Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Philadelphia Story

Gosh, I've been inconsistent about posting stuff here. Until a few weeks ago it had been so long since I was here I actually forgot this blog even exists. And then, when I finally remembered the name of it (!) I spent a long time rereading these entries, all these entries. It's surreal reading all the many, many posts I wrote about feeling so unhappy and unfulfilled and shaky with Robert. I haven't seen him in... it will be two years next month, which also blows my mind -- not because of anything to do with him, really, it's just incredible to consider how much energy I invested into that Titanic wreck of a relationship.
Almost two years ago, we took a weekend trip to Philadelphia. Ostensibly the purpose of the trip was the visit the Barnes, just outside the city, before they moved it. We'd seen a new documentary about the whole thing -- The Art of the Steal -- at that movie theater on Sixth Avenue and West Fourth Street, across from the always-packed basketball courts. We met up for dinner first. Pearl's was closed (it must have been a Monday), Mary's Fish Camp was too crowded, so we ended up sitting at the bar of a little Italian restaurant across the street, after leaving Robert's name at Mary's. I drank a glass of wine, Robert drank a glass of wine, we shared a couple of things, I remember how much I loved the lighting in that place even though there wasn't anything memorable -- even then, while it was happening, and five minutes after left -- about the food. I knew I'd never be back there but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
We held hands as we made our way to the theater. I was wearing boots with heels and we were both wearing coats since it was February or March. March, I'll say.
Robert went to college at Wharton but he hadn't been back to Philadelphia since he graduated. After we saw the movie it felt like the right thing to do, plan a weekend away there.
The last time we made love we were in our bed in New York. It was a Saturday morning, before we packed and scrambled to make it to Penn Station to catch a train down to Philly. I was on top, it didn't take long. I don't know why I'm including these details, they're part of what I remember and they seem significant for some reason, probably because they're part of what came to signify the final end of our almost-seven years together.
On the train I read in the Times' arts section that Lorin had been named the new editor of the Paris Review. I pointed this out to Robert, but it didn't mean anything to him since he'd never met Lorin and didn't know that Lorin and I, while Robert and I were on yet another break, had spent a lot of time together for a while.
We took a dirty taxi -- ALL the taxis in Philadelphia felt so dirty to me that weekend -- to the Rittenhouse Hotel. The lobby was beautiful, grand but not too big, my heels clock-click-clicked across the floor. We took an elevator up to our room. It was a suite with two bathrooms, a view of the city and Rittenhouse Square just outside and below.
I wish I could tell you why I was in such a terrible mood. I'd felt lonely with Robert for so long. And I was codependent, couldn't see my way out of it and couldn't see how it would end happily.
We went to the Barnes twice: Saturday and Sunday. Saturday night didn't go well. It started out fine but over dinner at a fancy seafood restaurant that tension between us swelled up so big and strong that we walked back to the hotel separately. Slept without touching. Woke up on Sunday still feeling shaky and had breakfast in a diner of some indoor market. Everyone around us was wearing sweatshirts, we waited in line for a long time. Robert always loved breakfast food.
Upstairs on the second floor of the Barnes we paused in front of one of Rousseau's jungle paintings. It showed a naked woman by a river about to be attacked by a bear. Behind them stands a man with a rifle about to shoot the bear in the head. Robert said, "You're the woman, I'm the bear, and the guy with the gun is the institution of marriage."
Five minutes later, we were outside, in the snow-covered rose garden behind the building. I was wearing my first engagement ring on my ring finger. Robert slid it off and handed me another ring. He didn't say anything. The ring -- the second ring -- was gorgeous. A canary yellow diamond, exactly what I'd asked for. My phone rang and I saw it was my mom. I looked at Robert and asked him if he'd called my parents. (I'd previously told him, if he ever proposed again, to please talk to my parents first. They hadn't seen him since the 2006 engagement party they threw for us and it felt important to me that they be happy about our getting engaged, again.) He said no.
I can't explain what I felt. For the rest of my life this will probably be one of those few moment I return to in my head, a juncture in a Choose Your Own Adventure. I didn't make this choice with my head; it wasn't rational or logical. Here was the man I'd loved on and off for the better part of a decade -- while I was 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, and 29. Here he was, asking me to marry him. Again.
I couldn't do it. I couldn't respond with joy in the way he wanted.
We took the train back to New York a couple of hours later. I was panicking, he was pissed. He left me that night and he never came back.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


