half-hearted

The first thing I want to say is that I am drunk. That is the first thing.

The list of categories in my sidebar tells me that this is the not the first time I have done something like this. I do not know what to make of that. Whether that adds legitimacy (?) to this post, or whether it just makes it more pathetic, I am not sure.

In any case, that is the first thing I want to disclaim: I am drunk.

The second thing I want to say is that I love my friends. I mean, fuck do I love them. I can say that it is not exaggeration or hyperbole when I declare that I am alive because of them, because I am. They do not like when I tell them this (I do not blame them), but it is true. I am alive because of my friends. When I am at the absolute end of my rope, the thought of good times and laughs with my friends is the only thing that keeps me tethered. It is the only thing that keeps me from letting go.

All my life I dreamt of having friends like I have now. I don't know what I did wrong, in high school and college and the years afterward. I don't know if I was just a complete asshole, or if the people I was choosing as friends were complete assholes. But I have never ever had friends like I do now. People who save my life without knowing it, with their humor and grace and kindness.

Tonight I went out with mah girl Kerrbear. She is a lovely, wonderful, huge and beautifully hearted person. She has a job she hates, but she works very hard at it. She commutes every day, driving for hours each way. She deserves better, and I have every faith in her that she'll get it, soon, because she is spectacularly dedicated and has a thing which I lack, which is an eye on her long game.

Kerry's long game is amazing. It involves living in Italy. I hope I am allowed to visit.

Anyway.

Tonight, Kerrbear and I went out. We had drinks at one bar, and then another. Lots of drinks. (Also, lots of fried food.)

And I told her. I said, "Kerry, I think I'm going to end it with the dude I have been seeing."

And she made the appropriate face, which was something between sadness and surprise, with understanding thrown in. Because she knows I have liked this dude, and am disappointed that it is not working out.

But I explained to her the thing that I will now explain to you, which is that it could not be clearer how not into me this dude is.

Alas. It sucks, but it is true.

What do you mean, Ellie? you say. How could he not be into you? You are so cool and funny and smart, albeit slightly ridiculous and rather self involved and oh yeah, you're thirty-eight years old and sort of mostly jobless and divorced, and that doesn't exactly recommend you to members of the opposite sex BUT OTHER THAN THAT how could he not be into you?

To which I say, I don't know. It is a thing I have puzzled over for the better part of six weeks, as I have rode the roller coaster which is His Interest Level, which waxes and wanes depending on how close it is to the weekend (i.e., how close it is to the day in which he will be sleeping with me).

I do not know, I tell you verily, but it makes me sad. It makes me sad that at first he seemed very interested in me. Texts and wine and making me dinner and stolen kisses and you know. That sort of thing, which made parts of me (which I will not name lest I embarrass myself further) swell up and feel full of promise.

It makes me sad that despite my doing everything I could in my power to communicate my interest in him, it was not enough to win his interest back.

What do you do? he asked me, understandably, and I tried to explain. I write, I said weakly. I told him I'm writing a novel (which I am! I really am!) and do you know how many times he asked to read something I've written? Any old thing at all?

Zero. He asked zero times.

One day not so very long ago he told me the name of his favorite book, and said I should read it. So do you know what I did? You know, yes. I bought it and downloaded it the very next night and read it. And do you know what he said when I told him I'd done so?

Nothing, basically.

He didn't ask me what I'd thought of it, or express any surprise or appreciation that I'd spent three hours of my life trying to better understand him.

There are, apparently, dudes who will sleep with you, spend an afternoon with you, and then not talk to you for three, four, five days at a time. You can reach out to them and send silly texts to say hello, or just to lob the ball over to their side of the net to say Hey! It's me! Just letting you know you're on my mind, and I'm interested in getting to know you further! - but they will not do the same.

And if you let them, these dudes will continue to do that for weeks on end, under the guise of being OMGbusy.

But it does not take very long to send a thirty second text. In fact, I timed how long it takes to send a thirty second text. It takes thirty seconds.

Also? The only times he ever picked up the phone to call me were to ask for my help with his fundraiser. So that sort of sucked, as well.

Christ I am drunk. Probably screenshot this if you hate me, because it will not stay up long. Or maybe it will. Fuck, I do not know.

This is the saddest thing I have ever written, but also maybe one of the funniest, because I am totally okay with it. I am okay with the fact that some dude is not as into me as I would like, and here I am on the internet being sad about it, like a teenager. It is okay because it is a thing that happens to all of us in our lives. Boy meets girl. One of them likes the other more. Sadness ensues. It doesn't mean I'm not worthy or awesome, or that I won't find someone who CANNOT BELIEVE I haven't been taken already.

Still, I think it's kind of dickish to never even ask to read anything I've written.

I mean, it's what I do.

Anyway.

Now everyone is up to speed. Ellie was seeing a dude who was only half-heartedly interested in her. She realized on Thursday how much that sucks, and decided that she's done with being the object of half-hearted interest.

