Monday, January 31, 2005

I always think of you coming out of the dark towards me, and how the light would catch your glitter and you would look lit up from the inside, like Christmas. Like you were made of stars.

I always think of how willing you are to drop everything to help someone who might need you. I think of that palm-sized dent at the small of your back which always seems to hold the world's heat, and I think of your laugh.

I think about how I've always wanted to be like you and have learned to be strengthened by just being near you.

Dear Internets,

Please think kind thoughts in the direction of Bristol, England, where Sarah is not evidently in any immediate mortal danger, but is in the hospital with a drain in her chest far away from those of us who love her.


Sunday, January 30, 2005

My Sarah spent a cold Friday in a hospital in England having a handful of mL's of air sucked out of her chest with a needle. For whatever reason (I suspect juggling balls, but this is mostly because I'm suspicious of her husband's abilities) one of her lungs had pulled away from the spot where it was attached and formed a little pocket of blank space. As this space can lead to a collapsed lung they had to make it go away, and they went about removing it in, evidently, the usual way.
I've been worried about the whole thing, of course. When you're lucky enough to have people like Sarah in your life, you occasionally can't help but entertain a niggling sort of worry that they'll be taken away from you. But mostly I've been thinking about that extra space in her chest.
Because that's all we are, right? A concatenation of atoms? A bunch of empty spaces held together by string and spit and a whole lot of faith? And what I think is that my empty spaces are attracted to your empty spaces, and that they're looking to fill each other up.
So it's probably a good thing that Jesse was there to hold on to her while the doctors removed all of that blankness from her insides. From this side of the pond we're sending her love and a million million kisses. It's what holds together all of those empty spaces that really counts.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

2:00 a.m., a phone call, and suddenly I'm back in a car on the way to hot dogs in Ballard with two coworkers that I've just passed in the passenger seat of another car a few minutes back. After a show of amazing photos, my lips later stained red from the bottle of Hungarian wine mostly consumed in the company of two of my favorite folks, I find myself waiting in line near a man with a cart. The lady behind me has been talking to my friend and turns to me with, "You look like a mermaid."
I have no tail, but I'm all for it. "Thanks!"
I order my hot dog with cream cheese (it's a Dante dog) and just ketchup, and she pipes up, "That's mermaid food!"
I'm still all for it, even though I always figured mermaids ate seafood. "Totally! Mermaids love ketchup!"
Hotdogs at 2 in the morning, mostly inebriated, are the best hotdogs I've ever tasted.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The woman who lived in the trailer next door was named Mrs. Hubbard, and her mother, who lived with her, was just called Grandma. I spent a lot of time over there as a kid, because Mrs. Hubbard's children were grown and so they liked to have me around the house. Grandma was little more than a wisp, her raspy old lady voice hardly used and sounding like dry fingers on sandpaper when she did speak. Mrs. Hubbard was still working but Grandma was disintegrating rapidly and needed assistance. They hired a day nurse to care for her but there was a small slice of time between when the nurse left and her daughter came home that Grandma would be by herself, and they asked me to stop in three afternoons a week after school to keep her company. I was nine.

I've never told anyone this story. There are a lot of those, stories I've never told you, because I prefer to stick to the ones that have been aired out and sanitized. I might tell you that I don't have any secrets, but I'm always lying.

On my fourth afternoon there, a Monday, I was kneeling by their ottoman working on a project for my Gifted class--a moonscape made out of Styrofoam. I was a tiny child, all curly brown hair and big purple glasses, and I would have been of no use physically if she really needed any help. Focused, I barely noticed a little noise made in the direction of Grandma's chair, but I looked up and her face was stricken, drawn, and she was cradling her arm. At that moment she looked like a monster and I was too terrified to go anywhere near her. I ran to the telephone and called 911, because I knew that she needed help, but then I rocketed out of her house and over to my own. My mother caught me, all knees and runny nose, and we went and stood next door while the ambulance came. Grandma had had a heart attack, and I sobbed while I watched her grey face go past on a stretcher.

