The Right Words

After a few days of pre-scheduled posts (because it’s summer holiday, and I was sleeping in), we’re back to live, or as alive as it gets for the written form in cyber space.

Found a call for submissions, 20 minutes tops – and the deadline is 9 days away. It’s even got a topic to write on – “from the ashes” (interpreted as literally or fancifully as you want). At first, I was gonna blow right past it. But something made me stop, and take a PDF copy onto my desktop, and think. I figured, I got the time; why not try?

It was odd to go through the motions of deep writing for a small piece. Thinking. A bit of research and googling. Pace, pace, pace. Jot down three different ideas. Pace, pace, pace. Sit and begin to write. Not any of the three ideas I jotted down, naturally. Something completely different.

And then there was this note at the end of the submissions page:

[We’ll hire] at least 50% women, people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, people with disabilities, and any member of any underrepresented, or otherwise marginalized community.

…I read that statement to my brother, and he got a good laugh when I told him my characters – a black gay man, a transgender male, a lesbian, a disabled Indian woman, and one straight, white woman (I know; it sounds like the opening line to a joke). Stacking the deck? Maybe. Yet, why not? Why not make it a mixed bag, why not write for these groups? They’re people, with stories to tell. My concern, of course, is that I’m not black, or gay, or transgender, or technically disabled – and I’ll get dissed for it.

But…come on! Men write roles for women all the time, and they can’t have any better idea what it actually is to be a woman as I’d have knowing what it’s like to be a gay black man or a transgender man or a lesbian or a disabled Indian woman.

And I plan on sending a draft to my friend, J, and asking him if he thinks it’s offensive. I know he’s not the mouthpiece for the LGBTQ community, but he is a part of it. Plus, I know he’ll be upfront with me.

It’s obvious to me I’ve had my fill of writing drama/thrillers for now. This bloody thing is a comedy (told you it sounded like a joke set-up). Or, I hope it is. …Comedy is damned difficult to write. So much depends on the inflection given to dialogue. And somehow, in the past few decades, this skewed idea of black comedy has seeped into our culture. Oh, I’ve seen a few black comedies that were outrageously funny! But many seem to be simple dramas or even tragedies that the author just decided to label as ‘comedy’ – because there’s nothing funny about them at all. Not from what I’ve seen. Sorry. After seeing “The Snapper”, my interest in what humans call black comedy went straight down the toilet (the most horrible film ever made, in my opinion, for it shows nothing but the basest and most vile cross section of humanity the writer could dredge out of the slurry pit of his mind. Warning: if you watch this film, a girl gets pregnant after something I’d dub a rape and her family fucking celebrates it – disgusting).

I’m old fashioned. I think a comedy should make you laugh at some point.

…Maybe it’s inevitable that comedy offends someone. I mean…aside from slap-stick, it’s hard not to offend someone with a joke. And hell! Even slap-stick can be offensive. I’ve seen the old Benny Hill show. Offensive as fucking hell.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so worried about it.

But worrying about it prevents me from worrying about other things, which is a Godsend, really. So I’ll allow myself to be concerned over offending people with my writing. I’ll spend the hours pacing and typing away, concocting yet another play that may or may not see the light of day.

One other thing. I’m noticing a pattern in my writing. A deep seated desire for reconciliation. Almost all my stories (other than my thrillers) are ending with a reconciliation scene. Apologies, acceptance – even love.

And, you know…I’m glad of it. Glad to see that beneath all my anger and frustration, a seed of kindness and understanding still thrives. That’s what I’m after in real life. Maybe I’ll write a way to that for myself. Find something in my own words that turns the tide, stills my anger, and keeps me calm.

I just have to find the right words.

Pacing

I may never learn why pacing helps me sort out plot lines; all I know is it works.

Spent most of the morning viewing online unexplained mysteries vids. Current on the chop block is an idea I’ve had banging around in my head for a while. I’ve got the rough outline sitting on my desk top. There are a few areas I need to expand, and loads of foreshadowing I’ll need to weave into the story, but…I think I got it. The basics, anyway. Enough to let my head rest for a while.

