Yesterday I attended the funeral of my friend. The last one I put on my ball gown skirt for was my mother’s in 2001. My friend was kind and he never once turned me down for fixing a clogged toilet. All I had to do was say thank you with my head tilt and fluttering lashes. It worked every time with him knowingly playing the sucker.
I had lost touch with him is recent years. He called me one night a few years ago, but my dog was recovering from surgery and I didn’t want to upset her environment. This was the last time we spoke. In the pew, I cried hard for letting our friendship go. I wish that I could cook for him now that I finally started those cooking classes I talked about for years. My tears came quick and hard. It seemed for a moment I was not only crying for him, but for all the people I have pushed away over the years. People who wanted to be close to me and I just couldn’t return the sentiment.
For all my hard-won independence, I just have a hard time being open to receive. If I need something, I work for it. When I heard the news about my friend, something inside me shifted. My absolute best friend of twenty years was called on Thursday. I have been inconsistent with our friendship in the past few years. She to her credit is always willing to let me back in despite my head tilt and fluttering lashes never playing a part. We talked for five hours about the state of our friendship and in the end decided that while we may have hurt each other like no one else, we also know each other the best. I think she is an amazing new mother and she still thinks I am a prima donna who can back it up.
We became best friends again. In a new way, however, I think we have come to terms with the fact that we just understand each other. Having her live in New Mexico (I’m sorry but that state really needs to change its color scheme) is a challenge, but we are going to make do. Why? Because our connection is real, human and while somewhat flawed it may be the testament to our humanity/human frailty. Before it sounds like some hokey new age B.S., we laugh a lot and she is the best person to send outfit pictures to.
My male best friend on the other hand, will never get an outfit picture from me. I was also in the pattern of pushing him away, drawing him in and then unceremoniously leaving until I felt like it. When we had a birthday dinner, I told him I was sorry and he accepted. How flipping amazing is that? He’s also a writer and we bond over shared amusement at our families. His dad is Puerto Rican while mine is Cuban and though there is a supposed feud between the two islands, they are almost the same person.
Over sangria on Friday, we discussed our friendship as well. For someone like me who chafes at emotional talks twice in one week seemed impossible. We pinky promised that he would be communicative and I would be aware of my tendency to pull away.
In the funeral pew, I vowed not to let that happen again. I would care for my friendships with a certainty that I never felt before. After all, when it is my time to go I want my two best friends to make sangria and beet soup while telling funny stories about me some involving that infamous head tilt.
I had bought my bracelet at a work event. It is a rose gold Cartier bangle. Rose gold is my favorite jewelry tone. When I was younger I loved silver whilst everyone else wore yellow gold. Rose gold just gives me such a yummy feeling. Emotionally this bracelet reminds me to believe and receive. But over the holiday break I somehow lost it. I searched and cleaned my house three times. Over time I resigned to it being lost and I was bummed.
I had picked up a book that was about being in the state of gratitude and being loving. Still, I wanted my bracelet. So there was one exercise in the book about manifestation, I wished for my bracelet to show up. I sent my wish out into the universe and forgot about it. The next morning I had to walk around my driveway because I had inadvertently parked funny. In the driveway sat my bracelet. I picked it up and stared at it for a long while. This is odd for several reasons:
1. I had lost it over two weeks ago.
2. My landlords and I use the driveway frequently.
3. My driveway is next to a major bus stop. Someone could have passed it by and taken it easily.
4. It was in pristine condition.
I told my atheist friend about it today. He found it odd, but tried to scientifically explain it away. He said it wasn’t a coincidence as I thought, but more of the law of large numbers. Now, I can understand skepticism and even consider it healthy, but this was too much. After the email from the long ago wanker, running into my ex-boyfriend’s mother after 12 years, and a surprise call from my father of New Year’s Day I knew something was brewing in my energy. Something was drawing this experiences in. I have been on this planet for a good minute and nothing has unfolded like it has since December. One amazing “coincidence” after another has occurred. Now I wear my bracelet as a reminder to believe and accept some things cannot be explained.
As if that was even a real question.
My style icon is Audrey Hepburn. I want to look like a vampire Audrey Hepburn or at least I did for a good five years. I would take it as a compliment if someone said I looked like a vampire. I love her class and elegance. Plus my deceased mother used to call me Audrey from an old SNL skit called Coffee Talk. I’d call her Paul and she’d call me Audrey. When I was vegan my bones jutted out like Audrey and I won fifth place in a Breakfast at Tiffany’s lookalike contest. I lost because I was a volunteer in the venue and shouldn’t have entered the contest. My style is Black Irish vampire Audrey Hepburn, can’t think of anything better.
I sense the Noor’s disappointment. She and her husband were not real to me until tonight. In hindsight, I had heard whispers in the street that Noor not being the best wife and her ankles were on the medium side, but I dismissed it for jealousy. Now that I know she is awaiting a pregnancy that may not come, I feel for the first time I have invaded someone’s privacy. If she can’t produce the next Diego, how can their line survive? From downstairs I smell something curious-cigarette smoke- and leave the bed. Our company went home an hour ago. Tiptoeing down the stairs, I station myself outside the kitchen. Neptuna is gathering and washing the dishes.
