I came out of the theater last night, my hands still humming from clapping so much and so long; nobody claps like they do here. Walking out into the evening light, which is my one of my favorite parts of life here, how the summer light stays, how you can walk out of a dark room and feel the night in the air but the sky tells you you can keep going, there is still time, so much time. Last night Siegfried fell down and the queen tossed back her hair, threw her legs around his waist and held on, and Rothbart slammed his cloak into the ground and then slid across the room like a child on a sled, and so much happened, but I came out blinking into the light as if there were still things to do, as if there were anything left to say. Blinking, my hands ringing, I scanned the crowd of people. There is a version of this story where you're standing there. You asked where I was going and I told you, and in this version of the story you looked it up, found out when it ended, came and waited, and so now you are standing in front of the theater, your bag leaning against your leg, watching the door as we all emerge, and I'm wearing the black dress you haven't seen yet and there's a second where you look at me before you recognize me and it's the world. I don't want to be a person who values gestures over actual acts, and part of me stands back and says this is just a gesture, and part of me in turn wonders if this is an act, but you are there and you are waiting and your bag on the ground means you are willing to wait, as long as it takes, and part of me turns into honey, liquid warmth, covering doubt with sweetness. You look at me and recognize me, pick up the bag and walk towards me, and this is one version of the story. In another version I realize it's not you at all, just someone for a moment flickered with your face. In another version there is nobody. In one version, I don't even scan the crowd, just turn right out the door and ask someone with long fingers for a light, prop my elbow against my waist, exhale into the light sky, walk home alone.
Oh, I meant to tell you about May day. On May 1st there was a neo-Nazi ("Young Workers") march downtown. There were 100 or 200 of them, depending on various estimates, so we'll say 150. One hundred and fifty people who hate other people on the basis of things they didn't choose. I am always baffled by this. I hate plenty of people, but entirely on the basis of their choices. If there were a march against the people who stand in the doorways on trams I would be at the front (What do we want? To get off the tram! When do we want it? MOVE!) but disliking foreigners and homosexuals and brown people is just so ... boring.
They get to march, it's their right to march and they legally requested permission for their little rally in the town's main square with a march around the neighborhood, so that was that. Word went out and a lot of protesters showed up in another square nearby with the intention of blocking the marchers. There were 1000 or 2000 of us, so we'll say 2000 because that's the side that I was on and it sounds nicer. Plus the neo-Nazis were sticking together the whole time, whereas our side sort of wandered in and out, so I'd bet that it was 2000 people in attendance, just not all at once.
Our side had live music and the city mayor and generally a good atmosphere. Between us and them was a roving wall of six hundred police officers in full riot gear, which was pretty impressive, and I was glad for them that it was a cold day because those outfits look hot. The police were mostly nice, I would say some of them were a bit cranky about having to be there when they traditionally are supposed to be out kissing a girl under a flowering tree, I mean really those pants are ridiculous and any body would rather be kissing than wearing that.
I guess it was fun. It reminded me of my late teens, when we linked arms around Planned Parenthood and chanted to drown out Operation Rescue. We started out so bold and full of purpose and folk songs but eventually we were singing the theme song from Gilligan's Island, and honestly that makes sense. These people are silly; why take them seriously?
Some people on the blockade side got taken away in police vans (detained but not charged) and some people got tear-gassed; from my point of view it looked like theater; I think they wanted to have drama and the police were bored and that happened. I don't know how it looked to them though. There was some commentary about the amount of money spent on the police being sort of wasteful on the part of the protesters, and some friends suggested that if people hadn't protested it would have been more embarrassing for the marchers, like throwing a party that nobody attends, that they wanted to be challenged so they also got what they wanted. I don't know, I can't attribute a great deal of brains and planning to people who are simultaneously carrying signs that say: NATIONALISM NOT GLOBALISM and confederate flags. Oh yeah you read that right. In that light I wonder if it wouldn't be better to feel sorry for them than to laugh at them. I mean really: it would be the kind of stupid I feel when I have a cold except ALL THE TIME. But there's ignorance and willful ignorance and I don't know, I don't need to feel too sorry for too long. I think we could sing a few rounds of Gilligan for our own amusement and get out in time for some excellent kissing under the cherry trees.
I said it hurt but I don't think at first she believed me, not really, not the extent to which I was telling the truth. I cried and she said she was sorry but I wasn't crying because she hurt me, just because there were tears in my eyes and they spilled out. I said it hurt and she looked and looked at me, thought about it, examined the data, the broken parts that couldn't heal, the smoke rising from where I'd been scorched. I said it hurt and she said she didn't mean for it to hurt but that didn't make it better. We talked about what to do now, because I had wanted everything to be the way it was but it couldn't be because everything was broken and then I realized that I didn't even want it to be the way it was so much as I just wanted it to not hurt. She said it would take time and I believed her and I went and stood on a beach and watched a storm roll in and at night everything washed over with salt water and every morning I took the pills and waited for the time that it would take for enough time to pass. Because it does pass, time, it's moving in one direction, and if you promise me it's going to stop hurting I believe you though of course I'm always left with the memory of the pain and the fear of repeating it. Today it was supposed to stop hurting, I know it was today because I marked it on the calendar. And she held my face in her hands and looked and looked at me. She said, I didn't realize how far down it went, this pain of yours. She said, I have given you more than anybody could need and you still have this hole, this ache that I could not fill, I am sorry. She said, now I understand why you said it hurt. And I said it did not hurt any more, because it didn't; I have a stone over the hole now and nothing is going to get past that so the hole is just my tiny secret and it doesn't hurt, I swear, not any more.
