Tuesday, May 27, 2008

(Not Dead)

Just so's you know.

Hoping to write tonight.

Thank you for reaching back - it truly helps.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Press One If You Are On A Ledge, Two If You Are Holding A Pill Bottle…

As the Ex and I drive back from our little vacation (more later), I call Big City Lover and let him know that no, I can’t continue my drive to Midwestern City, I need to go home. Husband needs me, I need to be home. He is, to his credit, totally cool and understanding about this. Mandy Brain is amazed that a guy is OK with her not driving five hours out of her way today to fuck him (he still likes me?!?!), thus again demonstrating the self-esteem of a walnut.

We plan to meet up Friday instead, and I arrange my day and my excuse. It will still be a five-hour drive, but at this point, it would be nice to spend some uncomplicated time with a man as resolutely non-dramatic as Big City Lover.

I wake up with the beginning of a yeast infection.

Determined to soldier on, I apply cream (bought by the ex, anal always spreads things around) and head out to get a new phone. At the phone store, I discover that I need to forward all my saved texts…shit. As I send them from one device to the next, I trace the dissolution of the relationship. I ask the guy behind the counter what to do about my pictures. He grabs the phone to help me, then blushes and hands it back.

“Whoa, maybe you want to do this yourself…”

Um, yeah. Zurich, my breasts, Zurich in a towel, me in the shower, hot shoes, more breasts, the last hotel, and of course, at the bottom, Ex-Lover’s hand in my ass, his cock inside me, facing away.

The photos may not be salvageable. There is a cord to be bought, I’ll make another attempt. My attachment to the photos surprises me – there’s the drag show from the time we spent in the islands, the mermaid I painted, the Mary Magdalene he sent, sunset in Vegas.

I learn how to use the new phone and seek food – I had no breakfast or lunch and have no appetite but maybe that’s why I’m crying over a set of old photos. I call Big City Lover and plan my departure. I don’t want to go. And when I cruise up the street towards my home, the sign for unleaded at $4.18 triggers and the waterworks start.

Google for my last therapist’s number. Voice mail, if this is an emergency call…I feel ridiculous and hang up, then call back and get the number. It’s a holiday weekend, I don’t want to bother her. Still crying.

Pull out of the parking lot and speed dial 3 for Beautiful Girl. Voice mail.

Scrolling through, my main concern is this: I grew up in a state where if you threaten to harm yourself or someone else, you can be involuntarily committed. I can’t face that, I don’t have time to spend peeing in a cup and wearing a cocktail napkin that ties in the back. Two weeks at 15 was more than enough.

Directory Assistance. The hospital please. Yes, I know the ER does not answer medical questions. Hold. Sure, I’ll talk to a social worker. Hold. Yes, they can commit me, but they probably wouldn’t, you don’t have insurance, why don’t you call the hotline?

I leave a message on my therapist’s office voice mail. Still crying.

Text to Big City Lover: Have started crying and cant stop. Probably will not make it after all. V sorry.

Hotline, please hold. Yes, I’d like to talk to a counselor. Hold. Heidi is pleasant and I feel stupid taking up her time when there are probably people with real problems who need the line I’m tying up with my stupid baby life. I can’t face explaining the whole thing from the beginning. She wants my number to follow up, but I’m not able to give it.

Best Friend, five times zones away but she’s a night owl. Answering machine. Mobile. Voice mail.

Tom Paine. Gone, I think I remember from his blog, and gone he is.

Another friend picks up and I realize I can’t tell him, can’t bear to explain enough to make sense. Let me tell you about my website guy, my video girl, the media company that’s working out for me.

Hairline Boy. Voice mail. Secret Scientist is probably having a lovely weekend with his lovely girlfriend, can’t wreck that up.

I call another friend, let her think I called because I’m a good friend who calls for no reason. I’m generally a pretty shitty friend, so at least some good is coming from this.

Beautiful Girl, still no answer.

I call my therapist’s emergency number. Voice mail. I leave a message asking for an appointment, at least it will be something to look forward to.

A few hours later, she rings me, she’s in China, she’ll call Sunday when she’s back. And there’s the lesson, the one I should know from my dedicated devotion to clients in all my professions, the one I should know from short-changing the Ex my attention, the one I should know from skimping on wifely duties.

You get what you pay for.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Chasing God

(I am not Christian, but that is the language I know how to speak)

* * *

Every time I come here:

This is it. This is the time I have gone too far. He will not be here this time.

