Friday, April 29, 2011

My Girl

Today is the day my babiest sister graduates from college. I don't know how that could have happened, not that it is strange that she has accomplished something like that, but that she could be old enough to do so. Isn't she a tiny girl, rollerskating around the house? Isn't she a little thing, packing a plastic suit case and declaring that she's off to Meximo City? Isn't she our baby girl? Isn't she our girl? I will not cry. (The tears are already in my eyes.) I've been crying for a week straight.
As the storms that swept through the south were just starting to kick up wisps of leaves and hints of what was to be such total devastation, I started to feel off. Irritable, ornery, sassy. I wanted to pick fights, I felt like I hated everyone who walked through the door at my work. I said mean things. I had to mentally restrain myself from dashing full plates to the floor and smashing water glasses. My arms longed to knock something over. Preferably something big that would make a very loud bang and would break in an irreparable way. Then came the tears.
I cried because people were leaving at work and I had to replace them and it was too hard. I cried because not only are they leaving, but they are going off to better and brighter things, and I stay here and what to them was a job to get them through school and supply them mad money for nights of vodka luge, new panties, and marijuana, appears to be my career. I cried because my man is so far away and loves his job so much. I cried because I'm getting old. I cried because my legs hurt so much. I cried because I have a cat and I do not pet her enough. (Seriously, just looking at her little face was enough to set me off.) I cried because I do not have a baby. I cried because I was on my period and oh the storm was building and my sister, my baby tiny little sunshine girl is leaving.
A couple of nights ago after she played at the restaurant, one of my co-workers said, "May, I think I have a crush on your sister." He said it real plain and earnest, and not teasing in any way. "Yes," I said, "She's a good one to have a crush on." and then we talked about how fine she is. Which is one of my favorite things to do.
Many years ago I started waxing poetic about her at a party in St. Augustine. I had had several glasses of wine at that point and I remember gesturing with both hands and saying how beautiful she was and how talented and how marvelous. My then boyfriend leaned over to me and whispered that no one cared, that I was embarrassing myself. I sank back into the couch exhausted and said, "I just love her so much." The funny thing about that is the people I was talking to, the people hosting the party, are the people who my sister now calls her Fairy Godparents and who love her almost as much as I do. Ha! Suck it, ex-boyfriend! It's not overly effusive if you have to be in order to be completely honest. Kiss my ass, I just love her so much.
My sister Jessie is very tall, and very talented, and very smart, and very beautiful. That's all true, but it's not enough. She has an angel's face, a perfect oval, with big blue eyes and a mouth that could have been painted in the Renaissance. She is Aphrodite, she is Diana, she is the Virgin Mary, she is one better, she is herself. Her fingers are delicate and tapered and I like to take her hand when I talk to her and hold it, and bring it up to my lips to kiss because even just that hand is so precious to me. When she is playing mandolin her face smooths and her body relaxes and it is like watching something intimate and magical and completely natural taking place, like the unfolding of a flower or a sunrise, so languid, so.... yes... sexy and yet not so, and then she smiles and the clouds you didn't know were there part and the sun bursts through. She shines so brightly sometimes I have to look away.
Her grace is something that is not just held in her body but also in the way she moves through life. She is graceful with people, she is graceful in situations that most would find difficult or uncomfortable. Children and animals follow her with blind love. She is the kind of girl you want near, just because her presence makes the air feel better. When she is around I know that everything will be okay, not because I need her to take care of things (though she does) but because when I look at her face I am soothed. She is balm, that girl.
Which is why it is so right that she is graduating from nursing school. I can't think of anyone I would rather have by my side if I was in pain, or afraid, or having a baby. She will be using those lovely hands to provide succor to those lucky enough to find themselves in her care. I almost envy their broken bones, I almost envy their labor pains. It is right, it is good, so is she.
She is in love. If I thought she was beautiful before (and she was and I did) now she is even more so and grows more lovely everyday. Could she be any more beautiful? She is so beautiful that only she could be a thing more beautiful than she is now, so I suppose that is possible. Maybe when she herself has a baby, as our sister Lily has and who has herself grown more astonishingly gorgeous since.
I am so glad that she is in love, and that she is doing exactly what she needs to do for herself and her life. They will be moving in together, in another town, in another state. They will make a home. They will nest. They will sleep well together. As I told her not too long ago, there is nothing that makes my heart happier or more at peace than knowing that her heart is taken care of. I believe this man will look after her heart. I believe he may love her enough to keep loving her and to love her more.
Now I am crying again because this is so big to me- this girl, her love, her accomplishments, my love for her. I am not heart broken that she is leaving, I am heart-mended, and I am finding that a full to bursting, happy heart can be just as painful as a broken one. I am so glad for her that I cannot stop weeping.
Jessie Girl- you are leaving but you are not leaving us. We travel in you as you ride in our hearts and minds, and it will always be that way. There is nothing you could ever do that would lessen my love for you and your absence will not cause your face to fade in my mind. You are imprinted in me, you are the wallpaper in my heart. I am so proud of you. I just love you so much. Now go be free, you sweet little thing.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I steal flowers, figs, and berries...

