Sunday, December 19, 2010

Time it was and what a time it was it was

Last night my high school had a giant reunion, a reunion for all the people who had ever attended at any point since they opened in 1975. It was a reunion, but it was also the retirement party for the principal, the incredible Roseanne Wood. I was not there. I was at work in my ill fitting blacks, walking the floor and serving the pretty people.
One of the tables I had the pleasure of serving was the family of one of our chefs (the best hired gun in town) who also went to my high school and whose brother was the valedictorian of my graduating class. The brother was there, in town for the event, and we saw each other for the first time in 14 years. When he walked through the door my heart banged against my ribcage and rattled the blood to the roots of my hair and I had to hide a minute, I felt so shy. This man, this boy, he looks exactly the same, only more handsome. Perhaps it is the beard.
We were friends back then. The kind of friends who were brought together primarily because he dated one of my best friends, and so were almost always together but never alone together. My best friends- I wish I could list their names. I would pull out their names like a rosary and tug each one as it went by, but it has been 14 years and I am so different and who are they now and would they want to be named by childhood name here on my morning scribble to everyone and no one? Even if I say the names with a prayer and a tug on each one, would they cringe? Besides, I so rarely name names here it seems far too intimate. Here is all I can say: J and M and E and H and K and C. There were other friends but those were the ones. They were the ones. Oh Nyna.
Most of us still or again live here in Tallahassee. K is in California and H is in New York (I believe) but the rest of us yes live here. J and M and E have babies and children. All of them have done amazing things. Whenever I hear of what they are doing all I can say is Damn.
This friend I saw last night, he and his beautiful wife are both ologists of fascinating subjects, furthering the good of humanity. They are Super Scientists and I am glad they are on our side. If they were to use those giant brains for evil we would all be fucked.
He told me that he was looking forward to seeing so many people from the past. I struggled to voice what I was feeling and said something about how it is different to move away and drift apart from those you were close with in high school than it is to be in one's hometown and do the same. I had been on my feet 10 hours already when we were talking and my words were not satisfying to me, though they never are when I try to speak of what is in my heart. He didn't seem to mind my struggle, he listened and he looked into my eyes.
Here is what it is:
My high school was different. We were a Magnet school, we were a public school, we were a drop out prevention school, we were 200 people strong. We were in the bad part of town. We were the druggie school. We had a bad reputation. We were not allowed to be fools. We were taught respect by being respected. We were from every neighborhood in Tallahassee. For some of us it was a last chance and some of us fought to get in. For all of us it was a choice and it was the only place, the only place for any of us.
One time when I was going through a hard time, my dad was worried about me after he dropped me off. He called the office and asked if there was anyone who could talk to me. The office ladies, in all their wisdom, called not the school counselor but the drama teacher who was beloved to me. She came and got me out of math class. We went into a tiny room that was used as a computer cubicle, shut the door, sat on the floor in the dark, and we talked. That was the kind of school it was. Still is, I hear.
They didn't expect us to work hard and do well because that was what you were supposed to do to be a Good Student. They expected that because we were all smart, we were all worthy of greatness, we were all able, and so of course we could. No excuses for lameness. Not the charges on your rap sheet, not the alcoholic parents, not the baby in your belly. You choose your future. You can you can you can.
Roseanne Wood built that house and her I can name because I know she claims me as one of her own. She claims all of us. She is proud of what we have done and who we are. Even when we are not.
I did not go to the reunion because people requested off for the holidays and I put myself into the empty spot they left behind. That and I knew, in my maudlin way, it would tear my fucking heart apart.
J and M and E and H and C and K. Back then there were times I did not know where my skin stopped and theirs began. I could reach out and fill my hands with their hair, I knew what all their toes looked like, I knew all their smells. We swam naked, we all slept in the same beds, we wore each other's clothes, we broke each other's hearts. I wasn't the best of them, and I acted badly and took their love for granted and I regret it so much. I was a kid, I was learning what it was to love. That's my excuse for lameness.
Now I see some of them sometimes and I almost cannot bear it, I can't imagine what it would be like to be in a ballroom with all of them at once, all of us so different now and yet still the same. The people we were still in us somewhere. All of that and the meeting of spouses and the talk of work and the la-di-da and my stupid heart would be beating so hard and my arms would literally ache to pull them to me. There would be nothing I could say to explain what I would have felt, and the need to do so would have been so strong that it would have hurt. To try would have been inappropriate bordering on crazy, which is how I am generally anyway. At least I see that. At least I know.
At our graduation, the top five students (of which I was one, and that boy last night another, and J and E as well) were asked to give a small speech. After having come through all four years of that amazing school and having inside us all that they taught us we felt that this was silly, that we'd accomplished nothing compared to those who had come to the school with no hope and left with a diploma, and so instead of the speech we were supposed to write we spoke the lyrics to a Simon and Garfunkel song, each of us taking turns reciting lines. It is even more perfect now, and I leave it here.

Time it was and what a time it was it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences.
Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They're all that's left you.

(Bookends, S and G)

