Monday, September 11, 2017

An inconsequential blurb.

It's a librarian's wet dream: an unending supply of young adult literature for free. Dozens and dozens of books arriving on my doorstep because I'm on a book-selection committee. Nearly every day there's a box waiting for me when I come home.

But that's for another post. This is about a different box that arrived about a month ago, which held
Harvard Law School's bicentennial alumni directory. I ordered it about a year ago for a slightly outrageous price. Because, well, vanity.

As I looked into the box, though, I felt a wisp of doubt: would I be in there? I was in no hurry to find out I wasn't, so I put the package aside.

Two weeks later, I finally pulled that hefty volume from its box and braced myself for disappointment.

And there it was, in the alphabetical section: my name, in bold letters, followed by "J.D. 1989."
I read it three times. Then I looked in the chronological section, and there I was again! I returned to the alphabetical section to see if it had changed.  And then I took a picture of it. Why was I obsessing over this silly little blurb? 

Because it was there. Because I was there!

I spent three years swimming semiconsciously in a muddy moat of gratitude, sleeplessness, and stark terror. So what if admissions had accidentally sent me an acceptance letter? I pushed forward anyway. Then they accidentally made me a teaching assistant with a little office in Austin Hall, and after that I became the managing editor for the environmental law review. A job which, by the way, I completely mangled. I graduated on time, a respectably average Harvard Law student. I took the bar and passed. I was even a lawyer for a while. Like, with a license and everything!

My God, I was really there. I slogged through snow in Cambridge and rode two trains and a bus to get home to Chelsea. I pushed my way through the masses in Faneuil Hall. I rode the Green Line to the Museum of Fine Arts. I went to Passim on Sunday afternoons, and I shopped at the Coop. I ate fried clams on Revere Beach, and I smelled the sweetly pungent garbage as I ran down the stairs to catch the T in Harvard Square.

I did all that. I was there.

Jesus Christ

If someone asks me a direct question -- where did you go to law school? -- I answer honestly. But I rarely volunteer the information. Yes, it's on my resume because it's true and it's useful. Only, it's not me I'm describing.

I thought I'd been hiding it out of false humility. But I was really hiding it out of fear: fear that people would expect me to be smart. Fear that talking about it would make me an elitist asshole. Fear that people wouldn't believe me.

Fear, deep down, that I never actually went to Harvard.

But there's my name, in that book. 

So, what would happen if I were to let myself believe it? What would happen if I were to embrace it, to feel its warm breeze on my face, to let it soak into my soul?  Would I survive?

Maybe it's time to find out.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

It's like this...

I'm weird. I'm just weird. I'm full of things that don't quite fit together.

You know those cheap flat square puzzles with the little tiles you have to slide around until you get them all in order, and sometimes there's oily stuff underneath the tiles? Well, my tiles keep popping out. They're popping out all over the place.

I'm writing this after a long hiatus from writing much of anything and as you can see, I'm not going for quality here. But I feel like I'm finally taking a big, healthy, happy crap after being constipated for a year.

Yeah. It feels that good.

See? Weird.

About a Promise

Promises can be hard.

***

Summer in Phoenix. I'm 13. The zoo has a summer day-camp program and I'm nuts about animals so my mom signs me up. 

On this particular day, my big brother is supposed to pick me up after camp, and he's a little late. I feel silly standing around by the entrance, so I leave and walk down the road a bit to kill time. Once you leave the zoo entrance area, it feels like the middle of nowhere. 

As I'm walking, a white sedan approaches me from behind. The guy is young, maybe in his early 20s. He rolls down the window and says hi. I return the greeting.

"Do you need a ride?" he asks.

"No, my brother is coming to pick me up."

"Well, I could take you home. I'd be glad to. It's really hot out here."

"That's okay. I'll wait."

"Are you sure? I'll bring you right back." 

Something is definitely not right. "No, thanks." 

The guy just drives off, which makes me one lucky girl, I turn around and head back to the entrance where it's safer.

When my brother arrives, I tell him what happened. All the way home, every time he sees a white car, he asks me, "Is that him? Is that him?" Of course, it never is. But my big brother has my back, and it feels really good. We get home and my mom calls the police.

***

I'm 10 years old. The parents have gone shopping, and my brother and I are standing in the kitchen. He grabs a bottle of Coke from the refrigerator, and he shakes it up. When he takes off the cap, it explodes like a champagne bottle. Brown spray goes all over the white ceiling. I laugh. 

My brother seizes a sharp knife, grabs me from behind, and holds the knife to my throat.  I'm not entirely sure he won't use it, and a weird, calm sense of acceptance sweeps over me. I apologize, and he lets me go.

