Wednesday, September 9, 2015

cyborg

"I don't pretend that I don't think about you or care about you," he said, "I'm not a robot."

Oh, aren't you?

Ghosts

She said, "I moved here from Illinois a few years ago. I guess you could say I was running. I was with someone for five years and when it ended, I decided I had to leave. As soon as I got here, I got involved with this other guy, and for nearly four years I stuck it out. He never wanted to be my boyfriend and I never had him to myself. I had to block his number because I wasn't strong enough to ignore him. It's been two months. In some ways I'm proud of myself because we've never gone this long without talking. In other ways, I feel pathetic. I'm sure you don't know what that's like."

I've been running since May because it seems I'm surrounded by ghosts. For example, his coffee mug and the sunglasses he always borrowed. His allergy pills. My bedside table is basically a shrine to him and how it was. And I can't move those things. I can't bring myself to put the mug back in the kitchen cabinet, the pills in the medicine drawer. I can't face that he won't be back someday, sliding back into our routines like he never left them. Like he never left me. I couldn't even get away from him in my dreams up until recently. And I can't let go, I don't know how to stop reaching out to him and it feels that forgetting him would be the death of some part of me that I need. So I bury all these things in my darkest corners and depths, but they don't die. They linger and they make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and they wake me up in the middle of the night.

"No, I understand. More than you know."

& then there was Rebecca.

Chasing Amy
written by Kevin Smith







Holden: Can I ask you a question?
Alyssa: Don't even tell me you want to do it again.
Holden: Why me? Why now?
Alyssa: (teasing) 'Cause you were giving me that look and I got all wet...
Holden: You know what I mean.
Alyssa: Why not you?
Holden: Well, I'm a guy. And you're attracted to girls.
Alyssa: I see you've been taking notes. Historically, yes, it's true.
Holden: Then why this?
Alyssa: Well, I've given that a lot of thought, y'know. Now that I'm being ostracized by my friends, I've had plenty of time to think about it. And what I've come up with is really simple. I came to this on my own terms. Y'know, I didn't just heed what I was taught: men, women should be together; it's the "natural" way--that kinda thing. I'm not with you because of what family, society, life tried to instill in me from Day One. The way the world is--how seldom it is that you meet that one person who just gets you. It's so rare. My parents didn't really have it. There's no examples set for me in the realm of male/female relationships. And to cut oneself off from finding that person...to immediately half your options by eliminating the possibility of finding that one person within your own gender-that just seems stupid to me. So I didn't. But then you came along You, the One Least Likely. I mean, you were a guy.
Holden: I still am.
Alyssa: And while I was falling for you, I put a ceiling on that because you were a guy. Until I remembered why I opened the door to women in the first place. To not limit the likelihood of finding that one person who could compliment me so completely. So here we are. I was thorough when I looked for you. And I feel justified lying in your arms. 'Cause I got here on my own terms and I have no question about some place I didn't look. And for me that makes all the difference.
----
Nate is someone who's always kind of been there.
Like a dress that isn't the best number in your closet, but doesn't look bad--
it's always appropriate! it's snug in all the right places! it's flattering!--
you see it hanging in your closet and wonder why you haven't actually worn it;
I guess I regarded Nate with a kind of contempt.
& by that I mean I was fucking contemptuous of Nate.

My therapist told me I have a predisposition for dating people whose behaviors fall along the spectrum of narcissism. Which brought me to the thought that maybe the issue is that I value things that should go without merit when selecting a partner.

What am I looking for in a dress?
That it falls in the right length of my legs;
that it accentuates my waist to hip ratios;
side boob?
Oh there you are, dull dress in the back of my closet!

What am I looking for in a partner?
That he is well educated;
That he cares about social justice;
mutual attraction?
Oh hello, Nate! Welcome to the party!

My personal policy has always been not to go out a second time with anyone I had lukewarm feelings for. Yet there I was, on second and third, fourth dates with Nate.
Because he was a good guy.
Because I'm trying to better myself and break out of some shitty habits.

Because I was bored and lonely.

