The single life. one, long, nocturnal highway punctuated by a series of sort of happy zen moments, mostly spent, understood and eventually, at the end of the day, savoured alone. a long rebuilding and recollecting of the self-same parts gone missing, redistributed amongst friends and the short-lived lovers who would not, could not pass muster. being single is like constantly advertising the “me” product when it’s still in upgrades while also having to sell insurance on it. “Hey – look, if you don’t buy this ever-developing thing and protect your investment, it could end up broken/ruined/dead. and no one wants that to happen.”
Some people are never better, never more attractive, self-contained and complete than when they are single. still others are needy, greedy vacuous, emotional suckholes of doom, spinning out like a constant slow-motion car wreck that you can’t help but turn away from. or watch intently. They hang on the next lover or emotional contact like their last meal – slathering on the butter and scraping up the crumbs even after the bread and the baker has up and fled. lust-dealers. killers. short-term serial monogamists who poach at any small game instead of waiting for great hunt and the big (right) catch.
Still, for me, the single life was a strange and glorious one marked with self-discovery and self-satisfaction and the time to write it all down and reflect. and i write this now, not to scare anyone into thinking i miss being single because, in oh-so-many-ways, i don’t. also, i do not intend to make mean or light of what single people, especially women endure to find a suitable lifelong love and all the tiresome expectations and pressures that go along with it. i write it now more as an epitaph to the life I led before and left life, singular, for life, coupled.
The coupled life finds its satisfying breath, its reflective homage basking in the light of the other person, and thus, like a mirror, in the best reflection of the self. “hey baby, you make me not only feel good, but look good too. in fact – i like the way i love because i love you and i love me too.”
Both exercises in singularity and coupledom allow for the same Narcissus to bloom, and the Echo of the self to end. There is within all of us, simultaneous urges: we want desperately to be noticed and needed and also, not be too conspicuous and to be left the hell alone. As one, you can find peace and stillness but, i’ve discovered, you can find it also as two and it’s a lot more meaningful and fun when you can turn to the other person and exclaim, “wow, did you SEE that shit?” suddenly, all those universal signs you look for, all the hidden text and life’s directional maps are no longer for one to decode. the synchronous workings of a gorgeous love affair and the cosmic stamps of approval come trickling at first. they begin in days long conversation where you discover all the uncanny similarities in taste and preoccupations and decide you’ve been separated for too long and are just now making up for lost time. then the fullness of it comes flooding in under the guise of divine and perfect love making and you find yourself practicing and partaking of each other until you fuse together. it’s a blissful time of unraveling.
When you’re wrapped up in your oneness, it seems like everyone knows your business, while in duplicity, like a twin-secret, only the other knows. or whomever you tell. having everyone know your business makes for good storytelling, though. every nite of your life is being courted at a costume ball of strangers on Halloween. which makes dating rather like trick-or-treating. and you think you’ve arrived because the band knows your name and they play your song when you make an appearance and the bartender knows your drink and you find yourself eating candy necklaces off the roving necks of a gaggle of girls in a bachelorette party, hoisting blow up dolls named Ramone over your head, drinking free champagne and sent drinks, guessing the weight of a lobster and winning dinner, ghost-chasing, line-dancing, boardwalking, tripping over the sidewalk and losing your glass flip-flop and the Prince Charming purported to return that missing shoe turns out instead to be your slightly annoyed neighbor who heard your giggly drunk ass cry wee wee wee all the way home and now stands on your doorstep, waking you from your mean hangover if only to be satisfied to see your face, swollen with sleep now just as disturbed as his was. and that’s just one Saturday nite at the bar. oh dear. how very common.
All wild nites not-withstanding, i worried for a time that i was, as i am fond of saying, slowly “cultivating my crazy cat-lady mystique.” luckily one of the qualifiers is four or more cats, so having only one, i was down a few felines. i never feared i might not be taking myself seriously and having too much fun – i feared that i would take myself TOO seriously, and dive headlong into a career of sorts and dry up inside, reverting instead to buying my own chunk of real estate and feathering my nest, collecting things and blocking out every chance a man would walk willingly into my life or personal lair of accomplishment and acquisitions. i kept my life wide open in hopes that i would be more malleable and mutable when i did find love.
