The Man in the Black Suit

I overlooked him at first, but he had seen me right away. He was the man in the black suit, occupying the third booth from the back. I didn’t recognize him from college. In his facebook pictures, he smiled a wild smile at a bar with friends. In another photograph, he embraced an older man, perhaps his Father, in front of a twinkling Christmas tree. But, today, beneath the light fixtures in the cavernous restaurant, he was gaunt and sallow looking. His long nose slid down into thin lips that curled in weak defense.

The man in the suit was some big deal in advertising, and sounded ever so effeminate when he spoke. He seemed to love his job because whenever he mentioned it, his eyes lit back up. Every morning, he tossed ideas around a conference table with “the women” at his office.

He said, “Oh my god,” in a husky, but slightly feminine way, “I don’t know why the industry is so populated with women. But, 55% of college graduates will be women next year. They’re so much more emotionally mature.”

He answered his own questions when he talked.

He was quick to talk. Too quick. Like me. I think the silence that hung between words scared him. Whole worlds were constructed and torn down in his mind in a simple glance. His was a mind that was rapid to conjure an impression or sell a product, or an idea. It was fast, but tortured. It had suffered the lovelorn blows of fickle women.

The man in the suit told me about his wife that afternoon, and how he wasn’t mad about the fact that she no longer loved him. He wasn’t even mad that she was outwardly hostile toward him.

He sat like a scarecrow, lost momentarily in a head that seemed like a dusty attic, cast in shadows.

He said, “I still make her lunch every morning, and make lunch for the kids. There’s no malice there. She likes her apple diced with a side of pecans.”

I believed him because his eyes looked swollen, and puffy. I asked him if he was okay.

Clouds seemed to pass through his eyes, and I wanted to hug him because he never answered. I wanted to tell him it would be okay, and that Friday night wouldn’t always feel like a “cage.”

Right now, I expect he’s sitting with his father who is dying of Parkinson’s. He’ll stay with him until 3AM. Until his Father falls asleep. He does this every weekend. His father has had Parkinson’s for “two years now.”

And, when I feel sad, and alone. When Baltimore, with all of its people, buildings and whirring traffic, feels like too much, I’ll remember to take a breath, and to think about the men and women who sit alone, like me, tonight. I’ll think about the man in the black suit.

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The Sandman and His Fickle Affections

Sleep is a mercurial lover who visits at his leisure. He seduces me in the dark of my empty bedroom. He plucks at my guitar body with calloused fingers, and plays me till he tires. The light comes in, and he’s gone. I’m worn, and out of tune with the sun and the moon.

The sloshy light of Baltimore plods out of the darkness. No sunshine again today, just a milky sky, and a clouded state of mind. Naturally, I’m battling a virus that has admirable tenacity. But: Mind. Body. Soul. I have to believe the three will all coalesce, eventually. I will not break. I cannot unravel when the future rides on my strength.

Ecstasy and sleep-deprivation apparently go hand in hand. While I am ecstatic to move to San Diego in a few short weeks, I also feel like I’m free-falling in delirium off of some great precipice. The kind of rapture I’m after doesn’t come by staying still or asleep. It comes by lunging off a California cliff, and praying the parachute deploys. I hope my definition of “ecstasy” changes as I transition into my new life in San Diego.

Since breaking up with my ex, the skeletal structure that gave form to my life disintegrated. The ribcage of our relationship snapped as he tried to resuscitate a passion that died years ago. He’s still there, hunkered over those bones, plunging the cracked sternum into the dirt. Suffice it to say, up until now I’ve kept little conscience in my life. Thus, the importance of sticking to a writing schedule, and an exercise regimen was never of greater consequence lest even those cardboard walls falter. 

What then? What is “letting go?” I’m learning. I’m falling in love even… But, more on that to come.

Last night i didn’t get back from the Route 40 laundromat until 1:30 AM. Who cares, though? Nobody. It’s beautiful. I drifted through the mostly empty Sudsville aisles, making eye contact with the occasional squint-eyed man in corner chairs. When it’s 1 AM at the laundromat, there’s a peculiar exchange that takes place between two souls. You share an implicit understanding, a hope, that life won’t always be this way. 