I was then and am still now ashamed of that day, of the fact that when she needed someone the most I wouldn't go and hold her hand.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

A mostly empty bus pulls up to a stop in Pioneer Square. Only one person gets on, a youngish guy who makes a point of catching the eyes of everyone he can get to look up. Written on his shirt with a sharpie is, "Youth = Good."

I am on the bus, one of the reasons it's only mostly empty. My legs feel overcooked--I've just spent the last hour remembering why exactly it is that ballet was never a passion of mine. I believe that it's a great idea to rediscover the things that set you on fire as a child, but I think it's also important to reaffirm that you still don't like some of the things you didn't like then. (That's probably actually a lie, but I'm still trying to justify my evening and so it works for the moment.) I feel loose and limp and rubbery and taller than my 5 feet. I have my headphones in and I am, you know, rocking out--turned to 11 and all of that.
I look up and catch the eye of the boy who has just gotten on. His t-shirt says "Youth = Good.)

For the moment, I agree completely.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Two local events of import:

Cat is one of the most outstandingly cool people in this whole town, and she's just come back from Egypt. Run, don't walk.

Also, Douglas Coupland will be having a reading at Eliott Bay Books on Tuesday. At his last reading, in July of 2003, I managed to horrify myself with the stupid things I stuttered in his direction when I asked him to sign my book. I'm already getting fluttery about this, so I can only imagine how uncool I'll be this time next week.

Life has exploded again, and so I plan to snatch my last few quiet hours and write letters to those of you who may be waiting for them.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Dear Internet,

I ought to be off to my French lesson, but first I wanted to share with you all what came in my mail today. When I arrived home this afternoon, this package was leaning against my door:

I can practically hear the mailman going 'well, no one is going to steal that thing,' when he left it on the doorstep, which is of course wrong because I would have stolen it if it wasn't already for me. I knew that this was supposed to be coming, but as it's been nearly a month and things from the UK usually only take five days, I'd given up. There were hints in a letter about an ingenious packing job, but I had no idea. Inside the goldfish wrapping was:

an Adidas box, wrapped in tape with a cardboard tube attached to the end. As soon as I started pulling off the tape, the package started leaking gold glitter. This is not unusual. Letters from my friends are often coated with glitter, but this was an exceptional amount of the stuff. I finally worked my way through all the tape and cardboard and inside I found:

this guy. On a stick. And if there ever were contents of a box designed to make me squeal with glee, it's this. I mean, it's named Sammy the Star and it's made of marshmallow! And -I'm- Sammy the Star and made of marshmallow! It's just so cool I'm beyond words.
I like the mental image of the customs guys x-raying the box, going back and forth, trying to figure out what exactly they were looking at.
My apartment is so sparkly now, you could see it from outer space.

Thanks, Val and Rich! You two are the best.

Paul came to town for the weekend--a friend of his was sponsoring a mountain bike jumping competition in Renton, and he tends to be wherever there is jumping. Visits from Paul are fun because he pets me like a kitten. He picked me up yesterday afternoon and we journeyed to the suburbs for the contest. This was, for me, a little like going to a foreign country, one populated almost entirely by underage boys. I was the only female there not vacuum sealed to a boy with a bike, and I felt a bit like I had two heads.

I have recently started using an inhaler, since I went to the doctor last Wednesday and she came to the conclusion that I have asthma. It tastes like rocket fuel and makes me jittery like I've just had nine bowls of Lucky Charms and six Cokes, but I breathe better. Some days I feel made of glass.

What happened in Renton is, apparently, what always happens--someone fell in such a way that paramedics were required. It was already late, and by the time the ambulance left the riders huddled together to decide if they wanted to keep riding or call the whole thing off. The show went on, but everyone was tired and a little spooked. The next rider got on his bike and started to do his run, and it's because I was with a sponsor that I had a front row seat for what happened next. He started to do something very complicated and failed, sailing through the air and smack into a concrete pole. It's a fortunate thing that he dislocated his shoulder on the pole before he smashed his head into it, otherwise this story would have had a very different ending. We all jumped and gasped--I covered my head--and he was too dazed to release his bike before he and it hit the wall and stopped cold. We were all stunned, but before we could even react he stood up and walked away. What was left of the crowd went wild.
It was at this point that the rest of the riders tossed away their caution and went for broke. Not a one of them managed to stay on their bike for the whole 45 seconds of their run, but no one cared anymore. And finally, at the end, one of them managed the move that had nearly jellied his friend.

