Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"We Need to Talk"

I’m led into our bedroom. Already, the computer chair is in the middle of the room facing the door, positioned for a one-member audience for a one-woman show.

“Since we got back to school, you’ve changed.”

I adjust in the chair. I lean too far back and flinch over my fear of tipping.

She continues, “You just stopped talking to me. I mean, about anything important. And you don’t sit next to me at dinner.” Her hands are on her hips with legs apart, her natural Superman pose.

I stare over her head at our matching plywood dressers. Both sets open, our clothes mingle in a dirty heap with shoes jutting out like lost children in the water. My sighing is internal.

“I thought maybe you were going through a rough patch, you know? During the first few weeks? I mean, I know we fought a lot when we were traveling, but that was just the stress.”

To her right is the window. In front of it is a big ugly fern that’s slowly dying. I hate how it blocks the view of the parking lot. It looks tacky from the outside. I checked last week when we argued about it again. The leaves are limp and colorless. Simply because the thing is ten years old doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be put down. I bet ten in fern years is about seventy-five in human years.

“Maybe moving in together right now was too soon. But you knew that we’d get the best apartment on campus if we did. I mean, I figured we’d just get over the summer and start fresh, you know?”

She doesn’t move very often. I noticed it on the trains from Italy to France to Luxemburg to The Black Forest. The woman doesn’t wiggle her fingers or bend her knees or even lean against doorframes. The way she can perfectly balance herself in the middle of a rocking city bus and not falter is unnatural.

“I just think you’re being mean.”

I suck my bottom lip through my teeth, pinching the thin skin until it bubbles between the gaps. My tongue prods, digging for blood. My chin juts a little.

“And, you know, I know you’ve been hanging out with Beth a lot. While I’m in class.”

Behind me, in her perfect line of vision, is where we sleep. Pillows and blankets spill over the edge; there are too many coverlets and sheets with clashing patterns.

Her eyes are hot, “I don’t care. I just wish you’d tell me.”

There’s a pause. I count to thirteen when she says, “It’s not that I don’t like Beth. I just don’t know why you think you can’t hang out with us both, you know?” Her right foot lifts to scratch the opposite calf.

Rubbing my arms, I lean forward until my vision falls to the ground. I stare at her pink and white sneakers. I sigh at their ugliness.

“I hear she used to be engaged until the guy broke it off. That’s why she transferred.”

I look at her. Not allowing myself to count the freckles on her nose or determine if she’s due for another highlighting, I focus on her eyes. These two huge blue orbs that glimmer when wet. It can be an odd vanity for a woman—to know she looks beautiful when she cries. It can be dangerous.

We stare off like this for too long. An intermission when we rehash the first acts points, character subtleties, and contemplate what will happen when the stage lights dim again.

As she breaks down, I get up. I move behind the chair and push it toward her. She sits down. With my body facing her back, her crying quiet but obvious, I offer her my moment.

“I can move out, if you want. It’s obvious that the summer can’t be forgotten. It was too much. I’m sure if it didn’t happen then, it’d happen like it is now. We just can’t do this anymore. I think we’ve moved beyond each other.”

We are both looking at the dressers. To their left, I see the door out of the bedroom and into the main room where Beth and a few others are studying.

“I’m not replacing you with Beth. With anyone. I think maybe we just aren’t good roommates. It can happen to friends, even best friends. Maybe, over time, we can start hanging out again. Right now, though, I just need some time.” I walk out. I don’t touch her shoulder as I pass. I don’t pause at the door, turning and giving her a calm, sad smile. I just walk out, she quietly crying in the chair. I shut the door.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My Anchor

It was simple. I was born. I was born and I grew in a neighborhood of all boys. The Star Wars Action Figures had me relocated to Princes Leah every single time I played. I played, resigned to the way life was until the baby sister of one of my friends suddenly grew and seemed interesting. Having completed her bout with diapers and incessant crying, she suddenly was ‘not’ annoying. At six years old, my life of Princess Leah was finally over—just in time to miss armpit farts 101.

So, with my new found friend who was four, and I was six, the good times began. Suddenly my world of creating little things from paper what-nots and string, singing and performing, dressing up, giggling and whispering, and make believing that ‘Greg of the Brady’s’ was our hubby (a tad Polygamist, if you ask me) had begun.

Our bikes had baskets to fill with the neighbors prize flowers, and there were plenty of insects to kill and have fantastic mini funerals for. Life was good for us --not so much for the bugs.

Years later, life began. Work took over our lives, school became an on again off again game, and so did our boyfriends. And somewhere in between Holidays, our families proffered the opportunity for us to gather, laugh, and silently agree that as different as we were, our friendship was bonded by butterfly blood and the burial crosses that lined our childhood street.

We kept in sporadic contact.

