Tag Archives: self-pity

“And It’s a Hard, It’s a Hard, It’s a Hard, It’s a Hard: And It’s a Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall!”

It was her first fall in LA-LA.

“What is — this place, out here?” she thought, when she noticed that beauty wasn’t throwing itself, suicidally, into her face.  Or, humanity, for that matter.

“May I, at least, have some humanity, around here?”

On those first mornings when she woke up in soaked sheets, she would slide open the windows to air-out her bedroom.  But it made no difference.  The heat would keep hanging at the ceiling of her top floor apartment — much more spacious than the one she dwelled in, back in New York.  And by the end of the day, its molecules smelled of smog — and of her own sweat.

And the sweat was different here, too.  In the heat of August that made New Yorkers flee the City, she loved to venture out into the streets, still just as crowded, but mostly with baffled tourists — not locals — who would jump out of her way, startled by her outraged footsteps.  She would walk around for hours, feeling the unmistakable humidity that made the City smell like rotten garbage and, yes, human sweat.  And while she stood on subway platforms, she could feel the drops of her own perspiration slide slowly from her ass cheeks to the back of her knees, under her long skirts.  She felt the whiff of sex, hers and others’:  And it promised — more life.

There seemed to be some unexpected romance in those days:  For the first time, she finally felt like she was belonging.  But how could she belong in a place she was leaving, so soon?

The one-way ticket already had been bought by her mother, who upon hearing the news of the divorce, put away her dramatics and got stoic, for a change:

“You’re coming to California,” motha said over the phone.

“You make me sound like a folk song,” she thought, in response.  Yet, she obeyed. 

It was the wisdom of the women of her motha’s clan — to never plead or grovel for a man to change his mind.

She was going to California.

There would be plenty of chaos upon her landing:  Finding an apartment seemed easier; for there always seemed to be plenty of departing who packed up their shit into double-parked U-Halls, sweating and swearing at the city’s expense.  But the city’s leasers seemed indecisive and slow.

“Everyone keeps acting as if they’ve got better choices, out here,” she told her best friend in New York.  “Or, they just namedrop.”

Like the little man with glistening eyes who, despite being bound to a wheel-chair, managed to lurk over her when interviewing her for a roommate position.  On his living-room wall, she could see a framed, autographed poster of a recently released indie flick that was pretty well reviewed in The Times, that summer.

“I produced that,” the little man said, reminding her of one those exotic birds on the Discovery Channel that puff themselves up into alien shapes — just to get some tail.  From under the smeared lenses of his glasses, his narrow eyes were sliding up and down her body.  His face was glistening with sweat.  She got up, feeling like she needed a shower at the closest motel she could find, on Sunset Boulevard.

“Well, what do you think?” the little man wheeled after her, to the door, lurking.  “I could make you a star!”

She walked out.

“Really?” her best friend said calmly.  “Do they actually say things like that, out there?”

And then, there was the job search, in which every lobby looked like a waiting room for an audition or a cattle call.  And no one else seemed to be breaking a sweat, after driving in the apocalyptic-degree heat.

“We aren’t making any decisions right now,” the interviewers kept saying.  “But we’ll keep your resume on file.”

“Then, why did you waste my time?” she actually said to a group of young entrepreneurs who looked like the cast of Entourage and, after sliding their eyes up and down her body, asked her to tell them “something they couldn’t have known — by looking at her”.  (She told them she was good at harakiri.)

She walked out, got back into her car and wasted more time.  The heat outside was still insatiable!  And in the midst of it, everyone was always up for a hike.  Or “a coffee date, sometime”.

The rain would finally come by the end of October.  And it wouldn’t stop.

The roads would get shiny at first, and for the first time, since landing, she would smell the nearing of another season — not of her own sweat.  The nights would get cold, and she would insist on walking, to any outside cafe, on Sunset Boulevard, and getting soaked. It was the first time she would cry the tears worthy of the women of her motha’s clan:  They weren’t filled with self-pity anymore, but with rage.  And rage — was always better, for survival.

