What the Hell is This?

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? — Muriel Rukeyser

When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It October 2, 2012

(Two months later…)

Hello, duckies, please forgive me for neglecting my blogging duties. I’ve been jumping through innumerable hoops in the system in order to get temporary food assistance, doing community service (one of the hoops), applying for jobs, and finishing an article for which I was paid one hundred and fifty dollars…which felt a whole lot better than any of the rest of it.

What my dear ex-friend Jeannie never cared to grasp is that it’s not that easy to get paid for what I really have to contribute, and that I’d rather live without a car and a clod of land than spend eight to ten hours a day going through some hateful, vitality-sucking motions just for the cash. To steal from Mary Oliver, you have just “one wild and precious life” — you’re going to spend it doing that miserable shit?

So now I’m officially a shiftless layabout taking handouts. I wonder if I turned her into a Romney supporter, being such a star example of his throwaway 47 percent and all.

I did have an interview last week with a car-share nonprofit, which (I think) went very well. It would be full-time, business hours, in member services and billing. I like the office and the people, and feel good about about the organization overall. At the same time, I’m more leery than I used to be of having my life force siphoned away eight hours at a time. Still, it’s far preferable to my present, punishing occupation of trying to wrest blood from turnips.


I also finished Niels Lyhne, a book well worth reading again, and better the second time. The intervening decades may have changed my perspective a bit.

I know one passage in particular landed in a new way. After a host of experiences (including a sort of emotional affair) that he considers love, Niels develops a close friendship with his married cousin Fennimore, which soon blossoms into something quite different.

But how sweet it was to love, to love for once with the passion of real life; because what he had thought was love before was not love, not the heavy, swelling longing of the lonely man, nor the smoldering yearning of the fantast, nor the prescient nervousness of the child. They were currents in the great ocean of love, single reflections of its full light, splinters of love, just as meteors that race through the air are splinters of a planet, because that’s what love was: a world that was whole, something complete, vast, and orderly…He had never known the intensity and vastness of this kind of feeling before, and there were moments when he felt himself a titan, much more than a human being; he sensed such an inexhaustibility within him, such a wingspan of tenderness swelled from his heart, so wide was his vision, so enormously mild were his judgments.

Jacobsen’s characterization of Niels’ experience as “a world that was whole” (as distinguished from the younger Niels’ “smoldering yearning of the fantast”) gave me a jolt of recognition. It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote about my own ineffable moment of feeling the wholeness of the world, one sunny winter afternoon in cube-land, that immediate sense of presence and “vastness” one can meditate for months trying to attain. And during those first two weeks of March, I did feel like a “titan” possessing a certain “inexhaustibility” as I exploded with productivity, plowing through a number of assignments and essays I’d been putting off for months.

I’ve been unable to adequately describe the hope — no, it was more than hope — the outright conviction that made me feel as if I could make my dreams come true. It was intimately tied to the experience of having encountered someone who felt for all the world like he could be an actual partner in life…not the much more familiar experience of acute passion coupled with admiration, at times bordering on worship, for someone I might not necessarily want to live with (inspiring though he may be).

Would I want to be lost in Togo with Ted? Could I deal with plugged plumbing with Sonny? Even with Sam, did I really want to relive those crazy college days?


Speaking of Sonny, I keep dreaming about him and his new lady love. They repeatedly turn up in my unconscious. As if all their darling social networking cuteness weren’t enough! (Now she’s referring to him as her “strong cup of coffee.”) I was trying to get away from them the other night at an outdoor dream-barbecue in my former bookstore coworker Sandy’s backyard, but Jessica followed me downstairs into the finished basement to see what was wrong. I was running around the room in circles when she found me, singing the lyrics to Tori Amos’ “Precious Things.” I’m sure I could write a whole post analyzing that alone.

Naturally I keep wondering what I’d do if I ran into them out and about somewhere. Besides stand there like an idiot. Or try to hide.


At least I took the chance, once upon a time, to see where things could go with Sonny. If nothing else, I got to get down and get busy with a gorgeous guy I considered way out of my league, the literal man of my dreams…at least according to what my dreams looked like six years ago. About that, I have no regrets.

