Friday, August 12, 2005

Episode Two - The Unexpected Guest

Eileen left this morning. Last night was her last night and last night at about 6pm she left with my car to sit at Scout Lake for a little while. Mark wanted to go with her, but she said she wanted to be alone for a little while. I thought that was kind of cool. She's really sad about leaving here and terrified of going back to Youngstown. In effect, she's leaving Missoula after discovering it for the first time. It's heartbreak.
Heather, our roommate, and I left our little cabin to serve dinner and Mark was there making her his salsa that she loves as a going away gift. I had given Eileen my gifts - a journal, three different cards, an address book, candy, a book that she liked from a cabin 18 that I stole for her, a deck of cards - about an hour before dinner. She and I cried and cried and she told me that she'd never had a friend like me. Ever.
At the end of our shift, Eileen wasn't back yet.
Heather and I bought some wine and we all played cards and waited. At about 11, we got out the salsa and started eating it. At 12:30, I started swearing and crying and went to bed. At 3am, Mark got in bed with me and said that Shane had shown up to say goodbye and Heather, Shane and Mark went to look for Eileen. They found my car at Black Butte Ranch (huge fancy schmancy resort) where this guy that she has become friends with was working, but they were gone.
His name is Wes. Some people find him gorgeous, but he looks a lot like Marilyn Manson. I can't keep myself from pointing this out whenever we get a roll of film back. He smokes cloves. He has dark brown straight hair to his shoulders that he tosses it a little too effeminately. He wears a cowboy hat about half the time. The hat, I like. The part that has really gotten Eileen is that he plays the guitar and sings. He, of course, wrote a song for her. Oh no, wait, he said he wrote it for her until I recognized it as a Gillian Welch song called "Miss Ohio." He said he was kidding. Yeah. He talks music first and philosophy second. But he'd never heard of the Talking Heads. He's 22 (you're not 22 anymore), a college dropout and doesn't know where he's going. He's so romantic that Eileen can barely stay in her own chair when he's around. When those musicians come around, there isn't a whole lot an 18 year old girl can do, but surrender.
They sleep together on the pull out couch a few times a week and she loves to say that it isn't sexual at all. Right. She says it is beyond sexual. Uh-huh. But, oh, she confessed that she kissed Wes the other night and wondered when should she tell her boyfriend back home. Never, I said. Unless you want to break up with him, you let him live in his happy little bliss. It took cleaning all of cabin 5 and cabin 14 to convince her why telling the boyfriend about Wes is a selfish release of guilt and, no, he does not have any right to know.
So she was with Wes last night. When Mark told me the car was at Black Butte Ranch, I started sending little sleeping prayers to her, just hoping that she would oversleep and miss her flight. I was very hurt. I was very angry. So angry, that I fell right to sleep.
Little fucker was here at 6am when the alarm went off. Mark would be driving her 3 hours to Portland to catch her flight. She, of course, did not have an alarm set. I laid in bed thinking of what I would say when she came in to say goodbye to me
("Go away."
"That's my black skirt."
"Oh are you ready to say goodbye now? I'd like to be alone."
"Did you remember my smokes?"
"I was ready to say goodbye last night. Too late.").
I heard Mark load up the dogs, so I knew they were leaving right then. She hadn't come back in to say goodbye. I got my sweatshirt on and went out there. The look on her face: terror. I gave her a spaghetti hug and said "goodbye", she said she loved me and I turned around and walked away.
I'm very very hurt. I'm really angry.
Pissed that she had my car and I didn't know where she was. Pissed that she probably drove it drunk. Pissed that she didn't have a drop of Mark's salsa. Pissed that she was wearing my black skirt when she did this to me. Pissed that she didn't pick up the cigarettes that she said she would. I spent all that time waiting with no smokes. Pissed that I have forgiven her over and over and accepted and accepted and all it did was moving me down in the list to hang out with.
And still, I'm very glad I didn't say anything that I'll regret. I'd be worse if I didn't keep in mind all the asshole things that I did when I was her age. Like the time that I didn't show up for after-prom and my mom cried in front of all the other moms. That keeps running through my head and running through my head. At the time, I didn't feel bad. It was my night, dammit, and I should spend it any way that I want. Besides, she didn't tell me she was going to be there. My mom never did that school stuff. She was the antithesis of the room-mother, so in a way I thought it a pale attempt at being a part of my school life.
Now, I think of it as one of the worst things I've ever done in my entire life. Even though I didn't know she would be there, I'm still responsible for her hurt and embarassment. I should have come. I should have spent prom with my classmates. I give anything to see Lisa V sing karaoke. Instead, I was tripping and sitting in Andy R's driveway listening to Kevin play the guitar. It was an amazing night - ruined.
And there are a million other things like that that I did that I would never in a million years do now. I have a much stronger sense of family and duty. It feels better to do the right thing than to do the selfish thing. It feels better to be with the people that will last than the people that are fleeting. And girlfriends are so hard to come by and boys are all over the place. I'd never spend time with a boy over a dear girlfriend. But at 18? I didn't have any of that. And, I love Eileen so much. She's about the closest that I will get to a sister. I hate her right now and yesterday I thought I'd die without her. I mean, there aren't very many of us with older brothers and great mom's. It creates a certain kind of person that is pretty fucking cool. So it stings to be stood up, when I was ready to have a girls' night.
She has felt like my guest all summer. Like I have invited her to the other side where people are from small towns and are happy. And she realized that all the people she had known her entire life were miserable. I didn't think she would actually come out here, when I invited her. But she came and went, my unexpected guest.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Mark said

