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Back in Book, Back in Book

Do you remember that scene in All of Me when Steve Martin is trying to convince Richard Libertini as Prahka Lasa to put Lily Tomlin’s spirit back into a bowl? BACK IN BOWL, BACK IN BOWL, the two men kept shouting. In retrospect, the depiction of an Indian mystic by an Italian-American was irrevocably offensive but in 1984 we all just laughed uproariously at the portrayal, coached as it was by the great Carl Reiner. Well. Today, I can’t get that scene out of my head. Because I’m in my writers space for the first time in three weeks–a lot went down that I still haven’t been able to bring myself to describe here; Mercury Retrograde in space-age Pisces is addling me like there’s no tomorrow (literally)—and I just keep hearing a variation of that phrase in the same (totally offensive) intonation: BACK IN BOOK, BACK IN BOOK. Send light and whiskey; I’ll send it right back to anyone who can bear it.

Fetal February, I’m Ready to March

Today was terrible. I got a huge splinter in my foot, sat down at the kitchen table, and then it collapsed right out from under me. It’s a yellow 1940s formica behemoth I found at the Chelsea flea back in 1993, and it just crashed to the floor, taking my computer and a full mug of coffee and a vase of flowers and water along with it. The poor thing’s screws had rusted out and I guess so had I.

The last six months have just been so relentless–the last vestiges of that bad breakup, the jury duty, the significant loss of my savings and steady gigs, and through it all I’ve keep going and going because that’s how I’ve always been. Jiving and driving, nickel and diming. Surviving not thriving. It’s the New York hustle. But today my kitchen table crashed to the floor and I collapsed with it. Because if I’m being honest I don’t know how I’m going to afford a new table, let alone pay my rent in two months. Mama’s tapped. Not just of money but of the ability to hustle.

It bums me out when people on the educated left act like there’s a them and an us when it comes to real struggle in this country right now. Life is hard for so many Americans, especially with such larcenous leadership. An IRS agent I spoke with last week–of course I’m having tax tsuris–actually used that phrase. “Larcenous leadership.” But he didn’t have to say that for me to feel it. Whenever I ride the subway I’m jacked right into everyone’s pain. So much suffering lives right below the surface, sometimes on the surface too, and most of the time I think this is just how life really is.

I don’t come from money and members of my family have been on public assistance my whole life. Some have worked the kind of factory jobs more likely to give you cancer than benefits. Some have stripped and turned tricks, and not in that faux-hipster way. Some have landed some super fucking hairy stints in the military. Some have landed even hairier stints in prison.

I’ve had a different path. My mom married a man who valued education, and I grew up on the wrong side of a nice town and then went to college. I had a dream of becoming a writer and living independently, and I did it. I even did it in my dream city. But I forgot to dream of living comfortably, and I never really have. I haven’t taken a real vacation or had insurance in more than a decade. It’s been 15 years since I dated a person who had my back whom I’ve also loved. I’ve never owned a piece of furniture that wasn’t used or drastically marked down. And now I don’t know how I’m going to pay my bills in the months to come.

Through it all I’ve kept trucking trucking trucking, trying to write even when my worries and loneliness have made it like squeezing the last toothpaste from the tube, trying to be there for my clients because I can see their paths even when I can’t see my own. But today my kitchen table crashed to the floor and somehow that was the straw that broke this badass’s back. I crashed to the floor too and just cried and cried. And then a friend called out of the blue because he “could tell he was supposed to.” And a bunch of friends messaged suggestions about how to find a cheap table–one even offered to help pay. And so I picked myself up and figured out how to reassamble my table until I could afford a new one.

Even cleaned my dirty floor.

I am healthy and have a roof over my head and food in my fridge and a reikitty on my foot and people who love me even if there’s no “my person” and maybe never will be. I am smart and strong and can do a lot more than I’ve done so far. So I have to trust there’s a you who can receive me, and a me who can receive you. I have to trust there’s a future different from our past and present. And I have to trust this foot can heal–with such bald physical metaphors, what else can I manifest?– so I can walk into the sacred unknown.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, February.

The Russian Dolls We Carry

I broke up with the Legend–or, really, my relationship with the Legend ended–because he ignored me in front of his ex-wife’s current wife and her infant son. If that sounds complicated, it’s actually a lot more complicated, but the bottom line is he clung to the sense of family that his ex and her clan provided him, and played uncle to her son as well as her sister’s kid. I’d always empathized with his desire to do so. But this meant that he was ignoring me in front of his people, and the sting was profound. It was hardly the first time he’d thrown me under a bus, but I suddenly saw how little he’d ever rally for me, how little I meant to him, and that only one path extended from that moment on my personal timeline.

And that path was Legend-free.

That’s exactly how I saw it. Even as I blew up at him later, even as I railed to friends, even as I masturbated with a violent grief, some part of me already was watching dispassionately from a future I now knew existed. A future in which this man I loved had no place.

That’s how I explained the breakup to people as soon as I was sure it would stick. With concern and maybe a little ennui knitting their features, they’d say, “How are you doing?” And I’d say, “I’m in the future now.”

I knew it was true even though I didn’t yet understand what I was saying. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy