Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On the Night I Die I Swear I'll Sleep Outside Your Window OR "My Life as a House"


Me? I'd keep my library on the wall's built-in-bookshelves. Hardwood floors. Exposed brick. Exposed book. We don't need mirrors if we have each other, we need windows to see what's out there but not too much everything, 'cause then we won't be able to see each other anymore. I want us to really look at each other is what I'm saying.

I had a house once. I mean -- I lived in a house, and it was mine as much as anything can be yours when you're a child and don't really have anything but still believe that you will, one day, have everything.

I nested there, as surely and solidly as anything in the world could've been my nest when I was a child and didn't really have anything but still believed I would, one day, nest somewhere else, somewhere spectacular like in Troop Beverly Hills or The Little Princess.

I never liked adventure stories of swashbuckling, journeys, warriors, quests -- I liked novels where precarious girls in frocks and bare feet discovered secret worlds in the wardrobe or in a box in the attic, stories where adventure was as local as wallpaper.

Natalie, my bestie from college who I lived with at two separate addresses there and crashed with last week, saw her Fiji dream house in
Architectural Digest. Simple, clean lines, beautiful, next to the sea, surrounded by mountains and green, endless green. Open & floor length windows, glass walls and the bamboo bedroom walls open up to the spectacular sea. Hardwood floors, lots of ceiling fans, crisp linen, a beautiful kitchen where she can see all the people she loves sitting at once with wine and laughing. Stainless steel everything. Huge bathtub. Colors, and light, and dreamity dream dreams.

And when, at thirteen, my parents got divorced and we were made to leave that house I owned [or thought I owned] I left kicking and screaming, literally, staging a sit-in on the blue carpet in the style of the Vietnam protests my parents had told me about. I said I could not go. I demonstrated this by burying my head in the carpet. To my left -- the closet I'd turned into Samantha (a doll)'s bedroom. To my right, the futon and my loft bed and my desk where I wrote stories on my loud clanking electric typewriter.

To my all around -- my walls; posters of places I wanted to visit (like New York City) and hulking portraits of my hero Nolan Ryan who kept on pitching 'til he won.

Haviland wants a place like this hotel in L.A. called the Visceroy, like 60's stuff like in Bewitched [her typo was "betwitched," which's better, yeah?], the decor from I Dream of Jeanie, and lots of mirrors and of course the beach, always the beach and the waves, and the wind in her fairy-tale hair.

In the fifteen years since leaving that place on 431 Crest Avenue [like the toothpaste], I've switched addresses 23 times. As unhinged as that's made me feel, I've established certain precautions -- I always know where I'll be at least two weeks before I go there. I've never, for example, had to crash, or put my everyday things and furniture in storage, or couch-hop. A luxury, sure, but for me it's hardwired as hardwood and the only thing that keeps me grounded in a life of freelancing and freewheelin' and now, no legitimate roots anywhere, noplace I've ever lived that'd have me back or even knows my name.

Carly: "my dream house is whatever house Robin is living in. What, too gay?" Carly's dream house is not too big and it's modern but not cold, and there's a pool and room for dogs, and she can entertain or just sit around and watch tv in her pajamas. She says, "I can't figure out if that means I want a house on the beach in CA or a penthouse in Manhattan. Guess I'll have to get one of each!"


At boarding school near the end of my junior year, my writing teacher invited his workshop over for dinner. I rode my bike there, it was on campus. I had lots of coffee which was still a drug to me then because I was 16 and full of hope and spirit. I didn't say much 'cause I was shy, but I remember the books in his room, and the warmth they created with their words and possibility. I remember the brook in the backyard, like a cheesy watercolor rendered beautiful.

I remember, remember tangibly, the feeling of whipping through air on my bicycle from his house afterwards and thinking, "Marie Lyn Bernard the world is at your fingertips/handlebars!"

That was when energy, not oblivion, was my drug of choice. And I decided that night that when I got home for the summer I'd build myself a cave -- I'd always loved that shit, the treehouses and secret clubhouses -- a cave no-one else could squeeze into -- a place where I'd read poetry and write brilliant brilliant heartbreaking things. I'd write a novel, I said. All I needed was the right space, the right cave.

