September 19, 2014

Good luck with everything

“You look like you’ve lost weight.”

She eyes me up and down, like always, this Eastern European wonder that I am to her. The upright breasts, the tiny dancer’s waist hiding abs underneath the cozy fat of summer break from practice, the tanned arms resting on casually sweatpanted hips. She doesn’t know what to do with me. In body, mind, and presence, I should be less of an offense to her sensibilities, yet I am not.

“Nah, I’m the same,” I say.

I do what is asked of me. It is a request which I am left to divine for myself, without a “please” or “thank you,” more like an assumption that needs to convince itself more than anyone else. I understand. I understand that “please, can you help me” would have been weakness in the face of my foreign quasi-youth. I understand that it is an ever-so-slight groveling for control. Asking means that one can be denied. In a gesture of magical thinking and displacement of responsibility, an order renders a denial disobedient.

I make no excuses for why I was in bed at noon. I ask courteous questions from behind a vague smile that could mean a million different things. Her new place is nice and private and quiet, and she has not yet cleaned up her old place for the contractors. It’s been three years now of "trying to get things done." She tries to bond by comparing my writing to her gardening. She asks about my family, my work, my flight, my trip to Pennsylvania. She doesn’t mention the one thing that would humiliate her if she asked: how long are you staying?

“She is terrified. No one should feel this way.”

Yes, she is. And no one should.

Somehow, somewhere, something happened. Something broke, irreversibly. Her pride and vanity are now dependent on others to get things done. She has big plans that are pure escapism, a dream of moving from one hoarder’s den into another. She can’t stand the sight of her thinning hair and the fact that she has to apply tons of make-up to hide whatever she only sees and no one else cares about. The age and wisdom that would have gotten her compassion and love from those surrounding her if she had only been kind, she has turned into toxicity. Others’ happiness mortifies her. She wants to be invited in, but she eggs your house instead. The howling emptiness of her hyper-filled home makes her lash out at beauty and love. Whoever wanted to help was alienated.

It is a desperation of the saddest magnitude. I should not be a threat, yet I am. I never asked for this kind of power, yet she threw it right in my lap. I could crush her with one word, one Macbeth look, or with silence, and I would feel filthy. It is a dialogue, a relation, a puzzle that my open heart never would have expected, or accepted.

She is looking for a different kind of water to live on, hoping it will save her, hoping she can save herself.

“Good luck with everything,” I say.


  1. Dear Chris, genius soul, it's writing like this that makes me want to write. I was humiliated—my vulnerabilities being aired like this. The muffled the hell did you hear it? Ha! I love this piece. And you!

    1. Leah, it was one of those days when life reads like fiction. And in true exploitative writerly fashion, I jumped right on it before my memory lost it, before my own breakages retrieved their masks. Can't wait to talk to you, fantastic woman.

  2. Life has been dominated by serious injury & illness for the last 19 months or so. As a result I tend to feel distracted and disinterested about most anything BUT my own selfish needs. Until now, that is....I too love this and how your writing always takes me to an adventuresome place....light years beyond where I've ever been before. So good to hear from you again.

    1. Dear T,
      I have been very quiet on your blog, but faithfully following in the background, as always. It is difficult to find words that could match your perseverance. Your slow and steady road to clarity has been a revelation. I am humbled that anything I write resonates with you. Sending prayers and good wishes for you and Kim, hoping that things turn out for the best and that you find peace with your decisions. I will continue to read.

  3. That reminds me so much of my grandmother. Pregnant at 15, bore 4 children, didn't want nary a one of 'em and told them so. She also used to say "Sex is for having babies and I'm not having anymore babies." I had to live with that old hag for 5 years while my mother finished college. When I married and moved away, I never spoke to her again. She was just a toxic person living in an emotional filth of her own creation. I stopped responding to her birthday cards, stopped answering the phone. I was a young mother and stressed enough already. I didn't need her chirping in my ear, too. She's probably one of the most hateful women I have ever met. As an adult, there are a million things I'd love to say to her. Pour it all out right in her selfish, empty lap. But somehow, when a woman tells her own children they were never wanted in the first place, I don't think she'd take the hint.

    1. I thought about pouring it in her lap, too. I couldn't, not for my sake but for his. It is not my place or wish to meddle where her family was estranged. Yesterday I ran into someone from high school, someone so very broken as well that he was beyond repair. He invaded my life, my past, my privacy, with all his ill-adapted, pathological uncouthness, and I waved him away. Sad for him, protective of myself.


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