Monday, March 31, 2008

Dear everyone,

Right now, there is someone standing in the parking lot under my apartment shouting "Shelley!" over and over again. Someone is always shouting at or for people in my building, which leads me to assume that my neighbors inspire strong feelings in their friends and lovers.

When Dream and I broke up in December I realized that my last few years have followed a pattern, romantically, a pattern that required subverting because it involved making a lot of bad decisions. As a result I have spent all of these last few months actively not dating and kissing almost no one, which is on both sides unusual for me. And aside from all of the vast amounts of damage that came from that whole suicidal ex-boyfriend debacle, it has been pretty refreshing. Last year was full of layers and universes of drama, and it's been nice to spend whole weeks not worrying about hurting anyone's feelings. In a week I'm heading off to Italy with (almost) no entanglements at all, and it's pretty nice. When I come back, I'll reevaluate.

March felt like a breaking point, like maybe it's time for things to change. Various medical professionals have suggested that my terrible illness was a way of cleaning my cells of all of the terrible parts of the last few months, and if that's true then I only wish that my body had thought of a more pleasant way to go about it. I don't remember the last time I was so sick. But if that's what it takes for life to start moving along a little smoother, then it was probably worth it.

And in a week I'm heading off on an adventure that scares me so completely that it can only be worthwhile, and I'll be spending two weeks alone in a country where I don't speak much of the language. In the end, only good things can come of this.

In the end, only good things can come of any of it.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

When I was graduating from college and preparing to uproot myself and move 3,000 miles to a town where I knew no one, I had this plan that at some point in the nebulous future I was going to open a bookstore/bar. It seemed like a good idea, combining two of my favorite things, and I figured that owning a bar would be a pretty good way to make friends. I had this whole poem in my head that people would sit at the bar and talk about their problems, and I would solve all of them by handing them exactly the right passage in a book. I had absolute faith that the power of other people's words could fix nearly anything.

I was thinking about that bookstore bar today, picking out books to bring with me on my trip. In China I read Kundera and Proust, and every time I re-read "Identity" I find myself right back on a crowded late night train, exhausted and homesick and sweating. In Italy, I'll be reading Carver. I hope he and I are both up for the trip.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sitting at the bar next to my grandfather was the height of luxury, a tall, cold Shirley Temple in front of me and an extra glass full of extra maraschino cherries next to it. It was time to leave when both glasses were empty, but there are a lot of ways to make a glass full of cherries last forever.

I get stuck in the past when the future gets too big, a needle in the record of a favorite song. These months have been hard, and my upcoming trip makes me breathlessly nervous. After Dream's death I didn't take any time off; couldn't take any time, since the only way to keep myself going was to break up my time into small manageable chunks, and so I'm very tired. In just over a week I'll be off on an adventure, sitting on trains and town squares and thinking, but the anticipation is making me crazy.

The anticipation makes me wistful for the lingering taste of sweet cherries.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

As a child, my secret burning ambition was to become an underwater archaeologist. I've always been pretty secretive with the things that make me happy, because I'm easily damaged, so I told everyone that I wanted to be a teacher. Or a ballerina. Or, maybe, president. Inside my head, though, I spent years fantasizing about drifting silently along the vast ocean bottom, discovering a gleam of treasure in the sand that would lead to some fantastic forgotten secret. Like panning for gold on a profoundly larger level, I dreamt of trysting in those silent depths with history that I could only barely fathom.

There's a lot down there, in the under the water, cities and forests and old, old boats. Sailors, being a superstitious bunch, rarely learned how to swim, and so they're down there too. It's always snowing at the bottom, a soft fall of organic detritus, but what it's falling on is the larger flakes that have broken off of all these years of civilization. We can't live without the water but we can't live within it, either, and we've paid so much tribute. Chunks of what we are scatter like breadcrumbs, and while it must be nice to discover these trails on the land, in the sun and the noise, it must be an entirely personal event to stumble across those same mementos in the silence and pressure at the bottom of the ocean.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Phobos, the larger of Mars' two moons, lives too close to the red planet and so is slowly being seduced ever closer by the tidal forces. Some day it will reach a point where it will either come crashing to the surface or, more likely, break into pieces and become a ring around Mars that will spiral excruciatingly down, to settle on the land, and be gone. Another layer of dust on top of the layers of dust already there, which were once also part of some other celestial body.

