Tag Archives: love affair

“The Heart Breaks and Breaks and Lives…”

Remember the young love, the tumultuous and the difficult?  It would be a cause for arousing great anxieties — and for their dissipation, too — that would make one feel, at the very least, alive.  And for a gracious while, love could last on the suspended idealism of the two lovers:  Love conquers all.  Love will overcome…

Except that, sometimes — it wouldn’t.

Yet, even in that failure, one could confuse loving — for living.

“I think you’re, like, addicted to drama!” accused my last standing friend, Taisha, over sushi.  (She was actually sitting — cross-legged on a silk pillow — craning her neck over a bowl of udon noodle soup.  The long, swollen noodles shined through the brown broth with surprising starkness.)

“They’re famous for their noodles here!” proclaimed my last sitting friend.  She mostly spoke in exclamation points.  Taisha was always up on the hippest places to eat, in LA; and she spoke of them with a sense of urgency and worship, as if passing along the name of the best heart surgeon, in the country.

From the reclining passenger seat of her Prius, I had earlier protested:  “But I don’t even like sushi.”  I had been dragged out of my routine of melancholy and self-neglect; and even though I was glad to see the City’s never-ending light of day — grateful to have my heartbeat shocked back to its rhythm by the speed of it all — I still felt I had to throw a fit, just to suit the timeline a little better.  Because every love — had a timeline; and according to mine, I was still in the self-pitying stages of my mourning:

“My girlfriend.  Had left me.  For her ex.”

“Wasn’t it more like…  She never left her ex?!” Taisha was relentless.  Her people back in Kenya, whose suffering seemed to fit every argument of Taisha’s making (kind of like “Confucius say” of her own invention) — her people back in Kenya “were starving to death!  That’s tragedy!”  Whatever I was going through — was just “some frivolous, American bullshit”, including my current stage of raising objections to my god (for the likeness of whom I searched the faces of mortals) and confusing pity for compassion.  But where did I get off thinking that even compassion — was my right?

Taisha was right:  A soggy tissue in hand, my face — pruned, I better resembled a moody teenager, with no other tragedy in his life but the fact that his mother was in love with another man:

“Dad?” I would slobber into the phone, after each love affair’s turn for the worse; holding back my tears, otherwise they would be an admission of my failure.  I’d call, mostly out of needing a witness to my suffering, after the heart’s each little break.  (And what if these little heartbreaks surmounted to an unrepairable damage?  Maybe I did need the name of that surgeon, after all.)  “Is mom there?”

Before getting off the phone and passing off its receiver as some sort of a parental torch, my old man would manage to wedge in a lecture:

“Are you still in LA?  Gosh, kid!  What are you doing with your life?”

Prior to my decision to migrate to the West Coast, his lectures seemed better thought-out, better practiced.  In them, I could still hear the quotation marks of my mother’s gentle voice, as dad brought out the assumptions of my motifs and breakdowns of my troubled psyche.  But with time, he began to run out of breath.  Run out of words.

“I’m speechless,” he’d say, breathing heavily into the receiver, a pummeled heavyweight ready to count down the fights left in him, until his retirement.  “I’m utterly speechless, I tell you.”

Then, why speak at all?  “Please give the phone to mom.”

Speaking to mom was always malleable.  No matter with which expectations I marched into our a conversation, mom would always, capably, receive.  “My baby,” she’d half-whisper, with teary-eyed compassion catching her voice (for that was my right!).  Mom’s love was a place of warm breaths and moldable embraces that consumed so completely, I hardly wanted to come up for air.  There were no rhetorical questions, no passive-aggressive accusations; no drastic resignations at my expense.

“I give up,” was my father’s farewell every time, especially after we received his diagnosis of a coronary artery blockage.

Mom’s heart, on the other hand, was unblocked.  It was a space at which I could flail my objections to all the injustices of love — a padded room for the non-criminally insane and the criminally heart-broken.

 

In every affair, after the clothes had been untangled off of a lover’s body enough times to establish a routine to each other’s orgasms, things would begin to settle down.  Unavoidably.  Either the expectations of the sexual fantasies evaporated, unmet in most cases; or the two lovers would find themselves tired enough to settle down, giving room to domesticity.

Could you pick-up my dry-cleaning, dear?  Can you check on our bathtub drain, hun?

Our.  By the hour (for every love affair had its timeline), things would begin changing their possessives.

But love should never be possessive.  If you love something — set it free.

Or, so I heard from that one Canadian author who’d made a fortune from tinkering with the ideas of free will and self-liberation from fear, in his books.  Now! — he emphasized — “is what matters.  Focus on the Now!”  (His philosophy hit all the right notes with the youngest culture in the world that hadn’t acquired enough past to dwell on, yet — a culture whose grudges weren’t long enough to demand forgiveness.  The year — was, still, 2000.)  I, the American lover, had the Canadian’s tape rolling around  on the floor of my car; and at yet another little break of the heart, I’d attempt to listen to it.  His voice wouldn’t hum monotonously through the speakers for three minutes — and I would begin to fall asleep behind the wheel.  Yet another sleep-walker, in LA.  Another sleep-driver.  The Canadian Zen Master instructed for me to feel Nothing! in the Now!  Instead, I would feel so much! — “My heart would explode!”

