Happy New Year! Thank you for being such devoted supporters through 2009. Here's to a new year filled with Life, Love, Relationships and New York City! Cheers!
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
How can I miss someone I barely even know? I don’t miss people. Sounds strange, cold hearted maybe; alas, it’s true. I think of people often and wish they were near, but I don’t miss them, long for them. I think I am just used to people leaving or being far away. Some of my closest friends have never lived on the same continent as me. I supposed I have those I miss, but I miss them in a fleeting thought, lonely lost letter type of way. When someone pops into my brain and I remember my love for them, I stop and I write them a note, send them a text, or send up a prayer for their well being. Soft sighs, slight smile, on with my day. My heart hurts with a deep down ache I am not accustomed to. I don’t like it, but it stirs hope in me. I don’t know what to do with this anxious, needy, giddy, longing that is grabbing at my gut! I want him to pursue me, and he is.. But I must restrain my excitement, I musn’t tell him how I feel, I must just keep it locked up inside.. for now. I need to nail my ass to the seat and wait, sit in the tension and the squirmy, uneasy, happiness that is creeping up inside me. All in due time, all in due time.
Monday, December 28, 2009
I will see MP in Paris on January 21st.
I will see the Hungarian in Budapest on January 25th.
The MP visit, traipsing through our adopted city, will undoubtedly be giggle-filled and lovely. As for the Hungarian one... now, that's a great big question mark.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
My bag stood in the hallway. The backpack I'd been lugging around with me for the past five days lay in a corner. I sipped some tea. Hugs had been exchanged, kisses on the cheek. We all sat around now, talking about the journey, of so and so who passed away, of the broken window that needs to be fixed, about my sister's wedding plans.
I sat on the settee next to my grandma and my aunt. I curled up into a little ball. I laid my head on my grandma's nap. Her fingers playing with my hair. Stroking my head. The conversation flowed around me. I'd comment from time to time. I held her soft hand to my cheek.
I woke up to find a blanket draped over me and a pillow tucked under my head. I finally felt refreshed.
Monday, December 21, 2009
It was freezing; the kind of cold that wormed its way into every fold of your jacket and burrowed next to your skin to coat your entire being in chills. I was waiting outside the bar for him but secretly didn’t want him to show. I hate first dates. There is too much pressure and I never come off as myself. I wanted him to see me one more time outside the intimacy of dinner.
He was two drinks in when I finally realized he was sitting at the bar waiting for me, instead of standing outside… like a fool.
“Should we order sake?” he asked after we sat down at the sushi place he had suggested.
“I’m not a big sake fan,” I told him. He ordered it anyway, poured me a tiny glass which sat untouched throughout the entire meal, and drank the bottle in its entirety by himself. He talked about himself for the duration of the date: his painting, his bar, his family, his childhood. I could write the brief history of L. after having spent one night with this person. And to top it all off, he seemed completely disinterested every time I brought up something about myself.
He walked me to the subway after paying for dinner and asked if I wanted to go somewhere for another drink. The last thing you need is another drink. “I should really get home,” I said as vaguely as possible. I couldn’t even gauge if I liked this guy because he was clearly nervous and clearly dealing with it in a bizarre way.
“I feel like I did something wrong,” he said bluntly. I didn’t know how to say that getting wasted on our first date qualifies as way, way more than ‘something wrong.’ We said goodnight and I went home and felt confused. He was a nice guy. Thirty-three years old, owned his own bar and restaurant with amazing food that I really respected, and a talented painter in his spare time. I wanted to give him another shot.
I did, it was more of the same, and I found myself not particularly caring if I saw him again. He called a few times and when I didn’t respond, he made some angry, jilted comments about me to a mutual friend. I washed my hands of it.
Until today. Two years later, almost to the day. A Gchat message.
“What was that town by where you grew up? The one ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is based on?”
“Um, hello there, stranger. It’s called Seneca Falls.”
“That’s right! Thanks. Awesome.”
We started chatting, he asked how I was doing, what I was doing, where I was living. He seemed happier than he was when we went out, incredibly optimistic.
“So,” he began. “Do you like sushi?”
“There’s this great place…”
“How did you know that?!”
“You took me there!”
“Oh right… I’ve been dying to go back.”
“Yeah, it was great food.”
“Let’s go!” What? Huh? Quoi? I’m sorry, are you asking me on a date two years later?
“Are you sure you want to go with me?” I asked. I felt I could match his boldness.
“Well… we argued a lot.” Because you are an argumentative person.
“I think it was a miscommunication. I was really sick the last time we went out.”
I decided to give in. He was persistent if nothing else. And I did promise myself I’d be more open minded when it came to guys, so as not to pass up a great opportunity in case one should stare me in the face in a less-than-perfect package.
We agreed to meet on January 5. And what a busy January it will be.
Friday, December 18, 2009
He stood in the doorway of my office and handed me a white envelope with a shaky hand. “Hey. I have a card for you. Sorry… about the envelope… I messed up and then I ran out and I had to make it. So, I hope you have fun with your friend tonight and I’ll see you when we get back from break.”
All I could say was “thank you.” He walked away and I stared at the envelope. It was folded so tightly around the card that I couldn’t even pull it out. My brain thumped against the walls of my skull. The tiny thing from Tuesday night echoed in my thoughts… not so tiny anymore. I imagined an engagement ring falling out of this envelope.
“Lauren, I hope you and your family have a lovely and relaxing holiday season and a happy new year. I look forward to seeing you when we return from break. Sincerely, M.F.” He signed his full name. The entire note was written in beautiful, curvy, feminine script. We hadn’t even been on a single date yet and already it was too much. It was way, way too much. And then the little thing in my brain… clear as a bell.
