Thursday, September 30, 2010

losing farther, losing faster

Everything is wrong.

It is wrong to go, it is wrong to stay. Wrong to hope, worse not to.

I went on a date last night. With the Pilot, erstwhile pen pal from Hobe Sound, flier of cargo planes. Divorced father of three. He talked me into it really, he made the leap from casual drinks and Where In The World Have You Been? to seafood dinners on the waterway. Blackened grouper and hog snapper with hollandaise. Drinks on a dock, ring games in a tiki bar—and one very blustery moonlit stroll on the beach chasing night crabs. It was nice (but it wasn't a disaster.) It was not the same. No trains collided in my thought bubble. The earth kept right on earthing.

It was wrong to have spent the better part of this month in exile eating my feelings. I come back to New York chubbed up on my own cooking. I come back on an afternoon plane with a suitcase full of summer clothes.

Don't ask me what the hell I plan to do with my life, but I have balls in the air. Balls to the wall. Balls between a rock and a hard place. If it were not for the generosity of the people I love, I'd be out on my lily white Irish [expletive] in t minus . . . No, really. How much longer can I make a makeshift tripod out of my failing sea legs and all this kindness? I am in a borderless country with no currency to repay my favors. So I cook for people. I take out the trash. I try not to cry every day.

I return to the Tour d'Ivoire, a little worse for the wear. I cross my fingers for that killer railroad apartment at the end of this tunnel. To scrubbing kitchen counters like my life depends on it. To dancing every night. And to finishing those samples. Daily and with dedication. In the library. Because I'll want to be out of the way.

If I've learned anything from you 2010, it is that the world can (and likely will) come crashing down around you. It's only a matter of when and how loud the din.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

a bird may love a fish, signore, but where would they live

Oh how time flies when we are a mess. Can't sleep at night, so you sleep all day survival mode.

Yoga helps. Yesterday I was complimented on my pigeon (salamba kapotasana). I wandered around with a pocketful of prana all afternoon.

But then again, this march forward. Days, weeks—a month passes. I haven't done much here except drink coffee on a humid balcony until my heart starts racing or the sun sets. I've made some meals, written some dreadful poems, sat in the recesses of my own panic until my fingers pruned. I've run the gamut a few times over, come to some conclusions and changed my mind. I feel at home here. I am lost. I belong in New York?

No one ever told me life would be comfortable, but surely some people wake up in the morning without feeling their chests constrict. I look around at Normal and I start to resent the hell out of myself, every melancholy moment of me. Where is my quiet cocktail by the pool? Where is the day I don't doubt every decision I make?

Hell, don't feel sorry for me. I chose this. Remember? I said I was happy living out of a suitcase. I said I never wanted to own anything or love anybody every again. And I don't. I do.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

a poet's guide to courtship

What do I do when I cannot write? I read.

Needless to say, I've been doing quite a bit of that. Poems, mostly, snippets of them running ticker tape through my head, which feels a bit like Times Square before a matinee. Which is to say: hot. Loud. Insufferable.

Yeats, that old dog, cheated on his wife and died of ripeness. But still he had the nads to write "Never give all the heart"—and bully for him. His reason:

". . . for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss."

The audacity of his advice to young lovers, the men who come calling with their toolboxes full of torture devices, astounds me. Thank you, Billy Butler, for legitimizing the age old tradition of head games and heart wrecking. The Ophelias of the world plug their noses and practice drowning.

A little advice to those listening: We the weaker sex do not prefer to be left in the dark by the phone.

I once thought I could sell a dating manual for men that would fit onto a business card. One side would say simply: "Man up and state your business." The other would read: "Decide what you want and then be there. Do that."

That is all we want. To know. Think of all the angst you could eliminate, the analysis of actions, the overanalysis of tone. I have a hundred women behind me. You are not special. We do not fall automatically in love. We are not immediately obsessed, monogramming towels and tote bags.

You are not special because you are a man and I am a neurotic creature. You are special because you are special to me. But I can live without you. My brain was born for other, bigger questions and I resent the space you take with your flimsy indecision.

I, we, do not need you to make the world any harder. So spare us the decade of drama from kiss to kiss. Declare your intentions and be done with it. Any passionate woman worth her salt will not shy away from certainty. For chrissakes, it will give her a chance to breathe and be herself.

Dorothy Parker said it best. "I should think it would be so sweet to be sure."

To tell the truth, I'm humbled and a little humiliated by my own inability to break the cycle. I've been down here for eighteen days now, with nothing but space. The precious commodity of time was mine for the taking and I have next to nothing to show for myself. A string of wasted days. Nights undersleeping, mornings oversleeping and nightmare after nightmare.

Right before I left, I bought myself a card, one of those inspirational messages printed in block letters from Barnes & Noble. And it says: "This is your world. Shape it or someone else will." I suppose that's what I'm most afraid of here. That I'm allowing someone else shape my world for the worse.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

the other side of insomnia

On the dream train last night, there were helicopters crashing overhead, buses falling from the sky, and a semi that drove off a building to erupt in flames below. Flames I had to run from. Sprinting along the top of this train—which was moving through a metropolis—too slowly to outrun the perils and projectiles.