And yesterday, I had one of those ‘clicks’ deep in my brain. A click that brought me out of my musings and into a seat further back from the immediate action. I realized the story I’m currently working on can be tied to a previous script (both are thrillers). In fact, I saw an expanded thriller trilogy – written for the stage. Sort of a Three Colors series for theatre – though far more chilling than those beautifully captured films. I like. A lot. A lot a lot. The third idea is still in its infancy, and that’s precisely where it should be right now. But I’ve got the rough idea, and I know how to tie all three together. No idea how long these next two might end up being. Have a feeling this second thriller can match the length of the first, which is on the short side. Great. I could pair them together. The third? Might get a bit more expansive. Might not. Won’t be able to say before I get the next idea out and finished.

Got to the gym. In fact, for the first time in maybe forever, my drive and impetus inspired my brother to get off his butt and take a bike ride for some exercise. Usually, it’s the other way around. Well, well, and my, my! Look at what a little commitment and discipline can do.

Met with the accountant and got some filled in forms we need for immigration. Must admit to feeling uneasy; it seemed to me that the accountant had his doubts over our case. Perhaps that’s me, reading into it with my own anxiety colored glasses. Perhaps not. In either case, I understand the need to remain calm, and the uselessness of allowing my anxiety to rule over me. To that end, I’m not dwelling on it. Reminding myself he’s an accountant, not our lawyer. He doesn’t know the ins and outs of the law. …Still. I’d rather not have seen his little mannerisms that got me thinking this way. It would be much easier if I hadn’t.

Glad to say that turning it off – my anxiety, that is – is easier now than when I was younger. Maybe I’ve just lived through enough instances when my worrying came to nothing, other than making me sick, to know I’ve just got to let it go. Maybe I’ve learned to put up other defenses. Or maybe it’s the marijuana I smoke. Whatever. I’m glad to be able to sleep when night comes, and I do not miss that continuous knot in my stomach at all.

Went out for dinner last night (Papaya again), and ran into one of the other students in my language class. Ach! Immediately I spoke Dutch, or tried to. Damn, it took time to pull the words out of memory. Another reminder I should try to listen to more Dutch, or do some homework, or reading, or something. …Though my guilt is lessened by finding out the other student hasn’t worked on the language at all over the summer break, either.

Things feel a bit muddled for me lately. Like all my thoughts are bleeding into each other. Immigration is mixing with the creepy thriller feeling. Emails with friends are blending with videos I’ve watched. Even days are getting hard to remember. What is it? Tuesday? What’s happening tomorrow? Oh, yeah. Nothing. It’s the day after tomorrow I need to remember…

I don’t like it. Not feeling clear.

Guess I need to do some more pacing.

And that’s okay

I’ve got a thin veneer of “fine” over me. Read thru my script; found less than five errors. Whipped through the paperwork for immigration. Rested my knee. Concentrated on the positive, the steps forward.

Underneath, things are simmering. Fear, naturally. Fear over my status here. Got an appointment on Thursday in Amsterdam to get some paperwork notarized. Bleeding 8:15 in the morning, which means traveling at a time I’m usually asleep (at least lately). Hope to push both me and my bro thru at the same time; we did last time, and our cases are tied together, so it makes sense. Otherwise, there will be another fly up to the big city on a different day to take care of my stuff. Last minute travel plans add to my anxiety. Not that they should; trains here run on time. Still…I feel it.

Physically, I’ve become a slug. Very little movement during my days. And I can tell I’ve let it go too long. To be fair to myself, I did get out on some walks. But it wasn’t the same, and I can tell I’m beginning to jones out on the lack of endorphins. Must get to the gym and sweat. Really don’t want to do it now that inertia has set in. But, no choice. I am determined to stay on top of my mind, and regular exercise is a big part of that – like it or not.

Been pulling news articles about the strange and wonderful – or things that could possibly be strange and wonderful. I like the idea of anchoring my stories in reality. What a change from twenty years ago, when I concentrated on sci-fi and fantasy! Now, give me some concrete, real fact I can hang my fancies on – that added dimension gives me extra shivers. And, wow. Thrillers have become my mainstream. What creepy thing happens? What fear can I inject into the audience? Those are my only questions these days.

