Last year I committed to spending more time at the beach. AND I DID.
My priorities and my visions of normalcy and success shifted with every minute I spent at the shoreline.
My intention was to continue regular beach visits in 2019 — multiple times every week — but so far this year … I haven’t gone much.
Today I didn’t even want to leave the house. Like most days this month. February is the worst month of winter in Washington (even without the snow that piled up last week); even though the days are getting longer, it’s not nearly enough sunlight after months of reduced daylight hours. It feels like darkness falls way too soon every day.
But I had to get one of Delia’s checks in the bank. It seemed like a waste of gas and putting-on-clothes to turn right back around and go home, so I made myself go to the beach, telling myself that I could just sit in the car and read. Just GO. Just GET there.
And there it was … proof that THE BEACH IS FOR ME, written like a personalized welcome mat:
Without planning it, the tide is often low when I get there. Especially on days like today when I had to ease myself into just the idea of being upright.
Funny coincidence: last night I read a story featuring sandwriting that was also like a personal bridge, but between where I picture the author Emma Donoghue and here in the Pacific Northwest. Starting out reading Slammerkin and The Sealed Letter, she has always seemed SO across-the-pond and decades and centuries ago from where I be, but in Touchy Subjects there she is writing about JESUS and TACOMA and the word COCKSUCKERS in the sand.
So far this book is full of stories I would never have imagined her writing, but I was totally surprised by Room coming from her, too. But maybe she was just making fun of us for that big JESUS CARES ABOUT YOU sign you can see from the freeway that you can imagine was an inspiration for it. It makes me miss Tacoma, actually. Lots of things make me miss Tacoma. But then I go to the beach here and don’t give Tacoma another thought.
Anyhoo … I had very tender feelings for “The Man Who Wrote on Beaches” when I read it last night.
“…he had a home with a view of Puget Sound and a good job and a great collection of German steins and a lot of laughs. Above all, he had Margaret, who was twice what he deserved.”
The older I get and resign myself to being My Authentic Self, I have to accept that even though I’m capitalizing those words like I’m in on the ridiculous joke of myself, I’m honestly NOT joking. I’m earnest and can say with my whole heart that I love The Man Who Wrote on Beaches. With recognition, relief that I haven’t taken it QUITE that far (but only because I got the idea of asking Jesus into my heart out of my system as a teenager), forgiveness … and no measurable amount of irony.
Plastic eggs make sweet Easter tree-jewels! People make things humbly special in our town. Less like strip malls, more like old-fashioned home. And it is home to me, so of course I was here alone for Easter time, wandering around outside enjoying springtime.
A couple of days later Delia (my wife) came home to me and we had the BEST time. Since we’ve basically been living and working in different places for a couple of years — her in our Seattle studio, me in our out-here home — we’re finally getting the hang of taking REAL DAYS OFF TOGETHER (instead of everything overlapping with work as self-employed work-at-home webwhores). Taking real days off together makes me very happy.
It was a sunny day so we did one of my favorite together-things; took our car to the car wash & vacuumed it out! But first Delia told me to go out back and look around.
Some of my sweet favorites!
She got me bunny bubbles and other treats!
We did a bunch of errands and stopped at the self-serve farmstand bursting with daffodils and other flowers, and a book I’ve been wanting to read for a long time (Oryx and Crake) was in the free book box.
For dinner we drove to our favorite place to get burgers in the next town over. We love sitting in our car to eat, especially when the sky is so blue and the temperature promisingly warm without being hotter than blazes.
Usually part of our burger date includes stopping on the way home at the lot full of used cars, trucks, boats, trailers and RV’s. We like to just walk around and look at what’s there. But the lot was pretty empty and we were tired and ready to get home so Delia decisively declined when I asked if she wanted to do the usual.
So we drove straight home stopping only for some groceries.
And when we were less than a mile from home … our car stopped running.
