While writing a prescription on Wednesday, the podiatrist asked for my full name. After I told her, she said, "That's a beautiful name." It is, but it has always felt too regal for me. Besides, the meaning of Anne is grace, and I'm quite clumsy. If there were a name that meant "competent for the most part," my parents should have chosen that one. But they didn't.
Earlier this year, after going through considerable tumult, JC said that he didn't just want to get better; he wanted to reach a state of grace. For him, that quest has involved (among other things) devoting more time to painting and going on obscenely long runs along Lake Michigan. That made me think about the beauty of feeling completely present in a moment. When I played soccer in high school, there were times when I just knew the ball was going to come my way, and I was going to handle it beautifully. I could visualize it all before it happened. And when it did, it felt as though there'd been no other possibility. It all happened as naturally as breathing. My mind would clear, my fingertips would feel electric, and I would move fluidly — as though guided into a near future that was waiting for me to catch up to it.
That's what grace means to me: Not just knowing in your head, but having every nerve in your body feel that where you are is exactly where you need to be. Over the years, I have spent so much time struggling to change the immutable, or wallowing in pools of perceived helplessness. I look back and realize how much it would have helped to surrender. To shift my perspective and accept a given situation rather than try to produce an impossible alternative. Few regrets, but, you know, I was a dumbass from time to time.
Words fail me when I try to describe how difficult the past two months have been. (The autumn of my discontent?) In a surprising way, though, it all feels right. I mean, yes, I'd much rather be able to walk on two legs to my father and tell him stories about Spain. But that's impossible. This mourning has to happen, and it will hurt. I don't want to bury the pain; I don't want to run away from it or sneak around it. I want to walk straight into it to get through it. And I'll do all of this on crutches, because, to steal from Eleanor Roosevelt, you must do the thing you think you cannot do.
The Jayce wrote this to me yesterday:
Pain, unfortunately, is an excellent catalyst for growth and change, the same way fires are essential to the long-term health of the forest as a whole.
That, too, is grace. So it's time to try to live up to the name my parents gave me. Set the ground ablaze. Let flames lick every tree. Fall into the embers, inhale the ashes. And then wait for the first green shoot that will inevitably push its way through dirt to reach the sun.
Labels: emo spice
The other night, Miles said something that, like so many of the things he's said over the years, was direct and true. I'm too nice, he said. Initially I protested, and I whipped out a few tales that proved him wrong, but in a lot of ways he's right. I genuinely want to believe the best about people, to trust in the truth of their words and to find goodness in their hearts. It isn't my nature to assume the best — one of the things I first think when I see a man alone at night is, "If this guy forces himself on me, where do I run?*" — but I have a deep and desperate desire to have faith in people nonetheless.
The problem, and the part that incorporates Miles' comment, is that I often can't believe it when someone's being a royal shit. It just doesn't make sense to me, and because of my stupid empathy, it's easy to understand why that person is that way. It's not that I excuse horrible behavior, but I often can tell where it's coming from. So it's easier to not take it personally, though I still wind up holding residual hurt. (With great emo power comes great emo, um, emoness.)
By the way, I'm not trying to make it seem like I'm some superbly well-adjusted individual who never hurts anybody's feelings. My faults are numerous and my words sometimes come out as jagged daggers. The point is, I've always been particularly sensitive — to light, sound, scent, and yes, to emotion.
Anyway. I have often chosen to believe in the good because I so much wanted something glimmering and beautiful to be there, rather than noticing that that shiny thing was actually mercury. So I'm saving my "nice" for only those who deserve it. On the surface, this sounds like a bitter defeat, but it's actually a positive step. It means simultaneously smiling and staring someone down, hoping for kindness and truth but not falling for a mirage of those things. For some reason, this shift feels like the beginning of being better to the right people. It feels good, like stretching after a long plane ride. (Remind me of this perspective if it all blows up in my face.)
* This is, I'm embarrassed to admit, the reason that I do not leave the house at night alone these days. With only one good leg, I feel vulnerable, and not in the way my therapist encourages me to be. (Unless she's hoping I get mugged or assaulted, which I seriously doubt.)
(PS) I just realized this looks awful on Safari. Sorry. I use Firefox and write shit code.
