Tag Archives: friendship

Threshold

(Continued from April 8th, 2012.)

When she first arrived, the older woman took off her shoes before stepping over the threshold.  Unusually considerate, light in her step, she made her daughter nervous.

There had been superstitions, back in her mother’s country, about thresholds, doorways, windows.  Table tops and chairs.  And they were treated like traditions by the women in her family, as non-negotiable as laws of gravity and just as final.  To never kiss over a threshold.  To never sit upon a tabletop.  To never let an unmarried woman be positioned at a corner seat, while dining.  And with the slew of superstitions came antidotes, just as important to take notice of; so that when things did NOT work out — the victim could be still the one to blame:  You shoulda knocked three times on wood, spit over the left shoulder, and hidden a fig hand in your pocket.  These things would grow on one unconsciousness like barnacles of paranoid behavior.  And in a nation of world-renowned courage, it puzzled her to see so many doubtful people.

And was her mother brave at all, to just pack-up like that and leave?  To move herself with a child to the furthest removed continent, after the death of her husband?  His — was a death by drinking.  She didn’t want to die — by mourning.

And now, both women — tired but not tired enough to not be cautious of each other — seemed to be waiting for something.  Waiting for the other shoe to drop, albeit both of them standing barefoot in the empty kitchen.  In this new country, where everyone was in love with fun and smiley faces, they each would arrive to their shared home and try to force a lightness to descend.  It would be mostly out of habit, and not desire.  Her mother functioned better in these new rules:  “Have fun!”  “God bless!”  “I love you!”  She had no difficulty throwing these around, without taking any time to match their implications to the worth of the recipient.

The younger woman now waited by the sink full of dishes.  After enough silence, while stealing glances at her mother, who floated from one room to another like a trapped moth, the hostess began to rummage through the dirty dishes.

Had mother always colored her hair with that unnatural shade of black, when last she’d seen her, in New York?  The snow white roots came in aggressively, all over mother’s head, opposing the other color with no mercy.  When did she age this much?  When did this fear and sorrow find time to settle on her face?

A paw of pity stroked across the young woman’s tightly wound nerves:

“Mom.  Why don’t you sit down?”  She caught herself:  All furniture was made of boxes, uncouth for a woman with a living husband, according to her mother’s generation.  Before the older woman managed to react, the daughter hid her gaze in forming mounds of soapsuds and hurriedly amended her first offer:  “Mom.  Wouldn’t you like a drink?”

“Yes, please,” the older woman turned on her heels, seemingly delighted.  “White zinfandel?”

“Well.  Um.  I don’t have alcohol.  But would you like some juice?”

“Oh.  Right.”  An eyebrow went up and froze.  “No, thanks.”

She turned and walked away again — floating, balancing, looming — stopped by the sliding doors of the balcony, at the edge of the living-room.  The palm trees slowly swayed outside like metronomes to one’s slower heartbeat.  West, West, West.

She’d gone out West, with nothing but the ghosts checked-in as her luggage.  The letters from her best friend on the East Coast would hit the bottom of the mailbox on a weekly basis, for the first two months.  She praised her for the courage.  She mentioned pride, and dignity, and all the other things they’d mutually gotten high on, back in college.

It never happened in any of the books she’d read, but in her life, what others titled “courage” — was merely an act of following through.  Besides, she swore, he thought of the idea first.  What else was she suppose to do?

The best friend wrote her with gel pens, whose color was always given careful consideration.

She wrote in pink:  “It’s better to let it all go to the wind.”

In purple:  “Let justice work itself out.”

At least, unlike the others, the best friend never judged.  She wasn’t in a habit of taking sides.  She never called the husband names.  But then again, they’d never really found men to be the leading topic of their friendship.  Men merely existed.  Some men were good.  And back in college, the two of them hadn’t loved enough men to speak of the other gender with that scornful nostalgia of the other women.  Men merely existed.  And then:  There was the whole of the magnificent world outside.

 

Out here — out West — she could just start from scratch.  She only needed to remember how to breathe the even breath:  if not that of her calmer youth — then of her wiser self.  With time, she knew she’d see the point of it, the purpose, the lessons of her little losses.  She had too vivid of an imagination to not weave her life into a story.

“One’s life had meaning.  It couldn’t be for forsaken.”  (Oh, how she missed those wonderful convictions of her youth!)

So, while she waited to mature into that wiser self, she set aside some time and space in which the hurting self could flail, abandon graces, wag its finger, then call people back with tearful apologies.  But she would not have to confront her past out here, at least; except for when she opened the envelopes of her phone bills.

“So,” mother started speaking to the window, again.  “Natasha?  Are you looking for a job?”

“I have been looking, yes, mom.”

“Okay,” mom turned around.  Change of subject:  “I hear Mike got a promotion for doing the work on that new bridge, in Brooklyn.”

When rinsing a knife after all pungent foods, one absolutely must use soap.  Because if not, the taste will resonate on every meal for further weeks to come.  

“Oh yeah?  That’s good.”