& then came the day when Nate's girlfriend tagged a photo of him on facebook.
It was their one year anniversary.
We'd been going on sporadic dates for nearly two months.
That same day, he messaged me--I suspect to ascertain whether I saw the post before he untagged himself.
& I really didn't want to confront the thing about his girlfriend so I told him, "I need to work on myself right now."
& it's the truth.
"Is there someone else? You're too fine to be alone."
Besides your girlfriend? "No, I just really want to focus on me."
"Nah, your standards are just set too high."
That couldn't be further from the truth. 

----
As she walked to the bar to buy our second round, every man in the room took notice of her.
I can't put my finger on what it is about her, she's undoubtedly beautiful but it's something else. Sometimes I think I can just make out a halo around her and I wonder if that's what everyone else sees when they stare at her--she's beautiful down to her goddamn bones. She's beautiful in her soul.

She comes back with our drinks and sits down in front of me.
What were you saying before I went for our refills? About girls? Have you always liked girls?

No--actually, the opposite. I've historically only dated men. You're the first girl I've been out with. And I'm testing this theory--that either I have shitty, and I mean the shittiest taste in men, or maybe I assign value to the wrong things. And if it's the latter, maybe one of these things I'm arbitrarily assigning value to is gender. I'm cutting my options in half and it's gotten me nowhere. It's done me no good. So that's why I'm here, with you. You seem lovely through and through and I don't want to discount people like that anymore. 

Well, whatever it is, I'm glad you're here with me now. And don't worry, you don't have the shittiest taste in men. We're at least tied. 

Slipping away

Seen a shooting star tonight
Slip away
Tomorrow will be another day
Guess it's too late to say the things to you
That you needed to hear me say
Seen a shooting star tonight
Slip away.
--Bob Dylan

I thought it was a helicopter, flying unusually low, but suddenly it burst and then was gone. I remembered then a night when I was six. My family had just moved into a new home in Texas and our furniture hadn't made it. We didn't have the utilities set up so we slept in sleeping bags in the back yard. A shooting star soared through the sky and my mom, sensing my restlessness, said we should go find it. 
It had to have fallen in the next street over. If we were fast, we'd see it burning its final embers in one of our neighbor's lawns. Armed with flashlights, my mom and I ran through our new neighborhood, laughing and beaming our lights across our neighbor's grassy lawns.

It came back in an instant, something I had nearly forgotten, as vivid as the falling star itself. For a moment I felt mesmerized, and hoped it was an infatuation with the organic beauty of the burning star. No sooner had I given in to the romanticism of it all than it dawned on me, that what I actually found so captivating is for the first time in a long time, I could think of something not tied to you. Recall a memory you aren't a part of.
How long had it been?

I've been looking at the sky a lot lately. 

In July, on a beach in San Juan, I thought of you as I trudged through the sand. It was sunset and in my mind were flashing memories of you and I--just further down on the beach--rum drunk and holding each other in the sand. That memory was my safe harbor and I would think of how, for a moment, I sat up and you woke up--afraid that I'd left you on the beach--and pulled me back onto the sand with you. Sometimes, I would close my eyes and remember 
the jagged rocks on the shore
the way the clouds moved slowly, like they were being dragged, across the starry sky
the way my cheek felt, pressed against your cold dress shirt. 

And walking down the beach in July, I felt broken knowing I was going to give this memory away to the moon. With sea salt and tequila and a page from my journal and fire. I surrendered you, and my heart ache, and the memories I desperately held onto--all of it, to the moon. 

Grandmother moon, I can't carry these things anymore.
Grandmother moon, they're so heavy and they hurt so much.

And then I gave her my blood.
And I carved her likeness into my ribs as a reminder--these things are too heavy for me. 

In my bed, long after my gifts to the moon, moments after the shooting star, I cried. 
Swept up in the visions of my childhood, I forgot to make a wish. 
And maybe it was my offerings to the moon--my blood, sea salt, tequila, my writing--that kept me from making a request of the falling star that I would have made before. 
In all obviousness, before, I would have wished for you--for you to think of me again, to love me again.

