Monday, November 27, 2006

one question, not so gently asked

It's taken a long time for the question to actually reach me. I know.

The question first flickered across my thoughts on that last, grasping day, when I saw the fence torn down by the weight of a thousand untended sweet peas and the old battleground reclaimed by a once-lost army of weeds. I had made assumptions here - assumptions about seasons yet to trade this eggplant for that pepper; for a different tomato trellis; for running beans up the walls and painting and rethinking the herbs a bit. I had made assumptions about a lot of other things, too; I had lost myself in a tangle of them. Assumptions had replaced my dreaming.

What do you want?

In trying to remember the last time I really, really knew, the years slip through my hands like flour. I was on a stage in Napa, high out of my mind on the standing ovation spread out in front of me. The love of an audience is a hell of a drug - once you've felt it wash over you, you'll do anything - crazy things - to get another fix. So I did. I went to L.A., goddamn me. But I never saw an audience again - at least, never clasped hand-to-hand, grinning madly, makeup gleaming with sweat and light and the whooping affection of hundreds of onlookers.

The first time I produced a project, I got a little bit of that back. It wasn't much, but it was enough. And I was needed. Like baby birds, they couldn't manage without me. It wasn't a thundering theater, but it was genuine and it was real and it was intense. The project itself was a silly, blood-soaked horror film shot surrepetitously on campus; our shooting hours were roughly 1 to 4 AM, and it dragged on for weeks. But I was good at it. So I did it again, and again, and again, and when I graduated it got bigger. And all the time, I got involved with too many people who were more than happy to fulfill my desire to be The Thing Holding It All Together. I wonder how many people ever got to meet the girl under all that project-moving torque. I wonder how many people even really wanted to.

And then it all blew up in my face, as these things tend to do.

And I stared at that garden of stupid assumptions, swathed in cobweb and bulletholed with bugs.

And now, there's the first person who's just in it for me. He doesn't need me to move his mountains; he enjoys the process of moving them himself, with me to cheer and bring cookies. He loves me with a generosity and thoughtfulness that aren't in any way contingent upon my usefulness. I don't have to want what he wants and bleed myself into it to make it grow. He doesn't want that from me.

So - what do you want, Annette?

I feel like I'm in gradeschool, looking at a set of cartoons in the Weekly Reader. Will I be a fireman? An astronaut? A horse trainer? A businesswoman? A feature producer? A diplomat?

Will I ever figure it out?

In the meantime, I'm going to hang herbs from the ceiling in this tall, tall place, dangling greenly in front of a big window that faces the great secret mountains to the north. The dream will settle into focus in time; until then, there will be little miracles of kitchening and the minor magicks of fresh basil leaves drifting over steaming, eggy seas.

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