“Yeah!  He’s a smart boy!  I’ve always liked Mike.  For you.”

It’s better if the handle of the knife is anything but wooden.  Wood stays a living thing forever.  It takes on other substances, breeds them, doesn’t let them go.

Here comes the second round.  Ding, ding, ding:

“I wrote Mike a letter.”  Mom searched for the effects of her intentions on her daughter’s face.  “I know!  I know!  It sounds silly!  We live a borough away.  But I have always relished his opinion.”

She felt exhausted.  “Mom.”

Out West, she’d found herself relearning how to use each thing with an appropriate instrument.  The sense of wonderment!   The love of unexpected beauty!  The curiosity she was resuscitating in herself, like a paralysis patient learning how to walk again.  Her days weren’t daunting, at all times; and they were full of curiosity.

And now:  Mom, barefoot yet armed!   In one woman’s kitchen.  So fearful, she could not release either of them from their pasts.  They stood, displeased with being a reflection of each other.  Another eyebrow arch.  A scoff.  One turned away, demonstratively disappointed.  The other looked down onto her pruned fingers submerged into a sink of cruddy water.

Mom faced the window with no curtains, yet again.  Those horrid, flapping, plastic blinds had been the first thing that Natasha’d taken down.  For the first weeks, she let the wind roam through the apartment, while she, sleepless and exhausted, observed the palm trees wave against the never pitch-black night of her new city:  You are alright.  Remember breathing?

West, West, West.

You still have time.  In your defense.

“It’s in the reach of my arms / The span of my hips / The stride of my step / The curl of my lips…”

I had a dream last night:  of walking into a room full of beautiful women.

Some of them, I’ve known for years; a few of them for long enough to have forgotten their faces.  Some of the other faces could’ve belonged to my future, perhaps.

When I entered through the door with chipping white paint — a door that was more obedient to the pull of gravity than that of its rusty hinges — every woman looked up at me:  A stunning constellation of loving, familiar eyes sprawled before me; each pair of eyes — with its own story of similar pathos that have led us all to the common denominator of womanhood.

A tearful redhead sat at the teacher’s desk, up front.  I assumed she was leading the classroom.  Lines of poetry were written on a blackboard behind her.

“I’d seen her somewhere,” I thought in my sleep.

Perhaps, she borrowed her details from my Russian Lit. professor back in the old country.  That one was a tall, mighty blonde that might have stepped off the pages of Nekrasov’s poetry.  Or:  She could’ve been one of those pre-Napoleon aristocrats, attending a ball in St. Petersburg, while wrapped in the fur of a red fox and emeralds to accentuate her gorgeous green eyes.

Her name was Tatiana.  She had a middle name, of course; but in a radical fashion, she demanded we didn’t use it.

“By god, I’m only a few years older than you all!” she’d correct some brown noser testing the air, in class.

True, we were all quite young then, and typically confused.  But we had grounds for it though:  Our country was falling apart at the seams.

One morning, Tatiana walked into my first class of the day in a solemn mood.  Her magnificent hair of a Russian blond beauty was pulled back into a messy bun; and by her eyes, we could tell that she either hadn’t slept or had been crying all morning.  Or both.

It was common for Tatiana to bring up politics in class.  After all, she belonged to our generation:  of curious and passionate, and justifiably confused.  But that morning, she would remain silent, stunning all of us with the expectations of the worst.  And she would stare out of the window while burying her chin into the cream-colored crocheted shawl wrapped around her magnificent, mighty shoulders.

Inspired by a thought, every once in a while, she would look at us and inhale, as if grasping enough air to deliver the news.  Breathlessly, we watched her.

Caution:  Courage at work.  

But she would lose the train of thought, tear up again and bury her face in the shawl.  After the longest minutes of our assuming the worst, Tatiana left the classroom; and none of us would see her again.

But I would — in my last night’s dream, about walking into a room full of beautiful women.

There were a few from my college years:  Of various heritages, they were American-born, opinionated and seemingly fearless:  The tall one, with an Irish brogue, had been known to lead her life along a courageous path of rebelling against the confines of tradition. The quiet brunette, cradling her little girl in the corner — under a tent of her long East Indian hair — had been burdened with the most gentle of hearts I had ever loved.  And I had loved her the most — and oh, for so very long! And I had known the brown, graceful one with the pixie haircut very little back then.

A handful of others came along after my most innocent years of womanhood.

The one who stood up to applaud me had recently left for her homeland:  She had always been luminous and proud, in the way of an African queen.  She wore a heavy necklace when she left for her odyssey:  something borrowed from the neck of Nefertiti.  And she wore that again, in my dream.

The poetess who had guided me toward a path of quiet victory had borrowed a headdress from my favorite writer of Caribbean descent.  And she walked to the front of the room to introduce me.  

I struggled with the door for a moment, then pushed it with my hip. There is nothing in the world that won’t obey a woman’s hip!  On it, we bounce our children, or carry the weight of our unhappy burdens.  With it, we can dislodge any jam in our way; make a man lose his sleep over it, or find his rest — in its soft curvature.