Labels: emo spice
Super 8 movies have always had a unique allure. They're so beautifully slowed-down and sun-dappled, immediately delivering the blurred warmth that otherwise comes as time soften memories. My family never had a video camera, but we took pictures; the late-'70s light washes everything in tan, and I imagine that's what it must have looked like back then.
When I found out that my dad was terminally ill (odd phrase, that) I kicked myself for not having my video-ready digital camera with me. Since then I have leaped into small puddles of panic, drowning in the possibility that I may someday forget his movement, his laugh, the sound of his voice. I can still see and hear everything if I close my eyes, but what if that changes? What if I forget some nuance of his gestures or tilt his cadence a half-step? I am petrified, heart pounding like a child bolting awake from blood-drenched nightmares, that I will somehow lose my father more than I already have. And if that happens, even if I misremember only a sliver of him, I fail both of us.
On Sunday, Betty brought me his old Nikon. Even though I have no idea how to take pictures with it, it's enough that it was his. It's still attached to the avocado-and-tan camera strap that I remember resting on top of his dark blue sweater in London. Inside, there's film of moments captured years ago, long forgotten and only possibly preserved. Someday, when I'm ready, I will have it processed and be the first to see a sliver of time through his eyes. For now, it sits on top of my dresser, its unfocused lens guarding me while I seek my father in my sleep.
Technically, it was. It was also the day that a new one went on. Never-ending and nonstop fun.
The day might have ended even better if my devious love-connection plan had been implemented. Danny and I went to see Dead Man's Bones, who were fantastically weird and theatrical. All of the singers made me feel a mixture of admiration and inadequacy; their voices were like butter whereas mine is like expired VeganRella. The set was peculiar — Danny said the only word for the night was "queer," not meaning it in the gay way — but kinda inspiring in its odd beauty. Anyway, I'd hoped that Ryan Gosling was a secret broken-bones admirer, and that if only he were to see the crutches, he'd want to sign my cast, if you know what I mean. But at the end of the show, it seemed better to leave during the encore (all the better to catch a cab) and pretend that our love did not blossom simply because I had to jet early.
One of the few disappointments was the lack of Jesse time. He wasn't feeling well (h1n1?) So Team Awesome did not get to start our new autobiographical hardcore band, FAILstorm. But otherwise, last night was pretty much perfect. JC was brilliant at his salon series, and from there it was off to the old stomping grounds of the Rainbo. Kenny couldn't have played better songs (Wire, Magazine, Joy Division, The Jam, etc.) and while that shouldn't really matter, it felt like a tiny welcome-back thing. Also, and more importantly, my friends spoil me with their goodness. I am fortunate. Sometimes there are things better left preserved among the people who were there, and so I am filing last night away on the shelves of my memory. It was a wonderful night, and we have the photobooth strips to prove it.
It's funny to be at JC's and have almost everything feel the same. The house has the same warm scent, and the plant that he took for me when I moved out west has grown and thrived. As has he. I couldn't be prouder of him, or more grateful for his friendship.
This city is a patchwork of memories both faded and vivid. And while it's true that you can never relive the past, it's nice to know you can go home again.
Earlier today, I had to tape some video. Appearing on camera doesn't stress me out too much, mostly because I've never really dreamed about being on the teevee or anything like that. What concerns me is my inability to gauge how much makeup is necessary to keep my ghostly pallor from throwing off the camera's white balance. Whenever makeup artists have dolled me up for the screen, I've looked like an oompa loompa in the mirror, but the camera tones it down to make me look human. When I am responsible for my makeup application, I wind up applying three times as much as I would on any given day, only to look like Casper because it's still not enough face paint.
Today, after saying that I needed more eyeliner, LF helped me come up with bouncy, happy lines to say to the camera. I suggested some wry murderous puns, which would not have fit with the subject at hand. "My heart is blackened and sooty," I joked in asking for his advice. "I'm not sure dark humor will translate." Similarly, my attempt to do a voiceover Slayer-style (reign-in-blood Slayer, not Buffy) was deemed inappropriate for a script about makeup — though hilarious, we agreed. Up with dark humor, we said. (I would watch a show about death metal makeovers, anyway. It sounds amusing.)
