12 October 2005

(Red Journal Excerpt 6 - "Mirrors For Eyes")

Monday was Rosh Hashana. I went to a wonderful dinner at Olia's, then played at the Lucky Cat across the street. I went out with Colin andthree friends of his to Capone's for pizza, karaoke, and more beer. I sang my staple "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley, then had cigarettes on the roof garden, talking about relationships, sex without love, and moving on. And the next day, exhausted and emotional, I flew to Chicago. I really had a wonderful time there, but at times, I felt I was visiting a time more than a place...

Hanging out with Rob and Kate Simko, barbequing dinner on his stoop, performing at Sonotheque and seeing old friends, I felt sort of distanced. My dad and sister came which was wonderful- it felt so good hugging them.  

I went out with Kate Alpert and her sister Kim, both of whom I haven't seen in something like five years, and tagging along was Jarrett from Walter Meego. We got high at Kim's place on Division, upon her roof. It was crazy looking around- there was so much construction on what looked like Deerfield row houses! After going to Betty's Blue Star lounge, I drove Kim home and made the trip down I 94 like I had a million times before. I pulled into the driveway after 4AM, and the house looked like an old friend: a still, hauntingly familiar memory that wasn't a memory at all, but a structure made of wood, brick, and metal, and inside it held a time capsule with the directions "open now- you have no choice." And that's just what I did.

Red-eyed, drunk, and in awe, I stood in my front hall and stared for an eternity at mom's painting of the child with angels on his face. I don't know why, but I just couldn't bring my eyes away from his. It was the most arresting gaze I had ever seen, and I met it like I was seeing it for the first time. I started sobbing. Hard. The tears streamed down my face, and the house's silence was broken only by the quiet breaths I tried to catch in between.

I ventured into the basement, and every object was an artifact: I looked at toys, books, jackets, laundry detergent, posters of me with Mickey Mouse ears, Shana as a child, and noticed the photo of my mom was turned to face the wall, showing only its faded grey back to the basement light. I flipped it forwards, and cried even harder. There was no forgetting, no hiding, and no real "moving on" in this house, this rich museum of my life.  

I went into her office, and plugged in her answering machine, laying on the barren carpeted floor that used to be covered with her desk, drawers, paperwork, and everything giving it a sense of her. I listened to every message on that machine- her business line. There were all these strangers from different companies making orders, asking questions, and doing exactly what you do when you leave a message. There was the click of the call's disconnection and the hightone signaling the next message to come. And as the messages went on, people started mentioning her failing health, wishing her luck with prayers and thoughts. Then, the final message, a sad and morbid one hoping she was OK. I don't even remember what was said, but I just cried there on the floor, listening while turning pages of my dad's high school yearbook. I played the outgoing message my dad had left. It explained she was closing her business and to contact the stores directly. I just played it over and over again, hearing his voice rise and fall like music, and I heard so much emotion- even through his attempt to make it sound professional.  

Finally, I went upstairs and leafed through our first family photo album. Each photo was so familiar, but something was different about the images this time: there was this richer dimension, this space that hadn't quite been there before, and it allowed me to see my parents and their friends and family as individuals completely independent of my memories and attachments made over the last 27 years of my life. I saw my mom and dad as children in Chicago, then as teens with their parents and siblings- going from black and white to color, brighter and brighter- growing older but still remaining so young. And then, they met and intertwined their worlds. My dad was a year younger than I when he married her.  

Then, photos of my mom's 30th surprise party, her standing at the front door with her mouth agape and my dad beaming behind her. I imagined all of their friends (who were all around my age at the time) cheering, then thought of Colin's and Stuart's surprise parties this year... All the same milestones.... I think we forget our family has separate lives, identities, and histories from the ones we share with them, and it was this newfound recognition that kept me awake until six that morning, staring at those photographs until the sun began to tinge the morning with light.