But she still has fucking awesome friends, and that is something.

Goodnight.

the words

The words sat inside the girl, threatening to choke her if they weren't set free.

"Let us out," they begged. "We'll kill you if you don't."

"No you won't," answered the girl, swallowing them back down again. "You'll die yourselves if I just wait long enough."

"You can't," scoffed the words. "You never could and you never will."

The girl took a deep breath and held it. She willed the air in her lungs to trap the words in a thousand tiny balloons, and carry them off where no one would ever read them. 

"We're still here," said the words, after a moment. "Nice try though."

"You'll only make things worse," the girl sighed. 

"No we won't," the words replied. "We'll change exactly nothing. Not for the better and not for the worse. Things are what they are already. We've had nothing to do with it."

The girl, realizing this was true, said, "Fine. But only a few of you can come out. The rest have to stay. Decide amongst yourselves who it'll be."

The words clustered into a huddle to confer, jostling one another and tangling up their meanings. They spoke in a whisper so the girl wouldn't hear. Finally, they called out, "Okay, we're ready!" and ten or twelve sentences marched forth to be released.

The girl closed her eyes and opened her heart, and dozens of words took flight, beating their wings frantically to get clear of her before she could change her mind.

Those left behind watched, satisfied for the moment. They knew it was only a matter of time before the rest of them would be set free, anyway.

The girl knew it, too. And all she could hope was that when they were, they wouldn't carry her off with them. 

heavier stuff

I published this post a few days ago, and then pulled it, because I realized

Last night, the guy that I've been seeing mentioned the name of a 19th century political tract that he considers one of his favorite pieces of writing. "You should read it," he said. He didn't say why I should, though. I don't know if he wanted me to read it because he thinks I'd find it interesting, or because the ideas in it form the basis of his personal political beliefs - things we talked briefly about over drinks this past Friday night. I don't know if he wanted me to read it because he wants me to better understand the philosophical issues that came up in our talk, or if he wants me to better understand him.

Whatever his reasons were, tonight I did read the piece, for reasons of my own, some of which are listed above, and some of which are not. I'm not someone who typically reads 100+ year old political pamphlets. It would be phony of me to claim intellectual curiosity as a motivating factor. However, if it's a subject about which he's passionate - which it is - then it's something I do want to understand better, because I want to be able to speak with relative confidence about a subject that's important to him. Because I enjoy talking to him. And because I want to know the things that make him tick.

At some point, I assume we'll talk about the piece. I assume, since he encouraged me to read it, that he'll want to know what I think of the ideas in it. And I've been thinking about what I'm going to say to him. I think it'll be something like this:

Right now, I don't care what you think about taxes or gun control or welfare. There are interesting conversations to be had about those things, absolutely. And I recognize that getting to know your beliefs on them will help me better understand you. And maybe the way you feel about those things has something to say about you, fundamentally, as a human being - which will help me know if you're a human being I want to keep spending time with.

But for one thing, I already know we're not so vastly different in our beliefs as for it to be an issue for me. I can only speak for myself, but I don't require that the people I date have political beliefs that match up 100% with my own. I'm usually good with somewhere around 75-80%, provided the other important stuff is in place: trust, communication, mutual respect and care.

And for another, those conversations, while interesting, are also mine fields. And right now I'm enjoying just keeping things lighthearted, because I think laughter and fun are a great foundation to lay down, when you're first getting to know someone. I think those are good things to pave the first few miles of road with. The further we get down that road, the more we know one another, the better chance we have of navigating difficult subjects with success.

So yeah, right now, I don't care about your political beliefs. I care that the other day, you stopped at Walgreen's before coming over, to see if you could find more slushy pops for us. I care that you always take a minute to play with Chaucer when he greets you. I care that when I hobbled back from the bathroom at the bar, you stood up to clear the crowd and help me to my seat. I care that you chose to stay with me Saturday morning and work from my bed, rather than leaving and going into the office. I care that you stay in touch with me even when you're busy, and that you've not once complained about coming downtown to see me for a month straight, since I broke my foot.

And right now, I hope you care less about my political beliefs than the fact that I took the time to read something that's meaningful to you.


What do you say we save the heavier stuff for if and when we've got something solid enough under our feet to support it?

Something like that, is what I think I'll say.

two away zone

I'm having a rough night tonight. I'm so, so sick of being housebound with two bad feet. Yes, two. A couple of weeks ago, I managed to jack up my right foot, I think from all the hopping around on it? I thought it would feel better in a day or two, but instead it got progressively worse. And then I spent all of last weekend running around town on it, going out to dinner, to bars, to the pool, and by Sunday night, it was murder to even stand on it.

Anyway, I know it's just a matter of a few more weeks, so I'm trying not to be a whiner. But these little demons in my head keep whispering things that make me scared, all these what-ifs about improper healing, about permanent damage or chronic pain, about the possibility of not being able to run again.

