Tuesday, April 26, 2011
I am told, from certain reliable sources that shall go unnamed, that I am now one of the invisible. This means that I have reached an age at which I can wander freely through society and no one will see me since I am not young and attractive, just middle-aged and running to seed. That, and I’m female, and old females should just stand in the background tending to the world at large. While I could see this as a perfect opportunity to bemoan my lost youth and wonder what happened, I am instead quite irritated that people can still see me.
I mean, it’s not that I don’t want to be seen, though being seen does require me to wear a stunning array of outfits on a daily basis, which is in itself an inconvenience, but wouldn’t it be more fun if I could be unseen when it really mattered? Instead, people see me when I’d rather they didn’t, and don’t see me when I’m standing in front of them, jumping up and down and making the sign of the cross over them in an attempt, however ill-fated, to save their souls. This is not my normal sort of interpersonal interaction, this is only an example.
Just last week I misplaced my car, which isn’t the worst thing that can happen, but it is disconcerting. And when I’m wandering around looking for it I would really like it if people could not see me. I’m sure I look just a bit mad at these times, and that is not an appropriate look when I want people to trust me with their financial data, which is how I earn a living. While I looked for my car people pointed and laughed, and this was especially disconcerting since the parking lot had been empty when I started my search.
I have also found it impossible to escape scrutiny when I’m having a particularly bad hair day, which is every day since I forgot to go to my last appointment and my hair is now several weeks expired. I don’t have charmingly unkempt hair, I have . . . bad hair. It’s just bad. However, if I should get it cut and if it should behave itself for one day, that will be the one day that I will be invisible. People will walk through me and feel only a slight chill, which would be from the iciness of my soul which is starting to be quite irritated at being so ignored.
It is convenient at times, I must admit. When I’ve made appearances at events at which I felt as if I were sticking out like a sore thumb, a giant inept thumb, I’ve later discovered that no one even knew I was there. I could take this one of two ways: 1) I’m not memorable, or 2) I’m invisible. I tend to stick with number 2 because, really, who could forget me? I say this with no small measure of pride.
While I am eager to exploit my invisibleness for my own nefarious purposes, it does tend to inhibit my ability to grow a fan base. At such an advanced age I can’t claim to be a young undiscovered literary genius. Common sense indicates that by this time my genius would have been discovered, somehow , somewhere, despite my best efforts to hide my brilliance under a rock. Isn’t that how it works? But since I am neither young, nor a literary genius (literary competence just doesn’t garner the respect it used to), and I am invisible, I have to work harder at growing a fan base. Unfortunately, I am allergic to hard work. It makes me sneeze, and it makes my eyes water, and it gives me hives.
Which reminds me of a charming story about bees, but I’ll save that for another day.
Meanwhile, I’ll be the one standing in the corner behind the potted plant. I’m really in front of it, waving my arms frantically, but you can’t tell because I’m invisible.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Stew was in a dream again this morning. It happens every so often, especially when I’m dreaming vivid action dreams, which are similar to action movies except there aren’t any explosions. Car chases, perhaps, but no explosions.
In a part of my dream which wasn’t connected to the plot of the dream (my dreams always have plots, storylines, and a cast of characters), I was in New York, a place I’ve never been to, other than to switch airports, which doesn’t really give one much time to look around. I was in a place that could have been an airport, or a mall, or a large facility with people traveling to and fro and a wide range of vendors. Call it what you will. My dream locations don’t usually come with labels, or if they do the fine print is too small for me to make out.
I stopped for a minute to look at something on a lower level, just a break for a few minutes from either tracking someone or being tracked, because my dreams are exhausting. And on the slightly lower level I could see a row of one-person video game booths, and on the end one something was going on, some kind of championship. I could see the back of the person currently playing, and it looked just like Stew.
