Thursday, September 28, 2006

Campus Life

I think in the end, I like working in a University. Beyond my obvious need to remain in the academic environment I was not able to actually enter as a graduate student as was The Plan, I have a genuine affinity for the place. There are things that I like about it more and more with time, and I'm not just saying this to make the possibility of staying here until retirement so my child can attend college for free more palatable to me. For instance I like to work in education but I don't like to teach, so higher education administration suits me. It has a pedagogical component that does not involve the actual classroom--my work is more rooted in the places where the classroom melds with the rest of the students' lives here (this melding often being a place of chaos, for better or worse, and a place I remember well). It is, I think, inspiring sometimes, to get to observe the coming of age of young people. Personally it provides a depth of perception about my own (still on-going) coming of age. Beyond that, it's as good a mission as any other that one could be a part of. Young people are very peculiar and it amazes me every day, in a good way, that I was once that peculiar.

For instance, they really argue about shit with anybody who will argue back. They sit at tables mid-campus and engage white haired right wing professors about "Palestine". They hand out Conservative Union flyers about a talk entitled The Minutemen: Racists or Patriots? They write for and deligently distribute a newsletter based on "the writings and philosophy" of Ayn Rand. As second year students--that's like what? 19 years old--they use words like hegemony and heterosexist paradigm in their campus paper columns. They completely have the strength of their convictions, even if the conviction is that they should be able to switch their entire schedule of classes late in the term because they've discovered that they "absolutely have to take History of Fashion" (true statement, true course--I didn't make that up). They are more alike that they would think or admit--whether they think it's their daddy's bick bucks or their position of relative socio-economic and racial underpriviledge vis a vis students from the upper class that is at the root of it, they all think the universe revolves around them. They also all have no idea how fast time flies or how young they really are or how many more time they will be able to really fuck up in life before it catches up to them.

I mean no condescension whatsover--this is all genuine appreciation. I am sure it relates to my sense of loss for not having been able to fully bask in the light of all I describe above. It also probably relates to how much of what I describe above is still very much me, as 30, in fact, is not exactly old. Things were never simple when I was younger, so it's not nostalgia: I am well aware that 18-22 can be fucking tough fucking years. It's just you know, when you work and to an extend live among them, you get a sense that the concept of "future" is real, insofar as people are in the world today, with you, whose perspective is completely different, whose possibilities (whether they know it or not) are completely different, whose "world history parameters" are completely different. We have a big dissident from the communist block coming to visit our campus and most students have no clue, not only about who he is, but about that whole history. They are post 9/11, they use terms like terrorism without quotations marks around it (for the most part) , they were born in the late 80's--you know that's post "Thriller" and "E.T." Beirut meant nothing to them until this past September.

Part of the pace of things that their "existence" (and its various expressions, like say, the carrying around of not one, not two but three electronic communication devices at a time) suggests can be daunting or depressing--it can appear to be a "lack" of proper context and to the extent that a lot of Americans irrespective of age are sheltered and uninformed about world affairs, some of that is problematic. But some of it is not; it just points us in the direction of something very real, which is the limits of a life. The primacy of the current reality of a life. The importance of stopping long enough to recognize a certain peculiarity to oneself, one's moment in time, one's being 18 in New York in 2006--which is unlike one's being anyone else anywhere else. I find that inspiring and liberating and I only regret that most of them don't have the time to note it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

How awesome is my kid?

So my kid and I were talking about things pertaining to his parents' separation, heartache ensuing from that, and the future. The future involving, in my mature pretending to be detached mommy speech, the parents getting together with other people. Blah blah blah. I hate this conversation. Then my son says,
"I know who you will get to be your boyfriend now"
And I say, "Who?"
He says, "Just wait and close your eyes!"
Which I do. Then he says OPEN

And he is standing there with his Batman mask on.

Now translation: he means George Clooney, whom he knows from the Batman movie.