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Day Today

I am glue. I am duct tape. I am glue. I repeat this to myself all day, like a mantra. I am glue. I am duct tape. I can help hold together the machine, but it is not my job to fix it, nor can I change the intrinsic nature of the machine. I am glue.
It has been a day. A day and a half of a day and still a double at work tomorrow and brunch (oh fuck a bunch of brunch) on Sunday, and I have yet to have my supper. (Which is soup. Which is simmering on the stove. I love soup. I love it so much I think I'll marry it.) I fired someone today.
I should say WE fired someone, because I am not the boss (I am glue) but I am the manager and I hired the man so it fell to me (I am duct tape) to let him go.
It was like breaking up with someone I never really liked in the first place. It was something I wanted to do, something I needed to do, but not a comfortable thing, no, and dreams were shattered. His dream of having a job. His dream of having a job where he could play with his phone all day, come in late, and disappear for long periods of time for whatever reason to do whatever it is he did. He asked for another chance. He was shocked, confused, hurt. He said he didn't understand, and that this was so unexpected. An hour after he left he called and asked again if there was anything he could do to change my mind. No, I said. I am sorry, I said.
There is that, and then there is this illness that is going around. Our sous chef was out sick and told me today that he threw up thirty times on Tuesday night. Thirty times! I did not ask if he actually kept count, although that is what I was thinking. Not that I didn't believe him but that is a pretty high number, and you'd think you would lose track around ten or so. He also said that he had a 103.9 fever. I told him that I was glad he was not brain damaged, and he concurred. His mother, our lady boss, has also been sick, which is why there was a reservation taken for 15 people in a private room for today at noon and no one told me. (I am glue.) Generally, when there is a private party on the books I schedule another server to take care of them. Today I took the party, as well as tables in the dining room and on the patio. The luncheon was a meeting of judges, and God forbid I ever get arrested (again) and have to stand before one of them because surely they will remember how I was tardy in refilling the iced tea and took forever to get their checks. There's a certain amount of pressure to get checks to people anyway, but when those people are expected in court, it ups the ante a bit.
The day shift ended as smoothly as it could, considering, and then the dinner crew started showing up. I sat and worked on the schedule for Thanksgiving week. I talked to the bosses about how the firing went, and how the judges were. I talked to the servers about the change of staff. A chef needed to talk about a hostess who sassed him. Our bar manager wanted an ear for her troubles with the bar staff. I explained to our new manager? office manager? assistant manager? about why it is necessary to put people on a wait sometimes, even when there are empty tables. I worked on the schedule some more. I made phone calls and cajoled the people who are not going out of town to work doubles over that weekend. I even made up a song about it to make it seem more fun. I said, over and over again, It will be Fine. It will be Great. I said Thank you, I love you. I filled in the head chef about the goings-on and we talked for a bit about his mom, who had passed early this week. It is very sad, and I told him that I was sorry to bring it up during dinner service but I didn't want to pretend I didn't know or that it did not happen. He said that it was alright, he thinks about it all the time anyway, and we agreed that it is nice to say things out loud. I hugged him, and I had never hugged him before, and it was sweet and funny.
I also hugged one of the hostesses when I saw her in the hallway as she came in and we both leaned into each other and sighed. She is a hostess, but she is also my baby sister's best friend and she is one of my little girls and her tiny bones are precious to me. It was good to see her face.
When our new server showed up to train for dinner I said, Hello Sexy-Pants! Come here so I can sexy your pants! Which doesn't make sense but makes sense for us because we have worked together before at another restaurant. To another server I said, No more talking. I don't even want to see your lips moving as if you are talking. Come move your face into my hand so I can slap you without moving my hand. Then I said, I love you. I am leaving now. And I hugged him too.
Then it was time for me to leave and so I walked around gathering my things and I hugged all the other servers. I told them all thank you, and I wished them a good night. I hope everyone is nice and you make lots of money. That is what we tell each other, and we laugh because we know not everyone will be nice and the money will be what it is on a chilly night a week before Thanksgiving.
There are things I can do, and there are things I cannot do. I can listen when people need to say what is resting heavy in them. I can reassure and be calm, even when I know that we will get our asses handed to us as we often do. I can work like a beast. I can tell people I love them. I can do that. And that is something that is not in my job description but it is something that, when said and meant, establishes loyalty and trust. They know that I will never ask something of them that I am not willing to do myself. I tell them they are beautiful, because they are so beautiful.
Here is the thing (I am duct tape): if you do your job well, people will tell you and thank you, but if you do your job really well, they will hardly notice what you do at all. That is the goal. That is the prize. To move through a space all the way to the end and touch but to not leave a mark, and when it is time to walk through the door everyone is smiling. I can't always do this, but when I can it is so fine.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I went to vote yesterday and it was easy. There was no line, I just walked right in, showed the nice ladies my ID, got my ballot, filled it out, received my sticker, and walked back out the door. It's not as good as at my last precinct which was held at an old folks home and the ladies there would give you baked treats and day-old bread from Publix, but still, pretty sweet.
It got me thinking about change, about Change, and about how a few years ago we rallied as a nation and went out and voted for Change and we did it, yes we did it, Yes We Did. Lately I've been hearing talk and grumbling about "Where is the Change?", as if people feel cheated, as if they thought they voted for a Superman and what they got was a man, just a man, and how could that be? I don't understand this. Or I do, I do in my heart, because I know that the grumbling and the rumbling start with people who never voted for the change at all, they just dress in sheep's clothes and start up the whispering of dissatisfaction and that whispering is a mighty tool in our country. People like to talk shit, they like to rail, they like to repeat things that sound cool and smart without really having to think about things, or come up with anything original. Sometimes it works for one side (Yes We Can) and sometimes it works for the other (Where's My Goddamned Change?) but for whomever and wherever it works, it does. It's a game of sides, and I am tired of the game but there it is.
We are a swiftly tilting boat on choppy water and whenever we list to one side everyone runs to the other, and then someone shouts a panic and we all move on back, and the whole time there are whispers that the Captain is to blame, but it is a boat, and will list, and will tilt, and if we were listening to the Captain we wouldn't be running back and forth to begin with.
Real Change doesn't come fast, we know that. We like to think it does. We want the Slim-Fast and then we want the Ultra Slim-Fast. We want American Idol, we want the magic bullet, the two weeks to whiter teeth, the rocket to stardom, the lottery ticket to make us instant millionaires, we want it, we want it fast, we want it now. We are told that it is not only possible, but it is The American Way. We want what we want without having to actually change anything we like at all. That is why we are not happy with our Captain right now. Change is slow, and we might have to compromise.
When I was at Heartwood Institute taking classes in acupressure and Chinese medicine, my teacher told us that it would not be easy to get our clients to change. He said that people are sick the way they are because of the lifestyles they lead, and they like these lifestyles or they wouldn't live like that. So much of what makes us sick is that which we enjoy. To be healthy one often must have a deep internal change before a physical one is possible. If you develop diabetes because you love cake, and you are given cake your whole life to make you feel better and to make you happy, you must learn to love more than cake. If you don't, you can still stop eating cake but you might grow to be irritable and discontent. Or you don't stop eating cake, and you lose a foot. It is that simple on paper but I don't mean to be insensitive. We are not simple beings, the things we love, the things that we are attached to are deep within us, and make us who we are. To change who we are is difficult indeed. Sometimes impossible. I think we can all recognize that.
So if we cannot stop eating cake to save our lives, why do we expect one man to change a nation as quickly as one may change his socks? We love our money, we love our things, we love our air conditioning and our very fast and big cars, we love to bitch and blame and whisper. We love to have our Own, and God bless the child whose got his own, but where does that leave the child without?
Chinese Medicine also taught me that you cannot separate the body to heal it. If your head hurts, rub your feet. They are connected, it is one body. We are starting to understand this in Western medicine as well. If you have a sore throat and you are given antibiotics, the doctor may tell you to take a probiotic to replenish the flora in your digestive system. A sore throat and a stuffy nose are far away from a colon or a vagina, but they are connected and they affect the whole. It is a marvelous and complicated thing, the body. So too is a nation. Far too complicated for me to figure out.
I see how poverty provides a breeding ground for desperation, which in turn creates an environment ripe for fear and violence. I see how well funded schools feed minds and health care protects bodies and these two things are essential in ensuring our people a way up and out of poverty. It is common sense and yet it does not pay out as fast as giving money to big business and funding oil companies and creating bigger and better weapons to protect our giant assets. To improve the health of our nation we would do right to invest in the health and wellness of our children. Which of course would take generations to see any return on said investment and by that time those of us sitting here now will be dead and we are really really loathe to make any sort of changes that may improve things after we die.
The very smart and the very rich know these things, but we don't listen to the very smart and it is not to the advantage of the very rich to acknowledge them. The very rich are also safe in that the big picture is far too big to grasp in a satisfactory way. The money that it would take, the man power and the changes it would take to truly and properly fix our nation's ills are so vast that the human mind simply cannot grok it. I am an average human being, not stupid, not brilliant, and my mind makes a strange shift and shimmy when I try to imagine that sort of magnitude. I don't know what to do.
So I vote. I vote for people who seem to have the people's best interests at heart. I vote for the people who have fine minds and some sort of soul, who see this nation as one body, and who want to make some healing happen.
The people who have made the greatest contributions to change for the better do not live to see the full manifestation of those changes, but they do it anyway. Because they care, because they are far thinkers, because they passionately believe in what is right. Even when great and fast changes have been made it takes a very long time for us to sink into them and feel them. President Lincoln didn't just say, "I'm going to kick it up a notch. BAM! I freed the slaves!" and then everything was equal. It took people time and time again to fight and pray and speak and march and die and new people to be born in a different world to make an even more different world and still it is not perfect. That change is still happening.
I voted for my President because he spoke of change, but also because he is smart. I voted for him because he loves his family so clearly, and therefore I know he is capable of love. I voted for him because he speaks of health before he speaks of wealth and because he stands tall and is proud in his body, as I hope he is proud of our nation. Because I am not a foot or a hand, but I am my whole body. And I am not one person, I am a family, I am a city, I am a nation.
It took us a very long time to get sick, and it may take us a very long time to get well, and I am sure as hell not going to damn the man who I believe is going to fight with all he's got to make us better. No matter how long it takes.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

