Friday, December 30, 2005
He looks at me at the same time I look at him. I'm startled as I recognize him. I turn back to my "meal" and smile, deciding that I could only dig a terrible, awkward hole if I try to say something, and it would only draw others' attention, and the man is only trying to get his cholesterol to the all-american threateningly high standard levels. So I sat there, went on reading my book, eating my crappy meal. A few minutes later, a man came up to him.
"Mr. O'Brien, I really enjoy your show, and I just wanted to thank you."
"Oh thanks a lot." I then watched in amazement as he turned the man's sincere, but necessarily awkward praise into a short, pleasant conversation. The man is from Framingham, Conan grew up in Brookline, home seeing his family for the holidays. God Bless and good bye. Very gracious, very pleasant.
A woman comes up. "It must be annoying to have people coming up to you all the time."
"Well, I knew what I was signing up for when I started out," says Conan, prepared once more to deflect all nervous chattering and direct it into a sweet, short conversation.
I watched in awe as he handled four or five people, quietly, always happily, never seeming to weary of the pattern, always sure to ask for a name, a town, make the asker feel important. It was impressive, but it had to be tiring.
I was done with my meal and couldn't concentrate on Agatha Christie anymore. I folded myself up and got myself out of my booth. I thought I'd say something, too, but decided against it. I thought of how I hate getting recognized when I'M home, and I'm just talking about High School people, not even complete strangers who know even less about me and assume much.
Still... CONAN O'BRIEN!
Thursday, December 29, 2005
I felt that this was my just punishment for two crimes:
1. Thinking I actually deserved a Christmas break in the first place.
2. Sleeping in Davis Square last night.
Don't ask me how they connect to my horrific day with Pea, because the many strands of logic are likely to entangle and strangle me. And then you'd never get to hear about me going on interviews (eventually) and getting a new, fantastic, soul-warming, career-starting job (never).
When, oh when, will I believe in my heart of hearts that I've been punished enough?
Although, having said such a dramatic thing, I have to inform you that the Big U was nigh gentlemanly last night. No moment stood out as a particularly terrifying scene. In fact, there were a few nice ones. Imagine your favorite JoBiv, newly showered, cuddled in his flannel robe and her own pj pants and a big fleece blanket, foretelling the plot twist on a particular episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Or imagine it's 3am, Jo and U swivel in their weird sleepy water ballet, trying to find a comfortable position for continued snoozing. His hand somehow glides over my hair, sweeping it back and resting softly at the base of my scalp. I kiss the soft skin on the inside of his forearm. So sleepy.
First off, it's always ALWAYS creepy when I'm inside a space that's completely sealed. Just the thought that I couldn't crack a window is enough to make my throat clamp. It's not just the planes themselves - that's creepy in its own way, especially if you're leaning against the window and can feel the sides of the plane shuddering - but airports are also completely sealed. Breezes, weather, oxygen... all suspended outside of your bubble. It makes me feel like I'm some unwitting mouse in a vast experiment. Honestly, did you ever notice that airports have no temperature to speak of? They're not cold, they're not warm, yet they're not comfortable. Ever. It's because there are no operable windows, in my opinion. THEY think they know what you want. THEY set the thermostat. THEY don't know that they've forgotten this subtle detail; air.
Granted, I have a lot of "Sitting Ducks" style paranoia* around the holidays, but can you imagine poison gas in an airport bathroom? You're sitting there, trying to float over the seat to avoid some other kind of health hazard, and this insidious yellow mist seeps under the door. If you could crack a window, you could be saved! Oh yes! But this is an airport. They'd rather keep the death on the inside.
Another creepy thing, I think, is that I imagine the gas getting sucked away into some other space that exists for these kinds of occasions. That doesn't make me feel secure, it makes me feel like a lab mouse. It really does.
I also worry about airport security, and it worries me more that airport security has never noticed how much I worry about airport security. I must look completely incapable of crime, because they completely disregard my flushed cheeks, darting eyes, stammering statements, sweaty boarding pass... Really, shouldn't they be giving me a harder time? Instead, I'm sure they say, "Oh god, this girl looks nervous. I'll just make it short and sweet and get her through. Don't want her peein' on my good shoes." Do I not look suspicious?? If I were my fellow passengers, I'd want them to give me a hard time, dammit!
Ugh. I'm not flying again for a good long time. But then, if things work out, I'm not going home for a good long time, either.
*Other "Sitting Ducks" scenarios in JoBiv's head:
1. Mind control through cell phones. Some day a nefarious mad scientist will orchestrate a mass-calling of all cell phones at the same time. We, silly cell phone users, answer simultaneously, thinking we recognize the number. A hypnotizing voice instructs us to walk toward yonder bridge and throw ourselves off. Lemmings. Plop. plop. plop.
2. Toilet paper poisoning. No really, I thought of this the other day. I was thinking of the baby's tylenol suppositories and how quickly her body absorbs the medicine. How easy would it be to plant trace amounts of arsenic in your toilet paper? Every time you wipe your ass, you could be poisoning yourself! Eventually, you'd either build up immunity, or DIE with your ass hanging out! What could be worse? I ask you...
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Saturday: No matter how heartbroken I am for my oldest brother Tom (his gf of 7 years dumped him), I still can't talk to him for more than five minutes straight without wanting to kick his ass. (Sidenote -- I AM in love with his dog, Maxine.)
Sunday: I will not fit into my family as long as I stay sober.
Monday: Dan doesn't stick around when I'm home for one reason; He feels no need to impress me.
Tuesday: I only like my father before noon (before he starts drinking), but this is the time when he doesn't seem to like me.
NOT a revelation: I need to get back to Brookline, and fast...
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Which made this movie a poooor choice indeed. Ms. Norah dropped me off outside of my lovely apartment, and as we said Merry Christmas I was teetering a bit. She said, "You really hate going home that much?"
It's funny, when I actually choose to tell people anything about my family, I just choose a parent. "It's really hard because my mom..." "It's really hard because my dad..." It's silly to say anything because it's all hard. Norah suggested I scream at people before they're drunk. I didn't bother telling her that there doesn't seem to BE a 'before.'
I was just thinking about my teenagerhood in that house. I think it was last night... OH, this is what it was. I go to this salon on Boylston - very expensive, but I finally get good haircuts - and they offer a massage before the shampoo. I always decline. I don't like massages; they hurt, and they remind me of my senior year. I went to physical therapy for my back for a few months before I gave up. The pain and shame were excruciating.
Thinking about that made me remember the really bad days, when my mom would just drive me home and tuck me into bed and call the high school for me. I was absent about once a week for three months. I remembered lying on my back, staring at the ceiling, letting the tears slide into my ears and tickle there. I remembered the long hot baths, trying to soak out all the demons. I remembered my mother knocking frantically to make sure I was still breathing in there, remembered imagining all the things she imagined. When I go home now that bedroom, the bathroom, a certain chair in the living room... they're all demons. If the house were empty for Christmas, I wouldn't be alone.
That sounded a little dramatic and cliche, and I apologize. It's silly to even say that I'm anxious about going home; everyone knows this about me, right? Old news. I guess I'm just perplexed that I can't seem to do anything to help it. I've seen my parents more often, voluntarily. I spent a good weekened with my brother Dan. I'm trying to keep up. I guess I'm trying to keep ahead. It doesn't lessen this panic. My throat will not dilate.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Things that pissed me off today:
1. Was asked to come early. I thought it was for a reason. Apparently, that reason was so Baby Daddy's normal morning could go a lil more smoothly. I, insomniac Jo, had to interrupt my very fragile sleep schedule because Baby Daddy can't change a morning diaper without falling apart. Not okay.
2. While attempting to catch up on some much-needed-because-interrupted sleep, BD came out to say, "Wow, Pea's dead to the world, eh?" I said, "Yeah, hope she'll hang in there another 20 minutes or so." BD: "Right. Okay." Walks to end of hallway. Slams office door. Wakes Pea.
3. He then GOES INTO HER ROOM AND GETS HER OUT OF HER CRIB!
4. He then PICKS HER UP!!
5. He then puts her in MY much-harrassed arms, where she deservedly bawls her eyes out for five minutes...
6. At the end of the day, Baby Mama calls to let BD know she'll be a lil late. This does not, nor should it, affect my departure at 5:30. I deliver the message. 5:30 comes around. BD: "I guess you should go, Johanna. I think I'll be alright." Umm... that's why my shoes are on and my purse is on my shoulder.
