My sweet, amazing friend Tricia is 37 weeks pregnant with her first child.
My sweet, amazing friend Tricia is 37 weeks pregnant with her first child.
I've gotten a few emails lately, and sighs of concern from friends who read my blog. Good people wondering if I might be depressed, if I'm okay.
I thought I'd lay things out here, in an incomplete and sketchy way, about the kind of stuff I've been writing lately. And why.
My blog has deviated quite a bit from where it started. In the beginning, I wanted a place to post my fiction. I wanted a url I could point to and say, It's all here. Everything I'm proud of.
Then, once I started, I got caught up in blogging for its own sake. I thought I might like to be a career blogger. I concluded, I can write...I can blog! For a living!
I tried to be amusing. Because I can be. I like to be. In fact, I think you'd find me smiling just as often, if not more, than you'd find me furrowing my brow.
With my blog, I worried too much about stats and clicks and unique visitors and all but forgot the fiction (which has been a pure, unconditional love throughout my life and which does not deserve the cold shoulder).
A few months ago, I turned 40. I think this fact has less to do with my recent brooding than my husband insists. But I'm willing to contend that it may play a small part. I'm pretty sure, and I may be wrong, but I think I'm expressing my angst because, well...there's room for it now.
There's been no room for the past six to seven years. I got married at 32. I got pregnant very, very quickly. I had a hard time being pregnant, both physically and emotionally. Then I had a newborn, who grew into a toddler. And when he was 15 months old, I got pregnant with my daughter.
It's been pregnancy, babyhood and toddlerdom for the past, yeah, 7 years.
I'm not looking for sympathy here, believe me. I know I'm lucky. No fertility issues. A difficult birth for Fruit Bat, who was born blue and had to be resuscitated, but overall healthy children.
I am one, though, who needs a lot of room to think, to question. Rumbling happily and resignedly down a straight path is not in my DNA. Spending the bulk of the past several years in a house with children who rarely let me sit down, much less form a meaningful thought, has been tricky for me.
Now, though, they are both in school. Fruit Bat does full day K. Kitty Cat goes to a sweet preschool 4 mornings a week. And this has opened up a space in me that...that I didn't realize how much I missed.
There has also been the issue of my manuscript, which I've been toiling on and tinkering with since 2000. A handful of agents have it right now. One even sounds semi-serious about representing me, but I'm still waiting for the final word. I get feedback along the lines of, You have a nice style, but I just didn't fall in love with the writing.
If ever there's been more vague and less constructive criticism, I'd like to hear about it.
Anyway, this string of rejections has been ill-timed (as if there would ever be a good time). Coinciding with my newfound space to mull (which I like and I need and I cannot cram into some cubby hole in my brain while I busy myself so much that I won't notice it) and with, I guess, the fact that I'm halfway through my life without a book published yet.
There has, also, been some marital rockiness that is unbloggable, but, I think, understandable given the whirlwind of the past several years.
I've recently been hired to write for a website for moms. (More details on that to come). And they want, from me, the funny parenting stories, the amusing anecdotes. So those have a place there. I don't feel like I have it in me to also do that here.
All Adither, for better or worse, has become more experimental. Perhaps more angsty than it used to be. It has become a forum, again, for my fiction.
I'm really enjoying writing Greener Grass. My traffic has dropped, my comments have slowed. But I'm happier with what I'm posting here.
Half Assed Kitchen, meanwhile, has grown quite a lot. It's my lighthearted spot in which I can be little bit funny and make
a pittance money off the necessity of my spending gobs of time in the kitchen anyway (being a mom and all).
Is All Adither less entertaining than it used to be? Probably. Am I going to twist my observations and thoughts into posts that are quippy and fun? Not here, not now.
This place is what I need it to be. It'll evolve as I do.
And I'm grateful to those of you who've stuck with me through this and those of you who've inquired into the state of my well being.
It means a lot. It truly does.
"This isn't what I thought it'd be like," Tamara said, sitting across from Paul at a Starbucks on 188th Street. The door was open and a large steel fan whirred, pulling in acrid air from the street. A fly buzzed around her latte and she swatted it away.
"What isn't?" Paul said, ripping into a peanut butter cookie.
Tamara said, "New York."
"You thought it'd be all Broadway and Rockettes?"
She held the warm paper cup in her hand, liking how it felt, liking, even though the day was sweltering, the heat that radiated through her wrist and up her arm.