And I'm at that point where I know I have to ignore these demons and just have faith that everything's going to be fine.

Faith, I have come to realize, is nothing more than the decision to anticipate a positive outcome. And I like thinking of it this way, because it gives me a sense of control where otherwise I felt none. At the very least, I can choose to anticipate good things vs. bad. That choice is mine to make. It's a small thing, but it's something to hold on to.

The one thing that invariably overcomes negative feelings, for me, is taking action of some kind. Action beats the shit out of worry. But there are occasionally times when there really is no action I can take. This is one of those times. Inaction is, in fact, my only and best option.

And it sucks.

---

New to me, music-wise:

The Eastern Sea (The Match, America)
James Vincent McMorrow (Sparrow and the Wolf, Hear The Noise That Moves So Soft and Low)
The One AM Radio (In a City Without Seasons, Sunlight)
The Neighborhood (How)
Radical Face (Always Gold)
Whitley (More Than Life)
Beta Radio (Where Losers Do)
Turtle Giant (Dry Eye, Something That You Need, We Were Kids)
The Helio Sequence (Back To This, Downward Spiral, Shed Your Love, Lately, October, Hallelujah)

There's also a new Washed Out album! Haven't listened to it yet though.

---

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night, with the following sentence stuck in my brain: No one ever had their heart impounded for parking it in the wrong place. 

I've never had that happen. The words were just stuck there, and wouldn't budge. I almost felt breathless when I woke up, it seemed like such an urgent thought. I grabbed my phone and typed it into a note, but beyond that, I don't know what to make of it. I don't even know if it's true. I think I've had my heart impounded a few times, and it was hell getting it back.

Anyway, for fun, I half-baked this up in the Paper FiftyThree app:

safe on the sand

And here's how it might go:

You'll both be walking on the beach, content to stroll along, when all of a sudden she'll run into the ocean, splashing and laughing and looking back over her shoulder, wordlessly daring you to follow. You won't be able to resist at first. She's as vibrant as the sky and you'll want to stay near her. So you'll give chase, catching her in the shallow waves which you'll break together, your bodies pressed close. She'll shiver in the cold and look into your eyes, asking, inviting, challenging. Your arms wrapped tight around her will satisfy you both, for a moment. Let's stay here. It's deep enough.

But then she'll want to go in further, and she'll pull away from you to wade out into the surf. Her movements will slow as her limbs fight the dregs of tides that have come from far, far away - that have always been there, really. Her stomach, her chest, her shoulders will sink out of sight, and you'll feel a twinge of fear as you watch. Be careful. Keep your footing. 

And the currents twisting around her legs will threaten to sweep her away. She'll feel them and she'll want to give in, because the helplessness is intoxicating, and it promises something beautiful, if she can just hold her breath long enough until there's more air to be had. 

You'll want to follow, you'll be sorely tempted, but you won't. You know better. You know there are things lurking beneath the surface that can sting, can cut, can kill. You know that people drown every day, and you won't take the risk. The beach is good enough for you. 

Meanwhile, she'll be deep, deep out in the water. She'll wave to you, beckoning with her arm stretched up as high as she can reach - but you'll just wave back. I see you. I'm not coming in. 

And she'll be disappointed, and momentarily afraid, but she'll keep an eye on the coastline and always know the way back.

And her arms and legs will grow strong from swimming alone, with nothing to hold onto. 

And her lungs will pump and her heart will pound, and she'll feel as alive as she can feel, here on this earth. 

And you'll grow smaller and smaller in her eyes until she can barely make you out where you stand, safe on the sand.


Hipsta: Buckhorst H1 lens, Ina's 1982 film. Location: Malibu, CA.

most excellent news

Super duper quickie foot update, and I'm sorry for acting like EV1curr when I know VERFEWcurr, but I'd feel like a heel (OH SNAP) not updating after the news.

Just saw the doc, and apparently the break is actually already healed. It was a slight fracture of my fifth metatarsal (silly weak pinky), but yes, it's already mended. The pain I still have is because it's still only been a few weeks, and there's lots of bruising, etc.

But the main, most important thing is: no surgery.

I don't need a cast, either. A walking boot is recommended, if I want, to help disperse my weight and get on it again faster. But that's optional, too.

I am so relieved, oh my god.

I have some friends visiting from out of town, one of whom took me to the doc, which, holy crap was it nice to have some company for that. So now I'm going to go join up with the rest of them and have a cocktail or six, because I haven't had a drink since I took my spill, and man am I ready to celebrate.

Thanks loads and loads to everyone who has been so sweet and offering to help me out in all sorts of lovely ways. You guys rock.

Happy Friday. :)

my body, today (edited repost)

Warning: NSFW pics of yr blogmistress below the fold.