It looked like Stew back before he started wearing shorts all the time, for this Stew had on black pants, and it was Stew without the illness that made his life hell, for he was fine in a sea of people. The mental illness, that is, not the cancer, which was its own hell. He turned his head slightly, and it was him, definitely, and he kept playing. He won then, and he won big, and he turned and walked out of the booth and raised both hands in fist pumps. He was happy and he was calm and he was In Control. He turned and walked out of my field of vision, and he went on to life a good life, wherever it was.
I considered going down to the lower level to see it from that angle, it was such a joy to see him so happy, but then realized I couldn’t, it was over, I couldn’t replay it, and I couldn’t change my vantage point. It was just that one moment out of a time that was perfect for Stew, and there was no going back.
He comes to me now and then to give me messages. Like that one. Each moment is its own moment, and there’s no going back to do it over. I’ve been procrastinating on some things, feeling conflicted about others, and generally letting time get away from me. Sure, it’s been a super busy tax season, and continues to be so, but really, is that any kind of excuse? It shouldn’t be.
It’s a manufactured excuse, because it’s not the real reason I’ve been stalled. It’s a convenient side issue that allows me to procrastinate while I combat my feelings of not being good enough to do the additional things I want to do. If I proclaim myself too busy making money (which in this economy is something I truly appreciate being able to do), I can neglect the things that will carry me forward. It’s like playing Whack-A-Mole, just hitting on the immediate issues right in front of me and ignoring the things in the background.
This post was meant to be about Stew, about seeing him happy and whole. I’m sure that after he passed out of my line of sight he had something to eat, something that was no doubt bad for him but tasted great, and he ate it without having to vomit afterwards, without being in pain, and that too would be unusual for him. But like most Stew things, it’s also about me, and the things he taught me, and the things he continues to teach me. He saved me once, when I first met him, and he continues to be there, reminding me of the things I tend to forget. I’m really lucky that way.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
I hear the crickets outside, scads of them from the sounds of it. The cats used to care, always wanting out so they could catch them, but now they just sleep right through it, as if they can’t hear them at all. Just two weeks ago there weren’t any crickets at all, at least not that I could hear, but time isn’t standing still, even when it feels like it is, and before long the crickets will fade away too, like everything does, and I’ll still be here, with the cats, listening.
Or maybe it’s frogs I hear. Frogs, crickets, things that make noises in the night when the rest of the world is asleep. I used to think it was peaceful out here, miles from the nearest town, but now I just think it’s dead out here, with nothing alive for miles in any direction, nothing but me and the cats and the crickets and the frogs.
During the day it’s even quieter, not so much as an airplane overhead or the mail truck passing by on the road. There used to be all kinds of traffic on this road, everyone in a hurry to get from one place to another, and it bothered me, all the noise, and I wished for peace.
Now I have it and I don’t like it, not one bit. I’m not sure when the traffic stopped. Maybe it was when the bypass was built, a better smoother road that takes the people away from this area, as if we’ve ceased to exist. Maybe we have. I can’t really tell anymore.
I used to keep in touch with people out there, people out in the world, but that was when the telephone was still working. Somewhere along the line, perhaps a couple of years ago, the phone stopped working. Maybe I stopped paying the bill, I’m not really sure. I picked it up one day, after months of not picking it up at all, and there wasn’t so much as a dial tone on it. Nothing at all. I would have called to find out, but I had no phone.
Inertia took over from there.
I stopped driving after I had the accident, the one that banged me up pretty bad last year. It was so bad for awhile there I didn’t want to keep going on, especially when they had me in the rehab place. But eventually they sent me back home with my crutches, had a taxi drop me off right at my house, and I just stayed here after that. I had nowhere to go, after all, and no one to see.
It wasn’t always like this, just me and the cats. Used to be we had ourselves a regular life, but that was when Alan was still here, before he run off on me. He said he was tired of me just moping around, never trying to get better, but I did try, I know I did.
Just seemed like no matter what I did things wouldn’t get better, and I never could get myself back into a rhythm.
