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?

San Francisco, Aug. 2

The Richmond train driver is usually a jovial sort, often announcing the destination as “R-R-R-RRRRRRRICHMOND! RICHMOND TRAIN! RRRRICHMOND!”

But not tonight. Tonight he simply called out the endpoint flatly, almost morosely.

I knew it was him from his distinctive voice even though I’ve never met or seen him.

It made me pause in my reading and look up and around the train car to see if anyone else had noticed.  A sea of faces absorbed by screens.

I went back to my book and reread the same paragraph three times as I wondered where his joy went. I wished I could ask him what was the matter. I wished I could tell him that I noticed. That someone was paying attention.

Berkeley, Aug. 1

I take my pills with breakfast, when I remember to that is. I hide each tablet in a chewed up mouthful, just like a puppy, except I’m swallowing my sanity.

One pill to increase my energy level. Check!

Two to fight my depression. Check!

One to even out my cycles of extreme mood drops. Check!

And those are just my morning pills. At bedtime, there’s another pill for depression, another for motivation, and a seventh for sleep.

I’m 38 years old and I subsist on seven pills a day just to function.

Berkeley, July 30

Days slipped by obliquely, with little to remember, just the familiar dent in the sofa cushions…If I kept going, I thought, I’d disappear completely, then reappear in some new form. This was my hope. This was the dream.   –My Year of Rest and Relaxation

I think Ottessa Moshfegh may be a bad influence.

I said “fuck it” after sitting in the same chair working without a break from 9 to 4:30 again today, poured myself a gin and tonic, and brought it into the shower for company. I haven’t showered in three days. Besides, isn’t gin meant to be in a bathtub, or something?

The condensation on the sides of the highball were lovely to the touch, as was the cool clink of the ice cubes and the crisp quinine of the tonic on my tongue in contrast to the humid flux of the shower spray. Yes, gin is best enjoyed in the bath it turns out.

Hours spent sitting in the same attitude had atrophied my muscles and the hot water and cold cocktail worked their magic.

Spruced up, now I’m off to the Safeway to buy something else to buoy the spirit. Wine? Peonies? Twizzler Pull ‘n Peels? All three? I loathe the queue of elderly I’m sure to find there, let alone the judgement of the sales clerk for my being back again in less than 24 hours with such a milieu of items.

My bottles clinking in my shopping basket, admittedly, I’d rather buy Monistat cream, even with the special call button requiring them to unlock the case these days.

At least then they won’t look you in the eye.