(Seriously.  What was the name of that heart surgeon?)

Eventually, one simmered down.  Settled down.  Unavoidably:

Shouldn’t we just stay in, darling?  (Be weary of sharing spaces.  A home is only as safe as the compatibility of one’s habits.)

Do you wanna just rent a movie, doll?  (Words began colliding into each other, losing their endings:  wanna, gonna, sorta, kinda.  Familiarity attacked the language from its extremities, and it worked its way in.)

One suddenly found oneself falling in (long past having fallen in love, by now); falling into the softness of comfort you think you want, but suspect you may despise.  Because, with age and enough witnessed tales, marriage became to sound like a tired story.  And even if the fantasy could be prolonged for while — exhausting in itself, with its maintenance of reality’s suspension (which required its own discipline of rituals) — one would eventually agree to share a meal after sex via shortcuts.

And so, the familiarity would begin to slip in:  with a pair of earrings left behind on a dresser or an eventual invitation to spend the night.  (Although, in my history, it would always be accidental, like my crying myself to sleep on the couch after watching a rented flick.  A tired heart.)  But therein — exactly! — I would find my favorite parts.

And even though I despised my own desire to belong (not yet!  NOT Now!), I knew that after a night of shared sleep, things would demand being specified, even if it meant their ending.  Still, I would stay:  for the sake of learning the nooks along a lover’s body, measuring my curvatures against them:  the ying to the yang, the jig to the saw.  By then, the strained politeness of one lover’s visiting another’s bed would give room to exhaustion and voyeurism.  The secretly harbored hopes that, in their actuality, the lovers would be as glamorous as they had led each other to believe, would linger.  Please let there be no runs in the stockings or mascara!  No dirty underwear, no orphaned socks!

But the unconsciousness, already unleashed by tiredness, would begin to crowd the room, treading in the footsteps of the night’s shadows and revealing the private habits of both participants.  That’s when the true intimacy, however untimely or ungraceful, would knock on the door.

 

It would always be after the washing up (“I’m just gonna rinse-off, quickly!”), both of our skins emitting the perfumes of shared supplies, that Nina would stretch out on top of the covers — a big cat baby-talking of her kitten days:

“I love baths, don’t you?” she purred.

“Ah!  That’s the smell!” the recognition would piece itself together, as I buried my nose behind her earlobe or in the small of her back, where each pore was still exhaling the heat it had endured in the water of nearly scorching temperatures.  With every pore, she breathed against my face.

When love first reared its outlines, I would want to leave, wearing her on my skin.  I succeeded, but only in that point along the timeline:  only after using Nina’s toiletries — after the familiarity, the domesticity, the intimacy of co-habitation knocked on the door.  Each lover became a mere chart of chemical elements, taken apart, and then yielded together again.

She flipped over:  “I feel safe with you.”

My darling girl.  She was younger.  Young enough to belong to the previous generation that suffered from ailments I’d never even heard of, in my time.  Learning disabilities and controversial psychological malfunctions, with acronyms instead of names.  But the young were smarter than us (as well as they’re suppose to be).  Never before had the generation gap been so gaping:  a giant jaw chomping out chunks of common ground.  These kids would be more advanced, savvier with technology — and more impatient with humanity.  They spoke a whole different language, filled with abbreviations and smiley faces.  The generation of the easily distracted and bored, and of the perpetually amused.  LOL.

And then, she would kiss me, loudly; and while her muscles melted around the bones of her back, I rested my head above her heart and traced the constellations of the beauty marks in the tides of her falling, rising, and falling again stomach; while her chest visibly vibrated, a restless heart fluttering in the confines of her ribcage.  An unblocked heart of the young.

(To Be Continued.)

Better Safe Than Sorrier

But maybe, after all, justice was meant to sound like silence:  Not a marathon of mauled over words she had previously thought were required for forgiveness, which, in the end, left her exhausted; her throat — dehydrated.  Sarah despised feeling like that.  Shouldn’t forgiveness be a higher ground, an emotion that belonged to the Magnanimous and the Wise?  the, god bless them, Non-Mundane?  Instead, she watched herself become a woman with a sloppy face, like a washed-up actress on the screen of a decade-long soap opera; and she paced her apartment, with the cell phone sweating against her ear (surely causing her cancer later in life!); and she worked laboriously — on forgiveness:  Holding up each word in front of her torso, measuring it at the shoulder seams.  Are the sleeves too long?  Does it make her look fat?  Is there anything — left to be done?

And neither did this newly discovered sound of justice resemble the forced catharsis she chased in sessions with her shrink.  Where had she learned to expect these miraculous results?  Must’ve been on another TV show, somewhat better written for a channel on which the actors were allowed to swear; and they could cry unattractively, while spraying spit and snot.  (Later on, in interviews, these same actors would call the scenes “career defining”, while Sarah found them merely mocking humanity.  Maybe, the problem was she was easily bored.  Or, maybe, she understood too much.)