Drunkenly whispered in the back of the cab, “Lauren… I love you.” Suddenly I wished the OC had stayed a fantasy.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
It was the Monday after Thanksgiving break my junior year of college, and I couldn't sit still. When would this infernal class end? Didn't my professor realize that that morning, filled with nervous excitement, I had picked out an especially cute outfit? That mi amor and I had spent four whole days apart? That I could burst with missing him? After what seemed like eons, it was time. In his hat and this sweater, a new purchase from a department store sale at home, I rushed over to the coffee shop. There he was in a similar hat (after all, he had given me his for a reason and we both agreed it looked better on me anyway) and cashmere sweater. I edged past the line, and he left his post behind the counter. Happiness restored. In the softness of the wool and the tenderness of our new love, the world fell away.
And in the conference room this morning, my eyes welled up at the memory.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
At the bar, and I felt a cold wind as the door opened and in walked The OC. He came, just like I hoped he would. Our first real conversation would ensue.
“You used to be F.’s assistant, right?” Of course you were. And then you were promoted in September of last year and now you’re an assistant editor.
“Yeah… and you work for T&H, right?” Of course I do. You used to work one office away from mine.
A few drinks later. “Get the married lady a drink!” he exclaimed. He was referring to me.
“Married? Why would you think I was married?”
“You used to wear a ring on your left ring finger.”
“You’re right, I did. But I’m not married. Never have been.” I grinned. “But I kind of like that you noticed.” It might’ve been the gin talking, but I didn’t care. He didn’t seem to either. It was the push the conversation needed to slip into uncharted territory.
He had been watching me. I had been watching him. “I walk by your office on purpose multiple times a day,” he admitted. “I’ve had a crush on you since I started working at T&H,” I confessed.
“Are you sure this isn’t a joke?” he asked. “Because I’m just not that cool and you’re gorgeous.”
We split a cab back to our neighborhood (and yes, we share the same zip code) and he kissed me. Today he bumbled and stumbled his way through an invitation to the MOMA on Friday night and it was adorable. It took two and a half years… but as Kelly Kapoor would say, “I have a date!”
“J, will you have coffee with me six times a week plz?” His spare texts make my cheeks warm. I sit in anticipation for his witty banter and sarcastic tones. He makes me laugh. I am intrigued by every story and turn of the conversation. We’ve gone out a couple times now, and each evening a reservation has been made, the time has been watched closely and every door is open ahead of me. I even caught him intentionally walking on the street side of the sidewalk. Pleasantly surprised by his gentlemanly behavior, I welcome it warmly. Our conversation on any given date consists of topics ranging from Orwellian non-fiction to the art of whisky cocktails. He digs up a side of me that has lain dormant and dead for so long. After all, I tend not to lean the conversation towards, mise-en-scene or the commodification of human life with just anyone; most of my friends just don’t swing that way. I’ve found myself growing frustrated, his presence inspires me to create again. I want to display that artist in me, I want to wear it through my clothes and hang it on my walls, but feel stuck in the place I am in. This frustration has been closely coupled with excitement, anticipation for an outlet, a new phase of life, turning back to those things that once brought me so much joy. Much too early on in this thing... dare I say relationship? We’ve talked about screen plays we want to write and films we’d love to make. Possibly, quite possibly, could we do this together? Time will tell the tale. Time will discern the outcome.
2009.12.7 Rushmore at Midnight
Before Monday: We’d met several times before; a friend of a friend type thing. Each meeting, we hit it off, chatting on and on about the tortures of writing and our oddly similar taste in obscure films. Yet, time and time again, no effort was made to connect beyond these random sightings. Until..
Monday: “Meet me at Sunshine Theater, Friday night. A midnight showing of Rushmore with me and a friend.”
Appearances might state our differences. I work in finance, graduated from NYU with vast, frustrating ambitions. He moved to
Friday: Rushing through the day exhausted, I made it just in time. Meeting and greeting me outside, he handed me a ticket as we hurried to our seats. Stated fact, I love Wes Anderson and had never seen this, the film that brought his vast recognition. It was perfect, impeccable, I cried throughout with tears of laughter. By the end I was soo thoroughly pleased, I wished it wouldn’t end. He and his sister walked me to the train. Passing Christmas trees, I expressed my love and he admitted he hasn’t had one since moving to the city. Forty minutes later, I received a text from him thanking me for coming out and telling me he had purchased a Christmas tree on his walk home.
Saturday: Waking up early I’d promised my roommates I’d participate in a kitchen cleaning overhaul. Nine hours later, my roommates had been long gone as I was left to finish the job. Having three cocktail parties on the docket for the night, I decided not to bear the thought of putting on a dress and heels to traipse into the snow for these parties. I sent a text instead. “I am so embarrassed; I forgot to pay you back for the film last night. When will I see you again to pay you back?” An immediate response followed. “I’m not worried about the price of the ticket, only hurt. When are you free?” Elated, I responded, I’d canceled my other plans and was free that night. We had dinner, talked for two hours and went to view another film.
Two dates in one weekend. I must like this guy. I do like him. I just really like him. I am enticed to hope this could be the beginning of something great.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
This was after a day of realizing that I had three days worth of studying to do and only one day in which to do it. A day of realizing that my job prospects weren't so much prospects as they were mirages in the desert. A day of looking at my to-do list and seeing fifteen things that must absolutely get done in the next twenty-four hours. A day of freezing temperatures and an interview that required a skirt and heels. A day of eyes bleary from staring at my computer screen too long.
I stamped my foot. I snorted. I thumped my thigh with my hand. I saw stars. I saw darkness.
I hadn't laughed so hard in ages. Laughing till the sides of your mouth can't open wide enough. Laughing till your belly feels like it'll pop with every peal. Laughing till you can't breathe anymore. Laughing till your eyes water and scrunch up tight. Laughing till your hands go weak.
I tried to explain to D that he'd somehow made the world all glowy and warm, that even the white clouds seemed to have silver linings, that my heart must've tipped and let the weights slide off itself.
I couldn't though. I was too busy letting out peal after peal of laughter.
I think I sounded like a horse.
Monday, December 14, 2009
This picture is everything I want right now. Hot tea, Dickens' A Christmas Carol (the hilariously abridged version), dark wood, cookies and fried eggs for breakfast, and packages tied with gold ribbon. I could write a book on why I love Christmas, or the inexplicable joy and warmth I experience when the first few piano notes play in Kenny Loggins' "Celebrate Me Home" (Home for the holidays, I believe I've missed each and every face. Come on and play one easy, let's turn on every love light in the place. It's time I found myself totally surrounded in your circles...).