On Taking A Bath

When I was a little girl and we would go visit my Granny in Winter Haven, sometimes she would take my brother and I to the lake by her house to wash our hair. We would go down to the lake, swim, sing songs about little fish, and shampoo. I remember the feel of her hands in my hair, on my scalp, and the soap swirling in the tea colored water while my toes scrunched the silty lake floor and the world all open around me. To rinse you swam again, and came out clean. So simple to swim and come out clean.
I have been taking baths lately and a bath is not like a shower. I love showers. I had a boyfriend once who was jealous of the shower for the noises it made me make. Step in and I would moan, a moan, a sigh, an oooooh and mmmmmm, he told me that I did not make these noises with him. I was not aware of the sounds I was making, and that's the point isn't it? A shower can be more intimate than sex and just as primal a pleasure. That shocking hot, your jumping goosebumped flesh, and then the release of tight and tired muscles as the heat sinks in. A shower can feel like a curtain from the world, the noise of it so loud in your ears and with eyes closed you just accept it and you are in it and there is nothing else you can be doing at that time and so it is a time out from life. You can cry or sneeze and not have to cover your face. A shower is forgiving.
A bath is exposing. I don't like to get in until the bath is full because I am cold and I don't like to be cold, and so when I get in the faucets are closed and it is so so quiet. I always get in and go straight to my knees and put my hands flat on the floor and close my eyes and breathe, as if I am in supplication, as if I have to be active in my letting go. My mind ticks quiet and then goes to the lake, or to the fantasies of my childhood. I am a mermaid, I am a sylph, I am an Indian Maid. The water is filled with flowers, the water holds tiny fish, I sling my mind from sharks, I try not to think of my thighs and knees.
I am so much bigger than I was as a child: I remember when I could sit under the faucet to rinse my hair. Now I take up all the space and have to rearrange all my body to wash. And my body is so close up, it is not that I do not like my body but that these are different views of it than I am used to so it is alarming all the same. I am so nearsighted that when I am standing in the shower I don't really see myself at all, just fuzzy bits that bloom slick and soft with soap, a realization for only my hands. In the bath I see myself kneeling naked, I see my bends and folds, I see the curve of my calves and my hip with my hair all down it. I have to look in a bath, to see the soap wash away. Clean is not a given in a bathtub, a bath does not do the work for you. You cannot stand submissive and be washed clean, you cannot swim the soap away.
When I was married I loved to take a bath. Once a week I would fill the bathtub, light candles, drip in oils of lavender, eucalyptus, and mint, or sandalwood and rose. I would shut the door and windows, I would shut out the world and lean back and close my eyes and that was my time in my head, a place I could be alone. My husband was a busy man and I needed that place away from his energy and his needs. Sometimes I would read a book, and then I would have to put the book in the oven to dry it out because I had dropped it in the water. I would stay until the water was cool, and my mind was quiet.
Now I live alone and I do not need a bath to shut out the world. Now I feel more alone in a bath than is necessary. I take note of the traffic outside, of my neighbors' TV, of the movements of my cat. I pull my legs in close and set my chin on my knees and contemplate the tile. It always needs to be cleaned. That doesn't bother me, everything always needs to be cleaned. I like to imagine other people in their baths, not them naked exactly but how they are when they are exposed only to themselves. Do they look away? Do they sit stiff and fidget? Do they lie still and sigh? Who uses bubbles? Who reads? Who smokes and sips wine? Who locks the door? It's an exercise similar to when I worked at the mall and I would try to picture all the ladies I saw with Victoria's Secret bags in lingerie. I always thought they looked great.
Soon I will call my landlady and invite the men who fix things into my apartment so I can shower again. I will have to shut my cat in a room and make small talk while a stranger is crouched in my bathtub. I will offer him coffee which he will not take and ice water which he might. A long time ago I gave a plumber a beer and discovered that his true passion was NASCAR. He did not like plumbing, but his daddy did it, and his granddaddy before him. Everyone has a story.
Until then I am learning myself away from a mirror, away from intention, at the age of 32. I find that my feet are beautiful. I find my scars and my stretchmarks and my blue highway veins. I find that I am ripe as a peach. I find that the voice in my mind is hummy and has timbre. And it echoes against the tile, and it comes back clear.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Moleskinner's Blues, Part 2

I found the right Moleskine (which has an e on the end, and I've corrected that in my last post, sorry for the misspell) at the Utrecht Art Supply. I also purchased two new very fine point pens in brown and black (let's not read too much into that). I will be going there from now on for all my Moleskine needs. As an added bonus the guy who helped me was terse and had a beard.
I dreamed last night that one of my toes fell off leaving a dry, empty cavity. I woke up to find that my shower is broken and my coffee maker is dead. Sure, I can heat water and pour it into the basket with the grounds, but do you know how hard it is to wash hair that goes down to your ass in a bath? I will be bathing on my knees. After I scrub out the tub.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Moleskinner's Blues

I went to write in my journal this morning and I just couldn't, the journal is too big. It's alright when I'm writing on the left page but when I move over to the right I have to tuck the left side into myself somehow and that pulls the book into a severe sideways position that is not conducive to comfortable writing. I need a new one, and I'm only a few pages into this one.
I started keeping a diary when I was eleven. Our friend Summer (she of the dirty mix tape, she of the sprayed up bangs, she of the boobs at age twelve) had read Anne Frank: The Diary Of a Young Girl, and was thus inspired to take up pen and notebook. She, like Anne, named her diary so that each entry was like a letter to a friend. She let me read it (she had about three pages filled) and as I burned with the desire to be cool like Summer, I too read Anne Frank, and I too started writing. My first diary was named Anne, and it was pink.
[ An aside: So many of the things I do start because someone cooler than me does it first. Journal writing, listening to Tom Waits, learning The Jaberwockey by heart, blogging.... To my credit I only continue with these things if I really love them. I've always had a hard time finding my own things, I have to try on the things of others and see how they fit. Sometimes that bothers me, and I want to tell new people that I meet that I am not really cool, I am simply cool by borrowing the coolness of others. Then I remind myself that we are not born with great books and mix tapes in our hands, we all stumble across them in our own ways. Then I tell myself that I am over-thinking this, as I do everything and I tell myself to shut up.]
I filled up Little Pink Anne and moved on to another one, then another, then another. Picking out a new diary and naming it was something that took great thought and care, and sometimes would take several trips to various stores before I found just the right one. I remember one with sunflowers, a blue one with a Degas print, one of purple velvet, plain ones, flowered ones, ones made of recycled material, ones from India with tiny mirrored circles. Anne, Kitty, Sandra, Salome, Dave, Delilah, Mary, Maria, Sophia, Claudia, Frida, Ella, Etta, Eva, Mable, Luz, Annette, and on and on. Then to find the perfect pen, the ink pen but not too inky, a bit of scritch and scratch but also one that glides across the page and does not bring attention to itself. The color of the ink depending on my mood, and all in all mostly I write myself black and blue but there has been pink, there has been red, there has been green. For an entire year, brown.
At some point I picked up a Moleskine journal and I never looked back. O Moleskine! How perfect your pages! How narrow and unobtrusive your lines! Your tiny perfect pocket in back, your nubbled flesh, the strength of your spine! A ribbon to keep my place, elastic to hold you closed and keep your pages safe from ruck and ruffle! Your reputation is well deserved, my friend, but you have let fame go to your head.
It used to be that you had two choices: lined or unlined, in black hardback. Perfection. Now they come in three sizes, several different colors, hard or softback, lined, unlined, graph paper, reporter style (with the spine at the top), graphic artist style (half the page lined and half unlined for illustrations), sketchbook (with heavy weight paper), day planner, address book, and I don't know what else. Cook book style? Ones with wide lines for girls with bubbly handwriting? Music sheet style? Moleskines are trying to be something for everyone and that's fine, really it is, but it has become nearly impossible to find the classic, plain and perfect, black hardback in the size that will take a good amount of words but will still fit in my purse.
A week ago I went to a large chain bookstore (I will not advertise for them! I am still mad!) to get a new one. After looking through the three carousels of Moleskines that they had and not finding the one I wanted, I asked at the customer service desk when they would be getting more in. They didn't know and told me that their Stationary Specialist would come out to help me. After about a minute and a half, what appeared to be a twelve year-old girl wearing a Harry Potter t-shirt and a bow in her hair came walking toward me. Please, I begged my higher power, Please don't let this be the Stationary Specialist. I wanted someone older, I wanted someone with glasses and a pipe and ink stained fingers. At least someone who had grown breasts, but no, this little girl, this Hannah Montana was indeed the Stationary Specialist. She was so cute! She talked in all exclamations!

Hi! How can I help you!

Yes, I am looking for a lined Moleskine journal in classic black. Do you know when you'll be getting more in?
Did you look at all three carousels!
I did, and you have quite a selection, but I can't find the plain, hardback, lined ones.
I know! Those go fast!
I'm sure. So, does that mean that you'll get some more in soon?
Probably! Maybe in two weeks! They just send me a bunch and I put them out!
So you don't actually order them?
Nope! They just send me a bunch and I put them out!
Okaaaaay.... Well, thanks.

I wonder how much a Stationary Specialist at a large chain bookstore makes. I'm thinking not much.
So that is how I ended up walking out with one of the large ones instead of the medium sized. An art teacher told me once that when you paint small you actually use the mathematical side of your brain and when you paint large you use the creative, and so I thought that maybe I should try the larger size, that it might open up a different part of my brain for writing. I don't think it does, my handwriting is still tiny and the larger size just makes me uncomfortable and angry. Which makes me not want to write. Which makes me crazier than I already am. Writing in my journal everyday is my therapy. I prefer vellum to Valium. I'll just have to visit other stores, manhandle other journals, maybe even find a new pen. There are areas in our lives where change is good and compromise acceptable, one's personal diary is not such a place.
Which reminds me- dish soap IS such a place. I got some lime scented dish soap recently and it's great. I feel like I'm washing my dishes with margaritas. It turns dish washing into a fiesta! Maybe I will name my new journal Margarita. Maybe I will write in lime colored ink. Maybe I will become fun and spontaneous! But only secretly, and for an hour after I wake up and before I go to work. Baby steps. One doesn't want to change everything at once.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ha Ha.

Today I was described as "Brilliant, but tense."

