are what trigger the major meltdowns. Yesterday was ripe. It was Saturday night, which for me is Friday night, since I work Tuesdays through Saturdays. But essentially it was Friday AND Saturday night combined, in my little psyche, and I have a thing about weekends stemming back from high school, when I spent them babysitting, without boyfriends, booze or cable, while my peers partied their carefree youth away. So now that I am a glamourous artist in the big city instead of a dork in a suburb, I still freak out on Saturday nights when nobody is taking me to a fancy French restaurant and then to an off-Broadway production and then to drinks at the Algonquin to map out the film we're going to write and direct together. I never consciously remember this, though, until it's too late to plan ahead.
My ex-boyfriend gave himself a cold in order to prevent himself from going rock-climbing upstate. He thought he wanted to go, but his unconscious knew better. When I arrived at work in the morning and saw his van in the same spot, I didn't even call or ask, just trundled off to the store for juice and Sprite and chicken soup, and dumped them outside his apartment. Tactically this was a terrible idea, but I don't do tactics very well. Tactically speaking, when someone breaks your heart and dumps you cruelly and throws you out of the gallery you have spent a year restoring lovingly by hand, the best thing to do is ignore him while he stews in his own miserable phlegm, the bastard. Fetching Sprite and chicken soup is akin to lying prostrate in the gutter and begging him to wipe his feet on your face while his new girlfriends spit in your general direction. It's just pathetic. But I did it anyway, stupid me, because I love him and getting dumped didn't change that, and it hurts more to withhold love than to go ahead and get the groceries.
So ex-boyfriend swallowed his phlegm long enough to come down and try to pay me for the groceries, which was an insult, and sit around boring the hell out of me and my 6 PM client for an hour, with the result that we didn't get started till 7:30. I noticed more strongly the way my ex-boyfriend talks AT people rather than WITH them, the way he tells the same angry stories over and over, the way he lets nothing and nobody in, but tries to manage and manipulate everything as though the world were his own personal Punch and Judy show. I felt like I was floating unmoored in a sea of dirty cotton, and I wondered how I could have spent a year and a half of my life with someone so irremediably damaged, and whether I was every bit as damaged myself to even try. I finished with my client at 9 PM; my ex-boyfriend had disappeared into his shop, I was tired, and dateless, and it was Saturday night.
I've been pretty good lately at avoiding numb-out tactics, but this was an emergency. I fetched a bottle of wine and one of Jim Beam from Park Slope liquors, "Things you know just by looking at her" from Reel Life video, and went home for a zombie-a-thon. To my credit I opened the wine and not the Jim Beam, steamed an artichoke and some Edamame instead of going for straight macaroni and cheese, and set my computer to upload a bunch of garantuan digital images to be made into slides. Moderation in all things.
Then the VCR wouldn't work. It would play properly for a minute or two, then the sound and the color would go out simultaneously. I could get them back by stopping the tape and starting it again, but this never lasted. I ate dinner sitting on the floor in front of the TV, my finger on the "stop" button, since I've lost the remote. I tried to be patient, but it was a slow film anyhow, and it was a toss-up as to whether all this effort was even worth it. I tried taking the tape out and blowing on the tape heads. Nada. I stopped and started for a good hour before I broke down and called the ex, who for all his faults, knows how to fix things.
"Is there some thing I can just jiggle?" I asked him. He told me to insert another tape, press "play" and fast-forward simultaneously for a few minutes, till the schmutz came off the tape heads. This I did; the other tape worked fine. The tape of "Things you know just by looking at her" didn't. Around 1 AM I was forced to conclude that it just wasn't happening. Two hours of stopping and starting and drinking California Zin had frayed my nerves to irrational two-year-old hysterical hair-triggers.
I knew I shouldn't do it, I knew it knew it knew it, but I did it anyway. I called the ex again. "Dr. Video," he answered. "It won't work," I sobbed. "I'm asleep," he anwered. "Sorry," I said. He hung up. I might have called him back and had the kind of torrential psycho-stalker meltdown that gives emotionally stunted ex-boyfriends permanent ammunition for calling the psychiatric police and never ever dealing with their shit because obviously YOU'RE the one who's CRAZY, but thank God I'd opened the wine instead of, as I've mentioned, the Jim Beam. I called my friend in Las Vegas instead. She didn't pick up. I tried her cell phone. I tried her land line again. I didn't leave a message, because by then I was in the kind of state that freaks people out unneccesarily when it's too late to call you back. And it was way too late to call anybody who lived closer than Las Vegas.
Even in the depths of my despair, I set up the laptop to continue uploading on the land line. Slide-quality files take a hell of a long time to transfer on a 56K modem. Then I went into the studio with my Course in Miracles and my journal and proceeded to abandon myself to heaving tearing grief. I grieved for the love of my life, who has turned on me as though I were his alcoholic abusive carping excuse for a dead mother, reincarnated. I grieved for my former best friend, who stopped returning my phone calls on a major holiday, less than a month after I moved alone and jobless to New York City. I grieved for all the ones I loved the most, who loved me for a little while and then fell into egoistic black holes and stopped trying. I grieved for the fact that I fall in love repeatedly with damaged people who cannot love me back. I grieved for all the times my heart has broken since ballet, at seventeen. I think that love exists to break the soul.
At 1:31 AM, the phone rang. This should not have been possible; the modem was still uploading. I picked it up and nobody was there. I started the modem again and continued cursing God. I demanded answers, now, not in ten years when I see wisely how this was all for the best. The files took two more hours to load; the answers did not come.
Just before folding up the computer and losing consciousness entirely, for some reason I checked voicemail. "You have one new message, from an unknown caller, today at 1:31 AM," it chirped. The voice of my long-lost lover burbled through the static. "where are you fucking serena, calling you from mexico, I am really trying, where you going, are you out-side? sorry fucking english, I love you always, I miss you, beautiful blue-eyesss, mamacita, bonita, you are beautiful per-son, querida ojos azules, te llamo despues, why do you not write me fucking email, te quiero mucho, adios." He could not have sounded more desperately urgent if I had sent him a telegram that read "DYING LUNG CANCER BORNEO TWO WEEKS STOP DO NOT VISIT STOP LOVE ALWAYS."
Oh. My. I replayed the message five times before passing out. Had a lot of bad dreams, woke up hung over, went to the beach. Tried to calculate whether I can afford a week in Mexico this year. Decided that maybe the interconnectedness of everything is not so theoretical.