Sarah’s shrink was a poised woman who wore clothes from the manikins of Gap and Banana Republic — clothes that on Sarah always sat awkwardly and sadly, and made her apologize, for something, as she returned the silly plastic hangers to the changing-room girls:  “Sorry…”; the poised woman who appeared immune from being shocked by the atrocities Sarah’s mother had interfiled into her life, like thin jackets of DVD’s with splatter horrors,  hidden in a heart surgeon’s movie collection.

Nifty!  

The word one would never use in Sarah’s own obituary was made for the lives of women like her PsyD.  (Was the “p” silent, in that?  She’d assumed that, but was embarrassed to ask.  So, she began writing “Date with Sid” in her calendar, every Tuesday, even though the shrink’s name was Miranda.  Miranda Bloom comma Sid.)  Her Sid’s world — was nifty.  Nifty piles of magazines in a fan formation of a peacock’s tail.  Nifty little plastic plants, never wilting, lining the dust-less bookshelves with thick or thin books, always dense, whose reading made Sarah feel sleepy.  Or apologetic.  Even the clean-lined IKEA furniture — with unforgiving, hard surfaces and un-homey fabric patterns never to be found in her mother’s hysterical universe of tchotchkes — was nifty.

Sarah, unlike her Sid, could never be nifty.  She tried, coming back for another round of awkward mirror reflections in dressing rooms of Banana Republic.  But somehow, it just wouldn’t fit.  Any of it.  The store’s white lighting buzzed above and revealed Sarah’s old pockmarks from her 5th grade measles that her mother had decided to treat with holy water and sage.  Embarrassed, Sarah would place the nifty cloths over a pile of colorful and bejeweled women’s underwear while avoiding the bored and slightly inquisitive stares of the salesgirls (“Sorry…”); and she’d swear to never come back.

But she would.  After seeing another nifty woman laughing into the pinstriped bicep of a handsome man, on West End Avenue, she would attempt to shop for that life again, as if she hadn’t learned the lesson.  The same way she hadn’t learned the lesson with Doug — a tenured professor of poetry on an epic journey of trying to leave his wife.  She continued to come back to him.  Maybe this time.  They would carry on, until neither could recall whose turn it was to leave; who was doing the staying, the grasping, the scorning; and who would be in charge of forgiving.

“What do you want, ideally, from your life with Doug?” the shrink, looking particularly nifty, paced her words as Sarah thumbed the thinning threads of her sweater sleeves.  She often wore her clothes to tatters, until the freckles of rolled lint began crowding her armpits and crotch; and she would be, again, embarrassed.

“Sorry?”

She didn’t expect the question.  Between the two of them, Doug was the one with the plan.  She — was the woman with none.  She had met him at the library where she’d interned one summer, having purchased herself a Liberal Arts education that should’ve guaranteed her a teaching career, had Sarah really wanted one.  Except that she didn’t.  Hadn’t.  She hadn’t thought it through, while in college; and she landed in the library; landed with an intention to leave, eventually — like those grayish-white swans that landed in her Ukrainian birth village one autumn; but miscalculated, stayed too long and froze during the first drop of the temperatures.

She had been following her fragmented thoughts about her Sid’s sexuality, when the question got hung in the air, each word — an ornament of paper-thin glass:

“What do you__want?__Ideally.__From your life__with Doug?”

“I wonder if she dates women?” Sarah had been thinking, while thumbing her sweater, about the Sid, based on the mere fact that the woman wore primarily flat shoes.  Sarah stopped, having been caught red-handed.  Red-thumbed.

She, of course, would never say this out loud.  She — “of course!” — was much worldlier than that!  But Sarah was also an immigrant’s daughter, not born in this country.  (Which, to most, had made her worldly enough, but never exotic.  “Exotic” belonged to girls from the countries that Americans favored for tourism: the tan and taut creatures from escapist lifestyles, and from the irresponsible summer flings of middle-aged men, bored in their marriages.)  The dull shards of her mother’s old-fashioned prejudice still appeared in situations of ultra-Westernized pathos.  Like this one:  Sarah, on a very hard couch (surely earning herself cancer, later in life!); complaining, coming down hard, then taking cover from her shame in a numb silence of a spoiled brat; then, seeking refuge in a blunt stereotype with which her mother broke down the world.

No matter how hard she tried — to wring her hands, like that actress with the sloppy face — her shrink appeared unimpressed.  Some of Sarah’s college classmates had spoken of how easily they gained alliances with their Sids.  She, however, seemed incompetent at manipulation.  Sarah was smart but not that smart.  (Pretty, but not “exotic”.)  And she wondered if her shrink was now judging her for the extramarital affair with Doug.  (It was “extramarital” for Doug, not for Sarah.  Sarah was just an outside participant, far from being an outside force.  A third wheel, along for the ride, however crippled.  “The woman with none.”)

Could it be the case that her shrink was now appalled and no longer impartial?  Anything you say__or do__can__and will be__held against you?

Sarah never got the warning — from Miranda, the Sid.

Most of her teenage years, she had spend sorting out the world.  The one of her mother’s — which she was obliged to automatically respect — confused her with its invasive familiarity; and she found herself pretending to not understand the cashiers at the Ukrainian deli, who attempted to speak to her in Russian.  Somehow, they all knew her, even though their faces appeared no more familiar than the color-enhanced photographs of the folk dancers in the Times Travel Section, on Kiev.  But they knew her:  her name, her marital status (or the lack of one) and occupation.  Or, they knew her mother.  But did that at all justify their asking for her phone number so that they could fix her up “with a nice Russian boy” (which most of the time meant some young alcoholic heir of a local mechanic, who wore rhinestoned jeans and spent his inheritance on bottle services all over town)?

