08 February 2013

Great Big Tiny Moment

He accepted my invitation to stop by for a drink on his way back from Oxford. ETA 7:45p. At 9 he was nowhere in sight and I hadn't heard a word from him. I went ahead and made myself a drink and sent a text,"Where are ya?"  A half hour later he called; he'd stopped for one drink at an Oxford watering hole and run into friends. One thing led to another and now he wouldn't be able to stop by, other obligations to meet in Holly Springs.

A few minutes later the phone rings again. This time its an acquaintance calling from Berkeley. She's just been evicted. She has until the end of the month to find somewhere to live until a new lease begins at the end of May.. She wants me to ask my former host in Berkeley if she can move in there for three months..

This acquaintance is not an easy person. She immigrated to the Bay area from India almost 8 years ago. Besides finding it difficult to understand her heavily-accented English, our conversations during the year that I knew her consisted almost entirely of complaint:  about American culture and the high cost of living in the SF Bay area and the barely-cloaked sexism, racism and class bigotry she battles every day and the lack of employment and... Last night's conversation was similarly riddled with disappointment and stories of disapproval. As always, I listened. I empathized.

I told her I didn't feel comfortable recommending her to my former host as a short-term house guest but I would sleep on it and see how I felt in the morning. I said I would also think about other options for her.

Yesterday afternoon I had presented before a group of educators, principals and administrators of the Holly Springs School District. I was allowed ten minutes to introduce myself and my work; to offer a mini-primer in what exactly "arts educator," "improvisation," and "artist-in-residence" mean; to discuss how the arts can be integrated throughout standard curriculum and support classroom teachers; and to demonstrate how an improv playshop works. Ten minutes. To my credit, this largely unresponsive group of 12 adults laughed heartily twice. There was no time allowed for questions or reactions. I have no idea how the presentation was received.

I was grateful for the great thunder, lightening and rain storm last night. I curled up with a new book and dozed off into the deep, coddled sleep that bourbon, reading and night storm permit.


Even waking to gray skies and a chill wind, this morning felt like a clean slate, a fresh start, a renewal. I felt certain I would not ask my former host, who had made it clear when I left five months ago that she was profoundly relieved to have her 3-bedroom home all to herself again, to open her home to my sad acquaintance. I'll continue to brainstorm other options.

I am at peace with whatever was (or was not) communicated in my presentation before the group of school leaders. If any of them have even a tiny twinkling interest in enhancing the curriculum at their school, they'll call me. If not, perhaps I'll try again if I'm still in Holly Springs this time next year. Or perhaps some other project will commence in the meantime. 

My no-show new friend from last night stopped by this morning to return a jacket I'd left at his house when we met a few weeks ago. He asked if I had plans for the weekend and suggested I could call him and we'd find something to do. I told him I couldn't promise anything. "It's been a week of unfulfilled promises and unrealized possibility and I'm struggling with the weight of so much 'no'", I said. "I know that 'shit happens' and best laid plans don't work out. It's just that when a whole lot of best laid plans fall through, it brings me down sometimes."

He launched into an explanation of what happened last night and I burst out with "No! I hate feeling myself in the role of chastising School Marm....listening to 'dog ate my homework' rationales! You don't owe me an explanation." I'd been out of bed less than 30 minutes when he knocked on the door; my etiquette programming had not yet been switched on...

I retrieved my espresso, grabbed my cigarettes and headed to the chilly front porch. He followed and our talk turned to Life in Holly Strange. He, his wife and daughter are relative newcomers here, too. Commiseration was what brought us together.

Somehow, over the next few minutes, my heart thawed (I hadn't realized it was frozen until the thaw started.). As he talked about wandering into that Oxford bar and unexpectedly finding friends there, I imagined myself in his shoes. After however-many days of social drought in Holly Springs, finding myself in a lively environment in the company of people I like, Guinness in hand and stimulating conversation in the air....yeah, I "got it" how it might be tempting to relish the juiciness of the situation. How it might be difficult to pull myself away and drive back to Holly Springs.

And I also "got it" that he wasn't casting me in the School Marm role; I was doing that to myself, inside my own head.

And I thanked him for staying, for continuing to talk. "I can feel you in my heart right now. I'm sorry for that pre-coffee, 'I don't want to hear it' blast. I was thinking about me instead of listening to you."

The sky was still white-gray and my ankles protruding beyond the hem of my sweatpants were cold but when our eyes met, the warmth of friendship wrapped round us. He smiled. I smiled. "Talk to you later," I said. "OK," he replied.

Whatever else happens today, I can chalk this up as a great day.