I see that I've lost a follower. That's fine, perhaps even good. Inspiration to write and less pressure. Not that anyone pressures me to write. Not that I don't love that anyone follows me. I'm amazed anyone does actually. I'm so spotty and dissatisfying.
I feel blindsided by this spring. By work. By love. Is it love that keeps me away from the keyboard? Is it love that is making this spring so crazy beautiful? I don't know. I don't want to stop writing, and I haven't actually. I just can't seem to finish anything.
This spring: first it was the Japanese Magnolias. I blame it on them. There were not blossoms and then there were, an explosion of blossoms, a proud of blossoms, a murder of them, and fat they were and dripping from trees. The smell was overwhelming and high inducing, and at one point I stood between two on a carpet of spent petals with the blue sky overhead and the buzzing of bees as loud as lawn mowers and I thought "Does it get better than this?".
But yes it does.
Then came the dogwoods. Snow. Snow with leaves, and tiny green centers, and gray zig-zag branches that alone would be enough. Then came the azaleas, regular and miniature, in all the bridesmaid colors. And then came the cherries and the pears (blossoms, not fruit), and tung, all fast and furious and garish and wonderful.
Add to that the birds that pass through these parts in such numbers that you wonder what it looks like in the place they eventually perch. Finches, wrens, blue jays, cardinals, geese, woodpeckers, yes. Those are the ones I can name. Bluebirds- I saw them at my boyfriend's mother's house. I said I'd never seen one, and there one was. There was one day while walking to work when I saw such a flock of birds, so many I had to stand and look and was late for all my standing but I did not care. I was on a canopy road and they filled the trees, all those great big Spanish moss dripping trees, they filled them and then lifted off, and then filled them and lifted off. Again and again, and when they took to the air they did so in a great scrawing formation. They made a blow fish in the air, and then a dragon, and then a bearcat, and then settled on down only to do it again. I could have stayed and watched for hours. I felt like calling in well, as Tom Robbins would say. "I'm sorry, I can't come into work. The birds. Yes. They are too beautiful." Some days it feels like a sin against God to go into work.
But that was months ago. Maybe two. It's all different now. Flower sex has caught, and everything is fecund. The first fruits are swelling, the mulberries are already ripe. Not quite fall-on-the-ground-and-stain-your-feet ripe, but ripe enough to pluck on the way to work and arrive red handed and berry mouthed. The fig trees smell like figs. The loquats and kumquats are heavy. We have a lemon tree at the restaurant that I've been promised is a rare variety that is so sweet you can eat the fruit off the branch. I miss the blossoms (they smelled like heaven) but I love the tiny green marbles that get bigger every day. I love that the pear trees have lost their petals because I cant wait to roast the pears in brown sugar and butter. Vanilla. Lemon zest. Ginger. When the world smells like honey how can you help but be hungry? I swear I gain 10 pounds every spring.
The roses are almost done, but the jasmine is blooming. Entire walls of it that proves that nature is the queen boss of us all because we know it will pull our fences down and yet we plant it there and let it go wild. Soon it will be so florid with tiny white pinwheels that the scent, when walking by, will make me feel so light headed and high that it will honestly make my knees go weak. I will want to sink to the ground. I will want to lie on the sidewalk. I will want to look at the sky spinning above my head. It is not the sky! It is the jasmine and the bees! I shall have to tell myself this firmly. I shall have to walk on. It does not do to lie on the sidewalk. Spring fever or no.
I can not remember a spring so beautiful. I forgot to mention the wisteria. And the honeysuckle. And the camellias. There are camellias that look like ripped open organs, tattered and fat and blood red. There are also those that look like roses or virginal fairy dresses. One for every lady. Maybe this is why we love them.
So love. Maybe it is love making everything smell so sweet. Or maybe it is love allowing me to be open to the spring, to the flesh of it and the beauty of it and the smell of it and the great great opening of it all. Just like a lonely girl eschews sex scenes in movies so does one turn a blind eye to spring. Non fate guerra al maggio, my friend. War not with May. And May is coming. So soon. In a couple of weeks. For the first time in a long time, I am looking forward to May, and accepting her as she may come.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Rage