“Well…  That’s been conquered,” I said to the women, once I turned around.  They laughed:  A sound that may have made me smile in my sleep.

While the laughter subsided, I studied the floor under my feet:

There was none.  Just dirt, covered with loose planks of wood; and as I made my way across them, the boards chomped and sank into the wetness.  I couldn’t tell where exactly we had gathered that day:  Which of our old countries had granted us refuge.  But this morning, I had slept in, for a change, missing the sound of my alarm clock and the call of my obligations. And I would have much rather remained dreaming.

“You Didn’t Have To Love Me, Like You Did. But You Didn’t! But You Did — And I Thank You!”

“I’ve gotta be careful,” I think to myself.  “I fall in love too easily.”

I never used to wait it out before.  Instead I would leap in, head first, thinking:

“He is — so very beautiful.  So:  Why not?”

And it would be odd and sad, at the end of each affair (or, what’s more tragic, somewhere in the first chapter of it), to find myself disappointed — in myself.  ‘Cause I’m a smart girl, you see?  I always have been.  (I mean:  I read books, for Christ’s sake.  Right?!)

But you know what my problem is?  I like humanity too much.  That, plus the dumb-bitch-ness of ignoring my own intuition — and I’ve got a decade of disappointing affairs.And no, I’m never disappointed in them:  those I’ve chosen to fall for, head first, regardless of my screaming intuition.  Instead, I’m always disappointed — in myself.

“But he is so very beautiful,” I think.  And what’s worse, I used to say it sometimes, to his face.  With years, I’ve reined in that messy situation a bit.  ‘Cause I’m a smart girl, you see?  So, now, I tend to whisper it instead, while he’s asleep on my chest like a babe relieved by a glorious burp after making a meal of my breast.  I caress his hair — full, wispy or spiky, in a crewcut — and I get my pheromones going; convince myself I’m in love and I say it, out loud:

“You are so beautiful.”

Hopefully, he’s fully asleep by that point.  And if not, most of the time, he pretends to be.  How else to handle an intense number like me but to fake a hearing problem?  Or a language barrier, of some sorts?  The poor guy has just signed up for some sex — not for his fucking soulmate.

 

“That’s just the problem with you,” my ex has recently testified.  “You make us believe we deserve you.  But we don’t.  We’ve got not business — fucking a girl like you.”

“Ah, I remember,” I thought to myself.  “He always was — so very beautiful!”

I thought it, but made sure not to say it this time.

And it’s better with us now, anyway:  Our friendship surfs upon our mutual goodness that’s no longer tested by sex.  Still:  So beautiful, I think; and I try to remember why he’s made me feel so disappointed — in myself — just a few years ago.

Another one got drunk at a party the other night, and instead giving a toast, like the man of the hour he’d insisted on being once he took over the barbecue grill, he raised his beer in my direction and he slurred:

“That woman!”  He shook his head with spiky hair in a crewcut; then to our deadly silence, he wrapped it up:  “THAT WOMAN.”

Later on, he wanted to walk me to my car.

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.  No car walking,” I insisted and I patted the back of his head I’ve memorized on my chest, while he was pretending to be asleep, one night.

‘Cause I’m a smart girl, you see, and it’s only taken me six years and half a dozen of disappointed affairs in Los Angeles to figure out that “car walking” often stands for “foreplay”.  And I just don’t foreplay with my exes.  Sure, we can surf upon the goodness of our friendship soon enough; but sex with the exes — well, that’s just a totally dumb-bitch move.

But the familiarity of the touch was enough to get my pheromones going, and instead of a goodbye I said:  “Thank you, beautiful.”  And I left.

Lord knows, before I’ve walked out on every one of them — these men I’ve chosen to fall for, head first — I ask them for the final verdict:

“Now:  Are you sure?”  I say.  “‘Cause I’m a smart girl, you see?  Once I leave — I don’t come back.”

But the poor guys are so exhausted by that point, they don’t know what hit ‘em.  I mean:  They’ve just signed up for some sex, not for a fucking soulmate!  And in that moment, they think they just want some silence.  Or some solitude, for Christ’s sake!  They think they want that empty linoleum floor without one intense number strutting toward them, for more matter-altering sex.

But in the end, they always lose the girl that has loved them in the best of ways:  Fed ‘em, fucked ‘em, rubbed their heads, stroked their egos.  In conclusion:  Built ‘em up.

And surely, they move on, after me.  They’re fine:  They find other girls, better suitable, less intense.  But by the time I go, I’ve raised their expectation so much — I’ve ruined them, for good.  And they know it.

“You’ve gotta be careful,” one of them told me while still in the midst of our affair, but most likely, already looking for his way out.  Sad:  The poor guy has just signed up for some sex.  Instead, he ended up waking up next to his soulmate:  The first girl to never forsaken him, to fulfill his needs better than his mother and to raise his expectation, forever.

“You’re too trusting, you see.”

“Ah.  So beautiful!” I said at the time, to his beautiful face; and I smirked in a way that made him change the subject and move in for more matter-altering sex.