***

My second year of law school. A law firm in San Francisco has brought me out for an interview. My brother and his wife and daughter live in San Jose, so of course I want to visit them. 

At that point, I still don't know I'm a lesbian. Or maybe I do, because I show up at my brother's house with short hair and a flannel shirt. He says I look too butch, and I'm both mildly insulted and slightly pleased. 

So, my brother and his wife and I go for a drive to see a little bit of San Francisco. We get kind of lost, and find ourselves on a quiet non-residential street in the city. No traffic, and hardly anyone around. The businesses are all closed. 

Up ahead, a woman is walking down the street. She's slim and tall and attractive, and her hair is cropped very short. She's sporting a leather vest and jeans. 

My brother slows down as he approaches her. I figure he's going to ask for directions.

Instead, my brother rolls down his window and spits at her.

I'm stunned. I'm - well, there's not even a word for what I am. I know I have to say something, I must say something, but in my shock my brain has pretty much left the building. I fumble unsuccessfully for words, and then yell, "Hey! Live and let live!" It's lame, and I know it's lame.

There is no further discussion. My brother rolls up his window and we drive on.

***

My father has just died, and as it happens, he has specifically excluded me from his will. My brother, who is the executor, insists on giving me a sizeable chunk of money that he could have kept for himself. It's why I have a car. My brother really does have my back.

*** 

The promise: 

My mother is in the hospital, semi-conscious and near death. She's restless, and I can't figure out why. I can't calm her down. Suddenly a thought occurs to me. She was always really close to her sister. 

"Are you worried that your kids will lose touch with each other once you're gone? We won't. We'll stay close, I promise." 

Immediately, my mom calms down, and she soon falls asleep. She dies a couple days later.

***

I'm having trouble keeping my promise.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Trigger warning.

Don't say I didn't warn you.
It's the texture. The taste. And a buzz, which I've never managed to define.

My favorite eatery serves enormous slices of chocolate cake, easily five servings for anyone else. Sometimes I can get it all down in one sitting. Today, it takes a couple hours. The more I eat, and the more that rich sludge goes down, the more I disappear into the blessed fog. I retreat past the cake, into two cream-filled donuts, and then into a double-scoop of premium ice cream. Before long, I'm feeling sick. Maybe protein will help, so I run out for a quarter pounder and fries. Because, you know, balance. Later, a large pepperoni pizza. I only plan to eat two slices, but before I go to bed, only two slices remain.
In the middle of the night, I wake up choking and coughing as sewage lurches up from my stomach, searing my throat. Reflux. I down the maximum dose of antacid, which I always keep close now, and I fall back to sleep, my throat still burning. Morning will bring another binge.
Fifteen pounds ago, I could still walk. Now I lumber, and I start wheezing in less than a block. People notice, and they comment sympathetically.
Every outing, even to the grocery store, requires multiple calculations: how far can I walk? Is it uphill or downhill? Will there be a place to rest along the way? When I get where I'm going, will there be a place to sit down? Will I fit in the chair? Because sometimes, I don't. Through doorways, down rows of theater seats, in restaurant booths, on planes. Sometimes I misjudge and collide with table corners. Subsequent bruising explained. 
The larger I get, the harder I try to be invisible. In meetings, when I squeeze into chairs that are too close together, I'm aware that I am invading you. We both scoot a little, trying to create some room, but the physics of it... I apologize to you for taking up space.
I recall the words of a friend: "I heard you used to be really cute."
I have but a daily reprieve. Complacency is not an option.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Okay, I've heard enough.

Give Trump a chance, I said. Maybe he'll do a good job, I said. Well, I did. And no, he won't. Our worst fears are being realized. 

Let's put aside, for a moment, the many, many things that should have disqualified Trump from the presidency in the first place. Here is a sampling of what he's done so far as president-elect:

-- Filled his cabinet with a rancid basket of sexist, racist, homophobic, anti-environment, anti-government, xenophobic deplorables;
-- Summarily rejected FBI and CIA intelligence;
-- Continued to issue moronic, unhinged tweets, going so far as to call those who opposed his candidacy his "enemies."
-- Condemned the cast of Hamilton for exercising their First Amendment rights, while remaining silent about the hundreds of hate crimes that have taken place since the election;
-- Failed to offer any reasonable protection against business conflicts of interest; and
-- Lied, and then lied some more about illegal votes and jobs saved.

Trump has no ideology. He's crude and emotionally unstable. He doesn't care about anyone but himself. He's not even very smart -- much to Putin's delight. 

Trump is a dangerous demagogue. Is he the new Hitler? No, but then Hitler wasn't Hitler either, when he was elected. Until he was.

Trump is going to be the president of the United States, and there's nothing I can do about that. But he'll never be my president. Never. 

Consider me part of the resistance.