The "Do You Have Lots of Faults Too?" Issue


When the Tests Come Back Inconclusive

     by Nina Camp

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Morning, NPR and coffee in kitchen

Not sure what I feel. Was broken up for a second, but not sure if it was over Elizabeth Taylor's death or the radiation in the water in Japan. Or Luc's rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus, his recent stay in the E.R., and his inability to keep his personal training schedule on track, all of which are causing lapses in my regular workouts. Or Libya. Or Wall Street corruption and hubris and their private jets and prostitutes. Or prostitution, forced and unforced.

There are better ways to begin a morning than with these questions. There are myriad good beginnings. This morning I responded to a text message which used the phrase, "your myriad of admirers." Before I responded I wanted to make sure I had some info on myriad. Cristina thinks I shouldn't bother with Myriad Man. He's a pediatrician, wants to take me to a nice dinner tomorrow. I met him outside Lincoln Plaza Cinemas last week. We were both standing alone. I was checking options for another night, and he'd just been canceled on last minute by a friend. With two tickets in his pocket he approached me — maybe I looked at him first — and we chatted and went in. (Another oddball Paul Giamotti movie.) Cristina thinks Myriad Man isn't my type. "You definitely have a type," she said. "Hot and exciting and young. Not middle aged and boring. That's my type," she said.

Myriad, Greek for 10,000, can be used today as a noun (a group of 10,000 something or a large group of something) or an adjective (a large, undefined amount.) I guess I could say:

"Thank you for understanding about my myriad." (Noun.)


"I have myriad good beginnings." (Adjective.)

Who's to say I won't enjoy going out to a decent restaurant instead of what I've been doing for the last three or fifteen years, which is to proverbially back-pack it with my Exciting Temporary to a diner after midnight for pancakes and eggs, or go alone to the Duane Reade to buy sorbet for my personal trainer. (Previous trainer, previous gym, membership expired eight months ago.) Damian didn't eat much but scarfed mango and orange sorbet (summertime) and brought over weed and quiet, easy conversation and waited. Damian had in fact been systematically pinpointing and bolstering my weaknesses for months in the gym before he, sitting next to me in his S.U.V, told me he'd known for a while that he liked me but realized it was more than a crush, "when I imagined getting together with you and then watching you walk off with someone else." I sat in the passenger seat and listened. I must have said something to encourage him further — I'd initiated the talk about feelings — because he then moved to touch my hair and said, "I feel like I can touch you now, but that I might not be able to touch you tomorrow." I cried. I was falling, while he sat there, down into a new, unstable, somewhere-I've-never-traveled place. I was afraid I'd hurt him. I told Damian, several times after that day, that he'd broken through with me. I don't think he took me seriously. I told him, "Because of the person you are and the way you've dealt with me, I'll never be the same again."

I was broken up about Elizabeth Taylor when the news came on NPR this morning in the kitchen. Coincidentally, I'd been in the kitchen when I received the text message about Luc being in the E.R. that time he was there three months ago. The sinking feeling this morning when they said she'd died was suspiciously similar to the feeling I had three months ago when I read the text from Luc's friend who was with him, presumably at his bedside. I'd pressed the anonymous texter for information, and he (she?) said that Luc was okay but, "frustrated and disappointed," so I told the texter that Luc had to get better soon so I could, "throw some of my famous right hooks at him." Staring down at my kitchen counter, I waited. Luc's response, according to the texter: "He laughed."

Luc lost his basketball scholarship when he was 21 and diagnosed with Lupus, which brought symptoms that included a blood clot in his forearm so large it left stretch marks, a steep loss of 50 pounds from his already extremely tall and lean frame, rheumatoid arthritis so severe I can see the swelling in his hands when he comes in to work in spite of the pain, and heartburn so bad he can't sleep or eat. He says he can drink chocolate milkshakes, but I'm not even sure that's a foolproof food. I had a session scheduled for Sunday, three mornings ago. He texted an hour before to ask something and tell me he'd be there in an hour. He never showed up. The gym manager called Tuesday (yesterday) to tell me what was going on. Luc is again lying in severe pain and dark depression in a hospital bed, while attendants come and go, no one knowing what to do when the tests come back "inconclusive."