And he was.  He was very beautiful.  And so were the others.  So beautiful I don’t regret falling for any of them, head first.

“I’m Outta Time, And All I Got — Is Four Minutes, Four Minutes! Yeah.”

Another day spent in infinite bouncing between two self-disciplines:  hard work and running.  Because what else IS there?

Well, there is also eating, which I sometimes forget to do.  And sleep.

And then, there is the less disciplined pursuit of making a living.  It’s fine, really:  I’m one of the lucky ones, I continue reminding myself; because most of the time, I get to shuffle my schedule around as if my hours were those shiny marble pieces on a backgammon board.  And it’s an ancient game:  this pursuit of an artist’s life.  Too many have done it before me, but only some have succeeded.  I want to be one of the some; so, I’ve narrowed my days down to two infinite self-disciplines:  hard work and running.

The work has become an anti-anxiety prescription of my own invention.  I hold it up, against my griefs — with time or other people, or even against my departing loves — and I say, “What else IS there?”  But even though I’ve learned to shuffle my hours, when it comes to success — or accomplishment, at least — they still don’t move fast enough.

And I’ve heard it all:  “Impatience is a lack of self-love.”  “Impatience is just energy:  Use it!”  “Meditation!  That’s what you need!”  But when actually in the midst of the hours, with nothing but hard work in sight, these opinions fail to give me any consolation.  So, I wrap up the work — and I go running.

And that’s just another bargain:  running.  Just another bargain I had made with time, so that I can continue doing the hard work, for a little bit longer — after the success happens, or my accomplishment, at least.

And so, the infinite bouncing continues:  I work in order to stop flaunting my impatience toward time and I run — to speed it up.

And in the mean time, there is life, happening in between.  I am not idiotically blind to that.  I see it.  I chip in.  I participate:  in friendships, loves; in my tiny adventures I can afford for very short periods of time (because I always must come back to the less disciplined pursuit of making a living).  But as soon as I am alone again, the infinite bouncing resumes.  And if it weren’t for my comrades — in the midst of their own living, always somehow committed with a lot more patience than I myself can manufacture — it seems I could easily forget about all that life, happening in between.

The other night, one of them had dragged me out:

“I bet you haven’t eaten today,” he said.

“You’re crazy,” I began whining, listing all the work I still had to do.  I’m a pain in the ass:  always hoping for my loves to distract me from my stubborn disciplines; to convince me that there is way too much life, happening in between — and that it’s worth putting the breaks on my infinite bouncing.

“It’s Saturday night,” I carried on.  “Everything is already booked.”

“So, we’ll get take-out!” he said.

I considered.

“Good.  That way, I can get back to work.”

My comrade chuckled and knowingly shook his head:  What a pain in the ass!

We walked into the nearest sushi joint, already packed to the brim.

“See,” I began whining.  “Everything is booked.”

The waitress who got stuck at the host stand that evening, looked up at us, past a million fly-aways in front of her face, and said, “Did you have a reservation?”

I slid out of the way and let my comrade handle that little situation.  I, instead, began studying the floor filled to the brim with families, lovers and comrades.  There were four sushi chefs behind the packed bar, and they seemed to have figured out some sort of a time-traveling trick:  They were moving so fast, the snapping of bamboo rollers in their hands, in between each order, sounded like an orchestra of quirky percussions.  And they were all so serious, in a typical sushi chef fashion:  serious but graceful — total zen masters! — finding the time to answer endless questions from the mesmerized clientele at the bar.

My comrade came up from behind me.

“Would you look at those guys?” I said.

“Zen masters,” he responded and stuffed me under his wing.  Suddenly, my endless bouncing seemed to let up, and I fully surrendered to the temptation to lose track of time.

“How long — is the WAIT?!”

The shrill noise came from the packed lobby.  It echoed past the bar, above the heads of the four serious, graceful sushi chefs, and onto the floor, jolting the first half of the restaurant to pay attention.

I looked back.  She was chubby, with a face full of make-up.  I bet on any other day, I would find her pretty; but the shrill noise made by her lipsticked mouth shocked the shit out of my kindness.  Her man hung back:  Tall, portly, he had crossed his arms and took on what seemed like a habitual expression of resignation.

The waitress looked up past the million fly-aways in front of her face and calmly said:  “Thirty to thirty five…”

She didn’t get a chance to finish:  The shrill noise interrupted her verdict, and jolted the other half of the restaurant to pay attention:

“I CAN’T WAIT THAT LONG!”

She stared at the waitress.  The waitress stared back at her, calmly, past the million fly-aways in front of her face.  The shrill noise-maker turned on her heels and made it over to her man who by now was attempting to camouflage himself into the corner.  He’s no use, she seemed to decide, half-way across the lobby — and marched back over to the waitress, at the host stand.

“Is there another sushi restaurant here?”

“Are you fucking kidding me?!”  I finally uttered from underneath my comrade’s wing.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” was what the waitress’s face seemed to say as well, from underneath the million fly-aways, in front of her face.

