High Maintenance, Shmy Shmaint’nance
I slalom through my workdays. I live a strange sort of in-between life, always wondering what will come next. And next and next. Like the real life I’m meant to live is just right around the corner – once I find out where I’m supposed to live, for realsies… Once I finish my novel… Once I get a raise… Once the next thing happens, then the very next step I take will open a set of magical doors beyond which will be some sort of personal eden, and I’ll say, “Oh there you are, real-life-I’m-supposed-to-live. I’ve been looking all over for you.”
It’s just that I’m always a little on edge. Most things feel temporary. I know it’s just partly how I am, and really I expect to always feel basically this way. Though I hope that with age I’m able to find a bit more peace. Some might call this unease a type of ambition. Ambition, though, involves striving, and I’m not sure I’ve mastered that part.
I think a lot of people would say that in many ways, I’m high maintenance. In many ways, I’d agree. I can’t sleep on most couches. I don’t like to be too hot or too cold. I prefer to drive, rather than take the subway. Bad food is a waste of time, and I’d rather spend more money to eat well.
I went back to Savannah, recently. Sweet, steamy Savannah, G-A, where people are so goddamned slow and friendly you want to kill yourself. I lived there for years, and left because leaving was the next thing to do. It was the right thing to do. I visited my friend there, who we’ll call X. She’s a painter. She’s not the sort of occasional painter who puts on her painting outfit after work. She’s always in her painting outfit, covered in paint. Paint lives in her hair, and on all her clothes and house-things, and sometimes on her pets, too. She’s one of the few young artists who’s figured out how to make art, period. She does without, and lives a comfortable life, and doesn’t seem to wonder what’s next all the time.
X and I are basically exact opposites. She can sleep anywhere. As long as I’ve known her, her house is always too hot or too cold. She’d eat anything, just to get past mealtime, which she’s said is an annoying interruption to most parts of her day. She’s easy and peaceful, and takes everything that comes to her with such grace. To zoom out and watch the evolution of her life over the years you’d find a winsome creature, stepping Lilliputian-like on the lily pads life has placed gingerly near her long, skinny feet. She chooses the roads less traveled, and makes it look easy.
We’re so different, she and I. She’s my best friend. My dearest friend. My BFF. I’m so proud of her. Her manner, her way and her talent. And girl can make me laugh so that I think my organs might be pushed straight through my skin, out of my body. I laugh like there’s no air and no sun and no sky, and I’m a single hysterical organism, bobbing with laughter in the empty ether. Just being near her turns on the funny switch in me, so that I’m prepared and braced for a fit of silliness.
So, I was in Savannah. I knew I’d get to spend time with her, but in my wildest wishings I didn’t figure we’d get to spend every waking moment together, for about 72 hours straight, but we did. We’ve lived far apart for a year, and she’s a newlywed, too. So for these reasons, there’s been less contact, though when there is, it’s nectar.
She had a show coming up, so she had to work. She set me up with my own palette, and we painted together into the night. We painted after the sun set, and into the hours when even the neighbors’ dogs stopped barking, and a cool mist had settled on the dusty lanes. From time to time she’d stop, set her panel aside, and sit to light a cigarette and look at what she’d done, ponder her next moves, scrutinize her own work, try to understand the thing she’d just made, and decide what its next phase should be. In those moments, I was compelled to be still, to not disrupt the miasma.
When she stood again to return the panel to her workbench, I’d move again. Give her an opinion, if she wanted one, and we’d go back to our work. I’d return to my own creation satisfied, and full of peace. There was no wondering about tomorrow, no urging for the next constant. High maintenance, shmy shmaintenance. I might require a soft bed and climate control. But then there were these hours with X, filled with moment after moment of total content, blissful and intoxicating in their resolute finality. Each moment its own thing, it’s own nibble of history, independent from the one prior or following.