Thursday, June 25, 2009

more from Rachel's journal

Some people refuse to believe in fate, or destiny, or the hand of God in everyday situations. Call it what you will; I believe in it. When I met that woman Heather Simpson in the doctor’s office a couple of weeks ago, I admit I felt some connection with her. I avoided it, I swerved as far from the center of her as I could, and yet she approached and drew me into conversation, which I could not be indifferent of as hard as I tried. There was something in her manner, some soft and vibrant strand of sympathy and compassion. She cared for a stranger. How often does that happen? She found my book and she read it and then she went looking for more. And she didn’t just read it, she allowed it to affect her. She allowed herself to be moved and she asked questions and explored. How many people do that? And then she sought to connect with me again. I managed to avoid that, but I could not put it past me all day, and even throughout the week.

Is it destiny then, that put her in the pharmacy with Ruth, where she could overhear my name? And is it fate that lured us to the same bookstore, to hear a short lecture from an author we mutually admire? I cannot seem to escape her, despite the part of me that wants nothing to do with anyone new, the part that would rather recruit itself to a desert island for some incalculable amount of time. Until it passes.

But that part of me that wishes for connection...this is simply irresistible! I may have seen her first, today in the bookstore. There were 20 or more people in the rows of chairs between the bookshelves, all comfortably conversing and quietly waiting for things to begin. Once I had seen and recognized her, it became impossible to concentrate. I knew I must apologize for my rudeness. I knew I could not leave the store without having done so. The lecture, which at another time may have been calming and enlightening and leisurely, was suddenly an obstacle in my path. I couldn’t wait for it to be done, and yet I had to wait. Then I had to wait as people slowly rose from their chairs, and as some made their way to the front to the speaker, and I had to make my way to her. She turned just as I was almost to her, and recognized me, and I saw surprise and dread and a forced politeness cross her face. Maybe that was my imagination, though. I expected her to run away, to be curt and professional and in a hurry, as I had been. She did not run. She smiled, and whether the smile was genuine or forced, it did not matter, because my mission was to have her forgive me, and I would not be deterred.

I believe her forgiveness was genuine, but just to be sure, I invited her to have lunch that very hour. I felt obligated to do it. I wanted to give her something, after having taken something away. If she accepted, I knew I could feel forgiven.

She did accept. How can I describe a connection like this one? I am taken by her beauty, but that aside, she has a beautiful mind. She ponders, she questions, she connects what she reads to her life, and she lives vicariously. I am struck by her energy, and yet she seems sad, like she has been in a cage so long she doesn’t know how to fly out even though the door has been opened for her. Comfortable on her narrow perch, she sits and watches the other birds, not daring to explore. Not even willing to stretch her neck through the opening. My instinct is to take her hand and draw her out, so she can feel the sun on her skin, and not just read about what it feels like.

I enjoyed my two-hour lunch with her, but I had to meet other obligations. I think she enjoyed it too. Parting her company at the front of the store was like getting to the end of a book well–written. You want more, and yet you know if there is a sequel you must pick it up later. I do hope to be able to spend time with her again. In fact I think I will find it necessary.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ruth meets Heather

Heather was in the drugstore, wandering the aisles near the pharmacy. She had come for her prescription, and like all of the others in the various chairs along the wall near the counter, was waiting for her name to be called. She scanned the shelves for interesting items, for something to catch her eye, keeping near the pick-up window so she would hear her name.

The next name she heard, however, was not hers, nor was it that of a stranger. It was Rachel Metz. Startled, she practically leaped to the edge of the aisle and peeked into the waiting area. She had not seen Rachel there before, and Rachel would have been impossible to miss. But it was not Rachel that rose and went to the counter, reaching into her handbag for her wallet. This girl was smaller in the shoulders, leaner, taller, and blonder. She had an air like Rachel, though, confident and strong. Heather wondered if maybe there wasn’t another Rachel Metz in the suburbs of New York City. Of course it was possible. Metz was a common Jewish name, and Rachel was even more so.

Then she overheard the pharmacist say something about passing on some instructions to Rachel, and it occurred to Heather that maybe this was Rachel’s assistant sent to pick up her prescription. They had spoken on the telephone before she and Rachel were to have lunch. Her name had been Ruth.

The girl accepted the package and folded the receipt into her wallet, closed it, and turned from the counter to the store. Hesitantly, Heather pushed herself forward.

“Excuse me,” she said in a tentative voice. The girl stopped, staring expectantly into Heather’s older face with bright blue eyes, wondering, no doubt, what this could possibly mean.

