Friday, July 25, 2014

If I had Prince on speed dial

I hate being predictable. I don't like blending. I can't chase stars ("he's in town tonight!"), or even go to casting calls for extras that I might, on some level, enjoy. Too many other people with wistful faces, too much straining in one direction - it creates an irrepressible urge in me to do the opposite thing. Being swept along with the crowd pisses me off too much - I can't even tie my raft to the flotilla on Eric's river floats. Whatever act of spirit that has to happen to allow that merging makes me angry. I will deliberately stop clapping as soon as the performer asks the crowd to clap. Maybe I was a sheep that stampeded off a cliff with the herd in another life. Maybe I spent too much time in spiritual warfare sessions where everyone was yelling at Satan. I don't want to be one of D.H. Lawrence's nightmare strong-willed women, the ones his heroes feel justified shooting, but I have this feeling that I might be.

So if I did have Prince on speed dial, it would have to have been one of those totally normal things that happens when you are excruciatingly bored or trapped and have limited options. Otherwise while all the hundreds were swimming toward him I would have been swimming away. Say we both went to a terrible conference (I bet he goes to them all the time, for his 9 to 5) and ditched a bunch of sessions, and hid out in the bar with fruit smoothies and discovered we had some complimentary wavelengths in our mutual disenchantment toward lackluster presenters. And he was alone...because his entourage were all super interested in the conference. At least the ones that weren't trapped in the elevator. Totally normal. I bet he met half of his closest friends in similar experiences. Don't we all?

I've carried on lots of long distance, crazy close friendships with men, though I guess most of them were in high school, guys I met in summer camps or summer jobs, and we were all full of words, words, words in that way that teenagers are. I'm not sure if that happens in adult life. Or outside of fundamental religions. I miss it, and I like to imagine that if any adult man were capable of that kind of friendship with a woman, it'd be Prince. But you don't develop those kinds of relationships in the surface pile and smalltalk crush of crowded rooms - they are built lounging on opposite sides of the sofa, his feet by your shoulders and yours by his, past curfew at the fundie Jesus camp, with the boy who is struggling to balance his sexual orientation with his faith and sees a kindred misfit in the sexually precocious lipstick girl.

If I had Prince on speed dial, I would have called him today. Let's face it, I would have called him a lot in the last four years. If I hadn't allowed all of my crazy close men-dships from high school to die, out of a misguided sense of loyalty when I got married (or because they insisted my marriage was a terrible error I'd live to regret...true, as it turns out, but what IS that about men friends that they always want to torpedo your relationships?), I'd have been calling them over the past four years, too, all those guys to whom I wrote nonstop letters for years. There's something incomparably soothing in a man listening to your drama. Maybe because they never really get sucked in - either they are playing it cool, or playing a video game on the other end of the line, or whatever, but the calm, not-exactly involved tone of voice is very reassuring - lets you think out loud without having to worry about the reception. Maybe they just have the privilege of not living up to the girl-expectation of Showing Empathy, so they can just listen, and you can know that you have a friend because they took the call, wrote back, whatever, and not have to perform the little empathy seen-empathy accepted-empathy returned dance. Usually men can make you laugh, too, and say something mildly inappropriate, and suddenly the really horrible monster in the closet just looks like an annoying mess you can probably knock out with a day or so of work.

Prince would be good at making a girl laugh, of course, but he'd also be tender, and there's nothing you are craving more when your heart is breaking than a little tenderness. Wisdom, yes, and the scrubbed-sand clean peacefulness of emptying out your tears, but neither of them are much good without the tenderness.

It seems bizarre now to have those kind of friendships with men you aren't dating, though it seemed perfectly sensible in high school to talk for three hours or twelve pages with a single boy you weren't dating and had no intention of dating. I used to get home from school and immediately page the boy seven years older than me who worked in construction and put in my ceiling fan. I'd page him little messages for an hour or so, every day. I cannot imagine doing such a thing now, but maybe that is partly because I never forgave construction boy for marrying another woman. Not that I wanted to marry him, necessarily. But I certainly didn't want him to have anything better to do than to talk to me after I got home from school.

