Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Wherein she commits to a relationship

I suppose this is the beginning of the decline. Soon it will be stewed prunes for breakfast and sensible shoes. I've taken to sitting in the sun - damn the wrinkles, let 'em come. And now this...a cat and I have adopted each other.
Meet Smoke, my new roommate.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Miss Blue Eyes

A warm misty day. Fog blots out the usual neighborhood activities – street conversation and kids playing in the parking lot. Everyone is huddled at home. At times it rains – a staccato conversation, water on pavement. The whoosh of tires on the road sounds like ocean rolling in and out from the shore.

My beading hand went into a charley horse yesterday, so I am holed up resting my it and come to think of it, the rest of me. Silence, then a movie, then silence. The day has no time sequence. It just rolls slowly, like the fog.

For some reason, I think about a doomed pregnancy that ended in my fallopian tube and with the doctor’s pronouncement that I could easily become pregnant but it would probably be life-threatening. I wonder, if that baby had come to term and been born, how old it would be now. Twenty-two or so, I calculate.

I wonder, if there was a soul, a spirit, waiting to come into the world. If so, did it find another mother? And inevitably, it occurs to me that I’ve spent twenty years working with people the age that child would be now. Although that child never became a part of my life, many others did.

I think about the students at Toronto Dance Theatre and my student assistants at the library– a few of whom I’ve reconnected with by putting a profile up on Facebook. E. found me.

E. graduated a few years back and was, last time I saw her, a successful entrepreneur, looking very big city and glamorous, compared to her student days. E. has beautiful eyes, a quick, quirky wit. She's a natural scholar. She is funny, pretty and kind.

I almost didn’t hire her. I was worried that, with cerebral palsy, she’d find it difficult to cope with all the physical motion at the library desk. Back and forth, hauling down course reserves, having to move quickly when it was busy. Marko knew her, and he was a friend so I confided my dilemma to him.

“She takes sculpture,” he said. Sculpture is a heavy, physically demanding art form. “And if you’re not sure if she can handle it, ask her. She’ll tell you.” Right. It was good advice, as well as a mild rebuke.

So I hired her. She hefted the heavy hard-cover books onto tall shelves without a whimper of protest. She waited on the public, and handled the cash and helped people find the material they needed. She showed up on time, every time and often filled in when someone blew a shift. She sat, to my shame, in the same broken-down, second hand chair – the one with the wonky wheel and no back support – that all my student assistants put up with. And she never asked for anything, even though student services told me there was a fund, if she needed a good chair or anything special. It killed me that she had to sit in that refugee from a second-hand office furniture store.

I found out about her sense of humor and kindness because of the chair. I insisted on a new one, budget or no budget. An expensive, ergonomically correct chair. One with all the requisite wheels attached and functioning. When it finally arrived, I was beside myself. None of my student assistants could come near the library without me joyously urging them to sit in the wonderful chair and try it out.

I learned later that E. had whispered to the others, “Make sure you notice the chair. She’s so excited about it.”

Sunday, June 03, 2007

They pay Oprah for this

I realize that most of you probably imagine me to a kind, patient, loving and occasionally amusing person – clear and articulate about my feelings and sensitive to the feelings of others. A virtual model of consistency, level-headedness and at least a little comic attitude. Certainly someone who doesn’t deserve the unfeeling sons of bitches who litter my love life.

This concludes fiction practice for the day…

“What is it you really need?” he asks.

“Not to die alone….but that’s stupid because, let’s face it, no matter how many people are around your bedside, they aren’t making the trip with you.” He smiles and nods and I continue, “I want to feel protected. Like some man actually wants to protect me. But the minute any man tries it, I wheel around and ask who he thinks he’s talking to – I demand to know if he thinks, for some reason, I’m incapable of looking after myself.”

That’s probably as accurate a picture as I can paint of what it’s like to deal with me.

Now him…the recent villain of the piece…he’s afflicted with the same damn set of emotional paradoxes. Or at least the male version of them. He's just as emotional as me too, only he's stuck with the macho inability to rant and rave when aggrieved.

And this. Both of us have good-sized betrayal issues (I know, who doesn’t?) stemming from our relationships with parents of the opposite sex. Both of us are hyper-sensitive to rejection – real or imagined - and both of us are disposed to think death is preferable to indignity. Our honesty levels (along with our tactless blundering) are about the same. Our sensitivity to undercurrents is very close and we are both very observant - except when it comes to ourselves. Our certainty that only we know what’s really going on is the same. We are independent, passive-aggressive and horribly stubborn. We laugh and cry and care about many of the same issues.

That's why we understand one another, why we connect effortlessly, almost always. Except, of course, for the times when we don’t connect and the whole thing proceeds into the toilet with great haste. And then comes anger. And pain. On both sides. Have you ever seen the tarot card, "The Tower?" It's like that when it happens. Babel. Suddenly we need a universal translator because we are from different planets and cannot make ourselves understood.

Having blabbed my own hurt and innermost feelings all over this blog, I feel compelled to emphasize now that I was talking about my feelings, my interpretation of the whole sorry fiasco. That’s all I knew at the time. And so I write it out and he, this unnamed man whose side of the tale you never hear, comes off sounding like a cad and a bounder. And it’s just that he doesn’t get a speaking part here.

Officially, as narrator and the recently distraught, I want to clarify: he isn’t a cad. My boyfriend is not a twat. And his last two weeks were about as lousy as mine. Only he couldn't talk to anyone.

Just for the record.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

On the thirteenth day

By the 13th day, anger has flamed into ashes and blown away. The emptiness of loss hollows a space that fills repeatedly with tears. I can’t think badly of him, can’t live with the last furious words I said to him. I can’t summon outraged dignity and hurt pride.

I call to leave voice mail, tell him I hope his upcoming biopsy is over with quickly and the results show he’s holding his own. The wish for his good health is real, but only the top layer of the message, which is I am still your friend, no matter what. I call when I’m certain he’s not there, because I’m not challenging his decision.

And he responds to the message sounding like it’s the first time he’s breathed in two weeks. We talk for two hours on the phone and I say, “I’m glad we could have this conversation. I’m glad it didn’t end in anger.”

He says, “Are you free? Can I come over so we can talk in person?”

At the end of the afternoon, he looks at the bead journal page – studies it for a minute before he says anything then,

“You really thought I was gone for good, didn’t you?”

“Every time.”

Maybe this time we’ve taught each other how to recognize the minefields. God knows, two people never tried harder.