A year ago I was in the hospital, so sick I was sure I would die. So sick, I wrote a will and an informal goodbye.
A year later, and I had a lot to say on the matter, I wrote myself a long letter, but I don’t know how much of it is worth sharing here.
Most of all, I want the Alessandra of one year ago to know: you are still here.
It was a crisp October day and the wind kicked the leaves up to the second-floor window of 221B Baker Street. My companion Sherlock Holmes rose from his chair and gazed down at the entryway to spy a woman pacing back and forth. Within a few minutes, she was inside, and up the stairs. Sherlock looked unamused, almost annoyed, but, taking a glance at the woman’s somber visage, his own face softened ever so slightly, his tight jaw relaxed, and he beckoned her in.
“Madame, kindly take a seat. I won’t have you here long, I can already see that yours is a problem you won’t solve here.”
“But… how?” She asked
“Allow me to explain. It’s simple enough-, there are innumerous details about you that even my soft-minded companion, dear Watson, could see. You’re left-handed, of course, as shown by the watch on your right wrist and the ink stain on the side of your left palm”
I chipped in, “Indeed Holmes, I caught on to that detail about our guest, but if I know you, you have quite a deal more to say.”
“Well, Madame, the details of your situation is perspicuous in innumerable fashions visible from here, I required but a few of them to determine that I am unable to offer you my services. You are anxious about your impending divorce, and you have taken a young lover in the meantime. The anxiety is evidenced threefold- the raw cuticles on your right thumb, the blemish on your chin, and of course the status of your shoes.
The marriage ended sometime well before summer. There’s no ring tan on your hand, yet there is a visible tan line from your fitness watch- its face is new and unscratched, but you recently exchanged the original band for a thinner, more elegant gold band. Your skin is of a tone that is reticent to tan easily, so it seems you spent a good deal of the summer outdoors, wearing your new fitness watch all the while.”
“But what does my watch tell you about my marriage?”
My dear, you have a rather obvious giveaway- you keep pawing at your ring finger, feeling for a phantom band.
You aren’t divorced yet, but you have a court date set sometime soon. The anxiety is eating at you, as manifest it your battered cuticles. As I mentioned before, there’s the blemish on your chin. No need to cover it, my dear, your make-up has done a suitable job for the average eye, correct, Watson?”
“Yes, Madame, I would never have noticed.” I assured her, and she dropped her demure hand from her face back into her lap, gathering her finger together.
Holmes was already inhaling to continue his monologue when she tried to pipe in-
“But what does my blemish mean-“
“You are seeing someone new. He’s younger. He works in a job without much customer interaction, something low profile. Perhaps an office job. He’s taller than you. You’ve been seeing him for a few weeks now.”
“How could you know that?”
“Again, Madame- the blemish on your chin. The young man has a job of a nature that requires him to shave, yet he need not be too diligent about the matter. The stubble from his beard irritated your skin when you were kissing him, rather passionately it seems. You’ve picked at the blemish: again, a sign of your anxiety. The blemish itself is a few weeks old now, there is evidence of it healing and being picked at again.”
“But how can you know he is tall?”
“I have already told you all I required: it’s the status of your shoes. The shoes are new, with a modest heel. You are, as you know, of a diminutive nature, but you still haven’t gotten the hang of walking in the heels, and your left ankle is a bit swollen. The man in question is much taller than you, there is a crease in the toe of the leather, where you have extended yourself onto your toes past the height provided by the heels.”
“It’s true. I am much shorter than him- but how did you know his age?”
“Madame, forgive my impropriety, but there is a hickey on your neck. A marking most definitely the work of a younger man, somewhere in his twenties? Again, as I said at the beginning of our meeting- you won’t find your answers here. It seems that the divorce was a good decision, your jacket hangs loose, and your watch shows your commitment to your health, and despite the small scratch below your lip, your skin is radiant. More so than that, the new shoes are meant for dancing, and it seems from their scuffs that you have indeed taken them dancing. These are all signs of a woman restored to happiness, or perhaps on her way there.”
“How do you know why I came here?”
