Friday, December 12, 2008

My Tonight Quiet Thoughts

I've gotten out of the habit of writing things here. Everyday, I write in my journal, I wake up and I write and I drink coffee and I look out the window and my head is full, but my voice is silent. Sometimes you need to just quiet that mouth, quiet that mouth about the important things and just let them happen until they trickle on in and make a home inside.
     Last month I celebrated my one year of sobriety. And it was Thanksgiving. It was Thanksgiving and sobriety and thankfulness and fullness and help me God and Thankyou. I got to stand up at the AA birthday meeting in front of all those people who have seen me cry and who have seen me laugh and my sweet mother and strong step-father and tell my story and receive my coin. I feel quiet about this because I cannot say how it was. I cried so I wet my Mama's hair when I sat down next to her. 
     Sobriety is not just not drinking. What a lonely, empty life that would leave, just a life of not drinking. Sobriety is a spiritual journey, one in which we remind ourselves to pursue progress and not perfection. 
      I was not born with a steady hand. This mind I live in, this heart and body, so sensitive. I have a hard time disappointing people, even in the smallest way. My heart breaks when I make mistakes, I have to walk very carefully and tall so that I don't knock things down. I don't want to see people sad, and I try to make them laugh, but when they don't I want to take their pain inside me, take it from them and wrap it in my own body so it is a dull thing and not sharp enough to cut. But I can't. And it is unbearable. I don't have many close friends. Always, a game is only fun until it seems someone will definitely win, and then someone will lose and the game is not fun anymore. 
     I had a husband once who did not like for me to be praised. If I made something pretty, he grew sour and silent. He did not think I was pretty, and I did not know that until after I married him. He married me in part, because I was just good enough, but not better than him. 
      I divorced him and he moved far away without ever really knowing me at all.
      Drinking made me feel numb and I liked that. It made me feel free, and I liked that very much. Drinking allowed me to be a super bitch, and I liked that best of all. Oddly enough, I had lots of friends. They all liked to drink, too. I don't think they knew me very well. I lost myself in those years.
      Dancing, sewing, painting, writing, thinking. All those things dwindled down to tiny memories of my magic life I might have had and I was busy trying to forget.
     My mother did not let me forget. 
       Now those lost years, they feel like some one else's story. I am still so sensitive. I am learning how to deal with that. People feel pain, I feel pain, pain is good. Pain is better than numb. I have all the alive feelings now, because I am alive now.
      That is what sobriety is, it is the fullness of being, the alive feelings, the grace of the muscles being moved by the soul. My mother wears salt in her hair very well.
      All of that, the getting lost, the waking up, the finding my way and how I am today, that is what I feel quiet about. 
      Here it is December and it is cold tonight. I gave a homeless man three dollars in the parking lot outside Bill's Minimart. He said he would buy a blanket. I think that was a lie. I don't care if he bought a blanket or a beer, it's cold tonight and I have a warm home. When I walked home the moon was so full and big I said "Oh god, you are beautiful!" and there were two stars.
      I have a tree in my house and isn't that cool? To have a tree in your house? If there is a sentient Man/Woman/God person I bet they say "I have so many trees in my house! That is so cool!" My tree has lights but I haven't decorated it yet because I'm waiting for the right moment. Last night I helped my sister and her husband decorate the tree in their house and to see my sister's eyes on that tree, their first married tree together! Her eyes were more sparkly and beautiful by far, but as she is inside those eyes it's good she has a tree to look at. Her husband is the luckiest one, he has the tree and those eyes. How does he sleep at night with all that glitter and goodness around?
        Here I am, thinking about my Mama again. No matter how crazy I get all I have to do is call her up. She lets me walk around in her mind and therein find my stable ground. 
         This post is not good writing, but I am okay. It is how my mind is talking tonight. Maybe I'm just breaking the ice again, getting back into poking these keys instead of thinking pen in hand. If you want good writing go to Bless Our Hearts or TallyHassle, I do. Everyday.
      Aren't we glad the world is such a big thing and we are such little things? Isn't that something to be thankful for?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

But Can Bloody Mary Tell Me Who the President Will Be?

Insomnia is a serious inconvenience. I thought that I would clean my house with all the extra hours that I have to work with but everyone is asleep here at the old Park Ave Apts and how do you clean without rocking out? When we were kids, my brother and I would slow as we approached our house coming home from school, Bruce Springsteen evident from a block away. Oh dear, Mama's cleaning.....