The new world — again, chosen by her mother who left the old country with five-year-old Sarah, in the name of a better life — that world seemed to be fast-talking and brash, filled with people who suffered from fashionable dis-eases, like “depression” and “ADD”; inflamed “sciaticas” and bored souls.  The new world seemed allergic to sentiment.  Even sex wasn’t safe here; and after her first “mature” (as her mother called it) experience, Sarah began to notice that sex came with shame.  The smarter girls (often “exotic”) used it to negotiate free deals.  Free meals.  The dependent ones confused it for love, always making, forcing something out of it.  And Sarah pitied the men who had been trained to get it, but not know what to do with it, afterward.  So, it would sit — a pulsating blur in one’s living-room, underneath the soft light, waiting for the lovers to go through with it.

“You, Amerikan vemen,” her mother would say, in her reckless English, whenever she lectured the American womanhood in her daughter.  “You dan’t know vat you vant.”

On her ride home on the A-train, Sarah had made a hobby out of watching the two cultures collide on the faces of Russian teenagers heading to Coney Island, late in the evening.  She could always pick them out of a crowd:  Their Western fashion looked slightly misfitted (far from nifty, and somehow wrong:  “Sorry…”).  And the words — “Whack!”, “Sick!”, “Fo’ sho’!” — came out unaccented phonetically, but their cadence was off.  Something was off, always, in the immigrant world; but because she couldn’t name it, perfectly, precisely, to her American contemporaries, Sarah often found herself misunderstood.  And silent.

“What’s your beef with yo’ mama, anyway, man?”  J.C. always called her “man”.  He was an artist living in Brooklyn Heights, and yes, they had tried sleeping together once.  J.C. stopped it from happening though, when Sarah’s toes got tangled up in his socks while she tried to pull them off with her feet.  (There were many ways to make sex feel pathetic.  But a naked lover in white tube-socks — was the surest.)

“I wanna respect you, man…” he said looking down at Sarah from a propped-up pillow while she paved a trail of dry kisses in between his breasts and wondered about a sexier way to get rid of a curly hair, stuck in the back of her tongue.  There was no such a way.  So, she hooked her index finger, jammed it inside her mouth and began fishing for it.

By then, J.C. was already spewing out his theories on sexual politics.  Sarah nearly gagged.  He was first generation American born, from South America (so, did that even count?).  She had assumed, at the time, that J.C. knew something she didn’t; so, she stopped.  In those moments, it would’ve been less awkward — or less sad — to be one of those outspoken, brave American girls, with wild hair, layers of hippie jewelry and bright red lipstick, who had ready ideas on sexual liberation of women and mysterious comebacks via the ironic lyrics of Dylan or Ginsberg.  Sarah was smart, but not that smart.  Not nifty.  Not “exotic”.

That night, she took the subway home, fishing for the curly hair in the back of her throat, in an empty train car.  What was the big deal, she wondered.  And why was it that men could so easily justify speaking on behalf of her conscience, her desires?

Doug had done it to her, for years:  choosing for her from the menus of fancy restaurants.  Over the years, their eateries would change, going from the dimly lit expensive places to the crowded diners with hairy waiters who emerged from the kitchen with stained pots of coffee.  Doug had been on an epic journey to leave his wife.  But maybe, Sarah just wasn’t enough of a reason.

Sorry…

Sarah leaned her forehead against the cold glass of the sliding doors and cried, quietly, finger hooking at the back of her throat.

(To Be Continued.)

“It’s NOT Going to Stop. It’s NOT Going to Stop. It’s NOT Going to Stop — ‘Til You Wise Up.”

They said their goodbyes over two cups of soup, in a narrow joint with floors filthy from the slush just outside the door.  Instead of a doormat, the management had placed down sheets of cardboard.  Not a pretty picture, but it was all somehow very… New York.

And the lines of their dialogue did not resemble any tragic love affair from the best of the world’s cinema.  He was civil but not tender, just maintaining a casual conversation.  It had been a chronic anxiety, for her, when others relied on the arrival of tomorrow.  Since childhood, she was silly with her goodbyes, always making room for them.  Just like she did that day:  Insisting on sitting down for it, instead of aimlessly walking through the City that had seen way too many unhappy endings prior to theirs.

She had made a mistake of ordering something that sounded the most exotic, with yellow curry; but then she discovered ground chicken in it.  She was a vegetarian.  To save herself from the embarrassment — in front of him and the tired black woman working the line alone, during the rush of lunch hour — she pretended to eat around the white meat.  Until he noticed it.

“You’ve gotta order something else!” he scoffed; and for the duration of their entire pathetic meal, which they’ve spent fully clothed, in their coats and he — in his hat, her mistake would be enough of a diversion from what was actually happening:  He was leaving, like so many before him; looking for a graceful exit that no longer existed due to his cowardly procrastination.

“Oh, c’mon!” he kept trying to make her the pun of the joke.  “You can’t just eat around the meat!  You can’t keep doing… this thing that you do!”

