emma b. says

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Portland, month six and change

I notice that I don't sit at the head of my table. I sit to the right of the head, which is where I sat as a girl at my parent's table, the table I am writing at. It's the one piece of furniture that I really wanted from my parent's house, even though they have long sat at another table, this one - from my father's days at Sears, is special. I am grateful to have it.

I have given several dinner parties where I sit at the head of the table, and I do admit to feeling partially willfull about taking the head. This is my house, and it is my rightful place, and yet, I feel like I am usurper, though I am undeniably pleased when I take that place and serve from my kitchen.

Somehow, in my every day life, I cede the head of the table to the absent honorary, I prefer to work with my back to the picture window, facing the kitchen. I am easily distracted by the goings-on out the window and the swift changes in the weather this late-ish, early-ish in Spring. I don't mind the slow unfurling of the leaves on the japanese maple, but I am anxious over the unameable bulbs that are slow to do whatever they are impelled to do, I fret over the length of the grass.

Six months or half a year, six to one or a half dozen the other way. It's still an undeniable slice of time. I keep thinking of my tennis partner who told me that within six months of moving from Philadelphia to San Francisco he'd met his partner, and now they have three awesome dogs and live in Marin. Those words, I think I'd held as some sort of mantra, as if it would be that sudden, as if I were that type. I spent the weekend talking to my sister-in-law's dog. I have hardly spoken to anyone else. Pleasantries with my neighbors. The coffee jocks at Stumptown. The Korean lady at my brother's bodega.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad thing. And I haven't been lonely, in that I haven't yearned for more (ahem, lack of sex - apparently what I need is a mute houseboy (the skate rat has the flu of death)) and maybe it's a function of being alone for a long time, that these periods of intense solitude are something I cherish, I believe I won't have them forever, but that might be the romantic in me piping up.

I have been sharing the kitchen sink with a spider. She's (Charlotte, always Charlotte) been there for several days. I am careful not to rinse her down with the rest of the refuse. I have become a dutiful recycler. I figure so long as she mind's her business and I mind mine, there is no reason why we can't share the sink.

So, Portland.

A week ago the weather gave us a sweet taste of summer. I went to the market and bought roses, the same roses that are wilting (why can't I find what I wan't to listen to) on my parent's dining room table. I went driving.

A week ago I was out, everybody was out. Reading my book on a blanket in my back yard, human and leafy thing alike, stretching out, reaching tendrils, furtive and pale white, there underneath the sun, sunglasses at seven thirty, skirts. That first breathtaking taste of night without a coat. Just a taste as it turns out. Given the hail, given the dismal skies and the thunder on the horrizon.

A week later, I am a shut in. Runs between storms. Suited up in heels for interviews. Talks up a storm, comes home for naps. Zealously guarding dwindling funds. Two weeks without work, idle time truly is the devil's time. Trips to the DMV, yes, I failed the test and can't seem to locate the title of my car. This whole project is fueled by the seemingly endless fumes of hope that my motor is propelled forward on, color me fucking purplexed. Seriously. I am hanging on by a pinky to those lovely vapor trails cast by airplanes, and yet I cannot help but be convinced of the stupid rightness of it all.

Shit works out, it just does.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Irrational Fear of Earthworms, part II

When do you develop an irrational fear of earthworms?

I suspect the professionals might have a field day, pink and blind and primal, covered with the slime of fresh earth, vaguely tumescent, longish, drowning, surfacing gasping for breath in the cool night air. Shrink's fodder.

I keep having this pseudo nightmare where I am running barefoot down a corridor being pursued and I have to run through all the worms, alive and squirming, I am alternately disgusted and horrified that I will be smashing through them.

Sometimes I sit on the back steps for a cigarette, just to break things up from the front porch. I watch with repulsed fascination the earthworms stretch out their great length over the the pavers for a breath of fresh air. The shadows don't help. I sit and watch as these things emerge from the earth, primal and thoughtless, survival, and survival only. And yet, it's these beings that keep my lawn so lush. One heart, two heads. Go to town all you junior Freuds.

I think it has a lot to do with being supremely and arrogantly urban. I love nature, because someone was always there to tend to my urban forays into the wild. I am a connaisseur of parks, but I am no gardener. I can admit this now, as my back yard begins to go feral and I am at a loss to distinguish flower from weed and my brother has yet to give me a primer on mowing.

In other words I have no idea what's going on in my pretty, pretty over grown yard, I sort of stare at it like some helpless feudal lord as the dandelions serfs wage a bid to wrest control.

I suppose it's a good parable for life, I should love the earthworms for the mulch that they give, and shouldn't be beguiled by the golden headed weed that is the charming dandelion, out to choke my unruly lawn, and by extension me.

In the seven plus months that I haven't had a legitimate job, and the two days that I haven't worked at all, I am struggling to keep the niggling demons at bay.

In the nearly six months that I have been here I have drunk up the changes like some sort of dandelion wine elixir, willingly, eagerly. Happily. Now I chafe. I should be making the most of this time, but with the intermittent rain and the price of gas it's hard not to burrow into the recesses of my incredibly welcoming couch. And it's still cold. I'd leave for California tomorrow if I weren't beholden to be available for the dangled apple of the second interview, or the first, the tantalizing prospect of full employment if only to bitch about it from the comfort of benefits and such.


I spotted a woodpecker in the front yard, spent part of Saturday sitting on my porch half listening to birdsong and reading. Got drunk at my brother's house on Friday with a good group of people. Skiied on Sunday through pillocks of snowy white buttercream snow as the flakes fell idly down between the leaden sky and spikes of sunshine. Left me breathless and panting at the lineless lift, this after I had booted the skate rat out of my bed at seven on that Sunday morning. How to argue with the goodness of that. The independent rightness of that.

If the money runs out, I'll be in deep shit, but I still have a little time, time for a drive home, possibly, or to the coast, definately. I am still surprised that despair has not permeated my being, I handle this optimism with kid gloves and greatful reverence. It will be alright, things will fall as they will.

When it starts to go dark I just go driving in my head, my home landscapes with their temperate hills and flora and the steely corrugated Pacific, bridges and peninsula, freeways as familar as my blue veins, bridges I've crossed a thousand and one times, stars and city lights and night blooming jasmine the elementals I wrap about me to stave off the North West chill. There are more stars here, but I can't track them on this changed horizon. I traipse contendedly through this old landscape, but it's gone of course, or rather it's not mine anymore. Or it is. I've got a new city to map, and I still struggle with orientation though I live in the South East and you would think that would be helpful, but I still displace where west is. Really, it doesn't make any sense, when you have always lived with the ocean on your left, it's hard to accept that the ocean is on your right.

Also the bay stink is far more pleasant than the river stench. By god there are days when that river is foul.