October 22, 2012

high hopes


It wasn’t that they were so
high, exactly,
they were more
low-down,
close-to-the-ground,
I could rub them
the way you touch a cat
that rubs against your ankles
even if he isn’t yours.

So yes I feel lonely without them.
Now that I know the truth,
that I only dreamed someone liked me,
the cat has curled up in a bed of leaves
against the house and I still have to do
everything I had to do before
without a secret hum
inside.

-- naomi shihab nye

bravely forward, I said. I meant it, though the sentiment comes in flashes of motivation. in between, there are long slow blank spaces. I crawl between moments of conviction. the rain pours.

I really, really miss my friend.

October 16, 2012

bravely forward

small miracles

• I left my shoes on the top of my trunk last tuesday at the barn and wednesday afternoon, just after returning from going to get lunch with a coworker, I came back to the office to see this:

shoe miracle

one shoe was wedged in the door of the trunk. the other one somehow slipped onto the bumper and rode about 40 miles like that without falling off. I couldn't get over it.

related: my car is gross, dudes.

• people who reach out to me as a result of this blog are breaking my heart lately, in a good way. if you have reached out to me -- there are a number of you, some who I know and some who I don't -- it has mattered a lot to me. the idea that people care about me as a result of this thing, which is basically my diary, blows my mind. thank you. seriously.

• last week in the middle of our production meeting I found an old beloved silver ring of mine lodged in my don giovanni score. I've had the ring since high school. I've lost it at least six times, some of them quite dramatically, and every single time I've found it again. this time, I believe I likely lodged the ring in the score when we did the production SIX YEARS AGO. my precious! it was tarnished but otherwise unharmed. over time it had molded to perfectly fit my middle finger. now it's back, and shiny again, like magic.

• girlfriends. all of mine are amazing.

• I've been in california since last week.

IMG_20121011_160747
IMG_20121012_105531
IMG_20121012_132124
santa monica ferris wheel
sunset
monkeys
encinitas
ca sci ceiling

california was sunny and perfect and I got a tan. my sister is still pretty and we still eat too much ill-advised food. we climbed a big tree and went hiking and did yoga and rode the ferris wheel on the santa monica pier and tried REALLY HARD to see the endeavour (but failed because it was so delayed) and ate at the only dunkin' donuts on the whole west coast and watched the orioles beat the yankees (before they lost the following night) and went paddleboarding in mission bay, which is where I discovered that I can do a headstand on a paddleboard in the middle of open water. and so can she, by the way.

large miracles

the road

I also took a road trip from LA to santa barbara for cristina's wedding. I rented a car and drove up the coast. I left pretty early in the morning for a 4 PM wedding, and since it's only a 90 minute drive, I had plenty of time to stop on the side of the road when things got pretty. I pulled over a lot. I had forgotten about the magic of the road, how everything else falls away. I walked up and down a small stretch of beach, picking up rocks and throwing them into the ocean. I dug up sand fleas. I scared the sandpipers away. windows down, hair blowing, sunshine. it was better than I can say. I really needed it.

and then, this:

IMG_20121012_164458
pretty princess
first dance

cristina's wedding gave me something important: a lesson about love. I got to the venue early, and wandered around for awhile before the other guests started arriving. when I saw cristina's mom, I went over and gave her a hug. I hadn't seen her in a few years. I still always refer to her as "mamma z." she enlisted my help handing out some favors to the kids, and brought me, unexpectedly, into the room where the wedding party was hanging out. cristina was in the middle of getting photos taken when I walked in. we looked at each other and both started to cry. I knew I would be happy to see her but I didn't know just how happy I would be to see her. after she finished the photo she ran over and we hugged for a long time, crying. we managed to stop all other action in the room.