The shrill noise-maker scoffed, turned on her heels again and, again, made it over to her man.  By this point, the camouflaged portly creature stuck in his predicament of a relationship seemed to want to vanish.  Loudly, his woman did the negotiation to which the entire restaurant was meant to pay attention.  And when she marched out, into the night, followed by her defeated man, he gently caught the door she meant to slam shut and closed it, apologetically.

And Dah-ling, Dah-ling: Stand By ME!

She was an angel.  She had to be.  Because she treaded by my side, in her suede moccasins, with such gentle awareness to cause the least amount of damage in her world, I thought:  What have we got here?

Beauty and oddity did not escape her attention, but neither earned any judgement, on her part.  There was something very ancient about her physique:  She could’ve been a descendant of Emily Dickinson or an anonymous lover on a canvas of Modigliani or Cezanne:  A brown girl with either melancholy or innocence (I couldn’t tell) powdering her skin with luminosity.  And every time, her humor took me by surprise; because she seemed so in love with truth, I didn’t think her capable of irony.  Or loss.

If ever I witness such an old soul, on the last round of its reincarnation, I drop all of my mundane nonsense.  And it’s surprisingly easy, every time:  Because those types make time lose its relevance.

“I gotta, I gotta” — doesn’t exist in their company.

Instead, it becomes:

“I am.  I am.”

And if I hang with those souls for long enough, I am soon granted an awe — at my own ability to slide through moments of time as if body-surfing:  I certainly know that there is a greater force behind it all, behind ME — stronger, older, much more relevant! — and that the only thing that I can do is:  Take it in, and ride it out.

Because the longer I live and the more I lose, my angels, the more accepting I become of the utter chaos of living.  Sure, there are certain guarantees in my established routines and standards of living; and each day, they give me points of reference, in time.  Because I, too, am often guilty of “I gotta, I gotta”.

Instead of:  “I am.  I am.”

But, oh, how well I know that if I were to pack-up my apartment, cancel my phone, get rid of my debt; cut all ties and torch all the bridges; if I were to walk out of this chaotic town without a single farewell — what would remain of me is mere memories by those whom I’ve accidentally happened to love.  But then, even those would eventually expire.  (I’ve seen it happen before, with lovers who’ve moved on, out of guilt or entitlement.)  I would be no more than a fading memory.

But the angel of the other day begs to differ.  It’s not her fault — but her very mission — to tell me that I have meant more than that; that even in the chaos of living, however organized, each action matters.  Each action, each person has consequences.  She herself needn’t worry about karma any more:  Her goodness is beyond all that shit.  But for the rest of us, karma begs to differ.  And it begs to better.

And so I was surprised the other day when she said, while staring her dusty moccasins:

“I can only meet him halfway, this time.  Otherwise, I’ll lose myself.”

She’s been telling me the story of her love, on the nth round of its reincarnation.  For years, she had loved this man, going out on a limb with her goodness, every single time.  She had been a friend to him, treading gently by his side, through every selfish tragedy and moment of self-doubt.  And when the rest of humanity seemed to forget his relevance, she would be the only one to remember him:  to make him matter.  But then:  He’d dismiss her again.

Recently, he’d come back around, asking for her time and friendship.  BUT ON WHAT TERMS?!  He needed a friend, he said.  He needed — her:  For she was the only one who really loved him, who “understood him” all along.

What a waste, I thought.  What a waste:  of youth, and goodness; and of love!  What selfish audacity, I thought, on behalf of that regular mortal.  What sense of entitlement!..

But then:  I remembered my own recently expired affair.  It had been my lover’s idea to end us.  Not the first time.  I’d survived many before him.  I was going to be alright.  But before I became aware of my mourning, I found myself in the midst of waiting.  Waiting for change:  A change of heart, a change of his mind.  A change of man.  And in the mean time, the man would check back on me:  for some assurances that I still loved him, that I was still on standby, no matter the distance he’d imposed between us.

Not the first time.  I had done that with others:  beholding for them, for years; forgiving them fully at every dismissal, then accepting them unconditionally at every reunion.  I would continue living my life, treading it carefully, while causing the least amount of damage, in my world.  But if an ex couldn’t bear the chaos of his living, he was always welcomed back.

Suddenly, I felt infuriated, for the sake of my kind:  Women with forgiveness and goodness enough to make-up for our men’s lack.  Women with uncompromisable karma, so rare, it makes us irreplaceable.  Old souls who can always change a man, and sometimes, his mind.  Angels who practice unconditional love and forgiveness to make time irrelevant, but lives — matter:  

Isn’t time for each angel to claim her time back?  Surely, there must be better things and worthier causes to give that time to!  Surely, all this waiting around was contradicting the very nature of our being:  holding us back from living our own existences — on the last round of reincarnation — in the moment, while making us behold for the past.  Surely, this had to end!

That evening, it ended for me, my angels.  I finally accepted my lover’s decision to depart.  I got dismissed.  I cut all ties and torched all the bridges.  And I left, treading carefully and causing the least amount of damage — to myself — and settled on being a mere memory, but not a returning one.