I spent most of yesterday -- or, rather, far more than I justifiably should have -- feeling sorry for myself. This, because Ben and I had plans to go upstate in the late morning, to a little town three-and-a-half hours to the north, called Coxsackie. (Apparently, Gary told me, this also happens to be the name of a disease. It IS a rather unfortunate name, no?) So Ben and I were supposed to drive up in his 1975 Volvo, bearing some sort of gift for the hosts (flowers, he suggested, or a lovely bottle of wine [I wasn't planning to have anything to do with the latter because the hosts are the wine critics for Martha Stewart Living, and even I know better than give wine critics wine.]) But then, even though Ben and I have spent the last month as each others' go-to significant other, building this crazy-fast intimacy and sharing conversations about, say, how I've been realizing the ways in which I recreated all these unhealthy dynamics of my childhood relationship with my mother in my relationship with my ex (I never use Robert's name, not with anyone anymore, if I can help it), and Ben never having been touched by his parents, how he sucked his thumb for years, all these many, many deep and personal details -- we still hadn't slept together.
In point of fact, we did spend one night in his bed, but the fooling around part didn't happen organically. I got sort of weepy about my ex, about feeling like I will never love another man, about how much he hurt me -- and when I say that "he" hurt me, I of course mean also to implicate myself in the whole thing... So that night, in Ben's bed, I just wanted to go to sleep. We kissed, but that's all. I could feel the stickiness of his fingers and how sharp his nails are and I just did NOT feel attracted to him, but neither did I trust my judgment, even enough to admit that out loud, because I felt so traumatized by the demise of my relationship with Robert that I wanted so, so badly to have something secure, something platonic, to hide in a place where I could be taken care of but never hurt... Ben called me out on it, saying that he'd never had a woman get into his bed only to turn her back on him to go to sleep. He used the word passion. He expressed an expectation.
We kissed. He crawled on top of me and we fooled around for about, oh, six minutes? No sex. I didn't sleep well, I woke up in the middle of the night sweating and he woke up, too, like he was very aware of my experience, and wanting to take care of me. He turned up the a/c, which helped some, but I woke up again, and again, never quite comfortable. I didn't like the feeling of his fingers on me, his clammy face. I don't want to dip into the waters of denigration, when all these things lead to the same conclusion: I'm not attracted to Ben.
Chemistry is such a nutty thing. I didn't feel it when I first met Robert. Or, rather, I felt a spark, but it was so far removed from the sort of magnetic pull I'd felt up to that point, I didn't know what to make of it. I didn't feel immediately sexually into him, the way I did with Richard, for instance. Robert and I were never like a couple of animals, not for the first month... And I don't know if that kind of gravitational pull is a requisite for dating, a prerequisite or whatever, for even undertaking what could be a friends plus maybe more, but I do think, especially after this chaste month with Ben, that your instincts tell you what you need to know on this front.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

