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Taking the family in stride

February 24, 2010 3 comments
(Rambly, ranty, and reflective writing follows.  You’ve been warned.)

As many have already heard, two-thirds of my immediate family flew in to the city to visit me two weekends ago, from Saturday to Wednesday.

I found out the exact dates the day my laptop was stolen, when I had to call home to try and find the Macbook’s hardware serial number.  Weeks prior, my mom had talked extensively about her and my brother flying to the city to visit.  Lots of talk; but when I called her on Monday, February 8th, my mother had yet to actually purchase plane tickets.  She said she would that day, however, and so they were set to arrive on my new home’s turf, less than a week later.

Already, the mood of the visit was shadowed by both the laptop theft and the last-minute nature of my mother.  I spent the rest of that week alternating between preparing for the family and trying to track down the Macbook; all while not-too-enthusiastically continuing my work shifts at the café, which is proving to be a continual reminder of my missing computer.  I requested days off last-minute as well, but had to work over the weekend, for the first two days of the family visit.

And the entire time, at the forefront of my mind has been the potential that my mother would ask to see where I work.  I didn’t know how I would deal with that, though I spent a ridiculous amount of brainpower trying to figure out that situation.

It would not matter in the end because by Tuesday night we were not on speaking terms.  I am skipping over a couple days of pleasantries here, so it wasn’t all bad, but Tuesday was quite the showdown.  To start off, I woke up in the morning to my mom very loudly arguing with the bank over the phone about some overdraft fees.  Once that was finally sorted out, we headed out the door and got in my car to head to Stanford University.  My mom and brother wanted to see the campus, and I obliged.

Three miles from the highway exit to Stanford, my front passenger tire blew out completely while I was in the second leftmost lane.  After maneuvering to the right shoulder and calling AAA (I am so happy I renewed that membership), the next couple of hours were spent at the auto-repair shop to get my tires replaced – all four, in fact, at my mother’s request.

By this point, little comments from her were starting to raise familiar red flags.  After she paid for the car’s repairs, she warned that I could never manage to save up money given these kinds of costs; I was spending money as quickly as I was earning it.  I also found out that she had been researching real estate costs in the Bay area, apparently extensively, and concluded to me that I would never be able to buy a house working at my current minimum-wage job.

My automatic defenses for these non-conversations with her have always been the same: clam up, make noncommittal remarks, and do a lot of internal eye-rolling.  But perhaps it was just the stress of everything else, of the car repairs or the constant worrying over whether or not she would ask to see the café, but I spontaneously took it a step further.  As we stood on Stanford University’s campus, a couple blocks from where we parked by the Rodin Sculpture Garden, I listened to her try to goad me to apply to and attend medical school, I realized that I had no patience and no desire to deal with this.  Halfway through her insisting that I would never be satisfied doing web design, that I needed a challenge and couldn’t get that from my current employment, I turned and walked away.

I walked back to the sculpture garden and sat down on a low table in front of Rodin’s Gates of Hell.  I sat facing it and looked at the sculpture while turning over her words in my mind.  When I walked away, it had been after I’d told my mom to back off and let me decide where my life would lead me, and she’d countered that I was just having fun and “playing around” now, without taking on the responsibilities of life.  Her plea to me, to put it succinctly, was this: “Grow up.”

Except that I’m not really sure what that phrase means anymore, and our views on adulthood and maturity seem so drastically different.  I am financially independent, pay all my taxes and bills on time, have settled into a new city where I’ve been able to find work to support myself, and am building up a savings account.  I like to think of myself as fairly fiscally responsible.  I now have two jobs, with other prospects also on the horizon, I’ve managed to stay active and eat fairly healthily, and I’ve still found time to pursue various hobbies.  I don’t smoke, rarely drink alcohol, and don’t spend much money outside of my weekly $30 groceries.

I am tempted to make the claim, in fact, that I currently feel more productive, healthier, and more social than I ever was in college.

But, of course, this is not what my mother sees.  She sees her daughter graduating from a prestigious college, only to end up as a “waitress” working minimum wage.  The fact that I refuse to consider graduate school at this point in my life is a constant source of annoyance and aggravation for her.  In previous efforts to goad me, she has even remarked that I will likely be the person with the lowest educational degree in our family.

