Sunday, May 31, 2009
How did I get here--sitting alone in his home? There was a tall, dark and handsome man, a bar and a band and a summer too hot. Do the stars actually ever align, and why does this Otis Redding song move me to cry? There was a line--too good and not good enough, and a life forged over coffee. A double latte, and for me, I think, I was on Americano's at the time. There's only so much magic in beans, though, so it must have been more. Maybe Kerouac? Maybe phones held up to hear ocean waves? Honest eyes and falling words [while the guard was down, of course]? Here we are, pantomiming partners--a glass of wine will do for now as I step and step together in circles around the room. I don't have the answers, only notions of gut and the pull of fate, and a man and cups of coffee that we'll drink in mornings that wait.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
She stands to my right and I imagine her name to be something more usual than mine. If we had anything else in common it would be too much for me to remain composed. I am at the airport at an inopportune time waiting for my friend whose soldier also isn't coming home tonight. Everyone else, it seems, is eager to greet a pending commercial flight carrying long missed troops of an unknown kind. What matters is that not one of them is mine. I watch selectively for the familiar face I will soon be greeting, for the same glassy tired facade I know too well, and I try to look past the positively giddy expressions of the others, and the girl who I now know is waiting for a man named Cory.
She is approximately my age with brunette curls tossed carelessly into a ponytail, plain glasses, and an oversized t-shirt creased down the middle by dog tags that have likely kept vigil in his absence. She chatters to another woman, who is also waiting, about restaurant reservations and other modes of anticipatory busy work. It is all I can to do cross my legs tighter and more awkwardly and to chew at already brittle nails and to hope that the New Orleans flight empties before the onslaught occurs of unbearable reunions. Quietly, I wish the Dallas plane would turn around and fly back to whatever Middle Eastern country it originated from, just for the amount of time remaining before my soldier returns. Or I wish that I were in her place, feeling the same surge of mad tingling throughout every atom of the body in those too-long moments before the countdown ends. Relief is a thing I have long put out of heart and mind, and Denial is the vein in which I mostly reside--maintaining a cycle of remembering and forgetting him so I'm not always acutely aware of how painful it is to love and miss a man so intensely.
If I were a bigger, less selfish person I would find it in me to be happy for her and proud even, that she and I are a part of the same parallel universe. Instead, she makes me angry, and with envy and malice I want her suffering to continue, for The Staff Sergeant to be the one instructed to sprint from the Dallas plane door to my arms, even though I know that she has earned this homecoming through the endurance of millions of seconds passing like pinpricks, stinging reminders that life fragmented must somehow move forward as though it were whole.
By the time I've begun nervously gnawing the inside of my cheek, I happen to spot the top of my friend's head, bobbing beneath florescent lights in the flow of travelers. Before she sees me, she calls my phone (always held close) and I urge her to hurry because of what's coming. Without missing a beat, we join paces, step onto the escalator in synch, and crinkle our faces almost together in the funny looking but effective way that dams up the woe of this war thing. She hasn't been here since January, since the two of our soldiers left for the desert. More than anything, I think, she wants her fiance to take my place, to be the first hug after her flight. But nothing is normal anymore--for her, it's this welcome and pulling into the driveway of his house without him being home. For me, it's the stranger living the role I crave to land, the seething joy of enthusiasm weaving through each of her uninvited explanations of directions she has given her Cory or tasks she has carried out in preparation for the soon coming infallible instant, first of locked eyes, then a hug, a kiss, and the way her body will shudder from the shoulders down in a sigh of long-overdue relief.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I wish that my bank account or possibilities at world peace or something else equally worthwhile would swell in accordance with my stress and anxiety levels on this trip. Calling it a vacation would be overstating the experience thus far. Day two was...better? --was less explosive than day one. I have been accused of an endless number of shortcomings and told how to correct them. I have been warned of the immanent failure these character flaws will bring to all hopes of a successful future with The Staff Sergeant, who is inconveniently otherwise unacknowledged.
