Wednesday, March 16, 2011


and i feel nothing, not safe. it's a hard day for dreaming again.
rilo kiley. we listened to the CD on the way to a crazy night in pittsburgh. me, my boyfriend, and our two friends. '02. november, i think. had to be right before or right after halloween, bc one of the bars on carson st. still had decorations up. i have a pic of me in that bar, that night: the exposure is low and i am cast in an orange hue; i'm getting into my purse, and the side of my face and my chin-length hair are circumscribed by the fake fur collar of my vintage, straw-colored, full-length leather coat. i'd bought it from dina's store, vavoom, on high st. in morgantown, beside 123 pleasant st., the bar where all my friends hung out.

123 is where i first realized i was going to—definitely, no doubt, even though in my head i kept saying don't do it—cause my ex to cheat on his girlfriend. it was a night when the two of them came to the bar after going to a party together. she was giggling and holding on to him. they looked happy. we were young. he was 21; i was 25. soon his girl went away for the summer. i remember the night i went to their house. their house. they lived together. he was sitting on the couch. i was standing a few feet away in the kitchen, where there were pics of them together on the fridge. i remember thinking, "i've never been on anyone's fridge" or "wonder if i'll ever be on anyone's fridge." something like that. i've still never been on anyone's fridge. at least not that i know of. have i missed a rite of passage? hmm. i was wearing a skirt, flirting in the background while he was on the phone with her. when he told her he missed her, i remember cringing a little, on the inside. not bc i was feeling remorse, but bc i really liked him. oh, retrospect. it was all pretty awful.

maybe our terrible night in pittsburgh in '02 was karmic retribution. except i only use the word karma when it's expedient, bc i don't believe in karma. if it existed, life would be fair. i mostly believe in choices and consequences. it is that simple. i can feel sorry for myself at times, but that's purely expedient as well; it gets me by until i can face the part where i take responsibility.

our night in pittsburgh started out okay. it was the four of us in the car, listening to music, laughing, talking about the diner where we'd go for breakfast in the morning and my favorite vintage store on carson, called yesterday's news. i still have the business card in my wallet. they were funny guys, the three of them. they made silly, drunken movies of themselves. made art. partied. rode down the super-steep hill...3rd and grant in sunnyside...on desk chairs, the kind with wheels.

we went to dinner at kaya, a caribbean-themed place in the strip district. they had the best black bean fritters. when we walked back to the car after dinner, he held my hand. not for long. but i remember him grabbing it as i was skipping or dancing, i can't remember which. we went to see bright eyes at the rosebud. there was a chain link cage between us and the stage. it was obtrusive and ugly, but the bar had to have it to separate the younger kids for all-ages shows. i had on a ring that night. a big, chunky silver one on my right hand. my ex made a sarcastic remark about rings, something to the effect of how i should never expect one from him. i don't remember the words at all, but i remember the feeling. upset. and pissed. both at once, and i couldn't figure out which to follow. emotional fence-riding, another old friend of mine.

we went out after the show. ran into a friend at a bar called dee's in southside. he had been in a fight. he was mouthy. yappy like a terrier when he was drunk. small like one, too. we walked with him for a while, while he tried to find his other friends and while my ex was salivating over the fight story. being the amateur pugilist he was. very amateur, indeed. his fighting was for sport—thought the kind prompted not by athleticism but by alcohol and youthful ignorance and one particular close friend—who would make out with me after we broke up, even though he said he'd never do such a thing with a friend's girl. he never told. i did. it's like my mouth is the trap door that truth can't help but trip over.

we couldn't find our way out of southside pittsburgh after the show. my ex was drunk. and driving. and getting angrier by the minute. right then, i despised every inch of him, all the way up to those big green eyes. he pushed the love right out of me sometimes. add up all those times and you get forever. i kept telling him he shouldn't be driving. so he stopped the car right in the road, put it in park, and told me to drive. so i did. he and i fought. yelled. i threw my cd player into the windshield. it splintered. i didn't react. just kept driving. the boys in the back were silent. they had seen our fights before. and never got involved. i often resented them for never standing up for me. i don't know, maybe i expect too much from people.

we ended up in a huge, empty parking lot on the other side of town. the kind that has only one way in and one way out. i kept driving in circles. none of us could figure out where the exit was. another set of headlights showed up...a police car. i was driving on a suspended license; there was wine in the backseat; a splintered windshield. he let us go. for a few minutes we all forgot how miserable we were and laughed at our luck. on the way back to the hotel, my ex drove again. more fighting. in the room, the guys went straight to bed. my ex and i, to the bathroom. he sat on the toilet. i stood next to the sink. our arguing languished along with what was left of nighttime. as soon as he picked me up, i wrapped my legs around his waist and that was enough, for me, to mend the rest of our broken day. hold me, and everything will be okay. i knew better, but i am known to forget myself in the moment.

does he love you? will he hold your tiny face in his hand?

from another rilo kiley song. i listened to it earlier this evening. mostly so i could hear those two lines. something in the way her voice becomes so small and high, and almost pleading, but not sad, just pretty. and how those simple words make me think of things not simple at all.

