I woke up today from one of those post-apocalyptic nightmares where you are stuck in some barren landscape in a precariously fragile building which is the only protection you have from seeping white slime or fallout or whatever form the horror takes in this particular version of the dream. I suppose this is some left-over haunting from the Cold War era where we were constantly being instructed in safety protocol 'in the event of…' Generally my personal dream features a dog I've forgotten, or a child; this morning, my baby boy was missing---I was panicked, and somehow found him asleep in his little trundle bed, all clean and fresh in little bunny pajamas… untouched by the hoarfrost of melted clouds.
Then you transition into the actual circumstances of your life-- -the stacks of books, guitars needing attention, the quilts and laundry, the unrecorded songs, the piles of lyrics, unwashed dishes… and somehow these loose ends are welcoming. The tranquility of my familiar personal chaos comforts me.
On my voicemail a message from an old schoolmate who has decided after 2 unhappy marriages and 30 years of Wall Street and country clubs, that we should make a 'go' of things. He is tired of the debutantes who at our age are looking grandmotherly anyway, and sick of the socialite bankers and the Hamptons. Manhattan Bohemia beckons, and he has dialed my number.
Somehow I turned on one of those highbrow talk shows tonight and there is not just the billionaire husband but the it-boy son of my most beloved college roommate. Apparently her choice of spouse was much more successful than either of mine, although I remind myself that she had sort of a nervous breakdown and I visited her in an upscale mental hospital in Connecticut where she began to wean herself from our slightly warped friendship. I also remember her calling me at one point more recently to tell me her daily pile of antidepressants was becoming larger than an average dog's dinner-- bragging that she had a closet filled with mink coats and couldn't get off her bed. Going further back, her remarks that her fiancee looked exactly like me, that we could be twins--- which was not far from the truth--- so I looked carefully at the screen to see how my male counterpart weathered the years. He was snide and smarmy, actually--- and here he is, delivering this rehearsed little aphorism which is about as profound as mis-translated Plato… and Charlie is giving him that extra gracious smile he gives these hedge fund assholes because he saw The Music Man when he was a kid and knows all about con men and 'the think method' which is maybe a little charming when applied to a kid's marching band, but not when these toxic pillars of mediocrity are stripping their country of a future so they can line their fat uninspired pockets. I'm beginning to think the guy is truly pathetic and not even smart and has some kind of desperate power fantasy or maybe even on an early road to dementia. Did I miss something Sr. Massimo Unimpressivissimo? I have to admit the son had her lovely eyelashes and was cute while smug for his age, obviously not bothered by the fact that his Dad had propelled him financially from wannabe to 'is'.
No wonder my son--- the same one who slept so peacefully through my dream holocaust-- resents me. He has to compete with these excessively privileged people. And I have to admit, there is the faintest twinge of some unkind emotion that flits across my face, like a passing car headlight… and then I assess the sex appeal factor of this guy which is a very low number, even factoring in the massive wallet size and the triple-floor penthouse in a very exclusive CPW building with a spectacular view.
I have no view--- well, some brick walls, a few pigeons, a century-old courtyard below… a modicum of reflected light during a brief period every afternoon. Then again, no one is pointing a gun at me or hacking into my mobile for the latest inside trading trickery or media stunts because I don't even have a cell phone.
I once dated a celebrity and found myself literally suffocating at the dinners and looking at my watch. I hated the dresses he bought me, returned the jewelry and although the free screenings were okay, everyone seemed just a little bit smaller in person, and except for some really lewd remarks whispered to me by one of my favorite writers who had a serious drinking problem, very few laughs. Celebrity sex gets boring too… and you can't just go get yourselves a big mac at 3 AM without someone taking his photo. It was essentially too high-maintenance and I fantasized about going home with cute Irish bartenders from sleazy Hell's Kitchen pubs and sleeping in their unwashed sheets on a lumpy mattress on the floor of a tenement. Until I did. The celebrity was furious, but the bartender and I were very happy for a time. It was the perfect ending to a fractured New York fairy tale.
So while very few would envy my life, I somehow pitied my roommate tonight. I doubt she worries about her social security, but those of us without a consistent mate have really conducted a lifelong experiment in love and its various manifestations. I've had plenty of men in many forms, and drawn many conclusions. Her financial footprint is certainly larger, and her possessions could perhaps fill a large mansion but I will leave a huge pile of un-pirated intellectual property I've created and written during all those evening hours when she's sitting in the front row at fashion week and attending functions and dinners, and getting styled and regaled and made-up. I've seen fewer plays and films but read more books and borrow from the library. She doesn't play guitar and can't even carry a tune, as I recall.
Tomorrow I will return the phone message of my Wall Street friend and tell him I can't make the dinner, or the weekend, because somehow in my version of Cinderella, I refuse the glass slipper and still kiss the prince. I will ride my C train back home to the dust and the bare floors and toast my old guitars and the rising sun and drink my first coffee as it sets. Amen.