Who I used to be
Sunday, December 18, 2005, 11:20 AM
Where is my Christmas spirit? I know it's born from within, like all the best feelings are. The good things. I can feel my Christmas spirit, but it's down at my knees, hesitant to come closer because I'm afraid to celebrate this awful, gaping wound of a year. I'm afraid of feelings that aren't true at all.
But I can still remember the magic of the holidays as a girl, when I felt (but never saw) the presence of Santa's elves in the coat closet, between the leaves of Mom's ficas plant, even in the bread box. I remember trying to be extra good that last week before Santa was due, and thinking back on my behavior of the past year. Was my name followed by a check mark on Santa's list? Had I been good enough for a new boom box, a pair of roller skates, and the latest Judy Blume book?
Falling asleep on Christmas Eve night was difficult. As much as I wanted Christmas Day to come, I didn't want the magic of the night, the feelings of anticipation or the dreams of what was to come, to just ... be over. This night was the best part of Christmas. I would lay in bed and stare at the multicolored lights in my bedroom window, wondering where Santa might be in the world at that moment. I thought about a woman who had to give birth in a cold barn stable because there was no room for her in a warm house. I imagined a star in the sky brighter than all of the others. I wondered what it would be like if an angel materialized in front of me right at that moment. I heard sleigh bells, smelled sugar plums and felt Santa's smile. And finally the night would wrap me in its arms and put me to sleep.
A lot of the time, my sister Rhonda and I would wake up hours before it was time for us to get up. We would sit in bed and giggle about whether or not Santa had already made it to our house. Was it safe to sneak out to the living room yet? Could it be that he was here now? We'd slide out of bed slowly, quietly, and tiptoe exaggeratedly down the hallway, poking each other's arms at an escaped snicker or the sound of an elbow against the wall because walking on tiptoes and trying to be quiet seemed to make us clumsy. I was always hesitant at making this trek because I never wanted to actually see Santa. We weren't supposed to. What if seeing him destroyed that feeling of magic? Please, please, please don't still be here, I'd pray.
He never was. But he'd always been. As we came around the hallway corner that led into the living room, we stepped into the warm light of the still-lit Christmas tree to see that once again, Santa had left too many presents to fit under it. Gaily wrapped boxes with big bows sat next to the footstool, in front of the bookcase, in front of the TV. Two bean bags invited us to sit in them and examine the contents of our stockings. On the end table by the couch was a plate with a half-eaten brownie on it and an empty glass of milk. I hoped Santa would come every year, but it was still a shock to see that he had, too. Also validating because Santa always thought that my sister and I had been very good girls.
Here I am today, the same girl and yet not the same girl. I am not who I imagined I would be, nor am I where I want to be or doing what I wanted to do. I no longer feel the safe, warm cocoon of magic that used to be mine. But I can find my Christmas spirit by remembering who I used to be and how I used to feel.
Contain yourself. I know it's hard, what with all the excitment and all.
Someone didn't flush the toilet twice today. The first time I held my breath, flushed the john, then dashed into the next stall. The next time, I swore. A bathroom is a good place to curse if you're going to because a bathroom is already dirty and a good string of swear words has a certain elan.
Tonight while waiting for the bus, I heard another singer. It wasn't Christmas songs this time, but Christian music. Because we were standing outside, the singer was also a dancer. And man, he was really getting into it. Every time I glanced his way to see if the bus comith yet, his voice got louder.
On the bus home tonight, I heard an intermittent rumbly sound. It was soft, then not so soft, then crackly. And then I heard a pop! gasp! and thought that it was the bus farting. But no. It was a sleeping man with an alarming form of ... sleep apnea, I guess.
The bus driver, the same gal who drove last night, likes to talk to drivers.
"Yeah. I saw you, but I'm the bus."
"Uh huh. You're an idiot."
"What are you looking at?" Honk, honk. "Back at 'cha, punk."
There's always much hard braking. Go-go-go and stop! It's one of the reasons why I go pee before I leave because one day, the bus I'm on is going to be in a traffic accident. Never a dull moment. Which is fine with me, as long as my bladder isn't full.
When I got off the bus, two men were snoring. Loudly. So loudly, in fact, that if they had fallen asleep in my living room and I was trying to hear the T.V., I'd have to say boo. Blows my mind that they can sleep on one of those noisy busses, but there you go. Anything is possible. Especially in L.A.
Bus ride 54
Italian Man: Siete presto. Il cugino Ned e Jake non è qui ancora!
(You're early. Cousin Ned and Jake have to make it here!)
Bus driver: Just get on the bus if you're getting on the bus.
Italian Man: Devono ottenere all'aeroporto di LASSISMO. Come che vanno ottenere là?
(They have to get to the LAX airport. How they going to get there?)
Bus driver: Sir, please take your seat.
