From the West Coast,
a Series of Firsts

It is a rocky kind of road.

First West Coast crush: October 2, 2002

It’s a simple mistrust of the rules I’m looking for. Nothing grand: no revolutionary, no hater of all things organized. I want someone who doesn’t walk on the set concrete path to their destination, someone who isn’t afraid to cross into the grass or jump off of a bench.

It isn’t a lust to do these things that makes her attractive. It’s the way she does them for herself. She jumps off of a bench to be reminded what it was like to be a child, ever jumping and running, ever moving but never trying to get anywhere. She crosses into the grass because she feels it’s the right thing to do, and those that follow the path are the ones going against the natural flow of obedience.

She slaps her dented sandals against her feet and then against the lawn, because it lets her spend more time in front of the library, outside the window, where I can see her, walking in a low wavelength and chewing on a few stray strands of her hair.

First pot-luck (a strange term these West-coasters have for BYOB): October 5, 2002

There’s always a way to do these things better, in your head. You’ve spent the night talking to a few people, only two guys and two girls, but really that’s pretty successful.

Trust me.

But then you see the woman you adore step gracefully over the threshold of the screen door (the reason you adore her is twofold psychological trickery: the outer layer has to do with your simple attraction to redheads, but peel that away and the deeper draw is the way she reminds you — in demeanor and in poetry — of someone now graduated who you know you’ve missed a chance with), and instantly what you’ve established by scaring yourself to death through the simple syllable “hi” isn’t nearly good enough.

You should’ve been standing a few feet to the left four minutes ago. Maybe you would’ve run into someone else. Maybe they would’ve been obsessed with Sports Night and role-playing games, with writing and artfully making love. Maybe they would’ve gotten you closer to the redhead. You think it’s a logical and humble request; after all, shouldn’t you be given the chance to fix your mistakes?

This is where the fun starts: now you begin to compromise. And you’ve been told countless times by several people — yourself included — that compromising never gets you anywhere. You begin to spread around what little attention you have; one ear is on the conversation of the guys that actually seem to enjoy your company, and one ear is straining to hear anything about what the redhead likes, or where She lives, or how She writes.

As a necessary consequence of this, some of your attention is also diverted to wondering if you’re being interesting enough. And interested enough. Maybe the guys will think you’re bored. Maybe they’ll think you’re boring, and then maybe it’ll get back to Her, and She’ll cast a nonchalant glance your way, and frown. Oh god. The humanity.

So it wasn’t exactly the way you wanted it — life isn’t a fairy tale, if it were, you wouldn’t be living it. You’d be reading about it in some children’s book.

The point is, you made it to a party, a get-together, a social gathering, a shindig, and you didn’t glue your back to the nearest wall. You talked to people, they talked to you, your voice joined the cacophony of others who were just as unsure if they had anything interesting to say. And, above all, you made the effort. You showed up.

Sooner or later, She’ll have no choice but to see you. And then, well, the game is afoot, my friend. And it’s better to wait for the opening kickoff than to try and pull all of your best moves before anyone’s even showed up to practice. It’s good to let things flow naturally, because then they can grow naturally. And grow they will.

Trust me.

First Wish to Impress: October 17, 2002

Acting always appealed to me. The idea of an artistic and somewhat profitable excuse to be someone else is just about the best thing you can offer to a boy who wants to jump out of his skin every seven seconds. All was paradox in on stage: acting was honesty, but it was lying. It was solitary but public. Difficult but simple. So much complexity went into making it look so easy.

Then I discovered I was good at it. I was natural, I did remember my lines, I was always cheated out, facing the audience. I came to the ultimate realization of practiced art: I made it look like it wasn’t art at all. The hard part was going to the party afterward.

It’s easy to become something powerful when you’re given the blueprints.

It was the constructing that made acting exciting. It was just like building a house, throwing a pot, planting a garden. You were given raw materials, you were given a set time, and you made something spring from it entirely your own. Architects created houses, sculptors created statues. I created people.

Like anything created, though, the products tended to stick around. I wouldn’t expect a house to disappear after I placed its final shingle, but for some reason after I had built my motivations, smoothed my expressions, linked together my lines and my arms and my places on stage, I thought Walter Mitty would fade away. And so would Michael, Stefan, Dr. Agelthorpe, Mr. DePinna — and they have, to an extent.

But I was so astute and cost-effective with creating these people that they left piles and pockets of raw material lying around… and now I act, even when I have no cause to. I want to be someone else when I should be comfortable playing the part of Sean Woznicki. I feel like a Shakespearean cliché, but things are only clichéed if they’re true enough to bear repeating — we are all only actors on a stage. We’re bored with ourselves because we’ve been just that, ourselves, for 23 years, or 15 years, or 63 years.

If we had our way, our spines would be zippers and we could trade skins as easily as putting on t-shirts or taking off sweaters. We could pull on another identity just as easily as sliding into a winter coat. If we had our way, we would always be acting, we would always be in front of an audience that appreciated everything we said and everywhere we moved as small compositions in a greater form of art.

First Step Forward, With Two Steps Back: October 24, 2002

I’ve come to realize that if I ever want to be alone, it’s because it’s easy. Really. What’s difficult about being alone? You stay at home, you keep to yourself, you never reciprocate so you never get hurt. It’s as innocuous as building a mystery.

Not much to build then, huh?

Do you suppose if I sit down and write a list entitled Obstacles to My Happiness, I’ll be able to check them off and sit in front of my computer screen on a late-February morning (because obviously Valentine’s Day will be an obstacle to my happiness), and smile contentedly?

Or will the list become longer, and longer, and end up becoming the most weighty file on my computer? Will it contain things like Rule Earth With an Iron Fist and Invent New Kind of Strawberry Ice Cream, or will it ask if I’ve Cleaned My Room? Will societal influences be part of the list, will I be in therapy to cut down my list, to add to my list, to show my list to a seasoned professional?

Will Dr. Eighty-Dollars-An-Hour look at my list and point to your name with a question furrowing his neatly-trimmed mustache? Will he ask me why I seem to have a weakness for red hair, for odd names, for women with eyes drawn in colors I can easily describe?

Will he ask why Happiness is listed as an obstacle to my happiness?

First Wish to Escape: October 26, 2002

Two weeks ago, I broke a glass. I had it sitting on the edge of my desk, a receptacle to all of the change I’ve accumulated on the West Coast. I was standing by my computer, somewhere in between sit-ups and push-ups, wondering with a fierce vicarious thrill if anyone could see me shirtless through the half-inch separation in the beige curtains, and I turned sharply for the suspended disappointment of seeing myself in the mirror, still cookie-dough pale except for my face. My left thigh was leaning too far over the table, and it gently nudged the glass into a short and shattering fall to the carpet.

It shattered into a corner. The noise was more like a heavy thud than a beautifully crystalline smashing.

Today, I looked at it out of the corner of my eye, its diminished frame still sitting on the edge of my desk, barely half the coin-keeper it used to be. It’s jagged modern art now, not a vessel for drinking, unless I ever craved the grainy tear of glass dust against my lips.

I centered the glass between my eyes. One edge rose high, barely pointed, more like the spike of a graph than a weapon. But I couldn’t help wondering, aimlessly, what I would have to go through to pick up that half-broken glass, walk to the bathroom with it held solemnly by my side, turn on the fan to stifle my screams, and bleed to death in the tub.

I wonder how anyone gets that desperate and alone, if there’s a certain point where we come to it for solace, a finite lip of sanity’s glass. I wonder how far I am from full.

And I wonder if my glass has been broken.

Article © 2002 by Sean Woznicki