I think he put the "brilliant" part in because I was standing right there.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


It's cloudy this morning and cool. The outside world from my window looks like a fairy tale will happen, but only because all fairy tales seem to happen in England or some other equally gray and misty place. The mists will part, and there will be a rose garden too wild, there will be a great bear, there will be a woman on the side of the road with a nose that is three ells long. Where are my seven-league boots? I must have left them somewhere and the walk to work today seems very long. I did not walk to work yesterday.
I love Tallahassee but I am tired of it and I believe it is tired of me. I wake up excited each morning to write, to feel the fall coming, and then I realize that I have nothing to say, and that the fall is the same as it always is and after that comes winter. It will be cold. I will wear a coat. I will walk the same streets I always walk. I will see people I know everywhere I go. I feel restless.
I know that it is not Tallahassee that is the problem, and that to live a good life one must do good things. I know that, I know that, and people will say do things differently and people will say try new things and all of that I know... and I know that really, people around here do not think of me very often. It is my own anxiety that I feel so exposed, and that everything I do is watched and judged. It's hard to feel free in one's hometown.
I suppose it's that I'm really not sure. That I want to change and I want a change, but I haven't decided what that will be yet. People ask me how I am and what I've been doing, and they are just being polite, but I am tired of being polite and I am tired of what I am doing and I really don't feel like talking about it.
Do you ever feel this way? Like nothing feels right somehow and everything you do is the same?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Here's Hoping

There's a gas station a few blocks from my apartment. It's called The Quick And Save. It's not my favorite gas station, but it is the closest. The people who own it drive very nice cars and are Pakistani. This is the extent of my knowledge of them. Mostly when I go in now I see a nice West African couple and we talk about work or why Americans must put sugar in all their vegetables, or the lady and I compliment each other on our hair-dos. A few years ago there was no West African couple, there was only the Pakistani family. Sometimes the grown son, (who I still see on occasion) sometimes his wife (who is tiny and beautiful and had a baby), and sometimes the parents, especially the older gentleman.
For some reason, the older gentleman took a shine to me and started holding my hand when I would go in to buy cigarettes. Just across the counter, as you would take the hand of someone dear to you. One time I went in and he was out in the store proper and he gave me a hug. This became our thing for a while, he would come out from behind the counter and hug me and then go back and hand me my cigarettes and I would hand him the money and that was that. Then one day, he came out from behind the counter, took my face in his hands, looked into my eyes and said, "My Darling, my darling!" Then he kissed me on the lips, hugged me vigorously, and sold me my cigarettes. I stopped going in for about a year.
To try to explain this, something gets lost in the translation. It wasn't frightening or creepy. It was wrong, no question, but there was something in his foreignness, or in his propriety, or his age... Or something in how old fashioned he dressed and spoke, that made it almost okay. I didn't feel that slimy uncomfortable feeling in my gut when he did this. I felt truly loved. It was utterly absurd, and that absurdity charmed me and charms me still. Regardless, I knew it wasn't right and I did take my business elsewhere for a while. Now when I go in he is never there and I don't ask about him. I don't want to hear that the grown son had to fire him for kissing the customers, or that he has dementia. I like the absurd to remain the absurd.
A few weeks ago a coworker walked me to my car after work. We park in the lot of the bank next door at night because our restaurant has very limited parking, and to get there we cut through this little muddy wooded area behind the dumpster and under a giant mulberry tree. This night in particular we were walking and talking and we came upon a man supine behind the dumpster. He was very fat and hairy and dirty and not wearing a shirt and he couldn't've been comfortable because he was half on and half off the concrete slab that was there to support the dumpster. He said, "Hey!" and my coworker, nice man that he is said Hey back, and as we kept walking I was thinking "Great, here we go.." because I just knew he was going to ask for money and I do generally give people money if I have cash in my pocket but that night I was just not in the mood, and I was having that internal struggle of whether I wanted to be a miserly bitch or if I was going to give the man a dollar. Then the man goes, "Hey! Do either of you guys.... want to arm wrestle?"
Again, do you see the absurdity? The beauty of this? He was so big and strong and dirty! He was laying in the mud! Even if we HAD wanted to arm wrestle, what? Would we have gotten down on the muddy slope and somehow leaned our bodies so that our elbows were braced on the dumpster slab, taken his meathook mitt in hand and counted three?
We told him No Thank You and as we turned the corner to our cars we saw a group of young, well dressed people walking up to go the way we had just come. "I'm not going to warn them," my friend whispered to me as they passed by. I got the giggles and had to stuff my hands in my face.
I love the absurd, I dearly do. I love it when people act in ways that are completely unexpected and marvelously strange. It makes me feel more right and more human. Lately I've been depressed, unhappy with work, unhappy with my performance at work and how ill-defined my job is, and how much time I spend there and how it wears me out. I haven't been feeling well and it seems I get every cold that passes through town, though I do wash my hands a million times a day and I eat my vegetables. I have mold in my apartment and that depresses me. People die, people get sick, people we love. I don't know what I'm doing with my life, I feel like I'm wasting it. A friend of mine finally got all this out of me recently and told me in no uncertain terms that I am not alone in feeling this and that we all go through this, and basically Buck Up, Buttercup, but you know? Knowing that everyone feels lonely and depressed does not make me feel more one with the human race, it makes me feel more hopeless. What hope do I have, what about me is so special that I might somehow find the way out of what I understand to be a very human condition? Yes, every body cries. That is just depressing. REM can go suck it.
You can't connect with sad people. Sadness is selfish and I don't want to share my sadness or anger or frustration with anyone, and I really don't want anyone to try to share theirs with me. To say how you're feeling and be honest about it is fine, but to dwell and divulge and struggle- it's all too personal to feel one with. I feel the pain of others but I can't do anything about it, and all I want is to be useful.
Which is why I so adore when people are strange. Truly absurd experiences (even the word absurd is absurd! D's and B's in the same word! Hilarious!) remind me that we are all different, and if we are all different it follows that maybe there is something in me that will spark and grow and change and find joy! Isn't that a great idea? That none of us are the same? That we will be surprised all the time, by everyone we meet? By ourselves?
There's a dollar bill that's been going around work and keeps showing up like a bad penny. It's a perfectly good dollar bill, only someone felt the need to add extra zeros to the 1, so it reads "10,000". They didn't try to make it look real or anything, they just used a black marker and the zeros aren't even the same size. But still, a 10,000 dollar bill! Ka-zam! No one wants it. We try to give it to people in their change and it keeps coming back. The other day I even held it out to my boss and said, "Um, Kim? I'm going to need change for this 10,000 dollar bill." He wasn't fooled. (Yes, he is a man named Kim. He's not even Asian! Ka-zam!)
I need 10,000 dollar bills. I need arm wrestling homeless men and to be called Darling every once in a while. Even if all I do is tuck these things away inside to pull out and think about sometimes. What is in these people that make them do these things as part of their every day lives? What is in me that startles people out of their normal? When have I been that person? When have you? What will happen next? I hope it is something beautiful. I hope it is truly marvelous.

Don't go looking for pictures of hairy homeless men online. Unless what you really want to look at are penises and butts.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Short Story For Hank (and All This Trouble)

