Monday, August 20, 2018

Shiva calling.

I have a friend named Jack, he's been hiding in his basement apartment far from light and air.  He lives in a fancy neighborhood in old Brooklyn.  I work close by, renovating the backyard of a grey gardens-esque brownstone that is soon to be sold.  Everyday I hunker down in the sun, viscously axing down roots, and moving rocks with such fastidiousness- you might think I'm angry.  I am too even tempered to be so.

The bosses put me in charge of a crew.  It's not the first time I've been a leader, but it happened so fast it took me a day or two to force the others to fall in line with my pedantry.  Perfection is my vice at the moment.

At the moment my life is this: I pick and place flowers as if there is nothing in the world left to do.  I sweep as if there is no way a piece of dirt could dare grace the backyard floor.  Dirty, tired and incapable of much thought afterwards- I visit Jack.  He is funny, and sharp and unafraid to bear his own bereavement.  I am in a state of grieving that I am alone.  It feels forsaken. It's cerebral.  It's beyond emotion's landscape.  It is in the part of my system that wants to write a mathematical proof that can explain to me how I became a person so absent of faith and possibility on this front.  It is in the part of my system that searches for facts and details that can clearly delineate to me my wrongful choices and behaviors so that I may quickly pay my penitence and move into the land of the living. My life is is an overused cliche of an unfinished book in a drawer- I sit there pondering how to continue- far from light and air.

My take on reality is skewed by this dismay. And so I plant things.  I shift gears.  But not Jack.  Jack feels his isolation so wholly that it leaves him relieved by nightfall. Content in his fallen lot, he laughs at my desire to move upwards, to leave my fate behind and travel to a place where a leopard changes her spots.  Yesterday I let the water run over my hands for so long that I barely noticed the tips of my fingers were getting scowled.  "That is so like you to work so hard to clean up your act that you don't even realize the velociraptors upon you. You swim in boiling water to get away from the cold." I ignore him and then quickly leave.

And then Monday rolls around and I can't go to work because I must go to funeral. I feel guilty because I am happy to have something tangible and black to attach myself to. I understand this- I can do this.  In fact, I'm good at this.  I arrive at the chapel in time to hear a letter the deceased has left to his family. His wife reads it solemnly and with a simple tear running down her cheek. I marvel at her emotional balance. She ends the letter and looks up at the sky. "Behave up there Arthur!" The crowd laughs.  I hitch a ride to the cemetery with an elder rich couple. The processional is filled with wealthy Jews from bucolic Westchester.  Everyone looks great for their age- unweathered by doubt or economic scarcity.  Arthur's family stands looking like a scene from a French film where perhaps Arthur himself will narrate. Large sunglasses and well tailored suits. They peacefully shovel the dirt in backwards over his simple pine box with a star carved atop. It's sunny out and the breeze is blowing. The headstones are in perfect alinement. It would seem god has quite a blueprint just by looking out over this perfect grid. The Rabbi sings beautifully and I ponder if its ok to say Kaddish- will that make someone I love die? 

We drive back to the home. Arthur did well for himself. His army fatigues are used as mirror covering and the Shiva table is blossoming with food. We wash our hands and take our shoes off and then its like a party. Everyone is in good spirits. Pictures align the tables and the walls.  In death and in life Arthur made it.  I hesitate to get on the train back. I've talked to all the aunts and the uncles. I've fed my friend a plate of food and made her laugh. She doesn't need me really. She is in tact.  I love this place. No one is a mess. Their sadness is their own - perhaps they will weep in private at night when the lights are down and there is no one to hug or smile at. Right now the cycle of life is ok with everyone.

I ride the train home happy but alarmed at the lack of perspective I've gained from such an experience. Funerals are suppose to teach us something, no? But it was just death and it was just a Monday and I realize my own mourning is indulgent and perhaps excess.  What is it that I am mourning?  Life is happening.  Tuesday I return to the backyard and a raccoon has ravaged the gravel path I made to the fountain.  I constructed it from the rock quarry of fallen rocks from the brownstone.  I brush the whole scene away like a Tibetan mandala and get back to work.  Life is happening anyway.

Jack is in good spirits when I see him that evening.  He tells me that he met a lady who told him the most amazing stories about the North African coast, and he thinks that he is just going to sell everything and leave.  I tell him I want to do the same. "No you don't. Life is happening here. You can't run to the hot water to get away from the cold." I am angry at this. But I wash my hands in the cold water and stay. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Romantically unemployed.

I've doing a lot of research on love, dating, and loss. Not just for my own benefit- although believe me I am not denying that I am absolutely applying emotional first aid treatment to my life at the moment. It's more that I want to understand how this one department of our lives, whether in deficit or surplus, can color every other feature of the rest of our lives. It's so inculcated in the refined musculature of our personalities that it defines more than just our self worth. It defines us. It literally paints our identity.  So albeit I never reblog, I feel I should share the incredibly painful but helpful resources I have come upon- here are 3 things I really felt changed my opinion and my perspective on love.  I'll keep searching- so you don't have to:

1. The inimitable Cheryl Strayed wrote an amazing advice column for the Rumpus for years, entitled "Dear Sugar." She published a collection of these advice responses in the book: Tiny Beautiful Things This book was amazing, as all things Ms Strayed are - but then she started podcasting with the feministamensch Steve Almond on WBUR.  After receiving a mountain's worth of letters on one very simple topic - they decided to do a three episode podcast called" Looking for the one:

These episodes tackle some serious issues of aging, unrealistic expectations, the cold hard data of male and female tendencies, and the issue of scarcity.  I won't lie, some of it is depressing, but some of it will carve a tiny space out in your head to make room for a perspective that is bigger than you- larger then your little life and you will know more- and you know that they say: Knowing is...

2. After listening to the podcasts I then went over to read one of their resources: ALL THE SINGLE LADIES by Kate Bolick. This article appeared in The Atlantic Magazine in 2011 and blew people's minds. It predated the gender crisis we are in right now and it feels painfully appropriate for now. Ms Bollick ponders her own singledom at age 39 while mulling over the history of marriage and monogamy.  She is so thorough and honest and relatable.

I grew up in a family where both my parents went after their dreams. However - when I was five years old my mother decided after a 13 year sojourn taking care of babies to return to school to pursue her dream of being a scientist.  My dad was the sole breadwinner and agreed to pay for her schooling. He supported her monetarily but emotionally and verbally undermined her resolve and insinuated that her quest to be something beside a mother had such turpitude that I would be the beneficiary of an incomplete child hood.

He struggled with money.  We lived out of our means. They fought regularly.  And so both my parents warned me never ever marry until you can support yourself and never ever rush into love. Along with the other toxic golden nuggets of wisdom that derailed my development- these two might be the wolves in sheep's clothing that have left me standing alone.Although they weren't saying it out right- they were both warning me not to be them. Eventually by teenage hood they worked it out.  But the damage to my gender ideologies was already in place.  I think I have in someways fought a little less for my own survival in expectation of having something they exactly warned me against- finding a man to take care of me.

Yes my mother was pursuing her  dreams,  she did what she wanted, both my parents told us regularly to be who we are and say whatever we needed to say- but my mother was still the subordinate in many ways.  She cooked dinner every night,  she lived off of my father's income, she, not he, surrendered 13 years of her life,  her family in another country and for many years suffered the slow passive aggressive undermining of my father's words: "who's going to take care of Danielle when she gets home from school? You should be playing with her- not studying" My mother never played- she was a lover not a clown- that just wasn't her skill set. My older sister, my friends and my sitters took care of me and my mother was always in arms reach. Although she was flawed- I was never incapable of asking for what I needed.