7. BD continues after noting my barely restrained teeth-gritting, "Thanks so much for putting up with us this week... so I'll see you early tomorrow? Is that okay?"
Saturday, December 17, 2005
2. Gutter lives! Once in a while I'll check into Friendster and look for people who've disappeared from the face o' the earth, and LO! There was Gutter! Excitement, adventure, discussions in Italian! (Good Italian on his side, broken or worse on mine...)
I'm hereby limiting myself to three exclamations points per post from this day forward. EVEN if I'm quite excited.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Mom's voice: Hi Joey, I hope you're doing well. We haven't heard from you in a while. I'm just calling to ask when your flight is. I called my doctor and scheduled an appointment for the 29th, but I can change it if you'll already be gone then. Okay, Lovey, call me back. And let me know. Love you! Bye.
Annoying voice: To delete this message, press...
JoBiv: 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Monday, December 12, 2005
"Yeah, it was really good to see him," said I.
"That's great that you're close," said Baby Daddy.
"Well, it's taken a lot of work..."
"We didn't always get along. We hated each other in junior high and high school."
"But now you're close?" asked/said Baby Daddy.
"Yes, close enough."
"That's great. You're closest with Smacks?"
"Umm... I guess I am, at the moment. Sometimes I feel I'm closer with Cripps," I said, wondering if he had a point coming.
"Wow, that's great. You have this big house with a big yard and a big family and everyone loves each other... The All American Family."
I let out a strangled giggle and changed the subject.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
First of all, goodgreatgrand news: Dan actually came to Boston! He drove in on Friday (poor lad) and just left this morning. We had a lovely time running around in the slush and snow and generally hanging out. He restrung Lucretia and tuned her for me, and we didn't break out in tears or a screaming match. And he made several people swoon with his dashing good looks and alarming charisma. (I do try to warn people. They are still astounded.) It was a lovely visit overall.
It's funny, last night Dan ended up sleeping on my bedroom floor, and it reminded me of last Christmas, or Easter, or whenever it was that I came home and my brothers sat on the floor while I slumped on the couch, and we all talked about every little thing that was hurting our family. I cried, the boys cried, and when we fell asleep we were curled close to each other, none of us wanting to acknowledge the distance we have to keep from each other. Having Dan close this weekend was great; I got a chance to get used to our humor together, to remember our similar mannerisms, to get sick of him in a loving, sisterly way... It was just nice.
Contrasting with that lovefest, I feel like I'm losing my grip on my friends. I've been so crazy lately -- busy with extra baby hours, hating my extra baby hours, two choirs, dealing with family, etc. -- and I've felt like none of it is worth talking about. For the most part, I hate talking about my life (thus the sad dearth of blog entries). Now people are getting testy with me, and I don't know what to do. I don't actually have the emotional energy to fix whatever it is I've broken. Lately (er... the past many months), I find that I'm just hiding, as though some storm has to pass me over before I can attempt anything.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
And I'm devastated at the thought that he and I will have to approach each other unaided. At Christmas, holidays, birthdays... Sara was my comrade. Lois, Cripp's wife, is good for some moral support, but Sara was the one who slaved in the kitchen with me, who let me vent about my father, who shared a good eye-roll here and there as my family spun out of control. I already have a Christmas gift for her. I haven't gotten a single thing, haven't even imagined gifts for anyone else.
That same Friday night, Smacks called 911 on his ex's brother-in-law, who had taken 20 Percocet and found a gun to finish the job.
Is life really like this? Is this all we get? I don't always like my brothers, but they don't deserve these things. I get these pangs for them... I want to burn all the hurdles in their lives. I want to clear a path for them. They're trying so hard.
I think of my life, how I'm mostly ashamed of it. I have nothing to tell them when they call me, just the barest updates about my job. I think of all the shit they deal with, and how I'm just another pile for them to plow through. I know that the things that happened to them this weekend have nothing to do with me. I also know that as much as I love them and want things for them, I do not make my brothers' lives easier. How can I be so fierce toward the people who hurt them and leave myself out? I can't. And, as I may have made obvious by now, I don't.
I talked to Smacks yesterday, briefly, about his experience talking a gun out of a man's hands. He didn't want to tell me much last night, and I didn't blame him. He says we'll talk next weekend when he's here. I called Le Victoir tonight to say that I'd gotten my mother's email about Tom and Sara. Smacks picked up. He was distracted. I suddenly realized that I'd called for selfish reasons. I wanted details, I wanted reassurance, I wanted sudden functionality of my family. I hated myself so much right then. Smacks said he was about to call Tom. I asked him to pass on the message that I'm thinking about him. I got the hell off the phone before I broke into tears of self-loathing.
Friday, December 02, 2005
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Skill number 1: Impersonation
Pea looked at me, bleary-eyed, smiled, and pointed past me to the clock on the wall. She made a clucking noise in steady rhythm. Dok dok dok dok... that's the sound of the clock! Clever girl.
Skill number 2: Evasive maneuvers
I reached for her, saying, "Did you have a good rest? Did you have any dreams?" ... All the usual stuff I blather to her when she gets up. She stood up as though she wanted me to pick her up, then gave me a sly smile and ran to the far corner of her crib, laughing her diapered ass off. When I laughed at her she turned to give her most charming smile, then ran to the other corner of the crib, chuckling the whole way.
Skill number 3: The human pinball
Pea found herself enjoying the bounciness of her crib. She held on to the side and pushed her body downward, not quite jumping, but getting a good lil bounce. She giggled like mad. She ran around her mattress with big man-on-the-moon steps, chuckling, shrieking, giggling, falling, rolling, bouncing... She hit her head against the bumpers on purpose, laughing uncontrollably.
Skill number 4: Composure
I finally caught my own breath long enough to say, "C'mon Pea, it's time for a bottle." She looked up at me, looked like she was going to try her Evasive Maneuvers again, thought better of it, and launched herself into my arms, cuddling into my shoulder.
"Nana," she said.
(We think she means Johanna.)
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
I don't do that much talking these days
These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do
And all the times I had the chance to
And I had a lover
It's so hard to risk another these days
Now if I seem to be afraid
To live the life I have made in song
Well it's just that I've been losing so long
I'll keep on moving
Things are bound to be improving these days
These days I sit on corner stones
And count the time in quarter tones to ten, my friend
Don't confront me with my failures
I had not forgotten them
Friday, November 25, 2005
I was just thinking of how much I luurve doing dishes. Let me alter that statement slightly. I luurve doing my own dishes. I wish I had a digital camera to show you the beautiful Before and After effect. I will have to pretend I'm a wordsmith and spin you some description.
Before: Greasy stovetop with burnt thingers under the range; counter with broccoli bits, spoons, measuring cups sprawling; sink filled with pan from candied yams, pot from steaming broccoli, bowl from warming and remashing potatoes, roasting pan from turkey leg, mixing bowl from sugar/butter loveliness smushed onto yams, corn puddn' plate, whisk, various other implements (set a-soaking); kitchen table littered with ingredients, empty tin cans, drips, food particles.
After: CLEAN SURFACES.
Who needs bubble wrap? Not JoBiv! ::tic tic::
Monday, November 21, 2005
Becca invited me to her Thanksgiving. It's not exactly a family Thanksgiving, although her whole family will be there. They're all going to her sister's boyfriend's apartment in Somerville, which I'm pretty sure will be a shithole co-op kind of place. Several random musicians are also on the VIP list. The menu: some kind of apple/cranberry crisp, roasted beets (the only thing Becca cooks), and a TBA Indian dish. I'm supposed to contribute something. I really want MY meal, and can't decide on one thing. And it would be rude to bring five things, right? I'm not colonizing their Thanksgiving. In fact, if all goes well, I will sit in a corner and fold napkins or set tables or search for forks, speaking to few and dodging many.
I said I'd go, though. Did I mention that? I'm a complete dumbass.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
"You'll be home for four days, right?"
"Yeah, but you have to count travel time. Around the holidays?" I start to get teary.
"It would be easy for me to call her up and see if she has anything open. You need to get back on those prescriptions."
"Yeah, but those prescriptions require follow-up. I can't just see a doctor once and get drugs forever."
