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Ahhh, September. The unofficial start of fall, my favorite season. When other people say it's their favorite, I often want to pipe up and tell them that no, it's my favorite season more than theirs, that they can't possibly understand how relieved I am that summer and the attendant exposed toes and flesh are over for now and that I can now wear boots and scarves and jackets and not feel (quite as) murderous. The biggest downside to the season is that people feel compelled to speak up about "pumpkin spice", whether for or against. (Just like I just did.)
I'm trying to convince myself that the shirt I bought on Etsy is something I'll wear enough to warrant its purchase. Even though it was only about $20 including shipping, I still need to feel like I didn't waste my money and that wearing it will make me feel jaunty and fun and a touch whimsical, as opposed to lackluster and boring and part of the woodwork, which is how I feel when I wear what "everyone else" wears, i.e. a black T-shirt and army-style jacket.
I need to just put the shirt on and take it for a spin.
The view from his apartment on Central Park West is stellar. I can almost see Dustin Hoffman running around the reservoir before Laurence Olivier tortures him dentally. I tell him (the guy, not Mr. Hoffman) that it must be particularly spectacular during a thunderstorm or a snowstorm, and although he agrees, he doles out precious few syllables in response I'm probably not the first chick to say this, and I most certainly won't be the last, because I know I won't be sticking around much longer with a guy who can't be bothered to engage or encourage someone else's excitement.
I can't stand when, after I post an entry here, I read it back and see I've omitted a word or repeated a word or did something with a word that I would have noticed if only I'd been more careful with proofreading.
Oh, look, she's breaking the FOURTH WALL.
No, no, I think this is called being "meta"?
In the past I've followed up with an errata sheet of sorts, so my "readers" won't think I'm a careless bumpkin with a disregard for proofreading and their reading enjoyment. But no more. Now I'll just post something like this instead.
The event is no longer being held at a groovy independent theater that requires me to take two subways and a short walk to attend. It's now at a community college theater that requires only one subway and fewer steps. Both of these places are downtown but on opposite sides of Manhattan, and the difference is, if not like night and day, then like dusk and mid-morning.
Now a bored, impersonal sentinel snaps at people who don't know they have to make themselves known to her, whereas before you just walked in like it's your mom's living room. This blows.
Welp, once again my brainpower has gone by the wayside as I've retreated into another television series (even if it's HBO, which insists it's not TV) instead of into books. Rather than use my imagination, everything is laid out for me, and I don't have to imagine what the characters' voices like. Larry David opens his mouth and I know.
When I read, I really dig it. I feel less stupid (if not actually smarter), and even though it's a passive activity, it demands participation and effort.
Vow: Once I catch up on "Curb Your Enthusiasm", it's back to books.
It seems like everyone is leaving NYC for LA (and I cringe as I type "LA" because I can't even say that aloud without feeling like a fraud) and it makes me rather anxious, not because the people leaving are people I would rather stuck around but because it makes me wonder if I, too, should be leaving this coast for that, following the "cool kids" and seeing what the big deal is about sunshine and beaches and open space and sitting in traffic for hours. "We have subways here, you know, and we do walk," I'm told. But still.
Is it pillow talk if the pillows are so flat that even pancakes look at them askance and say, "No, they're no relation to us, thank you"? A surreptitious peek inside the dingy pillowcases when he leaves the room for a moment reveals pillows that I'd swear are from the Depression Era, complete with decades-old brownish and yellowish discoloration and possibly open-mouth stains from whatever long-dead relative he seems to have swiped these things from. I feel sorry for them, though, in extreme anthropomorphic fashion, and worry that I've hurt their feelings by bringing their sad sack-ness to his attention.
You tell me you do impersonations and my soul cringes as I imagine you as Rich Hall standing next to Johnny Carson and Johnny looking off to the side, rocking back on his heels, hands in pockets, grimacing. I hope I'm never exposed to this, but here we are in the dog run, and you're doing your impersonation of one of your dog run friends, loudly, and I'm laughing like I actually think it's funny when really I'm hoping that my laugh obscures your voice and no one around us can figure out that that's who you're trying to impersonate.
So, look, I know you want your tarot cards and your astrological sign and your tea leaves to give you guidance in your time of turmoil. I know you want to see things in your coffee grounds, the clouds, the change in your palm after you buy paper towel at the bodega, the fortune cookie on both sides of its slip of paper. But it's all bunkum. Take responsibility and exert your power. Don't make me come over there and vomit at your feet and tell you the hidden truths of your life are contained within regurgitated cucumber and hummus.
