abeyance

I went to the coast yesterday, with Erin. We bought lunch at a seafood restaurant in Malibu that had temporarily set up an outside drive through. A tent for staff taking orders, a standing beverage cooler stocked with canned beer and sodas, and the hallmark charm of SoCal seaside fish shacks: hand-drawn chalkboard menus.

Fifty-five bucks got us fried clams, fried squid, fried onion rings, french fries, and two bottles of water. Would we like ranch for dipping? You bet your sweet mask we would.

Across the highway from the restaurant is a small pullout overlooking County Line Beach. We ate in the car, gazing out at the ocean and debating the graces of surfers vs skaters vs snowboarders while eating regrettably massive portions of deep fried fare. So bad. So great.

When we'd had enough, we moved to a wooden bench bolted into the cliff side of the rusted out guard rail. We watched the young and the athletic suit up, stretch out, and wade determinedly into the tide, tethered by the ankle to their beat-up boards. Midwesterners, we admire but do not understand surfing.

How do they not bang into one another, when they cluster up like that? 

Ugh. I could never find my balance.

Isn't the water too shallow, where the waves hit?

For some of them, it had to have been their first post-lockdown surf. I bet it was glorious. It looked glorious, to be battered clean by waves that seemed strong enough to smack COVID-19 all the way back to Wuhan.

I envied them their fortitude. Too cold for my blood.

Me, I'm still waiting for my own post-lockdown burst of freedom. I had drinks in a real live bar last week, and I go for maskless runs in Hancock Park almost every night. But I'm pining for something big. Something commemorative and regenerative. An overnight in the woods, maybe. A full 24 hours with nothing on my face but fresh air. We'll see.

Out of nowhere, a black and white Border Collie appeared in the weeds near our feet. But she had no interest in us. She sniffed around impatiently while her human locked up the car, then bounded down the cliffside ahead of him. Erin and I looked at one another, briefly terrified - so steep, oh my god, is she - but when I stood up to check, she was already splashing around in the water's edge.

We watched man and dog play frisbee in the grey June gloom. Leaps and barks and digging and laughing and scolding and tricking and laughing again, until a sandy-haired, slump-shouldered teenage lifeguard came by to stop the sport. County Line is not a dog beach. No off-leash play today.

Girl, tell us about it.

Eventually I declared a need for ice cream, because fuck self-restraint during a pandemic. We got back into the car and wound our way down to Brentwood, for scoops of Salted Caramel and Lemon Verbena at Sweet Rose. Five thousand stars.

Then, neither of us feeling inclined to return to "real" life, we had a single, drawn-out cocktail in Santa Monica. It was lovely to be out, out of my house, out of my work - but it's just not the same. Servers in masks and plastic face shields. Restricted seating placements. Rules underlining everything. Low-grade anxiety and hyperawareness unescapable.

I know we've got a long road left, and I'm grateful for the social and professional diversions I've been blessed with (my work never closed - I'll tell you about it in another post). But if you've been wondering how I've been doing? I've been holding my breath. I've been surviving, but generally ill at ease. Everything feels suspended. On hold. Life in abeyance.

Is it the same for you?

the focus it takes

True story: I learned to run in the city by pretending Hamilton Leithauser was waiting for me in my bed, and that when I got home, sweating and triumphant, he was going to make me yell like he does in songs like Angela Surf City and Victory and, really, any song by The Walkmen that showcases those fucking pipes of his. After a shower, of course.

Learned to run? you ask, understandably. Well. Running around the financial and industrial districts of downtown LA takes some getting used to. They're not the friendliest or safest or cleanest of streets. You've got cracked sidewalks, tents, rats, stoplights, and plenty of suspicious characters to contend with. It takes some focus.

So with Hamilton screaming encouragement in my ears, I got used to the terrain. 

Hilariously, I ended up dating a dude who was an actual real-life friend of the singer's. So after a show one night, I was introduced. I think I said something terribly maudlin about his music helping me cope with the death of my father. True enough, but wow what a lie compared to the real story. 

Then I went completely underwater with EDM and never really resurfaced. My current run album is Stream of Consciousness by Spencer Brown which if I could force you to listen to one track from, it'd be this. Or maybe this, which is the funnest song I have ever danced to everrrr, at a festival (Dreamstate last November). Pure joy, amirite?

But lately I've been listening to Hamilton again, on the train mostly. To and from work. His voice is my personal fight song, and these days I am fighting very hard - to stay in control of my emotions, to trust the process, to see the big picture and have faith in better days ahead.

We all miss our friends, I know. Our families and coworkers and other familiars. But I also miss parts of myself that I put aside over the past year, in an effort to - well I don't know, really. In an effort. 

Trying to get back. Trying.

Sound on

note to self-soothe

Silence can only be weaponized against those who don't have all the words they already need, right inside of themselves.

That is the writer's escape hatch. You can push her down into a quiet, dark place where her hardest, most fatalistic thoughts can just fucking have a go. Eventually, though, she'll come to her own defense. Out will come the pen and paper, and she'll stack word upon word upon word until she's made a ladder to climb up on.