This philosphy of life and my adherence to it developed partially after visiting the home of Madison. My friend Marcy was house sitting for “Madison,” who lives in this sort of, as best as i can describe, Victorian home in Annapolis just a few blocks from where i used to live. Here’s the picture: a fine array of authentic, extremely antiquated French Provinical furniture including wing back chairs, burgundy crush velvet couches and throw pillows that have undoubtedly housed and fed generations of dust mites since 1865 which now sit cool and still like taxidermied trophies. i kept imaging all the smallish bodies that have swooned at their bindings and draped themselves across the chairs and sofas and wondered if it’s me, despite my narrow frame, that would make the legs finally give and render one of them no longer sitworthy.
The bathroom boasted plates from old nature books of flowers, the walls and tables displayed photos of ancestors that may or may not have been hers. vellum lamps with scenes of indeterminable French countrysides and waltzing partners lit the rooms with the dim yellow of sallow skin. vanity tables with wash basins & pitchers sat dusty, unused and waiting, as did perfectly displayed bone china tea sets and house plants that looked like they’ve spent some time traveling and growing in many many windows. even the dishes that sat behind the glass cabinets like ladies in waiting in the only modern room, the newly remodeled kitchen, were in contrast, quite old.
Although warm looking in texture and color, the house was more at museum and mausoleum than a collection of sitting rooms. at any time, i expected Abraham Lincoln or Elizabeth Barrett Browning or some long dead ghost to traipse through the room, straighten their suit jacket or skirt, sit down with a swan-like flourish and engage me in parlour talk. After all, mourning and preparation for burial of the deceased were occasions for such a place, the parlour which we now call the “living” room. Being there amongst all the antiquities was a transporting feeling, time out of mind, but NOT in that way that a room textured in burlap and velvet and heavy silk and gold framed photos and plants should. it’s more like you have just crossed the forbidden velvet rope in a historical period museum display and sat down in your dusty blue jeans and wiped your funnel cake and ice cream coated hands on the drapes and marveled at how dainty and formal everything was.
It felt sacrilege to have the tiny tv on in the room, which i think might’ve been black and white, but perhaps i am embellishing here. It was tuned (poorly and perhaps not by cable) to CSI, but Marcy insisted on finishing the episode about the triple homicide, which also made my mind wander to who may have been killed around this furniture and if black lights would reveal blood or cat piss or bone fragments or . . . so i suggested we turn off the tv after and listen to the new Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine which worked well for atmosphere what with its galloping calliope sounds and carnivalesque piano and spare strings and bell-like instrumentations.
Lyrics came pointedly,
“If you don’t have a date,
Go out and sit on the lawn
And do nothing.
‘Cause it’s just what you must do
And nobody does it anymore . . .”
While the music played, i made do with the tea to enhance the mood and we thumbed through magazines and books and sat quietly listening.
Madison has two cats – Lili, a squat, rotund, grey, black and white tabby with bright, gold eyes like doubloons and a very timid voice. Meow comes out a squeaky, whispered “meert.” Then there’s Henry. A lion lord, red, furry fuck of a cat. Henry decided we were great friends and so Marcy observed and laughed (thankful it was not her this time) as he climbed the back of the couch, sat behind my head, purred directly in my ear, then began to “groom” me. He would grab a mouthful of my hair and bite at it, like a little monkey, then pull it through his teeth and gnash a bit. And he’s strong – so my head went back some with his tugs. Really amusing, a little unsettling, and oddly relaxing too.
i hope Marcy is not offended that i should offer up her long-single and very successful, well-educated, well-read and well-traveled friend to the chopping block as an example of the woman i was most afraid of becoming. Because re-reading the above sentence, most of the qualifiers seem pretty desirable and difficult to attain ideals, but concentrate on the introductory statement – “long-single.” something went just a little horribly wrong there. Madison, upon meeting was not so much the graceful, distinguished lady at court in her home as she was the shrewd and tense rabbit, quick on her heels and ready to bite, with little provocation. i wondered had she been married? had she any children? i mean, she didn’t need to have any historical evidence of men in her life, was she instead just a closeted or outed lesbian? was she just unhappy or happy being alone? how did she afford all this strangely lavish but lovely nonsense that padded her home? did she actually sit at that vanity table and comb her hair 300 strokes until it was a groomed horse tail or 500 strokes later, a fine, fox pelt ?
