Natalie Zed: Defying Gravity

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Watson: A Game

Ah, small town. I now remember how I came to hate you.

My parents are very quiet people. My mom is the exact opposite of a gossiper, but she does have her few confidants. And one of said confidants hasn't grasped the meaning of her title and it's relationship to the word 'confidential.'

I was at a drug store yesterday, purchasing no less that three separate types of feminine hygeine product (if that's not a Do Not Disturb warning I don't know what is) when the cashier asked me if I had found a solution to my problem.

I stared blankly for a moment.

"You know, how you're going to move all your stuff to Toronto! I hear you were having some trouble moving. How are you doing, anyway?"

I mumbled something about a cargo van and blood loss, and fled.

That encounter was a little odd, but by far not the worst I have had. A few days ago, I went into a local coffee shop that may or may not rhyme with Tim Morton's, and ordered an XL triple-triple. Once again, this very obious Leave Me Be hint was not heeded and the cashier pounced.

"Hey, I was sorry to hear you left your husband."

Blink. "Yeah, that's not exactly -- yeah. Alright."

"We've all been wondering -- what are you going to do about your name?"

"My -- what?"

"Well, when J. got divorced, she changed her name back right away, but S. just kept hers for, you know, the kids. And E. has like twelve names. What are you gonna do?"

"Well, I kept my name. So I am going to continue to keep it."

Despite the hassle that I get every single damn time I say this, I insist on telling people that I kept my name. It is important. I had a name and I kept it. It is mine to publish under, to sully, to squander or to see in lights.

"Oh."

And then, anotehr employee, who had been taking orders from the drive-through (spelled "drive-threw" on the sign, incidentally) covers her headset mic with one hand and calls over her shoulder:

"You must have not been that committed then, eh?"

I left.

But I have been thinking, dammit. Thinking a lot about my name. It's the one thing that I haven't had to change, and I am deeply grateful for its constancy through this experience. And having a name that was half someone else's right now would be unbearable. Taking my name off the utilities, looking at pictures, and staying in the city where we met has been awful enough. Having to use a name that was really Ed's name every day, and decide to deal with teh pain of keeping it or deal with the pain of changing it again, losing identity again, might just been the straw that put me in the hospital.

But beyond that, I have been thinking about my initial decision not to change my name, the endless bullshit I had to out up with becauseof that decision, and how I have not regretted it for a second.

When Ed and I first started talking about getting married, long before we were even engaged, I wasn't really sure what I was going to do. I'd grown up in a world where women took their husband's names, and thought I might follow suit, save me the hassle, though that never felt right. Then my mother suggested, in jest, that we should both change our names, combine Walschots and Schmutz and become the Walschmutzes (which endured as a nickname for ever). I was actually quite taken with this idea -- the two of us conbining what we had to make something new seemed an appropriate meaphor ofr a marriage and a family -- but when I brought it up as a real option Ed flatly refused to consider it seriously. When pressed, he said that he had a name, he liked it, and he was keeping it.

I thought about that for a very long time. I too, had a name. I hadn't always liked it; I had tried on a few new ones, accumulated nicknames and titles and insults, but we'd eventually warmed to each other, my name and I. I liked the sharpness of my initials, the three consonants all angled lines. I had even published a little under that name.

So I kept it -- and the act of keeping it both made me fall in love with it, and seemed to invite the whole wide world's disapproval and input.

I did not keep my name to be contrary. I did not keep it because I was not committed to the man I believed I would spend the rest of my life with. I did not keep it because I wanted to invite all this trouble or rile up the locals. I kept it because it was mine. It was my name, what I was called, and it had the power of twenty (now twenty-five) years of being my name behind it, reinforced every time I was called. My name had the magic of being my name.

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Natalie Zed updated @ 10:53 AM!! 4 comments

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dark Night

14. On one blanket and under another in High Park. The quality of light sinks away. The smell of incense, pot, chocolate chip cookies, greenery, dirt, skin. pebbles and grass through the blanket. eyelids over corneas, eyelashes resting on cheeks. slow breathing. someone at a microphone and listen. listen. eyes slid.

15. the train is one swaying nervous hum. trying to sleep through the numbness. there is cream cheese smeared on a gray duffle bag. across the aisle: she in blond and tanned, gesturing with an iphone, her sunglasses reflective as a Louisiana cop's. Telling the older woman next to her about her early period, hormones in the beef. I keep very still, hope no one notices I am spreading like an oil slick, leaking everywhere, getting into everything. hazmat.

16. something obey me. electron, electrolyte, cabling, crux, helpdesk, highspeed, something. please.

17. I just brought chips; I didn't know UZIs were an option. face cut into shape, a mass of stringyness and smears, just enough of the carnival to be menacing and I think yeah. my face has been caught in that rat trap. cut into a smile. snapped into place by cellphones, paparazzi without the flash. sugar builds bridges and skyscrapers on my teeth. the theatre is one giant mouth. breathing. abject.

18. sick cat on the porch, fireflies from blade to brush. chirps, eerie laps, a bonfire smell, gravel crunch. circle of milky tea. my skin is angry, red bubbles break the surface. soon I will be liquified. drink.

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Natalie Zed updated @ 10:20 PM!! 0 comments

Friday, July 11, 2008

Defying Gravity

In nine minutes, I will be 25 years old. Three weeks ago, my marriage ended and I watched a dear friend jump off my 7th-story balcony. Two weeks ago, I quit my beautiful new job, packed all of my things into a few boxes, and left the city that has been my home for the past four years. This week, I may have lost another dear friend and I am not sure why.

In the past week, I have also reconnected with my oldest, dearest friends and have a real sense of hope, of possibility for a future here. I have begun to look at apartments, and may even have some leads on potential employment. Today, I have received possibly the best birthday present ever.

A month ago, I went to Book Expo and learned about my industry from the other side, at the same time that I was fighting to hang on to my marriage and slowly, steadily losing my grip.To months ago, I was in Paris and saw the Opera House for the very first time. Three months ago, I began treatment for post-traumatic stress. Four months ago, I first learned that all of my PhD applications had been rejected. Five months ago, I was first diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and began a round of medication that would eventually cure my migraines and let me sleep for the first time in months. Six months ago, I began going to couples counseling with Ed. Seven months ago, I have fought with an every-increasing sense of loneliness and separateness from my family and old friends. Eight months ago, I launched my first book and toured across Canada promoting it; then I got the news that my mother-in-law had suddenly passed away. Nine months ago, I started to suspect that there was something terribly wrong with me. Ten months ago, I had my first nervous breakdown. About one year ago, I successfully defended and handed in my thesis and thought that at long last all my trials were over; I handed in the project, waited for my degree to arrive in the mail and believed that now all I would have to do was enjoy a year off to get my life and my head in order before starting in on my next grand adventure.

So here I am, having just turned 25 (it's just past midnight now), starting over again from the very beginning. In the morning, my official birthday, I will start looking at apartments with my soon-to-be-roommates: Gennie C and Lily the Pirate. I will call my brother to make sure my glorious jungle cats are still happy and growing fatter in his care. I will breathe in the smoke and the honeysuckle here, and drink coffee with my friends, and pet Tess, my new magical familiar and circus rat.

I will not make any more apologies for who I am. I am Natalie Zed. I am here to live and to write and to wreak havoc.

One quarter of a century down. Breathe. Begin again.

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Natalie Zed updated @ 11:50 PM!! 5 comments