Bingo!

A few months into the affair, he had begun reminding her of someone else.  That day — on the repeatedly reiterated subject that suddenly so obviously annoyed him — she finally tracked it down:  Someone else had happened to her, in this same City, nearly a decade ago.  Someone else who had no intention of sticking around; who often got shamed of her in public — and in front off much chicer dressed young women, with whom he had to think he had a chance.  Someone else who had hidden her from his family and friends, who pleaded for only private getaways; who gave her slivers of his time — if any — during the holidays.  Someone else who’d made a good use of her youth and sex, but had no courage to end it.

Even back then, in her much younger — less jaded, more innocent — self, she felt something was akimbo.  Not right.  The intuition kept scratching on the ventricles of her heart.  In those days, she wouldn’t call it that:  Intuition.  Not yet.  She needed a few more disastrous repetitions and embarrassing endings — to become more in tune with her self-respect.  But the sensation was already there:  Something wasn’t right.  By the universality of her gender, she knew:  Not right.

Now, a decade older, she still couldn’t name it:  that feeling of not being enough.  Too poor, too orphaned; with not enough stock or family inheritance to her name.  Pretty enough and selfless in bed — that was the only thing that made them last.  But the awareness of that same feeling was beginning to land in the corners of her eyes with a melancholic recognition of the pattern:  He — was leaving.  Maybe not that day, and maybe not even after they would reunite at home, on the other coast.  But eventually.

This trip had to end abruptly for him.  He had to go.  Maybe it could last a little longer:  She could walk him to his town car.  They could grab another drink at their hotel’s bar.  But he would finish his cup of soup — and hers, with the chicken — then hug her outside the door, in the snow, among the locals who, just like their City, had grown indifferent to the sight of all endings.  He would be clumsy, as that earlier someone else, trying to avoid meeting her eyes.  Their height difference made it impossible though, so he would scurry off as soon as he couldn’t help but notice her face:  Heartbroken.

“That’s right, fucker!” she thought of him meanly for the first time.  “You will NEVER forget me!”

What else could she do to repair herself, in that moment — but to gloat in the peacefulness of her lack of guilt?  She had been good, to this someone and the other one.  To so many others, she had been good, or generous at least.  It could’ve all been simplified in their honest communication of intentions.  Instead, they had chosen to drag her along, while offering just enough attention but never too much of it.  They procrastinated past the moment when she would fall in love; they scurry off into the landscapes of her Cities.

And the bloody New York — was still there.  Like a background action shot, fabricated meticulously by a film crew, it continued to happen:  with the never ending honking of cabs and beeping of closing and opening bus doors; with people coming and going — toward their dreams, careers and sex; or running away from love.  Nowhere else did it smell or sound like this.  And even with the strange sensation of something ending — something snapping and curling up to catch a breath — she knew she was still glorious:  Because she loved it — all of it — so much!

“Never, never, never!  You will NEVER forget me!” the City was humming along with her.  And she didn’t even care about the already vague memory of someone leaving her behind, in it.

“Except, Around Hollywood and Western — We Have to Keep Doing It!”

“Oh, but everyone’s got these stories!” a man of tired compassion told me as he heard my saga of homecoming, this jolly holiday season. “I mean, after all,” he said, “this country is made entirely of immigrants!”

I wondered, as I studied his ethnically ambiguous face:  Was he East Indian, a couple of generations removed from his native land and now free from all the confines of his original tradition — to make what he could of it?  It not, how ever did he find his way into my yoga class?

Was he like me:  Tasting all religions in his youth, in hopes of finding a recipe to peace?  Some religious texts had tempted me with their poetry before; others — with their majority.  I’d always wanted to belong, so I kept looking.

Was he, like me, at liberty to pick and choose between the details of his heritage, only wearing it when most convenient for his now American identity?  Did he carry his comedy routines in side pockets:  At the expense of his immigrant and heavily accented parents, he could whip ‘em out at gatherings of curious American friends?  Did he practice the routines on paper first, or did he merely get addicted to the laughter he could cause — and so he’d work them out in public?

The evening city hummed and sparkled outside the windows.  Across the street, I could see a casting space where I had once nearly died of shame by bumping into an ex-lover from a disastrous affair.  He sat in the corner, with his giant legs stretched out ahead, sounding every bit like that one asshole actor who must practice his lines out loud, at full volume, in a waiting room filled with his competition and the rookies from Ohio.

That morning, I had announced official warfare against my acne; and my Hollywood haircut refused to cooperate at covering it.

I saw him first, pretended not to, and thankfully got called immediately.  That’s when he must’ve heard my name; because by the time I had stepped out, he was standing by the doorway.

“I thought that was you!” he said and shifted on his feet as if leaning in for a hug.

Our story was so typical, it should’ve made it into a sitcom about actors in LA-LA:  He wanted a rebound with someone with his ex’s Slavic face — another actress — and I had wanted more.

“No fuckin’ way, American buddy!” I thought.

But out loud, I said, “I’ve gotta run,” and blew my bangs out of my eyes.  He noticed the stampede of pimples across my forehead:  stubborn and multiplying.  “Another audition!  Gotta run!”

