Apology

Photo credit Carolyn Ziel

Merriam Webster defines Apology as an admission of error or an expression of regret. This is not the type of apology I receive all that often. And mainly I don’t receive this type of apology from women. Girlfriends.

This morning I made a list. On it are two A’s, a B, two C’s, and two D’s. There are more than three J’s, two L’s and two S’s. There’s an M, and even a Y. The Y for Yvonne. She and I knew each other for a short time in the 90’s.

“Justin said you left this at the apartment,” Yvonne said and plopped a bulging white trash bag on the floor by my desk one morning. She and I worked at the same medical software company. I was the executive assistant to the president. I sat in a cubicle outside of his office in the executive suite. Yvonne was an admin in human resources.

She and I met the weekend I moved into the one bedroom apartment in her building. I shared that apartment with Justin. “You sleep here,” Justin said when he showed me the bedroom. “Where do you sleep?” I asked. “Sofa,” he replied.

It was a big apartment. I was looking for a job. I knew I would find one soon and that during the week I’d be at work. On weekends outside, away, busy. At the beach. By the pool, which was steps from the front door. I was sure I’d never see him. The building was on the alley that butted up to The Cow’s End Coffee shop. I once counted 150 steps from my bedroom to my morning vanilla hazelnut cup of coffee and just 150 more to the sand. To be this close to the beach, I could make it work. “Don’t worry,” he said and smiled “I’m hardly home. And I have a girlfriend.”

Not only was Justin home all the time, he seemed to sleep during the day and cook pork chops in an iron skillet at 2 in the morning. Smoke from his burnt meat hung in the air. He kept the shades drawn day and night. It was like living in a dungeon.

5 1/2 months later I signed the lease for a bright beach front studio on the Esplanade in Redondo.

I didn’t remember leaving anything behind at Justin’s. In fact, I was careful to leave my room in good condition. And if I did forget anything, it couldn’t have been so much as to fill a trash bag.

“What is this?” I said to Yvonne and reached for the bag. It was too heavy to lift from my seat. The white plastic was stretched tight around it’s contents.

“Justin said you left it at the apartment,” she said.

I opened the bag. The smell of rotten-alley-behind-a-restaurant-on-a-busy-Saturday-night filled my cubicle and pushed up into my nose and down my throat. I looked inside. I saw two empty milk cartons, a stick of butter, an open carton of broken eggs, papers, envelopes, a car magazine, empty tuna and sardine cans. I reached in the bag and pulled out an Edison invoice from a bill paid months before. I held up the stained damp paper. It was dripping with egg yolk. A glob of coffee grinds fell from it onto the floor. I looked at Yvonne. This girl had just delivered a bag of garbage to my desk in the executive suite of a 100 million dollar software company. What the fuck?

“Yvonne, can’t you see this is a bag of garbage?” I said.

“I didn’t look inside,” she said.

“I don’t drink milk,” I said. As if that mattered.

“Justin said it was your stuff and he asked me to do him a favor. He’s my friend.”

Yvonne and I were friends. We tripped around Venice together, shopped at the boardwalk, went on long bike rides, lay by the pool on Saturdays and went to the C&O Trattoria with her fiancé Mark. We drank too much from the honor bar, sang That’s Amore and clinked glasses. It was Yvonne who told me about this job.

“Aren’t we friends?” I asked.

Yvonne never apologized.

I’m sure at the time I was upset about it. I might have called Justin. I might have said something to the girls I worked with. I might have, but the truth is, I don’t remember. It’s not as vivid a scene as you might think. I don’t even remember that much about her. We were friends for what, six months? I remember she was pretty in a nondescript way. I don’t remember her being intelligent. I mean this is a girl that delivers a bag of garbage to someone at a place of business. Who does that?

I moved on. I do that, I move on. I fold the experience, tuck it away, file it and store it in the back of my closet. I didn’t plan on pulling it out today, but I stumbled over it on my way to some other story about some other girlfriend who did some other thing and forgot to apologize.

