Alice

ALICE
By John Levenstein
(Performed at Sit n’ Spin, Los Angeles, CA)

Monday, October Seventh, 5:47 pm

I am keeping this journal in order to not lose my mind while I wait for Alice to decide whether or not she wants to date me. She has already gotten naked with me, and given me a large purple bruise about six inches up from my left elbow, which I roll up my sleeve and gaze at from time to time. It is my only link to her. I cut her loose yesterday, giving her a few days to think things over and figure out what she wants. Why did I think that time was my friend? And what are the chances that she’s actually going to make a conscious choice to enter into the beginning stages of a relationship with me? Day one of my vigil, and I already fear the worst. But I’ll be goddamned if I’m not going to get a Sit n’ Spin piece out of this.

Monday, October Seventh, 8:38 pm

Went online, looking for ways to distract myself. Ran a google search on Alice. There are web sites devoted to her work as an actress. Over ten thousand hits so far. I can’t help wondering how many of us gave her thinly veiled ultimatums and are waiting for her to call right now.

Monday, October Seventh, 8:48

Am feeling a little held hostage by the convention of listing the day, date, and time before each entry. Am considering trying something new, but don’t want to betray the audience’s hard earned trust.

Later that night

Seven years ago, I went on anti-depressants. I had just started work as a sitcom writer, was going through a painful break-up, and couldn’t afford to spiral. One side benefit of the medication was that it helped to curb my obsessive thinking. I used to imagine how much I would accomplish if I could just take the few hours a day I put into cyclical thought and debilitating naps and learned to use it productively. Well, as it happened, I amassed a small fortune. I moved to Napa, put on a few pounds, and settled into my early middle years. Recently, I went off the anti-depressants. “Bring it on, ladies. I’ve got all the time in the world.” Then I went out with Alice.

Just because her apartment looked like a crazy person lived there didn’t necessarily mean Alice was. There was paint everywhere, canvasses of all sizes propped against every piece of furniture. This was the duplex of a woman who needed to discharge. A small pet would not be able to navigate this space. If this were an episode of a sitcom, I would have to tell set dressing, “come on, she’s not that crazy, get some of this shit out of here.”

The details of the date are boring, as are the specifics of any two people having a good time, if you were not one of them. I always dread having to write the scene that’s meant to show rapport on a first date. “We need to see why they like each other.” No. We don’t. I believe television could be improved if the American viewing public would be willing to stipulate to two characters hitting it off, and we never had to see that scene again.

We stayed up until three in the morning, this coming from a man who likes his sleep, even under the best of circumstances. We agreed to hook up again before I left town. That’s the last time I saw her.

Tuesday afternoon

Woke up from a debilitating nap. Have begun to self medicate. My mother stopped by. She’s trying to quit drinking in an effort to lose weight; I convinced her getting high with me might help. Playing God with family is now my only solace.

A half hour later, still high, make sure you edit this

When I first went on antidepressants, my sex drive dipped noticeably. Since I went off, I’ve experienced a slight surge, almost back to the level I was at seven years ago, after my sex drive had dipped. We’re not getting any younger. Which is why when I like a woman, I feel a sense of urgency. I get graspy, I overplay my hand, I get off on my own lack of ambivalence. Alice did not get off on my lack of ambivalence. Rather, a powerful flight instinct kicked in, one that made her question whether she wanted a relationship with anyone right now, let alone me. Just one of the differences that could make us such a fantastic couple.

Written in a notebook while watching T.V., transcribed the next day

This piece is really coming together. Is it possible the antidepressants were curbing my creative genius? Knowing I could take a pill that would make me content and yet conceivably cheat my audience, should I?

Wednesday morning

Sometimes when I wake up it is a full twenty seconds before I think of Alice. This was not one of those mornings. I took my hundred twenty pound puppy to an Israeli dog trainer, secretly hoping he would give me a treatise on the nature of manhood, discipline and desire. Instead, he asked rhetorical questions like why does a golden retriever make a better guide dog than a monkey. But just as I was about to give up and let my puppy pretty much train himself, he said something that got my attention. “You have to learn to think like a dog,” then once more for emphasis. “Think like a dog.”

Of course! Think like Alice! But how? I got in my car and gazed at the bruise, as if at a purple sunset. What was she trying to tell me? Was it a message? A warning? I can’t expect everyone to be as verbal as I am. When she parted her lips, clamped down on my bicep and created a vacuum seal, what was she trying to say that was so much more eloquent than my foolish words? What was Alice trying to say?

I rushed home, the house that Zoloft built, ran out into the woods, and demanded an answer…in whatever form that answer chose to present itself…to the distant beat…of the tom tom drum.

(TOM TOMS BEGIN TO PLAY)

I began to dance, hesitant at first, like Chris Penn in Footloose, then with an almost religious fervor. I’d been subsisting on pot and gatorade. I hadn’t slept in days. But I’d heard you can get a little buzz off of Centrum Silver. Could the voices be far behind?

WOMAN (WHISPERS LOUDLY): Jackson…
ME: For purposes of this piece, I’m calling myself Jackson. I mean, if she can be Alice…
WOMAN (INSISTENT): Jackson…
ME: I listened closely.
WOMAN: Let…go.
ME: Let what?
WOMAN: Let GO.
ME: Oh, I agree.
WOMAN: Let go!
ME: Let’s GO, let’s get on with it already, let’s get this relationship on the road. Let’s go! Let’s go! And as I fell to the ground, my catharsis complete, I knew that no matter what happened, I would be okay.

(THE TOM TOMS FADE)

I can’t even talk about this. She left a message while I was outside doing my dance of whatever happens I’ll be okay. I don’t need to know this woman to know she’s impossible to get on the phone. I tried her back; she picked up right away. She really wanted this conversation off of her desk. She said we can’t do this, it’s crazy, she can’t keep acting so crazy, it’s just crazy. Not the kind of wiggle room I was hoping for. I kept her on the phone just long enough to make sure that whenever she thought of me, it would be with a sense of heaviness and dread. And that I’d have enough regrets to keep me warm through the winter.

Postscript, written a week later

So what have we learned, other than not to write my pieces in real time while I’m actually going through the experience. I don’t know. I’ve made a couple resolutions, come up with some pretty good rationalizations. The friends I leaned on are now calling me with their problems, which has got to stop. Bottom line, I wasted a week, which is nothing. I’ve wasted more of my life sitting on the toilet when it turned out I didn’t really have to go. When I was on antidepressants I used to imagine what I could accomplish in the few hours a day I spent in an unmotivated dull content torpor. Well, as it happened, I lost fifteen pounds and went quite mad. But at least I’m back in the game, getting my ass handed to me, making microscopic little adjustments. When I was first considering going off the medication, my psychiatrist said, you can’t steer if you’re not moving. Well, I’m steering, Dr. Engel! I’m steering!

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