Happy to say that with enough time and pull back from my creation, the rape scene included in my script didn’t hit me as hard when I read it as it did when I wrote it. Still a trigger potential. Still a short, terse paragraph for a gripping scene. But I saw beyond the rape, to the whole story. My message is very clear throughout. No role should feel jilted by lack of lines or interesting subtext. I kept tech suggestions to a minimum, with only one or two sounds used and simple blue lighting for nighttime. I suggest, in the production notes, to pull copyright free photographs from the web and project them in the theatre. But only a suggestion! I hope the scant tech needs attract people, and the suggestions encourage them to explore the depth of the material.

Feels like I’m finally on holiday. And I suppose I am; I was stuck in 1943 for a number of weeks as I wrote. So I’m not riding myself for my lack of interest in learning Dutch, or my reluctance to do a super-clean of this corner or that. I find I just want to be right now.

And that’s okay.

Feels like a Monday

Meetings, paperwork, questions, look it up, more paperwork, more meetings. Ugh. Pulling together the new application for residency. Horrid shit. Hate having to fill in the blanks myself. Hard to believe anyone with “knowledge” of this process charges thousands to do just that, but they do, which is why I’m dragging myself through it. Gods. Nothing like sweating every little stroke of the pen to make you fuck up. I could write those answers out a thousand times on a blank sheet of paper. Doesn’t matter. When it comes to committing my answers to THE FORM, I freeze and make mistakes.

Strained my knee at the gym earlier in the week. Nothing bad, but had to take some days off. I’ve had knee problems, and I don’t want them again.

Watching tv. Reading ‘Perelandra’ from CS Lewis (again). Doing my best (per my bro’s request) to stay calm. Not working well, obviously. Here’s another five a.m. I’m seeing.

I’m tired and I’d like a break. No time! Next week begins my language lessons. Have I tried to wrap my tongue around Dutch lately? Hell, no! Have I run thru my lines for the upcoming production? Hell, no! Feel kinda bad about that, but only kinda. I did have my shit down cold before the break. And language…well, that’s a constant struggle. But hey; I deserve a holiday, too. Maybe I can’t go anywhere or do anything, but that doesn’t mean I don’t deserve simple time OFF. Time to fuck off and do my own thing.

Kept the words of my excellent rejection in mind over the past few days. I’m a good writer. Keep telling myself that; it’s difficult to cut through years of feeling like and being told I’m a loser and actually grasp that truth. Of course, even my best intentioned thoughts are tinged with negativity: being a good writer is no guarantee of success. And I noticed certain family members who insist on commenting on everything bleeding thing I do (generally using subtle to not so subtle put downs in the process) have managed to stay quiet about the feedback I got on my script. Oh, got nothing to say now that someone has something NICE to say about me and my work? Well, no worries. It IS still a rejection, after all. You remain top dog in your own pathetic little world.

Gods, I hate my family. I mean really, really dislike them. A LOT.

Have not committed myself to anything just yet. I’ve more stories floating in my brain. Stories that pop up in the middle of watching tv, or on a walk. Letting it all be right now. My last script taught me that I can write off a strong outline no matter what occurs in my own life, and I trust myself enough now to back off a bit. Let those ideas rest. I’ll start to commit to paper in a few weeks. Ideas, sketches, characters. There are two strong contenders for my next project. Which one is chosen will probably depend on how full the outlines become. I suppose I should check on submissions calls; what people want, how limited the cast sizes are, etc. But I’m feeling like I just want to write. I’ve got a handle on most limitations, and it’s never a bad idea to just have stuff ready to send out.

…Checked out a couple of ‘playwright’ web pages. People who claim to be professional playwrights (don’t know and can’t say for sure, because I never heard of their works). Found one woman with 25 scripts to her name. I was impressed – until a deeper look revealed five of those scripts to be 10 minute affairs. Really? Isn’t that like a jingle writer claiming to be a song writer? Maybe I shouldn’t be such a bitch about it. Just take a look at one of these so-called 10 minute scripts. Not sure what kind of a “story” can be told in that short of time. …And then there was the rest of the so-called 25 scripts. Included a lot of shorts. A lot a lot. Very few full length pieces. By the end, I wasn’t impressed with her “credentials”. Though, DAMN! She listed a lot of awards.