Perhaps you can understand how this kind of commentary wears on a person after awhile.  Combine that with comments about how her best friend – the one going through chemotherapy – keeps saying how she very much hopes I’ll go into medicine, specifically homeopathic medicine for cancer patients, or how college has made me unambitious and lowered my self-esteem (which is hilariously ironic and completely false.  I hated high school and was a social outcast.  Oh, and I have never, in my entire life, ever even once expressed a desire to go into medicine), or how I’m wasting my youth with all this indecisiveness…

What it all comes down to, is that I can clearly see the path she had envisioned for me post-graduation, because I see many of my peers going straight down similar paths.  Whether in grad school pursuing Masters and Ph.Ds or working in high-profile companies like Google, Microsoft, and Goldman Sachs, many of my fellow postgrads are rising fast towards personal goals and expectations.  And I am rather happy for them, because they surely deserve that success.  And there are also those of my peers with more obscure pursuits, teaching English abroad, working with Teach for America or Peace corps, traveling abroad, or even, like me, working in food service.

As for myself?  I can’t say for sure what is going on here.  It’s true that I was much more aggressive in high school in applying for programs, scholarships, and, ultimately, colleges.  Yet the last, most recent, thing I applied to was my post-grad internship with the Studio Art Department in the spring of 2008, and that felt like more or less a shoo-in.  There are certainly programs I still want to get into; Anderson Ranch ranks high among those.  Describing such a desire to my mother once, however, I could physically feel the waves of disapproval and dissatisfaction rolling off her voice over the phone.

My personal feeling has always been that if I am to attend graduate school, I better have a really good idea of what I’m there to study, and I better love the subject.

But at this point?  With my interests ranging from fine art to graphic design to web development to entomology, and a fairly equal possibility that I would enjoy pursuing any one of those at the graduate level, I’m at a loss as to where to even start.  And amongst all this clamoring about higher education, I have to wonder why there is so much urgency and necessity around getting another degree.

I feel I am at an impasse with my mother now, more so than I have ever been.  The courses of our lives have never run in similar vein, and my deviance from her known, tried and true course, is creating more of a ruckus than I can stand.  How can I make someone whose life was plotted and planned with complete intention understand that it’s actually okay for me to not know where my future lies?  That it is perhaps in that uncertainty – walking that line between the stress of the unknown and the excitement of the unknown – that I may in fact better discover my strengths and weaknesses, better define my goals and ambitions, and better live my life?

Am I wrong?  Am I completely fucking up my life?  I suppose the consequence of choosing a life of uncertainty is the acknowledgement that I could be doing it all wrong.  To my mother, I have by all appearances lost my drive to achieve, instead letting the tides of circumstance and least resistance carry me along.  But, the way I look at it, it was my decision to drive across the country to move to a completely different city, without any preparation to have a job waiting for me at my destination.  It was risky, potentially dangerous, and very circumstantial.  I relied heavily on my partners in crime, the grace of the friends who put us up along the way, and the kindness of strangers when we needed help.

So even if the decisions I’ve made these last 9 months have not helped set me on a career path or helped me get into grad school, I find it hardly fair, and even offensive, to have those experiences disregarded as “wasting my youth.”

But that is because I can’t fathom that setting the groundwork for education and career to be the only thing worth spending my youth on.

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It’s getting hot in here…

January 14, 2010 6 comments

And not in the good way.  Since yesterday morning I’ve been bedridden with what is proving to be a persistent and debilitating fever.  So when I’ve not been slightly delirious and running into the doorframe on the way to the bathroom, I’ve been alternating between bodily chills that no amount of blanketing can stop, and sweating profusely in bed.  This morning, having slept only fitfully at night, I made a cold compress with ice cubes wrapped in a bandana and lay in bed hoping to numb the fever away.  Didn’t really help as much as I’d hoped.

My poisons of choice? Advil, lots of water, and tonight, a Thai delivery that sadly has sat mostly neglected on the kitchen counter.  Despite being incredibly excited about the order, consisting of Kang Ped Bhet Yang (roasted duck in red curry with pineapple, tomato, and greens) and Tom Yum Kai (chicken in spicy-sour broth with tomato, lemongrass, lemon juice, and mushrooms), When it actually came I found myself completely lacking in appetite.

And, believe you me, there is nothing sadder than not being able to wolf down that amount of deliciousness in one sitting.  I did force myself to down one serving of soup, but then the idea of putting anything else in my stomach just made me feel nauseous.

