Wednesday, 11 November 2009

I Went To Couples Therapy Alone

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

My best friend was in town. He was staying less than 10 minutes away on Meeker at an old girlfriends house. He'd initially intended to stay with me and Marie, but when I called him a week before he was coming out and told him that I was sleeping on the floor at work, he made other plans.

We met up the first day he was in town, went and got coffee and breakfast at The Rabbit Hole on Bedford Ave and caught up. He told me that he'd applied to join a monastery back in Oregon where he's living now, and that there's a monastery up in the Bronx that he wanted to check out as well while he was here. Things change. This from the only guy that I ever tried to keep out of my cab when I was driving in Austin. He looked scary at the time. I didn't want trouble. He looked like a lot trouble - turned out he was, just never with me. Instead of hitting the lock button that night on my cab, I hit the window button. Ten years later I'm living in Brooklyn trying to become a writer and he's looking to become a monk.

When we met in Austin we were both going through a divorce and I ended up moving into an apartment down the hall from him, taking the lease over for the girl that owned the tattoo shop where he was working - True Blue Tattoo. He did most of my tattoos. We were drinking buddies. We spent a good year drinking our sorrows away after our divorces, and another year after that just drinkin'. And we talked. We talked a lot, trying to make sense out of life. He was a good friend and we had a lot of fun together. Eventually he sobered up, moving away a year or so later, trying to piece his life together. And I got married again, then divorced again. But we've kept in touch and remained good friends since. He probably knows me better than anyone.

It was good to see him and catch up.

The next day I went up to the Bronx with him to visit the monastery up around 142nd St on the West side. The monks were young, younger than us, late twenties. We sat and talked to one of them in the front room under a painting of the prodigal son. After my friend and the young monk talked for a minute the monk asked me to tell him about myself. I told him the short version of the last year, then had to excuse myself to make it to me and Marie's couples therapy appointment. I left my friend there and raced out the door, catching the B express train down to 34th, switching to the F, barely making to the office on time.

Marie text me saying that she would be late. She was stuck in her tax attorney's office trying to put some order to the last five years of her life. The therapist called me back and I started in on what was going on with me and Marie. I told her we were struggling, how I'd nearly moved out, and that I knew we loved each other but that sometimes I just didn't understand where Marie was coming from. She told me Marie was a wild card, but that she genuinely seemed willing to work on herself and the relationship. And that this was the first time that Marie was willing to listen to someone challenging her on some of her behavior. She seemed invested. That was a good sign. She was willing to look at herself. If she was not, then the answer of what to do would be simple. The door for growth for both of us was open, as long as were each open as too.

I felt better after the session, more secure in staying.

Marie didn't make it to the session, showing up just as I was walking out. That was fine with me. I sometimes feel that I can use as many therapists as possible to talk about Marie.

The day before my friend left, over coffee at The Roebling Tea House - the place where the blog got its title nearly a year ago (see first blog post) - he told me that the monk who we'd visited a few days before wanted him to pass on a message to me - that he felt it would be easier to clarify things with my relationship and in my life if I moved out.

My friend told me that whatever I decided to do, I should write the truth about what I was going through and not try to be salacious or pandering - just speak the truth - as I was just a guy trying to do the right thing. And wasn't that novel enough?


Friday, 6 November 2009

It Was a Good Night

Willliamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

Marie texts from work around 4 in the afternoon asking if I want to catch a movie at 5. Of course. I'm on Bedford getting a bagel. Cold and hungry, running errands (deodorant, hair gel, socks, laundry) but not tired, feelin' slightly rested from last few days off. Eat most of bagel on way back to the apartment. Stop to pick up brown leather jacket (Andrew Marc for NYC - nice) from dry cleaner, that I got at the thrift store the other night for $40 that needed buttons fixed, along with Armani shirt for $6 that needed dry cleaning. Found brand new jeans $25 (tags still on them, list price $75) cost of new outfit = $71 + cost of buttons being sewn back on and shirt being dry cleaned = $80. Going out on the town with woman, lookin' fuckin' good man = priceless.

By the time I get home, jump into new outfit, google train route to Anjelika on Houston and finish bagel I'm running late according to google estimated time of travel. Rush out the door towards the JMZ on Marcey around the corner from the apartment. Cold out. Very cold out. Very badly want warm clothes that are in boxes in Utah UPS office (note to self to figure that fucking situation out tomorrow). Realize I'm not gonna make it in time on the train. Walk back towards on ramp to Williamsburg bridge. Hop cab. Cruising in the backseat of the cab across the bridge, staring out over the darkening panorama of the city skyline. Euphoria overcomes me. I feel electric. I love this fuckin' city.