"Well, you could get follow-up."
"Not for months, though."
She went quiet. It was then that I realized she meant me to come home to stay.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Here's the story: I forwarded an email I get from Comedy Connection about Pablo Francisco coming on the 10th. We lurve Pablo Francisco. He's mad funny. I wrote something like, "WOULDN'T IT BE FRICKIN COOL IF YOU COULD COME SEE PABLO??"
He wrote back, "Indeeed."
I took that to mean, "Yeah, but ain't gonna happen."
Turns out it meant, "Buy the tickets, Sis!!"
Do you think he'll really come? Do you?? Oh my God I hope he comes!!!
It also meant that the baby's Auntie, who lives nearby, had her preschooler home for the day and decided to take her to the park with the new baby in tow. It was a pleasant surprise. Finally, an English-speaking woman in the park, a member of the Pea Fan Club (I believe she's the Secretary), and a playmate for Pea. Even though M is three years older, she enjoys Pea and follows her around sometimes, interested in her little Pea world.
We didn't stick with Auntie all day, though. We had social visits to make. There were the Russian nannies to consider, and our new friends, Ven and O, a Jamaican nanny and her Indian charge. And there were wood chips to eat, rubbish to kick around, gaping chasms to teeter on the edge of, etc.
This was all Monday, remember. Yesterday, Pea and I escaped the house for a bit, braving the drizzle for the sake of my sanity. We ran into Auntie's nanny, who's had a lot of leisure time since the new baby came. M was at school, Auntie was home with baby. She always sees us from far off with our electric green stroller.
"Johanna, I heard about you!" (Please insert Jamaican accent here.)
"You know how they talk."
"Um, you mean about us?"
"Yes about us with the kids. Total strangers think they know me, you know?"
"Yeah, I know." Many a time I've had strangers wave me down to say hi to Pea and tell me they've heard soooo much about me. Very unnerving.
"Well Baby Mama was sayin how Auntie was so impressed with you, how Pea keeps you on your feet and you always chasin' her."
"She said you are so good..."
"Well you know I can't sit on a bench with his baby."
"Oh no, not with THIS baby. OOh she know we talkin' about her!" Pea was squirming with impish delight in her stroller, smiling and chuckling.
She went on to say how impressed Auntie was with my mad skillz, how I stood out on the playground, how I obviously enjoyed my job.
I'm not gonna lie to ya. It feels good. Now where's my raise?
In the abovementioned other news:
My mother is so much more fun in writing. My father pushed her into an email account, and she's finally getting the hang of it. She cracks me up. She has this long-standing hostile relationship with the tab button and she updates me on their quarrels. She writes short emails, always afraid they'll explode or something before she can send them. And yesterday I got an email with the following subject line:
Your mother grows a set.
Apparently she's driving, by her wee self, to Boston. She wants to see my choir concert on Saturday, and she also wants to see First Light festivities. She's staying with me. I'm trying to keep her email charmingness in mind. Oh my, she is so charming. What a clever charming lady. Oh we will have such fun.
Monday, November 14, 2005
And then, today, two lovely things happened on a shopping trip to Cambridge Side. Perhaps they counteract Little Things in a light sort of soothing way.
Lovely Thing #1:
After a rigorous four-hour mall-wandering, Jenny (new roomie) and I settled down to dinner at CPK. We looked through our loot a bit, and I noticed one of my bags was missing. I tried not to freak out, just calmly removed all items from all bags... still missing. Damn. The mall was closed by now, and I'd have to make many scary phone calls to many stores tomorrow. Nooo thanks.
After finally paying for a mediocre dinner with poor service, Jenny and I managed to make it to several stores with people still folding and cashing out registers behind the rolling steel doors.
"Excuse me? EXCUSE ME! I think I left a bag here..."
Losing hope, we shuffled to the last store. After the usual whiney story-telling, and the relaying of information around the store, I got a response of, "What, exactly, was in the bag?"
Oh yes, people. It was MY BAG! Yeeeeeeeehaw!
Lovely Thing #2:
At the T station (which has had such a tiny makeover as to completely befuddle Jenny and JoBiv while contemplating how long the shuttle bus ran from Gov't Center to Lechmere), we purchased tokens from the machines. This, you may know, is risky business. One seldom finds a working machine, and if the machine works it often eats your money for breakfast and belches out... NOTHING. Neither of us put large bills in the thing.
I put a buck in, wanting quarters back.
I pushed the button...
A TOKEN fell out!
Cue the heavenly choir!
Here's the miracle which prompted a fevered five-minute bill-feeding frenzy alternating between Jo and Jenny: not only did I actually receive my T fare, it came at a discount! The machine hadn't been updated to the $1.25 rate! Whee!
As I often say, so often that I nauseate myself, it's the little things in life...
Saturday, November 12, 2005
This is why: I believe, not even so deep down, that I deserve all this.
That's another post for another, more enlightened JoBiv.
THIS post is about atrocities. And secrets. And how we keep secrets from each other until they become atrocities.
I don't mean to speak in code, I'm just very, very upset. I'll tell you the little things, because the bigs things are too big to be written of here.
Little Thing #1:
Leaving The Corpse Bride, Uly waxed poetic about how good it was. I was charmed, because he usually hates anything that could possible be likeable to any other person on the Earth. He chooses to dislike things because it's fun for him to test his wit in a continual game of devil's advocate. It's extremely annoying. So when he allows himself to like something, he's charming, boyish, vulnerable, and I sincerely like him. So, as he spoke of the artistry and quirkiness of the film, and I recalled his uncontrolled chuckles during the film, I started chuckling myself.
"What are you laughing at?"
"You, I guess." Might as well be honest. Ha.
"I dunno. I just like listening to you talk about something you like."
"Why is that funny?"
"It's not exactly funny..."
"Anyway, as I was saying... blah blah Tim Burton blah brilliant, but that last scene blah blah... You're laughing again."
"Then stop laughing."
And I realized two things, suddenly: if I told him how much I liked the film, he would argue against every point I made, just to argue. Also, he hadn't asked me what I thought, very likely in fear of wanting to contradict me.
So, little thing #1 - a vicious conversational cycle.
Little Thing #2: (Which ignores entirely the atrocities delivered on the body and soul of one JoBiv of Brookline, MA spanning the time after the Little Thing #1 revelations until the moment our story picks up once more.)
This morning, I returned from my shower and thought to call Miss Norah and see if she was up to shopping or some other thing that would be reassuring and normal. Uly's phone rang at the same time I reached for mine. It was some friend of his, a girl, and he was attempting to make plans with her.
"Brunch?" Turned down. He has never said this word to me, so I was surprised to discover it in his vocabulary.
"Dinner?" Perish the thought! Spend money on a meal? Not with JoBiv.
"But you're going to this party with me, right? ...C'mon, it'll be great! It's my brother and his goofy friends... Aww... but you're supposed to go as a pair of something. Can be anything, something stupid. I was thinking just matching shirts... Aww man, who will I get to go with me?"
Not the girl who stands in your room, holding her cell phone in wait of the end of your call so that she won't cause any questions while you're on the phone.
I was so angry in that moment that I called Norah anyway. I left a message. I didn't shout, but I didn't whisper either. Long after my short message, Uly remained on the phone with his friend, still in bed, leaning into the wall as if to create a private space. Leaning, actually, into the space my body occupied the night before.
I guess that means Little Thing #2 comprises all of Uly's efforts to limit my existence in his world.
Yes, I know. Those aren't little things. God, do I know.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Everything that could have gone wrong with this last freelance project DID go wrong. I won't detail the wrongness because it'll sound like prepubescent whining. I will not stoop that low.
Instead, I will share a conversation I've had about space today (paraphrased).
JoBiv: i haaaate the soooolar system
Person with whom I should not be speaking: overrated
JoBiv: space in general, in my opinion
PWWISNBS: so much wasted space
JoBiv: when they could fill it with an IKEA or something
PWWISNBS: or condos
Sunday, November 06, 2005
I had Miss SMI on my mind all last night. She would have loved the concert. It opened with Halali , three women on fiddles, one guy on guitar, some piano, some dance, some craaazy-tight harmonies. Jake went on after, in fine form, pure energy and soaring vocals. Then came Crooked Still, funktifying folk. The singer's voice was so light and airy, layered on a double-bass, banjo, and spastic cello.
