Friday, October 17, 2008

Too Tight, Out-of-Date Bravery

I wanted to find and shake out the bravery I used to wear like a favorite pair of jeans. I remember it being perfectly worn in, with a few strategically placed patches on the knees. It was comfortable, stylish, and it made me feel ultra cool. I found it, my bravery, accepted the fact that it smelled like the antique cedar chest from whence it came, put it on, and...oh shit.

It doesn't fit. The cut is all wrong for today! No one wears this kind of thing anymore! The stitching is so clearly from the eighties, and the price tag is still on the damn thing. It says $19.99, which is the cost of bravery that was sold in 1992 - the year I graduated from college! Every single person is going to know that this is yesterday's bravery. I may as well be wearing moon boots.

Sigh. Tremble. Maybe if I do some funky stretches and suck it in here and never let them see this part that I can't quite get to snap? I'll wear an extra long sweater to try to cover up what I can. I'll spray a little something on it to mask the odor. I won't get eye contact. I'll...Fergodsake...Justfuckingdoit.

I went to the audition. I got in.

I'm in a musical. The seats go for twenty bucks a pop. There are eight big performances. We've been sinking our souls into it for a month and a half. It opens on November first. I'm scared.

On the way to the first rehearsal, I burned through the extra layer of deodorant I had put on prophylactically. I was a nervous wreck. When I arrived and met the other cast members, I was pathological about my self-defeating humor, lest anyone should think I felt I deserved to be there.

Slowly, I began to get more comfortable with the rehearsals. I laughed with the other cast members. I could see their human sides. I did my best each night, all the while trying to allow myself a little bit of leeway. "Is that a supportive whisper I'm hearing in my brain? Coming from myself? Who the hell is that?"

I did what I do and scared that nice voice away. I ran it the hell out of there, and now I'm scared again. I'm scared. I don't want to do it. I hate bravery and the way it's deceiving me. It's so obvious it doesn't even fit. And it fucking stinks like mothballs too.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Canada Geese

Fall, here in the best coastal town, is magical. The trees are ablaze in colors that scream of endings and beginnings in one breath. The sky is a backdrop of bluerthanblue. The smell of woodsmoke lingers. The crunching of the leaves that have fallen add a musical descant to everyday chores. Inside is cozy and warm and outside is brisk and enlivening. Yet fall here in New England is ambiguous.

As I sit on my back deck drinking a cup of coffee and welcoming the day, I hear the trademark sound of autumn: a flock of geese flying overhead. They are headed south like they should - this time of year is the unmistakable foreword to months of bitter cold. The geese are in their telltale V formation, the hull of a ship. The leader is shielding the wind for each bird who follows. The wake of the ship is their lingering song.

They fly by with keen collaboration. They slice through the sky with determined precision. They are in this together. I begin to dust off a fact I must have learned in gradeschool. Yes. Geese mate for life.

I am transported by these birds, not to a place, but to a time between times.
Fall is neither here nor there, just like the geese on their journey.

Fall is a season decidedly between seasons. It is that moment on the merry-go-round when the child loses sight of her waving parents and begins to panic. Things are going by in a blurr and the cigarette smoking bearded man with all the tattoos isn't paying attention to her. He won't stop the ride because he doesn't notice her silently pleading with him. She sheds some silent tears. That moment is fall.

Of course she finally spots them. Her parents had been fumbling through their bag looking for the camera. They wanted to stop time. To remember her just as she was. She breathes a sigh of relief. Fall slips into winter.

The geese are gone, leaving behind the truth that time spins on. The merry-go-round will seat a brand new rider filled with anticipation.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Ship on Wheels

Each May of my childhood with the grade school workbooks almost all the way filled in, the shoes purchased the previous fall unbearably snug, the evenings lingering with a bit of extra sunlight, and the school year drawing to a close, my mom would unearth the suitcases from the attic and lay them in an open line against her bedroom wall. All four hard suitcases lay waiting to be filled like baby birds in a nest. They smelled of mothballs and anticipation.

Our home changed its tenor in late May as we began the preparations for our 2,000 mile drive to our summer house in Vermont. We would spend every moment of summer vacation up there, so the process of packing was complicated. My mother became distracted by the task, thinking always ahead, as opposed to being present. We gave her leeway during these days leading up to our departure, forgave her for shunning today in the name of tomorrow, because we knew she was the only one who could get the job done. For the last week of every school year, those suitcases were her babies, her lists were her friends, and she was married to her agenda.

Finally, the day would come, and she'd load up our Buick station wagon with every single item we might possibly want for the summer. The mail was set to be forwarded, the extra keys were delivered to the neighbors, the curtains were drawn, and the doors locked. Most of the luggage went in the bulky black roof rack on top of the car. My sister and I each had a place carved out for us in the back seat, our black lab Fafnir got much of the wayback, the cat's litter box fit snugly between my mom's feet on the passenger side. We had food, books, and some simple non-noisy toys to serve as entertainment. The clothes for the five day drive were in smaller bags in the way back with the dog. My dad was always at the helm of our travelling ship on wheels.

We hoped to travel approximately 400 - 500 miles per day, but we had to balance our need to make progress with the rather fragile, often deteriorating chemistry between us. By the time we hit the 200 mile mark, we were knocking on the door of hating each other.

It was quiet. My dad chose silence over the crackling of the radio when we were in between stations. As a result, I remember hearing every sniffle, sigh, fart, nonspeak and stomach gurgle as if it were being broadcast through a microphone. It was a maddening, heavy loudquiet that I hated. I remember looking at the families in the cars we passed, imagining the converstaions they were having, the laughter they were sharing, or the music they were allowed to sing along to.

"Stop kicking the back of my seat," my dad would spit.

Suddenly, our fat orange cat would begin her journey from her post on my headrest to her litterbox on the floor of the front. Through the drone of the wheels on pavement, you could hear her scratching the dusty pebbles, digging the perfect hole, and finally peeing. She'd cover her evidence with more digging and scratching, but not before the odor hit us with a jolt.

I spent much of the time on the road staring out the window willing the next mile marker to hurry up and come. Or staring at the clock begging it to speed up. I'd be silently pleading with my family for some noise. Some music. Something.

When we stopped for the night, we would open the car doors and peel ouselves from the hot pleather seats like the skin off of an orange. The evening air was so welcoming and liberating, we'd enter it with true gratitude.

Thank God for the hotel pools. As soon as we could get in the pool, our tension would slip away and the world would begin to seem lighter. We might be somewhere in godforsaken Kentucky with several days of travel ahead of us, with the smell of dog breath and cat pee burned in our senses, having endured far too much quiet around us and far too much noise in our souls, but for those moments in the pool, life was good. We were closer to Vermont and we were out of the car. Tomorrow would be a new day.