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Lift: A Serial

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Part 11

July 9

Kelly has never been an easy person to reach by phone. I can't remember a single occasion when she's answered one of my calls to her cell phone—she's so often on airplanes or in meetings, or talking to someone else, that one just expects to leave voicemail for her. However, I seem to recall that she's always been good at returning calls, especially from me. Clearly that's not the case any longer, and I wonder if it's only my call that she skips. I can't believe she would leave clients or colleagues hanging for days, waiting for her response. But perhaps her life has reached such a pace that everyone has to wait for her to free up time.

If I could get in touch with her, I would ask.

After yesterday's brief and cryptic email from her, I'm uncertain whether I once again fall into the client/colleague category. I'm also uncertain how I feel about going back to work. I don't know what kind of work it would be, but I'm only slightly curious—probably because I assume it will be some fast-paced adventure, connecting important parties and thinking up strategies for the new economy (or new-new, or post-new, or micron-edge, whatever they're dubbing it now).

Feeling a bit out of step, I went online and read about the latest topics and issues, bought online subscriptions to a few periodicals and skimmed back issues, and gathered up enough fresh buzzwords that I could carry my end of a strategy discussion. I made some notes on cards, in case I needed to supply a fresh idea.

And then I waited for the return call from Kelly that never came. My mind was all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Around midnight I wrote a snitty email to her about the importance of manners, even in harried times. I deleted it before sending it, but I felt better getting it on the screen.

July 10

Received a quick note from Kelly today, sounding so abashed that I wondered if she'd imagined the Miss Manners email I hadn't sent. She apologized for being out of touch ("out of pocket" she called it) and said she wanted to meet for lunch sometime next week, if I had time. She was coming back to visit again with the potential client, hopefully sealing the deal, and could "jet up to your area for a bite and some chat." Could I pick and time and place, and let her know?

I consulted my schedule, which is of course completely barren of social events, and I wrote back that any day was fine. I sent along the address of the restaurant that Anne and I had liked for lunch.

Which reminds me: I should get together with Anne sometime soon. I've practically been been avoiding her—and I now know so well how that feels. Must go by the library and say hello.

But now I play the waiting game with Kelly again. I struggle to remember whether she has always been like this and I was too busy to notice or care before. How can you tell whether it is you who have changed or others? Is it best to assume that everyone changes, all the time?

In my new spirit of trying to maintain the fragile social connections I've been making, I stopped over at the Weinsteins'. Although I really and truly did not intend to be a mooch, I arrived shortly before lunch and was invited to enjoy a pleasant repast. Mrs. W was in quite high spirits, singing a bit while she pulled things together, showing me a few dance steps in between bringing food to the table. She said it was the weather, but we've had lovely weather all week, so either it has a cumulative effect on her or there's more than meets the eye.

She also invited me for dinner tomorrow night, which I was pleased to accept.

July 11

I'm beginning to wonder which subjects I can bring up with my mother. I mentioned to her this morning that Mrs. W had invited me to dinner, and instantly there was a ruckus. Mrs. W has not yet invited Mom over in return for being invited for tea, and so now we have an imbalance in invitations, and Mother feels slighted. On the one hand, I can see that she'd be a little down, but on the other, it's just not that big a deal. It certainly didn't require the major lectures on social mores that I witnessed.

I got so fed up that I felt a need to remove myself from the scene, and so I squeezed into the car and drove out to the park again. It's turning into my home away from home. Well, not really, but I do feel free there. I enjoy the open space, the air reaching to the sky, the chance to move in any direction without bumping something or someone. I mostly ran/walked today, but on a couple of downhill segments of the trail I opened my wings and caught a smidge of lift. Not a lot...enough that I could feel my weight lessen from my feet, could feel the push upward on the undersides of the wings. My wings. I should make more of a point of acknowledging that they are my own.

Anyway, my wings lifted me ever so slightly from the ground, and frankly it was exhilarating. After the pressures of home, the reminders of manners and people owing people and overall confinement, it was great to simply run until I couldn't run more, and to lean on myself and let the air lift me a tiny bit.

I had some trouble going home—sat in the car in the driveway a while when I got there, building up the strength for conversation—but Mom was out anyway. Dad was sitting and reading, apparently unaware of the earlier tensions.

So then I got ready for dinner. I felt I was starting a whole second day, tacked on to the first.

I arrived at the Weinsteins' door, flowers in hand (roses from our garden, beautifully raised by Dad and given with his blessing), and was met at the door by Jacob, the son.

A setup.

He was as surprised as I was. It soon became clear that this had been planned some time earlier by Mr. and Mrs. W, with the best intentions (as these things are). It had all nearly come to pieces, but then I'd stopped by yesterday and the plan started rolling again.

After Jacob had come barging onto our lawn, accusing me of leading his parents down a primrose path of deadly entrepreneurship, I had developed several choice comments to deliver to him, should we meet again. But on this occasion I was caught unaware and could manage only "Hello" and "Nice to see you." Hardly the biting retorts that I wanted on hand.