Everyone agreed that she had beautiful legs. They were long and muscular with tight, defined knees and ankles, and calves like ripe fruit. The backs of her thighs had a curve to them that begged to be palmed. Her feet, if you happened to notice, were a little on the wide side, her toes spread like a gap-toothed grin, but even that was tempered by the delicate boning of them, the length, and her high arches.
Her upper body, taken out of context might have been beautiful. Her arms translucent fins, her large eyes so perfectly round, the flesh of her spotted and rainbowed and every color of mother of pearl, but as lovely as that might be, a fish was a fish was a fish. High school was difficult.
She lived in a small house in a small town in the middle of a state in the middle of the Bible Belt. Her father Graham, tried. Graham planted roses around the house and jasmine along the fence. There was a sand pear she could not climb and camellias she could not pick and tomatoes and cantaloupe she could not stomach, but in the afternoons the backyard had a quiet, watery quality beneath the great hands of the banana trees and there she would lay and daydream and watch the dragonflies whiz by overhead and occasionally eat one.
Graham was an alcoholic in recovery and had been as long as the Girl could remember. There was a mystery to his wayward youth that hinted at her birth and that she had no desire to uncover. The serenity prayer was the lullaby of her childhood and they both took great comfort in the words. The Girl knew her mother had died in childbirth, but when the notion of death by shock of giving birth to a halfbreed crossed her mind she slang it away, along with all the other dark wonderings of her past that made her feel unfaithful to Graham. She did her best to smile with all her tiny teeth, and eat what was given to her.
Her best friend at Folsom High was a black girl with a harelip named Cherrie. "Oh what I wouldn't give for your legs!" Cherrie would say, boneless in the heat on the bed. "Don't even." the Girl would say, flashing her lidless orbs at her friend. "What good are legs when no boy would ever want to get between 'em? I mean, really. If I ever asked a boy to eat me he probably would. With lemon butter sauce."
"Eat me!" Cherrie embraced herself and rolled around on the bed. "Eat me Troy Duchamp! Pick me clean!" The Girl laughed hard with her friend, trying to dislodge the stone in her throat. Troy Duchamp was the boy every girl in school baited her hook for. He painted his '86 Mercury flat black, growled his way through Algebra, and had green green eyes.
Really, the Girl knew from reading everything she could get her fins on that boys like Troy Duchamp were as common as river rocks, and often just as smart. If he had grown up in the small town like the rest of her class he wouldn't seem so special, but he had arrived sometime in the summer before their junior year and showed up to school on the first day with a chip on his shoulder that put a hitch in his step and he walked like he'd seen the world and it wasn't that impressive.
The Girl dreaded new kids, almost as much as she dreaded the college applications that mysteriously arrived on her bed in fat glossy piles. Thankfully, there wasn't much reason for people to move to her small town. It was a town built more on what had been rather than what was, and gave the impression that it was just hanging on out of sheer apathy. The incredible humidity, the boarded up windows on Main Street, the river that swelled to bursting every time it rained, the black mold in the foundations of all the houses, the inclination of some of the town leaders to occasionally don sheets and hold bonfires- all of this dissuaded newcomers from thinking this might be a good place to raise their kids. It was a town where dreams choked in the heat, wilted, and died. Which is exactly what had happened to the principal of the high school at the end of sophmore year, and is what brought Troy Duchamp's mother, and therefore Troy and all the other Duchamps, to town that summer.
It turned out to be a lucky turn that this windfall of new students (though most of them were in the elementary/middle school as Troy was the eldest) came with a matriarch who was the high school principal because they had all apparently been apprised of the Girl's appearance before the onset of the school year. Although she tucked her head and averted her eyes the first time she passed Troy in the hall, she couldn't help but notice that his eyes barely widened as he flipped them over her form and them himself looked away. It was that look away that sealed it, and as often happens in women far more experienced, she instantly mistook gratitude for love and was smitten. The obvious cliche of falling for the hot new guy did not escape her, and it caused her great embarrassment.
No more embarrassment however than she experienced when the theme was revealed that year for her senior prom. The year before it had been "The Roaring Twenties", and the year before that it had been "Springtime In Paris". Both of which, though laughable, would have been fine for the Girl, though she probably would not have shown up anyway. This year however, the theme was "Under The Sea" and if she could've blushed she would have every time she passed a poster taped to a wall. She wanted to tear them down, but to do so would have brought even more attention to herself.
Cherrie was disappointed as well. She had been gunning this year and every year for the theme of "Arabian Nights" so that she could wear an attractive semi-transparent veil over the bottom half of her face (the population of the school was so small that all the students were invited to prom each year, not just the upperclassmen), but even still she was determined to go and she held out the hope that she might be asked, if not for a date, at least for a dance.
The wealthier families in town sent their daughters to a city 45 minutes away that was big enough to boast a mall for their prom finery, but most of the girls had to make do with the one dress shop in town that survived primarily through prom and the occasional wedding, both of which were held at the VFW. If you shopped early you might be lucky enough to score one of the actual prom dresses that were ordered that year, but if you waited too long you would get stuck buying the dregs of last year's stock or worse, end up wearing something that was obviously meant for a bridesmaid, with dyed to match shoes. This is why many of the less popular girls showed up in exactly the same dress, and why Cherrie was so gangbusters to get to the shop on the day the new dresses arrived, her best friend in tow.
If misery was a color, it would be aquamarine. This is how the Girl felt when the lock was turned and she and Cherrie were swept inside the over air conditioned shop by the frenzied tide of their classmates, the bells on the door jangling accompaniment to the chatter of girls. The shop was packed front to back with "Under The Sea" appropriate garments in slippery artificial silks and satins, glittery nets, and lace trimmed crinolines that scratched the legs but made the dresses poof out just so. Cherrie and the Girl were pushed to the wall as the dresses were snatched from the racks, and the lines for the two fitting rooms (made from clothespins and shower curtains) were formed. The Girl felt like she was in a cage made entirely of elbows and hormones. In what seemed like no time at all the place cleared out, practically licked clean by the slavering teenagers, and Cherrie was left clutching an iridescent bit of something in shades of lavender and lime green.
The two girls looked at the crumpled dress. "Well." Cherrie said, "Might as well try it on." She ducked into the left-hand dressing room, now littered with the scatter of empty hangers. She was in there a long time, until the Girl called in, "Do you need any help?" She was getting the stink-eye from the proprietress sitting behind the counter. "Does it fit at least?"
Cherrie emerged and the Girl's last selfish hope that they would spend prom night together as they always had, playing cards cross-legged on her bed in her room with Graham making popcorn balls in the kitchen, fell away with an almost audible swishery sound, like the sound of satin on satin. What had seemed like an impossible combination of colors on the hanger did everything absolutely right against the darkness of Cherrie's skin. The lavender took on a blue tint and the lime green was made soft and not at all garish as it had at first glance. The top of the dress was strapless and shirred and held her breasts high and round, as if putting them on display. It was low in the back and tight from the bottom of her breasts to the tops of her thighs, where it flared out in an abundance of ruffles like a flamenco dancer's skirt, brushing the tops of her knees in front and falling to mid-calf behind. It made her waist look tiny and gave a ripe swell to her hips.
"You look..." the words caught and spit from the Girl's mouth, "You look like a mermaid."
That night, after the dress had been bought and hung encased in thin plastic in Cherrie's cardboard closet, an appropriate amount of time had passed and the Girl was able to make homework excuses. She felt suddenly distant and oddly polite for the first time around her friend, and she made her way blindly home, stupid saltwater tears fresh and hot on her face. She was glad that Graham was working late at the shop, she was glad for once she had no mother or brothers or sisters to be concerned and probably heartbreakingly normal crowding around the supper table or watching TV in the living room. The Girl dropped her purse on the couch and went out the back door to the quiet place under the banana trees in the backyard.
She laid there on the still warm ground, and let her tears get quiet, and let her body grow still, and let the night come into her, until she was aware of the flat paper flap of the banana leaves and the scrie-scrie of cicadas and the dive bomb buzz of mosquitoes and the tick of her heart, like a car cooling down. She felt ashamed that so much of her own self worth had been wrapped up in her friend's one ugliness, that she had been so self absorbed that it had taken a prom dress to make her realize that Cherrie had grown beyond the awkwardness of childhood and become an actually lovely woman. She saw through the spaces of the leaves to the stars and in them the inevitable future that the school year would end and that Cherrie would leave her behind to go to college, to fall in love, to lead a full and happy life. The Girl could not see her own future at all, it seemed to stop at the space directly in front of her wide open eyes, and eventually even that stopped making sense and then her father was shaking her awake, and leading her inside to go to bed.
The rest of the school year passed by in a stream of box milk, cold french fries, and final exams. Although prom was usually held a month prior to graduation, this year there had been a small fire in the VFW started by a minor altercation involving Vietnam, Afghanistan, a cigar, and a spilled fifth of Jim Beam, so this year they decided to combine the last two major events of high school into one grand weekend with the prom held on a Friday and graduation held the very next day. Following that, most people would go to church.
Guided by the heightened awareness she gained the night she spent beneath the banana trees, the Girl threw herself into prom preparation with an enthusiasm that surprised and pleased both Cherrie and Graham. She decided to make her prom dress (she had been making her own clothes since she was seven using an old Singer her father had retrofitted to be more friendly to a girl with fins for arms) out of some pink dotted Swiss she had been holding onto since she was of the age to like such fabric. The pink brought out the rainbows in her complexion and at Cherrie's urging, she made the skirt short enough to show off her fabulous legs. Neither girl had a date (Cherrie was asked by Donald Sneeds, but as he was her second cousin on her mother's side and didn't have a car so they'd have to be driven by her father, she demurred) and so they made a night of it, getting dressed at the Girl's house, taking pictures in the garden, and walking wobbly ankled in their new high-heeled shoes together. Graham even bought them both corsages of white gardenias, which Cherrie wore in her hair and the Girl tied around her ankle, not wanting to draw attention to her chest, or lack thereof.
The prom committee had done a good job this year, making the freshly repaired VFW look as much like an undersea paradise as it could, draping the plaques and framed pictures and medals with blue and green crepe paper and hiding the flags tacked to the walls behind murals painted by the sixth period advanced art class. There were white twinkly Christmas lights, a shell and coral bedecked bower for photographs, and a buffet heavy with punch and catered by Mable, of Mable's Kitchen. All the tables had been cleaned of ashes and the sticky circles of poker night cocktails and were covered first with white tablecloths and then with green cellophane that did double duty protecting the cloths from stain and giving the room a greenish glowy underwater effect.
