The Open Book Test: May (4 years ago), 2011

When: May (4 years ago), 2011
Where: Manheim, Pennsylvania
What: My husband and I embarked on a cross-country road trip, six months after coming to the USA from Costa Rica.  We left my parents’ home in Pennsylvania and aimed the car toward my sister’s home in Washington State. First stop:  other sister in Ohio.
Age:  40

Yesterday we stuffed everything possible into Claudia the Car and drove away. We were so happy, actually. It was a pretty day, Camomilo and Victor (the cats we brought from Costa Rica but gave up for adoption) aren’t lonely, and mom and dad seemed happy for us.

Now I’m sitting in Y’s chilly back yard and P is sleeping in her chilly house. It’s just as cold inside as it is outside.  Y took us to dinner last night. Today she is running a 13 mile race and then in the afternoon she has to leave for Denver. We had to take Luis the cat to the vet this morning because his eye is infected.

P drove all the way here yesterday. I took pictures, looked at license plates, looked at the map, made notes and neither of us were one bit sleepy. I was thinking about how “the road trip” is something that most all Americans do at some point in their lives. But ours is different from the average “road trip” because we’re also on a quest. We’re looking for a home; we don’t have one to go back to. The six months in PA were good for many things, one of which is that P now also totally gets where I come from—loves it dearly and is driven to desperation by it, just like me. One more thing we’re on the same page about. I’ve lived with his kids, he’s lived with my parents. Ha ha.

I think today is going to be cold and gray and then tomorrow we’ll go to Goshen. I’m having so much fun. I love journeys.

Where I come from, this is what the gateway to the rest of the world looks like.

Where I come from, this is what the gateway to the rest of the world looks like.

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The Open Book Test: April (20 years ago), 1995

 

When:  April (20 years ago), 1995
Where:  Manheim, PA
What:  On the day of the Oklahoma City bombing.  In a few days I will leave for Costa Rica where I will find my life.  But I don’t know this.  I only know it’s too late to turn back.
Age:  24

I so desperately want to be old. Not now, but someday. I want to live to be old and gnarled, nearsighted and wrinkled as a sycamore. I hope that if I am fortunate enough to watch my hair turn gray, I remember this day. Today someone bombed a government building in Oklahoma City and countless people were killed. At 9 AM. I am so fearful of disease and disaster. I feel like each year I survive, I should be decorated with a medal for survival. Even though I am happy and hopeful, I am full of fear of death. I guess it is mostly my drive to live – the flip side of which is an anger at death. My most present terror is of a plane crash. Sometimes I wish I did suffer from the delusion that nothing terrible can happen to me. I am so frightened. Mostly, I am sickened. It makes me very suspicious of God. Either God is not omnipotent, or is not omniscient, or is not. It makes me suspect that there is a Satan.

In Lancaster, however, it was in the 80’s and gorgeous It was a perfect, beautiful day. It feels so strange to be eyeball to eyeball with the Great Unknown. Maybe this is something like dying.  Time is flying, now, unlike 6 or 8 months ago.

I wonder so much what it will be like and what will become of me. I plan to try life in Guaitil and if it flops, go to San Jose. It will probably be even harder in San Jose. I keep asking myself, what’s the default plan? If all else fails, what? I could go to Texas with Mark and Erika. There’s Madison. I would get over D. There’s New Mexico with Marvin and Lisa. Lancaster again is basically not an option for the immediate future.  The main thing is that if/when I come back, I will be flat broke. No money for a down payment. Probably no bus money. So I’ll have to fly into whatever city I want to live in. And mooch and borrow for a little while.

Ultimate best-case scenario: after I am through in Costa Rica, I fly back into Santa Fe, New Mexico and bum off of D for a while–who has moved there in the mean time. He falls desperately in love with me, I make some money, I go to grad school, we get married, I have a daughter just before I’m too old, and we live happily ever after. Or something like that. I know I’m a dreamer and a story-teller so I try not to take even my most serious ideas too seriously. Luckily I am usually happy, and love most things.