Friday, March 11, 2011

solitude and solace.

people are strange, when you're a stranger. faces look ugly when you're alone.

mrs. reynolds quoted that lyric during class, sometime in the middle of my senior year. part of it ended up as a headline in the yearbook. she was the yearbook advisor; i was the editor. mrs. reynolds was easy to miss if you weren't paying attention. unassuming. small. with a small voice to match. and an unflattering, bell-shaped haircut and a wardrobe that belied both her young age and figure. in all her plainness, mrs. reynolds was comforting. a vanilla ice cream cone of a woman—sweet and simple. she cared. about people in general, and about me specifically. she knew something about me, something i didn't even know at the time. "you are understated"...she said that to me once. for years it perplexed me. i'm a heart-on-the-sleeve kinda left arm is permanently stained. not exactly understated. in recent years, though, i kinda get what she meant. the understatement, it's on the inside.

it was during my senior year when the anxiety started. the first episode happened in mrs. steele's science classroom. i didn't tell anyone; it was another 5 or 6 years and many more episodes before i did. mrs. steele's classroom held a strange place in my life that year, as both refuge and release. i started eating lunch there instead of the cafeteria bc i wanted to be alone, with the lights out, quiet. despite being a cheerleader and in honor society and popular and everything i thought my parents wanted me to be, i didn't feel right. like i was on the inside, looking out. when the bell rang and mrs. steele's room filled with shuffling feet and chatter and the loud slap of textbooks against desktops, the other part of me took over again. i remember how i'd make her laugh, how she'd smile and shake her head when i was being ornery. making someone you like laugh is one of those few & wonderful things that make you feel alive, just purely, happily alive. mrs. steele let me sneak coffee from the teacher's lounge. cream + sugar in a styrofoam cup. my boyfriend was a coffee-drinker too. we met in her class. he'd transferred from the private catholic school downtown. i had heard about him. he was trouble. i had my eye on him for a while, but i played it so he would be the one to come to me. damn i am good at beginnings. if only i could bottle that restraint, cause once my heart takes over it leads me straight to inevitable disaster. what does my heart have against me, anyway? damn again. he said he thought i was smart and asked me to study with him. our first study session was in his bedroom in his mom's tiny house on the crest of a very short, steep street. my parents would've been pissed had they known. he had a waterbed. we stretched out on our bellies and read about rhizomes. our study sessions weren't about studying for long. i've never been the waiting kind. over the years i've vacillated on whether or not i believe it matters.

mrs. steele still lives in my hometown. i've run into her over the years. maybe she looks older, though i never remember her that way in my mind. i think about her eyes, big and round like one of those nocturnal creatures that lives in a forest tree; her crooked smile, painted pink; and the thickest, coarsest hair i can only describe as taupe. who has taupe hair? only her, i swear. we're friends on facebook. maybe she'll read this and remember fondly the same things i have.

i don't know what happened to mrs. reynolds. she must have moved away. she's the reason i started writing today. sorta. i was thinking about other people when that doors line came to mind. meeting friends and lovers is easy; maintaining those bonds is hard—prohibitively so, more often than not. at least for me. i know exactly what jim morrison meant—faces can look ugly when you're alone. but only if you let them. i learned that from mrs. reynolds, and from a few other precious souls who are still in my life. sometimes you have to look beyond your own reaction, your own ego, your own conflict, your own rotten day (or week or year) in order to understand what somebody else is experiencing. if you want to.

Friday, March 4, 2011


i have always said that i wouldn't be a writer if it weren't for all the ways in which i've helped break my own heart. even when loves & friends & jobs have let me down, in the end i have always had to accept—albeit begrudgingly—that it had something to do with me. ruins don't become ruins by only one hand.

in my early twenties my world was boundless. and there were no real mistakes...there was only the sun setting on one day and the sun rising on another. life was all explorations and explosions. it was so good, even when it wasn't great. in the thousands of days to follow, my world began to chip away at itself, become smaller. in the past few years, the way the sun sets and rises on my days is so different. it seems strange for a woman of only 34 to look back so longingly at what was only a decade ago, give or take. but how i miss being free. and as much as i try to create freedom in the present, and as much as it can appear beautiful at times, i feel, all too often, that it's an imitation of the real thing.

i wonder, after a certain point, if anything can be new. if, after our twenties, life becomes an attempt at replication. if everything we do is simply—though never simple—a way of trying to rebuild the freedom that has crumbled along our way. instead of job-hopping, we get one job and indoctrinate ourselves to the religion of stability; instead of many loves, we look for one and hope the moments of bliss, though fewer...or just different?...will get us through the years; instead of running wild, we have children, and their joy becomes our own.

one thing that remains, a pillar, is my wondering. some days i look at it, only it; other days i look at all that crumbles around it.

the romans made bronze replicas of greek statues. many of them were eventually melted down, and the metal reused.