Got my period today
seven days early as though the
world of lady laws follows our
tricky calendar and takes notice when it
is not a leap year
and earlier too my friend
Abi and I helplessly drawn together
like magnets and pulled again
by the inevitable tide of another friend
a girl her eyes wide
hands folded over belly
we all got the rage at the same time
and ate candy out of each others hands
while violently cursing the world
and who knows who else we know
but here we stand- small, medium, and tall
all bleeding and cursing and pale
no wonder men think
we are beautiful monsters.

(If you want to see more beautiful photographs like the one above, click here.)

Friday, February 4, 2011

My Yes Love Story

Chapter 1
It is the day he leaves and I am a mess. I am feeling my heart, and I don't know what to do with it. It is this cracked open, wet and heavy thing. It is inside my chest, but also in my belly, in my brain, in my fingertips. My eyes are wet as I serve brunch, because of course the day he leaves is a Sunday and brunch waits for no man. What do I care for your coffee? Your bloody mary? Your eggs well done and bacon crispy? I feel like Frida Kahlo with my ribs open, my heart blue and red, lurid on my chest. No one seems to notice. That night the sky is dressed for dancing and my fresh new skin is in love with the air. I stand outside and look up for a long, long time.

Chapter 2
Two days pass. I call my Mama and she tells me that a friend is dying. She asks me if I am in love. I don't know, I say, I don't know. All I want to eat is yogurt and soup. I am on the heartbreak yogurt and soup diet. I tell her that even though it's a broken-hearted feeling, I am glad to feel my heart again. It's about time someone turned the lights on, she says.

Chapter 3
I call him. I tell him how I feel. He sees my bet and raises. Rather than hide my beating heart I expose it, I open it's windows, I let the air in. I find that all the songs are true. We agree to start from here and get to know each other. We see each other as endlessly amazing, and inside that endlessness he sees I stretch out my arms and it feels good, and I wonder, How far can I go? And the rest is now, and the rest is now, and the rest is now.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My Almost Love Story, Succinctly Put, In Chapter Form

Chapter 1
We meet at a bonfire (was it a bonfire? perhaps a parade) at The Fives. He is my brother's neighbor and they have quite the little Bro-Town happening, of which my brother will later become the mayor, but not just yet. They are all buds. I think he is sexy, but what of sexy? I have a boyfriend, and I believe he disappears to have sex with some girl. It is a beautiful night. Later I hear he thought I was cute. I also hear he thinks my mom is cute.

Chapter 2
I see him unexpectedly at a show at the Cow Haus. I am surprised to see how happy he looks to see me at the same time as I am surprised to feel how happy I am to see him. His smile slays me. He gathers me up in his arms and hugs me so hard he lifts me off the floor. I don't remember what band was playing, but I remember that hug.

