Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Finding Good in the Lost and Found

When revisiting the past, it seems the elapsed differences do not whisper subtlety like the sameness does.

"That's the swing where Tara and I sat every night after dinner, eating frozen yogurt and watching boys play...the frisbee that's like football. Ultimate frisbee," I pointed for The Boy. The sameness: the swing is still exactly where it was seven years ago when my frizzy hair and skinny legs met Tara's blue dress and husky voice. The differences: I forgot what the game was called that we were "watching" back then; my hair's not so frizzy, and my legs, at least by my standards, would no longer be classified as skinny. Tara still has the husky voice but not, I suspect, the same blue dress.

To reach the swing, I had to pass a difference. "There used to be a bench there where Mike sat to read Rick Reilly's column every Tuesday afternoon when his Sports Illustrated arrived. When I walked by he would say, 'C. Don't go to work,'" I chuckled to The Boy, "and half the time I wouldn't." The Boy smiled at this story, as he had long ago adopted the phrase from stories I'd told. He says it to me often from his pillow, next to mine, with a fake Southern accent, and especially on Mondays.

Of course, these are minor. There are differences that scream, and there are those that don't have to. Starting six years ago on those grounds, I began a process of pining and losing, growing and finding. I have to believe, and I believe I do, that I found much more than I lost there. Saturday I sat in the new football stadium beside Amber, one of the heartbreakingly loyal and fiercely loving friends I had found, lamenting the things we had lost. The Boy watched football on my other side, and I looped my arm through his, basking in how ordinary the moment seemed; how unlikely and beautiful it actually was.

Years earlier in that town I lost years on a Lost Boy who made me, inadvertently, lose myself. But I found myself again soon after and with a vengeance.

I looked at The Boy who followed me to that same one-stoplight town just to see the setting of so many stories. The Boy I, logically, never should have met, let alone married. The unlikely Boy who had become my favorite person and biggest love. We bought coffee at Broad River. We walked through the quad, and somehow it all made him think about what he had lost, or rather, never had the chance to have.

"This just looks like a college, you know?" he said, echoing my seven-year-old sentiment. He said it made him long for an experience he had long ago decided against. He had worked long hours before and after classes he commuted to. He never had a dorm or a roommate or a swing on the quad. I mirrored his wistfulness, realizing that experience had teamed with other hard ones to bring him to me, in his current state. But it still made me sad.

The things I found cannot be separated from the people I found, and differences in them are just as apparent. I met Amber in our first class on the first day of school. We had been paired together to interview each other. She was wearing a sweater even though it was August, and she admitted she had dressed as the mascot at her high school. I knew we would be friends. This weekend I hugged her and her two-year-old and helped bathe her two-month-old. The Boy, though he would not go near him at first, held the baby to his heart before we left.

"So, do you think we can have one of these?" I whispered.

"Not soon or anything," he prefaced, "but definitely."

Edie, on the other hand, had initially descended on my life whether I liked it or not. And at first, I had not. We had been assigned to each other as roommates; I tried to switch rooms before I had even met her. The night before orientation, our unassuming RA interrupted my new roommate's shower to announce my presence. Edie met me, my siblings and both of my parents while wearing a bath robe and a towel turban. She thought I was weird because I hung a poster of a barechested Brady Anderson in close proximity to a photograph of Mother Teresa. I thought she could eat me for breakfast. We remained roommates for the better part of six years. In my wedding program, though I had known her as long as the others who were labeled, "College Friends," she was marked, "College Roommate." And only she understood the distinction. We talked this weekend about her relocation, adjustments and plans, and a gay hairdresser who had become a real friend.

On the way home Sunday, we stopped in Greensboro so I could see my boys. Or rather, the men who used to be my boys. They were joined respectively by Mike's wife, whom we all met in college, and Tripp's new girlfriend-- and I had a hunch she wouldn't be going anywhere for a while. Sameness and differences. I introduced them to The Boy, who loved them as I knew he would. "If for some reason they were ever local," he said later, "I feel like we'd be boys." I was thrilled he felt the way I figured he would; my love of these people justified, despite its defiance of the time/space continuum. When we ordered lunch, Tripp, ever the token thinker and philosopher, ordered his sandwich with green peppers, but not red. The waitress soon returned and informed him that, though she thought it was stupid, he could not order only one kind of pepper. "It's all or nothing," she shrugged.