When I say spastic... well it doesn't quite cover it. The cellist, Rushad Eggleston, was dressed in electric green and a Jughead Jones crown, and played the cello with an animalistic frenzy and complete precision. The boy was head-banging. I swear. It was impossible to look away.
Today I did some research on the lad, and he has his own band called Rushad Eggleston and His Wild Band of Snee. Do take a listen. (I highly recommend The Clover Show.)
Anyway, the whole night was excellent, the Somerville Theatre was packed tight with enthusiasts, and the energy pushing into us from the stage was phenomenal. It's amazing how YOUNG folk music is, I kept thinking. In Crooked Still, especially, I kept hearing strains of other song forms I love: jazz, blues, funk...
AND they had a Big Fat Finale, with all musicians on the stage! So much talent in one smallish space... It was mind-blowing. They finished with Graceland, led by Jake, transformed in turns into Celtic, bluegrass, and pure folk. It was bizarre and beautiful. I wish you could have heard it.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
I hate that the time I spent with my father was mostly spent counting drinks, counting the requests for ME to drink, counting all mentions of drinking... We must have talked of other things. I can't remember.
Why am I surprised every time? Why does it kick my fucking naive ass every time? He said he'd try and it would get better. My mom said it was better. When was that... back in the summer? When I went home I was sure it was just a celebratory mood that kept the booze flowing.
I'm so stupid. I'm so fucking stupid.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Or at least this is the latest proposed project that will prove once and for all that he’s intelligent and capable and so, so deep. And better than his sister.
I don’t write any of this with bitterness in my already shriveled heart. It’s more a feeling of, “Wow, you know, you don’t actually HAVE to pour that lemon juice on my gaping wound. It’s actually a choice. No, really.”
Why does it hurt? Not because I feel threatened. If I know my brother, his enthusiasm for this project will last no longer than the beer he cracked open when he first thought of it. The hurt comes from the knowledge that he’s still bothering to pull this kind of thing. This kind of, “here I go, foraying into Jo territory to show her how much better I am than she is.” And then the eventual fall. And then the addition to the list of things we may not talk about together.
The List, annotated:
- My grandmother’s death, prior to which Smacks flaked and refused to come out of his room while I held the bowl for her vomit all night long.
- College in general and St. Bonaventure especially. We were caught up, nose to nose, little sister and older brother both second-semester freshman. He stopped going to class.
- Grad school. It’s a swear word in the house, as far as I can tell. I’m beginning to believe it never happened.
- Music school. He claims he got into Eastman. My parents would have remembered those tuition bills. They sure as hell remember mine!
- Singing. Again, not entirely sure I’ve HAD gigs because of their place on the verboten list.
- Traveling. On one’s own. With one’s own money. Without run-ins with Police or other officials.
- Any books I’ve ever recommended unless he’s suddenly found them on his own and can’t remember my recommendation to save his life, and as long as I don’t add any criticism or background to the discussion.
- Our father’s drinking. Because I was the first one to say Something, I think. The pressure to say Something has turned into disapproval of my constant criticism.
Shall we preemptively add…
- Children’s literature? Might as well, since I can’t talk about grad school in the first place.
Okay, that’s not true. But you WOULD occasionally nudge me in the ribs and say something like, “Jo, YOU know all about that. Didn’t you have that cool project, et cetera? Why not share with your brother, who is clearly groping blindly through life and could use a hand?”
Thank you, I prefer to lend a hand only when I know it won’t get cut off at the wrist. Which, with Smacks, means never.
Book project was due Monday, got an extension because of my move. I'm trying to write today, but I can't make room in my head. I keep seeing this nightmare.
Dad's in town. Can't let him see me like this.
Friday, October 28, 2005
So, it's hard for me to comprehend that other people aren't as devoted to the lil people they watch as I am. Devotion is definitely the right word here, I believe, because I'm one of very few nannies following Pea around the playground so she can attempt stairs and slides and whatnot, one of the few who picks up the baby at random moments to sing a song or kiss her hair, one of the very few who TALKS to the baby constantly.
On the one hand, I can understand all levels of caregiving I see. I realize that I'm not seeing people at their absolute best at all times. I realize that they consider my brand of nannying a sort of hyper-vigilant, anxiety-ridden fakery. I realize that they don't know how relaxed I am, generally, and how much I enjoy myself in Pea's company.
This is all to say that I'm beginning to love our music class, because I'm beginning to feel at ease. It's so nice to see the same moms/nannies/dads/babies from week to week, to lean back in their presence, watch the kids do what they do, help them here and there, interact with adults, etc. It's especially nice for me because I don't feel quite so unique in that setting. The class forces everyone to be alert and participatory, like I usually am (after 11am or so, that is). It forces everyone to notice and enjoy the alien life of babyhood. I get a chance to show Pea off a bit, show myself off a bit, glean information from other people.
It's totally worth Miriam's $200.00.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
This morning I woke up before any of my roommates, which is a feat. Jake gets up mighty early to work demolition or the early valet shift at the Ritz. Today was his day off, and I hoped my face-washing wouldn't wake him or his bladder. I had already determined not to take a shower, afraid I'd be tired enough to try to shave my eye or something as strange.
I heard someone bumping around over the sound of the water. I prayed it wasn't Becca, because she has the tendency to knock on the door while I'm in the bathroom and attempt full philisophical conversations through the door. Things like, "How long do you think you'll be?" My reply is an audible, "Go the fuck away!" But really, if I were less inhibited, I believe I'd say, "Hmm. How long have any of us BEEN? Are we here at all? These are all good questions."
Anyway, I think she's been suitably trained by now and didn't knock on the door. All the better for her.
Dressing for the day, I tried to imagine how I could possibly get my breakfast without sharing air with Becca. Y'see, it's partially because I hate EVERYBODY in the morning. People are so repulsive before the sun's up, aren't they? I harbor a more specific hatred for the way Becca operates in the world. To narrow the focus once more, I hate the way she operates in the kitchen.
As I tried, and failed, to invisibly slip to my pantry, the fridge, and the spoon drawer, Becca managed to position herself in exactly the wrong place for each movement. Now, when other people are holding a box of cereal, a bowl full of it, and a jug of milk, you might think to yourself, "Aha! That girl means to EAT that cereal! She may need an implement of some kind. Saaay, I'm right here by the spoon drawer. I could supply the spoon myself! Or, since I'm feeling a little lazy, I could just move myself out of the way. Zip! The way is cleared."
This is not how Becca operates. She stands there. Her mouth is moving. It's too early for me to know what she's saying. Something about an exterminator? Who is she calling at this time of day? Is that MY phone? And how has she dirtied four bowls within the ten minutes of wakefulness she's had in the kitchen?
I approach the drawer from the side. She's still yapping. I lunge. Useless. The path is blocked. She's talking. What is she talking about?
"... and I can't believe Stan sent a landscaper guy to kill the bushes instead of sending someone to rip up the carpet. Like we needed the bushes trimmed! I sent him that email... Oh yeah, I CC'd it to you... saying that we had to have something done about the carpet or I'm calling the Board of Health and I said that we needed to hear from him by this Friday or else..."
"I don't speak English before... what time is it?" The clock read 5 past 7. I couldn't formulate the words, proving my point. "Before hours from nowish."
I think that's what happened. But I was tired. I could have dreamed it.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
In the middle of the night, he rolls over, curls his legs under mine. If I don't scootch back, he pulls me in tight with one arm across my body. Even if I DO scootch, he still pulls a little, holding me close for a second.
It's all part of the illusion, of course, but such a comfortable illusion it is...
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
The roommates are girls and I will never meet them. Why should I meet them? I should never see him again, right?
But I'm comfortable in that room. On Sunday night we entered it like royals retiring from the throne room, all the pressures of the public left behind somewhere. I always check for new things, as I do when I go home to El Victoir. I was so tired from my train ride, so annoyed with myself for being there, so hugely in need of any kind of reassurance that I didn't have time to take it all in. I attacked him with a kiss. He countered.
So I didn't notice the little sign above his computer desk. Rather, the computer he uses for email, internet, all those things - not the one he uses specifically for gaming (ugh!). Lying in bed, squirmy with latent energy, he babbled about things while I somehow got my lips to form words in a smushy way through the pillow. One of the things he said... I was sure it was a joke.
