Friday, October 28, 2011

on radio silence and an apartment

I woke up this morning before my alarm went off to the smell of the heat coming up through the pipes.  I'd like to say that the first signs of winter coming smelled sweet, but instead it came up through the building as warming paint and chemicals.  It stung a bit and I knew it must be cold out, so I stayed under the comforter and hit snooze three too many times.

But there is happy news to report.  A lease has been signed, checks have been written, we move Tuesday.  At some point before then we'll find something to be for Halloween, turns out when you are only thinking about where you are going to be living in one week you forget what day it is.

The frantic stress of finding a place and the happy stress of my writing class has meant that I've been quiet here this month.  But soon I hope to be settled in the new place and back to here. 

Halloween's past will make up for our lack of spirit this year: 

it seems we only take photos of our costumes on the subway platform

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

on finding an apartment, please

Who knew finding a place to live would be this difficult.  We found a place a few weeks ago, liked it, it fell through.  We tried again, same building, liked it, it fell through.  We felt just a little defeated yesterday when the call came in from the broker letting us know that the management company had gone with another couple.  We had never interviewed for a place before, it felt a little formal for a rental, but we thought they loved us.  We were wrong.  What did that other couple have that we didn't?  Our credit is great, we laughed at her jokes, were they just prettier?  Do management companies actually choose the prettier people to rent to?  I'm exaggerating only a little.  Self doubt spiral was in full effect.

So yesterday afternoon as I was still on the phone with the broker who was telling me what a tough decision it was to not choose us, I got an email out to the broker of our runner-up place.  Mike was disappointed, he thought it felt like settling, but I tried to be optimistic.  But then last night, waiting outside the runner-up building for the broker to meet me so I could hand over the application materials, I started to cry*.  Just a little.  Not in a sobbing way but more like a whimpering bad actress kind of way.  I stopped as Richard, the runner-up broker, came out of the building with another couple and told me that I had emailed him just a half hour before they did and so, because of the timing, we were first on the list for the place.  That felt like something.  Like the world was shifting in our favor again.

I had already seen the place twice before but Richard took me up again.  The super was in there tiling the bathroom and, since the person who just moved out was in there for a few decades, the wiring and the floors and the ceilings have been gutted and refinished, it will be the newest apartment in a very old building.  There's that optimistic thing kicking in again.  Afterwards Richard brought me across the street for coffee (which at 8pm meant we both got some fizzy juice drink instead) and we went over the application.  When I gave him the name of the apartment-falling-through-brokers we had been dealing with, he told me they were crooks.  As in, about to go to jail kind of crooks**.  That if we had moved forward with them and had given them more than just a deposit, that many clients find themselves out of an apartment and out of the first/last/broker's fee money.

He told me we'd know something soon, and as we said goodnight, I kind of wanted to hug him in the hope that this time it will work.  That in two weeks we'll have a place to move to. 

*That's two mentions of crying in one week and in between a fictional story about a woman trying to kill herself.  I promise I am ok.  Really.
**We found this video of our previous broker getting slammed by the Fox News "shame on you" guy.  Turns out it's a good thing they didn't go with us.

Monday, October 17, 2011

on homework #2

My second assignment is due tonight.  And so, in the spirit of continuing the scary habit of sharing, here it is (I'm not sure why I'm on such a dark kick with these assignments).  It's long, I still need to figure out how to condense a post and add one of those "read more" links so it doesn't all appear here.  Baby steps.   

Write a story, or a section of a story, inspired by the opening line of Dante's Inferno:  "Midway on our life's journey, I found myself in the dark woods, the right road lost."   

“Joe, it’s me, are you there? Joe?”  Sarah waits and listens as if she could hear him through the answering machine.  She closes her eyes, “pick up, pick up, pick up”, willing him to hear her.  She can see the machine on his desk at home, the light from the green glass lamp illuminating his face as he watches the blinking red message.  She sees him reach for the Jameson.  Sarah shakes her head and opens her eyes, no, there is no bottle.  It would be easier if there was, if he was hurting, but he wasn’t.    