But this picture says it all.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Friends have asked:
- Was it difficult for you, to move to a new place, a different country, at that age?
And I give my much practiced and much perfected answer with just hints of hestitation thrown in here and there at exactly the right moment to give the effect of a spur of the moment spontaneous response:
- Yea sure, I mean, I don't know. It's difficult at first, ya know, you're leaving all of your friends and stuff. And I went to an all girls' school! Imagine being thrown into a middle school with boys! Even girls who'd been in co-ed school all along didn't know what to do with that! But I mean, you know, you make friends, you learn the culture, you find your niche, and suddenly it's like you're a part of it. So yea, it's kind of tough, but it teaches you a lot about adapting to a new environment, ya know? And then you're fine.
Every time I say it a little part of me mocks myself. Didn't I cringe when my parents would say "Oh kids adjust so quickly"? Didn't I want to scream "No! They don't! It's as tough as raw leather!"?
But isn't this the answer that works the best? Do I really want to go into how I didn't know what "Billabong" was? Do I really want to talk about how I stopped wearing skirts because all the other girls shaved their legs? Do I really want to explain the embarassment of having a guy ask you out in awkward twelve-year-old fashion and not knowing how to respond because a) I was twelve and b) about 90% of my interactions with the human species were of the female variety and c) why were people thinking about dating, hadn't I been more interested in barbies until last week? Do I want to go into an explanation of how much effort it took to be able to look into the mirror and see a friend, and not someone to hide? The answer is a resounding no. And so I fall back on my practiced pauses, the little smirk here, and sympathetic sigh there.
And there you are. That response, just like this blog post, misses the mark. Somehow I can't get to the story. The real story. The unshaven legs and the unfashionable clothes story. The smelling like Indian food and not having perpetually shiny bouncy smooth hair story. The tears in the dark and the comfort in books story. The resentment and the anger story. The not thinking dating was normal in middle school story. The realization and the adaptation story. The first awkward friendship and the friendship with myself story. The growing up story.
Perhaps it takes more growing up to write about growing up. Perhaps it isn't just my story, but the story of every girl who ever went to middle school and high school. For now the practiced little speech stands me in good stead. For now maybe it suffices to be able to think back and not cringe, to be comfortable in my own skin.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
In one year everything in my life changed. In 2004 I was an optimistic dancer/singer/actress with an all-star swimmer boyfriend who went home every once in awhile to Rochester, NY and slept in the same room I spent my entire nineteen years in. By 2005 I was a hurt, embittered English major with plans to be a writer who ached when she saw swimmers and went “home” to a cold empty house an hour north of the city in a hard bed no one had ever slept in. I was changed. And I left a little piece of me in Rochester, dancing and singing and acting with the swimmer.
Every year since then I have had to face a decision. This year is no different. An invitation to a “reunion.” I stare at the RSVP list and I see E.’s face smiling back at me, pressed up against his new girlfriend. I don’t feel jealous. I don’t compare myself to her (okay, I’m more attractive… I’m still human). But when I think about going back to the city I grew up in that is no longer my own, seeing people I used to dance and sing and act with who still ask if I’m performing, and making plastic-smiled pleasantries with E., who just 2 months ago told me I’d “never” hear from him again, I get sick. My insides begin to churn and I have to make a choice.
Nineteen years turned me into someone and one single year turned me into another person completely. E. doesn’t know this new girl, and neither does anyone else who watched me on stage in high school. Sometimes even I don’t know this new girl. She is like a mythical character, part optimistic shining star part hardened, blackened city girl. And when City Girl walks into the bar and greets all of those familiar faces, she feels a little lost and out of place.
“Are you attending?” Yes.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
On Sunday I spent the day at home studying away like a good little child. In the back of my mind the countdown ticked on, but I typed away in a studious blaze.
On Monday I got a prick of anticipation. Any time now, I thought.
On Tuesday I waited and waited and waited. That prick turned to a stab.
I know this happens every month, but every month worry away. I start imagining the horrid scenarios. I start looking up options. I once even worked out in detail the amount of money I would need just in case. In case. Because I know the choice that I've already made. But it isn't one I want to have to put into practice. I check every couple of hours and come away with my heart heavy. I wear a morose look on my face, convinced that this is it. This is the month I've been dreading, the month I'll have to go buy a test. I've read the literature online enough times, I know it's not cause for concern this early on. I'm good about sticking to the schedule. Never more than three hours late. Like clockwork each day I reach for that little pack. And yet every last week, like clockwork again, I turn the thought over and over and over in my head.
I mention it to D, just to get him to worry. I can't be alone in this insane process. He knows I do this. He tries to comfort me. And strangely, it works. Not his words or his hugs. But the fact that I see a little doubt where there was none before. Is that wrong of me? Shouldn't I keep my neuroses to myself? But it feels better having company, doesn't it?
Wednesday morning: hallelujah! Here it is. I shake my head. Of course. Why wouldn't it be? Don't I take my precautions? Don't I know the pattern? And yet inside my head the little voice says: but you know what you'll do next month. And I know. Saturday I'll go about happy as a bee. And Tuesday I'll be Googling the closest clinics.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
He started working here around the same time I did. His office was down the hall from mine so I’d overhear his (occasionally) witty banter with his boss and began to admire his haughty but jovial demeanor. “Looks like he used to be fat,” my co-worker whispered once. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had a crazy Office Crush on this guy. The antithesis of any guy I had ever been attracted to, I found myself excited and a little giddy when we’d happen past each other in the hallway.
Our solitary interaction, aside from “excuse me” and “I’m sorry” in the halls, was in the elevator.
OC: Do you know if it’s raining?
L: I’m not sure. I hope not, I forgot my umbrella.
It was love… clearly.
Two and a half years later and our only other exchange was an alcohol-induced lingering glance at an office retirement party. Until today.