"See that there?"
"My eyes are closed."
"Well open them. Look."
I followed his pointing finger to the sign on the wall. I'm nearsighted at the best of times, so you can imagine how useless this excercise was. The thing was just a rectangular piece of paper on the wall.
"What's it say?" I mumbled.
"It says, 'Sleeping with Jo is very bad.'"
"It does not."
"It does, too."
"Why would it... Why would you... It doesn't. You're trying to get me out of bed."
"Well I'm not getting up."
"I don't want you to."
"Why did you..."
"Because it IS bad, isn't it? I mean, it's not BAD, it's just not a good idea."
"Hmph. It doesn't say that."
Monday morning came early after a sleepless night. Sleepless, I say, not because of any extra doses of reassurance, but because I kept finding myself staring at that damn sign, wondering if it really said what he said it saidy said. And then I'd look at him, the way his face goes all babyish when he sleeps on his side. Why would you do that, Mr. Man? Mr. Boy, really. Men don't do things like this, even suggest things like this. Doesn't matter, I told myself. He didn't really make a sign. He's teasing.
It was easy enough to check on my way to the shower. I didn't. Back in the room I still didn't look. He rolled over under the covers and mumbled something. I stared at the rug for a moment and then finally turned around.
Sleeping with Jo
is VERY BAD.
Except he underlined "very bad."
What should I have done then? Screamed at him? Punched him in the neck? Fallen down in a prolonged fit of sobs?
"Wow. It DOES say that."
"Told you it did."
I dressed and went over to the bed. I used to shake my head so he'd get a cold shower from my hair.
"If you hang out for, like, ten minutes, I'll walk you to the door."
"Kay. Move over."
He wiggled under the covers, sliding to the cool side of the bed. I lay down on top of the comforter, my wet hair soaking the pillowcase, his body warmth seeping up through the blankets. His eyes were closed, and I closed mine for while, measuring my breaths.
Those lines from James slipped into my head uninvited.
"These wounds are all self-imposed.
Life's no disaster."
Monday, October 17, 2005
Lately I've been repeating myself when I answer a question or tell a story. It's this bizarre tic-like thing that I only notice sometimes, and sometimes other people bring it to my attention with their frustration. Even as I do it I feel ashamed, childish, like I'm trying to force the words into other people's ears in some violent, violating act. If I just say it AGAIN you have to HEAR it you have to HEAR it you have to HEAR it. It's most disturbing because it's an audible proof of some of the weirdness in my brain. I hate letting people have access to that part of me.
Just one more strike against me in the battle for control.
Monday, October 10, 2005
Lil Pea cried on Friday when I left her at her aunt's house to catch my plane. I hugged her, kissed her temple, set her down. She zoomed off into another room, then turned just in time to see me heading out the door. Her eyes got huge and her face turned red and she ran toward me. Her aunt grabbed her and held her by the window so I could wave to her.
"Bye Sweet Pea! Bye, my love!"
She bawled, her mouth wide open, frantic tears running down her face, body contorted to reach to me.
I can't deny that I had some mistiness myself. It was partly sympathetic, and partly a huge emotion from the proof of her reliance on me. How will I ever leave this baby?
"Have a good trip, Jo."
"I will. Thanks for driving me." Still hugging me...
"It was good to see you." Let go. Let go.
"Good to see you, too." He lets go, I grab my bag and sling it over my shoulder.
He hugs me again. "We'll see you soon, I hope."
"Yeah." Let go. Let go. "Maybe Christmas."
It's funny how it works. Smacks and Cripps have this hero worship for Tom, wanting so badly to fit into his life somehow, to understand him, to draw him closer. And Tom... I just got it today. Tom needs my approval. He needs SOMEthing from me, and this huge discomfort I feel comes from the onus of that need. Is it a kind of hero worship?
More likely it's the same desperation I feel. How can this family be so... unseaworthy? What the hell can any of us do to fix it?
And why am I so unwilling?
Friday, October 07, 2005
Alas, the Housewarming Party was a sham. (Ben took to calling it a House Cooling Party.) I've been looking at apartments. I found one I like, now it's a question of who likes me. The place I found is $40 cheaper, one roommate fewer, heat included, in much better shape overall, no apparent freaks living therein. While I met one of the girls there was a jam session across the courtyard; sax, bass, drums, piano, pure jazz. It was like a beacon calling me home.
That girl better like me.
A miscellany of events in no particular order:
Roomie Jake asked me if I've ever thrown a sex toy party. Is that a pick up line?
Pea and I went to tot music class, and she was by far the most active baby, stealing maracas and strumming the guitar without invitation. I miss her less mobile days.
I've been weirdly reckless this week, agreeing to blind dates, drinking cider before seeing apartments, throwing my laundry willy-nilly about the room (WILD, JoBiv! Settle the hell down!). Figured it out - it's because I'm going home today. I have a track record of pre-parental-visit recklessness. It used to involve Uly.
Chorus and choir have been trying. Bach has this funny way of changing the notes on ya every time you close the book. Bastard. That's the Brookline Chorus - very challenging, interesting people, more time spent gabbing at breaks and before rehearsals with people my age. Community Choir is a shambles. I've been considering bringing a straw to choir so I can shoot spitwads at the director.
Got three freelance projects done so far; lots of money coming my way. Maybe I can pay last year's taxes now.
Last night, while waiting for the 66 bus (total wait time: 45 min.), a skinny kid on a bike zoomed past. Our eyes caught. He skidded to a halt. "John!" "JoBiv!" "Whoaaa..." He was a friend from SBU, a boyfriend of a friend who went a lil psychotic on me. As I told him last night, he was one of the few people I could stand at Bona's. He lives in Allston. We didn't exchange numbers.
I feel so broke up. Don't wanna go home.
Friday, September 30, 2005
In this dream, I was meeting Gutter. He's a friend of mine from high school. We remained friends through college, but since neither of us enjoy our trips home to Victor, we tended to miss each other. Now I have no idea where he lives and his parents either moved or changed their phone number. So now I dream about him.
I was meeting him somewhere outside, but it was enclosed and there was a door to get there, a door I was watching. There were people but they were vague, non-people. I looked around me and he was right there, out of focus but very close. We hugged and hugged... he kissed my forehead. He was wearing a navy blue sweater that looked too small. His glasses kept disappearing.
I wanted him to kiss me, and without saying it he seemed to obey, but somehow kept his lips from me as we tried to kiss. Finally he told me he had to go and moved away from me. He moved too fast... I tried to chase him, and he let a book go over his shoulder, like a handkerchief. I caught it somehow. It was full of notes for me, written in red pen. I didn't want to read what any of them said. I was so afraid it was full of excuses.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
A. I'm not sure if I was actually sick or if it was just anxiety, and it doesn't help the anxiety to feel guilty about missing work BECAUSE of feeling sick from anxiety
B. I'm saying less about anything slightly negative that happens in my life. I'm sick of hearing it from myself, and I'm sick of making other people sick of me.
When things get this way, I tend to tell people other people's news. I noticed this the other day, when someone asked how I was and I started talking about Lil Pea. And then when pressed I talked about my niece's birthday coming up. When pressed further, I brought up how fascinating my roommate Ben's job is to me. Not my news. I'm connected, but not living any of that information. It's a weird tactic, something I don't notice til much later, and the result tends to be a sort of hostile isolation. It's the same feeling I got at Shane's funeral and other Shaney party-type things. "You can't help me. None of you know what I know. Telling you will make it insignificant, and then I'm stuck with the shame of feeling too much."
Lil Pea Lil Pea Lil Pea
Don't you dare grow up like me
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
All we like sheep,
have gone astraaaaay.
We have turn-ed
Every one to his own way.
Of course, when sung, this sounds like,
Oh, WE LIKE SHEEP!!
I have to say, I certainly do.
I love this song already, but I have the sneaking suspicion that I love it because the director loves it, and I have a girl-crush on her. Some of her directives:
For "have gone astraaaay" wandering melodies: "Decrescendo... like you, the tenors, have indeed wandered astray. Perhaps you are headed toward yon cliff..."
For "We have turn-ed!": "C'mon, altos! Come clean! Ya know ya did it! Admit your guilt!"