Cab ride = $13. Worth every fucking cent.

Make it to Angelika right on time. Marie is reading the Times inside waiting for me. Her friend Jen is parking the car. Jen shows up and we go to see "Capitalism: A Love Story."

We all feel like peasants after the show.

Afterward we go to pick up Yoko. We find her standing on the corner in SOHO. We pull up next to her. She's shocked to see me - thought Marie and I'd broken up.

While we wait for a table at the small Italian place in Greenwhich I browse the bookstore next door, buy "Bright Lights Big City" off the sale rack outside = $6.

I find Yoko and Marie at the jewelry store one door down. Jen is nowhere around. Marie and Yoko try on rings while I read in a rocking chair towards the back. Marie finds a ring she likes. Yoko calls my name hinting to get my wallet out. They laugh. I pretend not to notice. Marie tells Yoko that I'm upset that she doesn't have the first ring that I bought her. She left it Upstate the weekend she kissed that guy. She still doesn't have it. It does hurt my feelings.

Our table should be ready.

We leave the store. Marie shows me a children's book about Texas on the rack outside the bookstore as we pass by. Jen reappears. Yoko and Jen go into the restaurant as Marie tells me that there are ranches in Texas bigger than Belgium. I think how nice it would be to go home for Thanksgiving. I tell Marie that I'm going to buy her the book so that she can learn about Texas in case we go home for the holidays. She laughs. I tell her I'll meet her at the restaurant.

I go back to the jewelry store and buy her the ring, despite my hurt feelings about other ring.

When I get to the restaurant she wants to know where the book is. I pull the ring box out my pocket, set it on the table. "What is this," she wants to know? I tell her to open it. Yoko gives me a high five.

Over dinner Yoko tells me that she's read a few posts from the blog and that I got something wrong on the post about when I missed her birthday dinner. Her uncle did not kill her bird and that I need to change that, as she felt bad for the reputation of her uncle when she read it (he recently passed on, and she does not want his memory tarnished - I understand and tell her that I will correct the error). In fact, nobody killed bird. When she was one she says she remembers (yes one - she has a very good memory) her brother eating a chicken wing. She wanted to know what it was that he was eating. He didn't have the words for it, so he pointed to the birds they had in the cage as pets. She was traumatized.

Dinner is amazing. I have the best dish - Tortellini special of the night. We all eat off each others plates. I take all their leftovers home. I have chocolate mouse for desert. Marie has tiramisu. I eat half of it.

After dinner I drive Jen's car as her and Yoko shared a bottle of wine. Tea for me and Marie - no more drinking. Jay-Z's new song Empire State Of Mind plays on the radio. It's the New York anthem. I turn it up. We cruise the streets that he sings about, the city that will make you feel brand new, under the lights that will inspire you. The city that never sleeps. The city that will make you feel famous. No place in the world can compare. Put your lighters in the air. Everybody say yeah. There's nothing you can't do, now you're in New York. Let's hear it for New York... as Yoko says from the backseat, "I never would have imagined this scenario a week ago."

Let's hear it for New York...


Back From The Brink

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

I'm cleaning the apartment. Marie is following me around biting me on the arm, the ribs, my stomach. I laugh, tell her to stop. She bites me once more on the shoulder.

Things are back to normal.

Domestic bliss has been restored.

I crawled back from the edge of the cliff like a repentant jumper - someone who doesn't really want to die, but doesn't really know how to live anymore.

Not before staring blankly into nothingness.

I went to look at apartments out in the no mans lands of Brooklyn on the far reaches of the subway lines. Small, dark and cold spaces, each one more depressing than the next. Each one more expensive than our sad little love nest. I dragged myself around day after day through the gray and cold searching for a place. Sitting across from girl at one of the better places, comfortable, clean, cared for and loved I started to feel sick to my stomach. Anxiety and sadness welled up inside of me as I pictured living with a girl that wasn't Marie in such a tight and intimate space. I couldn't see myself doing it. I just wanted to go back home. I just wanted us to be okay.

I left the place as quickly as I could. My head was spinning. I thought I was going to throw up. I stepped out onto the street as the orange glow of the sun faded over the darkening silhouettes of the industrial warehouses that surrounded me. The wind began to blow the leaves around the barren streets reflecting the disorder of my thoughts. My clothes couldn't keep the stinging cold out. Regret rose, choking. How come we couldn't make it work?

