites my tongue.

The G.I.Q. exceeds my endurance. I don't know the 'off' from the 'on,' but I cannot look away. He has the benefit of my full-faced stare, my widest eyes, my vertigo at the edge of the void. I drift in his vacuum. I orbit nothing and no one. Time and mass no longer seem to matter.

So much for opening and upward (and leaf and sap).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

this from the stars

"During this time you are concerned with one area that others might consider rather abstract, and that is your identity. You tend to dwell on your sense of personal isolation, loneliness, difficulties in relationships and other depressing thoughts. Clearly you need a dose of positive thinking and cheering up."

Courtesy of Astro Dienst.

but . . .

"I am an all-powerful Amazon warrior / not just some sniveling girl."

These origami distractions notwithstanding, I have six thousand other (less salacious) things going on. And I am alright.

There are buds on my tree.

sacrificial at chess

This weekend was not at all what I expected. A roller coaster of emotional ups and downs, launched with a sold-out show Friday night, still bizarre at five am Sunday morning.

Against all odds, in a sea of eighty sipping cocktails, the G.I.Q. made it to my closing performance. He held me in earnest in the post-show receiving line. He bought me salmon and vino and a cheese plate at Pigalle to fête me—and to apologize for "being distant and uncommunicative" (his words, not mine). And he took me home, though he felt ill and overwhelmed and was "freaking out about us" again (also his words). This in spite of my feeble protests:

"I have to be at therapy at 10:30 am in Columbus Circle and I haven't shaved my legs."

"There are trains in the morning, you know. And I do have razor blades."

So there I went, gently into that good night. Granted, I did fall asleep listening to Tom Tales, and I do wonder if I'm not just warmth, books and dishwashing to this man, but details. I missed him. He is the meatloaf fantasy man of the sweater vest and spectacles. I see that now.

But what "us" entails, I still haven't a clue. So, imagine my discomfort when he called tonight at dinner to warn that he was "feeling weird" (and anxious and nervous) about "us." What is it about men that makes them assume they've the right to reject an offer you haven't made?

I have never asked him for "us." I have never asked him for anything. To the best of my knowledge, I've done a solid job of giving space, of stepping back, of leaving his campsite better than I found it. This, "I'm nervous about my ability to do this" makes my blood run passive aggressive through its vein rivers and intersections. Do what, D? I don't forgive all your radio silence the instant I see you only to be made constantly anxious by your anxiety. Don't they say a man who really wants to be with you will just

He did come to the milonga. We did dance. And he made no secret of sharing his beer or holding my hand between songs. Mais c'était tout. An hour or two of (actually quite wonderful) dancing to end the night (after two hours of averting his gaze and dancing with everyone and their lame-footed uncle). We left. He kissed me. Said he had shit to do in the morning. Said, and I quote, "Sorry to be weird. We'll just take it as it comes, no?" He put me in a cab and then: "I'll talk to you. Ciao."

And so there I was, speeding alone through the predawn streets of Manhattan, over my big, lonely bridge to my big, lonely apartment, wondering how I let things slip so far. I don't love the drama anymore. It is weakness, nothing more, that keeps me from confronting him. Not wanting to give up those bookish nights in the Bat Cave, those mornings of tangled sleep, the catch in my heartbeat when I cock an eyelash mid-tanda to see he has arrived on the floor.

In a bygone AP English report card, my beloved teacher once wrote, "Meg must learn not to suffer so under the pangs of uncertainty." Well, Mr. F, here I am, splashing in the lukewarm uncertainty of it all, my fingers pruny with it, waterlogged. Or did your advice have more to do with graceful extrication from the state of uncertainty? I've spent the better part of the last nine years trying to solve that riddle. Will I never learn?

Nothing to be done now but wonder.

Friday, April 9, 2010

but they ended up out sleeping in a doorway

There's something about being in a show that is profoundly lonely-making.