That night, you'd been so far from my mind. 
You're slipping further and further into the recesses of my distant memory. 
I thought, someday I'll walk past railroad nail and it'll bring back the memory of the time I was inconsolably and inconveniently in love, only I would have nearly forgotten; like the night I ran with flashlights with my mother. 
What did she say then? While we were running?
"If we find it, we can still make a wish--a big one!"
I sat up in bed and put on my sandals. Outside, I felt around in the dark, damp grass--hoping maybe I'd feel the warmth of last burning embers on my palms.  
This time, I wouldn't wish for you, but I'd wish to relive that time where you were my safe place; the time of blues in the bath tub, and coffee houses. The time of love poems and cigarettes.
And if I could go back, I'd do things differently--I wouldn't love you so proudly, but with the desperation of someone who knows they are going to embark upon a grave loss. Not in the hopes that I could change our story, not in the hopes that we'd still be, but to relive some things, to hold on to some things a little longer. To hang on just a moment longer.
On that night, I couldn't bear the realization of all I'd given over to the moon. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cosmic Joke

I was probably 9 the first time I ever saw a picture of myself and thought, "wow, that is unflattering."
I guess I'm lucky it happened so early on, dulling the painful surprises that awaited me in subsequent years' candid pictures.
My mom was really into making photo albums when I was young.
There was one time that I looked through our family's vacation photos and felt mortified by the reality of what I looked like. I resolved then that before my mom could arrange our most recent family vacation photos into an album, that I would remove the pictures of me that I didn't like and throw them in the trash.
My mom also had a propensity for going through my trash. When I got bad grades, I would throw away those graded papers only to find them, miraculously un-crumpled and hung on our refrigerator. Mind you, she never hung up all my good grades, this was specifically done for the purpose of humiliating me. Worth noting, she also "lost" my law degree for a year; only for me to find it in a garbage bag in the back of my brother's closet one day while looking for vintage basketball hoodies.
I point this out (aside from the desire of revealing the horror of my childhood) to say that I shouldn't have been surprised when my mom came into my room later that afternoon, brandishing the pictures I'd thrown away and shouting, nay sobbing--my mom had a flare for drama--about how "these are our memories! Our goddamn memories, Lauren! & you just throw them away like trash! You are the MOST UNGRATEFUL CHILD!" It was true; children in Africa never got to experience the nagging anxiety that comes from sitting in the back of a toyota van for 2 days while your parents screamed at each other all the way to a dude ranch in Oklahoma. Or the soul crushing realization that you would have to endure a similarly hellish 2 day ride home.

I'd like to jump ahead in the story and talk about how my brother inherited our family couches when he went away for college. And when we moved in together several years later, they became our couches. And when he moved away for work in a different city a couple of years after that, they were my couches for another year until I graduated from law school and sold them to a friend of a friend.

Imagine my surprise then, when one morning I woke up to a group thread and noticed that my friends were all commenting on embarrassing pictures of me from a family vacation to Puerto Rico.

If you haven't pieced it together, it went something like this:

My eleven-year-old self never quite recovered from the episode where I had been caught throwing pictures in the trash. Having found several of the recent vacation pictures of me to be unsympathetic and unfavorable and harsh, I decided not to repeat my earlier folly. But what then of the pictures?
I couldn't just let them exist in the same world that I did.
& in my childhood home, there was no privacy. Nothing was sacred from the all-seeing mother.

& so I decided to hide the pictures.
I pulled a couch cushion from its place,
unzipped the leather upholstery,
shoved the pictures inside,
zipped the upholstery closed,
and put the cushion back in its rightful spot.

And then forgot.

But the universe does not forget such transgressions.

And so it was that I acquired this same couch 15 years later and needed to be free from them as I moved to a new home in a new city.
I sold them to a friend of a friend and was happy to be rid of them.

How could I have known then that this mutual acquaintance twice removed would find these pictures, a year later, while re-upholstering that same couch?

What do I want?

You know what is for my good.
If I recite my wants, 
it is not to remind You of them,
but so that I may better understand how great is my dependence on You.
If, then, I ask You for the things that may not be for my well-being,
it is because I am ignorant;
Your choice is better than mine and I submit myself to Your unalterable decree and
Your supreme direction.

--Bahya Ibn Pakuda

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Eggs

"After that it got pretty late, and we both had to go, but it was great seeing Annie again.I realized what a terrific person she was,and how much fun it was just knowing her; and I thought of that old joke, y'know this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, 'Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken.' And the doctor says, 'Well, why don't you turn him in?' The guy says, 'I would, but I need the eggs.' Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, I guess we keep goin' through it because most of us need the eggs."

--Annie Hall