 

Finally, there would be a callback for a maitre d’ position at some pretentious overpriced restaurant, on the West Side, with a diva-chef in the kitchen.  She would swim in her motha’s decade-old clunker to other side of the city.  Driving in the middle lane seemed safer, but some maniac in a German car would always honk and zoom past her, on the right, and give her car a full rinse with the filthy water from the gutters.

“You’re terribly overqualified,” the general manager with a bulldog’s jaw would tell her, at the end, after the two-hour drive.

She got up and tried to make it to the door without breaking down into another outraged tear shed.  Her scuffed shoes made a chomping sound:  Her feet were soaked.  So was her hair.

He would follow her, to the door:

“We’ll keep your resume on file though,” he’d say.

“Please, don’t!” she actually said.

Because it was the wisdom of the women of her motha’s clan to never plead for a man to change his mind.

She walked out.

“She Never Stumbles — She’s Got No Place To Fall. She’s Nobody’s Child. The Law Can’t Touch Her At All.”

It is truly fucking amazing, but for the very first time in my life, being single does not seem like a social ineptness — a disease of which I am a carrier.

So, as I stand in front of an overwhelmed ticket cashier at my fancy local movie theater, I no longer feel awkwardly apologetic when I say:

“One — for Crazy, Stupid, Love, please.”

The chubby, stressed-out girl in an ill-fitted penguin-like uniform looks up at me.  It’s the weekend, but I had just come from a day of hard work.  My hair is pulled back.  I’m exhausted, not in a self-pitying way of someone burdened by survival; but in a relaxed, proud manner of someone making her own way in the world.

“Was that:  One?” she repeats.

I thought I spoke clearly.  I usually do, with strangers, subjecting only my beloveds to my habit of speaking in code.

“Yes,” I say, and I smile as kindly as my tired, non-pretty face allows.

The girl purses her lips and flips her computer screen toward me:

“Where would you like to sit?” she says.

I don’t really know how it happens in the lives of other young girls, but in my own adolescence, I’ve never been taught how to get myself successfully paired up.  There is nothing my father wanted more, of course, than for me to get married and settle down, always in close proximity to his house.  He somehow hoped I would figure it out on my own and — magically! — end up with a decent guy (which by Russian definition meant someone who could hold his liquor and was good at fishing).  I would end up with someone my father could trust enough to pass me into his care.

At the same time though, he never talked to me about dating.  It made him uncomfortable — this idea of my inching my way toward the problems of adulthood, day after day.  And the sequence of my father’s glottal sounds while he sat on the edge of my bed one night and tried to talk to me about sex would make Bill Murray want to take notes:  It was so uncomfortably funny.

“Um, P?” I had to interrupt him, because I wanted to remember my father as a hero, NOT as a man incapable of uttering the word “sex” while blushing like a teenager.  “It’s past midnight and I’ve got an English final in the morning.”

I was in tenth grade.

Not kidding.  Dad — or “P”, as I called him, lovingly, in my habit of speaking in code — had always been delusional about my sexual development.  I wasn’t even sure he knew I had gotten my period four years prior.  Most of the time, we just talked about my studies.  Because all my life, I had been an exemplary student, earning my way into the best private school in our city; and my education — was the biggest of my own concerns anyway.

“You just gotta be careful…” he mumbled that night, and once he got up, he would fumble with the seam of his thermal shirt and blink rapidly to avoid my stare.  “That’s all I’m saying.”

“I am, P.  Good night,” and I smiled at him as kindly as my tired face would allow.

And that was it.  That was the only time P chose to suffer through that topic.  Not even after my parents’ divorce would either of them invest any time in explaining the complexity of human relationships to me:  the work that it took to be successfully paired up, and the amount of self-awareness; the amount of commitment.

Whatever I learned about dating I would learn from my contemporaries.  Boys would be the main topic in the cafeteria of my college, to which I had arrived on a full scholarship.  Again, in my 20s, education would remain the biggest of my concerns.  By the end of our studies, many of my classmates would be engaged, or married; or moving back home where they were awaited by their families and boyfriends.  I, however, was en route to graduate school, hustling my way to earn more scholarships.