But I do have other ones.

Recently I read an article on the Advanced Riskology blog that talked about making hard decisions. That week’s guest blogger, writing about making the “hardest decision of (her) life” wrote,

While I couldn’t be sure of the outcome (when is this ever possible?), I could be 100% confident that the risk was worth taking.

Now I’m sure readers and friends alike are all very happy with me for doing the “right” thing, the “smart” thing, the conventionally “moral” thing of respecting the bounds of legal and sacramental monogamy, and keeping my damn mouth shut as far as Dan was concerned. Unfortunately, I am not.

I suspect I may regret “keeping my damn mouth shut” for the rest of my life. More than six months later, I still regret it every day. Regardless of the outcome (and some possible outcomes could have been pretty darn awkward), it was a risk worth taking.

Just ask Shasta.


I’ve hidden behind a deeply programmed dread of violating traditional moral codes. I’ve hidden behind a pretense of unselfishness, a personal vow made at nineteen that I would never do unto another woman what Cheyenne had done unto me. I’ve hidden behind my chronic terror of rejection.

But I’ve risked rejection with nearly every other guy. I continued to court rejection with Greg Schulz, after he’d already said no — multiple times. Same with Tony DeRocca. Even with Ben — remember Ben? — I’d made plenty of not-so-subtle remarks. My feelings were no mystery to anybody, least of all Ben. But with Dan, to whom I was closer than most of the others, I couldn’t so much as drop a hint. It was all unimpeachable innocence on the surface. I didn’t dare even joke that I envied his wife. Why?


There was a moment, that day in the pub, when he looked at me almost searchingly. He had been saying something about his life as a single man, about the opportunities he hadn’t taken. My face got hot; I was grateful for the dim lighting.

There was a pause. An opening. I stared at my bottle. That’s when I saw the fork in the road.

One path led quickly out of sight, down a hill that would likely only increase a completely unpredictable momentum; there would be no stopping, and no turning back. The other, brightly lit under a noonday sun, continued on, flat and visible for miles, with no discernible surprises. Ahead were the same everyday routines: solitude for breakfast and dinner, with a break for work and socializing in between. Spaghetti and Netflix Thursdays. Impromptu coffee with Greg at our usual haunt. A quiet, familiar road, where I could remain in the driver’s seat. There was even a guardrail.

Surely there would be time, later, to choose another fork! Surely there had to be some other path, down the line, with better visibility! Now was not the time to be rash. Now was not the time to be making irreversible decisions. That hill looked steep. There was no telling at what speed one might plunge, or what lay on the other side. And it would be impossible to unsay or undo what had been said or done.

I chickened out, there at the crossroads. With Dan looking at me, waiting. I took the safe road.

I did not get another fork.


But instead of returning to the “heavy, swelling longing of the lonely (woman),” and losing myself in rueful nostalgia, what I wish to do now is somehow return to that feeling I had last March that made me so damn optimistic and so incredibly productive. The New Age manifestation crowd is always talking about the importance of cultivating the feeling of already having what you want, of already being where you want to be, of living with your beloved, et cetera. I can see how this could be energizing, regardless of whether it works to “attract” the outcomes you seek.

I find myself thinking, would it really be so bad to trick myself back into that invincible feeling, born of the (however irrational) sense that the beginning of a new life with Dan was not only imminent, but inevitable? I’d never been so motivated in my life, or confident! The prospect of working toward the joint success, independence, and happiness of myself and the person I love, as opposed to just myself, apparently made all the difference. I mean, I sat down and gleaned my teeming brain of an essay that had been percolating for months (if not years), and then submitted it to a Web site that published it to rave reviews (until the comment thread veered off the rails). I was producing some good shit, dammit! It felt like the beginning of a whole new career.

My thinking at the time went something like: This is so easy! Why am I not doing this all the time? I’ll have a readership and recognition in no time! All I need is just to keep doing what I’m doing. Like Niels Lyhne, I felt more powerful with each passing day…as long as I was laboring under the (however foolish) belief that Dan and I were destined to live a shared creative adventure.

