Yesterday was a weird day all around. A day of odd coincidences, thwarted expectations, feelings of unsettledness, tossed about with moments of sweetness and gratitude.
How so, you ask? Well…
1) I’d woken up expecting to find the time and inspiration to write an essay about a very cool bus driver named Mike I met last year, but instead I
–stared out the window at the brilliantly colored leaves;
–caught up on old emails, but not to the point of saturation or satisfaction;
–berated myself for having such lousy time-management skills;
–read too many articles about the CA wildfires and power outages, feeling fearful for all my friends as well as relieved that we weren’t living there anymore;
and then I remembered that I am on a deadline to re-listen to and edit the final version of the audio version of RASH and so I made tea, donned my headphones, and went to town. Around 1:30, after becoming virtually comatose from too-large a lunch of boxed tomato soup to which I added cherry tomatoes and chunks of feta; served alongside a platter of crudities, and a poached egg (the latter two slathered with a fatty mixture of crunchy chili pepper sauce and mayo), I lay down on my bed to meditate/nap. When I woke up 20 minutes later, feeling both refreshed and slightly enlightened, I realized I had to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE
2) so I packed up my stuff and headed to Kestrel, a coffee house/groovyworkspace by the waterfront. I knew Loy had rowing practice after school and I figured I’d work a little, then bring her a hot drink before she headed out onto the windswept lake. When I walked in, I was greeted by a friendly 20-something named Ethan. I told him that I’d stopped coming here because I’d found the previous owners and their hired help cold and unwelcoming. He said he knew what I was talking about and hoped, now that there were new owners and different employees, I’d find the place more inviting. I smiled and, wanting to reinforce my past dissatisfaction, told him about the time I was in line and this woman walked in with a funny-looking/adorable dog and while she was talking to her friend I took the dog’s picture, whereupon the barista, who witnessed my action, went crazy, yelling, “How dare you take a picture of someone’s dog without their permission! That’s so rude!” I’d looked at the owner, who merely shrugged, unconcerned. I left the café and vowed never to return.
When I finished my tale, I expected Ethan to say something like, “Yeah, that was totally uncalled for. I can totally understand why you never came back,” but instead he looked around uncomfortably and muttered, “Well, it was kind of…you know…a little intrusive…” whereupon I interrupted this second berating, thanked him for the latte and opened my laptop. Ten minutes later Loy texted me that she was on her way to practice and could I please bring her a hot chocolate. I SO wanted to listen to another 30 minutes of audio and sip my coffee, but because I am a guilt-ridden mother who is painfully aware that these are our final few months together before she goes off to college, I poured my drink in a to-go cup, got her a cocoa and headed to the waterfront where I admired the beautiful scenery until
3) the team pulled into the parking lot. I walked over to Ben, their coach. I felt slightly uncomfortable and wondered how he was feeling toward Loy because of something she did this week. Long story short: the Burlington High School girls’ soccer team created #equalpay t-shirts and wore them under their team shirts during a game last week, and when they scored a goal, they removed their team shirts, causing them to get yellow-carded (which is a penalty). Their act went viral. Billie Jean King, Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton (among many other VIPs) tweeted their support. “Good Morning America” and “CNN” (among many other TV stations) interviewed the team. The New York Post and The Guardian (among many other media outlets) wrote about it. This past Tuesday night Loy texted Coach Ben and asked if he’d mind canceling rowing practice on Wednesday so the team could go watch the soccer game in a show of support. While she was texting him I worried that she might be stirring up trouble. After all, this showed her not supporting her own team, which very much needed to practice.
I sidled up to Ben and before I could utter more than “hi,” he said, “You know what Loy did was amazing. This team is so full of masculine energy [4 girls out of 40], and getting everyone to go and cheer on the girls was such a positive thing.” He even posted about it:
Twice now what I expected to happen did not. Twice, people reacted differently than I expected them to. And just when I thought nothing more weird was going to happen
4) I went to City Market to buy some provisions for dinner and I ran into a neighbor who’ve I spoken to maybe 3 times in the five years we’ve lived on our street. Expecting our convo to be insubstantial but necessary, if only for the sake of politeness, I asked the usual banal questions about his life and family to which he responded with typically generic answers. And just when I thought we were caught up, he suddenly shared that his sister was coming to visit and that she has lymphoma. He seemed so worried that I—forever needing to comfort and empathize and enable—said, “Oh, that’s curable,” to which he replied, “It is?”
