Thursday, November 01, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012, Day 1 

Not sure if I'll post these each day, but here is Day 1.  1700+ words and counting!


                A song had brought me to this place.  Songs always take me places, of course, whether it is to a busy block in Brooklyn that I’ve never been to, or to a reminder of that poker table in Vegas at 2 o’clock in the morning, but that’s simply the transformative power of music.  This was a step farther, the transformation of my mind made real.
I was sitting in an actual restaurant, on the actual 14th floor of a hotel in Rosslyn, VA.  The view from our table was of the Potomac, and the lights of Georgetown, and Roosevelt Island.  A plane was making its final approach into National Airport.  A jogger was crossing the Key Bridge into Washington, DC.  A cab honked at a cab and swerved to avoid another cab.
The song played in my head; the place had now brought me to the song.
Which song it was that had brought me here doesn’t matter.  It could be any song, because to me, to another, it might’ve been anything: bluegrass, metal, world dance, instrumental jazz.  Simply, whenever I heard that song, I pictured myself dining at this restaurant, on a night this dark, with a woman like this: darkly complected, in a sapphire dress showing one shoulder, preferring to drink both sparkling water and gin.  The song made me feel high, not like a chemical intoxication, but like a bird.  And so here I was, on the top of a hill, on the top floor of a hotel, gazing down into what cynics would call a swamp.  As high as I was, however, I didn’t see a swamp; I saw a reservoir for all that was modern and complex, with a river flowing alongside to wash away the rest.
My dining companion, Alexis, was talking about the rain that had persisted for two days and nights, falling almost up to the minute before I had collected her outside of the lobby of her building.
I had stepped out of the cab and I could hear, through the car door that I had left open, the cabbie’s one-sided conversation into an earpiece that didn’t deserve such spittle and anger.  As I helped Alexis into the cab, however, he stopped talking, just for a moment, out of respect.  The rain had paused as well, possibly just for a moment, or maybe forever.  The engine clicked, rather than roared, and we sped into the night.
With a single index finger, the way she might’ve traced the tiger stripe on her cat’s back if we were side by side on her couch with the TV on instead of across a table from each other in stiff-backed chairs with linen in our laps, she swirled a stirrer in her cocktail.  This was not something that one just did; it was a skill, practiced over years of cocktails, thousands of dim lounges and bright dinner parties.  She stirred it mindlessly as she talked about the stages that the rain had presented itself in: mist, then icy daggers, then driven sheets.  She idly stirred her drink, not because she was nervous or at a loss, but quite the opposite.  She was a woman of action, confidence, and thoughtfulness.  She couldn't have not stirred her drink and she couldn't have not stirred it in that fashion.
"Twinnie," she said, "do you like the rain?”  She knew that I did, so no answer was necessary.  She noted the all but imperceptible nod of my head.  She knew that I preferred the rain to anything else and it was only because of our dinner plans and how they may have been impacted by it that its passing hadn't pitched me into a great despair.
Nearby, a waiter dropped a glass.  The carpeted floor kept the glass from shattering, although the ice cubes skittered in one hundred directions and a vision of the man's job flashed before everyone's eyes.  The restaurant manager stood in the corner, nervously fingering the cuff of his suit jacket.  This was not a restaurant that tolerated ice cubes on the floor, however eventually and effortlessly they might have faded into nothingness.
The waiter, caught between decorum and professionalism, gave in to fear and began chasing the individual cubes from his hands and knees.  A cube had come to rest under our table and I crushed it into the fibers of the carpet with the heel of my wing tip before the man could intrude on our meal from underfoot.
“Twinnie”, Alexis said again, “tell me again about your trip?”
Again, this was not a question from a woman desperate for circuitous talking intended to hasten the passage of time.  She was actually asking about the trip.  It was a pointed question, meant to elicit a specific response.  Her intent became clear when she immediately interrupted me just as I had begun to recite my itinerary.
“Explain to me once again why I can't come with you?”
