A Pat On The Back

Andertoons-Library-reference-question-cartoon-by-Mark-Anderson

Mark Anderson comic via Ebook Friendly.

I want to take a moment to celebrate a massive achievement: today I finished reading my 15th book of the year. To some people, this will probably be a “So what?” moment. However, since I only managed to read a grand total of 15 books in all of last year, I am very proud of myself for getting my act in gear and doing some serious reading in 2017. Also, I’m ahead of my schedule, which is to read one book per week. We just finished Week 10, so I should be starting my 11th book, but instead I’ll be starting my 16th.

I’ve read some heavy stuff so far, and several of the works still weigh on me, particularly Resistance, by Agnes Humbert. I’m not sure what I’m going to read next, though I did just find a copy of Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, at the Little Free Library down the street. So maybe that; we’ll see. If you want to see what I’ve been reading, the Reading List is up in the tabs at the top of the page.

But now it’s time to pack up for tomorrow, then hit the hay. Tomorrow morning I’m going to be trying something new – heading to the gym for a run and some weights every morning before work. It’s going to take some serious effort on my part, since y’all know I’m definitely not a morning person. Wish me luck!

 

Social Media Detox – Day 11

It’s my 11th day without social media. I don’t know if I’m going to go back to Facebook, but right now it feels like the answer is “no.” I don’t miss it. I’m getting more done without it. I’m communicating one-on-one with more people, I’m not wasting time, and best of all, I’m at least 50% less anxious. Why go back to that online noisemaker, when I can be participating IRL?

Last night, the boyfriend and I went out to dinner at his favorite Mexican place, then went to visit an artist friend who has a booth at a local art market. I talked to various people, and had a wonderful time up until someone started talking about politics and I started feeling the first twinges of a panic attack. I explained what was happening, and that I needed to go home, then walked away. Overall, pretty manageable, and the night felt like a success, even given the anxiety at the end.

Today, I was supposed to go to a half-day meditation retreat, but I woke up late. Instead, I took my laundry to the laundromat, had breakfast with the boyfriend at one of our favorite coffee joints, then came home to watch the latest episode of Legion before he had to go to work. During that portion of the day, I had a friendly chat with two Uber drivers and the lady who owns the laundromat, Dinah. There were also non-committal nods exchanged with a friend of the boyfriend’s who doesn’t really like me that much. And of course, hours of conversation with the boyfriend.

Around 6:30, I headed to the Healing Center, a community center a few blocks from my home, to catch Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band play. They’re pretty well-known in the Kirtan music genre, and I’ve loved them for years. Without going into it too deeply, Kirtan music is meant to be sung/chanted along with, and for me, there’s nothing better than going to a concert where everyone’s supposed to be singing along. You get to singing along and it really touches your soul and makes you feel wonderful. I actually went out of my way to invite people to come with me, but there were tons of things going on tonight, and everyone was busy, so I ended up there by myself. But when you’re singing, you’re never alone, so it didn’t bug me. The concert was packed, too. The experience was so joyful and full of heart, and everyone was having a wonderful time.

There was a couple sitting in front of me that were pleasing, from a people-watching standpoint; from snippets of conversation, and judging from overall attire and attitude, the woman was into Kirtan, but the man had never attended a concert like this before. It seemed like he was a little resistant to the concert and chanting because of religious objections. Even so, he was putting in the effort to stay and check it out, and there were moments of the concert that touched him. We all sang along to a gorgeous rendition of “I’ll Fly Away,” for instance, and I saw him bobbing his head a couple of times during other songs, his shoulders less hunched and rigid. During one song, the crowd was encouraged to sing potent words from various religious paths in overlapping rounds. I was singing “Shalom, Shalom, Shalom…” and was really feeling it, letting my voice take on the Appalachian hiccupy warble that so often happens when it gets strong and is allowed to run away with itself. I had my eyes closed, just singing to my heart’s content, when I hear the guy go “Damn, you can SING!” and I opened my eyes to see him just staring at me with this shocked intensity. I was busy singing, so I just smiled his way and went back to eyes closed, heart open. Afterwards, I got swept out of the theater in the crush of people leaving, and didn’t get to talk to him, but I wish I had. I wanted him to know that I appreciated his kind words. I don’t get to sing nearly as much as I should. It makes me feel whole.