you better belize it/i-guana go home

well, in a totally not shocking update... Robert and I are back together. Who knows how long it will last, such a crazy roller coaster. Last night he told me I'm mentally unstable, that I make his life a complete hell, that he thinks I'm trying to push him away in order to avoid getting married, etcetera. We fell asleep barely touching, his knee pressed against my back, after one moment in the dark where he took my hand in his hands and propped up on his elbows and said, "What was that about?"
And on the surface it was a story of our having made plans for the night, which he broke without actually canceling. I mean, first he'd suggested we cook dinner at home, then we'd decided to go to this show at the Cornelia Street Cafe, starting at 8:30. I called him at 4:30 to say I was picking up his shoes at the Cowboy Shoe Repair shop, he said he had to work late with Derek, and I told him he didn't have to come out tonight, I was happy to make other plans. But no, he told me, he'd be back by 8 so we could go.
At home that night, I got ready to go out: eyelash curling, lipgloss, tight white blue jeans (despite or maybe even because it's early January but not slushy, why NOT wear tight white jeans?) and then he never came. I mean, at 8:15 he called, from some restaurant in midtown, still eating dinner, but he didn't get home until after nine, at which point I was feeling hot in my irritation, like he'd let me down in some big way because not to have stood me up would have taken such little effort, i.e. all it required was a text message or some vague sense of knowing what time it was. Plus, I've been so afraid of falling into this thing where I prop him up on the home front, running around like a little miss merry wifey going half-blind trying to pair up all his almost-but-not-quite-identical black and navy blue socks, mopping up the bathroom floor after his showers, worrying -- really and truly -- about his health, including his mental health but extending to physical conditions like his recurring stress-induced stye & the dentist & seeing a podiatrist. It's bullshit, I guess, or at least I know he'd say (and in fact DOES say, at least a few times a day lately) that I'm completely full of shit, whatever it is I'm saying. Last night he said all I'd done since he got home was complain, in some kind of terrible psychopathic vitriolic way, about how I'd been, according to him, "hard done by" because of my trying to pay the bills or whatever. He says I don't understand or appreciate how hard he works and that his business supports our wildly expensive lifestyle. "I gave you X amount of money," he said, referring to an investment he made in my name, in his fund, "so you have all that." "I don't have access to it," I said, but I've never even tried; I don't know HOW to try, and of course the unspoken truth of the matter is separate from all this: I'm feeling like garbage for not making much money recently, scrapping up teaching jobs and scraggly, low-paying freelance assignments. Two days ago, in Belize, he asked me about how my book is going, then said, "You don't get a ten out of ten for effort." I know that's true, I know I need to really get down to work on it, but I wish -- I guess I ALWAYS wish -- he would be kind to me. Anyway, last night. He said, "I paid for this house." And, you know, what can I say? Honestly, he didn't even want to talk anymore, we were both exhausted, he was pressing this hot, damp rag up to this swollen eye, and my neck and back are all busted and bruised, first because of a pinched nerve on the left side that left me unable to sleep for three nights, then because of the acupuncture and cupping I had yesterday to fix it. The weirdest thing she did was rub something called Badger Balm all over my neck, then rub it incredibly hard with the metal lid (she couldn't find the right tool) in order to "get into" the tiny muscles deep in my neck.
The very night before this? Monday. It was a fabulous, fabulous, fabulous day and night. We danced by the fire, we laughed, we talked.
I can barely make myself keep writing, I'm so tired of this. Since the day after Christmas, we've had this challenge on, to see if we can go three days without fighting. And we haven't! It's so depressing I want to run away from home. How is it possible two people who really and truly love each other can't get along like peaceable friends for 72 hours (24 of which are spent unconscious)?!?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Prowling around with tomcats

God, it's been a long time since I've been here, fully present, ready to bring something to this party. Last Friday, I went to Liza's 30th birthday party, at a gallery in Chelsea filled with framed black-and-white photographs of slippery male bodybuilders; I came early, with Andrew, and left before they cut the cake. When the elevator doors opened on our way down, Suzie was getting off. I couldn't tell you how long it's been since I've seen her. Or rather, there was that one time last spring, when I was having lunch at Delicatessen, on Prince & Lafayette, with Purva, after going to Virayoga with Colombe. And Suzie walked by the glass, we waved hello. Her book came out last March, a memoir written entirely in the second person, with a pink hardback cover, and I emailed her soon after, to say this:
Dear Suzie,
Hey! Funny to see you yesterday through the glass -- I've been meaning to write and congratulate you on your book. It's a terrific story -- full of your surprising humor and grace and energy and sparkling revelations -- and I'm so grateful to and secretly so proud of you. Bravo!
I hope this is a magical time in your life.
And she wrote back, "Aw, thank you, Sarah! I appreciate it. You helped in the birth of the book too, so I hope you take some pride/pleasure in this time too. It is very fun. xx Suzie"

