Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Diary of Lydia Duprée - Part 4

Entry 5 – Day 8

My name is Lydia Duprée. I look at myself in the mirror, cracked and cloudy with age. My hair is dirty. My face looks old. The age of my face is not surprising considering I'm 67. What is surprising is that I look 90. I look as cracked and cloudy as the mirror. The stress and cold have taken their toll on me. I have no creams or moisturizers, no make-up. My vanity seems like an affliction. The luxuries I have taken for granted are gone. I have avoided washing my hair out of sheer disgust for the cheap shampoo that has been left for me. What am I thinking? I need to be clean and I need a sense of normalcy. Today I have to wash my hair and try to find at least some comfort in that. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I can chase some of the depression away. I am discouraged, despondent and utterly disheartened. I didn’t realize that I was so vain. Locked in this room is terrifying all by itself. Locked in this room with only my own thoughts and realizations is somehow worse.

Snow still covers the window. There is one large bottle of water left.

Entry 6 – Day 9

My name is Lydia Duprée. Today it's raining. That means it's too warm for snow. I hope that the rain will melt the snow covering the one window that allows me to see the sunshine, the one window that might allow me to get someone's attention, the one window that reminds me that I am trapped here with no freedom.

The rains have brought wind. The blowing makes the house creak and moan. I probably wouldn't notice it if I was upstairs, but locked in this room, the moaning is somehow more intense.

I do wish I could figure out who would want to harm me and I'm concerned for my family. Could they be hidden away as well?

I sat and stared at this paper today. I felt as if I couldn’t bear the weight of the pen. Then I picked it up and wrote these words.

I have nothing to read. I ate a small portion of food. I found myself sitting and running my fingers through my hair over and over.

My feet are cold most of the time. Sleep is the only thing that keeps my mind at bay. It doesn’t always come quickly, but when it does, it is a blessed relief.

Entry 7 – Day 10

My name is Lydia Duprée. The rain seems to have moved on. I can tell that the sky is still gray, but the chirping of a bird nearby somehow makes my heart leap. The bird is free and in the world. It’s not caged like I am. It gives me hope.

This morning when I awoke I found a book sitting next to a fresh bag of food and water. My captor is somehow kind and cruel. My imprisonment must be indefinite. I feel I’m losing track of time.

Yesterday, I wrote of having nothing to read. Today there is a book. Is the universe looking out for me? Did God take pity on me? Has my captor found my diary? Do any of these questions need answers? I can’t believe I’m thrilled to have a book to read. I’m surprised at myself for finding happiness while locked away in seclusion.

As happy as I am to have someone’s words to occupy my mind and take it away from the terrifying thought that I may never escape this room, I am also disenchanted with the choice of book that has been left for me – The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. I have read it before. Not that that matters. It’s just that I don’t like the story. When the only friends you’ve ever known turn their backs on you and they won’t allow you to make amends, your world is turned completely inside out. The heroine of Ms. Wharton’s story lives that life. It depressed me when I first read it and it will probably depress me again. However, reading of someone else’s dismal life is a necessary distraction at the moment in helping me escape my own.

©2011 Michael Rohrer

Friday, April 1, 2011

Observing the Ritual

I just returned from Provincetown and a much-needed break from the cold, gray cloud of winter that has gripped NYC for the past two months. It may seem odd that this escape took me into Massachusetts and what could possible have been an even colder situation, but it isn’t.

Provincetown is located at the extreme tip of Cape Cod. It’s about a six-hour drive from Manhattan. One friend described his first visit there as feeling like he was at the end of the earth. It didn’t feel that remote to me, but I could understand his description. P-town is known for it beaches, harbor, artists and tourist industry, but most importantly for me, its status as a gay village. It's very New England and very welcoming to gay people. That is the comfort food of mac and cheese, the relaxation of a nice bottle of wine, and the warmth of your grandmother’s afghan all rolled into one. There was no fear walking down the street. There was no judgment. There were however, friendly people running businesses adorned with high-flying rainbow flags blowing in the wind.

I could hardly keep the smile off my face.

As wonderful as it was to be there in a peaceful place that was not only judgment free, but celebrated the diversity of people, I couldn’t escape a fundamentally challenging part of me: my fear.

We went dancing. I haven’t danced in years. I used to love it, but I just don’t do it here in NYC. Obviously I haven’t outgrown it because I stayed on the dance floor as much as I could. I could have stayed longer, but my friends wanted to mix it up with a little bit of dancing and a little bit of cocktail time. I wasn’t in mood to drink that evening. I just wanted to dance. I had no idea how the thump of the bass was going to affect me until we stepped into A-house. Again the smile was plastered on my face. I couldn’t wait to ditch my coat and just lose myself in the crowd of bodies and drown myself in the music. Surprising ones self is an amazing thing. I learned that something I once loved had only been buried. It didn’t so much claw its way out of me as burst forth like the fireworks in Katy Perry’s video for the song “Firework.”

Here’s the downside. That little tattoo of the word “courage” that I have tattooed on my right wrist was elusive. While my friends were enjoying their cocktails and conversation at a table in the back, I found myself standing on the perimeter looking at the action. I stood on the outskirts and watched people smiling and moving to the beat all the while wishing I were doing it too, but without the courage to do so.