the whole night was like that: this feeling of belonging to something precious. lots of hugs from her mom, who held my hand as we all danced to 'we are family.' an encounter with her friend colleen, of insane youtube fame; we were both in line for the bathroom and as she approached I said, "I know you!! even though I've never met you!" and she said, "I know you too!!!" and we hugged and she said, "cristina is so happy you're here. you know, she didn't even cry when simon came in." (simon is her new husband). cristina's dad included me in his speech, by which time I was very openly crying, so overcome by the sudden realization that I had been with cristina through so many of the most important moments leading up to her wedding: the day she called me from LAX, sobbing, after saying goodbye to him in australia, where they met; the late nights she spent skyping with him every night; his first visit to see her; his proposal, which I got to be in on. I thought of how sad I was when she moved to australia, how I truly thought it was possible we might never meet again.

and of course cristina herself, my dear, good friend, who taught me, in her time in portland, so much about the nature of friendship: the early morning drives to the airport, the coffee runs for each other, the late night food cart stops, the hungover mornings, the parties, the goofy days and nights at work. cristina, whose bustle broke midway through the reception, and since we couldn't fix it I just held it up for her so she could dance. cristina, who, when I flopped down into an armchair behind her, sat on me in her wedding dress. my beautiful friend, whose beautiful wedding made everyone feel such joy.

that night taught me a lesson: this is love. real, unfettered, sincere, true love. people who unquestioningly make you feel special and appreciated, people who include you in their most precious of moments, people who love you despite time and distance. without constraint. I needed a reminder of what it was supposed to look like. what it was supposed to look like came up and gave me a hug and I cried, hard.

and so: bravely forward. I still love the one I love, but it is time to move on. kneeling in a bikini on a paddleboard in the middle of california, the sun shining, rowing hard against the current, I felt strong and sexy and full of adventure, and I had a revelation. he would really have enjoyed this, I thought, that is too bad for him, that he chose the path that is not here with me. that: that is the truth. I say it entirely without malice. I wish things were different, but they are not. I forgive, and love; I don't turn my back on that friendship, or what I felt, or what it meant, or any of the beautiful good. but it is time. if I stay mired in grief, then not only have I learned nothing, but also, nothing I ever tried to teach him meant anything at all.

I love you out there, wherever you are, and despite everything, I will for a long time. when I met you I said, 'endings are beginnings. life is so, so good.' may it be so, my dear one. may it be so.

October 10, 2012

I want to tell you a story, because you do not know, and because I want the universe to bear witness to the goodness of the one I love, who himself did not, does not know it. although I understand why everyone who loves me says, "you deserve better," I want to tell you a story about why that's hard for me to hear.

when people who are not my close friends ask me what's going on (if I have had occasion to explain to them that things right now are difficult), the concise answer I give is, "I met a guy and we became best friends and then we fell in love, only he had a girlfriend and now we are not speaking anymore and the loss is very difficult to bear." but here is the longer version.

we met through some mutual friends. we went wine tasting with them and ate pizza. in the car he and I talked the entire time, taking up almost all the room. I spent the whole conversation wildly laughing. we took the scenic route through the vineyards on the outskirts of town and I ended up having to pee so bad I thought I was going to black out. very embarrassed, I had to ask him to pull over at a gas station. 'this is very gauche,' I said, and he laughed and said, 'I love that you just used the word gauche,' and pulled over and let me out and that was that.

he wrote to me the following day, asking about my interest in running some races that were coming up, leaving me his phone number. he had to send it to a relatively unused social media account, because I had deactivated facebook in the midst of getting over scott. I didn't get the message for two weeks. when I finally replied, he texted me that night. 'want to get lunch tomorrow?' he asked. then we sat up texting, me laughing my brains out. I had met his girlfriend, who hadn't been introduced as his girlfriend, and I thought, maybe she's just a friend?

we went on a two hour lunch the next day, sitting next to each other at the ramen place down the street from my office, having a conversation like we'd known each other our whole lives. we walked back to my office, bumping arms. he dropped me at the door of the building; we shyly smiled at each other, and he wished me luck at the half-marathon in vegas, which I was leaving the next day to run.

