Sunday, August 12, 2012

To my ego, with love

Ahh, Woody Allen. You pervert, you. And yet, despite your pedophilic, incestuous personal life, you make me think.

Sometimes, I don't want to think, Woody. Ever think of that? Sometimes I just want to watch a film and be done with it. But, it's my own fault for choosing you last night. And I draggeda friend into the fray with me.

So, there I was, watching "To Rome, With Love." And there is this character, Monica. She's petite, kind of chaotic-looking in jeans a loose shirt tucked into the front of her jeans, messy bun, about mid-20s. She's an aspiring actress, she has complex disastrous relationships with men...etc.

And I couldn't stand her. Not for a second. She was the kind of woman who knew just enough about everything to sound like she was smart. She would roll off lines from poems (not whole poems, mind you, but lines), she knew all of the "famous" names of architects, artists, writers, philosophers, and she could fake passion about these people and topics in order to impress whomever was around her. It was painful to watch (very well done by the actress, I have to say). It grated on my nerves. She had that whole college freshman "cool" that, although it is a right of passage for most people, just irritates the shit out of the "veterans" who have seen what's on the other side of the Yeats ode and the Chekov play.

I am sure, that if my grandmother were writing a blog right now, she would be writing this very thing about the mid-30s set. So, grain of salt.

What pricked my skin the most about Monica is that I tried that hard for awhile. Really, really hard to be the intellectual rebel. The one who knew the greats, the one with the Che poster, the one who "studied" the Greek tragedies and who refused to wear high heels and who wanted so badly for people to be impressed by my "native wisdom." It was laughable, really. And it didn't help that I had this much older, philosopher boyfriend. He used to take me to parties and dinners hosted by college presidents and wealthy professors. I pretended to know all of the art on the walls, I wore linen, I spoke easy with the wives, all of whom were older than my own mother.

And then, I had a weak moment. Or, I should say, a real moment. Out on the back patio of a gorgeous brownstone, on a beautiful spring day, while wearing capris and espadrilles and pretending to sip chardonnay, I accidentally let the demon out.

Professor Big Man (name changed, obviously) was intellectualizing his experience as a crack addict, swear to god, almost nostalgic as he relayed stories of leaving his 5 million dollar Cambridge brownstone and making a run to Springfield to get his fix. I think he liked the look of shock on everyone's face. He waved his wine like a magic wand and leaned back in his chair.

"Yes, but I'm here," he said. "I kicked it. And I'm so much happier."

I stared at him. Hard stare. The dog stare that I had been trying to hide for the last three years of my Ivy league education.

"Just like that, eh?" I piped up. "Just like that," I waved my glass. "You make it sound so easy. Just had an epiphany, read some Machiavelli, and poof, addiction gone?"

The patio got really, really silent.

"Well, Nichole, it seems you know a little bit about the subject." He smiled through his teeth. I saw my status deflating from wanna be grad student to f***ing punk.

"Well,"I said, feeling my face go crimson, "I'm sure you don't want to tell everyone about the sleepless nights in rehab. You know, the ones where you're puking on the floor, crying for your momma every five minutes. Wishing you were dead but not having the energy to actually do the job. And god forbid anyone should see you on a Wednesday night, crawling down the stairs of a church basement to a meeting filled with junkies and winos. I mean, 'cause clearly you don't belong there."

He stared at me, open-mouthed.
"Clearly," he said.

"Yeah, good times," I said, waving my wine glass. "And it kills me that I can't have a sip of this right now, because I know it's good shit, but I'm still a little green around the gills. My sponsor would kill me."

I set the glass down on the white tableclothe and stood up.

"I need a cigarette."

I sat on the front steps of that beautiful mansion and puffed away. Miserable. I wasn't fooling anybody, not even myself. Eventually, the front door opened and Prof. Big Man sat down next to me. We were an odd pair, a tall, skinny undergrad and a short, 50-something black man. Both slumped over a little, staring at nothing.

"Can I bum a smoke?"

I already had the pack out. He put the filter to his lips and I lit the end.

"It's a shitty life sometimes," he said.

"Yup. But you've got a nice house."

He laughed, and stood up, flicking his cigarette into the street.

"I'm going to make some coffee. Want some?"

"Does a bear shit in the woods?"

"Last I heard."

The coffee was delicious. You can always count on an ex-junkie to make good strong coffee, that's a bit of knowledge you're not gonna find in the Phaedrus.

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