This week has been a flurry of goodbyes as we all turn Brno into the summertime ghost town I love, and which I will be sad to be away from, but I have stuff to do, you guys.
I am going to New York to see one friend I've known since I came here, 20 years; he picked me up when I was broken last year and we went to Greece together, and sometimes we don't talk for months but now we are planning a trip to Philadelphia for July 4th, maybe also a trip to Coney Island, the pleasure of putting yourself in the hands of someone who knows how to have fun.
I will go and see some women in upstate New York that I have known online but not in person for over a decade, poets, women who use words to curse and to nurture, and they have promised to teach me how to apply lipstick, because I don't know how to do anything with make-up, but it seems interesting.
And then my beautiful and amazing sister in California. I will meet her parrot and remind her cats that I am the boss of them, and her husband gives the best hugs because he is a man who can pick up a refrigerator. We shall put limes into everything and it will be awesome.
Then Montana, where my relentlessly talented friend has just started a business which is a traveling bookstore, and we will drive around to festivals and sell books and drink good coffee and talk about love and losing our hearts and finding them again, exactly where they always were.
Then a group of women in a house on the beach. There will be brunch, which is the most brilliant American invention. And I have a friend who looks straight into your eyes and says: I know this to be true. And I am eager to hear what she knows is true, because it will be.
And all in there, other friends, more friends -- from high school, from college, from later, people who are still interested in me even though I left them half a lifetime ago, people who have kept me in their lives with their words, people who have loved me enough to visit me in my life here, my pen pals made into flesh, with all those complications and all that beauty. I never feel fully myself there, but I never feel fully myself without them. There will be road trips and wine and laughing until it hurts, waiting for the moon and walking down the middle of the street. There will be board games, and there will be dancing.
So this is me. Hope to see you, in the summer or on the other side of it.
What was it like for you? I think about it a lot; I think about it daily. What was it like to take off the costume of a colder more distant possible you, take off the cruel shoes polished with such care? Surely part of you knew that one joy of your life was taking that expectation off, but then part of the burden was not being able to hide behind it. What was it like to pull on the warmth of your mother's hands, slide into shoes that didn't pinch, wear your heart on the sleeve of your homemade cardigan? Singing so earnestly and effortlessly. Watching the fish as if there was nothing else to do, occupying every moment fully. Putting your hands and your voice into hidden spaces and telling your truths through the metaphors of an arrogant king, a curious owl, a cranky museum curator. But mostly, mainly, keeping your eyes wide, looking at things, filling your whole body with grace and keeping yourself constantly open to every feeling. Because you believed it was okay to feel everything. Feeling was practically your middle name; you let every feeling smash through your heart, and then you looked at it with those wide eyes and thought about it and decided when to stop. At least that's what you said. But what was it like for you? I wonder today, I wondered yesterday, the day before that and a year and more. Did you sometimes wonder if you were doing the right sort of good or any good at all? Did you rest your forehead against the cool piano keys and weep because it doesn't make any difference anyway, a twig in a flood of wrongness? And if you didn't, how did you not? I know that for me it is a constant struggle and I think it must have been a struggle for you sometimes. I remember how to deal with the mad that I feel and the fear because I can see you in my head pounding clay, or how your chin shook when you asked for money, what it meant to put your hand out to power and come back with their tears, how proud you must have been then but how scared before. But did you despair? What was it like for you, really? Because sometimes I feel close to where you wanted me to be, close to being strong enough to have all the feelings, and sometimes I just want to kill the fish, smash the train, lace the shiny shoes too tight and march out the door, go back to not caring at all. I did yesterday; I don't today. Did you also learn to wait until it passes, or did you never feel hopeless? What was it like for you to be you?
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.