Saturday, January 8, 2011

For-tay Par-tay

A friend had himself a nice 40th birthday party in Oakland last night. I was excited to get out and be around other adults. The plan was to meet Quinn in The City to ditch my car and take BART over. Just as I was leaving the apartment, a flake text from Quinn threw me. Now what? Where am I going to stay? I haven’t been going out much, but it occurred to me that for as long as I can remember, my social life has been based on other people making the plan. Not used to steering my own ship, I decided to head to Oakland and figure it out from there.

Shortly after arriving, some old friends took over the helm without me even having to ask (oh, thank god . . . that was a lot of responsibility). Someone was going to drive my car back to The City early; someone was going to drive my chardonnay-sipping self back to The City late. I had a place to stay and a plan.

I saw several people for the first time since the divorce who already knew about it. There were two ways the conversation could go. I could not acknowledge the elephant in the room and repeat “good” several times in response to polite inquiries or I could briefly acknowledge the situation then change the subject. You can probably guess the option I went with most of the time. The meaning of briefly may have been altered slightly with each glass of wine.

At one point, someone started to introduce me as the wife of . . . wait, what are you now? I didn’t know what to say and turned toward another conversation instead (cause I’m smooth like that). But I was surprised to feel some questions around that one myself. I mean, I’ve known many of those people from before I was even with my husband. What’s up with the identity question mark?

Throughout the party, I kept noticing this guy lurking about with some serious dreads and facial hair. He didn’t seem to be talking to anyone and maybe was a bit uncomfortable. At the end of the evening, I found myself standing next to him, so I made small talk. He didn’t look me in the eye and spoke kind of low and soft. I stared at him as I threw a few questions his way, and then it dawned on me . . . hey! We went to high school together in Long Beach! What's your name? I was the TA in your English class in like 1989. I could remember grading his Huck Finn essay. And I could also remember running into him years ago in the Bay Area, but he looks like a completely different person now.

He suddenly came to in a very focused way, addressing me by name as if he knew the whole time. He looked me in the eye and said, “What’s going on with you?” And without thinking about it, I said, I’m not really sure . . . you know? With a total look of recognition, he said, “Yeah, I know.” It was the weirdest freaking exchange but probably the most real of the evening. And for some reason, I didn’t want to talk to him anymore after that, so I turned to someone else.

And when I say I’m not sure what’s going on with me, I don’t mean that I’m going through life not knowing what I’m doing. The changes I instigated were not made out of carelessness or confusion. But now, there’s a blank canvas where part of my life used to be, and I’m really not sure what I want on there. I know what I don’t want, what won’t work. But, what will? I know, deep thoughts.

When I was saying my goodbyes, a woman who used to date a friend of mine came over to give me a robust hug. I only know her a little bit, but we had a good convo at the party. She's also divorced and does some kind of counseling. It might be something like chakra couseling, I'm not really sure. I have her card somewhere. Anyway, she gave me a full body hug, pelvis to pelvis, and wouldn't let go. I'm not a touchy, huggy person with most people. I'll hug and kiss my kids until they cry for mercy, but I just don't go around giving people lingering bear hugs. I didn't know what to do so I just stood there with her hair in my face and my arms wrapped around her. She said, "You are a shining light. You're beautiful and it's going to get better." I opened my mouth to say something but just got a bunch of her hair in my mouth. I was starting to get really uncomfortable, so I patted her on the back and tried to let go. She squeezed me tighter, "You. are. a. shining. light." She let go after what seemed like eons. Uh, thanks. You too. Have a good one!

So, that's something I'm trying out for the blank canvas . . . shining light. She seemed pretty sure.


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