Thursday, January 29, 2009

manning up II

Something strange happened the other night at Joe's and I'm not sure if I can explain it right, but I'm going to try. I showed up around half past midnight and he was playing cards with his neighbor and a guy I'll call Roger, who I've met several times but have never really had a real conversation with. He is a nice enough guy, but he is hard to connect with, and hard to understand because he tends to be a low talker and he is always drunk. He is so drunk all the time that he wears that expression of squinty eyes and stuporous grin and when he talks it's like a wad of gum is falling out of his mouth. But he is very genial and harmless in general, although he seems to have a serious drinking problem and a tendency to want to drive home, even when he is passing out at the same time.

I was trying to talk him out of driving home and a little frustrated with Joe and his neighbor for not being more forthright in just taking Roger's keys from him and putting him on the sofa, particularly given a history of certain episodes, but he was just mumbling something about me needing to go to sleep. Joe and his neighbor vacated the room for a moment, and then Roger suddenly said, "You should wait for Joe." It was an odd thing to say, and I didn't know what he meant, but when I asked him to explain it, he just repeated it, over and over, sometimes adding, "Joe's a good guy. You should wait for him."

This struck me as hard because just last week I got disgusted with the Joe situation and decided, in light of his leaving, that I wasn't going to see him anymore because it was going to make me sad. I informed a friend of this decision and she said something pretty elegant to me that put it all into perspective: Seriously, you're going to be sad anyway. You might as well spend time with him.

Then this past week Joe and I have taken our "relationship" to the next level. This means several things. It means that I am actually engaging with him, talking to him, telling him things. It's pretty amazing how long we've been faux-dating and how much I've managed to not tell him. It's also pretty humbling to see how transparent I see how much he's discerned just by osmosis. It also means that I am allowing myself to actually like him, something I haven't let myself fully do this whole time. It is scary and I am remembering what it is like, just trying to enjoy the moment. Hearing Roger, who is someone who is known to me, but really a stranger, just say to me point-blank that I should wait for him, was quite surreal.

I gave up trying to understand what he meant and tried to refocus the conversation on the merits of not driving drunk, when Roger asked me for a hug. I obliged. I sat back down across from him and watched him drink his water. He continued looking around us in a glazed fashion with that grin on his face, and then he mumbled some kind of question, something like, "What gives?" I didn't know how to respond to this, and told him so, and then he suddenly became very lucid and articulate and told me he was really attracted me.

I've noticed that since entering Soberland, there have been so many instances in which I've been rendered completely speechless. This was one of those times.

Then he returned to the "You should wait for Joe," mumbling, adding, "Joe is more of a man than me."

The mood in the living room, which had been all jolly and sleepy and drunk was suddenly so intense and dark. It was really fucking shocking. He began saying very intense things, punctuated with mumbling more "what gives," which confounded me. He finally said, "I don't know how to talk to you. I'm just attracted to you. How should I talk to you?" I completely ignored his remarks about being attracted to me and said he'd have to ask me a real question that required an answer that was more than "What gives," so he said, "What are you looking for?"

This was a question that really begged for a response, but the whole situation was confusing me. Not five minutes ago, this guy had been passing out upright. And not fifteen minutes ago, the card game had ended because he had lost his hand...literally; he misplaced his cards. And yet right then and there we began to talk to each other in a deeply personal way, leaning over the coffee table. I told him about how I always looked for things that I thought I wanted...only to find out that the things I thought I wanted...weren't really what I wanted. And he started to tell me about how everything he wanted always turned to shit.

He stopped talking the second Joe walked back into the living room. He sat down next to me and said something like, "What's up, guys?"

At that point, Roger leaned back into his chair very easily, and his dark expression disappeared, the drunk mask resumed, and he just shrugged and smiled at Joe and mumbled "Eh?"

I felt like I was fucking insane.

I couldn't tell Joe about it. Would you have? In our previous realm of keeping him at arm's length, this wouldn't have been an issue. But now that we are talking to each other, I feel like I have to tell him things. I tried to let it pass. Then the next day, Roger called Joe and asked him to apologize to me for him. He kind of wanted to know.

I don't know why this is bothering me so much. But really. That exchange made me feel like I was fucking insane.

Monday, January 19, 2009

manning up

Coming back to New York has been taxing. Sharp always refers to it as "re-entry," a terminology which to me accurately portrays how difficult it is to readjust. I find re-entry and readjustment to be very difficult. I guess I am not as good as an adapter as I'd like to believe I am, and this week has been one of "fuck first, ask questions later." Or, more accurately, "fuck first...then go to sleep." When confronted with details that don't seem to fit with my reality, I find it easier to just go ahead and have sex...and then...go to sleep. This happened to me twice this week. The fallout the next morning is harder, only now I can't blame my actions on boozing. Now it's just my inability to deal with reality. The first was with the lawyer when I woke up in the hotel room the next morning: "Wait, did ACLU imply that he's...married?" (Goddammit, Little Brother, why are you always right?) And then with Joe this week, in a more prolonged state of confusion: "Why am I still sleeping with you if you are leaving?"