We were going to go to a Lindy Hop class but we couldn't find the address so then we were going to go to a salsa class but when we went outside it was too beautiful to go back inside so we decided on drinking in a garden instead. The streets full of people as if the whole town had walked out at the same time. Two weeks ago it snowed and now all the restaurants have outdoor seating, though at U Karla they'd spilled out onto the sidewalk even, and we all sat and gazed up and around as the sky turned purple and the stars came out. An Australian, a Brit, an American, and a Czech walked into a bar and they all spoke the same language and the electrician told us the names of the stars except they were airplanes. In the morning I shaved off most of my hair because I wanted the sun on as much skin as possible and I had coffee in the garden and watched a toddler grow a egg out of his skull ("It happens" he said) and then lunch in another place and then more coffee, grinning like an idiot from one place to the next, and then board games which is how I know life continues at a weekly pace. On Friday the clouds were back and my head was so cold it was like an ice cream headache so I chained myself to the desk and hit a deadline and went to Olomouc where all the restaurant tables were reserved in case the atheist patriarch showed up, or I guess more likely his fans, and on the train home I listened to the same two songs over and over because I couldn't imagine another one being better, the small and certain pleasure of already having what you want. I took a taxi from the station because sometimes but only sometimes we must permit ourselves small luxuries and I was cold. I feel grateful and generous and generally good; if I had any idea what you wanted I would probably give it to you, but you don't tell me and I'm tired of guessing so this is me, getting on with it. I have a Monday deadline but I can't focus for beans today so I wrote this instead.
people I talked to:
Without wishing to oversimplify, it does seem pretty simple to me-- to be the person you want to be, start being that person. If you want to be different, change. If you can't change, then stop sitting around wishing you could. I don't mean unrealistic things, because it is true that I have not stopped wishing I could have wings and or a tail, but the things that are well within your range -- if it bothers you that you aren't a certain way, why aren't you working towards being that way? Or working towards not being bothered?
I want to be a person who clears deadlines, and so... I clear deadlines. I thought that I would like to be a person who can strike up a conversation with a stranger and enjoy it, but after having given it a valiant effort for a few years I concede that I am not that kind of person and it doesn't bother me anymore because anyway they invented podcasts so I do that instead and it's lovely. I sometimes think that I would like to earn more money at my job but then I remember that I had a job that paid me ridiculous piles of money and I loved that job, but when I stopped loving it I had to quit so I know that money is not as important as I thought it was.
I decided a couple years ago that I want to be the kind of person who says YES unless there's a really good reason to say NO. Curiosity killed the cat, but only after she got a good look. Last week, I was asked to go on a trip and I'm going because there was no reason to say no. I cracked my tooth and it got infected and I won't have time to fix it properly before I go so I expect this little adventure will be like an intensive spa -- all sunshine and no solid food. See you in 10 days, assuming I can't figure out how to post pictures while I'm gone.
“One of the cruelest things you can do to another person is pretend you care about them more than you really do.” ― Douglas Coupland
This quote has popped up on my feed a few times in the past week and it baffles me. I can only assume Mr. Coupland, or more accurately the character that Mr. Coupland has express this sentiment, has had an awfully easy life. I think there are lots of things more cruel that you can do. Leaving aside actual physical cruelty I can still think of things that are much worse than pretending to care. You could care and pretend you don't, for example, and isn't that also fairly awful? You can genuinely not care about someone who wants you to care about them even a little, and you could let them know you don't care. You can care and then abruptly stop caring, and not explain. You can explain. You can set the phone down gently on the counter and walk away for a little while instead of just hanging up, you can practice hanging up, you can practice lots of things that are more cruel than pretending you care.
To be clear, I think genuine caring is a lot nicer, but sometimes you want to care but you have a deadline or you know you should care but there's a stone in front of your heart and it's hard to feel much of anything. Sometimes you are swirling in a vat of molasses and tears and the only way to keep yourself afloat is by pretending not only to yourself but to other people that you give a shit about anything at all, and the people who let you pretend to care about them are full life rafts, and sometimes in the middle of pretending to care you realize you can see the shoreline and you have a moment of real caring that you couldn't have gotten to otherwise and I don't think that's cruel to anybody.
And anyway, there are very few places where the emotion behind an act is really all that important. What does caring look like? Cook a meal, change diapers, make tea, show up, listen. Caring is easy; it involves only slightly more effort than watching a television program or reading a book and wondering what happens next. I spent enough of my younger life agonizing because I feared that people didn't really care about me and trying to keep being cared about by the few people who I thought genuinely might, and I'll tell you what I know: caring about other people is a kerjillion times easier than worrying if they care about you. And it feels better; it just does.
I hereby solemnly swear that I shall not ever care about anyone who posts this quote on facebook, just to be on the safe side, though. Because I care too much to be cruel.