UPDATE: I originally published this yesterday, then pulled it after a few hours because I felt squicky about it. But then today a couple of people whose opinions I really value reached out to me to say they liked the post. So I decided to put it back up, but with the photos sized down a bit. I decided that would lessen the squick factor enough for me. I probably will post these on IG (as an exception to my not cross-posting rule), because they do look pretty cool on the phone. So apologies if you have to see them, like, three times when all is said and done.

Thanks for putting up with my quirks, you guys.

----

I took some OMGsexy photos of myself today, for fun. I wasn't planning on it, but the shadows were doing cool things on my sheets, and I thought some boudoir pics might come out nice. A friend is borrowing my Nikon, so I just used my iPhone and a desktop tripod. I thought about redoing them with my dSLR (and, uh, a less wrinkled sheet) when I get it back, as a sort of official update to the boudoir pics I took a couple of years ago. But I'm not sure I care enough to put that much effort into it anytime soon.

Right here used to be a very long paragraph detailing why I choose to share pictures like this. I wrote about three versions of it before I gave up, because it comes down to the fact that I just plain want to, for reasons that are various and complicated (but probably not all that mysterious, at the end of the day).

I am extremely interested in the ways that sexuality intersects with new media. I've got all kinds of half-formed posts in my head about "gpoys" vs. the male gaze, about how women training the camera lens on themselves is a way to reclaim - and reframe - their sexuality, about how vanity can be a gateway to demonstrably positive things like fitness and self care. And I would like to explore those ideas at some point. But all of that has very little to do, if I'm honest, with the fact that I took some sexy pics today and I just feel like posting them.

These are just cell phone pics - not good quality at all (though they look pretty rad on my phone). There are some unflattering angles. My skin is kind of terrifying in some spots. I think my nipples make an uninvited appearance in one of the pics, and the thong is bunched and twisted weirdly in others. But I didn't alter these in any way, other than running them through a VSCO cam filter. So I think they're a pretty accurate and fair reflection of my body, today, at thirty-eight years old.

foot update

A quick update after my cringeworthy, melodramatic post from Thursday: I had additional x-rays taken yesterday, and while I won't know anything for sure until the radiologist speaks to my doctor and my doctor speaks to me, the "off the record" confirmation from the x-ray technician is that yes, my foot is broken after all. Apparently the tissue was so swollen the night of my ER visit that the fracture couldn't be seen. I have to say I feel a bit vindicated by this news since I just knew it had to have been broken, based on how bad it hurt (and still hurts if I attempt to put any weight on it).

The tech told me the break doesn't look terribly nefarious to him, and that while he can't diagnose me or, obviously, prescribe treatment, it doesn't look like a case for surgery to him. If anything, he thinks they might put me in a cast.

I won't see my doctor until the end of next week, but I'm hoping for the best. In the meantime, Chaucer and I are chilling out, reading, and enjoying even more dairy than usual (I am and always have been a massive consumer of milk, and I secretly credit not having a worse break to my bones of steel).

Really don't mean to make a big deal out of this, but I already went and did that with my big tearjerker post from Thursday, so I figured it'd be lame to not at least let everyone know what I found out. Individual replies will be coming forthwith, but in the meantime, thanks so much to those of you who've reached out with virtual hugs or actual offers of help.

I'm touched and very grateful.

party of one

So you find yourself, two years shy of forty, to be a grown woman who's still scared of bugs. And that fear leads you to have a clumsy accident, and you land yourself in the hospital with a severe foot sprain. And it hurts, oh my god it hurts so much, but you take a good hard look around, and you remind yourself that you don't know what suffering is. And you suck it up and smile and joke and you do what you have to do. You look online and find a company that will rent you a knee scooter and a hands-free crutch, so that you won't be entirely helpless for the next month and a half. And the company is called Goodbye Crutches! and it makes you laugh, both at the situation and at yourself.

And they send you these things, which come in a massive box that you push down the lobby ahead of you, hopping on one foot behind it. And there's a basket and a cup holder you can attach to the scooter, which you try to find funny, texting pictures of them to a friend, but which you secretly find depressing. They send you these things, along with weekly emails with subject headings like "How to Handle Depression During the Healing Process." They send you an actual greeting card in the mail that says "Get well soon!" and is signed in cursive by someone named Laura. And this small consideration, this unnecessary, extra touch of service almost reduces you to tears next to the mailbox where you stand. But you can't cry because you've hopped one legged over to the mail area, leaving your scooter parked by the elevator, and the other tenants are coming home and getting their own mail, and you feel ridiculous enough as it is hopping back and forth in front of them. So you don't cry and you throw the card away.