It had been two days since the D & C. Two days during which she'd slept a lot and ate leftover Chinese and Indian food that Paul brought her. Two days of avoiding the rotating and never-ending supply of beer in the refrigerator. Two days of temperatures in the high 80s and little breeze. Two days without speaking to anyone from Wisconsin. Namely, Dave. Two days of existing in a state of stupification, consuming just enough to keep her going, conversing just enough so Brad and Paul wouldn't haul her to the hospital's psych ward.
"Of course not," she said. "I don't know what I thought. I guess, I mean...this is basically just like Milwaukee. Except with fewer trees."
"You could go into Manhattan. That won't feel like Milwaukee."
Tamara was a little hurt that he hadn't said We. We could go into Manhattan.
But he had plans. She knew that. She and Paul were, in fact, waiting in that very Starbucks to meet his girlfriend, Cornelia.
Tamara wasn't clear on why Paul and Cornelia hadn't run into each other's arms that first day in Queens, but he had mumbled something about her summer classes at NYU, so Tamara hadn't pursued the subject.
He jiggled his knee under the table and took a sip of coffee while watching the door.
Softly, Tamara said, "She'll be here."
Paul nodded, still watching.
The fly drifted lazily by again. Tamara smacked it with her palm and, to her surprise, killed it. She wiped her hand on a napkin.
"That's sick, man." Paul grimaced.
"What? Insect guts?"
"You should see what Joshua brings home. Slugs and dead chickadees and earth worms the size of your leg. Flies are nothing." She realized that her voice sounded wistful.
And she wondered why, when she'd called home, she hadn't asked to talk to the kids. Just a quick Hi. I love you. Are you keeping your teeth brushed?
Because, she told herself. Because. That was what she was on the lamb from. All the motherhood shit. And because chatting with Caitlyn, Joshua and Eli would just confuse them more. They'd be all, Mommy, when are you coming home? Eli wrecked my Polly Pockets house! Daddy let me eat three popsicles. Why did you leave?
Tamara opened the napkin and stared at the smushed fly. It would confuse her more too. If she heard their voices she, most likely, wouldn't be able to see this through. Whatever This was.
Just then, Paul started and stood.
A girl of about twenty with clear, pale skin and wispy brown hair looked around the coffee shop. When she saw Paul, her eyes smiled before her mouth did. She skipped once, then strode with purpose into his arms.
He wrapped her up, inhaled into her hair and closed his eyes.
Tamara would've felt awkward, might've started shifting around in her chair, if she hadn't been watching them so raptly. There was something familiar about Cornelia. Something in the gleam of her eyes or something in the downward tip of her mouth.
When they finally separated, the squeal of a milk steamer almost drowned out Cornelia as she said, "Pink?"
Paul touched his dredlocks. He chuckled. "Right. They were, what, yellow before?"
"With orange tips," she said. She circled him approvingly. "I like this. This is good. Like a Valentine."
"To you," he said.
Tamara remembered. That rush of love. The longing. The feeling that your soul would wither into a dried mushroom if you couldn't be with the other person.
She tried to recall if she'd felt that with Dave, but thought not. Their union had been more a practical, easy arrangement. He fit the bill, so to speak. He was the right age, of average height, with brown hair and blue eyes. He worked in an office and even utilized the clerical services of a shared secretary. He wanted children. His parents were still married. He had friends, who could also be hers.
So Tamara forced herself to fit the bill too.
She thought, of the love and longing, that she was probably remembering high school crushes and bursts of drunken college lust. Certainly not Craig. He was a slightly repulsive diversion. A coping mechanism. Somewhere to direct her thoughts when she couldn't take the idea of managing the bank accounts and baking another batch of cookies for one of the kids' classes.
Craig also, she had to admit, made her feel independent. That she could do what she wanted without the permission of her husband and kids.
Apparently, though, whatever fallacy of independence he gave her wasn't enough. She'd taken off anyway, hadn't she? She'd come to the all the way to New York.
Paul and Cornelia kissed. And Tamara finally had to look away.
That. She wanted that.
Yet she'd been doing it wrong. All her life, she realized. After one excrutiatingly painful rejection from Tom Fox in Junior High (oh how she'd adored him and his dark curly hair and blue Nova and his black belt in Karate), she'd only gone for Simple, for what she knew wouldn't hurt her.
And what about before Tom? What had she liked, besides boys? Could she even remember?
She'd painted rocks. She'd given them faces and constructed large families in which the dads had been teachers and the mothers had been nurses. She'd made jewelry–-necklaces from the sea glass she found during summer vacations on Lake Michigan. She'd been good at writing. Mr. Sobleski had always chosen her stories, mostly about her dog or babysitting misadventures, to read aloud in her ninth grade English class.
So she'd been artsy. Englishy. She'd been something besides boy crazy.