I guess that's as good a place to start as any after close to three years away from this site. I was in graduate school when I started this blog, still so deadly in love with Robert I couldn't find my way out of a paper bag, blowing around after him like I was Ahab and he was the white whale. That's a whole long story, I guess, but it's funny to revisit these entries and see how, even then, I knew on some level that waiting for him, the whole engagement thing -- six years that might as well have been an extra day in February. So I guess I'm still trying to find my way out of it, free and clear, but it's been broken now, along with my friendship with Suzie.
That was a funny thing, with Suzie, because she wrote this whole long manuscript, worked on it for years, then one day in July of 2007, after she'd emailed it to Phoebe and me, she invited us over to her place in Ft. Greene for dinner on the roof and to critique it. I didn't know so much about books then, or publishing; the whole thing struck me as far away and impossible, even though Phoebe had hit it out of the park with her own memoir. So the three of us sat outside, Suzie's cat slinking around under our lawn chairs, while Suzie grilled vegetables and we drank wine I'd brought from the Green Grape, and Phoebe had picked up two kinds of insanely delicious ice-cream from Philadelphia, the dessert equivalent of a couture gown, in a cardboard container. One was sorbet, I think, and the other creamier. I kept coming inside to check my phone for texts from Marc Gerald, who I'd met at Jason's and been corresponding with obsessively, in this heated frenzy of sexual tension and conversations about books and plans for me to visit. Robert and I, even then, we were on a break that summer, still talking sometimes, and I kept hoping and hoping he would make up his mind about me and DO SOMETHING, come all in, see my bet and raise me a marriage.
Critiquing Suzie's book, I was both very, very honest and also totally disingenuous, the latter because I couldn't be objective about just how NOT objective I was being. I mean, I was IN the book, a stiff character, and Robert was in the book, and Phoebe, too, so there was that, but mostly, and most honestly, there was Suzie in her book, a narrator writing in the second person, and she wrote about all the things I'd seen her go through over that year, the most troubling of which was this weird sort of self-starvation, fueled along by a lack of Bronx boxing and obsessive cigarette-bumming from strangers. There's this one line in her book (which, for this private record, I never did end up buying, not even for half-price at the Strand) or maybe it was just in an email to me, I can't remember, or maybe she said it in conversation. It's about how she hadn't eaten in so long, she'd lost all this weight, and finally one day she stopped by McDonald's and bought a small order of fries, came back outside, and the wind almost blew her over, out into the street, because she was so skinny. I had hated this period of her life, hated hated hated seeing her disappear, seeing Suzie fall away from Suzie, leaving this skeleton there, sucking hard on borrowed Marlboros, her Red Cross bag slung over her shoulder, nothing there to hug. And this is touched on in the book, this whole period of denial and getting lost, and I had been too close to it to over any judgment of merit; I had no business criticizing her memoir, especially when I felt so deeply that I had failed her in some really basic way, failed, as her friend, to somehow witness and be present and save her life. Writing it now, it sounds trite and stupid, but that night, eating dinner out on the roof, I took off my kid gloves and didn't hesitate; I went straight in for the jugular without even consciously knowing that's what I was doing, or understanding just how pissed off and angry I was that she had done these things to herself and then made a big fucking joke about it, hiding in the second person. I thought what I was being was real; I thought hard truths meant authentic friendship; I was completely wrong. Phoebe did it better -- Phoebe almost ALWAYS does it better -- she went wide instead of deep, offered solid comments and suggestions, instead of abstract negatives.
And anyway, what I remember best about that night happened after we came inside, sitting around Suzie's kitchen table with our bowls of ice-cream. Phoebe told us that she'd decided to have a baby, and that she would either be pregnant by the end of the year or else she would have started the process of adopting a baby from Haiti. She said that she was going to do this with or without Andre -- though hopefully with -- that motherhood, having a baby, was more important than their relationship. Or maybe I'm just adding that last line, all conjecture, because that's what I inferred from her declaration.
I took the subway home and called Marc when I stepped up onto Spring Street off the 6 train. Suzie and I never really did speak again, not for my lack of reaching out to her for awhile after that, and to apologize, but she wouldn't have any of it. And I see now, in hindsight, that I made that dinner unsafe; what I know now is that the best way to criticize a friend's work is pretty much to stick to what you want MORE of, not the inverse, and definitely not to criticize her life. I know that now and I wouldn't do it again.
Still, when the elevator doors opened on Friday night, she put a tight smile on her face, I smiled right back. "Hiii," we both said, and I added a "How are you?" as I stepped inside, pushing the button to the lobby. The doors closed. I looked up at Andrew. "We used to best friends."
"Whoa," he said, and I thought about how it was true and not true. Yes, the friendship part was true, but neither of us is the same person anymore, so it seems odd even to use the word "we." It's like there should be a word to describe who you were, in the past, but I know that's impossible, it would change all the time, you could never keep up or have the right word. And sometimes maybe there is no right word for what it is you're trying to say to friends, not lovers, when you can't just take them to bed and show them with your mouth and body. I guess you just keep showing up for each other, making toasts and unpacking your days, slow and steady and basically autonomous. And when people get a little too vulnerable for your comfort, the worst thing you can do is flinch.
It's probably not the last time we'll wave at each other, through the window of a restaurant or shuffling in opposite directions. New York is funny that way, big and tiny. I thought about her a lot over the weekend, and I wish her well, but I don't miss her, because that would imply, at this point, that I want to go back to who we were, to our old lives. I love those girls, the best friends we were in graduate school, but I don't really know them anymore, and don't wish to.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Please excuse me. It's been a long time -- so long, in fact, that I'm writing these words now the way I imagine you'd write them from a boat gone for lost: chicken-scratch on the back of a receipt, rolled up and whisked into a green glass bottle. Corked. Thrown out, into the sea. I was in a bad place last June, from June on into July and August and September, October. I came back and read these last entries that I wrote here and cringed because I could feel it there, so bad and so true, that I wanted to change my life -- but I wasn't strong enough to do much more about it than describe the desire.