How sad is that? What a waste. I wanted to just throw caution to the wind, rip off my shirt and dance with carefree abandon. I couldn’t take the first step. I couldn’t find the courage to face the fear of dancing alone. I didn’t allow myself the possibility of having a good time. Fear sucks!! I was afraid of making a fool of myself by dancing alone. I was afraid of being uncomfortable dancing alone. More importantly, I was afraid someone would dance with me. WTF!! Do I want to have sex? Do I want to share my life with someone? Was the possibility of someone dancing with me that fear inducing? OMG I need to burst through my shell and be the firework.

I was angry with myself. I couldn’t stay there anymore. Instead of just facing the fear in a place that was full of understanding, accepting gay people and dancing on that dance floor, I chose to leave. The bartender had just called last call. The bar was closing in a matter of minutes. I couldn’t be bothered to stay. I had to get out. I told all of my friends that I was leaving. Amidst their protests and declarations of coming with me, I left them in the bar. I walked home alone.

It was during that walk in the crisp sea air I realized I don’t like being an observer from the sidelines. I want to be in the action. I watched the whispered words that led to smiles that led to kisses on the dance floor; the end-of-the-night hook ups if you will. I’m not saying that I wanted that, but I didn’t even give myself the opportunity. I observed the ritual and could easily figure out who was going home with whom and who was going home alone. This guy went home alone. Typical. When you’re not in the game you can’t win.

The next day my departure from A-house became the joke that I left in a “huff.” I didn’t see myself as having left in a huff, but I was able to laugh with my friends about it. That ability to laugh at myself was progress. It was me not taking it personally. I’m still working on being able to laugh at myself. The truth is I left because I was angry at my own fear-inducing inability to join the action. It’s a heart-pounding, breath-quickening experience to put myself out there into the mix. I want to be in the mix.

There would have been no anger, no huff, only sweat and energy if I had been a participant instead of an observer. The question is: will I apply this knowledge to my life?

Once Upon a Time...

Once upon a time there were four little girls…okay one girl and three gay boys. They lived in the magnificent city of New York: a concrete jungle of looming buildings made of glass and concrete, full of beauty, despair, glamour, wealth, fashion, poverty and cocktails. They needed a break from the treacherous winter that had held them in his icy grasp for far too long. They decided to take a trip. It was a journey in their rubber-wheeled carriage that would take them six hours away from their beloved city to a weekend of splendor and relaxation in the small village of Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod.

During their journey there was much laughter in the carriage as well as a little sleeping. There were musical sounds hailing forth from the sound box. There was singing. Their tensions began to melt away the further they got from home.

The four friends began to call themselves Mildred: a collective – one name for all four friends. They had no need of last names or initials for designation, as they knew which Mildred was being spoken to when the name Mildred was called forth. If there was ever an uncertainty, any Mildred could answer the question.

Along with their new name they used new words to describe when things were good or bad. When something delighted them they referred to it as “fetch” and when something was distressing or annoying they referred to it as “kennel.” The later word was not always agreed upon as an appropriate word for their new lexicon, but at least one of them continued to use it: Mildred. “Kibbles ‘n bits” eventually replaced “kennel” as the opposite of “fetch.”

To their new name and new words, developed for their new location, they created a new game just for them. From the dried milk of the teat, which had turned to powder, they would shoot one another with a squeeze and a sound, much like that of a tranquilizer dart flying through the air. The outcome was unconsciousness. They gloried in the ability to take one another off guard at a most inopportune moment and cause the catatonia. The only way to end this torture was for one or the other of the Mildreds to dust off the benumbed Mildred. Again they laughed as they inflicted their new game upon one another.

They did ordinary things like having locals shine their nails and use sheers to trim their locks. Some of them even allowed hands to be placed upon their bodies to remove knots that had crept into their muscles while toiling away in their normal lives.

Relaxation and merriment ensued.

There were evenings of cooking beef over an open flame, evenings of baking fish. There was bread and cheese and wine aplenty. Wine that seemed to flow from a river on Mount Olympus, as its power seemed touched by the gods. They laughed as they consumed libations made with the spirit Ketel One. There were fruits of the vine and vegetables from the earth. There was chocolate by Raisinette and Cadbury. All of these things combined to create a debaucherous experience for the four friends from the city.

They did control themselves. They didn’t wreak havoc on the small village. They went out and met the locals. They played established games where sticks are used to hit balls into holes in a table. They danced. They spent money at local eating establishments and emporiums. They allowed themselves to truly escape the humdrum lives they led everyday in the city.

The most important thing is that each Mildred respected the other. No matter how fetch or kibbles ‘n bits something may have been, they enjoyed each other. When the time came to leave the village, the four Mildreds took to their carriage and began their journey back to the land of concrete and glass. They held fond memories of the shingle-covered house they had called home for three nights.

Although their time in P-town – as it is known in local lore – was short, it was well utilized. With their bond strengthened and their energy renewed, the collective Mildreds vowed that they would return once more to the gay village by the sea.