About 14 years ago, when Renee, Keith and I shared a sweltering third floor apt. on Norton Street, we had a maggot infestation. This was the result of letting garbage bags pile up in the back hallway of our apartment. Were we too lazy? Too high? Too drunk? Too all of the above? Why ON EARTH didn't we take out the garbage?
One day, Keith finally broke out of the rut and announced he would take care of it--and that we should steer clear. Renee and I, smoking on the couch in the living room and watching reruns of 90210, gladly obliged. As cans and bags rattled and clattered in the back hall, I suddenly heard Keith's distressed cries. "Ugh! Oh God!"
I ran into the kitchen and peered into the back hallway.
"DON'T COME BACK HERE!" he shrieked at me.
"What's wrong?" I shouted, panicked and bewildered.
"Maggots! There are maggots everywhere!"
And there were. Wiggling and wriggling all over the floor of the third floor back stairwell were hundreds of maggots, mocking us for being surprised. And stupid.
Renee and I never understood why Keith then proceeded to bring all the garbage bags through the entire length of the apartment and to the clean and maggot-free front stairwell, three flights down and out to the street. Two by two, the bags marched out of the house, while me, Renee and the cats cowered on the couch in our smoke-filled living room, watching Tori Spelling and Jason Priestly, who have probably never seen a maggot in their lives.
Fourteen years later--tonight--I rifled through a canvas bag, searching for the certificate of completion from my yoga training, which ended in 2006. What a special day that was for me. Too bad the day ended with my then-boyfriend drunk on a boat with his friend and two other women, lost at sea and calling me adrift in Long Island Sound asking for navigational support. No flowers. No congratulations. Just verbal and emotional torture.
But back to the bag. I was searching for the certificate, so I can provide it to a studio at which I am applying to teach. I'm headed down there tomorrow night, and I cannot wait. As I flipped through notebooks and binders and lesson plans, I came across an envelope. I opened it. Inside was a letter. A draft of a letter I had written to the guy who helped me begin unraveling my marriage three years ago. Beneath the letter was a stack of frayed notebook paper. More drafts. Page after page, the letter began and ended, unfinished. Each one mocking my surprise. And my stupidity.
That's what it might as well have been. And so many things, beyond finding the letters, seemed unfamiliar to me. The words, once so close to my heart, felt as if they had been written by someone else. Some smitten stranger blinded by love. Or lust. Or pure boredom. Then, as I compared drafts, I realized that I had two ways of beginning the letters. If only I could remember which version I finally chose:
"I want to blame you for all of this, but it's not your fault", and;
"I am a very lucky girl."
What didn't change was the ending, where there was one. Still, I wondered if it was what I had eventually committed to in my final draft, since I blocked it out:
"I guess we'll just have to let time do its thing."
I felt sick. I felt numb. I felt indifferent. I felt amused.
In a different binder, I came across my certificate, and an altogether different letter. This one was from the instructor who guided me through a year's worth of yoga teacher training, which began two months after I wrote that letter and ended when my marriage was over and my drunk ex was adrift at sea, hopped up and sloppy with two other girls. It goes:
"A year of big challenges and changes of ups and downs off the mat and through it all you demonstrated balance and consistency over the year. I'm sure the personal growth you have experienced will go to very good use as you shine yoga's gifts of balance and self-acceptance to not only your children, but to all who seek your help. Thank you for your radiant light and one of the sweetest smiles I know. Your students will be blessed to have you as their teacher."
I needed to read that tonight.
I had been lamenting earlier to Ian--well, I had been lamenting a lot of things. Let's just say I needed to read that tonight.
I've also been reading "Eat, Pray, Love". My good friend Jane highly recommended it ("I thought of you constantly when I was reading it," she confessed) and I have been eating it up every since. My favorite passage (there are many) that I will share with you tonight: "...the worst ugliness of divorce, a life experience my friend Brian has compared to 'having a really bad car accident every single day for about two years'..."
I packed up my yoga texts, carefully putting my certificate and glowing letter aside for tomorrow's meeting at the studio. As for the other letter (about which "his" wife eventually commented, "You write nice letters...") and all of its drafts, I put it away, waiting for the perfect summer night to strike up a blaze in the fire pit, pour myself a big glass of wine, and watch the papers flare up and die a quick death, floating up to the sky like tiny lost souls damned forever to some unknown void between heaven and earth.