Whereas now it’s a struggle to sit down for any length of time and write something to post on this blog anonymously. Writing that article for the artists’ collective was a coup for sure; I did find the discipline to kick my ass into gear and get it done (I even enjoyed writing the final draft), but the motivation, as well as the inspiration, was lacking. And I have to admit: this shit just ain’t as good.

Was my “faith” such a bad thing?


Further distracting me from more constructive work is another severe bout of Middle Aged Horndog Syndrome. Not only have I been looking at Stoner Rick, the Asian Adonis, a new, Bradley-Cooper-esque bartender who spends half the day flirting with the receptionist, and a well-built young supervisor who looks like Danish actor Mads Mikkelson the way a hungry dog looks at a hambone, now I’m committing drive-by mental adultery with random men I pass on the street. A cute dark haired hipster-nerd in a cowboy shirt, at least fifteen years my junior, smiles shyly at me on Thirteenth Avenue, and suddenly in my mind I’m taking him to the naked rodeo. The next minute, I’m wrapping my thighs around the hips of the flirtatious young immigrant cashiering at the corner store, facilitating international relations. I’ll frequently murmur out loud, having passed some oblivious, unassumingly tasty morsel of maleness downtown, “I want one,” like a child wistfully tugging on her parent’s sleeve by a store window.

Recently, while housesitting, I happened to see a Discovery Channel special about human sexuality, narrated archly by Maggie Gyllenhaal. I wasn’t too surprised to learn that it’s been scientifically demonstrated, via controlled experiments (how do I never get in on these?!), that women orgasm more easily and frequently with men they perceive as handsome.

Beauty ever being in the eye of the beholder, of course, no one should despair over this; I only mention it because it occurred to me that with all of these men — as with many of my objets d’lust throughout the years — what I want with them is not a life, but an orgasm.


The latter would probably be much easier to come by, no pun intended. Sometimes I think I should take what I can get while the getting is still good. Who knows how much longer the cute young hipster-nerds will even look at me? As challenging as it is to secure a hookup with someone you actually desire — at least in my experience (as opposed to garnering the standard unwelcome attention by daring to be female in public) — it’s infinitely more difficult to find and connect with someone with whom you could see yourself having a life.

A funny thing happens when I’m home alone at night, though. Instead of being able to take full advantage of my privacy and finally indulge all those blistering fantasies from earlier in the day, I find myself thinking about and missing Dan. And missing the powerful, confident person he called out of me. With her powerful, confident vision of the future.

I wish I were enough for me to work hard for. I envy those people driven by ambition or calling alone. It’s the American way, after all: bootstraps and individualism and lone wolves on the prairie, raising entire cities from dust. I’ve said before that I’ve always felt like I’ve been trudging through life with cement blocks on my feet. While the decades-long, crippling depression is gone now, and I truly enjoy my quiet road, and my spaghetti and Netflix, and my coffee dates with my gay best friend, I did experience what it was like (for a short time) to run. Not only unfettered, but as if there were wings on my feet.

It’s a helluva thing.


12 Responses to “When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It”

  1. bluemorpho3 Says:

    so, a problem with getting close.
    take the placebo pill, if it works. don’t wait, take it immediately ;-)

  2. AlienBaby Says:

    Hey, where ya been, kiddo?

  3. bluemorpho3 Says:

    very busy again currently. first longer paid holiday in years.
    also wasting some time on twitter, when online.
    find it somehow fascinating to interact, even if very volatile,
    with internet characters, some of them publicly known…
    following the wikileaks, anonymous saga.
    partly kids who lost touch with reality and talk about revolution,
    but also some serious stuff like leaked stratfor emails and so on…

    back to topic: always remember there is nothing to fear.
    haters will hate, assholes will be assholes
    and the kind people will be kind.

  4. AlienBaby Says:

    Ah, but I’ve gotten into trouble when I expected kindness from those who turned out to be haters or assholes.
    At the very least, it’s painful.
    Glad to hear you got a paid holiday!