Chapter 3
It is some years later and my life has fallen apart. I no longer have old boyfriend, or any boyfriend, or a job, or a place to live. I have just abruptly left a dangerous relationship and I am lost and ashamed and determined to A) get myself together, and B) drink enough to forget what I have just been through. My brother scrambles to get me into the safety of The Fives, where the brotherhood can keep an eye on me. The man of whom this is about is now my across the sidewalk neighbor and he also enjoys drinking, so we spend many wasted nights talking and talking and talking. We kiss at a pirate party. I say "Kiss me." and he does.
Sometimes he knocks on my window at sunrise for a ride to work.
He moves out. I keep his cat for one day.

Chapter 4
I still live at The Fives. I am still a mess. He calls one night and says, "This is it, let's get together, I want to see you." He comes over and we make out, but before we close the deal he leaves in such a hurry he left his shirt. I am confused and worry he will be cold.
He moves away from town.

Chapter 5
It is a year later and I have moved out of The Fives and into the apartment wherein I currently reside. I have quit drinking and have started to get myself together. Really, finally. It is after New Years and I have just gotten home from a work holiday party and he calls. He is in town visiting, and the people whose couch he is staying on are having a very loud argument. I ask if he would like to come over. I make up my couch.
We talk. We talk far into the night about getting our lives together, how great our families are, what we are up to these days. We make each other laugh. His face makes me happy. I go to bed alone, and wake up glad that he is in my house. The next day he leaves, and we promise to keep in touch.

Chapter 6
Thanksgiving and he is in town to visit his family. He comes to my apartment and a pop song about love is playing. He walks through my door, takes me in his arms, and kisses me. The music swells. He sleeps over.
Same thing happens around Christmas.

Chapter 7
It is Thanksgiving again and he calls. I am at my Mama's house for the ever fabulous pre-Thanksgiving party. I say, "Come out, if you want to." He does. Out by the bonfire he tells me that now is the time. He loves me, he wants to be with me, we can make this happen. I walk him around Mama's house and he loves it. He loves her. He loves my brother. He sees my sister playing mandolin with her band and is now a fan for life, he films them with his phone he cannot believe how amazing they are. He keeps his hands on me, we keep looking at each other.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas we talk on he phone almost everyday. We will make this happen, We can make this happen, we say over and over. I feel like something is off, though I can't say what. If there's anyone I would jump off a cliff with it's him, but still.... I'm wary. I don't know why he likes me so much. I don't think I am beautiful so I don't trust him when he says I am. Why now? I think.
Christmas comes and we spend one night together. Then family time and I meet his mom on Christmas day. Also his sister, his brother-in-law, and his nephews. They are all wonderful. Just the best people you could meet. I sit on the floor with his Mom and we talk. I play with his nephews. They make me feel comfortable. It is very sweet and easy. I see how he is with his family and he is a boy and there is so much love there.
That night is his last night in town and he is going to go have a beer with his best friend and then come to my house and climb in bed with me. He never shows up. I feel like an idiot in my chilly silky nothings, and he calls to apologize on his way out of town. I say it's alright, I understand.
Then I call the next day or the day after that and say that it is not alright and nothing is alright and I am breaking up with you. It was his birthday. I am so mean.
I was not ready. I don't think he was ready either. You don't start forever with an apology.

Chapter 8
We don't talk for a while. Half a year maybe. Then he calls, says he's coming to town. We talk about getting together. I don't call back. Or I do, but I get the dates wrong and it is the day he is leaving. We do this a couple/three more times.
(I really did get the dates wrong. That wasn't on purpose.)

