Sunday, November 30, 2003

Pushing the Territorial Boundaries

I hid out and was anti-social this year again for Thanksgiving. I've grown too used to doing as I please on turkey day, and the habit is stuck fast.

I still had a lovely holiday though; The Republican was here, as well as Christi and her friend C. We sat around watching Christi make collages, and eating good food. The Republican and I spent a good deal of time going through my comics collection. Virgil and Serena were supposed to visit, but never showed. And that's just fine as long as he remembers to call me one day.

The crazy roomie left town with dishes in the sink again and a trashed dining room even though he knew I was having a party. So I photoshopped him into Bush's visit to England and hung pictures of him all around the house inserted into embarrassing situations. Because I am still smarter and funnier than he could ever hope to be. And making it look like he gives blowjobs to the royal guard made me feel tons better.

I also saw my mom and sisters this weekend, briefly. Really, that fulfilled my family quota for November. I'll go home for the holidays this year, but I'll sleep over at Andrew & Tony's or Christi's. I've been invited to two New Year's parties already, which nixes my idea of having a blow-out here.

There are limits being tested and pushed in all areas of my life. This is stressful. I'm pretty confused about the whole thing, and what decisions I should make. If you have any ideas about what I should do, let me know.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

I am not the better man.

letter edited first for anonymity, then for clarity

Dear Aral:

I got your package the other day. Thank you so much! You have no idea how much I needed that exact thing at that exact moment. It was a perfect cheer-me-up thing.

Christi Underdown and two of her friends (C. and N.) were in this weekend for the Duran Duran concert. We had a big brunch Saturday afterwards - me, Christi, C., N. and my upstairs neighbor J. and her boyfriend. You would have had a hoot with us. I put on a real spread - 4 cheese quiche, wheat toast with jam and goat cheese, pecans, walnuts, almonds; hot tea of many kinds, chocolate soy milk, cranberry grape juice, bananas, apples and fresh strawberries with whipped creme I made that morning. I also pulled a cherry pie out of the oven at the very end, but everyone was too stuffed to even try for it!

We all sat and talked and laughed for a couple of hours. Underdown and C. are in charge of a girl scout troop and they find the work surprisingly rewarding. J.'s boyfriend, who was here for the first time, turns out to be a freelance photographer, and that's interesting.

I was glad to have them all as guests, but the early afternoon party is slightly overshadowed by my roomie, who slams doors all morning and who has left his part of the dining room a huge mess. Even though it's he who is supposed to wash the dishes, he didn't do them all week - luckily my other roomie got up Saturday morning to help me. I don't even have enough silverware and plates at the beginning of the brunch for everyone, but we laugh it off, as the dish washer finishes before too long.

My other roomies leave some time during the brunch. They were invited, but didn't come, which is a shame. After J. and her boyfriend are gone, my overnight guests talk about how rude my one room mates was. What's up with him? Where did the room mates go?

I tell them about the current tension, and we're all a little giggly and it just gets ridiculous. He knew for over a month that I had guests coming, that I was throwing a brunch today. He deliberately made his bits of the house messier, but it bothered no one in the end. He's just sort of awful. N. asks what I do to someone who disrespects me so. I say there's nothing to be done, but while washing dishes, realize I'm really mad. I get an idea.

I have this really wide masking tape left over from painting my room, and I take it and run it , wall to wall, chest level across the last quarter of the dining room where roomie's pile o'crap is. Then I take a piece of paper and use a green glitter marker to write "This mess belongs to my room mate, who did not clean up even though he knew I had friends over" I hang the paper to the tape, so that it floats in mid-air over the mess.

N. and C. are giggling, and I'm a ham, so it goes farther.

I get out the ladder and a roll of paper towels and I grab a couple of thumbtacks off my cork board. Christi holds the paper towel roll while I take one end of it and tack it to the ceiling over the mess. Then the paper towels are hanging like a long streamer over the mess, draped twice for an elegant presentation.

Christi shakes her head. "Why?"

"Because I'm tired of his passive-aggressive shit." I say.

"So you're going to start your own?" she says, ever the voice of reason, and this makes me pause, but only for a second.

"This is funny." I say. "And it's all I've got left."