I'm in Moscow today. Yesterday I was in St. Petersburg, with Robert, and we wore a hat that we bought on St. Mark's Place for fifteen dollars; it ties under your chin with two furry earflaps. The whole thing looks like a beaver that just crawled up on top of your head and died there.

So it is that cold here. Though, accordingly, it is still the warmest winter in something like 1,265 years. I hear New York is beginning to feel a lot like...balmy Palm Beach? I was in New York the weekend before last, first for the final walk-through of another apartment and also for a job interview, and even though the wind stung my eyes and I got trapped, momentarily, in the eye of a small tornado of garbage, I was so happy to be back.

In June, in the briefest of explanations, what happened is this: I flew up to New York for the board interview of a co-of apartment on 16th Street. While I was there, I spent two nights at Phoebe's (in her guestroom!), had drinks with Camille, got my haircut, bought some sunscreen, moved down to a hotel on the Lower East Side, and went to a party at my old semi-boyfriend's apartment, where I got so nervous in the elevator going up that I thought I might fall over. And that was all in the first two days, before Robert got there. (The party, by the way, turned out, after all, to be great and I walked east on 96th Street feeling slightly woozy and pink from flirtation and new acquaintances. The old "boyfriend" was remarkably unchanged -- an impeccable host, as charming as ever, and absolutely not for me.) The next morning, Robert arrived from London. We ate brunch, we went to Central Park, we talked and talked and talked -- and he told me that he doesn't want to get married. I told him that, in that case, we didn't have much to talk about. I refused to leave until after the interview but called American Airlines to make plans to return to Tennessee straightaway when it was over. ("I can see it," my sister said. "You, in East Nashville, living in a cozy bungalow.") So even if I wasn't over the moon about picking up the pieces and starting fresh, in my childhood bedroom, I was at peace with this resolve enough to realize that my life would go on, beyond Robert.

We went for one last walk before the board interview, where we would pretend to be like happy almost-homeowners, and had just finished eating two cones of gelato (strawberry for him and malted milk ball for me) when we found ourselves at the corner of Spring and Elizabeth, next to a wall of grafitti. And Robert said, "I have to ask you something but I want you to come to London so I can do it properly."

All sticky hands on my hips, I said, "If you want to ask me, you better get down on our knee." So weary, it had to be a joke.

And then, he got down on one knee. "Sarah, will you marry me?" Just like that.
I didn't exactly say yes -- but I didn't exactly have to. Hadn't I already been saying yes for a very, very, very long time?

The next day, I moved to London.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

what we want most

We're at the beach on St. George Island, in Florida. My sister's roommate, Amber, just asked me what my biggest pet peeve is and I ran through the usual suspects: backstabbers and close-talkers, people who insist on sharing long and convoluted dreams. But now, I think, what annoys me the most has as much to do with myself as it does with anyone else. It's this--when someone says that he or she wants one thing but then does nothing to facilitate that thing happening. When someone says, "My instinct tells me to do X" and then they do Y, over and over and over.

Which is really to say? That I feel like I've been crying wolf with my relationship for a long time now. It's finished, it's still going strong, we're breaking up, we're in love, I'm going to give him more time to make up his mind, I don't know what I want.

I do know what I want. I want Robert. What's been harder for me to admit is that I've chosen him to the detriment of my own needs. For months now (years?), I've been talking and writing about this. I've shared with him in letters and conversations, in dinners and long walks and overseas phonecalls, that I don't want to wait anymore. That I want to throw all the balls up in the air and run with this -- to live together, either in New York or London, to make a life where we see each other more than one week a month. Last August, I gave him an ultimatum not about getting engaged but about our beginning -- tentatively, in baby steps -- to plan for the future beyond my graduation from Sarah Lawrence. "Either we make some sort of plans," I said over the phone while we was on a fishing trip in Iceland, "or we need to free each other up to see other people. To live our lives."

He engaged, he changed his mind, you know the story. And I chose to stick it out, burying my faith in the fact that he had bought a ring, hoping the fact that at some point he had been certain enough of me to buy a ring, hoping that if I shut up for six months, if I didn't let myself mention it...that his momentary certainty would grow into something permanent.

I should have left then. But that's the problem with ultimatums, right? -- it's easy enough to deliver them without having decided whether or not you really care to follow through on your threat. And if it's love we're talking about, you don't want to admit that you've been reduced to threats.

So now I find myself nine months later, on the cusp of buying an apartment together in New York, still with no plan to actually live together. Robert's not moving out of London. I can't live in the UK legally and, frankly, I don't think it's in my best interest to get a job and move there right now, only for him.

For a long time, I've felt so stuck. I've felt like it whatever happened in this part of my life was out of my control. And it's taken me the better part of three years but finally I see that that's not true. Regardless of what Robert wants or eventually decides, I am free to live.

We talked yesterday, me lying on my parents' bed watching the ocean out the windows, Robert in London with a summer cold. I told him I will go to New York next week for the board interview, if he wants me to, because I have committed to it, but that he should consider whether or not he wants this apartment by himself. "I'm not going to go into our fourth year together still in different countries, like this," I said. "I'm sorry to tell you this now, sorry my timing is so bad, but there is never a good time. I don't think I can spend the summer with you in Europe. I'm ready to walk away from this."

He said he felt surprised, like he'd suddenly been hit. But, also, that he can't disagree with me. It's not like I haven't said this before.

I waited for him to say something more, to object, to come through, but instead someone called on the other line and he had to answer the door and so I said goodbye.

Now I'm going to play a(nother) game of Scrabble with my parents, bless them. They say they only want me to be happy. And also to join them later in a game of doubles tennis.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

(un)flexible dates

I just bought a plane ticket for my favorite teacher at Sarah Lawrence (also my thesis advisor and an astounding travel writer) to visit me and Robert in Paris for a weekend in July. She will already be in Prague teaching so the ticket wasn't much, two hundred dollars, and I know that we'll have a great time. The only reason I hesitated to do it sooner was because I don't even have my own ticket yet. What I have is a ticket from Nashville to New York on June 14th, returning to Tennessee sometime in October. But given that I don't have an apartment in New York anymore (hello, Storage USA?) the chances of my staying there seem really slim. Also considering that it's the first day of June and I started sweating outside before the sun came up, I think it's even more unlikely that I'll be here to welcome July. And August.