The last page is a complete surprise. After measures and measures of up-tempo meanderings comes a page of half notes, whole notes, minor chords, meloncholy...
... And the Lord hath laid on Him
the iniquity of us all.
Monday, September 26, 2005
If you haven't met Chris (and in all likelihood, you haven't, O Cheese Aficianado), you won't have the amusing picture in your head that I have. Y'see, Chris is a giant. He's 6'7, maybe taller. Ducks in doorways. Doesn't fit in his own car. Has to cut his own shorts from pants. He's effing HUGE.
So imagine our glee when Chris agreed to come along on our apple picking trip.
"Wow! We won't have to fight for a ladder!"
"It's like we have the Jolly Green Giant on our side!"
"He can carry a sixty-pound bag of apples with his pinky finger!"
All true, people. All true.
Chris also served his apple-pickin' companions well by eating a total of eleven apples, all for the sake of science.
"Yes, but how do we know it's a Spartan?"
"I dunno. Chris, eat one."
"Okay." Chomp chomp. "Yeah, it definitely tastes different."
Razing the orchard with a giant on hand wasn't actually the highlight of the day, however, and I actually had a moment when I nearly decided that I wanted to get my driver's license. I had another spiritual moment - my second in a matter of weeks - when I bit into the hot heaven of a fresh cider doughnut. I said this out loud, shocking myself into yet another spiritual moment:
"Wow, I should get my license so I can come out here every morning and eat a dozen of these."
Be thankful, O Ye Readers, that I don't have my license, as I'm sure you have some kind of vested interest in my cholesterol levels remaining healthy.
Anywho, we got home, and I told myself I'd get right to work on freelance as soon as I had some food that wasn't apple-y. And then I made Teriyaki chicken sausage (TJ's) with sliced apples, potatoes, and onions cooked in gyoza dipping sauce. And THEN I made apple crisp with too little flour and too much ground clove. And THEN I made tea. And then I thought I'd clean my room a bit. And then I had a panic attack. And then I got to work.
But the bapples were worth it.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
And when I say evening wear I mean skanky club clothes. And when I say glamorous I mean full of self-importance. And, if I haven't worn out this construct, when I say dance floor, I mean sticky pit of claustrophobia.
It's a dream come true!
Now, I have to say, I was pretty stunned when I first saw the Providence II lit up, booming with music, bursting with people. I had this moment of wonder at the possibility of it all. And then I realized that I'd experienced something like this before. It's called a Frat Party.
So Norah, her roomie Melissa, and your favorite JoBiv sat on the quieter deck for a good portion of the night. We let the wind push us around and we talked of many things: traumatized friends, BC Law School Students (the main population on the boat), the status of the whole big wide world... And then we decided to eat some underheated pizza and join the dance party.
And at times, yes, it was beautiful, surreal, exotic. But mostly, I spent the night dodging women in the aforementioned scary shoes, saying, "that's okay," to their, "sorry! Excuse me's" and trying to dance while my shoes were firmly glued to the floor by a mixture of spilled drinks and what could only be military grade epoxy.
The night could have ended when I was sitting on the bench lining the entire side of the boat, the wind blowing through my hair, and then something wet landed on my face. I looked up, as it couldn't possibly have come from the water thirty-odd feet below. A guy in a suit was leaning over the side, who, as I looked up, spit toward the water. The wind caught it. I dodged it this time. He leaned over further and wretched. I grabbed Norah and launched us into the crowd before we could find out what else would come out of his mouth.
Check. Don't need to Booze Cruise ever again in my lifetime.
Friday, September 23, 2005
I noticed this last week or so. While I prepare her lunch, mushing avocado or hiding cheese in Beech-Nut sweet potatoes, she sits happily in her high chair, chomping veggie booty. I prefer not to watch, because veggie booty makes me ill (just to think of the spinach particles floating about!). When I do look, occasionally, to reassure myself that she's not turning purple due to a firmly lodged booty-glob, she smiles and laughs and tries to charm me.
And then, she pulls the "Now that you're looking" maneuver.
Pea grasps a puff in her right hand. She looks me in the eye. She thrusts her right hand straight out from her body. She deliberately loosens her grip, and smiles. The booty pings lightly on the floor.
Trying not to laugh, I sternly turn my body toward hers and sign "stop" with both hands, a sort of chopping motion onto an open palm. I say, sternly, I swear, "No, Pea. Stop. I don't like it."
She talks back!
Before I finish my reprimand, she yells at me in a stream of indignant gibberish. Then she repeats the maneuver. The episode ends when I remove the excess booty from her tray whilst she complains loudly, and I quickly begin the spooning of the mushy food.
Then today, while we played on the living room rug, I asked her, "Pea, are you hungry?"
I laughed a little. It sounded so definite. I asked again, "Are you feeling hungry?"
Later in the day I asked the same question. This time, the repeated answer was "Ikeee." I've concluded that she understands that I require an answer, but has yet to commit to one word in response.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
I should tell you why you didn't receive the Bea Arthur invitation. Well, those of you who have catapulted yourselves over state lines, that is. My roommates decided we should have a party. This serves different purposes for all of us.
For Ben: forces Becca to clean the apartment
For Jake: allows him to use his grill and educate us about beer balls
For Becca: allows her to systematically reject/alienate all of our single friends of the male persuasion.
For JoBiv: benefit yet to be determined.
I thought we'd have a little get-together, each of us corralling five friends or so. Becca's evite list grew to 48 people very quickly.
JoBiv: No, really, do you know these people?
JoBiv: Are they nice people?
Becca: If they're bringing single men, they're nice.
I brought up the topic of the Flaming Cabbage. Ben seemed enthusiastic. Jake consented with a saintly nod. Becca seemed confused.
Becca: Jo, you should have put something in that evite about "bringing dancing shoes" or something.
JoBiv: Why would I have done that?
Becca: Well of course there's going to be drunken dancing...
JoBiv: Oh, it's that kind of party.
Becca: Um, yeah. What kind of party did you think we were having?
JoBiv: The kind where you get to meet nice people and talk, actually hear what people are saying to you.
Becca: (glare of utter incredulity)
I'm just praying that some of my people show up to balance out her people. But then again, they can't all be like her, right? At 26 and older? Employed or in grad school? Chronically tired like the rest of us?
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Which, suddenly, is sparse. Two choirs, finishing painting my room, baby's b'day party, Brookline 300th Anniversary booths to attend to for choirs (which one? which one!)... When it rains, etc.
By the way, my Pea is turning one! One whole year of existence in the breathing world! Impressive, I say. She seems fairly proud of herself. I wonder if she'll show off her mad skillz at the party. She betta.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Monday, September 12, 2005
I wonder about this when I'm under stress and should really be thinking of other things. Such as, why haven't I bought real groceries for three weeks? What, exactly, have I been eating? I can't answer this question. I've felt sick for a while now. ...Besides the point.
I wonder about this when my parents are either threatening to visit or actually visiting. Like now. They're in town, my mother voluntarily enslaving herself as a house-painter for a few days, and I can't make myself feel good about them being here. THE WOMAN IS SAVING ME BUTTLOADS OF WORK AND FRUSTRATION, and I can't be happy about it. I've lost so much hair this week, it's a good thing I got my hair cut last week. My hairdresser praised me, said that it looked thicker, that I was clearly doing better (yes, she's the closest thing to a therapist at the moment. Shush.). And now my fingertips hurt and my stomach hurts and last time I looked in the mirror I couldn't make my forehead smooth by force of will. I had to smooth it with my hands and it bounced back into its deep furrows.
And so I become Dr. Jekyll, burying my inner Hyde. I carefully dress for dinner, make a list in my head of pleasant things to say and to ask, keep my elbows off the table, compliment my father's wine choice. None of this makes me less evil.
I've assumed that I'm basically evil since I was about twelve. No, I didn't hear the devil's commands in my sleep, but I always hated the conniver in me. I hated the hater. And I've always felt so terribly prone to these things. Perhaps my awareness was a good sign. I told my therapist from high school and college about the terrible compulsive daydreams I would have (I won't detail them here, they're disturbing), and he eventually copied a pamphlet for me about "Bad Thoughts" OCD. (Look it up on Google, I dare you.) The message of the pamphlet was essentially this: JoBiv, you are not evil.