The words never fail to fix. The pieces can always be puzzled through.

There is no disarming a writer whose weapon is invisible and timeless.

so it goes

Last night was the first night where thinking of you didn't feel like slicing off a piece of my stupid, unteachable heart. I think it was the breeze, which caught the thought that keeps catching me unprepared (bodysuit, so high, you had to help me find my way into it, did you still feel the same or were you already gonnnneee), unable to breathe.

Instead of pain there was nothing. A memory, factual. Neutral neurons, fired.

That's how I know your eviction notice has been served. And yes, the courts have been closed, granting you this rent-free stay. But everything is opening back up. I'll soon be sitting down with the constant ones in my life, the reliable rocks who'll tease me back to myself. 

At least he was better than... At least he didn't....

And I will be reminded of the small army to which you've enlisted yourself. Your rank and title among them my secret. Your files my privilege alone. You were best at x, you were worst at y. I lied about this (while you lied about that).

It will be easier and easier until one day I cannot believe becomes I cannot believe I and then finally, I cannot believe I ever.

And so it goes. 

legacy

My inbox is full of your invisible apologies. I'm writing them for you because I know you can't.

You should know the only thing I don't forgive are those final words, unjustified, untrue, and ugly. They threaten to stain my every last loving thought of you.

I even forgive the betrayal, the living lie you brought into our sacred space. I forgive it because I know how desperately you need distraction after distraction, to keep the demons at bay.

But here is the thing. They're not really at bay. They're there. You can shove all the guilt and shame you feel right now, over this unnecessarily cruel ending, under your bed and numb yourself to sleep. But while you're drooling on your pillow, they're crawling into your open backpack. Settling into your worn out pant pockets. Clicking with finality onto your keychain.

And if you don't figure out where the fear and pain comes from, your saga of self-sabotage will never end. And the things you try and hide from will never let you be.

The only words you should have said, if any, were It wasn't you. Or maybe Just know: you are enough. I know this, of course, and have good friends to tell me over and over, as many times as I need.

But for all I gave, for all I forgave, that is the one thing I can't get past. Do with this information as you like. Make it right or don't.

I know how to write the apologies I should have gotten.

straw, camel, back

Do you remember the first night? You touched me in some way that I made some noise. "Shhh," you whispered, and in that instant you owned me forever. But do you remember, also, me telling you how much I loved that you did that? "I can't wait 'til you do it again," I said. "Promise me you'll do that again, just exactly the same."

Only you never did. 

And that's what I'll remember. That you so easily could have made me so happy, with something so simple. But you didn't listen, or you didn't remember, or you didn't care enough. 

They say people will forget what you said and did, but they'll never forget how you made them feel.

---

I have been blocking and unblocking your number, like some kind of weird game of iPhone Russian Roulette. I block and tell myself I feel empowered. I unblock and tell myself I'm not waiting. 

Waiting is the thing that killed us, just so you know. Not this big long last wait, while you got enough power over your demons to open your life back up. Instead it was the dozens - literally, dozens - of small waits. The many, many, many times you left me waiting around for you. Made plans with me. Then just never showed up. Canceled. Chose something else. 

Saturday night was just one time too many of looking forward to being with you but being let down instead. I want the record to be crystal clear on that. That's all it was. One too many broken plans. 

The simplest explanation is sometimes the most heartbreaking, but I learned last time around that no explanation is just pure cruelty.

So that's why. Straw, camel, back. Broken.

tako kichi

There once was a girl determined to fly a broken kite. She didn't know it was broken, of course. Every time she couldn't get it skyward, she just made up a new excuse.

"Not enough wind today."

"The string must be too heavy."

"If only I could run faster..."

Some days she was so discouraged by her failure, all she could do was sit sadly, holding the kite, wishing desperately to see it soar. She ran her fingertips across its smooth paper, ignoring the splinter in her thumb. She wound its tail around her wrist over and again, loving the sense of being tied to something so beautiful. "Next time," she said. "Tomorrow for sure."

The girl didn't tell anyone about the trouble she was having. It was too embarrassing to admit. After all, she thought she had everything necessary to achieve flight.

Then one day, she found the crack in the kite's frame. It was large and obvious, and she felt stupid for not seeing it before. She let disappointment wash over her like icy wind, and tried not to feel angry about her wasted efforts. She admitted her shame to her friends, who laughed and hugged her. "The only thing you're being stupid about," they said, "is acting like that's the last kite on earth."

She smiled back, knowing they were right, even while thinking: Not the last. Just the one I wanted most. And then she noticed how welcome the cold breeze actually was: bracing and fresh and full of winter's calm. It was so cold that it threatened to freeze the tears on her face and keep them there forever - but she knew better about that, too.

in dreams

I have been dreaming about you - whoever the fuck you are.

Dreams that leave me breathless, bewildered, exhilarated, excited. There have been two now; the second, just today. They feel like a story, building.

So what were they? Hard to explain. We're running, partly to escape something, partly to reach something else. There is urgency but no fear. There is danger, but we aren't afraid. We move with superhero skill and speed through a dreamscape of dystopian obstacles that cannot stop us. We scale impossibly tangled metal fences; we swing across menacing divides.

