Doing a Karenina

   Red wine goes wonderfully with steak, but Mimi is vegan now. This is her newest thing. Linda drinks the Cabernet in the kitchen, alone, facing the wallpaper she regrets getting now. It is tapestry-like, black and white threaded workers in rice-fields wearing round conical hats. What did she hear someone call it the other day? Coolie hats? She’s sure that’s not the right name. It was probably her husband. He sometimes comes up with racist shit that reminds her that he is, after all, the man who hid a coke habit from her for years, sinking them both into debt.
    Mimi doesn’t help. Her newest thing, gluten-free veganism, means that Linda and Greg are both starving all the time. They sneak out to get pizza in the middle of the night sometimes, giggling and pulling on jeans and baggy sweatshirts, like they’re having an affair.
    The phone’s ring is a pathetic approximation of Fur Elise. Linda’s shoulders tense. She hates the sound so much. Tinny and obnoxious, calls mean work or bad news, almost inevitably. No one calls the landline anymore anyway, except for some of the older people at the PR company she works at and Mimi’s therapists and psychiatrist.
    “It’s Allison!” Greg yells from the other room. Linda looks at the rice-field workers, at the waving bamboo patterns, at whatever nonsense it is on her wall that’s meant to look comfortingly exotic to her Western sensibilities. She picks up the portable out of its cradle and takes another sip of wine before screwing the top back and putting in the fridge. The phone is between her shoulder and her ear, the same spot it’s nestled since she was a teenager. Since she first met Allison.
    “Hey, Greg, you can hang up now.”
    “Okay. Bye, Alli!”
    “Bye! Hi Linda. You sound tired.”
    “I am. It’s been a day.”
    “Want to talk about it?”
    “No. Tell me how Noel is doing.”
    Linda regrets this immediately. As Allison begins telling her about her daughter, a senior in college who’s just returned from an academically rigorous year abroad and is doing great, wonderful, fantastic, all Linda can see is the image of Mimi lying on the subway tracks that time she jumped and survived.
    When your own kid has tried to commit suicide half a dozen times, Linda thinks, you don’t find 4.0 GPAs all that interesting anymore. She knows that if she told Alli that she’d rather not hear about her kids – Alli has two, and the other, the boy, is doing equally well, with a long-term girlfriend who lives with him and makes more money than him – if Linda told Alli she’d rather not hear about any of these fantastic things, Alli’d understand. That’s what friends are for, right? She’s asked before, and Alli’s accepted, keeping quiet about her kids until Linda asks.
            She always does, in the end. She wants to know. She wants to hear about college classes, about PhD programs, about how the daughter is getting published here and joining a singing group there, about how the son has finished his qualifying exams to get into his PhD program and how he’s house sitting for two cats. She needs to know these things. Otherwise she has no images to superimpose Mimi’s face into. And if she doesn’t try to cut-and-paste her daughter’s face into situations other than the thirty-and-home one she’s in, Linda will continue to see her lying in between the subway tracks, or inside her bed in the ward where she’s basically got a bed named after her by this point, or sitting behind the desk of Greg’s office, the only place she’s managed to hold down a job in years. Then again, Greg also employs his no-good, asshole brother, so Linda never knows how much work Mimi actually does there, despite the praise Greg lavishes on her.
    Linda listens, her right ear pressed to the phone, her left ear straining for sounds of an emergency. The worst part of her conversations with Alli is the resentment. Allison’s children had their moments, their years of therapy and fucked-upedness, but then they got over it. They got better. Mimi doesn’t get better. Mimi jumps from veganism to Buddhism to exercising everyday to playing the viola and deciding to join the circus as a trapezoid artist. Mimi stays a constant, unchanging. Allison’s kids get to change. Linda hears the change in Alli’s voice, too, and she knows that she, Linda, will have to remain a forever too. It’s almost worth the train having succeeded in its mission that day.
    Almost.

Fun (Recent) Facts

1. I officially finished the first draft of my very first novel, which is, as of yet, untitled. I’m extremely happy to have been able to do it, even though I think it sucks. For now, I’m taking a few days away from it, since I’ve been working on it almost every single day since the end of June. The distance will hopefully allow me to see it with fresh eyes when I go back to it and start working on the re-write.

2. I signed up for NaNoWriMo, a very fun project that I learned about this year even though it’s been around for quite a while. The confusing name, for those who haven’t heard of it, stands for National Novel Writing Month. During the month of December, there is a sort of challenge to write a novel (which, they stipulate, means 50,000 words or more.) Kit, at Goggle and Lace, is also participating (and, in fact, has a very cool job in her region and she’s a fabulous writer, so go check her out!) so I have one buddy so far! Anyone else participating? If so, my author name is “Ilana” so feel free to add me.

3. The last couple of days I didn’t write at all, almost, and I have to say that I’m extremely pleased by how much I missed it! My biggest fear is that writing will become too much of a chore for me, because I do try to have a schedule with it as much as I can. But no, writing is still a joy, even when it’s rough, and even when it pressures me. I’m always pleased with having written for a while, even if I’m not happy with the results.

4. I’ve had this blog for more than two years… I didn’t celebrate my anniversary or anything! Oh, well, I guess I’ll wait until next year and celebrate my three-year anniversary then.

5. I actually don’t have another significant fact that I can think of, so… I’m reading “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy. It’s the first of the classic Russian novels I’ve ever read, and I’m enjoying it immensely – more than Charles Dickens, if I may say so (don’t string me up, please!)