Ten years ago:

Those first weeks in the apartment were easy. I was fascinated by existing in this place, and there was always something to fiddle with and examine. I went through all of my boxes, intentionally finding a place for everything I owned. I turned on the stereo much louder than I would have normally, just to revel in my own personal space. I sat in my bed, head laying against the windowsill, looking up at the sky and watching the snow float down to earth. Things were simple in that place, and I was happy to be there.

I really was happy. It seems wrong to say that now, knowing where things were heading. But I was reveling in my freedom every moment, and I wasn't bogged down in any drudgery. Work was hard, but then I would run home and play house for a while to feel better. I spent so much time on these things that I didn't dwell on the past that much, so the associated anxiety wasn't hitting me at all. I didn't yet have an internet connection at the house, so I was quarantined from the stress that it sometimes generated. I was in a little bubble, not thinking about how it was inevitably going to burst.

I was still working most of the time, flushing out the last of the Christmas rush. But I had settled out how the store wanted to operate, so things were flowing much easier than they had been. I continued to chat with Allie on smoke breaks, and we hung out once or twice toward the end of the year. I was having a hard time resolving hanging out with one of my part timer's girlfriends while I scheduled him to work, so I talked to him about it one day when we were both in the store. He seemed cool about it, but how does one really talk about such things when the power levels at work are different? I decided to proceed with discretion.

 


 

I went to that New Year's 'party'. I probably shouldn't have, but that is the retrospect talking.

This is a result of one of the many problems I had when I lived in Michigan: I didn't know when people fancied me. I'm still not good at such things, but back then I was making fundamental errors in my assumptions of other people. I was treating people as concepts, working off of assumptions that I concocted while hiding in my apartment. One of my base assumptions, given the mental state that I was in at the time, was that I was a pretty good friend, but completely undesirable otherwise. Not in a malicious way mind you, only that I thought I was broadcasting my burdensome issues pretty clearly, and that would be a turn-off for anyone I happened to stumble upon. The idea that I could be entirely wrong about this didn't even cross my mind. Every time I didn't notice I was wrong, it tended to create awkward situations, and New Year's Eve was a perfect example.

She came to pick me up, since she lived out in Fennville and I had no way to get out that far. I don't remember the trip out there much, just visions of passing trees. We must have just been chatting about little things then, like work or something. When we got there, it was just the two of us, and she said that others would be along shortly. But they were not, and two hours of bad cable went by before she decided that everyone else must have bailed on her.

We drove around for a while, and she asked me about all kinds of things: Did I think I would ever move back to New York? What was my childhood like? What do I think about children and relationships and marriage? I took these all to mean she was interested in what I was about, as transparent as they might seem in retrospect. And I asked her these things back, making conversation as we drove over snow-swept roads. I wanted to talk about these things, but the weight of them didn't occur to me for some reason. I should have seen these questions for what they were: probes into evaluation what I thought my future looked like, and where she might fit in. I think about these questions sometimes, and it makes me wonder what she was looking for in there.

When we got back to my apartment, she washed the pretense away and things became clearer. It was almost midnight, and she said that she didn't necessarily need to go home that night. Sitting on my couch, waiting for the clock to tick down, things made sense to me. I wasn't interested, but I had wandered into this situation and I had no idea what to do next. I was upset at myself for potentially leading her on somehow and creating this situation. I should have been clearer about my state, and how I wasn't interested in such things. I wondered what I had done to make her interested in me, like it was a flaw that I desperately needed to correct before I found myself back here. I felt absolutely terrible. But when the clock struck midnight, I did kiss her out of some strange sense of obligation. I don't think it was the right thing to do, but at the time it seemed like the right thing. I hate those parts of myself that seemed conflicted over things that seem rather simple in retrospect.

Those moments immediately afterward were awkward, as I tried to explain things. I wasn't mean or strange, but I fumbled the thoughts that I tried to convey. There is no comfortable spot in that place, but I did what I thought was best at the time. I apologized, and she apologized, but this was cursory absolution, and I felt like I should still be talking, but I had no idea what to do next. We sat there staring at each other for a while before she said that she should go. I walked her to the door, apologizing and generally being pathetic.

I spent the first minutes of the year 2000 standing in my kitchen, feeling like a complete asshole.

