Friday, January 01, 2010

Are You #10Years Ago?

this is still a rough draft

THE TOPIC IS #10YEARSAGO. I will be adding year by year throughout New Year's Day, working up 'til today.

1999: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ten years ago: On New Years Eve 1999 I was in Michigan, staying at my Mom's house. I'd just completed my first semester at Sarah Lawrence and was preparing to move to Manhattan in January because I knew if I didn't do that I would maybe explode.

I got a cocktail waitressing job at a local comedy club via a temp agency I did work for during breaks from school, lest I ever enjoy an idle hour of my life or cease my pathological workcycle. Along with two regular employees of the club who both smoked like chimneys and referred to her boyfriend as "my old man," I delivered the two-drink minimum to three rounds of audiences. Each consequential set of drab middle-aged couples who'd probably been roped into this unfunny performance via coupon were slightly more excited than the last; slightly drunker.

The comedian was balding and he reminded me of adult Biff from Back to the Future.

My cocktail shift ended at 11, much to my dismay. Now I'd have to actually attend a social gathering with peers, which I'd taken this job to avoid. New Year's Eve gave me anxiety.Well.Everything gave me anxiety back then, that's why I was dropping out of school.

Also, anticipating an additional hour of "light to moderate walking," I'd overestimated the amount of calories I'd burn that evening. Luckily I hadn't eaten anything since the half-banana at noon. See, I was wearing my skinny pants for the first time since July, when I'd purchased them as "motivation" for this strange obsession which had dominated my life since graduating high school that May.

See, two months earlier, back at Sarah Lawrence, when the school 'doctor' told me the best way to cure my shin splints (I'd been running. A lot.) would be to give up exercise altogether (terrible advice, btw, but what did I know); I'd started crying right there on the table. I'd started crying! And worse; when she placed her hand on my stomach, my soft crying broke open: I screamed.

She jumped back, alarmed.

I was crying and screaming. I was a mess. I was vulnerable and gross and alone in a room with this 'doctor' who was probably not a real doctor.

I said: I hate it when people touch my stomach.

She asked: Are you worried about gaining weight if you don't exercise? Is that what this is? Or do you enjoy exercise.

I said/choked: I enjoy exercise. It makes me -- (sob) -- happy.

She seemed relived. I swallowed.She was now distracted by my charts, which indicated I'd been underweight all my life and was, in fact, naturally so.My paranoia compounded my despair because I knew she was thinking what everyone else would think if they knew; What the hell was all this crying about? What was the point? What happened to the 16-year-old who'd been excited about gaining weight on birth control? Where was that girl and who is this new one? Why this? What the fuck was wrong with me? Why was the person least likely to care about such things so concerned about such things?

She shook her head, smiled; "I'd kill to have a body like yours."

"Could you, then?" I asked, but not out loud. Could you please remove me from myself, you can take my body, you'd appreciate it more, I'll will it to you? I don't know what's happening to me anymore. And she didn't do it, anyhow. I realized I would have to do it myself.

A week or so after the doctor touched my stomach I started taking swimming lessons because I was allowed to; ironically I'd never learned to swim because I was so skinny as a kid that I was embarassed to be seen in a bathing suit.Every night or morning my wet hair froze in fat chunks as I walked back from the gym to my lonely room.I felt cartoonish and icey.

A week or so after that, I fainted in my gay friend's dorm room while he was out 'partying.' I had been in and out all night so I'd stayed back. When I closed my eyes I saw stars.I lay down. I woke up and I ate half the chocolate cake he'd brought for his friend's birthday and then I threw it up in the bathroom and went back to his room.When I closed my eyes I saw stars that shone and burned my eyes and gathered in icey chunks. My eyes stung from the chlorine and from the stars.My friend came home and I told him he had stars on his face.

"What's wrong with you?" He asked, handing me orange juice with a straw.

"Waaa liquid calories," I protested.

"You need to keep your blood sugar up. What's wrong with you, what's going on?"

