Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The low, quiet hum.

"Don't depend on anyone too much in this world, because even your own shadow leaves you when you are in darkness." - Ibn Taymiyyah

There's a lot of advice out there about what to do when your heart gets broken. Move on, but not too fast. Let yourself grieve, but don't dwell. Talk to your friends about it, but don't be a downer.

What they don't tell you about heartbreak is the forgetting. Not that you'll forget the pain -- because pain is a total asshole. Pain is the oblivious party guest who keeps you up til 6 a.m. and then has the balls to take home the leftover booze. Pain is designed exclusively, I think, to burrow deep and multiply and linger as long as possible, like bedbugs.

The forgetting begins with the little things, like how his skin feels, or how he sits at the computer, or the things he doesn't like about you. The faint smell of cigarettes always lingering in his hair. How everything he produces looks a certain way, so that whenever it sneaks into your Facebook feed you can spot it as easily as a Gustav Klimt or a Norman Rockwell. How good he looks in sweaters. How hard he works. They don't tell you that over time you will forget the urgency of these things until you come across them again. But they are always hiding in the tiniest crevices of your mind, waiting for the dark to come again so they can crawl out and bite reminders into you.

They don't tell you about the slow, alone plod, where the details fade but the feelings -- of inadequacy, of helplessness, of not-good-enough -- settle in for the long haul. That days where you are able to keep yourself from crying on public transportation or walking around your city instead of just alone in your home can become the small victories you cling to. That you'll have a whole section of your brain cordoned off as the designated "sad girl" section, yet at the same time you look at the ropes around it and laugh at yourself for being so emo. But it helps. Compartments help.

They don't tell you you'll have days when you feel totally strong and sassy and over it, then without warning, a softball of memories hits you square in the gut, and you're unceremoniously carted back to square one, like the sorriest game of Sorry ever.

They don't tell you that your friends really do get tired of hearing about it, or even if they don't, you feel so pathetic and guilty for bringing it up again that you just..can't.

Don't depend on anyone too much in this world, because then inevitably, for one reason or another, you will have to miss them.

Even your own shadow leaves you in the dark.

The low, quiet hum of loss never does.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Curry curry curry curry rockin' everywhere.

Sunday nights at home working on projects are my favorite kind of night. My most recent Sunday night list included the following:

  • Work on illustrations for my novel (yep. I'm that girl).
  • Decorate my boring-ish dining room light fixture. (I say boring-ish because it's not, it's an interesting '40s-era pendant situation with five bulbs spread out like a chandelier. But it wasn't anything that a bunch of borrowed old chandelier crystals from my mom couldn't improve.)
  • Clean my apartment
  • Do laundry (this didn't happen).
  • Eat something comforting because it's way too friggin' cold outside, and make extra to bring to work.

My style of cooking is a lot like the show Chopped, except that instead of a carefully curated basket of licorice, beef tongue and stage fog that I then have to somehow magically transform into an artisanal cocktail, I just look in my fridge and frantically cook everything that is about to go bad if I don't. Last night this included half a jar of Aldi tomato sauce, the last of a tub of plain yoghurt, and a handful of cilantro.

I know what you're thinking: CURRY. (Obviously.)

So I throw a few things in a pan, and after about 20 minutes it looks a bit like this:

Stir it up and add rice for instant yum appeal.

I like food that's similar to my personality: cheap yet complex, and reasonably easy, but with just enough class. I think this fit the bill, except I ate it too fast to be totally sure. YUM.


Cheap Fast 'n Sassy Curry (#vegetarianstyle)

2 T olive or coconut oil
1 c tomato sauce (the more leftover it is, the bigger your bragging rights when you make it tasty again)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 onion, finely chopped (set aside a little for garnish if you want)

1-2 T each of cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili powder, etc. (you can eyeball this, and don't be terribly afraid of overdoing it)
Dash of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, etc. (I buy a premixed batch of this from my local Arabic store, because Arabs know what's up.)