I know this is scintillating stuff, but I knew if I wrote about these highlights of my day, it would put me to sleep. And on that note, our work here is done.
And so, with a suitcase to pack and a couple thousand miles ahead, it is exciting to think of going home — at least for a little while. Lately I've needed comfort and familiarity, and both are within reaching distance. Twenty-four hours from now, when I am falling asleep on a couch while listening to the El's muted rumble, it will feel good to be back. (I hope.)
(And TJ, no hidden meanings. I just liked the song.)
The driver wore a hearing aid and looked like a middle-aged version of Phil. It was like being carted around by the future of my past. He wasn't chatty, and I wasn't feeling talkative, either, so the silence worked. Instead, I rolled down the window and took in the mild evening breeze. The preceding day, Louis and I had been talking about the air quality in our respective countries. He said that he doesn't realize his lungs haven't expanded until he's in the rainforest, and then they're surprisingly fuller. You'd choke on our air, I said.
When the taxi finally pulled up to my house, I had a bit of difficulty removing my crutches from the back seat. The car behind me honked, which mildly irritated me, because I'm moving as fast as I can, buddy. I decided to let the driver pass, but he waved me forward. I gave the thank-you smile and swung myself past the front bumper.
"Hey Annie," the driver said as I passed. I squinted, recognized him and laughed. The honk hadn't been a "hurry it up, gimpy" honk, but a hello honk from Fake Paul Weller. A serendipitous meeting. While he parked the car, I looked up at the stars and hummed the Keyboard Cat song. We then went down the hill for a pre-birthday snack, took a few pictures, talked about lost loves, and successfully kept me away from a place I didn't feel like going home to right away.
Some time ago, Mr. Bitner sent out a call for entries for a book he was editing. Bitner is one of the more inspiring characters I know, simply because he's always working on smart new projects. (Plus, we have this thing where we start each e-mail or phone call by saying each other's last name, which I enjoy.) Anyway, the book, Cassette From My Ex, will be out next week. My friends Vincent and Jen each have a piece in the book, as do I. It's a collection of stories of mix tapes from erstwhile loves, and if you are into music and/or tales of lost love, it should hold some appeal.
I dreamed that I was camping in a forest past the mountains, but somehow people thought it was a party, so they kept showing up. They were largely horrible guests, complaining about the food and forgetting who I was. I excused myself and went off to catch oversized, iridescent dragonflies. Scott, who was my initial camping partner, was sitting by a puddle making something with his hands. He smiled at me, similarly relieved to be away from the party. But when I turned to tell him about how awful this one guy was, he wasn't there anymore, and I was alone by a lake.
I felt my teeth tighten, as though they were being pushed together. I worried about my right incisor cracking, so I wiggled it in hopes of adjusting it. Instead, it became loose, and I decided to pull it out. It did so easily and painlessly, but then I realized I needed help, and I was alone. I turned to Sabrina (I know nobody was there a second ago, but it's dream logic) and said, "I look like Jed Clampett." She laughed and said we'd find a dentist. "It's Sunday," I said. "Nobody will be open." But I followed her to a train anyway, where we rode past a horseless ranch. I could taste blood on my tongue, and when I looked down, my hands were overflowing with lost teeth and delicate bones. In the inky night sky by my parents' house, the moon was enormous, spinning in a downward curve and back up again; when it came close to reaching us, it looked like a globe. Sabrina had never seen anything like it, but I said, "It's a waxing moon."
Then Sabrina was reading the newspaper, where she saw an ad for a McMansion for sale in San Diego. It was $99,000 and she couldn't get over how cheap that was. I questioned the integrity of its countertops and was sure it was a scam. At that point I began to worry intensely about my missing tooth, and I wished I hadn't pulled it. I was still holding the teeth and bones in my hands when I saw that Scott was driving behind us. He was wearing an army-green parka. "Why is he here? He has nothing to do with this," I said. I didn't want him to see me without my tooth. "He knows what to do," Sabrina explained. He entered the car, said he could fix my tooth, and told me to let him hold me. "Why are you here?" I asked. "My teeth are not your problem." I looked into his hands, where shark teeth were mixed among my teeth and bones. His face was close to mine and I was scared he was going to drop me. He didn't, and I was peaceful for a moment despite knowing he'd do nothing for my teeth. Then I perked up as we approached a corner building. It looked like something you'd see in Wilmette. I assumed the dentist must be inside.