And this may have been one of the bigger differences I saw. He did not appear to contemplate; he said, "All." Though I may have fabricated the metaphor, I smiled at the pretty blonde beside him, at the irony of progress abundant all weekend, and at the relief that not everything good goes away.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Monotony, Tummy Aches and the Fake Depression

8:55. Chris Berman and The Boy tell me the game I'm about to not watch is a rivalry. The Giants and the Cowboys just kicked off. Hank Williams, Jr., though he was just standing on the fifty-yard line, does not sing about his rowdy friends. The cheerleaders, though they flanked Hank on the line, do not dance or kick on cue in the song Hank does not sing. Instead, we watch a taped performance in which Little Richard screams and allegedly plays piano, but I just inexplicably called him James Brown.

9:01. Plaxico Burress scores a 50-yard touchdown. I have long been of the opinion that some men were destined to be in the NFL, and their mothers knew it, so they named them accordingly. Lawyer Malloy. Peerless Price. Adalius Thomas. Burress fits with these guys.

9:03. The Boy, dressed in white Adidas pants and a brown t-shirt my dad gave him that reads, "I'm probably lying," shakes his hiney vigorously to the tune of Fall Out Boy's off-key insistence.

The 8 minutes you have just relived is meant to depict how my life has fallen into a predictable pattern. I just plopped on the couch beside The Boy, after preparing dinner and lunch and coffee and halfheartedly cleaning the kitchen. I feel sad that it's already almost tomorrow. It might be the darkness that always falls too soon, but somehow all this monotony still strikes me as unpredictable. I can never believe, whether I slept or not, how quickly "7:00" comes. Of course it isn't really 7:00, hence the quotation marks; The Boy and I take turns sneakily setting the clock forward, all the while trying to forget the difference between now and what we think now is. It still doesn't help. Likewise, I can never believe how quickly 7:00 pm comes and goes. My gym bag lives in the trunk of my car. I haven't worn my Sauconys in far too long.

My doctor informed me that I should do more yoga. "The relaxing kind." I insisted, indignantly, that yoga wouldn't help. I neglected to mention the yoga that I do involves a "butt ball" and a woman who reminds me to tense up those muscles I "sit down on." She also encourages me to check in with my hamstrings. "Notice what they are saying back to you." She does not relax me; she makes me contemplate the most efficient means of committing homicide from the downward dog position.

Minutes before this exchange, I slumped in the plastic chair against a particle board desk, having slipped my olive green pumps back on after being dismally disappointed at the scale.

"We haven't seen you in awhile," The tall Brit with the voice from the outgoing message had remarked, glancing at my chart. He motioned to the scale.

"It's hard to get in here," I mumbled, recalling my conversation with him several months prior, when I attempted to make an appointment for a physical. I was told there was an opening in March. I did the mental math, realizing I could be 7 months pregnant by then. Not that I would be, but I needed a way to visualize how much can change in that time. I did not book the appointment.

"You have to schedule your sickness to be seen here," The Brit chuckled. I did not.

Fortunately, as The Boy had become increasingly concerned with my doubling over multiple times daily, he offered to make the appointment for me. I was curled into a series of punctuation marks on our bed; he was worrying via office telephone. I let him call the doctor, and I'm not sure what he said, but it worked and I had an appointment the same day. I tried to blame my sleepless nights on a steady stream of company. But, given the fact that I lacked sleep due to discomfort regardless of who was sleeping upstairs, I acquiesced.

The Boy insisted on leaving work early to pick me up. I resisted, but he won. I dressed nicely in an attempt to feel better.

To my surprise, my red-haired Russian doctor did not examine me. She did not check my blood pressure, temperature or pulse. She didn't touch my stomach or prescribe medicine or tests. We sat at her desk and she asked me how I felt. She interrupted me to tell me I am more stressed than I realize.

"But how can that be?" I countered. "The most stress I've been through recently is over," I reasoned, approaching the five-month anniversary of my windy wedding and my father's (untimely) brush with (far more untimely) death. She said something about how people never get sick during the war. I didn't hear what came next, because I was too busy thinking, "there's no way that's correct."