I can't believe that. What does that pamphlet know? It doesn't know that I can't stand to be loved. That must be a sign of true evil.
God, I hope that's not true. Any of it. I'm so tired.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
"It's okay. A little dingy, but probably doesn't need repainting."
"Well we have ceiling paint, it's easy to bring it."
"Yeah, but it also has these glow-in-the-dark stars all over it."
"We can paint over them."
"Hmm... I think they'd peel eventually... I guess I can take them down."
And so over the past few nights I have left my light on for an hour, attracting the moths who have taken over the apartment, then turning it off, standing on my bed, I grope the ceiling to pull down the stars. It's funny, the same thing happens with these stars that happens when you look into the night sky; if I stare at one intently, it suddenly disappears. I resorted to scraping my fingers against the textured ceiling, searching for the flat paper stickers among the cheese grating.
I was sad to take them down. On my first night in the new room I was pleasantly exhausted, looking up at the fake stars, looking at fake constellations. A backwards big dipper, a too-tight Cassiopeia. My father had just mentioned to me how charmed he was that when I was last home, looking up into the starry sky was the first thing I did after emerging from the car at 1:30am. My mother reported to him that I found Cassiopeia right away. My father was impressed with his own teaching skills from way back when.
But the glow-in-the-dark stars have other memories tied to them. During the summer of 2000, when I worked at the YMCA camp, I was almost-dating a guy named Paul, who was the music teacher and had his own cabin/classroom. He was staying with his rather stodgy aunt and uncle that summer, and sought refuge in his little cabin, painting it, decorating it, cleaning the lush carpet. The kids loved that room, its comfy bright softness.
I was a little in love with Paul, with what he might do for me. I thought he could rescue me somehow, with his jazz guitar, his vegetarian enchiladas, his soft-spoken respect. He was careful and confusing with me, making huge efforts to see me outside of camp, then not returning phone calls, then begging me to go on the road with him. During our once-a-week overnight, we'd get the kids sleeping, then the counselors would take shifts to go down to the dwindling bonfire. Paul would play his guitar, I would sing everything I knew. The other counselors would dazedly burn marshmellows and put in requests.
One week I helped Paul bring his two guitars back to his cabin. The carpet was so soft and nice. I couldn't help wishing we could sleep there. The other counselors called it "The Love Shack," and at that moment, with the bright mothy fluorescent light buzzin, the guitars settling into their cases, our hair smokey, fingers ashy, I felt all of the possibilities rushing into me.
"Do you want to see something?" he asked.
"Sure," I said.
He ushered me into the middle of the room and walked over to close the door. Then he turned off the light.
On the low raftered ceiling, he had meticulously placed a hundred or more stars. Many of them made constellations. There were so many, it was dazzling. No one else would know they were here, I thought. No one is here at night. Was he sleeping here? When did he have the time?
"This is amazing, Paulie!" I whispered. Darkness always makes me whisper.
"Thanks." He brushed through the air toward me, stood in front of me as I gazed up. The cabin had good storm doors and blocked all light. There were no windows. The darkness was complete, except for the stars. I could only make out his silhouette against them. He was nearly a foot taller, and I was looking up, wondering if I could somehow find his eyes in the dark. They were blue. They should have glowed.
What did we talk about then? Whatever came out of our mouths was surely nervous bullshit. My whole body was pleading him to kiss me. I felt the entire dialogue; how he'd said he couldn't date anyone right now, how he'd said I was so talented, how I tried to find a closer place to him when we watched movies on his aunt's couch, how he touched my arm so lightly to get my attention, how overwhelming my loneliness could be, how his eyes lit when I sang with him. It all funneled to this point, right here.
Kiss me, jackass.
He cleared his throat. "We should go."
Paul found the door quickly, shakily opened it, let me pass through, careful not to touch.
Standing on my bed last night, my fingers sore from searching out stars, I felt that same juvenile confusion for a moment. Paul and I kissed, eventually, once, on my porch, some night before I had to go back to college after a short break. I never could tell if he did any of it for me - the stars, the enchiladas, the kiss. He always seemed to act out of some higher moral sense of duty that occassionally allowed him to dip down and serve me somehow.
I asked myself, are glow-in-the-dark star stickers juvenile or romantic?
My arms, head, fingertips aching, I decided. Juvenile.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
No longer private. Whoops.
And so. I showed up on time last night, despite the Great Forces of the Universe attempting to slow me. I found my way around, found my two-timing choir friend, met his lovely wife, and sat myself down in the back row of the alto section.
Laura, the director, started us off with breathing exercises, scales, and harmonizing exercises. She had complete and utter control over every aspect of the choir from the minute she told us to begin, and more than that, the choir was capable of response. This may sound strange. I mean to say that in the old choir, the members come from "all walks, all skill levels." This is to say that many do not know what choral singing entails, how to produce good tone, how to attack a note, how to follow a director, even! And so, when Laura pointed to the sopranos and asked them to sing a high arpeggio, I allowed myself an anticipatory wince.
And that's when the spirit invaded my formerly wandering soul.
HOLY CRAP, people! They could SING! Not sharp, not flat, not nasal, not wavering. Perfect, ringing notes lilted from them, and something in my chest fluttered with absolute satisfaction.
Laura then repeated the process with each section. The tenors made me shiver. The basses made me tear. And my own alto section sent me to some pillar of exhaltation I could not have previously imagined.
Appropriately, we started singing from Mendelssohn's Elijah. As we started on "He watching over Israel" (recently added to my repertoire at the CCCC), the choir read the new-to-most-of-them material almost flawlessly. After ten minutes of work, we had achieved something near angelic. We had surpassed, by LEAGUES, any kind of performance put forth by the community choir. At some point I thought to myself, "Wow, this would be PERFECT if I could make my sleep snot joke!"
This is the joke: (warning, not a good one.)
The Mendelssohn text loops and layers the words,
"He watching over Israel
slumbers not nor sleeps.
Shouldst thou, walking in grief, languish,
He will quicken thee.
He sleeps not."
When singing en masse, choirs often ellide end syllables to make the consonants crisper and to create a more fluid, graceful sound.
So, to me, "He... slumber snot nor sleeps." Similarly, "He sleep snot." Tehehehehehe.
In a serious choir, one is not allowed to utter such things, as one is working terribly hard to keep up with the director. Therefore, I nearly shit myself with happiness when Laura advised us to sing, "Slumber snot." My tenor friend leaned back in his seat, caught my eye, and raised his eyebrows significantly. The look said, "You belong here."
What a freakin’ week… The following things occurred but are not the subject of this entry:
- interviewed for and found three roomie candidates, all but the last flaking on us. (His name is Jake and he’s joined the Good Side in the “good god can we get rid of this clutter?” war.)
- On Thursday, moved my bed from my old place to this place by hiring help through Craigslist. Had to accomplish all the coordination with Pea in tow.
- Same day, moved out of my temporary room into the Red Room. I’m still in boxes, but at least they are conceivably unpackable.
- Helped Jake move in a bit
- Auditioned for The Brookline Chorus, was invited to come to rehearsal on Tuesday! (This means I may have to give up on the rose garden for this season.)
- Went salsa dancing (the subject of this entry, actually. I’ll get to it.)
- Went to the
- Cleaned this apartment! With gusto! Thank goodness for Jake and Ben, who scrubbed and moved furniture and hauled trash alongside your favorite JoBiv
- Sang at the Cantab’s Sunday Night Blues Jam. Gotta love Monday holidays.
- Norah’s Labor Day BBQ Madness!
- First Brookline Chorus rehearsal. Perhaps I’ll tell you about that sometime.
But let me tell you about Salsa dancing. The Havana Club holds lessons and a dance party (is that even the right term for salsa dancing?) for a low, low, wish-it-were-lower price of $12 a person. For the first hour and a half, a very energetic, shaved-bald man with a slight accent, think his name was Ivan, leapt around on a stage enthusiastically, piping directions through a headset over loud music and the sound of tippy-tapping feet. I couldn’t actually see his feet from where I stood, but gleaned the basic steps from those around me. And then I remembered, “Hey, I already learned this somewhere!” (Twice, actually, in high school P. E. and in a Spanish wine bar in
Near the end of the lesson, I ended up with an Indian man who, despite his best efforts, had not yet mastered the simpler steps. I had been excited to learn the new parts Ivan modeled on the floor with his partner, but instead spent the time showing this man how to lead me. Of course, that didn’t work. At one point, he spun me and pulled my hip so that my whole body was flush against him, and I felt a momentary terror. I wanted to scream out, “Don’t touch me!” But it was a mistake. It had to be a mistake. He was just nervous and uncoordinated.