I have this tiny two-year-old cousin, Meredith, who I saw last weekend. She has white-white-blonde hair and she's very, very shy (one of those who are more comfortable in public behind her mother's leg than anywhere else). The only things I heard her say for two days were, "Achoo!" and "Oh no!" (The latter of those she said over and over again whenever anyone other than her mother got too close.) My grandmother looked at her the way someone who was starving would look at a country ham. She started out saying things like, "Meredith, let me hold you on my lap" and ended up, moon-eyed and desperate, saying, "Oh, I do hope you know who I am."

Plus my grandmother has started keeping butcher knives in all of the rooms that don't have doors leading directly outside. This is, she explains, in case the house is on fire and she can't push out the screen windows, she can use a knife to cut out the screens and then jump.

Meanwhile, not totally unrelated to the fear of getting old, my father is buying a motorcycle. He got his new license the same day my cousin William got his first driver's license. (By the way, I found out on Monday, apparently William is engaged-to-be-engaged to his model girlfriend. They have exchanged real wedding rings and he's getting a tattoo of a cross that she stayed up "until one in the morning for three nights" drawing. They're seventeen. Maybe I can be in charge of the guestbook?) Okay, so my father and his motorcyle. Every time he mentions it, my mother starts flapping her arms and threatening to join the circus.

But over the weekend, my dad told me outright that he thinks instead of getting old and hanging on until the age of 99 (like his grandmother), it would be better to go out in a motorcycle crash. I said, "Is this your mid-life crisis way of saying you won't live through a death of quiet desperation?" But then my grandmother came into the kitchen wondering how many years it's safe to keep chicken in the freezer before it goes bad. Specifically, she wanted to know, is five years too long?

Yes, we both said. And my dad's face read, "I think 95 might be the perfect age to get a motorcycle."

I haven't spoken to Robert since Monday, he's in Japan, and yesterday he left a message that said, "I'm working like a dog, I'm not avoiding you." For three nights in a row, I've had dreams about this other guy I know but haven't seen in almost a year. For three nights in a row, we've been walking along the river on the west side of Manhattan pushing a baby stroller and holding hands. Yes, I agree, it's unclear how two people can push a stroller and hold hands (and kiss!) at the same time, but while it's happening, it doesn't seem awkward at all. And then I wake up and write it down, wonder where we were going and what happened with that guy, if he ever wakes up from dreams about me, and what time is it in Tokyo?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A little bit of you, a lot of me

I remember so clearly this moment when I was sixteen years old, standing beside the couch where my father was taking a nap downstairs. Holding a bucketful of broken tiles for Julianne's mermaid mosaic. Saying to him, "You are the most wonderful man in the world. I know that. And I'm going to keep knowing that until I meet the man I marry." He said something, thank you, and I wandered out of the room with my bucket.

It's a really odd thing to consider my own wedding, not least of all because I'm not even engaged (anymore). It brings up all these weird feelings I have about my family -- this family -- and the idea of creating my own family. Even though I've never been someone overly (or even remotely) preoccupied with a wedding and getting married and being a Mrs. Right, I have always understood that whoever Mr. Right turns out to be -- that he should be certain about loving me. I never thought that I would be three years in with someone who isn't sure.

I've come home to Tennessee for a couple of weeks. I've got hot pink toenails and a stack of books to read and things to write and revise and miles to run and the top of my head to stand on...We're going to the beach next week, with my sister, and then I'm going back to New York for two days so that Robert and I can interview with the co-op board. Unless something totally untoward happens, I feel confident that the apartment will be ours. Which is, obviously, an exciting thing, right? It makes our living together official, it will be the end of renting, the end of moving every nine or twelve or eighteen months, it will be the beginning of shared books, shared sheets, shared mail and breakfasts and a telephone number.

