i am very selfish.

his father died. this man was so kind. how to describe him? he's nothing so common as a teddy bear, but he was one, with his thick white woolly hair and pouchlike cheeks. with his ready gentleness, his open smile. he did not suspect me. he embraced me before his son did, folding me into a huge warm hug when they were leaving. he insisted on walking me home, even in the middle of the day, and when i squeezed his hand, he squeezed back, and everything about him was solid and soft at the same time.

here i am again without the right to mourn.

he knew it wasn't easy. he took me on a tour of bonn. he gave me a lengthy historical account of the city. midway through i burst out laughing and could not stop. he was puzzled.

he went out to chop wood in high summer. he introduced me to friends and said he hoped i would come back.

he said to me, "you poor girl."

i met him so rarely, so briefly, but i loved him.

stories

one that i could tell but will not: how everyone at work was a super lame jerk this week and how i had to clean up after them while taking all the blame.

one that boris eifman told so well, i hardly feel the need to comment: don quixote, that novel that no one has read but everyone knows. the crazy dude who jousts windmills, right? act i was slightly tiresome: the traditional too familiar, the insanity too calculated. only the lithe and cool doctor with her aggressively arched spine punctuating the alternations between a world of color, life, and spontaneous dance-offs in the street and a dim, monochrome world that wasn't all that different -- or, if anything, might have been more human. then act ii: the same worlds again, but humanized through the longing duet between quixote and dulcinea, a vulgar barmaid/gamine sprite -- a relationship as unlikely as the overblown kitri/basil pairing but given more weight by the undisguised blows to quixote's frail body. i don't have much to say about the rest, other than that i was crying uncontrollably by the end because, as artificial as the whole thing felt at first, that a man should be declared mad and made to suffer for bringing beauty to the world was all too real.

one is that i went walking this morning, not early. the sky was bright, and it was too warm for my coat. we have had rain and frost and misery for days and will have it again. i had put my camera in my pocket, because to forget it is to guarantee regret. the length of the beach was empty (BEACH CLOSED UNLESS LIFEGUARD IS PRESENT, claimed the sign, CALL 9-1-1 TO REPORT VIOLATORS. it's chicago. neighbors don't snitch). i saw a bottle glittering in the sand, a whole bottle. i framed it and was about to press down -- "hey, there's a note inside." at times, my camera has replaced my eyes, and i only see what is beautiful long after i've left the scene. i needed a friend to tell me what i was seeing. the camera has trained my hands to take without taking -- to leave everything behind. i hesitated. perhaps someone else would have liked to find it. i unscrewed the top. the paper was wet and clung to the sides of the bottle. the heavy odor of what must have been christian brothers brandy, very smooth, wafted out. this was a murder confession. a suicide note. a secret of abuse to be shared only with the sea (messages in bottles are supposed to be melodramatic). once home, i rolled the paper around a pair of chopsticks and eased it out. it said this:
April 9, 2011
From: Lilah & Cherilyn
Even if you walk from the end of the world and back, you wouldn't have lived until you've loved./Don't run from your fears, face them head on, strong--without fear!//Value yourself/Live Freely/The pass is relavent to the future.

(no subject)

Monday I was in a state of something like psychosis -- this happens to me most strongly when something good has happened, and I don't know how to manage it, and I'm very, very tired, and my mind is wound up too tightly, and I believe the world, the whole world, hates me. I behaved like a beast to everyone who crossed my path. And then I accidentally locked myself out of my apartment when I was doing laundry. I only noticed when I started talking to the other people doing their laundry at the same time -- just neighborly talk, passing the time, grousing about the building (though honestly I have nothing to complain about here, other than that my apartment is completely dark even on the brightest hour of the brightest day) -- one guy works at a bicycle shop where they teach kids to fix bikes, and after they work there for 25 hours, they get a free bike, and he mentors them. The other woman I met is a minister and also runs a program for girls who have been in jail. These people do truly remarkable work, and they will never get rich from it, and most people who see them in the street probably have no idea. But they're really changing the world. It was inspiring -- like meeting real angels (who have to do things like laundry and who like to do things like watch Perry Mason on television)... they kept me company and let me use their phones, and it was just a regular night, but I was protected.