The orange juice warmed in my mouth, seemed to fill my whole body with pulp. "I feel better now," I said. I laid back on his bed. I closed my eyes and saw darkness but wanted stars, wanted to eat or drink stars.

When I opened my eyes I decided to drop out of school. Or maybe that was later.I remember swimming laps, and lots of coffee, and going to the library. I finished the semester with straight As, which I deserved for spending more time in the library than anyone else I knew.

And then I went back to Michigan for break, where I would be for New Years Eve. So far break had been incredibly refreshing, because my friends there -- mostly bisexual guys or indie emo boys who'd recently begun their four years at Ivy League schools and prestigious musical conservatories -- made me feel safe and happy.They were good people who had known me for a while, and I'd been hanging out with my best friend jake all autumn as he'd just begun at Columbia, 20 minutes from sarah lawrence.

We were all riding this happiness fad that year; like we'd all decided to be really excited about everything? Just 'cause everyone else was always so depressed. It was a fun game to play. We high-fived a lot and listened to belle + sebastian and the sea+cake. They didn't know my secrets, boys never know your secrets.

Jake's parents were out of town so he was having friends over from high school (the public school I'd attended for two years before leaving for boarding school). I arrived, and felt immediately loved. That's what happens when you never want to go anywhere and then you show up.

We had maybe ten bottles of champagne.

I remember being in the kitchen, showing everyone how I could touch my toes now because I'd been taking yoga classes and how I had arm muscles now from crew and swimming. See they used to make fun of me for how unathletic I was and now look at me, I could do the tree pose and carry heavy objects!

I made chocolate chip pancakes for 20 people and ate half of one.

"Wow," Jake said when it got hot in the kitchen and took off my sweater. "Marie! You look um," he laughed -- we enjoyed playing 'sexually awkward' around each other since my female best friend had tried to rope us into a threesome earlier that year which had failed b/c of me and Jake's totally platonic bromance -- "Really hot! I like your um---pants!" I never dressed fancy, so this was special.

"Jacob!" I screamed. "You're breaking the rules!" We only talked about sex using pool metaphors, a la Donna Martin in Beverly Hills 90210.

Then Eric waltzed in, smelling fancy. Had he just arrived? I don't remember. I put my head down, preparing to be ignored.

See Eric was this amazing actor and eons ago I'd cast him in all my "movies" when I wanted to be a filmmaker, which I took very seriously as a 15-year-old. My ex-bff Adrienne always mademe cast her opposite Eric even though she could barely act, b/c she wanted to kiss him, and I did whatever she wanted me to do, back then.

Between takes Adrienne and I would sit in her car and watch him smoke cigarettes and whisper that he looked just like James Dean.

I flipped a pancake.

"Whatcha making," he said, putting his hand on my back.

"Chocolate chip pancakes," I squealed. "For everyone!"

He poured himself a drink, and one for me too.

I was a less adorable Rachel Berry to his Finn, and though I'd never crushed on him myself, he was cute and popular and always dated pretty girls. To him, and to all the boys I knew in 9th & 10th grade, I hadn't been a dateable or kissable or pretty girl, because I wasn't. I was, more or less, ugly. Even Jake and my other friends admitted they'd always called me "Fly Adrian's friend' or "the girl with no chin." And then I'd gone away to boarding school school, gotten my braces/rubberbands/headgear off, gone on the pill, filled out a bit, grown up, dressed better, felt confident, and then, I guess, panicked. Maybe that's what was happening to me -- panic that things would change again, panic that I'd keep growing up or out.

I didn't even know how to talk to Eric in any context besides me directing him as an actor or scheduling filming or rehearsal dates.

So I drank more. I flipped pancakes more and put them on paper plates. I touched my toes and flexed my arms more.

I hadn't kissed someone in maybe seven months. I hadn't eaten cream cheese, or slept in, or skipped a workout, or missed class, or let someone hold me and kiss me and love me, in so long. I felt like I was made out of marble/jello.

We watched MTV's video countdown. Eric touched my leg. Jake raised his eyebrow. The ball dropped. We made jokes about Y2K, we toasted, and then decided to go to Eric's because he lived a few blocks away and had a hot tub.