This gave her a small measure of satisfaction as she looked around Starbucks, allowing Paul and Cornelia a few more minutes without her ogling them. She wasn't sure why she'd even come to the coffee shop with Paul. Except, she supposed, because he'd been nervous. Still...she was an obvious third now. A sensation she wasn't used to.
This is what it'd be like to be single again, she thought. Lots of this. This thirdness.
Tamara considered getting up and leaving. But, instead, observed a youngish couple who'd just come in. Who both set rubber messenger bags by a small table. Who sported jeans, each with one pantleg rolled halfway up their calves. Who moved so slowly, so deliberately, Tamara wondered if they were on something, or if they were just profoundly calm people.
Calm, she decided, as they picked up identical copies of the Village Voice and lowered themselves into hard, wooden chairs. They didn't speak, she noticed. They exchanged eye contact once, over something they'd both read, but otherwise operated as if they were underwater.
She couldn't stand it anymore. They were too fucking sedate, acting as numb as she felt. She had to give herself over to Paul and Cornelia again, who'd moved to the counter to order Cornelia a drink, who were inebriated on each other, gazing, smiling secretively.
Tamara would find her way somewhere else. To Brad's or to a park. She stood and told Paul this.
"You sure?" he murmured, his eyes, for a second, registering her.
"Totally," Tamara said. She waved dumbly at Cornelia and left, out onto the hot concrete, losing herself in the smells of exhaust, and vinyl wafting from a luggage store, and roasting nuts, and something more human, more organic, something whose source she didn't want to know.
Yes, I remember saying I was done with Cat Video Friday.
The green tea is hot and bitter, just how I like it.
The music, it is moody and thumping. Also how I like it.
The chocolate lab is staring again, it's sad, sweet eyes twitching.
The ideas, they fill my head. A clutter. Too much I want to do in this modest space of time I'm allotted.
The weekend is upon me. I do not wait and cheer for Saturdays and Sundays.
The signs, they are askew.
The longing is always there.
The boy, he woke me by rubbing his small hand gently over my hip.
The strand of blond hair that I twist in front of my nose is frayed from too much dye.
The boat has capsized.
The horses are dead.
The young eagle soars over Ballard, wondering where all his fish have gone.
The pastry is tempting.
The deadlines are looming.
The dreams lately are anxious and strange, especially toward morning.
The plastic bag is stuck in the branches of a tree. Ugly neglect.
Or oddly beautiful.
The sun was out, shining at a soft, breezy angle. We passed under a row of cherry trees and, as we did, a flurry of pink petals whirled down onto our heads and shoulders. We whooped. It was one of those beautiful moments...beautiful moments that came plentifully on that day, Tuesday. Four-year-old daughter was in a feverish tangle on the couch, alternately sleeping and staring catatonically at the ceiling. Her arms and legs hot. I'd never loved her so much as I did on that day, Tuesday. J. pulled me close in the evening, and in response to daughter babbling that she was the cutest person in the family, whispered, "You're the cutest person in this family. And don't forget it." I felt lucky in that moment, on that day, Tuesday. A glass of wine on my friends' deck in the Central District, talk of the impending birth of their baby, the impending birth of their family. To have such friends. I knew it was good, on that day. Tuesday.
But now, patience does its death rattle in my throat. Beauty and appreciation trumped by sickness and shitty weather and long hours apart and long hours together.
Because it is Thursday, after all, and nothing lasts. Not the cherry blossoms or the luck. But also, not the sickness, not the rain.
The cab smelled of body odor and vaguely, fennel. The driver was eating something. Something wrapped in foil that he held in his hands.
Paul was already inside the cab and was pulling Tamara across the seat until she slumped against his shoulder. The other guy, Brad, she remembered, shoved in her feet and slammed the door.
Paul leaned forward and said softly, "We need an emergency room. Whatever's closest. And decent."
They lurched into traffic.
The sky was dark gray, striped pink along the horizon.
"What time is it?" Tamara mumbled. She was dizzy. Dizzier than she ever remembered being.
"Hell if I know. Five?"
The cab driver was horrible and typical. He sped forward, slammed his brakes for red lights, sped forward again like it was all open country and miles of empty road, then, inevitably hit the brakes hard another 2 blocks down. He smacked his horn liberally, jarring Tamara.
She felt like shit. A large mass was between her legs. It took her several blocks of zooming and stopping before she realized it was one of Brad's scratchy towels.