I think about that dust often, sifting silently through something less than air. It all cuts in parabolas, driven by the excruciating careen of whatever is biggest and closest. Eventually some of everything has to meet, falling invisibly into and through each other's orbit, what was separate becoming altogether something else. In those moments, I think, the past becomes like the second when films falls off of the projector, burnt through by the light, everything suddenly white.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The nurse lifted her flashlight up to my mouth and peered at the back of my throat, which was red and swollen and covered in big white patches like lichen on a moist red log. She gave a wiggle of glee and practically danced back to to the counter to pick up a sealed package, crowing, "I'm gonna have a positive! I'm just going to do a strep test here, so that can cook while you're waiting for the doctor. But that looks pretty bad, so it's probably going to come back good. And not that I want you to be sick or anything, but since you are..." The nurses must be keeping a tally of positive strep tests, since being really sick is totally in this season.

I might have told her that, no, she was working with me, so the most obvious option is never the correct one. That even though it walks like strep throat and quacks like strep throat, it's probably not going to be strep throat. But that whole passageway had swollen shut two days before, making all speaking incredibly painful and muppet-sounding, and anyway she'd find out in a few minutes, so why ruin her anticipation? Instead I just gurgled around a couple of giant cotton swabs rolling around my uvula.

And of course it isn't strep throat, because why have something that can be cured by antibiotics when it's so much easier to get something harder to get rid of. The doctor walked into the room, took one look at my tonsils making lumps on either side of my neck like the bolts on Frankenstein's monster, and an alarmed glance at the inside of my mouth, and prescribed a cocktail of painkillers and anti-inflammatories.

Really, I don't think the trip to that awful strip club was worth getting an epic viral infection in my throat, but that's what I'm blaming it on. Rather than, you know, crowded parties full of strangers, too many late nights, or kissing boys.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I have been extremely sick the last couple of days, laid out by rebellion in my own cells. Moving from couch to couch to bed, cocooned and shivering in layers and layers of blankets, unable to swallow anything other than tea.

I have been sick more this winter than any other since I moved here. Our bodies express themselves at their weakest point, and my immune system is definitely always getting picked last for kickball. This winter has definitely been a trial.

But I'm glad to be getting it all out of the way before I leave the country. A few weeks ago I went through my iPod and removed everything done by boys I've been involved with, resolving to not bring any of that with me. And maybe now the same thing is happening with my insides, a cleansing of my insides before vacation. Starting over in as many ways as I can.

Monday, March 17, 2008

This weekend broke me, but it was completely worthwhile.

On Saturday night I found myself at a house party a few blocks away from my apartment, full of people in sunglasses and black clothes and suits. We didn't know that there was a theme when we followed the party train to this place, and moreover we didn't much care, so we stood out like sore thumbs in spring pastels. A couple of hours and a few beers in the opening strains of a Journey song hit the speakers. Andy shouted that it was too early for Journey but his words were lost in the collective yell of recognition, and suddenly this room full of strangers turned into a single dancing organism, all loudly refusing to stop believing, all planning to hold on to that feeling.

And that, friends, was a Moment. And even though this weekend was pretty much a 48-hour hangover punctuated with brief fits of whiskey and bad ideas, it was made entirely of Moments. Ugly strippers and Whidbey Island iced teas and an island cab also made appearances, as did an adorable deaf hipster, two brunches, an ex boyfriend, and further demands for strangers to tell me jokes. I'd do it all again, given the chance. In fact, I just might do it all again this coming weekend.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I went to see a naturopath yesterday. As time goes on I get more and more neurotic about chemicals and what they're doing to the fish, not to mention what they're doing to my brain, so I generally don't want to swallow them. Brains and fish are delicate things, after all. (Except for that fish that eats wood. That one's probably not so delicate.) At the same time, I'm really bored of being tired all the time, no matter how much I sleep, and I'm also pretty bored of recovering for the aftermath of the last two months.
So I went to the naturopath and she gave me some things to swallow, but she also told me that one of my legs is quite a bit longer than the other. (Relatively speaking.) And this, I think, is my new favorite excuse for being so clumsy--because my left side is made for a person a bit bigger than my right side. I think this also accounts for my overly large left foot. I think perhaps one of my legs was switched at birth. I should look into this.