Jake, for his part, seemed at first astonished to see me at the stoop, particularly with the flowers (which I handed to him when I didn't know what to say). Then he seemed embarrassed. I attribute the latter sentiment to his parents' having previously explained the benign nature of our business/deli brainstorming discussions.

Anyway. The food was tremendous. We all eventually had a nice conversation, with Mr. W supplying most of the raw material—movie recommendations, questions about what we were each doing, deep thoughts on suburban life. Mrs. W's delicious food also kept us more than busy.

With the surprise and my long run, I was tired before the others and so the first to call it an evening. The Weinsteins seemed eager for Jake to walk me home—even though it was probably a 50 yard distance. A good five minutes were spent in a battle of wills over whether an escort was needed, and his parents in the end prevailed.

We said nothing on the walk across the grass, and shook hands at my door. (My parents' door.)

As he started to walk away, I said—and I don't know why I said it; it just came upon me—"You know, you're not nearly the hard-ass you try to be."

He stopped and turned to look at me, and he laughed. "That's supposed to be a compliment, right?"

"Yes," I said.

"Well then, thank you."

We bid goodnight.

Part 12

July 12

A stunning day today, weather-wise. Temperature in the 80s, light breezes tickling the skin and making leaves wave "hello," birds and bugs trilling about whatever they trill about. Some house nearby has wind chimes, so they provide a counterpoint to the bug buzz. A perfect day for getting things done, or doing nothing at all, or for just noticing that things are pretty good after all.

I did a little something and a bit of nothing.

I got an email at last from Kelly, which she followed with a phone call shortly after. She wants to step out on her own and start a consulting business specializing in handheld technologies. She sees a need in the marketplace for more specialized analysis. Start out with a newsletter, hit all the tradeshows, visit clients in the field, create tailored specifications and help them find solutions. It's straightforward, she says.

I'm not sure there's a need though. With all the big players well-established, the Yankee Groups and Gartner Groups and everyone else, how could a new, unknown startup stand out?

Kelly has a couple of clients lined up already—of course she does, she'd never leave a good job without some guarantee of income—but feels she needs some help with the planning and especially with the research and writing. Which is where I come in. I'd be the research core, reading and analyzing all the white papers and trade mags and research reports, distilling the information and recombining it, then churning out insights that the clients would buy on subscription.

It's tempting.

so that was this morning. This afternoon I sat under the tree out back to read a while. I practiced my personalized yoga program, allowing extra time to feel each movement. I weeded.

I'll think about my options tomorrow.

July 13

I realize as I write this that I didn't think about my options at all today. It was a big thinking day, but other issues took priority.

I woke up before my mother, for once, and was downstairs making coffee and breakfast when she came into the kitchen. I offered to fix her breakfast also, and to my slight surprise she accepted.

So we ate breakfast together, and I realized that I didn't know what she does with her days. She's mentioned things of course, talked about her interests, but a lot of that happened early on in my stay, when I had just arrived here to crash and rest. I hadn't paid much attention then.

So I asked Mom what she does during the day. She was vague. "I keep busy." I kept at her, eventually annoying her enough that she started reciting a list of her activities for the week.

There was nothing exceptional—volunteering here, working with people at her church, grocery shopping—but I found it amazing how carefully she has scheduled her days.

I asked if I could come along with her some time, just to see what she's about. She wasn't pleased with the suggestion; she said "yes" but her face said "no."

I decided not to press the issue. All the same, I wanted to find some way to connect with her, to find a common bond. For a few minutes in talking things felt loose and comfortable, but then it all tightened up again.

The rest of the day was like yesterday though, with another nice, long stretch. I can feel a real difference in my body now—increased flexibility, better balance and posture. I have much more control over the wings I mean, my wings. Much more control. Hopefully this will translate into fewer bruises—already I think that's happening.

I wish I could see them more clearly. Being behind me, they're like a part of my subconscious, connected but hidden. I can wrap them around myself, like you'd think of a vampire bat doing. It's kind of comforting, like wrapping your arms around your torso and hugging yourself. But it's much bigger, like a hug combined with pulling a blanket over your head. Light comes through the membrane, I guess it should be called between the wing struts. They're bones and cartilage, but very lightweight for their size. It's funny how I don't know what to call these parts of myself. I can see veins through the skin, watch blood pulsing through them. It's pretty amazing, actually.

I spotted the little girl from next door watching me again — I haven't seen her in weeks. I didn't say anything to her, not wanting to scare her off again. I'd like to reassure her that I'm not anyone to be afraid of, but I don't know any way to say it with conviction.

July 14

Today I felt I really needed to think clearly about Kelly's offer, to make some decisions. Or at least to come up with a plan for deciding. I started with a list of pros and cons. The pros went mostly along the lines of bringing in cash (I'm still fine on that account, but need to think about the long-term eventually) and resuming my place among the gainfully employed. The cons had to do with uncertainty about this particular opportunity, but also with my feeling that I need to break from the work I used to do, need to explore other aspects of myself.

I got as far as making the list, but found no decision in it.

Next installment: Making a choice (in the August issue)

Copyright © 2002 Cynthia Closkey