Berkeley, Aug. 20

I’m sitting next to you, but I just popped a klonopin. You don’t want me to, and yet I do it anyway.

Am I self-destructive? Do I defy you? Or do I simply want to sleep tonight?

We’re watching Harry Potter 6. I need some cheering up and how better to send me off to what I hope will be a sound sleep?

Thirty-three minutes remain in the movie; the perfect timing before the chemicals kick in and flood my system, allotting for the bottle of pinot that accompanies them. Thirty-three minutes before I drift off to a dateless, timeless sleep.

How lovely. How elusive.

Sleep: such an escape, but oh how it evades me. A chronic insomniac, I’ve been not sleeping since I was two years old. Three a.m., it turns out,  is my witching hour…still is. Every night like clock-work, I greet the hour with a lucid mind and ready eye.

We’re nearing the movie’s end and my head swims with these last moments of narrative. Dumbledore caught in the breeze of the Spring evening on the Astronomy Tower. “Severus…please.”

Such duplicity.

I wonder now, sitting next to you, if you find my taking this klonopin as duplicitous. Or, if you see it as the coping mechanism that it is.

I crave the escape of hours spent seemingly unaware of what is, the escape from being present in my own mind, if only for a time.

 

Berkeley, Aug. 19

Her candle still lights. The one she surprised me with that time we were in Charleston together. A candle from the Holy City for my birthday: 34. A candle from before we knew she was pregnant with their first. With my dear one. My godson.

Her candle still lights even though the wick has reached the bottom, not yet extinguished. Tonight her candle is lit as Mumford’s “Roll Away Your Stone” spins on the turntable. J doesn’t know how it pangs me to see it alight, the meaning it holds. He means well, but.

Things are not well. There’s strife and turmoil and all manner of despair. I lack the means to articulate the rift that’s come between she and my parents. A rift that may be between them, but impacts everyone in our family. Can’t she see that? 

Words have been flung. Words that cannot be taken back. Perhaps they’re words which aren’t intended to be rescinded? But, the toddler ears upon which those words, hopefully, haven’t fallen will bear the full weight of their outcome. Of what cannot be undone.

I’ve kept my peace for weeks as the discord has played out within my family; geographically (perhaps conveniently) distant.

But tonight, the scent of that damn candle unwittingly wafts about my house. I catch the scent and, I confess, it gives me hope. The wick hasn’t quite reached it’s end.

San Francisco, Aug. 17

I’ve been stewing this past week about something a friend, a long-time friend, said to me. The stewing has me feeling unjust, unreasonable, uncharitable even.

“He’s not my enemy,” she offered simply as we descended the staircase.

“Oh,” I muttered, quickly glancing down to avoid stumbling on the next step, “No, I….I…only meant. Well…okay, sure.”

We’d been standing at the floor-to-ceiling windows, gazing out at one of the newer garishly appointed high-rises in Civic Center, when I mentioned what popped into memory then, almost in passing.

“I think he moved into that building. After,” I gestured toward the window. “But, I wouldn’t really know actually.”

As I turned away and we moved toward the first flight of stairs downward, she offered that she’d recently seen my ex over coffee with a friend of hers. They’re together now, you see. My ex and this friend of hers, as such things tend to go. The world…so small, after all.

“He’s not my enemy.” Her words echoing in my mind.

Was this feeling of unease from her having coffee with him at all, or the implication that I never would again? Had she crossed some undefined battle line? Had I drawn one?

Echo…echo…echo…

I wish I could have said, “Nor is he mine,” but that realization was still days away as these things tend to go.

What was has been, and there is no more. What else is there to say? The pangs of mutual friendship it turns out.

My school-aged claim upon my friend, whom I’ve known for years before ever meeting him, has me turning territorial in some very unflattering ways. Suddenly, I’m asking myself why she has a continued interest in someone I no longer know when the answer has nothing to do with me.

My ex’s new partner, as it is, has been a friend of hers for some time, perhaps longer than she’s known me; while my pettiness and immature assumptions are, unfortunately, something of a more recent nature.

Berkeley, Aug. 14

Lately, I find myself storing up topics of conversation; stockpiling them to sprinkle into future dinner discussions with J in hopes of still having some semblance of a complex daily life. Working from home most days and having little interaction with the outside world means something as simple as “How was your day?” sends me cartwheeling into the equivalent of verbal acrobatics at times.

“I talked to the lady down the hill today and she made a point to lodge her deep and lingering concern over the presence of the Eucalyptus trees adjacent to our property, as if we planted them and don’t worry about them ourselves.”