      My neighbor sets his alarm for 5:AM every morning and I just heard it go off. Boy is he going to be pissed when he realizes it's daylight savings time again! Of course, it's also Sunday. The whole thing seems off, but it's comforting to me. Someone else is alive! Yes! He is hitting the snooze button! Ha-Ha! Maybe he is a spy. If he is he has a very good cover. He has a wonky eye and whenever I see him he's joyfully drunk, his steps as rolley and unpredictable as his vision, but his smile is sure.
      I went and voted on Halloween. Early voting on Halloween is super fun. Batman voted, and Darth Vadar. Do you suppose Vadar voted for McCain because he is aligned with the dark side, or did he vote Obama because he is black? 
      The lovely T-Bone was the one who suggested we go vote. We work together and had spent a fine morning at the restaurant wearing the fake mustaches that I brought for the staff. Each mustache was different and had a name. Mine was "The Rogue", our chef sported "The Scoundrel". Our fey and stylish gay waiter chose "The Party Boy". Neither T-Bone nor I can remember the title of hers, but it could have been called "The Paisano" because combined with her dark hair and red bandanna it made her resemble a disgruntled pizza cook. I wanted to make her perform for me. "Sharpen your knife and look mean!" God, it was so good.
     At first we thought we might wear the mustaches to vote, the upside being that it might enable us to commit voter fraud by voting again ("Hey! Didn't you just vote?" "Oh no, those girls had mustaches!") but we had already exhausted the adhesive and went sans disguise. (If you are planning to commit voter fraud I suggest you do not buy your disguise at a place called The Festivity Factory.)
      The line was long but we were motivated. First we had to stand in the line that led to the line that led to the courthouse. I thought there might be snacks and mimes, maybe for entertainment purposes, but T-Bone thought not so we came prepared with drinks, baby carrots, and cigarettes. 
        We spent the hour and fifteen minutes talking about the people we know, the people we used to know, who's in jail, who should be in jail, all the drugs we used to do, and who's doing the drugs now. The people around us were silent in that very pointed way that people have when they are listening very hard. Perhaps we were the entertainment. We should've worn the mustaches! We would've been so much more amusing, not to mention more anonymous. ("Hey, I heard you were gossiping about me in line to early vote at the courthouse." "Oh no, I heard those girls had mustaches.")
         We were a little worried that they would search our purses once we got in. T-Bone had a knife, and I had a little wad of something suspicious looking wrapped in plastic wrap (it was a mustache, I swear) but that fear turned out to be unfounded. What we did find at the end of the line was an especially tall handsome man in a floral button down shirt. His job was to stop us from madly rushing the polling booths before they could take our information. I told him that I liked his shirt, that it was very handsome, coyly cutting my eyes away. He said that when he put it on that morning he said to himself, "Yep, nobody's gonna miss Mr. Tim today". T-Bone pointed out that it was helpful that he was also so tall. When it was my turn at the booth, Mr. Tim thanked T-Bone for coming out to vote. She told him that we were excited to vote, that we were excited to be making history, and he smiled and thanked her again, and they had a moment.
      The voting? My heart did swell. I checked and double checked to make sure that I did, in fact, vote for Obama and against the We Hate Gays proposition. I knew I did, but there was a paranoid part of me that somehow I'd filled in the wrong circles. It's like that feeling that you might just spasmodically drive into a building some day, you know you won't, why would you? But you think somehow you might. By accident. Like maybe you lost your mind for a minute.
      When I walked out of the courthouse, into the dusk of Halloween, I felt strong and hopeful and exhilarated. Me! I voted! The trees glowed bright. Everyone was smiling. Children played.
     As we walked back to the car we talked about what we had done, how we felt, and what it meant. I said, "Mr. Tim, do you want my phone number? I vote YES!" and we decided that we needed to use that pick-up line before the end of the election.
      Last year on Halloween I wore a flower in my hair and sprayed myself with body glitter and went to a party and did jello shots. This year I wore a fake mustache and laughed more than I have in a long time and voted in a historical election with one of my best friends. Ah there is hope for us yet, ah there is hope and laughter and hope again.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Fall is here, the Fall, the Fall, as if it never was at all. It's cold finally, as cold comes in Florida. There is no tapering, it comes all whoosh and me not ready. Do I have winter clothes? Does anyone here, really? We wear layers, we wear two pairs of socks. I wear legwarmers left over from long ago dance class with my flip-flops, and three skirts, and fashion be damned a hat I found left from the man dance of a bar fight. It is fall and my skin sings with it, the itch of tighter flesh and wash-red hands. My eyes look prettier in cold weather.