There were few surprises at the prom this year. Troy Duchamp arrived in a sharkskin-gray suit wearing Sue-Ann Charmonte on his left arm. Sue-Ann herself was dressed in a gown of cerulean silk, but as lovely as the dress was the Girl allowed herself the wicked pleasure of noticing how the slinky fabric did nothing to hide the flatness of Sue-Ann's ass. "She should've worn a bustle" she whispered to Cherrie, who snorted her punch into her hand, and then wiped it on a fake plant.
Cherrie's dress did its job and the Girl was gratified to see that she was not the only one who noticed the transformation. She may not have been the prettiest girl in the room, but she was obviously the most beautiful, and she held herself like a queen. The Girl held her friend's purse as she was asked to dance one dance, and then two, and then three, and she resigned herself to fading into the background, tucking her legs beneath an empty table and sipping ginger ale that was greasy with melted sherbet.
She entertained the thought that if this had been a story, the Girl would have been voted Prom Queen in some sort of sick Under The Sea type joke, and would have had to parade around with a ridiculous tiara slipping off her hairless head while her classmates pelted her with oysters. Fortunately, this was real life, and as far as things went in her small town, this was the most important night in so many of their lives so far and they were not creative enough or cruel enough to ruin it on something so trivial. Or perhaps, the Girl thought hopefully, these people she'd grown up with had become so accustomed to her as to render her almost invisible, and the reason no one else saw the theme as inappropriate for that of a school prom attended by a girl with the top half of a fish, was because no one even acknowledged her at all.
Troy and Sue-Ann were voted King and Queen, and if her ass was flat, it was not that noticeable as they danced alone, the lights of the disco ball throwing diamonds of light across their faces and clothes. The food was eaten. The punch bowl emptied. Some boys got in trouble for drinking beers in the parking lot. One girl broke her shoe. Tammy Driscol caught Billy "Bad Boy" Lee kissing Jenny Taylor behind the Neptune mural, and cried.
The post prom plan was to have a sleepover at the Girl's house, so they could discuss the events of the evening far into the night and then wake up and help each other decide what to wear under their graduation gowns, not to mention figuring out how to get the girl's cap to stay on her head (Cherrie swore double stick tape would do the trick). Somehow though, the Girl found herself wedged into the backseat of a car with Cherrie pressed against her side, (lured by James Night, a boy whose sleepy eyes hadn't left Cherrie's bosom the whole prom) heading toward someone's river house where there was supposedly a bonfire. The Girl looked out the window and took tiny sips of something peach flavored and thick that was being passed around the car. She felt an odd detachment as though what was happening was inevitable, and though logically she knew she could stop it she didn't really see the point. "Thank you" Cherrie whispered to her as the boy driving parked the car on a dirt road in a line of other cars leading up to a house, lit from within. What little light there was reflected off Cherrie's eyes, and for a moment the Girl couldn't see the harelip that was in shadow on her face, and for a moment she looked like any other lovely girl lit up with excitement for a party on any night in America, and for that moment the Girl was happy that she could do this for her friend, be there so she didn't feel guilty leaving her behind.
As they got out of the car they were joined by the kids who had pulled up directly behind them and they walked as a group toward the house. James had his arm around Cherrie's waist and the Girl brought up the rear, watching their hips come together and separate, the glint of the bonfire ahead winking in and out between them as they navigated tree roots and limbs. The path around the house was narrow, but widened as they came to the back yard. It was a good bonfire, big but not so big to be frightening, with pine trunks cut into seats all around, some coolers, and beyond the dock that stretched out into darkness over the river that the Girl could hear but not see. Most of their classmates were already there, and somehow their prom gowns and suits looked better and seemed to make more sense out here in the firelight than they did among the decorations of the prom itself. "River House" would make a good prom theme, the Girl thought.
For a while she perched herself on a pine seat and drank a cold beer that Cherrie handed to her out of one of the coolers. The beer was skunky and sharp, and she was grateful for it's cool sweaty comfort in her grasp. The seat that she had chosen was slightly outside of and away from the main crush of people. She sat there to be as far from the fire as possible as much as to be outside the throng. She watched the kids she grew up with laugh together, kiss each other, and stare into the fire. Sometimes the fire would pop and a burst of firefly ashes would get sucked into the sky like tiny fireworks. When her beer was finished she stood up, shook out her skirt, and went alone to get another. No one seemed to care or notice that she was there and it was an easy enough thing thing to fish around in a cooler for a beer, and then wander away to the dock, dropping the cap on the ground behind her.
It was cooler and quieter at the end of the dock. She sat between the last pilings and let her feet dangle over the edge, the rough boards biting into the backs of her thighs. For a time she could almost pretend that she was alone, and that the party behind her was happening far away and to people that she did not know. The stars were out in crazy number, and she watched the bats zigzag above the water, themselves so dark that it wasn't so much she could see them but that she couldn't see what they blocked. When she felt footsteps on the dock behind her she sat very still and willed them to go away. She hoped that they belonged to someone who, like her, had wanted solitude, and upon seeing her there would decide to go someplace else. The footsteps came up close, and in her peripheral vision the Girl saw the person sit down next to her on the edge of the dock. She looked at his feet next to hers, both of them bare, and at the hairy legs they were atached to, his gray trouser legs rolled up. She turned her head and looked at Troy Duchamp, closer than he'd ever been, sitting there looking out over the water just as she had a moment before.
He was beautiful, close up. His profile so perfect, so perfectly human. She felt her heartbeat too fast and her skin grow clammy. She could smell herself and thought of all the cruel jokes in middle school about the girls on their periods who smelled like tuna and she hoped that he could not smell her slightly fishy smell, and if he did that he would pass it off as coming from the river. She felt angry all of a sudden, that this boy, this stupid boy that she had spent her nights dreaming about for the past two years had taken it upon himself to invade her solitude, to plunk himself real and hairy and flesh and blood and smelling of Sue-Ann's drugstore perfume, beer and sweat right beside her. She could've done without it. She could've spent this entire night, no, her entire highschool lifetime dreaming dreams and keeping him sweet and perfect in her mind.
The Girl looked at him a long time, and he looked out over the water. She looked at him so long that the challenge left her eyes and she felt ridiculous looking at him, without him looking back. Maybe I am invisible, she thought. She took another sip of her beer and let her gaze go back to the river. Really it was uncomfortable to turn her neck like that for so long.
"So." he said, his voice rough after the silence. "What are you going to do after graduation?"
The Girl laughed. It was all too ridiculous. She laughed again, finally feeling the effects of the alcohol soft and buzzy inside her. "What!" she laughed, she howled, she sputtered, she could barely get the words out and he began to laugh with her, "What! am I! Going to do! after graduation?!" They lost it, bumping into each other in their hilarity, leaning on the pilings and almost falling into the river. "What the hell are you going to do after graduation?" she asked, as their laughter died down. "Oh, I don't know." he said, "Fuck Sue-Ann?" Off they went again, shrieking and hooting and holding onto the dock. They were laughing so hard they had to set their beers down. "Oh God" the girl said, "oh God" wiping tears from her face, "Oh God ohGodOhGod. You are going to Hell, Troy Duchamp." He stopped laughing, but smiled as he picked up his beer again. The Girl followed his lead. They looked out over the water. A fish jumped.
The Girl felt something rising within her. She looked behind them at the party. The people seemed so small. She turned to him. "Troy," she said, "why don't you ever look at me? I mean, I know how things are, I know what I look like. Most people want to look at me, at least at first. At least until they're used to me. A girl with a fish head, it's something to see, right?" He sat for a while not saying anything, and then, "Well, I figured you were tired of that. People looking at you." She didn't have a response and so she sat quiet, wishing she could go back to the laughing part, wishing she could go back to before the prom, before he ever came to their school, before she knew she was all alone, back when she could dream that there were others like her out there, looking for her as she lay in the dirt beneath the banana trees. She set her beer down and stood up. He turned and angled his face to look in her eyes. She looked once again behind her to make sure that the party was going on with out them, that no one was on their way out to find out where Troy went. She slipped off her dress with one easy movement. With one easy movement her feet were covered in pink, and then that was kicked away. She bent, and keeping eyes on him she slipped off her panties, straightened, and kicked those away too. She stood as tall as she could and flicked her eyes above his head so that she could not see the expression on his face, so that she could not see his eyes as they crawled along the legnth of her. The Girl stood until she couldn't stand there anymore and the pressure that had been building, the pressure that she thought had been let off by the tears the day they found Cherrie's prom dress and again by the laughter out here on the dock, the pressure that had not been released, not by half, not at all, grew to be too much and she bent her knees and she jumped, using all the stregnth of those beautiful long legs, over Troy Duchamp whose eyes never left her, and into the cold and shock of the water.
The Girl felt the current pull at her as she sank to the bottom. The river floor was surpsingly sandy over smooth hard rock. She opened her eyes and let herself breathe, the first intake a choke and then choking more water she got it down. It was a slower breathing than air, it was a softer breathing, a smooth in and out, "Like water" she thought, and laughed. The laughter came out as her last pocket of air, her laughter came out as bubbles and rose quickly to the surface, where she imagined them popping into laughter above and surprising Troy, if he could still be surprised after all that happened. She turned and faced into the current, pulling her long legs all the way up until her knees framed her shoulders and then quick and out, a better than jump jump, her toes pointed, her muscles long, and then again the tuck and pull and again the shot stretch and all around her the quiet and forgiveness of the water and in her body the beating of her heart and she slowed and twisted and looked at the sky through the lens of the water and all the stars and the bats flying there. She could see Troy, alone on the dock, clutching a beer with one hand, a piling with the other, and leaned over peering at her. Peering, if he could see her at all.
She turned again and this time let the current take her. She did the tuck and pull, she did the shot stretch, she felt her heart expand and with the current she found that she could move faster than any man could ever run, that she was feeling something that no man ever would and it was so great, it was so fast, it was so great. In no time at all she was beyond the township limits. In no time at all she was far far away. She'd never paid much attention in geography, she didn't know where this river went. She wondered if she could breathe salt water. She felt that she could swim forever. She hoped that it would take her a very long time to find the end. She hoped that it never ended, that it just emptied out into the sea.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Blocky Block Block