“The neighbor’s contractor explained they’ve been doing work on the house for the past 15 years, which means they’re either really terrible at what they do or the neighbors are full-on psycho as we feared. Apparently, the owners don’t like sharp edges.”

“The fire-prevention goats were around the bend today and I watched as their minder and his two herding dogs rounded them up and moved them onto the next section of overgrown grass to devour. It was magic!”

“By the way, my ex-boyfriend from ten years ago called last night and left me a drunken message asking for ‘closure.’ Can you please pass the salt?”

“King salmon is now $36 A POUND at the fish market. Outrageous!”

Sure, life is contained in such pedestrian moments; in sharing them with someone you build a life together. But if I share them ALL at once, where will I be on a “slow” day?

Berkeley, Aug. 13

What I write now is very difficult, painful even.

Yesterday, as J and I sat awaiting our train into the city, a man stepped off the opposite platform and was run over by the oncoming train.

There was yelling and the blaring of the train horn, but I knew, just knew, when I saw the yelling man turn his head away with a shake, that it had been too late.

I instinctively rose from my seat and was drawn to the stopped train, trying to find a way to help, to stop what was happening. I was shaking all over as I asked the train’s driver if he was okay. He nodded, resigned, but had his procedures to undergo and I stepped away to leave him to it.

J tried to pull me away, but I wouldn’t have it. In my mind, I hoped I’d been wrong or that maybe it wasn’t a man, but a rat instead that someone saw or, though awful still, perhaps a bird or dog. I was assured by the man who had tried to stop the train that it was certainly the worst.

And then our train to the city arrived and we stumbled aboard, stunned and at a loss of what to do otherwise. I leaned into J’s neck and quietly began to sob uncontrollably, uncaring who saw me or found me odd for doing so. It had all happened in a matter of two minutes at most. Just like that.

A strong gin and tonic awaited me once we arrived at the symphony, along with the unexpected news that the suicide attempt had been unsuccessful. There would be relief, but for that long train ride, I felt all too keenly what that man had done. Had tried to do.

He is a 65 year old man who left his cane on the platform, rolled off the side, then lay down in the center of the train tracks, where the train ultimately trapped, but avoided killing him.

I’ve never felt such relief in someone’s hopes being dashed.

Berkeley, Aug. 8

My grandfather, once he’d retired, used to wait on the front steps for my grandmother to come home from her factory job at the honey bee company. There, she would magic the honey and beeswax into candies, candles, soaps, and the like for an unidentified yearning marketplace. While he retired and spent his days alone, she kept working for a number of years after.

So he’d sit, waiting for her car to pull around the bend in the neighborhood. Loyal, like a puppy.

It was one of those late summer evenings that takes on a golden tinge, framed by overladen trees and branches, a lingering warm breeze, and a slight hum of insects that somehow never seem to pester in memory.

The steps were concrete and just wide enough for me to sit beside him while visiting that summer. We chatted about now forgotten things, and he passed the time by relocating ants that came his way. He seemed boyish in his impatience for my grandmother’s return, doting in his insistence upon watching the drive for her car.

Nostalgic, now I’m the impatient devoted one, waiting on my own front steps.

Sausalito, Aug. 5

I suppose it’s generally considered a bad thing when the hostess of the bar leaves for a break only to return and chirp, “Oh wow! You guys are still here!” with the genuine enthusiasm reserved for youth.

Does she know she’s being insulting and condescending? At this point in our lives, J and N (both men) and I aren’t deterred, but, in fact, take it as a point of pride that we know how to properly wile away an afternoon day-drinking. Having the freedom to do so. The luxury. It’s rare these days to find those with whom to share such proclivities what with kids and jobs and travel and responsibilities and the like.

And yet, the hostess’ comment makes me wonder about my own drinking habits as a woman and those I’ve encountered recently in books and TV. It makes me wonder about the casual alcoholism of women in general, seemingly “normalized” and ingrained into our modern identities.

The pouring of vodka into water bottles in Sharp Objects as Camille roves the streets of her hometown, Wind Gap, accosted at every turn by her traumas, literally carved into her skin.

The pounding of caffeine, bottles, and pills by the nameless narrator in My Year of Rest and Relaxation, drugging herself into a near perpetual state of unconsciousness in hopes of avoiding the inevitable: reality.

These women are aggressively grasping at something else to guide them out and away. And it’s their choice. They’re choosing to destroy themselves in the process and who’s to stop them? Who’s to stop me?

Is this the turn that modern feminism has taken?