Italian man: Perchè siete qui così presto? L'ultima volta eravate in ritardo 30 mintues ed abbiamo mancato il nostro aeroplano. Ed ora Ned e Jake stanno andando mancare l'aeroplano perché siete presto. Voi driver di bus! Mai in tempo! Che cosa stanno andando fare? Non potete arresto qui per dieci minuti--
(Why are you here so early? Last time you were 30 minutes late and we missed our airplane. Now Ned and Jake are going to miss the airplane because you're early. You bus drivers! Never on time! What are they going to do? Can't you stop here for ten min--)
Okay, enough of that.
A few stops later, the real fun began. A black guy in white shorts and a white T-shirt climbed on (it's dark by now, in the low 60s and people are in coats, hats and scarves). He was wearing sunglasses, a hat and music earphones. And he sat next to me because I was in the third seat from the front. For the first five minutes, all was good. And then ...
"Psssspt," he said. It sounded like when a baby is being spoon-fed liquefied carrots and makes the spitty sound. At first I thought he'd farted. And as I'm looking at him, he purses his lips and makes the spitty sound again. How lucky can a girl get?
"Up on the roof top," he adds and bobs his head. I can't tell if he's looking at me or not because the glasses are too dark. I think I made a sound of my own then before I turned back to the window.
The moon was almost full today. Actually, it looked like a werewolf moon with gray whispy clouds in front of it. I guess I could blame today's events on that. Seems as good a reason as any to me.
Because she had to pee. (No, wait. Because Keanu Reeves was on the other side of it, waiting for her in a soft gray stretch limo.)
So okay, her bus was half an hour late. And she'd decided to call a cab, but she wanted to do it back inside the building where she worked because the Los Angelian road was loud with traffic, making cell phone conversation about as much fun as getting an uncoated aspirin stuck in your throat. Why not re-enter the building, place the call for a cab, then pee?
Only the door was locked. So she made the call on a full bladder, with one finger in her ear to try and block out raging traffic sounds. Just as she's doing this, the bus--her bus--comes roaring up to the intersection. The bus is on the other side of a six-lane road and the light is green. It barely slows down. And then poof, it's gone.
She laughs, but she still has to pee so it's not really that funny.
She spies Frenchy inside the building and knocks on the side door. He knows her. He'll let her in, even if it is after hours and dark outside. Theoretically, he could smirk, shake his head at her, and she'd have to live with so sad, your dad, but she's wearing the black Captain and Tennille hat and black leather coat, the look that ensures one free pass to pee. Woo!
Four minutes later, she's back standing in front of the building, awaiting her knight in yellow metal. Meanwhile, she yaks on her cell phone. Ten minutes go by. She wonders where her cab is and as the minutes pass, the thought becomes all-consuming, overriding thoughts of wine, the cold and food. She tries not to think about her friend's friends who have recently been mugged because she doesn't even have a can of hairspray in her purse.
Fifteen minutes after that, Hoosier Girl calls the cab company again and learns that they canceled her cab because the cab driver didn't see her standing where she said she would be and because he couldn't reach her by phone. For whatever reason, there was no beep of interruption to let her know someone else was trying to get through. Nope, not an effin bleep. If the cabbie even tried to call her. She has her doubts. Actually, in a world gone awry, she's aswarm with them.
Hoosier Girl begins walking back to the bus stop because it's almost time for the next bus and she figures she might as well take that bus since Fate's decided that kicking back in a cab isn't going to happen. She's halfway back to the bus stop when the next bus roars up to the intersection, five minutes early.
Run? Scream? Laugh? Cry? Pee?
These thoughts go through her brain as the bus squeals to a stop. For three heartbeats it stays there and the anticipation is heavy, like just before you climax. Then the light turns green, the bus rounds the corner and that's that.
This is not fiction. This is her life.
You know the sound a car makes when someone turns the key in the ignition and the car is already on? A horrible, dull sounding scratching happens. The few times I've done this, my skeleton about popped out of my skin. It's not a sound you want to hear repeated. It's bad for the car. And, well, someone keeps doing this in our alleyhood. I hear it at least twice a week, so I figure it must happen even more than that since I'm not around much during the week. Then again, maybe there are several people in the alleyhood trying to turn on cars that are already on.
I'm waiting for my groceries to arrive. One of the benefits of a mega-populated city with a shitload of traffic is online grocery shopping and delivery. I don't have to heave my laundry detergent, dishwasher soap and cans of soup through a gated walkway, nor do I have to lug them upstairs. Oh, sweet joy. Oh, sweet convenience. I forgot the Draino, though. And there was no Soft Scrub available. I could buy my preferred brand of hair color, but not Soft Scrub. Clearly, online shopping has its disadvantages.
I'm reading Psycho-Cybernetics (again) to discover my buried success mechanism, to learn how to dehypnotize all of the false beliefs I have about myself, and to learn how to think rationally when I most need to. All of that shit. When I figure it out and feel as if I've learned something and that I am actually putting practice into motion, I'll probably write about here. Because it's supposed to be life-changing stuff. However, my head's still aslosh, I'm not sure what a success mechanism really is (or where it might be buried), I'm unsure I can focus long enough to dehypnotize myself, and rationality has never been one of my strong points. I want it to be, though. I want everything the book talks about, but it takes work and dedication to make yourself feel better and you've got to want it bad.