He left on a Tuesday morning in the middle of April. Things were starting to bloom, spring was coming, and usually that helped, usually I could rouse myself into caring just a little bit, but before that could happen Alan said he’d had enough, that no one should have to live like this forever. I didn’t understand what he meant, though I knew I hadn’t been myself for quite awhile.
“You have to get over it,” he’d tell me, and I’d wonder how he could expect that. How could I get over it as if I didn’t even care? Are men that different that they can just move on so quickly?
And then, “I can’t live like this, Magda, I just can’t.” I didn’t even try to stop him. I didn’t say anything. What was there to say? If he really loved me he’d stay, he’d understand, he’d make me better, but I guess he just didn’t love me enough.
I’m not sure anyone has ever loved me enough, not for me anyway. Not even the cats. They only care for me because I feed them, and I feed them because I love them. But they don’t love me back, not like I want them to.
It’s lonely out here, that’s the truth, but what am I to do? I don’t know anyone out there in the world anymore. All that ignoring people and hiding out got me the exact result I thought I wanted, and now no one knows of me at all. Knowing of me is the most basic of knowing, and what I really want is for someone to know me. But no one knows of me anymore, much less knows me.
I was never the most sociable of women anyway, always waiting for others to come to me. But I made myself agreeable. I laughed at their jokes, I listened to their stories, I put on a face that I thought said to them, “please be my friend.” And it worked, for a while, or at least it seemed to.
Until I turned them all away when they came out, all so concerned and sympathetic. I hated the sympathy, I hated the way they looked at me as if they pitied me. And so I hid, and I sent them away, and they went away and forgot all about me. Just like I wanted. And then there was only Alan, and now there’s no Alan either.
There’s nothing but me and the cats, and the frogs and the crickets. I can’t even remember how long ago it was that Alan left, how long I’ve been here alone. I’ve got my garden, but over the winter I finished off all the canned goods. Not sure how long I can go on like this, but I can’t go back out to the world now. I don’t know how anymore. I lost my way.
I sleep a lot now. It’s something to do, and when I sleep I dream of the beach, and the boardwalk where Alan and I used to go in the summer, sometimes in the winter too, when no one else was there and the sky was dark and the wind would put a chill right through us. We didn’t care, we loved it when we were together. I don’t even know if the beach is still there, if the boardwalk is right where we left it, but in my dreams it’s all the same, so I’ll keep that. I wouldn’t like to go there and find out it was gone, or that it had changed. I want it just like it was, and so I’ll keep it in my dreams where it won’t ever change.
That’s why I like the past. It doesn’t change, it just is. There’s nothing scary there, for I’ve already been there. I’d live there all the time, if I could, but sometimes I have to wake up and feed the cats, feed myself, take care of what little life I have left.
It’s not so bad, I tell myself. At least the worst has already happened, and nothing can ever be that bad again.
It helps me sleep, that little bit of knowing that nothing else can ever hurt like that again. If it weren’t for that, I think I might go insane.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
It was a dark and stormy day in a season of dark and stormy days, and it was even stormier in Seattle yesterday than at my home, a scant 165 miles away. Or, I should say, on the eastside, not necessarily in Seattle. I go to the eastside because that’s where I keep most of my people/clients/friends, but there’s one particular one in Seattle, and he’s been missing lately.
It’s not as if I’m after him for money. Every month his bank automatically sends me a check like clockwork, if clockwork were to include issuing payments for services rendered, or due to be rendered. They haven’t been rendered lately because said client, P, has been missing, and his bank account login has been locked somehow and I need him to unlock it. This happens sometimes, what with all the security measures.
But hey, every month my check comes, no matter what, whether I’m doing any work or not. It’s the conditions of my contract, which is mostly verbal, or email-ish. Eventually he’ll come around and I’ll have a lot of catch-up work, so it all balances out.
