Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Found an old notebook...

I was looking for blank pages so I could take notes on my scary phone call of the day (Mass Rehab) and found pages of doodles and poetry. Only a few pages had anything on them and I believe all the of the material came from my trip to NYC last year. At the time I was unsure of The Novelist and of myself, in a very dark moment.

How's this for indicative poetry?

Shoes and Lovers

Shoes and lovers hurt you
From knowing you too little
And knowing you too well
You can never know how long
You linger in the middle
The best days of the pair

I should tell you that I had a date last night -- a good one, I thought. It involved tea and a bookstore, so how could it be bad? The slight complication is that the gentleman in question works in the same offices as The Novelist. I don't want to hurt my wee writer. Well, I mostly don't want to hurt my wee writer... There's a part of me that is still angry.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

un edit ed

I don't know where to start, so I'll just start. I worked a my first shift back at Starbucks yesterday. My doctor said I could go back to work so I took a shift that someone bailed out on. Three hours in my scar started puffing up. By the time i got home it was bleeding. I was tired, of course, and aching everywhere and not even useful in the store and completely unsure of how many hours I could work, and then... bleeding.

I have no money coming. My surgeon's assistant never mailed the forms he was supposed to mail, despite my constant calls, so I missed the file date with my insurance. My parents finally got a big fat envelope of forms postmarked january 7th. Clearly the guy didn't touch it til at least a week after he got back from vacation. By the time my parents forwarded the envelope, I opened it to find out it said I could go back to work immediately. Good? Not good? I had no idea, considering I hadn't seen the surgeon again.

I had an appointment the next day, actually, and brought up the forms. I asked my surgeon to extend the date because I couldn't get hours at starbucks and can't afford to shut off the income from the insurance til i start getting hours. This is all assuming that the insurance will work out.

As an extra happy surprise, I got several statements from my insurance detailing my surgery and the parts they'll cover. Apparently I owe about $3,000. Honestly, it wouldn't matter if it were $30, I can't pay anything. I've saved that freakout for another day.

So now... today... I dunno. I have to call Starbucks and tell them I'm bleeding and I do want hours but I can't DO anything. I should maybe, okay definitely call the surgeon's office to let them know the wound opened up and find out if that's a big deal or not. I have to call insurance people every day for the rest of my life until they can help me. I have to take a shower and brush my teeth and wear clothes and read mail and every little thing seems impossible.

I'm so tired. How do I stop being tired?

I've been going on dates willy nilly, too. I was going to omit that, but it's important. I'm in this very juvenile frame of mind these days where I need constant approval and attention, and so I throw myself at people and beg beg beg them to like me. I'm so fucking pissed that I have to wear a brace and can't walk properly can't earn money and I want some proof from the world that I'm still some kind of adorable human being. So I let men buy me dinner and tell me all the things about their lives that would normally make me say, "I think I hear my mother calling," and leave. I let them kiss me and try to feel convinced. And of course, as predicted, none of it works for the positive, except maybe getting dinner or coffee for free.

It's my brother Chris's birthday today. Also The Novelist's. My chest kind of squeezes around that weirdly. Everything, everything is so uncomfortable.

Trying to find a positive note, but then again we talked about that, didn't we? How i try to be positive for you sometimes, try to make other people more comfortable with my hardships. Maybe I don't have the strength today.

Monday, January 21, 2008

First day back at work

and my stitches opened up. That's right, five hours of work and I'm BLEEDING.

This can only end in tears, as they say.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

'strange' is wunnathose words

Walking out of a long, high-tension movie (Atonement) with my friend, she stood waiting for me to put myself together. As I put on a sweater and a coat and a scarf, something strange happened.

I feel that this thing was so private and harsh to my friend that I can’t tell you about it, yet I need to write something because my head is spinning. And so, in a sort of prophylactic attempt to save her story I’ll tell one of mine.

It was a hard Thursday last year when I hadn’t managed to get out of the apartment for a week or so. I’d missed therapy and was about to miss group therapy. I found myself spending hours playing checkers online with strangers, who are much easier to talk to than the people who care about you when you’re in a mind to hate yourself. I’d decided to meet some guy I’d met through Match or checkers or something else. I’d decided to put on make-up and go out for a flirty, meaningless coffee because I couldn’t stand to take myself to group therapy. Mostly, I couldn’t stand to deal with my own shit that day.

And of course, while I was walking with this person, having just met in Coolidge Corner, a man from my therapy group was getting into a cab on his way to the hospital. He spotted me and yelled out a Hulloo.

“Oh, hi,” I said, careful not to use his name, because it’s strange territory among… groupees, “How are you?”

“Well, I’m headed over there right now. I’m going to be a little late but I really need to go. It’s good for me to go even when I don’t want to go…” etc. etc.

At some point it dawned on him that I wasn’t going and that I had company.

Now it was equally impossible to introduce this person I’d just met. I felt it wasn’t my right to give his name or to exchange it for the groupee’s name. All I could do was stand there and look stunned.

“I left a message with the secretary,” was all I said.

“Okay, well, hope to see you next week,” said Groupee.

