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Red-Letter Day September 15, 2003

Posted by LHK in Uncategorized.
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It’s nice to say that I am “between jobs” and mean it in the most sincere and literal of ways: I have left my previous job and have a non-negotiable amount of time before I start my next one. Today I had almost no idea about what to do with myself besides watch an AM Dawson’s Creek episode while wearing Adam’s bathrobe and drinking mushy lumps of undissolved chocolate Instant Breakfast in vanilla soy milk. I was in the car with Adam today when the 5 PM whistle montage played on the classic rock station, and only when you’re wearing jeans and Birkenstocks and riding along on surface streets can you begin to see how played-out such things are. It is nice to have emerged from the collective unconscious of the daytime office worker. I was at Wal-Mart earlier today, getting reamed on a pair of tires to replace the smooth ones riding blithely along on the back half of my car, and I had to wonder about each person I encountered there: what’s her story? why isn’t she wearing cotton acetate blend pants and commuting on 285? I was a senior in college when I declared 11 AM my favorite hour of each weekday: the people who have traditional office jobs are already there by 11 AM, meaning that every person you see on the road has broken out of the 9-to-5 two-step — for a little while, at least.

My last day at the auto dealers association was fantastic, not only because it held the final time I had to say, “Thank you for calling [Esteemed Employer]!” and “Yes, those Georgia Secure Power of Attorney forms should be at your dealership within two or three days!”, but also because I finally saw how much my co-workers really appreciated my six months of service there. There was lunch at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants (with the prez, looking anomalous with his Atlanta National Golf Club shirt and his cell phone, trying to make awkward conversation about whether I liked sushi. He gave up and started talking about himself. I was not surprised to hear that when he went to Tokyo, he sought out American food during his entire stay), followed by the presentation of the card that held my Big Freaking Wad of Cash. In the afternoon, Roseann came downstairs to tell me that one of the south Georgia title clerks had just been talking to her about how nice I am to speak with on the phone, and how the company should try to “keep [me] around.” Aww. But I should follow that up with the fact that several of my co-workers were pretty envious that I did get to escape the intricacies of auto dealer politics, and especially that I never never ever have to see the prez and his fratboy underlings again.

Margo told me to call her when I return to the country. “I won’t fill your position permanently until then!” she said on her way out. I gave her my best noncommittal answer about how I’ll be applying to graduate programs when I come back to the States.

People kept telling me how brave I am. My whole system — body and soul and self-conscious intellect and stubborn nose ring and whatever ripple I now make in the collective unconscious — is going to get a jolt every time I hear that, probably for the rest of my life. Or at least until I stand on the Great Wall by myself. Or get chased by a rickshaw in Thailand. Or convince Adam to brave a trip to Angkor Wat with me. Then maybe I’ll start to believe these people and their faith in me.

Adam picked me up from work, and the two of us went shopping in the few hours we had before we were to meet Chantel and Big Adam for more Mexican food and oversized margaritas. Adam picked up the new Family Guy DVD set, while I used part of my Big Freaking Wad of Cash to buy some necessary Beatles and Who albums — all of which rang up for less than the price on the sticker. Later, we went grudgingly into Old Navy, where I had one of those Things That Never Happen To Me happen to me — a pair of pinstripe pants on the $25 rack rang up for $3.97. I don’t shop very much; in fact, I have massive money-spending guilt carried over from childhood. But $4 pants are something I can feel very, very good about buying.

And yes, I’m recording this for posterity. Because I know when I’m in Japan and self-consciously stumbling over my dozo yoroshikus, it’ll help to be able to look back on last Friday and say, yes, back in that faraway land of ten-lane interstates and Best Buys on every concrete corner, there was a day that everybody liked me, everything went my way, and nobody thought I was shy and scared and had no control over a language.

(And let’s not forget the importance of the $4 pants.)

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Levitation September 1, 2003

Posted by LHK in Uncategorized.
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Sometime soon, I need to rediscover the art of being gracefully alone. Adam started his new work schedule tonight, meaning that his weekends have shifted from their traditional days to a decidedly unpalatable mid-week position, and his work nights begin at 8 PM. Meaning that I, having spent much of my life unhesitantly deeming myself an introvert of the highest caliber, need to remember what it is to face a night with no plans, to be still and incommunicative without the anticipation of anything more, to stretch my mind out in a near-empty apartment instead of hastily filling it with the sounds of VH1’s I Love the 70s and pretending that Michael Ian Black, Hal Sparks, Mo Rocca, Leif Garrett, and I are engaging in Very Witty Conversation.

Thinking about how well I once knew solitude gives me a little jolt to the head. That was me, that was me, that was me. And I see a girl from three years past with the same narrow-eyed, scrunched-face objectivity I use to look at my 6th grade yearbook picture (she with the uncombed hair, the pink lipstick and red t-shirt, the beginnings of unfortunate eyebrows). Sometimes I can almost fathom a reconciliation of then and now; I can engage my past and present in an elaborate reverse tug-of-war wherein the players give up before the two ends can meet. No one, it seems, wants to risk getting muddy.

When I imagine Japan, I see a slightly altered version of the bedroom I lived in for two years in my first apartment. The built-in desk and cubbyhole bookshelves, the molded plastic desk chair, the bed that held an ever-expanding menagerie of stuffed animals. That bedroom, of all my various bedrooms, represented what it was like to fall in and out of my necessary romance with my self. Also, what it was like to live in modular, pre-furnished housing. Perhaps there’s a connection to be made there. This apartment holds our stuff — my and Adam’s, and Talia’s to a lesser extent — and it hasn’t ever had to witness any of that old-fashioned “what, pray tell, is my MOOD today?” song and dance. So let me say this, without trying to put any trappings of Big Milestones on it: I am finally emotionally mature. As things usually happen with me, this has happened either too early or too late.

In some ways I can’t stand it. There was a certain comfort in being able to rely completely on myself for how each day would turn out. The emotions dictated everything. As I was transferring files to my laptop tonight (a horribly solitary activity. Talia walked through the living room as I was doing this and I hoped she’d say something more than “see ya.” I wanted to have a conversation with her about anything — computer files, why I’m addicted to the televised junk food that is VH1, why we get so many Chinese take-out menus stuffed in the crack of our front door), I listened to Tori Amos’s “Merman” and remembered how Laura and I used to lie on our beds in the dorm freshman year and listen to the song ten times in a row. We wouldn’t admit to each other that we could have heard it ten more times, nor did we try to explain why we liked the song so much, though I think it goes something like this: longing. We were lying on twin beds, and longing, and it was so sad and so safe. Reverse tug-of-war again: I’m taking Laura to her first Tori concert tomorrow night (well, tonight, seeing as the writing of this entry has now spanned two days as well as two months), and we’ll try to whoop it up for “Cornflake Girl” like it was 1998, but, really, we’ll both be thinking God, I hope I’m not too tired at work tomorrow. And HOW much did these seats cost?

(Answer: a lot. I bought both tickets and surprised Laura with hers as a graduation present.)

Maybe the trick, then, is not in relearning the old loneliness but in learning something completely new. There’s a strange out-of-bodyness I’ve been feeling lately. My mom once explained to me those eerie sensations I occasionally experience just before falling asleep, those half-dreams of floating just above the bed, and then the shudder of the body when I feel like I’m falling back into the mattress and its cloud-print sheets. You are, she said, outside your body. You’re just not brave enough to open your eyes and look down on it. And as long as you’re outside your body, you can will your soul to go anywhere. I haven’t had one of those dreams in a long time, but too often I can see myself from both positions. Inside and out. Brave little soul with too much wanderlust to keep her eyes shut.