I’m in a bad mood.
The kind you can’t shake simply by shaking.
The kind that’s like a cold and sticks around until it’s run its course.
I know it’s cyclical. I know things will change, but don’t like. Not one bit.
I am becoming my mother.
She’s seventy-something years old.
In the past year, I’ve written to two authors. Writing to authors is one of her more harmless hobbies.
To be fair, the first letter I sent was to a writer who wrote to me first.
The second, I have no excuse for. It’s to Stephen King.
I decided not to email my letter to Stephen King. I’m not a fan of his. I’m not not a fan either. I’ve never given him much thought. But, his memoir “On Writing” found its way into my hands. So, I read it.
Since finishing it, I’ve admitted defeat with my dead green tea plants and my unproductive mushroom log. In a Herculean attempt at attaining a sense of normalcy, I’ve consulted a witch, listened to the stars, floated in a sea of Epsom Salt, and submitted to a facial peel. Still, I’m at a loss.
Not even penning a letter to Bill O’Reilly to reassure him that Hallowe’en is safely out of the hands of sacrilegious liberals and ne’er-do-wells, nestled in the loving arms of gender inequality, and kicking around the streets of drunk and beautiful New York City, where women of all shapes and sizes totter around in high heels and short skirts through much of October gives me solace.
I fantasize about whispering sweet nothings of free trade in his hot, red ears – enticing him stories of companies that profit from child slave labour and destroying the rain forests abroad while stoking the flames of ADD, Diabetes, and constipation at home, fueling the pharmaceutical companies profits as well as their own. But this doesn’t make me feel better, either.
My letter would start: Dear Bill O’Reilly, I know you often worry about the liberal destruction of religious holidays in the USA. I am writing this letter to you to allay your fears and let you know that Hallowe’en is alive and well. I am looking forward to seeing you dressed up as a Playboy Bunny or a Slutty Nurse. Wink. Wink.
I am in a piss poor, pretty terrible, traumatically tearful, classically trained, bad mood.
There are a few reasons I’m in a bad mood besides the signs that I am turning into my mother.
I’m in the middle of a desert with no water in sight. Stuck in a long, cold, lonely winter without a sweater. On a transcontinental plane ride, with no room to stretch my legs.
I haven’t been laid in a very long time. A drought with no foreseeable end.
I’m a little grumpy about that.
“To what extent do you think your father’s death has to do with travesty of your love life,” Kelly asks at work. I’ve just announced that I’m considering giving up on it all. A statement I emphasize with a handful of potato chips and a candy corn chaser.
“One hundred percent,” I say. ” But, it’s not only me. I’m convinced that a curse born of love was placed on the women of my nuclear family. Of the four women, two of us have rocky love lives, one, none at all, and the fourth married an asshole. What are the odds of that?”
“You have crumbs on you upper lip.”
“I met my boyfriend while I was riding my bike.” she tells me, launching into a cautionary tale. “He was so sweet. He walked me home, asked for my number, called the next day. He did everything right.
“The next date, he offered to pick me up at my apartment. He showed up in shorts with a huge backpack on his back and a friend in tow, looking like a homeless person. He barged in and asked if he could use my shower.
“While he was showering, his friend, sitting on the edge of love seat, afraid to get comfortable, asked how long we had known each other.
“‘I don’t – really – know him – this is our first date.’
“And then it was midnight and I’m in my kitchen whipping up ratatouille for this guy I’m supposedly on a date with and his friend I don’t know…
“The third date, he invited me to a bar. It was a rainy night and I cried on my bike while I rode to meet him. Here we are three years later, living together.
“You just never know. Or maybe you do. Shit. What the fuck am I doing?”
“Maybe you should consider hiring a witch, too.” I eat another chip.
“What I’m saying,” Kelly says, “is be careful what you wish for.” And then she laughs. Sort of.
Love is a messy business.
It’s not for the squeamish.
Or the faint of heart.
Dear Mr. King, my letter starts. it’s not in my nature to reach out to authors about their work, so it’s odd that this is the second time this year I feel compelled to do so. This email, I know, will be lost in cyberspace the moment I hit send. However, I suspect cyber space is a close relative to the universe, where a song of thanks in never misplaced.
I finished reading your book ‘On Writing’ this morning, sandwiched between a hefty MTA worker and a twitching woman on the A train and found myself pulling back a mass of tears. Those tears, and the memories behind them have followed me around all day.
My father died when I was fourteen. I was home with my mother in a house in a sleepy little bedroom community. One sister was getting drunk at a high school graduation party, the other, tucked away at college. My father was visiting his mother in New York, a mean old lady who kept her decrepit blush compact closed tight with a rubber band.
There were phone calls. First, my father, then my grandmother. When he agreed to go to the hospital (he had a pathological fear of doctors, which I share), we knew things were serious.
My mother didn’t drive on the highway those days, so she scrounged for a ride, eventually paging a friend at the mall. My drunk sister came home from the party. She sobered up real quick.
There was the nervous drive to the city, the moment when the nurse took us past all the patients in the ER to a private room and waited a good long while before she told us he had passed. The walk through the back hallways of the hospital to the morgue, my father’s body in a morgue drawer, my mother crying as she tried to fix his hair… the nurse took my mother’s elbow and said “he told me to tell you that he loves you very much.”
I marvel at the honesty, the care, the poise that a person standing at the precipice of his own death can possess. How he can have the strength of mind, the presence, the kindness to look back towards his family, body in pain, chaos swirling around him, to say “I love you.” I know your thoughts as you teetered between life and death the day you were hit by that car were not my father’s thoughts as his heart stopped working, but somehow your description of those moments made it so clear to me what he might’ve been feeling, thinking, breathing. It touched me. Deeply.
And maybe it doesn’t feel so good to be me right now – I feel a little ragged and raw, to be honest – but it feels right.
So, thank you.
They make slutty Hallowe’en costumes for women. And gay men make slutty Hallowe’en costumes for themselves. But I’ve never seen a slutty Hallowe’en costume on a heterosexual man.
That just doesn’t seem right.
If you find yourself in New York on a Sunday night with no plans, check out Kelly’s show, When Thoughts Attack, at The Cell Theater. Information is on her website: kellykinsella.com.