Heather plodded on before she could lose her nerve.

“Are you Ruth, by any chance?”

Looking surprised, Ruth nodded. Her face waited for the next clue to the puzzle.

Heather smiled. “I’m Heather,” she said. “We spoke on the phone the other day.”

Recognition and warm astonishment flooded Ruth’s gentle face, and she held out her hand, shifting the package under her arm.

Heather happily took it.

"Heather,” Ruth said. “Wow, how did you know--?”

“I overheard Rachel’s name, when they called it out for the prescription, and concluded that you must be Ruth. I’m happy to be right.”

“Me too. Gosh, I’m glad to meet you. I’m so sorry that Rachel didn’t make it to lunch the other day. I feel terrible.”

Heather looked at the crumpled package as Ruth drew it out.

“Is she...ill?” she asked.

Ruth looked down at the package too.

“Oh…. no,” she said. “I mean, she has a heart condition. That’s what this is for. She does seem to be susceptible to illness, though, generally, but no, she’s well right now. That’s not why she didn’t meet you.”

At that point the pharmacist called Heather’s name, and she excused herself and went to the counter. Ruth waited. She soon returned, clutching her own package.

“Listen,” Ruth said. “Do you have a minute or two? Are you in a hurry or anything?”

Heather shook her head.

“Would you mind walking with me a minute?” Ruth asked, taking Heather’s arm. She lead her gently through the store and out onto the crowded afternoon sidewalk.

“I need to admit something to you,” she said. “And I apologize in advance for this, but I feel like you should know, because it was my fault she didn’t meet you for lunch, not hers.”

Ruth walked briskly through the bodies, and Heather fought to keep close to her side as they went down the sidewalk. She continued talking.

“You see, I read through her email messages when they come. She doesn’t have time to go through them all, and she gets so much junk, so I just kind of go through them and leave her the important ones. Then often she will tell me which ones to respond to, and then she takes care of the rest. She’s been so busy, she really hasn’t had a lot of time lately, for frivolous things, and she considered a lunch date with someone she barely met sort of not too pressing. You know.”

At this point, Ruth looked at her in sympathy. Heather smiled weakly. She continued.

“But I remembered when she came back from the doctor’s that day, she said how much she enjoyed talking to you, and I thought she’d like to have lunch with you, so when you got the reply, that was from me. Only I didn’t tell her I replied. I set it up myself and put it in her calendar. She sort of just chose to ignore it. I’m really sorry.”

She emphasized the really and stopped in the midst of the swarming bodies, looking at Heather, who nodded solemnly. She looked out into the street, where someone in a car was honking furiously at a cyclist.

“Well,” Heather said. “I understand. I just thought I’d take a chance, because I really enjoyed talking to her too. That day.”

Ruth couldn’t tell her that it was also because she was just getting over Mia, and was reluctant to let anyone new in her life. She couldn’t say that she really would have agreed to the lunch at another time, had she not been dealing with feelings of rejection and disparity, that she had a tendency to fall in and out of depression and was right now very unwilling to be friendly and engaging with new people.

She could say, “It has nothing to do with you,” which she did. But that didn’t make Heather feel any better. “Because she really likes you,” she wanted to add. “She just won’t allow herself the opportunity to make a new friend.”

Rachel often frustrated people, Ruth knew. Ruth was one of the few who could distance herself from it and look at it rationally and not let it affect her. She felt badly for Heather, who could guess at none of this.

“I’m really glad I ran into you,” Ruth said, preparing herself to continue on alone. “I wanted you to know how sorry I was. Please don’t take it personally.”

She squeezed Heather’s arm and joined the foot traffic, and Heather watched her go.

“It’s all right,” she said, to no one in particular. “I’ll be all right.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ruth's interference

“I did something bad today, I think,” she told Braydon at home that night.

His eyebrows rose as he looked at her, standing in the kitchen doorway, biting her lip. He lowered the newspaper slowly to the tabletop.

“Rachel got this email message from some woman she met in the doctor’s office, saying she had read her novel and wanted to get together and talk about it. The message came to her inbox at one of the magazines and was forwarded to her personal address, and I always scan those so she doesn’t have to read all of them. When I brought this one to her attention she got this look on her face, like she was pleased, but reluctant. So I asked her what happened. She said she enjoyed talking to the woman, they made a connection, but she just didn’t feel like doing anything about it. I think she’s afraid.