It’s been a rough two days of trying to rest and get better, but also worrying about my shifts at the café not getting picked up, and leaving a fellow barista to work there alone for the bulk of the day.  Today, luckily, another coworker was able to assist for a few hours, which made me a lot more at ease.

Hopefully it’ll resolve itself by tomorrow, or else I’ve resigned myself to making yet another doctor’s appointment in the morning.  Housemate and I discussed why I seemed to be getting sick so frequently, and he suggested that moving into a new place requires acclimation to the area, including that area’s own particular microbe population.  And moving from a rural to urban environment especially, where human density is so much higher, probably propagates diseases more quickly than I’m used to.

Perhaps.  Considering I’m also working in food service and touching a lot of objects that come in contact with peoples’ mouths and hands, I feel like the odds are stacked against me regardless.  Whatever I have feels like a less severe version of the flu I had back in October, without the premonitory sore throat.  Hopefully that means a faster recovery time and no doctor’s visit.

Categories: emolicious, sundry

The word of the week is

December 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Tired.

A trip out to the East Bay to go shopping and hang out with a friend left me exhausted enough to crash on her couch for three hours afterwards.  And I still slept a full 9 hours that night.

And when I woke up the next morning?  Still tired.

When people ask how I am by way of greeting, my response?

Tired.

When I’ve worked a full café shift and closed up shop and driven home at midnight?

Really tired.

It’s not just the work.  In fact, I’ve been tired despite having fewer work shifts this week than usual.  Perhaps it’s the fact that I have a million different threads of thought zipping through my head at every waking hour, sapping away my energy.  Thoughts like, Shit, I have to buy my Secret Santa’s present!  Shit, I have to buy my brother’s Christmas present! Shit, I haven’t bought ANYONE gifts!

Or the fact that I have multiple deadlines for various commissions all converging on me like the lights from an oncoming eighteen wheeler.  And the hours I have to work on them are few and scrounged-for between work, play, and sleep (famous remembered words from my tour guide at MIT: “Here, you can do two of the following three: Work, Play, and Sleep.  Most people choose to forgo Sleep.” – That is not a concession I am willing to make, by the way…)

Or the fact that my body is preparing to unleash its monthly deluge of emotional, hormonal crap.

Or the fact that my mind has still not grasped how quickly the month has passed – and how the hell is it Christmas in a week and two days?  And holy fuck I am flying home in a week.

Or the fact that I am busily making mental notes and to-dos for the upcoming hours, days, weeks that leaves me with a heady sense of urgency, and not a little panic.  I’ve always been prone to thinking myself into a panic when delegated responsibilities and deadlines are involved.

Or the fact that I keep having disturbing nightmares, believe it or not, involving my car being towed or ticketed or stolen or otherwise vandalized.

Or the fact that I am simply, utterly, merely…

feeling miserable

at this moment.

But it’s okay.  I’m wearing an embroidered, lime-green sweater – a treasure pulled from said friend’s bags of Goodwill donations – and trying to calm my brain from its anxiety-riddled and -seeking frenzy.  And wearing this sweater reminds me of the inestimable kindness, support, and friendship I have found here, in my new home.  I feel as though I barely deserve any of it.  I barely understand how I have been so lucky, so fortunate.

So I am going to stop complaining and go to bed.

Because I’m tired.

Categories: emolicious

Sometimes, you just have to laugh

October 28, 2009 1 comment

Oh, emotional crapola abounds.

I’ve had a mood swing roller coaster the past couple of days, from ecstatic giddiness crashing into low-grade depression within hours.  The low was most noticeable after a couple deplorable and uninspiring clothes-shopping trips, in which I despaired upon ever having an inkling of fashion sense.

Similarly, I’ve ping-ponged back and forth between going into work in the morning feeling like I am a wasted piece of flesh who will never amount to anything for working in food service to never having felt happier than when I stepped foot into a place where, for once in my life, I can truly be myself.

Oh, believe me, I fully appreciate the melodramatic senselessness of it all.  As ever, I blame it on my upbringing.  Living with parents whose personalities are as contrasting as black and white was sure to screw me up somehow, right?  (I hear it’s also trendy with my generation to place all blame on our parentals for everything wrong with how we turned out.  We are the Entitled and Victimized Generation, it seems.)  When I’m not taking after my father and having all the emotional and social capabilities of a lump of coal, I wax my mother’s flavor of melodramatic and feel the world collapsing around me.

