yusha, part 2

i’m idling by a padlocked gate with a menacing sign labeled “farm entrance” as the GPS exultantly proclaims YOU HAVE ARRIVED.

i have not.

a llama lazing in the pasture, briefly roused by the sound of tires spinning in gravel, looks up, nods curtly and resumes his nap.

i’m due to meet the stepbrother in five minutes. the fact that i can’t even hold the attention of a farm animal does not bode well.

there is very much the sense that i have stumbled into the big leagues and that i do not belong. i’m so, so minor. double A, at best.

i don’t like talking to people, much less strangers- it’s so much easier to read a book- but here i am, forking over my southwest miles, driving a rental and squatting at a travelodge off RI-4, all so i can talk to a stranger for an hour and a half.

my dad says most people feel this way most of the time. that it’s just a matter of pretending you can do something and then you will. ACTING! he exclaims, brandishing an imaginary sword.

(this has been the driving philosophy behind nearly everything outstanding anyone in my family has ever done, thus draining all our accomplishments of their intellectualism and rendering them mere feats of vaudeville.)

i’m idling by the farm entrance when i remember this. ACTING! i actually say it aloud and mentally brandish my imaginary sword. and, with a straightening of the shoulders and a tossing of the hair, i call up the stepbrother and wail that i’ve no idea where i am.

this is how i learn i am literally not 3 feet from where i’m supposed to be.

all of this- asking for the interview, getting it, setting it up, confirming- has felt like the run-up to a first date. and not even a grown-up date but a high school date, where you make elaborate weeks-long preparations to ensure the availability and cleanliness of your parent’s minivan.

i’m in an impala, which seems close enough. i’ve also painted my nails, put on a cardigan and peed no less than fifteen times before leaving home. this is classic high school date prep.

but this isn’t a date. it’s an interview with the stepbrother, who is an 85-year-old man.

upon having found the right driveway, i pull up to the castle and park in back. disembarking, my leg and sandal get tangled in the strap of my purse and i trip at such an angle that, observing me from above, you would’ve assumed i was humping the impala.

i know the stepbrother was on the second floor. i pray to god he didn’t see.

the front door is glass. i ring the bell and stand with my arms bent at a bridesmaidly angle as though clutching an invisible bouquet for dear life.

a gentle whir rolls through the air as the elevator moves into action and, from the heavens, the stepbrother descends…

yusha

(6 june 2011)

i’m sitting in a concrete garden between two skyscrapers when i listen to the message from the stepbrother—my hand held to my heart in shock as a voice that, thanks to two decades of jackie o documentaries, i would have recognized anywhere, comes out of my very own phone.

it is a 3 ½ minute display of old world graciousness that was, due to a bad connection, punctuated by loud bursts that i would have interpreted as gunfire had i not known he was calling from a castle in rhode island.

this was last august. way before the whole 9/20/13 plan.

we talked three more times and then i dumped him. i didn’t call, didn’t write, didn’t do anything. because i didn’t know what to do with him. i didn’t know where he fit in the story i was trying to tell.

that hasn’t changed. i’ve still no idea. but i’ve given myself a year. i’m throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.

in that spirit, i’m meeting the stepbrother in newport this weekend.

there won’t even be an attempt to play it cool here so just know: everything about that sentence is scary. that is why i have put this off for so very very long.

calling the step-brother on the phone is an ordeal so awful that i dally for whole weeks at a time before ringing him back.

our phone calls, thus far, have been epically bad. like, horrendously, hilarifyingly bad. in the made-for-tv movie treatment of Jackie: The True Story Of The (un)Making of A Book That Never Was, the scenes comprised of these phone calls are going to earn jennifer love hewitt her biggest laughs.

i speak too softly and too fast. the step-brother appears to be calling me on a walkie-talkie from the middle of an airfield that has come under enemy fire. we speak to one another as victorians not yet familiar with the cutting-edge technology of the telephone.

there’s obviously enormous room for improvement here so i’m holding out hope that it’ll be me and jackie’s stepbrother kicking it at the castle and that we’re going to be, like, totally steller communicators when we meet face-to-face.

minimal hope, mind you. but hope nonetheless.

serendipity

(8 june 2011)

there are moments when you expect everything to be crazy easy and then it isn’t. then there are other times where you’re certain you’ll have to make a horrible fuss to get what you want, and then everything falls in your lap.

i worked the lit fest last weekend. a week ago, i wrote the volunteer coordinator asking if i could be assigned to the biography panel. she said, very kindly, that there was absolutely no way.

the assignments were being handed out first come, first serve and were entirely random. the system could not accomodate requests.

i’m standing in a cluster of author escorts at university center when the assignments are handed out. and yet, i know what my random assignment is before i even get it. somehow it’s not even a shock to see the words.

assignment: author escort. hotel blake. 11:15. the art of biography.

the dream

(6 june 2011)

i’ve dreamed about her just once. once in all these years. and this was very, very early on. maybe ’94 or ’95. back when it was all much much simpler and she was just an interesting story rather than one i had to tell.

we were backstage at something in some dressing room that looked exactly like the vintage clothing booth in the back left corner of the battleground antique mall in franklin, tennessee off harpeth road.

we were not alone. we did not speak. i was wearing yellow chiffon.

she looked me in the eye and she nodded.

i remember this when i wear yellow.