    What you said about getting close…it made me think of a song I was listening to over and over again at that point in time. This: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtOgwFzhlyw

    Coming up close
    Everything sounds like welcome home, come home
    Oh, by the way
    Don’t you know that I could make a dream that’s barely half awake come true
    I wanted to say
    But anything I could have said I felt somehow that you already knew

  5. bluemorpho3 Says:

    yes, that’s the critical moment when people expected to be kind turn out to be assholes.
    immediately disconnect from them then.
    you could also say that the choice of people is already critical,
    how for example you tend unconsciously to choose men who are in some way similar to your father. the psychology of partner choice is fascinating. we seem to choose familiar patterns. you see how fatal it is if your father had some not so good patterns.
    or if we are unsecure, we may tend towards narcissists who appear very self confident,
    we confuse that with strength, we admire them. and so on…so once we had enough of those asshole narcissists, then maybe are instinctive compass will point towards more kind people…and so on…
    also, once you find someone kind, it still won’t be immediate utopia.
    a close person will trigger all your fears. that’s probably the reason why we fear closeness.
    so it’s better if you have less fears ;-)
    and so we have to make it known to our mind, to our psyche, that there is no need to be afraid…positive experiences are required to really convince ourselves…so we need small enough goals to not land on the next landmine…

    life ;-)

  6. AlienBaby Says:

    I *have* had enough of the daddy-figures and narcissists…hence my abrupt disconnection from Eli. At least I’ve been more conscious about that lately. I left both him and Ted wondering what the hell happened.

    Not being afraid when something amazing might actually happen…that’s the remaining challenge. Sam was a positive experience, all in all, at least I didn’t land on a landmine…

  7. russthelibrarian Says:

    So many things I want to speak to here, if I could only find the time. I think you’ve seen on Facebook that I had Danger in my apartment for over a week, and that he took the opportunity to go on a bender. At least he’s situated now, in a hotel; he’s leaving for Boise to see his family this weekend, so it looks like he’s going to clean up soon. Hell of a thing to watch. (But did not lessen my own drinking during that period.)

    The weekend capped off with Burning Man Seattle, and it was a fuckin’ blast. I don’t take vacation often (I use my vacation time typically to visit my mother, take her to doctors’ appointments and such), but going to things like this satisfies that need.

    On top of all that, I’ve had a cold or virus of some sort for two weeks, very bronchial, so I’m not sleeping well–and having to monitor Danger constantly really stressed me out, so I haven’t had a chance to recover. I’ll see if I can comment at length later on.

    PS — Sincerely hope you get that job. Best of all possible luck with that–

  8. AlienBaby Says:

    Oh hell yeah, I know you’ve been busy! I’ve been watching it all unfold on FB. Glad you were there to catch him on his careening trajectory off the wagon. If he had even been on it! Take your time. I’m sure all of the rest of Danger’s friends agree you deserve a medal of some sort.

    And thanks for the good wishes on the job — I hope I get it too.

  9. AlienBaby Says:

    Feel better soon!

  10. russthelibrarian Says:

    Been meaning to get around to commenting here, figured I better do it soon before your next post, which will no doubt be about jubilation. Congratulations on getting the job, you certainly deserve it.

    October was a goddamn whirlwind for me, what with me coming down with a mild bronchial cough that I still haven’t shaken, and Danger showing up on my doorstep talking about moving in for the winter, then going on a fuck-the-wagon bender the likes of which I’ve never seen, not in the 25 years I’ve known him, or in anyone else, for that matter. In addition to fearing for his health and safety, the whole episode held a psychic funhouse mirror up to me and my own drinking habits (which weren’t much at all disrupted by the whole episode, tellingly enough). Then, right after Burning Man Seattle (which was a fuckin’ blast–) Hammerhead showed up, to clear out the last of his apartment and move away for good. Eleven years he’s lived in that apartment across the hall, and now he’s gone. Seattle doesn’t feel the same.

    Enough about me excusing my absence; I wanted to speak to what you said about that feeling you had, the sense that anything is possible. I certainly remember that euphoria, back when I was smitten with the Object Of My Obsessions, an incomprehensible four years ago now. It was four years ago this month, actually, that I wrote the “Blood Lust” story that impressed her enough to agree to a date. If you’d told me at that point that within a year and a half that she’d be moving in with me, I’d’ve dismissed that as cruelly reckless optimism. Nevertheless, it happened.