Adam's number one awesome houseboat is MacGuyver's. Distant second; Duncan during the relevant season of Highlander. In his elementary school sketchbook he drew his dream house -- he sketched it. It was a castle. With a moat. And a wing for his mommy because he was/is that kid. And he went on to form his romantic archetypes from the relationships in fantasy novels which wasn't healthy but the women were plucky (he chose the angsty young sorceress nobody understood, not the ditzy princess in distress). And then there was a real-life man with a real-life wife who had spines; spines of books, candlelight. That, after all, is his dream house: "I would probs want more light than he got, but it was night when I was there, so just about anything would have more natural light than nighttime."

And so, here I am. Basically what happened was I was all set with the apartment and then five days before I found out it wasn't going to happen ... I don't, and won't, go into detail, because it's my life as a house too, and it's complicated and I hate myself already for typing this sentence already.

Alex wants something she can build with her own two hands, with materials from her stranded desert island, but she realizes that fantasy sounds a lot like nightmare. So then there's this: a margarita shack on the beach in Mexico, where she'd sleep in a hammock and make margaritas all day. But then there's this too: the tree-house. That Swiss Family Robinson house in Disneyworld, anything where she could be inside and around a tree, the warmer the better.

But the whole situation leaves me unhinged, lost, and that's why I'm couch-hopping. I feel dislocated, like Houdini could pop off both of his nice shoulders you know? My Dad used to talk to me about Houdini a lot. I liked how Houdini was stuck in this tiny space and could dislocate his body from himself and that was how he made magic.

I realize, oh I realize, that there are children in Darfur who'd love to be sans-address but have a bed to share with a friend or a couch to hop to, close one's eyes on. Perhaps if I didn't realize this, it would be easier to figure out how I feel. But every thought I have is overrridden by the other thought; the thought of people who are sleeping on the streets, who need more than my change/change.

My short list includes the loft from Igby Goes Down, The Factory, that house in the Hitchcock movie with the cliff chase and the hanging, Walden Pond, the house my writing teacher lived in, and more and more and more that I will think about tomorrow and then add 'cause this post is totes incomplete, like you and me and everyone we'll ever know.

Caitlin. Wants a house on the beach with a pool and a backyard and she imagines her dream house to be like in
Life as House, the movie that said: "I've always thought of myself as a house, I was always what I lived in. It didn't need to be big, it didn't need to be beautiful, it just needed to be mine. I became what I was meant to be, I built myself a life, I built myself a house, with every crash of every wave I hear something now. I never listened before. I'm on the edge of a cliff, listening. I'm almost finished. If you were a house, this is where you'd want to be built" and "What? Do I still love you? Absolutely. There's not a doubt in my mind. Through all my anger, my ego, I was always faithful in my love for you."

And so, nowhere I am. And so I do not know who I am. And so I want more than anything to be proud of myself. Which won't set us free but Who I Am is the great mistake in a life full of mistakes.

And so tonight I will go to sleep, ideally, though I've struggled with sleep the past few days 'cause I'm not good with strange spaces, and so I panic, and so tomorrow I will wake up, and I will go to work, and I will, if I have the time, attack this post and try to make it into something as glorious as four walls, as something I could dig into, as something I could keep. Something I can own, as much as any child can own anything.

20 comments:

Razia said...

I get that homeless but not quite roofless feeling, I really do. It was my life for about three years after all. It's a strange cocktail of emotions ranging from total and complete loss of direction to being grateful for having people that care so much. Sometimes you feel in the pits and rightly so but in the back of your mind you're a little confused because this is not what you always pictured "homeless" to be like. Where are the cardboard boxes? The cold nights? Because of that I never felt like I could really complain or have a right to want more because although it's the worst possible thing ever, it doesn't look like the worst possible thing ever so I just internalised until I didn't recognise myself anymore. In retrospect, I don't even think that's a bad thing.

TMI for a comment by me? Maybe. Stay strong - who are all the baby dykes to turn to/crush on in your absence?

Razia said...

Also, I kind of hope you don't change this.

Crystal said...