      We have color change in Florida. The skies are more blue, so blue you remember what blue is, and the sunsets are a orange and a pink and a rose rose red. The carnival will be here soon and I remember how fun that is, how we used to say "It's not fair!" and Mama would say "Ain't no fair today!" but oh Ha Ha! It is Fall and yes there is a fair come today! The fair as a kid, I rode all the rides, the fair as an adult, I always fall in love. The candy colors and circus sounds, the laughter screams and smells of popcorn, sweat, and sweet fried bits. A fair is for making yourself scared and smashing your face into your friend's sweatshirt, screaming and smelling their safe safe smell. I will win you a goldfish, if you did not bring a sweater dad will buy you an airbrushed shirt. It will say your name! I will want it!
       Soon I will get a man to come and light my furnace. It is so old it's like a fire in my hallway, and sounds like an angry child tap dancing on pop rocks. Sometimes when it is very cold I curl up next to it in my sleeping bag and watch the blue flames dance behind the glass, and I dream of camping and hot chocolate. Sometimes I dream of snails, and sometimes there are ghosts, but never monsters.
      In the Fall there are angels with the spiders in the corners of the rooms.
      In the Fall the shop signs creek in the silent spaces between the traffic lights.
      In the Fall the kids on bicycles have bright white grins that match their knuckles and they are coming home for soup.
      Maybe Fall will be my time, my time to wake up. Outside my window I can hear a cat crowling, and far away someone is playing electric guitar. 

Monday, October 20, 2008

It Ain't No Accident if You Ask For It

Fourteen years ago tomorrow, I was hit by a man named Lorenzo in a Toyota Corolla. I was sixteen and slightly depressed for no good reason other than being sixteen. Sweet, sweet sixteen and walking to school because the idiot children at the high school where I was supposed to catch the bus to go to my school taunted me and the idiot administrators told me they could do nothing because I was not a student there. It did not occur to me to ask my parents to intervene on my behalf, it took great courage to cross the lines of mockery and enter the great brick building in the first place. When it came to nothing I thought, "Well, alright then. I'll walk."
      I've started this wrong. I like to walk. The taunting of the students was only an excuse. The mornings were glorious. Up before the sun, the world a hush and the air gentle. Every night the spiders would string hopeful webs across the sidewalks and every morning I would be the first to break them, like the spiders were silent housekeepers and I was the first to break the seal on the toilet seat of the morning. Not very poetical, but just that fresh, and so lucky I felt to watch the stars melt away and have that quiet half hour all to myself to think my thoughts. 
     My thoughts that morning were along the lines of "Please, a change. Just anything, anything at all" because being sixteen and having all the luxuries of privilege had become just too unbearable. Ever since then I have been much more specific in my prayers. You get what you ask for, you know.
        [ This is all coming out wrong and heavy handed. I've never been good at writing about this, maybe because I really want to. Just stay with me. I'll get it out somehow.] 
        I was wearing an Indonesian batiked dress that I'd borrowed (stolen) from my best friend. It was blue, red, pink, green, and patterned with eyeballs and squiggles. I had on hiking boots and thick socks and I'd carefully done up my hair in milkmaid braids pinned to the back of my head. I was carrying a black backpack, heavy with books.
       The morning was overcast. The sun was not quite up. It was early, you know? High school starts so early, not like a 9-5 job, it's 7:AM for learning, and so sleepy we were.
         I approached Monroe Street on Brevard, pushed the crosswalk button, looked both ways, and started to walk. Monroe is a big street, five lanes including the turn lane and lots of ways a car can come, and lots of ways to miss seeing a car, if it is gray like the morning, and if it has a headlight out, and if the streetlights aren't working, and if the crosswalk is malfunctioning. And lots of ways a man can miss the sight of a girl in the road, if she is wearing muted colors, if he is blind in one eye, if he is trying to make the light. And that is how it happens, the little things come together, the universe laughs and you are falling.
       One minute walking, next minute falling, I remember thinking, "Oh shit, I've been hit by a car", and the world slowed down. I'm sure it was a violent surprise to see a girl come through a windshield, her arm around her face, a head through splintered glass. It must have happened so very fast, it must have scared the hell out of him. To me, it was slow and gray and falling, falling through silent soft ever-gray, the gray of feathers and slow and slow and then I opened my eyes and the world blew up.