Maybe because my parents live in Florida and Georgia, respectively. And maybe because, given the nomadic nature of our caravan decade together, we didn't accumulate the kind of "base" of extended family and friends that most people drag to these sorts of things. I'm not complaining. It's hard to expect people you love to give up an hour, a cover fee and a two drink minimum as you hold them captive from a tiny cabaret stage in a Manhattan piano bar. It's just . . . you find yourself surprised by the strange assortment of people who inevitably turn up. Some people you would expect to be there without your having to badger them are not. Others you hardly know are beaming over their martinis in the front row.

I figure if you have five people to count on, you're doing alright. And I have that. So, the rest—the favorite coworker, the tango acquaintances—are gravy. Strange and special gravy.

Walking home through Times Square, abuzz with neon daylight at 10:30pm, I found myself saddened by my own self-sufficiency. Forbidden to go dancing by my (very practical) director and declining cocktail offers in favor of rest before a full 9-5 Friday, I went home on the subway to an empty apartment, made myself a simple single girl supper, snapped the windows shut against the pollen, and went to bed.

Today it is threatening to rain and I am blue, blue, blue. My grey cubby, dismally lit by fluorescent overheads, feels more like a prison cell than usual. The men in my life are quietly—notably—absent. (Dost thou notice a pattern?) I feel closer and more connected to the strangers I sang for last night than most other people in my life.

I'm sure this funk will abate in time for tonight, but right now the minutes are leaden and this workday may never end.

Monday, April 5, 2010

all over the place

Radio silence from the G.I.Q. and I am going haywire.

I am making big plans without you, sir. Shit is blooming everywhere and trains are barreling towards the station. When the right one comes, I'm leaping. Don't say you weren't warned.

Energies conspire. Sometimes the Universe aligns the flagstones for you. All you have to do is put one foot in front of you with commitment, and the frequencies will match up to carry you across.

Receive the lead and follow it.

It was an awfully selfish weekend, full of rehearsing and appointments and dancing. After Peter and I made brunch for his family (because any day that begins with eggs and champagne must be a good one), I spent a few hours sunning on a crowded patch of grass with Em, listening to the tango strains from the milonga on the pier, before committing the gravest act of sacrilege imaginable: going to Roko during the home opener.

I d-voed the game. I mean, come on, I wasn't going to miss that spectacular Youk-a-thon in a marathon creaming of the champion Yanks. But I didn't watch it live and, consequently, I'm a little bewildered. Maybe it was a pissy reaction to Non-Date's utter lack of interpersonal skills, his monumental failure to communicate. Maybe it was just a one-off whim.

I swear, I think my father almost disowned me.

And yet, I refuse to apologize. I reconnected with a good friend, scored a second tanda with The Whisperer and ended up with plans for focused practice. I smiled unabashedly at good leaders and . . . the Red Sox won!

Slowly, I come to grips with the fact that I have found my constant trump card. Very simply: I would rather be dancing.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Groggy and tingly from last night, I wake to church bells. My little neighborhood is all about Easter, kids are in frilly outfits and shiny white shoes, and I open my window to the smell of blossoms and grilled meat.

I forgot about those church bells. Remember when I was so charmed by this place? Before the great Heatless Winter . . .

Anyway, today is hopeful (once I kick the headache). Damn the workaday world, less than 24 hours away. There is outdoor dancing to consider at the pier. There is the crossword. And there is baseball. Wonderful, wonderful baseball.

Spring is here at last. The snow scabbed world's reprieve. Our annual round of second chances.

witching hours

Buzzing from a three am brownie rush and a sweet, sweet tango high.

Man, those four hours of dancing passed like forty minutes. And as a reward, I suppose, for branching out, for going stag to an unknown milonga, I was blessed with lovely leaders. A whole night without a foot wound and, though imperfect, my dancing went somewhere. I was flying, I was alone in a room with a man I hardly knew (one at a time), I was closing my eyes to everything and everyone and wishing I could stay all night, dancing until I got better, until the world made sense.

But I came home—in a cab that nearly broke the sound barrier—and now I tuck myself in to the sound of confused birds tweeting away in the dark.

Buona Pasqua a tutti . . .

Friday, April 2, 2010

thursday, april first

In which our heroine bought herself a new pair of tango shoes and admired the blossoms that smell more like sperm than flowers.

In which the April Fools' crossword was conquered.

In which there was dancing and an epic twist of plot.