And it's true; it's all I've got left after two months of someone being snide to me and stressing me out in my home, which is always supposed to be my calm relaxing place. I just don't care anymore about his feelings, which is a horrible way to be. I'm tired of him always thinking he's *right* to be an ass to me.

I'm tired of being the better man, of walking away when he's rude. I'm tired of ignoring how he never gives me my phone messages, of how he's rude to my guests, how the dishes sit and everything else. All I've got left here is my sense of humor, juvenile and barbed as it is; and let's face it, I'm funnier than my roomies. A smart joke is ten times more effective than any shout, and an atom bomb compared to a fist.

The girls and I leave the house and have a decent hour or so of wandering in and out of shops up the way. I'm making friends with C. and N., who are nice enough, and I invite them to come back again and stay if they'd like to Christmas shop in Atlanta. After our outing we come back to my place to pack them up, but end up watching the Harry Potter trailer four of five times because Christi hasn't seen it yet. We pick apart the details and when they leave hug and then wrestle their luggage into Christi's trunk. Your package has come in the mail, and I'm excited.

I need the package, because when I get back into the house, roomie has left me a bizarre letter about how much he and the other room mate hate me. They think I'm the worst person ever. I'd like to say I don't care, but losing one of them as a friend does hurt; also, I can't believe the paper towels had such a powerful impact. Roomie acts as if I put a baseball bat to his computer. But no; it's just that I publicly mocked him.

I do feel a little bad about it. After I take a nap (cause friends make you need a nap after a while), Dust and I talk about comics but I find that I'm still shaking from the adrenaline of roomie telling me (via letter) that he thinks I'm a horrible person. Dust tells me I'm not, but my stomach is full of acid. Sara calls and asks if she can spend Thanksgiving with me and despite the fact that I'd planned a rather adult party, I can't say no to my sister. The holidays suddenly loom, huge and emotional.

There's only one thing to do; I watch your tape.

Kids in the Hall : Tour of Duty first because I've never seen it before (fingering Strawberry Shortcake!?!) and then the Chasing Amy extras. I love this stuff. I love Kevin Smith and this reminds me of before Ben-my-boy turned into an asshole. He looks like he's going to make out with Kev or Mewes at any second and he's got those fuck-me eyes. He even tries to hit on the ordinary-looking Criterion rep on one extra.

And then there's the movie commentary. I love this movie more than any other. Every time I see Chasing Amy, I catch something new. This time is no exception - the insights are wonderful, but it also makes me realize that the reason The Republican has bad hair is because he has the *exact* same hair and beard as Ben in Chasing Amy. It's 1996 hair, and The Republican's the kind of guy who would have seen this movie in 97, decided that was the haircut for him, and stuck with it FOREVER. It makes me laugh and miss him. Not that I can talk; far too often my hair sticks right off my head, and the short bangs incident of 1998 goes withoutexplanationn.

Things are horrible, Aral, sometimes. But also things are wonderful. I can't explain it very well. I guess that's life. Thank you for the tape, it meant a lot.


Saturday, November 15, 2003

Where to start.

In the early midnight hours of last Saturday, I started off this week on the phone with Kati. I had been angry with one of my roommates for over 30 hours, and she graciously volunteered to be my pressure-release valve. I ranted for 40 minutes, and then Kati said something to make me laugh, something about how rewarding her work is in Chicago. Thank you Kati. She also said the following:

"Elizabeth, you have got to stop having emergencies."

It's true, I thought. I have got to stop having emergencies. I will dedicate the next week to emergency preparedness.

It didn't work out; Monday I got a nail in my tire, which sucked away all my free money for the week. I spent most of the day running around trying to get ready to go to Birmingham on Tuesday, and also trying to fix my tire. And being pissed, because this is what Kati was trying to talk to me about; I've got everything scheduled just so, the money worked out just so, and so when something like a nail in the tire happens, everything else just...falls down. I have got to stop having emergencies.

That night, The Republican called me from a comic book store. He stayed on the phone with me while buying me 300 bags and boards for our holiday comic book extravaganza. He told me I was beautiful. I needed that; when he called I was curled under my covers at 7pm on a Monday, wishing the week were already over.

"I'm bringing you bags and boards" he said.