This comes only a few nights on the heels of the sailboat crash with the pontoon planes and the giant rock. The lover who left me howling in the hallways while he danced with everyone but me.

Something tells me I ought not sleep alone.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

hello cruel world

You've been unkind this year, and you know it. I can only hope you know what you're doing.

Because I wonder. Through the bombardment, in the acid drizzle on the arid ground, there have been trail markers. Haven't there?

And haven't I followed them? I cut and I ran. I put the moving van behind me. I quit my job. I disinfected, showered, boiled. Folded, laundered, packed. I ran away and danced. You said go; I went. You said no and I turned tail. I drank your little bottle of yes. I closed my eyes. I leaped.

I'm beginning to think we're in Acting 101, doing trust falls, and you're the skinny kid with the dirty sneakers and the smelly pits. Your arms outstretched, your palms sweaty, you give every outward appearance of wanting to catch me, but your bony elbows are no match for my weight and don't I look foolish? A little stupider every time I fold my arms across my chest and keel backwards.

And yet, bruised everything, bruised ego, I continue. I scan the horizon for mirages, perch like a yogi on the mountain, blur my gaze to the future, listening to every wayward wind current for direction.

So far it says: love while you can. It says: write faster. It also says: be careful or it all goes up in flames.

It even says: Brooklyn . . . something about tuna and Mies and tea.

The odds ought to improve eventually.

Monday, September 13, 2010

portrait of the artist

Oh, lead me to a quiet cell
Where never footfall rankles,
And bar the window passing well,
And gyve my wrists and ankles.

Oh, wrap my eyes with linen fair,
With hempen cord go bind me,
And, of your mercy, leave me there,
Nor tell them where to find me.

Oh, lock the portal as you go,
And see its bolts be double….
Come back in half an hour or so,
And I will be in trouble.

-Dorothy Parker

Sunday, September 12, 2010

every time it matters all my words desert me

When everything else fails, and we are left to pull our pieces back together, all misshapen with superglue, we turn to food. Some cook, some eat, others mainline Doritos and marshmallow Fluff.

I cook. I chop and pinch and sully pots. I stand before a hot surface and make sense out of so many disparate somethings. Form something tangible, taste-able, out of a bag of chaos. The whole process comforts me: fish market, grocery store, recipe book. Cutting board, spatula, sauce pan.

Tonight it was simple. Halibut Livornese, zucchini and summer squash. Served with rosemary grissini, truffle sottocenere and champagne. We sat on the deck and took stock. We ate our feelings, whatever they happened to be.

My September sojourn has presented me with this orgy of options. I have no answers for you—or anyone. But I can say this: I am sitting still. Listening for the frogsongs as they come, obeying what signals I am sent, trudging across finish lines and spinning my idle wheels.

When I can't think what to say (or think, or write), I use the kitchen. Take out the olive oil and basil and build something. That something never lasts, but a task is a task. A meal is a meal—structure made and dismantled.

I become secondary, with people to feed. And that feels good. Because otherwise, I revert to mooning, to melancholy, to sitting on bar stools tracing question marks across the room.

I don't know what to make of him, of me, of any of this. So I make dinner.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

labor pains

Sometimes you just need a margarita. Or twelve.

Tonight, of course, I couldn't make use of that particular coping mechanism. Lest I counteract my 3oo dollar antibiotic cycle and risk the mysterious "very bad reaction" the pharmacist foretold. But I made a few anyway and that was a party. The ladies drank them. And god saw that it was good.

There is such a thing as Girls' Night, and it covers all manner of sins. We have cultivated this tradition across the ages. We the seed gatherers, the wheat threshers, the women. From a ruddy congregation in the dark of the signal fire to the more finely evolved modern survival schema of baked goods and elastic waistbands, we've been making molehills out of mountains for centuries.

You see, there are moments in every woman's life that call for introspection, and there others that require processing—by committee. Times get tough enough, hurts get harsh enough, the lemon pile reaches the flood line, et voilà! The herd convenes for baying and keening and the licking of wounds.

A good Girls' Night can be anything, anywhere. A terrible movie and a ten ton tub of popcorn. Microwave lasagne out of the cardboard carton. Sex and the City episodes on DVD. A six am drunken pizza party to ring in the new year. A handful of Kleenex and a bottle of wine. Fat pants and brownies. We are adaptable. We adapt.

Then there is Mexican Night, a particularly heartwarming subgenre involving equal parts estrogen, tequila and avocado. It doesn't take much—I've seen this manifest at Chili's bars and grills nationwide. But the medicine is no less potent. It's your bottle of XXX moonshine under the bathroom vanity cabinet. You pull these stops on special occasions and under duress. Or, you know, just because. (Although, at least in the lifespan of the average American woman, it's never "just because." Who among us can safely recall a day without a tragedy to tackle, else a victory to flaunt?) It's never the inbetween, ladies. The dog faces either upward or down. We peak and we valley. And in the hollows we seek solace in sisterhood and salted rims.