The cobbled streets are grey with damp and edged with snow that melts at my step. The Minnewater is before me, open boats laden with tourists even today, their umbrellas blooming over the gunwales, bottoms shifting on the hard bench seats as they dutifully point their cameras left and right, five houses in a row with five styles of roofline, history in a digital frame. I cross the bridge, the heavy wooden doors open, the whitewashed buildings of the Beguinage low before me.

There is a carpet of daffodils, where I expect last year’s green commons. They stop me in my tracks and steal my breath. They are a sign to me in all my arrogance, a sign that no matter how shitty a person I am, no matter how much of my holy talents I squander on the maintenance of Big Lies, God still gives with both hands, God still loves endlessly, boundlessly, God forgives the unforgivable and loves me despite my profound absence of loveableness.

Inside, the church is warm – signs entreat donations for “HEATING” in four languages. There is the chanting of vespers, and I know as I enter behind the German girls sharing an ipod that this is not atmospheric recording to aid in the parting of tourists and their money. The chant is slightly flat, in partial tune from daily use and not from anything so useless as practice – how can living this chant be practice? – it is round, perfectly incomplete, the edges soothed by acoustics, the nuns’ honking their noses through each others’ singing (older in full habits, those merely fifty- or sixty-something in fleece pullovers) coughing through the readings, they are not performing, they are not living a Big Lie, they are not lost and afraid all the time, depending on the hands that yank away. They are here. They reach for God as I do, but I am tentative, stepping to the edge of the crosswalk knowing in my head that cars stop here, but still unconfident enough to hover at the pavement, the drivers waving their hands in frustration – are you crossing? Are you stopping? These women, I am sure, stride into the road, the Bruges drivers accelerating to a stop just as they do in London, in Amsterdam, in Paris. These women stand at the edge of the table and fall backward into the arms of God.

I light a candle. I always light a candle. A nun reads in Flemish. The chapel is filled with the warmth of candles and expensive heat and the smell of wax. I do not have the right to pray, but I hope I can be good.

Officially, Intermittent

I did *try* to write every day. And mostly, I did actually write at least something. And then was felled at the knees by lack of internet, lack of privacy, and much mental time occupied by being The Boss.

So yeah. This is now an intermittent blog. I can't keep letting you down, Gentle Readers, by saying I'm going to do something and then not doing it. So when I do, I'll make it as good as I can. And I'll also not kill myself by saying, oh, don't post that until it's perfect, because that way inaction lies.

Where am I now? In a secret location (let's note that it's a major honeymoon destination), shacked up with the Ex. I know. Dumb, dumb Mandy. So far there's only been minor shortness of breath. And really, who knows? The part of me that says, hmmmm, you're* kind of self-involved and a little bit boring and really, the sex had been going downhill, is strongly considering making this a last hurrah. The part of me that thinks, hey, never know when you'll be hit by a bus, would rather not end without closure. I'm working on having Part A strangle Part B but then the thought of choking just turns me on.

Where will I be Thursday? Possibly in a Midwestern City with Big City Lover. We're texting it out.

Where will I be the first weekend in June? With Fucked-Up Guy, plotting and planning to give my team-members and his fiancee the slip so we can shag intensely and silently in shared lodging.

Where will I be all year? Why, on the road, of course. That big beautiful pond full of fish, maybe one of whom will touch the thing in me that needs it beyond my control...

* * *

Quote of the week: "I never learned in health class that wiping front to back thing, and that's why I got a gall bladder infection that almost killed me..."

Words to live by.

* * *

*note intentionally ambiguous pronoun

Friday, May 9, 2008

Day Eleven: Motorcycles

(Because tonight I rode in a tank top and jeans in a no-helmet state, legs wrapped around the driver (no pegs), arms wrapped around him, speaking softly into each other’s ears. Harley Nightster. I want one.)

* * *

Last year. My ex-student comes to visit, his Harley still not paid off, the loan from his ex-girlfriend one last tendril in his new relationship. He takes me for a ride around town. I lean into him, young, handsome, talented, totally fucked-up, and wish I was younger and the kind of girl he likes. A minivan pulls in as the left lane ends and he politely drops back.

“You could have made it,” I say into his ear.

“If I didn’t have you I would have.”

“Don’t stop on my account.”