And within this big Freudian, Oedipean psychoanalytical metaphor of a life that I’ve contrived for myself, my personal sense of self gets a bit muddled and fuzzy.

And then there are nights like tonight, when I am antsy and disgruntled and want to get in an intense, emotionally riled, buzzed discussion on the state of affairs; expound upon the latest in ridiculous, head-shaking-worthy antics of some fanatical zealot group; extrapolate on ideological tangents as a mere academic curiosity and exercise with a lack of any tangible consequence.  Where can I fire off with self-righteous anger while cradling my Bailey’s on the rocks?  Where is my dimly lit, wood-paneled hole in the wall for meeting with fellow conspirators and shooting our mouths off about how much better we’d do things, given the chance?

How is it possible to feel so tiny and still so concretely present at the same time?  I am so confused, so out of place.  Once again I feel pale and passionless among so many hundreds of people who change the world with the bright flare that is their life.

Stepping back and taking it all in, there is not much else I can do except laugh at myself for these inconsequential ravings.  Pay no mind, please, I don’t even know what I’m rambling about anymore.

The other thing weighing on my mind these past few days lies in a not-so-optimistic reflection of my forays into casual play thus far.  I will not yet claim to experiencing actual polyamory, because I draw a distinct line between having a stable relationship with one or more partners and having multiple casual play or sexual partners.  Nothing wrong with either, necessarily – just distinguishing the definitions for myself.

And, in all fairness, I have had immense fun dabbling in various types and intensities of play.  I’ve had formal ritualistic roles, more playful flirting roles, and much more in the grey areas between.  And it’s been an incredible and educational series of experiences so far, to be sure.  Now, however, I have realized how little I’ve participated in my local community (besides, I suppose, working at the new epicenter for kink activity and community in SoMa).  Since I unpacked my sparse belongings into my new home on August 11th, I’ve set foot inside the Citadel three times.  In fact, I am hesitant to explore that space at all, and I think some of that reluctance can be relegated to some choice flesh-related terms: ‘meat market’ and ‘fresh meat’ being the main two.

I’d like to change that, however.  Despite my lack of social grace, I’m determined to make some headway to become more of an active participant at the Citadel.  After all, while I am having fun with the play relationships I have now, I cannot survive, emotionally, on that alone to any kind of satisfaction.  I’m looking, in short, for more regular human company (my cilantro plants don’t count, despite their enthusiastic blooming).  Not necessarily for play, just for company.  I’m reluctant even to voice this desire here, because I am afraid even a whiff of whisper of “single” and “looking” and I’ll have an influx of Fetlife messages asking for me to be someone or some couple’s slave for life.

Or, more succinctly, I’ll just get messages like I used to on Alt.com: “Kneel, bitch, and beg me for the honor to be my slave!”

So if you were to come up to me at any Citadel event, in all likelihood I will decline any and all offers to play or socialize or “meet up later” with a deer-in-headlights look on my face denoting my horror at having to interact with another human being.

Case in point?  Two days prior, I made a short trip to Trader Joe’s to pick up groceries, and lined up at the cash register of one cashier whose eyes I’d caught while scanning the aisles for the shortest wait.  He was a cute redhead with what I think is an Irish accent (I’m useless at guessing accents).  As I pulled out my wallet, we exchanged the usual cashier-customer pleasantries.  Then he looked up, made eye contact, and asked, “What brings you out here on such a fine afternoon?”

I might as well have been faced with either of the Boondock brothers.  As in, wow you’re hot, but why are you pointing a gun at me?

Except in this case it was, are you actually talking to me?  I blinked in surprise and managed to croak out a paltry, “Um, I needed food!  Ha…ha.”

I locked my lips shut after that and just concentrated on not bolting out the door.  I grabbed my change, started to power-walk away, when he calls out asking if I want my receipt.  I turned, grabbed it out of his hand and really did bolt for the door.

Yes, I am that awkward.

So, in closing: do I know how to laugh at myself?  Are you kidding?  I need no other source of entertainment.  I spent my teenage years doing what teenagers do best: taking myself way too seriously.  The only reason I’ve survived this long and retained my sanity is by learning to laugh at myself, and at life in general.