“I know that you don’t know why you came here. If it was looking for a good man, you’ve certainly come to the wrong address. If you wanted answers as to why your anxiety has surged suddenly- it’s likely the dread of the paperwork and legal troubles you expect to encounter soon. You are not as lost as you may feel, Madame. I cannot provide you answers to matters of the heart, but we can provide you with three small favors which will get you back in form. Watson can surely provide you a salve for the blemish, and a bandage for the ankle. If I am not mistaken, Miss Hudson has some of her famous scones ready, and she is bringing them up the stairs now. Combined, they ought to do the trick,”
“How are you today?”
“I think if I drink another coffee I can emit a pulse which annihilates every straight cis man in Vienna.”
“That good, huh?”
“But you were nice to me yesterday, so this is your warning that the Reckoning is coming some time this afternoon, after I meet this deadline. I suggest you move beyond the city limits, swiftly.”
I just need to get through mid-term exams, announce to the world that indeed I am getting a divorce, and indeed I am staying in Vienna (or doing my best to stay). Then I need to disappear into the abyss for a few days, turn off my phone, run the ink dry on a pen, or three.
Hey Gorgeous, do you want to come with me?
“Don’t ever drink coffee after 9p.m., that’s how you were made. ”
“Always wear delicate red lipstick on a date. Otherwise, you’re always kissable, too kissable. The lipstick is war paint. I let myself be kissable, that’s how I had you.”
“Don’t read books, next thing you’ll start talking about books with other people. You know what that gets you? Pregnant is what it gets you. And library fees!”
“Be quiet. You know who was a great conversationalist? Your father. You know what that got him? That’s right: you, it got him you.”
“Only date someone your own height. That way, you always know you’re at kissing height and your defenses will be up. The tall ones are surprisingly sneaky and charming. One second I was looking up, the next I was pregnant.”
“You should have seen my hips before I had you. I went on two dates with a giant, and this is what I get. Jaqueline and the goddamn beanstalk.”
“You know what?! DON”T clean your room! In fact, never clean your apartment, you’ll just invite someone back to it, and next thing you know, you’ll have someone like you, and be screaming at them to CLEAN THEIR ROOM!”
For those wondering, I am now a card-carrying member of the gold IUD club. They literally gave me a gold card with the serial number of my IUD on it. I had to have it put in as emergency contraception, because hormonal birth control was no longer an option for me after hormonal BC caused me to grow a small benign liver tumor. I had to have it put in on a rush on a Friday afternoon right as the doctor’s office was closing, without dilation or numbing, and I SCREAMED at the pain and almost passed out. To quote my doctor “Are you still alive?” I am. At least I (probably) won’t be screaming at a real child, for a while. But maybe someday, when I am ready, and I promise to never treat a real child like the imaginary one in this little post.
It’s a strange thing, to invite you in,
To ask you to stay.
To let you hear me snore-
To let my breath escape.
You know you yell in your sleep? A sort of half-scream. It’s scary.
I keep telling you to relax.
I’m a hypocrite on multiple counts,
A mugshot of smeared lipstick and a half-finished glass.
I’m not trying to get you drunk, I’m just trying to get to know you.
I think you’re cute, but I’m not trying to get you pregnant yet.
You’re not particularly nice to me. Evidently that’s my thing.
Men who are scruffy and vaguely mean.
Maybe it’s my kink?
Nah, my kink is people that hold me.
My kink is men who make me feel safe.
I don’t want to fall asleep yet, but we should cool down.
I am apprehensive, and hungry.
I am many things.
I am weird, you keep reminding me.
You did all the right things, but
Succumbing to coming is particularly intimate,
It’s a rare feat, for me, on the first time.
The rumors of my small death have been greatly exaggerated.
But the pleasure was real.
The lie was ethical-
A half-truth, I was overcome with bliss but not quite reaching a precipice.
There was behavior worth reinforcing.
In particular, that thing you do with your tongue-
Do exactly that, but just-
Do it when I trust you.
Eurydice and I have learned to understand each other. I appreciate the ability an orchid has to communicate: its roots bare to the world. Heart on her sleeve, it seems.
She takes after me.