Does humanity really suffer from ADHD? Seems so. Anything more than 500 words on a blog post is just asking to be ignored. Tweets have become the norm for communication – even from the American presidency. Ten minute plays, flash fiction – short, short, short! Is the illiteracy rate really so high? Seems so.

And you know…it doesn’t matter if I’m in the right on this issue. Doesn’t matter one bit. I’m the odd one out: a person who reads. There’s an old saying that a seeing man would be king in a world of the blind, but I don’t believe that’s true. I think that seeing man would be shunned, belittled, cajoled and ridiculed into going along with the mob. Because that’s the true nature of humanity: mob rule. Think differently and risk everything. Oh, maybe in ten or twenty or a hundred or so years the rest of humanity will catch up with you and then they’ll say ‘oh, gee, that person was such a genius!’ but I HATE the Van Gogh effect of dissing and ignoring artists and thinkers until long after they’re gone and then holding up their work, proclaiming it’s wonderful, and isn’t it a shame we didn’t give this person props when he/she was alive.

I mean really….fuck off! I hate this so much that if I actually get enough money together to bother with a damned will, I’ll write in a clause to reject ANY award given to my work post-mortem.

…Why, oh why, does it feel like a Monday?

I deserve this

Thank you for submitting to the LTA Millennial Committee’s New Voices Halloween event. We had 184 submission for 3 slots, and unfortunately your show was not selected.

I wanted to send you a personal note because your show was excellent. It would have been in our top five, except the tech requirements were far too complex for our space. We have an incredibly bare bones and small room for these shows, and there simply wasn’t a way to do the script justice in our space. Your writing was wonderful and the story very engrossing. Our spring event will most likely occur on a full stage, and once we set the theme, I hope you will consider submitting for 2019.

Boy! I suppose it says something about my low self esteem when I say this rejection made me feel really good. It IS a rejection – though one of the best. To stack a rejection with words like ‘excellent’, ‘wonderful’ and ‘very engrossing’ just takes the sting out of the whole we can’t use it issue. And it gives me hope. Real hope. This is an outside source; no one who knows me, no one who might be embarrassed to be honest with me about my writing, and they chose to use these words to describe my work.

They even let me know WHY my work wasn’t chosen – tricky tech requirements. That’s like the rarest of rare gems in the writing world.

I wanna jump up and down. Shout out that I’m a good writer. Let myself feel this. I put myself down so much that half the time I’m not even quite aware of it.

Excellent. 

Btw, this personal note arrived ten days before they announced their results (been lax on checking my email accounts again). It’s not a sham letter sent to everyone. It’s a real, honest to Goddess, personal note crafted just for me.

Whoopee! I was rejected! – And it feels good.

My next great piece of work slated for a magnificent rejection is sitting on the dining table, unread. Letting it sit for a few days. I’ve got two months before I call a reading, and another two months after that to finish up whatever editing I want to do. Can I say it looks good? There’s something about getting my work printed up that really jazzes me. That stack of papers – that’s a window into another time and place, something that’ll grab you by the balls, make you cry, make you think, make you respect these women (and maybe other women you know). And I created it. Out of my head, using my hands, my words, my feelings.

I know there’s only two weeks before school begins again. I know my language lessons are becoming more frequent; by October this year, I’ll have three classes a week to keep up on. And I’ve got the play, and life, and all that.

And I’m already crafting my next story. Can’t help it. Now that I opened the floodgates, it’s just gushing out of me.

Plus…I really want more positive feedback like that note. That’s driving me more than anything, I think. More of a rush than I anticipated. Not as heady as the immediate feedback of a live audience, but damned close – and in some ways, longer lasting. Feedback after a performance is only on the performance – the next night, you might fuck up. But feedback on my writing -! Now, that’s got some lasting power to it. My words stand, and that comment is now forever attached to my work (at least in my own head).

Celebrations. This time, I’m gonna celebrate the positive feedback I received for as long as I’d fret over a negative comment. That means DAYS. Days of reminding myself, days of smiling over it, days of doing something special just for me. Because if I heard something terrible about my stuff, you know I’d be struggling. You’d have multiple posts over what a shitty this or that I am, how worthless I feel, how nothing matters. I won’t push my success down anyone’s throat, but I am going to work to stay up right now.

Fifty-one years of feeling pretty much the loser; I deserve this.