Those relationships don't fit into the whole married with kids scheme. I know that I didn't like being on the outside end of them, when it was my boyfriend taking the call. So then, it has to be an untouchable man. Someone so far outside of bourgeois expectations of morality, so far above me in station, that I could not possibly be a threat to his likewise rarefied wife/girlfriend, and the danger of annoying her is taken off the table. Prince seems like a good match.

If I had Prince on speed dial, I'd probably interrupt sometimes when he was working. Maybe he'd turn on the speakerphone so he could keep working a little at the piano while I blithered. There was a boy who did that once, let me sit next to him on the bench while he fussed over the song. I don't think I talked so much as held my breath - he was English, with the nice accent and the floppy hair. He sent me a demo tape with my song after he finished it, and he told me that I was unlike any girl he knew, which was also nice. Piano is good when you are sad, takes the sad and makes it seem noble. Sad with a purpose.

Sad with a purpose as in, I'll never see you again but I want to play piano for you. Like the man who picked me up in a bar once and took me to the Michigan Union to play for me. It was really just like how I became friends with Prince - this guy was bored, too, though not with a bad conference. I think boredom is how all friendships start - if you weren't bored you would be too in tune with your moment to notice anything else. Thomas? Theodore? was in from out of town visiting some local notables, Ann Arbor business nobility, I forget which family dynasty. He was from Berkley, of course, properly bearded and compact of body. I was reading Anais Nin's diary. He sent a drink to my table, we started talking. He wanted to play for me, and even though it was broad daylight the idea of leaving with a man I'd met ten minutes ago for a piano excursion frightened me. The female chorus shouted, "ARE YOU INSANE??" So I declined politely, and he nodded and walked over to the bar, and let me know he'd still be interested if I changed my mind.

About ten minutes more of Anais. Fuck the chorus. I want adventure. What happened to the teenager on the piano bench? And I liked that he had given me space to think. I walked over and told him I had changed my mind. He smiled. Took me to one of the large ballrooms, and played for the whole room. When I asked him later if we could talk, if I could have contact info, he smiled and said he wouldn't give it to me unless I promised to write, because no one really follows up. I promised. He gave me a tattered card. I never wrote to him but occasionally stab myself by looking at the card. What would I say? Maybe it's not the boys who have changed since high school, or the expectations of phantom girlfriend/wives. Maybe it's me - maybe I'm just not the same storyteller, the same original girl who'd break the rules for a good conversation, who'd assume friendship unless explicitly propositioned, and even then, would just say no thanks and keep on chatting. I was less considerate twenty years ago, I suppose, but also a lot less self-conscious, and less tortured.

Prince's card wouldn't be moldering in a basket, though, because he would have just entered his number in my phone and put it on speed dial at the juice bar. I think there was another boy who did that a long time ago, which doesn't make sense, unless it was the programmable corded phone in my mom's kitchen. Maybe I'm thinking of someone from grad school. Hazy, hazy grad school. A boy actually chased me down the hall one of those hazy days to pet my hair when it was newly pink, and when I tracked him down later and asked him out he was scandalized. I never learn, I guess - I'm still emasculating boys a decade later, not taking them at face value, still assuming that something like spontaneous pink hair-petting means something else. High school me would not have assumed anything - hair-petting is just that. He doesn't likeyou-likeyou unless he asks you to Homecoming.

The face of someone entering a number and putting it on speed dial is blank, but I remember the emotion - amused faux-outrage at his cheek. No obsessing for hours about what it meant that he put himself on speed dial, I would just have laughed and decided it was pleasurable and left it at that.  Until he announced he was getting married, anyway. I am really unhappy about construction boy getting married, it seems. I'm remembering how he helped me move into college my freshman year, and consoled me when my mother screamed at me that day. He was a good guy who really should have remained not married so I could be calling him right now.

It'd be terrible in some ways having Prince on speed dial, though, since it'd be torture not to call him constantly like that, torture to pluck up the courage to call now that I'm adult and know that men won't tell you they don't want you calling everyday after school, they will just marry someone else. Can't risk pissing him off, or he'd change his number, or his name, and you'd never find him. I'd have to have some kind of schedule or alarm clock or something, that would let me know when it was ok to call him again, when the window of "back off" time had passed. What would I say? You can't call someone up to reminisce about bad conference experiences. "So...whatcha doin?" Horrible. Prince's number would be moldering, on speed dial instead of the basket, because I wouldn't have anything to say, because I'm too adult to send upside-down pager messages about being sans boobs.

