Friday, September 25, 2009

What do I want?

I am hurt by this breakup. I've spent the day crying and packing. And yet, some part of me wonders if I've been barking up the wrong tree.

What do I mean by that? I'm not sure.

I've had a boyfriend of some sort for most of the time since October 1992. In 1998, in Paris, I discovered that being in love (and being beloved) was not enough to make me happy. Well, what does make me happy?
Being in love (and loved back) but that's not enough
Having friends, but that's not enough
Having partnership of some sort. This is different than just having friends or a partner. This involves having a person, or people with whom you share a common goal. I don't know if it would be enough to make me happy, because I've never really had it "straight up" I've worked with friends and lovers on projects but nothing really long term and "significant." For example, working with my ex-boyfriend the two of us managed to buy furniture together and occasionally to fix a computer together. Working with a friend of mine, we've implemented cool new software. But neither of these is the same as something as significant and as ongoing as starting a business venture or a charity or even (and at this I've tried and failed to get interest) a blog.

I'm banging on about this because I like useful partnerships.

Then there's domestic partnerships. They involve working on things like having a nice apartment, buying a house and a car and having children. While I liked having a domestic partnership, I have to admit that these goals are mostly uninteresting to me. I mean, well yes it would be nice to have a house-paying money to a landlord or landlady feels like throwing money into a furnace to me. And my ex and I did look forward to having a dog together, but I haven't been interested in having kids for a decade at least (and watching my sister have them has put me even more off the idea.) I suppose that having a nice house and having children might be more attractive to me if I had succeeded in making something of myself before now. If I had satisfied my ambition (I really think it's silly to think that I'm ambitious but I must be.) If I'd known that I was doing all I could do-putting my brain to a good use 10 years ago, then maybe I'd be thinking it was time to buy a house or make copies of myself, but then again I am a late bloomer.

So while I admire and envy my friends who've just gotten married, or bought houses or had beautiful children I mostly envy them for not being dumped by their partners.

Which brings me back to the idea that I was barking up the wrong tree. I don't need most of the things that come with domesticity. I need...something else. Although I love Sean very much and would be very happy to have had him around while I found the something else I was looking for, profited by it and bought a house for him to fuss with.

My ex and I are very much alike. As I say of the people who understand me and who I understand implicitly, we vibrate on the same frequency. More so than was good for us, apparently. But I don't give a toss for a nice curtains or any of the other domestic niceties (he does). I'm a bear in a cave. Can I find my computer? With Internet access? Can I find my books? Is there something clean to prepare food with/eat food off of? Is there food? Are there tools to prepare the food? Is there coffee? Is there beer? Does the shower contain any new lifeforms? No. Then I am happy. Really I should have been born a male.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


just to say I'd done it. i forgot my book at work today. so. iI am creating a blog post from my iphone to prove it can be done. for those of you who consider smartphones as potential alternatives to laptops iI have this to say. not any time soon. this post took about 15 minutes including the time it tool to sign in to blogger.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I just packed up my library

I filled 18 liquor store boxes with books. And now I'm feeling rather raw and hollow.

One year and 11 months ago I moved into this apartment. I thought it would be home. It was home for 1 year and 11 months. I am sitting at the kitchen table. My perch they called it-the place I most liked to be in the apartment. I'd sit here with my books and my laptop (because you never know when you might need to look something up online) and people would come through to make dinner or grab a snack or on their way out to the porch or laundry. This way I could sit by myself and read, but still be part of the flow of the apartment.

Now I've got to leave. I think of all the stupid things we bought-together or separately for our apartment. The TV makes me sad. I'm sad I'll no longer own a cool flat screen TV. I don't want a cool flat screen TV-I wanted one for Sean to have-for us to have for the few occasions we actually watched something on TV together. A small part of me admits I wanted it so that the guests would be impressed that we had a nice flat screen TV. But there'd be no point in me taking it since I don't watch TV and don't plan on having guests to impress. Also, now that I think about it, one of the best TV moments this house has had was watching the polls come in for the 2008 elections and we watched that on Dan's CRT TV and the lack of cool-flat-screen bothered us not at all.