I borrowed clothes from Jake. There must have been ten of us in there. I don't remember.

What happened next? We walked over, I must have been walking with Jake. Did Eric slide in next to me in the hot tub, or me to him? Were there any girls there besides me? Eric's hand on my leg? Everyone but us getting up to run in the snow in their underwear? But then they must have returned. Where did he touch me, who noticed?

At what point could I call the girl who'd broken my heart time and time again to tell her I'd bagged the man she never could?

I casually downed a bottle of champagne, at least. Or maybe less than that.

At some point everyone was gone. At some point something happened.

We were in the snow

I had drank things

I was going to drop out of college

my organs were going to fall out

I wanted her to kill me

Eric had a voice that made everything sound like a pickup line, or maybe that's how I wanted to hear his invitation into his house. I remember being in the hot tub and seeing his living room through the glass doors and thinking how I'd never been to his house but he'd been to mine so many times.

His parents weren't home.

We were inside. I took off my wet t-shirt. He was in the kitchen. Then he was looking at me from across the room.

Eric walked across his living room. We were alone?

He approached me as I was there in my skinny pants and my bra and he put his hand on my stomach and I didn't scream or even self-consciously flex my abs.

"You've really changed," he said. "You've got a great body," he paused, ready to lay it on thick, whip out the easiest line you could ever deliver to an insecure teenage girl: "You're so beautiful. You're so hot."

"I know."

He laughed, "Oh, you know, do you?"

I smiled. I tried to be cute, or at least present a reasonable impression of cute. I teased him for never wanting to talk to me before. I asked him why he agreed to be in all my terrible movies but never talked to me, and he said it's 'cause he thought I was 'going somewhere' and was a good writer and he needed film stuff for his reel.

He told me he hated being cast opposite Adrienne 'cause she was dumb and couldn't act. When could I call the girl who'd broken my heart time & time again and tell her about this, tell her what I had? She could be beautiful, I thought, but she was still stupid.

Eric was already enrolled at one of the top theatre schools in the country. He's a working actor now, and hopefully, not reading this.

What happened next? His hand on my stomach? That had already happened. Something awkward and drunk on the couch? His hand on my leg underwater? No we were inside.

We were drunk, we went to the basement. The lights were on or off. The couch was thin, I told him not to touch me, I just wanted to touch him. We kissed more. Now here I start to confuse this moment with other couches, other rooms, other people, other problems.

This move, another... clumsy. Failing. Maybe I told him he was cute.

This I just remember! This I have just remembered: we were sitting next to each other on the couch and he asked me if these were the lines I used on the boys at Sarah Lawrence and I told him there were no boys at Sarah Lawrence, and then I backpedaled so he wouldn't know about how I hadn't really been alive there, and how I was trying to live again, to want things and to be wanted, and how I wasn't sure about anything, including this, but that I thought I might regret it if I didn't do it and so I did it.

...and then he was driving me back to Jake's and telling me he'd call me the next day and I hoped he wouldn't and he probably knew that he wouldn't, because he didn't.

I crawled into Jake's bed, moving his Borges anthology to the ground (he had a routine where he'd wake up and read for an hour before breakfast) "Did the world end at midnight?" I asked him, slowly. He smelled like sleep.

He laughed, sort of, into his pillow, "All the clocks exploded." He wasn't facing me.

"Dammit," I said, my hands on my tender hungry stomach, my hands on my tender hungry mouth, my tender hungry head on Jake's pillow, my tender hungry breath on the back of his neck. "I'm glad we saved all that canned food."

"Soup," he said. And then he went back to sleep.

The next morning I made breakfast for Jake and our other two friends. Jake told them Y2K had in fact happened at Eric's house and they decided to re-name Eric "Y2K." It was my first one-night stand; it was my last one-night stand with a man, too.

I wrote in my diary the next day, next to a xeroxed yearbook photo of Eric with Y2K written beneath it, "So much of sex for me is just about approval." I'd forgotten, of course, about desire.