“I need to talk to you, Joe, please.  I’m sorry about before.  But you have to pick up now.”  
Sarah stays on the line for a minute that feels like twenty before hanging up.  She moves from the bed to the window, peels back the curtain and looks out through her own reflection.  The light in the parking lot from the funeral home next door is broken and shudders off every few minutes.  When it does the street is dark except for the lights from inside the home.  There are shadows of people in there.  Maybe a family planning some services, she thinks.  She looks at the cars in the lot to see if she recognizes any of them.  She doesn’t. 

Back to the bed, the pills are laid out on the nightstand in neat rows.  First the whites, then the pinks, then the blues.  They look like candy, like she could run a string through them and make one of those necklaces the kids used to wear and chew off each other.  She tries the phone again.  On the fourth ring the machine clicks over and she hears her own voice, "Hi, you've reached the Brady's.  We can't come to the phone right now."
In the background of the message she can almost hear Lucy and Liam choking back laughs as they held the script up in front of her, how hard it had been to create one simple outgoing message, the laughing causing them to stop and record and stop and record again.  Something inside hurts like a punch at the memory and Sarah hangs up again.  

Leaning back into the pillows she puts the phone in her lap and pulls at the cord to untangle it.  She hadn’t planned on not being able to talk to Joe.  Sarah finds the marble notebook in the top drawer in the nightstand, takes a few of the white ones, and picks up a pen.  She writes Lucy and Liam’s names, that she’s sorry they’ll have to go through this, how she just couldn’t find her way back, how she hates feeling like a burden, that they seem so grownup now.  She pauses, flips the first of the blue pills around on her tongue and thinks of what to write to Joe.  She doesn’t want him to be happy without her, but thinks that it might make for better reading for the kids if she adds it.  She scribbles the words and hopes he’ll know she doesn’t really mean them.  She thinks of the woman who has moved into her home.  How she is nothing like her.  How she won't know about that summer in Syracuse with Joe in '71 or what her babies looked like minutes after they were born.

She flips the page and signs it, reaches for the glass of water and forces the pinks down in two swallows.  She finds the window in the now dark, blurry room and slips down the wall to the floor, rests her chin on the sill.  The street light sputters off but she can still make out the foggy outlines of the family from the funeral home walking to their cars, hugging goodbye in turns.  

The phone ringing behind her sounds like bells and she closes her eyes, imagines her own family in the lot beneath her, hugging goodbye after they’ve let her go.

Friday, October 14, 2011

on Fernando

Walking to the subway yesterday morning, I saw an older man coming toward me and as he got closer I smiled, nodded my head, and said good morning.  As soon as I saw him I felt the need to give him a warm hello, but as I walked passed I couldn't remember how I knew him, or why I greeted him that way.  I thought of it for a minute but forgot about it until last night when, walking home from the subway, I saw him again.

This time, as I walked passed him, he said, "I know you."  I stopped and, since I am always just a little more enthusiastic than a situation calls for, half shouted, "yes, hi, but how."  He told me his name was Fernando and that he owned a store on Astoria Boulevard.  Four years ago Mike and I lived there and as soon as he said it I could see him standing outside the store and knew him.  He told me that I walked by him every morning for a few years back then and always said hello, that he knew my hello when I gave it to him earlier that day.  I asked why he was down in this part of the neighborhood and he said that he moved into the building next door and relocated his shop to 35th Avenue.

It was a small thing, two minutes of talking in front of my building, but I love that a hundred mornings of hello's a few years ago can mean that this man and I are still connected.  And, in a selfish way, I kind of love feeling remembered. 

from here

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

on Vermont

Four days in Vermont.  I didn't get to see my moose, but I did see a kiddie pool filled with bleaching moose skulls.  Not exactly what I had in mind.  Did I mention my uncle Walt is a taxidermist?  I canoed and hiked with my uncle Terry and my Dad.  I spent time with my grandmother who didn't know who I was, but did read her book out loud to me and at times stared so long and hard at my face that I wondered if she was trying to place me in her past somehow.  On Monday my Dad dropped me off at the Albany train station and I only cried for a minute after I said, "see you in Mexico in January".  