I haven't written in ages. I'm tired of thinking about my own life. Give me a topic please, and I will get in and wrassle with it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why I Walk All Around

Today a middle aged man asked me if I needed a ride. He had a mustache and a belly, and a big bad car and enough passenger space to go around. I suppose he thought I was hot, which I was, and I suppose he thought I was tired, and that's true too, but I also suppose that he thought I was younger than I am and his SUV screamed pedophile and I shied away. I walked away. People who ask you if you need a ride rarely have your well being in mind. No one has ever stopped and asked if they could walk with me. I wonder why.
I walk. I walk. I walk around town. I walk up hills and down hills. I walk when it is hot, and it is so damn hot. I walk when it is cold and I do not like the cold, but the more you walk the more you warm up and so if you are out in the cold you might want to walk a little further. I walk further. I walk miles, I walk acres, I walk leagues. Sometimes when I walk it begins to rain, and sometimes the sun shines too bright on my face. I walk through parks. I walk across parking lots. When there is heavy rain the street down from my house floods and I have forded that stream. I will wade, I don't care. I jump over curbs, I trip over curbs. Sometimes I fall down. I hear the birds. I smell the flowers. I know where all the secret fruit is. I see it, I see it, I walk.
When I was sixteen and got hit by a car while walking to school it did not make me afraid of walking, it made me afraid of driving. Far more frightening than getting hit by a car is the idea of taking someone else's legs, taking someone else's life. It happens in a sneeze, it happens in a cd change, it happens when the phone rings, these cars are far too big to be tossed so casually through our towns. But still, I have a car. I do.
I like my car. I like my car for the freedom it represents, for the tiny home it can be if need be. If you want, and you have no kids, you can get in your car and go. If it rains for too long and you get tired of rain you can drive your way out of it, even if it takes 500 miles. Even if you are up near Canada and it does not stop raining till you hit San Francisco, you can go in a car. I know you can, I've done it.
And I understand tired, and I like my car when I am tired and hungry and the store seems so far away, or I have to get laundry detergent and kitty litter and a bag of grapefruit, yes, I like my car. Then there are children, I understand kids, they need a place to sit and not be herded down the street like so many ducks. I understand old, I understand broken, I understand sick. But I can walk. I walk because I can.
I walk and I am so aware that one day I will not be able to walk anymore. One day, without knowing it, I will have my last slice of cake. One day I will make love for the last time. One day I will kiss a baby and then never kiss a baby again. One day I will sit down and I will never get up. I hope that day is the day I die, but death or no that day will come. But not today, today I walk.
I love it so the movement of my thighs, I love the ground under my feet so sure and the sky above my head. I love the air that always moves as long as I am moving and the shady parts and the sunny ones. I love the secret garden glimpses, the broken blue and green glass sparkles, the forgotten toys, the half buried marbles. I love the photographs I find, the half eaten cookies, the love notes that lay rain stained and hopeful on the ground. I put them in my pocket. I'm always finding treasures.
When I walk my mind is busy and then it slows down and that is when I think my deep thoughts and tell myself the best stories. The one where I save the world! The one where the boy sings so sweet! The one where the little girl is born away into the mountain and a stick doll left in her place! The awfulest death! The grand revenge! The truest love! Or if not stories I think of the world, of the people's fish-eyed faces as they pass so quickly. They look so tired. They look so bored. They don't even think that they might sneeze and change some one's life forever. That is a story right there.
I think of the oil that gushes into the Gulf. I think about the pod of dolphins that surrounded my parent's boat the last time they were out there and I wonder where they will go and if they'll be alright. I think about the tiny creatures out there that will die and then the larger creatures that eat the tiny creatures. I walk and I think and I look at the people in their cars, so many times just one person in these giant machines that we love to carry us around.
I think about obesity, and fast food, and drive-thrus and how they won't let you walk through the drive-thru, you have to go inside and open that door one more time, let out the air conditioning that needs to run to cool the air over all those friers, over all those grills. I think about how we are set up to want the food that tastes so good that is so cheap and want it fast and want it the same way every time in every city we go to. How we are taught that we deserve a treat, a snack, a fourthmeal that comes to us shipped across the country in giant trucks from slaughter houses where the workers are paid so little, where the land is cleared to make room for the animals, where it takes so much energy to make these cheap and easy meals that cost us so much in our health, and I do not have an answer for this. People must work. People must eat. We are all on a timetable. We are all tired, we are all hungry. And who am I to say that people should walk?
It is obesity. It is oil. It is money. It is all connected, and when I am walking I can fit it all together in my mind so that it works and seems so obvious. But. But see, I love to walk. I have these legs that work and feel so good. I have this strong back, these hungry eyes, these endless ridiculous stories. I have time to walk because walking is part of my life that I love. It is not a way to get from here to there, it is an action that calms my anxiety and quiets my mind. It is one of my good good things.
I have never walked so far that I fell down, unable to go any further. That must mean that I can always take one more step, and one more step after that. I am amazed by that, by what my body can do. It is wonderful to be amazed by small things.
I do not judge people for sitting still, and nor would I ever think that anyone should be more like me. I am just glad that in this way I am the way I am. I walk. I walk. I will keep on walking, as long as I possibly can.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The day I was born, slipping wide eyed and shocked into this world, I was pissed as all babies are. I was pissed to be pulled so rudely from the red velvet room of my mother's body and tired from the endless smashing journey of the birth canal and I squawked and I squarreled my rage and disapproval. Fortunately, though undeserving as I was so freshly made, I was born to a woman whose face was so beautiful that peace overtook me and I quickly found this world to my liking. My mother's face was my first sunrise.
I learned that day that though there will be pain and I will be bewildered and often angry, I could expect to find marvelous surprises that would soften the sharp of life outside. Smoked mullet was a revelation. A lemon wedge would blow my mind. A fondness for breasts would never leave me. A brother is a genius thing. There are books.
And so we are the same today as we are the day we are born, only not babies and therefore not as cute. Not babies and not as cute, but Mama stays the same. Her face, her arms, the tightly packed packages of her calves, her heartbeat, her life-giving bosoms. She turns and her smile is still the sun.
This crazy mad life, what a wonder I exist! I am an accident of bone! I am the only me there is! How absurd! How grand! All this and dancing too! and lace and cakes and slime and Edgar Degas who loved the ballerinas! All this created for me simply because my mother loves me so.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Time Out For Tears