I was in the kitchen at the microwave, waiting for my tea to heat up. He was at the sink. I overheard him start to rib a fellow football fan for the Steelers’ staggering loss to my favorite NFL team, the Oakland Raiders. “They lost to the Raiders!” he exclaimed. I had to laugh. He caught me.
“I’m sorry,” I began with a grin, “But I’m a Raiders fan and that game was priceless.”
The banter began (albeit, two other co-workers were chatting with us, as well) and I found myself ruddy cheeked, grinning, joking, hilaaaarious. And once again I played the part of unlikely-female-football-fan. I like to think he was smitten.
Later in the day I heard two men talking at the end of the hall. “How about those Steelers, huh?”
Mutter, mutter, mutter. “Lauren? Really? The Raiders? Oooh, I’ll have to talk to her later about that.”
Project Office Crush to Office Romance commence.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Since his dad just happens to be the Hungarian Ambassador to the United States, we both left New York for DC that Friday morning. His flight back to Budapest was on Wednesday.
I wrote him an email welcoming him back to DC. No answer. I wrote another the following day, Halloween, to see if he wanted to hang out after the fancy dinner his parents had arranged for him. He wrote back, to my glee, saying that he had had that in mind. Would it matter that he didn't have a costume? I checked my phone all night. He didn't text, he didn't call. In an email Sunday night, he apologized for not getting in touch. His dinner had ended late, and feeling under the weather, he had passed out. Did I want to hang out Monday or Tuesday night?
The plan was to go to a hip little show on Monday night. Completely absorbed in each other, over a drink at the venue, the show sells out. No matter. We exited into the night, arm and arm, and made our way into a diner. At the counter, we split a chili cheeseburger. So comfortable, so easy. I didn't want to leave him, but it was getting late, so he walked me to the metro. Until lunch the next day.
We laughed, discussed our favorite European films, and shared soup and spring rolls. Our goodbye was near. Unseasonably warm, he wanted to sit out in the sun, so we strolled through Dupont Circle and sat on the steps of the fountain. We nestled into each other. I told him I would be sad. He said that he wouldn't always be there, and I wouldn't always be here. That I made him like the States, something he didn't think possible. That this past week was like a dream. But what if it's a dream you don't remember in the morning? Nah, it's like surrealism, you can always access your dream life. Our last goodbye kiss, and then the walk away. We looked back at each other twice. When I sat at my desk, the tears rolled down my face.
That was a month ago.
We've kept in touch, albeit not nearly as much as I had hoped (who knew starting the green party in Hungary during an election year was so demanding?). Nevertheless, during our last chat, I mentioned a potential visit to Paris to see MP this January. What if I tacked on a trip to Budapest?
"Bring some good luck charms in your bag."
Thursday, December 3, 2009
"The past is strapped to our backs. We do not have to see it; we can always feel it." -Mignon McLaughlin
I’ve been called negative before. A cruel jerk in middle school used to call me Daria. Occasionally I blame my parents for my glass-half-empty outlook, having grown up hearing things like, “If you keep your expectations low, you’ll never be disappointed,” “hope for the best but expect the worst,” and after a hopeful statement, “Don’t jinx it!”
So I have kept my expectations low for a lot of things, and you know what? I’ve still been disappointed. And the disappointments accumulate like a snow drift, piling on top of me, so hard and so heavy that sometimes I can’t breathe. I carry the burden with me like a pack, referencing past heartaches as reasons why I am so pessimistic now. I’m allowed to feel wounded because I am wounded.
So is it better to always hope for the best and expect things to turn out well, even if there’s a good chance they won’t? Is it better to raise up our voices in optimism and shout out what we hope will happen, regardless if fate hears it and then deems it false? I don’t know if happiness and optimism are connected. In my reassembled little heart, they never have been. But I’ve been thinking about beginning my own personal Year of Yes.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Those aren't her exact words, but I've captured the gist of them exactly. Just remove the capitals, insert the date, and a few abbreviations that only she and I would ever understand.
I stared at the screen, feeling like I was in Grey's Anatomy: seriously? seriously! seriously?! I varied the tones, I emphasized first one syllable, then another. I lowered my voice at the beginning, then at the end. I raised an eyebrow, then let it fall. But all I was left with was that one word, in its many permutations: seriously.
And it stabbed me as it has so many times over the years. This assumption that I would always do what she asked - no, demanded, commanded - me to do. This flighty dismissal of my life and the possibility that I could have anything else going on that was of equal or (gasp! impossible!) more importance. This flippant question which asked, requested, nothing, but managed to imply a wealth of assumption that I would be available, of course I would be available, for what else could there possibly be for me to do, at the twitch of her little finger. Presumption.
An hour later I realize I have been staring at my computer screen flitting from one website to another, yet seeing nothing, always returning to her open email.
She didn't even sign it "Love" I thought. Such a silly thought. We never sign our emails with "Love" not ever. She didn't even say hi. We never say hi. She didn't even...
She didn't even actually ask.
I sigh and shake my head, telling my heart to stop angrily hammering in my chest every time I glance at her words. Shouldn't I be used to this by now? Should I even be expecting anything more? My silly heart. My silly little heart. Always expecting more from people when you know from experience that they aren't like that. They never were, they never will be. Considerate. Thoughtful. Stop hammering, my silly heart, stop feeling woeful and glum. It isn't worth it you know. It never is. You make a ruckus in my chest and you make my rib cage hurt, but it doesn't change matters an ounce. You'll get over it, my silly little heart, you always do. And next time I'm sure you'll jump up once again, ready to welcome her in at the twitch of her little finger, as you always do.
I close the window. I don't trust myself to reply at once. And suddenly I cannot swallow. And suddenly my fingers don't want to type anymore.
Because this isn't how I'm supposed to react to my sister's wedding invitation.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
My grandmother is the most beautiful woman in the world. She is particularly luminous in a photo from 1961. Her wavy short brown hair is pinned back to reveal chunky gold hoop earrings, her makeup impeccable. Surrounded by her three young children with a baby in her arms, she wears a sleeveless white top and a skirt dotted with stars and moons flows around her. Her legs are crossed at the knee with towering white peep-toe pumps at her feet. This photo was taken in Kabul, Afghanistan.