Suddenly, I threw my teeth aside and jumped out of the car for a very good reason: I saw my father walking past a floor-to-ceiling window. I rushed inside, turned the corner, and found him. He was very wobbly, thinner than usual, a bit younger, but not weak. He'd just been released from somewhere, but I wasn't sure where. I was so happy to see him, even though it seemed like he was walking drunkenly. "I can smell it from ten feet away," Betty hissed. Sure enough, he was completely blotto in an almost cartoonish way. I walked him to a chair and propped him up. He was wearing a Valentino shirt. I adjusted his shirt and said, "You don't need to be like this."
"Yesh I do," he slurred. "You don't undershtand."
"No," I said. "You can stop. You did it before, you can do it again."
"I don't know," he kept saying. I held him, looked around, and nobody was there. And... scene!
High Fidelity captured the record-nerd archetype perfectly, and it was so Chicago. Charlie's apartment was a few blocks south of my last one, the Music Box was beautiful, and once, Karinsa and I were rewarded at Simon's with unexpected movie fun. Our bartender was the guy who had a couple of lines in High Fidelity. Karinsa and I got such a kick out of Beta Band Bartender, as we called him, largely because we are Nick Hornby fans. At the time, I was still crushed out on John Cusack, too. (Much later, I'd meet him and deem his pompous posturing a huge turnoff.)
When I watched the film this weekend, I viewed it with a different perspective. And I thought about how certain songs are stitched into not just memory, but the way I experience an emotion. Today, without planning to, I jumped back a decade or two by pawing through some classics (End on End) and guilty pleasures (grim chuckle when iTunes queued up "Young Loud and Scotty"). It made me think back on this year, on photo booths in Chicago, and on summer nights driving down dusty roads in Michigan. I know I'm dancing about architecture here, but I'm not sure I would feel as thoroughly in silence.
5. Chosen — Between the 30 Republican senators who say "up with gang rape" and this girl and this bigot, it has not been a great week for womanhood. I am imagining these jerks as Caleb, and visualizing Buffy putting an end to this mishigas.
4. Once More With Feeling — One of the most brilliant things I've ever seen on television. Spike's "If my heart could beat, it would break my chest" is one of the best lines from the series, and what about alienated, numb Buffy! The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. (It is impressively easy, however, to hear Anthony Stewart Head sing. Voice like butter!)
3. The Prom — Anyone who doesn't get misty-eyed when Angel shows up at prom (to the Sundays!) has carpet on his heart. And poor Buffy, so forlorn while Angel does the "noble" thing. (I would like to point out that when all is said and done, Angel winds up wanting her cookies anyway.)
2. Lovers Walk — Angel reads Sartre, Spike is love's bitch, and Sid Vicious makes a cameo. (Aurally, at least.) In typical Whedonian fashion, everyone suffers, and there's no tidy ending to make the episode end on an up note. It's not simple, and it's all believable.
1. The Body — Quiet and real. I don't think I can watch this episode for a while, but I keep thinking of how Buffy finds Joyce and says, "Mom. Mom? Mommy?" In our last days together, I similarly switched from Dad to Daddy. The death of a parent is particularly difficult because it forces you to be an adult at a time when you want nothing more than to be comforted like a child.
Yesterday it took 70 minutes to get to work. Seventy minutes. The lengthy commute was mostly due to the difficulty of walking two blocks to the train. It was drizzling and my backpack was unusually heavy, which made me have to stop to catch my breath every five feet. Then I had a hard time getting on the train, and after I did, some guy with a mustache accidentally kicked my feet. (Maybe he knew about my anti-mustache activism and wanted me to pay for it, who knows.)
As I ascended the stairs from the subway, I thought, "Oh, it's been at least a month since I've written to Dad. I should really send him a postcard." It wasn't until about five seconds later, while considering where to pick one up, that I remembered. There are so many habits to change and no more letters to mail.
