So, a little from today, and the afternoon of writing a little feminism, 80’s style — for young college girls everywhere… from my novel “Where I Laid Me Down To Sleep.”
Twenty two is walking a plank as a young feminist. There is a married man claiming that he loves you. He’s an artist, and he’s doing everything you want to do, which is what he’s doing. You want to get your degrees, start working, gain respect as a woman in your own right. Twenty two is that guy from High School who had this big crush on you and he doesn’t really care whether you go to school or not. All he’s interested in is whether you can bring home some pizza or some bacon, and he thinks to himself, wow, she’s this really hard worker and so I don’t even have to. She’ll do everything for me and I can just hang out on this couch and watch games all day long. Thirty four is a feminist who has worked her fingers to the bone for that husband she had who was an artist. She’s tired. And she wants that baby she was promised. Her clock is ticking so hard it feels like it will break inside of her. They’ve been together exactly thirteen years, and now she has slept with his best friend named Greg because he no longer touches her. The African violets curl on the windowsills because they aren’t being watered. A young girl so in love stands at a window holding her cat, because she doesn’t know how to go on without him, the artist, and this purring is the only thing that makes sense. She realizes all she ever was, was a petal, that fell from a bush in full bloom. Sixty is a mother looking at her son and deciding she doesn’t like the girl he’s looking at. She’s going to do everything in the world to keep her son, a son. So he can never leave her side. So he can never be a man.
and from the same passage, a little bit of being in love so madly…
So, she holds her breath and she dials his number from a pay phone because she can’t stand to be away from him, Not for one minute, not after she opened her body to him, to his love and all the walks on the beach and all the foolish dreams that young girls have at twenty two. And he answers the phone from his living room, more than likely, and his wife Cathleen is home and she’s in a different room attending to all those papers that she has to write and she’s hunched over her desk, writing and shuffling all the charts and figuring out all the statistics and into the center of this, comes the voice of Natasha Evergreen in tears, saying, “I miss you.”
His voice gets very low, almost to a whisper, and he says, “I need to call you back. How can I do that?”
“I’m at a pay phone.”
“Give me the number.”
She fumbles standing in the booth trying to see where the number is, in that little booth, and finally she can make it out. She repeats it twice while he writes it down, through tears of relief. It’s the sound of his voice, this voice she loves so much. The voice of an artist. And she knows he’s one, and she doesn’t understand how hard that path is, for any artist. Or even how difficult it might be for two artists to be together because they have competing narratives.
“Don’t move,” John Sandman has said to her.
“I won’t,” she says. And she’s standing there in this little glass booth and it’s dark, and she has to go home soon to that little blue room that she rented that isn’t really home at all, in that house that doesn’t have her mother, just this other harsh woman who is her mother’s age who has followed her around all week, sniffing the air around her and making comments about everything she does, as if it is wrong or as if she has some kind ulterior motive and she doesn’t.
She doesn’t move because he tells her he is going to call her right back as soon as he can find a phone, and that he’s leaving right now, and just wait there.
And suddenly the phone is ringing in the booth, and she picks it up and it’s his voice and she has never been happier to hear anybody in her life and she is more madly in love with him in that moment than she will ever be with anyone again.
And she starts to tell him about Tim, and what has happened, and he listens from so far away, as if there were anything he could do, except that he’s her lover and she thinks that he should be her champion because that’s what she thinks men are supposed to be, or, because those are all the stories she knows about them when they are really in love, and she thinks he is, she wants to believe that he is, because he’s the one. Because when a woman sleeps with a man he is always the one, until something happens that destroys that.
And it seems like they stand there for hours talking, in the dark.
It will be like that until they can see each other again, because he’s telling her that they are going to and that he missed her so much the city felt like a tomb, and that he can’t even work because it’s so lonely without her.
Natasha Evergreen smiles into the receiver, hearing these things. She has never been so lonely in her life, for anyone. She lets him talk, and he talks for a long time about all the little things that have gone on in the week she has been gone, and then he asks her for the address because he says he wants to send her something, and he wants to know how to find her, and she tells him.
“My sweet Babu,” he says. “I’m going to drive up next week.”
And all of sudden she is clinging to this little thread of hope. The hope that his arms will be around her, the hope that they are going to make love again, the feeling of his body so warm next to hers and her arms all around him, pulling him in. That rose she hopes that he’s going to bring, in its silly tinfoil wrapper, the roses that he always brought to her, that she can’t really live without, like she can’t really imagine living without him, because she’s so very much in love, in the way that love only happens once in just that way.
“When can we talk again?”
“I’m getting a phone next week,” she says.
“Good, I can call.”
She doesn’t say anything, because she can’t. She isn’t going to stop it. She moved away and she can’t stop the thing that feels so much like true love.