Sunday, May 28, 2006

genes, pools, and other accidents

“Guess who I heard on NPR today,” Mike says with a funny lilt in his voice.

“Who?” I ask, obediently playing the game.

“Your boyfriend!”


He proceeds to name this person. At first, no bells go off. Then –

“Ohhhhh! Him!”

The night I met Mike this guy was among the big group of people my work colleague was dragging me to meet at a lounge bar in Washington, D.C., as was Mike. As the night progressed through restaurants and dance clubs, fewer and fewer people remained of the original group until there were only four of us left: me, my work friend, Mike, and this one other guy. I’ll call him “Andy.”

The four of us hung out until 3 a.m. or so and somewhere along the way Andy asked me to go salsa dancing with him for one of the Monday night lessons held at another local bar. I wasn’t exactly falling head over heels for Mike at this point, but Andy did overlook certain details – like how well Mike and I worked as a Pictionary team (Grass? Um…Wait! Barbed wire! Yes!). I was relatively non-committal on the salsa, but probably said something like “I suppose so” mixed with “um” and “I guess, maybe.” Then there was the roof incident.

The last event of the night for our foursome was to go swimming in the roof top pool of Mike’s ugly pink condo building and afterwards to look out at the less ugly skyline. When we were heading back down into the building, my friend and Andy start down the stairs first while I stop short to ask Mike about what one of the buildings was. The door to the stairs locks leaving Andy and my friend inside sans key. And there we are, me and Mr Future Husband-Guy, in an unplanned pseudo-romantic moment, staring out at the lights of DC, my question already asked, his answer already given, and the silence now around us. The other two, wondering where we are, attempt to come back up, try the door, but can’t get back onto the roof. We listen to them rattling the knob for a few seconds.

When we open it, Andy is visibly grumpy (who knows what was going on in those 90 seconds I was alone with Mike!)

No salsa dancing ever happened and I think I have the roof to thank for it.

Yes, folks, there may never have been an Isaac if the roof door didn’t lock, if salsa had had its way.

It’s a bit of a kick in the pants though – you know, I want to be on NPR, the guy who I never dated but could have is. Missed associations? And my mom should have married that guy who owned his own plane too, but that’s another story, another lifetime, another mingling of genes.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

PEI encounter

I am where I feel most uncomfortable, where I feel the most bile rise in my throat and surge and gurgle like a dammed river. I am at a Mommy n Me class.

It’s one of the more harmless ones. It’s a “drop-in” style class. One where mats and tunnels and balls and rocking wooden boats are arranged about the room and one- and two-year-olds run around exploring and crashing into each other. Isaac loves it. And I love it for him. Especially since he spends so much time figuring things out, fiddling, finessing fine motor skills, slipping the string through the slots in the chair over and over again, starring at cat hairs he’s plucked from the carpet.

I love that he does these things – bypassing the high-five offered by the grocery clerk to stare quizzically at this cash register – my little engineer. But this is a chance to release and do something different.

He has so taken to the opportunity to crawl through padded labyrinths that he will even sit happily in his detested car seat nodding his head and pointing forward as I strap him in – “Onward, Driver!” I imagine him thinking.

Today, I have the misfortune of being one of only five or so parents to show up – a small group and easy prey for the dreaded Parent Education Instructor – the PEI.

A cheery blonde with a clip board sits in a rocking chair half-blocking the entrance and applying lipstick. “Did you sign in?” she spouts.

I imagine the tryouts for these parent ed performers: A dark theatre. One bright spot light shining a circle of light on the stage. A woman walks nervously into it holding one hand over her eyes like a visor, her shiny Mary Janes clicking on the floor and echoing around the room. She clears her throat and tries out her line: “Did, um, you sign in?” “Great. Thank you. Next!” calls a rough voice from somewhere among the dark seats. The woman swallows audibly and shuffles off to the wings where identical women hug her, tell her she was great, and reapply her lipstick.

Some time goes by in the class when I’m able to play with Isaac or stand around idly unhindered. And then… “Have you heard about our garden party?” Christ. She’s looking right at me. What could possibly be the right answer to this question? “No,” I strangle out. “Oh! Well, it’s this Friday in the meadow. There’ll be music. And it’s a potluck, so bring a dish…” I don’t hear more of what she’s saying. My mind has wandered off to a list of things I’d rather do than attend a Mommy n Me garden party. Items appearing on the list include things like having my entire body waxed with duct tape.

More time goes by, and then…”You know,” Cheery Blonde is addressing all of the parents at once. “I heard on TV that a couple guys have started putting oil in their cars instead of gas!” She titters like it’s the silliest thing she’s ever heard.

I’m thinking about how people should be given a set number of exclamation points at birth and when they use them up, that’s it. Try to be nice, Kitty, says the voice in my head. She’s attempting adult conversation.

“Don’t they have to do something first before that works?” I ask in a plain tone.

Cheery stops, tilts her head thoughtfully, her eyes, the exact green of her sweater, drifting up and over her left shoulder. “Yes,” she says at last. “They do. That’s right. They have to do. something. to. their. cars.” She nods exaggerated nods including all the other parents in her confession. Perhaps she’s worries they’ll start pouring Wessen in her Lexus SUV if she doesn’t. I can’t imagine it though – I can’t imagine them doing anything that wasn’t printed on a handout and certified by the Academy of American Pediatrics.

“Somebody needs to do something to help us use the cars we have for less!” the instructor goes on.