Chasing Literary Dreams to San Diego and the Metamorphosis

I spent the day boxing up the Victorian attic apartment I’ve inhabited for over a year with my now ex-boyfriend in Catonsville, Maryland. The prospect of moving to the west coast in only a month, especially because I’m doing it alone, should probably fill me with more trepidation than it does at the moment. It hasn’t all set in yet to be fair. But, my mind is consumed by the lure of an unplanned, emancipated future in San Diego. It’s all very Kerouac. The dream is sugar sweet, the air is salty, and the palm trees will explode like Fourth of July fireworks when my plane strikes down in LAX. Random House will solicit me for a book deal as soon as I set foot in the airport. Obviously. Every rip of tape along the U-Haul box tops, and every discarded relic from my former life is one step closer to California. A mountain of garbage bags now swallow the time and the life I had here.

It’s hard to say good-bye.

It took twenty-five years for desire to burn to the surface of my life. I unknowingly bottled it up. I bartered my freedom by catering to the guilt-inducing expectations of my Mother. And, no, I don’t fancy her some malevolent Disney villain who kills Dalmatians. Like most people, she is the product of her own fucked-up childhood. And, like most people, she is not beyond redemption either. I was fortunate enough to finally see my own imprisonment with some lucidity (more on how this happened in upcoming blogs). It’s now my MO to:

1) live my life without feeling entrapped and 2) to resist a selfish, innate compulsion to marginalize the lives of loved ones by demanding they stay close. Love on the top shelf is unconditional and selfless.

As of today, my life is full of infinite possibility. The swirling entropy of freedom is mine, heavy with oceanic sighs and a harrowing leap into sprawling oblivion. I’m trying to maintain a steady, snare drum breath as I pack up the shambles of my life in Maryland. I’m trying to keep the universe from knocking me over and engulfing me all at once. It is pivotal to fight an inborn tendency to desperately grasp at stability for a cheaper life, as I free-fall. But, I’ve got this feeling that if I just let myself go, I may find something unfathomably superior to any convenient anchor.

I’ve severed ties with both my Mother and men in recent weeks, which is the last thing I ever wanted to do to pursue a meaningful life. A worthwhile quest is not without its sacrifices.  However, knowing and doing exist on separate planes. It is one thing to enjoy Lord of the Rings, but it is another thing to be Frodo, and to wander away from the Shire into the great unknown, fraught with peril and intrigue. But, what kind of writer would I be if I stayed stuck and afraid?

One man I’ve split ways with in the last day is particularly troubling. We’ll call him “Jacob.” Jacob is the only man who has ever wielded any sexual sway over me, and no, he was not my boyfriend. Of course, he wasn’t my boyfriend (she says with a dismissive air of nonchalance). That would make sense, which my life seldom does! In my experience, most men my age are either emotionally, sexually or intellectually incompetent, which (sadly) makes them easy to control.

I’ve acknowledged by now that this insight into men my age prevents me from giving myself completely to them. I’ve never given myself completely in my life. I’ve always disavowed emotional vulnerability as a rule, probably because I’m my Mother’s daughter, and I learned to safeguard myself from being hurt at an early age… at the expense of truly living. A heavy price.

Being attuned to the primal (sadly anti-feminist) cries of my libido, Jacob doggedly buoyed along the tips of the tides of my life for years. Waiting, always, for the day I cave. Since he is the only man I’ve ever felt both sexually and intellectually susceptible to (they work in tandem in my life), I’ve long indulged the possibility that I could be his lover.

But, with his sexual dominance comes the most insufferable hubris. He would call it blunt candor, but this “candor” is ensconced in scathing condescension that bruises my late-blooming confidence. Confidence is already a delicate bud in my life that I’ve fiercely protected from drought and nourished independently. Even if our connection were to permit an existential liberation, I simply cannot allow his boots to trammel on my fucking, precious flowerbed. Too many artists’ voices were silenced this way, and so, he is one more sacrifice I made for myself, and for you, my reader. My art always come first.