Delivering garbage to me at work isn’t the worse offense. It’s stupid, yes. It’s a nasty thing to do. She could have said no. The normal person would have said, ‘Uh, yeah, I can’t bring a bag of garbage into work, sorry dude.’ I have a feeling Yvonne might not have been that type of girl. I have a feeling she was unhappy. That she and Mark might not have made it as a couple. He might have cheated on her. Maybe they never even got married. She complained about him a lit. He didn’t buy her flowers. He didn’t want to plan set a date, plan a wedding. She hated his stack of Playboy and Penthouse on their coffee table. He flirted with other women. I think he flirted with me. Maybe I was a threat. I’m not saying I was, I don’t think I was his type. I have a feeling Yvonne wasn’t his type either. I didn’t think much of Mark. Guys with stacks of girlie mags never did do it for me. Besides, I was dating Lasher at the time. He was good in bed, although I’m pretty sure he was gay.

Trash is easy. You clean up the coffee grinds. You throw it away. It was a long time ago. It’s just a thing that happened. A story. An incident that didn’t leave a scar. The Y in a long list of letters.

Here’s another definition of apology: something that is said or written to defend something.

That’s the type of apology I receive most often. The “I’m sorry but…” The apologoy that implies it’s my fault. That I made them do it. As if I’m the devil.

Journal Entry: August 31, 2014

Journal Entry:  August 31, 2014

 

I had a good childhood.

me and dad Maui, maybe 79 or 80

Me and Dad Maui Circa 79 or 80

I grew up on movie sets. My Dad was a Production Manager back when you broke down a script using colored cardboard strips. Wemoved from New York to Beverly Hills. “Stepford Wives” was in the can but I still got to brush Katherine Ross’ strawberry blonde hair and help her bake cookies in her Malibu kitchen. I loved how her bathing suit bottoms never matched her tops.  When my Dad was working on “Murder by Death” he arranged for me to meet Angie Dickenson and Earl Holliman. “Police Woman” was my favorite show and it was a way bigger deal than meeting David Niven, Truman Capote or Maggie Smith. Although it was pretty neat to watch Colombo rehearse the same line over and over and over again.

It wasn’t just me. My Dad brought lots of people up in the movie business. He got them jobs, got them training, got them in the union.

Then the script took a dark turn. An unexpected diagnosis. A first surgical procedure doesn’t go as planned. Lake Arrowhead-chemo-recovery-weekends and my Dad’s healthy vital glow mask the executioner. A Second surgery and still Cancer drills deep and takes root.

All scenes led to that final diagnosis.
Seven days left to say goodbye.

“Did you get the shot?” He asked. From his bedside at Cedars, I could see the Hollywood sign, white against the Indian summer hillside.  I held his hand. It felt heavy.

“We did.” I replied.

Cut. Print. That’s a wrap.

That was 1988.

Man of Destiny

Roger M. Rothstein

It took a bit of time, but now I can feel into the gift that is my father. Not just my gift–I still get emails, letters and Facebook posts: I miss him every day; I found a picture of him; There was no one quite like Roger.

I can look in the mirror and see him in the round of my face, the beauty mark on my cheek and my dark hair and eyes. His energy courses through my veins as I negotiate with a tough client.

If my father weren’t where he is, somewhere out there, I wouldn’t be where I am now.  Who knows, maybe he is here, hovering over my right shoulder as I type.

This is my life.

Happy Birthday Dad.

Let It Be Me

 

September comes and the days go tight.  Tentacles grasp, snatch, twist themselves, vines rooted deep crawl through my toes, wrap around my ankles, up my legs.  I watch the greens and pinks slip away to browns.  Slow hurries into quick, rushes about, reaches for dreams, planted from the year before.

Time runs click tock.

All those things folded and tucked away for another day.  All those things that have to be pulled out from underneath the brush, all those things in rooted under beds rotting in corners of bed rooms and offices and kitchens.  All those things to be dug out from the back of junk drawers, unearthed in kitchens to be tilled and spread, seeded and separated.  Thank you’s, happy birthday’s, congratulation’s, good job’s, rsvp’s, broken promises to be studied, analyzed, organized, donated, tossed, remembered, burned, ritualized, scrubbed clean. Stapled, paper clipped, rubber banded, shredded. Candle burning sticks and stones may break my bones and what about the Elmer’s Glue from years and years and years and those years so long ago?

Time is winding down.

Leaves change and let go they fall fire red decompose yellow. Die transparent.  Crackle crisp under the boots of plaid skirted pony-tailed schoolgirls that carry pink and purple backpacks and text on their smart phones.  We wrote notes on lined loose leaf that we  folded into triangles and passed back and forth at recess.

In September my skin catches fire.leaves fire

It reminds me
I have been attached to grief.

Rattled. Shingled. Raw.