I watch her fill up the sink twice. She works over the silverware with vigor. A cough incubates in my throat from all the cigarette smoke and I step out ready to request juice, but pull my foot back into the shadows. Neptuna purses her lips out and she kisses the four dessertspoons. She serenades them chanting “Happiness/Good luck/Praise”. I look away to ease the burn in my stomach. When I look again, she takes out a metal container from underneath the sink and drops dessertspoons inside. Despite the volcanic activity in my stomach, I concentrate enough to see her take a wooden bowl and mix honey, sugar, leftover champagne into a gelatinous pile. Then she is quiet. A trickle of sweat oozes down my back and leg to my ankle before she inexplicably she cries “Osiria, Osiria” holding the bowl underneath her mouth. I behold her releasing drops of her own saliva into the container and a sea of acrid liquid rushes up to my throat threatening to out me. Father Infanta doesn’t spit in church, and I know from the countless retelling of the gypsy story that spitting has deep meaning. I just can’t think right now.
Neptuna straightens up from her crouch and seals in her mixture. What is she doing? Why the spitting? I know she is performing a spell. Denalis have a separate religion from Guerros. Sometimes I see in the marketplace Virgin Marys with offerings of watermelons and fish tantalizing the stray dogs. That religion is not allowed in our house, but I cannot tell Mother. Neptuna’s mother was my grandmother’s maid. I need to walk away and think about what is happening. I need a moment, but I cannot look away now. She lays the box on the counter and washes her hands. My throat constricts when she picks up the box and walks out to the garden. I hesitate, but run to the largest sculpture for cover.
Under our mahogany tree that looks like a headless man with broken limbs, Neptuna digs a small hole. A stray dog comes from nowhere looking for scraps. Gently cursing the animal, she dismisses it with her foot. I insert a finger into my mouth to steady my breathing. Inhale, exhale, and inhale as the new smell arrives. Charcoal. Neptuna stands still and looks in my direction. She knows I’m here and is going to scold me for being out in the night air. Inching up higher, I stand on the balls of my bare feet when another sound besides my breathing presents itself. It is low at first, I sniff again and the charcoal undercurrent intensifies, Neptuna gathers something in her throat. With each heaping shovel of dirt, Neptuna spits. The stray dog runs away.
As a teacher most of my acts of charity are directed towards my students. So outside the classroom, I don’t always have much left over for other humans. For animals, however, it is another story. My dog is my baby and I cannot for the life of me bring home another one. Every time I have volunteered with other dogs, Gladys gives me the side eye when I get home which leads to me giving a particularly vigorous belly rub. SO to keep the peace, I send in sizable donations to the ASPCA, Humane Society and recently one to PETA.
I was once a militant animal rights activist. Boy if I saw a fur coat on you I would seek to dress you down. Now, I realize that it is better to set an example than try to make a stranger submit through harassment. I put my money where my mouth is. Some days, I think teacher and donor, my next life better be sweet.
My least favorite quality in others is instability. If you say you are going to do something, do it. If not, don’t say it at all.
In myself, I recently understood how incredibly dismissive I am of other people. Perhaps I have not always shown others the respect they deserve because I think their lives have been so easy.
There are two opposing schools of thought regarding this matter: Taylor Swift and J.D. Salinger.
Taylor Swift kisses and tells to the point where it can be mildly irritating. I am not interested in her love life and she seems quite whiny. As an Irish dna holder, this can grate my last nerve. She puts everything into her songs. Every big moment can be a song to her. Kisses are all documented and pillow talk is shared. I am always amazed that she and Honey Boo Boo’s mom can still find dates. I don’t find living so publically appealing, then again I don’t even like people knowing my name. While I did use a man I met this summer as a muse for my second book, he is not a man I spoke with for longer than a few hours. If he had asked me not to say anything about him, I wouldn’t have. We writers look for inspiration in everyone, including ourselves. Most debut novelist base their protagonist on themselves whether or not they realize it. It is a sign of creative immaturity to use the person wholeheartedly without changing many details. People should inspire characters, not be carbon copies. Give these people challenges, different characteristics, or new platforms.
Some of my acquaintances ask me if I put them in my personal works or if I was inspired by something that happened to them. Most of the time the answer is no. Their lives should be inspiring for them, not me. People want to be in your works; it is simply human nature. Rules change as the inspiration does. If the story involves a court case, then make sure you change identifiers to the case such as names, dates and locations. In my ghostwriting I am working on a fictionalized account of a court case. It is key to tread lightly here. Don’t make anything obvious. There are books out there on famous court cases because it can be argued that the information is common knowledge. A private citizen is most likely to guard their privacy than an attention seeking pseudo celebrity.
My rule of thumb is anything a person wants shouted from the rooftop is acceptable, what they do not is off limits. Writers may be lonely creatures because we tend to use people for our creative needs initially. Once one person walks away from the creative because they put them out there, then they learn to be discreet.
The other school of thought is nothing should be used from real life and creativity/imagination should suffice. This is fun, but the danger is that the characters will not ring true. People are not all good nor all bad. But in order for readers to relate they must have something in common. Reality can be the best inspiration.
Be careful with using your real life connections. Some will be into it, others don’t want the emotional equivalent of kissing and telling. You must decide how much you are willing to lose someone’s trust for something that may never be published.