On one such evening, Valentine's Day, 2006, I split my middle finger open on a can of black beans making enchiladas to soak up a piña colada sobfest. Outside, former frat brothers marched up and down 3rd Avenue with bodega bouquets to escort their J Crew clad girlfriends to overpriced table d'hotes. Inside, my friend the EMT superglued me back to single girl wholeness and we went right on weeping and wailing, cursing the Hallmark holidays.

Even as a kid, I sensed the magic. I wasn't so tall then; I used chiles out of a can and I made a few righteous messes of home and hearth, but I knew. There are certain demons that can only be fought with cayenne peppers and grated cheese.

A sprig of cilantro, lime juice in a paper cut, the clink of grocery store glassware . . . the dosage doesn't have to be exact to drown out the din. Even for a moment. A few women come together over a bowl of corn chips and poof: All that ails you goes up in a cloud of calories.

Tonight was no different. The day after Labor Day, when the whole world went back to work. All our summer hopes began to spoil in the fruit basket. And, well, somebody somewhere must have summoned the Kraken. We merely answered its call. With Sauza Gold and grouper tacos.

Maybe, for an hour or two anyway, we feel a little less alone.

Monday, September 6, 2010

brace yourself like a man

I'm going to wear my underpants on the outside for a moment and say that, if wishes were time machines, I'd go back to Baltimore and call for an immediate do-over.

Of course wishes are not time machines. Nor are they horses. Nor do they grow on trees. They are only wishes, and no matter how hard you think on them, they will not bend your life to their parameters. The meat grinder moves on and makes of you what it will.

If you are like me, you believe in rhyme before reason. That there are forces of fate working in defiance of our comprehension, with little latent 'ah-hah's weeks, months—years—down the road to look forward to. Non-believers beware, you doubt these truths at your own peril. Or perhaps you prefer chaos. Maybe the void makes more sense.

All I know is I struggle with Why. And as each of my dreams and limbs in turn are mangled and misshapen, I prefer to wait it out, rather than wrestle with the senselessness of a human life span.

Oh, for another 140 years.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

this modern love

Call me a voyeur, but when a couple of Yankee-clad hipsters* get engaged in my immediate vicinity, the cell phone camera comes forth to document the occasion. With irony. Lots of irony.

What is it about our generation that we must make our every moment public? One too many superheroes in our childhood cartoons? This the emotional equivalent of wearing our underpants on the outside, but we do it anyway. We have started to live like snowmen, rolling our insides around accumulating icy girth, content worthy of Facebook and bloggery.

Then again, this is a big lonely of a world. We can connect to anyone—friends, loved ones, perfect strangers—just by logging on to one device or another. But here are two people celebrating a milestone and, for better or for worse, they are all alone in a stadium of 50,000.

So alone, the newly affianced lady feels she must opt for the armpit shot to catalogue her moment. Perfect or imperfect.

I don't know whether I found this sad or savagely uplifting at the time, but based on their subdued smirks, I'm going with the former.

Just who do we think we are?

*Please note the fauxhawk on #28.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

road trip, part two of two

After 23 hours, the speed limit increased to 70 mph, the highways flattened out to a sun-bleached shade of bone grey, and the sky cracked open to let pass the rain clouds.

A windy Florida night gapes around me, midnight blue and humid. And the world seems suddenly very big.

I am grateful to be here. So grateful. For the first time in months, maybe years, I am supported. I am sinking into the musty sheets of my mother's second bedroom, the safety net of all safety nets, overlooking the Intracoastal effing Waterway, and surely that spells paradise. So why am I suddenly overcome by the incontrovertible lonelies?

Answer: It is time to face the big girl music.

Because, maybe she got me here . . . Maybe a confluence of Universal factors stuck a finger in my life and stirred the pot. Maybe the shit hit the fan and I had the brass to make bold moves. But now it's my turn. There's nobody but me in this damned psychic meadow. My choices are being etched in ink. And I'll have nobody left to blame if I fall on my face.

Now comes the hard part. Getting up and writing applications. Studying algebra. Resumes and cover letters. Personal statements. Overcoming crippling self doubt. Then I pack it up and go home (quote/unquote) with little guidance and no guarantees.

One month, two months, three—the difference isn't monumental. Tango would have sucked me back to shore soon enough. My wasted New Yorker of a heart thuds in its shell. Something in me cries out for chaos and corner delis.

I go back to nothing. Jobless, apartmentless and loveless. I go back with guts and hope to make an end run at the pursuit of happiness, but there are no absolutes. Don't get me wrong, I'm going back anyway. For the above stated reasons and then a few. But I know (and y'all know) full well, that there are always alternatives, unhappy alternatives, to that which we close our eyes for all those lonely 2ams in exile.

Hard to explain to anyone, let alone the Internet, that in place of certainty, I've got nothing but good omens. And I'm going on them anyway.