I know it

Editing. Formatting. All that crazy shit a writer does that makes our eyes go wonky. Honestly, sometimes I think I stare so long at the computer screen my eyes dry up completely. It even hurts to blink.

All of that is good. Well, maybe not good as in good for me, but definitely good as in I’m on the right track. And way the hell ahead of my deadlines.

Had occasion to pause and bless my brother the other day. He’d met with R, his friend, in the morning. In the afternoon, he came home and told me: our appeal was rejected by immigration. Without skipping a beat, he informed me he’s already met with lawyers and accountants, and a clear plan of action has already been instigated, so, keep cool and relax. We are re-applying this year. Basically, starting our entire residency over again from day one. It’ll cost. Naturally. But our team has informed us it’s the way to move forward – and, apparently, a fool proof plan. There are no grounds to reject us if we re-apply.

I heard that, and the first thing I thought was ‘he doesn’t trust me with the news; he had to get everything settled before telling me’. Second thing was ‘Goddess, what other action could tell me how much he cares about me? He didn’t want to throw me or worry me or have me slip into a depression. He kept it from me until he had answers.’ My mind has settled on the second thought, and once again I find myself feeling small and petty for any and every argument I’ve ever brought up against him. Here I am, bitching because I think he doesn’t always listen to me or do the dishes in a timely manner, and there he is, dealing with extremely stressful questions about our future and not wanting to stress me out. And when I asked him why he didn’t tell me immediately, he simply answered: I knew you were upset about L, and I didn’t want to add to your worries.

Small. Teensy-tiny. Miniscule. Whip out your microscope and see me cringe.

Yesterday was a day out. (And here’s another thing about my bro, if you don’t already think he’s fabulous.) Every once in a while, my bro takes me out. Gets me out of the house, forces me to go downtown, eat a meal in public, walk around. We window shop, he encourages me to look at new clothes, once in a while we buy something. Yesterday we were on a mission for new headphones for both of us. Into Media Markt by Alexandrium. Wall of headphones. I chose a mid range set – not the cheapest, but not the most dear, either. Then an attempted casual ‘since we’re here, why don’t we look at entertainment?’ from my bro. Upstairs to DVD heaven. They were having a massive sale; found dozens of films for only five euro each. Walked out without spending too much, yet still have loads of hours of good watching. Then it was off to Papaya – literally, a little buffet type hole in the wall. But Goddess! THE best food ever. Came home to that companionable feeling we have after a fun day out. We laughed a little easier, talked a little more animated – all because we got out of the apartment for the afternoon.

And, I got a new hoodie. One that doesn’t look old or scruffy. One that hasn’t been washed a thousand times. Might go back and buy a nice blouse. Something that’s NOT a T-shirt. I’ve only got a few non-T-shirt shirts; I’d like some more.

Today I must tackle the housework. It’s piled up. I’ve managed to keep up on dishes and the big stuff, but the floor -! I can’t even consider getting down to do abdominal exercises with all that crap lying around. It’s too dirty. So I’ve lined up a day of hoovering a dusting, washing and ironing. Probably won’t get to the gym because of it.

Oh! And I have an answer. Anything I ever fantasized about my very cute physiotherapist was all one-sided. During my last appointment, we talked about the upcoming play – and I teased him that I have a whole two months to convince him to come to one of the performances. Hitch. I could feel it. His response: I’ll think about coming. Not sure, I’d love to come! So, now I know. Any interest on his part should have resulted in a bit more enthusiasm in his reply. I dithered on at the appointment. I said how I don’t know many people, how it would be good to have some support, etc. Tried to mitigate the disaster I just opened up. Oh, well. Can’t feel too bad about it. I am talking the production up, and I am inviting everyone I say more than two words to (other than shop workers; I often say five or six words to them, but I’m not inviting every cashier I meet). I tried, you know? Put it out there. I suppose it’s better to know for sure than to wonder forever if…. If. That wonderful two letter word! In my mind, it only becomes a curse if you put ‘only’ behind it: if only…. Do that, and you might as well shoot yourself in the foot. But if…Truly, that word sums up all that we can be.

I digress.

