Friday, September 02, 2016

Adulteries and Epiphanies


Independence Day 1985

There’s nothing like being yanked from slumber’s womb because someone left an alarm on. A persistent, jangling alarm poking my eardrum.

“Hello?” in my best I-wasn’t-really-asleep-you’re-not-imposing-at-all voice.
“This is Jane. Please tell Charlie I’m alright.”
“Wait. Jane? What is going on?”
“Just tell him I’m fine.”
Click.

What the fuck was that about?
The sleep fog cleared. Oh, shit. Jane. The wife of the man I was trying to end a crazy affair with. The pieces floated out of the dreamy haze and landed with a jarring thud on the floor of my consciousness.

Oh, shit. The exact same phrase I repeated when I “fell into” the affair. Okay, okay…need to regroup. I came home late last night after going to a movie with a friend. Charlie called. He was a little desperate because I hadn’t been home. Jesuschrist, there’s nothing more annoying than a clingy lover.

“Where the fuck are you?” I asked him.
“In the garage.”
“Shit, Charlie, this doesn’t seem like a good idea.”
“Jane’s fast asleep.”

And if the conversation wasn’t a wise idea, phone sex was probably high on the list of truly stupid ideas. But it served two purposes: first, it got Charlie off the phone faster than the endless conversation of why we needed to stop this nonsense and second, I was wound like a top.

I like words; phone sex employed many I didn’t use in my daily vocabulary.
Charlie wasn’t bad either.

And Jane, it turns out, was not asleep.

I still don’t know at which stage of the descriptive conversation she picked up the extension. There really wasn’t a good entrance point. Not during verbal foreplay, mid-crescendo, certainly not during denouement…not even the post-coital chit-chat. It didn’t matter, the whole mess exploded (pun acknowledged) and I was standing there in the middle of the shitstorm.

So was Charlie but honestly I didn’t much care–his shitstorm was his problem. I was at metaphorical center stage for public stoning.

Genesis

Charlie and Jane were friends of my husband and mine. Actually Jane may have been my husband’s supervisor at the time. That still makes me cringe. (This was the husband I had left some seven months earlier and was on my way to divorcing. This was my husband of seven-and-a-half years who had asked me for an open marriage two years after our über-traditional wedding.) I’d always liked Charlie. 19 years my senior, he had a warmth and genuineness that I found somewhat lacking in my husband’s fellow corporate climbers. He was a throw-back to an era of patchouli and political rebellion. A grown-up Texas hippie with a job. Funny and sweet.

About the time I moved out of the house, Charlie had had a stroke. He was in his early forties. Within our circle of friends, we all took turns helping out. I went over and made him lunch one day. As a student, my schedule had a little more flexibility than others so I got lunch duty. His left side was affected. Or was the right? What difference did it make? He was wearing a patch to strengthen his stroke-weakened eye. It was like he was playing pirate. Oddly charming. He could walk but was not completely steady. He was in good spirits for having had a stroke at such a young age.

I made lunch and we chatted. It was delightful. When it was time for me to go, I went over to the couch where he was resting to give him a hug good-bye. As I turned from hugging him, our lips met. I swear on a stack of scarlet letters, it seemed an accident. How could I have been so naïve? I should have known that the man schemed that. Anyway, it didn’t matter—the fuse was lit and we were covered in accelerant. Oh, shit.

This was February. By April his obsession had cooled my passions and I was looking for a quiet exit. Well, that ship had sailed and sunk. He wanted to marry me. I promised him that the very last thing I was interested in was another marriage. If he left his wife, he’d better be ready to live alone because I had no intention of filling that void. In May, we had a moony, candlelit rendezvous in Santa Fe under the guise of his going on a Buddhist retreat or somesuch bullshit. It was supposed to be our affair farewell.

But things dragged on. Until the July 4th explosion. Then, I told him, we were completely done. Over. Finis.

He started showing up on campus just as my classes would let out. Then, one day he waited for me outside my job. I threatened him with a restraining order and that threw some cold water on the crazy. He was no modern stalker. Just a lovesick, impulsive, relentless, self-absorbed man. A real pain-in-the-ass.

Saint to Whore

The simplest backstory to all this was that I was raised Mormon. It’s complicated but safe to say I was the most straight-laced girl to emerge from my high school class. Pristine. Prudish. I didn’t drink, smoke or do drugs and I was Acolyte to the Intact Hymen Goddess.

Engaged to marry as a college freshman, my fiancé’s clarion call was “Marry or Burn!” Nice. I followed the letter and the spirit of the law with zeal. I didn’t just avoid sin—I avoided even the “appearance of evil.” At 18 I went to my wedding bed with my Girl Scout Virginity patch sewn on. Tight.

I loved my husband. I did. Three days after my 23rd birthday I gave birth to our second child. By that time, the concept of happily ever after was seriously tarnished. One day not long after, I woke up and thought: I saved myself for this? Still, I loved being a mother; my life was quite traditional, more like my mother’s than my peers’. So I went to therapy to bridge the widening gap between my dreams and my reality.

When I left him almost 3 years later, my halo took a solid hit. Then, eight months after that, on July 4th I completed the transition that had terrified me as a young zealot: I went from Saint to Whore. In 24-hours. The news was out. I was a double-home-wrecker.