Knowing the cause is important, but even if you know, it doesn't means there's a cure readily available.

There was one issue this morning re: my feelings for Elizabeth Taylor. My feelings, when the announcement was made, swelled and popped in me like a honeysuckle bud. I felt the swelling and popping before I had a chance to think, nor did I know where those feelings would lead. But then the announcer said something that stopped the feelings. He reduced her popularity — "loved by millions" — to her "charm and warmth." I didn't lose my emotional connection because the announcer reduced her to two generic qualities. I lost it because I don't like to think of myself as being anything like several million (or even myriad) others, admirers or anything. But that's inevitable; I'm special and not special. Ultimately, I was thrown because there was truth to the announcer's words.When someone says what I'm feeling, that's the death of my feeling. I shut down. It's worse when someone articulates a basically representative but inadequate version of my feelings. I shut down, lose and doubt myself at the core.

To be clear: When someone too directly or artlessly tries to pull a feeling out of me or name a cause of my feeling, I have to excuse myself. I have to go away, be alone and wait. I have to wait for my feeling to surface — or at least conjure a memory of the feeling that was starting to pop and drip honey-sap — and then give it an identity which is hopefully impossible for anyone else to name or claim or rewrite.

I can't let my feelings be commandeered or manipulated. Though it happens constantly.

I dreamed about Luc this morning. Usually when I dream about someone real and in my life, the dream is information about someone else. For instance, when the Italian-American jazz pianist from Staten Island, whom I went out with once last summer, said, in a dream, "You know, I like you a lot more than you realize," it was actually Damian, an African-American personal trainer from Bedford-Stuyvesant, who, a few weeks later, sat next to me in his S.U.V. and said, "Yeah, I do have feelings for you." Damian was fit and lean and had stopped drinking and gotten his act together about a year before we met, he told me. He was quiet and kind but had some rage inside him, which I was fine with. He liked women and respected strong ones, but didn't mind playing Knight in Shining Armor. He'd get embroiled. He told me, at the moment when my feelings for him were about to get locked in and grow roots, about his STD. It was of course entirely up to me, how to move forward or not.

The dream about Luc this morning probably wasn't really about Luc. We were having sex and I suddenly became freaked out by a red fiber-optic growth on his neck, like little sea tentacles coming out of him. Luc said, "I knew this was a bad idea. I knew you couldn't handle this." Maybe it was really Luc in the dream, but his presence could've been any of a myriad of men who might draw me in and alarm me.

When they said Elizabeth Taylor died, the first thing I saw was an image of her that would've come from any number of movies: opalescent, otherworldly, creamy, and pulling at me with love. She literally pulled love out of me. She inspired a religious faith in beauty and, yes, charm, but starlit charm, not just any old clever movie star charm. She had pink love radiating around her. There was nothing else like her and never will be. I believe she never slept alone. I believe she was never alone for a moment. Also, when she turned forty she looked, as the LIFE cover, "Liz Taylor is 40!" demonstrated, forty. She may have been the last of the impossible cinematic beauties caught like a butterfly in the web of natural aging. Or possibly she aged naturally and artificially with the assistance of alcohol and drug addiction and overeating. But I like to think that her beauty had a predetermined intensity and half-life. She was no Demi Moore, no Halle Berry, no Desperate Housewife. She was not bionic, not self-controlled to the bone and cell. She was stunning, and then she aged.

Elizabeth Taylor was starlit. When I thought of her this morning I saw her warmth and charm receding as through a tunnel of light back into the stars. Permanent, gone. My heart sank. So this morning it was:

The radiation in Japan; Libya; Wall Street corruption and the economic meltdown; prostitution


Any prematurely choked-off emotion, no matter how small or seemingly irrelevant


Elizabeth Taylor receding into the stars while Luc who is only 26 and should be flying around a basketball court making money and having fun is laying helpless in a hospital bed.