I drive a 13-year-old Honda Civic Hatch DX. They don’t make my car anymore. From time to time I find a note on the windshield, someone offering to buy it.
In the glove box, in the side pockets, and behind the cup holders are stacks of CDs.
I grabbed them, haphazardly, when I left Seattle. Three Dog Night. Basia. Mazzy Star. Those were my ex’s. Donna Summer, Stevie Wonder and Torch Song Trilogy are mine. As is a disco mix my friend DJ Andy T made for me.
I can listen to them over and over again without growing bored. Singing along. The familiar words keep me awake while driving long stretches. Keep me from my thoughts.
And then I hit a wall. Pulling out disc after disc as I make my way down Lake Shore Drive, looking for something I want to hear. I come up empty. No more Bonnie Raitt. Annie Lenox. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. No more Dire Straits. No more Gipsy Kings.
My destination for this week’s Artist Date – 47 – was easy. To Laurie’s Planet of Sound on Lincoln Avenue.
I pass by here almost daily. There is a white board outside with new arrivals written in dry-erase magic marker. There are t-shirts in the window. And inside there are records, books and CDs. I can tell from peeking in, but I’ve never been inside. Until Friday. And then, just for a moment.
There is a hipster man-boy at the register. Big curly hair, plaid button-up shirt and chunky, nerd glasses. We nod at one another. I think John Cusack, High Fidelity.
I am holding The Best of Elvis Costello and the Attractions CD. $6.99. I used to have this on cassette. I remember singing along with Elvis to “Alison,” “Pump it Up,” and “Every Day I Write the Book.” I remember my high-school crush giving me grief for buying “best of” albums.
My phone rings. It is a call I have been expecting from a friend and mentor. I drop the CD back in the bin and walk outside. I will return later for it.
But I don’t. During the course of our call, I find out she is moving away. The stars have aligned and a “not-to-be-missed” opportunity has been presented to her family. I am the first person she has told.
I am delighted for her. And I feel the loss inside of me too. I am acutely aware that our relationship will change. I am tired of change, I think. And yet, when things stay the same, I am restless and bored.
We finish our call and I go to Paciugo for gelato. I order a piccolo cup – toasted coconut, sea-salt caramel, and cinnamon – and eat it walking home. The sun is shining and the air is cool. I am wearing gloves. I tell myself I will go back to Laurie’s later.
But I don’t.
A friend comes over, and later, when I drive her home, she asks if I am looking forward to my Friday night alone. Sometimes I do. Especially this time of year, when night comes early and my radiator-heated apartment feels toasty.
I do not feel this way tonight. I tell her so, bursting into tears. By the time I pull over to her apartment I am sobbing uncontrollably in her arms.
I am so lonely. She holds me.
I have been on the verge of tears all week. This is not entirely unexpected.
Perhaps it’s because my ex-boyfriend – the one I always sort of held out hope for and thought “maybe one day…”– got engaged.
Perhaps it is because my friend and mentor is moving. Or because I have begun to look for work in earnest, for the first time in 12 years.
Perhaps it is because I chatted online with my ex-husband today and that always kind of throws me off my square.
Or maybe it is because it is the first week in November. That it’s just that way right now. I don’t know. I’m not sure that it matters.
All I know is going home by myself, to myself, is a really bad idea. I know I won’t cook or write or take a bath. I am pretty certain I will do something not helpful, like look up old lovers on Facebook.
I don’t feel like going back to Laurie’s either. I don’t want to hear the chatter in my head. And I don’t want to talk about it. There is nothing more to say. And knowing that is really something of a miracle.
Dallas Buyers Club is playing at the Century Theatres. If I drive fast I can make the 8:30 show. I make a beeline and arrive with time to spare.
I buy a ticket and claim a seat on the end. I lay my coat on the seat next to me, joining the one belonging to the man sitting two to my right. He is also alone.
I think about Tony, my first close friend diagnosed with AIDS. I remember him cutting my hair in his kitchen and doing me up like a drag queen, full-well knowing I would never wear my hair like that. But it makes him happy. I remember smoking pot with him and eating empanadas in Detroit. I remember that AZT made his mouth taste like metal and put him in a cranky mood.
But mostly, I get lost in the story unfolding in front of me.
I forget that Matthew McConaughey is Matthew McConaughey and not Ron Woodruff – a red-neck, homophobic, drug-addicted Texan diagnosed with AIDS. I open my heart to this man who lived seven years instead of 30 days.
This man who befriended a card-shark, drag queen named Rayon. Who smuggled non-FDA approved treatments into the United States for his Dallas Buyers Club. Who in helping himself, helped others.
I cry watching him hold on to that bull for eight-seconds. (See the movie. You’ll understand.) I cry when the screen goes black and silent white letters report his death. Even though it isn’t a surprise.
I have gotten caught up in someone else’s story instead of my own. It is what I had hoped for.
Driving home, I feel just a little bit better. But I am still holding on by my fingernails. Like a newly sober alcoholic counting the minutes before bed – congratulating himself and thanking God for making it through another day without drinking.
Holding on to that bull for eight seconds. Holding on.