Things gone south

October 10, 2009 1 comment

Perhaps it is only fair that a spectacular week be followed by a tremendously sucky one.  I don’t know how karmic balance works, but who does?  But on Monday – the day I was supposed to attend our first café staff meeting and a rope peer workshop afterwards at the Citadel – that very afternoon, I was suddenly struck down with a high fever and sore throat.  I ended up sleeping through the meeting, and when I awoke, I had an astounding headache.  I took a couple advil and went back to bed, but not before asking my housemate if there was tea in the house.  There was one box of mango-based tea, which I wasn’t about to tempt my weakened immune system with.

Tuesday was probably the worst day – except that, midmorning, my housemate made a short stop home from work to drop off tea, orange juice, and fruit for me.  I was extremely touched!  Otherwise, however, I did not move from the bed except to go to the bathroom.  Any and all light pierced straight through my skull, and whenever I awoke, it was accompanied by a throbbing headache.  I had to call in sick for the few hours I had that day as well.  Again I used Advil so I could sleep.  The sore throat wasn’t too bad, as I kept drinking lots of tea, water, and orange juice.

Most of the day passed in a delirious blur, but when I woke up Wednesday morning, I felt a lot better.  So much better that I even ventured outside to sit in the sun for a few minutes.  Things were looking up!  I felt optimistic about making it to work on Friday, with another day of recuperation.  I internally praised my immune system for staying strong.  I also got a very sweet phone call from Max, which also made me feel a lot better.

Then, Thursday struck.  The day of questioning.  My fever started creeping back, the headache returned, and my nose started running.  I blew through one box of tissues and started on another.  I took a hot shower, and then made soup.  But even though I tried to resist all day, I ended up having to take more Advil in the afternoon.  I really wanted to go to work the next day, but was I well enough?  Would I still be contagious after my inadvertent four day quarantine?  Would people run in fear from my appearance?

So many questions I didn’t know the answer to.  Well, Friday morning, I was feeling a little better, in fact my only real symptom was a persistently clogged and runny nose.  I decided to stop by Safeway to pick up Sudafed before work to relieve that a little, and headed to the café.

Well, it worked rather splendidly!  I was still slightly sniffly, but that was about it – no sore throat, no fever, no headache.  Work went without a hitch, though by the end of my shift I was feeling a little shaky from low blood pressure, as I hadn’t eaten throughout the shift.  My own fault.  I got some  Thai curry to go and returned to the café to chill out and relax.  Originally I’d planned on attending the opening reception at Mr. S, but decided my nose wasn’t up to it.  I took another sudafed – my second that day – in the hopes of clearing it up before bed.

Instead, I felt my face becoming progressively number throughout the night – and it is only now starting to recede a little.  My nose remained congested, and I had a growing pile of tissues accumulating at my table.  Gross.

I decided it was time to go home.  So I packed up, said goodnight to Rose, and walked the 500 feet to my car.  At first, I thought I’d left my front driver window rolled all the way down.  But I never had it down all the way that day, and then I  saw the jagged edges.

Ah.  Someone had broken in.

I was really quite calm about the whole thing.  I carefully unlocked the car and peeked inside.  Everything I’ve ever put in the side pockets, seat pockets, and in the glove compartment was strewn everywhere.  Some dashboard panels had been ripped out, and there was glass everywhere.  The back, in comparison, remained relatively untouched.

I walked around to the passenger side and checked the glove box.  The only thing of value inside my poor, old, decrepit car was in the glove box: Susan, my GPS navigator.  I saw the glove compartment hanging open and the car manual and everything piled onto the carseat and figured it was gone.  But no – there it was, sitting right on the hanging door of the glove box.  I picked it up with amazement.

Really?

A cursory look showed that my GPS car adapter was missing from its plug, though I didn’t do a more thorough search to see if it had been taken or merely thrown about like everything else was.

I wanted to laugh.  Or cry.  Did the thief who took the time to break into a 12-year-old, playa-dust-covered, dying car, not even get away with anything more than a $5 cable?  I tried to imagine being in the shoes of this desperate person, who perhaps was feeling panic and anger building up as he searched and couldn’t find anything of value, that he could immediately tell.  Because he apparently had no idea what a GPS looked like or what it’s worth (not all that much, anyway.  Under $200 for my little Susan.  But she’s priceless in my heart, anyway.)

