Thursday, May 29, 2008

I walked out of the Pantheon and sat down on the side steps, opened my guidebook, and started to read about what I had just been looking at. It's one of my habits while traveling, reviewing what I've just seen, because it gives all of the trivia context. A man walked past and paused, and then asked what time it was. When I told him, he sat down next to me.

His skin was grey and loose, his suit well-tailored, his hair limp and colorless. Instinctively, I scooted a few inches away from him. He started chatting at me, and I reluctantly chatted back, answering his questions about my trip to Rome and the things I had seen so far. I was starting to think that he was harmless, and then he asked, "How many men have you slept with?" It caught me off guard enough that I nearly answered, catching myself at the last moment and closing my mouth. "How many men have you let between your legs?" He thought that I had not understood him the first time, so I frowned and told him that I didn't think that was a very appropriate question.

He nodded, and started talking about how in Rome men have stopped going to prostitutes, how instead they give their money to a student or a housewife for the same services, because that way they both know where their money is going and always have access to the same woman. I still don't see how that's not another form of prostitution, but I waited to hear where he was going with it. "Most women here, they get 35 Euro, for example, for a blowjob. You, I would give 100 Euro." I scooted a little farther away. "You are traveling on a budget, yes? 100 Euro would be very helpful. You could do a little extra shopping, impress your friends with the things you bring back from Rome."

I declined his offer and started wondering if he'd follow if I tried to run away. He lobbed a few more intimate questions at me, all of which I refused to answer, until I gathered up my things and looked exaggeratedly at my watch, stammering that I needed to meet some people for dinner. "Are you sure, no to 100 Euro? Well, I will give you 10 Euro for this conversation. It me later." Thoroughly grossed out I leaned over to pick up the book that had fallen out of my lap, and just then he stuffed a 10 Euro note down the back of my pants.

I leaped to my feet and said quickly that I really needed to go, that I was meeting a bunch of guys from my hostel, big ones. Australian. The look in his eye told me exactly what he was thinking about that, but I didn't much care, and he leaned forward and whispered, "Your skin is so warm!"

At that, I took off, turning down streets at random until I was sure he wasn't following, slumping against a wall, breathing deeply. Later, I would fish the 10 Euros out of my jeans and use them to get my fortune told on the Piazza Navona by an old lady wearing a fur coat, who would tell me that I will marry once and have two children.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

At his birthday party on Sunday, my friend Buster made a video asking some of the party guests what their first memory is, and having this picture taken is mine. (My big muppet head and rad giant sunglasses from Venice show up at about four and a half minutes in.)

For a long time I thought that it was just a vividly remembered dream--the feel of the wicker on my back and through my dress, the weight of the parasol, the instructions on how to turn and where to look. It's not unusual for me to remember dreams for years after they happen, but one day years ago I came across this photo in a box full of pictures and realized that it wasn't just a recalled dream. It was my first memory. And what I've always remembered most completely about it is the anxiety, the concern that I wasn't posing in the way they wanted me to--that I was going to screw it up and disappoint everyone. Feeling irrationally guilty and terrified of disappointing people is something that I struggle with still today, so it was with a mixture of amusement and total frustration that I pulled this photo out of the box and realized that I've been at it my whole life.

For as long, quite literally, as I can remember.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Seattle and I are still wildly in love, having and going to barbecues and movies and bars, eating cake and swilling champagne, kissing, making new friends, dancing, and falling down. And laughing. At bad jokes and good jokes, faulty tables and hammers, really good stories. Laughing so that my face hurts. Something that I broke is slowly being fixed, straight men are pausing on the street to talk about my shoes, and I ran into a boy that I like and managed to not look like a dope. Much. My friends, who are always very nice people, have been extraordinarily kind and complimentary lately. Some stars somewhere are in a samantha sort of alignment.

And the sad fact is that I badly needed all of this. I needed a breather, a little bit of time where I could stop fighting to be ok because I actually am ok. To feel less like a natural disaster in a dress, damaging whole populations of people with my fingertips. I'm still waiting for fifty-four rugs to be pulled out from under my feet, still wary of everything in the world and touching things infrequently and softly, but the very very important part is that I am happy. Uncomplicatedly and thoroughly, for as long as all of this good fortune decides to stick around.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

It's spring, and Seattle is being suspiciously nice to me. It probably says something that I get all worried when things start to go well, waiting for three dozen other shoes to drop, but it has been pretty great. People are giving complicated thumbs up and buying drinks and giving friendly waves. I had my first drink sent to me from across the room. The other day a man crossed the street just to say something complimentary and then went back to what he was doing. All of my drawbridges are up right now but the activity on the other side of the moat is making me excited for this summer.

And things are blooming on my balcony, and it could certainly be a lot worse to be me. Keep it up, please, Seattle. I'll try not to let the attention go to my head.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

When I was a kid I had this big tub of silica gel crystals, left over from a science fair experiment, that I would bury flowers in. I liked the feeling of clutching a blossom in my palm and searching with my fingers through the tub for the right place to let it go. And sometimes I would go excavating, digging up all of those now-dried flowers, often tearing off their petals in my excitement to pull them out and look at what happened to them when all of the moisture goes away. They were the ghosts of something that had been beautiful, and I kept them in a vat of desiccant and took away their colors so that they would last forever.