One tugged at my arm to show me her schoolbooks, another pulled me in the direction of her dolls. Each wanted to exhibit her treasured object. "Didi didi! (Sister sister!)" the girls called after me, mischievous eyes twinkling. We played hand clap games and peekaboo and munched on biscuits. A fidgety group stood up to sing a nursery rhyme in English, perfectly, and all giggled at my Hindi accent. Some were former street children, some were turned over by parents who could no longer support them, and yet at Udaan Ghar, a shelter home for street girls just outside of Mumbai, everyone was family, including me, the visitor from abroad.
Over the past five years, each kid has left his or her mark on me. A quirk, a gesture, a surprise gift.
EJ lacks the coordination to carry his lunch tray and open door to the library simultaneously. He knows an awful lot about transportation systems for a third grader, shreds ketchup packets, and throws his arm around me whenever I'm particularly animated while reading to him. Edvin, the Energizer Bunny, liked to be chased. We built flying Lego monstrosities, and each tried to shoot the other's spaceship down. Our down time had me judging his singing abilities a la American Idol. Emmanuel often played me inappropriate hip hop ringtones on his cell phone. We fought epic Connect Four battles, him chanting, "I'm gonna win you!" and me correcting, "No, you're going to beat me." For Valentine's Day, I brought him his favorite candy and iced tea, and the following week, he gifted me with a chocolate Easter bunny. The only girl, Chelsea, had the smallest voice. After the requisite homework help hour, her face would light up for arts and crafts. I pulled out everything I could remember from grade school: stencils, paper bag puppets, construction paper cutouts, and I always left our sessions with a token from her.
He didn't answer my question. Although, it was to be expected.
The "he" in question was a lieutenant general at the German Ministry of Defense who gave a group of American Marshall Memorial Fellows a talk about the German effort in Afghanistan. Despite my staff status, after all this discussion was not intended for me, I piped up during a lull in the question-answer round. I made the comparison between a divided Germany post-World War II and a currently segmented Afghanistan. Japan, solely occupied by the United States, has proved itself to be a great power in the region and in the world, while parts of east Germany still struggle with development-related issues. Given the recent discussion in the news about an "Americanization" of the Afghan war, what was his opinion on the future of the country?
Monday, November 30, 2009
Following that night I’d meet back up with Mr. Grennan and smoke cigars on the beach, or along cobble stone walks whenever he’d come to town. It was a ritual, a tradition, I enjoyed it. I haven’t smoked much since I moved to the east coast, but the guys always find it sexy, cool, their eyes get wide then small as they grin and nod their heads in approval. I don’t care much what they think, but I find it interesting. Is it really still considered cool to smoke? This weekend I shared a cigar on a roof top, over looking the city with friends, and then again the next night, I shared a minty French cigarette, as I took a stroll along the Brooklyn promenade, I enjoyed each one, each flavoring my memories.
I was raised to hate the smell of smoke. My grandparents smoked, my uncles and aunts smoked. The addiction ripped through my family and clings to them still. My papa died a horribly, slow and painful death caused by his beloved “cancer sticks.” Cigarettes clouded my childhood. Although, I remember about a year or two after he died, someone close to me on the street lit up right behind me. They practically blew the smoke in my face, a disgusting gesture. However, instead of my normal rage induced response, I was instantly taken back to my papa.. my grandfather that loved me and called me his favorite. The memory was so fresh, it felt real and present. I do not enjoy when people blow their hazardous debris in my face, but I do enjoy that familiar smell, the taste, it reminds me and strangely comforts me. I do not promote the habit, but I do enjoy making the decision, on occasion, to enjoy a smoke, perhaps on a damp night or a memorable evening.
The end. I’m already looking at this trip as the period on the much-too-long run-on sentence. I want to end it while I can still control the ending. If it doesn’t end here, with a romantic dinner and a sweet kiss goodbye at the airport, it will end in furious tears six months from now in a phone call across the miles of country that involves “I met someone” and “I really like you but…” And I can’t handle that. I don’t want to handle that. I don’t want to build myself up for the inevitable epic fall. It’s gone much too far already.
The candles finally burned low, the dishes were put away into the washer, everything was saran wrapped and bundled into the fridge. Friends helping out with the crumbs on the table. Stubborn pots soaking in the sink. Shoes on, scarves on, coats on. Kiss on the cheek goodbyes.
We clicked off the lights one by one. Exhausted, satiated, full of food and happiness and wine, together in the cozy darkness. "It feels like we're playing house." "Yea. Yea it does."
And the unvoiced question: is that all?
And the unvoiced answer: maybe more.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Monday morning in New York, two and a half weeks after saying goodbye, I waited in the hotel lobby for the group. He was the first to come down. Big grins and kisses on the cheek. For the most part, the day passed like any other, and yet we had our moments. Walking up Fifth Avenue, he told me how he went to an experimental concert in Chinatown the night before, and I pointed out the Paris Theatre where I'd seen A Very Long Engagement twice. At a bar that night, he and I played foosball against my colleague and his fellow Hungarian. We may have won two of three games, though I can't be sure. Another coworker, aware of my crush and now slightly inebriated, sing-songed at me. One of his groupmates asked if I thought he, the Hungarian, was cute. I'd like to think we were more subtle than that, but perhaps we were just that obvious.
After our tour of the O'Keeffe exhibit the next day, he asked me to lunch. We ended up eating with the larger group but no matter. I was then off to an old standby cafe to do some work, and he tagged along, despite his reluctance to hop on the subway downtown. On that rainy afternoon, over two cups, we talked and talked for hours until he asked me to dinner. We made the 40 block trek back to the hotel arm in arm, stopping for a compost cookie along the way. Changed and refreshed, we made our way back downtown (let's be real, I don't know of anything above 14th). And at the counter of a trendy cafe, about to order, he kissed me. We shared our meals in couple fashion and then got a drink on Ludlow before calling it a night close to midnight. Though I've never been one for public displays of affection, I admit, I was completely swept up in us. There are worse sights.
