Friday, July 29, 2011

on frailty and fidelity

I have the sort of boyfriend who can carry me seated upright on his shoulders. The kind who sweeps me down whole flights of stairs. He is a lifter of heavy things, a manager of impossibly numerous grocery bags.

He is smarter than a whip crack on a winter morning. He looks at the world with his sea glass eyes and assesses it, not merely for style and substance, but moral significance. He believes in the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people for the greatest amount of time, a worldview made manifest by his boundless attention to single mothers' baby strollers and frail old ladies' shopping carts.

He is also fiercely independent. The sort of man who needs to be alone with his thoughts, with his Kindle copy of Proust, with his hills in the Highlands.

I believe he is the sort of man I can trust—with thousands of miles between us or just across a dance floor—but I am merely mortal, and subject to the more vexatious aspects of my sex. I see him beset by girl-fouling floozies, and I have to stop the steam from coming out my ears.

He asks a lot of me, this man. He will be gentle, helpful, overly-solicitous, only insofar as I allow him. And then he cuts the chord. He demands that I be worthy of the respect he gives. He tells me I've no reason to be jealous and expects that I will trust him. He gives me honest feedback and hopes I'll bear it humbly. Now and again, he will morph into an undersensitive creature of the male persuasion, but he is the very first to admit his faults.

When the physical falls apart, and I prove less hardy than my better constitution, he's still there. Back injuries, bladder infections, vicious blisters on the toe... these are just unfortunate matters of nature, he says. And he would gladly weather their momentary effect on whatever fun he's having if it means he still gets to be in a couple with me. His words.

As I sit here typing into my laptop, and he types into his across our desk, rainy Saturday Berlin comes down onto the courtyard maple and our window box of herbs. Life is pitifully short, and love is pitifully painful, but right here in this quiet moment, when we've tidied up the sheets on our mattress on the floor, when we've ducked down to the Lidl for milk and mueslix, and when we've taken silly pictures with the massive celery root I found, every single sacrifice explains itself. I've met the man who lets me be the very best version of myself. The benefits by far outweigh the costs. And I am sure he'd say the same.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

berlin, je t'aime, reason 3

This morning I went to the Supermarkt, nightie tucked into my ripped-up jeans, wearing Jack's flip flops and a sweater. And no one cared. Also, I somehow managed to end up with blue-dyed soap inside my shoes last night. As we walked in the rain, suds squished up from in between my toes. I was unfazed. (However, now my toes are blueberry blue, and look as though they'll stay that way.) Berlin is lovely in the rain.

We made an evening of a grand Sicilian dinner, excellent company and bottles and bottles of wine. Then we retired to an unnamed bar for overly expensive bottles of BIER (at two Euro each).

Lord, I love this town.

Friday, July 22, 2011

guten morgen, glücklich morgen

Berlin, so far, is one white-walled, stark and lovely flat. A mattress on the hardwood floor, a desk, two chairs, a terrace looking down into the courtyard. One giant maple tree stands guard, tall enough to stand above the rooftops of our six story apartment Haus.

It is drizzling, and has been since I landed. A gentle rain from a sky pale grey and flat. So different from last week in the shocking Azur blue.

He'd stolen me a towel from a hotel last week in Ireland, and he cleared me out a drawer. He was so distracted cooking dinner, he poured mueslix into bowling water by mistake. He added in the pasta anyway. To us, it tasted great (the plump raisins adding particular flair to the tomato pesto).

We snuck to a milonga after midnight, and took the night bus home.

And safely in his arms, I slept.

(Vielen Dank.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

en transit

I couldn't sleep last night to save my life. The big, sweeping vents kept me awake with their rattling and their teasing of the leaves. Then the moonlight through the window was too bright. Then my stomach churned. But really I was dreaming about Jack.

Or, rather, that I was on a river cruise that crashed. That pitched and heaved in swells among the skyscrapers before shattering through a megastore.

Then I dreamt I couldn't find shoes to wear to the airport—nothing but a pair of tan leather ladies' orthopedic sneakers.

Four, five hours of this restless wishing I could sleep. And now, we wait. Only nine hours to go.