"All is right with the universe" I said.

An hour later Friend X calls me, hiccupping and gasping for air through her tears. I can't believe he said that to me we had a big fight, oh god, oh, god it hurts so bad and he and Ryan could form a club and this so awful I can't hardly breathe and I'm sick and he left to sleep at his friend's and I don't know and

And I listen to her heart break over the phone line until another friend gets to her to sit and hug and handle all the kleenex. I listen to friend X's heart break and mine breaks too. This is the price we pay for letting someone else get as close as her man did. Can I let that happen to me again? How many times do you get kicked in the ribs before you give up on love? I can't stand it. I can't stand that she hurts so bad and I'm in for the night and even if I wanted to go comfort her, I've got to go to Birmingham the next day.

I call The Republican and say: "Are you committed to being in for the night?" No, he says, I'm just reading comics. And then, because I ask him to, The Republican gets up, goes to two different grocery stores and drives 20 miles to take friend X a chocolate cheesecake from me.

Friend X calls me when the Republican gets there. "Your pie arrived."

"Tell him he's a sexy motherfucker." I say, because it will make them laugh. X dryly delivers the message, which makes other people in the room laugh, but she's too emotionally exhausted to laugh herself. I tell her I love her and the phone gets put up for the night.

Tuesday and Wednesday in Birmingham is stressful, but I make it home by 9 Wednesday night, and work for the next two days is a blur as I get ready for a trip to Florida this week.

Friday night I sit in my coffee bar and read my comics and try not to think about money, men, and the hundred little problems that need to be solved in my life. I score a neat piece of furniture at a yard sale for $30. I send Friend X a cheery card and some cash, because this breakup means she'll have to go through a near divorce, she'll need a new place to live and change, we all change, and I wish I weren't working so hard that I can't be there physically for her.

I can't believe The Republican took her a cake because I asked him to. He's so nice. I don't know what to do, all I can hear is Friend X crying and all I can remember is how often these things end badly, so badly that I could barely function last time it happened to me. I don't know if I can get so close to someone again. My heart is a bag of broken glass, and I don't know what to do.

But life is good, and Dust tells me so this morning. He is currently enjoying some romantic success, and what with his artistic success and his romantic success and his success at mastering the Margarita mix, he tries to roll some success over to me.

"Life is good." He hasn't even had time for his comics, his romantic success has kept him so busy. I laugh at him. I should have good new to tell him, but I don't. He says I should make The Republican iron my shirts, and I don't disagree.

Life is good. The sun is shining, the air is getting cooler, I got a star at work again. But there are nails on the road, my heart is a bag of broken glass and I need to win the lottery. And I miss you. And life is good...even when I'm afraid.

Virgil is coming to visit for Thanksgiving, and he will have a better opinion than I. He will know if everything is beginning or ending.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Savannah, surreal

Savannah, surreal, come visit.

There is something distinctly surreal about my life sometimes. For instance, I found myself wandering around Savannah late Thursday night with a group of drunken archivists.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I spent Wednesday and Thursday night in Savannah, as well as Friday morning. I dig the town in an incredible way; I think I may vacation there some day. It reminded me a lot of Morgantown. Centered around SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah has marshaled great force to protect its historic buildings. On a Thursday night in November the air was warm and wet, and the streets pleasantly full of people eating and drinking and having a decently good time. Savannah is a town that is alive in the way I need places to be; it has its own culture and knows how to party for no real reason. Viva Savannah.

When the wind is right, you can even smell the paper mill, a smell that reminds me of my Grandma's home town just an hour and a half south of there. It's one of my favorite smells; salty marsh and paper mill. Mmmmm, the memories. Hanging Spanish moss, life out of creeping humid decay, and bitchin' seafood. I considered Savannah when moving back South; I still consider it a place worthy of making a life in. Savannah makes me think about getting a PhD.

I can't believe Halloween was just a week ago. I'm working crazy long hours, and it seems two weeks have passed in one. My work is incredibly demanding, and I have to keep reminding myself of why I like it so much. The pressure can be intense; meeting others in my field I have to continually think about what they think about me, and pay attention to the body language of my supervisor.