in vegas, you might remember I got very, very injured. he texted me throughout the weekend, and when I got hurt was more unabashedly sweet and supportive than it felt like scott had ever been. 'you are a rockstar,' he said, as I cried in the bag check area. he checked on me later that night and for every day afterward. beginning that weekend we talked every single day for over a hundred days. (yes, I counted.) that was the nature of our friendship, throughout. over 12,000 texts, all told.

we ran a race in eugene. we each came in third overall, first in our age groups, our times separated by two minutes. afterwards we got coffee and pastries with his friends, and the minute I got into the car I got a message from him. "you are amazing," he said. "my friends think you are so great."

so it went. I began to read all my favorite books again. I practiced my clarinet so that we could play stupid out of tune duets together. I took up a lot of the things I had forgotten about since abandoning them in college. I felt for the first time in years as though I had found a fundamental kernel of myself, that he brought out. we talked about running track meets together, about taking trips. we talked on the phone once a week. we sat up late most nights texting back and forth. I was suddenly, completely happy. someone recognized me.

in february I tore my calf. I texted him from the car, having hobbled two miles through the cold to get back. he called me immediately and I answered the phone in tears. 'what can I do?' he asked. 'I would give anything to come up there, but I can't.' he called me three times that day, giving me injury advice, offering sympathy, checking in. two days later he brought me a gift basket: a huge bucket of legos, a bottle of wine, a chocolate bar, glow sticks (I had just built the blanket fort; they were for lighting purposes), neon knee socks. when I recounted the contents of the basket to a girlfriend, she burst out laughing and said, "holy crap, he's you."

he called me one night after a bad day he'd had; he was in the car and I'd just finished rehearsal. he blurted everything out while I paced up and down the hall, needing to finish cleaning up the rehearsal studio, not wanting to hang up. he had until he got home to get off the line. about eight minutes. I thought, 'why is it me he's calling?' but I would not question it, I would not break it. I loved him. if I could have crawled through the phone and given him a hug, I would have.

every week and a half or so, I'd drive down or he'd drive up and we'd eat pizza, go on walks, make sarcastic jokes, talk about life. the nature of our friendship was intimate and familiar. there was a mostly unspoken undercurrent of love, which did on occasion coalesce into language. "I love you so," he would write to me, late at night, and my heart would leap straight out of my chest. I was too afraid to reciprocate, so for months and months I never did.

as spring turned to summer, we began to ride bikes, to make elaborate plans for our time off together. together, on bikes, he and I hammered out this year's birthday list -- the contents of which he and I alone know. we sat one day at a food cart table and he said, "you have handled your injury with such grace. I know how hard it is," and although it was such a simple thing, it landed at my feet like a life raft, like air after a near-drowning. how easy it was to feel cared for, and how hard it had so often felt in the past.

on bikes we'd ride fast; we'd race; he was faster than me so he'd pass me and then look at me in his rearview mirror and call, "I can see you grinning." we rode all over the place, him all the while glancing over at me from his handlebars, a searching, intense look I could never define on his face. a look I came to recognize, so often did I see it.

one day we biked to a little park by the river, and that was how we began skipping stones. we parked our bikes -- mine was brand new and I was terrified it would be stolen -- and we walked down a little path to stand by the river. immediately I began to pick up rocks, and he followed without a word. we sat there for maybe ten minutes, talking about the water line from a recent flood, talking about moss, talking about all the things we wanted to do.

skipping stones became a sort of sacred thing, a way of spending time together doing something but also not doing something. I brought good rocks in my pocket sometimes, small ones for me and bigger ones for him. this made him laugh. we'd find somewhere on the water and throw them, his traveling farther than mine, me barefoot, sometimes with my feet in the river. we'd scout for rocks and hand good ones to each other. we'd get silly and start just throwing huge rocks into the water, to hear them splash, to splash each other. then we'd often sit and just be quiet.

on the way back we'd pick berries: salmonberries, blackberries. I'd hand him the ripe ones and he'd hand me the tart ones. "a little tart," I'd say; "you are," he'd reply.