I will be thirty-two come Monday. I suppose that makes sense. Monday is moon-day, Lunes, and I have been so mad and moonly lately. There is no help for it, I change with the tides.
I have been crying, and I will let myself cry. I am happy, really, to be here my thirty-two years. I am not where I thought I would be but I never had much of a plan to begin with so that is not the cause of my tears. Thoughts of success in life don't bother me none. When I am 102 and I pass in my sleep, or from a fall down the stairs after I've tripped over one of my many ornery cats, I only hope that they will say of me that I loved. That is success to me.
But here, on the day I was born, my Aunt Lynn took care of my brother and braided her long blond hair in two braids, because that is how my mother wore it and she wanted him to have something to hang onto. My Aunt Lynn, her name like a note, her face like the sun, is as much a part of my birth-day as I am and she is not here, and that makes me cry.
And then there is the oil pouring up from the earth and out into the Gulf of Mexico, which is an abstract thought now but soon will wash up into our reality. It is not the fact that something terrible and irreparable has happened to something so beautiful and vital to my world that hurts so much, it is that we stupid humans did it. We are all the time forever destroying the beautiful places, and so much life, for nothing. For money. For money, which is so insane it tears my brain. We made money up, it doesn't even exist. That makes me cry.
Another one, a conversation with my girl friends about how free we used to be (though one of us never was) and the cold walls we've built up to protect us from boys that hurt and boys that lie and boys that use and leave behind and they call us crazy but all we've done is try to love them as best we can. And now, the three of us so young and pretty and bewildered are afraid to trust. Me and my best girlfriends going home to empty beds, that makes me cry.
Really my tears make me cry. I just have a sad heart right now. But I love my heart, I wouldn't trade it for the world. I am so lucky that way.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My Lady Day

I know a girl who is sad but sad is not all she is she is quick to laughter. Her eyes that see so much and turn away from more fill and heavy with tears, her hands clutch thighs and then air and then thighs and I do not know her well, but I watch her.
She is worth watching. She is beautiful. I love to look at beautiful things so much, that I feel sorry for the most beautiful people because they cannot see the beauty that they are. They live inside their faces and their bodies and if they are the most beautiful thing in the room, they have a less beautiful room to look at. She is one of those, so pretty, yes. And yes. But she is also one who loves beauty, who knows its importance, how it is vital to a soul and beating heart. She gathers it around her, it follows her down street corners and into alleys and in and out of buildings. I brought her a gardenia and she put it in her hair and wore it all day long, even when it was done being creamy perfect loveliness, even when it hung its head, because the smell, the scent of lemonly honey still floated around her. She was her own garden today. She knows lovely is in the nose and in the hands just as well as lovely to the eyes. And oh she does love lovely.
She is a room with red curtains. She is a bath poured hot. She is a sip that burns. She is a ribbon on the ground.
And what I love about her is that she is real. She makes mistakes. She break a heart. She take your book. She make a joke. She dance like crazy. She sweat and smell. She will not trust but trust the wrong ones and in doing so she breaks her own heart. She is her own joke. She may fall and blush, and fear what people think. And right she is, I think, to fear what folks may say because folks tear down the pretty ones and god forbid you miss a step, oh they love it when you miss a step. Part of her thinks, I think, that when she falls or jokes fall flat or her too drunk just proves that she is not as fine as she could be. But it is her blush that makes her fine.
She sees too much and feels too much and takes that back inside and worries it worries it worries it. To get the answer out. To get the honest out, the real thing, the key. But she is not that serious. But yes she is. But she is both at once and that is the true thing.
I don't know why she compares herself with perfection except that we so many people do it. Once I said of myself that I knew that I was pretty, I was just not my taste, and perhaps that is how it is for her. I do not know, I don't watch her that closely. It's not my place. I admire her, that is all.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I woke up dreaming about the beach, or rather, about the drive to the beach, the drive to St. George. I was thinking about the blue store in Carabelle where we stop to pee, and how there used to be a Greek restaurant across the street and an old broken down house right next to it and one time I looked at that house all covered in palm fronds and lizards and thought I could hide out there sometime and right at that moment a great horrible cloud of insects, a plague of locusts rose up out of it, hovered, and flew off into the sky. This morning I couldn't remember if that Greek restaurant is still there, if the house exists, I couldn't remember the last time I drove to the beach. It bothered me.
I could be wrong but I think the last time was the trip to Panama City for my brother's birthday in June, which doesn't seem right but I can't recall another trip so there you go. A sin against God, I think. To live so close to all that heaven and not drive there more often than once a year.
That trip I rode in the car with a young man named Shane because we had a couple of cars going and that was the smoking car. I got to ride shotgun while two pretty girls sat in the back and talked their girl talk and blew smoke out the windows. We drank sodas and one thing I remember about that is Shane's use of the word "duke" in reference to shit and I thought "poop-a-duke" and I hummed "Duke of Earl" the whole way.
That was a good trip, a fine trip to the beach, but still. It wasn't St. George and it was only the one time. There was a time for a few years that whenever I would go a little crazy I would take the drive. It was when the pressure in my head would start to build up, like when school was too much and work was too many hours and whatever boyfriend was there was either too heavy or not around and the crazy would just start closing in around me until I felt like I could only see but pinpricks of light through a round and focused darkness and I'd turn those blinders south and drive like hell to the gulf before the light disappeared altogether. It worked somehow. I'd start to feel the pressure lessen as soon as I got on the bridge and by the time I made it, flying through all that sky across all that blue and sparkling water I could breathe and the breath I pulled in with great relieving thirsty lungfuls was wet and salty and tasted faintly of shrimp.
My mother always said the saltwater could heal wounds and if we were cut or injured in some way we were encouraged to go in and let the waters curl all up against us. She took me to St. George after I'd had a bone graft taken from my hip and put in my leg that had been broken in an accident. The leg wasn't healing well, it had been something like six months since they originally put my bones back inside my skin and there were still gaps where they had to take out the smaller broken bits. After the bone graft my leg was doing fine but the incision along my hip bone had become bloated and infected and had burst magnificently at prom, yellow custard streaked water cascading down my leg and into my borrowed black boot. I'd stuffed napkins in between my dress and the wound and went on with the dance but still, a hole had opened up in my side and that would not stand so the next day Mama took me to the ocean.
That summer she rented a tiny cinderblock apartment on the island and pretty much stayed there with the little girls. Daddy went down on the weekends and I came and went as I wished because I was older and I had friends to be with in town. I was trying to train myself out of my limp and so I put bells around my ankles so I could listen to the rhythm as I walked, and I remember the sound as I walked from the apartment to the water. Jingle...JINGLE! jingle...JINGLE! all the way to the water's edge. Then silence.
I still go crazy but now with one thing or another I don't end up going to the beach. It's better when I do. People keep telling me not to isolate so much and that I should reach out when I need help and for the past couple of years I've been trying to do that and I guess it's helped more or less. I'm still out in the free world, still working, still paying rent and the lights are still on and I'm not drinking. People tell you to reach out and then they feel good about helping you and they get to give you advice and they walk away happy because hey, at least they aren't as crazy as you are. I know, I've been on the helping side too. It's good to touch crazy every once and a while. To be helped in that way does calm you down. But it's like putting a bandage on and sending you back out into the fight. Here you go, try not to bleed on anyone. Stuff some napkins in your prom dress and get back on out there. It doesn't wash you clean.
When you get in the ocean, when I get in the ocean, I can't help but feel how small I am. I wade into the water and sink down into the waves, and my knees go weak and my muscles go slack and this great and powerful thing, this monstrous god-belly of water just holds me and rocks me and doesn't ask questions. All that is busy in my head goes as flat as the horizon and what enters me is the birds that fly over head, the sand that brushes over my feet, the water that doesn't leave me alone and I am not one person I am soup, I am salt, I am sky. My broken mind and heart become the same and as beautiful as the broken shells on the beach and I grow at once entangled in the world and unencumbered by it. Pain falls away. Heartache falls away. Worry falls away. I become mind clean. And when I climb out and come back into the thick of daily life some of all that stays with me for a while and holds me separate and stronger. But with time, like anything, that drifts away too. Water never stays in one place for long.
When I was a child I thought I would grow up and go live at the beach. I'm all grown up now and I can feel that child in me stern and disappointed. I would do it but I wonder, if you live at the beach where do you go if you go crazy? Do you then dream of desert? I lived in the desert once, it was barren and dead to me. I felt like the sun wanted to kill my bones.
I don't know if I ever will live at the beach. Some people live their childhood dreams and some people just live and dream, and I dream I dream I dream. I have shells on my shelves, I have cornflakes on my floor, and a cat that sleeps and I love her when she sleeps. And I have crazy in me that will rise like a plague of locusts around my head and because of that I know I'll take that drive and wash in those waters and get flat and quiet and small. This summer will be hot as it always is and the bugs will scream in the high grass and the sound will remind me inexplicably of dirty boys in cracker shacks doing drugs as it always does and the waste of it, the shimmering heat and the waste of this town with it's roadside beer cans and ragged women will get heavy in me. When it does I'll drive south, I'll stop and pee at the blue store, I'll open my windows and taste the air as it changes. When you live so close it is a sin not to go. We make excuses to stay in our craziness and all those excuses mean nothing, not when beauty is right there. Not when all you have to do is step away, and you can turn your face toward heaven.