I am learning at an incredible rate, but I don't feel it's enough. Often I know my own demands on myself are unrealistic; however I have to continually guess what is appropriate in certain circles. I didn't grow up white collar, and as always this can be an issue, if only for me. Watch the way you dress. Watch the way you express yourself. Don't look nervous, for god's sake. I wish I had acting classes before I took this job. I think it would help me; I need to learn to project moods in front of people, moods and attitudes to which I am unfamiliar.

I want to win the lottery and set up an independent publishing house, one for which money would never be a real issue. That's the dream nowadays. Providing my roommates with a new house, decently far away from me, and working on print projects all day.

I'll be working 50, 60-hour weeks all this month until right before Thanksgiving.

Then I'll party. Come visit. Come lay around my house and laugh with me. All of you. My roommates will be gone for the holidays, and I can fill the house with good smells and good people and relax, relief, unwinding from these constant stressors.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Halloween in Little 5

A Good Holiday

The day after Puck died was Halloween. I had planned to spend the holiday at my aunt and uncle's house, in a neighborhood far north of the city filled with children and candy. But when the day came around it looked like traffic was going to be horrendous and I just didn't feel like doing anything. Burying one of your best friends just isn't something that puts you in much of a party mood sometimes.

The outpouring of condolences that lasted all day was comforting though. Nearly everyone who had known Mr. Puck called or wrote with some memory. My supervisor at work put flowers on my desk. Andrew held a religious ceremony in honor of Puck's passing. I felt a hollow place inside of me, but managed to maintain.

I had four sets of trick or treaters. 2 sets were small children from my street, one set was a group of black children with no costumes, and the last set - after which I turned out the light - was a small gang of teens, one of whom had an infant in a snugli. The baby was small but very alert looking.

Christi arrived from Nashville just after 10 pm. We wandered around the party that was being thrown on the second floor of my house, and then went up near the bars. In Atlanta, Halloween is alive and well. The streets were swarming with superheroes, crash victims, and semi-competent attempts at drag. Christi took pictures of JLA members and a couple in drag as Elvis and Marilyn Monroe. We wandered into an all night tattoo shop and watched a boy get Pocopelli inked on his calf. The tattoo artist and his canvas seemed happy to have our attention, and Christi and I were fascinated.

Christi loved the neighborhood. Everybody does. I was glad to be out on this night with her, happy she came, but still just not very animated. I played pinball at the pizza parlor and we watched Halloween celebrants pass by the big glass windows. Ya-yas, cheerleaders in short skirts and beards, specters of death. I listened to Christi talk about her religious pursuits and we gossiped about men.

We wandered around Little 5 for another hour or so after that, poking our heads into clubs put not feeling like rocking out. We saw the famous Disco Party Bus that rides around Atlanta from party to party. It was parked in front of Front Page News, which was full to the gills and looked like a great time. I was interested until I discovered that for Halloween night the cover charge was $20. Neither Christi nor I had that kind of cash to throw around on a whim - we probably would've hung out for just an hour - so we walked back home, enjoying the people watching as we went.

She and I thought we'd go back to the party upstairs; instead we ended up in the back yard, out by Puck's grave, just sitting. A stream of Devils and Angels still passed around us as the party upstairs went on.

How can people think Halloween is about death? Halloween is about life. Everyone is dancing and sweating and dressed up and embracing and yelling. Everyone worth a damn is out in the streets with their friends or family re-affirming that the world is full of joy and goodwill to one another. Have something sweet. Have a drink. Don't you know how lucky we all are to be alive? One day you're here, curled next to me, just as you always have been. The next day you're under a patch of dirt. I wish I could have afforded cremation, so that he could be on the wind, in the sunlight, part of the air all ready. Burial has always seemed to me a barbaric and disgusting way to rejoin the ecosystem.

I don't say any of this to Christi. We sit in front of the grave and talk about a hundred other things. She hugs me. Around 2am, we pass out for the night, and the next morning have a decently long breakfast with hot tea and lots of good nutty protein. I introduce her to goat cheese. Later that day, after she's gone, I can't believe she drove all the way down here to spend the holiday with me.

Thanks for writing and calling, everyone. It means a lot. May you find white cat hair on your black shirt, a blessing from he who passed.