The Open Book Test: April (6 years ago), 2009

When: April (6 years ago), 2009
Where: Tamarindo, Costa Rica
What: A terrible month in a terrible year.   In three months, we will make the sad decision to leave Costa Rica and move to the States.  This is the only thing I can find that is fit to share.
Age:  38

I went looking for waves today and all I found was water. So I came home. Anticlimactic, yes, but I have a wine headache and I couldn’t think of anything better to do. P took me out for sushi last night. We had a wonderful time spending money we don’t have and drinking too much wine. We even went to Mike and Wendy’s bar which is how I got too much wine. Bleagh.

I am going to have one very busy weekend. I also think that if I do not soon paint this kitchen, I am going to go entirely insane. I cannot take it ANY MORE.

I invented a way to make a shirt out of a pillow case and it is so cute! Now I need Ruthann’s sewing machine.

What a horrid headache I have.

Open Book Test: March (23 years ago), 1992

When: March (23 years ago), 1992
Where: Goshen, Indiana
What: college junior
Age:  21

It’s Sunday now. The last two days were filled and frantic, although I did have a good time with my family. Yvonne and Michelle were so cute and funny. I took them to the dance with me on Friday night and it was pretty funny. Mom and dad brought LOTS of food plus money for shoes! I went to Walmart on Friday and got underwear, contact solution, pads…all kinds of important things.

I spent all day yesterday working in the Umble Center. Then when I came back to K’s room, he was sad and started crying. He was crying because he doesn’t want to be here—he wants to go other places. When he gets like that, it makes me scared, because he latches onto me like I’m his life breath. I sometimes wonder if he thinks we’ll be together all of our lives. I guess I wouldn’t mind, except that I’m not done yet. I still want to fall in love a few more times. I’m really looking forward to this summer for that reason. We must not be together this summer. He isn’t any fun when he gets so sad like that. Sometimes I think we’ll always be together, but then I remember how young I am and how many things I want to do yet, and I become skeptical.

The days are much longer, now, and the sun has woken me up before my alarm three times in the past week. That’s more days than we saw the sun all winter. I can come home for supper and get back for rehearsal before it gets dark. And sometimes you can hear birds. It’s weird. I missed this part of last year. I was so alive there in Guaitil (Costa Rica). It’s hard for me to feel joy. I feel sometimes better and sometimes worse, but as far as exploding with joy–I don’t, much. I’m always worried—about grades, about K, about the plays we’re producing, about money, about N (my roommate), about the plays I am trying to write, about my family finding out about me, about getting pregnant, about my bike breaking down, about getting sick, about my caffeine consumption, about my alcohol consumption, about not writing letters… I have so much stress.  And rehearsal is at 6:30 and I still have to prepare a cue script.

Open Book Test: March (9 years ago), 2006

When: March (9 years ago), 2006
Where: Costa Rica
What: This is the Monday after the weekend when my husband (P)’s son (A) moves from Italy, with his dog, to live with us for a few years.   (P)’s young daughter (K) spends the weekend with us.  The kitchen is in the middle of a remodel.
Age:  35

A got here around 4:30 on Friday afternoon. The dog isn’t that big after all. I haven’t been still, or been alone, even to take a shower, since sometime on Friday morning–and it’s Sunday. A is a beautiful boy. When I was 19, boys didn’t look so much like puppies, but now they do.

Friday night we all went out for dinner. K has been acting out a lot. Of course dad and brother think it’s funny and cute. It is cute that she’s so happy, but she shows it by insisting on having all the attention all the time. And on this occasion, I can’t exactly tell her to settle down or calm down.

Yesterday, we went on this big fishing boat for some little kid’s birthday party. It was fun, but I have been eating entirely too much again. I feel heavy. Last night we made dinner at home, and went to bed. The kitchen is usable, but, with the new floor, the kitchen sink is just about the right height to pee in.

Friday night I slept ok with K in our bed, but last night I didn’t. That child is a nightmare to sleep beside, and I am sorry, but, it is NO LONGER NECESSARY that she sleep in our bed. She’s 7, not 3, and she is perfectly secure enough and capable of sleeping in a bed like a normal child. OF COURSE she’s going to throw a fit. But that’s no reason for even the adults to behave unreasonably. I am about ready to take this into my own hands. If I have to go sleep in her room to get any rest, she is going to sleep in there with me, and that’s the end of it. And P and I can have a fight about it if that’s what it takes, because I will win because I am right.