All that is clear is that we are having the time of our fucking lives, because we know we are strong and safe in our connection. Everything that is ugly and painful in this world falls away in the rearview, because we are in on life's single most empowering secret. All we ever had to do was choose it  - and keep choosing it, every day.

I don't know what you look like. I only know how you make me feel, in the depths of my subconscious.

See you there again, or here one day, or neither, who knows.

of puppies and backsplashes

Hi, hey, how are you?


I hope every single one of you, whether you're a longtime loyalist or a leering lurker - whether this popped up in your subscription inbox or you just happened to do a drive by and see I came through - is happy in at least a few ways and living something at least somewhat resembling Your Best Life.


I have news.


That's a conversation I had about an hour ago. In case the contextual clues aren't enough: I'm moving in with the ridiculously hot blonde pictured at the top.


You know me. You know my tendencies towards hyperbole and sentimentality where romance is concerned. So I'll try not to go there. I'll try not to gush and instead point at those texts right there by way of explanation and evidence. Seven months in and that's where we're at: imminent cohabitation.


Not that it matters (other than for the sake of this decade+ narrative I'm still running here), but he brought up the idea first. We are both utterly dog crazy, both desperately wanting a pup back in our lives (his ex took his to another state when they broke up two years ago). And so he very casually started to drop the occasional "what if" into our conversations, usually when we were cuddling and being especially close. "What if we got a little boy pup and named him Holden?" "What if we got a little girl pup and named her Scout?" And I would smile on the outside and smile even bigger on the inside and just enjoy the feeling of a man liking me enough to even consider that scenario.


And the what ifs became more serious in tone until one day he was sending me links to listings of two bedroom apartments and we were getting granular about what neighborhoods would work.


But I should back up.


Hello, hi, how are you? I am Ellie, former lady of leisure who now runs a restaurant and has roughly 1/100th of the free time she used to, when she was your scandalous near-daily-read-of-choice. I very much miss having the time and energy to blog like I used to, but man does it feel good to have structure, purpose, income, self-respect and the respect of others. I get to give people jobs and solve problems all day. I'm really good at it most days. My boss just told me I'm getting a raise. It hasn't even been a year since my promotion.


Professionally, I'm 8/10.


Socially, I'm 6/10. I don't get to see my friends as much as I'd like, but who does? I feel very close to all of them - those who have chosen to stay in my life, that is - and that's enough for me right now.


Physically, I'm 6.5/10. I have a pretty good exercise routine but holy fuck is it a daily fight to eat well when you work in a restaurant with so many tempting options.


Emotionally, I'm 9/10. Despite the fact that my life is mostly work, I generally feel peaceful and grateful. I've made some changes in my lifestyle that have freed up a lot of mental energy and made me more calm. I only spend time with people (both IRL and online) who give me a positive charge, who show me genuine love and care. I avoid Instagram like the fucking plague. (I haven't been on Facebook in years.) I very carefully curate my media intake. I cut out podcasts that overstimulated me or triggered me in any way, including most news. I spend at least some of every night at home with no media going whatsoever - not even music. Just pure quiet. And I'm currently on a Twitter detox, after realizing I had gotten way, way too emotionally invested in the Yang campaign.


Oh, and I'm wildly in love with the first boy who's ever actually said the phrase "I'm in love with you" to me. So let me tell you a little bit about that, with as little hyperbole as I can. (No promises.)


Somewhere around the end of summer, something shifted between us and I realized that my insecurities about him were unfounded and just plain in the way of loving him. Actually, I shouldn't put it that way. It was less a passive realization on my part than a series of active expressions and, well, actions on his part that made me feel that way. He became open and emotionally sharing with me in a way that he hadn't been before. At first this made me almost resentful in an "aha! I knew you were just as human and needing of love as me!" kind of way. But I've come to realize how beautifully organic it was. He was simply taking his time to feel his emotions and not rush in until he was sure. And then he became sure, and because it was on his own time and at his own pace it feels so pure and authentic.


But let me tell you about his birthday. That was a real leveling up between us. Check. This. Shit. Out.


Kenny loves adventures. Even simple ones like picking a recipe and following it. He loves new experiences. Loves learning - loves, even, trying and failing. But he doesn't love planning. He doesn't love logistics.


So I texted him on a Thursday (i take Fridays and Saturdays off) and said, Yo. I'm kidnapping you for your birthday. Overnight. Not telling you what or where, but I'm giving you three choices. Fun Fancy, Fun Adventurous, or Fun Playful. You have to choose one.


And then in my head I planned out three distinct adventures along those themes.


All three, he said.

No, I said. You have to pick one.


He chose Fun Adventure. But it ended up being all three after all. And it was so awesome. And he was so grateful. It couldn't have gone more perfectly or made us more close.


And I will tell you about it when next we meet, but now it's 11pm and I have to get up early so I can go be a human with a job, a boyfriend, and lots to look forward to.


Back soon.

for no other reason

Literally the sole purpose of this post is to show that I looked cute the other night, when I went to a fancy dinner.



That's it. That's the post. 

Forgive me.