…I may sit at a unique crossroads in my life. Don’t know that I’ve ever received such not so good news yet still felt so okay about it. I mean…I’m not happy about the residency thing. The idea that we’ll need to cough up thousands yet again in order to stay here doesn’t sit well with me. But we will be able to stay. Right now, that’s everything. As for my fantasizing…A little bit of that, especially (ouch!) at my age probably isn’t such a bad thing. But I don’t necessarily want that to manifest into my reality. I’m too busy with my own life to share it with anyone else right now.

I’m 51. And selfish.

I know it.

R-e-s-p-e-c-t

Draft one: done. Once I got to a certain point in the script, it just went. Have begun reading it through for errors and typos. Changed up a few things; found I’d gotten two of my characters muddled in the middle of an argument. And, despite my sticking to my outline and often feeling like I was writing a term paper, this script has given me some surprises. I was going to set up one character for stealing, then realized that I had another, shadier character to actually take the fall. My attempts to add subtlety into the dialogue led me to ambiguous statements (as it WILL do), and by the end of Act 2 I found a couple of my ideas modified without me even realizing it. Hm, now it sounds like maybe this person did that in secret because of her earlier statement… It’s added color and a refreshing slap to a story I worried was getting too predictable.

Now it’s dead-head time. Stop thinking, start editing. Not looking forward to the hours needed to get it into the formatting software. Sure, I can upload the text – but nothing else sticks, and I must go through it all, line by line, marking each character, each line of dialogue, each production note, again. Ugh.

Good news is that without pushing myself, I’ll be able to format and print the script for final inspection before my language lessons begin again.

I want to say it’s good. I think it is. Been very persnickety on military details (which often go lacking, or are incorrect in many portrayals) – but I’m not focusing on them. They are not the story. Nor is the war itself; there is only one scene with the women in battle. In fact, as I read through my work for errors and corrections, there was only one word that surfaced in my brain. The reason for the entire story: respect (and yes, Aretha is singing it in my head). Respect for these women – or the lack of it – is central to this piece. It comes up, again and again: the male commander shouting that women shouldn’t be soldiers, the male soldiers’ flirtations…Even amongst the women themselves, the question of respect comes into play. The characters’ alliances shift, in response to action both on and off the stage. Everything funnels down to the end, to the most combative roles in the play, and a final handshake – a sign of respect.

And I have settled on a name. ‘The Night Witches’ (or some form of that) is damned tempting. Kind of hooks you into it right away, doesn’t it? But it’s been used. Like, a million times. For articles and books, videos and films. Despite how much I want to use it, I won’t. Thought about calling it ‘588’ for the regiment number, but then it should really be ‘588th’, not ‘588’, and I felt the ‘th’ at the end was something that might trip people up. It tips you off this is a story about the military (at least, for me it does). Besides, the regiment was renamed after receiving recognition. So using a number is just confusing. …The script is called ‘Taman’. It’s set on the Taman Peninsula, in 1943. I know ‘Taman’ is a bit misleading as well – it should be ‘The Taman Peninsula’ or ‘The Taman Offensive’…but I don’t like either of those. And something about just calling it ‘Taman’… Although it’s not an English word, it’s not something that would frighten most people. It’s not Tzuychrswski or some similar foreign word with that string of consonants that always trips up English speakers. And it’s neutral. What is Taman? A person? A place? Immediately you ask questions, want answers. I’m hoping that curiosity will transfer into audience members. Plus, this is where the women made history. This is battle front that earned them their honors.

…Since it be about respect, y’all…I figure I be allowed a little of that there ‘artistic license’.

Keeping up on exercise, tho skipping my 30 minutes on the bikes. Pushing myself on the mental front right now. If I do it mentally and physically, I’ll run myself into the ground. So I’m being a little easy on myself until I feel the push is really over.

And it is a push. I’ve put so much into this…including a rape scene and the aftermath – accusations, shame, humiliation, fear… I’m tearing up every time I read it. The battle scene, when two of the characters are shot down and die, is also difficult to read: full of emotion, raw and ripe.

I sure hope other people are as moved by it as I am.

For myself, I feel I can put another notch in my belt. Didn’t know if I could write something military. Certainly doubted my ability to write something historical. Yet, here I am. I won’t lay claim to having written some fresh, new perspective. Don’t know that I’ll ever be that arrogant. But I think I’ve written well. I think the story is engaging, the characters believable.