    It wasn’t just the rapture of being in love, it’s the wellspring that came with it: when I look back over the stuff I wrote back then, I impress myself. And certainly, I felt like a writer again–I felt creative. It all seemed so clear. I knew at the time that I was being self-delusional, that I was under the influence of a psychological/emotional aberration that was definitely skewing my perceptions. I remember telling people–yourself included–that I was in love, and whether or not my aspirations had any consequence was secondary to the fact that this was a right and truly good way to feel.

    It didn’t last, of course, the trepidation came on before she even moved in. But I’d bargained for this, and I just had to see how it’d play out. Well, you know the gross details. All I can say is that I don’t regret the experience of it, and I sincerely hope she’s in a better place as a result. I’d like to think that some good came of it all.

    Since then, I find myself banked out, like I bet everything I had and lost. On the emotional front, I just don’t want to play anymore, I guess. I know it’s a defeatist and unhelpful way of accepting the situation, but that doesn’t change my outlook much, anymore than the comprehension that my previous state of euphoria was irrational and transient did much to diminish the experience of it. Being an existentialist works both ways.

    For Halloween, I managed to dig this up.
    I first read it in high school, it made quite an impact on me, and I’ve never forgotten it. The ending resonates with me:

    “Now I ride with the mocking and friendly ghouls on the night-wind, and play by day amongst the catacombs of Nephren-Ka in the sealed and unknown valley of Hadoth by the Nile. I know that light is not for me, save that of the moon over the rock tombs of Neb, nor any gaiety save the unnamed feasts of Nitokris beneath the Great Pyramid; yet in my new wildness and freedom I almost welcome the bitterness of alienage.
    For although nepenthe has calmed me, I know always that I am an outsider; a stranger in this century and among those who are still men.”

    Well, don’t go reading too much of that arcana. Seems like you’re on an upswing, what with the new job and your writing getting some recognition. I predict good things. As for trying to reconnect with that lost sense of empowerment, that anything’s possible–I’m looking for that myself. Let me know if you find anything, I’ll do the same–

    • AlienBaby Says:

      I’m not going to be able to sufficiently reply from the library. Hope that new plug-in device is in my mailbox when I get home tonight…you probably know I’ve been trying to do my internet-ing on the fly from libraries and coffeehouses before or after work, although bm3 et. al. have no way of knowing that. Really puts a damper on the blogging, grr.

  11. AlienBaby Says:

    FINALLY back and doing the interwebz in the comfort of my own home. That whole un-wired episode was intensely stressful. I was schlepping my computer around on my back every day like a li’l’ ol’ turtle and trying to get tech support during non-business hours as I juggled two jobs…

    But let me commend you once more for your loyalty and commitment to Danger as he spiraled (temporarily, thank heavens) out of control. Here I am complaining about stress! And all while you were having to say goodbye to essentially your best friend of lo these many years. Sure, I know he’s a major pain in the ass sometimes, but you guys have been like Oscar and Felix (or Abbot and Costello? I’m sure you have a better pair) since our college days. Perhaps Russ could take a little vacation at this point? You’ve definitely earned one. Or several.

    I wrote a lot in previous years in what you could call a euphoric state of what I called love…but so much of it was CRAP! Seriously. Repetitive, unoriginal obsessing focused on the latest hapless target. In the light of day, like when I went through all those notebooks — fifteen years’ worth! — I discovered that there was very little worth saving. Most of it was just plain embarrassing. All I salvaged were those morsels I shared in that one post awhile back. In the end it was all a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Maybe it helped me hone my voice and style a little. I guess there’s that. Practice makes perfect.

    But that exchristian.net post, for instance…that felt like the real beginning of something. I’ve never had that kind of a sense of agency before, as if some untapped part of my brain had been turned on…a belief in my own power and purpose that somehow got smothered or bullied out of me as a kid. And I can’t seem to recapture it, dammit!!!

    But I have a whole new post coming, prompted by yet another loss of yet another too-young friend. I took it as hard as Leon.

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