Two summers ago when Dad and I set off for 3000 miles in his suburban, I worried that it would be like pitting two angry dogs against each other, in a tiny ring, to fight to the death. I was pleasantly surprised that we only had one small tiff in Canada over driving tunes. Outside of that secluded incident (due to having almost no taste at all in music and the insistence in his never failing rightness) the trip was great. So when he asked about Savannah and Charleston this summer, I agreed.
It has been trying, to say the least. I found that today flowed much more smoothly after my mint julep at lunch...and then again after my early evening glass of pinot grigio. At some point, on this great disaster of a southern journey, I hope that he finds something other than my grades to be proud of or to agree with or to simply just accept.
Tomorrow we see Charleston.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Life at the end of a semester is something like I imagine Plath's bell jar was, or rather the motive for her crawling beneath the house, taking pills, and truly hoping not to be found. At any rate, try to understand the madness and the always-tingly-tightness of anxiety as a physical symptom - strung across the muscles of a lower back - and the lack of sleep and the gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair. That has been the last two or so weeks. Then there was my invitation for a Mother's Day weekend, which was mostly kind of okay except for the lingering anxiety and equally tingly-tightness of muscles prolonged by comparisons to my father or early afternoon drinking or the mention of a man friend. I wanted a couple of days to lavish in the freedom of my first year of grad school completed but it didn't work out that way. Tomorrow morning (earlier than I had planned for) my father, who just today compared me to my mother, is picking me up for a week long road trip to the coast of South Carolina. While a suburban is a fairly spacious vehicle, I often feel that the 250 miles between here and home is not enough area of space. If I had had the time to myself, the luxury of surfacing slowly enough to avoid the bends, I would likely not be so dreading the next 7-8 days.
It's difficult to understand what has happened over the last four months. Mom kindly pointed out that she was worried about me having spent so much time alone - a comment spawned out of one of my explanations of these new lifestyle changes. But something has changed in me. I used to be this independent before I left their house, before I had the physical escape of leaving the tumultuous energy of home. I would sit in my room and do god-knows-what for hours without being bored. I mostly recall painting in the floor, the oatmeal carpet stained multicolored with acrylic pigment, the therapy they never funded.
When the rooms here felt too silent I looked to those memories for reassurance. Then one day I was strong enough to just look forward. The unsettling part has been realizing that I have re-arrived here, that I am somehow enough and that I am content. As I was talking to a friend about this very phenomenon, she used a phrase that struck home, "false independence," as in feeling needless in the front of one's mind while holding tightly to the security that remains in him, even if he's not here. It's like her daughter - able to walk but refusing to take a step without the aid of an adult's finger gripped within her tiny fist. Maybe I've only sold myself on the hype, just like I'm supposed to, distanced myself through days upon days of the mantras, the whatever-it-takes methods of coping. In the process I have fallen in love with my little piece of the world. This house is my domain. This house that I thought I could only loathe and curse is my niche, and I kind of hate the thought of leaving my security if only for a week. Leaving means breaking all of those habits that I've built my independence on. In moments like these, on the eve of variation, I dread packing and driving away from the reliability of home. I miss him more. I feel like a traitor to the routine that keeps me from flying apart in all directions. I start to feel short of breath.
He sent a couple of pictures the other day of him Over There. His smile is still perfectly heartbreaking and his eyes and his form and his skin-just-out-of-reach, and what I first thought was how much I wanted to touch his hair. He in his uniform and my bags waiting to be packed make the earth shift underneath my steady footing. Yesterday all of this seemed so much easier, and coming full circle, it would seem that my sense of independence is completely false. I have wagered my ability to survive on the continuation of a domestic cycle of old things done in new ways and old passions reignited. I've gone back to my savior, Creation. As long as my hands are busy, as long as I can dovetail the pieces that I've made, I'm fine. You would never know how much it hurts to be apart from him - most of the time these days I don't.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
...in hopes of some natural bleach action. These beauties were the $3 deal of the century at a little antique shop nearby. They are each cross stitched, by hand I'm sure, with the brightest and cheeriest colors. The only problem is typical vintage yellowing, which I'm trying to take care of with last night's 24 hour water and vinegar bath and now the first glimpse of sun in days.