While you were reading last week’s diary column, I was out in the rain looking at a new car. The good news is that once again Grace employed her mojo to find me a great deal, and I’m really quite pleased with it (especially since it didn’t cost all the money the insurance company gave me for the Hyundai). Speaking of Grace, I’ve bought her an airline ticket to come up to Seattle for Christmas; I’m really rather excited about that, since I haven’t seen her since early August and I’m looking forward to introducing her to all of my friends here. More good news: after all this time I’m finally beginning to get control of my schedule again, and I may soon have the time and motivation to get back to work on my next two books. Other projects are on the way, but for right now I’m just enjoying the more languid pace of my personal life and the increasing pace of my professional one; the opposite situation was not one I care to repeat anytime soon.
Posts Tagged ‘anecdote’
It’s been over a month since a careless driver wrecked into my car, and the slow wheels of his corporate insurance company have finally almost finished grinding; once the car was in the shop the damage was discovered to be far more extensive than it outwardly appeared, so the company decided to total it. Luckily, I got a good deal on it, so I should actually be able to replace it with something at least as good; I’m looking at something today, and even if that doesn’t work out the insurance company is covering the rental until Friday. So I reckon it’s all going to work out, but I’m still very annoyed at the whole affair; I didn’t think I was emotionally attached to the Hyundai, but I guess I was. It was bought for me by my readers, carried me across the country several times, then dependably took me back to Idaho to tend to Jae and bring her home after her accident. It served me well, never once stranded me and got excellent fuel mileage; this new car is going to have to go a long way to beat it. Ah, well, all things must pass.
Today also marks the anniversary of a very memorable dinner party with Jae, Mistress Matisse and Savannah Sly; how much my world has changed since then! If you had asked me two years ago, I would have predicted that my life would change only slowly and predictably in the future, but the gods delight in proving me wrong; I suppose the only way to stop that is to stop making predictions. And maybe that’s for the best.
Beauty…is a visitor who leaves behind the gift of grief, the souvenir of pain. – Christopher Morley
“It’s fine for work, I guess, but you actually live here, too?” She asked, with badly-disguised disdain.
“Yes. I’m sorry, I thought You knew that,” I replied, trying not to sound too defensive.
“Well, yes, I did, but…it’s so small.”
“Rent is high around here; this is all I can afford right now. If You want me to have something bigger, You could send me more work.” Was that too daring, even though I did say it with a smile?
Well, Her response could’ve been much worse; still, I figured it would be best to change the subject. “Would You like something to drink?”
“What a charming idea! Do you have any champagne chilled?”
“Um, no. Not chilled, and not at room temperature either. I’m afraid I’m a bit short on champagne at the moment.”
“Pity. What’s the closest thing to it you do have on hand?”
“Well, that depends. I have some wine, some whiskey and some vodka if You want liquor, but if it’s the fizz You’re looking for I have these fruit-flavored carbonated water drinks.” In response to Her rather skeptical look, I added, “They’re sugar free even.” The skepticism increased. “It helps me keep my figure.” Yes, I know it was dumb; I didn’t know what else to say. It’s not every day that the Boss Lady drops by in person.
She sighed so deeply it sounded like something drawn from the bottom of the sea. “Well, I suppose you could make me a fizzy cocktail. Not that I need to watch my figure or anything.”
Yikes! “Oh, goodness, I didn’t mean to imply…”
She waved off my concerns with an airy gesture; I got to work on the cocktail. When I handed it to Her, She sniffed it as though trying to be sure it wasn’t spoiled, then took a dainty but substantial sip. “This is terrible.”
“I’m so sorry! If You like, I could…”
“Not necessary,” She interrupted.
I finally broke the uncomfortable pause with, “I just learned to do that pretty recently, make drinks I mean, and I’m afraid I’m not very good at it yet.”
“No, you’re not. Luckily, neither your income nor your reputation depends on your skill at bartending.”
“Yes. I mean no.” I’m not easily tongue-tied, but there was more than ample cause. I would’ve been heartened by the fact that She had taken another sip, had it not been accompanied by a half-grimace. Time for another change of topic. “To what do I owe the great honor of this visit?”
Her smile lit up the room and instantly soothed the sting of Her previous comments. “Oh, I just happened to be in the neighborhood, and…” Now it was my turn to look incredulous, and She responded with a laugh so beautiful it literally took my breath away. “No, I guess you won’t believe that, will you?”