I woke up and it was still true. And it will be true forever and never not stab me in the throat and punch me in the heart every time I remember the tragedy of you leaving this increasingly ugly but still astonishingly beautiful world before we finally decided on which city or town or dirt road we'd live in/on together when we were older and grayer but even more fabulous than we already were, especially when together. This is the part of the soap opera where we need to discover you faked your own death, Darling. Come on. Now.
I just booked a manicure/pedicure so I'll be fresh and fabulous for the funeral of one of my best friends in Indiana this weekend. As I was putting it in my calendar, I realized that the last time I did this was so I'd be fresh and fabulous to visit that same friend in Chicago two months ago. I hope with everything I can muster that I don't bawl my eyes out tomorrow at the salon, even though I know Scott would find all of this terribly amusing and fill the room with his laugh, the cutest I've ever heard.
On Saturday night, 9 September, my dear friend Scott, who moved to Chicago from Indianapolis two years ago this August, died of a massive heart attack while laughing with friends in the exit line of a rollercoaster he'd just ridden at Six Flags. He'd recently been given a clean bill of health, so this came as a complete shock to everyone. His best friend/perhaps partner, Brian, tried to catch him as he fell to the ground, and performed mouth to mouth as the others ran for help, but Scott was gone immediately. He would have been 51 in three days.
I wrote this for Scott's funeral in Indiana. When I delivered the speech, I added several words here and there as the mood struck. (I meant “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, not “Project Runway”. I trust Scott will forgive me!)
So. How do you fit a decade and a half of friendship into a handful of minutes? You don't. I could talk about the big things, the broad things, but I won't because, as I.M. Pei or someone said, God is in the details, and for me and Scott the smallest things are what took up the bulk of our time.
"Can you help me decide which shoes to wear to work?" he'd message me. "What do you think of these glasses?" “These?” "You should see this boy on the train." "Oh my god, Darling, I had mashed potatoes and thought of you." "I would hurt someone right now to be having lunch with you right now." "Oh, me too. Me too."
Dumb stuff like that made us laugh, made us feel like we weren't so many miles and states and a time zone apart. We cackled at the most ridiculous things that, if we tried to explain them to
other people, would just not be funny. But oh, how I loved to guffaw with him and "Yes!" with him, recently agreeing quite vehemently that, yes, it's fantastic that full-blown '70s-style afros were making a comeback! After my trip to see him in July, the first time I'd visited him in Chicago, and we were already missing each other, I told him he had the cutest laugh I'd ever heard.
When I visited, we ran all around the city -- picnicked by Lake Michigan, boy-watched everywhere, including "gay beach", I had a cocktail with him at Green Mill even
though I barely drink -- and we went sailing. Now, even though I get motion sickness just being in a car, I thought, why not, this is Scott's newfound joy, and anything that brings that big, beautiful smile, resting in the little hammock of his beard, to that big beautiful face is fine by me.
Scott and I had gone to the front of the boat, and at some point the boat almost capsized, like literally, and we were clinging to the deck as we slid toward its edge and the water, facing each other, and shouting, "Darling, what
the fuck? What's going on?" and laughing but not laughing. Our feet were like - this close - to the water and we braced them against a railing. For the next two days, we recounted the event and Scott kept making me show him how close our feet had come to touching water. "That close, Darling?" "Yes, Darling, that close!"
The day after the sailing was my last full day in Chicago. Monday, July 11th, and it rained. I was leaving at 4:00 the next morning. On that Monday morning, or maybe the night before, Scott had said that
if it rained, would I mind terribly if we just stuck around the apartment instead of running to an art museum and Chicago Diner, and did whatever -- ordered in food, watched TV? I was "secretly" thrilled, because I wanted one day to fantasize that we were like Will & Grace, hanging around not even trying to be cute, eating whatever we wanted, hanging out on the sofa, him on his laptop doing whatever it is he did to his photos, me on my phone.
We had his handsome cat, Oliver, "I Dream of Jeannie", "The Brady Bunch", part
of a "Project Runway" (believe it or not I'd never seen a single second of that show before that moment), and Thai food delivery. "Darling," he said, "tell me again: HOW close were our feet to the water?" I knew that already this was one of our "things" and would be one forever and couldn't wait to bust it out at a random time in the future, along with so many other gems we'd added to our repertoire during the five days of my visit, perhaps punctuated with, "Oh my god, we're horrible" or "We're terrible people," just like
we always did, on the phone, in text, and Google Hangouts.
It wasn't all ridiculousness, though. We did talk about more serious things, fears and insecurities and all that stuff you don't want the world to see and you can trust to so few. For example, at 4:26 in the afternoon on Monday, August 28, the second day of Hurricane Harvey, he sent me a message:
"Darling, how are you?" he said. "I've been sad since yesterday morning."
