The Ghost of Sundays Past

Tonight I am feeling nostalgic for the time when I was, oh, aged 9 to, say, 13? That was when Sunday nights were about Star Trek: The Next Generation and sitting outside with my dad, listening to music while he grilled for dinner. Sometimes, on nights when my mother wasn’t home, we’d turn up the stereo in the living room and dance around. We’d leave the windows open until after sundown; then the wind would pick up and cut through the house, actually making it a bit chilly, so we’d have to close everything up.

Sometimes friends of mine and I would sit out in front of the house, either on the grass or on the open tailgate of the pickup truck. (Yes, we were that Texas cliché, always having one truck and one Grand Am in the driveway.) We’d watch the stars and talk late into the night, real discussions of the kind that seem okay to have alone in the dark, although of course you’d never mention those things again afterward. But on those nights we were like spies, trading secrets.

I liked being an only child. I liked the unique relationship I had with my parents, and I liked the independence, and I liked the quiet. I liked having space to myself and a reasonable amount of autonomy. (Of course, the flip side of that is not liking being told what to do.) I think being an only child helped me learn to live alone, be myself. I don’t have the need that so many others seem to, to be constantly in contact and connected with others.

I’ve started reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking—only just started reading it, so I’m not very far along, but based on the true/false list provided in the book I guess I fall somewhere between being an introvert and an ambivert. I can take a certain amount of stimulation, have learned to drown out a lot, but I don’t like to have to do it, and I need a safe haven from it.

In those days, those 9-to-13 days, I would go up to my room and turn on the stereo and sit in a rocking chair and listen to music until the early morning (my parents not caring how late I stayed up so long as I didn’t complain about having to get up for school or church). I like to sing but was too shy to try joining the school chorus. I knew I was good at a number of things, but I also knew there was always someone better—maybe a lot of someones who were better—and that always made it seem useless to try. But my room was my safe haven, and I would roll up the blinds and watch the stars wheel and march and the moon slide across the sky. And in there, I was the best at everything.

My parents were not encouragers; they were too laid back for that. Instead, it was more, “Whatever you want to do . . .” And the problem wasn’t that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, it was that I wanted to do so many things and never knew where to start. Which explains why I’m behind the curve a bit now.

But tonight, on a beautiful Sunday evening, I miss all the things that were and used to be. There was no hurry to get anywhere in life, only the mandate to enjoy who and what was there with me at the time. Life really was simpler then, and youth really is wasted on the young. Still, instead of wallowing in the past, I will strive to continue to make my life an oasis, a place of happiness for myself and others. And if I need to go hide once in a while, please bear with me. I will return, refreshed and reinvigorated, once I have recharged.

Dr Phil’s Test

1. When do you feel your best?
a) in the morning
b) during the afternoon & and early evening
c) late at night

2. You usually walk . . .
a) fairly fast, with long steps
b) fairly fast, with little steps
c) less fast head up, looking the world in the face
d) less fast, head down
e) very slowly

3. When talking to people you . . .
a) stand with your arms folded
b) have your hands clasped
c) have one or both your hands on your hips
d) touch or push the person to whom you are talking
e) play with your ear, touch your chin, or smooth your hair

4. When relaxing, you sit with . . .
a) your knees bent with your legs neatly side by side
b) your legs crossed
c) your legs stretched out or straight
d) one leg curled under you

5. When something really amuses you, you react with . . .
a) big appreciated laugh
b) a laugh, but not a loud one
c) a quiet chuckle
d) a sheepish smile

6. When you go to a party or social gathering you . . .
a) make a loud entrance so everyone notices you
b) make a quiet entrance, looking around for someone you know
c) make the quietest entrance, trying to stay unnoticed

7. You’re working very hard, concentrating hard, and you’re interrupted. You . . .
a) welcome the break
b) feel extremely irritated
c) vary between these two extremes

8. Which of the following colors do you like most?
a) Red or orange
b) black
c) yellow or light blue
d) green
e) dark blue or purple
f) white
g) brown or gray

9. When you are in bed at night, in those last few moments before going to sleep you are . . .
a) stretched out on your back
b) stretched out face down on your stomach
c) on your side, slightly curled
d) with your head on one arm
e) with your head under the covers