I am hoping every second that you find a place soon. I feel like if you go without your own space for long enough then you disconnect, you stop noticing everything because nothing is yours. And it would be criminal if you ever stopped noticing, because I think observation is your number one talent.

I had a dream house once. It was a dream because it was ridic, it was in a gated community and it had a water feature in the middle of the living room. I thought I wanted it so badly - to compensate - but I only lasted a month before handing the keys over to my bro and finding another couch to sleep on. I found it hard to go back to having my own space, even though for so long it was all I thought I wanted.

alimak said...

For 3 months this summer, I was house less I feel like it isn't quite the same me being a college student and honestly I could have driven the 12hrs to the dysfunction house of my parents. I do know the feeling of being disorientated because you don't really have a place that is yours. Best wishes in your search for your own.

autumn m said...

i get it. wanting to have your own space, a place to call your own. i think everyone here gets it. your words dont fall on deaf ears

Adam said...

I misspelled 'MacGyver'.

You were perfect.

jen said...

consider Canada..?

Kakhtus said...

That's one cool new banner.

Stephanie said...

My house felt like home once. Then I got my heart broken and now it feels like a prison.

I get a new one soon. I hope it doesn't leak or mold. I want it to feel like a home.

And Life as a House is AMAZING.

Daev Lozo said...

So many feelings, Marie.

1. I know we've discussed Nolan Ryan before, but it still cracks me up when you mention it.

2. Semi wants to make margaritas, huh? That seems a little racist.

3. We've also discussed this, but you can't not let yourself feel bad about your situation just because someone else's situation somewhere is worse. It's not fair. "Damn, I just got shot in the head, but I guess it doesn't suck as bad as the guy who got shot in the head twice, so I can't complain." Complain. It's good for you.

4. I'd offer you a place to stay, but I also am looking for a new place.

5. My dream house has a giant bathtub. That's it. You know how hard it is to fit in a tub when you're 6-3? Just throwing that out there.

6. Nice shoulder.

7. I know your birthday is around the corner, so I've got two words. Strip. Club. Again, throwing it out there.

8. Not sure if you want to proud of yourself. I hear pride comes before the fall. Or maybe that's summer. I forget. But I'm proud of you. Mostly for resisting my sexy male charms for so long now. Not sure how you do it.

9. I recently bounced my idea for a book off a literary agent, and he told me, and I quote, "No one cares about our lives." Not sure if that has anything to do with this post, but if you want to feel like crap, I suggest revealing an idea to a stranger. It's great stuff. The point is, feeling proud of yourself can come and go.

10. I betwitched once, but only because I wasn't expecting a finger to go in there.

rod said...

This kinda broke my heart a little. When I was young I would spend ages building perfect houses out of lego for my super happy and well adjusted yellow lego people. It would be allowed to stay out and take up a corner of the living room for two, maybe three days, before my mum lost it and told me it had to be dismantled. That would break my heart too. Lego homes are easier to create I reckon. But, on the positive side, real homes tend not to be decorated in a cheery red/yellow/blue, so you have that to look forward to.

riese said...

razia: I do feel grateful to have people who care so much for sure. I think all my cardboard boxes are in storage. And with my laptop in my bag, it's nothing like the homeless I think of as "homeless." For me, anything where I can keep my stuff is a home, I've been in and out of so many. I guess I'd be more than happy, maybe, to live in a storage unit. (and I haven't had time to change it yet, sooooo!)

crystal: last night when natalie got into bed with me into the bed we're sharing she said I love Crystal, Crystal left the best comment. And she was right, it is the best comment. See how you did that, gave me insight? Way to bring it back around, tiger.

alimak: Yeah I wish I could drive 12 hours to the disfunction of my parents, I imagine that's part of why I feel this way maybe? that i can't?

autumn m: we were thinking wouldn't it be funny if my words were falling on deaf ears? Like if I was screaming from a mountaintop and felt like no one was listening? That would be a good metaphor probs, I guess, for how I feel.

adam: Or maybe I did?

jen: dangnabit, I need a passport!

kakhtus: thanks! Alex did it!

stephanie: My house felt like a home once. Then I got scared to leave it, and it felt like prisonbreak from an island and nowhere to swim to. I've never seen Life as a House, I just like Caitlin's quotations about it.

daev lozo: Wow! I feel like you pull through in tought times, lozobear, and that's one of many things I like about you besides your shoulder.

Two members of The Team apparently already have birthday plottings underway, but perhaps we could take a strip club jaunt for your birthdya. Maybe you'll remember it, unlike last year, but I can't say, "you know, unlike last year" 'cause you don't remember last year.

Why are you looking for a place? Are you still in the same place you were when you said you were looking for a place last year?

Nice use of betwitched in a sentence, I feel like you're going to ace the SATs this year. Semi is totally racist.

I feel like i'm complaining too much though. I wonder if it's still charming. Anyhow, I think you can find a tub. I think whatever you dream you can do. thank you for the long comment, you know what they say about boys who give long comments? Do ya?

rod: Me too, I loved lego houses, and lincoln logs and all those things. I then made little moveis about my lego people. It was in the basement. I like to have everyone together, all the pirates and the space explorers, and the average joes with their construciton hats and toolboxes. Actually you know what I think what i need is to get back into legoes.

Dave Looz said...

Roommate's moving in with her boyfriend, so I'm out. Hopefully by Nov. 1. If you guys aren't doing anything too gay, let me know. Maybe I can tryout for the team.

Ingrid said...

Sometimes when I'm really motivated or amused or bowled over by something you've written, I add it to my list of "The words of Marie Lyn Bernard that I might get tattooed on my body someday." Today I added "Marie Lyn Bernard, the world is at your fingertips/handlebars," and don't worry, I'll leave in the Marie Lyn Bernard part.

You can always come to Chicago. Meg's here. I'm here. Sheetal visited one time. The Dark Knight was filmed here. Four reasons. Bang bang bang bang.

autumn m said...

you can alway move to kansas and live in my po-dunk town, where the majority of people make up 90% of americas white trash, and combined them together and you might get a full set of teeth (totally not talking about myself).just throwing that out there as something you could do. and on the bright side, living here is extremely cheap compared to other places!

MoonKiller said...

I've been allowed back into my house now so my couch is still available and also I second Lozo's number 3.

I want to live by the sea, down Ogmore, and have a little balcony so I can go out in the middle of the night and just sit there.

ABeos said...

that was gorgeous. finished or not.

a;ex said...

Dave Lozo you're the wind beneath my wings - I'm gonna go poke you now.

emily kate said...

When I was little I would draw my house (trap door to the water slide under master bedroom that would take you on a wild dark ride to the pool in the basement came standard). And then I met an amazing girl who for some reason loved to pretend my world for me. So I'd tell her what I wanted, and she'd let me live in it--imagninary friends, pets, children, houses in every type of place. It was magical. I just met her again after 15 years and am too shy to tell her how great it was.
I'm with Ingrid. You can live in my guest room in Chicago any time you like. We'll bring you tea and fro-yo in bed and you can learn to tango in the cafe downstairs.

riese said...

dave looz: I bet you have a killer triple punch slapshot slingback curveball

ingrid: when ingrid sweet pea greenfield comments on my blog (imagined pronounced "blog" like in minnesota or the up) it makes me smile every time. maybe i will come to chicago, tell me how often you see oprah. meg is there! there's people actually having intelligent converesations all over this country that i'm not a part of. i need to get out of this town/see your tattoo.

autumn m: ok if kansas needed a spokesperson I would not reccomend you because i don't think you sold it very well. i think one of my tooths is falling out so maybe i would fit right in.

moonkiller: oh i've always wanted a house down by the sea. but dangnabbit i still need a passport! i heart the couch! I like the sound of Ogmore, it's like a gremlin but fuzzy and kind.

ABeos: unfinished. still gorgeous?

a;ex: i'd feel a lot better if i could SHOOT A MOOSE.

emily kate: i'm with ingrid too i feel like she would play imaginary house game with me for about two minutes if i got her really drunk. maybe i could play imaginary house with alex right now. or maybe we already are playing imaginary house. i've always wanted tangos, mangoes, and tea-rooms.