Monday, October 13, 2008
All the Things that She Gave Me
There is a book store, specifically a used book store. It's on the corner of 75th and Lemont, across the street from a Best Buy and one of the many, many boarded-up Bennigans that sits empty and full of ghosts. She took me there. It was towards the end, after we'd spent a month not talking but before we -- well, I -- finally gave up the ghost. I couldn't tell you what day it was by pointing at a calendar, but I can tell you it was the preseason and I insisted that we listen to the radio in the car, since it was Steve Stone's first game as the White Sox' color guy. This mattered deeply to me. Probably more deeply than She did by then. I, of course, wasn't aware of this. Not quite yet. Anyway, I love used book stores. She did, too. Does, I suppose. I doubt that not talking to me anymore has changed Her much. Maybe it's made Her happier. I can only hope. But that's beside the point. I love used book stores because I never know what I'll find. That particular store, called The Frugal Muse, lest anyone care about such things, had a whole wall of bargains. I found a copy of Anne Ursu's The Disapparation of James for ninety-three cents. I'd never actually read a book by Anne Ursu, but I'd wanted to in the sort of way that I've wanted to hear Dead Hot Workshop for the last couple of years but didn't get around to it until the night I was shocked to find not one but two copies of 1001 at a used CD store. I only bought one, as I can't imagine needing redundant copies. She was shocked that I would have such a thing. I don't read fiction, after all. I read big, thick history books. She didn't understand, though. She didn't, and probably doesn't now, for that matter, know who Anne Ursu is. Back in the earlier days of blogging Anne Ursu was known as Batgirl. She wrote about baseball and did it as well as, if not better than, anyone else. Her duel secrets were that she was an excellent writer and she made no attempt to be impartial. She was a Twins fan. She was a Twins fan who understood that the Twins and the White Sox have a rivalry that must be respected. I think I loved Anne Ursu back in the day. I loved her in the way that someone can only love another who they have never before spoken to and probably never will, but who shares a kindred spirit and a deep and abiding love of something bigger. But I stopped reading Batgirl sometime around the 2005 season. It wasn't the same when the White Sox overcame the Twins. It wasn't the same when the White Sox won the World Series. I went back not long ago and was sad to see that Batgirl stopped writing her blog two years ago. I'm finally reading The Disapparation of James now. I really don't know why it took me a full baseball season to start. I think it's because my soul is only awakening now. I wasn't ready for the stories before, back when I only read history. I wonder if She would recognize me now. It's funny how people just kind of disappear. A couple weeks ago I was half drunk in the passenger seat of an Acura TSX on the Kansas turnpike. It was the middle of the night and my buddy and I were halfway between Kansas City and Topeka. He asked me where She is, just out of curiosity. I had to pull out Wonder Phone, my new HTC Tilt smartphone, and Google Her name in an attempt to answer the question. I came up with nothing. She may well have fallen off the face of the Earth for all I know. She may well have disappeared. There's only one place I go where I might see Her. It's the place where my life as a storyteller began. The last few times I went She wasn't there. I haven't been in a couple months myself, though. Maybe She was there. Maybe She wondered if I would be there, half-hoping, half-dreading. "It's like going through a divorce," She said to me once, "And having to split custody of things. I don't want to lose The Knot to you." "You can go there if you want," I replied. "I don't give a shit." It was blunt, honest, and probably not what she wanted to hear. I'm kind of an ass. We were there at the same time a couple times. I did give a shit, but not in any sort of important way. I was a storyteller by then, sitting with other storytellers. She was a girl sitting in the audience. We were in the same place, doing the same thing, but worlds apart. No one but us knew the connection and we weren't about to share, even with each other. The last time I saw Her there She looked tired, run-down. She'd lost whatever it was that made her attractive to me. In reality She probably didn't look any different. Reality is a hard thing to pin down, though, since perception always gets in the way. Last time there was an opportunity to go I was just getting on to I-88 east of the Quad Cities and listening to Jason Boots sing about how he's so fucking sick of crazy girls. I'd spent several minutes earlier in the day trying to do the math on whether I'd be able to get to the near north suburbs of Chicago by 8 PM and gotten a "no" every time. I'll be back pretty soon, though. This month or the next, probably. I do kind of wonder if She will be there next time, wonder how