Looking back I see I was waiting for something even more perverse than a prince charming to save the day..but I digress.


  • Guy Winch's Ted Talk.  Why we all need to Practice Emotional First Aid (as I mentioned up top)  This talk is included in a collection TED curated called "when someone just stomped on your heart" A little too dramatic for my taste but I decided to watch the whole list. 
  • By far my favorite one for pure entertainment was the beautiful and adorable Parul Sehgal's  An Ode to Envy  I completely would have done devious things like she did.  Her take on Proust and his ubiquitous soothsaying abilities about humanity made me absolutely want to crack open that monstrous volume of hubris. 
  • Hannah Brencher's Love letters to Strangers.  Her project is more than just an extraordinary accomplishment- its a serious window into the heart of humanity.  I am not speaking in the expletive here- seriously- it'll break your heart. 
  • Helen Fischer's The Brain in Love. Oy vey.  Warning- Helen Fisher is the foremost scientist in all thing s Neuroscience and Love. Its a wormhole to fall down in for sure. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Heartburn in Analogue


Precisely three days had passed before she pulled on real clothing and actually got to work.  It was not procrastination or depression exactly.  No one was holding her accountable to anything. It was more a true ambiguity.  Much like a bumble bee in flight: not quite flying, not quite floating, and no one knows if its destination is chartered or random.  Don't get it all wrong!  She took the dog up the mountain,  she cleaned the house. She fed the cat.  She bought expressly thought out choices of wine.  She cooked every piece of produce in the fridge and discovered a use for every type of obscure flour in the pantry.  She bleached the white spots, scoured the greasy nooks and folded every blanket, towel and pillow case she could find. She would eek out depth in the meaningless, and drill holes in the deep.

She made three wishes that first day on some dandelions behind the house. Although a devout non believer, she was prone to blow away found eyelashes, and make wishes on first seen stars.  Their dog lead her to a place with stone steps leading down to an unspoiled babbling brook. She marveled at how  much it sounded like a tape she once heard.  It was one of those white noise tapes people bought to go to sleep. Her father won it as one of the many weird gifts that would come to the house. Prizes arrived daily at their humble door for mailing away thousands of publisher's clearing house letters.   Plastic gadgets, figurines, collector's stamps...and other assorted sundry populated the free spaces in their lives.  He was constantly licking the strange little stamps that fit into their prescribed squares on the mail-aways. He entered every contest.  He left no hopeless stone unturned as he ignored the mortgage and the oil bill. He'd sit at the kitchen table for hours dreaming of unearned wads of cash.  He'd fastidiously separate bills from contests letters, casting the bills away to no man's land while organizing his "contest work."  He'd watch hours of TV waiting up for her to arrive home by her curfew.  But then he never went to bed.  He was depressed.  She has it too.  It took years before they smiled at one another in front of she. Sure it was great that they loved each other. But why didn't they do that when it counted? While little she was watching.  Now it's just habit perched on history. That's not what it felt like when it really mattered.

She tried to recall the tape. It perhaps began with a strange man's voice telling her to relax,  and breath deeply. "Let the sounds of water take you to a special place in your mind."  Her little child eyes would flutter close and she'd dream of TV cops and fluorescent dance numbers in more affluent high school hallways.   The home was filled with false hope.  She has it too.  She really did wish that she had that tape for the night.

Last evening she tucked herself in four times. First, on her back,  her whole heart spilling onto the ceiling. She wished she had never met...any one of those hims.  This particular mourning requiem had lasted exponentially longer than the departed romance.  This time a steel reinforced version of her normal inclinations made camp in her heart.  She knew it was the symptom.  All of her problems were rolling into each other like tangled up arteries feeding the minutia of self disdain.   Each unwind leads to another part winding in. Every failing and lacking causing the other.  At the end- it is always her. Even when it is not- it is always her fault. Because history repeats it's self.  Always.  She won't forget.  This was not the narrative she intended to fill.  This is not what they told her.  But it had been quite a long time since she felt her feet on the ground.

She tried to close her eyes.  But then her daydreams flooded her head.

"No!" she said.  "Bad habits." Nothing but reality was acceptable at this juncture!   No touching,  no longing,  no pipe-dreaming.  No wishing.  No future or past.  Nothing is a something, only if it is indeed a well of nothing.  Every sound, feeling, and edge that she could make out in the darkness would have to tether her to the present.   The dog barked and backed himself into her. He looked straight at her every time she let a drop of sadness out of her throat.  His sweet compassion made her feel less human. It unnerved her.  She got  up and walked to the other rooms.  Empty beds and discarded packing choices were everywhere.  The bathroom was filled with mens' scented products for she which took full advantage of.  She smelled like cedar and patchouli.  The dog barked. Dutifully, she returned to bed. She laid on her side and hoped the fetal position and the pillow she clung to would nullify her enough to let her slide into sleep.  Albeit, in the mornings she would awaken to some anxiety dream and feel even worse. But she would at least be tired.  Tired was always better than wide awake.  Perched on the ledge by the window was a faded copy of The Yellow Wallpaper.  It taunted her.  She laughed as tiny imperceptible tears tried to etch their way out onto her face.  Even her reserve of sorrow had dried up.  Again she arose and went downstairs. She headed straight  for the fancy bar cart. She ran her hands over it like it was some exotic memorabilia from a far away place. There were bottles of brown liquid with different languages written about.  "Fuck it!"  She turned the lights up and filled a shot glass with some slavic country's booze.  Strangely, she had never really tried this route before.  It is not that she hadn't drank before, or gotten drunk.  It is just that she never actually medicated with it.  She downed three shots, gagged, and galloped up the stairs.  Now she was swaying.  She turned to the other side of the bed. She hummed. Not really a tune, more like a pulsing murmur.  She slid onto her belly, and like a newborn faded into slumber. The dog snored. Her limbs jerked every now and then. Much like his did that one night.   Every time she was woken by it she remembered how much she liked that about him. As if there was so much him, inside of him, that it escaped out in spurts while he slept unaware.  Someone else will tell him now.

The country house was tremendous and stylishly decorated by the two men who left her in charge of their dog and their house.  There were strict instructions on how to cook the dog's chicken, and when to water the Gertrude Jekyll roses.  And how to call their sister, who does not really speak to them because she does not believe in gay marriage, but loves dogs more than people and would help, should the occasion arrive.   They went to bed at ten. Awoke at seven . They made breakfast for each other with unctuous affection as if it were their last meal together.  They kissed the dog, the cat,  and she, on the forehead goodbye and drove their town car to the airport.   She truly meant nothing and yet she devoured these small gestures with starvation's ache. She couldn't remember where they were going. She was sure it was far east; China, maybe Indonesia. Who knew? She told them to send pictures, even though she knew that they would not. She was the help.  The highly educated help.

She took the dog for a walk along the water.  On the train,  she was surprised when she flinched as she passed his stop.  It was like a tiny cough that never quite healed.  It rose up from her throat every time she saw something beautiful that made her laugh, she would mindlessly think, "he would love this." Or, "he would have made this."  No one else peaked her interest for a long time. She wondered if she was perhaps incapable.  He does not care in the least about she.  "It's not a crime, just a fact.." she reminded her self as she pressed her temple against the cold window.  Every now and then she would see some wealthier person grab their monogrammed luggage and get off somewhere on the Hudson.  She felt like an impostor. She always did.