I tend to be preoccupied with the frailty of the human body, of the thinness of our skins and the brittleness of our bones. But what I learned last night is that sometimes our courage (or recklessness, or both) and our drive to succeed can be stronger than our bones.

Friday, January 21, 2005

An old friend of mine one day packed up and left town without telling anyone that he was going; he left notes on a few windshields and hit the road to go and find Answers in his beat up old car and vast expanses of cornfields. For years no one heard anything from him except for the odd postcard stained with diner gravy and too-strong coffee. As suddenly as he had disappeared, he showed back up on my doorstep, gaunt and stretched looking--as though if you touched his skin you might tear through it and let out whatever was inside. I reached up to pinch his cheeks but couldn't find them and instead touched my fingers to the side of his neck, looking for a pulse.
We went for a drive, and he alternately soothed and kneaded the steering wheel, unable to stop moving. Twitching. He took all the corners too fast. His red and black striped t-shirt reminded me of a Where's Waldo book.
At some point I couldn't stand my curiosity anymore and asked him what the hell he'd been up to out there with all the driving. I wanted Answers. But he told me that there were no Answers. He had found nothing profound on the road.
Except the thing is that I never heard from again after that drive, not directly. His mother told us that he had moved to the Northeast to go to law school. It didn't make sense at the time, but now I've spent the last few years poking into nooks and crannies for my own Answers. And I think that he found them, and that they were different than the ones he had prepared for.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

While I was waiting for the bus this afternoon I noticed a dead pigeon laying in the turning lane in the middle of the road. It isn't a busy intersection, but I watched intently the wheels of every car that passed through it to make sure they missed the bird.
This morning walking into work there were earthworms writhing here and there on the sidewalk. I made sure to greet each and every one, but I didn't have the heart to tell them that it's only January and that spring is still so far away. It seemed like they had enough to worry about.
In the time I stood at the bus stop ten cars entered the lane with the bird--six misses and four hits. I winced for each hit, watching as the dead thing was ground further and further into the road.
By tomorrow, what's left in that spot will really only be bird-based.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

If you've been paying any attention at all, you'll know that my mother has, in the past couple of years, become a Jehovah's Witness. As a result of this conversion, she's developed a rather entertaining way of sending me things in the mail carefully timed to arrive around a holiday, but not close enough that the package might feel uncomfortable caught up in the holiday traffic. Sort of like how elementary school classes with a Witness kid won't let anyone celebrate anything, in case the kid were to feel left out.

You might assume that I've just received a package from her, and if you were to assume that, you'd be right. Contained therein were any number of entertaining things--some 'literature' on the 'history of the bible' and a box of grits, for example (no, I really do love grits).
But interestingly, tucked inside a cookbook were a few pictures of my dad right around the time they got married, when he was eighteen or so. The pictures are fuzzy and often reddish, and he's scrawny and grinning with face-eating glasses and a pack of smokes. I don't have an awful lot of pictures of my dad, which is a pretty impressive feat considering that both my stepmother and myself are always within arm's reach of a camera. I'm glad she sent them, that they're not going to sit and collect mold in her crawlspace anymore. He's not anyone to her anymore, after all, but he's the only dad that I've got.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Dear Seattle,

It's approaching late, past my bedtime, but I've been sleeping a whole lot the last couple of days and so I can't quite wind down. I've been looking at you, Seattle, at all of your lights, and I've been making up stories for you that probably aren't as interesting as the ones you're actually living.
Nights like this are the ones when I miss having roommates--the constant potential for watching movies or making cookies or impromptu dance parties.
Cecile wanted me to collect whatever I have of my French notes from when I was in school, but the side effect of keeping everything is that, you know, I keep everything. Seriously. College papers? Directions to the house of the boy I had a crush on senior year of high school? That story from fifth grade about the princesses that played zithers? It's all there, and every time I even open up my filing cabinet my whole apartment is perfumed with the past. I admit that my self-confidence has been more down than up lately, and I unthinkingly let myself fall back into being uncomfortably fourteen tonight. I feel wide open and freshly harvested, and if you were to come over right now I'd probably hug you for twice as long as would be appropriate.
It's raining and not snowing, and one might say that the recent flurries have spoiled me. I may be demanding snow for weeks to come.
Oh, Seattle. You are keeping secrets from me, you coy creature. But maybe if I watch for long enough I can figure them out.