10. You often dream that you are . . .
a) falling
b) fighting or struggling
c) searching for something or somebody
d) flying or floating
e) you usually have dreamless sleep
f) your dreams are always pleasant

POINTS:
1. (a) 2 (b) 4 (c) 6
2. (a) 6 (b) 4 (c) 7 (d) 2 (e) 1
3. (a) 4 (b) 2 (c) 5 (d) 7 (e) 6
4. (a) 4 (b) 6 (c) 2 (d) 1
5. (a) 6 (b) 4 (c) 3 (d) 5
6. (a) 6 (b) 4 (c) 2
7. (a) 6 (b) 2 (c) 4
8. (a) 6 (b) 7 (c) 5 (d) 4 (e) 3 (f) 2 (g) 1
9. (a) 7 (b) 6 (c) 4 (d) 2 (e) 1
10. (a) 4 (b) 2 (c) 3 (d) 5 (e) 6 (f) 1

Now add up the total number of points.

Total: 37

OVER 60 POINTS: Others see you as someone they should “handle with care.” You’re seen as vain, self-centered, and who is extremely dominant. Others may admire you, wishing they could be more like you, but don’t always trust you, hesitating to become too deeply involved with you.

51 TO 60 POINTS: Others see you as an exciting, highly volatile, rather impulsive personality; a natural leader, who’s quick to make decisions, though not always the right ones. They see you as bold and adventuresome, someone who will try anything once; someone who takes chances and enjoys an adventure. They enjoy being in your company because of the excitement you radiate.

41 TO 50 POINTS: Others see you as fresh, lively, charming, amusing, practical, and always interesting; someone who’s constantly in the center of attention, but sufficiently well-balanced not to let it go to their head. They also see you as kind, considerate, and understanding; someone who’ll always cheer them up and help them out.

31 TO 40 POINTS: Others see you as sensible, cautious, careful & practical. They see you as clever, gifted, or talented, but modest. Not a person who makes friends too quickly or easily, but someone who’s extremely loyal to friends you do make and who expect the same loyalty in return. Those who really get to know you realize it takes a lot to shake your trust in your friends, but equally that it takes you a long time to get over if that trust is ever broken.

21 TO 30 POINTS: Your friends see you as painstaking and fussy. They see you as very cautious, extremely careful, a slow and steady plodder. It would really surprise them if you ever did something impulsively or on the spur of the moment, expecting you to examine everything carefully from every angle and then, usually decide against it. They think this reaction is caused partly by your careful nature.

UNDER 21 POINTS: People think you are shy, nervous, and indecisive, someone who needs looking after, who always wants someone else to make the decisions & who doesn’t want to get involved with anyone or anything! They see you as a worrier who always sees problems that don’t exist. Some people think you’re boring. Only those who know you well know that you aren’t.

The Mark Gatiss Factor

It has become a kind of bizarre circumstance that every time I’m in London I end up spending at least a couple hours breathing the same air as Mark Gatiss. This started last June, when it happend that the day I arrived in London was the day they were showing The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes at the Lexi. It’s one of my favorites, so I went, and Mark Gatiss and the other one (yes, okay, Steven Moffat) were there doing a Q&A or whatever.

Then, you know, I went to London in December for the Sherlock preem at the BFI, a special treat for my birthday and/or various holidays, and Mark Gatiss was there, too . . . Actually, so was Steven Moffat . . .

So now, knowing of course that Mr Gatiss is performing in “The Recruiting Officer,” it’s a given that I simply must go when I’m in town. Three times makes it tradition, after all. (No Steven Moffat, though. I’ve had done with him.)

Hoodies

I am a writer who inhabits places that can become chilly and/or wet at a moment’s notice. So while I’m not proud of it, I do wear hoodies.

I don’t like hoodies. It’s just that they’re so damn convenient for places that may be windy or misty, or for going from cold to warm and back. It’s this convenience that keeps hoodies in my wardrobe. I’m not proud of it. I prefer to wear nicer clothes, and on days when there is a likelihood that I will be seen by other living human beings outside of my immediate family, I do try to pick something more chic. A “summer sweater” or a neat little jacket or whatever. But as a writer, there are plenty of times when I could be dead for three days before anyone realized it because I have been closeted with a project. Under those circumstances, if and when they do find my body, I’ll probably be wearing a hoodie.