Even though no one had been hurt, and only I had suffered some embarrassment, I still remember that cold, tight feeling in my abdomen of every single thing having gone wrong somehow, of all my deep and terrible secrets being bared, and worst of all, of those secrets becoming so instantaneously stupid and tiny.

Rationally, I knew that, in fact, nothing had happened, yet my mind twirled in inflated confusion for days afterward. I know my friend is feeling some of that now. I could see it on her face. Just as no one could soothe that feeling out of me, I knew that anything I said would only make her embarrassment more acute.

How do any of us sleep while so many people are hurting?

As we left each other tonight I apologized for my long silence over the past months. I said, "I'll try not to be such a stranger."

She said something like, "Oh, don't worry, you're not a stranger, you're just strange."

"Strange" is one of those words that if you say it over and over and over it loses meaning and sounds foreign. In fact, it makes everything more strange. strange. strange. strange. strange. strange. strange.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

my left foot

THAT's why she's so grumpy. She can't feel her foot and the doctor told her that's not a good sign but too bad it could be like that for the rest of your goddamn life so let's just get that brace altered and send you on your way to a life of ugly too-big shoes and unsexiness and oh my fucking god...

Effing brace. I'm so sick of it I could SCREEEEAAAAAM!!!!


the momanomaly

On day five after surgery, I awoke from the last shards of morphine into a new version of my life. In this version, pain and discomfort was constant but normal, I was fairly helpless all the time, and my mother lived on the floor of my bedroom.

I need to tell you about those days with my mother because it was so otherworldly. She was not the same creature I’ve grown to accept and fear. She was placid, strong and giving.

Even better, my roommates seemed to calm in her presence. One of them got sick that first week and we spent a lot of time letting my mother baby us. We had our rituals of tea and TV and simple meals. When I felt well enough we walked to Trader Joe’s and I tried to keep my mother from bringing the whole store home.

And despite irrationally blaming my mother for my tanking love life (as though I’d have dates lined out the door a week after surgery [or ever]) and my flailing social life (think I’m bad with the phone when I’m NOT on narcotics?), the days were mostly lovely in that, “wow, she expects absolutely nothing of me,” kinda way.

By week two, several changes had occurred. One, my mother ran out of her nasal nicotine cigarette-replacement spray. At home she would have been pacing and gnawing. In my apartment she calmly drank tea and tooled at crossword puzzles. Also, I had gotten well enough to regain my rigid sense of personal space and felt a bit claustrophobic. Because I’m predictable, I ended up crying to my mother about how hard this must be for her, to give up her routines and her privacy to help me.

Here’s the cool thing: she totally caught me out in my pathological game. My mother, whom I’ve been defensively mothering for at least a decade now, coolly dissected my reactions and let me be upset about the things that upset me. I cried on the couch where I couldn’t quite sit comfortably and she told me it was okay, that life sucks, that THIS sucks. She allowed my puerile manipulations and excused them and in the end she was simply there.

And then Dad’s phone calls kept her phone buzzing off of tables. My roommates got used to saying, “It’s PapaBiv!” whenever they heard the ringtone. It was always PapaBiv. He had decided to pick us up.

It wasn’t until my father had called from Schenectady that I noticed my mother unraveling. She started having coughing fits and slipping snide comments into her usually gentle instructions. She made and edited lists out loud, urging her frantic energy onto my plate and begging for me to pick it up.

The night before my Dad rolled in I was able to hear what she’d been saying for a few days. “It’s been so nice to be here, among girls. I never had that. I never lived on my own with a bunch of girls and had my own life.” By the time Dad reached Springfield, those phrases became a spite-tinged litany.

On Christmas Eve, when my father had become completely irascible, I caught my mother’s eye and said, “Y’know, there are a lot of nice men in Boston.” There was a true wistfulness in her eye as she washed out wine bottles in a series of deft, well-practiced movements.

A week in pictures (and poverty)

There was snow. It was purty, and impossible to walk on with only one good foot.

Eggs and bananas. Bananas and eggs. (And toast, at the time, although I've run out of bread since.)

Proof that I left the apartment and made it to the movies with my roomie. Good Jo! Tut tut.

Dressed up for dates, because if I go on dates someone else will pay for my coffee/drinks/dinner. And I'm less bored. Okay, and I like boys.

Proof that I still love Boston, even though I've been dealt the worst blows of my life here (and they just keep coming).

Monday, January 07, 2008

Art therapy.

I thought I felt like this today.

Turns out this Ramona is a gross understatement.

*No Ramonas were harmed during the making of this post.
** I would tell you the story of today but it's an internal one and completely boring. Let's just hope it's a temporary funk a la Ramona.

Forgotten poem

I wrote this when I was with The Novelist and never published it here. Trying to get back in my poettish frame of mine, so I'll share it, even tattered as it is.

I've noticed that we've learned to fit each other.
We take turns, leave space in our breath
for each other. We crawl around time
and give hours to each other. We
slice open our inner ears for each other.
We leave our hands empty and wait
for each other. We break all our eggs,
but tiptoe for each other. Perhaps
we save up our best lies for each other.
(And I wonder; would one of us die
for the other?) We keep sacred one drop
in the eye of the other. We conquer
the others, submit to each other.