Eventually, Ivan came over. He stood next to the man and took over, allowing him to mimic Ivan’s every step. Ivan held my hands in his with the gentlest pressure, and with the slightest of moves on his part, I felt my feet move into the right steps. It was as simple as if he had pressed a button somewhere. He left me with the bumbler again, and I felt somehow bereft.
As the night wore on, I ended up watching from the sidelines. Acutely aware of all of my flaws (real and imaginary), I became a thirteen year old at a school dance. The men were many and brave, approaching women willy-nilly, the energy of comaraderie filling the place to bursting. Everyone wanted to try out their steps, and very few seemed daunted by the risk of embarrassment. I couldn’t shake my fears, however, and sat back to watch the many characters sprawled across the floor. A man at the next table, latino, maybe 35, dressed all in black, kept glancing our way. He tried to catch my eye several times and smiled widely. Was it a friendly smile? A blonde guy with blazingly blue eyes cruised the perimeter of the dance floor for women to dance with, his shirt soaked with sweat after the first two or three dances. An older black man with two-toned shoes and a belly seemed to delight in spinning women to nausea. One young latino had this slick style of approaching women that kept me laughing. He would approach a woman with very little eye-contact, then sidle up to her, turn his back to her, somehow get her hand in his, and pull her behind him onto the floor, stepping to the beat. Oddly, every woman he approached went along with his grand plan. He was a good dancer, a little bit creative, and had a tendency for dipping as a grand finale.
It was all very fine to watch him dance with friends, but suddenly his red shirt took up my entire field of vision, and he had my wrist in his hand. Gently, he pulled me out of the seat. I protested, evidently weakly, and he pulled me onto the floor. I was suddenly nervous, much more than when I had been forced to dance with strangers during the lesson, and hoped he knew that I didn’t get to learn the fancier steps. How would he know that? He seemed to gauge my abilities fairly well, and respectfully held my hands instead of embracing me, allowing me space, guiding gently. He brought out some fancy footwork and I tried to copy. We ran into the next song with our sort of call-and-response dancing. Toward the end I was positively enjoying myself, and then he pulled me to him to kiss my cheek.
“Thank you,” I said, kissing back and attempting to lean away. He said something into my ear, but the music had started up again.
“What?” I yelled.
He wandered off to other women, and I sat back down, my cheeks burning, stomach roiling. I couldn’t help but think the worst of what those words could signify. You deserve it… in spite of how you look, how you dance, how you act. Even you, you wart on the face of the dance floor. You deserve it. He somehow saw the deep and secret ugliness in me, I was sure of it.
I went outside for a while to get some air, where the bouncer decided to chat with me. He was black, I think
“Why is this the first time I’ve seen you here, girl?” he asked, very flirty.
“I hadn’t heard of this until now!” Why did I feel the need to answer such a weird question?
“Oh that’s no excuse! A girl like you… Mmm… I should have met you sooner!” He winked at me and barely saved his eyes from raking my body.
“Ooookay… back to the dance floor for me!”
“Girl, don’t do that to me… Hey, what’s your name?”
“Johanna.” Why lie?
“Johanna, you come back out here and visit, yes?”
“Well I’ll definitely see you when I leave, won’t I?”
Back inside, another latino worked his way through several friends. It was the man in black who had smiled at me hours ago. This man was a little older and exactly my height. I couldn’t tell if he was skeezy, but he seemed mellow on the dance floor as I watched him. Eventually, he worked his way to me.
At first, I didn’t understand the difference in this dance. It wasn’t completely comfortable, but it was suddenly easy to keep up. He looked me in the eye and guided me so gently and tenderly. I realized the difference a few minutes into the song; it was respect. The elegance of our dance came from a complete infusion of respect that seemed to travel through his fingers and into my body. I could feel that he thought of me as a lady, as Ivan had been fond of calling the women. He was taking care of me, allowing me, praising me with the slight pressure of his fingers on my hands. As soon as I realized this, my body seemed to fall into step as it had with Ivan. I could play with the steps more, swing my hips more, look in his eyes more. This was utter elegance.
At the end of the second song, he leaned in for the customary cheek-kiss and thank-you.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Johanna. And yours?”
“Miguel. What’s your friend’s name?” He pointed to the women sitting nearby.
“You mean the redhead? Norah.”
“Oh… yeah. I mean, what’s her name?” He pointed to the elegant brunette I had only met tonight. She danced with a perfect fluidity, having taken lessons beyond our twelve dollar special.
“That’s Senele. She’s good, isn’t she.”
“Yes, she’s very good.” He seemed to remember for a moment that he was supposed to be talking to me. “You’re good, too!”
“Thank you… and thank you for the dance.”
He bowed a bit and we parted.
I felt somehow grounded after my dance with Miguel. I felt a bit of a rush, too. My body had not betrayed me, and he had been respectful, whether or not he had preferred another girl’s dance. His eyes didn’t lie when he said I was good, and I hung onto that little bit of praise.
At 1:30, with men still roving for dance partners as though it was 10:30, my companions decided they’d had enough and I had to agree. On our way out, James reached for my hand.
“Hey, now you have to come back, Johanna.”
“Oh, we’ll see,” I laughed.
“You laughing at me?” He pretended offense.
“No, no… it’s just that you’re so charming,” I said, mocking a faint.
“You’re trouble, you are, girl. You come back and visit your charming James.”
“You say you’ll come again.” He pulled my hand to his chest.
“Oh ho! Goodnight then!” He raised my hand to his lips, smiling endearingly.
I swung my hips as I walked away. Gloatingly.
Friday, September 02, 2005
“And Jo, this is kind of an odd request.”
“Would you mind trying to cut Pea’s nails today?”
“Whoa… umm… I dunno…” I broke out in a mild sweat. I can barely change the little tumbler’s diaper these days without injuring her or myself. How would I wield scissors anywhere near her?
“Well, you’ve seen the scratches on her tummy…”
“Oh yeah, of course, I mean, I’ll try. I might give up fairly easily, but…”
Baby Mama laughed, “Yeah, that’s fine. I usually try to sneak up on her while she’s sleeping. She still manages to squirm away.”
And so I was left with a crazy unforeseen anxiety. That day, the baby slept in her crib as I planned my attack. How sleepy was she? If I interrupted her nap I’d be furious with myself. Her naps are my only chance to take a break (after taking care of dishes and cleaning up). What would I do if she was sleeping on her belly, as she often does? It could be the perfect excuse to call off the procedure. Right then I decided that she was probably asleep on her stomach and I really shouldn’t disturb her. Besides, I didn’t know where the nail scissors were. There. Decided.
The next day I found the scissors. Now I had a problem. I stood at the door to her room, having spent much too much time on dishes and tidying and repacking the diaper bag and cleaning the scissors. I could see her through the rungs of her crib, sprawled on her back, not having moved from when I put her down, a sack of tiredness. I thought, I really don’t think this was in my contract. And then I thought, do I have a contract? (The answer: tragically, no.)
I stood there, scissors in hand, one foot over the threshold, and tried to convince myself that the worst that could happen would be Pea waking and cutting my break short, and I was just being selfish. But actually, that wasn’t the worst that could happen. The fears that first occurred to me and throbbed in my heart as I stood there were completely irrational and completely terrifying: what if I cut her? What if she wakes and moves so I poke her in the eye? What if I somehow slip and… tears were suddenly running down my face. My heart raced and I couldn’t breathe.
I forced myself to take a deep breath. “Another day,” I said aloud. And then I walked back to the living room, repeating it to myself. “Another day. Another day. Another day.”
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
I have a compuTER! I have a compuTER! I have a compuTER!
Okay, enough of that, but I should mention that the 29th marked the anniversary of your favorite brand of cheese coming on the market. That is to say, Formaggio is one whole year old! It seems somehow fitting that the initial leap of techno-savvy should now have this reward. I wonder what it'll be next year... Teleporter a la Star Trek? One can only hope. And light a candle at one's Patrick Stewart shrine.