February really broke my momentum. January was all Snow! Smooching! New friends! Couch! and I was thinking, "Rock on, 2007 is going to be the year of samantha." I even did a little Godzilla stomping on Tokyo endzone dance. But then February came along, all No Reason Sads! Dead childhood friends! Confusion and self doubt! Stubborn cough! I think February would have killed my dog, too, if October hadn't gotten there first, and it's angry that it missed the chance.
February was like expecting a rain of water droplets and getting a rain of scorpions, is how unexpectedly unfortunate most of the month was. I just can't seem to catch a break. I'd like to be all Plutarchian about the rest of the year, all "with my shield or on it," but shit, y'all, I'm tired.
Years ago, when I was shacking up with the filmmaker, we went on a vacation to Chicago. Flying into the city--my first time on an airplane--the wing dipped and I was confronted with an unbroken view in all directions of a soft, uniform blue. Lake Michigan and the sky were, for the moment, the exact same shade. I twinked for a minute, disoriented by a complete lack of gravity cues, sure of which way was down only because I was still strapped to my seat. But floating, for all intents and purposes, someplace in between.
I thought of this again the other night as I clomped home in the dark, magical red shoes softly rubbing a blister onto my left little toe. I was stepping carefully down the stairs that go from Capitol Hill to my neighborhood and, startled, I looked back. Nothing was there, just my imagination creating axe murderers from shadows, but in the turning something tore and for a moment I felt in between again, insubstantial and fetal.
Things are happening, perhaps, and there is still plenty of time to make this one the year of samantha. Plenty of time to perfect my Godzilla stomping on Tokyo endzone dance.
They were always good to me, skipping school to smoke cigarettes and play basketball, standing up for me when kids at school were mean, which they often were. But with such a lack of other choices everyone sort of expected them to die in tragic and meaningless ways; between the cracks is not a very long fall, and several of my childhood friends have died young.
Expecting it to happen, however, doesn't make it any easier to hear, even though it's been ten years since I moved out of the trailer park.
We made light of the things that scared us because the only other option was to let ourselves be afraid.
2.) When you think of me, find a copy of Raymond Carver's "Hummingbird." I'll be waiting somewhere between the fifth and sixth lines with a bag of candy and a be-ribboned bottle of Boones. If you make it by dusk I will stand on your feet while we slow dance in the kitchen, veins effervescent as though filled with ginger ale.
After dusk, I'll be gone.
An acquaintance of mine was at my apartment not too long ago, and when he wandered over to my bookshelves and took a look he suddenly stiffened and yelled, "samantha! You shelve the erotica with the children's books?!" Which I don't, in fact; I'd been looking for something earlier and moved the erotica out of the way, which just happened to be on top of some children's books, and then forgot to move the books back. But now I'm totally thinking about moving them permanently, because that sincerely freaked his shit out.
"Ok, so, did you have Fashion Plates when you were a kid?" "Uh, yeah, actually. Wait, why....did you?"
The message on my home voicemail that said, "Megan...mumblemumble...collard greens....mumblemumble....no-tell motel....mumblemumbleplease?" I don't know who you are, dude, but that's romance right there. I hope you eventually got through to Megan.
Paul, again: "Remember when we used to play those halfhearted games of spin the bottle? But no one was really into it, because you were the only girl around and kissing you would have been like kissing, I don't know, your sister or the family dog?"
The text message from my ex boyfriend that said, "I just drove past our Perkins" because, seriously, who takes a girl to Perkins on their first date? (You just never mind the fact that we stayed together for the next two years; I was eighteen, and am easily wooed.)
The memory of the look on Scott's face when he came back from the bathroom after daring me to get another round of drinks while he was gone, since I didn't speak any Chinese, only to find four drinks, and on the house too. How did I do it? I smiled at the man, sucker.
In other news, Internet, let's go bowling. I want to drink whiskey and wear someone else's shoes.
Walking down by the water today I found an empty bottle of scotch, looking for all the world like it had nearly thrown itself in but lost the motivation at the last moment. I sat down next to it and waited to see if there was anything it wanted to talk about, but it seemed as though the bottle just wanted to be left alone.
I'm holding my cards so close this time that even I can't see them, knowing full well that cards have never been my game but unwilling to believe that I will again be unlucky. Only you're holding yours the same way, and that means you are winning this hand of calculated coolness.