“Well, no, not really.”
The smile became even lovelier. “I’m really very fond of you, you know.” I was totally speechless. “Oh, come now darling, surely you already knew that after all this time!”
“I…well…um…” Why was I crying? Damn, so much for looking cool.
“I know that, since taking the job…how many years ago was it?”
“Twenty.” It came out sounding something like a croak.
“Twenty years! How time flies! Since taking the job twenty years ago, you’ve performed admirably and I really have noticed; it’s just that I’m so very busy and, well, time gets away from one. Sometimes I think of you and realize, ‘Goodness, it’s been years since I looked in on her!’ and yet there you are, still faithfully toiling away at your mission as though I were breathing down your neck the whole time!”
“Thank you, My Lady; You know I always keep my promises.”
“And so you have, dear girl. I know I’ve been awful about keeping up with you; it’s just this mood I’ve been in for the past 15 years or so. And the reason I dropped by is to let you know that I’m going to try to do better.”
I don’t have a word to describe the complex mixture of emotions that boiled up in response, and I wouldn’t have dared to vocalize it even if I had. So I just sat there and sobbed like a schoolgirl, and She glided across the room to sit beside me and draw me into Her arms. “There, there,” She said, “It really will be all right. I promise, by the Styx.” And then She kissed me, and if I live to be a hundred no kiss of mortal woman could ever hope to match that brief brush of Her lips against mine.
I awoke with Her scent still all around me, and my face wet with tears. I had never had such an intensely real-seeming vision before, and it had thrown me off-balance; I felt like I needed to get up, collect my thoughts, get my jumbled emotions back in control and re-orient myself to consensual reality. I stumbled into the outer room, and my attention was immediately drawn to the vase of roses atop my desk; they seemed fresher than they had been, and of a deeper color and sweeter perfume than before. I gently, almost reverently stroked the petals of one, softer than a woman’s skin, and then reached down to draw it from the vase so that I might examine it under better light. But in my fascination at the apparent revival of my flowers, I neglected to use caution in grasping the stem; the blood which welled forth from my finger was as red as the rose.
Sunday was the one-year anniversary of the day I arrived in Seattle by train on the visit that was to change my entire life. I thought it was just going to be an ordinary, albeit extra-nice, tour stop; I had no idea that I would bond so deeply with my friends here, nor that I would develop such deep feelings for Jae so quickly. By the time I left I knew I would return for at least a visit; within a few weeks I had decided to relocate. And before 90 days had passed since my departure, I was back. But that was no mere change of residence, oh no; those who have followed this diary feature over the past year know what a long, strange trip it’s been. Where will it take me next? I have absolutely no idea, and I’ve given up on trying to predict; I can barely even keep on schedule with this blog. But I’m going to keep on working, and keep on writing, and keep on fighting the good fight, and keep on expanding my horizons, and chronicling the whole thing right here. And maybe one day, I’ll even figure out what it all means.
So here we are 9 days after Jae was discharged from the hospital, and we still haven’t got everything in place; I’m waiting for appointment-setting callbacks from two different rehab and therapy agencies, and she has a follow-up appointment with her primary doctor in just a few weeks. On Monday I need to make some necessary changes to her health insurance, and it will still be another two weeks before my car goes in to be fixed by the insurance of the guy who hit me. My stupid cell phone carrier sent her replacement phone to the wrong address, but it should be here today so she’ll be back to answering her own calls and making her own tweets. What that means is, this will be the last column dominated by news of her recovery; I think it’s important that she start taking control of her own life again after two and a half months of other people doing that for her. I’m still going to be managing a lot of the paperwork so as to keep her from getting overwhelmed by the sheer volume and depth of bureaucratic bullshit, but she should be in charge of her own story again; from here on out I’ll only be talking about her as she impacts my life, just as it was prior to the accident. And that is the way it should be.