My upcoming trip, which would take me away from my home, away from Alexis, for two weeks, was a car trip to New York City and then flights to Brussels, Moscow, Auckland, Los Angeles, before back in to Dulles.
“You can’t be gone for two weeks, Hon.  You have to be here.  And until we know who we can trust, we can’t travel together.”
An alternative presented itself: “You could go and I could stay here.”
She answered quickly, firmly, with a quick movement of her head: “No.”
“Alright.  Then do you have a work around?  Have you already worked this one out?  Are you three steps ahead of me?  Again, and as always?”
Her answer this time was vexed and pitiful: “No.”  Her hand left her drink and she focused on something out in the night sky.  “Two weeks!  Why two weeks?”
“Circumnavigating the globe takes time.  At least this time my travel is closed ended.  Last time I was supposed to only be gone for 3 days and it was a week in a half.”
“…and I died a thousand deaths with each passing hour.”  Her answer was as if she was completing a sentence that I hadn’t realized needed finishing.
I took a sip of wine.  “Listen: I once knew a woman who had to have a special kind of eye surgery.  Her after-care involved keeping her head positioned face down.  Like, all the time.  She had a specially designed chair that facilitated this; picture a massage chair with a face cutout, so that she could read or watch TV or examine, intensely and in excruciating detail, the same bit of carpeting.  This was for as much as 22 hours a day, for two whole weeks.  When she slept, she also had to remain face down – she had a special face pad for that as well.  And keep in mind that this was many years ago, before tiny and pervasive internet devices.  And back then, TVs weren’t high-definition or portable – they were pieces of furniture.  So if she did watch TV, Match Game ‘77 perhaps, or the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, she had to rig a series of mirrors.”
“What are you…”
I talked over her.  “She didn’t think she could do it.  When presented with a choice of eventual complete blindness or a two week recovery in the manner I’ve just described, she took time making a decision.  Her choice was not immediately obvious.  But, eventually, she went through with the surgery, just as any normal person would.  She complied with and completed the rigorous after care.  She emerged on the other end of the two weeks with all of her mental faculties intact and then, a year and a half later – you know what I’m about to say here, Hon, don’t you – that woman gave birth to the two of us.  She laid her eyes on you and then we were a pair, reunited on the outside, and she saw both of us.”
“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard you say.”  Alexis was shaking her head, but she couldn’t help smile a bit at the mention of our mother.
“You know I’m right: you’ll be fine.”
“Twinnnnie!”  She rarely whined like this.  She reached for her cocktail and pointed at me with it.  “You’d better bring me something expensive; something beautiful and expensive.”
This negotiating belied her discomfort with our impending separation.  She was seriously stressed out and nothing, not several gin and tonics nor the anticipation for a diamond and emerald tennis bracelet could fully soothe her.  I already had a visit to her favorite Russian designer’s boutique in mind, but these gifts that I brought were easily forgotten, insignificant parts of my trips that were as rote and the presentation of a boarding pass or the return of one’s seat tray to the upright and locked position.  Truly, it was the tense moments on the unsecured side of the airport’s security gate and then her arms around my neck, once I had been safely returned to her, that were the only presents that she required.
The song was playing in my head again.
Of course twins are always close, and closer than other siblings might be.  But our relationship was intense even above that.  A sonogram had shown us embraced so tightly in utero, that the doctor was shocked when we emerged, not conjoined, but separately.  For our mother, we were easy to feed, to change, to bathe, to settle, as long as we were touching.  Otherwise, we were inconsolable. 
Now, as adults, we still are in constant contact: daily, hourly.  We don’t live together, but we might as well.  We each have our own bedroom in the others’ house.  Neither of us has much use for romantic relationships, although I know a woman in Los Angeles that I do admit I was looking forward to seeing at the tail end of my trip.
Alexis was chewing and I gestured for more wine.  From the lobby, just outside of the dining room, a woman had begun to play the piano.  Alexis played the piano.  She had been dragged to lessons and through practices for years, but since I never went with her, she resented the instrument.

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