After the concert, there was a Voodoo ceremony in the main hall, so I went to watch some of that, as well. The crowd was large, so I was stuck behind a column, and couldn’t see much. I really enjoyed the drumming, though. I used to love percussion and hand drumming, though my rhythm isn’t that great (one of the reasons I never liked singing on stage that much, because most bands seem to expect the singer to also do some sort of percussion if they aren’t playing another instrument, and I’d always mess it up).

Now I’m home. Earlier I had plans to come home and clean the house, but I’m exhausted. I think I’ll just take a shower and call it a night. There’s a Zumba class at the gym tomorrow morning, and I mean to be there. Dancing and singing in one weekend! And tomorrow night at 7pm, there’s a meditation group that meets not far from here; hoping to catch that, as well.

Unattainable

Today’s Daily Post prompt is “Pattern,” which is appropriate, since I’ve been contemplating several reoccurring patterns in my life as of late. The other day, I had a long talk with an old friend from high school who has pretty much grown into a pen pal over the years. I haven’t seen Andy in over 17 years, but we’ve remained loosely in touch, communicating first via letters, then email and IM, and now Messenger.

We’ve always gone for long stretches of time without talking, sometimes a year or two between missives, but we always just pick everything back up where we left off. It’s funny, really, because our friendship started over notes, as well. We were paired up in biology class as lab partners, and since we were both smart kids who didn’t have to pay much attention to get A’s, we spent the entire semester writing notes back and forth between completing assignments. Later, we took a pre-calculus class together, and he made sure I didn’t fail, again through notes and also helping me figure out how to use that stupid graphing calculator. He might have also helped me figure out how to cheat via said calculator, but I’m a little fuzzy on that. It was a long time ago, and I’ve always been against cheating. But I also can’t for the life of me figure out how I managed to pass that class, so the only thing I can imagine is that Andy introduced some sort of moral gray area where I could tell myself I wasn’t cheating, but I still had notes or help-aids of some sort in front of me during exam time.

Anyway, we were talking the other day, and it threw me back into my high school self for a few hours – a needy little nerd girl. At 16, I had a crush on the cool surfer guy/secret math whiz/biology lab partner who only had eyes for the hottest girl in school. I endured months of “I think she’s interested in me – did you see her looking my way during class?” etc., while patiently doing something that I can only assume was my idea of waiting my turn. I have no clue what was going on in my head. I know that I liked him, but I also know that I saw he wasn’t getting over this girl any time soon, so I went on with all of my other crushes and flings while mentally tapping a finger on my watch. I knew we were running out of time. And then we did run out of time, and we went our separate ways. We’re still friends, but life has moved on, and the process of all that moving on has made us drastically different people, from our old selves and from one another. As fun as it might be to think in movie plot “what if” scenarios, the honest answer is that the moment passed us by when we turned our tassels at graduation.

When Andy and I were talking the other night, conversation briefly passed over a guy from home whom I’d briefly dated in undergrad. When we were in high school, there was a beautiful cheerleader who was rather snooty to me. She dated a popular, strikingly handsome football player (imagine that). I coveted that boy, in retrospect not because I cared about him, as a person, but more because I didn’t like the girl, and I wanted to have what she did. So it came to pass that three or four years later, I ran into the guy when I was home for the holidays, we hit it off, and then we dated for six months or so. In the end, we broke up after I came to terms with the fact that, yes, he was gorgeous and sweet, but also not too bright. I’d never be happy with a guy who wasn’t my intellectual equal. During our conversation the other night, Andy told me that he’d never understood what I was doing when I was dating this guy, and I know now, many years later, that it really didn’t make any sense from the outside, unless you were me. I explained it the best I could, quite simply: I want what I want, and I like to win.

If there’s one thing I can see from examining my relationships with my high school crushes, it’s that I have a very distinct pattern. I always seek out the unattainable ones, and I push until I get them, then one way or another, it ends poorly. There was the older guy with a trail of multiple secret girlfriends, the writer who didn’t want to take advantage of me by claiming me as a girlfriend (but was more than happy to take advantage in other ways), the Quebecois who’d never be happy with a girl who didn’t speak French, the guitarist with crippling depression who lived on my dime for six months but refused to date me, the trombonist who broke up with me to give more time to his music, the historic preservationist who told me straight up that he didn’t have ANY dreams, the Costa Rican with a secret girlfriend, the Brazilian with a secret wife…I could go on, but it’s not worth it. Even the ones that seem attainable and perfect at first glance – and yes, there have been a handful of these – end up being rather soul-crushing in the end.