Friday, January 04, 2008

riding the crazy train

I got my brace fitted on Monday, New Year's Eve. It's purple with bright planets on it, because that's how I roll. Er... limp. Understand, please, that I need the brace because my foot is still dead and my calf muscles only partly work. This, according to my surgeon, is not a hopeful sign.

On Tuesday I decided to test out the brace a bit and took myself downtown to my former place of work. The T ride was the most entertaining part of the day. Of course there were the hungover young folk still wearing their stained party clothes and reeking of greasy food and appletinis. Then there were First Night families trying to figure out why Boston SUCKS on New Year's Day when it was ever-so-fun the night before. I sat facing one family with three middle school aged kids. The littlest one was absolutely beautiful with her awkward glasses and sweet cowlick.

Then two blue-collarish guys got on, walked past me and sat lengthwise across back-to-back double seats, so as to assert their masculinity, one can only guess. One was a short latino with ridiculously long eyelashes and a baby face. The other was red. Red hair, red skin, red bloodshot eyes. I caught him looking at me and looked right back, then turned away. Apparently, this was an invitation.

He got up while the train was in motion. He sat across from me on the edge of a double seat, knees jutting into the aisle, leaning forward.

"Hi," said Red.

"Hello," said Jo.

"Do I know you from somewhere? You look so familiar to me," said Red.

"That's funny, because I have no idea who you are," I said, countering my rudeness with a wee smile.

"Oh. Well I just thought I knew you..."

"I'm pretty sure I've never met you," I said.

"Okay. Well. How was your New Year's?" asked Red.

"It was okay." (Actually, it was dead quiet. I didn't manage to leave the apartment.) "How was yours?"

"Oh mine was... blah blah... worked all night... been driving... blah..." he said, I think. There were huge gaps in his speech during which the train squealed or rumbled and he spoke too quietly and I couldn't hear a thing he said.

"What?" I said.

"I was driving with my buddy from... ...and we .... and then... so we're tired as hell..."

"Do you get to go home and rest?" I asked.

"Yeah, we're headed to the North End. I'm staying in the North End," said Red.

"Cool," I said, nodding and smiling.

"You have a really nice smile," he said.

BLUSH, I said. "Thank you."

Awkward silence.

"So," I said, "You're not from around here?"

"No," he said, "I'm from... ... up by... ... just in town for a while, thinking about moving here..."

I nodded, not bothering to have him repeat. At this point I realized the entire First Night family was watching us fiercely, especially the little girl. Her eyes fled from one face to the other like she was watching a ping pong tourney. I thought I should be a little more polite.

"And you? Are you from here," he asked.

"No, I'm from western New York. Six hour drive away."

"Ohh, and you live around here?"

"Yep, I'm not going back," I said. "I found a good place in Brookline."

"Brookline," he repeated.

"I came here for grad school and I'm staying," I said.

"Grad school," he repeated.

It was then that I realized I sounded like a prick. Red lost some of his gusto as the interview continued. For some reason, I felt like I had to efface myself a bit to make him more comfortable. I started babbling about how my grad degree didn't lead to a good job and I'm barely making it, like everyone else in the city. Through all the jabbering there were longer moments of stilted silence. When was he getting off this train? We'd been on it from Kenmore.

"I'm Chris, by the way," he said, reaching out his hand for me to shake.

"I'm Jo," I said, finding no reason to lie to him.

"It was really good talking to you, Jo."

"Yeah, well I hope you get some rest. It was nice talking to you, too."

"So could I get... ... if you don't..."

"I'm sorry, what?"

"Could I... ...my number? Or could you... ... your number?"

My mind raced a bit. The little girl across from me peered intently, watching my every gesture. I thought about myself first, all the things that are currently fractured in my life and how undateable I am right now. I thought about him, not really living here, just some random dude to whom I was not all that attracted. I thought about getting a free dinner out of him - a practicality I could certainly use. I thought of excuses I could give him to make him feel better. In the end I said,

"No, I don't think so."

He smiled and took it well, then repeated the whole "It was nice talking to you" bit.

In the sudden and absolute silence there was nothing to do. I looked out the window at the dark tunnel, I looked across to the little girl, who was squirming in shared discomfort. I smiled back at Red a bit. I decided to get off at Boylston to end the awkwardness. I could just hop on the next train and keep going.

I got up, gathered myself, and just then remembered the brace. Red's baby-faced friend got up, too, hovering by the stairs. Shit.

"This is my stop, too," said Red.

Shit shit shit.

"You really do have a great smile," he said.

"Thanks," I said, flushing from the compliment and the coming gaff.

The doors opened and I let myself down the stairs one at a time. Red followed. I limped along and Red and Baby-face passed me. Red said a nice goodbye. Baby-face turned around, pointedly looked at my leg and gave me a pitying look. "Have a good New Year," he said.

I thanked him and whipped out my cellphone, pretending to check messages, not wanting to pass the gates and have to pay again.

A man waiting for a Lechmere train saw the whole thing. I waited for the next train, leaning on a column, regaining my composure. I bent to hide the brace a bit more. No use.

This, I thought, is your New Year.