Something came up last night in conversation with Paul, who is back to dating boys with delicate cheekbones and tight jeans, and I feel like it's information that should be widely disseminated. Dear members of the Opposite Sex: I do not know how to be coy; I was skipping class to smoke Marlboro Reds and drink warm Budweiser and give advice about girl problems with the boys the day they covered coy at finishing school or wherever. So when ladyfriends and fashion magazines tell me, "be available, but not too available" I'm thinking, whyever? When we could be pinky swearing and having blanket fort picnics and learning all the lyrics to this band's back catalog? I am not mysterious. Busy? Certainly. Shy? Yeah. Having impure thoughts about your eyelashes and not paying a lick of attention to the conversation? Perhaps. More intoxicated than I look? Likely. But coy and mysterious? Never, and the sooner we all understand that, the better off we'll be.
So here is the deal: let's move to Chile and take on new names. I'll design perfumes and you'll make wooden children's toys and we will have a hermit crab named Herman. On the mantle we'll have a butter sculpture of Elvis, and someday when it's very still and quiet you'll show me those cards.
I've spent a lot of time the last couple of years carousing. I carouse on weeknights because there's only so much time left before waking up with my party shoes still on stops being charming, but also because I have lived by myself for nearly four years now, and being alone with my thoughts is no longer novel. Frequently I will ignore all of the quality books and movies and paintings and ideas I have scattered around my apartment in favor of lying on the floor and planning to take up with a houseboy named Enrique in Fiji who only speaks enough English to make margaritas because, hell, what else am I doing?
Just between you and me, what I am doing is standing here like a china figure in a bull shop. Waiting.
I have fallen into the habit of talking to magical strangers whenever I find them, so we meandered into a conversation about our respective talents. As the discussion lapsed a moment he looked at me sideways and said, "Happy Valentine's Day, by the way. You married?" "Nope." "Good. I think that's good. I was married once. Woman left me up in Alaska. Took my best trumpet and my guitar player with her. He was mean as hell but that cat could play anything with strings." At this point, I started to suspect that he was having me on. I've met many an old jazz man who spoke in the same way, scattered in broken down joints in red dirt states, but in Seattle? On Eastlake? It was just a little bit much. But he looked the part, about sixty and with hands knotted from years of heavy use, and who am I to say where magical jazz men are to be found? I smiled again and patted the aging hand resting on the case between us.
He nodded at me again, flexed his feet, tapped the toe of one of his shoes with a drumstick. "Yep, little girl, I'm getting old. These shoes here, they've got a lot of miles left on them. It's the soles of my feet that are wearing thin."
Some of the things I've said in the last week that were immediately followed by, "What? Don't look at me like that!" are: "I'm very fond of the adverb. I think it's probably my favorite part of speech." "Of course I know all the words to this Justin Timberlake song. There are only, like, four of them." "I can see how you might want to have sex with a cantaloupe, which if human would have nice hips that you could really hold on to, but watermelon? Watermelon would talk a good game but, when it came down to it, just lay there and sigh." "And I, for one, welcome our new earthworm overlords."
I was wandering around Pioneer Square this morning, on my way to the bookstore, and the sun seemed to have moved in under everyone's skin. Each person I passed smiled and said hello, absolutely pleased to be out and using whichever of their limbs were still available to them.
But if I learned anything last year it's that people are in fact watching, to the extent that they sometimes feel the need to chase me down the street and go, approximately, "Hey there, little lady. I've been watching you sitting here/walking down the street/through your living room window for the past few hours/days/weeks/months. But, um, in a totally not creepy way. No, really. Say, do you want to go make out?" (The year before last, people were just seeing me and saying hello, which, although it did contain a very illuminating lesson in heartbreak, was slightly easier to handle. I don't know what they're going to do this year, but I hope they don't step on my heels while they're doing it. I hate that.)
The only explanation I have for this phenomenon is my red hair--because of the grey days and dim light in this town boys latch onto it like magpies or something. Anyway, these things certainly never happened when I was mouse-brown and lived in Florida. And the thing about all of this watching is that it makes me very self conscious, and I start thinking about the walking that I'm doing and that you're watching, and then I fall down. Sort of like how you breathe just fine as long as you're not thinking about it, but the second you stop to consider breathing it becomes a chore.
The point of all of this is that I tripped and fell again today--onto the grass, fortunately, saving both my clothes and limbs from some holes for once--and I'm blaming it on you. Rather than, say, my big feet and inefficient equilibrium. You and your watching.
(For those of you that are wondering, I spent Valentine's Day with some clever pretty people watching other pretty people cover Duran Duran songs at the Crocodile. It was excellent. Also, internet, I think you are doing voodoo spells on me in your homes. This week I've gotten email requesting my personality profile [INFJ] and my blood type [A+]. I don't get email from you people for weeks and weeks and now it's all weird shit like this? Is there a full moon? Are you kids on drugs?)