But in the end, we can never truly become one with another human being. Sometimes it seems that I have trouble just relating to myself, never mind my love interest. I wonder how often I’ve seemed like the unattainable one, and if that’s the real pattern here.

Circling the Point

Last night, two separate friends told me in two different conversations that one of the reasons they like me best is that they can always be completely honest with me, knowing that I won’t judge. Not only was it an unusual thing to hear (though in retrospect, true), the two people who told me this tend to keep their thoughts close to the chest, as it were.

I was honored, and it also was an interesting thing to think about in a little more detail. I don’t suppose it’s too egotistic to muse here that this could be one of the things that makes me special, makes me ME. I love honesty. I crave it. I don’t trust people who don’t really talk to you about themselves. What are they hiding? Why is it less shameful to talk about pointless, bland things like shoe shopping or the weather, than it is to talk about the things that make us who we are? I’m not sure I’ll ever get it. People should be ashamed to have less depth, not more.

Are people more honest with me than they are with other people? And where am I on this spectrum? I strive to be as honest as possible, without harming other people. This demands that some secrets be kept, not necessarily because I’m sneaky, but because I live an active fantasy life, and have many things rolling around in my head, some of which wouldn’t be kind to admit to others who might get confused about my intentions. I’m always making alternate plans for every situation, and living in my dreams of things that I know, realistically, can never happen. Sometimes I can’t tell if it’s healthy or unhealthy to be living so many lives concurrently. Today it’s got me feeling fine, so I’ll take it.

All the same, there are times when I just can’t come right out and say what’s on my mind. Times when I circle the truth, prodding at it, referring to its various aspects with oblique references, hoping that the other person will somehow miraculously catch on to what I’m trying to say. In a way it’s cowardice, but it’s also a game I’ve always liked to play. It gives me the exact same emotional charge that flirting does. People say “flirting with the truth” to mean circling around it, touching on it but not truly embracing it. But I realize now that, at least in my example, I get the same thrill from hints at furthering a physical relationship (whether or not I actually intend for it to happen) that I do from hints of furthering someone else’s relationship with a currently unknown fact (which I typically do intend to reveal at some later date).

I realize that this is probably all pretty abstract to you. It’s abstract most of the time to me, too.

You’re Killing Us

I heard a song yesterday that spoke volumes. I listened to the song probably 10 times on the walks to and from work, and fell in love with the lyrics. Then I got home, and decided to watch the music video, to see how the story unfolded in images. It was a total shock, because the story I heard (and still hear) in the lyrics is not at all what was shown in the video, and on top of that, all of the comments seemed to be from people who had also heard an entirely different story than I had.

Of course I understand that sometimes lyrics are nuanced, that there can be multiple variations of a message being told. But what I heard and what everyone else heard are so wildly different that I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Finally today, after listening a few more times, I decided that I don’t have to wrap my head around it. I hear what I hear, and I don’t hear what they’re hearing (I mean, kinda? But it’s a total stretch. Maybe I have a tumor or something…)

Here’s the song with lyrics – not the official video (which I’m putting a little farther down the post, to let you hear it and make up your own mind about the story):

The song is called “Saving Us,” by Serj Tankian, of System of a Down fame. I love System of a Down, and have found that listening to them really improves my mood. So I expanded a little to Serj’s stuff, and found that I enjoy him a lot, too. I get strong spiritual vibes out of System of a Down songs, so I was a little surprised to listen to “Saving Us” and hear the story of a normal breakup, written by a guy who could see the beauty of the situation, even through the pain.

As I hear the song, I hear him singing about breaking up with someone whom he really loved, and realizing that through making the hard choice to say goodbye, in a way his lover is saving who they were together. The goodness that they shared can live on through exiting in a thoughtful way, and yes, it hurts, but in the end it’s the right thing. The lover is both “killing us” and “saving us.”