At the water the dandelion seeds floated about her like angels.  The sun was warm on her face.  She ran for a while.  She was fraying at the edges.   But as her breath left her body and her muscles began to ache she felt the wiriness let go for a moment.  She knew it was fleeting and so never fully immersed herself in its glow.  She would pause to catch her breath and then run twice as fast. She couldn't run away.  She picked up the dandelions one at a time.  One: "I wish for unmistakable true love." It felt childish and she blushed as she blew the seeds into the air. Two: "I wish to know him again. No regrets." She paused before blowing the dream into the air,  was she wasting a wish? Three: "I wish to find out what I am good for. Please help me." To whom she was asking help for she did not know.  She knew there was no god or goddess or ancient ancestors watching over her.  She was faithless.  She tried to blow the wish into the air but the seeds stayed stuck to the stem as if unwilling to grant her this last holy right.  "Why didn't I wish for that first?" A toxic phlegm surfaced to her throat  She coughed up the pack of cigarettes she smoked by herself in the dark on the porch the night before.  Her head throbbed.  She could hear giant bumble bees buzzing close by,  whippoorwills wailing, and wind harassing the wanton leaves.  She lied down on the grass. Her loyal friend slumped his houndish snout on her leg. "You are not human," she said of perhaps herself more than the dog.  She drifted off peacefully for a while.

And then it was night again.  The roads were empty.  The night was thick.  It didn't matter which turn she took - all roads lead to the same place.

She arrived home.  She entered the back way.   The doors were never locked.  "Country people." She poured some wine and sat in front of the computer. "Bad habits" she uttered as she typed his name in the search box.  And there it was those sticky little dandelion seeds: "he" is a "we" now...which is what he always wanted to be, just not with she. She shut the computer. "Bad habits," she mumbled and went out into the night sky.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A promise

I promise to post once a week on this. I promise to finish my book by August.  I promise to let you know about other writing things...

Coming soon -I have prepared myself to start competing in the MOTH, I am scared shitless!

In any case, here are some of my favorite drawings by the lovely Emily Deutchman:

"I have this great idea"


Monday, February 22, 2016


You should never go into the first stall! Jamie wipes her brow, as if letting me in on this top secret knowledge has taken everything out of her. I am in awe of how much this woman perspires.  

They did a study and most people use the first stall... she eyes me proudly.

Ok but wouldn't everyone presume that and use the second? I mean, I would think that most people avoid direct contact to the general public and there is only ONE tiny unfinished wall between you and the rest of the bathroom goers!

I exhale deeply, shocked at how consumed I am about a subject I never thought about before. I like germs. I'm from New York. I believe that a healthy amount of immunity dosing keeps the plague away. I sit back pleased with my self and steal one of her smokes without asking. She buys non menthol just so I can bum one or two a night. She's the nicest person on the other side that I have ever met.  Jamie sits back and stares at the lightning over the Florida Keys. It's the only thing I like about this place.  We have settled into the "Florida Room"- which makes me giggle every time I enter the door frame. I can hear my grandpa saying it in his Brooklyn accent,  the Fla red dah room.  

I'm thinking this while staring at a baby scorpion on the other side of the screened window when Jamie yells excitedly:

You're right, which is why I always use the third! 

Jamie throws her cards down that she's been mindlessly shuffling. She waddles over to the kitchen and pulls out a giant pack of frozen tater tots from the fridge. That's the healthiest thing I've seen her eat in 3 weeks. At 5'3" she weighs about 300 lbs. She is as tanned as a Naugahyde purse and always matches her eye shadow to her shoelaces.

Allow me to rock-n-roll backwards. Three weeks earlier.  It was raining like g-d was angry.  I'm in the drivers seat with the engine still rolling. The Prius (privileged bitch) is shaking like an old man after having let out an angry rant. I just drove for 15 hours straight from Cleveland.  I'd never been to Ohio before, this was my first time on my last stop before hitting home.  Two months earlier I had sold almost everything I owned, including my Gran's tiled brass table. We had that table in our lives since I was born. My sister yelled at me for weeks as if I had given away our dowry. I took the table to LA along with a whole list of costly unnecessary items. That table surpassed memory's virtue: heavy in it's brass and plaster hardiness - it took great skill and aid to move it about. When we were little we would stand on top of it and dance around in the dark to the Bee Gees and Asia. It had a black, white, and gold tiled top. It was glorious to run your fingers on. It felt so real and tangible. It went to college with me. I think it had been in every one of my grandmother's children's houses. It was the closest thing I guess to a family heirloom. In it's crevices were weed, tobacco, sparkles, barley, staples, dust, blush, glue...endless crumbs of digestibles and decorations.  Sometimes Sister and I would shut the lights out in the basement. We'd put on all white. We looked like Branch Davidians. We'd turn on the record player.  One of us would run around and dance while the other watched.  Completely substance free, we marveled at how the white clothed figure flashed about like a dash of light, even in the dark. Perhaps this was the first time I fell in love with light.  I always picked the ladies: Blondie, Joan Jett, Nina, Heart. I would bounce atop that table like I was trying to break through. It held me, immutable, stable, it was always there.

As I counted up the wad of cash I made on my sale - I felt giddy with freedom. I was heading back home, everyone would know. I failed. But I was going to go on an adventure before moving back to my childhood bedroom and starting once again. I felt winded every time I thought of it. So when the antiques store dealer (unbeknownst to me) rolled up with $500, I held out my hand and smiled.  Moments later as she expertly rolled it into the back of her old Jetta, my pal elbowed me in the rib:  That lady owns that old furniture store on Silverlake Road. She is going to sell that for thousands. Swindled.  Good thing Grandma died 4 years ago.

Selling from the front yard of my landlord's house, I managed to make a killing.  I fit the rest of my stuff into my car and took off for Joshua tree with my best and oldest friend Ri. We traveled all over the southwest until we got to Colorado where my next childhood friend would take the baton and drive me through the mid-west with me. Then he would leave me in Chicago where I hung out for a while bouncing around some couches until I ran out of cash. I would save the gas money and charge home to my parent's house in Staten Island and that would be the final punctuation to my journey across country, leaving my failed attempt to leave my life behind me...well -behind me.

In the driveway- I could barely breath. I could smell the mothballs in the closets that were once mine but now were stuffed with my Dad's sweaters. I could hear the staccato'd yelps of their names as they called across floors to bother each-other with nonsense. Old age had turned my folks into cliches. They seemed squeezed of any original personality or vibrancy. They threw in the towel and surrendered to their crotchety fears and now I had to sleep under the mothball smelling blankets and cover my ears with the pillows as they screamed above the TV to hear each other.  There was also never any food.  There were condiments, hot chocolate mix, Pelligrino, frozen meats, and dried pasta boxes. Rotting onions and garlic littered the baskets above the sink. Stinky cheeses resided in a box on the bottom of the fridge and strange processed frozen deserts piled up aplenty in the freezer. Their entire diet was laced with corn syrup solids, red dye no9, and aspartame.  The middle of the kitchen table housed a lazy Susan covered in aspirin, senior vitamins, Lipitor, insulin injectors... Everything was processed and preserved. The air was stale. And it was, after all, Staten Island.  My heart sunk as I heard my head say those two little words: Staten Island- the land where your dreams die before they ever form.

I was never meant to sit still. I have never ever been able to be still. I am always a bird in motion.

Leni was a friend from film school. She still believed in me. She checked in regularly.  She was slotted to lead a film program in a geeky band camp in the middle of the Florida Keys when her cancer came back.  She wouldn't tell me anything.  She insisted I take over for her. She hung up so smoothly and magically I barely believed she called. I turned the car off. I walked towards the surname engraved door and entered.
Days later I was on a flight to Miami with a cool-aid grin and the false sense that everything would always come with an escape hatch.