I remember.  I feel back into the pins and needles and numb of twenty-five Septembers ago.  I remember winding my 280 ZX through Laurel and Mulholland and Cold Water.  I remember swerving and skidding and the squealing breaks, let it be me, let it be me, let it be me, let it be me… slicing through thick canyon on heavy Autumn days.  I remember careening into Beverly Hills. Let it be me.   I remember white piles, powder dumped from brown glass onto dirty mirrors sniffed from pinkies and thumbs and tiny spoons and keys, the razor clicks divvy out lines to be snorted and sucked up and smoked and the rolled dollar bills, used and smelling acrid sweet. Absolute bloodied white light late night Marlboro Lights rock line shots and Hendrix till sun light .  Let it be me.

Hot fire harvest moon shines.
I remember
that dream.

Time brands.
I itch.
I scratch.
I pick
I irritate my scars.

Meanwhile, September speeds up, plows through October into November and burrows under the white winter blankets of drift for hibernation.

I am awake
I remember a dream.

Let it be me.

Gratitude-O’Clock

It’s been one of those weeks.  You know the ones.  Two steps forward takes you to what seems like three steps back.

“Is it Mercury in retrograde or what?” I say to the sky, the sofa, the cats.  No one’s home to listen.  It’s just me, the computer and all the disconnections, the disconnects, the turnarounds, changed minds, the mud I am slogging through.

I want a do-over.  A re-boot.

Where am I today? Same place I was yesterday.  Safe, loved, fed, comfortable, in love, breathing.

It’s gratitude-o’clock.  Platitude? Seems like it.  Most things that are good and true are simple.

I woke up too early, tired and my eyes hurt.  But it’s gratitude-o’clock so good!  I’m grateful that I can see.  I’m grateful that I have cool glasses (I didn’t always, welcome to my childhood).

Gratitude-o’clock.  I woke up.  Get my drift?  I woke up. Another platitude? Maybe, but hey, who am I to judge?

I have an alert on my phone; today I will judge nothing that occurs. 

Someone cancels an interview I jumped through hoops to schedule for them.  Today I will judge nothing that occurs.  A candidate lied to me about sending their resume to my client.  Today I will judge nothing that occurs.  My SD card on my phone is wiped and I might have lost some great pictures.  Today I will judge nothing that occurs.

Gratitude-o’clock.

Today I will judge nothing that occurs.

THANK YOU NEXT

That’s really all I can do.  Pick up the phone, make 10 more calls.  Find another candidate, one that won’t lie, one that won’t flip flop (good thing she isn’t running for office).  Take new pictures. Who knows, maybe the old ones are hidden somewhere on my computer.

Thank you Next. Thank you Next. Thank you Next. Today I will judge nothing that occurs.

If I’ve learned anything from headhunting for the last 15 years, it’s that NOTHING is really in my control. I’ve always joked, headhunting, my work, is my spiritual practice.

I’ve been called out before.  I don’t get you, how can you be spiritual in life and so driven in business. You just can’t turn it on and off.  I once took offense to the judgement, Today I will judge nothing that occurs. They misunderstood themselves.

Patience, open heartedness, open-mindedness, benefit of the doubt, restraint, introspection, listening, hearing, being present, being in service.  Basic spiritual principals: all. I’ve been practicing.

“Retrograde, maybe, maybe not. This is life.” I say, answering myself.  The cats look up at me.  Fred meows, stretches, pushes against his hind quarters. Downward-facing-cat.

There’s so much more than lying candidates and broken phones.  So much more beauty, so much more sadness, so much more loss, so much more poetry, art, music, dance, song. So much more in the fabric of what we each call a life.rose bush

Today I will judge nothing that occurs.

I hear the birds outside, the sky is grey but that just makes all the colors of spring pop.  The roses outside my office window are blooming like never before, bursting with soft rose petal orange and pink.  We planted that rose bush for our cat Lu almost ten years ago.  I feel my heart beating, ba-boom ba-boom ba-boom in my chest, my breath is soft, I feel spring turning into summer, I feel myself, I feel my heart. I feel.

 

Roses closeup

 

The Silence of Diamonds

 

IMG_1184The silence of dead is deafening.
Flaws painted after flaws.
Scenes of shadow and light,
oil liquids, shimmering echoes
in a museum hall.
The silence of true perfection.
It is the ones
who dive from rooftops
and trees
and hills
and skies
who tell the same story
over and again
hoping one day
for audience.
I have seen into the core
of those I’ve loved.
Black coal pressed into white
then clear into light.
The silence of diamonds.

