Monday, November 29, 2010

It is Never Too Late to be Who You Might Have Been"

“It is never too late to be who you might have been.”
         Mark Twain

My hands gripped the steering wheel as if the car was going to go out of control at any minute. The radio was turned up high to a country-western station. Thoughts and words flew around me like the lyrics to the songs: ‘Free at Last’, ‘Wild Woman’, 'On the Road Again'. I turned to to an oldies channel where the Eagles were singing 'Desperado'. Ooh…I snapped it off. I couldn't allow any more tears; the windshield was all fogged; the sleet had turned to snow and it was dangerously slippery.

I had to hold on tight and focus. I wanted to reach Newport by dusk, and check into a little hotel downtown—one that I had walked by and admired many times.

It took longer to get there than I hoped. I circled the inn looking for a parking place, and checking the hotel out from the street. It was opposite a large beautiful hotel, but at first glance I couldn’t tell if this little inn looked quaint or seedy. It was somewhere in-between, but it was too late to make changes.

Putting on a matter-of-fact persona, I checked in with the clerk, telling him my basic information while quietly reminding myself that I could be cheerful. “ Isabelle Cocroft: Room 301” he told the porter. He wasn’t listening, so he repeated it even louder--

“Isabelle Cocroft, Room 301.” It echoed. This was me; nothing more. A middle aged woman staying for an indefinite period of time at a questionable hotel.

What about Isabelle the devoted mother of Sophie? And the loyal Mrs. Alistair Cocroft? What about Isabelle Cocroft, MA; professional astrologer and aspiring writer? What about the Isabelle who used to live in blue jeans and cowboy boots and wore her hair in a loose bun on top of her head? Or the other, older Isabelle--the one with curly cropped coppery hair—the one who loves picnics on the beach with a bottle of wine and a sunset to dream upon? And what about this Isabelle Cocroft—the one standing here right now—the one who feels like she's losing her mind? Mr Alistair Cocroft would suggest that they accept her for just one overnight stay, for she will be returning to resume her normal life tomorrow. But this Isabelle Cocroft of Room 301 was checking in for a week, and she was going to prove him wrong.

When I got to my room I called Alistair to let him know I had made it safely here, but the answering machine picked up instead, and I heard myself announce: “Hello, you’ve reached the Isabelle and Alistair, but we’re not here right now, so please leave a message after the beep” A little passive-aggressive for him not to pick-up, but understandable. Just how much did I want him to care?

“I just wanted to let you know I made it here safely and you’ve got my cell if you want to call.” I paused. What else could I say? Hope you’re feeling better? Sorry? “Bye.”

I dropped my cell in my bag, and put on my black-hooded coat and purple scarf. I could take a walk up on Bellevue Avenue. Why not? The little white lights of the Christmas season were up on the trees and shops, and the snow had stopped.

And so I walked up one side of the street and down the other trying to find an un-crowded restaurant where I could feel comfortable. The cappuccino place, C’est Ci Bon was closed. Nothing looked right, and I was reluctant to eat alone where I’d stick out, so I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bed. As I stared at the blank wall at the end of my bed, it reminded me of a blank page and my life now; fresh, full of promise and fear; ferocious in its emptiness. I lulled myself to sleep thinking how I was mastering my ambivalence—how un-Libra like I was becoming. It must be my moon in Aries. Or was it that my Sun conjuncted Neptune? I finally took an ‘Ambien’ my doctor had prescribed for sleeplessness, and fell asleep.

The next morning, after bringing a bagel sandwich and coffee back to my room, I opened my laptop and brought up the astrological aspects.

Jupiter, the planet of expansion and new opportunities, had just passed over my Moon. I always told clients how Jupiter was an “ancient beneficent” in the old astrological texts, but that it has to be taken in context with the rest of the transiting aspects in the chart. This was the art of the astrologer—to be able to synthesize the whole chart.

I wasn’t so happy to see that old devil Saturn, the ancient ‘malefic’ and planet of transformative change going into my seventh house of relationships; of marriage. But it was the truth; I had ‘saturnized’ my relationship with Alistair; seeing him in a negative light, and now it remained to be seen how we would play it out. I was going to have to be mindful of my projections. Did he abandon me or was I leaving him? It seemed like he had left me years ago, and I had just now become aware of it.