It’s great. I’ve dated a lot of people, and I’ve broken up with a lot of people. Most of the time I was the dumper, but sometimes I was the dumpee, and no matter which side you’re on, it really sucks. It sucks when you’re feeling like the relationship is failing, it sucks during the actual breakup, and it continues to suck after everything’s said and done. Sometimes for months, other times for decades, maybe forever, but I can’t speak to that because I’m not dead yet.

When your relationship was pretty casual, it’s not that big of a deal to break up, but when you’re codependent (or whatever the healthy version of that is – I don’t know that I’ve ever truly experienced whatever that is yet), breaking up with someone is like cutting a piece of your heart out and throwing it away. Or having that done to you, depending on which side of the dumping you’re on. Either way, the cutting, tearing, killing, and saving are all things I’ve experienced. The relationship – the “us” – is, in its own way, a separate living thing that you have created together. It’s not something you just close the door on and walk away from. You have to be careful. If you’re very, very cautious, you might make it out of the relationship with fond memories attached, and maybe even a friendship, at some point in the future. In this song, his lover is making the difficult choice to cut ties now for the sake of their love, rather than holding on to something that’s going to destroy them.

So, that being said, here’s the actual music video:

As the videography and all of the comments underneath it would seem to suggest, the video is actually about world issues, and being kind to one another. Which is fine, but actually less interesting.

But maybe I’m just a romantic.

New York Stories

I had an idea about New York. It’s a strange thing, a story I told myself on the walk home this evening, a rumination on people that both overlapped and never met, and feelings that could never have happened concurrently, even if they wanted to, but somehow did. Anyway, I liked it, and now it’s sitting there in my brain, waiting to be told. So I’m going to tell you.

First, let me start by explaining that this story is not going to be very fulfilling to you. I’m sorry, but that’s just the truth. Because it’s my story, and it’s very small, but also because it’s all nestled together like little matryoshka dolls in my head. Actually, a better way of explaining what I’m seeing would be to tell you to imagine the pages in an expensive art book, the old type with three color printing and tissue paper between each plate. Look at these beautiful illustrations, so richly colored – those velvety blues, and luscious reds! Handle the pages oh so gently. Now let the sheet of tissue softly float back to protect the art, then take a moment to marvel at the change. The memory is still there, still lovely and still, but a layer of sepia and smoke keeps it just out of reach of your fingertips, allows you to worship the idea of it without getting it greasy. Welcome to my New York.

My mother was born in Queens, to my grandmother, a native New Yorker, and my grandfather, a Nebraska farm boy turned U.S. Marine. Mum only lived in NYC for a year before her family moved to Pennsylvania, then Georgia, and eventually North Carolina. To my knowledge, she’s never even been back to her mother’s hometown; she certainly carries no mannerisms that would allow people to guess her geographic origin story. When I was growing up, people always mentioned that I was lacking an accent, and I did my best to cultivate this non-accent, to make it mine. I’d explain that my father was from North Carolina, but my mother was from New York, and the two cancelled each other out. I believed that I had no accent until I moved to New Orleans, where people started mentioning my Southern drawl. It is still one of the first things that many people mention about me. I hate it with a passion. Not the accent, just the fact that it seems to mean something to people. Many men seem to find it sexy. I typically find those men repulsive.

In college, I enrolled in a work-study program that allowed students to work a set number of hours to pay for a portion of their room and board at the school. As luck would have it, my work-study job was actually in the work-study office, helping other students find jobs. It was a little like being a matchmaker, and I enjoyed it. One of the perks of working there was a boy who came by the office weekly to turn in his timesheet and flirt with me. His name was Josh, and he was an Italian immigrant who had grown up in New York City. Eventually he disappeared to spend a year tramping in Italy, working in a vineyard, but when he came back, we dated for a few weeks. He was so warm and genuine, so full of life, and I was simultaneously entranced and unnerved. It didn’t work out, but that part didn’t really matter. We remained friends.

Among the other interesting men I dated in college, there was a Quebecois named Alex. We saw each other for a few months in freshman year, and remained friends until he quite literally disappeared at some point in my junior year. He told his friends he was going home for the weekend, then never came back, ignoring all phone calls and letters. This was before Facebook, so we wondered if he was dead. It became an obsession for me, and I worried about him for years, until sometime around 2005 or so, I placed a classified ad on Craigslist in every town listed for Quebec. He wrote me a bemused email, and mystery answered, I stopped caring so much about Alex. What I never told him (or anyone, for that matter, until now), was that one of the reasons I found him so important was that I also had a crush on one of his friends, let’s call him Joe.