"I'm the worst secretary ever." or " "On all accounts"

Waves of something sticky like emotion pass through my cheeks. I step out of the shadow and hope my neck isn't flushed.  I stand nervously shuffling papers, stapling, hole punching, pulling pages out, shifting, reorganizing and then shuffling them again. Ordering, numbering, "alphabizing," misspelling, mistaking, manhandling.
When I undress at night, paper clips and tiny "sign-here" post-its fall from my bra like tiny badges of shame, littering my bedroom floor. I leave them; I drag them with my shoe. I sleep.  I wake up. I dream of people I have not dreamt of in years. I presume ancient demons are rising as I feel I am on the lower rung of the tide. Cycles and cycles and cycles. I swim above for a while feeling good about the sun on my face and that I am floating instead of drowning. I forgot for a moment that I can never see the shore. But then it gets choppier and I am doggy paddling and breathing heavily and spitting water out. But I'm not under water. I'm just not.  Over and over and over again till perhaps in some form of human survival, like some pedantry fashioned form of fight or flight, I will lull myself into an office space meditation and quiet my brain. I could do it, if not for the stickiness.
Regrets, morning mournings, and deeply salty loathings that lose their taste by 6.
They don't like me much. They can't. They don't like their jobs. They don't like anything but the paperbacks they read at night and camels they smoke every hour. But they are nice. They gave me a job. They are innocuous and unaware. I am terrible at this. My head throbs as I see another pile of papers, I panic: where do they go? singed here, signed there. coded, audited, entered, filed, submitted.   So many actions. So many bins. Baskets of intentions. 
Every morning: wake, drink coffee, don't fuck up.  At night there is no reprieve for the dead. Laughter, clinking, smiles, everything seems great. I paid my rent. Good G-d All mighty! I paid the rent!
Rinse. Repeat.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Dear ___, I'm sorry. Notes from the rim of the Bell Jar.

Rejection is G-d's protection. That's what the putrid smelling homeless guy uttered to my disconsolate face as I walked, ever quickening, past him to the theater. Oh fuck you asshole, I say, ignoring the 'pearl clutching' strangers nearby. I don't need your stupid adages. Is G-d protecting you now? I am a jerk.  He grins a toothless grin.  He has a special power most do not. He knows that he is my worst fear.  He has the unfortunate luck of being a universal horrible outcome, and I am shame spiraling down the slide, feet first towards his life.  I throw a dollar at him hoping the wind doesn't carry it off to some undeserving lucky mother fucker. I am so very unemployed.

As soon as Nikia sees me, she jumps with excitement.  She's wearing a fake fur and dozens of shiny dangly chains and bangles. Every little instance of her shakes and jangles as she reaches out for a hug. Nikia tells me that I am a "brilliant girl" as we push past the eye rolling 'beautiful people' couple in the seats next to ours.  Popcorn spills on his skinny jeans, and she plucks the kernels off like a mamma lynx eyeing us the whole time. I stare down the beautiful people for a moment and then I tell Nikia that this is what they all say, right before they tell me that it's not my fault. There is someone else.  Another applicant, another candidate, an ex girlfriend, a better writer... but for some eye gauging reason- they always tell me I am "brilliant." Brilliant is shiny and extraordinary. I feel dulled and mediocre.  I slump down and beg for the lights to go down so that Nikia will stop pep talking me, and I can pretend for a moment in the dark that we are all the same.

And then by the time the night is over I am drunk.  Whiskey, neat.  Me- explaining once again what has been a perpetual nightmare of falling short of what I need and bending into the awkward position of being pitiable- no one really enjoys that- ever.  I cry as my train gets to my stop. Its ok- there is no-one on the train by the time it gets to Church Ave.  And even if there were- I won't care- I have a right to shed tears on these trains. I have lived here my whole life.  I try to suck it back because now I am walking and I can just imagine the men on the corner subsuming the opportunity to "comfort" me. So I pull my hat down, blow my nose and cross the street to take the long way home. My head is a diving bell teetering upside down on my neck holding little trite aphorisms like linguistic fish fighting to stay alive in my poisoned head.

You should keep perspective. You lost someone who didn't give a fuck about you. He lost someone who actually was starting to care about him.  

You probably did not get that job because it would have been bad for you to take on that big of a commitment. Maybe there are places you need to go. 

That volunteer opportunity is the most coveted spot. (BUT I CAN"T EVEN GET A JOB FOR FREE!) You can't work for free now anyway...

On and on and on they go.  Teaching me to ingest that which I can not have.  But with each rejection I start to turn back and pour over my own personal history with a researcher's eye.  Each page filled with nuances and messages that I missed before. Each moment that I could not react to swiftly enough because I was processing. Because I was hurt. Because I was insecure. Because I have never had a boyfriend. Because I have never had a great job. Because I have never been proud. Because even though this is all true - nothing pleases me like the feeling of the keys under my hands, as if magically I can figure this all out like a big mystery. If I could just stop being THAT me- it'll work out.  My memory turns to regret.  Rejection is the inseam of the jacket. Regret is the thread that starts to fray the coat. I begin to revise recent history. I'm bored. So bored. What else can I do but look for the places I messed up.

I dipped into the hometown well for love, something I never do, ever.  I'm from a petulant little island where everyone knows everyone and we are somewhat arrested in development and traumatized on some level, with the exception of those who've gotten far far far away.  I'm just over a bridge.  In any case, it was a harmless failure. On the richter scale of soul crushing- it was a 4 in facts alone.  It ended peaceably enough. But then "the others" spoke up.   I wish you had consulted me before you went down that route, he has the worst possible reputation ever... Oh that guy? Oh yeah that's what he does...he seems like a narcissistic douche bag...Oh yeah - everyone knows- stay clear of that one.  He's on a complicated journey. 

He is. We all are.  And that's not even the worst of it.  Hometown boy was on trial without even knowing it and all of these character witnesses were testifying for the prosecution. I felt awful. Suddenly a curly cue mustache was forming of the memory of his face. He was becoming the arch villain of my boring fairy tale.  I un-followed, I unfriended, I forced myself to go on dates with any harmless idiot who asked.  I blocked him so that I could not look. I felt duped.  How could I have misread someone so horribly.

I hadn't.  No one is a villain. Well maybe Cheney is, but I digress. People just make mistakes. People are on their own journey and they may make the same mistakes over and over and over again, but that doesn't mean they are driving purposely on a course of hurt.   Good people make mistakes. Heartfelt, well intended people make terrible mistakes because they can't even entertain the idea that their precious hearts could ever commit such an oversight.  So they keep repeating the same errors, hearing the same criticism and it all seems so unreal to them.   But emotionally stunted people show you their selves the minute you meet them. Emotionally stunted people can't see past their own discomfort and pain. Emotionally stunted people can't empathize with your position.  Maybe you are their type: you listen, you validate, you're patient, you try to provide insight and support...fuck- you put up with them! But there is another word for this: Therapist. Unless you are getting payed $200 an hour, you are the one who orchestrated this whole set up. You enabled this to turn into a neutered, one sided relationship until eventually it fizzled. So does this mean I am the emotionally stunted one? Perhaps.

I too committed the same mistake that I have been committing for years. He wasn't available AT ALL. He said he was practicing "being alone." He spoke so much about his ex the first night that I felt like I knew more about her than him.  He ran away from me on our second date (literally- freaked out and got his coat on and ran like he had discovered I had a third nipple) I can give you dozens of these examples that would make the hair on your arm stand up in horror over my obvious disregard for my emotional safety. I ran headfirst into another closed door and then scowled at the bruise.
But he made my brain crackle. Not many can. How is it possible that other people can possess so much ownership over who we are? So I became a revisionist historian.  I negated all positive aspects of my recent parable and steeped myself in the onslaught of well meaning friends' hateful commentary.

