I knew her

I called the number I found for L. There was a pause, while the lines made the long connections across the Atlantic. And then – a ring. My heart jumped. Two rings. What was it I was going to say? Three rings. I was ready to hear my old friend’s voice.

When a Midwestern drawl answered, I barely comprehended what was said. I kept on the line, listening as a pre-recorded message read off a list of extensions.

It was a company line.

Which means, of course, that the number’s been recycled. No one ever tells you that. That the new phone number you feel all shiny and happy about in your brand new home is probably from someone who died. Goddess! We pick the electronic bones of the dead.

Found a handful of photos. All of them were from one trip: our infamous Grand Canyon/birthday bash in Arizona. Most are too distant. L along the handrail by a huge backdrop. A few were taken at night, when we rented a limo to take us out to the clubs. I had a lousy camera at the time, and all of the nighttime pics are overexposed from the flash. But there’s one. One picture that shows the L I remember. We were in the car, taking some back roads to an out of the way hot spring we heard about. She’s driving, with sun glasses on. I must have told her to look at me for the pic; she turned, and in typical fashion of L at that time, she stuck her tongue out at me. That’s the picture. Not the ones of her and I trying to look grown up as we stood by the limo. Not the ones in the hats. That one, with her tongue sticking out. That’s the one that made me cry.

My brother was gone all afternoon; he’s found a band to work with and he was at his first rehearsal. When he came home, he was full of energy, full of stories about the day. I kept quiet, my responses limited to short exclamations of happiness on his behalf. It kept on that way all thru the evening: me wanting to bring all this up, yet saying nothing.

11 p.m. The last episode watched for the evening, I muted the tv. And in that heartbeat of silence, I told my brother what happened.

Not just about the phone call. About all of it. This obsession that came over me the last 48 hours. How, while waiting to make that phone call, I googled other things. Pictures and videos of my old home town. Walked the google street views from my old high school through the local village and up the hill to my dad’s house. Took a car trip along Lake Michigan. Places I’d travelled thousands of times in my youth. Places I could have driven blindfolded when I was 21.

There was little I recognized.

Buildings downtown, large skyscrapers – they’re still there. Still look the same. The lake is still there. Fair grounds: just as I remember.

But the trees were all different. Many were too tall, and now obstruct the view I grew to know as a young woman. Streets were widened. Shops had changed hands.

The more I looked, the more nostalgic I grew. It was a strange nostalgia, though. A ‘member-berry nostalgia. Because it wasn’t real. I knew that even as I felt those tugs at my heartstrings. These pictures didn’t include the heat, the humidity, the insects. The audio didn’t include the crassness, the ignorance, the bigotry. And even as I felt I’ve missed so much! I knew I hadn’t. I left because nothing ever happened.

Ended by searching my eldest brother. Figured I needed to see what info was available on him, someone I knew, before I could make a judgement on the info I had on L. Odd thing. I found a sales record of the family home in 2005. And a new address for my brother. He never mentioned selling the house or moving.

…You know, some idioms are like onions: so many layers, it takes a lot of peeling to get down to the core. You can’t go home is an idiom heavy on my mind today. Thought I fully grasped that one years ago. Turns out there was a whole other layer to it that I didn’t even know existed until it was ripped away.

I’m leaving the past behind. Letting it go. My brother agreed that, when we have a bit of extra cash, I can pay for a death certificate search for L through the state records. Just don’t know if I’ll ever hear anything from her daughter. For all I know, I was demonized in her eyes. The bad girl that led her mother astray. So I’ll rely on that cold confirmation of public records. But for me – I don’t want to lose today because I’m caught in memories of the past. So I’m snapping myself out of it. When I’m done with this post, it’s dishes and bed making, then off to the gym. Gonna run my lines for the play, and get some writing done. I’ll listen fully to my brother, engage in real conversation. Later in the week, I’ll take the metro downtown and just walk around, window shopping. Remind myself of where and when I am.

