Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A small goodbye

"Where you going?"
"The Jersey Shore."
She smiled warmly at me. "That's my favorite place in the world."
I don't know why I remember this conversation with her but for some reason it stuck with me. There were plenty more. Much more stimulating and interesting and animated than this quiet one. She had created an audience for me by lending me a facility, equipment and a welcoming and intelligent community to share my documentary. She was the documentary's biggest support system during that editing process. She even provided wine for a small reception after the screenings of which I believe there were two. When the question arose of whether I should bunker down in NYC and keep at it or move back to Los Angeles to raise more money, she even offered me a job as a cook-something I still know very little about. But for a moment I considered taking the job, moving to NYC, breaking up with my boyfriend in LA. I looked at my potential future with this removed sense of wonder as if I was watching the trailer to a really interesting movie about me, only to discover I was actually the supporting role not the lead. And like any secondary character, I retreated back to what was the lead: a dysfunctional relationship I knew was bad for me and yet could not leave.
When I eventually did return to New York, two years had passed and yet so much had felt like it changed. The community I once found myself becoming an honorary member of remembered my face but couldn't quite place my name or the context of me in their community. In response, I chose not to engage again and revered it as a "clique" with which I was irritated by and yet also the slightest bit envious of. I held her at an arms length as I do with most women, especially ones I feel vulnerable around. She asked me to housesit last summer and we spent a half hour together before her car arrived to pick her up and take her to the airport where she would meet her daughter in Germany. I told her about my summer plans and that when she returned I would be headed to the Jersey Shore. She was sitting on her couch and the light from outside reflected off her auburn hair amplifying the warmth she exuded in that conversation. She asked me about myself and what my plans were and I stumbled. It was and still is a rare occasion for me to have a conversation about myself with any woman. There was something about her motherliness that made me yearn to tell her everything about myself and yet pull back for fear she would just end up being another ghost in my life. I told her I was thinking about going into education. I was considering Teach For America, maybe even in New Orleans. She let me finish and then said, "You know, that's not education. What you would be dealing with there is about poverty and class and race. But it's not about education...but maybe it's not education that you're interested in." The car pulled up and interrupted this awakening for me. She was right. I was interested in people's stories. I wanted to understand things and to help but the truth was, it was not about going into education.
Whether or not I become a teacher is still a question I grapple with but I will always be thankful for the honesty and perspective she gave me that afternoon.
I don't know why I didn't visit her in the hospital. Part of me felt that it was a private matter and that I was not in the inner circle. I was not a part of that "clique." And another part of me didn't want to feel it. But loss doesn't work like that. Because even though I felt my sadness wasn't remotely comparable, even though I felt like my place was being a support system for those that were in the inner circle, the loss was still painful and no matter how hard I tried it still pierced me to my core when I heard the news.
I am going to the Jersey shore this weekend and all I keep thinking about is her telling me how it was her favorite place. Something about that conversation playing over and over seems to be giving the Jersey Shore this power and magic that I didn't appreciate last year but am looking forward to embracing this time. Perhaps on those sands is where I will say my own incomparable, outer-circle, small goodbye to her.

2 comments:

Carmen said...

thanks tony

daleboca said...

very nice and honest and sad...