Monday, September 25, 2006


true story: a star is born of two things

her million year life the process of making more out of those things

one from the other

hydrogen to helium by way of adding or losing something

to make something

until one day it makes iron, the stable 26th element

and silly habitual romantic that she is

the star aspires to the betterment of that:

beyond stability into perfection

in attempting to make the 27th element she dies

the explosive accident of her death is the only way we get

all the other elements beyond the 26th

like carbon without which there is no life

the universe holds of 140 billion galaxies like ours in just a corner of itself

across hundreds of thousands of light years

a telescope photographs gas clouds giving life to stars to come

from the deaths of other stars now inconsequent and dull

a telephoto witness

here on earth today

it’s hard to walk without brushing up against all the jagged edges

razor thin subtle but the cuts are wet

and red

mostly I’m worried about my face

I have to have a face left to look back at in the mirror

turn my forearms upwards like a prayer without hands

the place under my eyes warms right before the tears

burning up my mask for the day

for this day people will know I have lost my face

there is a sensory muting of sorts

a general retreat of all your outer extremities

into your inner most insides

which now are crowded and mangled

and itching to throw themselves out your throat

should you speak

you are now just the size of the small hole right in between your breasts


because this is not the first time and this is not a reversible process

your best case scenario has always been scars

Hurt on Pause

A friend of mine who is into meditation—actually a couple, have suggested to me many meditation-related remedies to my current condition. I can’t meditate. They say if I did, I would not run laps around my crazy head. I would just…listen to myself breathe and focus. But I can’t right now. Right now I just feel hurt. Like someone pressed pause during the movie of my life at a very bad time and is making me exists in this freeze frame where I just hurt. My first thought of the day is of the general “he doesn’t love me anymore he loves someone else this shit is over forever there will never be another try at this” inclination. My every thought after that, that is not occupied with work or talking to another person, is about the same. It’s hard to sleep and hard to eat. It’s very hard to not obsess and not wish I could control t hings that I clearly cannot control. Like I can’t control my wishing to control and undo and redo and erase and replay and retry and go back and fix and make it not so. And it’s hard to listen to someone else tell me how it’s all for the best and really doesn’t matter and how I am overreacting and really if I dig deep, I will find that I don’t care. I suppose in a perfect world or if I were a perfect person that would be true. It’s not true.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Girl Bias

My best friend is a gay man. And I tell him all the time he has a girl bias. He thinks anything a woman does is fantastic. He loves women. If he comes to really love a friend who is a man, I think it surprises him—he finds it almost exotic. And deep down, he’d probably like them better if they were women. A woman can be a sociopathic bitch and he’ll find the part of her that’s actually a kick ass bitch, you know? He allows women to do and say things he’d never tolerate in a man. If the woman does it with style and looks fierce, then forget about it. Some famous women can do no wrong, like Janet and we all know Janet’s done Plenty. Wrong.

Or most recently, he and I are having a vicious disagreement about the merits and gifts of Fergie from the B.E.P. He’ll throw shit out like “but she used to be a meth addict” like it’s points for Fergie. I’ll say shit like “VIP Cause you know I gotta shine, I’m fergie ferg and me love you long time” back as counterpoint. That song is wack dude, and you have a girl bias.

One of his favorite movies of all time is not the movie so much as the performance of Isabelle Huppert in La Pianiste. There is a real endless depth to how much you love women when you love that. Girl bias, big time. I’m not mad at it insofar as it serves me, but I gotta call a spade a girlophile.

I tend to have a boy bias that works exactly the opposite. I even have boy envy. Thank god I had a son—now he can be my idol and I don’t have to apologize. I too sit and worship at the altar of the failed male ego, and consider every flaw to be just a crooked embellishment in a beautifully disorderly soul. Sean Penn’s wife merely hints that life with him may be terribly complicated, and I envy her. Then I worship Sean, but I also often wish I were Sean. “Wish I was born a boy” I say, as cure to all my ills. And in full on borderline retarded heterosexist mode I elaborate: I would be callous and detached, I would have a truncated emotional vocabulary, I would have no fear of running away from people and things, I would fuck up often but always think I was the bomb. I would have vices that women would swoon over and a really dope metabolism that would allow me to get a hot body from just doing push ups. I would always excell because expectations of me would be terribly low—and if I failed and bit my bottom lip like Bill Clinton does, I would be forgiven instantly. I consider all that shit to be simple, cleaner, easier, lighter on your feet. With women it’s all complicated, messy, harder and heavy on your shoulders; I wish I was born a boy, I say.

