Tuesday, June 18, 2013


at the dining room table, the metal swirls in mom's fancy chairs are pressing against my aching shoulders. thirteen years ago, the physical therapist said my shoulder blades were "winged." i'd visit him once a week. he was handsome, as if he'd stepped out of a ken-doll mold. not my type. he smiled a lot, and his hair matched the light, faux wood of the cheap desk that held my first computer. it was in the living room of my second-floor apartment on willowdale road. i would've rather had it in the second bedroom, but it was kept locked by the rental company because i'd leased the place as a one bedroom. i picked the lock all the time, though, when friends wanted to stay or when i needed to keep my rowdy puppy contained while i was out. larry was the regular handy man at rachel rentals. he knew i used the second bedroom, i'm certain, but he never told. i talked to him like he was my old pal, and so we had an affinity. i think i even used him as a reference a year or so later, when i was trying to get another apartment and needed someone to vouch for kaiser; thirteen years ago it wasn't pit bull that turned off the landlords—it was dogs in general. i'd trade today's breed discrimination for plain old dog discrimination; at least the latter makes some sense. my wings ache tonight, and every night and day. a dozen-plus years ago, ken-doll therapist said it's where i hold my stress. can't i hold it in my hand, like a firefly, and set it free? 

 the light of this screen is the only illumination in the house. behind me, the door to the deck is open and i can hear the neighbor whistling for his skinny boxer, buster. a few months ago i told him buster was too skinny. he ignored me, unless you count his forgettable (literally) attempt at making it into a joke. the whistler doesn't like me much. i caught him in a lie once, and upon asking him why he'd say such a thing i found myself in a familiar posture: deflecting his attempts at deflection. i excel at dismembering the logic of rhetoric, and whether i choose to label that skill virtue or vice depends on how much time i want to devote to dismembering my own logic of a day. for a month or so, whistler didn't wave when i drove past his house on my way out of the neighborhood. he knew better. lately he's waving again, albeit less heartily than the old days. i don't hold it against him. i wave back.

as i sit, now with a heated wrap draping my shoulders, i hear only the crickets. it reminds me of lying in bed, in the room that is now my son's nursery, ten years ago, looking out the window into the same blackness that is behind me now, hearing the same lullaby. back then, i was fresh from heartache. tonight, i'm fresh from heartache, too. this time the pain doesn't reside in my heart. it's in my wings. they're not clipped, but surely bound. 

a friend told me today about new apartments being constructed at an old warehouse on the side of town where my dad grew up. he's renting a place there and said the whole vibe reminded him of me. reconstruction. resurrection. repurposing. all very me, indeed. that side of town is brimming with old warehouses. all that history. the unspoken stories. it's all vestiges of a heyday. decades upon decades ago, italian immigrants congregated in that section of town. glen elk, it's called, but i have no idea why. i should look it up. i will, because one day i'll write more about glen elk, for certain. i'll write about the grape arbor in my grandfather's backyard and the barrels in his basement; the linoleum floors in my aunt's house that i scrubbed, under strict supervision, first with vinegar and then with hot water; the small grocery under the apartments, where older-than-sin "aunt kakina" (was she really my aunt? i still don't know) sat, every day, all day, in a chair by the entrance. she spoke only italian, and her voice was the grindy hiss of a car when you accidentally start it twice.

one day i'll write more about glen elk, when the mood hits me. today i drove past those hip, warehouse apartments over there, and i wondered what will
come of glen elk in ten years. it could be a haven. revamped, rejuvenated, and ready to seduce the young, the ambitious, the creative. the ones who make places come alive. i hope that's the fate of glen elk, but the lure of what a decade might bring isn't enough to hold me down. all that keeps me here are
circumstance and a sore set of wings.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

the wait.

the danger of being your own best friend is becoming an expert at it. 

i was lying in bed last friday night when that thought dropped from above and swung back and forth in front of me, like the furry black spider did this morning on the front porch. i've been my own best friend on and off, mostly on, for about 18 years. i've always had close friends, mind you, but, for reasons of proximity and/or life circumstances, the time we've spent together has been chopped up into bits and pieces. i can't remember when it started, but i know it's been somewhere around a decade since i've begun to wonder what it would be like to have that friend—the one who is a sure thing. sure-thing friend is your go-to person when you want to go out for dinner or coffee, when you want to go vintage shopping in southside pittsburgh, when you want to check out that little artsy town in the eastern panhandle of west virginia you read about, when you want to sit on a porch and dip sweet-potato tortilla chips into your famous homemade guacamole and talk about how badly you need to paint your toenails before flip-flop season is nigh.  
she's painting her fingernails, waiting for something to happen ... listening to love songs, watching the clock on the wall ...
                                                                                          -bobby bare, jr.