The kitchen counter came from my office two moves ago. It's a hideous mottled purple. My boss brought me, it and a circular saw to cut it down to size back here in 2004. I will miss it. I will of course also miss the bananas painted on the kitchen floor. I was sure that one day we'd have a party and someone would bring an old friend who'd come in to the kitchen and say something like "Holy Shit! My buddy painted this floor in 1980!" Now I will miss that revelation, if it ever happens. The kitchen table and chairs came from my ex roommate/landlady (rented out rooms in her condo) She was going to get (or had got) a new set and she gave them to Sean in exchange for fixing the shower head. So they are also old friends. I bought cushions for them on one of our first attempts to buy a mattress from Ikea. The one I favor has an extra-soft cushion I bought just a days before he dumped me. Amazing. At that time he was still looking for things that "we" needed to buy from Ikea (although not very hard-we were both doing our best *not* to buy more than we needed.)

I am strangely reminded of a song from Les Misérables. Marius is lamenting the loss of his friends in the student uprising. He sings "From the table in the corner they could see the world reborn..." I just think of what these pieces of furniture have seen of me and how I will miss being in this place that has them. The only other move that has felt this bad was leaving college. Even leaving France, while miserable (Goodbye my existence on another continent and goodbye to the language I spoke so fluently) didn't hurt quite as bad as this does.

Sean has done righteous cleaning to scrub away former occupants of this apartment. And will he do that to scrub me away too. Probably.

I know there are worse crosses to bear than being dumped/divorced. I know at least three people who are in worse situations. The lady whose wonderful husband (and friend of all of ours) Irving has just died. My cousin, who is 16 and has just discovered that the only way to heal the ulcer on her eye is to get a cornea transplant. My other roommate, who's facing assault and battery charges because he had junkie roommates.

But its still making me miserable. I wake up in the morning and my brain reminds me of a few things I have to do today and then, oh-by the way you're dumped/evicted. Like this morning "You've still got a cold. You've got a meeting with X today to talk about backups and you need to prepare a spreadsheet for Y and, by the way Sean has cast you out."

There are just no words for how shitty this feels. And how much I will miss all of this. Dysfunctional this household and this relationship both were, but they were a comfort to me. Like Katisha I wonder "where shall I find another?"

Friday, September 18, 2009

I shouldn't have picked the Dorothy Sayer's novel with a wedding in it

But of course I had to. After reading two other novels with Harriet Vane in them, I had to see how they would deal once actually married. I like Harriet a lot, and at my most miserable have tried picturing her telling me "My dear Cantabridgienne, this just won't do. You must pull yourself together. Of course you feel terrible, but you really can't go on like this. Now, what shall we do about it?"

But reading about the wedding has just made me very sad. What I wanted very much, was for someone to love me and cherish me and never leave me. I've always hated weddings. I never put my finger on why, but some of it was that I hate ceremony and some of it was I couldn't imagine ever going through the the ridiculous process of having one. Also, I think some of it has to do with the fact that I could never imagine anyone looking lovingly at me and smiling as they said their vows. (Really, who would ever feel that silly and sentimental about me? I couldn't imagine it even before my relationship of almost 10 years ended. I certainly can't imagine it now.)

I did want to be a wife (or at least a mate/partner) but I haven't wanted to be a bride since my first communion (playing with my white dress, veil and bouquet at age 12.)

Reading this silly story about made up people getting married in 1937 had made me very sad.

I have tried telling myself (as mentioned in an earlier post) that surely I don't need a man to be happy, surely there's more to life than that. Which is all very well and true--when you have a partner, but there are some things the feminists missed. It's wrong to have becoming Mrs. Him as a goal, but it's okay to want a partner, and if you're heterosexual that partner is likely to be a guy. And it's all very well to say that I'm fiercely independent (which is probably part of why it all broke down. I can't trust enough to let go and follow the lead) but I couldn't go to a 4 day conference in Florida with out feeling at loose ends because Sean wasn't there. The final separation in a week and a half is going to feel like an amputation. Everything that hurt before will hurt again (along with my back-after moving my books and bookshelves.)

On another note, Sean decided after looking at MIT Medical's helpful webpage that he has swine flu (looking at it, I couldn't disagree.) Unfortunately this means that me and our roommate also had/have swine flu (since we all got the same infection-we came down with it after attending the funeral of the old man we all loved.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I find myself thinking strange things

They are so strange that I put them in little Tupperware containers in my mind and only take them out to examine when I have the time to do so. Some of them have not been taken out yet, but I know they're there.