It's hopeless. I'm hopeless. Even having Prince on speed dial isn't enough to make me happy.

How would you build up enough intimacy so that you could call Prince when you really needed him? So that over enough years of friendship he'd draw me a bath? And brush my hair? It's very important to figure out how to build the intimacy enough to get to this stage, because it's nice to be soothed, especially by a man's hands. Adult conversations in juice bars are just not the same as the after-curfew church camp talks, they just don't automatically lend themselves to spontaneous offbeat physicality. You can get really creative when most everything is off-limits.

He'd have to employ me. He must need a librarian. (Everyone does). Or maybe he'd provide me with a breadcrumb the offer to "come over anytime you want to use my new washer and dryer" on which I followed up recently. I'm a sucker for front-loaders, and a numbingly-normal chore makes the initial, awkward bit of the intimacy quest a little less screamingly awful.

Maybe no special transition is needed between the meeting and the spontaneous "I need a friend, my sails are in shreds" call. Perfectly wretched at basketball and table tennis, I am quite adept at negotiating how to sail my storm-tossed ship into safe harbor when needed. Probably anyone who's known me for more than a year has gotten one of those calls, whether or not the receiver realized that I was calling from my ship. You can't use the shredded-sails call too often on any one person - got to spread that shit out. It's exhausting, picking up that call. Not terrible, though - it's strengthening, in some ways, to know that someone trusts you like that, and to be able to see yourself as a nurturer, as a calm port, a sanctuary and shepherd and sage. But I know I've avoided the shredded-sails calls sometimes, so I know I've got to have a broad base of calm ports from which to choose, enough so that I'm not wearing out my emergency welcomes. Prince is almost old enough to be my father, but not exactly, so he knows a lot more about heartbreak. He'd understand.

If it was the shredded-sails call that poured concrete onto our bad-conference foundation, I'd still have to come up with other things to call Prince about, so he didn't always see my number flash up and roll his eyes knowing I was in a pity puddle again. I'm not sure we really have that much in common, though, so that might be tough. I'd have to keep notes on what he was up to, what projects he was tinkering with, so I could ask pertinent questions after his work and his pursuits. Again, I really don't think I did this twenty years ago. I said whatever I was thinking, and expected it to turn out great. Improvement? Deterioration? Surely being considerate is better, or why would I have changed?

Maybe we could swap stories about fundie religion and door-to-door witnessing experiences. I am kinda missing out on someone to debate Bible trivia with. I actually had to look up Absalom's story yesterday because I had forgotten who his mother was and why his Dad was so pissed off with him. That hilarious day when I thought I'd found a Bible debater, the Calvinist technology professor all the fashionable pessimists loved to love, despite their disaffection for religion and earnestness. I showed up after a day reviewing my aged Greek sentence arcs and diagrams, ready to take him to the mat...and saw him blanch. Another man I emasculated. He just wanted to have a beer with his adorers. Not deal with the ball of intensity carrying the briefcase.

If I had Prince on speed dial, I might even find I spend less time struggling with shredded sails, because I would be way more in touch with my intuition. Or more able to direct the misery in some channel that did not lead to sailing into friends' ports on the Yacht of Pain. He seems to be pretty decent at pouring his pain into securely buried vaults, or transmogrifying it. I need a bit more of that. In fact, that's how I got to this particular voyage, chasing after another master pain-wizard, who had this uncanny talent of seeming to always have shit together, no matter what, deflecting the storms that I'd absorb and suffer through. I thought he could teach me. Maybe he tried. Maybe I needed more distance from my teacher to be able to process his lessons. Maybe just more repetition and practice.

Pretty sure that having Prince on speed dial would be good for my psyche. I might be able to re-invest the money I currently funnel to mental health and chiropractic. And maybe I wouldn't even miss the booze. Able to transition off the doom track with my Prince-tutored spiritual acuity, I'd be better at letting go and embracing forgiveness and hope. No one cries at Paisley Park.

Maybe. Or maybe I'd just have a really cool deep-voiced friend, who'd make things seem better simply by not being a part of them.

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