we talked about kissing but did not kiss. we talked about holding hands but kept ours to ourselves. we talked about where we would run off to if we could. we talked about what we'd do if we lost our jobs, where we'd move. one day we went hiking and as we drove out, we discovered one of the roads was closed. rather than backtrack, we scouted an alternative route along a tiny gravel road, dust flying in the windows. it was a beautiful day, just before my summer furlough. we weren't convinced it was a real road but we kept driving anyway. I leaned my head out the window and sighed. "I could just live in one of these houses and mow the lawn for the rest of my life," I said. "yes, but where would I put the jaguar?" he asked, joking.

later on that day we sat under a waterfall for ten minutes, and I thought that it was the moment when we should by all rights kiss, but, of course, we didn't.

at a picnic on the river one spring afternoon, we sat on a blanket watching some teenagers have a tennis lesson. he made jokes about them in a low voice. suddenly, a man came down the hill with a cat on a leash, which we could not get enough of. while the man's back was turned, the cat sauntered over to us and plopped down on our blanket, right in his arms. we scratched the cat's belly until the owner came over and apologized. later on, we were talking about our grandparents. 'when I'm eighty,' he said, and I thought, 'we'll know each other when we're eighty?' and something inside me took wing.

"come home," he would say, every time I left town. "come back," I would say, every time he drove away. "for good?" he asked, once. "for good," I answered.

on my birthday he came up first thing in the morning; we went hiking in the gorge, had a picnic, ate birthday cake at the top of angel's rest. we went back into town and wandered around cargo, trying on silly masks, playing with the trinkets. we bumped arms. we tried to get beer at bailey's taproom but they were closed until late afternoon so we ended up at rogue, where I drank a giant beer and we ate tater tots and got sunburned. we had been talking for a few weeks about how I could have anything I wanted, because it was my birthday, with the implication that we could kiss. back in my apartment, at the end of the day, we hugged with a kind of wild longing that felt almost palpable in the air. we could not bring ourselves to do it, so instead we hugged four or five times before we each had to leave again, him pressing his cheek to my cheek, an electric current between us. I came up at that moment against the last of my integrity, driven utterly to despair by the regret that I would never know what it was like to kiss him, sorry beyond all measure that I hadn't just done it. it ate me up. there were days it felt I was made of nothing but longing.

summer: bike rides and ice cream, the continued making of plans. when I came back from north carolina the language between us turned more urgent. something shifted; I could not say what.

I could tell you about the one beautiful, perfect day in mid-august when at last, unable to face another crippling regret, I kissed him on my doorstep while he was mid-sentence, telling me a story about his childhood I had asked to hear; how perfect it was; how I feared for a millisecond that he would draw away in alarm but, of course, how he didn't. how we came into my house and sat in the chair in my living room, how all the truths came out that day, the force of our longing, the fear of what would happen, the thing that had grown between us. I could tell you how it felt to finally wrap my arms around him, to hear him say, "you've made me a better person," to be so close, curled into my chair, lulled by the heat. I could write a novel about those few hours, but I won't say anything more about them, so sacred are they to me now.

I will say that when he left I ran out to the car and kissed him again and he said, "you're afraid you won't see me again," and I nodded, and he said, "you don't have to be afraid." the next time I saw him was the last time I saw him; may be the last time I will ever see him.

the last time I saw him we had lunch and went for coffee. he reached over and held my hand in the car, changing gears with his left hand so he didn't have to let go. over espressos, our arms and legs touching, we talked about what we were going to do about this impossible situation, how hard it was for him, and yet how if it hadn't felt right, we wouldn't have let it happen. leaving, he stopped in the bathroom, and when he came out he strode over and hugged me, picking me up off my feet. we walked back to the car hand in hand. "I think you are the best person I know," he said. "I really mean it when I say you're my favorite." nearly back at the office, still holding my hand, he kissed it. we did not kiss. this was the rule. for the first time, I didn't treat it as if I might never see him again. I sat in the car with him for a long time, not wanting to get out. "every time I drop you off I feel like I'm dropping you at the airport," he said. finally, I got out. as I walked towards the office door, he wolf whistled. I stuck my tongue out at him and laughed. it was all I could do to keep walking.