“So I said, ‘Okay, on a scale of 1 to 10, how much did you enjoy talking to this woman?’ and she said 8. Then I asked if she was pretty, and she smiled. But then she got all dismissive, and said it didn’t matter, the woman was divorced and has children and she wasn’t in the mood to make friends with her, because that’s all they could be anyway. I asked her how did she know, and she totally brushed me off.

“So I got this evil idea. And I replied to the message as if I was Rachel, saying that I had Thursday afternoon free if she wanted to have lunch, and I gave her a place and a time. Then I put the appointment in Rachel’s calendar.”

Monday, June 22, 2009

Heather's email

It was a simple, polite message,
much like her careful, hesitant
approach at the doctor’s office
the other day. I discarded it,
much the same as I had her
attempt at conversation. So I
don’t understand why my mind
keeps going back to it, and why
I keep wondering.

“I’ve been reading your novel.
I think it’s brilliant. I would love
to talk to you about it sometime.
Is it possible to have lunch some-
time this week?”

I admit my fear. I acknowledge
that I do not want circumstances
to repeat themselves. All the ones
I loved have left me eventually.
Even friends sometimes. Do I yet
invite another? I admit the door is
closed, but I must want to hold it
ajar… she had such perfect, white skin.

Ruth found the message and chided
me for ignoring it. Can I answer
every letter from a fan, I asked? But
her ability to read me goes beyond my
comprehension. She will not let this go.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I’ve read the scriptures a lot in my lifetime. Certain verses are used in church more often than others, and are generally more familiar when you hear them. But sometimes, when you hear them in a certain setting and with a certain voice, they sound a little different. Such was the case yesterday, as I sat in a coordinators’ meeting at the temple and listened to this girl read a scripture she had chosen for a short thought. It was the quality of her voice that caught my attention. I stopped and marveled at the words, because they had been offered to me in a different way. Makes me grateful for my ears and my willingness to listen. Maybe I would read the scriptures more if someone with a nice voice read them to me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

from afar

We came out of the building onto the sidewalk on Fifth Avenue, into the molten, humid air, laughing about some guy with a bad hairpiece in the lobby. I made the mistake of glancing down the street, towards the Plaza Hotel, and saw a crowd in the entrance, which was typical. But in the midst, among the beautifully-styled heads and the bare shoulders, and the silks and the jewelry, probably rented, was Mia.

I froze in place, Ruth at my elbow. She saw her too, and we stood in silence. I felt her eyes and the heat of the sun and the maniacal gnawing in my belly somewhere, and the longing was tangible. She looked amazing, wearing a sky blue, knee-length, fitted something...I wondered what the occasion was. I don’t know how many minutes went by as I stood there, fighting the rise of the contents of my stomach. All I could think was that she was no longer mine. I might have been there with her. I might have been at her side, holding her hand as she greeted and kissed and smiled, as the cameras flashed and as she was ushered into a waiting car. She had once been mine—that divine and incredible-looking creature...and then I felt Ruth’s hand on my arm, pulling at me, and I realized I couldn’t see her anymore. She must have glided into the car as I was imagining it. And my eyes were wet and I couldn’t see clearly anyway. So I let her pull me away, down the street, down to a taxi that would take us back to the office, back to my life, back to my work. Without her.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

excerpt from Heather's journal

July 13, my 38th year.

I don’t come across famous people very often, but today may have been an exception. I am a woman who sits quietly and waits for life, but today I may have approached it. I went out of my way because I saw something I was interested in. There was this woman sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s. I had never seen her before, but she looked strained. I thought maybe she was there because she expected bad news. I didn’t want to ask, but I needed to somehow. I thought maybe I could offer comfort. I am a cancer survivor, after all. It was clear she was skeptical about being approached, but I ignored it. I asked her questions and she was hesitant about giving too much information. But maybe it was my face. She warmed up to me.

Turns out she’s a writer. Novels and poems and things, aside from her job as a columnist. She had published a novel, so I asked for the title. It’s called The Green Sweater, by Rachel Metz. When I left the doctor’s I went straight to the bookstore. I’ve been reading since I came home. I am filled with confusion and insight and insatiable curiosity. Her book has crowded my mind with ideas. I want to ask her more questions. But I suppose I should finish the book first.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rachel meets Heather

Swarming with Butterflys, her mind
tried to focus on sentences but scanned
the same one, fifteen, twenty times.
The smell of antiseptic and the thought
of getting pricked and prodded
wasn’t appealing. So she thought of
that kiss. In the parking lot. On a dark,
cloudy, murky night. And the thought
made her smile. Focusing on reading
was useless.