I feel two-thirds excited and one-third afraid -- of losing freedom somehow, of living there by myself because Robert will still be in London. Mostly, I think, I'm afraid to be with a man who loves me but feels trapped by our future. I can't speak for him, it's true, and I'm not really trying to. I just want to figure this out before it's too late.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

It's so simple

In less than three days, I will have moved out of New York and started the 889-mile drive to Nashville. Most of my stuff is in a 5 by 5 by 8 foot storage faciltity on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. What I have left here, mostly, are the necessities: bedding and towels, clothes, CDs, computer, and other extraneous things: the Jean Cocteau plate hanging in the window, our Indonesian windchime, 22 kinds of lipgloss, and 12 half-empty bottles of hair products. I keep making lists of what I need to do between now and then -- send three years of tax returns and W-2 forms to the co-op board, get the oil changed in my car, teach the creative writing class tomorrow morning in Queens, teach yoga on Wednesday night, fix the broken lamp in the kitchen, buy packing tape, pay the electric bill, cancel the Times' subscription.

When I let myself, in moments of weakness, I feel this crazy unfounded anxiety about the fact that before the week is up, I will no longer have either an address or a place to live. Robert and I have been counting on this co-op deal to work out but the truth is that despite all the information we've provided (12 letters of reference, credit checks, tax returns, bank statements, 10% down), despite all of that we have yet to arrange an interview with the board. I feel like a liability in some ways (our real estate agent and lawyer both keep suggesting that maybe the deal would be easier if I back out in order for Robert to be sole shareholder) -- and surely, I think, I must be the only potential shareholder who's primary income in 2004 came from Unemployment.

If it does work out, the move-date is August 1st.

So I work myself up into a foaming fit worrying about where to live and what to do and my career and I start to feel like a total wreck and then just when I'm beginning to revert to the idea that I'll move back to Guatemala and try to get a job at a tortilla shop in Antigua and not deal with any of this, I remember this story I read two weeks ago:

A woman had a 26-year-old son who was dying of cancer and so, in his last moments of life, she crawled into his hospital bed and held his hand. And just before he died, he turned his head towards her and smiled and said, "Oh, Mom, it's so simple."

When I think of this, all of my anxiety and running-away fantatsies fall away and instead of worry, I feel a tremendous wave of gratitude and love. On my birthday yesterday, I sat with myself on the floor for a little while, and resolved that this year I will try not to harbor negative thoughts. I will try not to say anything negative about people; I do not want to gossip. I crossed my legs and straightened my back and took deep breaths and meditated for half an hour, saying over and over in my head the word 'Sunari', which in Sanskrit means 'joy'.

And then, of course, before the sun even set, I had started to feel sort of sorry for myself and had for all intents and purposes fallen into a little hole. Robert came back home from a day of meetings, and he gave me a wonderful birthday card and a beautiful aqua and white Pucci dress, which I loved but when I tried on didn't think fit me very well. And we walked hand-in-hand across Houston Street to wd-50, and at some point between my sitting on his lap by the window and our collapsing into laughter about this ongoing thumbwar championship "final round" that's been going on for, like, six months, I stopped feeling self-conscious and old (not old, exactly, but a slave to the voice that's yelling, "Your life is passing you by!") and we had one of the loveliest nights ever. The loveliness was a combination of three things: us, the food, and the fact that we were sitting in a corner booth. We did the tasting menu, which was the reason I wanted to go there in the first place, and it was amazing. It started off with "chard shavings" that Robert said looked like someone had accidentally knocked over some fish food onto a plate (this was followed by his imitation of a very hungry goldfish...) and then included courses of food that I would never have imagined together -- cornbread ice-cream, a tiny piece of spring lamb with honeydew melon and a streak of carob sauce, wild rice krispie treats.

All day today I've been feeling blessed and well-loved -- and then I remember that I'm leaving in three days and I start, for a minute, to backslide into a state of fretting and hair-twirling. "It's all so simple," I say to myself. Sarah, let go of your worry.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Like a blowtorch

This afternoon, sitting around the kitchen table. Cypress and Sandor were telling me about their most recent trip to India and I said, "How did the two of you meet, anyway?"
And they looked at each other. Sandor said, "We met at 18,000 feet on a mountain in Peru. Cypress was with her father -- and I was with my...father-in-law."
"We were both committed to other people," Cypress said.
"This relationship was like a blowtorch," Sandor said. "It set fire to the rest of our lives."