On the flip side of this, I do insist on wearing a little makeup every day. It’s part of my morning routine. I’m pretty convinced that if I don’t at least put on some eyeliner and lip gloss the world will implode. It’s not a risk I’m willing to take.

Mardi Gras

As someone with deep roots in the Southern Louisiana culture . . . I’ve always avoided Mardi Gras.

By which I mean, I’ve avoided the raucous street parties that Mardi Gras is known for. See, I don’t especially like having people step on my feet, jostle me, spill beer all over me, or puke on me. It’s just not my kind of fun.

I’m more of a take-me-to-the-ball kind of Cendrillion. And yes, there are Mardi Gras balls, and they are quite lovely, and sometimes only slightly less raucous depending on how the night goes on. But less crowded, too, so escape is easier.

I also enjoy the traditions. King cake. Costumes. The pageantry sparks my inner love of drama, I suppose.

And now my freezer is stocked with fish fingers so that if I choose (though I usually don’t, mostly because I forget) I can go without meat on Fridays for the next few weeks. But at least there’s nothing against eating beignets.

Things I Used to Do as an Undergraduate . . .

. . . Some of Which Would Probably Get Me Arrested Today
 

Talk to blackbirds. In French. (I still do this. No risk of arrest, though a crow once stole an earring.)

Run up to campus tour groups and yell, “Welcome to Jurassic Park!” . . . then run away.

Use a French accent in the library, pretending to be a foreign exchange student so the desk clerks would take pity on me and go find my books for me, thereby saving me the trouble.

Put on my “Scully” suit, hold a hand to my ear as if on a com, and run between the campus buildings glancing up at the roofs and saying loudly, “I don’t see him! I don’t see him!” (It was really fun to watch everyone start looking.)

Get to class really early, before anyone was in, and leave random business cards at just a few desks. The cards read, “Archangel Gabriel: Messenger Service, Baby Sales & Judgment Day Counseling”—Again, hugely amusing to watch people react when they found them.

“Raptor” my dorm mates.

Dive in and out of open dorm rooms with a water gun, shooting people while humming the theme to Mission: Impossible.

Put on a rock star wig, some glittery eye makeup, and a gold hoop earring and pretend to be “Ollie” from the Olive Branch Band. In fact, I once did this at the mall, using a banana as a phone, while a friend filmed it.

Put on my cloak and “haunt” the campus late at night. Sometimes I’d go into buildings that were still open and frighten the cleaning crews.

To My Valentine, My Blessing

I know you wonder whether it’s possible that I really, truly love you. Rest assured that I do.

You inspire me, and that is the greatest gift one can give to a writer. If I were to say there is a little bit of you in everything I write, it would not be a lie, or even a stretching of the truth. All my work is a silent dedication to you; your influence is like stardust sprinkled over the vault of heaven, a blessing and a delight.

I wish I could do more for you in return.

But I can only say again: I do love you, my greatest desire is for you to be happy, and if by some miracle I can be the one to make you happy, I consider that a true and wondrous gift of Divine Providence.

Moon

I found the moon in my night table drawer.

It’s the same moon I wrote to Rob about years ago:

Dear Rob,

Today I bought the moon.

I bought it hanging full in the branches of bare trees.

I bought it held hard and fast to a deep blue-and-purple sky.

I bought it spattered by golden starlight.

Today I bought the moon, so that I could have it when I wanted it.

And some day, when I die, someone will find it tucked into a drawer and say, “What is this moon doing here?”

They will flip it this way and that, trying to figure it out. But they never will.

Isn’t that fantastic?

Sincerely,
~M

I’ve been hiding it all this time, and now I will take it with me to the West Coast and hang it over the water on nights when I’m the only one around to see.

Strange Gravity

There is a strange gravity between bodies.

It is the force that causes two people standing near one another to sway towards and lean in.

It is the force that causes two people facing one another to embrace or kiss.

And like all heavenly bodies, some have more pull than others.

Some spin faster.

Some shine more brightly.

And some collapse inward, pulling everything around them down and into the darkness, the black hole.

There is a strange gravity between bodies. It is the force that causes them to collide, and to sometimes consume one another.