In my current state of disarray though, the womaness of me is very acute. It is part of what feels alienating and foreign, to a degree; I generally feel like less than a woman, like I don’t quite have the attributes (which probably is why I have the envy/bias, ‘cause I think I’d make a better man than the woman I make). I can’t really explain why, though I can speculate--but I have needed to hear from the women in my life and I have gone to them knowing they would know what to say and to the last one, they have come through with shining colors. About this business of him having a girlfriend, they have had this exact concoction of one part empathy, half a part sobriety, two parts witness on my behalf, and one last half part outrage. They’ve had the right looks, the right tone when they’ve left voice-mails, the right words when they’ve written e-mails. They’ve said watershed day-breaking type things without much thought, they’ve had insight and clarity and a profound understanding of who I am and what this is like for me. And my gay man best friend has had insights as well, of course, but foremost among them I would venture is that I would need to hear from my women-friends.

Oh you know, someone told me that when you’re grieving things get opened that were otherwise closed. One way to say this is that you get teary eyed and sentimental over nothing. Another way is that your standard filters that decide what you’re going to buy and what you’re going to call bullshit are down, because your whole system is down. It’s like emotional imunedeficiency and you are suddenly much more susceptible to invasions by emotions and signs you would generally be immune to. In this case, I am susceptible to regaining an almost romantic sense of my place among my women friends, irrespective of how often I see them on a daily and how complicated my relationships with them may have been. Some contaminants are good contaminants. Right now as I am hyper-aware generally, I am hyper-aware of the extensive quality and variety of great women friends that I have and that love me and that get me.

At work too I have been embraced by a community of mothers, who actually don’t all know the drama ensuing—they just know what it’s like to be a mother and to be a mother on your own. And to be a young mother. And it’s the same sort of capacity for just delivering to me what I need, without much to say about it, with a subtlety but directness of purpose that almost makes your breath stop—because there is no way that you are alone in the world if someone knows exactly what you need when you need it. The feeling of what is getting passed to me is the information and resources that they have paid a price to get—their veteran insights, the problem solving solutions they have honed. And what goes unsaid is that we know that the sole purpose of adversity has been so we’d have a way to make it easier for the next one. In this case, I’m the next one. It just connects.

One of my great girlfriends said to me yesterday, you should pay attention to how people who are not assholes treat you and how also men who are not assholes treat their women. You should observe that so you can understand that it is very real. And it’s not hard to come by and not amazing and not out of the ordinary. It is what it is, it is what considerate people who care about each other do.

Below, some excerpts of some shit that illustrates what I mean. Out of context, some of it reads as harsh but none of it was out of context. All of it gave context where there was none before.

From my friend N, a voicemail:
I know you said not to call so sorry to call. I don’t need any details I just wanted to say three things:

1. what the fuck?!
2. totally understandable reaction on your part
3. what the fuck?!
And one more thing: sometimes I like when life makes decisions “for me” cause that makes it easier.

From my friend S, via e-mail:
There is a large possibility that he will never change and never get his shit together in life which you know. That means that you would never ever be happy with him, despite how much you love each other, and your life if he were really in it full time would always be
one of emotional distress and frustration. Therefore weighing the 2 types
of emotional distress: him in your life as partner vs. him having
a new girl in his life, the second is better, as eventually, no matter how shitty it feels in the moment, you will get past it. Having him as your partner, is a situation that can never be worked out smoothly, unless he changes, which he has shown himself incapable of up till
now. Getting used to the idea that the status quo is changing is something you can work out, and getting used to shitty changes, you have proved yourself an expert in over your life.

From my friend A, live phonecall:
You don’t have to say anything; I’m not gonna grill you. I just wanted to tell you that I’m going to be in town around October 7 and will see you. And maybe you can come back with us (for the weekend). And that I love you.

From my other friend A, phonecall:
You need to make a list of all the fucked up things he did to you over the seven years. Because when it hurts and you get confused and start thinking you lost something that was good enough or someone that treated you like you deserve to be treated, you need to look at that list for perspective.

From my friend A, who is in Africa:
You have to know you got the best part of him, the part that wanted to be a better person and the part that made your son. This part of him is the bad part, that is resigned to fail himself and fail everybody else and you don’t want this part.

From my friend K, the most critical aspect was that she visited me on the night I found out, with wine and weed and slept over. She told me that she remembered the time when her relationship was horrible but the feeling, the love was so unparalleled in her life, she felt she should and would take all the blows that came with keeping that feeling, mostly because she was terrified she would never have that again if she lost it. Today she has a good relationship with the same man but she said now they both understand that he could mess up enough to make her leave and if she did, she would never fear he had been the best she could get. And she said all that very casually and very easy. And we know she didn’t come to that conclusion very easily.