Chapter 9
He emails me, says he'd like to see me before he "really gets out of pocket". My heart drops. He has planned a grand culinary tour of the country, cooking in some of the best restaurants for the best chefs. It will go on for a couple of years, and then who knows? He visits for Christmas and we see each other at my brother's house for maybe an hour. Then he comes back to town for a week and a half before he leaves for good. I am still wary, still confused. I am happy for him, I am angry with him, I am being a silly girl. Finally, when he only has a few days left we get together.
He takes me to Tom Brown Park where we sit on the grass and remember how much we like each other. We are the funniest, smartest, sexiest people we know. We like to sit on the grass. The sky has never been so blue. I cry a tiny bit while trying to explain something. I laugh more. He tells me that he is sorry, he went too fast last year. We look away, at all that beautiful Florida day. The sky gets in my eyes. When I get home I look in the mirror and I am beautiful.
The next night he comes to a birthday party. We sit next to each other and he rests his arm along the back of my chair. I peek at him. I catch him peeking at me. Everyone is leaving the pizza restaurant to go to a bar and I bow out. He offers to drive me home. I accept. At home, in my parking lot, we kiss.
We kiss and it wakes up all my sleeping cells, he makes my insides quick. Oh, I think, it's been a while. I'd forgotten.
Then he leaves because he has agreed to drive everyone to the bar. He's good like that.
The next day he drives away for good, and all I can think about is that I didn't smell him enough.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Rambling, Rambling, New Year's to Now

