“How are you?” she whispered. “Are you worried about the surgery this week?” My friend (who happens to be a nurse), was hugging me hello and leaning in to ask these questions as she joined our dinner party. She was genuinely concerned.
I could feel her empathy and I wanted to reach out to her across a thousand miles of desert and barbed wire. I have contained myself within a weird emotional DMZ in recent days–I stopped for a split second, wondering what the answer might be, and then checked myself. “I don’t think about it,” I replied, with a weird distance to my own voice, one that reminded me of how echoes sound, tinny and unconnected to my voicebox.
“Oh!” she checked herself, too. “It’s best not to think about it, isn’t it?”
And so our dinner proceeded.
We had a jolly time–I cooked a spicy provencal tomato soup, and prepared a salad with poppy seed dressing, and corn (Indiana style, boiled in milk with salt and sugar), and the hubby grilled marinated steaks, concluding dinner with a homemade ice cream. I felt incredibly competent and everything was well in the world. We were surrounded by friends, an awesome way to cap a good day’s fun, as the water from the swimming pool slowly evaporated from our hair and our stomachs filled and the conversation rang like bells through the house.
I’m a thousand miles from myself these days, and in some ways that makes me more of a pleasant person–in other ways, that makes me a very distracted person.
And distracted, I indeed am. I love thinking in the car–some people have clarity of thought in the shower, or while running…I have clarity while being driven in a car. (It’s a long story–my husband likes to drive, and when we started dating, we would go for very long drives together…and it has now become a very meditative habit of ours–him driving and thinking, me sitting passenger and thinking, watching the world go by, while sitting very still).
These days, I’m begging for car rides–I feel so on the edge of clarity somehow. And I’m retreating more and more into my fiction “writing”–brainstorming the story plots, pondering the character plights, letting their souls mingle with my own. The stories are my sanctuary, the characters my delight.
I think about them in the car.
The other day, while driving in the car, a bicycle darted out into the road, not more than a mile from my home. I saw him well before he hit the middle of the road, a man with shoulder length, curly hair and a bicycle helmet, knowing he was full well pushing the boundaries of safety, his head darting back and forth. Our eyes made contact by the time he was in the middle of the road.
For some strange reason, I thought he might be a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, one who lives within a mile from my home. What a weird way to meet him in person, I thought.
But that thought slid from my brain quickly, as he did not look very much like that writer. I could have confirmed it by asking him to speak, as I have talked to the Famous Writer via phone and would recognize his voice…but I knew it was not the same man. Still, I then wondered why the scenario of hitting a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist biker traveled through my head.
He had become a character in my head somehow.
I love water. I will paddle around in my pool, marveling at the blue of the sky, and the incredible texture of water, so gentle and graceful and beautiful, lilting in waves over my paddling arms. When I submerge my head, I muffle the sounds of the world–another realm, one in which I am weightless.
I am trying to add another place in which I can think and bond with my characters and ideas. Why should I only have the car to think so freely?
Would love to have such freedom in the pool, where I already feel so happy and peaceful.
There are a variety of other things I don’t think about, either. My mother in law died nearly three months ago, sending us on a surprising and shocking life trajectory. There is so much less
(why did I write that word?) left unresolved. I push her out of my mind, because my feelings about her and her death are so confusing and raw and I don’t like them one bit.
Yesterday, I saw a post on PostSecret:
“People think I dealt with the death of my father very well, when in reality, I just pretend he never existed.”
PostSecret is a great hunting ground of mine for story ideas. But I did not expect to find something that segued with my own life story at that moment. I was just curiously browsing, waiting for something to strike my fancy, to pierce my psyche.
And I did. I really do pretend my mother-in-law never existed. It is awful, but I do. I sometimes pretend she’s still alive, too, and estranged.