I had no idea if it was but I’d dug myself a medical hole and knew I had to offer some evidence to support my empty assertion, so before I could stop myself I said, “Yeah, ‘I Feel Bad About My Neck’.”
He looked stumped.
“That writer—damn; I can’t remember her name. She’s a playwright and she had lymphoma and she lived with it for 10 years.” Once again, I had no idea if this was true. Plus, I was incorrect: she wasn’t a playwright, but a screenplay writer and essayist, but by now the hole was too deep to crawl out from.
“Ten years, huh?” Then he narrowed his eyes and asked, “Why do you feel bad about your neck?”
“What?” I laughed. “No; that was the title of the book she wrote. Have you read it? It was really funny.”
“No, but are you talking about Nora Ephron?”
Stunned, I almost fell to the floor. “But you just said…how did you come up with that name?”
He looked at the floor. “I honestly have no idea. It just popped into my head.”
We bid adieu to one another and I went back to shopping. I couldn’t stop thinking about how weird it was he guessed her name and then I fixated on Ephron’s book and the fact that I sort of did feel bad about my own neck (as well as countless other parts of me), which then segued into that most unwelcome train of thought that oft-times speeds into my brain’s station. By that I mean that while I perused the many bundles of kale, I began questioning my own talent and wondering if perhaps I should change professions. A second after sliding some green lacinato into a yellow compostable bag I looked up and saw a guy wearing this shirt. I was so stunned by the universe’s answer that I asked if I could snap a picture, expecting him to demur or even to give me a dirty look. But he didn’t. He puffed out his chest and said, “Go for it.”
5) and, finally: late last night I received a text from my friend Jamie, asking how it was going to which I replied:
Not great. Drank gin while watching episode 1 of Looking For Alaska by myself and ate a bag of chips, a cup of frozen grapes, 4 pieces of chocolate covered tangerines and 1/2 cup of lupini beans and felt well… felt like it’s just sort of gone; the past, I mean. I WAS that character: skinny, smart, sassy, sexy, a bit dark. All the boys (and most girls) hovered near, wanting some part of my magic, my mystery. I was, in case you weren’t aware, Miss Weird but super popular in all 3 of my high schools. This is way TMI and I’ll perhaps delete rather than send, but it’s funny but in the bath just now I was thinking about WHO amongst the humans I know, gets me/it. Like understands the angst and emptiness and wonder and Zen-like wooliness, and you sprang to mind. I’m not sure, given God’s hold on you, you have that same cynical itch and depth of inquiry, but my gut, my sense, is that you do—that you sometimes in the dark of night feel the stark emptiness. But you don’t let it take you, swallow you the way it does me at times. Instead you find the light, whether it be in the eyes of one of your children or in your imagination. But I know you know how to grasp hold of it. I’m meditating a lot, writing my new book, and I start volunteering next week at the food shelf. I’m sort of wading; waiting for change—something that fits me like that pair of jeans that feel like a second skin, comfort, ease. I’d apologize for the stream of crazy consciousness but you know, I sort of feel as if I never need to apologize to you because our connection/love for one another precludes such silliness.
I expected Jamie to write back and offer me some sort of compassion or to tell me I’m full of shit and to get over myself because I’m a great writer and maybe I should start looking at all that I should be grateful for (because, well, there is a lot of that), and, even though my expectations weren’t met yet again, what she said was exactly what I needed to hear:
You never need to apologize to me. I KNEW there was a reason I couldn’t stop thinking about you. I can’t explain it, but we are linked. As for the girl you “used to be” whom everybody loved—well everybody loving you is not a recipe for satisfaction. It’s not REAL. It’s a feeling and in my own life, as my writing takes flight or not, I’m trying to hold on to what’s real—the people who will love me no matter what I do or say. I love you. You matter.