Then last night the dread hit me again -- the dread and the horror and the sense of something scrabbling at the throat -- I went to the fruit and vegetable market to talk to my favorite guy there, who knows everyone's names and always asks how you're doing and seems to mean it. And it was -- oh, it was just what you get so rarely in city life (or maybe this is only my blindness, or the fact that I never quite *live* in a place, or that I like, as much as possible, to keep moving but cannot avoid the inevitable bus stop talk, the delays and pauses that are, for the most part, what frustrates the progress of moving from task to task). He was there, and so was a girl who lives in my old apartment (we discovered) (somehow I knew before we even spoke) -- and again, it was nothing, but it was everything. I feel like I am being sent a message -- all these undeserved kindnesses in the guise of mere existence -- what can it mean? I think I need to have more patience and compassion.

(no subject)

the other thing that happened today is that i took my boot to mr. t's shoe repair on 53rd street. i won't say the number of years i have lived in hyde park; needless to say, i had no idea the place existed. you walk in, and a woman wearing a turban and looking like a voodoo queen greets you (in chinese, if you are me) and tells you that you are "after mr. taylor." the shelves are stacked with shoes -- packed with shoes -- shoes wrapped in plastic, all apparently numbered, in disastrous chaos (and no, they do not know where the shoes are. but they remember them, every one). mr. t whistles as he works. no one is in a hurry. no one should BE in a hurry. the woman by the door has lived in hong kong, beijing, egypt (the RED SEA, she intones), korea before there was a north and a south korea, when the 35th parallel was marked with nothing but daisies and open ground -- she was in okinawa when they bombed nagasaki -- she was there when malcolm x spoke -- and that was BEFORE cassius clay (CASSIUS CLAY, not muhammad ali, she says) bought the mosque. in the meantime, mr. t has measured my boot and through some magic calculation not known to me determines it will be $18.75 to replace my 15" zipper. i wish i could have stayed all night, but i felt obligated to attend the "after chernobyl" event (yes, go on back to the SQUIRREL CAGE; i'll see you again when you pick up your shoe).

so i put myself back in the library (which, oddly, no longer has any books and has sprung a cafe --) and learn about radiation and swallows with mutant white feathers and the half life of plutonium (which is 24,000 years) and why there are no fruit flies around chernobyl (no bees and butterflies, hence, no fruit) and that governments lie, but so do our eyes.

(no subject)

today i came home at 12:30pm, and there was a man in a leather jacket standing in the hallway talking to a man that i was sure was the police. it was the police. i passed by, because i think this is what you are supposed to do, not interfere in laws and crimes that don't belong to you. i was in and out in less than 20 minutes, probably, and the door across from mine was open. i thought to myself, don't breathe. there were people in uniform. the man in the leather jacket. i said to him, "has something happened?" "he passed," he said to me. "he was my son." what do you say? what do you ever say? (i said, "i'm sorry," which is too small and worthless for anything) "did you know him?" (no, i almost never see anyone in this hallway) -- to be absolutely without consolation for someone in their moment of need -- i'm sorry.

(no subject)

1. raspberries are one of the most amazingly delicious foods ever!
2. i love my bike!!
3. i love dancing!!!
4. i am totally obsessed with the shapes and shadows of leafless trees!!!!

(no subject)

today several things happened. i attended my first board meeting at the journal. years ago, this might have been difficult -- painful, even -- to sit at a table silently among those who had been my judges, taking minutes. but it was not so horrible -- not horrible at all. after all these years, i have a sense of humor (it can't be anything but absurd, these sovereigns of such a trifling domain).

after the board meeting (and before it), i was heavily engaged in the task of making pdfs for the general editor -- which the library does for faculty for free, by the way -- i believe he enjoys the personal touch.

i also got coffee for my boss earlier in the day, but i had offered to.