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 c plain yoghurt (plus more to top)
1-2 T butter (optional)
Handful each of chopped cilantro (save some for garnish), cashews and raisins
S&P to taste

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the onions and garlic, stirring until just translucent. Add the tomato sauce and let simmer for 10 minutes or so. Add the spices and stir. (If you wanna get extra fancy you can toast them separately in a dry skillet to release the aromas. I am too lazy for this.)

Dump in the chickpeas and simmer for 10 more minutes. Then add the remaining ingredients, stir and allow to simmer for 5-30 minutes (depends on how patient you are).

Serve with rice and/or naan and top with extra yoghurt, cilantro and onions. Devour. (But save a little bit, because it's even better the next day.)

Here's to Sunday.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

My bed.

My bed is huge. It's an island, covered in a white comforter like snow. My weird cozy snowy island. And my bed is unique because, if you can lift what feels like five hundred pounds by one end, you can fold the whole thing into a closet and bolt it in for safekeeping.

Every time I lift it, though, I have to leverage it on my thighs halfway up, giving me pancake-sized bruises that are tender to the touch and linger on my legs for a week or more. I have always bruised easily. So most of the time I leave the bed down, dominating the main room of my studio apartment, crowding my piano and guitars toward the opposite wall, but at least making up for the unfortunate reality that I'm 25 and live alone and still don't own a couch. I think in the three or so months since it was built for me I've put it away about as many times.

Today when cancelled plans gave me leeway to do stuff around my apartment, rather than sit around reading my new Amy Poehler book, I decided to finally paint the groady inside of the closet my bed folds into. Since the bed is almost always down, I want this to look nice. I'm making a wall hanging with chains of this beautiful Nepalese paper that I'm going to put up over the bed, along with Christmas lights (for cheap but foolproof ambiance). A Millennial's Pinterest board come true.

But first! Paint.

I dig up rollers and trays and brushes, and the nearly empty can of paint we used on the rest of the room, and I start getting ready to work.

Most people see creation, remodeling, sprucing-up as a forward movement. When all your tools still belong to someone you loved and who left, though, it feels a little closer to going backwards. But everything reminds me of him, including my bed-island, which he built for me. So out of necessity I'm getting used to it.

I dump the paint into the tray and attach an extension and start rolling. Instantly, memories. "You don't have to push hard at all," he always would tell me. "It should just roll on." I remembered how he could paint a whole room in under an hour while I just slowly followed along, carefully doing the edging and the detailing, which were more my forte. I felt like such a dipshit sometimes because I wasn't handy and he was so good at everything. But sometimes I'd catch him pausing to watch me carefully brush paint down a thin strip of wall, and I'd giggle, and he'd softly say "you're just so pretty all the time," and in that moment as he looked at me so lovingly I would feel like a bodacious powerful Amazon woman. Special, because I was capable.

I peeled ivory flakes off of my fingers as I went along, remembering how we stood together in the Home Depot picking out paint colors. Me, completely overwhelmed yet excited, in the way I imagine a Martian child feels during her first time in an earthling candy store. Him, at-home among all the tools and knick-knacks and thingamawhatsits, not understanding my confusion, used to building me things.

He was always building and fixing things for me. Painting walls, hanging curtains, probing down into underexamined cavities of my mind and trying to scrape out the old insecurities still molding down there, or kicking in the carefully constructed walls that guard my heart, and replacing them with glass, so he would always be able to look inside.

He was the first person who ever cared enough to really, truly insist on knowing all of who I was. In a world where women are expected to be timid and modest, he was the first person who would get upset with my knee-jerk diplomacy and the way I rarely say my opinions out loud. I always admired the accuracy with which he could survey me and tell me where I should reinforce the floors and where there was just outdated window-dressing to be done away with. I have always been too comfortable with imperfection and frailty to have the same ability. I am too accepting of people as they are. Only recently have I started to see this as a bad thing.

I cannot describe in words how much I always loved watching him work. The way the muscles in his arms moved, his broad shoulders and strong forearms, the look of complete and uninterruptable focus on his face. The way his magic hands could make anything appear. The palpable sense of purpose that reminded me of how I was as a child, always coming up with new projects, exploring, making things up on the fly -- how I was before I learned to hide. His dark eyes as he constantly checked, and rechecked, and stepped back to look, and then kept working, always kept working, without rest, insatiable, until it was done.