I will always remember Joe the way he was when I first met him, lounging at the smoker’s tables outside of Monroe Hall. It is twilight, and his face melts into shadow, his outline clearly delineated in the yellow florescent glow flooding out of the dormitory’s glassed-in foyer. He had a husky voice, and a terrible New Jersey accent, both accentuated by his propensity to talk about three times louder than necessary. He wore an interestingly awful hat. Was it a Kangol? I think so. He had piercings, and dated a beautiful girl who scared me, and since he scared me, too, I never actually talked to him. He was beloved to me, though, and a part of my circle of friends, and he still is, in a distant kind of way.

After Hurricane Katrina, I lost my mind. I did not know it then. Really I don’t think I started to understand exactly how far I’d unraveled until a year or so ago, and only now, as I fixate on seemingly unrelated points, am I understanding how this all connects. Or could connect. Does it connect? Do we care? Flip the page. Examine the illustration. See all the fine detail. Here and there it’s odd, it seems like maybe the printing was incomplete. What’s missing here? Don’t worry, let the tissue paper settle, and voila! See, the image is whole again. Where were we?

Yes, before the storm I was in a tumultuous un-relationship with a musician. He was my second love, the one that I couldn’t quite let get away after the first one cut ties and ran. This one, Luke, was sensitive, magical even. I knew the sound of his horn out of all the others playing on Frenchmen Street. You could have loosed me like some kind of musical bloodhound, and my ears would tug my heart in a straight line to wherever he was playing. It was torture. Maybe it’s why I don’t go out too much, even now, so many years later. We weren’t together, but after Katrina, everyone was clinging to whatever flotsam and jetsam they could find, and he allowed me to use him as a lifeline. I was living in Chicago at the time, but traveled to New Jersey to pick up some things he’d rescued from my house. While I was there, he wrote and played his horn and began a romance with another singer, a singer who actually had the guts to sing on stage with her own band. I was devastated all over again, and it was with swollen eyes and a voice that couldn’t stop breaking that I took the train into New York for the day to meet Josh. It was my first visit to my mom’s hometown.

I met my friend Brandy at the train station, and she took me to The Cloisters, then to the spot where I’d arranged to meet Josh. We hadn’t seen each other in years, but with his customary warmth, he immediately rushed to hug me, then linked arms and proudly showed me around his city. We looked at the empty spot where the Twin Towers had stood, then walked to a little Halal restaurant he knew a few blocks away that had a buffet lunch for less than $5. He was so full of sunshine, and even in a city so big, he made friends like it was no trouble at all. I traveled happily in his wake, feeling renewed by his optimism and positivity. We looked out over the harbor at the Statue of Liberty, so tiny in the distance. We stood in Times Square. We watched the ice skaters floating by in Rockefeller Plaza, that ridiculous Christmas tree blazing in the background. We joked about emptying a bag of Skittles on the ice, and had a nice, mean laugh, my favorite. Before it was time to catch my train back to New Jersey, we had one last coffee. I wish I…

Josh died a few years later, and I didn’t find out about it for months. His friends planted a tree for him out in Prospect Park.

About a month after the last time I saw Josh alive, I woke up one morning in Chicago in my post-Katrina apartment and decided it was time to move back to New Orleans. I re-enrolled in my Masters program, and on the very first day of classes, I met yet another New Yorker, Dan, from Long Island. We started dating a year later, and were together for almost eight years. But before that started, something else happened. Joe came to town.

Joe’s call was out of the blue. He was going on a road trip, and planned to come to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Could he stay with me? My first thought was to wonder how he even remembered who I was, but I quickly decided that it was probably just a fluke. He remembered seeing me around in college, found out I was still in the area through mutual friends, and took a chance that I’d have a place for him to camp out while he was in town. How was he to realize that I’d never say no? There was no way that he could have guessed that I’d had a crush on him for years, especially since my foolproof plan for not embarrassing myself in front of outgoing people is/was/will always be to avoid them at all costs. To put it lightly, I was terrified and intrigued. Who was this person now? Could we be in the same room without me melting into the floor?