On New Year's Eve I worked all day and wore a gold crown. I like that paper party crowns have not changed in style since the early 1900's, it's a good look and it makes you feel like you live in the Emerald City, which is a way I like to feel and don't get to often enough. After working that long, long, 15 hour day, I came home and wrote an equally long post detailing the entire thing with side bars and footnotes and hoohaws and then deleted it and went to bed for about 12 hours. The post was just as, if not more exhausting than the shift itself and no one who is not getting paid should have to go through that. Work, work, work, champagne blah-blah. That sums it up.
The highlight of my New Year's was after the restaurant was clean and the lights in the dining room were turned low (although the bar was hopping till three in the morning), I took off my crown, took down my hair, and sat on our empty patio with two of my coworkers (who are also two of my favorite people) and we talked and laughed so hard in PTSD hilarity that Lovely and I had to clutch our faces to keep them from falling off our heads.
Lovely has a new boyfriend (who had also worked a double at his restaurant) who was there and I got to hang out with him for the first time. I was watching him closely, because Lovely is my work-wife, my beloved girl, and her last man did not treat her right, but I came to believe that this is a good one and I am so glad. I may be at my best, socially, after I have worked for 15 hours because it's a bit like being drunk. All bets are off! My-give-a-fuck meter is at zero! I am not attached to the results! Being at my best socially is not saying much, I am, as I have said, an Awkward Girl, and I tend to sit on the very edge of my seat and leap up to empty the ashtrays. That night on the patio I was so tired that not only was my hair down, my shoes were off, and I was tucked up curled in the patio chair and I did not get up once to empty an ashtray or refill a drink. I saw their drinks getting low and I said nothing.
At one point, Lovely's date went back to the bar to re-up and she tipsy whispered to me that he was funny, wasn't he? And that he felt like a socially awkward person. Sometimes you get two socially awkward people in a room and conversation just goes to shit and all the air gets sucked out of a party and then it is time to leave. Sometimes the magic happens and the two people (or three, or four, because we're none of us exactly smooth) find that these people are their people and the night opens up and you find yourself making dirty jokes in Irish accents and saying, "Oh Danny Boy, THIS pipe is calling..." and it is exactly right and an old man in a bow tie wanders out with a cocktail in his hand and tells you that you are a beautiful girl. It's amazing what hair down does. It makes men silly. And the gold hoops, Mama, the hoops. Well, anyway, that is what happened.
A week later I was sick. I think the holidays caught up with me and all the long hours at work and doing really the bare minimum of taking care of myself. My heat, for example: It's an old furnace and tricky to turn on. I tried to light the pilot myself and could not. I asked my friend Sanchez to come help me and he tried, really he did, but mostly he tried to play romp with me on my bed, slap me on the ass, and ask for a sandwich. Then he sat and looked beautiful in front of my window as the sun set and we smoked my cigarettes and talked about dirty nuns. After he left I went to Target and bought a space heater and some tampons and thought, "I am really taking care of myself now." A space heater does not an entire apartment heat. Since then on the really cold days I have camped out in the living room while the cat sails her pirate ship around, and bracing myself every time I needed to go to the bathroom or get a change of clothes. I am sure by now that all of my neighbors have seen me naked. It's like it's included in the rent.
I knew that either one of my fathers could probably get the furnace working. I knew that. I also knew that my brother-in-law could do it because he did it last year and the year before, but that was why I was especially not going to call him. I don't want to be a bother. I really really don't. I am loathe to ask for help. I would so much rather make my brain figure it out and make my body somehow do whatever it is I need it to do, and if that means it takes a long time to get the thing done, well, so be it. If that means I have to experience slight discomfort, so be it. I don't mind, generally, I really don't. I am very good at distracting myself from discomfort and so it's not like it's really all that bad, and I get such a charge from doing things myself that it's worth it in the end. Usually. It's amazing what you can do by yourself.
Or if you are sick and cold, you may find yourself passing out in your living room and really trying not to because you have a cup of tea in your hands and you don't want to have to clean up the mess later. Not in your weakened state. Which is of course what happened.
I hadn't been feeling right for a while, but I kept thinking that if I hadn't gotten sick yet I wasn't going to. Then I started coughing, and my temperature rose, and I had to admit defeat and call in sick to work. It was a little like the heater situation. I felt worse and worse, but never actually horrible, not like I was dying, and there was no one around to look at me and tell me I looked awful because when family called to see if I needed anything I said no, no, I have everything that I need. I wasn't bleeding out my eyes or anything. Then came the morning of the dizziness and the world going black like an old TV set switched off and I sat on the floor with my head between my knees and thought, "Well shit. How am I going to drive myself to the damn doctor?" Which is when I sucked it up and called my brother.
There have been a few times in my life when I really have felt like I needed a hero and those are the times I have called my brother and he has always come, and he has always done exactly what was needed to be done.
He left work and came and scooped me up. We went to the doc in the box (who ended up being very nice and told me I wasn't getting enough air because I had Bronchitis, hence the dizziness and I was like Oh Good, Bronchitis! I was afraid I was maybe dying. I thought it was the end of times) and we went to get my prescriptions filled, and we called Mama and she said "Come Here So I Can Take Care Of You." and I said, "Yes, ma'am." So he drove me all the way out to Lloyd where Mama was already making soup and all I had to do was curl up on the couch and pillows and blankets and tea would be brought to me, like I was a little princess, watched over by Mama and deer heads and giant fish.
[An aside: Not only did my brother leave work to come get me and do all this but the whole time we're going through the fun process of doctor and pharmacy and what-all, he's making me laugh and I'm laughing and coughing and laughing and coughing and I'm sure scaring everyone at the doctor's office and the store into thinking that yes, the plague has arrived. But that's Hank. He is funny as shit.]
It was so nice and so cozy at Mama's house. My nephew Owen, Our Boy, came over and brought me flowers and brushed my hair and called me May-May for the first time that I have heard in his perfect little bell-like tiny boy voice. Mama made the best soup I have ever had and that is all I ate for about three days. I felt coddled. I felt loved. I felt safe.
Their drugs were quick and by the next day I was ready to come back home, except... Oh it was so nice to sleep in a warm house and walk freely from warm room to warm room and not shiver and cringe when I had to use the toilet. I had asked my brother for help. I had asked my Mama for help. And so that day I called my Daddy Glen, my tall-man dad and asked him Please, could he come and get my furnace to working? Which he did, and was happy to do so. I told Mama that when I walked in the house the next day and it was so warm it was like Dad's arms were wrapped around my entire apartment, just holding me safe, keeping the warm inside.
I don't know why it is so hard to ask for help. I think I have a fear that once you ask for help people will think you are helpless or weak, and then treat you as such, or not trust you, or not respect you as well. Now as I write this I see that so much of my own identity is tied up in being able to take care of everything alone, being strong and independent, and so perhaps I am afraid that I will think of myself as weak or helpless, that I will lose respect for myself and it really has nothing to do with how others perceive me. I honestly don't know how others perceive me, which is probably a good thing. So if one thing I rely on for self esteem is not really helping me out in the long run, perhaps I need to reevaluate what might be my better qualities.