I’m in the Mood for Love-ly

Mmm-mornin’.  Mmm-moany mornin’.

It was a long night, kittens.  But that’s a’right:  I have another long — and mmm-magnificent — day ahead.

But I did greet this day for you already, bright ‘n’ early.  I did that!

While most kittens were whirring quietly in their cots, I spent the first hours of the morn’ pontificating with a fellow gypsy and a stunning heart:  on the nature of love, and art, and the world itself.  All the way from the other coast he told me that the world was still magnificent (despite my recently lost love); and as he could see it from o’er there, it was waiting to be treaded on.

“And did you know,” he told me, “there aren’t many interferences along each path — but opportunities to learn?”

“Really?”

I was already drifting off, leaving my gravity behind:  We, fly gypsies, often don’t need our feet.  He brushed my forehead with his words of gentle and intimate knowledge of me; and then, he left to do his own treading.  Bye-bye, baby.  Bye-bye, boo.  Mmm.

So, today:  I’m packing up.  Suddenly feeling like I’ve shed a few kilos off my back, I am in the mood to recoup and get ready to move again.  There is a tribe of gypsies hollering out my name in their bard songs, on the coast of the other, tamer ocean.  (Oh, how I adore them, for keeping my heart!)  A few solitary ones are waiting for me under the scorching suns of Mexico, and India; and somewhere in a quirky town in Texas.  And then:  There is my father — the quietest of all, who has patiently waited in the other hemisphere, for the return of his prodigal child.  (I’m on my way, P.  I’m well on my way.)  And when we meet, we shall sit around the pots of my slowly simmering, healing stews and reshuffle our stories as if they were cards of Solitaire.

Mmm, ‘tis the season — for reunions.

But while I’m gathering my belongings and courage today, I shall be treading quietly.  Very, very quietly.  The thoughts of today’s meditation are vague and ever-so-changing.  They remind me of an abstract watercolor painting:  At any moment, another stroke can change their entire gist.  Another color can shift the mood.  So, I’ll try not to speak much; ’cause I don’t want to fuck it up.

It doesn’t happen often — today’s Moment in Between — because generally of an impatient mindset, I never sit for long enough to let it pass.  So intensely I insist on living my life that I rarely sit in silence.  Instead, I continue moving, shrugging off the urge for prayer as something I could do in mid-step.

“I don’t have time for this!” I tell myself and others when confronted with a suggestion — or an ultimatum — to chill out.  “I’ve got shit to do!”

That may be true, my darlings, but one’s ambition does not negate those privileged moments of silence and aloneness.  To the contrary, if one decides to devote a life to a great empathy for humanity, aloneness — is mandatory.  Because by its very definition, compassion is a recognition of one’s self in another.  And how in the world am I going to recognize that self if I, myself, don’t know my self?  (Sorry, kittens:  I’m probably sounding a bit too So Cal for some o’ ya.  I’ll be back to my East Coast Bitchy in no time.)

Last night, I heard a lovely actress with a delicious accent and painfully poignant heart eloquently speak of the common introverted nature of all artists:

“It’s that thing of having to inhabit… yourself,” she said, “whatever that is… And it can often be quite uncomfortable.”  (Ah, Cate:  Ever so magnanimous you are!  You give us, humans, way too much credit.)

So before I bounce again — toward the other coasts and countries, and loves — I’m just gonna sit a lil’.  Alone.  Quiet. Mmm-meditate.

…But what’s this I’m hearing?  A voice of a man screaming aggressively on my street.  How dare he?!  Despite having Hollyweird’s zip code, my ‘hood is stubbornly quiet.  So, what’s all this, sir?  How dare you?!

I look out of my window:  If only I’d see him, I think, I can forgive his unknowing act.  But:  Not a visible soul in sight.  I study the yard below and the baby-blue guest house whose single staircase is always decorated with drying canvases.  A woman in a headscarf quietly steps up to its wide window, while wiping her hands on the bottom of her apron.  Like me, she’s cross-examining the street for the source of the disturbance.  Apparently, she too — is asking for silence.

“Oh,” I think.  “So, you’re the one creating all this beauty,”  Despite heaving treaded this side of the world for over three years now, I’ve never met her before, my kittens, only her art.

She looks up.  She sees me.  I freeze:  I am not ready to hang with others yet.  Mmm-m’am?

She is older than me, much better lived in; less stubborn.  I can see she used to be a stunner.  Her forehead is un-crinkled, unlike my own:  She’s taking it easy.

“Mmm-m’kay, O’Keeffe.  I’ll take your lead.”

I manage to do a half-wave, then slide closed my window.  ‘ Cause I’m sitting alone — in silence — today, don’t cha know?!

“I gotcha,” — she nods, then leaves her window open and walks back to her work.

Mmm-mornin’:   mmm-mazel tov.

‘Cause My Momma Taught Me Better Than That!