I wish I had turned back.

what was between us was beautiful, and transformative, and true. I never grew tired of him, never didn't want to talk to him or see him, never didn't miss him when he was gone. when we were together it was playfulness and joy, honest, open. he turned me into a better person. we turned each other into better people. so, while it's maddening, I'm sure, to watch me grieve over such an impossible situation, please understand. my grief is as much about disappointment in what has happened to my friend -- and concern for him, for the rash insane choices he has made -- as it is about disappointment that it did not come to pass. there were times when I believed that what we had was devastating and unsustainable, that I would rather not be friends than go on wanting him. but now I know I was wrong. I would swallow down my desire forever, I think, to avoid having lost him entirely. but so far, no one has presented me with that choice.

I love and miss him, my best friend. I believed he was stuck and fighting hard to find his own inherent goodness, and haven't I been there, and not all that long ago? I forgave him because I have been exactly where he was, and I knew how hard it was, and how empty I felt, how lost. how much of a shell of a person I became. so I believed in him, in how brilliant and funny and wonderful he was, and I believe still, whether or not anyone thinks I should. my stubbornness iron will at work, I suppose.


October 8, 2012

scorned

a thing has happened to me that I guess I thought happened mostly in movies.

the one I love is engaged. and not to me.

.
.
.


I have to just let that sentence sit there for a minute. in a hundred ways, I don't know what else to say.

.
.
.

it feels like a black hole at the center of everything.

it can't possibly be real, can it? it can't possibly be true? that the person who, not even two months ago, hungrily kissed me back on the doorstep of my apartment, has already put a ring on another girl's finger? that the one whose last words to me were "I love you too" has now in great haste decided all of what happened between us must have been a mistake? that the one who said to me, on the phone one night in late august, "when we get married, we can put the OED on our registry," only thought he meant it about me? the person for whom I sincerely asked my mother, "would you ever forgive me if I eloped?"

I cannot compute this at all:

proofs

this and hundreds like it I still have on my phone, quietly saved, though I've been unable to look at them these past weeks. they just live there, in my pocket, a remnant of the recent past: the record of this unthinkable love, the proof that it all lay right there in my hands, and then slipped away.

none of this is anything I will ever understand. all the things that transpired to get us here. the way we believe we have any semblance of control over anything. what our will does for us at all.

I'm sorry, internet. I feel very ugly and graceless, maddeningly willful, and I am sure you think the same. why do I seem to be so unbearably bad at learning my lessons? why is it always so messy? today I feel as though I could just lie down and let the unbearable weight of my grief crush me to death. I am so, so tired. there is no escape from myself, from the utter devastation and disappointment running through the core of me, for a person who I believed was better than all of this. that I knew was better than all of this. that I know is.

what does it all mean? what was it all for? I will never understand. and now, there is just me and the abyss at the center, staring each other down.








7

seven years ago today, my mom called me at sunrise to tell me that my stepdad had died overnight, in the hospice wing of the hospital, his brain hopelessly speckled with inoperable tumors. I can still remember his ridiculous, raucous laugh; the way we always teased him about his hair thinning; the grease always on his hands and under his nails from all the cars he worked on during the day; the sound of his voice as it carried from the full mechanic's garage we'd built next to the house, mingled with the sounds of the lift and the air compressor; his exuberant smile; his ridiculously short shorts; the smell of motor oil on his coat, cold from being outside.

I'll never forget the way I drove through the back roads of my hometown in early fall, a beautiful day, all the colors changing, and thought, 'I recognize there is beauty here, but it is not for me.'

nor will I ever forget the days following the funeral, absurdly nice outside, when one afternoon my mom, my siblings, and I drove to the hanover playground and played the longest and most intense game of freeze tag of my life. we played for over an hour, running like crazy through that most amazing of playgrounds, laughing and squealing. they were eight years old. afterwards we sat on the bank of the susquehanna river, in the sun. all of that impossibly incongruous, but real.

seven years. it gets easier, but also, it doesn't. we miss you, stevie.