I’m worried about P though. He had some health issues this past year, with a diagnosis which is aggravating and explains a lot of the problems he’s had functioning this past year. He emailed me when he was diagnosed and was happy it could be treated, and he would, he said, be working his way back to health and sanity. Not that he wasn’t sane to begin with, but he’d been dragged down and out by his illness. We have a business relationship, but like most of my clients, the good ones anyway, we also have a personal relationship – I’m the sister he always wanted, and he’s the brother I never had. Oh sure, I have brothers, but not any gay ones, so P’s the gay brother I always wanted.
He went on his annual gay cruise, and when he came back he said he was following a strict regimen every day in order to build his business back up and to keep getting healthy. He was excited to be getting back to it, and to start anew.
And then poof, he disappeared again. Emails went unanswered. Voicemails were left. And no response. In an email last week I said that if I didn’t hear from him I was going to go knock on his door next time I was in the Seattle area.
That’s where I found myself last night, on the eastside, and it was still early evening, or late afternoon, and despite my desire to curl up in my hotel room with a good book or a bad movie, or both, I went out in the pouring rain to find P, to track him down to his lair, not knowing what’s going on with him at all.
First I called another client, one who leases to P, to see if she’d heard from him. I never discuss my cliens with other clients, but since she sends her lessees to me and knows I do their accounting, and it was what I considered an emergency, I thought I could ask her if she’d heard from him.
She hadn’t, not since their last annual dinner a month ago, but she was a bit concerned about him too, being incommunicado for so long.
It was a good day for driving, what with the rain. At least as good as it gets in the rain. But the closer I got to Seattle proper the better the weather got, so much so that when I got into Seattle the streets were dry, and there were patches of blue in the sky.
Every time I go to Capitol Hill I become convinced that I’m really a city girl at heart, and Capitol Hill should be my home. I love Seattle the most of all cities, for reasons that are still unclear to me, and if my life had gone a different way I might have become a city dweller, instead of the hardened suburbanite I seem to be. There’s so much green in Seattle, foliage pours around the city like green cotton candy, and there’s always water to be seen from some vantage point. The houses are mostly old and scenic, but mixed in are some newer buildings and some buildings that should be torn down. Streets are generally narrow, and navigating is a trick not for the faint of heart, which I usually am, but I was on a mission.
I drove by P’s building, a newish condo building, and by newish I mean 60’s/70’s, which is plenty new enough, believe me. Maybe newer, I don’t know, maybe older, but certainly newer in the neighborhood. I drove by because there was no parking, and the time of day meant there’d most likely be a parking problem. Everyone had gotten off work, and arrived home, and were planted there, because they could walk to stores, they could walk to restaurants, it’s a good walking area, it’s not as if there’s a need for cars, and so the streets were filled with parked cars.
After going by P’s building I went up a couple of streets, back down and around. His street, in particular, winds and is narrow more than usual, with oncoming cars having to wait since only one can get through at a time. I pulled up next to his building in a no parking zone on the other side (other being a relative term), and I pondered my options. I texted P. “Where does one park around here?”
No response of course.
I may have been foolish to expect any at all, but I’ve been worried about him and when I worry about people I try to get to the bottom of things.
“So,” I continued texting, “are you here? Because I’m here.”
I dialed and got voicemail.
I texted, “If I get a ticket I’m billing you for it. Unless you call me now.”
An empty threat. For all I know, P could be in the Bahamas on another cruise, having a great time.
I decided I should get moving, so I drove away. I was determined to get to the door somehow to at least ring the buzzer.
After driving around and around I ended up at a Safeway, and I parked the car again. There was a feeling that I needed to pee. If you’ll pardon the expression. So I went inside the Safeway, bought some brownies just in case of emergency and a toothbrush and toothpaste, having forgotten mine, and then was unable to get into the restroom. It was locked, and everyone was busy, and I didn’t want to walk up to an employee and say, “I have to pee!” So instead I left.
It wasn’t as if it were an emergency.
I sat in the car for a few minutes. I wouldn’t have minded walking the six or seven or ten blocks to P’s building, but there were big signs saying that my car would be towed if I left it there, and I wasn’t in any sort of mood to have my car towed.