There are so many different things that hurt some of them surprise me-like the sweater in Hilton's yesterday. I am still not sure which hurts more-to lose Sean's companionship or to think that I may be alone, possibly permanently. These are separate things. If Sean had had his epiphany 5 years ago, I'd be 5 years younger and prettier and I'd have had 5 years to meet someone else. As it is now, in my mid-thirties, pretty much everyone I know my age has found their mate. I feel like I've kind of missed that boat. Besides, if even Sean is unwilling to put up with me what hope is there?

There's another thought I have which is-maybe that won't matter. (I doubt this but time alone will tell) maybe I can get over drinking Gilbert and Sullivan kool aid all through my childhood. Yes, a mate is nice. But ultimately even I agree that by the end our relationship was not providing most of the things that marriages or partnerships are supposed to provide. For either of us. I had more meaningful conversations with my co-workers than I did with Sean for most of this summer. So maybe, instead of spending energy on pleasing someone else (or being upset that I couldn't) I can learn to spend it on me. And maybe that will be okay. It really sounds so cliche when written out. That doesn't mean it's not true.

There's also sometimes a feeling of freedom. Yes this sucks, but I think of all the things I was never going to be able to do because doing them with Sean would be-difficult, expensive, less fun. Of course, there's a flip side. There are things I won't be able to do anymore because he's dumped me. Things like going to Cape Cod (since I don't drive.)

So those are my strange thoughts for today.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's strange the things that hurt and why

I went to Hilton's Tent City tonight. I'd been meaning to go for a while. I wanted to make it clear that I plan to be a loyal Hilton's customer even though the former owner is deceased and I'm no longer dating a member of the staff.

My friends among the staff were just as nice and helpful to me as they had been before I got dumped (which wasn't really a surprise.) The visit hurt though--not because Irv is gone (although I need to take a picture of the "Irving the World" sign before they take it down) but because I happened to notice one of the beautiful wool sweaters that Sean had gotten me for Christmas. This one was last year's present. It was a true thing of beauty-natural wool in a traditional pattern, but in a cardigan with a high collar (for drafty offices.) It was perfect. And seeing it, I was so sad that no one was ever going to give me something like that again.

That sounds awfully avaricious when stated that way. I don't mean it that way. I was perfectly capable of buying the thing for myself and when I see whatever beautiful wool sweaters they stock this year I may just buy one of them for myself, but it won't be the same as having someone else come across a thing of beauty like that and decide "I need to buy this for Cantabridgienne! This is just what she needs and she'll think it's beautiful."

That hurts as badly as leaving Cambridge, having to deal with Comcast and the landlord myself-having to fend for myself.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

RIP Bill Hilton 1921-2009

Irving Liss, the long-time owner of Hlton's Tent City in the North End died on Tuesday. Everyone who knows Irving and knows this is true must be saddened by his passing. I did not know Irving as well as the many young men and women who worked for him in the past 62 years, but I am happy to think I knew him well enough to call him a friend, and just well enough to be allowed to write something about his passing. I am not an authority on the man and I know that the people who gave speeches at his funeral yesterday knew him much better than I did, but he was my friend and so I feel I must write something.

What to say about such a man? Irving was a great business man with a heart of gold. That's a rare combination. Many whose hearts are of gold are (as a result) terrible at business and many good businessmen and women are rotten human beings. So what should I write about--how proud I was when I told him that I'd taken the GMAT? The time sold me my boyfriend's birthday present for 1/3 it's listed price? (I was prepared to pay full retail for it. He grumbled about how expensive it was and gave me a discount saying "you're a very sweet girl to get it for him.") The way he was still cracking jokes in a bed at MGH after they'd opened his head three times?

Instead I'll tell you two stories--one about the first time I talked to Irving and one about the last time I talked to him.

I first heard about Hilton's Tent City through a couple of friends of mine who worked there. It was like the Filene's Basement of outdoor gear (with the atmosphere of an indie bookstore or coffee house). And even if you don't hike much, if you live in New England you need outdoor gear. It sounded like a great place. I called to talk to one of my friends one night. The guy who answered the phone said "Yeah?"

"Can I talk to Sean?" I asked.

"Well maybe. Just hold on a second wouldja?"

I got put on hold. When Sean picked up the phone I said "you need to talk to whoever it is who answered the phone. They need to work on their retail phone manners."