After running the bath, I disrobe and put on the leg condom. Because I am concerned about getting the cast wet, I stuff the top of it with towels and then tape the whole thing shut. Now, at that point, it's best to sink into the tub reeee-alll slow-like, swinging the prophylactic leg over the side to keep it away from the evil, evil water. The position looks just as dignified and classy as you'd imagine. (Please don't imagine.) Then you take your bath like anyone else, except you worry about falling flat on your face when getting out of the tub.
Showering is more difficult, and it makes me feel less secure. I worry that the water will trickle down into the leg condom, impregnating my cast with whatever disaster water brings to bandaged appendages. Therefore, showers are to be taken only when time prohibits the safer and more luxurious bath option. Today was one of those days, so I donned the leg condom and got to work. I stood like a flamingo with one leg sticking out of the shower stall, anchoring myself with one hand and using the other to soap up. The contortions must have looked like bad interpretive dance, but I managed to shampoo and condition my hair well, so there. It wasn't until I soaped up that I looked down and realized that in putting the leg condom on with focused intensity, I'd forgotten to remove my underpants. Yes, I am 31 years old and I apparently do not know how to take a shower.
Labels: i can't walk
Since I feel supremely dorky about this self-helpy plan, I've written the signs not in a soothingly Oprah-ish voice but in that of a benevolent drill sergeant. Instead of happy affirmations like Take each day at a time, you lovely flower! I have notes that gently flagellate with an overabundance of exclamation points: Clean your room or you'll feel like a slob! No hopping -- use the crutches! Don't be lazy, work from the couch! No pity parties!" It's like having a bitchy cheerleader as a life coach.
Messages have a way of setting in when you hear them repeated loudly and long enough, so my hope is that these signs will push me into positive action. The problem is that in trying to steer myself, I sometimes need a compass. But all I have are pens on paper and goofy signs on my wall.
Labels: emo spice
When I asked JC how he thinks I should handle my stress in a healthy way, he laughed and said, "I don't know how to do it in a healthy way, but my advice is to get rip-roaring drunk and spend the next day on the couch with pizza and movies." I try to not be self-destructive, and I generally succeed, but I'll be damned if a drink didn't take the edge off. If anybody has suggestions that are better than his, I'm all ears. And if not, at least it's almost time to dream. Happy birthday, Dad. I miss you.
I like how dreamlike yet driving the sound is, and I am happy for and proud of Ryan, but honestly, I feel like after just watching this video, I would test positive for multiple narcotics.
It might! I know this because my toes have been cold and a bit tingly all weekend. (Never mind the fact that my healthy foot is also cold.) The Google tells me that this could be a sign of acute compartment syndrome, and as we all know, the internet never lies. The more I read, the more convinced I was that I was going to have to have my foot removed — maybe even the leg! ACS is serious; if you don't get it treated right away, your nerves can be permanently damaged. Since I enjoy being a biped, I phoned my doctor, who asked if I was in severe pain. Discomfort, yes; severe pain, no. Then it isn't ACS, she said, but I should come in tomorrow anyway since it sounds like I need a new cast. Despite this reassurance, I can't shake the feeling that I'm going to wake up tomorrow with my foot looking like the Cryptkeeper's.
I finally found sleep. I dreamed that Minou's photo was on the Flickr blog, giving ol' Mr. Tubbs the confidence boost that Milo had enjoyed during his moment of Flickr celebrity. In the dream, I thought, "Check the referrers!"
So this morning, after doing the normal wake-up things (stare out window, scan floor for hairballs), I saw that the views on the broken-me photos had jumped another 200 or so each overnight. That was odd; do that many people want to discuss their broken limbs? So I looked at the referrers again, and there was another site. I followed the link, and it's a forum for people whose fetishes are casts and crutches. Of course. Somewhere, there is a greasy German guy pleasuring himself to a photo of me on my crutches. Wunderbar! I'd let my leg hair grow in like a thick rug just to deglamorize the cast, but somewhere there is another forum for leg-hair fetishists anyway.
(The photos are now private, but who am I kidding? They've already been saved to hard drives. Ugh.)