It ended up being a great visit. Joe was in town for a weekend, and was the perfect houseguest. We went to the first parade of the season, traipsed around the French Quarter, went to see live music, and had a pretty great time together. By the time the night was over, I realized that my instincts had always been dead on. Joe was not only intriguing and frightening and cool, he was solid, kind, and fun to be around. I felt at ease around him, which is a very high mark of achievement. Joe also met Dan, which I weirdly needed to have happen. In some small way, I wanted Joe’s nod of approval. They got along, the weekend ended, Joe went home, and eventually things started up with Dan.

When Dan and I had dated for two or three years, we moved to Chicago together. The move didn’t work out for him, and eventually he had to move back to New Orleans, but for the next three years or so, I lived in Chicago and he traveled back and forth between the cities. One night, I was on the Clark Street bus on my way home, and looking through Facebook. I’d been trying to call Josh for a few months, off and on, and wasn’t having much luck, but he was always in Italy for long stretches, or off on some adventure. I figured that maybe he’d changed his number, or was away again, but then I had a flash of inspiration to look for him online. I searched for his name, and a memorial page popped up, complete with his picture. I’d like to say that I started sobbing, but what really happened was that the warmth got sucked straight out of me, like all the feeling in my chest was gone. I stared at his beautiful face and wondered what cruel joke this was. When I got home, I started writing frantic messages to the page admins – where was Josh?  The call came the next afternoon. A very nice guy who’d had six months longer than I had to come to terms with the situation explained to me that they’d been out partying, Josh had gone to sleep on the couch, and he just hadn’t woken up. It was an accidental overdose. The most alive person I ever knew, dead. I wish I could put two tissue pages over this. I don’t really want to see it.

A couple of years later, Dan’s job sent him on assignment to New York, where he had a hotel room and the entire larger-than-life city at his fingertips. The museums, the shops, the architecture, the restaurants, a person can live in NYC for their entire life and never really need to leave. Comedy clubs, seedy dives, FASHION, specialty cinemas (get your mind out of the gutter), so many foreign languages being spoken, fantastic Chinese food, ohmygodBAGELSANDSCHMEAR, history overlapping and rubbed raw in places, it’s THE CITY. The one. The one with $5 Halal buffets.

He bought groceries and ate in his hotel room. He watched TV. Sometimes he splurged and bought a sub from a place down the street. He had to save money, he said. Our relationship had been dying, but this behavior hurt me in a way I couldn’t express. I had traveled long in other people’s wakes, I had stayed out of rooms just to avoid uncomfortable truths, I had stopped music all-together just to keep from hearing one specific horn. I could not stand watching him let New York City go to waste.

I came up to visit Dan and do the sightseeing that I’d wished he’d do. We visited the Empire State Building, the Met, Central Park, St. John the Divine, Times Square, and a host of other places. I walked 17 miles in flip flops one day. While there, I also made plans to meet up with Joe for a drink, since he’d moved to New York not long after college.

The bar wasn’t too far away from my hotel, and I had fun navigating the neighborhood on my own. Neither of us was familiar with the place, but it turned out to be western themed, with country music on the jukebox and plenty of whiskey at the bar. As it turns out, we both appreciate a good bourbon, and since the prices were surprisingly cheap for New York, we lingered for a few hours, sipping our drinks and having a long, interesting conversation. He was showing his age; his eyes were tired. But as he got talking, the rambunctious personality crept back. I was surprised at how much we had in common, and how much I respected the man he’d grown into. We were both thoughtful, but in different ways. Joe commanded a level of passion that I found impossible to show. He was a warrior. He was a controlled flame, waiting to envelope his enemies. Next to him, I was a fledgling monk, a placid little pool. Maybe my depths were disarming, but then again, maybe not. Many days, I came close to drowning inside myself. I wondered if he worried about burning up before he had made his mark.

As the night wore on, I told Joe about Josh, alive and working the grape vines somewhere in Italy, dead on someone’s couch, now a plaque on a tree in some park. Joe urged me to visit the park the next day. I said I would, but in the end, it never happened. I drank too much that night, a reaction to having to go back to share a hotel room with the man who didn’t want to see the city, coupled with the weird challenge of getting to share a private, completely platonic moment with a guy I’d been crushing on since I was 17, as well as a nice strong dose of sorrow for the man who’d never get to leave New York again. My hangover the next day was exquisite, to say the least.