But YOU write your history. And only you know your own tale. Do I miss him? I miss all of them. I miss little drummer boy's jokes, and cooking and the way he grunted when I touched him.  I miss hummingbird's constant attention and overt positivity.  I miss DJ's unbelievable good taste and how much fun we had seeing shows. I miss Texas's records. I miss Florida's snuggling skills.  I miss Hometown's brain.  Which is to say- I miss their humanity, and I miss the humanity that they brought out in me. They were all so very good at what they did. They were all so very tunneled and focused.  They were all so fucking talented and devoted to their art. They had respect for their goals,  they didn't give a fuck about anything else, including me. They were teachers.  I didn't listen.  I wish I hadn't loaned out my old poloroid camera, or my signed Charles Burns book... or my projector... I wonder if those precious materials serve as faint vestiges of me. I hope so. And I refuse to vilify or dehumanize any of them for disappointing me- heart breaking as it is.  I adored them all.  I hope they remember me well.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Do you live with roommates? ( An essay about depression)

"Yes I do," I replied to the crusty old Polish accounting Professor who sat across from me every Yom Kippur. " Oh I see," he exhaled more than exclaimed, while barely hiding his disappointment.   "Lena! Give me some whitefish!" His wife put the printed pictures of her grandchildren down and scooped a large vat of congealed mayonnaise soaked carp onto his plate. "I brought these pictures because I knew you'd be here, Bella!" The family, and all the orphaned accoutrement who broke fast with us every year, had taken to calling me my father's endearment, and now the word felt more like irony than a compliment. I kept my mouth shut and ate.

Every holiday I have the same goal. Keep it clean dollface and you'll get through unscathed. But the four person unit I call my family works differently.  As if the language of privacy and discretion was a dialect lost on my immigrant derived famiglia:

FAMILY: In human context, a family (from Latinfamilia) is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children. Anthropologists most generally classify family organization asmatrilocal (a mother and her children); conjugal (a wife, husband, and children, also called nuclear family); and consanguinal (also called an extended family) in which parents and children co-reside with other members of one parent's family.

Echoing in the cold barren hallows of my brain I could hear that old crabby golum hissing: "Oy, she must be depressed."  Although my body stayed in the dining room, carb- loading and smiling, my mind travelled elsewhere. Somewhere along the way in my growth as a human being I was taught to be demure and discreet about depression.  Even though I grew up in a loud mouthed household full of colorful pushy characters who were never repressed about anything- somewhere along the way "Chin Up" translated into "get over it" or "act as if." And so my ire grew as I had to soak up the taste of my own bitter acrid self loathing induced by the ogre across the candelabra.

Later in the evening, after the alte kakkers bid their long adieus, my mom suggested I write a blog and practice being personal in public. This was a huge olive branch. She hates all virtual representations of people. She's scared of stalkers and people knowing 'our' business.  But she knew about my book  and that I was going to write about things she had done wrong and personal things about sex and bodies and even more humiliating: love.  Warts and all, she knows everything about my life and albeit it can be a cantankerous relationship sometimes - for the most part its a safe space. This complicity on her part to encourage me to speak out loud gave me a newfound inspiration that was much needed.
But then as quickly as she supplanted my courage, she tsunami'd it away; "will this help with your depression? Maybe you can get off those awful medications.  I mean I know it's for pelvic pain but hopefully you can just will your way out of this."  I felt like a beaten down prisoner. I relented.  I answered her in short concise answers, signifying nothing but filling in voids where my faint voice needed to be inserted."No I can't." "Yes, I will think about that." "Ok, I hear you." She's old. It's my turn to take care of them. It's my turn to practice thankless unconditional love and overcome whatever prior trespasses they unwittingly or wittingly executed. I'm 40. It's time. But hearing her exclaim my depression out loud rocked me.

I can not say that I have always identified as a sufferer of depression. One way or another, there was always an external reason to feel bad. I was sad because I was fat. I was sad because my love was unrequited.  I was sad because my dad was sick. I was sad because I was in horrible physical pain.  I was sad because I was failing... an endless array of excuses that were happening TO me (and only me).  At no given point did I understand that my feelings about my life were a choice. This disenfranchisement is most probably what caused the real despair.  The secondary pain is always the worst.  It's the radiating sorrow that comes from pondering what all of 'this' means about you.  What will others think? What kind of person am I to have this suffering? Who will love me if I am broken like this?  It's a caustic cocktail of shame, supposition and judgement that has absolutely no factual resonance. But it's very real to you. About a year ago I was in so much physical pain that I was ready to check myself into a hospital. I was suicidal.  Its not easy for me to say that word.  Its much like Valdemort in my house. I can't bare to imagine committing an act that would leave others with so much guilt and pain. I did not want to die necessarily, but I genuinely could not think of any other way out.  The nerves inside my body were twisting and mangling my pelvis so much that I could not quiet them down with extremely powerful pain killers. I could not sleep, eat, think, run or even sit.  I laid down in my room with ice packs on my privates and stared into a vortex of loneliness. I didn't want to tell anyone because I was afraid I had tapped my friends dry of their good will.  I was seriously broke. I owed my specialist thousands of dollars for procedures that did NOT work and were painful. I was exhausted. I just wanted the pain to stop.  I had this awful crystal clear window into what suicide is about.  I was ashamed to feel it.  I was ashamed to have judged others. So many layers of misguided perceptions standing firmly in my way to any form of relief.

 I broke down- I told my mom. We went to the specialist. She paid.  (more guilt, more shame) The Dr spoke plainly. She was tired of me. I could tell.  "Can you please let me drug you?" She gave me a script.  I took it to the pharmacist. He looked sternly at it and then up and down at me.  (more guilt, more shame) "Beware of drinking with this and watch your thoughts."  What the fuck does that mean? Listen buddy you have no idea how much I watch my thoughts- this head is in permanent dress rehearsal; constantly rewinding and examining! Don't pour oil on this fire! But all I did was nod and take the bottle with the pretty green pills.  Within days the primordial pains shrunk down like a loud bass note slowly moving farther and farther away.  As it dissipated, I could feel myself searching for it, clinging to it, afraid of being duped.  At first the medication truly made it all go away.  Within two weeks I was celebrating my birthday, dancing around, drinking, no dark thoughts, no pain.  But within a month a distant relative of the pain returned. A scowling irritable cousin who has made camp and stayed with me since. She's not horrible. She's a 2 on a scale of 1-10.  I don't have the bandwidth or money to pursue "a cure."  There is no "willing" my self out of this.  The best that I could hope for is to live a healthy life and be as honest and self preserving as possible.  And so I live with my dirty secret.  I have a broken body. I have depression. I take medication so that I can stand my life.  It numbs me. It creates a cognitive dissonance that makes it hard for me to retrieve words and collect my thoughts. It make me less smart.  (more guilt, more shame) The alternative is to want to die.  I chose degradation of the one thing I alway had and felt confident about: my brain. But perhaps I can will myself out of this emotional dissonance. Perhaps.
Still, to be fair, I sometimes feel like I suffer from oppositional defiance disorder the minute I set foot on the ugly green carpet in my parents' overly dressed living room.  Immediately I feel compounded by my differences, and by all the ways in which I have come up short in facilitating other people's pipe dreams for me.  Sure they said, "be whatever you wanna be Danielle...don't ever get married until you can take care of are a genius." But in the tiny microscopic minutia laid bare deep in the semantics of my parents' language was, "why aren't you making money? What is it you do? Don't you like men? Who is going to love you when I am gone?" Recently my mom told me, minus any compunction or awareness of its detriment to me, "your father is truly depressed because he feels he failed you in making you so dysfunctional in relationships."  At first I felt really angry, but this tiny insidious grin quickly shone across my face. "Yeah, he probably should- but that's his problem Mamma, not mine at all. Can you pass the wine?" 