Hey there, spring. I saw you today, up in the high branches of that tree, sending out that first purple flower to test the air and take a look around. I know you'll be here before too long, rummaging around in my skin like a hobo with my goddamned point tied up in your handkerchief, setting my fingerprints on fire and sending me off to wreak havoc with my smile. I'm already baking you a batch of cookies in my head to use for a welcome mat.
I already knew that you'd be showing up soon, since four people that I know have had babies in the last two weeks. And I've still got a few weeks left of scarves and pink gloves before it'll be time to switch to skirts and cardigans. But I can feel your approach in the backs of my knees. It feels like the ten seconds before I wake up from a really good nap, before I open my eyes and remember everything I've forgotten while sleeping.
His left hand scrabbled through the needles on the table, looking for one still capped, while his right hand cinched the tie-off. It was a dance so often practiced that it had become a reflex, as easy as breathing.
Driving home from the beach with the windows open, late at night, left foot folded up against the dashboard. A car pulled up next to me at a stoplight and I looked over, surprised to see a heavily deformed face looking back at me. The cheeks bulged, bubbled, the eye sunken in a deep mound of flesh. I blinked in shock and when I looked back over at the car the face had changed, was no longer uneven, was recognizably human. Or perhaps I had changed. A trick of the light, or of my eye, or both.
We kissed on the hill, near the tracks where during daylight the child-size model train ran. The stars shone the way they only can in the glow surrounding the first boy you ever thought you loved, and as we paused, lips still warm and eyes promising, the sprinklers turned on. We ran for cover, the glistening sky already forgotten, unimportant.
There was a look like an em dash in the bottom right corner of your eyes, a look like the answer to the question of what happens when circular and elliptical orbits overlap.
A scar on the very center of my lower back, almost completely faded now, is left over from an adventure right around this time last year. I forget that it's there, most days. Because of the delicacy of my skin, it's possible to read me like a text, head to toe. These documents are faint but never vanish entirely. Not really.
Today I was caught in a sun shower. Sun showers are what it's like inside my head.
Ouch, man. Also, all of my pinball tables will always be tilted.
One of my habits when I'm traveling is to buy postcards, write things on them and address them to myself, stamp them, and then put them back in the rack. Often people will find them weeks or months later and toss them in a postbox, and I'll get a nice little reminder of my trip. One from my Boston trip came today, and what it says is, "Today you were walking to Bunker Hill and found a little bouquet sitting on a stone wall. A note underneath it said 'Thank You' in loopy handwriting. You left it there and then met a nice Frenchman on the other side of the bridge."
But there are lots and lots of things happening happening the next few days, with the varied and interesting people I know, and the best way to deal with the No Reasons is to ignore them until they go away. Like stray cats.
Photo courtesy of Jon.
After I've gone, to Gibraltar or the bottom of the ocean or for a nap in a little box, you can consult your file. Five feet tall, it'll say, but almost always wore three inches worth of heels. Would insist that she was not sleeping. Clumsy. Was convinced that your coat pockets were for her hands. In the bottom of the file you'd keep a scrap of gingham and a razor blade. It's how you'd prefer to remember me.
I like to consider what you would think if you found my parts sown across the country like dandelion fluff. If, coming across my left arm up to the elbow nestled under a tree in Montana, you'd think, hated her freckles but, more than that, really hated how everyone else liked them. Wanted you to like her best. Or my collarbones crossed and leaning against a road sign in Georgia, murmuring, enjoyed running but only when no one was looking. Three toes, out of sequence and buried in the sand on the Jersey shore, remembering, loved your hands in her hair. Couldn't remember jokes or names. Always tried a little too hard.
I wonder if you would gather my parts and put them with your file in a box on the top shelf of your closet, or if you would leave them there to speak softly to the next wanderer. Wanted to bite, but didn't, usually. Liked the back of your neck and the hollow of your throat equally. Frequently beset by melancholy, but tried not to let it interfere. Was sleeping.
It waits for me in pictures, a faint strain of a song half remembered, a touch of fabric under sorry fingers. A memory that settles like dust on a wallowing sparrow.
I should speak to you with my lips pressed to the underside of your chin, so that whatever I have to say might pass through your tongue to rattle in your head. After a day sitting quietly in the rain my fingers feel as though they're rusting, smelling of old magazines and creaking like a rocking chair. I'm storing up the quiet in my bones so that come springtime there will be a solid place from which to sprout flowers.