i read page proofs carefully for misspelled words and misplaced commas. was proud to have caught "deafferention," which i corrected to "deafferentation," "the freeing of a motor nerve from sensory components by severing the dorsal root central to the dorsal ganglion" (note that the Merriam-Webster medical dictionary says "freeing," as if to tell us that liberation lies the way of anaesthesia -- on thesaurus.com, "anesthetized" is the first synonym offered for the entry "dead," followed by apathetic, asleep, boring, callous, deadened, dull, flat, frigid, glazed, inert, insensitive, insipid, lukewarm, numb, numbed, paralyzed, senseless, spiritless, stagnant, stale, still, tasteless, torpid, unfeeling, uninteresting, unresponsive, vapid, wooden. the order is alphabetical, but is it therefore necessarily also arbitrary?)

this morning i remembered being horrified by my inability to feel in my late teens and early 20s. to want things, certainly, but never enough. to feel things -- too much but also not at all. i still often do not know what is real.

in the evening, i stopped in to drop off something for mrs. z. she fed me (more than i wanted to eat) and sent me back out with cookies and snacks. i was bored by things she had to say and angry with myself for being bored. always to think that the time is coming (is here? is past?) when i, too, talk in circles, when my days are countable. i should be more compassionate.

and then i called a friend. his father had had a stroke. we had seen each other at lunch (not the father, the son) and laughed about silly things we do in our jobs. his father: i like him. he was always kind to me, trusted me, insisted on walking me home. i visited them once, in their house, and they spoiled me like a lucky granddaughter, feeding me strawberries and telling me stories. he hugged me -- a real hug, tight and secure -- once.

i tried to pray but it was patently ridiculous.

i went to rehearsal. a girl didn't show up. so now i'm also dancing her part (i've watched that dance twice). we open on friday.

after rehearsal, i walked out with yael (we were starting to work on the dance but got driven out by some draconian director who had the space after us). a small person accosted us (she claimed to be a she, but i am not so sure, biologically. however, rules about gender seem to prescribe that we acknowledge the person by whatever s/he identifies by, so i will continue with "she"). she said she did not want money. she said she was looking for a battered women's shelter. i did not know but offered to call the university police to drive her. she said the police told her not to talk to anyone. she asked me if i would put her on the bus. she said she would give me her wedding ring. i said i did not want her ring, and i would put her on the bus. we started walking to the bus stop. she said she was going to a shelter on north and something. she said she needed to go to the bus stop at 55th and cottage grove. she said she had six kids, and they were all waiting for her there. she said she needed $15.75 (does that get 7 people on the bus these days? i think full fare is $2.25, but kids pay less, right?). she said her voice was so hoarse because she'd been crying. she said she was not reaching for a gun but puttting her hand in her pocket. i was clad all in pink but had my knitted hood tucked in my backpack. she said she knew it was scary to talk to people, especially if they were black, but we were all women, so we understood. it occurred to me that if we got to 55th and cottage grove, i would probably be jumped, and i would have put my friend in danger. i gave her everything in my wallet.

it was $8.

yael said that no matter what, the person was in need. there was no doubt about that, though i don't think i did her much of a favor. i feel bad that yael also felt obliged to give up the money in her wallet (another $5), especially when she said after that she makes $13 a day. but i figure i deserved to give that money up, if only because i am such a skeptic, i wouldn't have ordinarily stopped to listen. i doubt that, if i had been walking alone, i would have stopped.

but i wasn't walking alone.

(no subject)

when i finished my degree, i secretly hoped for a year to write and dance. this year, i got that wish -- it turns out that both are difficult. i wrote, but slowly and tortuously, with long periods of absolutely nothing (typical). i danced -- and it certainly wasn't a year of ecstasy. it was a year of doubt, pain, despair, uncertainty, and many tears. but i also learned so much -- and had ecstatic moments (as they are -- momentary) -- and worked with truly beautiful, amazing artists -- how can i leave this? (how can i leave when other choreographers are offering me work as i leave the stage?)

yet of course i know this wasn't real, that i had it only by good fortune and the generosity of others. i want to come back but i also want to go and have other experiences -- and leave work behind that's not consumed by the moment -- and come back -- and dance -- but bodies are fragile; there aren't that many years left. i must not squander them -- but here i go again, leaving what i love.

(no subject)

Must remember that my choices are significantly different depending on whether I feel like crumpling myself up and blowing away or whether, like I was for a brief hour today, entirely thrilled to be myself, alive. As usual, I can't figure out which one is sanity.