He hadn't been to New York in almost 15 years, and we still spent all of Wednesday together. Me, writing down math formulas, him, answering emails in a different language on my laptop. Beside each other on a bench, splitting a grilled cheese and tomato soup, I played with his hair, and he stroked my knee. Hours later, it was time to meet Lauren E., but he still had work to do. Without thinking, I offered to let him use my computer while he stayed with a friend that night. He protested, but I countered with: "why rely on that person when you can rely on this person?" Suffice it to say, my dear friend was startled to see me walk into Le Pain (late) hand in hand with him.
"I didn't know you were bringing someone."So he did. Call me presumptuous, but I think she found him charming. And he is. After all, I did spend 36 hours with him.
"He's just leaving; he's borrowing my computer."
"I could stay for a coffee..."
Thursday night, he and his friend joined me and mine for a reading/anniversary celebration of a friend's wonderful literary culture blog. We kissed hello, locked eyes often, reached out for each other whenever that happened (also often), and kissed goodbye. Waiting for the subway, an old high school friend, whom I hadn't seen in years until that night, asked about him.
"Is that K guy your boyfriend?"
"No, I met him three weeks ago."
Friday, November 27, 2009
So much work. SO MUCH WORK! Weeks of preparation, waking at the crack of dawn to tress a turkey, invites, invites, invites.. too many invites.. too many people to host. The day is always so much work. But, I do it. I do it every year. I plan and prepare, I assemble a team, I secure a location, I write lists and lists and lists, I delegate and I count, count, count and recount. There are always too many people, there is always over spending, there is always something that goes wrong, terribly wrong. There is ALWAYS so much joy.
It is strange how the task seems to get bigger with each passing year, the group always seems to grow! Alas, I cannot have anyone left unfed, unloved, uncared for on this day; this special day. It is about giving, it is about giving thanks. I realize, living in the city, there are many without families, there are many without a home; there are many that feel they have nothing to give thanks for. Those are the ones I want at my table. Those are the ones I want to serve and slave for, those are the ones I want to bring into the folds, to love on, on this day. And we did. My roommates and I, my closest friends, we worked and we slaved and we laughed and we danced around the house, around the kitchen as turkey juice went flying, as hams took three hours to warm. We danced, we sang along to great music, we shared stories and laughed at each others expense, we drank and we ate and we shared tears. It was a good day. It was a blessed day full to the brim. I find it hard to come down off the high, the high of excitement even in the midst of utter exhaustion.
I roast a pretty good turkey, I have a talent for root vegetables, for setting tables, for beautiful things; but no one noticed the food, they didn’t notice the décor, they didn’t notice the special touches, because the love was so thick in the room. We played football after dinner and dessert after that. Hours later our home was still full. People stuck around, they didn’t want to leave. The music got louder, the dancing began, the naps took place and the laughter never subsided. When the fun began to slow down and the comas set in for the third time, we couldn’t let people leave, we couldn’t push them out yet.. we had to stretch the celebration another hour.. the clock had almost struck midnight and one of our close friends turned 34. We opened another bottle of wine, got out the sparklers and raised our glasses in a toast to his life. It was the perfect end to the evening, celebrating one of our own and coming together as family, on this very special day.
Today I am tired, today I am half dead, but I will do it again, and again and again, because people were loved, they were cared for and they were given family, even if only for the day or perhaps, this is just the beginning.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
But my heart wants to leap. Just at the sight of the apple I can already savor it sweetness. My heart doesn't want to look at the path to see if something lurks that can keep me away from my apple. All it sees is the apple. Brilliant, juicy, bright, plump, red, shining. Always shining.
Stop being superstitious I say to myself. Stop thinking of all the things that could go wrong. Stop being so negative. Yet even as the corners of my mouth rise again, my mind immediately whips it back into shape. I must reign in my heart, my mind says. But my heart, it won't listen to anything, it has worked itself into such a state of excitement.
Maybe I'll allow it a tiny little smile of excitement today. Just a little tiny one. Despite that ever present possibility - my sarcastic mind would call it probability - of rejection, could I allow my heart just one tiny little smile? Just before pulling the corners of my mouth into a straight line again? Then again...best not to show any excitement for things that are yet so uncertain.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
But even though the world was coming apart at the seams, some self-saving little voice at the back of my head reminded me to pop my book into my purse before I rushed out in a furious distraught rage. And that was my savior.
The walk did nothing to clear my head; my eyes couldn't see past my anger. The museum did nothing to stop my crazy infuriated thoughts; my mind couldn't go past my hurt. And then I stepped into a cafe/bar that had its walls lined with books and cozy leather seating. A glass of wine, and I opened my book.
And got lost.
Lost in the beauty, the sadness, the humor. As the words flowed around me and into me, reality receded. It was just me, then, in the little circle of light that the table lamp cast. Everything else was in shadows. My hand absently lifted my glass to my lips. My eyes hungrily devoured each line. My heart welled with love, my soul drowned in the characters' sorrows, a bubble of mirth rose and spilled over.
It has ever been thus. No matter what realities may crowd in upon my mind, there is one sure fire escape, one certain way of regaining my calm, my peace. One, and only one definite path to bring solace to the turmoil that might besiege my heart or my mind. I descended slowly into the depths and rose up on the other side. The intimate caress of words filled my ears with the soft voices of the characters. I smelled the breeze that the author described, I felt the silk under my fingertips. And the world was within me again.
Finally I looked up. Dusk had deepened into darkness. I slipped in my bookmark, and closed my book with a little sigh. My little escape would wait for me. For now, I had to deal with some devils.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
E. called me. On Halloween. I just haven’t been able to find a way to write about it until now. He calls every 12 or 18 months. We broke up five and a half years ago, but he never let the wound close. And even now he hangs around to make sure that just as the scar begins to fade, he’ll make another jab to make sure it lasts. To make sure he lasts. To make sure he’s not forgotten.
