I’ve been away from my writing for a couple of weeks, and I woke this morning excited about getting back to my computer and my novel. Run, shower, breakfast, brush teeth, a load of laundry in the washing machine and finally I settled down, computer booted up… and the crazy frog began to sing. Everyone knows that Crazy Frog song , the one that likes to party… New York to San Francisco, An intercity disco… so if you like to party, get up and move your body.
I could hear, loud and clear, the Arroyo Vista Elementary School jog-a-thon. A thousand grade-schoolers running their hearts out accompanied by a DJ and a variety of songs complied, I’m sure, to inspire little kids to run. Don’t misunderstand me, I love children and I love running, I’m just not a fan of the jog-a-thon, especially when it’s happening on the other side of my fence, making my dog berserk. Perhaps it’d once been mildly amusing when I could look out my window catch glimpses of my children, sweaty and red-faced huffing by, but I today I'm not amused.
When ten o’clock arrived, I pack up and moved to the library. It’s quiet here, but I’m reminded of my last visit. I’d been writing and happened to look up and notice a mentally handicapped woman sitting directly in front of me, staring. I smiled at her and she regarded me without expression, her gaze never leaving my face. I went back to my work, but after a few minutes, looked back up and into this woman’s unflinching stare. I switched chairs. This library is huge. There are many rooms and many chairs. I simply moved camp without much effort. After a few minutes, I once again looked up, and there sat my friend, directly across from me, same expressionless steady gaze. After a few minutes I went to write in my car.
Sometimes, like today, I’m ousted from my preferred spot and other times I’ve had to leave because I was no longer comfortable with where I’d been. Sometimes I’ve moved on because it’s simply the next step on the ladder… graduation, from the apartment to the house, a job transfer, etc.
I was thinking about this while I was visiting my dad in rural Washington. He still lives in the house where I was born. During my stay I got up to run every morning before dawn. The roads are dark there, no lights, the street signs unreadable, but it didn’t matter because I’d been on those roads thousands, if not millions of times. I could never be lost in Arlington, despite the fact that some of the pastures have been converted to housing developments and some of the farms now have gates to large homes. SUVs have replaced cows.
A path through the woods to the farm houses on the side of the slough, up the burn road, my kindergarten on the left, the hospital on the hill, the high school on French, the tiny, moldy house where my husband and had spent a rainy summer on a back alley off of Cob. Once I belonged. People in Arlington treat me kindly because they know my father, brothers, uncles, aunts and cousins. Sometimes I miss that, but I know I don’t belong there anymore. I haven’t for a very long.
I live in a bedroom city of Los Angeles. One woman in a sea of many. When I first went to Boston, this bothered me. By the time I went to New York, I liked it. I love the anonymity, being faceless and nameless, the freedom of not being watched and held up to a standard. But, that doesn’t really happen. It may happen less in Southern Orange County, CA than in Arlington, but I still know people and they still know me. Being watched, or not, is a choice no one gets to make.
Once after a bad haircut, I consoled myself with the thought that at least it was unique. Then I went to Trader Joe’s and counted about five other women with the exact same cut. (I’ve since changed my hair.) Of course, I’m not defined by my hairstyle, but it’s made me think about where I belong and where I fit and how I’ve molded my life to fit my surroundings. Even if that was never my intent.
Sometimes, despite everything that I’d planned, that crazy frog is coming, and everyone is jumping…