The most amazing thing about the crossover was the relief. Not just relief but all-caps RELIEF. Suddenly, people viewed me as a Jezebel. I would never again have to hold up that façade (equally flawed) of perfection. Accepting that people saw you as contemptible, however untrue that felt, was intoxicating. I was okay with being judged and misjudged. I was free.

Silly postscript: Of course, the names of the cuckold and the cuckolder have been changed because this is thinly veiled enough.

Friday, April 22, 2016

politics and time passing

Donald/Hillary/Ted/Bernie
It is a political season without precedent in my life. The drone of rhetoric and issues has become deafening the way sitting near the engine of the plane fills your ears. Politics is passion and passion is by definition volatile. Lots of people are feeling the fatigue from angry substantiated and unsubstantiated epithets hurled. It's too much today.

Work
Work is not much of a relief. My inspirational and energetic leader of 2+ years is gone. Can't talk about why or how but it is painful. Inspiration and energy is in short supply. Candor and sincerity are even rarer. I depended too much on her enthusiasm and feel compelled to create it/find it/nurture it within me to give to the team. There's a black hole of escapism that keeps sucking it out. And there is understandable confusion/stress in the current leadership void.
Of course if tomorrow some real tragedy should strike, I would chide myself for puling over these small issues. That is me trying to get perspective. Well, I make myself climb out of this hole every day so I can help the people I work with because they are outstanding.

Time Passing
Over the past two years or so, there have been dramatic changes in the microcosm of my life.

  • My father died. 
  • We queers won the right to marry. (I am marrying the love of my life here in Houston in six months, on our 30th anniversary.)
  • Our daughter started renting our garage apartment. I will look back on this time in our relationship as one of our happiest times.
  • Barbara got a long-overdue, well-deserved promotion. 
  • I became a creative director. 
  • Barbara was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. It is under control with medication and exercise. 
  • Our city has morphed into an L.A.-style traffic snarl.
  • Property taxes are out-of-control. 
  • I have been in a whirlwind of making. 
  • Finally finished a goddamned table after years of stalling. It's a beauty. 


  • I've been knitting. 


  • And baking. 



And dreaming of the day that my life will consist of hopping from one project to another.

Monday, December 10, 2012

the silly old maid

If we find the thing which makes us content but avoid it because of prejudices deep in our history then we are fools.

This season of football in a tv-less household has sent my love off to watch that enigmatic, crashing game at a dear friend's house. It is good on a deep, solid level to see her choose to enjoy herself and "leave me" behind because that has always been hard for her. I assure her I know she loves me no less...and that I need, need, need this time. It's so good for each of us.

After so many happy and companion-filled years I now have regular periods of solitude. I find that I am drawn to the same activities that delighted me as a young girl. (Except for the cooking, that's clearly an activity connected with adulthood for me.) I read. I listen to someone (okay, it's Garrison Keillor's craggy bass) read poetry to me. I do crossword puzzles. I write. I make things. I think about stuff. I make lists and plans.

It's even the fleeting self-consciousness that surprises me. The occasional awareness that my activities seem the choices of an old maid. First, why would I even care? Second, the charm of these things has been with me all my conscious life. Silly, silly woman/girl.

But it is fleeting and it does not change a thing. Dickinson and Milton and Angier and Gaiman, crossword clues and project drawings. And silence. Such lovely, velvety silence.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

that project of which I whined

Some months back I was kvetching about a project I was working on. Well, this is the project and it's finally complete:


While the music grates on me a bit, I'm immensely proud of the final product both from a data standpoint and a graphic communication standpoint.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

chaos and bliss

I remain in a state of awe about how much I've learned and how much I don't know. My life feels like it's tipping into a maelstrom of activity and emotion...and yet, between the periods of anxiety there are moments of such wonder and bliss I hardly recognize myself.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

parental units

My father's bladder cancer is back. He stopped treatment 5 years ago because...well, because it was painful and he is not logical sometimes. He just didn't want to deal with it. Maybe it would have come back anyway had he completed treatment or maybe it wouldn't have but it seems that ignoring it did not do the trick.

He's depressed and in pain. He's self-medicating and not quite in the present all the time. We're flying into Tampa to visit him this week. Hurricane Isaac and the Republican National Convention are also going to Tampa but that's just a coincidence. A rather shitty coincidence.

My mom seems anxious and stressed. She's normally pretty pragmatic and solid, so it's hard to hear that. She also seems uncharacteristically selfish about my time there. So peculiar. I was such a mama's girl; I would have given anything for her to show that she liked having me around when I was young so it's a bit...unsettling, but warms my heart nevertheless.

I'm concerned...but he is relatively healthy so there is reason to be hopeful.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

cartoon world

Today felt like cartoon world. Where I'm the little line drawing figure at a desk working, while steadily the little line drawing inbox fills up with two-dimensional papers speeding up exponentially as I work faster and faster.

Well, not that bad. It wasn't nihilistic or hopeless just daunting and, at times, oddly satisfying.

Every place is the same. Mostly. You work with people, some difficult, most not. If you're lucky, you will be charmed by your peers and subordinates. If you're really lucky, you will answer to a good and decent boss. And if you're super lucky, you get all this and a job where your efforts promote something you believe in.

Even in my exhaustion, I feel super lucky.