Friday, October 7, 2011

on remembering

I'm leaving soon to get to Penn and onto a train to meet up with my Dad in Albany.  From there we will drive the five hours to my family in Vermont.  My grandma lives there and it's been too long since I've seen her, not since our family reunion there in July 2009.  She didn't know who I was then, and the time before that she thought I was my mom, so I'm not exactly sure what this visit will be like.  I think it's harder for us than it is for her, at least I hope so.  I like to think of her as she was when she knew me, humming in the kitchen after dinner and yelling that it was time for music, moving us all out onto the porch where my uncles and cousins and brother and I would play and sing for the next few hours while she watched on with pride. 

I will visit with her, but there will also be room for walks with changing leaves and time with the part of my family I rarely see, and with my Dad, who leaves for Mexico again in a few weeks.  And if I see a moose*, I will come home the happiest woman this side of the East River.

Have a happy weekend.

*Although the Vermont Driscoll's will not understand why I just want to "see" the moose, not aim a rifle at it (is that the kind of gun you hunt with? I have no idea. We're not those kind of Driscoll's).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

on homework

Last week I talked about my first writing class and Nina wrote in the comments that maybe I should share some things here.  So since I've been running around looking at apartments and swamped at work and a little too busy to write a real post today, here is the first week's homework assignment.  Mike said I should wait to post it here until I got comments back from my teacher, but that feels like cheating.  So here's what I submitted (ignore dialogue setup, I didn't worry about formatting too much, and be kind, this is my first attempt at fiction.  OK that's all the apologizing I'll do for now): 

Homework #1: A person is entering the waiting room of a doctor or other medical professional.  It's the first time the person has been there.  The type of therapy the person is waiting to receive is up to you (it may even involve bringing a spouse or pet), but chances are this person will be feeling a little stressed.  Keeping the character in the waiting room, write a passage where he or she is revealed through all four showing methods—action, speech, appearance, thought. 

There's a song coming out of the speakers in the corners of the waiting room and I start humming along.  I can't recall the name, but can see Tim and me dancing to it in the gym at St. John's.  Tim's in there.  I should have gone in with him, for his sake and mine.  He hates doctors, I’ll have to do something nice tonight for dinner.  Maybe shepherd’s pie.  I wish I wore something better, this dress is faded and I can't believe I let myself go out in my house shoes. 

The woman next to me is sweet.  She got herself water from the cooler and asked if I wanted some.  She looks so much like my Susan, just older, I tell her so and it seems to make her sad.  People don't like hearing that they look like someone else.  Either they want to be unique or they are nervous the person they are being compared to is ugly.  I assure her, "Don't worry, Susan is beautiful. It's a compliment!"  She looks a bit happier but goes back to staring at the door.  She doesn't like waiting either, her knee is bouncing and she's nervously playing with the ring on her left hand. "I hate waiting too", I say and try my warmest smile to calm her. 

She stands up as the nurse enters the room.  I can't hear it all, but it sounds like her mother is sick.  Poor thing, when she sits back down she looks tired.  I turn to the nurse, "Excuse me, do you know how much longer it will be?  My husband is Tim O’Neill.  He's been in there for quite a while."  The nurse looks confused as the woman next to me puts her chin to her chest and lets out a cry.  I watch them both and wait for a response but before I can ask again the woman next to me is wrapping her hands in mine.  I try to move away but she's holding on tight. 

“Tim's not here, mom.  Dad's gone.  He's been gone for a long time now.  We're here for you, remember?" 

I peel my hands out from under hers as quickly as I can and shake my head.  It hurts and I shut my eyes, sink back into the chair, slap at the air to keep her away.  Susan, my Susan, grabs my wrists to keep me still and whispers in my ear that everything is going to be alright, that the doctor will see me soon.  I lean my head into hers and there it is laid out before my closed eyes like the vacation slides in our old projector.  Tim calling me in to hear the news, those last awful months, the funeral, all that time alone, and then the forgetting. 

I shake my head again as I feel the tears slide down my cheeks, "Yes, yes, now I remember." 

from here

Monday, October 3, 2011

on the weekend

We haven't found a new place yet, but have a lead on an apartment a few blocks away, so we started to pack this weekend.  After seeing some duds Friday night and spending the day inside surrounded by growing piles of boxes on Saturday, I was ready to get out yesterday.  We drove up to Westchester and spent the afternoon at Stone Barns.  As we were leaving, Mike said he'd like to live there.  I told him we'd work on it, but that the apartment on 29th would probably have to do for now.

rodents outside of our apartment are cute, they should stay there