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."

Friday, May 19, 2006

you remind me of the Artful Dodger

At last night's meeting of our writing group, Marci said, "There's an old Russian saying about how if you don't love someone, then nothing -- nothing! -- is more annoying than watching them eat soup -- but if you love them, then they could pour their soup over head and you'd still think they're perfect."

Katie said that she'd told her "I-don't-want-to-be-your-boyfriend-right-now" that he reminded her of the artful dodger, and he said, "Who's that?" She told him it was from Oliver Twist -- and he said, "What's that?" And then she had to take the phone upstairs so her mom wouldn't overhear her telling her not-boyfriend who Dickens was.

Phoebe is the one who started this group; Katie and Marci and I had never met before last month. When Marci asked me yesterday if I was having "boyfriend woes," I said no, not really like that, and then looked at my hands in my lap and blinked while Phoebe said, "Together, they are very sweet to each other." When I share the fact that Robert and I have never lived in the same country, people are usually surprised and sympathetic. When I add that we see each other at least once a month, the sympathy turns into a question: "How is that possible?" The answer to which is a combination of frequent flier miles and not having an employer. I have no objection to the former, of course, but am feeling increasingly guilty about the latter.

I was brought up in a family where both parents worked full-time from the time I was born (well, in my mother's case, more like six weeks after) and are still working (except, again, in my mother's case when she took just a few years off to volunteer full-time on the school board). For thirty years, my father has woken up at five-thirty in the morning to exercise; my mother goes on six-miles hikes on Saturdays and Sundays. On the weekends, they take care of the lawn and the house and the recycling. They also read the newspaper every day and cook dinner at night and go out with friends on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights (the last one for the church group).

All of this is to say that by comparison in the last couple of years, I've had it very, very easy. Graduate school, reading, writing, exercise, margaritas, and travel. True, there have been some rough spots (like the moment, after I lost my job in 2003, when I accidentally set my fingernails on fire in front of the Brooklyn library and was too depressed for a few seconds to do anything except watch them burn) but generally, I've been able to set up a life that I love, almost entirely free from six a.m. alarm clocks. Two weeks ago, Robert's mother and my mother asked me, while we were walking along the Pacific Ocean, what I'm going to do this summer and I told them that at least for part of it I plan to be with Rob in London. My mother said, "Well, you need to have structure there," and I said that I was happy to volunteer although it would be impossible for me to get a job in the UK without a work visa. But no, his mother added, "Go on down to that Pilates studio and tell them you're a yoga teacher. Off the books."

Later, I told Robert that something was obviously wrong if his own mother was encouraging me to be become an illegal alien. So I've been thinking about what to do, how I can support myself again without having to use up sick days in order to spend three days with my boyfriend.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

"The Hanged Man"

Sooo, Monday is my birthday. I'll be in New York. I've been harboring this fantasy about either eating pot brownies and going to the Bronx Zoo or paying a visit to a sidewalk psychic. The last time anyone read my tarot cards (Buki, on a train from Rome to Florence in 2001) the hanged man showed up as the future of my love life and given all the stalled drama I'd been trying to pitch to Richard, it seemed depressingly appropriate. The last time I got stoned (a 2003 Halloween party with Shannon in Long Island City), I had to walk around the room leaning into the wall because I was convinced that we were on a boat in the middle of a storm and I was about to fall overboard. I'd also gotten separated from Shannon and stuck in the company of some guy who kept offering me Dixie cups of grain alcohol and lemonade and didn't understand until he saw me sitting on her lap what I meant when I told him that I was with Shannon.

Robert is coming to town on Sunday night, for two days, and I think the chances of my getting him excited about caged monkeys in an outer borough are slim at best. Better to forget that and ask if anyone can recommend a psychic of, at least, not ill repute?

Why I love Elizabeth Wurtzel (excerpt from Bitch)

"And there have been long, struggling years, and my sadness at never getting it right with somebody has been huge. But I also believe in the human project I have embarked on by choosing to remain single (and it is a choice). In the abstract, when I discuss my life alone, my misadventures, my travels, whatever, people always say, "That's so interesting." Or "It's great that you do that." They marvel at the way I prefer to vacation alone, they think it's great that I'd rather provide for myself, buy luxurious and frivolous items for myself, that I love going to double features in the afternoon all alone, that there is pretty much nothing I don't like doing by msyelf. But at the same time that they are impressed or intrigued, this other question looms: Why aren't you married? (To which my favorite reply is: Why aren't you thin?)

"But I thought it ought to have been obvious by now that there is a real value in developing before marrying. We support this notion in men, we believe they should take their time to grow up. But there is a little support for a woman going it alone through some part of her life. Parly it is just risky--women can be raped, and they can be victims of crime, and somehow they make less rugged hitchhikers. And they don't age as well, plastic surgery or no. But still, I think we owe ourselves the opportunity to be free, and in this day and age, it ought to be a given. I want to be married as much as the next person--even Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain saw fit to get hitched--but I want to do it when I am good and ready, which is all that any man has ever asked--it is all he has felt entitled to--and it is all I should ever want likewise.