I have quite nice hair.

My legs are very strong.

I can make jokes in many accents.

This may require more self reflection than I am up to right now. I am on very aggressive steroids and antibiotics. I am not supposed to be doing anything that requires coordination. They may cause dizziness and light-headedness and I am encouraged to avoid operating heavy machinery or driving a car. (I just read that on the label yesterday after having worked brunch and feeling all day like I was serving in a fun house with trick floors and wondering, wondering why I felt like I might fall down at any minute.) Serious self reflection may have to wait until I am well enough to walk to work again, which is the best time for thinking.
Today is my normal day off and it is rainy and gray. I have heat, I have food, I have drugs to make me well. I have sunflowers by my bed. I have everything I need. I believe I may do a lot of sleeping, so the getting better goes by faster, like a car trip in the night when you are a child. So safe, so safe, and when you open your eyes you are there. The world goes by very fast outside those windows, but you don't always have to watch it. Sometimes other people can watch it for you.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Thoughts On Decorating

I banged my way through some redecorating this morning. That is how those of us in these old Florida apartments do our redecorating- we bang some nails in the walls, hang some shit up, step back to look, and then bang some more nails in the walls. This is technically against the rules of every apartment I've ever lived in, but it is not one of the hard and fast ones. When you leave you can either fill the holes with white toothpaste, or you can leave them for the next occupant which is really the most helpful way because there are only so many places to hang pictures in a hovel. Three of my paintings are actually hung on nails that were already in the walls when I moved in, and the placement is perfect. No banging necessary.
I put up the amazing calendar that my brother, Downtown Guy, made for me. If you haven't stopped by his picture blog, I've Had Dreams Like That, I recommend you do so now. My brother is an artist and a writer whose words put my scribbles to shame. His picture blog combines that fine eye and that way with words with his love for discovery and his hunger for history and lays it all out there for us to see. Strange beauty, children with swords, dancers, fighters, ships, shanties- all that spins the imagination with some cock and titties thrown in for good measure. He picks images that my eyes want to look at and my brain to wrestle with, and he has, he has had dreams like that. For Christmas he made us calendars with pictures from the blog, and all along the days of the months he put in the songs and poems that fleshed out the pictures, and sometimes wrote his own words when no others would fit. When we were children he taught me the definition of 3-D by holding his threatening fist to my face, and now he has done it again by making something flat go in all directions at once. So I am three days late but now it is on the wall.
The calendar shares space with a Degas print that he found at the flea market for me and is the same painting that hung above my childhood bed until I moved out and was then lost in some move or the next. It was given to me originally by a boyfriend of my mother's who worked in or lived in or was connected to somehow a house with green velvet striped walls. The boyfriend was not important, it is the Degas that remains. The original hangs in the Musee de Orsay in Paris, and when I turned the corner and saw it there I burst into tears.
Also on the wall with the calendar and the Degas is a painting of girls with sensible shoes, another of a coffee cup (that one an original from my father to start my collection of original art, ha ha), a spray of coral from Dog Island, a pencil sketch of a bird by Alex "Feather Fingers" (a tattoo artist I know), a wash board (also given to me by DTG for our jug band we never quite got together), and a photograph of a family from the early nineteen hundreds where the mom wears glasses and a giant bow and the baby has parted hair. Bang bang bang, I promise they all go together.
Bang bang again and next to the front door is now a circular art deco mirror in a wooden frame that has on it two tiny shelves. One holds a blue teacup and the other a glass box of treasures. These are the treasures that are so precious they can only be put in something so magical as a glass box: a heart locket from Daddy Glen (aka Mr. Moon) that contains shell particles from St. Augustine Beach, a piece of shoelace from the shoe that was cut off of me by EMTs the day I was hit by the car, a screw removed from my leg that formerly held together my internal hardware, a medal earned by my Grandpa Fish, animal teeth of unknown species still in partial jawbone, and a platinum pin with a champagne diamond given to me on my wedding day by my Granny Ruth. The mirror that holds the shelves that hold the treasures was given to me this Christmas by my stepmother and so there she is too along with everything else.