“Yeah,” he said, mesmerized by my forehead.  “Yeah.  Definitely.  But let’s do coffee sometime!”

Natalia Vodianova

Everyone’s got these stories, it is true.  My friends had all suffered, at least once, from having used someone for sex, or from having been used.  And then, we’d all scrape up our dignity to have the courage to keep showing up:  to other dates and to auditions; and to the companies of friends, where we readily whip out our comedy routines and force-feed ourselves with laughter.

To be happy here, it takes discipline.  Or some serious delusion. Some of us had had those mental breakdowns that justified our flight from this fucking place.  Others would just have an episode, go home to recover — then return for more.

The ethnically ambiguous man continued:

“I’m going home myself,” he said.  “Can you believe it’s holidays already?!”

The traffic crawled along the boulevard underneath.  Two lanes of it:  one fire-engine red, another — silver.  An eatery at the corner was glistening with Christmas lights; and reflected by the changing colors of the traffic light, its giant windows would take on different shades, at well timed intervals.  With the shimmer of the hills behind it, the city looked so pretty, suddenly.  And standing above the traffic, out of it, I thought to find it peaceful.  But then, I changed my mind.

I wanted to object to my ethnically ambiguous co-practitioner of yoga:

“It’s not your turn to speak, American buddy!”

But he had been carrying on, by then.  He’s got that story, too!

And so:  I listened.

“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.

Hit the Road, Jack!

A heavy heart.  She believed it to be a condition of the true. 

“Not now…” her girlfriends in bad relationships pleaded, their faces looking like sad dogs or startled babies, right before they howl with grief.  “Maybe tomorrow, you can tell me the truth.  But not now.”

They were hurting, like so many:  An epidemic of the living.  She understood that.  But she always thought it was better to hit the road.

Her losses — there have been many.  Plenty of little defeats.  But maybe it was her father, who as she remembered always stood so very tall; maybe it was he who taught her to get up and hit the road, again and again, even if merely out of habit.

He himself had long been self-discounted to the camp of the defeated:  Those who got through a listless crawl of days that were mundane most of the time — at their best — and chaotic for the rest of the year.  (Once, he confessed that he preferred the chaotic ones; because at least then, he couldn’t ponder his way through them.)

He had stayed behind, in a country that she fled before she too joined the defeated.  Because she wanted so much more than survival.  Because she got sick in the lobbies of its office buildings, hospitals and dorms, all smelling alike — like chlorine and mildew — waiting and waiting for someone to come and get you, only to give you another dose shit.  Daily resignation to injustice just wasn’t enough:  She wanted to strive, to flourish; to chase ideals, like a cat does mirror reflections on the wall.  She wanted the truth; and she had hoped, for the world.  

So:  She hit the road.

But the heavy heart followed.  (She believed it to be a condition of the true.)

“Truth’s okay,” a wise woman once recommended.  “But you have to say it with a smile.  Otherwise, you’re all sharp edges.”

“Look!  A roach in your salad,” she said; then remembered the woman’s advice — and smiled.  Better?

Every night, when heading home, at the end of all that striving and flourishing — the hour of the heavy heart would rapidly descend.  Because she knew that in between the white walls (which her lease prohibited her from painting), there would be no distractions.  Only pondering.  Only the truth.  (Oh, is that why she always preferred to be in the midst of a love affair:  Because she could reach for the voices of her lovers like others reach for a midnight snack?  But then again, she never knew how to end it.  How to wait for the end.  So, she’d either found herself “in the midst” — or hitting the road.)

Sometimes, she’d take the longest routes home, through the unpredictable neighborhoods of her city that she was beginning to memorize by heart.  Her sometimes heavy heart.   

“How do you not get lost around here?” her mother, always the passenger, asked her every single time.

“I’d rather be fucking lost, trust me!” she responded; then remembered the woman’s advice — and smiled.

Some nights though, she just couldn’t bear it.  After all of her failed attempts to get lost, she’d return to the white walls; leave the bags in the kitchen, then turn right around and leave.  Oh how she wished to live in a city with tolerance for pedestrians!  Still:  She hit the road.

And so, she would drive through her city, over and over —  through it, around — hoping to discover a new street.  To get fucking lost.  She hated those “Dead End” signs — always so brutal and non-negotiable! — and preferred one-way streets.  Those ditches on the road — she kind of liked them:  They always jolted her to an awareness and justified a complaint.  She liked shortcuts, through alleys and parking lots, especially when it was unclear if she was heading the wrong way.  The poorly lit streets of immigrant neighborhoods thrilled her and she rolled down her windows:  to get a whiff of their contented survival.

She studied other drivers, most of whom always seemed unaware of their living behind the glass walls.  She hated being stuck behind trucks and buses, even though most forewarned her of making frequent stops and wide turns.  So she’d zoom around them.  Prii — always brought bad news.  (She liked calling them “Priuses” anyway.)  So, she’d go around those too, while shaking her head and avoiding eye contact with the owners.

When following police cars, she never knew if she was allowed to go faster than them; because truth be told, she rarely knew the speed limit.

“WATCH THE ROAD” their stickers recommended.  Not:  “WATCH THE SPEED”.

So, she’d speed around those as well.