"After all, there is a point to mistakes, to crying on the bathroom floor searching for the last traces of cocaine. Now that I am thirty, I know for certain that there were things I did in my twenties that I needed to do. Perhaps I might have done them as a teenager or a college student, but I believe that I needed to do them as an adult, a free person, without a tour bus or a counselor or a parent or a roommate or some other guardian there to chaperone me through: There just were things I needed to do absolutely alone.

"I needed to spend a week in Florence by myself, to check into the Excelsior Hotel and eat breakfast and dinner in bed with a view of the Arno, watching soccer on Italian telelvision and be amazingly bored. I needed to walk the streets of this most romantic and recherche of cities all alone, I needed to have Italian men who could tell I was American as if I were carrying the Star-Spangled Banner harass me when I got lost in cul-de-sacs and say the only English words they knew, "aw, baby, you so pretty," I needed to find a kitten in a pretty little street and then find out his owner was a painter in an atelier just behind him, and I needed to talk to that man though somehow he spoke no English and I spoke no Italian; I needed to visit the Tower of Pisa alone and buy a cheesy souvenir replica of it alone; I needed to spend a month in Miami Beach by myself, to walk into a tattoo parlor off the main drag, get some touch-ups on a hand-done India-ink engraving some guy gave me with a needle and thread one drunken college night, and then I neede to fuck the tattoo artist--who had been working on my naked back for four hours--on the floor of the shop afterward just to make sure that the Penthouse "Forum" isn't all lies; I needed to walk the streets of downtown New York for hours a day, afternoons roaming by, shopping in SoHo, stopping for an iced tea at the T Salon, having a manicure once a week at a Korean place in the Village, spending hours going through the sales racks at Barneys, buying lipstick I didn't need at the MAC store, basically throwing away a load of money on a lot of nothing; I suppose, in some strange way, that I needed to have the IRS seize my assets; I needed to cop heroin all by myself on Avenue C or Stanton Street, where it is always midnight, and I needed to nearly get arrested trying to score some dope in Madrid; I needed, I guess, to spend a night in a city jail in Florida; I needed to sleep with the junkie lead singer of a bad heavy metal band and then sleep with his nineteen-year-old brother the next week; I needed to write my first book with no one looking over my shoulder, and I needed to go on tour to promote it with no one special to come home to; I needed to have the best girlfriends you can possibly have on earth, to have relationships with them that have spanned through college, through moves to the Ukraine and London and San Francisco and back again; I needed to believe that I would one day go to law school, that I would be the rightful heir to Clarence Darrow if I ever got into a courtroom; I needed to live, for five years, in a huge and beautifully appointed loft--that I unfortunately had to share with the psychologist who owned it, occasionally with her boyfriend, eventually with her baby and nanny, occasionally with a high colonics administrator, and sporadically with her patients, with many of my own friends who saw it as a crash pad as they passed through town, and ultimately with my roommate Jason, and most unfortunately with an inept flautist who gave flute lessons on Thursday afternoons; I needed, at age twenty-four, to be fucking a ridiculously charming man of forty-eight, so I could know I'd done it with someone twice my age; I needed to drop acid at Walden Pond and do all the ridiculous things people do on that kind of trip, which is, as far as I can tell, the only reason anyone ever goes there, and seemingly the only reason Don Henley wants to preserve it; I needed every meal I've ever eaten alone in every restaurant, I needed every waiter who insisted I read Atlas Shrugged, every waitress who told me what it was liek to be twenty-five and a single mother going to college part-time; I needed every conversation on every plane or Amtrak ride, every born-again Christian, every just-engaged couple who said I was the first the know about their betrothal, every vitamin salesman who gave me free samples; I needed to live alone in several different apartments, a fleabag motel, a luxe hotel and at my mother's house in Fort Lauderdale for a year and talk to almost no one I know almost never because I was so tired from all the other things I needed to do.

"And still, I know I needed to do them.

"I know that I would jealously hear of a vacation of a friend took with her boyfriend to the Loire Valley or with her husband to Montserrat and I would think: If only. I would think: I want to share these adventures I have with someone. But I have had excursions with boyfriends now and then, and I have always found that I preferred the possibility and uncertainty and rank risk of being alone. I needed that, those things.

"I did not want the life I have had until now, but I know I needed it."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Writer's block distraction

1. What time did you get up this morning?
9:50. Which is just embarrassing enough that I'm telling myself (and you) that it's a result of still being jet-lagged from the return from Vancouver. Or maybe it's just because I didn't go to bed until after 1.

2. Diamonds or pearls?
My friend Sarah has the most beautiful necklace of black pearls and when I saw it a year ago, I was hypnotized. Within the past twelve months, though, it's fair to say my attention (obsession?) has been on diamond (singular).