Sunday, January 16, 2005

Sitting at my computer yesterday afternoon, still in my pajamas, I looked out the window to see something remarkably like snow coming from the sky. In disbelief I ran to the front door to see and, sure enough, it was snowing. Snow was coming from the sky, and I saw it. That's happened to me twice now--more than it has to most of my family.
I immediately completely lost my head and started scampering back and forth between the windows and the door, much like my dog used to do whenever you would jingle her leash as a signal for a walk. If I'd had a tail, I probably would have been chasing it.

Some days, it's awful hard to not, you know, abandon myself to the groove and dance down the streets of Seattle. I love this town. But I keep it reined in because there's really no reason to subject unsuspecting pedestrians to that.

We'd been emailing back and forth for a week, trying to establish a date, time, and place for meeting. It felt a little silly, though at no point did I say anything like "I have red hair and I'll be carrying a white rose." So when I arrived yesterday at the established place and time, I was a little nervous. A quick scan of the room revealed no one that fit the description that I was looking for. The place was packed, so I took myself outside to wait. Man, do I hate waiting.
Things are finally all settled, though, and I'll be starting French lessons again next Monday. Things are looking up.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Recently on my mind:

Whenever people ask if I'm married, I tell them no, and then look down at my hand as though checking to make sure nothing important has happened while I wasn't looking. Why do I always do this? I'm about as far from married as it's possible to be, and pretty ok with that too.

The wretched place where I had my last job is closing at the end of the month, and I am way more entertained by that than is polite.

I have amended my earlier elevator issues: Please just don't make me get off first, whatever order we entered in. If there's something about to eat the first person off the elevator, I'd rather it be you.

The Fed-Ex guy left a package for me under my doormat yesterday. Somehow I don't think that my doormat is much of a theft-deterrent system, but I suppose I appreciate the thought.
Inside that package was a fondue pot.

I will take pictures this weekend. I will take pictures this weekend. I will take pictures this weekend. I will take pictures this weekend.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The woman in front of me in line is ordering ice cream. She and the lady behind the counter are communicating off to the side of each other: she wants the largest size and the lady keeps waving the smallest cup at her. I'm impressed that it's so cold and she's ordering ice cream.
I'm always talking to strangers, and so finally I can't hold it in anymore and say, "That's pretty brave."
She smiles at me. One of her gloves is off and the other is on, and she answers, "No, it's like how when you drink coffee in the summer and it cools you down. This will warm me up."
I'm not sure that I believe her, but she seems pretty convinced, and who am I to argue? She turns to leave the counter and I wish her luck. Hands full of ice cream, readying herself for the move from inside to outside, she winks at me.
The woman behind me has given up coffee because it made her sick. She sleeps better now, and feels better, and is happier since she has cut it from her life. I gather my drink and wish her luck also.

Monday, January 10, 2005

A miscellaneous relative that I've never met sent me an email offering a cd copy of the taped memories of someone--the brother of my great grandfather, perhaps? I don't know. The email sender is a vague connection on my mother's side, which is a side of my family that I'm fuzzy on. She has appointed herself historian and sends out regular emails regarding birthdays of folks that I've never heard of, which is good, I suppose, except that occasionally I feel buried under the weight of all this blood I'm supposed to find significant.
I accepted, of course. I'm obsessed with all of this--with you, with me, with our fingerprints and the spaces between us, with where we're going, where we've been, and how we tell our stories on the way there and back. My mother's family has never been one to tell stories, but I know the stories are there and that they're running through my veins.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

