Bondage of Self Ain’t So Hot

On Sunday, I stood blank-eyed in front of a display of Hostess products at Safeway. The Manly Fireplug came up behind me. “Think of it as sitting shiva for Louie,” he said. “You can eat whatever the fuck you want.”

I pondered that for a moment. “When did they come out with Caramel Ho-Ho’s?” I asked. He shrugged. I bought some tapioca pudding instead.

Sharing custody of Louie with the Ex, and my two years away in New York, have accustomed me to not seeing him for certain lengths of time. So it’s not like I’m hysterical with grief. I tend to cry during stupid television shows, or when I make the mistake of replaying parts of the euthanasia in my head. It ranks up there as one of the more intense experiences of my life. I think about the Ex now the way I imagine you’d think about someone with whom you survived a plane crash.

The numbness began wearing off today. I pruned some trees around my back deck, and sat in the sun looking around at my container garden, which I had repotted last weekend. Oy vey, the symbolism!

Otherwise I’ve been trying to remain vigilant; monitoring myself and doing my best to separate self-pity from normal sadness. I don’t always know the difference, nor do I really understand why this distinction is so important to me right now, other than the fact that I’m self-conscious about how self-centered I’ve become. I suppose writing a memoir, and keeping a blog, will do that to you.

Which is why I welcomed a new freelance job offered to me, writing profiles on Bay Area artists for a small newspaper. I doubt you’ve heard of this publication. Still, for the first time in my life I was getting paid to write, and I could build up clips to show other papers or magazines, should I end up liking the work. But interviewing another artist for an hour or so, transcribing their words, and then shaping those words and a few observations into something coherent, was a way of thinking about someone else for a while.

But then my editor asked if I’d cover this local conference for high tech investors, and wanting to please him, I said yes. I should have listened to my gut. The conference ran this past Thursday through Sunday. Louie died Friday, and I had to go back the next morning and bravely blink back tears as I sat through presentations on semiconductor design and investment strategies in the renewable energy sector. (Hmm, I think that might qualify as self-pity).

I’m not cut out to be a reporter. A artist profiler, sure. They know they’re getting interviewed ahead of time. But walking up to complete strangers with a tape recorder and asking them questions about a subject that I have:

a) no real knowledge of, and
b) no real interest in

was utter torture for a well-documented introvert like myself. I realized that this new-found Interest in Others doesn’t extend to Vice Presidents of Marketing Strategies.

So I had to turn in two articles on this conference, which I worked on until the last second, all the while nursing a resentment that was nobody’s fault but my own. In fact, I turned the whole assignment into this major crisis in my head, such that when I finally finished, I’d blown more than a few synapses, which is how I ended up sleepwalking past Hostess displays and (imagine this) turning down the Manly Fireplug’s proposition of hot sex.

But today is a gorgeous day in San Francisco. The Fireplug and I have front row tickets for Kiki and Herb on Sunday. I’ve recently perfected the art of making a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and, emboldened, bought The Joy of Cooking. Tonight the Fireplug will play guinea pig for Fettuccine with Salmon and Asparagus. After which, allowing an hour or so for proper digestion, I hope to get lucky.

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