He loved his work, and I loved to see the way he lost himself in it. I loved my layers and the way he insisted on tearing through them, because as long as I could be his project, I knew he would be lost in me.

I loved being his mystery, and his muse; he, my coach and protector. If he were the brain, with its brilliance, then I was the heart, quiet and wild. It worked great for awhile... until suddenly it didn’t anymore. Being for someone else what they should be for themselves is exhausting.

But no one can say we didn’t try. In fact, trying can be addicting. Being wronged and righted and wronged again is how I imagine heroin feels -- you know how bad it is for you, but you forget how to live without the rush. You romanticize the tempests, pretend you’re Diego and Frida. A real couple. Not one of those boring suburbanite ones. Everything is heightened -- the bad, but also the good. It’s not always easy, but it’s not settling. You have your person. Someone who so completely enchanted you from day one that even your skeptic’s mind was finally forced to admit for the first time since birth that love at first sight does exist.

In the end, you are the lucky ones. You have real passion. When you have passion, you can go months in a cycle of trying. You can pick up again so easily:

I love you.

(You sit on the floor of your new, still-empty apartment and weep together in each other’s arms.)

I’m sorry.

(Crying turns to kissing. The bare floorboards bruise your knees and hips and back.)

I want us to work. We can get through this. I love you. I’m sorry.

(Suddenly you’re running drunk through Welles Park, barefoot, holding hands.)

Let’s go to Vegas. Tonight. I have to marry you. I love you.

(Now you’re falling asleep together, holding hands. He tells you this is the first time he could fall asleep like that.)

Maybe we’ll go tomorrow. I’m sorry.

(The bruises fade. He builds you the bed, but stops reaching for your hand.)

I’m busy this weekend.

(Then silence.)

I think I’m depressed.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

(Then you wait, until...)

I think it’s you.

(Stomach and heart trade places.)

I think I can’t do this anymore.


I think I hate you.

(Then, after the cruel name-calling ends,


You cry and you rage, but you know it’ll be okay again in a few weeks, or months. You could do this over and over again. You both know this isn’t normal, but neither of you has ever really had to work at a relationship before, so you’re not sure what is. And really, this gets much easier each time.

I looked down at the nearly empty paint tray and realized I had been so lost in my thoughts that the wall was done. It hadn't even been 15 minutes. I guess I did learn a thing or two after all. If only he could see me working alone like this. He'd be proud.

I washed the paint off the roller and tray in my bathtub. My leaky old faucet ran the water faster than it could drain out of the tub, leaving me with a bath full of water like milk. It looked oddly alluring, reminiscent of the goats' milk that mythical maidens bathed in to stay youthful. I wondered for a moment if bathing in this particular mix would similarly make me stronger. If only it were so easy to be stronger. Perhaps then I could have kept him.

Some people, though, have a unique ability to bring out our weakness. Mine, for example, built me a bed I can barely lift, but I'm the one who feels weak as a result. It's a pretty apt metaphor, actually.

It's widely accepted that if you make yourself a bed, you have to lie in it. They're a little shorter on details for when one has been made for you. There have been many times in my life when I could simply forget everything and wipe the slate clean and just start over, fresh-faced, feeling strong, feeling invincible, when in hindsight really I just hadn't cared that much in the first place. This, on the other hand, is new territory for me.

Moving forward when everything reminds you of someone it killed you to lose is a lot like trying to wade through chest-deep water: every step you can manage washes you a little cleaner, but it doesn't make the process any less torturous.

When you're struggling upstream so much that even your greatest effort only keeps you in the same spot, it's hard to see that as strength, but really, it is the strongest most bodacious powerful Amazon woman thing you could ever do for yourself.

You can get used to being left. But I don’t think you ever get used to being alone.

I'm learning to find my strength in the reminders, huge and heavy as they are. Fresh coats of paint make this island more mine.