And she also said something like “You can’t get depressed and start eating and getting nasty and feeling ugly. And when you’re in the gym you’re not dwelling inside your own head. It’s important that you feel hot right now” Actually, now that I think about it, that was part of ALL my girlfriends’ responses. I think I totally have a girl bias now.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It's Not In The Cards

A friend of mine gave my son this little refrigerator magnet that’s a little fortune teller booth. It has a little fortune teller inside sitting with a ball. And it says “Madame Fortune” on it. When you press a button, Madame Fortune says, in a generically continental accent, one of two things:

It’s in the cards…

It’s not in the cards…

It alternates between each answer. My son has figured this out and has tons of fun asking Madame Fortune shit like:

--will I get a tattoo when I am nine years old?

--will my father buy me a kid motorcycle next summer?

--when I win the lottery, will I buy myself my own ferris wheel?

Yesterday when I was cooking dinner and he was hanging out, he asked Madame Fortune:

Will my mom and dad ever be boyfriend and girlfriend again?
Madame Fortune happened to be right on and said “It’s not in the cards.”

Although my son knew it wasn’t real, he looked very upset and as if, finally, at that moment, we were going to have to talk about it. Deep breath. Ok, here we go. I tell him, I’m very sorry about that, I know it’s sad. Or something like that. He says to me:

Yes, it is. It’s very very tough all the time.

I wasn’t really ready to hear him say it that way, to use the word “tough” and not use baby talk or say anything immature or funny around it. Just say straight out his six year old life sucks—that was not something I was prepared for. Then he asks me, looking me straight in my face:

Is it sad for you?
Yes, it is. Of course, it is very sad for me.


Well because first of all, anything that makes you sad makes me sad too. But also because I also miss when we were a family all three of us and Papa lived here.

He listens and stops and says:

And he would sleep on the couch before but he would still sleep here in the house. Well not this house but the other apartment. But not even that anymore.

Yeah, not even that anymore. But we’ll be fine and things will get better and we’ll all get used to it and be a different kind of family.

Not me. I never get used to it.

I told him---I’m not sure what I told him. In fact, in this retelling of the conversation that happened last night, I’m approximating my lines. I just know his lines because they hit so hard.

I know that there was a lot of hugging and promises to do the best that I could to make it all be less sad everyday. And apologies for it being the way that it is. And assurances that we tried very much to stay together but sometimes grown-ups just don’t come through the way the kids would want them to and that is so not fair but so much a part of life. Or something.

Later on, as if by cruel coincidence, he saw an ad about spending time with a child on TV—maybe a mentor ad? To it he said, “Not my dad. He doesn’t even spend any time with me anymore.” So more assurances that we could try and sit down with the dad and I would help him speak to him about it; we would sit together and tell the dad what my son needs—surely Papa would get better at spending time again. I would help, I would be there when they talked. The whole time I am thinking, am I asking a six year old to speak to an adult about treating him right? What am I, a fucking sociopath? Then I realize, I simply don’t know what the fuck to do.

So wow, my plate is full, right? There is whole lot of shit starring me in the face right now and I don’t have an angle on any of it. This was a failure I did not want to have to correct. This was a story I didn’t want to have be part of my son’s life. The last two years he lived with us were mostly about allowing them to stay together if I am really honest with myself. I don't regret them because they gave my son and his father a shot at something that simply would not have happened if they didn't live together. Ironic, huh? I don’t blame myself for not sustaining that any further then the two years because I know better. I know that you can’t be some kind of architect building structures around some other person to keep them from messing up—they’ll just fuck up your structure and leave when shit’s coming down on your head. The asshole isn’t even in the room to hear what it sounds like for your six year old to tell you something you helped cause is “tough” and “sad” and he “never gets used to it.”

I did realize one thing, which is that I cannot be distracted from the fact that my son is going through his father’s disappearing act too, that he is being separated from as well, and that he has no resources for coping with that at all. And that insofar as I have great friends who will come and be there for me with wine and weed and just any and every attempt at making me feel a little less bad, I have to be that great friend for my son, bringing him the childhood equivalent of weed and wine—which is play--and you know, that takes a whole lot of energy I didn’t have at all but found immediately last night. Play and cuddles and laughter and the feeling of a full life to cover up certain absences.