A few years later, in my "gifted" class in seventh grade, we mummified a chicken while studying the Egyptians, and left it in a cardboard sarcophagus, buried, for the next year's class to find. Somehow it was much less romantic to be covering poultry with bags of salt to produce a sad, wizened carcass than it was to plunge a handful of flowers into those fine white crystals.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

In a light breeze I stood and blew wishes for you off a handful of dandelions, hundreds of wishes all given to the wind to scatter and root themselves and bear fruit. Or at least, I tried to, but just as I closed my eyes the wind shifted and tossed all of those wishes for you back towards me, to get tangled in my hair and clothes and eyelashes, to fall behind. To turn out to be wishes for someone else, perhaps. I've been searching for them ever since, behind the wishes of other people, under their rocks, flowering below their seeds.

I'm not sure that you were listening, the day that I couldn't sleep because of Mercury. Mercury rotates three times every two orbits around the sun, and since its orbit is very elliptical the sun rises on one side, stops, goes back toward the horizon it came from, stops again, and then moves very quickly over the other horizon. Every day, if we were to count days by the passage of the sun rather than the rotation of the planet. The sun must be exhausted by its own indecision, not sure if it wants to rise or set and where, because Mercury is so close that the usual rules don't apply when it comes to orbits, elliptical or circular or otherwise. And all the while, Mercury continues to spin so, so fast.

It wasn't only because of Mercury that I couldn't sleep.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Temperatures are starting to creep up here in Seattle, which means my convection oven of an apartment will be getting unbearably warm, and that means that we're entering prime samantha stalking season. I'm pretty easy to stalk (although I prefer high fives), what with the red hair and outdoor drinking and the frequent crowd of very funny people, but if you want to be really good at it, please remember the following things:

1. I talk to things. Inanimate objects, worms, friendly dogs. Strangers, sometimes. I emailed this picture to a friend and his immediate reply was, "You were talking to a bug, weren't you?" And I was. It was a neat great big black beetle. I don't expect them to answer, so quit looking at me like that.

2. I rarely touch people with my palms unless it's completely unavoidable. Palms are personal and vulnerable and even if we're hugging my fingers are probably curled under.

3. If you touch my ears and I'm not prepared, I'll probably cry. I may also kick you in the shins or cut you or react violently in another way. Seriously. Leave my ears alone, or you are fired as a stalker. And a person.

4. I love enthusiasm even more than I love cookies with raisins in or puppies or the lean in. Actually, scratch that--I probably love puppies because of their enthusiasm. Enthusiasm about really ridiculous things is the best kind. Enthusiasm is like the secret handshake for people I really want to hang out with.

5. My friend just gave me a rad new baseball glove, and I fully intend to carry it around in my purse all summer and try to bully people into playing catch with me. People who want to play catch with me while talking about cephalopods are probably people that I want to make out with.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


In Venice, I walked into a restaurant and studied the menu board hanging above a small bar. I had only been standing there for a moment when I sensed a person next to me and, turning around, found the waiter. "I have a problem," he said, and I raised an eyebrow. "I only have tables here for two people. You could come back later?" Italy had seemed confused about the fact that I was alone, and it was finally taking action.

So I left. Tired, cold, and feeling suddenly visible from space, I walked into a restaurant a few doors down. They sat me immediately, and the waiter walked over a few minutes later, an old man with wild white hair. "You are waiting for someone? Should I bring bread while you wait?" I denied that I was waiting for someone but accepted the bread, and he knit his fuzzy eyebrows. "Your travel friends have all left you alone for the evening, hey? At your hotel, drinking wine? Venice, it tires some out." A little impatiently, I denied that too. I was alone in Venice, in Italy alone, just me everywhere.

He spread his hands and made a tragic face. "I hate to see a beautiful woman eat alone. Why you come to Italy without company?" I told him that I was there to think, and that seemed to confuse him completely. He thought hard and then leaned over, very close to the table, and said, "You come to Venice, most romantic city in the world, alone? To think?" I considered that for a bit. Venice, the most romantic city in the world? I thought about Venice's beautiful decay, how it is rotting richly from the inside and acting as though that is the only reasonable way for a city to be. Yes, that certainly slotted perfectly into where I was on romance, so I nodded, and he wrinkled his forehead and then walked away.

When he returned a few minutes later it was with a small bottle of Prosecco in hand. He looked very seriously at me and said, "You are a very stupid girl, and I think you know nothing. Here is some Prosecco from me. Maybe it will help you think."

Monday, May 12, 2008

I am filled with nervous energy these days, cooking and organizing and rearranging, avoiding thinking about something that I've been waiting for. Something which doesn't seem to be coming.