A friend is coming up from LA this weekend for the post-wedding bachelorette celebration, which means that I'll be roaming Seattle for the next few days with the same people I went to Vegas with. As that trip resulted in mass hilarity and a bunch of nice Swedish boys getting kicked out of their hotel room because the hot tub overflowed a lot, I have to say that I am really looking forward to this weekend.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hair and Shoulders have been spending a lot of time together lately, whispering, and Hair and Shoulders together are a nostalgia machine second only to visiting the parking lot where you lost your virginity. Just above coming across a group of giggling thirteen-year-old girls, all shiny hair and flavored waxy lip gloss. Hair and Shoulders don't see much of each other, these past few years, and when they get together it's hard to see anything through this soft haze of wistful and delicate blue. They have a lot to talk about, I suppose, as a lot of air has rushed between them since the last time they met. A lot of molecules have quietly passed by.

I want to apologize, both for what has gone before and what is yet to come.

(PS, Internet, my connection to you at home has been hosed for the better part of the week and will maybe continue to be, you know, missing, for the next few if I'm not answering your emails as quickly as I should be, that's why. Or, if you send them this weekend, it might be because of the post-wedding bachelorette party brokedown extravaganza I'll be attending. And then recovering from.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hey there, spring.

Don't think that I haven't noticed you there, rooting around under my skin like a raccoon in a trash heap. I've noticed you in the times when I have to take off my coat walking home, the times when I realize I probably don't need two sweaters over my dress, the times where I wouldn't be able to help but whistle cheerfully if I knew how to whistle. All of the bulbs are making flowers right now, the robins are all hopping around excitedly eating my friends the earthworms, but I am mostly ignoring all of it. I'm not ready for you quite yet, spring.

But I'm getting there. I had planned, after all, to spend this half of the winter breaking out of some of my more destructive patterns. And while this isn't perhaps the method I would have chosen, I am finally close to hollowed out and nearly prepared to spend the spring charming everyone with my frantic talk of the noble rhinoceros and the adorable pangolin. (You don't even know how many documentaries I am capable of watching and regurgitating, but: it is a lot.) We're going to have dance parties for months, spring, drink bottles of champagne, collect collective nouns, stay up much too late, and kiss in dark corners. It's all in my plans. Only right now my fingernails are all shredded and their beds torn apart and bleeding, and I haven't smiled at a cute stranger in weeks.

So maybe I need a little bit more time, spring. Some of those bulbs that are making flowers now need a hard freeze in order to bloom, a period of dormancy in order to motivate root growth and subsequent blooming. Maybe I do too.

Friday, March 07, 2008

I finally broke down and talked to a counselor the other day, after one inexplicable meltdown too many. She told me that I should just keep doing what I'm doing, that there's no timeline for recovering from these things, and for goodness' sake to stop thinking that I'm underachieving in a non-existent personal repair competition. Which is good news, I guess, because I'm always sort of afraid that I'm crazying up, that I've gone too far down certain crystalline paths inside my head, that I might not make it back.

But on the other hand, I think I was hoping for instructions. I'm not very good at just waiting for something to happen, and I think that I wanted her to say something like, "Ok, what you need to do is, during the new moon, turn in three clockwise circles and one counter-clockwise, wearing a jester hat, and then pour out a shot of scotch. And you'll be cured!" And that, I could have done. But there are many things I am not and one of them is patient. (Other things I am not include: a smurf, the treasure of the sierra madre, smaller than a breadbox, and green.)

In the meantime, given a lack of other options, I guess I'll be waiting. Impatiently.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I've been dreaming lately of pop-up books.

It's a little thing, but it's been happening consistently for weeks now, I've realized. Each time I turn a corner and fine a book sitting on a table, and when I pause to open it something amazing bursts into being. What it is I can't seem to remember, and cursory research provides no interpretation.

Still, I think that those pop-up books are the point of something, something out of sight and yet only just around the corner.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Late nights and early mornings I am distracted by the weight of my skull, trying to fit my thumbs under the edge of it, to lift and give the stack of polaroids inside some breathing room. If I ever donate my brain to science, you will be able to recognize it by the twin thumbprints on either side of the nape of my neck.

There are bats that have learned to snatch spiders right from the center of their webs without getting stuck on the sticky fibers, leaving behind only tattered threads of silk.

In a drizzle, while the rest of the neighborhood was sleeping, I gathered most of your remnants and put them in a box. Down at the dock I sat them next to me and told them everything I never managed to say, and then I sent them gently in the water. I think that's where they belong.
Some of them, but not all. Some things I kept, hidden. When I am better again, I will want to remember what was best.