Open Book Test: February (16 years ago), 1999

When: February (16 years ago), 1999
Where: Costa Rica
What: I’ve been married for 2 years, and every day I drive from my home, in Guaitil, to Tamarindo beach.  There, I  sett up a display table outside of a little restaurant, and sell the pottery that my husband makes.  On the weekends, I teach some English classes at the Universidad Latina.
Age:  28

The sky is so wildly blue and the ocean like a precious gem. No hour is too early or too late to be burned by the unspeakable sun. The moon by night es igual. It shines so close, so completely, that you can feel its pulse in the shadows it paints. Today is also a day of wind, so all of God’s children in the tropics are happy. All except the French people who have no customers in their restaurant. I went to the beach today, early, which was a good idea. Maybe my tan it terrible, but my soul feels good. G said he dreamed I left him for another man. See? That’s how I know he loves me. I dream that about him too.

I got SUN BURNT. Wow. God have mercy on my hide! And the nice boy in the restaurant gave me a huge free cup of boiling hot coffee. His employers always charge me for a lukewarm half-cup. I have been feeling this incredible urge to write, again. I think reading poetry for Lit. class is doing it. Praise God! And now my own adversary is myself and the schedule I have made for me. But I can keep being patient. O yes I can, and I will.

I have realized something that I will confess only because I will be dead by the time anyone else figures it out. If I were disgustingly wealthy, do you know what I would do? I am embarrassed to confess it, but I would go get this belly liposuctioned away. I would. I know, I know. What about children who never get vaccinated because their families and countries are too poor? What about cancer and AIDS? But I would do it anyway, because how can you enjoy gorgeous clothes if you have to pull them over a dumpy body? How can you enjoy good food if you’re already fat and don’t want to be? Huh? You can’t. So now I confess to myself that I am no better than the wretched people I complain about.

I am going on four years of living here, now, and you know what? It didn’t turn out at all like I expected. I never expected to have a real “job.” I expected I’d have a little house with a red floor and a kitchen like Silma’s. I expected to marry J. I expected never to cut my hair. I expected to write volumes, write letters, make beautiful pottery, listen to the frogs and owls at night. I expected to make tortillas and learn to murder my own chickens. I expected to have girlfriends, any friends.

And this is still my dream: to wake warm in the morning, to greet the sun brushing back my long brown hair, eat with the songs of birds at my table, ponder the mountains, moments, days of my life. I still dream of dusk, those few yellow moments when the mountains hum the note that calls night, and all is hushed but the whish of wind and the conversation of birds. I still dream of this and will not cease.

 

Open Book Test: From a February 2 years ago

When: February 2013–2 years ago
Where: Northwest corner of USA
What: My husband is having trouble healing the way the doctor intended, after the third of what we never imagined would be nine reconstructive surgeries over 17 months
Age:  42

Well well well.  No thank you Mercury for your f*ing retrograde self.  We merrily drove to Seattle to see Dr. JR today and got slapped down.  Poor P. Poor me.  F* ing Dr. JR.  Some stitches on P’s right nostril didn’t hold—again, apparently—and he wasn’t all that nice about it.  Not like being nice is really required, but we’d gotten a little used to it.  He scolded us heartily and told P to come back next Friday, and we’ve added another surgery to this.

P is sorry he even started.  So am I, honestly.  And today, I think Dr. JR was too.  It’s long and hard and discouraging for him, too.  It was a very very bad day.  P is depressed and honestly so am I.  I feel like it will never end.  Now P has to be super calm and careful for a week, because if one more inside stitch goes, the rib cartilage will die and then… we start over.

Please God, don’t let that happen to us.  We’ve been stupid and wrong.  We’ve lied and made bad decisions about money and other things.  But please have mercy on us and don’t punish us anymore, just now.  Have mercy on us and let us heal.  I wish I could help his boredom/loneliness/desperation.  But I am out of ideas.

I am the one with nothing and no one, just a broken husband, beautiful as the sun but sliced and cut so many times he is unrecognizable.

Tell me what is the right thing to do.  Tell me clearly.  Write it on the wall.  I am so tired.