My job is to put something into his life each day, something very distinctly good, though not necessarily big, whether a good story time or a good joke or a good playtime, that confirms to him beyond any doubt, that he has a good life; and by consequence, confirms that he is a good person who is loved, independent of a father who disappoints him and a family that breaks up around him. Because for kids, that's what is always at stake: everything, the entirety of who they are. It’s like you look away for a second and something fucks up your own kid. It’s brutal.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Giant Ice Cream Scooper

This is clearly one of those moments: like a hot coal of a day you would rather not touch. I come to write in clear desperation and thus know I would be better off not writing from the position I am in. But writing gives me something to do with the feeling. The feeling is like someone took a giant ice cream scooper and carved out my chest. Or has a giant boot sitting on to of it pushing it down.

My (now ex) sister-in-law called me to tell me that my (now ex) has “a girlfriend” he introduced her too, that already knows the family and that I am the only one who doesn’t know. She told me they met, that she my sister in law was drunk and so was rude to the girlfriend. That the girlfriend was defensive and said among other things, “well he sleeps in my house every night.” Funny how she told me a long ass story of their “altercation” (in words) on the block that had many highlights but I only remember that line. That and the fact that he calls her a cute nickname.

Why are we this way? Why do we do these things to ourselves? This is not a man for me, this is a man I asked to leave my house in November, after 7 years of trying to work shit out. This is a man I couldn’t take back given the choices he has made—or not made. None of what I just said changes or is changeable because this man has a girlfriend who sleeps with him every night and whom he calls a cute nickname. And yet, the mere writing of the words I just wrote fuck me up something crazy. Crazy. She’s probably cuter than me too… Why are we this way?

All I think about now is that my man, the person that loved me now does my things with another woman, from sleeping with her to watching tv to taking a shower. To having breakfast after partying all night. To driving around in the city. All I think about is that the things that I have missed and cried about, the looks I don’t get anymore, the hands that don’t touch me anymore, and the care in his voice I don’t hear anymore, “she” gets. Or I should say, he gives her. There is no more excitement about seeing me, no antecipation of coming home to me, no desire that belongs to me—there is no more me in his life. He walked off first from the place I’m standing at: I don’t have a boyfriend that I sleep with every night and call nicknames.

Worse yet, I can’t even get a boyfriend. I recently have been so depressed and pathetically missing him—so in denial really, about the true reality of what our relationship was, that I had resolved to not even try to date other people. I tried for a half second and it was a total mess, I am a total mess and have been. And my ex has known, because I have spoken to him about it—to make matters worse. I can’t date other people anyway, I thought. I still love him, there’s no point. I’ll just wait. For what? Oh for the feelings to subside and for me to feel like myself again and what not. Curiosity killed the cat, ok. What did waiting like a dumbass do to the cat?

There is so much wrong with the way I feel right now. I find it odd that I actually feel physical discomfort in my chest and stomach. It is very hard to stop tearing up. Very hard. It was very hard to deal with my son this morning. Morning was very hard generally. It takes superhuman effort to not think about it. I feel humiliated, but not even that much. I wish I felt a lot more humiliated and angry and scorned and what not—instead of just profoundly, endlessly, devastatingly hurt.

The thing is, that he had someone was obvious to me in the way that he changed in his dealings with me, independent of the separation. It was obvious there was a cessation of something in the way he regarded me. In my panic it just felt like "he doesn't love me anymore." That idiotic and that precise a statement was literally scrolling past my insides on a regular basis--at each interaction. How something could be obvious and then totally devastate and shock you, I don’t know. I guess in the end when you lose everything, you like to hold on to the idea that you were special and irreplaceable, right? Or something like that. Something very childish like that—or not childish, just basic. Just "deep inside".

Fundamentally, you need to have the centrality of the person in your life reciprocated by them holding you at the center of theirs. But that’s not how relationships end, they end by shifting the centers and blowing everything up. Of the two people, I just happen to be the one unsheltered when it blows up. But thankfully, somewhere under all this stupid hurt, even
I know I’m not SO special that it won’t work the same for me as it does for everyone else:

This is going to hurt like hell for a long time and then less so and one day, not at all.