ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching

Book Two, Chapter 104: Talking with Ernie

I have to talk to you, Ernie.

What is it, Ernestina?

Joshua went to a speed-dating session the other night. He met Ashley, who works, goes to nursing school, and owns a house in Clifton. He sent her an e-mail but she didn’t respond, and none of the other eight women he talked to that night responded to him, either. He says they’re all insincere. ‘Why do they show up at these speed-dating sessions if they don’t want to date?’ he asked me. I asked him: ‘Did you tell them you were an L. A. actor and film director?’ He said: ‘I told them I was relocating to this town.’

But that’s not true, Ernie. He plans to be here only three or four more months. Until August. And do you think he told these women that his on-again, off-again L. A. girlfriend is coming to town for ten days on a plane ticket he bought for her? That he’ll stock the refrigerator with food she likes, even a box of bourbon balls? That he’ll be at her beck-and-call for those ten days? Do you think he told them that? Who’s being insincere?

What does Joshua think about Christy?

He doesn’t know whether he’s in a relationship with her or not. He calls it dysfunctional, but is he going to continue to allow himself to be mistreated and beaten up and torn down and bullied by her?

You’re asking tough questions, Ernestina. Only Joshua can answer them.

What do you think about Christy, Ernie?

I’m a supporter of Christy. She’s a gifted actor, painter, and writer. Her screenplay for Barracuda is better than I thought it would be. I hope she gets what she wants . . . but the ending of my life — the very end of it — changed what I wanted. That last night I lived, you and Joshua and Christy were in the living room with me. Joshua was at my side, reading The Marvelous Kingdom of Wee to me. What mattered most to me in those waning moments of my life was not that Joshua was reading to me a children’s story I wrote about a cricket named Crinklestitch. It was that you and he and Christy were there with me. And you wouldn’t have been reading my story to me if you hadn’t understood who I was and valued what I did in my life. So, to get back to your question, I don’t think becoming rich or famous will make Christy happy. I also don’t think she and Joshua will ever be happy together. There’s too much inside work to be done by both of them that hasn’t been done, that probably won’t be done, for them to truly love each other. I hope Joshua does that inside work eventually so that he will love and be loved, but it won’t be by Christy. I support her, but she’s hard on herself and hard on everyone around her.

She sounds like me, doesn’t she, Ernie? But I’m making progress. I’m learning to forgive myself.

That’s good news, Ernestina. I’m glad to hear it.

You said in your long-ago letter to me: I love you deeply and dearly, even your damned sarcasm, bad grammar, and affected sexy crap. You took me on, Ernie, and I never really changed, did I? I stayed a little girl. A headstrong, clueless little girl.

I knew I couldn’t change you.

I’m sorry, Ernie.

So am I. We missed each other. We hid the real, the honest, the deepest part of ourselves from each other even if we didn’t realize it. So we stayed stuck.

We’re catching up with each other, aren’t we?

I’m stuck in my deadness, Ernestina. I can’t change. You can. You can repair yourself. You can change what needs changing.

I didn’t know I was in such disrepair.

Now you do. That’s the first step toward the light.

Remember the poem you wrote, Ernie? I am the ship, and you are its light? Together we can pierce the fog?

Yes, I remember. Of course I remember.

I wasn’t your light, Ernie. You were my ship, but I wasn’t your light.

That’s not entirely true, Ernestina. But now you’re your own light. You’re finding yourself.

Will Joshua?

He will, too. He’ll stop blaming others and start telling the truth to himself. I didn’t, not until my very end. But he will.

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Ernestina

My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 2-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.