The sun was just starting to set, and it was beautiful outside. It’s not as if a walk would be a bad thing.
So instead I drove off, made my way back to P’s building, and still could find no parking within a four block radius.
It occurred to me that indeed the peeing would have to be dealt with, so I went back to the “main” street and found a QFC, another grocery store, and parked in their lot. Again, big signs warning me my car would be towed if I wasn’t a customer.
I went inside and walked all the way around the store and saw no restroom. On my second trip around I found a tiny frying pan to buy, and then I asked an employee where they were hiding the restroom. City supermarkets don’t have as much space, and this one was pretty crowded as it was.
“Down aisle one, through the double black doors to the left,” he said.
I followed his directions. Ah, through those black doors, the ones that are for employees only. I found myself in an empty warehouse. Empty but for the pallets of food everywhere. I looked around, saw no restroom. It was evening, and apparently there’s not many people around in the evening. I looked around again and found the restroom behind a pallet of canned goods. There was a big sign on it, something about no customers after 10 pm, but since it wasn’t anywhere near 10 pm I thought it was safe. I tried the door, there being just enough room for a person to squeeze in there. It was locked, with one of those numbered locks on it.
Argh. I looked around some more. There had to be people somewhere, didn’t there? Around another corner was someone. It was hard to tell if he was an employee or another lost soul – he was dressed as if he’d walked in off the street, and he might have been high, or he might have been ingesting too many yeast fumes.
“I’m looking for the restroom,” I said, and he mumbled back something that sounded like, “mrhghkjfkljdl.”
“Oh,” I responded, but clearly I had no idea what he’d said.
“It’s over there,” he mumbled, sort of comprehensibly, pointing to the errant restroom, “but he’s in there.” At least that’s what I thought he said. I don’t know who “he” was and I didn’t care. I just wanted my turn.
I stood there.
He mumbled something else.
“What?” I said.
“Can you leave now? This is a restricted area.” At least that’s what I thought he said. It may have been, “I think your sheep wandered off.”
Oh. Suddenly I felt embarrassed, as if I would be featured on the next episode of Cops if I didn’t hurry up and get out of there. What? Were they making subatomic fuel cells? Was this where the peace talks were going to happen? Were we expecting the President to wander in, no doubt to look for a restroom?
I left quickly, back out through the double black doors, back out through the store, out the door, and out to my car, and I found myself crying. Damnit! All I wanted was to find out what had happened to P, and I really had to pee, and I get kicked out of QFC! I never liked QFC anyway.
There was a homeless guy out on the street selling the current edition of the homeless newspaper. Isn’t that awesome? That the homeless have their own newspaper? I, unfortunately, never have cash, so I couldn’t buy one. Anyway, I didn’t want the homeless guy to see me crying. Right. Because he might take pity on the poor rich girl.
I got in my car, headed out of the parking lot, and found a Walgreens on the next block. I parked in their lot, where all the signs said, “Parking for Walgreens only or we’ll tow your ass and you’ll never see your car again.” I love the city, but they’re a little anal about their parking.
I walked into Walgreens, hoping word hadn’t spread that there was a crazy lady wandering the streets trying to get into a restroom. There was an employee sitting on the floor, pricing many little plastic wrapped objects.
“Do you have a restroom?” I asked, willing to face the consequences if they did not, which might mean peeing out in back of the Walgreens where all the homeless people do their business.
She didn’t say a word, but all the little plastic objects slid to the floor and she got up, led me to the back of the store, took me through the black doors, and unlocked the bathroom for me. I wanted to hug her. I wanted to tell her that she was my favorite person in all of Capitol Hill.
Instead I thanked her with my words and went into the restroom.
Once that mission was complete I went shopping. I always go shopping if I’ve used the restroom because I’m fairly certain that if I were to leave and not buy anything, after using the restroom, they’d have my car towed just for the fun of it. Besides, I like to show my appreciation by spending fourteen dollars or so, a small price to pay to avoid what could have been a very embarrassing situation.