And like that, I burried it in the complaint department.  I mean fuck, at least we're talking about it. No?


She lives in a wispy loft in Jersey City, above a cobble stoned street in a building filled with ambient sounds of artists and hopeful startups.
Its a neighborhood that housed hedge funders who didn't have daddy's money, nor the misfortune to mourn a Brooklyn of later's past.
I remember Bill, and John and Amy, they had cool jobs like designing album covers, fixing cameras and lighting exhibits.
I was jealous, but only in a temporary way - the future was still bright.

As  I walk towards her industrially refined complex, the sun hits the side of the building in such a way, I'm reminded of the east village of my youth, when things were happening that my wiser self would have loved.

Her body and face are quite lithe, as if all the flesh on her body is consumed by the energy it takes to be her.
She glides about the loft in frenetic bursts to an fro, every turn and twist unveils a new page in her history.
With each new nook and cavern or her lair I feel as If I have just arrived and yet never a feeling of De Ja Vous
I leave her my unfinished business card and make promises that I still have yet to keep.

Chapter 4 (Dysphasia)

My heart is always for sale. 
I lurch outward through my eyes and stare,
hoping you'll feel the embers that have not yet gone to ash. 
It's a witless challenge built on fleeting hope and familiar afflictions.
I tell my self that I will make you feel safe and real. 
I can not.

I bare down and give you everything,
thinking there is power in my shameless abandonment of touch and adoration. 
But in the morning you retract;
you are scared that I want you to feel something for me.
And what you feel is not for sale.

My love is for sale.
At the first kind word I release all boundaries, letting you in, hoping you'll tell me how beautiful I am. 
Yet, angry when you don't embolden me like a man. 
My hunger is for sale. 
Its presence so tangible that you can wrap yourself in it and shield yourself from every doubt you ever had.
My love is a currency, easily amortized with every kiss and stroke.
But that's not love. At its best it's curiosity and at its worst it's relief.  

I am not satisfied. 
I am not safe.  
I am not really for sale. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Excerpt from Louis’s Son August 13 2006

This is a piece I wrote as a prose exercise to help me get my thoughts out for a script. By the end of my time at the writer's residency I was staying at I decided I wanted to write a book. There have been so many times that I sat down to write a screenplay and desperately wanted to write prose- it is only this year- 10 yrs after graduating from a film program that I realize that i love film- but I'm not sure I really want to or can make films. Its like learning you want a divorce. You end up having nothing in your life. How do your experiences quantify in the terrain of a constant visual tournament I play with my words and my computer skills.  Recently I sent this piece to a journalist as a template of what kind of storytelling I do.  I was happy to hear these compliments (which I've heard before) Your work is harrowing and humorous at the same time.  I'm pretty sure thats how I would describe my life. With the added addition of one more H = Humbling.

Without further ado ENJOY MY SHORT STORY! I don't normally publish my fiction.

It was extremely hot that day. Every time you looked out the window at the streets the spirits were dancing up from the pavement in sultry curvatures of steam.  I changed my shirt three times and ran ice cubes across my head as I stared out the window.  I sat hours waiting for the old man across the street to turn on his bathroom light.  I wanted to go over and sit with him and have him serve me his blackberry brandy that he brewed in his tub but I didn’t want to wake him.  Sometimes he would get me so drunk that Ma would have to cross the street and walk me home. 

I sat with Old Grandpa Falcone for hours.  His English was pretty rough; he mostly spoke kitchen Italian interrupted by short whistles through his missing teeth.  I liked thinking I was his best friend.  He never left the house- his old back was bowed and his nimble fingers arthritically frozen in some form of piano playing that no one would ever hear.  Poor old guy!

His son, Mr. Falcone or  “the dad” ran the “business.” His beautiful daughters never seemed to have boyfriends. Even my older brother, Michael, the equal opportunity lender, as Pop use to call him, refused to take Rosalie Falcone to the block party.  She practically begged him on our stoop. She stood there like an angel in a sweet fuzzy lavender sweater that encased her every breath.

Ma really didn’t care that she was a shiksa or that she wore her skirts too short.  It was more that no one really ever knew who the hell the Falcones were.  Worse still, they were the only family on the block who never needed anything from Pop.  Ma was mostly indifferent on all days, but if you didn’t have any business with her Louis than she had no way of knowing whether or not she could trust you.  She just cancelled you out.  She was real good like that.  The Falcones lived across the street from my Ma her whole marriage, which was practically her whole life.  Her Louis, my Pop, would bring the old man medicine in unmarked boxes, wholesale from the Pharmacist on Snyder and 81st.  Would you believe he did it for free! Pop never asked a dime- he was good like that.  But sometimes “the wife,” Mrs. Falcone, whose first name we could never pronounce, would make Michael plates of Pasta when he came home too late to stir up things in our kitchen. I bet Ma knew. Still, my Ma, old Rosy the riveter, she didn’t care. She was loyal.  She had no idea where the Falcones got their flour, coffee, furniture, gasoline…anything!  But she knew that they never asked Louis for nuthin- for her the matter was done.

That night, no one had a light on.  It was just too hot.  The elders sat in the dark playing violins singing Yiddishkeit songs that creaked from their backyards into my room.  No one else stirred. You couldn’t cook, play spades, or watch T.V. if you had one.  The neighborhood buzzed with anxious patience and hope.  Soon it would pass and the bay breeze would come lift up the leaves and make you feel good about Brooklyn again. 

The worst part of it all was the strike. The garbage smelled so bad my eyes would water the moment I leaned too far out of the window.  It had been a week already.  My Pop organized all the dads and the older brothers into a human pulley system that deposited the garbage into Danny Weinberger’s dad’s truck. They did it in shifts. People applauded from their windows.  Danny, along with Paul Cusimano loaded all the garbage into the dumpster out by Sheepshead bay.  They took an eternity to return from down at the end of the block.  They absolutely had to jump into the bay after each shift.  They returned all wound up, water beading about their muscles and their shirts glued to their ribs.  It was great summer for those guys.

Pop gave them each  $20 to get them to start loading that evening.  Ma was really mad. She shrieked at him:  “So? Now you’re the mayor of this schtetl?’ I should want for something because you’re the only schmuck gracious enough to pay Danny and Paul?”  At this she handed Paul and Danny each a trough of Blintzes without averting her eyes from Pop.  It was not their fault that the neighborhood was a bunch of schnorers. I heard Pops grab her and spin her around the table.  He always shushed her by swinging her into his own made up dance.  He sung to her, “By meir bis dushane, by meir bis dushane means I love you.”  Those were the only words he knew. 

Paul and Danny snuck out. They tossed the blintzes in the trash.  They were both sick of Yid food.  I think it was midnight already.  Time had forgotten all of its rules that day.  I think Ma and Pop were the only ones still up in the house. My little sister was at a sleepover at Michael’s house.  Grandpa Falcone put his bathroom light on.  I thought the late hour would forgive me running in my shorts over to his side of the street.  But the old guy was fighting with someone.  He sat on his toilet, barking to the windmills till finally, his large son: Mr. Falcone moved out of the shadows and into the windows.  He was handing his aging father a mug full of brandy from the tub. It splashed the walls and made the flies swarm near the droplets.  Old man Falcone kept saying his son’s name: Arturo, Arneldo, Antonio, we never knew exactly what is was- even though his wife was always screaming it from their kitchen. We did not like Mr. Falcone. He was the kind of guy who looked like he was on the verge of hitting someone but then something backed him off.  That something wasn’t kindness. Grandpa Falcone was not pleased with his son.  The ol guy threw the mug in his son’s face.  The loud crash broke the heat and sent chills through the air.  I was scared that he’d see me across the way but I couldn’t move.   Imagine picking on that 90 yr old dethroned guy. I bet once he ruled the Falcones with an iron fist but now?  Now he has a crapper for his throne. He just sat there brewing brandy and dreaming of his funeral march in the old country.  He’s resting peace-less somewhere in Queens now.