…Maybe underneath all my writing, there’s another message: respect for myself. I rarely give it.

Today, I will.

That’s life

Life has returned. My memories are back in the closet, not forgotten, but filed away. Time to move on.

Writing is going well. Not enough time to do it lately. Seems it’s all run this errand, pick that up, and of course the ever present necessity to get to the gym and move so I don’t hurt so much. Haven’t even cleaned the house in I don’t know how long, and it shows it.

Today I’m keeping to my life commitment. Heading out with my brother to the comic book shop. Say hi to the guys. Hang out. Talk. Be a part of the world. Got to keep in practice with that, at least a little bit, or I’ll forget how to do it.

Been feeling very alone and lonely. The two don’t always go together, but right now they do. In the wake of my reaction to the news about L, I feel friendless. Want to change that, but I find my physical condition works against me. Last time I tried to schedule a get together with potential friends I woke up with laryngitis. Shit happens. Just the excitement of looking forward to getting out and meeting people can make me ill. Do that enough times to a potential new friend and they lose interest in pursuing a friendship. Seen it happen.

And I don’t like this double life I live. The reality is, my health isn’t good. I do fall ill very easily. I’m not strong. But then there’s my gym life: the nods and notice I get while working out. Maybe they’re not all dyin’ to do me, but they do acknowledge I work hard (beginning to think that most of the smiles I receive are ‘she’s a tough old bird’ type of thing). Most people drop out after an hour of exercise. Most people are shocked and think two hours is extreme. Oh, god, I could never make it for two hours! Then they look me up and down, decide that maybe not all physical strength translates into slim, tight bodies, and put me in that ‘healthy as hell’ category, which I do not deserve to be in.

…At least my physiotherapist understands.

Speaking of, looking forward to seeing him next week. Realized a long time ago our sessions are half physio and half talk therapy. Why can I do that? Why am I so open with someone like him, yet so closed if I see someone called ‘therapist’? One of those mysteries about myself I’d like to solve. …I need him on both levels right now. Despite my physical movement, I’ve got some pain building up. And although I don’t know what I’m going to say, I do know I’ll probably bring up L.

Been a few months since I’ve been able to get my hair done. Upshot is, I’ve got grey showing. Maybe for the first time in my life. A couple of silver hairs by each temple. I’ve looked at it closely in the mirror. It’s not unattractive. In fact, I find myself more distressed by the shaggy outgrowth look I’ve got right now than those grey hairs. …Don’t think I should wear my hair this long. It looks strange on my face. A 20 something tousled hair style on a 50 something woman. But what am I supposed to do? That’s my hair. It just looks that way, naturally. Hope to get it all spruced up before September.

Have not worn my orthopedics, despite the cooler weather. Do not want to wear my orthopedics. My cheap tennis shoes (with added insoles) are lovely: they give me plenty of support, and they don’t bite my feet at all. Plus they were a quarter of the cost of my orthopedics. But I’ll need to get back on that. No use in doing it in August; this entire country goes on holidays. Another thing to write in for September.

Bought some cheap eye gel and dark circle remover. Cosmetics that promise the impossible. But I figure any improvement is an improvement. And I’m guessing it helps to just go through the motions. Applying lotions, massaging them in – that’s a form of self love. I care enough about myself to do this, it says. Or at least that’s how I see it. So, I’m doing it, and hoping it will buy me a few years of looking not so tired and worn out.

Have let myself off the hook for tomorrow’s exercise. My bro is on me to read the final chapters in his book, one of the comic book guys leant me a run of stories by George Romero, and of course I have my own writing to get to. Today will largely be shot, between traveling to and fro and all the time spent visiting. Tomorrow is my make-up day: do the writing I should be doing today, finish up those comics, and start reading my brother’s work.

Wish these things didn’t always pile up on me.

…Wish I could just say no like so many people have said to me. I’m too busy with my own shit. Deal.

And that takes me right back to who I want to be. Do I want to be that person who’s always too busy for friends? Do I want to show the people I care about that I care about them, or will I just perpetuate that lip service shit my family gave to me? It always comes up for me at times like this. And I get angry, and pout, and whine that it isn’t fair, isn’t fair, isn’t fair…

But that’s life.