 

Notes on a life in exile: A retrospective
Previous: December 21, 2009 <|> Next: January 12, 2010

"i've read some vonnegut, and i think that i'm past his philosophy at this stage. i read his last book (i think it was his last book, it was basically his memoir), and it had a sense of despair, a hopelessness, a feeling of man being overcome in his old age by all of the doubts that nagged him throughout his life. the dream was over, and all he had left was cold, sober reality. what i noticed particularly in this book was that the effects of modern technology on society are what really made him come to his grim realizations. and it's true. in the age of cell phones, myspace, cars, fast food restaurants, corporate logos, where every part of our lives is either man-made or controlled by man, it's not small wonder that the scrupulous eye can more easily see our flaws. we flaunt them like a peacock flaunts its feathers, on billboards, storefronts, our shirts, everywhere.

i had a funny thought a couple of days ago
. i was shopping for a new coat and i was looking at a pea coat. sure, i like pea coats, but i started thinking about how many people are wearing them these days. if i bought the pea coat i'd inevitably wind up sitting at a table with three or four other people who were all also wearing pea coats. later, when i was walking outside, i saw a large flock of crows flying in chaotic circles for a good minute or two, only to all settle on the exact same telephone wire at the exact same time. then i imagined us, making our ways haphazardly through the suburbs, going our different places, all buying the same style of coat at some point in a mall, eventually to all settle at the exact same table with the exact same style of coats on. funny, huh?

i realized that we're animals, that we spend a lot of our time just blindly following instincts, but also that the resulting behaviors are so complex, how can you separate what was instinct from what was free will? and let's face it, animals do some dumb things. like, try convincing a large herd of bison that grouping together and simultaneously attacking a small group of predators would be more effective than stampeding away in fright. here you have this terrifically powerful beasts, and all they can think to do with their daunting frames is run! that's what we call instincts and just because they happen to work doesn't mean that they're efficient or logical.

i personally feel that i have these flashes of sanity, this freedom from instinct that provides me with all of these philosophical insights, but all i can really do is marvel in dismay at the insanity of it all. no one wants to change and that's very unsatisfying for me. that's what i want. i don't care if someone shares my interests or shit like that. i don't need to be personally empowered. i just want to live somewhere sane, because this life is giving me too many headaches and i'm tired of it. i've been on this mad journey of discovery for about 10 years now, and i just want to be taken away. i can't handle it anymore. there's just no point. i'm sick and nauseous and i want to go home."

A eucalypt, strawberries, camellia, all died today. It was 41C again. Cement radiant underfoot.
I wondered about what happens to bee hives in temperatures that would melt wax.
A friend responded that:
"bees will vent the hive maintaining temp until they are exhausted
then die then the whole thing melts. Its nice to have water out for them as they need heaps."
There is a hive in the gum by the creek. I hope they survive the Summer.
Kim and the dogs spent the day flat on the floor like throw rugs. Hoping for rain.

After 4 days of being down since the dreaded feast, I finally have energy to do things again. Did I just need the rest, or is it the fact that I spoke to her again yesterday, the first time in, what, two years? Since before my seperation?

Christmas can be a deadly time for singletons, and I didn't look forward to it. In fact, thanks to unexpected random social events, it went pretty OK. Even having my ex-wife and the kids for dinner was not bad at all. We have very few issues now. It's taken a few years, but water under the bridge. She looks well, looks like her new relationship is going her good. Good to see.

It was Boxing Day it all hit me. Maybe I've been staving off loneliness since my last fling, inevitably, ended, but whatever it was, it cabooshed me pretty hard. And the girls were staying with me too - as usual they are great, but I hate feeling like a bottomless pit when they are here. I don't want to be a miserable dad.

With new energy, today I made second visit to the Swedish budget furniture outlet in two days, about time I get some decent curtains in this room. Make a lamb stew, call up a few friends, clean out some drawers, try to fix my place up a bit.

Anyhow, about her - I met her around the time my marriage was curtains, although I didn't quite know it at the time. It seemed quite catalytic - the moment I saw her, my jaw dropped and I knew I wanted her for something that I had been missing so badly. Some kind of emotional contact, I don't know.

We kept contact, even went for drinks once or twice. I knew she had been alone too long, wanted someone. Really wanted someone. But I couldn't do it. How could I get through seperation, divorce, all the mess and complication, while having someone like that in the next city? Loving two women sounds great in theory, the reality is something else. And I did still, somewhere, love my ex, despite our shared misery. The thought terrified me, as if the emotions involved would have torn my spirit in two.

I couldn't ask her to wait, couldn't do anything. Could only try to face the mess of my own life. Time passed, eventually I became more or less free, but by then she was gone, to another. No surprise, beautiful woman like that, and lonely. Last time I saw her was at a book swap place, I got drunk and bitched horribly about my ex. What a mess.

Somehow we end up talking again. A few missed calls, hints that we should get in contact ... and suddenly there is her warm, measured voice again, on the end of a phone.

It's weird, like we know each other but don't know each other at all. We used to talk on the phone, she remembers stuff I have forgotten about my past. We've known each other years, but we don't know each other. I can't even honestly say she seems like what I'd call "my type". But, there she is. We'll see.

You can't ever know, and maybe we shouldn't, can't. I don't want to put any hope in this. I'd written her off as the road not taken, opportunity missed. But somewhere, I need hope. It's good to have it.

Time to go get those curtains shortened.

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