It finally snowed at my house last night, sometime in the wee sma's while I was sleeping. I've been waiting and waiting, because it's snowed everywhere else except, evidently, right around Lake Union.
I'm usually a 'stay in my pajamas all day' sort of girl, but if there's one way to get me up and dressed, it's snow outside. It snowed once in Florida when I was a kid, in '88 or '89, but I was asleep and my mom didn't wake me up. So this marks the fourth time I've ever seen snow--unless you count the ice rain at a truckstop in Atlanta a few years ago, and I don't.
Now it's melting, and making that lovely rainy noise that rain doesn't make, and the housetops of Queen Anne look like Connecticut, or some other place with trees and snow. I'll be spending most of my day looking outside, waiting for more snow.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

When Pete and I had our first date, in June of 2001, he asked me when my curfew was. I was eighteen-going-on-nineteen and he was twenty-five, and this was not a good way to make a first impression. But then we got caught in a thunderstorm that flooded Mandalay Avenue at Clearwater Beach, and it turned out that we got along pretty well. We got along so well, in fact, that we dated for the next year and a half, until he moved to L.A. and I got ready to move to Seattle.
I'm lucky enough to have an exboyfriend that is also one of my best friends. And he's a great guy (and single, ladies!). He's a talented film maker and he makes really good coffee. He makes friends with everyone he comes across, and I'm still not sure that my family doesn't like him more than they like me. I'm pretty sure he'll be famous in a matter of moments.

Happy (almost late) birthday, Pete!

Friday, January 07, 2005

Most of the Important Decision Making People at my company are women, and most of those women have their offices on the same floor of the same building that I'm in. I often run into them in the bathroom.
Now, the thing is that I spent the vast majority of the year at my last job being unable to go to the bathroom at all, and so I'm never sure if there is some sort of bathroom politics that I've been missing out on. If I go into the first stall, will they think, "Hey, that's one take-charge girl. We should give her more money?" I don't normally go into the first one, so it makes me falter. What if I pick up that paper towel that's been dropped on the floor. What will my bathroom decisions mean to the rest of my career.
I doubt they have much of a clue who I am, and I doubt even more that they care what I do in the bathroom. But running into them there makes me nervous.

I've been writing letters for hours tonight. Life went a little crazy in December and so letter writing, like everything else, fell to the side. There was a party I could have gone to tonight instead, no doubt full of fabulous people with fabulous accents, but I was feeling a little too much myself to be comfortable in a group of strangers. I can only do that when I'm pretending to be someone else. What I really wanted was for people to stop by and play charades, but no one stops by in this town. And that's sad because I'm never doing something that can't be postponed.
Instead I stayed home, made cookies, and wrote letters. I had been wanting to write good, full letters, but hadn't lately had the time or the mood. I've been holed up in here all week (with the exception of a couple of beers down the street on Tuesday) taking the measure of things--and not being too neat about it, so it looks a bit like I've been living with Jessica again.
I think I'm about ready to be social again. But maybe not ready to share my cookies.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

This afternoon, the eye doctor dyed my eyes yellow. She turned to me with a soaked cotton swab, bright orange at the tip, and said, "I'm going to put some vegetable dye in your eyes now to check for glaucoma," and when I said "Vegetable dye?" she answered with "Oh, don't worry, it's not going to do anything but color your tears." (It was at this point the soundtrack started, someone with shoulder pads and big hair singing about the color of your tears.) She then stepped close and did something to my face. It burned low in my bottom eyelid until she told me to blink. And then blink again. It was at this point she said, "Hmmmm," which, I maintain, is never something you want to hear a doctor say. "Hmmmm. Well. Some people have that reaction." The doctor handed me a mirror and there were my eyes, only what is usually white was now yellow. Not neon yellow, but distinctly more pineapple than usual, and I think I surprised her when I started laughing.
But really, what else is there to do?
Walking back to the bus stop, I looked people in the eyes with a directness usually not there, waiting for them to look back at me and flinch a bit when they noticed my yellow eyes. I felt a little like a super hero, as though I were shooting beams of something at them, as though my $15 copay had provided me with a little more fabulousness than is normally allowed.
It's fading, now. They're still a little discolored, but not enough to really notice. I imagine that in a few more hours, I'll be back to the same old me.

Dear Douglas Coupland,

Thanks for helping me to believe in the possibility of the fitting together of puzzle pieces.