 

reprinted from as simple as that

Born From Heaviness

ripple lake
A vision presents one morning.
Pebbles thrown, skipping over the water,
ripples pushing out from the shore.
I walk forward, my feet sinking into the silt.
New verses, like raindrops, are born from heaviness.
Words I’ve scribbled on napkins and used envelopes,
are the scraps I hold, as offerings.

An apparition floats at the foot of my bed.
I reach for him and watch my hand cut through time.rose petal
I plant a rose bush to remember he was here.
Soft petals float, like feathers, they rest before his alter.
I open the door.
I carry my journal to the earth.
There are days I have carved history onto the page
desperate to understand.

A Love Poem

 

Entry October 12

Grey fog hovers low waiting to meet the sun and diffuse into the day  

The colors are rich and dark in the dull light

I don’t look…I remember

I keep my eyes closed

 

I reach my arm across to his side of our bed

I can still feel the warmth of his sleeping body

I can still hear his heavy rhythmic breaths in and out

I can still smell his perfumed musk…a memory on our white sheets

 

I catch my breath in my chest… I hold it there

And I wait…listening to the morning stir

The crying bird outside our window…Is she searching for her mate?

Feeling the nest emptied?

 

I can’t let go and breathe out…let my day begin without him

Without his arms wrapped around me

Without his whispered good morning on my neck

Without his lips brushing against my cheek

How long can I hold this moment and my breath and our memory?

2010

 

 

The List

 

Honey, if you’re off that list, it’s because you don’t inspire her anymore. He said.

It was my brain. It usually is. Once when we were on the phone she told me, I don’t get you. One minute you’re spiritual and the next you’re all business. I was standing in my driveway, her voice condemning me through my cell phone. The sky was grey, cloudy, it looked like rain. My ear was hot. I hate talking on my cell phone without a headset.  She was rattling on, criticizing my thought process. I just don’t understand you, she chided.

I can confuse people. I switch gears, sometimes faster than others might.  It’s how my brain works.

I take myself off topic. I digress. I’ll start one place and end up somewhere else. I started in New York and ended up in Torrance. How’s that for digression?  It wasn’t all me though, we moved to Beverly Hills and then I digressed myself right out of there to San Diego, to Hollywood. I mean the real Hollywood, when it was more grit and grime than fluorescent colors and pop.

There was England, Ireland, Wales, not in that order and Santa Barbara and Marina Del Rey and Redondo Beach and Phoenix and then back to Redondo, then Manhattan Beach, now I’m here, settled, done digressing in Torrance. Almost.

I ran around to run away.  Instead of escaping I was spinning.  I spun myself deeper into the guts of my life, the dark underbelly.  You know how if a car, if it’s stuck in the mud or the snow, if you try and push harder on the gas and make the wheels spin faster you’ll get even deeper in the mess you’re already in? Well, that’s me, the car and the gas pedal and the person pressing hard on the gas trying to whir the wheels free. I twisted myself in pretty darn good.

I remember this one night, in Santa Barbara, sitting around a table, around a mirror, around lines of cocaine, surrounded by empty bottles and filled ashtrays, cigarette smoke clouds and voices. I was thinking to myself, what am I doing here, with this group, around this table, in this city. I went to the bathroom, bent over the stained toilet and threw up.   Time to get off this list.

It was around that time when I took my foot off the gas and pressed it onto the break.

I went to see my friend Wayne. I waited outside on the steps of his apartment.  My eyes were tired and red, my lids felt like sandpaper each time they blinked closed.  I hurt. I sat, smoking, waiting for Wayne to wake up.

Eucalyptus

He came outside, a cigarette hanging from the left side of his mouth, the screen door slammed behind him.  I’m done.  I told him.  He walked a few steps down, inhaled his cigarette, the cherry glowed bright and he sat next to me on the stairs, pushing smoke up form his lungs into the morning air.

The eucalyptus trees shaded us, their scent colliding with our cigarette smoke.  I watched the smoke swirl up toward them, wondering about photosynthesis and how trees cleanse the air and if there was anything that could cleanse me.  Wayne was playing with his cigarette.  He was waiting for me.  Waiting for me to maybe change my mind or explain why or what I meant.  Waiting for me to say, hey don’t worry about it, gotta line?