Pulled over on the side of the road, she tried to get it to start again. She checked a couple of things under the hood, couldn’t find anything obvious wrong, and wanted to stay and work on it … but I wanted to walk home so I could pee and not worry about it for awhile, and come back with clearer heads. I had to talk her into that part (it’s always interesting when Delia is a: really decisive/not super flexible feeling, and/or b: anxious … because it’s rare she’s either of those things and I kind of enjoy the way our roles change when that happens).
The whole time Delia & I have been together we’ve only driven old &/or beater cars that were given to us for free or sold to us for cheap; as a result we have enough practice with cars breaking down (and Delia is often able to fix them herself or at least knows enough about what’s wrong to make good decisions about paying for repairs). At this point it’s one of the few things that doesn’t give me the kind of anxiety attack you’d expect and just sort of makes me feel grateful because so far it’s never put us in a super dangerous situation, and this car especially has managed to break down maybe half a dozen times but always delivers us VERY CLOSE TO HOME or right where we can get help without causing a traffic nightmare before it gives up, even when we’ve been on long treks a hundred+ miles away.
We came back later as it grew dark and she tried and tried a bunch of things. But honestly my mind was pretty much made up to retire this car. There were a bunch of problems with it, including the transmission, and I didn’t want to worry about it breaking down anymore. It has served us really well. It was a relief and a sign to me when it broke down this time. But Delia felt a bit stressed out about it.
The role reversal of her overthinking and spinning her wheels while I am calm and at peace with a decision makes me feel a lot of tenderness for her, and gratitude for the ways we balance each other out. The moments when I am not crazy and struggling with her soothing me are FEW, so it’s a relief when *I* am sure, and *I* am calm.
All of these years together and the more time that passes, the more I feel like everything’s going to be okay. And that everything is so much BETTER than okay right now.
It’s Friday night, and I have myself all to myself.
When the weekend starts I get to feel invisible, the way I do when I’m up all night. Independent of other people’s expectations and standardized routines. Normal people go their way, and I untether myself from any semblance of connection to the majority, drifting into a continuity of creative solitary work that makes me glad nobody cares what I’m doing tonight, or if they do care, they know that I want to be left alone.
Like our friends who left a message about a party invitation for tomorrow. That I’m glad I didn’t hear until tonight when it’s too late, even though they already acknowledged on the message that they know I’m not too big on gatherings. I will tell them that if I were going to go to any holiday party this year, it would be that one. And it’s true. Just being invited is good enough for me, and being invited too late to actually go is the cherry-of-relief on top.
I don’t know. Maybe I’d go just for a few hugs and a couple of tamales if I could somehow look pretty without washing my hair. Or if I knew I’d meet somebody with a big dick there who’d take me into the woods and fuck me. But I do have to wash my hair and even if I did, there wouldn’t be some big-dick no-problems stranger there, and even if there were, I’d come back from the woods with my clean hair all fucked up and everybody would feel sorry for me for being such a slut.
Everybody always feels sorry for me for the wrong fucking reasons. I’m so fucking bored by normal-people interactions I want to rip my dirty-clean hair out and my clothes off just so we all have something to talk about.
The phone rings with a name I don’t recognize. So I pick it up. If it was somebody I actually knew, I wouldn’t want to talk and would have just sat there, cringing and guilty, waiting for the ringing to stop.
A man’s voice demands to know who I am.
Dude, you called me … who are YOU?
He’s frustrated and insists that *I* called *him*, but I didn’t. I didn’t call anyone. But I’m compelled to help him get to the bottom of it. A woman’s voice breaks in every so often to balance out the guy’s tension; she’s really sorry to bother me. She thanks me for my time.
YOU CALLED ME! I MISSED YOUR CALL! I’M JUST CALLING YOU BACK! AT NUMBER (not my area code) (not my phone number at all). I tell them my area code (not the one he said called him at all) and we’re all flummoxed. How could this be? So I suggest they try calling “me” back again to see if the same thing happens. AND IT DOES! They call a number that’s not mine at all, and my phone rings!