“Ooh, gurl,” one night, a driver of a bus she had just passed, attempted to talk to her through his cracked window.  She looked over.  Very much the jolly type, he probably never suffered from a heavy heart.  He was grinning:  A happy wanderer.

“Come wit me?” he said with some sort of a mishmash of Caribbean accent and street talk.

“Okay,” she responded, surprising herself with the sudden lightness of her own heart.

“Meh say:  Come WIT me!”  The man was in the midst of a sermon.

“OKAY,” she laughed.  “Where are we going?”

“Whedeva ya want, gurl!”

She considered:  “India?”

“Let’s — go!”

“Now?”

“Yeh, gurl.”

“Don’t you have passengers?”  She looked back at the monstrosity she’d zoomed around:  No wonder it makes wide turns.

“Ya make me wanna pull dis ting ova’!”  He grinned at her, with not a hint of creepiness, just joy and admiration.

“Well.  Then, let’s hit the road,” she said.

Of course, at the green eye of the traffic light, she’d sped past him, and past the orange monstrosity he was lugging around town, with seeming contentment.  Straight home she went, for the white walls of her apartment which she was prohibited to paint.  And when she stood in the midst of her kitchen — alone with her heavy heart — she thought:

“This isn’t so bad,” — and reached for the fridge, at midnight.

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.

From a Happy Ending — to Ending Happily

With some couples, it just doesn’t work out.  That’s the sad and unfortunate tale, my darling boys ‘n’ girls — a tale as old as civilization itself — that some relationships never reach their Happily Ever After.  Scratch that:  Some loves don’t even have a remote chance to reach their mid-way potential.  They’re just never meant to.

Because unless a love is on its very first round for both participants who are completely innocent and unscathed, someone steps into it while carrying a load or two of baggage.  Someone’s father didn’t love them enough.  Someone’s mother was a fuck-up.  Someone’s ex mistreated them.  Someone else had a history of settling for less than what they deserved.  She got cheated on.  He ended up not trusting humanity and fearing the vulnerability of love.  Oh, the reasons for the baggage are endless, my darlings!  I had seen enough of them to start believing that that very baggage is pretty much a permanent part of the process; and if not that, it’s an unexpected third character.

I mean:  Look at Romeo and Juliet.

Those two kiddos were lucky enough to experience the rare coincidence when both parties love each other equally and, what’s utterly amazing, for the very first time.  But even in the case of these two “star-crossed lovers,” they did not start-up their famed affair without a couple of issues in tow.  Even though their baggage didn’t originate from previously failed affairs, these two teenage lovers had inherited plenty of it from their families.  And once there is baggage — the affair cannot remain light.  Sooner or later someone’s gotta start reshuffling their shit, impose some transference upon their new lover, repeat a pattern or freak-out entirely.

And sometimes, a love affair is predetermined to not work out.  Back to our unfortunate kiddos in Verona, their Happy Ending was doomed from the get-go.  As for the rest of us who have lived — and loved — enough, we can’t even figure out if we’ve chosen our future beloveds to fit the pattern or to escape it.  Because when it comes to one’s history and one’s future — they are two codependent aspects.

“Damn, V!  That’s a grim outlook,” you may say.

Well, there is hope in it yet, my dear comrades.  With the help of some therapy and mutual communication, a love has a chance of surviving being bashed by egos.  But it takes hard work, of course.  However, I never said that the hopefulness came at a reasonable price.

But today’s rant blog is not even about love:  It’s about the loss of it.

Allow me to ask you this poignant question, my dear comrades (for such is my destiny — to be poignant; and “yourr velkom”!):  Why must we insist on making each break-up messy?  What’s with all the finger pointing, and the issue having, and the claims of righteousness, and the entitlement to justice?  Besides the reshuffle of things and bodies that must naturally occur when a Happily Ever After doesn’t work out, most failed lovers refuse to walk away without pulling some final punches.  Whatever happened to calling it quits without losing the grasp on grace; if not for the sake of the two people that the lovers have grown to become, then for the sake of the initial more smitten and kinder players they were in the beginning of the affair?

This has been puzzling me lately, I must confess, my comrades.  In the light of my recent willingness to make my new love story work out while simultaneously seeking my forgiveness of the previously failed ones, I’ve been rewinding some of my past break-ups.  (So, okay:  I’m masochistic a lil’!)  It’s like a bloody home movie marathon in my head these days!

And what I’ve discovered was that regardless the promises of kindness and the vows “to love and to hold,” in the final chapter of my every love story, shit got messy.  Even after I’ve wised-up enough to stop confusing screaming phone calls and slammed doors as an expressions of that same love, the drama (for the lack of a better word) didn’t stop.  Because even if I’ve decided to walk away without losing my graces, the other — often poorly chosen from the start partner — made it messy.

In the end, my darling boys ‘n’ girls, it all worked out, of course.  The broken hearts healed.  New loves eventually arrived.  In some cases, there even blossomed a lovely friendship between my exes and I.  But the residual guilt or the overall heaviness from an ungraceful break-up hung around for a bit; slowing down the process of healing and imposing itself onto the next affair.

So, why, I must repeat, this “much ado about nothing”?  Why can’t we, lovers, agree to depart without leaving each other undamaged?