Goodbye again to Ste Maxime, le lovely mer, the ice blue sky, the town that smells of roasting chickens in the afternoons. Hello, Berlin.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

here comes the flood

I'm afraid I don't belong anywhere.

I grew up all over, and it was great. When asked on applications to state my hometown, I usually write "miscellaneous." I'm a child of the open road, and I relish it. I can do great things from a single suitcase. I have done.

Passport and clean panties in hand, I could conquer the world. But 'could' is such another matter than 'will,' and I fear I've lost the latter.

Here I lie in paradise, the pine and herby smell borne through the window on a chilly wind. It rained today, unseasonably for the Côte d'Azur in summer. I wish that were the only reason I felt stir crazy and alone. By cocktail hour, the clouds had cleared, and I walked aimlessly through town, not taking pictures. That's when it hit me: I have come here one too many times. I've taken my photos and eaten my petal cones. It starts to feel like home. And every time I've ever had a home, I've had that place rescinded. I get familiar and I'm forced to move along.

I've been looking all my life for somebody to get me. Just one, to fully and completely understand. I thought Peter and his family did. But perhaps understanding lies all in our perception, and that's the part that changes in the end.

All I know is I've become an adjunct character, another guest with another suitcase in another room. Another place set at the table on the terrace. If my motives aren't clear, my mood not easily discerned, I guess I cannot grumble. It was merely the hope of comprehension that made me feel so easily embraced before.

In thirty six hours, I fly to Berlin and to Jack. I pray I steel myself against imagining another home in him.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

disconvention (for the record)

Peter Pan is in love.

To normal people, this means we no longer need each other. He goes one way with his Grace Kelly Barbie doll bride, and I go mine, into the arms of Jack—until that, too, blows up in my face. But to us, there is no option. He is the brother I never had.

This is a joyful thing, people. I've never seen him like this. She makes him happier than he has been in five plus years. They understand each other on a skin level, from a pheromonal I-need-you place. They talk wedding rings and babies and hallelujah everafter. They are everything together he and I could never have been. And I am thrilled for them. She and I even get along. She gets it. Jack gets it. We've all of us had meals together. The obvious is . . . obvious.

Trouble is, it's not so obvious to anybody else.

But, people, please. We don't just alight in people's lives never to be seen or heard again. We make indents and imprints and are wholly and completely changed. Because of Peter, I am who I am: stupid, blind in love with Jack, embarking on a grad school dream. Because of Peter, I'm (only 708 miles away from him, and not 4000) in the South of France, with people I would lie in traffic for. We may not be blood related, but I've always been the kind of girl to choose her family, and I chose them—a long time ago. They're in the queue. They're on the prayer list (sorry, y'all, I've been reading The Help). And Peter has his faults, don't get me wrong, but so have I.

It makes me sorry for the people who see love in black and white. In yes and no. In no or always. We are no and always, damnit.

Stop telling him to grow up and do it your damn self.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

pretty, maybe, but I ain't no beauty queen

I am a girl who doesn't often paint her toenails. A girl who has never dyed her hair.

I don't wax my snatch or follow the rules. I dress like a school marm or a fisherman's wife.

I've never belonged among girls my own age. And never is this fact more evident than when I see the throngs of them all gussied up in St. Tropez, their four inch sandal heels clacking on the cobblestones, their eyes outlined, their perfume treacle thick. They've got stylish little purses clutched in manicured claws. They smoke, they reapply their lipgloss, they let greasy men get them overpriced cocktails. They enjoy the cheesy music making it too loud to talk, the cheesy chat of rich guys in boat shoes and checkered shirts. They wear things like bronzer. They flatiron their hair.

In short, they care about all manner of women's magazine articles I never bother to read.

And I am thrilled to be unique. To go out as god made me, with or without a bra. In jersey cotton dresses and a grandpa sweater. With earrings and sunglasses bought on the street. But, then again, I'm the girl who has lived out of her suitcase for eleven months.

I look at them and I see pricetags. Brazilian: $80. Mani pedi: $40. Platform wedges: $120. Make up: $100. Make up brushes: $200. Tinted shimmer lipgloss: $22. Spray tan: $30. Eyebrow wax: $15. Crest WhiteStrips: $90. The list goes on, interminable.