Closing my eyes, it all sank in and took only a minute before I knew what to do. I had to get on with the immediate job of my life and find an apartment. ‘Saturn’ calls one to action and restructuring one’s life, I reminded myself. How many times had I told others this?

Fumbling in my bag, I found the number of the realtor I had circled on a piece of paper. I called, and she told me to be there in an hour.

Down on the street again it felt good to join the multitudes and the mass of humanity bustling on the streets. It seemed hard to be really lonely in the city; guess that why I love them so much.

Thames Street was crowded, and it had the feeling of a city within a city. Here the sidewalks were full of people chatting happily on their cell phones and walking their dogs---but they looked me in the eye when I looked at them. I wondered if they could feel my fear….

I turned left nearing the side street with the old Swiss-German house as I had an extra fifteen minutes before my appointment. The guidebook called this historic area between the downtown and the ocean “the hill.” I loved walking on the brick sidewalks, and I walked up to the top, yet I knew if I wasn’t careful I could trip on the uneven pavement. I had on the wrong kind of shoes on for this kind of walking, and it was dangerous with my head in the clouds as well. Better be careful: ‘pride cometh before a fall” I reminded myself. While pondering this, I gave my feet a rest and leaned against a wall while gazing across the street. There was a “For Rent” sign up in a paned window of a small shop—or was it an office?

I hobbled over and looked in. The room was very small, perhaps only big enough for a desk and a couple of chairs, but the ceiling was high and the walls were a combination of wood and my favorite color: a soft salmon red. It had an old world charm, and best of all there was a fireplace; no not exactly a fireplace but a mantle with a black iron-cover to a fireplace that was molded into the face of a woman—or was she a Goddess? She had closed eyes and a serene expression.

How expensive could this be? How much could I afford? It felt like almost too much, too soon. But if I didn’t pay too much for an apartment couldn’t I make this my astrology office?

I took down the phone number and forgetting my sore feet hurried over to the realtor’s in a state of hope almost like falling in love. Could I really do this? Do I dare spend money so quickly—on me, on this, now?

The realtor had the key to the office on a peg board behind her and in no time she was unlocking the black door and turning the old latch. The room smelled like fireplace ashes. I loved it.

It was somewhat out of my price range, but then again I wasn’t sure what that really was. The most amazing thing was that this wasn’t only an office, but upstairs was a small studio apartment that came with it, and a tree shaded little courtyard behind it. The flagstone courtyard had a few small evergreens, and an oriental-looking stone bench and birdbath. I said yes immediately. What wasn’t perfect? The studio apartment had skylights and a small alcove with a view of the garden courtyard and a writing nook. The guilt of renting this was delicious, and lasted till the evening.

Walking back home, after signing the lease, I stopped off again and peeked in the window at the silent goddess who had blessed me with this opportunity. Then I treated myself to lunch with wine, at the Italian restaurant, and felt like I’d been transported into a romantic fantasy. I let the feeling linger…

That night I called Sophie from the hotel. Alistair had already told her about my leaving and I could hear the pain and coolness in her voice. But I assured her it was a temporary arrangement—a marriage sabbatical, and not a legal separation. She had a hard time understanding why, and I wished I had called sooner, or at least before Alistair had. I kept telling her how much I still loved Alistair but that I had to go. I didn’t want to tell her the details; I didn’t want to build a case against her father. There were long pauses.

I asked about her current boyfriend, but she was reluctant to talk about him—why couldn’t I have just stayed in town instead of moving to Newport? She asked. Was it because she was here? I assured her that I loved her, and that I knew she needed to have her own life now that she was out of college and out in the working world, and that I loved her and wouldn’t interfere, but I would come to Boston to see her for lunch each week. For lunch at least. I just wanted her to try to understand…not take sides, but just to allow us to do what we each needed to do.

“But why? Why did you leave?” Sophie didn’t get it. I told her the truth as I felt it. I told her the story again briefly—how I had gotten sick, desperately unhappy, and how her father distanced himself.

“He wasn’t there for me what I felt I was dying. He didn’t know what it felt like to be told: “you might have cancer and you’ll know by the end of the day the result of your biopsy.” He didn’t understand about anxiety attacks, and he didn’t want to be involved in “my fear.” He had never felt unsupported this way, and I had. That why I left.” And I left it at that. Sophie’s phone was beeping in with another call. “I love you” I almost yelled, as the call ended abruptly.      (c)~elizabeth spring

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