"What's up, Darling?" I said. "Why sad???"
"I think it's just because summer is over," he said, "but it is manifesting
very strangely. I'm suddenly afraid of being poor. And unloved. This sounds crazy, but..."
"No, it doesn't," I said. "I understand, Darling." And unloved. This sounds crazy, but..."
He said, "When I saw that awful photo yesterday from Houston of those elderly people in the nursing home with 30 year old furniture up to their chests in water, I really thought, 'Wow, that could be me in 25 years.'" And unloved. This sounds crazy, but..."
"Oh, I get that!" I said. And unloved. This sounds crazy, but..."
"What are we going to do?" he said. And unloved. This sounds crazy, but..."
"I don't know, Darling," I said. “I think about that stuff too and it panics me so I push it away!" And unloved. This sounds crazy, but..."
If today you see a tall white douchebag, probably in his early forties, with close-cut black hair, plump pinkish cheeks, and a matching pinkish and white checked button-down shirt tucked primly into his too dark (probably ironed) jeans and he's crowding your physical space when he has plenty of his own to occupy and acts like an arrogant, ignorant dick when you politely bring your existence to his attention several times, tell him the petite lady in the orange tank top forgot to say, "Fuck you, motherfucker" when he did the same thing to her this morning at Whole Foods.
And I still don't know. And I do panic. But Scott, you certainly weren't poor in any sense of the word. And it's certainly obvious, from everything you see and hear here today, that you were so far from being unloved it's not even funny.
You know, not once in the maybe 15 years we were friends did we ever fight, squabble, have a cross word, or get even close to mad with each other. I don't know how that's possible, given that I get mad at myself on a daily basis. And you know, in a weird way
I wish I could say I'm mad at you now, angry at you for leaving us so soon -- okay, so maybe I am furious at you for leaving me to fend for myself under 30 feet of water in a future hurricane, but I can't. Still, I'm overjoyed that when you did leave this world -- my world, your world, all of our worlds -- you did so loved, smiling, and laughing, oh, that cutest of laughs.
I wore an orange/yellow/pink/purple vintage sleeveless palazzo jumpsuit with keyhole neckline, champagne gogos, and red boa. Scott would have approved.
Notes to my ex-beau's next date:
1. When out of the blue he texts you about continued shoulder pain, which he'd never mentioned in person, email, text, on the phone, via smoke signal, or in a parlor game, you will know that the last date you had was your last.
2. Although he will claim that the views about women voiced by the protagonists in the short stories he has compiled in a self-published book are not his own views, they really are.
3. His underwear is beyond shabby.
4. His handsome, charming, soft-eyed dog will capture your heart immediately.
Now that we're no longer seeing each other, I no longer have to fret over formulating the most diplomatic way of telling him his underwear, the equivalent of decades-old granny panties losing their luster (if indeed GPs ever had any) and elastic, is beyond shabby and that if he wants any chance of getting me out of mine he's going to have to upgrade pronto. I get a thrill out of knowing the next woman who has the great misfortune of witnessing that dingy, threadbare, saggy-assed horror show is not going to benefit from any improvements I would have made.
If there's anything more exciting than ordering Indian food in for lunch (with $5 off notification in your email!), and having your warm, squishy cat tell you that you can just run outside this evening rather than go to the gym this afternoon, and thus you can greatly decrease the number of human-type faces you have to be exposed to in one day when you barely want to see even one, I don't know what it is. (Still, because I'm marvelously vain, I have to make sure I look reasonably cute for the delivery person for the hot food handoff.)
Heaading south from Michigan City to Indianapolis. We've just left a pub where we toasted the friend whose funeral we'd attended that morning, where I had a big plate of steak fries I wished was even bigger. We stop at a gas station/convenience store, and I hop out of the car with an ordinary amount of glee. I select a medium bag of Doritos and a big one of Fritos. I can barely contain my excitement once in the car, tearing into the Doritos. This is all I eat the entire day: Fries, Doritos, Fritos. Oh, and a Twizzler nugget!
So my friend dies suddenly and I think, "Life is too short. Seize the day. Remember the song 'Cabaret'. Live for Scott. Live for yourself. Leave the house."
I roll my eyes at the cliché cluster and say aloud, "Still, it's true." I wonder if it makes more sense to spend my time only with people I truly care about and not waste time with people I don't, or go out and be with people no matter what, meaning do I possibly contract my world or expand it.
I waste time wondering, which is time I could be "out there".
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