Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Oh Hai!

I've been away from the blog for a while... here's a snapshot of what's happened in the past 3 months: I quit my job at the end of December, was accepted into a certificate program for creative writing at the University of Chicago, and have continued to write for Gapers Block and Chicago Theater Beat.  In February I got to read for 2nd Story, and my piece was podcasted (here's the link: 2nd Story go to the story titled "My Boyfriend").  I've continued to read at live literature/storytelling venues, and have a bunch of ideas on the back burner of what to do next, but haven't completed any of them yet.  And I'm looking for a job, again, but at least this time it's on my own terms.

Earlier tonight I read at Tuesday Funk, the text of what I read is below.  I hope to start posting again regularly, it's been quite a while.

Thanks for reading,


Fear of Commitment

Although we had been together for five years, and I had no plans to date anyone else, when my boyfriend and I got engaged to be married, I totally freaked out.  I didn’t have the greatest model of marriage from my parents, and I was afraid that this spelled the end of fun, and the beginning of bitter, angry bullshit. We lived in an old apartment with a toilet that constantly needed to have the handle jiggled to make it stop running, and I was distracted by the sound of it when we sat down to have a serious discussion.  “I’m scared that getting married will mean the end of fun,” I said, and cavalier as hell, he said: “The fun never stops with me, baby.”   “The toilet’s running,” I said, and to prove to me how much fun he could be in the domestic realm, he stood up, walked towards the bathroom and said “come here you.” 

Unlike the toilet, I could actually run away.  As it happened, my friend Joanie introduced me to her friend Jeff at around this time, and he seemed really intriguing – he was a writer, he was young, he lived in London, which seemed very exotic, and we began an email correspondence, sending each other flirtatious, well crafted messages that seemed harmless until Joanie and I decided to fly to London to visit him.  As soon as I saw Jeff at baggage claim I realized that I wasn’t attracted to him, I was attracted to the persona I had constructed in my mind using minimal email conversations and a long ago memory of a boy I went to summer camp with who was really punk rock and whose name was Arrow – which is the coolest name ever.  Jeff looked like a sock monkey, we could barely hold a conversation in person, and I was stuck with him for the next several days. 

The three of us decided to make a side trip to Amsterdam; Jeff said he knew his way around, so we bought cheap tickets and made the trip over, and it quickly became apparent that Jeff didn’t really know his way around at all.  He’d been once, for a weekend, and just wanted to impress us with his knowledge of the continent. We booked a crappy hotel room that had three cots in it, and was down the hall from a communal toilet that was always warm with the body heat of whoever had just used it, and couldn’t handle more than three sheets of toilet paper at a time. There was a shower in the same room with the toilet, but Joanie and I reduced our hygienic rituals to rinsing our armpits in the sink in our room while Jeff waited for us outside.  Joanie and I slept on top of our cots, fully clothed, even covered our pillows with t-shirts because those cots looked like they were crawling with VD, or at the very least, scabies, but Jeff had no problem stripping down to his boxers and getting in the covers of the bed to prove that he wasn’t afraid of getting VD from his cot. He said: “This is the nicest hotel I’ve stayed at in Amsterdam,” which didn’t make me feel any better about the situation.

Joanie and I knew nothing about Amsterdam, except that it was rife with marijuana, so we went to a coffee shop – the kind where you can buy marijuana legally, where we were presented with a menu – it looked just like any menu, detailing all the different kinds of weed we could order.  We didn’t know the difference, we’re from Chicago. At the very bottom of the list was the cheapest item on the menu: a pre-rolled joint.  This was perfect because none of us were exactly experts in the art of rolling, so we ordered the thing, lit up, and began passing it around.  It wasn’t until my third toke that I remembered that weed in Amsterdam is much more powerful than the skunk weed I was somewhat familiar with in Chicago, and that I probably shouldn’t smoke it the same way - with deep intakes of breath, and holding it in as long as possible before exhaling.  By the time I remembered this it was too late - I was higher than I’d ever been in my life - we all were. It had taken us two minutes to get there, and now we had to figure out what to do with the rest of the evening.  

We decided to go for a walk, and Jeff led the way.  I experienced everything as if I were remembering something that had happened a long time ago, and not experiencing something in the moment, and it took me a long time to respond to stimulus.  I felt like I was half asleep on my couch, watching bad TV.  We walked past a street corner where someone had fallen, or been knocked down, and was bleeding and I thought: “I wonder if we should find a cop?” And a few minutes later, when I was able to process my next thought, it was this: I hadn’t seen any cops since we’d arrived in Amsterdam, and as far as I could tell, there was no reason to have any because pretty much everything was legal. I’m sure there are many cultural legacies of Holland in general, and of Amsterdam in particular, but our decisions had led us to explore what is essentially a theme park of vice: prostitution is legal, marijuana is legal, there are sex shows everywhere, it’s like Times Square in the 70’s, minus the weaponry and the Son of Sam.   

My motor skills had slowed considerably, and I found myself walking several feet behind Jeff and Joanie as Jeff led us through winding cobblestone streets, and through the red light district, where women stood behind glass panels at street level, tapping at the glass to get our attention – I guess it looked like we were some kind of threesome looking for a situation, and the sound of all those women tapping at the glass was overwhelming to my auditory sensibilities, it sounded like rain falling on a tin roof, it got louder and louder, and that’s when the paranoia kicked in.  In my mind Jeff and Joanie hated me, and were walking ahead of me because they were trying to get rid of me. I was never going to make it back home again; I was going to end up standing behind a wall tapping on the glass at passersby, never to see Chicago or my fiancĂ© ever again.  I tried to psych myself out of that idea but it was a really persistent thought, and every time I managed to snap myself out of I became panicked with the ever-increasing distance between myself and my two cohorts, and the cycle began again. 

Finally we stopped at a felafel place where the three of us stared mutely at a short order cook who dumped frozen felafel into boiling oil; we stared at his every move like it was the most fascinating thing any of us had ever seen.  We were the only ones in the restaurant, and after feeling the weight of our zombie-like attention on him for several minutes, the short order cook looked at us and said: “you’re pretty quiet.” To which we said nothing.

I slowly began to come down from my high, and I was pretty sure that Joanie didn’t hate me, but I was still suspicious of Jeff.  I waited for Jeff to use the bathroom before I leaned over to Joanie, mustered up what was left of my cognitive powers and said: “Joanie, I thought you haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaated me.”  Several seconds passed before Joanie responded. “I don’t hate you,” she said, “I love you.” That was about all could express to each other, but it was enough.  I’m not sure how Jeff remembers that trip, or Joanie, or the felafel guy, but I remember it as the time I flew 4,000 miles away from home, and smoked the strongest pot in the world with a man who looked like a sock monkey before realizing that the man I wanted to be with was waiting for me in an apartment in Chicago with a runny toilet, and that if he would still have me, I should get married to him while I still had the chance.  

I did eventually make it home, and I did get married. I didn’t smoke pot again for six years.