2000: Ann Arbor, Michigan

The next time I saw Eric was at a New Year's Eve party the following year, but he didn't see me. Jake and I creeped downstairs to spy on him -- he'd passed out drunk. It was during my first year at University of Michigan. I wore black party pants and told everyone I was a real JAP now with black party pants.

I was sick. My body had broken down completely by Christmas and on Christmas I couldn't move. So I was going to see a specialist in January who would diagnose me with fibromyalgia. I was 25 pounds heavier than I'd been the year before, and 15 pounds heavier than I'd ever be again.

At midnight we all took shots of something cheesy and terrible we'd found at the liquor store.

That is what I remember. This is what happened, according to my diary: "I have high hopes for the year to come. Hopes of getting it together. New Years Eve was fun, began on the right foot, and I have a better feeling on this New Year's Day than on those of past years. I need to get it together."



2001: Las Vegas, Nevada

I never thought I'd be the kind of person who'd travel to Las Vegas for a major American holiday, but there I was, on The Strip, packed shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of self-declared "party animals," tourists chugging fruity frozen drinks from phallic neon souvenir cups. I was there, at attention beneath a sky-wide blanket of billboards and a bright orange hotel disguised as The Sphinx and another like a giant castle made of Legos , and I was kissing my new boyfriend, Zachary. In his free hand, he held a Coke bottle filled with Southern Comfort. I was not yet twenty-one, this was not yet my playground, except that it was.

“You know we’re gonna end up getting married, don’t you?” He asked.

“I know,” I said. And I believed him, too.


2002: Ypsilanti, MI

It was Zachary's fraternity's New Year's Eve party. Everyone was drunk. The ball dropped and my boyfriend kissed me on the mouth and I kissed him back mechanically.

When he asked me what was wrong, I wanted to tell him he should've let me break up with him in September. I told him that it's not his fault, he's normal, but I was certifiably insane. We had an apartment together; a dog, some shared home appliances.

"I thought we had things worked out," he said.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “But I think I could die from suffocation at any moment. I could just die. You'd be lonely, then, if I died?"

“I’m not so sure how to live without you.”

I wanted to tell him he already had been living without me, for so long, and that now I was just taking my body with me.

I took a long drink of champagne. I could feel the bubbles rising to my head. I had to go for a walk. I left him downstairs in his "brother"'s bedroom. It was colder in Michigan than it had been in Nevada that whole year ago, but the cold couldn't touch me then. I kept walking. I breathed. It was only twenty minutes into the New Year, and I'd already fulfilled my only resolution.


2003: Jackson, MI

After my shift at The Macaroni Grill I drove to Lana's place -- she lived in a trailer park outside of Ann Arbor, where I was still staying in my apartment on-campus, though I'd finished school two weeks earlier and all my U-Mich friends were at home; out of state. Not that I had that many friends.

Lana was 30, but she had seven kids; the oldest was 16. Sometimes they'd meet her at closing and help her with her sidework. Lana's boyfriend, a drug dealer, was over. We smoked up together and then drove out to Tiffany's house, farther outside of Ann Arbor in a little town called Jackson. Tiffany was the head trainer at the Macaroni Grill.

Midnight happened in the car but I hoped Lana wouldn't notice; it would be so awkward celebrating with someone I barely even knew. She was taking about herself. The roads were so long and quiet and empty driving out there, like we were driving to hell.

Tiffany had gigantic long nails, tattoos, a biker boyfriend and three gigantic dogs. Drinks everywhere. We smoked in a circle outside with 10 or 15 other friends from work. I wondered if they had other friends to hang out with usually. When I went back inside to the coat room I had 16 missed calls, all from my on-again off-again boyfriend Blake. He was in Vermont; I still don't know specifically why, but I'm sure it was another girl.