Well, I really shouldn’t be too presumptuous yet.  I really don’t know if there was something more valuable that was taken.  I don’t have an inventory of what was in the car at the time.  Maybe the little toolbox of torx heads and wrenches was taken from under my passenger seat.  Or – more likely – the thief was interrupted in his search and had to make a quick getaway with whatever happened to be in his hand – a GPS car adapter cord.

In any case, I headed numbly – both literally and emotionally – back to the café.  I made multiple phone calls chasing for a direct answer, or to at least direct me to something concrete that I could do.  I called AAA, and was told they couldn’t help, but could redirect me to the SFPD.  I got hung up on, so I looked up the SFPD number online and called directly.  The dispatcher told me to file a claim online, so I did.  Then I called my mommy.

Yes, I needed my mom.  I also wanted to try and find my AAA membership number so I could see what else I could get in the way of services.  After a bit of chitchat – through a very, very stuffed nose on my part – I got my number and called them.  There really wasn’t much else they could do, except tow my car the next day to a repair center.  So that is what I’ll be dealing with tomorrow.

I know I should be grateful that the vandalist didn’t steal Susan from me.  But it only increases the pointlessness of the vandalism and makes it all the more difficult to deal with having to pay the cost of repair for the pointlessness.

To sum up this week?

ARGH.

Categories: emolicious, life

Worthless

February 14, 2009 Leave a comment

Lately I’ve been feeling sluggish, and today I recognized the signs as an incoming bout of depression.  Lots of things have been contributing to it – the stress of my upcoming show; my family visiting on a college-party-weekend – when I was planning on splitting my time between working on my show and having some fun on campus for once; the usual emotional barrage and sexual hypersensitivity of menstruation; and just the daily struggle of getting through a job and life during a New England winter, when all my body craves is fatty foods and sleep.

And it begins: the more stressed I am, the less I want to do anything, and the less productive I am, the more depressed I become.  The more depressed I am, the less I want to do anything, the more stressed I become.  Vicious cycle, ad nauseum.

And the irritability: having a studiomate who shares similar night owl habits has become progressively annoying as I spend more time not doing anything in the studio.  I blamed her impeding on my workspace for my lack of productivity.  Then tonight she revealed the fruits of her late-night labors: very personal Valentine’s gifts for friends, including me. A horrible friend, for thinking such vindictive, petty thoughts.

And thus, the guilt: I blamed my studiomate for my own inability to work under stress.  I blamed my family visiting for cutting into my worktime.  What work?  I am barely making anything, and my show goes up in a week. And I wanted them to visit.  It meant reconnection, homebaked goods, free groceries, and time away from campus.  Selfish bitch.


There is a webcomic I subscribe to, Wapsis Square, where the personal demons of each character literally crawl out of hiding when a character is feeling vulnerable.  I like the way the artist visually depicts the way something like depression, self-doubt, and guilt can completely take over your body and surroundings:

20050118

Don’t listen to him.  He doesn’t know you like I do…
You’ve been thinking about me, I know how to help…
I always know how to help.

20050119

It’s amazing you’ve come this far, being so worthless.
It’s not really giving up, if you’ve never really contributed anything.
What’s the point?!  No one will miss you.
Nobody.

I recommend reading through a few strips beforehand to get the bigger picture.  Well, really, you should start from the very beginning, but it’s a long strip with a rather convoluted plot.  But the point is made.  Having something like depression becomes one continuous dialogue with the embodiment of all my doubts, misperceptions, issues with confidence, and guilt.  My darker half.  And it is frightening to find the echo of that dark half in the dialogue of these strips, eating away at my sanity.

It does help, reading ahead a few days worth of Wapsis Square, to find that she overcomes her demon, and there is ultimately much-needed comic relief.  An odd way to find my way out of my own labyrinth, but I have always been a visual person.  Rereading these comic strips have been surprisingly soothing and therapeutic.

Time to go home, go to bed, so that I can wake up tomorrow and finish preparing my own Valentine’s gifts.

Categories: emolicious, life, links

Futile EXercises

February 1, 2009 1 comment

What I learned…was this: no truth can cure the sadness we feel from losing a loved one. No truth, no sincerity, no strength, no kindness, can cure that sorrow. All we can do is see that sadness through to the end and learn something from it, but what we learn will be no help in facing the next sadness that comes to us without warning. Hearing the waves at night, listening to the sound of the wind, day after day I focused on these thoughts of mine.