He waited for me a lot.  He’d wait for me after my shift at The Jolly Tiger where we met.  He waited for me after I got fired and got a new job at Pascual’s. He’d wait for me to visit him, sit at the bar, and eat dinner at Arnoldi’s when he was working.  He might even have been waiting for me to love him.  All those late nights at Mel’s bar, the upsets when I’d leave with someone other than him. Solid Wayne, funny Wayne, chubby Wayne, with his blond mop of unwashed hair, stained tee shirts and impulsive grin. I waited for him this morning so I could tell someone.  I’m done.  I can’t do this anymore. I’m done. I said.  I’m done.

He looked at me.  Okay. He said if you say so. 

I do.  I said.

Not too long after that Wayne stopped waiting for me and I stopped letting him.

In Santa Barbara I spent years looking for a spark, something to stimulate me internally rather than externally.  Looking for inspiration, to bring myself back to my life. I needed CPR and I came to Santa Barbara to find it.

I knew, on the phone that day, in my driveway, when she was complaining about me to me,  that it  had nothing to do with me. She was spinning her wheels like I had for so long in Santa Barbara.  I knew it wasn’t my speed that bothered her.

We all move at our own pace.

Honey, you don’t inspire her anymore he said, it’s not that big of a deal.

You’re right, I answered.

The Making Of A History

 

Vacation Culebra

I can remember a warm hand
pressing on my belly
fingers like predictions
reaching
winding their way
forming into my future

I was still un-written
a white page
waiting for its epic poem
to adorn
with rainbow watercolor skies
swelling blue oil seas
fertile green forests
plump with fruit
pixie dust and dreams
of lips being kissed ruby red
sealed with white satin promises

Different authors penned my narrative
each hand bore its distinctive cursive blue and black liquid letters
an inked history
filled my book
some pages tore
shred
I let them fly into the wind

Others I folded
tucked away
an account
a tapestry of tangled kisses
broken hearts
miscarriages of desire
lost souls
ripening on the vine
falling to the earth
passion love hate anger joy sadness loss
chapters in my book

My life
reveals itself
in the warm curve
of my hip
the soft give of my tummy
the arch of my lower back
against my lover’s hand
as he presses into
my core

Our Vacation in Culebra

 

 

Bare Feet

 

 

October’s Indian summer glared.
Sunlight bounced off sizzling metal,
windshields, busses, billboards, street signs and steel rimmed buildings.
Liquefied waves ricocheted off the tops of heads,
White heat shot from the gold five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars that lined the sidewalks.
The flash of sun rebounded off a wheat beige paunch
through my car’s rolled up window
into the corner of my eye.

 

It was gleaming pale
in the blazing sun,
tight stretched skin
pulled across
a bulging naked pot belly
swollen beyond the elastic waist band
of his black sweat pants.
The right front pocket dangled against his leg
pulled inside out,

had he been digging for change,
that secret he’d kept hidden,
a memory he couldn’t find?

His right arm
hand-less sewn stump,
hung lifeless by his side.

He stood facing East,
looking at the sky,
planted at the intersection of circumstance and Hollywood Blvd.

It wasn’t that he seemed lost,
confused, alone.
It wasn’t that people surrounded him
rushed by without a glance in his direction.
It wasn’t that he was stripped stark
on a relentless day.

It was his feet.
Bare, charcoaled, black.
His feet.
Stained, worn, black.
His feet.
Beat-up, black,
from stepping on cracked cement, burning cigarette butts, discarded bottle caps, sparkling shards of green brown beer bottles, crumpled tissue that wiped a pedestrian eye or running nose, melting tarred spilled coffee, blue, cola, cherry, chewed gum Slurpee from the near by 7-Eleven.

Dead dreams.
Soles black.
Cracked broken hot soiled sticky leathered scarred marked scorched city grimed black.

I look at my feet.
Clean, polished, smooth, lotioned,
air-conditioned,
comfortable in soft white sandals.

I see him take a step
then another.
How can I help, I wonder.
I play scenarios in my head.

There are possibilities:
take him to a shelter, offer food, money, a shower.

But the light turns green
and he continues westbound
drifting away from Highland.

 

 

I drive north,
pointed toward acknowledgement
and my unfolding life.

It seems unfair.

A small prayer,
I whisper.
Send a wish,
send a slice of peace,
send a breath,
send a kind thought,
some comfort.

That was yesterday.
Today I still wonder
why.