Spoiled as ever. Her blooms continue to dry out, but her stem is green. She gets a steam bath in front of the humidifier whenever she loses her perk, and she responds quickly.
After too much googling, I learned less about orchids and far more about orchid people. Orchid gardeners are second only to mommy-bloggers when it comes to anxiety and judging. They are one step above vinyl record collectors when it comes to snobbery. But, after some waffling back and forth on the best watering methods, I have indeed fallen for the ice trick, and Eurydice seems to love it. It’s counterintuitive, but it seems to be working. It’s a technique which requires restraint, and patience. Eurydice and I are both learning patience.
I had to attend to a funeral this week, a former coworker’s suicide. In lieu of flowers donations were made to the local animal shelter. The only flowers were rose petals, we each tossed a handful of them into her open grave, over her urn, white and glittering. They buried her ashes by a young tree, which will be there for at least 400 years. Tree number 9. The deceased was 31. I am 32. Sometimes, when you cannot stop crying, it helps to focus on something else: numbers, letters, the names on the gravestones. A phalaenopsis orchid has a blooming cycle 2-3 months long, and many people throw them away after that. But they can live 10-15 years with proper care. Some have lived to be over 100 years old..
I watered Eurydice when I got home, with ice. I reminded her that she needs to live.
So do you, she said.
How dare you be such an amazing kisser.
How dare you make me think I‘ve met my match.
I am the 2 tram. Excuse me, Bim zwei, but I prefer you call me the 2 tram. I know what you’re thinking, you’d be surprised to know, English is actually my native language! No German (or Austrian) efficiency here!
My mother was American, an oil painter, she loved watching paint dry. My father was an Italian post office worker. Union man, spent his weeks behind the counter, lording quietly over absolute chaos. In his spare time he tended to his lawn. He liked to watch the grass grow. It’s actually how they met! One summer in the 60’s she painted a picture of it, his lawn, growing in real time: a canvas slowly overcome by green. They spent their first date watching a pot of water boil. Long story short, now you have me. Come aboard, girl.
I am the 2 tram, and I’m always a bit discombobulated. I don’t get the rush all the other trams are in. I prefer to take my time, really consider my options. Especially when I am one stop away from your destination. That’s the best time to take a good long rest, and ponder, where am I really going?
Where are you really going, girl?
If the guy you are off to see is so mediocre in bed, is it worth the tooth-grinding crawl of a trip with me? I see you, texting your friends about him, yawning. Do you really want to see him again? Has he ever made you come? Just saying, you can get off here, or not get off at his place. Either way, you’re going to end the evening frustrated.
I am the 2 tram and I know you still miss him. Not the mediocre guy you’re off to see, the one before. I see you staring at his picture. Girl, I know you. I know you hate subway poems, but you still love train metaphors. Actually, you love subway poems, even though they’re so tired. You’re so tired, girl. Stay a while. It will be a while.
But as for trains, and subways, and metaphors, I am somewhere in between. I am lacking in both romance and speed. I am a literal slow train to nowhere. I am a metaphor for settling. I am preposterously packed with baby carriages and…Tibetan monks? There’s a lot happening here girl, and you’re missing all of it!
There, you did it again, you dazed off, looked out the window, and started thinking about him again. The guy in the picture, who lives off the U-Bahn, a cozy 15 minutes from your door to his. I can’t offer you that, but I can offer you a stunning view of all the cars speeding by, and a permeating sense of existential dread.
Hey, girl, pay attention to me, or I will stop suddenly and slide you off your seat! You know what, I am going to do it anyway.
I am the 2 tram and I am taking you home. It’s almost midnight. I’m empty, save for a smattering of ombré blondes. I am a staccato song. My mind wanders. Oh right- I was supposed to stop there. Oops.
I am the 2 tram and I want you more than any man ever will. Stay with me, girl. Let’s linger here a while. Let me hold you. When was the last time you were held? When was the last time you slowed down?
I am the 2 tram and I am arriving in 47 seconds, and then not again for 15 years.
Girl, You better run.
How dare you give me something to love.
You forgot what I’m capable of.
I’ll treat this little minx the way I should myself.
Give her the world, and anything else.
I blocked you, call it self-care.