I could get that picture of L reproduced in a larger size. Get it framed, put it up on my wall. And maybe I will. But more than that, I want to write her. I don’t know that I’ll ever capture the person or entity I remember. I feel it my duty to try, though. She was and will always be someone who had a great influence over me.

And I have no doubt that I will see her again. Not in the same form, obviously. But I know we will meet again. Our friendship was one of those strange old soul things; we knew each other the moment we met in this life. It’s strange to say that, because I can’t honestly say I know that much about her physical life here. Who were her friends, other than me? I don’t know. What happened all those years we didn’t speak? I don’t know. But that…that’s surface stuff.

I knew her.

In my mind

Opened up my outline and began writing in earnest this week. I feel almost as if I’m writing a term paper. My outline is so detailed I can’t stray far from it, so it’s just check the next line, think, and write it out. My biggest stumbling block right now is my determined decision to use zero contractions when my characters talk. It’s a little dialogue trick to emphasize the people are not native English speakers. But I don’t want to sound stilted or weird, so I must think from time to time and turn my phrases so they sound both foreign and natural (using Tolstoy as a big example). In other words, I must think more like a Russian in my dialogue. It’s a mind set I can use, but it’s like anything else: once my head is there, it’s difficult to pull out. My inner dialogue has shifted to a bad Russian accent (much like Moose and Squirrel), and I find myself giggling over idioms and sayings running thru my brain.

But I’m discouraged, even as I write. The Russian allegations, the hysteria, the hacking and propaganda accusations – Gods, I’d have to be Hemingway to get this play produced in today’s clime.

I’m still putting my all into it.

Realized more than ever that my first act must be both introduction to and education about these women. Too many people I speak to have never even heard of this regiment. So the first act may be the furthest from the ‘truth’. I have to explain the situation, their bad equipment, the sexism and opposition, and why the regiment was formed in the first place all thru dialogue. In real life, this was all known. In the script, we have to allow the audience to discover this – educate them. It’s a fine line, to give all that info without being heavy handed. But I think I’m managing to do it, through personal perspectives and stories.

Case in point: the soviet agent. Every soviet regiment had an agent, called the Politruk, attached to it. The Politruk was the long arm of communism. Often times, they were harsh and unforgiving – and just as suspicious of their troops as they were of the enemy. But how many Americans know that? How many would even recognize the word ‘Politruk’? Not many. So I introduce the term, but make it clear thru the dialogue exactly what this person’s role was in the military. A similar thing happened with the woman responsible for forming this regiment. No one in the US (or very, very few) will know who she is, even tho she’s a well known aviation star in Russia. So I have to give some background on her, explain why she’s a big deal – even tho she’s not even in the play. Her story is related thru another character’s personal history – this is the woman who inspired the character, who showed her that women can be more than just mothers and wives.

The entire first act will just be introducing all the characters, their relationships to one another, and enough historical information so the audience will understand the story. Like I said, I gotta stick to that outline. Eleven characters to give fully rounded roles to…that takes a lot of words.

Today’s a pimple on the ass of summer. We’ve had several cool days, back in the mid 20s. Today’s temp is shooting up to 30 or higher, out of the blue. And we’re supposed to pop with severe thunderstorms later on this evening. I sure hope so. My tiny bedroom always stays three to five degrees warmer than anywhere else in the house.

Off, soon, to the gym. Get my arse moving. Hopefully after that, I’ll still have a few hours to tinker with the script and get some more work done.

Heard from my acting partner, who is working as an extra in an upcoming film. Passed my head shot on to him, and he promised to pass it on to the casting director. Also heard from the director’s girlfriend, who put together the promo poster. While she wants to use photos of all of us in various promotional shots, they’ve decided to keep the photo with me and my partner as THE picture. Think I’ll get a large print out for my wall. I’m pleased she responded; never sure how that relationship is going. Doing my best to be warm, friendly, and non-threatening.