* * *

Two years ago. Bike rally, Fourth of July. Kentucky. Three other girls and I watch fireworks and lounge on a riverbank. After the finale, we want to ride. Two of us have never been on a motorcycle before. "Come on," I say, and we head through the parking lot full of black and silver and red and yellow and every tattoo-like tank-paint job imaginable. I see a group of men. “There’s four of you and four of us,” I say to one. Wanna give us a ride?” We figure they’ll spin us around the block, nice to meet you, have a nice night. But fifty yards out of the lot My God I’m in fake pleather pants, not even vinyl, Power Girl’s in a halter top, two girls in skirts they pull left instead of right, onto the highway, into the fog. Fireworks are still distant in the hills, other towns not finished “GoAmerica!” yet. None of us have helmets. The bikes rocket up to 90, 95, 110, 135, I stop looking.

I realize, this could be it. One pothole, one bad bump, one careless motorist, we will all die. We don’t know these men, they might take us to their secret gang hideaway…does anyone have a secret gang hideaway any more? If one of us got separated, we’d have no way to find them…

Halfway, we pull into a Conoco to fill up, get Power Girl a pair of sunglasses. I ask my new friend, “So, how do you all know each other?”

“We don’t. This is th’ first time we rode together.”

“But I thought you guys were together! You said, yeah, we could all ride with you all!”

“Well, I didn’t figure they’d say no.”

* * *

Fifteen years ago.

My boyfriend Doug, chosen largely because he looked like my brother, takes me home from seeing the director's cut of Blade Runner. Lakeshore Drive, Chicago, and we rocket down the eight lanes by the water, the light on his jacket, my miniskirt, very MTV. Hair in the wind. Sunglasses at night. Doug deals with a traffic slowdown by striking up the middle of the lanes, and the cop who pulls us over is so disgusted he stomps up, huffs out, “If you want to kill her you should put her in front of the bike,” and stomps back without writing the ticket we richly deserve.

Later that week, I am in the parking lot of a grocery store, buying what I buy every week in college – cheap steak, eggs, potatoes, macaroni, canned tomatoes, broccoli, oatmeal, raisins, half and half, exactly twenty dollars every time. I set the bags in the back seat of my hatchback and watch a beautiful motorcycle cruise the parking lot – it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a reproduction vintage Harley, brand new and antique, everything shiny and silver and art deco turquoise.

“You want a ride?”

I do very much want a ride and since I am 19 and away from home and getting more reckless by the day, I hop on. It is wildly different from Doug’s tiny, shaky Kawasaki. This is like riding a bus, so stable and solid. The rider is an elementary school janitor, he has saved for twenty years to buy this bike, this machine, this moment of “wanna ride?” and the 19-year-old blonde with the nice tits says yes.

* * *
Twenty years ago.

I leave school, cut third period gym, walk down the road across the interstate where it becomes not a nice part of town (I am just now remembering this, this started as a story about motorcycles and joy and risk and wind and maybe a meaningful moment about the janitor) and hitch the four miles to my boyfriend’s house. I am fifteen. He is twenty-eight. I think that this makes me very, very cool. He lives with his mother, he has a six-inch scar from heart surgery as a child. We fuck on his bedroom floor. He is my third partner, he is “friends” with my second partner, but not friends enough not to go after his girlfriend. I make tickmarks by their names in my pink address book, once-twice-thrice-more. He takes me back to school in time for fifth period after lunch, English, which I never miss. People know I cut, but they do not know why. They know I am the girl who answers too many questions with too many words in class, the girl whose parents won’t let her get contacts, the girl we call names and put things in her locker and shove in the halls when teachers aren’t watching. They do not know about my cool grown-up boyfriend and my cool sex life and what I do when I am supposed to be showering with everyone else because I am sick of getting marked down for not showering, not being able to show a wet towel.

* * *


“Want a motorcycle?” asks Power Girl.

“Ummmm…maybe?” because I already know this is a Candy Mountain moment, and I will be grumpy Charlie while Power Girl fills my world with magical wonder.

“Lie down on your back on the floor!” and everyone gets giggly, I can tell we have all had motorcycles, and yes, I should have a motorcycle, it will be good for morale, whatever it is.

She grabs my ankles, puts her foot in my crotch and jerks my legs up and down while going, “Vroom! Vroom!”

I laugh. Everyone laughs. The Boss played, and everything is OK. And The Boss plays as hard as she can, hoping the outside and the inside come closer.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Day Ten: Sunshine

So many things are different in the cold light of day.

Here's the fault on my side: I should be more willing to defend, more willing to say, when someone says, "He was a B-List Boy. He still is a B-List Boy," that No, you don't know him like I do...