– Murakami, Norwegian Wood

Lately I have been living on and in the past.  Memories of past relationships, past fights and grudges and books read, have all dominated my mind, even as I sit among friends talking about the uncertainty of our near futures.  My friends discuss artist residencies, job searches, grad  school.  And all I can think about is my last few conversations with SR; the skills I’ve learned from each of my exes; the red flags I failed to see with them; old fights with my mother, still tinted with bitterness and now the sharpness of guilt; the innumerable mistakes made during my childhood.

Even something as simple as remembering the Latin grass family name (Poaceae) brings me instantly back to my study abroad in Costa Rica, a time when I was still reeling from the aftershock of the depth of Tim’s lies.  Seems like almost a quaint memory now, two years gone, but what my mind has forgotten from that period (or blocked out), my body still retains, deep in the nucleus of each muscle cell.  My body remembers each of my exes, more clearly than my brain ever will.

Here is one:

M came to visit me during his break, a week during the Lunar New Year.  I was thrilled, of course, and glad to have some intimacy(read: sex) again, since our time together was always few and far between.  But things became strained right from the start – having adjusted to life on a tropical island, he wasn’t prepared for the harshness of a New England winter, and after walking around campus for hours while I was working on a project, fell sick with a cold.  He was also visibly disappointed at my schedule; having envisioned a week of vacation, he didn’t realize I was still midway through my last term at college and had plenty of work outside of class that I couldn’t spend as much as I wanted to with him (And what school in America takes off for Lunar New Year?).

This is also when I learned how deep his paranoia and distrust truly ran.  One night, I took a longer shower, and when I returned to my room I found M already in bed.  I grabbed the laptop to check e-mail before going to sleep, and found that a new program had been installed – a keylogger.  In probably his rush to pretend he had been in bed for awhile, M had forgotten to remove traces of the program.  I was stunned, shocked.  A year and a half after leaving a relationship with a lying, cheating bastard, and now I was on the receiving end of distrust?

I uninstalled the program, deleted all traces of it.  The next day, after class, I found the keylogger had been reinstalled, more traces removed.  But I was on edge now, and looking for it.  Even then, it took me another day before I could confront M.  I told him I knew he’d installed the keylogger, and then waited.

He explained that he had been on my computer and saw I hadn’t logged out of my email account.  Curious, he had searched my inbox for the term “sex,” and some saved chat conversations had been returned, which he read.  It worried him, he told me, that I had talked of sex so casually and explicitly to another person, a guy, while I was seeing him.

Funny, how that night turned out.  I was the one who broke down, unable to speak, feeling betrayed, scared, wondering how I would be able to spend the rest of the week with this person who couldn’t trust me.  He remained calm, even tried to calm me down, but I couldn’t.  I couldn’t, because I could sense no remorse in him.  He explained it as a completely logical response, and in his eyes I saw his fears confirmed by my crying.  I fell asleep crying.

And awoke at dawn to his body pressing down on mine, his erection hot between my thighs.  I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t react.  M slipped inside me and all I could do was keep breathing.  I pressed my face into my pillow, still swollen from crying the night before, and I felt my body responding, felt the way he filled me so completely.  I couldn’t help feeling good, but I still couldn’t move.  Only after he had come and rolled away did I move, curling myself in a ball and falling back asleep.

The rest of the week was better (because we didn’t talk about what happened), and we hugged goodbye at the airport.  He flew back home, halfway around the globe.  Two months later, I ended our relationship over e-mail.

I never really blamed him, though.  Those chats he had found, the friends I have; could I really have asked for his open-mindedness?  A guy who’s been cheated on horribly himself, a guy who believes cybering is equal to physical cheating – I only wondered whether I had given him no more reason to trust another as a significant other again.  I hope he finds someone who can help him trust again, and I wonder after him.

I think about all of them, these three men I have been closely intimate with.  I wonder where they are in their lives, where they are headed.  What their sex lives are like.  How can I not?  To have spent the time and level of intimacy that I have with each, it would be impossible not to wonder, or to care.

I suppose, in the end, I wonder if each of them still thinks about me.  If they, in some small part of themselves, still care about me.