Joe walked me back towards the hotel, and gave me a big bear hug goodbye. In memory, I pressed a little closer than I should have, but I don’t think he noticed. As he ambled off to find a cab, I started to cross the street to the hotel, then realized that I was in the city that never sleeps – I should get a slice of pizza. Instead, just a block away, I happened across an all night Halal buffet – $10.

Times change.

The Middle Child

TheCabal

The Cabal (Izzy at back right, Charlie at front left, and Munky – playing all sweet and innocent, but don’t be fooled – at the front right)

I didn’t sleep very well last night. To begin with, I had trouble falling asleep, and then Munky kept waking me up all night. He’s always been a needy cat, but now that he’s on kitty Xanax for the UTI he’s even worse. It’s not exactly clingy-ness that I hate; it’s something more in his general behavior that’s always worked my nerves. And what makes it worse is that, though he’s a total jerk, he does it with this air of complete innocence that everyone eats up with a spoon. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t adore this damn cat, other than myself. Of course, I know that he’s a manipulative bastard, and you’re all being duped!

When Charlie plops down over my legs at night, he does it with the exact same attitude that he does in settling down beside either of the other two cats in the house. He’s relaxed and comfortable with me, and basically treating me like another cat. There’s a similar thing with Isabel – she has a specific place that she likes to curl up, right about hip level, and I toss my arm over her. She purrs deeply, and cuddles all night, obviously happy to be close. Both cats respond to my need to turn over/change positions throughout the night, and either go right back to sleep, or move away to sleep elsewhere. Similarly, they spend their days doing cat things, marching to their own drums, living lives that might include me but don’t HAVE to (other than the basics, like cleaning the litter and giving them food).

Munky, on the other hand, EXPECTS things. He follows me around with these big, dumb, sad eyes, kind of like a dog, but less endearing. Sometimes, if you watch him carefully, just for a second or so he’ll drop the act, and you can see the gears turning as he decides how to best mold you to his will. It’s insidious! I can’t go into the bathroom without him jumping up on the toilet to be petted. A trip to the kitchen warrants a volley of pitiful mews – he’s always in search of kibble, no matter how much he just ate. At night, once I lie down in bed, he likes to climb onto my torso (he’s big, so he takes up all the way from bladder to lungs, and weighs me down like a fuzzy, somewhat pliable cinderblock). He gets comfortable in this expectant way, his ankles angling into my bladder, and when I try to move, his body language fights it. He’s been known to dig in claws as I shift, but also follows that up with a seemingly genuinely mystified expression that says, “Oh, did that hurt? I didn’t even realize you were there!” And I’m not allowed to get truly angry, because he’s like a child, right? But really, it’s like some weird form of emotional abuse. He also likes to reach out and pet me on the face throughout the night – claws lightly extended. Sometimes if I don’t react, he gently hooks his claws onto my bottom lip just to see if I’m actually awake. Most of the time, his aim is to get petted, but sometimes he’s also looking for food. Last night he was lucky he avoided a firm boot to the ass after he woke me up about 10 minutes after I’d FINALLY fallen asleep. I had to put a pillow on my chest to keep him from finding a way to lie down on top of me after I’d put him off of the bed a couple of times. Ugh.

The thing is, I could probably ask my ex to take him. But Munky would be lost without Izzy, and Charlie would be lost without Munky (and Isabel really doesn’t give a care about either of them – god, I love that cat). Really, though, it’s not that bad. He’s not a holy terror. He doesn’t bite or scratch or destroy things, he doesn’t pee where he’s not supposed to, or really do much other than play fight with Charlie, ask for food and brushings, and sit on people. And most of the time, I’m not even that annoyed. But here he goes as I type, sitting across the room, staring at me with those soulless, calculating eyes, like some demented, extra-cute teddy bear/cat hybrid, puzzling out how to work me into giving him extra kibble before bed.

Let’s face it, cats are just the worst, and being a cat lady is its own special kind of crazy. Who else would put up with this crap?