I sat in my car today as the light outside grew more and more dim and what was left of the sun disappeared so quickly that I kept checking the time on the dashboard.
Is it supposed to be this dark this soon?
I’d set up a late afternoon appointment with my accountant and I was, as is my longstanding custom, incredibly early. Technically I suppose I was actually very late since our meeting was to have taken place two days ago, but my clenching uterus was apparently at war with whichever organ wanted to casually exist beside it and I was in the shower when the pain hit. I grabbed tightly onto the glass of the shower door and tried to steady myself. I was sopping wet and conditioner was combed through my hair when I was rendered motionless. Really: I was doubled over in agony. Thoughts like should I call an ambulance were running through my head like a bad song, but I could also hear a faded melody that tried to remind me to just breathe through it and that sound came from someplace else, a tucked away area of light that I knew I'd see again.
Anyway, through a blinding stab of physical misery that eventually subsided, I sent my accountant an email and rescheduled our appointment for today. I like my accountant very much. He's professional and he's pretty warm for a man who plays with numbers all day long. He likes me too. Not only am I his easiest client by a landslide because I show up with a grand total of four pieces of paper when I get my taxes done, but he frequently comments about how I'm always smiling. I smile again as he says it to me today.
I do not tell him that ten minutes before I flashed him my dimples I sat alone in my car and stared out the window and wondered what was next for me.
I do not mention as I hand over my W-2 that it was only about a month ago when someone who mattered described me as "so funny" and "ridiculously smart" and the person with whom he had the "deepest conversations about everything." When I unfold the paper on which I tallied my expenses, I do not say out loud that what that person said about me was entirely accurate and I felt the same way in return and that's maybe why it consumes me sometimes.
How was your conference? He asked me this one evening in the autumn. I had, for some reason, agreed to head an event for people who teach Film in New York and New Jersey and I was a little bit nervous about being in charge.
It's tomorrow, I told him.
I had it in my calendar for today, he replied sounding confused. I wondered who he'd fire for messing up. Often I'd ask him if he'd made anyone cry at work that day and when he would laugh and tell me no, I'd tell him that it was still early and maybe he could contribute to someone's total emotional breakdown by day's end. It was a joke, a dark one. He got those jokes. I never had to temper them and he didn't distill his humor through anything resembling politeness when he shot his words my way. One of his favorite jokes was to tell me how I should convince someone who always complained that she should just off herself. Anyone listening to us would have been horrified, but those were the things we never apologized for and we knew we'd never have to.
I sat across from my accountant in a conference room today and he looked quickly at the papers in the folder I handed him and told me that he was impressed by my organization, which was a polite way for him to remind me of the days when I'd call him on April 13th and ask if he had any spare time. I've grown up, I told him with a laugh, and when I left I wondered if what I’d just said was true.
I drove by a street named after my stepfather on the way home and waved to the sign with his name on it. I would have just dropped by his nearby office to say hello, but he has escaped to someplace warm for the week so I just kept driving. A song came on East Street Radio and I kind of bobbed along to it like I usually do. The last verse made me think of someone sort of new and I mouthed the words and wondered about what his secrets are and if I cared enough to deal with whatever turns out to be his truth.
Some voids can be filled, I heard my own voice say inside of my head. And some voids cannot.
That right there is a lesson I never really wanted to learn.
I spoke to a friend the other day over the phone. We usually just text, but with no need to worry about tiring myself out by typing with my index finger, I told him all about my new puppy. "She is fascinated by electrical outlets and all she wants to eat are my shoes, rocks, and leaves. She wakes me up by sweeping her tongue across my eyelids so they open. I want to be annoyed by that because it’s kind of gross, but I'm sort of impressed that she's so clever. Her hobbies include playing in the snow and lunging at my face when I sneeze. She is the opposite of Wookie and that makes me excited to see the kind of dog Tallulah is going to become. It also makes me miss Wookie every day."
He's a dog guy. He listened. He shared some of his own training stories.
He did not fill that void. I did not expect him to.
I drove home really late the other night. The heat was blasting but I kept the window cracked so I could feel the fresh cold air. At a red light, I felt around for the buttons on my radio and switched over to Lithium. They were playing a Garbage song I remember hearing in the background of the party scene in the first “Scream”:
I know that my ex-boyfriend lies
Oh, he does it every time
It's just a permanent disguise
Yeah, yeah, but he's drop-dead gorgeous
I watched as someone prepared an amazing dinner for me in my kitchen. "Tell me what you're doing," I said as he sprinkled spices over vegetables. The lobster was already steaming on the top of the stove. "I want to learn." I stood close enough to him that I could feel the rippling in the muscles and tendons of his arm while he showed me the best way to slice zucchini. My dog reclined under the table and rested her head on his foot while we ate.
Yeah, yeah, but he's drop-dead gorgeous.
I spent the last week surrounded by other peoples' pain. Someone close to me ended a relationship and felt deeply sad. Another person I see often is battling a depression. We sat together for a little while and I explained that I knew the pain was real. I wanted to offer some validation since I couldn't guarantee comfort. I slept very little. I managed to have a brutally vivid nightmare in which I shaved my head and it turned out to be a very bad look for me.
There have been primaries and debates and I have watched almost all of them. I cannot believe what I am seeing. I’ve seen all three episodes so far of The People vs. O.J. Simpson and no series has ever infuriated me more. I told someone I know to write a book. Someone who knows me emailed to say that reading my book was like swallowing razorblades and that she meant it as a compliment. Since writing the thing felt like I was pissing out razorblades, I took it as one.
It’s starting to take me less time to write recaps and more time to construct text messages. I caught a glimpse of my own handwriting the other day and I was appalled. A friend who recently had a baby called to tell me that her manicurist told her that she’s fat in broken English. As a mitzvah, I asked her if she wanted me to go with her to Weight Watchers. I did it as a favor because she’s a really good friend – or at least that was the reason until I got on the scale and saw a number I didn’t expect to see. I cursed my friend for making me confront such knowledge and both Ben & Jerry for allowing me to all but apply their product directly to my ass. I started paying more attention to what I ate and at what time I ate and I promptly lost eleven pounds. I still really miss Phish Food and I’m almost certain that it misses me. I eat at least a bite of chocolate every single day so I don’t end up killing somebody.
It’s 4:00. Almost time to hear about the crazy that has been his day.
I’ve recently become more aware of clocks. I walk into any room and my eyes move to whatever it is that will tell me the time – a cable box, a grandfather clock nestled in a corner. I keep seeing the number 14 in the minute section. Lots of times I glance over right as it becomes 12:34. I never ever sleep through the night but the brief bursts of sleep I’ve had this week have been deliciously sound. I’ve been getting texts later than I usually like to receive them and I’m responding. I’ve become aware of the positions I lie in when I sleep and I always think about how I know a few people who sleep flat on their back until morning and I still wonder if it’s some kind of unattainable peace they have found that allows for such a thing to transpire.
I’ve tried doing yoga or jumping on my trampoline before bed to see if it makes me more tired. It does not. I’m left with a lot of time in the dark. I look at the stars outside of my bedroom window and sometimes I consider moving the bed so I can see the moon, too.
There’s so much that you should know, I think to myself when it’s either very late at night or very early in the morning and I turn to look at the clock and it’s 3:14. There’s so much I’ll never tell you.
Nell Kalter teaches Film and Media at a school in New York. She is the author of the books THAT YEAR and STUDENT, both available on amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle.