*If you’re a real baller, you’ll scroll to the bottom, hit play on that Spotify link, then let that song play while you read. Just sayin’.*
First, let me say thank you to every one of you who reached out after my last post. The emails, messages, and texts were so genuine and honestly just whipsmart and no-nonsense—like, man. You guys are amazing.
Also, this goes out to every one of you who’s thrown me over your shoulder and dragged me out of the house in the last 5 months. Or met me out when I solicited a drinking buddy. I’m only as good as I am right now because of you guys.
However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I do put on a really good show. I guess that’s what this dispatch is going to be about.
I’m confused by the dark parts, though, because—look at all these pictures, man. Shit is FUN right now. The truth is, I don’t sit around being sad. I’m not actually sad that often. (More horrified and transfixed, but it’s brief, like a record skipping). I’ve manifested this whole trauma in other weird ways, like: memory lapses, predisposition to stare at my phone, insomnia, reckless spending, and a shiny new appetite for brown liquor! (The last one is my favorite. It’s like Runaway Bride and the eggs. I had to find the way I liked my own eggs, but substitute eggs for alcohol. Not changing this from corks to flasks, though.)
But it’s the moments between times out with friends that colors start to fade a little. It’s hard to explain. Not sad, and not panicked, but somewhere between the way Sunday night feels and the realization you made a wrong turn and have no idea where you are. I’m never caught completely off guard by this, but I do marvel at it.
These are the times that make me a reluctant parolee. Allow me to offer an explanation with a cinematic reference unparalleled in its dramatic flair.
Remember Brooks “Brooksy” Hatlen from The Shawshank Redemption? Bear with me here, because there’s no murder, prison, or suicide in this analogy.
Brooks was in Shawshank for just shy of 50 years—he’d forgotten what it was like on the outside. Hell, it’s not even that. He’d found a home on the inside. He knew how things worked, who he was, and what every day had in store.
Hey, Brooks didn’t eat alone.
When offered parole for good behavior, you probably—like me—felt a wash of relief. It was a boon in an otherwise bleak series of events. This guy got what everyone else on the inside wanted: the outside. But he couldn’t manage, he tried to sabotage it all to stay in, and after a brief stint on the outside—too old to be bagging groceries (ok, I just flinched; let the unintentional poetry of that not be lost on you!)—he up and offs himself. “Brooks was here,” he carves into the rafter he hangs himself from.
Ouch. Listen, I know that’s extreme, but you have to respect his confusion, and his unfortunate preference. Reminders of unfortunate preferences are the swift, unrelenting beestings that keep you from regaining a better posture than you, slightly hunched over, clutching at your head.
That’s the problem with calling it freedom, or “getting out before it was too late,” or a second chance. Because I never really asked for freedom, or a second chance. But hey, I got it. Now what?
Tonight, I worked late and then I made dinner. By myself. For myself. Not from a microwave (important distinction, as this can be consumed over a sink in a mildly hypnotic this-isn’t-really-that-bad state). Also, not with/consisting of an entire bottle of wine.
I cooked it by myself, with an apron and a podcast. (The apron, mitt, and potholder set I got at my bridal shower—burn!) I did my mis en place, Instagrammable as hell. I rested my hip against the counter tapping the ends of the tongs together, watching the madeira and the mushrooms.
It was methodic. It was meditative. It was boring as shit.
[The below photos were not boring as shit, though!]
There’s a sick little mantra I probably should shake, though: “I didn’t choose this.” It’s a little victim-y for my taste, but I prefer to feel stoic when reciting it.
I say it to myself semi-frequently: hovering over a basically always empty dishwasher, pulling into the garage to see a totally dark house, grocery shopping alone. God, grocery shopping alone—let us wish no worse on our most vile enemies. “I didn’t choose this.” It’s my way of acknowledging the situation, not blaming myself, then bootstrapping my way into the next moment. It’s like leaving a little offering at a tombstone, honoring a dead thing.
It’s odd going through things alone that otherwise would have been padded with the companionship I thought I’d signed up for.
But then you get through it without hanging yourself. Eye on the ball.
And then, there are other things—really delicious morsels. Hey, I’m entitled to this! Those things you maybe mourned on the inside, and now that you’re on the outside—I’m like an amorous Augustus Gloop on a good day. My choco-river? Music. Say you hear a supremely sexy song—one that makes you squirm a little in the driver’s seat. You heard songs like that the last decade or so, on the inside. In a sort of sentimental, noble gesture of loyalty, you didn’t dive in because, c’mon, you’re never really gonna feel that way again. Not in the cards, lady.
You know you’re out of that phase of life. That “I want to crawl in his head and know his every thought” kind of hunger, one that a thumping bass line accompanies like a maestro. ‘Let a fresh-faced spring chicken play this on repeat while thinking about that guy,’ you think. ‘My time has passed.’
This video and its male lead always resonated with me over the last few years in a way I didn’t entirely understand. Now, I watch it on the Reginald. Like a vaguely familiar train wreck in certain scenes; inspiring beyond belief in others.
I get to feel that way again. I get that again!
It’s not grandchildren for my mom, and it doesn’t erase the mountain of weird that I live at the foot of, but it’s something.
“I didn’t choose this, but I got this.”
Is that how it’s done? Because, please, someone, just tell me I’ve done any of this with a modicum of grace. And send me sexy songs.