       I heard a man yelling and cars, so many lights of cars going so fast and the feel of asphalt under my back and the sky so dark and I knew, I had to get up! I had to get off the road because this was Monroe Street and they couldn't see me! The cars, the cars can't see you if you lie in the road! So I sat up and looked down at my legs and saw one looking oh so normal and one looking oh so wrong. It was a stairstep leg. There was a sharp bend where the knee was, yes, and another sharp bend between the knee and the ankle and my hiking boot foot looking for all the world like it wanted to kick my own knee, and looking like it was doing a pretty good job of trying. There in the bend was a tear and in the tear a black trickle and a bone. That bone fucked my mind. I was okay till I saw that bone, all jagged and pink and the skin like rucked rubber simply Not Doing Its Job, because skin is supposed to keep that stuff in where you can't see it.
      As my mind was trying to work out the leg situation and make it make sense, the scene around me worked itself out so that I would not get hit by another car. I suppose Lorenzo's car was in the way, I don't know. I never actually saw it, or Lorenzo himself. I heard him. I heard him say I jumped in front of him. I minded that. It seemed to me his car jumped into me.
     A woman came over and told me she saw what happened, she asked if I was alright, she got me to lie down. "I've gone blind!" I screamed, because as terrifying as the leg had been it could not match the terror I felt as the world went black around me. Gasoline smell and oil soaked roughness scraped across my eyes and my sight returned. "You're not blind, you just got blood in your eyes is all" said the woman. "My name is May Ellen Thigpen. My Mother's name is Mary Moon. Our phone number is 224-6547" I said in return. More people came. I repeated my statement to each and everyone of them. It didn't seem like they were hearing me. It seemed like everyone was acting completely inappropriately to the situation. A very frail old woman in a green pantsuit told me to squeeze her hand if it hurt. The thought that I would crush her tiny pathetic bones if I squeezed her hand enough to help myself out passed through my mind, but I gave her a little pressure, just to make her feel better. 
       I heard a man say, "Get out of the way! One of my kids is in there!" and I thought, "Dad?" but no, it was my school's resource officer, pushing his way through the circle of people around me. That also seemed wrong to me. Why was the resource officer pretending to be my dad? Was that allowed? I asked him to tell my teachers that I wouldn't be at school, and I was glad when he left.
      About a year after that the ambulance got there. The EMTs were young and happy. At that point I was in so much pain, so much pain I kept thinking that there couldn't be anymore pain in the world, and then it would get worse. Up and up, that's what it felt like, the pain went up and up and up and I smiled at the EMTs. So young, so happy, I knew they had medication in the bus, I thought, "if I am good and nice, they will give me the medication". They asked me how I was. I thought that was a stupid question. I told them my statement about who I was, who my mother was, and my phone number. I also told them that my teeth, well, my teeth had been knocked a little crooked. The EMT crouched by my side smiled and said, "No they're not, my friend got hit in the face with a baseball once and his teeth felt crooked for a week!" The comparison between a baseball and a Toyota Corolla, combined with the fact that the EMT had not seen my teeth before the accident, proved in my mind that I was being rescued by well meaning idiots. Idiots with medication. I smiled. I smiled as they cut the dress from my body and the shoes from my feet. I smiled as they put me on a stretcher and lifted me into the ambulance. I smiled as the pain went up and up and I wondered at the wonder of my amazing ability to hold so much pain. I felt like a mystery had been solved. How much pain is the wonderful human body able to feel? Infinite amounts of pain! They told me on the ride to the hospital that took about 40 years that they couldn't give me any pain medication until we got there, just in case my brain was jargled, or something like that.
       When we finally arrived we discovered that my entire family (both sets of parents, my brother, and an uncle) as well as three friends from school, had beaten us to it. By that time, the pain combined with the fantastic amounts of endorphins whipping through my body had made me a little goony. I reassured my weeping mother that I was wearing clean underpants. I told a large police officer who asked for my clothes that he could have them, but I didn't think they would fit. I was hilarious! I even got the cop who was taking Polaroids of me for evidence to give me one. "Smile!" they said. No problem.
       The rest of the story goes on like any accident story. They told me to count back from 100. They wheeled me away. They put pins and screws and stitches where they needed to. They even left behind a drill bit that broke off in my bones. A souvenir.
     I woke up cold like I'd been dead, thirsty. It seemed cruel that they would only give me ice chips to suck on as I shivered, as I ached. It wasn't funny anymore. I hurt. I was alone. I wanted my mom. I was not strong. I cried.
         So that was my day, fourteen years ago. That was the day the universe taught me to not ask for stupid things. 