A mirror is a tricky thing to hang, even one so small. All of the mirrors in my house are hung in such a way that you never have to accidentally see yourself when you don't want to. I don't like catching my reflection unawares, she looks so startled and so strange, not like me at all. Also, when I was a kid I had an imagining that when I looked into a mirror my best friend Django could see me in his, and I still look away when I don't want him to see my face.
The redecorating reminded me again of how much I like my apartment and also how I am sick to death of it. Everything is dusty. Everything is old. I have my past hung around me like thumbtacks that hold my place in his world and prove that I have been here. I have a green cabinet that holds pictures and obituaries of people I have lost and it grows busier and busier. Joe, Jarryd, Grandma Dot, Aunt Lynn, a valentine from a boy named Demetri now gone, and more. It also holds shells, a music box, a doll I made, some beads, all things they touched and now gather dust even though I still hold them in my hands sometimes. I need to hold them in my hands sometimes. Not often.
I think of my decorating style as tree house decorating. The scavenged chairs, the secondhand pictures, the hand-me-down tables, the yard sale lamps, the Flamenco dancer, the mannequin head, the multitude of books, the cups of pens. The newest thing I have is a kitty pirate ship Mama gave Lupita for Christmas, and now that she is a pirate, the cat is even harder to live with.
Until you have your own children, every new apartment really is just another tree house to live in. A place to put your treasures in. And read sometimes by candle light. And bang bang bang the nails in walls.
I do prefer the old things though. I'd rather have a scavenged chair than one from the store bought to match. I like things that are heavy and ornery, even if they lean to the side a bit. I want the things that tell a story, which is why I love my brother's blog, or a scuffed table, or a portrait of a family I do not know (as long as the baby's hair is parted so).
My ex husband and I did not argue much (until the end, of course) but one thing that always came up was the furniture and the furnishings and how they were arranged. He believed that it did not matter what something looked like, it was its use that was important. If we needed a computer desk he would go to Walmart and buy the cheapest one that served, while I was more apt to put the computer on a spindle-legged side table that I found in the trash on the side of the road because I liked the way the paint chipped or the way the shape of the thing fit into the room so nicely. I learned through living with him that he could not see a room as a whole, but only saw the individual things within it. So if I brought in a lamp with a water stained shade, he saw only a lamp with a water stained shade, whereas I saw how the shape of the base mirrored the shape of a vase on a shelf that was the same color as the skirt of the girl in the painting on the wall who also held a vase that was made of green glass and that is why I put the plant by the window where the light would shine through. It was a different way of seeing things. We could have found common ground I suppose, or compromise, but divorce came first. We did not divorce over decorating, we divorced over sex and money, but decorating was my first freedom's pleasure.
It has been so long now since I have lived with a man that I cannot imagine how one would fit in with all my things. Would he find my altar to lost people macabre and ask me to take it down? Would he see how the angle of the butt of the little girl painting in my bathroom matches the angle of the butt of the sexy pin-up girl in the advertisement for St. Germaine I hung next to her? Would he bring a giant leather chair? I would have to hide the tampons and stop hanging my bras from the doorknobs. Would he come into the bathroom to pee while I am shaving my legs? How do people live together at all?
Now I am curious, and I ask this of you: How is your house set up? Is it very important to you that things be just so? Do you share your house with others, and how does that work? Do you see individual things, or do you see it all as a tapestry? Do you have a physical reaction when you rearrange? I remember how that computer desk from the Walmart made my stomach hurt, though I don't remember if I told him that or not.
What is important to me is that my house is set up to be held easy in my eyes and soft in my heart, tells oh so many stories, and can take a little bang bang bang.