She felt eyes, then, from across the room.
She looked up and found a polite and gracious
face, a little older than her own, a smooth,
unblemished face with a few of time’s wrinkles
at the eyes. She was feminine and small, sitting,
waiting. She smiled in a friendly way. Rachel
smiled back and quickly retreated to the article
open in her lap, attempting to avoid a conversation.
Those eyes had been kind, caring, curious.
What had she been looking at?
Even now, after all this time, Rachel was not
accustomed to being noticed.

The woman wasn’t very far away. She asked a
polite question. Rachel gave her a curt and
abbreviated answer. She asked another.
She invited herself to Rachel’s side. And suddenly,
under the influence of her smell, her wondering and
compassionate gaze and careful questions, the
conversation became interesting to Rachel.
And even after she was called from the waiting
room to be inspected and sent away with a new
prescription, she thought about it. And thinking led
to curiosity.

And now she had two preoccupations:
Butterfly and a field of Heather.

story update

There were some pretty strong emotions associated with my connection to MJ. Not that I didn’t know that already, but they’re being brought to the surface again as I write the story. Yesterday as I was reading the old letters and making notes and working on my story outline, I felt it all again…the excitement, the urgency, the longing. And the dread. I’m glad things have changed now. I’m glad I’m [more] rooted in reality than I was, and can see things [more] for what they were. But I sure got caught up in it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Rachel's regret

She sat swirling,
dazed, burdened, wondering,
retreating into a dark mental
miasma, only vaguely aware
of the body she had held,
warm and still and quietly
sleeping behind her.
She was cold, numb, choking
her breath, sickened by regret.
She would have to open the blinds again
and let in the sunlight.
She would have to call London.
She would have to admit what was done.
The call would cause pain. She would witness
indignation she had never seen.
She would be hated as much as she had been loved.

Monday, June 15, 2009


She smells like the scent of lilacs in the breeze.
I inhale it as I walk along
alone in the cemetery, except for the birds.
I'm alone with my thoughts, free to
say them out loud if I want to.
But no. As I round the corner and can
see past the trees, there is another here.
She may have assumed she was alone too.
Alone in her grief.
We are strangers.
Each alone and longing for another.
Perhaps we each feel intruded upon.
We have that in common too.
The air is heavy with the scent of roses
wet and glistening from the summer rain.
But I keep smelling lilac.

Ruth waking Rachel

I came into the room, quiet
except for her slumbering breathing,
the afternoon light falling in stripes
upon the cushions of the hotel sofa
and across her body.
Her head was motionless against
the pillow, her eyelids thin, veiling those
searching eyes, now resting, dreaming.
Of what? I wondered, my gaze
traveling the outline of her relaxed form
that muffled a heartbeat, slow and steady.
Her book lay open across her middle, the spine crushed
beneath a limp hand, discarded as sleep had overcome her.
It was my duty to wake her now, to remind her of an
appointment, to rouse her back to the afternoon, to
separate her mind from that dream.
I stood and watched for as long as I dared, until the
floor creaked under my heel. I reached out and
lay my palm on her arm, against the skin I had
imagined would be smooth and soft and warm.
I ran my fingers back and forth against that skin,
softly saying her name, until the eyelids fluttered
and her eyes—those majestic, unnerving eyes, still in
dreams but finding my face, and recognizing—smiled.
I spoke and the spell was broken, the moment gone.
But I had to speak.

Friday, June 12, 2009


This is the part of moody that really bugs me:

MJ sends me a text this morning, wanting to go see a movie tonight. We both look at the listings to see what’s playing, but can’t decide on anything. I suggest Wolverine, the third X-Men, but she hasn’t seen #2. So I suggest she rent it and bring it over. I don’t mind seeing it again. But really, I do. I can think of better ways to spend my time than watching a movie I’ve already seen.

So I get home, do the at home stuff, wonder when she’s going to come. My mind gets obsessed with the fact that she’s coming. I keep thinking about it. Even though it’s really not a particular joy to have her here. It’s more like a burden, especially when she’s not talkative. I tell my sister she’s coming and bringing a video to watch, so my sister puts off watching what she wanted to watch. We’re all pretty much in waiting mode.

Then I get another text, about 6:30 (although I don’t check my phone until 7:30), saying that “something’s come up.” That’s her phrase lately: something’s come up. No details, no clue as to what might be more important. Just something’s come up and can we go tomorrow?