In our rendezvous to the City, we would occasionally meet up — my college contemporaries and I — and they would purse their lips at my awkwardly apologetic answer:

“Yes.  I’m still (insert a shrug) — single.”

In my dating life, I would feel clumsy and uncertain.  By the example of my contemporaries, before each date, I would dress myself up into what seemed to be a better, prettier version of me:  And during the date itself, I would often gain a headache.  Because by the end of it, I couldn’t keep track of all the omissions and alterations I would manufacture.  And when I wouldn’t hear from my dates for weeks, I would throw myself back into my studies.

Something would change of course, with time.  Somewhere during the pursuit of my dreams, I would begin to sit in my skin a bit more comfortably.  There would be a slew of reckless relationships and even a failed marriage; but I would begin to learn about dating, by trial and error.  And the one thing that eventually became obvious was this:

I was NOT like most of my contemporaries.  I was someone paving her own way in the world since a very young age, via her education.  I was also an immigrant who had to work twice as hard as her contemporaries in order to be their equal.  So, there was no way I could use someone else’s skills and opinions in order to pair myself up, successfully.

Because I am no longer willing to mold myself into a better, prettier version of me, I am beginning to find that the version of me already in existence — is pretty fucking amazing.  And that very version, however tired or un-pretty, I now carry into my dates; and I surprise myself that the men I choose seem to be more comfortable with me as well.  They are more confident, more fun.

And then I move on, to more adventures and dreams, in the pursuit of which I don’t really need to be paired up — UNLESS successfully.

“Um, miss?” the penguin-girl appears even more stressed out since meeting me.  “Where would you like to sit?  We’re almost sold out, but since you’re single…”

I smile.  I choose the best seat in the house, buy myself a single latte and wandering through the lobby’s bookshop, in a relaxed, proud manner of someone who can afford herself these tiny privileges, in life.

I am someone — making her own way in the world.  And I’m pretty fucking amazing!

“Hey, Pretty! Don’t You Wanna Take a Ride with Me?”

I had a beautiful girl in my car the other night, and I could’ve driven like that — forever!

‘Cause here is the thing:  I like it when people ask me for help.  Nope, scratch that:  I like it when MY people ask me for help. Because just like me, my people are self-sufficient and competent; so proud, so beautiful — quite the badasses of the human race! — and they act as if they’re permanently alright.  The fact that youth and ambition is still on our side makes that last illusion believable.  We still have that strut of the young, their health, endurance and strength; so even if life serves us up some uncertainty, we lap it up like a juicy, slightly sandy oyster:

“Slurp!  Delicious!”

Some of my people — blossom in uncertainty.  They are the most fearless of the bunch, dwelling in a higher dimension, yet mercifully extending their hand from up there when I am ready to expand yet again, to grow.  But even if I’m not ready — it’s alright, they reassure me.  Really:  It is!  Go at your own pace and don’t try to become anyone else but yourself.  Because there are enough lies in life, so you better be in control of your own fiction.

For others, uncertainty may set off some emotional white noises:  doubt, lack of confidence, and very rarely, a sliver of self-pity.  And I get it:  I ain’t judgin’!  Because my people have had an earful of my own bullshit, yet they have loved — and even worshiped — me despite of it.  So, they bitch and moan for a lil’ bit; and we all go to sleep, eventually, tangled up in each other’s limbs.  Early in the morning though, I wake up next to empty pillows with imprints of their beloved heads — and they will already be onto the next thing:  Gone.  To the next, higher dimension!  They are so self-sufficient and proud, permanently alright; forever beautiful.  Such — are my people!

So, when under the influence of an impulse, one of them suddenly turns and says:

“Hey, V?  Can you give me a lift?”

“FUCK YEAH!” I go.  “I thought you’d never ask.”

And so, they get in.

I don’t often get passengers:  It is the style of this city to be more solitary in larger spaces.  The larger the space — the more solitary you find yourself.  Yet, we demand space around here, get blue in the face when we don’t get it; and Shiva forbid a boundary gets crossed — we foam at our mouths, outraged at such a crime!  But the geography is large enough to accommodate us all (us, our egos, what we think we deserve or have been robbed of — and all that personal space!).