I don't know if I kept it secret because I like the game, or because I was embarrassed to claim him.

Now, I think I know why I'm here, why I'm in this miasma. Because it ended with a fight and we never made up, we never had a chance to sort things out, look them over, say yes, we're in, or no, sorry, we're out.

And maybe if he now was with someone not bent on making my life hell (while, of course, smiling sweetly and complaining about how I persecute her), perhaps I could wish them both better.

Maybe maybe maybe. Maybe not.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Day Nine:

Grief fills the room up…
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me

(King John)

I am mad with grief. I am past caring if I give away my power by telling too much, past caring if I am stupid, enabling, whining, boring, needing to get a life. If I am to believe everything that came before, then what came before was such that I would now have the right to ask, to want, to need.

He says “I can’t hurt her.” The unspoken conclusion, so instead, I will hurt you.

One bad – no, one empty day—

Because when I am working from dawn until past midnight, when the job demands more than I have to give, I can be here now. I do not have to be here now. But in that moment of calm – hiding for lunch in a storage closet where no-one can ask me One More Thing, slipping into a borrowed bed at 6AM after one last load of laundry, Power Girl already unconscious beside me, then it crashes in on me.

I’d rather hurt you.

Husband is sweeter, more kind, more supportive than ever. But I cannot tell him this. I should leave him, because I can’t tell him, and it is not enough.

I have done the texting-because-you-can’t-talk-right-now.

I have done friends.

I have done use me as a badge of your virtue, congratulate yourself every time you look into my face and do not kiss me, every time you hold me in the night and do not fuck me, make another tick under “I was strong and good!”

I am an object. I am “look, I can so be faithful.”

She is an object. She is “really, I can be faithful if I want to.”

She has taken to sending anonymous emails to Husband, phoning me late at night, snarking about my company to her friends. Perhaps he is, after all, hurting her.

For me, the line between here and gone, present and absent, is growing thinner as the icy Dread licks up the beach. The barriers left? I have an event…an appointment…something needs doing. I don’t want to make a mess. Too strong a swimmer, too queasy to cut.

(There were only five pills in Hairline Boy’s cabinet. Not enough to do the trick, just enough to fuck up my day. So I didn’t today.)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Day Eight: Better Stories

At the gym, in a moment between sets, Power Girl notices my elbow. “You have a bump – do I have that bump?”

I hold my elbows side by side to show her the white, raised, dime-sized swelling. Right elbow only. No, she doesn’t have one.
“How’d you get that?”

“Early in our marriage, Husband pegged me with a Coke bottle.”

Power Girl pauses.

“I bet you got a lot of mileage out of that.”

I laugh. “Yep, with the guy I was dating at the time.”

* * *

* * *

If you see me, Mandy, in the street, here is how you will know me. I have a scar across my upper chest, in the shape of a chain, 5 ½ links burned into me. The raised flesh does not tan. It is no longer the first thing people notice about me, but it’s still fairly conspicuous. If we meet in conducive circumstances, I will tell you how I got that scar.



It’s a good story.

* * *

* * *

Not the first time I ran away, but the first time I ran away at night, on my bicycle, past my middle school, hiding in the bushes at a church where two nice young women found me and took me home. I remember eating a sandwich I had either saved from lunch or made for the next day’s lunch. Probably ham salad on white. My bike in the back of their minivan – minivans were new. My father coming in through the front door, back from looking for me, throwing his car keys hard to the tile floor.

I got better at running away. Ditch anything with your name on it, rip out the inscribed page of Richard Bach’s Illusions, hand over the first grown-up present from my parents to the friend’s mom who drove me to the shelter, “I heard you liked earrings.” Gold ones, bought retail (never pay retail for jewelry), still in the blue velvet case.

* * *

* * *

“Scars are tattoos with better stories,” I saw on a t-shirt. I have good stories. I have good scars. I like where I am and so I must be at peace with what I’ve come from. It’s not your problem, Gentle Reader, that I’m white, middle class, “misunderstood.” It’s not your job to rescue me, solve me, open me up and reassemble the machinery, get rid of the knock, the ping, the way I shake over 75mph, start slowly on cold mornings, overheat too easily on a Texas back road. Something drives me to the iron, the razor, the hot edge of the oven door. Thank God it’s the same thing that drives me to words, to tell, tell, tell and not be silenced.

What will that feel like?

Only one way to find out.