I'd feel seeing Her after all these months. What if She's there with some guy? Will I size him up, try to decide if She's up- or downgraded? Or will it matter, since it's not like I got dumped. It was more like I got duped. I simply tell the story now because the only stories I tend to tell are the ones that can't hurt me any more. This whole thing is a work of fiction, no matter that the things I write have happened or may yet happen. Nothing is really 100% true, though, because nothing can happen to us without us perceiving it and nothing passes through our perception without distortion. Besides, what if I'm not alone when I next go back? What if I show up with a woman with long, light brown hair? This may or may not be a mere hypothetical. I still remember the first time I saw her. She was on the phone looking for all the world like a poster to be mounted on the wall in the guidance counselor's office at a college. "You want to graduate and get a job," the poster would say, "Because the college girls will be replaced by professional women. And there is not a goddamn thing in this world sexier than an attractive woman in a skirt and heels who has a job to do." I suddenly moved from one to two goals that day. First, I had to move from contractor to full-time employee. Second, and more importantly, maybe, I had to learn her name. See, once you learn someone's name you can talk to them. You can ask them about themselves. You can find out their hopes, their dreams, their fears. You can tell them your name and share your hopes, your dreams, your fears. You can wake up in the morning with their name on your mind and hope that they do the same with yours. People are endlessly fascinating on the general principle of the whole thing. The ones who are special -- or who you want to be special -- are even more so. I get in trouble with these situations, though. I focus too much on one thing and miss a lot of the rest. The last time I spoke to her, for instance, I noticed that her nose had a distinct bend and spent quite a bit of time trying to decide whether or no this was the sort of nose that one calls a "Roman Nose." At least it kept me distracted from the fact that I'm a lousy flirt. Really. I never know whether or not I am flirting to begin with. Then, if I do figure out that I'm flirting I tend to get sidetracked by words or concepts and totally lose the banter. I then compound this problem by being incredibly obvious about the fact that I'm sidetracked. I like to hope it's endearing, but I really don't know. Worse, I never know when to quit. Sometimes I hit a bump in the road and just stop dead, not realizing that I should keep going. Sometimes I get a full stop sign and barrel right on through. The last time I did that I screwed up horribly and it almost cost me everything, but in the end gave me more. See, this was the time before I understood that the voice of god I was told I'd hear in my head was really my voice and that, really, it was the voice I should trust least. It was the time I nearly lost my mind. It was the time I started the long journey to find myself. Still, I'm a little gun shy since that day. Even worse, I'm totally out of my depth. I was there, trying to decide whether or not I can identify a roman nose on sight, trying to figure out if I was flirting, trying to keep up with this bizarre, otherworldly conversation, and trying to read body language for all I was worth. Then we're discussing the upcoming weekend. I, playing the unaccustomed role of the confident guy who does such things, suggest that maybe we should do something over the weekend. Y'know, together. Hold up, I'm told, I don't know you that well yet. Aw, fuck. What do I do with that? Is that a brush off? Is it a gentle way of saying I've been mis-reading signals? Is it a sign that maybe the signals were good but now, on closer inspection, she'd really rather not? Is she just being cautious? Or has she run in to one too many guys who saw her sitting there, talking on the phone, wearing a skirt and fuck-me pumps and decided that she would make a great notch in the ol' bedpost and wants to see if I'll give up and head for greener pastures? Then I remember that the second time I saw Her, She totally shot me down. I bounced back the third time and She decided that I was worth Her time after all. For better or worse it's a useful lesson in taking a second shot (while most of the rest of my life has been a useful lesson in not taking much more than that). I really couldn't hate Her, even if I wanted to. I'm not up for it usually, but I recognize that, for whatever reason, I'm a better person for having Her in my life. She may not be in my life now or ever again and, quite frankly, I think we'd both prefer it that way, but I still carry a bit of her with me and she carries a bit of me with her. But, still, should I one day in the near future walk in to the place of stories next to a beautiful woman with long, light brown hair and what may or may not be a roman nose and should She be there and should She be jealous, there's only one thing I know. It's Her own damn fault.