Saturday, February 28, 2015

Saturday Musings, 28 February 2015

Good morning,

Another February limps to a close, with a steely blue rising high above my house.  Snow threatens my plans for the day, but offers incentive for me to look forward to my expensive little mini-vacation in California, three days flanking a duo of appointments with the wizardly doctors at Stanford.  Yesterday, I calculated what this little trip costs and gulped as I saw my budget cushion vanish.  But on the third hand, it's oh, so nice to be leaving Missouri as winter finally takes hold.

An exchange of Facebook posts with my friend David Sotkowitz in Boston brings to mind the winter of 1977, when I moved to Massachusetts.  I spent my first nights on David's floor on a make-shift pallet, watching snow fall past the window, cursing my impulsive departure from St. Louis, home, and safety.  I would close my eyes and ask myself, was it really so bad, that you had to come to this frozen place because you had no other options?  I had no answer except that it had seemed that bad, that desolate, that hopeless.

With a referral letter to the offices of Boston's branch of Adia Task Force, I swathed myself in layer upon layer of wool and rode the T downtown to interview, the letter and a few copies of my sad resume shoved in my pocketbook.  Adia had bought "Task Force" in an effort to compete with Kelly Girls, merging Adia's medical staffing with the clerical divisions of Task Force.  They sent me out on a few jobs:  To Cambridge, to work at IBM -- which lasted right up until I used the word "Xerox" to reference making a copy; to a few small offices, where my Bohemian style seemed to perplex the bosses; and finally, to their own front desk, where I became their receptionist for the duration of my nine months in Massachusetts.

The trolley took me to Boston College, at which I could had access to the student services by virtue of my acceptance for graduate school in the fall.  I trolled the Roommates Wanted advertisements, using their phone to set appointments.  In that way, I found an apartment in Brighton, at 27 South Street, the third roommate with Long-Islander Marian Zagardo and Quincy-ite Melanie Bonfiglioli.  I moved into my borrowed life with only a half-filled suitcase, grateful for the bed in their back bedroom, for the one wooden chair and the shelf in the closet.  The square yellow suitcase had belonged to my Uncle John.  It became my nightstand.

I bought a metal rocker at a junk store and found a lamp at the drug store in Copley Square.  I carried the lamp out of the store, passing beneath the sign overhead which promised MILK BREAD FRIENDS GIFTS DRUGS ETERNAL LIFE.  Each day on my way downtown, I read that sign and wondered, could I really find friends there?  I'd settle for friends over eternal life.  I didn't do drugs, except the prescription kind, which I realized, early on, was what the sign meant.

I hung out with Marian and Melanie and their theatre friends.  We frequented a French restaurant where the gay waiters still caused a stir, which in our group meant the one guy who'd come out of the closet and the one guy still in the closet would flex their muscles and preen when our waiter came to check on us.  We didn't care about anyone's sexuality.  Except for me, everybody in the group just wanted to be seen; I wanted to be seen with them.

We never slept.  We partied all night and dragged ourselves to our day jobs.  My position at Adia Task Force required no thought, only a pleasant demeanor.  I had to answer the phone, Adia Task Force! and transfer the call to the sales rep who handled the caller's needs.  Staff called into the office to get assignments; companies called to get staff.  No variance.  Three reps; three categories of staff; and lunch at the back table with the bookkeeper and the office manager.  I could do the job hung over and usually did.

On Saturdays, I took the trolley lines to their ends and walked through neighborhoods where I knew no one.  I stared into windows and imagined myself at the glossy dining room tables.  I haunted Harvard Square and bought cosmetics at "i Natural".  I read books in muffin shops and sank into park benches and exhausted myself climbing subway stairs.  I had an affair with the guy who had not come out of the closet yet.  I convinced him that we'd still love him if he admitted to being gay.  He wept in my arms and told his parents the next day.  Or so he said.

I can't remember if I gained forty pounds or lost forty pounds. By September, I had done one or the other.  I felt myself falling.  Adia Task Force offered me a job as the night sales rep and I had a panic attack.  My boss spoke to me over the phone in the kindest of tones.  You're depressed, Corinne, she told me.  I think you need to go home.  I called my mother, sobbing incoherently.  She sent help.  I fled back to Saint Louis in my brother Kevin's car.  I brought back my Uncle John's suitcase, the lamp, the metal rocker, and a bag full of make-up that went bad before Christmas.  Having no preservatives, it could not endure the heat of  Indian Summer in the Midwest, far from "i Natural" where it had all been purchased.

In the quiet of my house here in Brookside, I glance over the paragraphs that I've just written and realize these Musings have no point.   My friend Vivian messaged me this morning:  You should be published! and I glibly replied, I am!  I have two blogs!  Yesterday my friend Sandy told me that she admires my ability to bare my soul, to share things that others suppress.  I look back on the seven years in which I've written these musings, the year in which I've had my other blog, and my lifetime of scribbling stories, bad poetry, and little essays in which I struggle to find a point or make one.  I think about those days in Boston; about my first marriage, which hardly seems real except that so much love still lingers on account of it; about the places that I've been,and the people that I've known; and the days which I've squandered looking for something -- gifts, drugs, friends, eternal life.

And then I pour another cup of coffee and think about hitting the delete key, but in the end, the story stands -- nine months reduced to a handful of paragraphs.  When I close my eyes, each day of that nine months comes flooding back to me: a mosaic of meetings, and loneliness, and giddy peals of laughter by drunken actors, and days riding the T, where no one speaks, and the lights flicker on and off as you enter each station and people silently alight.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.