widow's memoir

#AusYAChallenge August Book Photo Challenge:

Day 4: Long Term TBR.

So these are the books that I hardly ever feature in my photos because they’re stored in a storage box I have under my desk. I keep forgetting about them because of where they’re kept, haha. But I will get to them…Sometime…. 😂❤️📚👏🏻📖😍👍🏻

‘I love the way you walk, Suzanne. Like you lead with you pelvis with your back slanted and long steps,’ Jean-Michel says. He imitates her walking back and forth in the kitchen.

He never buys her presents or clothes. Only food. Whenever he is happy, he brings her all kinds of Italian cakes and pastries. She has eaten profiteroles, petites fours, eclairs, Japanese jellies, meringues and marzipan. Sometimes the refrigerator is completely filled with these packages wrapped in paper and string.

I don’t know why Jean bought me pastries all the time. It was really very funny. I think he thought it was something that rich people did. When he did not have money and could not afford the pastries, he would buy me bags of white and pink marshmallows.

Widow Basquiat, Jennifer Clement

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Here’s a look at this week’s paperback releases …

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Seeing your essay mentioned on the same Australian cover as Drew Barrymore is surreal. Landing a bylined, 3-page story in this publication is the stuff writers’ dreams are made of. But reading Laurie’s 500 eloquent words (click red sidebar above) about her adoptive childhood + our reunion = immeasurable prouds of the motherly kind. 

"I'm Alberto"

Two months ago, I said yes to a date on May 2: drinks, ballet, dinner.

Over coffee this morning, I remembered that May 2 is the night I met Alberto.

On this same night in 2005, I met the love—and the spanking—of my life.

It’s been five years since Alberto died, and apparently May 2 is now a day for editing a Forbes article, taking meetings and dressing for a date with another man.

I’m capable even of conversation with that man, of ordering post-ballet tapas, of cutting the queue for us at my local club.

But when the club’s bathroom attendant gives me the nice-to-see-you-again-nod, I realize I’ve never asked his name.

I’m Alberto.

Alberto?

Sí, Alberto.

Of course it is.

My bathroom trip is short. So is the farewell-kiss-on-the-cheek I give my date.

I keep it together for the six-block-walk home, but the elevator up to the apartment brings me to my knees.

And to tears.

I am alone in the elevator tonight, but on my knees with watering eyes is nine kinds of 2005.

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Getting interviewed by celeb journalist Jane Mulkerrins for Grazia’s UK Mother’s Day issue was absurdly flattering.

Being the subject of a photo shoot—rather than a behind-the-scenes PR girl—was a giddy, memory-making experience with Laurie. 

But seeing the article in print with the faces of Alberto and Phil on one page and those of me and my bio daughter on the other takes the difference-splitting to a wholly visual level.

The Sound (not Fury) of a Deathiversary

In early winter, the contract for my audio book was drawn up. While many authors have a strong urge to narrate their own book, the first 60 pages would be impossible for me to artfully record. There’s a reason I don’t read those pages aloud at author events: they come with mild PTSD’s accompanying flashbacks, hyperventilation and tears. 

I had a strong conviction that those pages would be better read by a professional voice artist who doesn’t remember what it was like to perform CPR on my dead husband or shut his casket or deliver his eulogy. So I negotiated the right to choose the narrator. And pre-coach her. And request do-overs (called “pick-ups” in voiceland) for any mispronounced words.

This past week, I received the rough cut of my audio book. I imagine that it’s surreal for anyone to hear their nonfiction book narrated by someone else: it distances you from the story and allows you to experience it anew. It also propels you back in time, resurrecting the visual memories associated with every thought and line of dialog.  

Reliving this story in early March—the same time of year that the book began and concluded—felt not unlike a cruel joke. Took me 48 hours to get through those first 60 pages—exactly why I didn’t narrate—and I had to skip food in order to finish my notes on the remaining 232 pages. Took every scrap of my Lent willpower to not open a bottle of wine at 11am in the middle of Chapter Four. (Anyone else notice just how much effing wine I drank in 2009? Finally understand why so many readers mention opening a bottle while reading this book.)

Reliving the year 2009 a few days before Alberto’s deathiversary has translated into refreshed memories and a deluge of dreams. But it’s also served as a nicer, kinder reminder that the girl who poured out this book is not the same girl I am now. Through its telling, through its publishing, through the opportunities it’s since provided, I’ve had the luxury of grieving in a community that…lets me do just that. The byproduct is a girl who’s worked through much of the shit with which this book struggles.

There are new, often unexpected struggles—parting with his storage units of memories, turning the same age at which he died, becoming a mom to a daughter he never met—but tonight, 30 minutes into the deathiversary, it’s an odd sort of relief to recognize that you’re less and less the panicky person who wrote this story. A bit more the brave one who flickered through at rare moments. 

Or perhaps this is just a public pep talk for a girl who’s doing something tomorrow—er, today—that she’s never done before: spread Alberto’s ashes in NYC.  Because strange that I’ve sprinkled him in countries he never traveled to and places he visited once, yet not the city in which we fell in love and lived.

But also, a thing that’s remedied as of tomorrow.

What Year One Sounds Like

Some people read only printed books. Others are e-bookers. Whole separate category exists for those who listen to their books.

Fucking thrilled that my story just launched to that last, listening group.

While there’s neither a heart shape nor topless silhouette of me on this cover, the young actress who narrates the book is my vocal twin. Um, if I was trained to nail South African/Australian/Brazilian accents and could vary my pitch for male vs. female voices.

(For these reasons, I can nearly live with brunette Rapunzel on the cover.)

And if you happen to be an MP3-type of reader, here’s a sample.

Started reading ‘Splitting the Difference’ yesterday and while I’m by no means a 'sap,’ I started weeping on page two. Alberto’s 'Sit with me?’ line just about destroyed me. That simple description evoked a more visceral emotional response than anything I’ve read in quite some time. I could say a lot more as I relate to your story very deeply, but for now, I just want to thank you for sharing such raw, achingly beautiful work.
—  — Tim, New York City
Through your memoir, ‘Splitting the Difference,’ you offer readers exactly what you asked of your friends and family: 'Stop telling me what I SHOULD be doing and start showing me what I COULD be doing.’ (Go out with friends, travel, find new hobbies, write, allow ourselves a routine for memorializing, etc.). Thank you for having the strength to share your story and help heal others’ pain.
—  — Brittany, Los Angeles