And you go to your follow up appointment, which is a week later than it should have been, because there haven't been any openings at the public clinic you've been referred to. And you splurge on a cab to get there, because while it's only about ten blocks up the road, you can't bear the thought of taking a bus and having to wait while the wheelchair lift is lowered slowly, beeping loudly, holding everyone up, so that you can hobble on with your crutches. And you joke with the cab drivers in front of the hotel up the street, who argue over whose vehicle will be easier for you to get in and out of. "No one wants me," you tease them. "No one wants to give the gimp a ride."

And you don't mind that they decide to send you to the furthest cab from you in the line of five, because it's first in the queue to take a fare. You don't mind that they just point you at it, instead of whistling and calling it over to pick you up. You don't mind at all, because the past two weeks have been an eye opener, in terms of learning how much people, in general, care about helping someone out who's in obvious need. You've had doors slam straight into your scooter, your crutches, and you yourself, as you try to navigate the entrance to your building, while people watch indifferently. You've nearly fallen over a dozen times, trying to work your way past people on the sidewalk who don't move an inch to let you pass.

You wonder if you've been inconsiderate in that way to others, in the past. You wonder if you yourself would have noticed, and helped, and held the door, or cleared space for someone, or if you would have ignored them. You hope not, but you suspect that you probably did, occasionally. And you pledge not to grumble the next time someone in an electric wheelchair almost clips Chaucer's foot as they whiz by, because now you understand the very important difference between the side of the sidewalk that is smooth, and the side that is torn up and uneven.

Now you understand, a little bit.

And instead of growing more bitter each time someone fails to help, you understand that thoughtfulness is not actually the baseline of humanity. That the baseline falls somewhere much, much lower. And rather than feeling resentful about this, you actually just feel an enhanced appreciation for the nice gestures of people, because you realize that they're the exception to the rule. And it doesn't really make you sad so much as determined to belong to that group.

And at the clinic, you fill out your paperwork. You fill out your name and address and medical history, and the relevant medical histories of your dead parents. And you know it's coming, even before your eyes reach it on the page, but you dread it all the same. And when you get to that section, the one titled Emergency Contact Information, you know you should be prepared for this, because it's probably the half-dozenth time in a year that you've had to face down this question without an answer. You know this, and other times it hasn't bothered you at all, but today it does. Today it picks up the crutch you've got balancing at the counter against you, threatening to throw you off balance yourself, because the counter is too smooth and the crutch has already gone crashing to the floor twice, startling the entire room of patients, one of whom scrambled both times to pick it up for you. It picks up the crutch, this stupid fucking question on a document full of other stupid questions, and it jabs that crutch straight into your stomach, except you don't feel the pain in your stomach, you feel it in your heart, because you don't have an answer.

Because you don't have an emergency contact.

So you pick one of your friends from downtown, someone who lives close by, whom you know wouldn't mind, and who'd be there to help you if you needed it, to drive you back home if something happened, if something went terribly wrong. You pick someone whom you know would say "Of course!" and be touched by your asking them permission to make them your emergency contact. But you know they'd feel pity for you, too. You know they'd probably, later that night, as they lay together in bed, tell their spouse what you had asked. What you had needed. What you don't have. And that spouse would have nothing to say, because what is there to say? Life sucks, parents die, people divorce, and sometimes a grown woman is at a loss for just who, in her life, is the best candidate to be next in line to help her should the need arise.

And as you wait almost an hour for your name to be called in a massive waiting room filled with low-income patients, wishing you'd thought to stuff a sweatshirt in your backpack, you remind yourself for the fiftieth time how lucky are. How much worse it could have been. It isn't as if the waiting room is some dramatic illustration of that - it's filled mostly with healthy looking young women and their rambunctious children - but you know yourself to be more fortunate than them in many ways, and you count your blessings.

And when the medical assistant walks you back and weighs you, measures you, and takes your blood pressure, you're unbothered by her impatience with you for forgetting your paperwork from the hospital, and the sidelong glance she gives your iPhone when you take it out to check the date of your last period. You don't take it personally, though you would have, once. Now you know she's just doing her job and her thoughts are probably a million miles away, and you are no one to her, you are not her problem, because she has problems of her own.

So you sit in the exam room and quiz yourself on French vocabulary while you wait for the doctor. And this calms you, and distracts you from that stupid form a few minutes ago, and keeps you from thinking about it, because really, it means nothing, you know. All the security in the world means nothing, you understand, because once you had security too, and it all went away in the blink of an eye. You know security is an illusion, and that anyone who relies on anyone else to keep them safe and happy and loved and fed and housed is a fool, because we are, at the end of the day, truly and utterly alone, and fate has a funny way of teaching us that in the harshest way possible. You know the difference between you and your married friends, between you and the people whose parents are still living is negligible, after all, because there are no guarantees that those things will stay that way, anyway.

You know that, because you've lived it.

So you don't think about it, and instead you think about how pretty the French words for weather are. TempĂȘte. Naugeux. Ouragan.