Yesterday morning, I was talking with Meg and I felt my eyes well up with tears. I am trying so hard, I told her, to keep everything together. For the most part, I do. I am trying to be strong and I am trying to have the whole "this too shall pass" attitude. But sometimes I can no longer muffle the voice inside me that wants to say — no, shout — that it doesn't seem fair to have so much loss, sadness and stress stuffed into such a short period of time. For the most part, I've been focusing on the positive days to come, but not tonight! Tonight I am allowing myself to have a full-blown pity party complete with "feeling sorry for self" activities. Back to stiff upper lip and rebuilding tomorrow, because I am not proud of wanting to have a pity party.
Labels: i give up
This machine kills folkies? Iron Maiden shirt with that hat? That voice? The balance of earnest singing and the sense that he's holding back a big laugh? It's not big, but it is clever. And his original stuff is great. If I were 23, I'd have been in hugely crushed-out trouble — and that's saying something, considering the presence of both cigarette and mustache. Such a happy find.
The driver was young, maybe a couple of years younger than me, but then again, maybe not. He had soft eyes, a baby face disguised by whiskers, and a hint of sadness in his smile. I thought he looked like someone who might patch the elbows of his wool sweaters. Like everybody, he asked how I landed in the cast. I told him and we exchanged stories of bicycle danger and inattentive drivers. He had a good disposition.
It was a beautiful, sunny day and I watched the city go by. I was a little bit unfocused because I'd been thinking that the sky looked like it did when my father died. The driver took a phone call, telling someone that he'd pick her (him?) up after he dropped off his passenger, and what should we have for supper tonight? (He decided on burgers on the grill, which seemed to please him. He seemed happy to have a simple dinner to plan.)
He hung up the phone, we crossed the street where I had my accident, and out of the silence, he said, "I'm a junkie." Just like that, I'm a junkie.
I didn't know what to say. "I'm a heroin addict," he continued. No drama in his voice, just a matter-of-fact admission. "I was off it but my girlfriend dumped me. And I relapsed, and now I'm on methadone."
"I'm sorry," I said. "I can't imagine how difficult that must be." Because, well, I can't. I am the squarest quadrilateral; almost everything I know about heroin comes from books, documentaries, and Lou Reed. So I told him about a childhood friend who'd developed a heroin addiction.
"His family tried to help him for years," I said. He didn't kick it the first time he tried, or the second, or the third.
"I'm lucky to have good people in my life," the driver said. "But nobody can help someone who doesn't want to help himself."
The taxi chugged up a hill, and then we were almost to the hospital. "I don't know why I'm telling you this," he said quietly. I didn't either, but it felt OK. I told him that I hoped he was able to stay clean. "I hope so, too," he said.
I smiled. "I get to hope that you do it," I said. "But you have to know that you can do it." He smiled, laughed.
The fare came to $10.30; I gave him $14. "You know," I said as I reached for my crutches, "That friend I mentioned? He's been off heroin for about seven years now. And he's married, and he has a job he loves, and he's happy and healthy."
"Yeah. And I'm really sorry about having your heart broken, but I think that you will find someone who's better for you. Eventually."
He raised an eyebrow. "You think so, huh?"
"Well, you have to think so," I said. "Either that, or you can always get a cat." He laughed again.
"Good luck," I said.
"You too," he said. I shut the door and watched the cab slink down to Duboce and Scott. After my appointment, I took in some sunshine in the park and thought about our unusually naked conversation. Sometimes it's easier to tell secrets to strangers than to the people closest to you. Sometimes you have to reach out because you need to be held, if only for a few moments. Tonight I am thinking of the fragility of stability, the strength to be spun from the tiniest thread of hope, and how we propel ourselves forward simply because we must.
Last night I dreamed that I was in Chicago, but the El tracks looked more like the above-ground stops in Queens. I bought an enormous recipe book that was as tall as I was. I also bought some gifts for the Jayce as a "thanks for letting me crash here" gesture, but when I left the store, I somehow left with many more items than I'd paid for — thousands of dollars of off-white rarities. There was a performance of some sort and my family was there. Scott was tinkering on some project in a concrete-walled room without a ceiling, and he missed it. I gave the giant recipe book to Betty, who loved it. But it was't Betty, it was a more prim and monied version of her, and it wasn't quiet right. I tried to draw a map of Wicker Park for some middle-aged women, but I forgot where Wabansia went, and I couldn't draw Milwaukee at the proper angle. Ivo brought me a sandwich and said it would be OK, but he stuck me with the bill. I woke with this song's line about dreaming in my head:
Annnnd now I really need to peel myself out of bed and make the BEAUTY MAGIC happen. Yesterday my job involved wearing black lipstick on camera. I don't know why I volunteered to do that, but I should look amusingly foolish.