I got back in my car with my new goodies. My bags were starting to stack up. And then I pondered my next move. I was going to get to P’s door if it was the last thing I did. If I had to make a special guest appearance on Cops as the crazy lady wandering Capitol Hill making small purchases and trying to break into restrooms. “I only wanted to find P”! I’d scream, as they led me away in handcuffs.
Again I circle P’s, and I noticed that a few blocks down and a block over, or vice versa, there was a space or two. Let me make this clear: I do not parallel park. I know what you’re thinking. A city girl has to be able to parallel park, right? No. I will live in the city and park only in my very own driveway, which I will have when I live in the city. But these spaces had enough room so even I could parallel park, so I circled again, having missed it the first time, and then went back around and down the narrow winding street and parked.
By this time it was dark, night having fallen as it tends to do when one is busy searching for restrooms, and it still wasn’t raining, lucky me, so I took my brownies, just in case of emergency or in case I could bribe P with them, and I went walking. I walked by houses which were both mysterious and inviting, patches of lawn, houses broken up into apartments, stately older houses with bright windows, and dark sullen houses. Down the street, up a narrow alleyway, or maybe a street, who can really tell? and over to P’s building. Still no parking in front. I would have felt abnormally stupid if there was a parking spot in front.
I stood in front of the door buzzers and momentarily panicked, not sure I remembered the number of his unit. Fortunately there was a directory, so I stopped panicking. I rang the buzzer for his unit. And nothing. I texted P again. “I brought brownies,” it said, on the off chance that he was hiding inside waiting for someone to bring him brownies.
You don’t know. It could happen. I would come out for brownies.
I was hoping that he was with someone who was looking after him. Or that he was off vacationing somewhere. So I rang the buzzer a few more times, and then I called him again. This was only the third call, but there was a message that the voicemail box was full, and no more messages could be left.
That is not a good sign.
I did one last text, and this one said, “Apparently your phone is off and you’re not home, because if you were home, you’d let me in.”
What else could I say, having proven myself to be an abnormally worried accountant? I considered pressing other buzzers, since there are residents who know P, some quite well since he’s had dinners for some of the older ladies who reside there, and was there helping one die last year, but I didn’t have a good reason to suspect anything. What kind of person goes around alarming the neighbors and asking questions?
Not me. I don’t know any of his friends, though I do have the name of a former partner and still good friend somewhere, if I can find it. I need to find it.
I walked away, no answer to the mystery of P. I don’t know where he’s been. I don’t know how he is. I don’t know if his illness has gotten bad again, or if he’s off on vacation in the Bahamas, unable to endure more Seattle rain. This is not entirely unlikely, given the recent weather and his state of mind. I know nothing. I do know he’s not languishing around his condo, since he would have responded somehow.
I walked back to my car in the dark, mostly not tripping over the uneven sidewalk. I drove north and east, and it started raining again on the eastside. I got a salad at a drive through and took it back to my room. I ate my salad while watching “Without A Trace,” and it occurred to me that I would not do well as an FBI agent. The best I can do when looking for someone is to stalk them, which apparently isn’t very productive. But perhaps the FBI has a better training program?
It was raining when I left Seattle the next day. It was raining on the eastside when I got up, when I went to breakfast with a great friend and her two charming daughters, and it was raining when I left the eastside and took the 520 Bridge to Seattle. I could have skipped Seattle altogether, but I like driving over the bridges. It rained all the way across the bridge, and everything was grey. The water was grey, the skies were grey, the buildings on the Seattle side were all grey, the rain giving everything a foggy tint of grey. Through Seattle and south, all the way to Olympia it rained.
Through a bout of diarrhea which delayed my progress for hours, it rained. But last night, on Capitol Hill, the weather was perfect, for just that one block of time, so I could walk Capitol Hill and ring buzzers.