And when the doctor comes in and looks at your foot, and you see the consternation in her brow, the frown when she sees just how much bruising and swelling you still have, you brace yourself. You very quickly and brusquely tell yourself to keep it together, ask the right questions, and find out what needs to be done. And when she tells you that she suspects they might have missed something in the x-ray at the hospital, and that there may be a fracture in your foot, you concentrate on your breathing, because you don't want to cry in front of this beautiful young doctor, who is being so solicitous and gentle in her manner.

So you breathe and you ask about the worse case scenario, if there is in fact a fracture in your foot. And she tells you that depending on whether it's healing correctly or not, that you'd either need a cast or surgery. Surgery, she says, if it's not healing correctly and it needs to be reset. Surgery, she says, and you feel a black space in your stomach expanding, threatening to turn you inside out (emergencycontact), but you're tougher than fucking nails (emergencycontact), you've been through divorce, depression, and two deaths in the past three years (emergencycontact), you've survived way worse and you'll survive this, too.

And you get the information you need. You schedule an appointment the next day for an x-ray. And you thank the beautiful young doctor and you leave. And you carry your paperwork back down the hall in your teeth, because you didn't want to make the doctor wait while you fiddled with the tricky closure on your backpack. And when a staffperson leaves her desk and walks across the waiting area to hold the door for you, that's when the tears come.

But you hold them.

You hold the tears in the elevator, and you hold them as you step out of the clinic and realize that since you're on a one-way street, you'll have to either switch buses or make your way two blocks to the next two-way street, in order to get back home, which is where you want to be so badly, even though no one is waiting for you there except your dog. And you hold them as you spy a taxi at the hospital across the street, and you hold them as you race against a stoplight, almost tripping in front of rush hour traffic, to get to the taxi before it gets another customer. And you hold them when the taxi driver says sorry, he has another customer already. And you hold them when he says he'll come right back for you, if you don't mind waiting, because he isn't going far.

And you sit (still holding them) on the grass in front of the hospital entrance, and you breathe and try not to think about surgery, or never running again, or not having anyone to take care of you after being cut up on an operating table. You try not to think (still holding) about these things, because there is no point, the universe doesn't care, and all the worry in the world won't change the fact that there may be a fracture in your foot after all. And you think about how good the breeze feels, and you like the clanking of metal on the flagpoles in front of you, and you listen to the flags themselves, the whipping, snapping fabric, and how nice it sounds, like the sail of a ship. And you look around you and you notice what the breeze is doing to some tall ferns behind you, making them sway and dance and tip and bend. And that's when you realize you're not holding them anymore, the tears, but that it's okay, you can feel sorry for yourself and be scared a little bit.

No one will know unless you tell them.

And you watch as a woman in an electric scooter is escorted out and helped into a van. And since you're sitting on the ground, you can see, close up, the wheels of the chair, which are the size of a stroller's, but much thicker. And you stare at the mechanics of this machine, the metal guts of it which are all on the bottom, black tubes and pipes and gears, looking grimy with dirt and oil. And the woman in the chair looks very tired.

So you wipe your tears roughly, because now the taxi has come back, he's come back for you like he promised he would. And that's something. That's a help.

And when you get home, you're greeted with love, with undeniable love. And that's something, too.

And you pull out your laptop, because you need to write, to confess the good and the bad, the uglier sides of yourself and the secret fears you harbor. The cynicism and the hope and gratitude which sometimes is glossier on the outside than it really is, deep inside of you.

And afterward, you feel emptied a little bit, and a little bit better, too. Because you know people care, even if they aren't related to you by blood or by marriage. You know that while you're alone, that you occupy space in this cold, apathetic world as a party of one, that you are thought of with kindness, sometimes, by people whose kindness you've done nothing, really, to earn.

And that's something, too.

expectation v. gratitude



Hipsta: Chunky lens, Blanko Noir film. Location: Malibu, CA. Text: yers truly, ~3am this morning.

PPRL: Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout (winner, 2009)

To those of you who were interested in joining me in the Pulitzer Prize Reading List Challenge back before I dropped the ball, I'm starting it back up again with simpler, looser terms (basically, you decide when you want to finish, then read the list in the order you want; I'll just add your name to the challenge page, and we'll be in it together, but at our own paces). Details are here, but I'll drop those of you who had reached out a line today or tomorrow to see if you're still in. Sorry again for having neglected this!

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Synopsis

Retired schoolteacher Olive Kitteridge is the common denominator (at varying degrees of remove) in the lives of several townspeople in modern day Crosby, Maine. As her own story unfolds and she struggles to come to terms with her own long-fought (or long-suppressed) demons, she moves simultaneously through the lives of her neighbors, bringing with her as she does variously kindness or cruelty, grace or disgust, anger or love.