Another thing I’ve learned about the medical bureaucracy: discharges sometimes happen unexpectedly and with lightning speed. One can go to bed after being told, “discharge will be in the next few days”, and wake up eight hours later to “it’s happening right now! Why aren’t you here yet?” It happened to a friend of mine when she had a baby; it happened to another friend after major surgery. And yesterday, it happened to Jae. After over two months of constant hospitalization in four different facilities altogether, the doctors suddenly decided that it was time for her to go home. And then it was wham, bam, here are your discharge papers and sayonara. Needless to say, we weren’t ready; we still thought we had several days in which to make preparations, but nope! That all went out the window. I started moving about 8:30 yesterday morning, and only stopped about 12 hours later; I didn’t even realize I hadn’t eaten dinner until sometime after 9 PM. And now tomorrow is her first outpatient doctor appointment, and I still haven’t filled out the rehab application that I originally planned to do first thing yesterday morning. But at least she’s home, and I reckon that by the end of the week we’ll be more or less where we should’ve been today. Ah, well, what’s life without stress?
With everything going on, why don’t you take a vacation from the website? Even 1 week off might help refresh your “batteries”. Maybe take it the week Jae comes home.
I’m sure the reader who sent me this question isn’t alone in thinking it, and in fact others have made similar suggestions in the past (though nobody else has proposed a whole week). And while it’s very sweet and honestly quite touching, the fact is that I’m far too high-strung to even consider it. It’s absolutely true that I have a lot more short commentary-type columns than I used to, and my holiday columns are now basically greeting cards, and the diaries are so easy to do I literally knocked one of them out on my smartphone while waiting for a ferry. But the idea of actually skipping a column completely is so abhorrent to my well-ordered (by which I mean OCD) mind that on several occasions this year I actually battled exhaustion to finish by posting time, which is 3:01 AM here in Seattle. Remember the story “Surprise“? I wrote that after coming home from an orgy & hit “schedule” at exactly 3:00. The only thing like a vacation I’ve had in many, many years was the day I spent with Jae in Idaho…and given that her motorcycle wreck was the very next day, that doesn’t exactly strike me as a very good omen (if I believed in omens, which I kind of do). On top of all that, work is therapeutic for me; long-time readers know that I’ve battled depression for my entire adult life, and work I care about is one of the few things that lets me keep it under control. Indeed, in the years while my marriage was collapsing, creating this blog was what kept me going. Some of my friends have asked how I can manage to see clients right now, when I’m pouring so much of myself into caring for Jae; my answer is that the productive, closed-ended emotional labor of entertaining a gentleman is satisfying and restorative, because it lasts for a finite time and produces results I can clearly see, namely making someone happy. And that helps me to balance the seemingly-unproductive, open-ended emotional labor of caring for a badly-injured partner and navigating a labyrinthine medical system. I’ve always been a giver; it’s intrinsic to my sense of who I am and what my place is in the world. I could no more stop giving than I could stop breathing the air, and even relaxing and letting go for short periods of time is so incredibly difficult for me that I literally can’t do it without the assistance of trusted friends. So the idea of just skipping a day because I feel like it fills me with the sort of horror a struggling dieter might experience if locked inside the world’s best buffet.
But after I answered the reader who sent this question (a bit snarkily, I’m afraid), I started thinking. I’ve begun to do more self-care lately not to please myself, but to placate the friends who are demanding it and to make sure I’m fit to do what I have to do for Jae. So I could probably be induced to skip a column by a strong enough motivation, and when that thought crossed my mind I remembered this incident:
It was one of those really good calls in which one really feels a connection to the client and has a strong sense that she has made him very happy, the kind she feels he will remember for a very long time. Somehow in the pillow talk it came up that my birthday was in a few days, and he asked how I planned to celebrate; I responded that I was still planning to work, but might go out to dinner with my business partner at the beginning of the evening.
He got that look of someone who has had a sudden thought, and asked “How much is your agency fee?”
“$100,” I replied.
“So of the $300 fee, you keep $200?”
He then went to his wallet, pulled out $200 and gave it to me, saying, “This is so that you can turn off your phone at dinner and not have to worry about having missed a call, because I’m paying for the time.”
So here’s what I’m thinking: if anyone out there really wants me to take a day off, he could simply purchase my time for that day. Obviously it wouldn’t be right to charge my full rate, or even my social rate, because A) I’m not actually going to be spending the time with the donor, and B) I’m going to put up some column, even if it’s just a nice thank-you card type picture. So let’s go with half my social rate for 24 hours: for every $1500 donation I’ll take a day off. Yes, I’m shameless, but y’all already knew that; I’m a whore, after all. Now, I don’t actually expect anyone to take me up on this offer, but there it is. And if nothing else, the question gave me something to write about.