I'm sitting out back of our little cabin with my laptop. There are hummingbirds buzzing through and we still haven't put up the feeder. We have four blue wicker baskets hanging up from the porch roof, but no flowers in them. There is a dirty sheet over the table. The wind rips through the trees like the sound of a highway. Some eucalyptus in a vase from a cabin that we put on our table. It was from a wedding a few days ago and the woman had cancer. I need to change the water. Two Stellar's Jays are fighting in the tree over some food - our pizza crust from lunch. I have the hiking map out and a glass of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, my new favorite wine. Eileen is now sleeping, not reading. She wants to get stoned and drunk when she wakes up. I'm getting a head start. I wonder how much she read of The Life of Pi and will not ask what she thinks unless she brings it up.

I don't know what this summer will mean in the end. And I will keep the question close to me, but the answers far away. Answers are limiting, defining. I see this summer as more expansive than an answer. I will talk about Eileen all summer and what she is doing and what she is saying and how she is changing, but I know that every word brings a mirror up to me. I am reliving and living at once. It's very odd. Something that I couldn't have anticipated the feeling of even when I was imagining it. I feel refreshed and like I'm soiling myself - yet all glee. Isn't it amazing to live. My God, just look at this world, this life. Can you even believe that we get to witness it.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

You're not 22 anymore

Rachael and I had a phrase: You're not 22 anymore. We said this when we were 23, 24, 25 and 26. It meant that you can't get drunk every night anymore, you can't go home with any guy that looked at you at the bar anymore, you can't skip out on rent anymore, you can't do keg stands anymore, you can't go to parties with more than 10 people anymore, you can't get any more piercings, you aren't friends with someone just because they do any of those things. There comes a point when your behavior shifts. And while you may not be a corporate whore, you abide by societal norms and assume economic responsibilities.
So what does it mean when you're hanging around with someone who is 18? What do you say.
Afterall we still feel 22 - or 18. It wasn't that long ago, now was it. It is our behavior that has changed. We are still the same person with most of the same thoughts, but now with different conclusions. We think: I guess he's cute, but he just confused Donald Rumsfeld with Ron Howard (true story). I mean, is there anything less sexy.
So when you watch an 18 year old each day and live with one, you can't say to her: you aren't 22 anymore. You can't say: but aren't you over that now? And aren't I nostalgic. Don't I hum "Those were the days" under my breath. I'm happy for her and terrified. The times at 18 that it should have gone bad for us and it didn't by a shade of chance. . . to watch that dance for someone else and remain silent . . .
And I think that when she wants to be stupid, shouldn't she be allowed to be without the guilt imposed from someone else? Shouldn't it be pure and irreverent and untouched our cynicism and organic soy milk? Shouldn't she be carefully out of control and shouldn't it be day-by-day craziness like it was for you the first time? I mean, ultimately we believe in her. We see it is a phase. She isn't - one of those other people that we left behind doing the same things. The same damn things. She's so obviously special, smart, interested, enthusiastic. She said the soy milk was good, right? She'll pull out of it. In five years, she'll be 23.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Beau and Hope

I just got back from a wedding in Fort Lauderdale. So who do I know in Fort Lauderdale? No one and neither do the bride and groom. Both from Cleveland.

They were married on a boat (yacht? when is it a yacht?) at sunset. It was beautiful: Katie looked like she was from a bridal magazine, not real life and Tom was handsome and beaming. The sun was setting behind them as they said their vows and Katie's short veil was dancing behind her. We chugged along in the intercoastal waterway with houses so large and impractical that they could never be lived in all year and never could be called a home. They had names like Starfish Cove.

I drank vodka tonics because, well, that's what one should drink on a hot summer night. I watched the young people too cool to dance and the older people too old to dance to the music selection. I looked around me, my family, the wedding . . . and I felt eerily like I was living a wedding from Days of Our Lives. The set was impeccable: boat, sunset, entire family in one place. The guests were beautiful. We had interconnected families and quiet feuds. We had evil people that could challenge Stefano in their plots for sabotage. There was the threat of disaster (think fire on the boat or toddler overboard - fitting events for a Days of Our Lives Friday cliff hanger). Perfect for someone to disappear then to return suffering from amnesia and perhaps in an animal-like state while the former spouse has moved on and married someone else. We don't have that in my family. Not yet anyway. However, nobody did see Angie at the wedding. So you know, we'll see if she knows her name next time she comes round.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The living is easy