Sean said "That was the owner."

The last time I spoke with Irving was a few weeks ago. He was doing well. He was talking a bit-although he was hindered by a dry throat. He took my hand and asked "Have you had your lunch?" It was such a small thing-an almost indefinable thing (Tolstoy could explain it better than I can) but the way he took my hand and asked a mundane question in the same way that all of my older relatives (especially the ones from MA) would have done set me at ease and made me wonder how I could ever have felt awkward visiting. All of the concerns I'd had previously--"What am I doing here-I don't even work for the guy-aren't people going to think it's weird-doesn't *he* think it's weird?!"- went out the window. It was as if he'd said. "Oh good-you've come."

On that occasion, Irving was more talkative than I had seen him since before the first of three surgeries. He said his throat was dry, but they sold some chocolate ice cream downstairs that would be just the thing to make it feel better-oh and they had these great chocolates-about the size of Susan B Anthony dollars-could we get these too?

Sean and I were confused. As far as we knew the North End rehab hospital didn't have a downstairs that sold chocolate ice cream. "Maybe he still thinks he's at MGH-with the cafe in the basement." said Sean. We asked at the front desk about the possibility of purchasing chocolate ice cream downstairs and were told that yes they sold chocolate ice cream downstairs, but no we couldn't buy any because we weren't patients.

There was a convenience store we could visit--they might have chocolate ice cream. The convenience store turned out to be the Connah Store in the North End. There were pictures of the pope taped up on the wall and the proprietor's cat was sitting on the counter impeding customers from handing over their money. But we found some chocolate ice cream.

When we got back we tried to explain the situation to the woman at the front desk. No we weren't patients, but we were trying to buy something *for* a patient--might she send someone down to look for chocolates the size of Susan B Anthony dollars? "I don't know why they put the vending machines all the way down there where no one can see them." she grumbled and went in search of our chocolate.

Of course, it was important to us to find Irving his chocolate, but we also felt it was important to let Joan have him all to herself for a few minutes. So we didn't care that we'd had to go down the block and were now waiting on the nurse from the front desk.

We brought this in to Irving along with a spoon and he had at. I will never forget the sight of him sitting there in his hospital bed eating chocolate ice cream with a single-mindedness that precluded caring about whether he got melted ice cream on the Globe or on the sheets, or-for that matter most of what we were saying as he sat there.

Joan asked him to put the ice cream away so that he wouldn't spoil his appetite for dinner and we all looked guilty as one of the nurses aides came in-we were afraid she was the dinner service. So we did finally put the ice cream away (when the dinner came I came to the conclusion that he had better have eaten the ice cream.)

I don't remember what we talked about that afternoon and evening. We had the Sox game on--Irving always asked for that. We probably discussed Ikea and the difficulty of buying a mattress, my new iPhone, the computer Joan had gotten that Sean was going to set up for her soon, the postcard Kenny had sent from Yellowstone Park and several dirty jokes.

Toward the end of the evening Irving got grouchy and frustrated "Maybe I'll jump out the window!" he yelled. And while I hated that he was yelling and making Joan cry, I took it as a good sign. I thought that he must be getting better if he was together enough to be bored and frustrated.

He also asked for a piece of paper and a pen and started writing things down. He wrote down the date and the room number and the telephone number of the room "Call this number and make sure I got it right" he said. I took this as a good sign too--maybe he was going to be able to talk on the phone again.

I kissed him on the cheek and told him I'd see him soon.

I meant to see him the next day. I bought him a notebook in which to write things down-things to remember to ask Joan or the doctor. I gave it to Joan to give to him. But with one thing or another I never managed to get back to see him.

I was standing in Battery Park with a backpack on--I'd just gotten of the Staten Island Ferry and I was about to go look for the little Dutch village I'd heard about (New York's 400th anniversary) before going to Penn Station to get the train back to Boston--and Sean called me to tell me that Irving had died that morning. He was crying. He knew (as we all did) that Irving was rapidly getting worse. But he had thought (as we all did) that we had a little more time-just enough time to see him once more-maybe another week.

I wandered around stunned. I tried to pray and decided I was not together enough to manage an actual prayer (some things are important enough that you have to talk to God-even if you're not crazy about the protocol that you learned for doing so) so instead I wandered around a bit and then got on the subway to start making my way back home and preparing to say goodbye to my friend Irving.