My Thoughts

There are thirteen chapters in the book. Thirteen times, I found myself reeled in immediately, captivated by these interlacing stories; I absolutely loved this novel. The prose is simple and clean, and the characters wonderfully, tragically relatable. The construction and pacing of the novel itself is brilliant: building in intensity, then waning, then ratcheting back up to the final, heartbreaking chapters. Olive is an extremely compelling protagonist: terrifying, pitiable, admirable, lovable, and just plain fascinating. I could have happily followed her for another thirteen chapters.

Selected Excerpts

Walking back to his car at the marina on those mornings, he was sometimes surprised to feel that the earth was altered, the crisp air a nice thing to move through, the rustle of the oak leaves like a murmuring friend. For the first time in years he thought about God, who seemed a piggy bank Harmon had stuck up on a shelf and had now brought down to look at with a new considering eye.

---

What young people didn't know, she thought, lying down beside this man, his hand on her shoulder, her arm; oh, what young people did not know. They did not know that lumpy, aged, and wrinkled bodies were as needy as their own young, firm ones, that love was not to be tossed away carelessly, as if it were a tart on a platter with others that got passed around again. No, if love was available, one chose it, or didn't choose it. 

Werds I Lerned (Or Had Fergotten)

digitalis - the dried leaves of the foxglove, used in medicine as a heart stimulant
rugosa - a widely cultivated Southeast Asian rose, with dark green wrinkled leaves and deep pink flowers
impatiens - a plant having irregular flowers in which the calyx and corolla are not clearly distinguishable and bearing fruits that burst open to scatter the seeds
hackmatack - an American larch of the pine family 
glial - the delicate web of connective tissue that surrounds and supports nerve cells
asseverate - to assert or declare emphatically or solemnly
grange - a farm, with its farmhouse and nearby buildings

Next Up

Empire Falls, by Richard Russo 

amendment

So, uh, I just re-read the last couple of posts I wrote about the guy I started seeing, and I just want to say this: I barely know this person. I've seen this person, like, a handful of times. I realize upon re-reading them that my posts give the impression that I know him better than I do, probably (especially?) because of the bit about "protective walls." And it's not sitting well with me.

Sometimes I let my writing get carried away with itself. I turn my experiences into stories because for one thing, I want to be a professional storyteller. I need all the practice I can get. And for another, I just enjoy doing so. It's my creative release. Some people paint. Some people cook. Some people make films.

I write florid, slightly gushy blog posts about the men I date. 

I like this person. I've enjoyed getting to know this person. I'm more interested in continuing to get to know this person than I have been with anyone for a while. But yeah, I barely know this person. 

Anyway, that will conclude this edition of Amendments To Blog Posts Written Under the Spell of Post-Date Bliss.

C'est tout.

downtime

I've been inspired by Orange is The New Black to make the best of my sprained foot forced downtime - to "make my time count," as Piper says. So I set a goal: finish the latest decade's worth of reading from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel list by the time I can walk again.

Here's what I've got left:

2013 - The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
2011 - A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
2010 - Tinkers by Paul Harding
2009 - Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
2008 - The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
2007 - The Road by Carmac McCarthy
2006 - March by Geraldine Books
2005 - Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
2004 - The Known World by Edward P. Jones
2003 - Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
2002 - Empire Falls by Richard Russo
2001 - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
2000 - Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

I just finished Tinkers, by Paul Harding, which is short but dense.

Synopsis

Clock repairman George Crosby lays in his death bed and reflects on life, while his family keeps vigil and comforts him in his final, hallucination-filled days. His memories are intermingled with those of his father Howard, an epileptic traveling salesman with a poetic soul. Howard's long-suffering wife plans to have him committed; learning of this, Howard runs away (leaving George and his siblings) to start a new life. The story weaves together narration from two time periods, dream sequences, snippets of a clock repair manual, and even bits of Howard's own writing to describe a world of intergenerational love and loss.

My Thoughts

I'm not typically a big fan of existentialist drama, and the whole dad-dying-in-a-hospital-bed-in-the-middle-of-the-living-room bit cut a little too close to home for me (I felt myself mentally distancing from the more graphic and painfully familiar passages). But I got sucked in to Howard's story, and I found the depictions of his epileptic fits fascinating and beautifully written. And while I wasn't exactly captivated by the plot as a whole, I admired the novel's consistency of mood: dark, slightly tense, and occasionally delirious.

Selected Excerpts

And as the ax bites into the wood, be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it. And when you resent the ache in your heart, remember: You will be dead and buried soon enough.

---

Her stern manner and her humorless regime mask bitterness far deeper than any of her children or her husband imagine. She has never recovered from the shock of becoming a wife and then a mother. She is still dismayed every morning when she first sees her children, peaceful, sleeping, in their beds when she goes to wake them, that as often as not the feeling she has is one of resentment, of loss. These feelings frighten her so much that she has buried them under layer upon layer of domestic strictness. She has managed, in the dozen years since becoming a wife and a mother, to half convince herself that this nearly martial ordering of her household is, in fact, the love that she is so terrified she does not have.