On Saturday night I went dancing with some friends, walking a mile to meet my ladies in a new dress and high boots. Uphill and face first into the wind. Into the wind is one of my favorite ways to walk--fighting the breeze takes up all the space inside my head that I usually save for worrying about what I can't control. The stronger the wind, the better.
Hours later I walked home, the backs of my thighs burning, a line of sweat still drying down my back. Happy and limping slightly, from a slow to heal and much abused bone bruise on the bottom of my foot.
I am slow to heal in all ways. Easily broken. Fractures splintered all along all of my old fault lines.

When the phone rang a little after 1:30, I turned left instead of right inside my head, and let it ring. Many of my momentums are bad ones.

Friday, May 09, 2008

I try to keep remembering, try to hold behind my eyes a file of everything that was ever important. I was reading, recently, about the chemicals in our brains that let us unlearn fears. We stay away from stoves until careful, experimental touching teaches us that it's only the burners that hurt, and we unravel the parts of our fear of stoves that don't have to do with burners.
You would think that, with all of this touching, I'd be less afraid.
In any case, I've been thinking about how maybe those same chemicals let us re-learn our memories, amending them, sorting through boxes and filing cabinets and card catalogs of hazy impressions of moments and scents and songs. Adding a note in pencil at the bottom of them, unraveling the parts that we thought we remembered and filtering the rest through what we know now.
Maybe it's those chemicals that make me forget to step back from all of these ledges, no matter how many times I fall off of them.

And there are these bats that live in New Zealand, bats that certainly flew there, bats that sometimes still fly. But they do all of their hunting on the ground, wings tucked along their sides, marching about in the leaf litter on their little wrists. They're evolving backwards, or maybe they've gone around in a full circle. These bats, though, they're living in a completely different way than every other kind of bat, because that's what circumstances told them to do.

Sometimes I think that it is one hundred fifty years ago, and I have been carving all of this into your cornfields, waiting for someone to invent the airplane.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The kid who has a tail doesn't know that he has a tail until someone tells him it's there. A kid with a tail could go any amount of time thinking that a tail wasn't a tail, that it was the same thing as an arm or a toe or an ear; thinking that everyone else had a tail, too. Not thinking of his tail at all. It's only when it's pointed out that his tail takes on its own life, becomes just one more thing to think about.

I think that we have to drop monsters carefully, because they might shatter on impact, and a whole mess of little crawling monsters might just be less trustworthy than one big one. A troop of little monsters might eat all of the paper birds and chase off that unicorn standing quietly in the corner. Little monsters bite at toes instead of ears, but they slam all of the same doors.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Seattle, today is our five-year anniversary. I plan to celebrate by talking about a book with some hilarious girls and then having some drinks with some other people at a bar where another friend is dj-ing. I love that this is my life now. Thanks for all of the flowers. I think you're real pretty.

I was talking with someone I used to know recently, because it is spring and so 'someone I used to know' is a frequently recurring revolving cast of characters, and as a result I have come up with a new plan, called Operation: More Adventurous. (Theme song: Life is a Highway.) I've been thinking lately that there is handedness in decision-making in the same way that there's handedness in writing and throwing and high-fiving. When I walk into rooms I almost always veer to the right in the same way that I always write with the same hand. And I think I do the same thing with decisions. So for May, I'm supposed to turn left inside my head when normally I would turn right. Yes instead of no. Sometimes. You get the picture. (I'm hoping this turns out better than January's Operation: Brute Force Good Mood.) It's spring time, and that means it's time to air out my momentums to make sure they're the right ones.

And hey, gentlemen of the internet, here's a discussion I've been having with various dudes all weekend: If you were to meet a girl at a party and she wasn't wearing pants (as this was the theme of the party), would you be more or less inclined to call her?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Oh man, universe, you're not pulling any punches these days, are you? Are you trying to test the strength of my recovery? Is it just that it's spring, and everything interesting picks back up in the spring? Am I living in the Bermuda Triangle? Running into this guy the other day was bad enough, but then last night happened.

Yesterday was national No Pants Day and I let myself be bullied into changing for the party from my dress into bloomers and a shirt. This required a gallon or two of champagne, for courage, and I wasn't sure I wasn't drunkenly hallucinating a little when at the end of the night there was a familiar crooked smile peering down at me. I couldn't believe it--I still can't--since it's been years since I've seen him. And I was torn between kicking him in the knees and having a bit of a panic attack. It's not easy to maintain your equilibrium when confronted with a boy who broke your heart when you're not wearing any pants, and I think, universe, that maybe you should ease up a little. Just for a little while.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Like nearly everyone I've ever loved, I remember the first time I saw him.

I was standing by the bar that separated the all-ages floor from the drunks, idly scanning the room for the cutest boy, and he snaked pasat the crowd and through the doorway in the back. When stars are born the winds that they create sometimes form dusty funnel clouds in space, and it was a little bit of that that I felt thumping around in my chest as I took in his glasses and style and thought, Hey, that one's cute. I dug my hands into the pockets of my jeans--I wore jeans almost every day back then--and he walked onstage, and I said out loud, "Well, that makes sense." And my friends looked at me with their eyebrows raised because I was talking to myself in public. Again.

After forty-five minutes he walked offstage and put his arm around a girl, and I said to myself, Well, that's the end of that. Only, of course, it turned out that it wasn't the end. Of anything. Not yet, anyway.