And I gotta ask a Dutch native about something. A Dutch guy, specifically. Some of the young men who work at the gym have a habit of winking at me every time I’m in there. I get winks when I check in, and winks when I leave. Honestly, I don’t know if that’s a ‘hey, you’re an older woman but you’re a tough broad, so I’ll give you a wink’ or a ‘hey, you’re an older woman and I’d like to do you’ thing. Or maybe it’s just a thing shop owners do. The Dutch say hello to me as I walk far more than other nationalities. So maybe winking at regular customers is just a friendly gesture. A ‘we’re all in this together’ thing. I don’t know. Wish I wasn’t so dumb about these things.

Very little thought to anything that frightens me. Too wrapped up in everything else. That’s good; saving me from needless anxiety. I worry sometimes that I use my work to distract me from all that. That all I’m really doing is pushing it away.

But, hey. A little distance from my fear isn’t a bad thing. It’s just a mental holiday from myself. Leave those doubts behind. Allow myself to feel powerful for a little bit. Sexy, even.

So in answer to the ever-present summer question are you going away on holiday?, the answer is I already am on holiday. In my mind.

Back to it

Writers from the UK only. Irish and UK residents only. We focus on Texas writers. We want midwestern writers only. Canadian writers will be given top consideration. We will not read international scripts. No submissions accepted from outside the lines we’ve drawn in the sand.

Fucking hell. Fifteen minutes of an internet search and the rug’s been pulled out from under my feet. Every time I check for new theatres to submit to, there are more bullshit caveats like the above. Restrictions. The ‘if you don’t live here you can fuck off’ attitude. Isolationism is the new fad du jour.

Yeah, go stick your heads in the sand.

Theatres have, as a matter of fact, closed down so much with their submission policies I’m really starting to think about screen plays because – at least for NOW – those are open to all writers no matter where you currently live. Kind of feels like a trap, tho. Spend loads of time mastering a new format to find everyone has closed down their submissions again. I mean, that’s what happened with the fucking theatre scripts.

Bastards.

Sometimes I hate the world so much.

Well, I’ve still got a couple places I can send out to. After this year, tho…*sigh* I might be working in a vacuum again.

Yesterday’s social outing went well. Easy conversation, pretty comfortable. Mentioned some of the summer fests coming up and hope we can get together to wander the streets of Rotterdam enjoying the music and art on offer. It’s good to have someone other than my brother to talk with. And…my ego got stroked a bit. They were at my script read through, and I felt like I had a gold star hanging above my head the whole time. There was no question as to whether or not I was a good writer – only whether or not my scripts have been chosen for production. That’s new. Usually when I mention my writing (or music, or anything else artistic), people demand (demand!) to know what I’ve done – and then they sit there saying ‘uh-uh’ or ‘don’t know it’ or ‘never heard of it’ like that was their intention in the first place – to put me in my place. But I didn’t get any of that yesterday. Instead, I had some polite enquiries on the status of my radio script. Super enthused grins when I talked about my current script. Quick ‘yes’ replies when I asked if they were interested in helping me with the Night Witches. And I thought ‘Damn! These people really respect me as a writer!

It felt good.

Today: physical activity is needed. Like, direly. Gotta get to the gym for a full bash (hopefully not my ankle again). Want to put time in on the script and start to get it in the new system. Have two old films I recorded off BBC to watch. Should also do at least one run through of the play and my lines. And I should get serious about Dutch, and do a bit every day…again. Fell off that last resolution pretty quick, but the key to accomplishing your goals isn’t doing it all in one go, it’s getting up every time to you fail and starting again.

*sigh* Get up. Back to it.

Take the flag

imgres.jpg

It’s a hell of thing to be sitting somewhere in public, waiting patiently, minding your own business, nothing at all wrong, and then, when you try to stand, you freeze with pain. Don’t know what sound escaped my mouth or which facial expression spasmed across my face, but I can tell you this – it caused five grey haired pensioners to gasp, get up, and try to help me.

Gods!

Must not have looked too good.

