It’s happening again, that edgy winter feeling. Now that the holidays have passed and Valentine’s Day is approaching, I find myself growing a bit punch drunk, a kid who has stayed up too late and perhaps had a few too many sips of the grown-up’s champagne. I’m also doing those awful obsessive things like burning a CD for a friend or relative and if it’s not totally, unbelievably, tonally, unequivocally perfect then I need to start all over again.
This means that there are many CDs floating around my study that look blank, but that are not, that are all sort of or essentially the same but have one or two songs slightly different and perhaps even by the same artist, or even the same songs but in a different arrangement. So that’s one thing. I’ve been making a CD for my cousin for over a week now, and so far it has become 2 CDs and today in a fit of madness, I thought, “Eureka! I can’t fit it all onto one disc, so I’ll make him a 3-CD Sadi Mix Set (he’ll be thrilled, I’m sure)!” This is obsessive behavior.
Then there is the bleaching. It starts slowly, so you hardly notice. You clean the kitchen sink out one night and it comes up shiny and silver again. Wow! Or, you take a shower and want to wipe the tub and there is the container of Soft Scrub or Bon Ami right there and so you pick it up, shake out the bluish white nectar, and the fumes waft to your nose and you start to scrub the bottom of the bathtub, which, now that you’re doing it, you notice is disgustingly filthy.
You then get out of your clothes and sit or squat full-nude in the shower, with the water dribbling enough to dampen your scouring pad but not so much that it splashes on you (never mind that your feet are sitting in two inches of what is essentially raw bleach; that seems to not bother you.) All this, then it is the kitchen countertops which are either bleached or painted or both (and white is the only acceptable color besides a very specific katydid green that is so pale that it is almost white but not quite and if other people can’t tell the difference then fuck’em because you can.)
Then the real problem arrives when you find yourself at the hair salon asking for those “foils” (Ah, foiled again! Sorry. Couldn’t resist, it was there for the taking). So you go and you ask for “a few” and wind up getting the whole top section done, but you tell yourself you’ll be content with just this. Then you realize that not only are you swinging two full time jobs at the moment (both contract and you’re doing it amazingly well, but then, you’re crazy in this way), you realize quel’que horreur that you are also going to New York some time soon and will be seeing many people you care about, including your agent, whose address eludes you at present and whose information you tell yourself you will code into your phone and write in your date book. That was five years ago.
You have finally written a book that everyone seems to believe will sell (well, to be fair, your first book sold and still sells, so you’re blessed. It came out when I was young, so give me a break – that considered, it got great reviews and has served me well). So the book – the book they believe will sell, the one your cousin asks for – asks for, and you are honored, humbled, and find yourself blushing when he emails you because you feel quite suddenly geeky and knock-kneed around him.
Said cousin reads the book and gives you the very honest assessment, that you agree with, that parts 1 through chapter 9 are “pure gold” he tells you, and then “after that, you lose the thread a bit.” You still blush when you read his email. Now, because he is knowledgeable in this subject too, you feel that he could understand you in a way that others can’t. More, to be fair again to you, it was your cousin D. with whom you used to kiss, so who can blame you now if you’re a little odd around cousins. It’s hardly like you’ve had any chance for some normal experience. You have not.
So what are you doing anyway – that is the question. Besides stressing out so massively the other day before you had to go in and see a client that you almost passed out at the front door of your house while kissing your husband goodbye, you almost had a full grand mal because you so feared the social contact, the lack of knowing where you were going and sense of direction. The big social fear of the unknown and the “will I be liked” factor, which is just dumb. One – people will like you unless you give them a reason not to (that’s not true; some people are just politically nasty). And two – you know what you’re doing and it’s just a job, and three – you’re there as a professional who has been doing a GREAT job and they either do or do not know that, and either way it is fine. Life goes on. If this doesn’t work out, the next one will. It doesn’t all have to be insta-success, because life isn’t like that. It’s a slow and steady burn that keeps going until at last it is a fire and someone notices.
God, see, who writes shit like that? I mean, I’m not even writing like me at this point. I’m just swinging in the mid-ground. I’m here with my seasonal light box which is actually very chic. It’s black mat with lots of little white globes on it, protected by an opaque plastic. It reminds me of those mirrors they sold when I was growing up that you could use to do your make-up and you would set it to a different lighting depending on the time of day and then do your make-up based on that. You could use this as one of those, except it would have to always be set to “daylight” or “extreme daylight.”
Your doctor says maybe you shouldn’t use the “extreme daylight” setting just now. That maybe you have enough extreme daylight bouncing around in you. You agree. You are full of extreme daylight. Even you can see it and your friends have started noticing. The only person who seems at all sympathetic is said cousin, which is great because right now, his is the only opinion that matters (see how that works? One creates a symbiosis and then the confluence of events does not equal me=crazy it equals instead me+cousin=normal happy family dealy).
You start having long dreams in which you live in Appalachia and look like Sissy Spacek and live in a house that is surrounded by pine trees (even though logging is the town’s livelihood, somehow their own yards are not affected – go figure). These dreams are epic, familial, familiar, and philosophical, and they’re not bad in their way but you already have that WASP-y family weirdness going on.
Your other cousin, he could speak more to this , but you do not look for him nor seek him out. You know he is somewhere in the coatroom – the hat-check of the great estate where he lived with your uncle and aunt. They were house watchers for one of our country’s wealthiest women. She never was home, so the estate was essentially “home.”
In this WASP mansion, this Anglican palace you played out your familial drama with said cousin who was nineteen to your twelve when he first kissed you. When he led you to the coatroom and you hid amidst the furs and cashmere and he asked if you wanted to and you closed your eyes as a sign.
The next thing you felt was how he tipped your chin gently (something you would grow to love, always, and he remains the only one to ever do it…), how he kissed you with his lips only at first, lingering a moment. How then he looked at you and asked, “Again?” and you said “More…” and he tipped your face toward his and kissed you full on the mouth, his tongue slipped between your lips, a communion wafer that you took as a preventative to the hell where you were going.
The second kiss is what started all of the trouble. If he were not such a good kisser, then there would be no problem. If there were not some visceral attraction between us (and god, there have been times when I wish there were not) then okay, but it was not in the cards.
Nobody ever questioned us. All I had to do was say I was with D. and that seemed to make everyone happy, but it was to the coatroom he took me. I remember the sound of our shoes, mine with taps, how they pit-patted up the marble staircase, rounding the great turn past the picture window and into the coat-check that had racks still and a circular window and a door that you could lock. There was one key and D. had it. When we were older and would meet, he would take it out of his pocket and swing it around on his finger, and even if we didn’t go there, I always knew what he meant.
You have to understand. For most of the time, we would be like any other cousins, and while it’s absolutely true that many cousins develop crushes on each other and even experiment sexually, we had something that seemed almost bigger than all of that (which makes it worse) and it felt like a very real kind of love – an in-love, and as we grew up together, that love only grew. We did noting to sustain it. We did everything to kill it. Partnering up with others. “Cheating on each other” he said once. Nothing worked. We were both too understanding about it all.
Our families still do not know. What is there to know? And as I hang here now, life in the balance, and I know that tomorrow is a horrible anniversary for me. My demons to face, as are all of the above listed here and you need not make pissy or pithy comment for we, for I, are all too aware of our perversions and bad behavior. Our idiosyncrasies let’s say, for who is one to judge another. I’m so fucking aware of being human, of being a “sinner” as my minister would say and even I would agree. But I accept these things. There are things I cannot undo. Perhaps they undo in the telling. I cannot say.
A friend said to me today, and I thought these wise words indeed:
“Don’t believe everything you think.”