Most, however, are still solitary when driving:  So solitary they forget that the rest of us can see them through the bubbles of their glass walls.  As if invisible, they insist on negotiating with ambiguous gestures:  honking or revving up the engine, or flipping their version of a “fuck you” once they are at a safe distance apart from their often unknowing offender.  And it would all be quite funny, if it weren’t so dangerous.  Because that’s how isolation is — dangerous.  And sad.

And so, they get in — my people — taking over my space.  Willingly, breathlessly, I surrender:  I always have too much of it — this fucking space, in this fucking city!  My people get in, buckle up, adjust their seats.

My boys are always taller than me.  They need more room for those athletic legs I would rather be wearing around my belt line.  So, they shift back and around, get comfortable and buzzy with excitement, like 5-year-olds after a camping trip.  They start opening my compartments and examining into my corners.  And if they ask me too many questions, I laugh and kiss them — on those tense foreheads, or directly on their dry lips.  I dig out my car’s never-studied manual and thump it against their athletic legs:

“Here is a bedtime story for you!  Happy?”

While the girls — those lovely kittens that smell like lavender and honey — they curl up, with their feet tucked under; some even recline and attempt to go to sleep.  Others, the more statuesque or the ones who are freer in their bodies, stretch out, putting their prettily pedicured toes onto my dashboard, and they roll down their windows.   And, oh, how I love when they take their hair down, releasing more lavender and honey into the air!  And it flips and flies around in the wind, like a firebird flapping its magical wings.

So, when the beautiful girl of the other night had climbed inside, I was immediately breathless with attention.  She smelled like a drawer of essential oils and exotic spices.  Being one of those brown types — blunt and beautiful, so strong! — her sex tempted me with myths from a very foreign continent.  Because where she came from, women — survive.  They are capable.  Capable of carrying their men on their backs, across deserts and blistering rocks.  Capable of surviving wars, to live and tell the horrors with their skin.  Capable of outrunning, outdoing, outhunting, outsmarting.  And when they happen to surrender under their men’s care, they merely humor the rules written centuries before them.

And so, she got in:  adjusted her seat, paid a compliment to my space.  (Take it:  All this fucking space, in this fucking city!)  Readily, she began laughing at my flippancy and temper; sighing when finding me poetic or poignant.  A couple of times, she sharply exhaled at my mercurial driving habits.

“Ow!  I didn’t realize we’d be doing this!” she chuckled in that teasing manner that only women from her very foreign continent can do.

So, I started a joke:  Three minutes or five blocks before each turn, I would shoot her a gaze habitual for the women of my own foreign continent and say:

“So…  Um, we’ll be making a right turn — eventually.  Get ready!”

And she would laugh.  Oh, how she would laugh, suddenly getting lighter from having to carry her man on her back, across deserts and blistering rocks; from having to survive!  She would tease me, so quick with her comebacks; and not even know that, in that hour, I too was asking for help.

“So…  Um, we’ll be making a left — eventually.  Are you ready?”

That night, we didn’t need to tell the tales of each other’s suffering.

We could’ve just driven like that, forever:  self-sufficient and competent — so proud, so beautiful, so strong! — and permanently alright. 

The Ones that Have Slipped Away

As a writer:  I never lose my hard-on when staring at a blank page.  Yes, yes:  I’ve heard—and read—my colleagues moan and whine about the moodiness of their Inspiration; speaking of it as if it were an uncertain, bitchy young lover, coming around only when she’s horny.  Others have inquired about my daily discipline, fishing for an insider secret that I could bottle up for them.  Well, comrades:  there is none! 

A blank page, a blank stage; the loaded silence that looms after a film director hollers, “Rolling!”; the undisturbed white linens of my yet-to-be-lover’s bedroom—I dwell in the un-started.  I worship what hasn’t happened yet.  Because in those moments prior to creation—anything is possible, including a mind-changing beauty or a life-changing love. 

Oh, sure there are days, when words crawl out through the constipation of the mind with enough friction for my bystanders to overhear them.  Certain days, the ego—that fucking cunt!—gets in the way like a scrawny, yelping, hyper Chihuahua.  