I fell asleep with a struggle, was wide-eyed before dawn, and I have a long walk ahead of me this morning. (That's not a metaphor. It's my first day back at work in almost a month, and if my calculations are correct, it should take me just under 30 minutes to walk to the train stop three blocks away.) The one sign that today might be a good day: Minou let me hold him as we watched the sun rise together. Oh, and it looks like I won't have to use my AK.
The nose: I have my mother's eyes and my father's nose. It's crooked and a little too large for my face. Hypothetically I've thought, "If you were able to change it, would you?" I wouldn't. I always knew that at some point, it would be one of the few parts of my dad that I'd have left.
The sense of humor: He was always telling jokes, always making people laugh. I'm far more serious than he was, but I like to think I picked up some of his wit. The older I get, the better I am at laughing.
Stubbornness: My father could be incredibly obstinate, often for no apparent reason. I am similarly stubborn. JC says I stand on ceremony, and Scott said something about me holding to my convictions too tightly, so I think it is safe to say that it's my way or the highway. Not a good thing to inherit. Working on this.
Certain tastes: My father liked to eat some crazy shit: scrapple, shit on a shingle, liver. (Liver!) I forgo those but share his love of chocolate malts, pecans, chocolate chip cookies, hard-boiled eggs in salad, olives, Ovaltine.
Laziness: I love my dad, but he was not an industrious man. If he loved doing something, he was happy to throw himself into it head-first. But he avoided household chores and often cut corners. I am not dirty or an ultra-sloth, but spending an afternoon cleaning the oven is not my first priority.
Creativity: My father was a painter, and family ties aside, I like his work very much. Unfortunately, though I was surrounded by paint and markers, I have none of his artistic talent. I can draw bunnies and Milo, and that's about it. But I did develop the need to express myself one way or another, and although I am not the great writer I once thought I could be, I have this bizarre need to record, to write, to capture. So there's that.
Forgiveness: I didn't realize this until the last couple of years, but my father taught me to forgive. As far as I know, the only person he didn't forgive is the man who broken into our house when I was young; a decade after that, I'd find out that he'd told my father what he wanted to do to me. I don't think my dad ever let go of that one, but I never remember him holding grudges. So his ability to forgive is something I try to cultivate in myself.
(I told you I was neurotic.)
So when Robot Boy introduced me to someone as his friend back in August, I quietly slipped into the Tomlin Freakout — the inevitable panic that stops emotional attachment before it gets too deep. Being a former English major, I overanalyze vocabulary choices with the best of them. Naturally, I assumed that he must think of me as just a platonic friend and I should really diversify my dating portfolio and boy was I dumb to think he liked me in the same way, I bet he's dating that redhead too, and I had better retreat, RETREAT! I managed to regain enough sanity to talk myself down from the freakout, and we talked about my unnecessary parsing, but still, I spent the next couple of months wondering why he wouldn't just say he was my boyfriend. It's junior-high, I know. I am not proud of it. It's just that in my experience, people who say "Aw, let's not label ourselves" wind up being the ones who are shtupping some 22-year-old girl while you're at home naively baking them romantic cupcakes or whatever. So you see why I like a little reassurance, don't you?
Long story short, I recently explained that I needed more definition, which is the adult way of saying, "I just want to be called your girlfriend, even though I am embarrassed to admit that." Robot Boy said, duh, of course you're my girl, silly. And then we broke up! It was a Bizarro World breakup, one of those "Hey, we're in love with each other, so let's call the whole thing off!" events that, in a movie, would have Jennifer Garner doing madcap cute-crazy things to get her ex back. I thought about doing something sweepingly romantic, except I'm heavier on the crazy than the cute. So instead I allowed myself a week to wallow, and now, in an effort to stop pining, I am writing lists of things that weren't great about Robot Boy. The problem is that he is a good man who is proving difficult to vilify. I have a hard time coming up with real flaws, so the list is filled with trivialities like "doesn't like my shoes" and "does not discourage redhead from blatantly sexual flirting" and "has facial hair." (In my defense, my shoes are stylish, and he does seem to enjoy the attention, and, well, longtime readers know how I feel about facial hair.)
