I haven’t written anything in a while because life is pretty okay right now. It’s so okay can hardly believe it. I just realized I’ve put off (out of necessity, mostly, because I’ve moved twice since November 1st) TWO months of revising my book proposal and three months of writing here. Things were crazy – packing/unpacking, being tired, etc. – but I also haven’t been able to think about WHY it’s near impossible to own the fact that things are pretty okay by reliving a bunch of Clark stuff. I needed a break.
I couldn’t have dreamed my new apartment. It’s an affordable two-bedroom on the second floor of a rowhouse in Petworth. There are bay windows and a garden. The shower has two sets of jets on two walls aimed at my ribs and belly and two showerheads. Last Sunday I sat on the couch in the natural light and cried. I’ve shut down a lot of thoughts about Clark, or even writing about him, because thinking about a time when my life was to take care of him as he died makes me feel so afraid.
Justin Timberlake put out a new song, “Suit and Tie,” yesterday, which I’ve listened to about 20 times already. I was 22 and pretty depressed the last time he released an album full of fresh material, in 2006 (his guest appearance on Timbaland’s “Carry Out” in 2010 helped me get through a rough spot, too, but it wasn’t his song). In 2006 I was struggling to save a soured relationship – not because I thought it was best for me, but out of a legitimate and naive fear that no one else would want me. (I’ve since connected most of these insecurities to some deep-rooted issues related to my father. This was pre-therapy.) Every day, I’d drive an hour to work in traffic to Dulles, where I hated the corporate environment at my job and was forced to take a time management class because I showed no interest in my tasks. There were plenty of outdoor nooks to hide and smoke cigarettes in on the then-sprawling AOL campus, so that’s what I did, every 30 – 60 minutes, for the nine months I worked there. I lost 40 pounds. I went on Zoloft for the first time. I started work with professional help on those daddy issues. I went to the gastroenterologist for stomach problems that were most likely caused by sky-high anxiety. Now these past issues seem so trivial, but at the time, things were hard.
I took comfort in the routine I developed for my commute. Every day, I’d get in my car and drive to the Tenleytown Starbucks, in the same neighborhood as my college, where I’d park illegally and run in to collect my large coffee and whatever treat I thought I deserved that day, which was usually the iced lemon pound cake. As soon as I returned, I’d slide FutureSex/LoveSounds into the CD player and light the first of at least four cigarettes I would smoke en route. I’m glad that I did what was needed to take care of myself without much guilt. That ritual was my everything.
One day, after weaving my way toward I-66, I realized I would have to go to the bathroom sooner than later. As I progressed down the highway, I made slight adjustments – I rolled down the window, set aside my coffee, and finally, turned off JT. He’d been comforting me every day, from the title track through even (sometimes) “Losing My Way,” and I didn’t want to associate him with the pressure building in my lower abdomen. I breathed through my nose in the silence.
I made it to I-267, the toll road. I didn’t want to get off at an exit before my own because then I’d have to pay another toll, and at the time, I was too irresponsible to plan ahead for my daily back-and-forth. I was always reaching behind me and scooping up nickels from the floor of the backseat or asking coworkers for spare quarters before taking off for the day. If I got off at an earlier exit, I’d have to scrounge for extra change before finding a place to poop. I decided to forge ahead toward a familiar bathroom.
I finally reached my exit and tossed my cents in the basket. I was less than five minutes from my destination, my anticipation building for the release. I stopped and started down the road until the left turn-only lane that would funnel me in to the parking lot. Sitting in that lane, waiting for the flash of green arrow, I lost control and shit my pants.
Reality settled in. At first, I cried. While still crying, I called my coworker, Carol, whose nearby home I’d been to before the Christmas party, and sobbed as I told her the news. “Turn around and go to my house,” she said sternly. I kept apologizing through my tears. I did what she said and parked in the cul-de-sac, the pile of poop in my new Limited jeans (yes, I remember) growing colder. As I calmed down, I began to assess what would happen once Carol got there. I needed a plan. Luckily, I had just moved, and there was a box of garbage bags in the car. I wrapped two around my hips and thighs and tied them tightly together at my waist.
Carol began shuffling toward me after she arrived and parked. I could see she was worried. I rolled down my window and yelled, “Carol, I made a diaper!” She laughed a bit, probably relieved I wasn’t crying anymore, and we hurried inside, where I ran to her bathroom, rinsed off my butt and legs, and double-bagged my soiled jeans. She gave me too-short pants to wear home, and I told her to only tell our boss, the other woman on our team of five, and to not tell Dave and James. On the drive back to DC, I listened to Justin.
A week later I stopped caring and, on our way to a team lunch, I told the boys what had happened. Only years afterward, when Dave came to me and Clark’s apartment to bring him cake for extra chemo calories, did he tell me that of course Carol told him and James what had happened immediately after I called her because she was freaking the fuck out over her more-stranger-than-friend coworker soiling her home with her SHIT. “BECCA SHIT HER PANTS AND IS NOW GOING TO MY HOUSE.” That was warranted, I suppose, and I loved hearing about it.
I’m nowhere near where I was then – I’ve quit smoking and have gained, for the most part, control over my bowels. I’ve also gained back that 40 pounds. I’m in love and I love my new apartment. I’m actively trying to live in the moment without freaking out over what bad things may possibly happen in the future (Lexapro is helping). Things are okay right now. I’ve got no reason to turn down the new JT.