Once upon a time, I had a lover…

(What does this have to do with today’s celebration of Mamas’ Day?  Hmm, I dunno.  Maybe ‘cause my motha is the most sexually liberated woman I’ve ever known?  Or because, after every break-up, she is the first to bless me to “Go forth — and fuck!”

Or to quote her more precisely, that shawty says:  “Vhen van penis leavez — replace vith anozzer!  NEXT!”

Motha’s pretty rad, in an insane kinda way.)

So, anyway:  Once upon a time, I had a lover.  A friend of a friend, he’d been flirting with me for years, warming up all of my orifices with not just his Tall, Dark and Handsome routine but with his talent to make me laugh that equalled to that of my motha’s.  (See:  my shawty is gonna be all o’er this rant blog!)  But the one thing I’ve learned from a previously debauched affair of my late twenties is this:  Never settle for leftovers.

You see:  The player — had a girl, and a lovely one at that.  Of some exotic Eastern European heritage, she was driving him insane with that untamed, shameless sexuality we Slavs are known for; but also with her snappy ‘tude.  After the first few years, the girl’s sassiness transformed into bitchiness, and she was making this player suffer, for real.  But no matter how much he complained to me about being mistreated, I kept my ears open — but my Frederick’s of Hollywood on.

Naturally, when the mean Eastern European dumped his confused American ass — he came running to me; and call me an idiot, I received him with my arms — and legs — open.  (Frederick’s of Hollywood — OFF!)  But instead of nurturing him through his break-up into my Next Ideal Boyfriend (Tall, Dark and Handsome), I agreed to act as a stand-in for the woman who’s walked out on him such a short time ago, her perfume still lingered in the air.  And in his bedroom.  And in his car.  I mean:  I could taste the lovely inside his mouth!  Brutal.  Yet, still:  I signed-up to be the rebound.

When we agree to that, my darling sistas, I guarantee we don’t make our mamas proud.  So, okay:  I’ve refrained from the dignity-raping, karma-wrecking, heart-breaking role of the Other Woman.  But when I climbed on top of that player right after the Love of His Life has climbed off — I did myself no justice at all.  For lost loves take time to mourn; and not until the brokenhearted commit to wrapping-up their tragic acts can they be willing to start the next chapter.

Once upon a time, I sat butt-naked on this player’s kitchen counter to compensate for our height difference; and while I was nibbling on frozen mangos and his neck, he pulled away and said:

“When you walked in tonight…”

“Yeah?” I purred, moving on to the earlobes — and more mangos; but he stopped me by cradling my chin with his manly hand the size of my lil’ Eastern European face.

“You looked so beautiful — I thought, ‘WHY IS SHE HERE?!’”

Once upon a time ago, I shrugged off the player’s comment as some odd compliment by a man which would take me years to decipher.  I didn’t have years!  I was a horny woman, on a mission!

But after just a month, that affair would go shit.  Despite our friendship (or perhaps because of it), the man treated me with flippancy and indifference; while I kept telling myself that after enough time, he’d snap out of it — and there I’d be, in all my goodness ‘n’ glory.  And, of course:  We’d live “happily ever after”!  But one night, he stood me up for a film date — and surprisingly quickly, I was over his manly taint.  (That man was lucky my motha was never made privy to that ending of our love story; or she’d pull a Tony Soprano on his ass — and the Tall, Dark and Handsome would be no more.)

Last night, something crawled up my ass.  (Settle down!  I wasn’t having sex.)  I couldn’t sleep.  Oh, yes!  I remember:  I was releasing the most recent love of mine, upon his request.  It took me a couple of weeks to stop throwing tantrums and realize the man just didn’t want me.  Despite the excuses he granted me:  bottom line — he wanted out!

With my self-delusions evaporating on every exhale, I slid open my windows and turned off the lights, letting the hollers of youth playing their Hollyweird games on my street enter my sanctuary.  How I was hoping that their voices would overcrowd the one dominant one in my head — and in my very gut where there lives my motha’s intuition — and I would distract myself enough to reunite with the illusion that I finally got the man I wanted!

“He’ll change his mind.”

“He’ll come back.”

Yet, there I sat, in the dark.  Alone.  Alone — again.

In the midst of this post-break-up meditation, I heard the ghost of the Tall, Dark and Handsome…  and asshole!  (Sorry:  Motha has taught me better than to lose my graces; but during break-ups (and behind the wheel of my sports car), I often suffer from Tourette’s.)

“WHY IS SHE HERE?!” reiterated the player; and suddenly I realized that besides being complimentary at the time, his comment was a recognition of his unworthiness — of me! — and his unreadiness to be with a magnificent woman my motha has taught me to be.  He needed to pay his dues, still; to suffer through more bitches in his life; until he himself realized that he deserved to reach for the goodness I was proposing with my taut body (again: thanks, mom!) and my generous, compassionate, exceptional heart (ditto!).

Now, this rant is not about horn-tooting.  (Hah!  That sounds naughty:  “horn-tooting”.)  It’s more than that.  This — is a fucking parade through your towns, cities and hamlets, my ladies.  To celebrate you — the magnificent daughters of your magnificent mothers — is my mission.  But since I may not be around during your own personal lapses of self-worth, I pray you listen to your mamas; for they are the ones reminding us that we deserve to be loved by men who, day in and day out, strive to be worthy of us. 