E. hurt me in ways I can’t describe. I fell so far in love with him and then he lied to me and hurt me and never really seemed to care. But he could never let me go. He’d promise to meet me so we could talk and then stand me up. He’d call and provoke me, hang up, let me leave a hysterical message, and then play it on speakerphone for his friends. He’d buy a ticket to a show I was in and then not attend. And he’s been calling ever since to tell me that he misses me and that he wishes we could talk more. I don’t know why I answer. But I always do.
I heard this song on Tuesday and it hit me like a cannonball to the gut. It describes this situation so much better than I can.
And then it arrived. Succulent, glistening with fat, the delicious fragrance wafting towards me before it was even placed on the table. In a bed of lightly dressed salad, accompanied with real potato chips: the Confit de Canard. The meat fell off the bones, the skin was fatty and melted in my mouth. The chips were crunchy but still thick enough to give you a bite. The salad provided a cool and refreshing break. I settled back into my little chair. Suddenly it was so comfortable and warm. The "oooooohs" and "putains" and "allez allez allez" were the calls of camaraderie. I even looked up a few times to see a goal or maybe a foul. I sipped my wine, and felt the tension ease out of my limbs. My eyes grew heavy as I grew sated with the delicate yet hearty confit. I remembered that I had a novel full of beautiful words and a gripping story waiting for me at home. And the day just fell away. And I was left with just this lovely evening.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
“I hung out with M. last weekend. Actually, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that.”
I couldn’t believe it. What was this? It was honesty. The LDC was going to tell me about the girl he brought out to the bar.
“Oh yeah, M. told me. It’s fine.”
“No, it’s not fine. Because she has no idea. Every time I bring a girl out, she glares at me and she brings you up like I’m some kind of ass hole. I brought out my old friend S. from high school a couple weeks ago and M. stared daggers at me all night.”
Truthfully, I didn’t want to talk about it. I wanted to settle comfortably into my little bit of pain and write him off as another guy who didn’t care. But he wasn’t letting me settle.
He called the next night.
“Heeeeey.” His voice was warm and fuzzy.
“You’re drunk. You sure you want to talk right now?”
“I’m not drunk. I’ve had two beers, I’m just in a good mood.”
“Okay, so… Did you want to talk about something?”
“Did you want to talk about something?”
“The M. thing.”
“I guess I just want you to know that her feelings are not my feelings. I’m not asking her to be my spy or anything.”
“I know you well enough to know that you would never do that.”
“And honestly, I did bring someone out on Saturday. It was just this girl that I thought was cool and that I was semi-interested in, and it didn’t work out. That’s it. I feel like I don’t have to hide things from you. I’m comfortable enough with you that I feel like I don’t have to lie.” I took a deep breath. I wasn’t used to this. We were both so aware of our situation and its pit falls, and we were carefully stepping around them. These giant chasms that could break us as friends, as more-than-friends, as whatever we had turned ourselves into. I had never worked with someone the way I was working with him.
I wanted to say more but I didn’t know how to put it. He pushed me into it. “I guess I’m also afraid of being the fool,” I said. “I don’t want you to be texting me while you’re hanging out with some other girl.” We chatted for a little while longer and eventually the mood lightened. I heard his friends in the background as they got ready to go out for the night and an old friend of his walked into the room laughing. “I’ll be there in a second,” he called out to her.
“I would never do that to you. I’ve had people say stuff about me… I wouldn't do that. I wouldn’t continue to flirt with you like this if I was with someone else. I really like you. And it just really sucks that you live across the country. But you have to know that I am always honest with you.”
“Who are you talking to?” she asked.
“Hi, Lauren!” she yelled out. “I’ve never met you, but I like you already!”
We chatted for a little while longer and eventually the mood lightened. I heard his friends in the background as they got ready to go out for the night and an old friend of his walked into the room laughing. “I’ll be there in a second,” he called out to her.
And for the millionth time, I cursed the 2,408 miles between us.
Friday, November 13, 2009
My emotional savior, she taught me to cry. She is my Natcha, my nursemaid, the arms that held me in when I needed holding more than anything else. She’s taught me tears and helped make room in my little boxed in life for emotion. When the first twinges of despair would rise up, Judy would catch them like butterflies in a net. She would hold them out to admire before I’d snatch them back in. Judy knew pain and Judy knew sorrow; like well worn shoes, she’d broken in for dancing. Never turning away her pain like a beggar in the street, she’d nourish her wounds and leave room for them to heal. Taking it all in she used it for the strengthening of her soul.
Visiting her mother’s house, one summer afternoon, all the stories I’d heard of her life came together. Puzzle pieces scattered across the floor.. they began to creep up, forming a perfectly elaborate picture. It all started to make sense. Taking me from room to eccentric room my memory rehearsed the tales as if they were being played out in front of me. Viewing a rare Diego Rivera painting, found by her parents on a trip to Mexico, she began to tell me new stories; stories of a woman that helped her live through tragedy.
Judy taught me of Frida Kahlo. She told me of this woman who was crippled with pain and sorrow; but was not marked for her pain, but known for her stunning talent to beautifully express that which plagued her. Through her roses and rods Frida expressed what many others could never comprehend. I sat in awe of her displays, page after page, story after story of rejection, of passion, of frustration and anger. Frida lived fully with colorful rage and exuberance, continually conscious of grief and torment. Her bones were broken and re-broken through thirty surgeries. Chronic pain knew no other. But, she lived; she thrived and became one of the most celebrated modern artists.
My festering sores of sorrow were not brought on by a bone crushing accident or a ravaging disease, but crippling none the less; stress and despair deteriorating me from the inside out. Wounds so deep, some still remain untouched, hidden unable to be healed; old gashes still surfacing to cause me grief. I suppose Frida’s rage wouldn’t allow her torment to be hidden. Judy’s lament made room for other’s pain to be expressed and has taught mine to become my song. Judy said, “Like a bird with broken wings learning to fly... your distress will teach you how to sing.”
