I had brunch on Saturday in Soho with eee, Katarina, and Rebecca. Katarina is a very tall, gorgeous Croatian friend of eee’s, and Rebecca is a medium tall, gorgeous fellow UCLA alum. As you all know, eee is quite tall, gorgeous and blonde.
I lovingly refer to myself as “Skipper” in those situations.
I rarely, if ever, go downtown to see friends. Downtown is full of ghosts for me. It makes me feel very…divorced, since my entire marriage was lived downtown. But I went, and it was a fabulous brunch, and so I was glad to have hopped on a stuffy, sticky 6 train to Spring Street to make the trip.
I wonder, sometimes, if one ever stops feeling divorced. Maybe not. Divorce is a unique loneliness — different than the aching feeling of an unhappy marriage. There’s a lot of lonely in this big world, but interpersonal loneliness has to be the worst kind of it. I knew it was time to split when the marital feeling was worse than the alternative. When I couldn’t bear another day of waking up next to a resentful spouse; coping with a perpetually heavy heart; feeling like I was living a Simon & Garfunkel song.
Honestly, if you wake up and one day and find that you have a visceral understanding of Paul Simon lyrics, then it’s probably time to go.
Feeling divorced is strange. My friend PG once asked So when do you go from ‘divorced’ to ‘single’? And I replied that on government forms, the answer really isn’t clear. Once divorced, that box seems permanently checked until again married. Some people marry again quickly, just to get the “D” off of their forms, maybe. I couldn’t; I can’t. I still have such a violent reaction to the word “commitment” that I have been known to break out into a sweat or hives when the conversation turns to Where is this going? and the answer is anything but a sincere: I don’t know.
I continue to be in an I don’t know place. Some days, not knowing makes me laugh, and makes me feel like I have all of the possibility in the world ahead of me. And other days, it makes me want to tear my hair out in frustration. This, apparently, is what being a human being is all about. It is an unappealing state for a controlfreak like me.
For reasons unbeknownst to me, this all got me thinking more about Skipper, Barbie’s little sister. Allegedly, they gave Barbie a sister because there was a consumer desire for Barbie to have a “family.” But who wants a sex object saddled with offspring? Mattel settled for siblings instead — hence, Skipper. But some speculated that maybe Skipper was really Barbie’s illegitimate child, dressed up as a “sister.”
That happens, you know. People do that all the time — they lie.
So there I was on Saturday in Soho, the short girl in a sea of glamazons, speculating as to the parental origins of a plastic doll, meditating on my state of I don’t know. eee and I left brunch and walked north through Soho; talked as we walked; discussed Where We Were in the present-tense. Our maxi-dresses floated out around us — Barbie and Skipper. Men photographed us on the street, which reminded me of being in China. Except in China, they wanted to be photographed with you. Here, strangers snapped like paparazzos for No Apparent Reason except for our vague resemblance to schoolboys’ dreams.
Were they taking pictures of us? we each asked. It had happened a number of times; snaps shot by men behind Time/Life-quality zoom lenses.
At some point on that beautiful Saturday spent walking the streets filled with ghosts, I remembered that not only was Skipper the kid sister, the skipper was also the captain of a ship. I laughed a rueful laugh to myself for having forgotten that. It brought back a host of memories — of sailing out of North Cove with my ex-husband; the spray of the Hudson in our faces; our strange, French sailing instructor hanging off of the back of the boat like a madman. Thierry would roll cigarettes like a stereotype and shout instructions in Franglais. The boat would keel, and I would laugh and push harder.
Then there was that time in North Carolina, when we sailed just the two of us. It was near the end of the day (and of our marriage). The wind picked up while we were out in an otherwise protected cove. Andrew wanted to turn back, but I shouted for more and made him stay. The boat keeled, hard, and Andrew had had enough. We turned around for calmer waters, but he never forgave me for those sideways moments.
I was a mutinous first mate.
But sailboats were made to keel. And maybe, because I’d been the one shouting the instructions, I wasn’t the first mate, but the captain.
eee and I wrapped up our walking and talking, and I made it home in the late afternoon, early evening — the hem of my yellow dress filthy from the downtown streets. I was still reflecting: What was I doing wrong?
Dunno. I. Don’t. Know.
What I did realise, however, which I had realised previously but kept forgetting, was that I am the captain of this shipwreck — the skipper — and we are all made out of shipwrecks. Broken, battered, splintered on the shore; flotsam and jetsam bobbing the in the bay; hull ripped open for the world to see my precious cargo. I am in control only of the fact that I am not in control; I know only that I don’t know.
It seemed strange on Saturday night to understand for once that the ghosts weren’t downtown at all, and Skipper wasn’t just a short-girl state of mind.