Betty was saddened to hear about these recent developments; I think she had visions of tiny Robot Boys and Robot Girls running around someday. "That was not great timing on his part," she said. "Of course, maybe he'd been wanting to break up with you for a while, but he didn't want to dump you while you were worried about Dad dying." Leave it to my mother to introduce more conspiracy theories into my head. I have spent the hours since lying in bed, amplifying coincidences into evidence to support this idea. The cycle of neuroses has been recharged!
Everybody likes to ask how I wound up on crutches. Everybody! I don't mind telling the story, though I feel it loses drama without the back story. So I told the postal worker the tragic tale of mashed metatarsal, and he delivered my package with a smile. It was from Scott. The only problem: I hadn't thought about how I'd transport the parcel, considering my arms were occupied with the crutches. Crap.
The man in line behind me offered to carry the box, and while I normally like to do everything myself — proving that I have not yet grown emotionally beyond nursery school — I had no choice but to accept. So Raul the Argentinian and I walked down the street, him holding our parcels and me realizing that I should really offer him a ride. So I did.
It took three days to find a parking spot, and when I did, I realized that I was back at square one, without Raul to help. But I had only two blocks to walk, and I figured a way to hold the box between my arm and the right-hand crutch. It was awkward, but if I went slowly, I could make it work. I shuffled down the street and noticed a man and his toddler coming down from one of the beautiful Victorians. He, too, offered to help. He had a very slight, definitely European accent, and when a "bahwhay" came out of his mouth, I realized that once again I'd been saved by the French. It's comforting to know that people are kind enough to help. Restores my faith in humanity and so forth.
Labels: i can't walk
In my dress and one moccasin, I successfully descended the stairs. Twenty minutes later, I'd walked the two and a half blocks to the video store. I was winded, so I took a break at Ritual. My podiatrist said I need to drink milk, a disgusting practice I've refused to do since leaving home, so I figured hot cocoa counts. I wrote, I finished my drink, and took five minutes to reach the overpriced grocery place across the street. There, I realized that, duh, I can't crutch and carry a basket at the same time. So I wound up shuffling along, using my right crutch to advance the basket a foot at a time. Two people helped me, which was nice. And then I took another 15 minutes to walk home.
My whole point in all of this is that if ever there were a chance to be a missed connection, this is it. I'd certainly leave one for a cute-enough girl in a dress on crutches. People like people who are a bit broken, like taking care of a baby bird who's fallen from its nest. But when I fired up ol' Craigslist, there was nary a note. There's one for some other girl who crashed her bike on Sunday, but nothing for me — yet. But it's gonna happen! I can feel it. "You were limping along in a stained dress," it'll read. "The way your asthmatic lungs heaved as you attempted the most rudimentary tasks was so alluring." Will keep you posted on inevitable developments.
I know it's good that my dad didn't suffer, that his death came relatively quickly, and so forth. People keep telling me these things, and I understand that they mean well, but it doesn't make him any less absent. It doesn't make me miss him any less. I feel myself regress to my youth, and in this moment, with the panicked one-note desperation of a child, I want nothing other than to have my father here again.
It's not all bad, though. Generally speaking, people are nice to you if you are hobbling around on these blasted things. I find that it helps to put on your most pathetic face, especially when approaching entryways. People will hold the doors open for you, and taxi drivers will get out of the car to help you sit in the backseat. It's like everyone in the world is trying to date you, except you don't have to worry that they're going to cop a feel. And my friends have been very kind; Sabrina has even offered to create a crutch cozy so that I can look stylish while flailing about.
Today I went to the podiatrist to get the results of my MRI. Nothing beyond the break, fortunately, and on went the cast. Because I cannot be easygoing about anything, I worried that I was holding my foot incorrectly, which would eventually lead to the cast being removed to reveal a deformed foot. Time will tell. The cast is heavy, and it cannot get wet, which is why today, I came home with this:
That's right, I bought a giant condom for my leg. As I told Meg, I think it really lends a sense of dignity to things.