I went to the restaurant where I was taking her for dinner. Warm. Silent. Waiting. Making order of my thoughts. She'd stopped drinking. She was willing to look at my concern. She said that she wanted to change. She said she didn't mean to dismiss me. She said she cared. She said she didn't want me to give up on her just yet. She said she loved me. I didn't want to run again. I didn't want to run again. Searching for the words to work it all out. The words are wrong. She is upset again. Wrong. The words come out wrong. I'm coming undone.

We lay together on the couch that night. Home. We apologize. Warm. We can work it out. Safe. We don't want to hurt each other. Love. We love one another.

Why is this so difficult?
She hears my words.
She doesn't want to hurt me anymore.
I believe her.
I hear her struggle.
I let my struggle go.

An old friend comes to town, tells me that this is my pattern - I run when I'm hurt. He says that he thinks that I would regret it if I gave up her now. He says I have an opportunity to grow, as does she. Don't give up on love just yet, he says, you'll regret it. She seems like she's willing to work with you. Don't give up on her just yet.

I walk down the street. I see the signs. Love spray painted under the overpass. Love scribbled into the sidewalk. Love conquers all on a poster posted on the building. A car passes playing, ALL WE NEED IS LOVE!...


Sunday, 1 November 2009

I Used To Think I Was Cool Until I Met Keanu Reeves

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

I was standing in Spoonbill & Sugartown on Bedford Ave looking for a book with Marie when I saw him. He was standing to my right. I recognized him immediately. I did a double take to make sure. He looked dapper, yeah, dapper’s the word, understated, yet dapper. Faded blue jeans. Worn boots. Blue velvety looking jacket. Beard. Fedora. Dapper, man.

Nine months before I’d read an interview with him in some men’s magazine that'd taken place in a bookstore in LA. In the article he’d recommended a book, THE ELEMENTARY PARTICLES by Michel Houellebecq, which I'd picked up and read. It was amazing. It was crushing. It was fucking brutal.

I told him that I’d read the book because he’d recommended it. “Brutal” he said, “right?” Brutal, that was my word. That’s when things went weird for me. I don’t know what happened. I think I got star struck - yeah, fucking star struck. It’s never happened to me before. I’ve met a few celebrities, male and female, but most of them seemed to be full of themselves, seeming to want people to notice them. Maybe that’s what fucked me up about him – he didn’t seem to want to be noticed at all. Or maybe it was the fact that he used the word brutal. That made him seem like me, only better dressed, better looking, and as I found out, better read. I couldn’t come up with anything to say in response to his “brutal” and I started to sweat a little. He had a smooth voice - like whiskey and smoke. Damn if it wasn't sexy. And I was suddenly speechless. That rarely ever happens to me. I can talk to anyone about anything, anytime. What the fuck was wrong with me? My mind started racing as he recommended another book that was sitting there in front of us on the shelf, and started giving me a synopsis as I stood there with pings going off in the inner space of my mind, trying to figure out something to say. I started to think how strange it was that the last book that I’d read was recommended by him in an interview in a bookstore, and that we were now standing together in a bookstore, and that I was taking an interviewing class at NYU, and that if I were going to be a fucking interviewer I should be able to hold a conversation with an actor whom I had something in common with – reading. Instead I stood there like a jackass, silently nodding. And as he walked away it felt like my future was on the line. I HAD to be able to make conversation. My ability to become a writer seemed to depend on it. I picked up the book that he'd just recommended and scanned the back cover then walked over to where he was and made some inane comment that left him no room for a response. I walked off, embarrassed and humbled, exiled to the other corner of the store. But the store is small, and not long after he was browsing at the table near where I stood. I made another attempt. I wouldn’t go down without a fight. I could be a writer. I could be interesting. I could rise above my grueling manual labor lifestyle. I could make fucking conversation – like an interviewer. He hadn’t read the book I recommended. He was gracious. He allowed me to ramble on for ten to fifteen seconds trying to put words together that formed coherent thoughts. But it was hopeless. I couldn’t do it. Then he recommended another book. I’d heard of it, read a few articles about it and the author and I made another fearless attempt to use words. But it was useless. I was sweating, blushing, and cursing my life. Just then, sensing my distress from across the store, my girlfriend came to my rescue. She asked me if I was ready to go. He wandered off. When he was out of earshot, Marie said in her sweet French accent, “You know, I think he was someone. Wow, what a voice he had. Right? And you followed him around the store like a little bunny rabbit. Didn’t you?”