Message 3 on my voicemail today informed me that an email was sent without the anticipated 'attachment'. Sometimes I imagine if I had a business card, it would say ‘Ironist’. But on Sundays I try to live my life spontaneously, to unravel each moment without a pre-conceived agenda. So the ‘lack of attachment’ comment had extra resonance. The thing is, I am over-attached. I have too many friends—not the facebook kind-- the kind that call you first to say I-just-fucked-my ex-husband or my-biopsy-came-back abnormal. Or some nights it’s I’m really down, or I took too many vicodin and I’m drinking, or I’m losing my hearing. Seriously. I can’t hear out of my left ear.
And I listen. Sometimes it requires humor, a philosophical discussion of whether we’d prefer blindness or deafness, ad absurdum. Sometimes it’s exchanging heartwreck, disarming the potential emotional murderer, elaborating the downside of suicide, alternating between Plato’s wisdom and Rihanna’s. The thing is, I love my friends. Most of them. I love the ladies who confess things to me at the gym (some of them) and my upstairs neighbor’s old photographs. I look, I listen, I deliberate, I care. I feel sad and I miss people. It hurts when they move away, when they are miserable, when they smash their guitar or their car, when their daughters are using, when their Moms die, when they say things that no one else says.
I have learned to let them come and go--- not to hold them in a room or expect them to remember my birthday (well…. most of them). When I feel love is not passionate and exclusive I leave. I try to time-defuse my own emotional emergencies and besides, no one leaves their phone on at night except my crazy love-obsessed kids. I can pour my aching bloody heart into an email and know it will be read with a Starbucks on an iphone, not unfolded and handled by candlelight in a dark room, in solitude. The soundtrack could be that annoying ‘Fun’ or some soppy Josh Groban or whiny Rufus Wainwright or Call me Mr. Flintstone I can make your bed rock with a Nicki-Minaj-sized butt in front of him on line. Out of my control. Like all my ‘attachments’.
The fact is, I seemed always to be the person in the room who got selected, the one psychos stopped in the street for directions, for money, for solace or company… for an ear, a hotdog… It is genetic, this thing. My Mom had all kinds of annoying ‘friends’ in the supermarket, on the block, at the gas station. But she seemed to be able to turn and shrug pretty consistently. Her bills were paid, she had no clue how to qualify for a mortgage or what social security really was. I, on the other hand, feel a sort of hole whenever one of my friends hangs up or walks away. It’s a hole that eventually fills in, but it’s a hole. I miss things. I miss things I did, nights I laughed and nights I cried. I miss feeling like I wouldn’t trade anything with anyone, I miss really loud guitars and Marshall stacks without worrying about my poor distressed ears, I miss throwing off my clothes and jumping into a fountain at night, standing up in a convertible at 70 mph, running barefoot, the feeling of zipless sex in an elevator.
My friend who was a bona-fide rockstar was robbed in December. Some cheap thugs broke in and took her stuff. Of course there’s insurance, but they took her maybe worthless old non-vintage 1990’s synthesizer and she misses it. Her whole song catalogue belonged to this thing, and it hurts like a lost dog. Why can’t people understand these things? When I tell my kids to ‘let it go’ I know how much I miss that first kick of the baby inside you, and my own ultra-internalized drama-queen teenage sickness. So is it the insecurity of the lifestyle I’ve chosen? The fact that I never know for certain whether we’ll make the monthly insurance payment, the maintenance… that things can disappear so easily, they seem not transient and cheap but more valuable?
My son is texting, listening to Nas, ordering a slice, checking his calendar--- connecting, literally… but I am the one standing still with ten thousand strings and wires. Worrying, missing.
And on the other hand, I wander unstirred by art galleries, thumb unmoved through new novels, yawn at the fashion-week runway shows, and find the only nudity really upsetting is that of the Emperor. The Grammies were musical Girl Scout cookies. Even the shenanigans and spectacles feel silly, overdressed. Jack White looked stupid and pasty and I wonder if he is missing the first White Stripes gig when his wife or sister or ex-girlfriend or whatever she was looked fat and awkward and nervous.
Adele is not even fat, Justin Timberlake looked like a dumb Ken-doll version of himself, and maybe it is my shitty TV or my tinnitus, but everyone sounds shrill and thin and pageanty. There is television-- -the shows, the news, the new generation Law and Orders-- scripted reality, and unscripted unreality. Everything has a soundtrack; every song has a video, a visual, a red-carpet-worthy costume….isn’t the music alone ever enough?
Maybe I am just old. I remember my Mom, my guest onstage at some massive 1970’s rockstar concert, asking one of the band members ‘Don’t you boys know any songs?’
Still, I go to the gym and I listen to stories; I tell my own and sometimes I scarcely recognize these people who have told me intimate things they haven’t even told their shrink. Or other times, I go home and cry for them and write a song they will never hear. My catalogue--- the endless unalphabetized people who have touched me, and still touch me, and wreck me, and make my life nearly unmanageable like a hoarder. Rich men amass money… and they spend it; we emotional harvesters absorb moments and spend them carelessly. I’ve always had this fascination/fear of the sea. Not like a surfer, but like a stranded Robert Louis Stevenson character. Since the hurricane, I’ve listened with great interest to the victims that cannot tear themselves from their ruined houses, from future peril, because their attachment to the sea is ironically related to the threat. After all, we are chronically attached, terminally connected, some of us standing alone on some familiar shore feeling all the ships of our lives recede into some emotional horizon where our past and future endlessly flirt but never meet. Few of their passengers ever think to turn around to wave, and if they do, we’re much too far to see.