It was years later that I called for a true friend request. I had moved to Croatia with my Croatian husband due to visa issues. The marriage had gone quite sour. I had returned home to Los Angeles with my daughter and without any of my belongings, leaving behind my visa less husband with his Mommy and Daddy. It was hard.

Suddenly I found myself in a role I’d never lived and had no clue how to do—a single parent in my home town. There I was. at my parents, wishing for something different. Feeling suspended in time, in limbo, without an anchor, and not sure what the future brought. And everything I had prior—was gone.

Working, and living with my parents, I found myself grateful… but that incessant heart ache would not leave. My father was less than approving of my upcoming divorce and my mother was my greatest cheerleader grateful I’d left the bastard. However, this life I was going to take on was foreign to her too. She was complete with her husband, as I viewed it. She had not only her husband, but her daughter and her granddaughter. And while she worried about me she couldn’t possibly know what ‘incomplete’ felt like. Did she know what it was like to feel like you were floating?

Needing an achor, my dear childhood friend came to my rescue. An apartment had opened up in her building. I filled out the application and soon we were neighbors yet again. We lived in the Industrial area of Long Beach. The bugs were sparse, the flowers were few, but the friendship still remained.

One day, sitting in my office at work I found myself hit, literally hit and overwhelmed by a flood of emotion. Grateful for the privacy and the early morning I chose to come in and put some last minute meeting ideas together, I closed my door and cried. And after the flood was gone, I pulled myself together and headed to my meeting with my cell phone in hand. Upon its completion I made the call.

“Hey Kristine, good morning, “ I said, sounding rather nonchalant as usual.

“Hey what’s up?” she retorted, busy with her stacks of work papers too.

I wondered how best to pose the question, but I went in for the kill….

“ How’d you like to go to Venice than Croatia with me?”


I continued, “I want to go this Fall. I left a lot of my things there including all of my daughter’s baby pictures.”

She agreed. Eager for the next adventure as most 20- somethings are, it wasn’t much to twist her arm and simply say, “total babes” –and suddenly it was a trip we were planning.

There we were with two giant suitcases, one sprightly five year old, and buckets of rain pouring down. It was Fall in Venice.

In Venice we ate authentic Italian food prepared at a Chinese family owned restaurant, complete with California wine. We put on our most enticing of outfits and showed the Italian boys what California Girls were made of. Our gondolier whom we jokingly bartered with charged us close to nothing and took us through canals not on the usual route.

Italian romance included five Italian young men crossing the Gran Canal. They were there for the Venice vs. Sicily soccer match. Newly divorced I walked in a city I had always wished my ex husband would have been romantic with me rather than argumentative in. I shared a kiss with one of these young men. As passionate as it was under a full moon, he suggested in Italian that we go back to his room.” It was the truth when I told him that my monthly friend was in town. At that point my ears and the skies of Venice heard, “Que Fortuna!!!” (What fortune!!!). My ego stroked, and some of my wounds healed…I was ready for the drive to Croatia the next day.

The following day we met my former father in law in the arrivals section of the airport. He did not know that we arrived the day before. We looked fresh, but he was a man and so, how could he tell? The drive to my old home was long and I was as tense as I thought I would be. But then I watched Kristine and I remembered why I had asked for her to come.

If I had gone alone their abusive statements would have taken away all the work I’d done to reground myself. I hadn’t felt strong yet. I was still broken. But in my world of Los Angeles I was not the way they had made me feel. I was capable. The two years that I had spent with them could not overshadow the lifetime I had spent with my dear friend. She was my anchor.

And as we drove to the next greatest adventure of our lives, I watched her laugh and joke and admire the country in which I had lived and cried. I, 'in a sense', watched the child that I was growing up, visit the country I struggled in--and realized I was not. And slowly I was no longer floating. Suddenly I was rooted. Finally, I was grounded. My friend who was born just in time to save me once, arrived again just in time to save me twice.

We had the most incredible time. And we share the most incredible stories. But someday when we are old and gray and still good girls hell bent on having a good time…we will look back and know that some friendships have a purpose far greater than the mortal eye. It is only the picture that we paint in retrospect that helps us see that without them, we merely float.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

August Theme: Friends and Enemies

I collect friends like some women collect jewelery. I can honestly say that my friends have had as much to do with my getting to where I am as any other factor in my life. I have been fortunate to have friends from every walk of life and background; people who embrace me for the (slightly) imperfect being that I am. And sadly I have a few people who make me cringe every time I think of them.

Share your friends and enemies stories. Tell us of those people you love and embrace, those who have stood by you when you thought you were alone and those who may have kicked you (gleefully) when you were down.

Since technically, there are two topics, you can post stories at least twice. I hope you share more.

You know the rules, don't forget the tags.