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
United 93

4. What is your favorite TV show?
I don't have a television anymore precisely because I used to have several favorite shows. Like, every episode of Law and Order ever made.

5. What did you have for breakfast?
A glass of cherry seltzer water and orange-tangerine juice. 3 hardboiled eggs with mustard. 1 cup of coffee with honey and cream.

6. What is your middle name?

7. What is your favorite food?
Apples. All varieties so long as they're crisp but particular favorites are Fuji and Mutsu.

8. What foods do you dislike?
Soymilk yogurt, fried oysters, grape jelly, Mountain Dew, chicken nuggets (post-Fastfood Nation), ice-milk, sugar-free pudding, and Velveeta cheese

9. Your favorite Potato chip?
I don't really have one.

10. What is your favorite CD at the moment?
Ani Difranco Living in Clip, Disc 1. It's springtime music for me, and a packing and moving soundtrack -- it takes me right back to 16, ten years ago.

11. What kind of car do you drive?
A 2001 Honda CRV

14 Favorite drink?

15. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be?
The Ashram, in Calabassas, California

16.What color is your bathroom?
Peeling white paint and no sink. But sparkling clean.

17. Favorite brand of clothing?

18.Where would you retire?
I can't think about this question until after I've started working again.

19 Favorite time of day?
Early, early morning (contrary to current waking pattern)

21. Favorite sport to watch?
Basketball; it reminds me of my dad

24. What laundry detergent do you use?
I don't know, I drop it off across the street

25. Coke or Pepsi?
Coke, diet

26. Are you a morning person or night owl?
See #19

27. What size shoe do you wear?

28. Do you have pets?
Nooo but I can't wait to have a dog.

29. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with your friends?
Yesterday Robert and I turned in the completed application-contract-10% deposit to buy an apartment on 16th Street.

30. What (who) did you want to be when you were little?
A combination witch-fairy princess

31. Favorite Candy Bar?
Peanut butter M&Ms

33. What are the different jobs you have had in your life?
Retail sales at clothing stores in Soho and at Kiehls on 3rd Avenue, office assistant , development assistant, temp, private tutor in Costa Rica, newspaper journalist at The Tennessean, yoga teacher

34. Favorite season?

35. Nicknames you've had?
Squealor, Narah Saurus

36. Piercings:
One in each ear and my belly-button

37. Eye color:

38. Ever been to Africa?
Yes, South Africa, Egypt and Morocco

39. Ever been toilet papering?
Yes, poor girl up the street, I'm sorry.

40. Love someone so much it made you cry?
Lord, yes

41. Been in a car accident?

43. Favorite day of the week?

44. Favorite restaurant?
Prune (on 1st St and 1st Ave) for brunch in New York, Pancake Pantry for breakfast in Nashville (sweet potato pancakes!)

45. Favorite flower?
Tulips, orchids, roses, I love everything except carnations

46. Favorite ice cream?
Special Edition -- from 1992 -- Haagen Dazs Carrot Cake. 14 years later, I'm still rallying that they'll bring it back.

47. Disney or Warner Brothers?

48. Favorite fast food restaurant?
Umm, Wendy's?

49. What color is your bedroom carpet?

50. How many times did you fail your driver's test?

51. Before this one, from whom did you get your last e-mail?
Buki Esuruoso

52. Which store would you choose to Max out your Credit Card?
any bookstore

53. What do you do most often when you are bored?
Read, crossword puzzles, "think"

54. Bedtime:
In my ideal perfect life, I go to bed just after the sun sets. In this life, however, it's closer to midnight.

56. Last person you went to dinner with?
Robert, on Vacouver Island. We ordered room service and ate smoked salmon with cream cheese and triangles of rye toast, a green salad with tofu and dressing with cardamon, and cheese. And white wine from British Columbia.

57. Ford or Chevy?
I don't care

58. What are you listening to right now?
Rain, birds, a neighbor 4 flights down sweeping dried leaves

59. What is your favorite color?

60. Lake, Ocean or River?

61. How many tattoos do you have?

62. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
The egg (but really, if you want to argue about this, you'll win)

64. Favorite Cocktail?

65. Red or White wine?

66. Where would you go for a girls or boys weekend get-a-way?
Bikini bootcamp in Mexico

67. What do you want to be?
A published writer

68. Republican or Democrat?

69. Favorite Family Vacation?
Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia

free candy?

I went up to Sarah Lawrence yesterday to turn in the last of my library books (The Boys of my Youth, My Misspent Youth, and The Lives of Girls and Women -- judging by their titles, you might conclude that I've been kind of overtaken by nostalgia for the seventh grade, which would, obviously, not be the case. Hello, suicidal tendencies?) But the weird thing was that on the way to the library, I saw a poster, taped to a recycling can, that read, "F**K the DISABLED! May 12th 10pm FREE CANDY"

?? What is going on? Is that the unfortunately titled name of a band? F**k the disabled? That has to be, hands-down, the worst name ever, no?