Today I am without the will to fly and my song seems to seep out only in screams. I need Frida and Judy to be my strength; to guide me through this heart ache. I see myself as an eight year old girl again, walking hand in hand with my Judy to lead me, through Frida’s greatest exhibit, to wander in silence with tear filled eyes to let Frida in to express my pain in ways I never knew how. Perhaps their stories will continue to teach me and moment by moment, I will let my butterflies fly and heal my broken wings.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
“To dance is to be yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power on earth and it is yours for the taking. --Agnes de Mille
I hadn’t felt that way in a long time. The last time I could recall, it was 2003 and I was on a bus with 30 other show choir kids, all equally obsessed with musical theater. I stared up at the bright lights of Times Square, all of my 18 years of dance, theater, and music behind me, and I told myself, “I’m going to make it here.” I was naïve. I hailed from the booming metropolis of Webster, New York and I knew nothing about life in Manhattan.
But last night I remembered. The air was warm enough to leave my coat unbuttoned, revealing the faded pink straps of full body tights hanging over my khaki pants. I wanted everyone to see. I wanted anyone who wondered to know that I was going to ballet class. An eagerness hummed inside of me that hadn’t been there in five years.
“The class is in Studio 4, down the hall to your right.” I followed the girl’s directions and lost myself in the sound of tap shoes and “Hot Honey Rag,” the smell of stale sweat, the murmur of conversation highlighted with the occasional battement and echappe. I peeled off my office persona and slipped into ballet shoes crisp with years of use. My limbs ached as I stretched over, my bones cracked, and I winced at my inflexible hamstrings.
The class was ballet at its most basic, but I answered every question, raised my hand with questions of my own, and volunteered first in every exercise. I breathed through every movement, extending every gesture as if my famished body wanted to soak in every last morsel. It had been five years. I didn’t want to wait another five to feel this way again.
It’s hard to explain why I stopped dancing when I came to New York. It should’ve been the opposite. But last night, still damp with sweat from my hour and a half long return to ballet, I called my mother beneath the bright, blinking lights of Broadway. I remembered the passion and the drive and the beauty I felt before I ever lived here. “Will you send my leotards and tights?” I asked. “I’m going to need more than one.”
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Today you want to talk. She must have been trying to warn me. I wasn’t expecting to hear from you, or to be so startled by your e-mail. You said you’re sorry for being stand-offish, but you want to share what's on your mind. I freeze at your words; they make my knees shiver as if the wind were blowing inside. Your kindness softens me and brings out all of my vulnerability, this scares me. I am a decision maker in life; but in love, you have me confused. I am anxious to hear your heart, but uncertain as to how I will respond. Is this the end of another season or the beginning of something new?
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
My invitation came late… really late. They called to tell me I was invited to their wedding and that my invitation was on its way. You received one, on time, addressed to the two of us. We both went, separately. I was nervous to show up without you. I wanted to walk in on your arm. The dress I had chosen was not one that should walk in alone. But, I did. I walked in alone wearing that dress. I asked the usher to sit me with people I knew, it wasn’t the same. You sat towards the back. You tell people you are fine. You tell them you are over me and just want to be friends again. As I approached, your eyes and your actions did not confirm the words of your mouth. You hugged me, and then moved on. At the reception, all I wanted was to dance with you, but you don’t dance. Once you told me you wanted to learn. You said holding me in your arms inspired you to dance. I danced all night.. in that dress and not with you. The night was young and you left early. I didn’t even see you leave. What will become of us? I suppose we are no longer us, but sometimes it feels like we should be.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
We talked of things I can't remember, and yet it was enough to keep my interest. So much so that after a couple of days of chatting (read: innocent flirting) in between meetings, I arranged it so we sat next to each other at the closing dinner. This time, we talked and talked about everything: his requisite rebellious phase as the son of a career diplomat, my multicultural upbringing, Paris, my grad school aspirations, his crisis of confidence at work. He ordered one last glass of white as they were kicking us out of the restaurant, and I turned to see he had had mine refilled. It's Hungarian custom never to leave a place without finishing your glass, he said, eyes twinkling.
The group of us spilled out into the street. I was charged with choosing the next venue, but how to please 10 wildly different, European personalities? At the helm, he accompanied me, darting into one place and then another, finally deciding on a lively if slightly unhip piano bar. Don't want to disturb the couple, the loud one said.
The next day was their last in Washington before embarking on their whirlwind trips through the States. Kisses on the cheek. Until New York, two weeks from now, we said.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Did you hear?
Someone committed suicide yesterday.
What? Where? Here? A student?
Yeah, in the library! Kid threw himself off the top floor or something.
What?! Oh man that's horrible! Do we know who it was?
No, they're not saying yet, but this girl I know said he lived on her floor.
Oh that's just so awful!
And then a few days passed and it happened again.
And then a few weeks and it happened again.
Somehow it turned out that my freshman year of college was to be christened with a string of suicides. At first there was surprise and astonishment, a feeling of horror, then relief that it wasn't a friend, then wonder at the reasons, analysis of the logistics, and then, sickeningly, humor.
"Oh man, I'm so stressed out about this exam"
"Uh-oh, watch out, she's gonna head over to the library!"
"This paper is awful"
"You gonna jump?"
And when we had stopped trying to push it under the rug with our jokes and our abstract analysis, finally, the realization. That suicide is real. That all of these people were people we might have known. They went to our school, they lived in our dorms, they were in our classes, they were at our parties. They weren't known to us, but they weren't abstract unknowns. They were us.
We are all this close to falling off an edge into an abyss that might close over before we even realized we had fallen in. We are all holding on by delicate ropes, holding on to each other. If we didn't tend to the frays in them we might just slip right off. But some of these ropes made of iron, and it needs only a discerning eye to recognize which ones are sturdy, which ones to hold on to. But once you get a grip on those relationships, those realities, those grounding rocks, you can walk along that edge safely.
But what if you cannot recognize them?
What if everything starts unraveling around you?
Could you pull yourself off that edge?
Or would you just have to let yourself fall?