Mar. 9th, 2008

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The phone rang around 5:30. She sounded like she was on a bike or something. In a race to get the words out.

"No matter what else happens next, I want you to remember that I love you and I always will."

I haven't seen her in six months. Then this one sentence tore me apart in all different directions-- worried, scared, happy, devastated, angry, baffled, full of love, full of loss. The urgency of her words. Was something wrong? What does it say about me that first and foremost I was worried, that I wanted to rush down there and make sure she was okay? How do you answer that? I think the words that finally croaked out of my throat were "thank you". For that moment it was her again, the one that's gone, the one I lost a year ago that very day, when I threw the last of our stuff in a dumpster, turned in the house keys, loaded the cats and a week's worth of clothes into my '89 Camry and drove up here to Berkeley figuring I'd stay maybe three weeks, maybe five. There she was again, in that instant, that voice I never thought I'd hear again, the one that loved me. She was by some beach somewhere, the seagulls howling in the distance, the wind cutting in and out. She sounded shaky, nervous, determined. She always calls from the road, on a walk, someplace public and anonymous. Is she not allowed to talk to me? Does he not let her?

"Wicked Little Town" came on the radio, she said, and it made her think of me. She missed me. I said I missed her too, and she said maybe when I'm in LA I could stay with her for a few days.

"What about him?" I asked. And in that moment she was gone again. "It would be weird to have you two meet," she said, suddenly unsure of her facts, "but you could still come down. I would try to protect you."

Protect me? From what? Suddenly we were back in the no-budget late 40s noir where we started, the dame in trouble, calling the clueless ex to say--or to not say. "It's not that he's a jerk," she said, half to herself. "It's just..."

She took a breath and broke it down for me, black and white. "He's a man. He likes to push people's buttons. He likes to watch what happens." I had to wonder just how many of my buttons he already knew about. But I was already pretty sure it wasn't in my interests to find out.

We hit this queasy silence and filled it talking about taxes, mail, bills, the neverending divorce. I told her I was glad she called, glad she said what she said, and I meant it, but when she hung up there wasn't a power in the universe that could keep me from coming apart. In the service of that threadbare old friend, dignity, I held back the tears until the line went dead. It wasn't all for her. It was as much for everything and everyone else I lost in the past year. Everything that slipped through my fingers while I tried to keep moving forward, keep body and soul together. There's so much I could have done better, so many times I was worn down to nothing and just couldn't do the one more thing that needed done. But somehow I did survive it all. There's a kind of peace in that--knowing that I lost my marriage, all the money I had in the world, a home, family members, pets, just about everything but my heartbeat--and I lived to tell the tale endlessly complain about it. The stuff that future turgid indie dramas are made of, sweetheart.

I had the flu pretty bad for two weeks, and I thought I was over it but I have a fever of 101 again tonight, so we'll see where this goes. Things are good and they're bad, it's not funny or clever or even bearable most of the time, and it's often too humiliating to write about, but I'm writing. I try to find the beauty in it, I try to find the meaning, and sometimes I get up just to prove I can. And there are good things in the works. You hang on long enough, spring will always come again. It can't help it. Even I can't screw that up.

I'm tired, I think I'll go to bed. Let's keep this little post between us, shall we? I don't want her to be sorry she called. Thanks.


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August 2009

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