Werds I Lerned (or Had Fergotten)*

dolce far niente - pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness
vastation - a laying waste; waste; depopulation; devastation
tintinnabulation - the ringing or sounding of bells
balky - given to stopping, and refusing to go on; difficult to operate or start
horology - the art of science of measuring time
capstan - rotating spindles used to move recording tape through the mechanism of a tape recorder (example)
imbricate - having regularly arranged, overlapping edges, as roof tiles or fish scales (example)
craquelure - a network of fine cracks or crackles on the surface of a painting (examples)
ogee - a curve, shaped somewhat like an S, consisting of two arcs that curve in opposite senses, so that the ends are parallel (example)
gnomon - the projecting piece on a sundial that shows the time by the position of its shadow (example)
clepsydra - an ancient device that measured time by marking the regulated flow of water through a small opening (looked like this)
anneal - to subject (glass or metal) to a process of heating and slow cooling in order to toughen and reduce brittleness
finitude - the quality or condition of being finite
vitreous - of, relating to, resembling, or having the nature of glass; glassy
fugue - a pathelogical amnesiac condition during which one is apparently conscious of one's actions but has no recollection of them after returning to a normal state
columbine - a perennial herb (examples)
ossuary - a container or receptacle, such as an urn or a vault, for holding the bones of the dead (example)
dun - a dull, grayish brown color

Next Up

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout

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*I know, I'm a total dork. The more times I write them down and define them, though (and look at examples), the more likely I am to actually learn them.

When I was in college I used to create index cards for every new word I came across. I was obsessive about it; I had hundreds of them, all alphabetized and neatly boxed in dozens of small plastic cases. I'd test myself on them for no reason other than the pride of knowing obscure, random words that no else did. I guess it was just a nerdy hobby? I even roped my boyfriend into helping me - I remember sitting with him at LAX when I was twenty-five, waiting to board our flight to Bora Bora, and having him quiz me with flashcards. Mind you, this was at a time when I was dancing my way through school. The jet setting stripper/English major who studied vocabulary words in her off time. Hilarious.

I ditched the cards when I got married and felt overwhelmed by having a 3000 square foot McMansion full of crap to organize, keep clean, etc. But I wish so much I'd kept them.

I've started making them again. Nerdy hobbies FTW. :)

sheers

I had company on Friday night; he stayed until Saturday afternoon. He brought all the necessary ingredients for stir fry with linguine, a bottle of cabernet, popsicles, and a new toothbrush. After he left, I found the toothbrush resting on my bathroom counter, neatly tucked back into its opened package. I haven't moved it yet. It's been a very long time since someone stationed a sleepover toothbrush at my place.

After dinner (which he cooked), we lay in bed and watched Netflix for a while before going to sleep. He held me all night, lifting the covers for me to climb under when I'd hop back from the bathroom. In the morning we watched more Netflix. I didn't tell him that I'd continued watching Orange is The New Black without him - that I had in fact finished the season. I played dumb and feigned surprise and bit my tongue when he made predictions about the storyline. We ate slushy push up pops that he brought back to bed for us, comparing flavors. We fell back asleep listening to Angus Stone, then woke up and ate more popsicles.

His eyes are bluer than seems reasonable, and looking straight in them for more than a few seconds at a time feels like some kind of theft. Like I'm stealing something I haven't been given the right to even borrow. He reminds me very much of me: in his temperament, in his sense of humor, in the mixture of cynicism about relationships that I sense in our conversations and the optimism about them demonstrated by his actual behavior. When I think about the effort he's putting into spending time with me, considering how far away he lives and works, and how much he has going on in his life at the moment (he's in the middle of planning a huge charity event as well as trying to find a new place to live), and how limited I am without a car - or even two working feet - I find myself a little bit shocked and lot grateful.

It's been a long time since I felt something other than casual ambivalence from a guy.

It's a really nice change.

That being the case, I can feel protective walls going up. This isn't some dude I picked up or was picked up by, and from whom I expect - and want - very little. This isn't someone who's treating me like an option. This is someone I've been spending time with here and there, and getting to know incrementally, and who's making me feel like he's enjoying it as much as I am. I hope it continues, and in the interest of keeping it special and letting it unfold as naturally as possible, I'm going to give it - and him - some privacy. Maybe not blackout curtains, because this is my life, too, and blogging is a part of it - but sheers, anyway. Something to pull open or shut as feels right and respectful.

One of the reasons I blog is I love commemorating the events and people that make an impression on me - the things I don't want to forget. But it's a fine line to walk sometimes, because the places where my experiences intersect with those of others - those are shared spaces that don't belong to me alone. This is me edging up to that line, to remind myself that it's there and real and should be minded.

Some light, some shadow - nothing too clearly defined or exposed, in this particular room in the metaphorical fishbowl that constitutes my life: sheers.