Never quite whole again

Went to the gym. Did dishes, made my bed. All that stuff I promised I’d get back to – I did it. Even opened up my script and wrote 2000 words.

And it felt right to get back to the day to day. Solid, real. Reminded myself where I am. When I am. Who I am.

But I am still mourning, and it’s a private grief. There is not one person in my life today who met L, so for them it’s like saying a celebrity died – distant and cerebral. Even heard from someone I shared my sob story with, who said just that, which is why I bring it up…because the statement felt cold. Really? You’ll compare my losing someone I spent every day of my 20s with the death of a celebrity? You think that compares? Cold.

Maybe I’m just being a bitch. Maybe the person who said that really did get shaken down to their bones. Maybe, in secret, they flew off to the UK and spent many long afternoons and evenings with their hero, David Bowie. Maybe they remember Bowie shooting pool with them. Being at their side when their parents died. Maybe they spent hours on the phone, all hours of the day or night, talking. Just like I did with L.

Or maybe not.

No one says ‘I love you’ to me. Not even in writing. I do. I tell people I love them at the end of my letters. That is, I tell them I love them if I truly do love them. I don’t just write it for everyone. It’s a select bunch, I’ll give you that. Not many I’d say it to. And I know not everyone is comfortable saying it. Not everyone can say it, even in the written word. There are several people in my life who aren’t in the habit of saying it, yet I know they care about me because of how they treat me. They are there for me, consistently. To talk, to help, to console. They never say ‘why are we talking about this again’ or ‘gee, I just don’t have time to deal with your crises anymore’.

Still. I’d like to hear the words echoed back to me.

Writing has become a thing. A real thing in my life. Not something I do when the mood strikes me, but something I sit and do regardless of my mood. And thank you, Goddess, for it! Hours typing away, creating dialogue and story lines…hours I don’t think about myself, or my sorrow, or the (possible) lack of love in my life.

I think I could finally write for a living now. Punch in the hours, type in the words.

The script is going well. Strong. Strong characters, strong statements. I need to modify a few things in Act 1. Add in one or two historical references. Make sure I’m not using contractions (I know I have to comb over the beginning for those). But I don’t want to modify Act 1 yet. Keep moving forward. Get through the whole thing. Otherwise, I run the risk of spending the rest of the week editing Act 1 – which is truly silly, since I haven’t written the end yet. Finish it off, THEN go back and tinker with the beginning. You know that!

Go! Write! Forget!

Forget.

Strange how I bury my sorrow in words that remember.

Today is another gym day. Get my ass over there and sweat. Regret, after 7 minutes, getting on the cross trainer. Feel I’m gonna vomit after 20 minutes on said cross trainer. Then over that hump. Into the endorphins. Smile, when my legs burn. Laugh at the sweat dripping off me. I wonder if L kept up on exercise. Is this the reason I’m living longer than my mates? Because I get off on it? Do I have an addictive side that’s so hung up on exercise highs I return to physical activity throughout my life in order to feed my need?

Fucking hell. Can I finally turn that weakness into a strength?

Find my soul a little more forgiving. My urge to grasp happiness a bit more conscious and aware. My weaknesses are not insurmountable mountains in my path, hampering my every move, but flat spaces of nothingness I can build on.

If the value of a person lies in the lessons they teach us, L was valued very highly, indeed.

No wonder they say growing old is scary. It sure as fuck is! Hearing about or, worse yet, seeing the people you know and care about die – fucking die – is terrifying.

…People want to talk so much about money and finances these days. What’s your 401K look like? How much is in your portfolio? But no one ever talks about our emotional investments. How we invest so much in the people in our lives. Not just the big memories, but the day to day stuff. The dreams, even. Dreams of them, of seeing them again. And when we lose someone, we go bankrupt. Immediately. All of that is lost. The comfortable chit-chat and grousing over our routines. The irritating habits we snap at each other for, then later regret mentioning. The things we think we’d like to be rid of, and the things we think we can’t live without. Gone, in an instant.

We are left in an open wound of love and sorrow, and facing the huge obstacle of putting our lives back together again. But we are missing a piece.

And while working a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle maybe be fun even if a piece is missing, the picture is never complete.

We are never quite whole again.

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.