The whole cycle requires such maintenance; just looking at them I'm exhausted. When I have extra scratch, I spend it on books. Or food.

Why then, do I feel so frumpy when they pass?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I woke up this morning, and my heart was racing.

All these somethings we anticipate will eventually come bearing down upon us in the form of something so simple as an early evening flight to France. The paper days peel off the calendar and float away. We look forward, forward, forward to the moment we will be able to sink into some patch of sand somewhere halfway across the world and say, yes, I am home here. And stop, for once. Just stop.

I suppose it is better to save up all our livinginthepresentmoment for moments like those, for months like this. It is progress being made. The resultant goal, of course, is to keep it up when the real world comes flashflooding back in fall. Like keeping Christmas in one's heart through all the year. All I can do is keep learning. And I do, good lord, I do.

Single digit hours til take off. Single digit days til Jack.

The adventure begins. Glück and bonne chance.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


In winter, we heat our homes to summer unbearable temperatures. In summer, we cool them; we refrigerate ourselves.

Girls with curls want straight hair—and girls with straight want waves.

I complained about this city until I tried to move away.

In busy times, we pray for stillness, but when we get there, we are bored.

It hurts more if you let yourself be scared.

The Buddhist term for suffering, dukkha, has really more a Russian doll of meaning. Unsatisfactoriness, perhaps best among them. The unsatisfactoriness of life. Ennui. The constant, stressful ache we suffer to be somewhere or someone else. Even the translation disappoints; the deep, dark subtlety is lost. We have this hunger, and we do not know its name.

Then again, it is amazing how little time one has for navel gazing, while one is flat upon an injured back.

Monday, July 4, 2011

on lowered expectations

Today we celebrate the birthday of a good idea, a country founded on our best intentions. With one glance at the newspaper, we see how far we've sunk—but then again, how far we've come. Perhaps the sinking isn't sinister, just a byproduct of good cop/bad cop Time. In growing up, we're given season tickets to the atrophy of dreams. We just get used to change. And not all for the worse.

New York is a ghost town today. The major arteries are cleared, there's very little honking. Some errant sirens and obnoxious music, maybe, but a day of quiet overall. And here I am in an 8x10 foot room, flat out on my messed up back, an ice pack tucked beneath my spine.

A year ago, I was an adult. I had a steady, big girl job, a closet full of shoes, a business card. If you'd asked me then to imagine life like this, making cucumber and cheese sandwiches three nights a week, attempting to write a murder novel, I'd have guffawed. Surely I never had the nads for this before. Surely not the stomach either.

This injury has filled me with such humility, such sense of mortal chance. It used to be good days were judged by how much fun you had, or if you got your way; now any day in which I sit and stand without feeling as though my spine will snap in half is good enough. Days without panic or pain. Nights without nightmares.

I don't care if I get there in a wheelchair, I am getting on that plane. I am going to meet Jack, who has grown his plant across the pond from mine; we've watched their tendrils knit mid-ocean in the Atlantic air. We're just now about to bloom.

Friday, July 1, 2011

and a little rain never hurt no one

Today is July, and July is Jack.

July is also a reprise of the disc despair (off to a fragile and rather rocky start), involving cancellation of tango practice sessions and trying not to cry. Because, this weekend, at least, is not about me.

This afternoon, at the City Clerk Marriage Bureau, Scott and Jacquie got married. I handed over my Darth-Vader-Meets-Donny-Osmond ID and signed my name as witness for the bride. What is legal tonight will be made real tomorrow, on another rooftop in Bushwick, with me in a grey silk dress, officiating. Then we will have burgers and three-buck-a-bottle Prosecco while the sun sets and I sit out the nuptial tandas, hoping the numbness down my legs recedes in time for me to fly to Europe.

It has all gone by so fast, this summer, my twenties, that brief brush with immortality. In two weeks it will fly by all the faster, to Jack and back home from Jack, into school and out of school, into debt and... still in debt. What a precious thing it is to breathe, to walk, to see.

And even more wonderful: to return home with such a case of weary-hearted blues and find a vase of flowers with a note from Jack that reads only, "Until soon."