i padded out the door that nite into a light and thought-provoking drizzle and thought about old things, like writing letters to send to friends the old-fashioned way. i even purchased a wax seal with a golden bumblebee and some silver sealing wax.
i actually like sending letters and cards covered in stickers and random doodles or decorations. sometimes it is artwork or pasted text of my own or words cut out from places. the recipients always enjoy it and it’s a nice labor of love to send something homemade to friends. the art of letter writing is not dead, it is just somewhat supplanted by email and phonecalls, so i like the exercise of making a compact hello and keeping it light and cheery with a little bit of news, anecdote, story, mention of old, good times and promise of new ones. and always . . . always love at the end.
i have these friends who we tell each other that we love one another at the closing of letters and phonecalls, not just when we do something nice that pleases us. i’m always so happy when i reach the point where we can express that with people we aren’t actually tethered to sexually and mean love not as salve and bandage or frosting and fluff or wax seal of official business and stature of the relationship that when forgotten to be said or non-exchangeable or refundable becomes grounds for hurt feelings. there is proper etiquette for courting, but it’s all long since vanished so we should all just shrug and give into loving with abandon.
it’s easy to stay frozen in time, to accumulate goodness and sameness, to work on a theme, to breed familiarity and then forget to stay in touch with the current. it’s much harder to start over and reinvent and reinterpret and rework and redecorate. well, unless you consider Madison’s house, then yes – that place could use some new, infused love. unconditional, wildly colorful, moist, biker leathered and Victorian laced, ginger-flavored, spicy, whip-cream, lathered love.
Because damn, if you don’t use it, the source of the well runs dry, sister. and people start dredging up the old names, and tossing them out of the bucket, even for a modern single woman: Spinster, Old Maid, Crazy Cat Lady, Witch. i certainly didn’t want to find myself walking along and suddenly hear a tinkling, clattering sound as my shriveled up cooter dropped out and skittered along the pavement like a wheat penny. “This belong, to you madam?” “Why yes, it did, but i’ve forgotten all about it dear sir! thank you ever so much for reminding me.”
And if you get to that point, honey, close enough to need whetting, they’ll be no more fucking around – it’s time that you had a ravishing laid upon in the manner of a mongol horde. And if you’re wondering how the mongolians do it, they don’t barbeque you before they screw you, it’s done in big groups, with horses. just like some of the freakier Victorians did as a backlash to all that propriety.
But it’s ok – i’m no stranger to odd voices and old muses. i should explain sometime about how i see (channel) writing and how i have a few special guest stars who visit and stand in and they have very distinct voices. one muse who occasionally enters the vessel is a familiar – she’s that sloppy, silly little tart who has no regard for punctuation and lays in bed and eats chocolate covered shortbread cookies and gives me pimples from all the sugar and likes the smell of lavender and of rose water because it reminds her of Victorian times and flush, pinched cheeks and corsets and outrageous shoes defying height and comfort and daisies and lace doilies and hard candy in crystal dishes and salt water taffy from trips to the boardwalk and somehow, she does always come back around to sugar and scent and will stay up to watch the sunrise to prove a point. once she told me to write:
“i like watching a sunrise as it goes from a bruised black-blue purple, to cranberry red, to a smoky salmon color, and then onto a misty yellow, like the inside of a lemon rind with patches of high white, then transitioning back to pale blue. It’s like peeling back the layers of a foreign fruit or pushing something inside out until it yields the thing you know it has tucked away and want to see. Sky surgery. Post-mortem of a long, dark, tangled enchanted night.”
And since i met Joe, he’s been my twin half sharing many long, enchanted evenings. some to include firesides and brandy and all the finery and a spot of world travel and a good amount of wine and a multiple spots of tea. i haven’t written in so long, yet – so much life has happened. and over the series of a few installments, so your eyes don’t hurt and my topic doesn’t wander off course, i’m about to tell you . . . as a newly reformed single-minded but deliciously happy Spindle Maid at the loom.