“Get the fuck off my leg,” I battle with the annoying thing, eventually persevering via my brutal self-examination and zero tolerance for my self-pity.

So today, I am choosing to write about the blank pages of my love affairs that have never happened.  They almost did, with me and the other player breathing heavily in each other’s face, suspended in some hormonal high, ready to hit the sheets.  Yet, either the mind-sobering circumstances or the cunt of common sense would get in the way—and the two of us would walk, limp, or crawl away; never regretting an erred affair, yet always wondering about the missed-out moments of beauty. 

Here is to you, my blank pages of never-upon-a-time loves:

—To the pretty companion whose non-invasive tenderness and uncensored kindness yanked me out of the darkness of my failed marriage.  In those pre-divorce days of guilt and self-loathing, we met in a brutally cold city, just months after my chosen man threw in his towel.  The echo of his “I can’t… do this anymore!” still resonated under my heels with every step.  I was a woman on the run, a chaotic flight, doubling over on occasion to even-out my heart rate.  With my eyes drilling into the horizon where I planned to flee next, you were supposed to be my mere distraction.  Instead:  you were magnificent—

—To the man who bore a repeated name of my future lovers.  (Was I looking for you, in them?)  You engulfed me with your body, pinned me down with your strength and compassion.  How ever did you keep up with my schizophrenic needs of a deprived woman?  Between the guilt and the self-punishment, the need to be overwhelmed, the silent prayer for my mind to finally stop fluttering—you surfed with skill and patience; until all I could focus on was my breath.  And that—was your gift to me:  you gave me back my breath.  (Months later, you proposed a long-distance affair—and even a marriage—but I knew that what you’ve granted me was already enough.)—

—To the flamboyant Frenchman who intersected my path during the last days in the City.  This gypsy’s wagon has already departed for the opposite coast.  So, she traveled light; and you picked up on that:  my carelessness of the free, my unbearable lightness of the reckless, the non-attachment of a woman with nothing to lose.  

“Vould you like?  to make l’uv?” you didn’t even warm me up—just called it.  

I studied your exotic French-Liberian face, nearly tearing up from my gratitude that, even in the midst of my exaggerated tragedy, you found me beautiful.  And full of shit!  Because then you said what a French lover was supposed to say:

“You vorrý.  There iz eenough of zat in life, no’eu?  Vhy vorrý—in l’uv?”

We never happened.  But after you, love was a tricky possibility—

—To the shy boy whose mouth I devoured years ago at my chariot, after a mind-numbing, feet-blistering shift at a Hollywood lounge I’d rather forget.  A man young enough to be my brother, you stood with your callused hands fisted inside your pockets, studying your shuffling feet, like a five-year-old embarrassed about his first girl-crush.  You looked up at me occasionally—to touch my face with your hazel gaze; or to chuckle at the molecules of charged air between us—then resumed studying the gravity of the ground that kept holding us in place.  When finally you leaned in and clumsily brushed your lips on my eyelids, in the darkness of the broken street light, I searched for your lips and bit them.  You tasted like cinnamon.—

—To the cowboy whose sexuality blended with my own like honey at the bottom of a scolding hot cup of Russian black tea.  For years, we’ve toyed with the possibility—“What if?”—but always settled for the suspended turn-on instead.  Because we also knew that our egos would fall into the seemingly predestined grooves of each other—and nothing would be off-limits in the consequential destruction (because we were also well-equipped in war).  

 “I love that girl,” others testified to your confession; and that was just enough, my darling, for good—

For our non-happening—I thank you; because you’ve granted me the fantasy of What Could’ve Been—with its endless possibility of a blank page—sans the wasteful, self-indulgent clean-up, mandatory after every failed love affair.  You were my unfinished stories; my odds and chances; my delightful minions pestering my bitchy Inspiration into submission.  And because somehow, all of you arrived with perfect timing, I shall gladly commit the hubris of assuming that I was your creator.  And just as I pray to never treat my chosen art as a burden—always as a privilege!—the memories of you I shall gladly carry with the weightlessness of surrender and gratitude.