Spent yesterday morning growing ever more paranoid during my language lesson. The other student was present again (surprise), and I noticed my teacher took ten to fifteen minutes to catch up and chat with her but far less to chat with me. Now, I know I’ve surpassed the other student in language use. I’ve come to lessons regularly, worked hard, and made a lot of progress. So it’s only natural that the teacher would try to draw out the other student more than me. Get her talking again. …Right? I was careful to note the teacher’s body language. Not too skewed, but she did seem to lean a bit towards the other student. …Does my teacher not like me? *sigh* What have I done now?

I guess that’s the risk anyone takes when they choose to not be a milksop. Have opinions, state them. Have energy when you communicate! For pete’s sake, don’t talk to me like it’s the closest thing to death; deadpan and distracted. Look at me! Fire up your soul! Maybe we’ll come to loggerheads but at least we’ll know we don’t like each other. But don’t hide yourself. Don’t say ‘uh-huh’ to everything, never offer an original thought, never let anyone see anything of the real you. …That’s my opinion, anyway.

But I’ve been told I can be a poor communicator. Not because I’m unclear or uninformed; just the opposite. Because I’m too clear, too informed. I’ve been told many people don’t like to discuss big issues in life. It makes them uncomfortable. But big issues is where my head is at. Big issues were what I discussed at the dinner table as a kid.

After 50+ years of big issues, I can say that there are a whole lot of people out there who don’t like discussing them. And they don’t like me because of it.

That always makes me feel bad. I don’t mean anything improper about it. Just the opposite. I want to know where people stand on this stuff. I want to know their reasons for their choices. So I ask. And people get put off, or offended, or feel so uncomfortable around me that they choose to not hang out or be my friend.

It’s the risk I take, being me. Because for all the disappointment and lost possible friendships, every once in a while I find a real gem out there. Someone who fires up just as quickly as I do. Someone with a magpie mind fast enough to keep up with me.

That ain’t my Thursday teacher. Nor my Friday teacher.

Not that I expected either of them to be my friend.

…Well, I can move freely enough today – so far. I’ll try going to class, but I’ll take my heavy duty pain pills with me. Or maybe I should just take one now. Get a jump on the stiffness and pain. Probably the smart thing to do.

This ain’t gonna stop me. Not the pain, not the stiffness. Not the idea that my teacher doesn’t like me. Not the embarrassment over forgetting words I knew a few weeks ago. Not my slight dyslexia that always makes me screw up numbers.

Feels like I’m gearing up for war. A war on everything that’s going to try to stop me. I know what my goal is. I know what I need to do to get there.

Time to take the flag.

 

Cut through fear

images-2.jpg

Fear. Sometimes I think it’s the only defining characteristic of humanity. It’s what made us learn how to control fire. It brought us out of caves and into shelters we fashioned out of other material. It drives us like no other emotion, not even love. Fear is what gets us there. Not nobility, not “bigness of spirit”. Fear.

This morning an unspoken fear of my own woke me up. It’s an idea my head’s danced around for a bit now, but not put into words. And like any fire lit under your ass, it got me up and out of bed.

I’m afraid that yes, my test will show something wrong with my kidneys and the doctors’ response will be to fuck around with my RA meds.

There. Managed to put it into words without making it sound bleeding horrible. My head isn’t doing very well. I know behind my innocuous words lies days and nights of pain. Pain beyond where you think you can go with pain. Pain that consumes you, absolutely, without let up or release.

I’ve been down this road before, and it’s not  pleasant one. I don’t want to travel it again. Especially now that I have my special shoes and I finally feel good enough to get out and do a few things.

I’m not gonna let them torture me again. If the worst case scenario my brain refuses to let go of actually happens, that’s it. I’m camping out at the hospital, screaming my agony as loud as I can until someone does something for me. I don’t care if that something is knocking me out cold with a punch; that’s precisely where I’ve been before, begging my brother to hit me hard enough to do just that.

