Saturday, November 8, 2008

Paper Made of People

I think I was one of those kids who always had to be challenged. When the room got quiet, and my mother's crumbling attempts to entertain me finally tired, I would bounce around the living room on my tippy toes and ask a thousand questions.

So I grew up to become the kind of woman who asks a thousand questions and thirsts for something else to tire me. Every time I press myself, I've been able to rise to the occasion. Walking out, showing up, flying away and coming back are four of the most important things I've ever done in my life. And each step brought me to my knees in ways I couldn't contemplate surviving. But after being broken down, then jumping with my eyes closed shut, and holding my breath while the bubbles surfaced I always seemed to find my air. To the point where I almost look forward to drowning a little bit.


These days, loneliness has taken on a new meaning. It's not like I don't have any friends. I'm either at work or chillin with Tia (and her new man, we'll call him "Ant") or Etienne or my room mate Monica. Throw in a second gig, and the occasional show or lounge and I have to admit there are very few moments of boredom. Plus it takes little to amuse me these days...

...But by "loneliness" I mean missing familiarity. New York is familiar to me, but in a different way. In a way that speaks to my new skin, and not to my long term memory. I was on the train the other night coming home from Manhattan; watching one of the back cars on the 4 train empty with every stop that passed. It was just me and this sleepy old guy for a while. He was thin with tissue paper skin and dusty faded eyes. His khaki fisherman hat reminded me of my great grandfather Henry, whom I barely knew and don't quite recall if he ever even wore that kind of hat. For a second we shared several passing glances; the kind you exchange when your trying to observe someone without letting them on that your paying attention. I was in the middle of wondering how old he was, when he held my glance long enough to expose a weepy smile that then faded slowly back into a firmly held line. It was just a second, but in that second I realized my mother was right; people don't smile as much in New York, at least not to strangers. But when the old dude smiled at me (or strangely...laitly...when anyone does) I was half filled with warmth and half with sadness. That which is familiar to me is miles away. Many, many miles away. The stretch of shops near Merit Lake in Oakland, the hills you pass on the drive up to Sacramento that my sister and I always used to think were really dinosaurs hidden under blankets of wild white-brown grass...

...When an old man who smiles at you on the train almost brings you to tears, you know it's time for some familiarity.