I'm co-hosting the launch party for PEN.org and the World Voices Festival next week in New York. If you're in town, please join us.
A post for a long-time reader who requested one at lunch today.
I remember sitting in the library in elementary school thumbing through an old copy of classic Greek myths, always finding my way to the comfort of an origin story: destiny ordained as the three sisters unwound each mortal's thread at the moment of birth, snipping it where they may. Last year my decidedly non-mystical mother called to tell me that she'd had a premonition that the man I was meant to be with would find me, and that I wouldn't have to do anything to find him. She'd been so struck by the clarity of the notion that she'd stopped eating dinner to tell her companion, and then me. This was the most radical thing I'd ever heard. There is no element of my life that I have not managed or conjured into being through careful planning or unstoppable intent. So what to do? Relax. Let it happen. For my birthday, my best friend and I had intuitive readings. "You'll be alone all summer," she said, firmly, as my hopes dimmed. "But then, at the end of the year... there's someone. He's going to persist, he's going to pursue you." There were other little signifiers, glinting like mismatched tokens on a charm bracelet. I was amused, and optimistic and took it in stride. A few months later, a novelist known for his prowess with tarot cards brought them to a dinner party and did a reading after midnight, and dessert. My ears pricked up when I realized he had pulled the exact same card. "He's aware of you, but you're not yet aware of him." It's December, and every step has a little stardust in it, a secret smile, a fairy bell twinkling a distant song: is this it? is this it? is this it? I exhale, and relax.
Almost three weeks ago, I rushed out of my apartment to catch an early morning flight to Chicago for an evening wedding. I had been out at a party the night before, and would be back again in less than 24 hours (I assumed, and so thought I knew this to be true), and took with me a red silk evening gown, a pair of gold evening shoes, and a fur coat. The next day, I barely made the last flight back to New York, but too late to return to my apartment before the evacuation order was issued. I plan to return this afternoon. At one point, I lost a set of borrowed housekeys and wept on a park bench until another woman in a fur coat stopped and tried to help me. I hadn't cried in three years. I realized that one never has any real sense of what another person is going through. I learned that words are not enough. I found out that more people cared about me, far more than I ever would have known in my life otherwise. My unshakeable faith in spiritual matters and astrology is gone, replaced by what I can't quite say. In some ways, I woke up from a kind of slumber that might have otherwise lasted forever; a beautiful dream but it was only that. My long-held hopes for a holiday will have to be deferred so that I can save up to move when my lease is up in the spring. This year, in truth, has been altogether bruising, and yet I have received so much. I saw my brother briefly and at one point, he observed that my sister interrupts herself when she expresses dismay and says, "But I'm so grateful for everything." I said, we live together. That's how we talk; and we are, beyond measure.
It always makes me smile when someone is telling me a story of dramatic romantic entanglement, and I sort of make a face and they say, What? And I say, "Oh, I'm so old-fashioned. Hopelessly out-of-step, even. I could never be involved in that way with more than one person. I'd rather be alone than make a mess of someone's heart." Soon after, they inevitably say, shyly, Me too.