most people have friends who come and go. it's pretty normal. it's pretty abnormal to spend years upon years knowing that i don't have one person who's a sure thing. for a while, the blame was simple and twofold: i was a tumbleweed and prone to linger on the edges of social circles. as such, it's difficult to cultivate a sure-thing friendship. as years have streaked by, the aforementioned blame has faded into obscurity and a new culprit has come into clear focus: settling. at some point, which itself is not pointy and therefore non-specific, people settle in. all you people. maybe it's after high school or college, or when you walk down the aisle wondering how they hell you're gonna pay for all those overpriced flowers, or when you shack up with the person whose worst habits are far more tolerable than saturday nights spent watching hgtv and eating homemade popcorn (the stuff in the bag will kill you, you know). i've watched you all over the years: you've picked pick a place on your timeline of existence and you've plopped down a down payment in suburbia or scraped together first and last + security in the city and you've called it life. in your settled-dom, you have cultivated whichever relationship is the most important, which is the one with your significant other. if it's not, it's with sure-thing friend, who by default becomes the bgh-free (that's bovine growth hormone-free, y'all) cheese to your gluten-free cracker. it all makes sense. i'd do it if i were you, too.

i'm encouraged, via statements both subtle and not, by my family members to think a man is what i'm lacking. i think "a man" would cure my boredom on weekends and my awkward only-single-girl-in-the-family role on holidays, and he'd be a real gem when i can't seem to grow that third arm that being a single mom sometimes requires, and i'd definitely appreciate his manliness really late at night when i imagine every sound is someone trying to break in. sometime in this past year i remember thinking that i talk about men so much and could it be possible that i'm suppressing a desire to have a big fat wedding with some great guy who wants nothing more than to take care of me? sure, possible if tradition or suppression of desire were my style. i can barely suppress a burp, which then prompts my mother to wonder aloud if i do that in front of men, which then spirals into a debate about feminism. it's funny how among feminists i am not one but in the company of my mother i become gloria steinem.

as much as i ponder my life with and without a man, i'm painfully aware that my mantasizing (that's man fantasizing, y'all) is a world away from my real-life fears about what it means to build a life in the direction of an "us." i might be mostly unsure of what direction my life is taking, but i'm damn sure that it can go in just about any direction i want. a girl doesn't have that option when she's hitched ... or hinged ... creak, creak, creak. give that girl some grease. she's all dried up. it's okay to not want that option, if you're anyone but me. i concede this: i venture to believe that when those blasted stars align, when i'm out of this town and in my own space and place and groove again, i might concurrently or shortly thereafter become less terrified of becoming an us. i might find that sure-thing friend, too. they might be one in the same. it's all up for grabs. the overall goal is to be less of my own best friend, 'cause my son speaks only a little english and some swahili or maybe portugese, and our conversation is at best choppy. i miss conversation.

my son hasn't had a conversation with any of my long-distance friends, who all live in various increments of hundreds of miles away from me. this is because none of them have come to meet him. it's hurtful, but my bag of letdowns to overcome is already full enough. plus, i take it as part of the reality of being single with friends who are not: i am wait-listed. the wait list is why i realized, courtesy of five bedtimes ago, that a single girl's dilemma is not the lack of a man but the lack of single friends. if i had a single friend who was far away, i bet she would've burned rubber getting here to meet my boy genius. and maybe she'd have stayed an extra night or two so we could eat guacamole and paint our toenails.

meanwhile, in real life, it's saturday night and i'm drinking pure cranberry juice cut with water while typing with a heating pad on my never-not-aching neckandshoulders. around 5:30 i thought i might take my boy on a dinner date, but i decided i should conserve money for a trip to the new water park this week, so we headed to the trail instead. there are two parks i frequent. they're similar in design: both have paved walking trails that go around soccer and little-league baseball fields. there's nothing interesting to me about jogging in brief, repetitive circles around other people's world. rushing home from work to get the kids onto the field and husbands with early mid-life crises and hulking sport-utility vehicles ... that's all their world. i could fit in, because i can fit in just about anywhere. but i don't want in. i want the world where being me—sarcastic, kinda conservative/kinda liberal, part joan jett/part woody allen, god fearing, everything questioning, lost in intellectualism one minute and crankin' 80s alabama the next—feels like a sigh of relief. that world is a work in progress, both in spirit and location. being able to fit in everywhere means not fitting exactly anywhere. it's neat and it's alienating all at once, and i don't know anyone else who experiences something similar. if i did, i suspect he or she would be my sure thing.

as it stands, my one sure thing went "nigh nigh" two hours ago and is now surely snoring in sweet surrender. he's charming, handsome, and smart, and i don't have much room for anyone else, but i'd squeeze in a great friend.

she could fix a cheese sandwich but someone might ask her to dinner ... so she's painting her fingernails, waiting for someone to call ...