Then I feel disappointment—resentment—that I spent so much of my time waiting when I didn’t have to. I could have gone somewhere. Not that I had any alternate plans, but I could have had. I’m mad at myself. I feel stupid and vulnerable. I feel irritated at her, even though I logically have no reason for it. And at the same time, I’m relieved that she isn’t coming. I didn’t want her to in the first place. I didn’t want to have to deal with entertaining her or trying to get her to talk.

WHY DO I CARE? Why does it matter what she’s up to, what she’s thinking about, where she’s going, or whether or not I’m going to see her? I should not care after all this time.

At times like these I very much dislike being female.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


I was reading this article the other night, entitled The Lord’s Pattern for Peace, from the Ensign magazine. Elder Golden says, "Some years ago I was privileged to know a brother who reflected the change that only the Lord can effect in the heart and behavior of a man. Before this change he was not at ease or at peace with himself…His appearance was rough, as was his language. Yet over the decades I was able to detect small, almost imperceptible changes in him. Many of his other associates also witnessed a remarkable transformation and peace that 'distill[ed] upon [his] soul as the dews from heaven' (D&C 121:45) as he willingly submitted to the Lord in all things."

When I read that, I wondered to myself, What was it that caused this man to feel discomfort? Was it his rough appearance, his course language? Or was it that he didn’t feel like the path of his life was in harmony with the Lord’s plan? The changes he experienced came as a result of his willingness to "submit to the Lord in all things."

Being attracted to the same gender often causes feelings of discomfort, or a lack of peace. We often wonder which way to turn. Do I follow my heart—that really, really wants love and companionship that’s readily available to me by pursuing a relationship with another girl? Do I consign myself to celibacy, because I believe the former choice is wrong? Who do I listen to?

There are many voices out there. There are plenty of people who will tell you what they think you should do. Many of them seem good and trustworthy. And maybe they are. But as members of the Church (of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), we have some more reliable resources. Consider this scripture: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).

Rachel is my “natural man.” She does what she wants to do. She pursues whatever she feels like pursuing on a given day. So does most of the world. Submitting to the will of the Lord doesn’t seem like a popular, or even a comfortable thing to do. Often, the path He wants us to follow isn’t the one we want to take. But, according to the scriptures, it’s the path that leads to peace. Do I really want that kind of peace, knowing my life has a heavenly stamp of approval? Or am I willing to settle for temporary happiness? Because that’s available to me wherever I turn.

I ask myself that question every day. What is it that I want the most? Happiness abounds. I can find happiness in a good bar of chocolate. But if I really want peace, I know what I need to do.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


I feel the need to put in a plug for the fabulously talented Butterfly Boucher, whose second album Scary Fragile was released on iTunes and Amazon today. If I was going to recommend and attempt to convert anyone to some music, it would be Butterfly's. I was introduced when she toured with Sarah McLachlan, and not only is she a lot of fun, she's genius. Now I just wish I could do a road trip to San Francisco to see her play again...

Monday, June 01, 2009

excerpt from Rachel's journal

At times I feel like escaping convention and shocking myself by rebelling against routine. This morning was such a time. I was content to be blown by whatever fancy came along, so I did not arise at my usual hour. I lay in bed, absorbed and enveloped by its comfort, overcome with the desire to be inactive and thoughtful. I lie still as Mia stirred, who realized I was still beside her and doubtless wondered why. She rose and went about her routine. I heard the water come on and I fell back into my morning dreams. I found her in the bedroom doorway when I opened my eyes, smelling the way I love her most, like soap and lotions and the steamy, humid bathroom. Naturally she observed me with concern. I smiled and cuddled in my blankets and assured her I was not ill or depressed.

She looked so incredibly soft and beautiful standing uneasily in the doorway, wrapped in her silk robe, the light from the bathroom silhouetting her form. Mia has never been difficult to seduce. Though she is most often the instigator of our intimacy, I know that when I invite it I am impossible to refuse, even when she has commitments and a schedule to keep. The activity that commenced was that lusty, crazy, playful kind that you attempt to recreate but aren’t quite able, the kind that leaves me feeling helpless under the fire of her eyes, where I’m weakened and devoured by the beauty and strength of her body. Such moments are dreamlike in their reality. Such moments float back to you when you’re sitting in a meeting with someone serious. They make you smile and long for the company of the one you love.


Rachel has been posting lately. Just wanted to extend a heads-up to anyone who may not be interested in her obviously bloated and questionable nonfiction. You'll notice that she posts in orange or red (symbolic of her egocentricism), so if you see such posts appearing here, feel free to skip over them if you belong only to Team Alex.