the life of richie

THE END OF JULY

Posted in is by Rich on July 31, 2011

The last in the Grace Kelly-Hitchcock series at the Arts Center is Dial M for Murder. Thirty minutes in, Caroline slides in next to me, just come from her latest doctor’s appointment, while the two men are plotting the wife’s murder: how it must be done and why. She has appointments all the time now (Caroline). After class and before yet another, she stops into the law office on Friday to see me, to have lunch, and to complain about how her body is not her own anymore. It has been rented out to a noisy tenant, like those surfer boys next door. She can’t wait for the end of the summer: for the eviction. “I fart all the time,” she limns. “I never used to fart before. I used to pride myself on my not-farting.

The boys next door hang out half-naked on the downstairs porch after spending all their days surfing, and all their nights drinking. A fussy old lady comes into the law office before Caroline, to bitch. “Has anyone else complained about them?” she wants to know. “They’ve been vomiting into my yard. My husband –– he’s just had surgery. I can’t sleep. I’ve called the rental agency, but they won’t call me back.” I tell the woman I will make a note that she has called. A few hours later, through the blinds I can see them emerge, all glistening flesh like the vampires in the Twilight movies…

On Friday night, after locking up the office (all of the lawyers are away: my mom and dad in Hudson visiting my sister; his partner off on a spa afternoon with a state judge), I take my mom’s convertible over the bridge to Somers Point to attend a gallery reception. I think of Anne: in June, I drove to New Haven, and then with her up to Boston for a wedding. (With the top down, the whole world is yours, to be played with and tossed aside.) At the gallery, the porch is overflowing with mismatched characters from many of the stages of my life. I find Joni and Gerri on the patio. “I’m just going inside a moment,” I explain. The gallery itself is a furnace, all the artwork thrown into this kiln to be melted down (one might think), to meld together into some new life risen like a savior’s bread when the buzzer sounds; devoured by dogs. Some friends of mine (of my parents) are welcome distractions from the temperature, but after talking a few minutes, I escape back outside, where there is a coy yet sometimes willing breeze.

The reading of four poets commences. I stare at my friend Gerri standing on the porch, her gray hair pulled back into calculated serenity, and smile. Afterwards, we go to Joni’s condo that overlooks the water, where there are boats. We drink wine and talk about literature and college. The next day, I think of this year at school, and recommend to myself a new course. This year will be a vengeance, I have decided. I will strap myself to the college, but. When I go this time, I am gone, and I will not (will never) come back again. (I want them to hear this. I want them to know this and to be ashamed.)

For when the heat breaks, there is usually a terrific thunder. This is how it shall come to pass.

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IN THE OVEN

Posted in is by Rich on July 13, 2011

Everyone says it is very hot and very humid, but here on the Island it feels all right. I meet Caroline at the Arts Center on Monday for a free screening of Rear Window. She says, “Remember when New York used to be affordable,” as if we could actually remember. We sit outside, and she is very pregnant and looks so tired (her eyes begging for something to give). She says she’s always tired now, and lifts up her feet to show me her painfully swollen ankles and red manicured toenails.

We talk about school and our summer classes. There is a breeze. Didn’t we maybe sit here when we were just teenagers come over from the middle school? Just thirteen or fourteen or so? Did we leave behind bits of those people here for later? For when we would need.

Caroline says that she might not go back to teaching at the college after the baby comes; says she’s had enough, and I understand that, I do. Perhaps I am pregnant with something and will give birth this year and not go back either. Everything must change, but still –– a part of me feels like the child in her is a time bomb, ticking, and that when it goes off, that will be a new end to our friendship. Will we still be able to sit here, just the two of us, catching a bit of summer breeze and quiet after a free film? (I almost imagine a tug from some phantom infant on her pant leg, and it startles me.)

My mom, too, feels she has lost her sister [my aunt] to my cousin’s children. She says, “It makes me very sad, but I need to realize that my sister [my aunt] is gone (at least for the next decade or so), and that we won’t be able to meet for lunch like we did, or go shopping like –– or coffee. I need to say yes to myself and to invitations from other people. I need to go out.”

And I have felt like this, too: like I desperately need to get all new friends like one might decide that he has nothing to wear and so can’t go out. (But you understand what I mean, married friends and friends with children; you understand. Just as you needed to seek out other married friends and babied friends, so, too, must I seek.) It’s like a survival instinct has been triggered, but I feel too lazy to socialize (I’ve always loathed July; who wants to make new friends in July? and like Alex used to say, “It’s too hot for other bodies about,”) and it’s too hot to be bothered the next day [Tuesday] –– and I text Karen that next night: “Will you be terribly sad if I don’t make it over tonight? The heat has me feeling rather unsocial,” and she says, yes, “Terribly,” but understands, I’m sure.

Instead, I stay at home and think about writing, but can’t write anything. I watch Grand Hotel. I fix myself a Pimm’s Cup with leftovers from the wedding in April. A whole new life, one thinks; and it would be so easy. To discard all of this, this apartment with the disposable IKEA furniture, and the job without a contract, and everything and just –– just GO. (It is very exciting, so much so that I need to sit down, to steady myself.)

(To just run away…)

But not in July.

July is no kind of month for anything.

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