It came to her in fragments, but she was so tired she wasn't sure what was real and what was mirage summoned by her drifting brain. She'd been sleeping, on the couch in the apartment. She'd been dreaming wild, crazy things. She heard the door close, then bottles clanking in the kitchen, then, what seemed like several hours later, "Dude, it's like a fucking murder scene." Paul said her name. She roused a little. She managed to ask, "Did I ruin the sofa? Oh God." She found the energy to scoot away and look. The blood, though, seemed contained to her towelly nest.
She breathed, relieved, sure all was well as long as she hadn't wrecked some poor stranger's sofa.
Paul seemed to understand what was going on. "Okay," he said. "I need to get her to a hospital. This is bad. This is bad."
It was bad. But it could've been worse. Tamara had to wait less than a half hour in the waiting room, leaning against Paul, filling out paperwork, remembering her insurance numbers from all the times she took the kids to the pediatrician. She wrote with one hand while she clutched her abdomen with the other.
She wondered if she should call Dave. She wanted him right then. His familiar presence. She wanted home. She wanted to be lying in her bedroom with the windows open, hearing the kids play in the yard, at a safe distance, but knowing they were okay. That they were still hers.
When the nurses and doctors took her, they gave her sedatives. Something good in an IV drip that almost made her groan with pleasure. Finally, some relief.
She was wheeled into an operating room where they suctioned her uterus. The sound was horrible and liquidy and as soon as they finished, she turned her head and vomited into her hair.
She was having a D & C in a New York hospital, with no one who loved her in the near vicinity. She, Tamara Marks, had taken the bus to New York. Alone. And had just lost a baby she never should've had to begin with.
For the first time since going out there, she thought, This was a mistake.
A short while later, after an orderly wiped her hair with a steaming hot wash cloth and handed her a plastic bag of maxi pads, she was released.
She and Paul stepped out into the sunlight, blinking. She wanted to speak, to convey her gratitude and her dismay and her sadness. But, for once, she couldn't say anything.
Paul ran a palm over his face. He looked profoundly tired too.
On the subway ride back to Brad's, she started crying. Tears that streaked her cheeks and splotched her cuffs as she swiped at them. She felt like some sixteen-year-old girl who'd just aborted her first pregnancy, not a seasoned mom in her thirties who'd been cheating on her husband.
She leaned her head against the hard plastic of her seat and let Paul hold her shoulders and call her Baby and tell her it was okay. The thought flashed through Tamara's mind: Why was he being so nice to her anyway? What was in it for him? But she didn't have the energy to explore it right then. He was there. He was human and warm. He was nice.
She'd ask herself those questions again later. Some other day.
Back at the apartment, Brad's bed was waiting for her. "Go ahead," he said. "I'm up for the day."
Before Tamara fell into a deep, dead sleep, she called Dave. But she could only cry into the phone as he, in a panicky crescendo that slid quickly into annoyance, asked, "What? What is it? Jesus, Tamara, I wish you'd talk to me."
We hiked a lot, dusty rocks clinking and scraping under our feet. Cactus (cacti?) everywhere. One cactus was particularly poignant--pocked and stooped, like an old man, one who'd lived a satisfying and tiring life and was ready to topple.
We trekked Camelback Mountain behind a guy who made cell phone call after call, leaving messages to "come on down. We've got 9 holes and the most beautiful girls in this country." He was supremely distasteful.
We passed a couple talking about cancer, though they discussed it in vague, general terms, leading me to believe neither of them was afflicted.
A woman who was hiking with a friend said, emphatically, "That's a completely different sport. One wrong step and you're dead. You know it, Robyn? Dead."
Doves cooed all around. Exotic birds squawked from low bushes and orange trees heavy with fruit.
It was strange to imagine the kids at home, going about their routines without me.
One morning when J. and I were sitting on our patio sipping coffee, a cleaning woman walked past. Her face was so open, so sincere as she said hello, then crashed her huge cart into a tree. Small leaves fluttered onto her head and she laughed at herself, freed her cart and continued on.
I haven't been able to stop thinking about her.
The sun burned my skin. I knew I shouldn't like it, but I did. The light, pleasurable sting, the burnished pink, the way freckles emerged like constellations up my arms.
Then there was the flight home. We transitioned grumpily from our leisurely few days.
J. was anxious to get back, to unpack. I did not mind the return, but was in no hurry. In a few hours this would be a memory...time when there was no schedule, no agenda, nothing but hot sun and lively blooms and skittering little animals.
A woman in her 80s used to live here. Edith Macefield. Ornery, apparently. Stubborn.
You've always known yourself to be ridiculously sensitive. An introvert, mostly, and, though your husband does not believe it, you relish pleasing people. You prefer to think of it as respecting others' time and feelings, but, yeah, you love to be liked too.
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