Goddess! I hate this shit…

My pocket of alone time last night was actually quiet. Rather than allowing myself to wallow in pacing and talking aloud to myself, I put my shoes on and went out for a walk around the neighborhood. Without my ipod. My steps were slow and measured, and my ears were focused on the Dutch words that were blasting out from the children and mothers alike on the square. One small person passed me; he must have been 4 or 5. As he did, I realized that I could understand what he was saying. That brought a crazy grin to my face: I suspected my Dutch was somewhere around the level of a small child and I felt that short encounter proved it. After a nano-moment of embarrassment, I realized I’d reached that level after less than one year of study.

That means in three to four years ain’t nobody gonna be able to say nothin’ without me understanding it.

Watch out, world. When I can rattle off my arguments bilingually you’ll all be in trouble.

There’s a lot of errand running I’ve been putting off all week. Now it’s Friday, and I’ll try the impossible: to cram it all in in one day. Maybe luck will be with me; it DOES happen once in a while. Occasional days come when every task takes 1/10th the time it generally does. I find what I need immediately and there’s no queues at the check-out. That would be cool. But experience has taught me that I can’t predict or count on those days, they just happen. So I’m not counting on it. I’m not counting on anything right now, actually. Just that things will happen today. THAT is a given.

My bro’s been doing what it seems he’s always doing lately: compiling numbers about our music. My one techno song has gone viral, thanks to the film it’s in (shlock tho it is). I keep hearing numbers that five years ago would have floored me but I just can’t get excited over it. It’s like … too little, too late. Gimme the money. I’m beyond wanting fame anymore. In the past you could have bought me off with 10 minutes of fame. Now…pay me, motherfucker. Or get out of my face. I’m not doing anything I haven’t done before. I’m not interested in your adulation. What I’m interested in is currency. Give me enough so I don’t feel guilty every time I get my hair done at the salon. Give me enough so I can send money out to my friends who I KNOW need it. Give me enough so window shopping and shopping in general can be a pastime and a joy, not an exercise in self restraint that only winds up making me feel bad.

I don’t want gold plated fixtures, just clothes that don’t have holes in them. And having just done laundry – including 97% of my clothes that DON’T have holes in them – I know just how FEW un-holey clothes I have.

As for my do-I-don’t-I call over my test results, I’m wimping out and heading over there to talk to someone face to face. At least I know I WILL talk to someone and not just get lost in some telephone menu that leads me to making excuses to a proctologist because I didn’t understand the directions and hit the wrong number.

The joys of navigating a foreign language!

…Been sitting at the end of this post for 15 minutes, trying to figure out how to finish it off. What else can I say? I’m afraid. That same old universal thing that we all feel. I’m afraid of my RA, I’m afraid of the language, I’m afraid of just fading away and being forgotten. None of this is new.

And none of this is going to stop me. Not now, not today.

I heard from a young woman I knew as a teenager. She helped me in Ireland when I ran my charity. You know what she’s doing? Charity work. Charity work that’s doing a poetry fest, just like I did. And I’m pleased to see the poets I worked with now working with her.

She’s not my daughter. I don’t feel I spent much time with her while I was over there. But I can’t help but feel that I was an inspiration. Something sparked in her while I was on my manic charity frenzy. Something that said yes, I want to do this. If I die today, she’s one legacy I’m very, very proud of.

And that, dear people, cuts through fear like nothing else.

Let It Be

imgres.jpg

Erasing J’s holiday info off my desktop – info including dates, hotel, and flight numbers – brought tears to my eyes. As did a number of things this morning; everything from J’s final posts on FB to random memories of the last week popping into my brain. All this heavy duty emotion inspired some sappy song lyrics which I can’t read through without triggering a waterfall. It may take some time to record that one.

Seeing someone for a short holiday after years apart is a little bit like being by someone’s deathbed. You try to squeeze in everything in a short span. You say ‘I love you’ more often than usual. You reach out to hold the other person’s hand every other minute. And you tear up even when you try not to, because thinking of life without that person breaks your heart in two.

It’s bittersweet.