Isn’t there a way to call it quits without the two prizefighters trying to pull those final punches that would knock the wind out of their opponent?  And instead of utilizing the energy of all that anger and mourning toward inflicting pain, may I dare suggest redirecting it toward summoning some gratitude for the obvious privilege of having loved at all?  And if a Happy Ending is just not meant to be, can an affair’s ending happen with some contentment, at least?

“To the Left, to the Left!”

The other midnight, while on Hollyweird’s no longer secret throughway of Fountain Ave,  I found my lil’ sporty car revving up its engine while impatiently crawling behind a clunker.  For those of you who haven’t had the privilege of sitting in traffic on this one-lane residential street running in between the freak-show of Sunset Boulevard and the parking lot of Santa Monica Boulevard, it is still one of the more reliable routes to take if you don’t ever wanna be the douche who walks-in late for a meeting — or an audition, or a dinner reservation — and says:

“Gosh!  The traffic!”

Oh really?  Traffic in LA-LA, eh?  Shocker.  Must the gay people’s parade out there, or something, huh?

Normally, when wasting my life in traffic, I’d resort to one of two choice:  either I swear colorfully enough to make the other drivers’ outer ears wilt, or I think of Eckhart Tolle and pretend to meditate.  But at midnight?

“WHY in the bloody, fuckin’ Dickens am I going at 3-fuckin’-miles an hour — with NO other cars in sight?!” I thought, and began to spew out hefty nicknames I’d call the driver of the clunker if ever that moron and I had a face-to-face encounter.

I was sitting behind him at a red light, waiting to make the left turn that would finally liberate me from his retarded choice of speed, when the passenger door flung open and a gorgeous creature leapt out onto the street.  She was petite, in some shiny, skin-tight Cat Woman outfit, with a bouncy bob of glossy black hair.  In twelve-inch heels, she jetted for the sidewalk, leapt up onto the curb and started walking.  By the temper of her strut, and the swing of her elbows, and the hesitant stall of the clunker once the light switched to green (the poor fucker forgot where he was going!), I quickly realized that I was witnessing a relationship dispute.

Now, a long, long time ago — this cat’s several lifetimes ago, to be precise — my love affairs used to have that sort of a dramatic feel to them as well.  Now, don’t get me wrong, my comrades:  Especially in the beginning, my lovers were always beautiful and love-worthy — of various nations and tongues, professions and talents, physical attributes and endowments, age groups and income; with unpredictable hairlines and bodily hair.  Oh, they were lovely!  Really!  But that’s, of course, until an affair would start going to shit (and let’s not kid ourselves:  we all know when a relationship does a one-eighty toward the unavoidable break-up); at which point, no matter how much I’ve tried to brace myself for grace and some degree of gratitude during the transition, it would always get dirty.

Not really a flaky or fearful partner (and because as an ex-Soviet, I accept suffering as part of the deal), I would still try to stick around “to fix it”.  But once there are cancer cells in the body of a relationship, most likely it is time to wrap-up all the loose ends and with a heavy realization of its unavoidable demise, just ask:

“Doctor?  How long do I have left?”

The mess that followed my departures (and I would always be the one to leave:  https://fromrussianwithlove.wordpress.com/about/) would take years to clean-up; often accompanied by astronomical phone bills due to all the sorting-out and the fishing-for-forgiveness conversations.  Or should I call them “fights”?  Hmm…  Yep:  They were fights!  Often unclean and unfair, loaded with lists of mutual grievances and tears; and a certain degree of my hyperventilation, because once again, I wasn’t sure where I had gone wrong…

Now, wait up!  Wait up a second here, V!

Actually, with enough honest examinations of my inner and outer selves, I have to confess:  I always knew when shit wasn’t right. Yep, I’ve seen the red flags and the signs of messy things to follows. Yet still, I would impatiently rev-up my inner engine and drive right over them — and into the arms of a man wrongly suited for me from day one.  And once in them — in those moderately or plentifully haired arms — I would continue to speed toward the Committed Relationship chapter of the affair.  More red flags would pop-up; yet I’d be in the zone, jacking-up my speedometer, Danika Patrick style.  And I would continue to stubbornly ignore my intuition — until the routine of the relationship would finally set in; at which point, I’d have NO choice but to slow down, eventually pull over, and collect all the self-violation tickets.

Okay, you get the metaphor, my comrades.

So, when the Cat Woman leapt out of that obviously ill-suited for her magnificence vehicle the other night, I had to remember my own stunts of jumping out of derailed relationships and my lovers’ moving chariots.  So, what did I do?  I U-turned, my lovelies!  (Illegally, of course!)  Because I too had suffered enough and could empathize with the Cat Woman’s Walk of Freedom.  And although I couldn’t help her with cleaning-up her poor choices and patterns, it was my civic — womanly — duty to ensure her safety that night.

Again, I sped, with my very ovaries pushing on the pedal.  But by the time I caught-up to our gorgeous kitten’s trajectory, she had already gotten back into the clunker.

“Well,” I thought.  “She hadn’t had enough yet!”

So, I said a prayer for our Cat Woman’s safety, hoping that she would always land on her feet; wished for clarity in her next life — and sped off home.