Mr. Falcone left his ol man sulking upstairs and stormed on to the street.  Danny and Paul were locking up the truck when they caught wind of Mr. Falcone’s stare. They were frozen. Paul’s hand instinctively guided Danny back by the shoulder, which Danny shuddered off embarrassed by Paul’s gutlessness.  Mr. Falcone looked west towards the bay.  At that moment a Garbage truck appeared out of the abyss whizzing by without its lights on. It went so fast that a wind rustled the curtains guarding the second story windows.
Mr. Falcone shook his head laughingly as then the truck just wiped him from the picture.  Like a snapshot thrown away- he was gone from the moment.  His body flew far and fast.  No one even heard it land.   I imagined the folks in the next neighborhood over lifting the human scraps of our tragedy in confusion; Mr. Falcone was somehow both ours, and the strange wiseguy on the street. It just did not seem right that some Brownsville guy should find the body of a Falcone from East Flatbush. 

The Garbage truck did not flinch, even for moment. It sped out of our street as quickly as it came.  A howl came out of young Danny.  He was on fire! No one had ever died on Ralph Avenue of anything but old age and SIDS. Life came at the beginning and left at the end when G-d said so.  I looked across the street to see what the old Grandpa thought but his light flickered out as soon as I could make out the white of his guinee tee. 

Word spread fast about Mr. Falcone.  Everyone fled to their stoops.  Although Arturo Vincente Falcone was a Catholic Ma lit a Yartseite candle and left it burning in the window the next evening.  Soon the rest of the block followed. Within two days the street had cooled off but it glowed warm amber by the light of the yellow wax mourning candles in every Jew’s window. Ma was good like that. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

'scuse me, is this seat taken? The awkward trespasses of a near sighted gal

I never wear my glasses. I shouldn't say never. I just don't put them on instinctually.  It's only at the exact moment that my lack of vision becomes glaringly apparent that I slide on my ocular apparel and enjoy a more thorough comprehension of the world.  The instances that I do are: driving, movies, TV, and seeing bands or performers. Only when that crisp vision leads to an escape do I choose to see the world for what it is. I wonder, often, if my hazy matte version of the world somehow creates a muted version of reality or at the very least a myopic one; I never realize that I am passing people I know until they are near (until it is too late to avoid).  I like not seeing the others around me in such vivid detail- I'm not looking to reconnect on the street or the subway as I am that person who is running 5 minutes behind or lost in her own malaise on any given day.  This makes for often awkward run-ins.

Last year I was cleaning up the street as part of a community building effort to get Washington Avenue clean and happy. I looked through my tunnel vision down the street and saw nothing but the sun, the trees and happy people floating with their coffee cups.  Safe in my invisible bubble, I bent down to pick up garbage. I hadn't showered that morning, my hair was in a weird bun. I had an orange plastic apron on, rubber gloves and my garbage bag was falling a part.  I could do with a little dose of vanity now and then to guide my "stepping out of the house" choices. Suddenly, two pairs of worn vans slid onto my tiny piece of ground that I was cleaning.   As I cranked up, garbage in hand, like a flamingo, there they stood halo'd in the sun: an ex lover and his brother.  I stood up fully- I touched my face by accident to brush the hair away from my eyes and smeared garbage all over my face. Perfect.  I had always imagined my self being really stand-offish and mean to this person when I finally ran into him- but I felt no inclination other than to say "hi" (a little too excitedly) and genuinely ask after his well being.  We hugged, and that was that- an awkward release from a useless grudge.  After all I was cleaning up the mess.  Ex lover and I never became friends again - there's no going back - but you can move forward and choose not to let others' rejections of you hold you hostage.  

I tend to let the shop close down quickly.  I get the wind knocked out of me because my ego is filled with light leaks. Again- my view is narrow. Love doesn't come often to me and it's a two way street: its a narrow playing field of choices filtered by my extremely picky taste and lugubrious self doubt.

The clean up was a fantastic day and I ended up meeting two friends that day who would later become two of the best friends I have ever had.  An upside to my tunnel vision is that it highlights the good ones sometimes too. Like a pinhole camera, everything fades out of focus in the background when I see the golden ones.

Later that evening I met someone. I barely noticed him for most of the night and then by the end, the focus shifted.  I had told him the story of the Washington Clean Up. Silly me- verbalizing my bad pattern of holding on- I had sentenced myself before even getting a trial. This is custommery.

Timing and perspective are everything. People never plan on being as meaningful as they end up being in your narrative. How can they know that the moment they are meeting you could quite possibly be a perfect storm waiting to envelop them into your story and make them main characters - a role they truly never auditioned for? But pain is like a magnifying glass and anything in its sights gets inflated.

So here was the context: I suffer from a crippling pelvic disorder that has/had taken up the main quotient of my energy to "cure" for the better part of the last three years of my life. It's a chronic health condition where I feel physical discomfort 24 hours a day ranging from a grade of 2 to 7. It effects highly intimate areas making physical and emotional connection an experience that literally can leave me feeling violated. It's a humbling battle to fight to say the least. It does not exactly make you feel like the bachelorette of the month. My self image was already encumbered by raging body dysmorphia and insane negativity planted in my brain as a child way before I had agency.   

Adding on another layer: during this time I was struggling in my career and coming upon "a certain age." I was starting to feel expired. My lifetime of no love felt  like a badge of shame or a dirty secret and my angry vagina wasn't helping. I had allowed this disease to take over. Have I mentioned I have tunnel vision?  I was buckling under the pressure to come up with thousands of dollars to pay for scary procedures involving nerve block injections in my pelvic bowl. My doctor was requesting a $3000 special MRI. If I had any chance at happiness to be a normal lovable woman- I had to figure this all out.  To make matters worse I was on a medication that affected my brain. It numbed certain nerves from over firing. It was barely helping me and it was causing "dark thoughts" I was losing the battle in every way possible and I felt so terribly NOT NORMAL. I needed a hero- somebody to save me from the puddle I was drowning in.

DJ was a nice guy (boy).  He was incredibly sharp and curious about the world. He was slightly younger than I but older in relationships, as he identified himself quicker than a sex offender registrant as a grade A "serial monogamist."  There were Las Vegas Red flashing signs to steer clear of him. But there was an intangible comfort to his tremendously nerdy yet hip persona. DJ gave off the false projection of being a safe proposition. He made my mind crackle. We were fresh air in a moment that was probably very stale for both of us. But unlike me- DJ's jail was "another relationship" where he "wasted time." My jail was solitude.  My ears perked with fire when I heard him speak so ungraciously of the time someone had loved him as  a regret. But I knew my perspective was skewed by the rabbit-hole I was living in. And so I chose to ignore the warning signs.  I forgot about anything horrible whenever he popped up on my g-chat. My symptoms lessoned around his presence and I swooned. He was the best medication I had found yet that year. I could see his lithe hand reaching down into the bell jar and swiftly pulling me out. I admit it- I was hoping he would cure me. Silly girl. But hope is the strongest drug I know and when your desperate for a fix, you see nothing else but it's source.