So I'm here. Here at the lodge for my summer work. It's been a week since I got here and so far, until tonight, I've loved it. The views are wonderful. The people are genuine, teasing and fun. The food is pretty good and the wine is free. The work is pleasantly simple and I've had a lot of time to myself. I've been reading, relaxing and even watching TV (we have Direct TV and how about that West Wing marathon on Bravo? My eyes are going to fall out of my head from watching so much).
So tonight makes a week since I arrived. Nothing has changed at the lodge - everything has been great - except for me. Tonight I realized that no one has tried to call me. Not one person. A few people have emailed (Angela, you are so sweet), but no one has called. This expectation/realization made me a little sad tonight. Tomorrow it will be gone and I will go back to myself again, but tonight. Tonight, I wish someone was looking for me when the phone rang rather than a damn cabin for Memorial Day weekend.

Saturday, April 16, 2005


My mother is moving. Of course, I had a lot of old yearbooks and 7th grade science notes (forgot we dissected a starfish) spread out between the attic and the basement. When I was home for Christmas, I thought I cleared all of it out. But the UPS man came a couple days ago with another box.

It had my journal in it from when I was 14 and went to Europe for 3 weeks for soccer - can't believe I was missing that. What a great age to be travelling and meeting new people and competing in some of the best tournaments in the world. Can you imagine being abroad for 3 weeks without your parents with 25 other girls and 40 boys the same age after 8th grade? The thoughts that went through my head. The recaps of the games. The stories of the boys. An absolute treasure.

I also found a picture of Erica and I. I know we're 14 because of the shirt I'm wearing and we're sitting on Santa's lap at the mall. One of those polaroids stuck in tabs on the inside of a Christmas card. And the way she's sitting there. The way she's smiling. The age we were. It's exactly how she has frozen in my memory. That is the age. That is the maturity, the freedom, the carelessness. This is what haunts me. This is the person that chills my dreams.

We're both wearing light jeans (mine are the J. Crew ones - they were so great). I have bangs, but no hairspray because bangs were just going out of style. I would grow them out that summer. My hair is in a pony tail with a red ribbon. I have on a Gap red, yellow and green plaid flannel tucked in with a T-shirt underneath. I'm sitting at the end of Santa's knee, back a bit with my hands folded, and a picture smile on my face. I look like I know I'll get through this and knowing that, it's okay to be sitting on this guy's knee dressed as Santa.

Erica has on her Adidas warm up jacket that we got at the Dallas Cup and nobody else had ever seen it before. It was so cool. It's still cool. It was feminine and small which was unusual for soccer gear then. It was nylon with purple, gray and blues. Her hair: eternally long and straight and her bangs thick across her forehead. She is more forward in the picture than I am in. Bigger somehow. Her smile is huge that it's in her eyes, her ears and her hairline is moved back a bit. Her throat is bulging like it did when she was about to laugh and her hands a clenched. She used to wave her little fists around when she was really laughing. It looks like she's thinking how funny it would be to throw an arm around Santa - completely aware how ridiculous all this is. And knowing her like I did, she was having fun: private fun.

Everything funny was internal for her and I watched it and tried to keep up. To see if it was funny for me too. She didn't demand that I laugh with her like most girls did. But I knew it was special if I could. I was relieved when I could - like now I was really living. So I'm there with her in the picture trying to laugh. But I just don't think it's that funny.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Afternoon Driving

The day of my great grandmother's funeral it was 95 degrees. We must have been going to the reception, but I don't actually remember that. I was sixteen and my brother was twenty one. My brother and I were driving in his Dodge Charger on the way back from the cemetary. We had the windows down, but it was like trying to cool down using a hair dryer. It was so damn hot. We stared straight ahead, but leaning toward the open windows. The Charger's exhaust system was screwed up and somehow the carbon monoxide came in through the vents, so you always wanted to lean as far out as you could. We were respectfully silent, no music, no talking. I remember noticing the day: this is the day of Gram's funeral, I thought.

There was a Buick ahead of us. The kind with the handle on the outside of the door that you had to push in a button with your thumb. The windows in that car were up. And it began to swerve. A little. And then a lot. Back and forth, back and forth and I thought it would flip - then I thought, Buick's don't flip, so it will crash. At this point we were going under the highway and the car narrowly missed the concrete pillar holding up I-90. It hit the telephone pole about 100 feet from the highway and stopped. The hood steamed. We pulled over and ran to the car.

My brother opened the door and it was oven hot. An old woman in a sweat suit with a coat on, seat belt on thank god, was passed out in the front seat. A coat, I thought. A coat. I guess my brother ran to a house to call someone. A woman stopped yelling she was a nurse and told me to move away. Ambulances, more people, cops. We waited for someone to see us, take a statement, thank us (this is my mom, thanks for opening the door, thanks for screaming when she didn't hit the concrete pillar). But no one did, so we left. And that was it.

We looked in the paper for a report, watched the news for a story. But there really wasn't a story. My brother called some hospitals. We just wanted to know if she was okay. We just wanted to save her.