"What are you doing, making out with another boy?" He asked. The same old same old. I did then what I'd done many times before for him and many times afterwards for him; I left the party because it was easier than convincing him I didn't really want to be there, I wanted to be with him, even though he wasn't with me; I mean; not enough. I thought I was making life easier for myself this way, that I was just too tired to stand up for myself and it was temporary because I'd be moving to New York in six months anyhow. I left in four months instead because I didn't really want to be there; I couldn't be, not for one more minute, it wasn't enough.


2004: New York, NY
I remember nothing. I remember only this: at midnight I was in the West Village, on the street, alone. It was raining. I couldn't get a cab. I can't remember where I'd been or where I was going. Maybe my boyfriend was about to get off work. I remember that I texted this girl I used to know to see if she felt like forgiving me and being my friend again. She didn't text back.

My journal offers loopy, scrawling pencil, and no clues at all: "Who USES PENCIL???? MEEEE!!! Now. Where are my pens?!!!??? It's New Year's EVE! I still want Shane. Where's Krista? I feel like J. and I aren't even together anymore."


2005: New York, NY

Coked up on Broadway walking towards 125th where my friends Sara & Chloe lived -- they'd had me pick up for them on 109th and he'd made me do some first, like always, and I walked right past my ex J. holding hands with his new girlfriend. I looked at him and he looked at me but he didn't say anything, and so I called him about thirty seconds later, speaking quickly with lots of questions.

I remember a club somewhere; it was dark but also red. Who was I with, Natalie? Where did I drink, because I was drunk, I know that. Did Sara & Chloe go out? At some point I met up with Kat but I don't remember where. I remember leaving the club, meeting her on the street, and she was cold and we were so happy to see each other. It's strange to remember how happy we used to be to see each other, how much excitement and love still existed between us. She was wearing a black puffy coat. I kissed her, I think, and her boyfriend hovered behind her in a long coat, lurky and mean. That's it. That's the last thing I remember.

Kat and I had already decided 2006 would be the best year ever.

2006: Vermont

Haviland promised me I wouldn't be the fifth wheel, up north for the weekend at [redacted famous lesbian couple who are now broken up]'s cabin with two couples -- Haviland and her then-girlfriend and our friends Sherri & Tara. I think Haviland got emotional or something about wanting to start the new year with me and so I was like, okay, fine. On the four hour drive up we listened to Rihanna and Imogene Heap and told our coming out stories and our "first time" stories. Tara had just left her husband for Sherri and they were so f*cking happy together. The way they talked about each other made me jealous. That feeling surprised me.

It was the first time I'd hung out with Hav's GF. I was prepared to dislike her but instead we became obnoxiously fast friends; drunk in tiny shorts hanging from the railings, raiding the snow-closet for an impromptu photo shoot, and building a clubhouse in the crawl space upstairs.

We missed midnight because we were snowed in and the DVD clock was broken. We screamed and toasted arbitrarily. It had been a month or so since I'd last had a drink and so it was especially delicious. We took pictures which made sense at the time perhaps 'cause of cabin fever?


My bed was up top above everyone. I could hear the couples downstairs below me. I had my journal and my feelings. It was the first time in my entire life where I had the thought; I want a girlfriend too. I want that.

2007: New York, NY (home)
If I told people what I was doing I would have to tell people that I was talking to her again, and deal with the fact that they wouldn't believe me; about her being better now that she was out of the hospital and on meds. I didn't know if I believed me! But that was the night we started to get to know each other. We'd already lived twelve lifetimes together and eleven of those lifetimes had been lifetimes of yelling & crying & fucking & loving & yelling & madness. The twelveth was the bits and pieces I'd assembled in my head and labeled 'real.' We were trying to start a new lifetime for a new year.

I told Haviland, who was with Alex somewhere on the top of a building. I was somewhere dark and heavy but also beautiful. That was the night she told me she didn't even believe in G-d, and I wanted to smash confetti cake in her face.


2008: New York, NY (home)
I can't believe that was only a year ago. Last year seems impossibly far away, but it was the same people, relatively. Natalie wanted to have a party here. Alex was here, Caitlin came over ... Peter was here. Actually, I should just stop now because I live-blogged that shit.