I was hooked. His own special brand of neurosis was readily apparent but I liked it. I tend to like overly structured personalities. I can be a tad too malleable and I lose focus fast. There's not much more too say. We hung out, we had two dates, on the second we went too far... and in the dark, naked, I told him my dirty secret, we were drunk. I spoke fast and in generalizations and tried to dumb down as best as possible. We worked it out. For about 5 seconds I felt really free that I had finally told the person engaged in the most private activity one could engage in- the most private and painful thing about me. I felt safer than I had ever felt, for five seconds. He was a doll about the confession and was frankly befuddled as to how I could think he would act any other way. With patience and time and gentleness- I might have been on the rode to a "normal" life... 

But that was fleeting. My confession was then met with a "while we are airing our dirty laundry..." monologue the size of Texas as to how he was a commitment-phobe and was not looking to be any body's partner for a long time.  "Its probably pretty fucked up that I am telling you this right now...hahaha" It wasn't funny. I outed my self and he gave me the emotional walking papers. Sure we could keep having sex, sure I could stay there but...a giant dead rat just appeared in between us in the bed and I felt winded.  The perfect person, the buddha on the mountain top,would have kissed him demurely on the forehead, thanked him for his time, dressed calmly, and walked out.  Even he knew this because at the sight of my stuttering confused face, he told me he could call me a cab if I needed to go. Brutal I suppose. The myopia began, I chose to ignore it all.

I didn't go that night. I stayed. We had sex two more times even though I mentioned before the third that I probably shouldn't have because I was sore. But what the fuck did either of us care- I was sexually wrist cutting and he was the blade.

DJs interest temperature cooled off quickly. We had a few post-mortem blips on the radar pseudo dates and then I got the message and let it disappear.  I was just a girl he was keeping on the back burner, something he would indulge in if he didn't get what he truly wanted. And honestly, there is nothing wrong with that. It is what we all do and if were safely guarded with a healthy sense of worth - we might all be able to laugh about it after the fact.  But I'm not.

A month or so later we saw each-other at a show, danced up each other's space for the night and barely kissed goodbye on the subway platform.  He was drunk and almost imperceptibly belligerent when he texted "hate me? I'm at the bar..." I don't hate anyone, it hurts too much to hate. I leaned in and then left when the signs were clear that it was a wrap.  I walked home in the rain that night a little sad about how meaningless all of these failed acquaintances feel.  

Three days later I received a gratuitous and insultingly glib email clarifying for me that I was "not cool enough to pursue something with" and that we "should just be cool as friends"  I had been worried my whole life that I was not good enough to be anyone's girlfriend and DJ clumsily stabbed me right in that wound. I would use his words to legitimize my demons on loop. A part he never asked to play. It was his birthday soon and he had met someone else. Someone who was cool enough to pursue. I was an item that he need to clean off his 'to do' list.  Like throwing away the cigarettes so that you don't smoke them.

I'm not going to surmise much more about anyone else's feelings. I cut him off immediately. It wasn't hate, it was just an awareness that his presence no longer helped the situation and I needed to shove him out of my periphery if I was ever going to climb out of my rabit-hole.   And so he just became some dude who knew some of the same people as I. Someone who is according to twitter  "a user just like" me.

That was over a year ago. And though I got over it, I am ashamed to admit I never opened the shop again. Sure there were a few dalliances here and there but nothing to blog home about.  I had a mission. I was trying to break up with my disease. I gave up on my doctor and the physical therapists and I weaned painfully of the meds. I took a time out from my toxic job. I escaped into a vortex of solitude even though the expiration date of my lovability, not to mention fertility, seemed to loom close in like the monster under the bed.  Eventually I got way better at handling my disease and I'm physically doing much better, not cured, just better. It's time to pull the curtains and open up the shop.

I was thinking about all this when I walked out of my apartment with my friend KC to walk down to the local bar to watch a season finale.  I didn't have my glasses on.  As we entered the bar we immediately could see that we were in a quandary; there were no seats, save a few minor pieces of real estate on some couches and the possibility of placing a chair beside those "corner lots." We assumed everyone would understand that we might have to infringe on their space. And so I charged over to a table at a couch to ask a young girl if my friend could sit beside her. I barely noticed the card game happening on the table just past my peripheral view. It was only at her shock and dismay at my request, and the glance she gave her friend which directed my gaze up and over to the left that I noticed DJ sitting right there at a rousing game of magic.  "OH...HI" said I, clearly surprised at how avoidable this moment could have been had I just looked further than my nose. OH ...HI" said he. duly flummoxed. The gamers where not happy with our intrusion and my pal was enraged at what to her was just plain rude. I couldn't see the forest for the trees. I said sorry and walked away.  And like that, once again the band aid was ripped. He was just a person. I put my glasses on as we walked to the back and weighed out our options.  We couldn't really see or hear and both of us felt it was not worth it. We'd been bested by a nerd herd (harem) whose leader was my last detractor.  Despite my home field advantage I had lost this match.  So we left.

We walked over to my favorite bar and she expensed over $250 of cocktails. As soon as we sat down, two incredibly attractive and intelligent men engaged us in a great conversation.  Magically, I had forgotten the awkward mess where I oafishly stomped over to DJ's game table to clumsily crowd in on the couch with his crew to watch a fucking TV show.

It was a long night. It had been a long weekend. As a walked home holding my buddy up I could feel the newly received business card in my pocket. I palmed the bent edge of it marveling at how crisp it was when I first received it. This new guy was the kind of handsome that sparkled. But I was no longer in the eye of the storm,  I still had my glasses on from earlier. I had them on all night. No, he would remain a bit part for now. I could see all the garbage swirling on Washington Avenue. KC's makeup was a mess. I recalled all the tiny details of the bar that night as if that had been my season finale: the sideway glance Pat the bartender gave the girl who ordered "some kind of flavored margarita" The way men's gazes dwelled up and down our bodies with extra surveillance yet at the same time looking into our eyes seeming to comprehend everything- giving off the facade of listening closer.  Tiny little fragments of imperfections swirled about me. None of it seemed wrong. I was just happy that my view was now wider and more expansive; always awkward but nonetheless mine for the long haul.  

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Blossom Time on Eastern Parkway.

It's Spring. Again.

Rebirth. And yet memory falls backwards when I sweep the browned leaves on the hardwood floor that were dragged in by the day's mishaps.

...smitten kisses were supposed to line the brownstone heavy blocks.

Thick heavy spring wind was suppose to lift me, but its hankering me down. It lies in my throat.  It hurts more than I can justify.

Somehow what has changed still feels snow covered.  And then you ask me, as I shiver, where do you store all that immutable feeling?

 It is rusting dangerously in my head my love. Or maybe in my core- whichever one you shall chose to ignore.

Time is moving too fast and my bones and muscles are getting worse.  

Just recently they searched my spine for an ancient disease.

I thought by now this would be a faint panicked memory of the past safe enough in its Kodachrome edited distance.

But destiny has a different ticket for me and its a long ass ride to China.

I just realized that this passing phase was really a choice. One you're quite happy with.

You always seem so very very happy. No one will ever get in your way again.

I admire you. You know how to live. Perhaps you were right about me. Not...enough.

Time might even be moving backwards.  Or at least I am tripping backwards. Falling on my own words,  Slipping in my watery logic.  I'd cry if the whole thing didn't seem absurd. I'd cry if it wasn't all my fault.

You always ask me if I hate you.  truthfully- I wish I did and I am afraid that I might.

I can't bring myself to see you as the true arch villain of our short lived tale. But nothing is blossoming and I feel dead inside

and the truth?

It happened so long ago. Years now. You were the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back.  Unwittingly you are cemented in memories' cannon of rejection's greatest hits.

the one closest to the faint reality of my heart and the one furthest from ever being at reach.