It's 12:30. My groceries still aren't here. My time slot for delivery was between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Nothing like the last minute. I haven't even showered yet; I'm sitting here in my sweats and slippers and my hair's in a ponytail. I was hoping I'd be up early enough to shower first and I was, but I didn't feel like showering. All I wanted was a cup of coffee. I look forward to my three-day, loll-about weekends without having to dive for the shower first thing because the rest of the time, it's go-go-go, all of it on someone else's timetable.
Guess I'll go pee. That'll make the grocery deliveryman show up for sure.
Update: It worked! I was heading for the bathroom when I heard heavy steps coming up the stairs. It was Mike. From Vons.com and he wasn't allowed to receive a tip. All he needed was my signature on a piece of paper.
I could get used to this very easily.
Unless you're dripping wealth from your manicured fingertips and can afford an outrageously overpriced house, or perhaps a well-insulated condo in a high-rise building that overlooks the city or the ocean, living here is never quiet. Ever.
The city is overpopulated and each person seems blithely unconcerned about the amount of noise he creates. Hell, who would dare complain about Mr. X's Mexican Thursday night pow-wows under the carport when the alley-prowling Reubens of the city choose to push shopping carts down the broken cement of my alley in the wee hours of the morning, digging through each and every metal trash can for aluminum cans and plastic bottles. Oh, and I can't forget the process of squashing them. Crack! Crinkle! Kee-runch!
Were you asleep?
Watching a movie?
Too fucking bad and welcome to the city of angels!
I've been thinking about an alternative plan to the metal can and plastic bottle garbage can diggage and squashage. The alley outside is already disgusting with filth and trash that never made it into the garbage because people around here are piss poor shots and/or they just don't care. Why bother picking up the Indian takeout Styrofoam box to put it into the trash when someone's obviously just dumped his ashtray all over the ground there? God knows what the greenish-yellow splotch is, but whoa, step lively.
Originally I had thought about suggesting padlocking the trashcans and giving only the residents the key. Some of the restaurants in Fort Wayne do that to discourage dumping, but there isn't a chance in hell that that would work here because people already litter. A padlock on a trash can would be like an engraved invitation. As bad as litter is now, it would get worse. I suspect that many of the residents are doing the littering, anyway.
I thought about suggesting that everyone stomp the hell out of their Coke cans and water bottles, then place them neatly outside by the trash cans. Right next to the abandoned sofa, baby! Then the shopping cart Reubens could sit for a moment or two on the sofa, maybe while marveling at how sometimes the gods do smile on you in the size and shape of neatly bagged, squashed bottles and cans. But somehow I don't think this idea's going to work either (there must be at least a hundred folks who throw their trash away here along the alley), but the thought makes me smile.
Usually as my discontent grows, I get more and more quiet because I want to retreat from all of the ugliness. That's how I cope. Silence is a necessary step to come to terms with myself about whatfreakingever. Here in L.A., though, it's taken longer since silence is rare and I usually equate silence with peace. But I'm through being silent. Finis. I plan to rant as often as necessary.
So. There is a big metal trashcan outside my window. Last night there were several random occurrences of something big and crashy being thrown into the bin. The noise and weight of whatever it was reverberated through my room and gave my toes a massage. Unfortunately, the sudden shock of the noise did not outrank the brief massage. Unfortunately, it's a public trashcan and there must be five or six dotting our scenic alleyway here. My hope that whoever was pitching old bowling balls into the trashcans would equally disburse them, was a waste of time. But not really because here I am, capturing all of the glorious details for posterity. And misery makes for such great story telling. And reading, if one isn't too woe-is-me.
I hate it here. I tried not to, but then everything started pressing on my insides and the more I tried to smile, the more I felt like doing less of it and if I have to remember to smile so I'm socially acceptable, it ruins the moment because obviously I didn't feel like smiling at that particular time. But if I don't smile, people ask why and then guilt, regret, tears and shit ensues. A never-ending cycle of depression-fostering muck.
A few weeks ago I went to see a psychoanalyst. I knew I was depressed and desperate because I took the bus to a busy area of the city where I've never been and didn't know where I was going. When I left with a headache and Splotchy Face, I felt drained and horrible, but somehow better. I walked five blocks back to Robertson and waited an hour for the next bus. But I'd made it. I'd successfully navigated my way to point B from A, but can I say that point C still scares the hell out of me?
Life is what I make of it (but may I suggest that you never say so to someone you suspect is depressed). Like choosing to see the clean toilet bowl and not the turd. Admiring the thought behind the box of three dozen doughnuts left on the sidewalk of Culver Boulevard. Realizing that I had to break first if I was to grow stronger. Appreciating how the shadow compliments the sunlight. Marveling at a how a flower can grow out of the cracks of concrete.