I was there the day Ryan was born, the day he arrived on scene all red and wet and squishy. I was there when he hit himself in the face with a golf club, when Power Ranger underwear were just what he'd always wanted, when his goal in life was to ride a snowboard.
It's funny, talking to him now. It's like talking to someone in a suit, carrying a briefcase; someone you're sure you've got typed and completely figured out. And then when you part on the sidewalk, the man does his best not to step on your shadow, and you realize that everyone has a secret life--not just the ones you'd expect. He's figuring things out and, I suspect, laughing at us all up his sleeves.
Today he's 13. Happy Birthday, Ubs!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Walking today, I spied a man who looked just like you. Faster that I could prepare myself for I was slammed back into those nights spent at the spot, writing bad poetry to the rustle of palm trees or talking to the star I named purple, waiting for you to walk by, waiting for someone to come up with a cigarette or a story or a guitar, and usually all three.
I hurried home and stuck my head into my filing cabinet, looking for the notebook. And there it all was: aura boy, the God monad, Jordan the Flying Jew leaping over hedges to ask the color of your shirt, math problems, rampant girl-on-girl stage kissing. All of the things I had recorded so as not to forget and then promptly put aside were right where I'd left them. Those perfect moments were just what I needed to be thinking about today; they fit into today's empty spaces in my head like puzzle pieces nudged out from under couches.
Thanks, aura boy, for looking like a Venetian water boy and for having a lookalike here in Seattle. The universe, in small ways, always provides us with what we need.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

I've been thinking the last few days about posting a (late) year-end review like everyone else. But I've had trouble keeping my mind on the subject, and so I've pretty much decided that if even I can't find my year interesting, I can't possibly expect you to.
The thing is that, really, 2004 was kind of a wash, although I did make some really amazing friends. I made friends in Seattle that were completely worth the pain of leaving my Flagler kids, that were worth the months after my move of being totally, completely lonely.
Otherwise, I've done a lot of failing. I'm good at that. Right up until the end of the year I moved in every direction except forward. I managed to fail to get into grad school for the second time. I wrote a lot of junk, although since I also refrained from writing even more junk, I can pretty much consider that cancelled out too.
I did read a lot of good books. And I learned how to knit.
I worry, not on a daily basis but probably a weekly or monthly one, that I suffer from a strange Checkovian talking disease, that I'm not keeping enough of the fumes of my experience to myself, that I'm really wasting even more time talking about the things that aren't really important because I'm thoroughly unable to put into words the ones that are.
The end of 2004 found me happier and richer than the same time from the year before, but still missing something. If all goes according to plan, maybe I'll have something to really be proud about by the end of this year. In the meantime, I'll continue to boast about the friends I've made, about the wonderful people who, hopefully, I can keep in my life for a long time to come.
If worst comes to worst, of course, I can also brag about my knitting. I learned how to knit!

Sunday, January 02, 2005

A brand spanking new year is here, a mysterious package that's showed up at my doorstep and could contain anything--a rose or a cup of hot chocolate or a monster. I've never been one to make New Year resolutions. I figure that I perpetrate enough failure in my every day life, and so there's really no reason to set myself up for more at the very beginning of the year.

I do make plans. I'm a planner. That works for me because it's easy to change plans, and I don't usually want to flick myself in the soft parts of the back of my neck if such a need arises. And I like new years. They're a whole new excuse for personal reinvention, a blank page where I can cross out everything I haven't written down yet.
And man, do I have some plans for this year. If 2004 taught me anything, it's the exact value of everything that I have, and that I don't deserve half of what I've got. This year, I plan to pay attention. I plan to go back to work on my languages so that I can communicate with more people. I plan to continue to believe--wholeheartedly--in romance, even when the world tries to convince me otherwise.
The best part about a new year is that the potential for hope is the highest it'll ever be without a distinct reason.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year, Internet.

I totally conga-lined my way into 2005.

I promise I'll be back to you soon. For the moment, though, you ought to know that my New Year was filled with cupcakes, alcohol, dancing, people on stilts, art, fashion, folks in costumes, boys wearing eyeliner, and three of my favorite people.
It was, in fact, a celebration practically tailor-made for samantha.