As I argued, feeling my face and neck flush with splotches, as they are prone to do when I'm impassioned, I realized I was losing.

"You're coming across very anxious," she said.

I swallowed a lump in my throat, wanting to throttle her. She wanted to prescribe an antidepressant; I wanted not to feel sick every day. I wanted not to worry everywhere I go or every time I make plans. What if I don't feel well? What if I'm no fun? What if I can't leave early? Of course I'm anxious; I always feel miserable! She insisted the cycle went the other way around. I quit arguing and accepted the sample, but I haven't taken the pills and I'm working on a second opinion. I made it to the Saab and cried frustration at The Boy. We visited another pharmacy for another herbal remedy I didn't believe would work. I'm not sure if it's working or not, but I really miss my Diet Coke.

I've bought a new Nalgene bottle and lots of Crystal Light on-the-go. I just finished a dinner of grilled chicken breast, brown rice, asparagus and charcoal capsules. I'm doing all the things I'm supposed to be doing--definitely don't feel better yet. But then, I'm sure it's all in my worried mind.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Daddy, Let Your Mind Roll On

This weekend marked our third of four consecutive weekends of company. Last weekend we hosted my "actual" mother-in-law and her husband. As my in-laws are both remarried, things get a little complicated. Though the step-mother-in-law insists that having two mothers-in-law would be, for me, like having "three mothers," I maintain that one is more than enough.

On that weekend we visited Our Italian Restaurant; The Boy operated, manned and wrote the rule book for the moonbounce at the Grand Opening of our church building, and for the first time, I had an opportunity to say, "Also, Chinaman is not the proper nomenclature. Asian-American, please." No, really-- at the dinner table in my own house. Welcome to life with visiting step-fathers-in-law.

Conditions are declining at our B&B. This week, we ran out of Pledge. I finally threw out the once fresh flowers, replacing them with silk flowers in the guest room. I'm running out of linen water, and the laundry is piling up. This week, the office didn't get touched. I didn't get the grocery shopping done until Sunday. Fortunately, our friend visiting from Vermont, Mindy, was kind enough to bring buttermilk pancake mix and a killer handthrown batter bowl as a thank you gift. Groceries or not, we had a great breakfast.

Despite Saturday's chilly rain, The Boy joined Mindy and her friends for the festival. I headed to a baby shower where I joined another newlywed shrugging off "Who's next?" questions and lamenting over that dreaded but oft-repeated query, "How's married life?"

"What am I supposed to say?" She rolled her eyes. "That it's an adjustment? That he has trouble remembering to put the seat down?" I laughed and agreed.

I joined my man and his new friends at an Irish pub where everyone had been there long enough to be thrilled to see me. "I'd like you to meet Danielle-- she's very intelligent and seems like a really nice girl. She just relocated here from Boston," The Boy guided me by the shoulder while supplying me with a beer. I noticed he put the emphasis on the third syllable of relocated.

"Danielle, this is my wife." She smiled and lit up as if she had long anticipated our meeting. I squinted at The Boy, wondering what he had told her. "I really think you'd be great friends," he whispered. "You should also meet Jocelyn," he said later. "She doesn't own a car. She seems like a nice girl." I laughed, realizing my husband hasn't stopped picking up girls in bars. It's just that now he's scouting for me.

Sunday morning we dragged before leaving for lunch with friends at PF Changs. Some of us weren't feeling well. "Mindy," The Boy said, "I think you'll be fine once you get a little Mongolian beef in you. Oh wait," he belatedly attempted to self-censor. We joined six others around a large round table. We stared wide-eyed at our friend who, two days prior, had eloped with the smiling blonde beside him. We tried to know her and presented them with a cake from Vaccaro's with a $7 dark-haired bride and groom on top.

"There was a topper with a blonde bride," I explained at this, my second meeting of the girl. "But she was dragging the groom behind her, and I didn't think that was appropriate. And also, it was like thirty dollars." I stopped talking and ate my chocolate cake.

This beautiful afternoon, I sat with Mindy and, over salads in Canton Square, we shared our life dilemmas. I was glad she came, sorry she had to leave. Thankful for an extra day of real life-- good life-- before the weekly depression set in. A day late, but right on time.
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