We’re united in this intrusive, totally mundane mystery.
She apologizes again. I say it’s fine and that I’m totally bored anyway. And it’s true. Whatever normal conversations I could be having with people I actually know sound like boring torture compared to this meaningless interruption (that would bore most normal people) that’s like random chat roulette, trying to untangle some absurd crossed wires that we’ll never make sense of. I roll out hypotheses about google voice and call forwarding, I ask who his carrier is … I think in my head of someone who might be fucking with me because he likes fucking with people from a distance. But it’s probably none of these things. We’ll never know who each other is and why we wound up talking to each other.
Those were the only people I felt excited to be verbally engaged with today. On Friday. When normal people get off work and do normal “fun” things.
Strangers are the only ones you can say anything to. You don’t know each other so you can start from anywhere. Your entire reason for interacting is random, so whatever you say to each other can be random, too. You can pick the most important thing or share something real and observable happening right now. You’re not building on a relationship and have nothing to lose. You have no obligations to each other. Whatever and where and who you are RIGHT NOW at that moment is what you have in common, and RIGHT NOW is what I want to explore most closely. The observable things, the creation of connection starting from “zero” where there’s so much detail to explore without any memories of each other from any past time or any fear of we’ll break our friendship or future together. With strangers you get to be anybody, and still stay safely alone. You can teach each other magic and give each other keys you could never get from people you know. With people you know, you have to waste time asking about yesterday and planning tomorrow and wondering if they’re sick of you yet and how to manage yourself and your time together.
My spiritual advisor says “stay close” and “call anytime”. And he means it, but I don’t know how.
People say call somebody when you need to talk and “that’s what friends are for”. I don’t believe that. If you’re friends with somebody you know that they’re busy. You know they don’t have time. You know they’re going to worry and want to fix it all. You know you’re going to owe them afterwards, and you don’t want to owe anybody anything, especially not a harrowingly dull session listening to them tell you the whole entire plot of a movie you don’t fucking want to see LET ALONE HEAR SOMEONE DESCRIBE blow-by-blow, or shopping trip where they had to return something but then they forgot the receipt and then you won’t believe who they ran into. What’s worse for me is if the conversation is actually GOOD because I don’t know when the conversation should be over, or how I’m supposed to end it. So I just keep talking until my ear gets hot and my brain is jangled and nothing I say makes any sense and I just want to scream I LOVE YOU BYE BYE!!!!!! Instead you know the ending will be planning to see each other and I want to see each other but I don’t actually want to plan on it or commit to it and I don’t believe it anyway and just get off the phone and eat 3,000 calories because I don’t have xanax so I just have to eat my way into a tunnel of calm.
You can’t call people who care about you and just be as fucking weird or sad as you feel. It’s fucking unsettling, and I don’t want to unsettle people I love; that’s extremely counterproductive and I do enough of it already. I would rather call the prayer line of a televangelist or the sex toy infomercial line that has sex-specific numbers (I called the one that’s supposed to be for men because I figured they are used to hearing it all, but they insisted I call the line for women but it didn’t make sense because all of the operators were women).
What is the weird-feeling or sad-feeling equivalent for hitting the punching bag or pillow when you’re angry-feeling? For awhile it was the internet, but I think that internet is gone.
Sometimes you just want to hear somebody else’s weird voice in your ear, and that’s all. Somebody saying goodnight just to you and only you. And sometimes the only (or the best) way to get that is to pay a stranger for it.
Call for a cozy (not phone sex) recording I made late last night while it was raining
Note: all is well here, and Delia puts up with talking to me every day if I want, and makes it so I get to be alone a lot without every being really *alone* or having to stay that way. Which is so fucking awesome that I continue to feel self-conscious and guilty about it and am still learning how to embrace it.