Rocker Chic Blues

I’m going to continue with another memoir excerpt.
This is a scene from an early session with my first therapist. She was Italian, as I am.

The days seemed longer, even though they were short. My one happiness was the jewelry design workshop I signed up for on Monday nights at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center. I was creating a copper necklace and earrings. The hot metal felt good in my palm as I sanded the edges. The earrings were cutout triangles with dangling wires. The pendant was a downturned cutout triangle screwed to a flat, stippled back.

In the studio, I lost all sense of time. A young girl who attended FIT talked with me about her goal of designing a jewelry line for Tiffany’s. “Would it be like Paloma Picasso’s?” I remembered this designer’s signature kiss earrings from the advertisements in the fashion magazines. “I want to work with diamonds,” she intimated. We were the first to arrive in the studio and the last to leave.

The night before, I felt tiny particles of dust in my eye, and I was afraid it was the copper, so I called the emergency room, and the triage nurse told me that as long as I could still see, it was okay. I was afraid to go to sleep but woke up fine this morning.

Now I sat in Flora’s room across from her in the black chair. I rubbed my eyes reflexively.

“Is your eye okay?” She was concerned.

“Oh I was working in the studio; it must be the copper dust.” “The copper dust? A studio?”

“I haven’t been doing much. So I joined a jewelry-making class,” I said this as if it was just something I did.

“Good. Why didn’t you tell me?”

My voice came out in a trickle. “It’s all I can do.” The tears started coming down.

“This is a big thing. Don’t discount it. You’ve just gotten out of a hospital, and you’re doing things. That’s great.” She extended a boutique box of tissues.

“Oh it’s not much of anything. What can I do? I have to do something.”

“Are you socializing?”

“I have a friend, Carny, from school. I’m afraid she won’t want to be my friend once she finds out I got sick.”

“Tell me about her.”

“Oh, she’s just great. We met at the radio station. We’d go out at night drinking in Clove Lake Park or drive to Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey, and listen to punk bands.”

Oh, those nights at the park: swinging low on the swings and talking about when we were young. She’d gone to the after-hours club Danceteria with fake ID, and I had stayed home with my ear to the radio. Yet I could match her song for song when it came to what we were doing at that time in our lives. The first song I heard when I tuned in to WSIA was the Heaven 17 song “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang.” She first drove on the highway listening to the Avengers’ “We Are the One” on the cassette deck.

It was sweet relief from boredom, and I was flattered that she would want anything to do with me. I was besotted with the tales of her sexual escapades—the savage love conquests on the foreplay couch in her apartment. She had a lot of boyfriends before her long-term guy Willy, and I had no one. I wondered what it would take to get the courage to be able to love someone and leave, or be left. I was afraid a guy would use me, and I’d feel cheap.

Carny was a happy drunk and fueled by alcohol; I was chatty and outgoing. We revealed our deepest desires: she wanted to marry Willy, and I wanted to become a journalist. We vowed to meet on the park swings ten years from that date and catch up with each other. I knew it would never happen yet secretly hoped it would.

Silent as I remembered this, Flora brought me back into real life by asking, “What are you thinking?”

“All a person needs is two friends, pizza, and a really great sound system.”

“I suspect you can count on one hand the number of good friends you have,” she colluded.

The friendship between Carny and me was an unlikely pairing. We didn’t celebrate each other’s birthdays. We had little in common except the music. Her feelings were often mercurial. My mood was as black as my boots lately. She was like a chair that goes with a table; we just happened to fall into each other’s lives.

Flora’s comment stung, though most likely she was talking about everyone, not just me. Who was I if not a rocker girl? Who would I be without Carny? I wanted to be Chris, whoever she was, and right now I felt like I was a long way away from meeting my true self.

The tears flowed as I reckoned with the idea that I would lose all this. I was embarrassed to use up all the tissues, so I reached for one last tissue to dry my face. I drowned in tears as the session neared the end.

“Carny was the only person who understood my dream.”

“What did you dream of?”

“I want to go to grad school for a degree in journalism.”

“Okay, that’s a good long-range goal, but what are you doing now during the day?”

I told her I was doing nothing except reading books I checked out of the library. She said that it would be a good idea if I joined a day program called Rise, where people with psychiatric conditions met five days a week for therapy and support.

“You could meet new people—be around people who are in the same life boat.”

It sounded like a plan. She tore off a sticky note from on her desk and wrote down the name and phone number of the director to schedule an intake.

“Think of it as a job interview, to sell her on getting you in. I’ll see you next week.”

“Okay.” I searched in my bag for the sixty bucks and forked it over.

“By the way, what are you creating in the studio?”

“A pendant and a pair of earrings.”

“You’re okay, kid. Keep up the good work.”

“Thanks.” I exited the room.

Driving home, I stopped at the drugstore to look for some lipstick. I swirled up the tubes until I found the perfect shade. It was Certainly Red.

Left of the Dial Amazon Page

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