Been thinking of my defense mechanisms. How I’ve told myself for years that not seeing J or other people I care about is okay. They have their lives and I have mine. How I’ve convinced myself that online communication is the same as being there.

How I’ve fooled myself into thinking I don’t care so much.

Part of me wants to fall back into that: to focus on the future, to ignore the years between passing, to overlook the lines in J’s face and my own. Another part is unwilling to do that. To sleep through another decade before I see J again. That’s what it feels like; like part of me has slept for years and only woke up when J and I first hugged. She doesn’t want to be mollified. She wants to mourn.

So I’m yo-yoing. Making plans to take a walk in the beautiful sunshine today and crying my eyes out that I have to do it alone.

And smoking. To yes, numb it out a bit. Straight up avoidance. Let the wound scab over a bit before we pick at it too much.

My sorrow doesn’t taint my memories of the last week. It makes those memories sweeter, and the pain deeper in contrast. Catch 22. Between a rock and a hard place. Whatever. It’s ambivalence personified. And it’s sitting smack in the middle of my lap. That’s where I feel it: deep in my core. Happy to have seen J and so very sad, too. It’s a stone in my stomach. And it’s too achingly beautiful to smash. J’s name is etched on it, and it resides in sunshine land filled with happy memories.

It’s almost a shrine. Holy ground.

Makes me wonder how many other shrines like that I carry around in me. How many other people I’ve lost along the way that would trigger this type of reaction.

How deep it goes.

There’s probably an underwater labyrinth in my brain filled with that type of thing. I’ve had to leave a lot of people, a lot of places.

It’s nothing I want to map out.

*sigh* I’d better get my shoes on soon and out into the sunshine. TRY to lighten my mood. A brisk walk is what’s called for. Get my blood pumping, my heart rate jumping. Half my sorrow is getting stuck in time, and that’s what’s happening. I’m imagining a future of not seeing J. My brain isn’t focused on the now. It’s dithering off in some maybe time, and it’s a negative maybe time, to boot. Wrenching my brain from negative to positive seems too large a task, so all I can do is bring myself back to NOW. It’s not happening NOW. It may never happen. Calm down and stop putting energy into it.

Break the cycle.

…..There’s one sure fire way to avoid every negative thing my brain wants to throw at me. Create in the now what I’ll need in the future to sidestep it all. Tricksey. But not impossible. Good Goddess! That means taking up the balls and juggling again. Spinning some magic. Dancing fast enough to create a solid foundation. Projecting movement while standing still. Finding that groove , grabbing hold, and letting it pull you.

I get the sense I’m making this harder than it should be.

Try to hold a handful of sand. You’ve got to cup it lightly, just allowing it to sit in your palm. Apply too much pressure and the sand slips away. Same principle. If I try too hard, I’ll fail. I have to walk this one lightly.

The flowers I bought for J’s visit have faded and died, like our brief time together. I purchased new flowers to take their place. These new flowers…have to say the bouquet I made is one of the ugliest I’ve ever seen. I bought two batches of blooms. One was a bunch of stiff, paper-like flowers and the other was a bunch of floppy-headed flowers. They don’t mix well in my vase. The floppy flowers flop, and the stiff flowers stand like frozen soldiers keeping watch over the table. And yet..my eye is drawn to them. Because for all the haphazard mixing of the two types of blooms, for all the crudeness of my attempts to ‘arrange’ flowers, they’re still flowers, and beautiful just as they are.

Can I transfer that sense of beauty to myself, my art? Can I hold it lightly enough to really capture what I see and taste and smell and feel and hear? Can I mix opposites, make a mess of things, and still see beauty?

I’ve had a lifetime to master this and I still feel like I’ve barely made any progress. That’s so disheartening. But that is past talk, past regret.

….I’m asking myself if I’m really up to this. Staying focused, staying in the now. Working towards a future, not immediate gratification. Because every DAY I’ve had the opportunity to do things differently. And so far, I’ve not been able to follow through very well.

No tight fisted vows will pass my lips. No promises that from this day forward such and such will be different.

I’ll just let this be.