Yeah, so Joe told me when I got back that he's moving to California probably at the end of next month. This news made me incredibly sad but also somewhat relieved. I was beginning to wonder how long our relationship could continue in this balance. The day after he told me this, we spent most of the day together lounging around in my apartment. In our now 9 months on and off of not-dating, we have never done this. I am not good at chilling with people really, only by myself, and I was only able to do this after getting up at 730 to go to a yoga class. Usually I kick him out of my apartment, but I told him he could stay and that I wanted him to help me chill that day.

I realized, after that day, that I felt closer to Joe, just because I had spent time with him, doing nothing, forcing myself to be still with him and not go anywhere. Maybe the reason why I haven't been able to get serious about anyone is because I haven't been able to sit still with anyone for long enough. But nobody has ever demanded it of me, including Joe. He has never demanded anything of me. He has never demanded more of my time, better treatment, anything. I think he was probably scared of scaring me off. But honestly, I really think, looking back, that had he demanded these things, I would have given him these things. We'll never know, I guess. Maybe I would've just told him to fuck off.

Anyhow, now it just feels even weirder to be around him. I've always kept him at arm's length to avoid giving him the impression that we were getting more serious than we were, but now I feel like I can suck the marrow out of him before he leaves. Is that fucked up? Like I want to be really close to him now and I feel like it's safe because he's going to go. I want the intensity without the commitment, I guess.

Friday, January 9, 2009


I don't know how to describe the past fifteen-odd days with my family in the motherland, but it's been an incredible mental extravaganza. There was a week in the middle where I hardly spoke, mostly because of a combination of the close proximity of my sister-in-law and the patch started to make me extremely ill. I was also spending an inordinate amount of time in speeding vehicles, which make me very very very very nervous, particularly when they are being piloted by my father, who gets distracted by his many gadgets while driving.

I've learned a lot about my family on this trip, and in a way it makes me understand myself more and feel less fucked up. My father is descended from the Hakka people, a Chinese subgroup he says was kicked out of northern China. Hakka means "guest family." My mom comes from all sorts of weird family drama and is now speaking to aunts that she hasn't spoken to in 40 years. She's still not really allowed to talk to her only brother, nor are we allowed to see him. I wonder if I'm going to be a wanderer like my ancestors, and kind of deranged and fixated on the past like my grandmother. If so, I have lots of genes to blame it on.

I have many fond memories of Malaysia and Singapore, most of them having to do with eating and prancing around in tropical weather. This time around, I'm struck by how homogeneous the population is, and how much time we actually spend indoors, hiding from the heat. Singapore is aiming to be a largely indoor city. The malls here are the size of entire city blocks, and are connected underground. Yesterday I went to a city exhibit to see the master plan for Singapore and I thought of how funny it would be if I came to work for the city planning department of Singapore, to live as an expat in a country where everyone assumed I was from, and where my parents were from, but I have spent a total of about two months in. It would be totally bizarre. Even though English is one of the official languages spoken here, I am greeted in Mandarin in most of the smaller establishments, and am at a complete loss. The last time I was here, I felt very at home, and now I feel so strange here.

I was going to buy a pretty batik dress the other day when I remembered that it will be winter when I get home, and also that in my real life, I don't really wear batik prints. It was a sobering thought. A couple of reality thoughts struck me since returning to Singapore from Malaysia. The morning we left was my older brother and sister-in-law's fourth wedding anniversary. I can't help it, but they really depress me. I was chatting online with Joe one morning and he was telling me that he was really looking forward to jury duty, and possibly subletting his room and moving home for a month to save some money. I found this depressing, too. Then ACLU emailed to say he would be coming through New York next week. I kind of told myself I was going to de-complicate things and focus on Joe, but there is this restless part of me that just can't focus one one person, one place, one thing, even though I do miss him and like him a whole lot. I just can't do it right now. Little Brother says I should be careful of older men, that ACLU is probably married, and that I am not being honest with myself about what I want.

And then I got this weird email from The Ex that was an attachment of a Weekly Report I used to make him read when our relationship was on the rocks. I'm not kidding. I used to write him a weekly newsletter, lay it out in InDesign with photos and such, with different columns and icons, print it out, and give it to him every week for him to read, because I am clearly a psychotic woman who is obsessed with her relationships. The report would tell him every fucking thing I thought about every fucking thing, summed up neatly because he had a short attention span, and it gave me a chance to weed out all my mini-hysterics throughout the week and just tell him at the end of the week what was still pissing me off. I wanted everything to be out in the open.

And now, I can't even date one single person at a time, because I am clearly a psychotic woman who is obsessed with her relationships. Multiple relationships. They are just as addictive as The Cigarettes, The Booze, The Drugs, and The Caffeine. Sister-in-law said: Wow, you sure need a lot of substances.

Honestly, what do I want? I still wish things worked out with me and The Ex, even though I know they could not and will not. I wish that I were innocent and virginal and uncomplicated, even though I find those people terribly boring. Little Brother and I went to see the new Miyazaki today, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. It was beautiful. I am into fairy tales. No, I CANNOT accept reality. Isn't that obvious?