But then again, in this unhappily ending story, it’s not about our self-esteem (and if you ever let a player affect it, I myself will go Tony Soprano on your taut asses).  It’s about the men’s.

Until then, we, good girls, are better left alone — and single — and magnificent, just like our mamas:

“Without Love — There is Nothing.”

Today, I woke up feeling quite melancholic.

“Well, duh?!  You bitch are Russian,” you just might say.  “Don’t you guys pass out with your head collapsed amidst empty shot glasses and wake up reciting Chekhov over a cup of oil-black coffee?”

Da.  So, that happens! 

But V is not V if she won’t analyze the shit out of a situation.  My pondering usually looks like this:  With my face hidden behind a curtain of frizzy gypsy hair and my forehead scrunched up to eventually give me a headache, I pace around with a very firm step I’ve inherited from my mother.  While doing so, I look down—and only down!—which has made my previous lovers wonder if:

1.  I was dangerously pissed off; and

2.  if I was about to hurt them. 

(Trust me, no self-respecting American wants an angry Russian on his hands:  It’s just not that therapeutic for the cock!)  In other words:  I look fucking intense and there ain’t nothing anyone can do to snap me out of it.  Men have tried and failed, painfully.  Embarrassingly.  Because the worst thing a person can do to me in that moment is torture me with interrogations on what may be wrong or what he can do to help me.  No one can do jack shit!  I am my own responsibility, like the only child that I am.  I am my only source of misery and I am the creator of my light.  As a fifteen-year old, I once made my father—a Soviet Army official and the biggest power player in our town at the time—weep and turn gray in front of my eyes when I told him that I would be leaving his country (not mine!) and he had one choice of action:  to support me unconditionally—but never financially!  So, what skill can a lovely American with a charmed life summon to cope with a stubborn, high-strung, survivor’s will of mine?  Nada.  Nothing.  Thank you very much:  but I got if from here!    

Back to reality.  It took me a few hours of Nina Simone surfing to find the reason for this morning’s broodiness of mine.  It eventually revealed itself a couple of nights ago, when a beloved suffered in my arms from a friend’s betrayal.  A generous soul, he had been unjustly attacked by a person in the grips of jealousy and self-loathing.

“Is that all there is?!” my beautiful boy wondered.  “Does it ever get easier?”

Oh, but it does my darling.  Oh how it does!  Because these relationships are mere lessons, and eventually—you fucking learn.  Some people carry on with their friendships, no matter how disappointing they’ve turned out to be.  Then, they couple up with a person and a shrink that annoys them the least—and proceed to bitch and moan about the failure of human nature in others, and to judge their friends behind their backs.  They still hang with the haters and the competitors, only to be disappointed again; and to bitch and moan; and bitch and moan; and bitch and moan.  That’s one approach (in which one must get a certain level of enjoyment from being miserable).

I personally dance to a different tune.  I stubbornly keep the high standards in every love of mine.  My friends are a group of meticulously selected, time-tested Mafia of ball-breakers and perfectionists; and I can count them on my two hands.  They are the bunch whose numbers I’ve tattooed into my memory for an extremely rare occasion when I might need help.  For those few, I shall book a red-eye to anywhere in the world and double over with pain for the length of the flight because they are my very limbs and heart.  Their names have been written into my will; because unless this gypsy steals a child to inherit her money—they are the masters of the Estate of V.  They are my family—because my life has granted me none!  They are my witnesses with the harshest verdicts (but not harsher than the ones I reach on my own) and an army of shadows that follows me through my chaotic existence.  But if I just happen to reach back to grab them—they metamorphose into a fucking armor. 

The rest—I call “acquaintances.”     

“A pretty grim outlook, Russian,” you might justly point out. 

Yep.  Life’s a cunt.  But here is its secret.  (Man!  I’ve gotta start chargin’ for this shit!  ‘s alright though:  I’ll just have to settle for my first book contract!):

A life is nothing without love.  Life summons as much of an impact as a kernel of sand in a sand storm:  The world may know of its existence—theoretically—but neither does the world care about or empathize with its journey, let alone its suffering.  The only way to matter—is to love.  To love your Self first—yes!—to love your Self enough to do the best you can.  But most importantly—to love another.  Because that Other is the ear and the eye and the skin that will remember your happening.  You will not be forsaken!  You will not die forgotten if you’ve had the presence of soul to shut up the bullshit of your ego and to surrender to changing your and at least another person’s make-up—by loving.

So, this gypsy is calm.  Because she’s got herself an army of shadows!  Her Mafia of Lovers that marches to the beat of her heart.  Because no matter the scar tissue all over my brown skin, I shall never—I pray!—look at an opportunity to love and wonder, “Why should I?” but nod, and reveal myself from behind the gypsy-hair curtain, and utter:  “Fuck yeah.”