Thursday, May 14, 2009

Once Upon A Long Time Ago

In the 70s, I had a hero (really a heroine) in the writing world. Let's call her G, for Good. G was wild, blond, ferociously opinionated, had a zing of an intellect, was passionate about helping the underrepresented, wrote beautiful poems and taught writing to inmates at a certain famous city prison. A few years older than I, she looked like the person I wanted to become. We visited Attica; we watched WATERMELON MAN with Godfrey Cambridge on TV; we taught jailed women with secret political activist lovers on the outside; we made fun of her ex boyfriend who happened to be running my writing program uptown; we ate Chinese food on the floor of her apartment. This was heaven; I was in deep like.

Fast forward 30 years. G. has been living in California with her actor husband who, only in his mid-50s, drops dead unceremoniously on a movie set. I have stayed in New York, with a brief period in Italy, and gone through numerous careers, most of which involved the written word, but have now landed in real estate. G's husband leaves her lots of money. She decides to recapture her youth in New York. Somehow, she finds me. We look for and discover the perfect apartment, a West Village beauty that the aforementioned ex tells her is a good address. But G is not the G I remember; she has switched places with another letter in the alphabet and has become S, for sad or perhaps M for (downright) mean. She has a daughter (children change everything) over whom she obsesses, and she has trouble concentrating and making decisions. The least little thing throws her off center. Since she buys a co-op, there is a board package and she actively attacks and curses at me through the whole process even if I ask for nothing more than a signature. I decide I must swallow it - her husband has died, she is recreating her life, she is angry that she was left like that, etc. etc. yadda yadda yadda. We get through it and she moves in. All seems well in the world of S.; there are welcome back parties in NYC, lots of old friends. She may even be moving back towards G.

A couple of years go by and G decides to sell the beloved downtown apartment. In the meantime, the adored daughter has developed her own heart problem and is having seizures and blacking out. I know what this is doing to G. It is making her feel like the planet is against her, that the people most important to her have delicate hearts, not strong enough for this world. I think I am being compassionate, and I am doing my best to sell her apartment in a market that has now fallen far from where she bought it. I do ask her for a loan since I am having the worst year ever financially. She comes up with the money, I am thankful. But somewhere along the line there are rumblings that all is not as it should be. If I say a prospective buyer feels renovations would be too expensive, she takes it personally as an attack on her taste. I cancel one appointment for family reasons, she stops trusting me. I ask if I can have a wine tasting in her apartment to draw brokers in, I am violating her inner sanctum. It goes on and on, reaching a fever pitch. Until one day, neither of us can take it anymore, right at the moment where I am getting to "critical mass" with her apartment, which means showings every day. I suggest we part ways; she concurs in an email that suggests we were never friends, I had only assumed it. Yes, I had been assuming this for 30 plus years. The next time she needs to be picked up at the plastic surgeon's office, taken home and stayed with until she feels better, I wonder who she will call.

Maybe G. was never the G I thought she was, which is something she actually said to me. Perhaps that brave young woman with the sizzling intellect was not her, but some version of myself, and I was not ready to claim who I really was. I have a temper, but I have to be pushed fairly hard for it to show, and I have managed to come through most crises (including my current financial crisis) with flying colors. I have bad moments but I do not back down. I even contacted Debtors Anonymous this week because I must have taken a wrong turn in not saving for this current monsoon of a day. I don't blame others for where I am; my life is my choices. After G and I had a horrendously clear flurry of emails where I also said my piece, I slept for almost a whole afternoon. I woke up feeling unimpeded.

And so, this afternoon, two people walked into my office, a lovely mom and daughter from La Jolla, California. What brought them in was G's listing, still glowing up in the window as we have not had time to take it down. They are looking for a one-bedroom on the same street as G's apartment to use as a pied a terre; a second daughter is coming here next year. The mother grew up in Philadelphia; the daughter is in cinema studies; we talked for an hour. I think I have some new buyers. Truly qualified ones, with a clear, uncomplicated agenda. So tonight I am now H, which stands for (of course) Happy. Life, however difficult, also forces you to go on, just at the right moment.