“How about we just grass over the highways?” I suggest.

Cheery nods slowly, her mouth neither open nor closed, her expression blank. Isaac runs to me to deliver a purple ball, then dashes off collect the red one, too. I have enough time to forget the conversation. And then…

“Did you say ‘grass over the highways’?” she asks.


Again a slow nod, her mind searching for something familiar to hold onto. And then…

“There’s a lot more traffic in my neighborhood lately!”

I turn from the non-sequitur like one turns from a private argument in a public place, out of politeness. Isaac leaves me the red ball and reclaims the purple. We read a few books, balance on the spongy bulging mats, and then…

“Would you like a handout on the Top 12 Foods?”

I make no move toward the Xeroxed pages. “Top 12 Foods for what?” I ask.

“The Top 12 Foods,” she repeats, unwilling to relinquish ground on this one.

I grab up Isaac and hold him upside down, causing him to giggle uncontrollably.

When Isaac starts rubbing his eyes, I pack up our things. I’m almost out the door and then…

A gasp. Cheery smacks her open palm flat against her left breast. “I’m not wearing my nametag today! I’m Charlene.” She sticks out her hand. “I’m Kitty,” I say, taking her hand and somehow forgiving her her cardinal sin.

“See you next time!” she sings. The notes catch in my ears as I step out the door and noisily onto the gravel parking lot.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


“So Mike tells us you got yourself a little job,” my mother-in-law says.

I fight back the impulse to answer through gritted teeth.

I have in fact reinstalled myself as a freelance writer for one of the local papers, a different one than I used to write for. A person gets preggers, and consequently sick as a dog, drops out of the loop for a few months, eventually tries to get back in but finds the editors have changed and wrangles unsuccessfully to pitch her once-embraced stories, has a babykins, drops out of the loop for a few more months, and then rises again, reincarnated with the competing print media. “Little job,” indeed.

So anyway, I had gotten my first assignment (the luxury of pitching not mine at this stage) which was a write-up of a dance performance. I read the press release and literally yawned. Dance-shmance. I couldn’t quite figure out what was meant to happen and I wasn’t all that interested in trying. Headline: New girl gets bum story!

As I left to do the interview, I regaled Mike with lines from themes songs past. Singing out my mockery: I’m gonna live forever! (I danced down the hall kicking my leg up behind me as I disappeared from his view into the living room.) I’m gonna learn how to fly! (High!) (I reappeared around the corner swirling my head and thrusting out my arms to dramatic effect.) … I'm gonna live forever. Baby, remember my name. (Rememba, rememba, rememba, rememba…)

But I’m a sucker. Always have been. I fell for her. The choreographer I was interviewing. She was nice. She was interesting. But most of all, I was reminded of living the life creative. Of what it looks like when someone has not just said she wanted to do more of her art, or imagines that when she retires, she’ll spend her days painting or writing or making films. She lives as an artist, 105% of the time. It’s different, so different, than talking to a 9-5er. I’ve hovered between the two worlds so long, I don’t know if I really understand how to live in either.

But what I realized mostly after my conversation was that I want Isaac to have these people in his life. I want him to have writers and dancers as “aunties” and “uncles.” Not famous people, just dedicated artists. I want to make poker games out of my theatre friends, so that the virtual smoke from our virtual cigars floats down to my son and fills his lungs with scripts and stage directions. I want the people that come to dinner at our house while he’s growing up to be the kind who have studios in their garage and poetry websites. Who knows, maybe someday his mommy might even be one of those people.

Friday, May 12, 2006


I miss my husband terribly.

But I’m sure I don’t know the half of it – about the fog we’re in. It’s like when a window is so dirty you can’t see how dirty until you clean it and the sun shines through the glass directly, without first passing through layers of dust. Or there’s that needling feeling I get – a sort of claustrophobia – with my constantly half-moved-in house, the framed photographs that are meant to hang in the bathroom still piled on the toilet tank.

Having a baby has put this distance between us.

I adore watching Mike with Isaac, his genuine laughter over his antics, Izzy carrying his blocks one by one to the kitchen cabinet and shutting them inside. Mike’s shoulders bounce up and down like a turn on a pogo stick; and I feel joy for his joy – a kind of metajoy. Sometimes I worry that my love for Izzy is a metalove, that I love him from up on my writer’s cloud, from my bird’s eye view.

In college, I had a sociology professor I respected a great deal. During the semester, he and his wife adopted a little girl from Korea. He was constantly arriving to class with stories of his daughter’s reactions to various cartoons or social situations. Eventually, I felt sorry for this little girl, like she was somehow being experimented on, exploited.

Mike once told me, in what seems a lifetime ago, that he is with me because I keep him alive. He can drift away sometimes, hum into a rutted routine and not notice the seasons changing, not really feel. “Like 1994,” he told me near tears. “What happened to 1994? I don’t know.” He shrugged. “I was there I guess, but what? A whole year.”

But now I need him to rally. Most days I don’t have it in me to be the engine in this relationship. 2005. I was there I guess, but what? I want to tell him. A whole year.

Friday, May 05, 2006

six…no, seven

I counted. Apparently, I counted a little too soon. By June, six friends will have moved out of the area within a year’s time. Or so I thought. But that was yesterday. In the time it took me to conceive of posting a blog on this subject and actually posting one, one more friend has informed me she will be leaving. Seven. Frankly, I don’t have tons more left. I’m reeling. I have no words, no blog for this.

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