        My cheek bone was broken. My collarbone was broken. My fibula and tibia were broken in fourteen places, fourteen years ago. All on the left side. I'm lucky. The backpack full of textbooks may have served to stabilize my spine, it may have saved my life. An eye witness said that before I was hit I was walking with three black men. They may have been angels, or she may have been crazy, or both.
       After my accident my family were my angels. They hovered and nursed. They fretted and fed. They dried my tears and made me laugh and I was so lucky. We rented all the accoutrements of a hospital room and laid me up in the guest room by the kitchen. Every morning Mama would climb into the hospital bed with me (after drying my waking tears and changing the scab filled sheets) and we would watch Northern Exposure and she would knit. That Christmas she gave me the long blue-green scarf she knitted and I still wear it every winter. It brings out the blue in my eyes.
     We call that day my Rebirthday. Tomorrow, Mama and I will climb into her little blue car (will it bring out the blue in our eyes?) and drive to the coast. It is the same coast that she bundled me up and drove me to all those years ago to let the healing waters wash over my wounds, and the salty breeze and the seagull cry take my tears away. We are going to celebrate this painful life, this magic world, where the love goes up and up and up and the wonder of it all is that our tiny frail human bodies can contain that much love and that much pain, all at once. We will ask the universe for nothing. We will say Thank You.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Keeping My Nose Clean and My Hands Busy

      I pulled an ant out of my nose yesterday. I don't know how it got there. I wasn't resting my face in the grass or against trees or anything. It was right after work, I'd been waitressing. I like to imagine that it came from above, that it fell on me and took the short trip from my head to my nostril rather than the long way from the ground up but either way is disturbing. Somehow it had to have crawled across my face undetected to get to the seemingly attractive ant cave that is my nose. This bothers me. If an ant can get into your nose without you noticing, anything is possible. In my fragile emotional state this seems to be perfectly indicative of the fact that there are no constants in life. We cannot count on anything. We might fly off the earth at any moment, and when we do, there may be ants in our noses.
      I tried calling around the other day to find a therapist who takes clients on a sliding scale, or perhaps a program to help people dealing with depression. Those who I talked to said I was brave to try to get help, but that I did not meet their criteria as I have never been hospitalized before for depression or addiction, and I do not have children. I never imagined that birth control and AA would betray me like this. The therapists given to me by the help line did not call me back. 
     I'm not going to give up so easily. Even if I didn't wake up pondering the pointlessness of life everyday, I've accrued enough baggage in my 30 years of misbegotten adventures to believe that talking to someone might be a good idea. In the meantime I'm putting myself in my own rehab, MayA, so to speak.
     Activities include: Walking Around Outside, Thinking A Lot, Arts and Crafts, and Crying when Necessary. So far I have made a purse. It can hold my cigarettes while I walk around outside.
        My sewing machine, not unlike my heart, is broken, so making the purse took a very long time. That's a good thing because I also did quite a bit of Thinking A Lot while sewing. 
      I believe that we hold feeling memories in our bodies. People get sad around the anniversaries of loved ones lost without consciously thinking about it, and conversely certain times of the year make people happy because of the happy times in their personal pasts. I thought about the assurances that my AA friends gave me when I told them I was despondent. They said that everyone gets like this around their 10th month of sobriety, they said "Don't beat yourself up, don't put the shit in your body, and go to a meeting". Okay, so this is normal. Great. Why? What is it about the 10th or so month that sucks so bad? I thought about muscle memory, I thought about last year at this time. As we get closer to a year, I think that our bodies are remembering how bad it was the year before. This is when we began to hit rock bottom. Last year I taught my body and brain that when the weather turns cool it's going to mean that there's going to be alienation, loneliness, and despair. This year I'm reliving all those emotions because that is what my caveman survivor brain tells me I have to do, and it's been so bewildering because my life doesn't suck right now. 
       Also, and without a doctor's evaluation, I think I may have a touch of the hypoglycemia. It's pretty common in alcoholics, what with the overtaxing of the liver and kidneys and the all sugar diet that is alcoholism, so I'm adding Eating Smaller Meals More Often to my list of activities. And I'm giving up wheat, just for kicks.
     I think the slogan for MayA is "Do what you can, then do it again".
     As I sewed I thought about all this, and thought about my past, and thought about my future and all the while the sewing itself kept bringing me back to the present. The wrestle of the thread, the heavy fabric, the tangle and untangle, the finger jabs, the geometry of purse without a pattern, and sometimes oh sweet the smooth sail of a straight line of stitches, you have to pay attention. I had forgotten how much I like to do this, but my hands remembered and were sure and steady and patient, even when I wanted to cry over broken needle and fray of thread. They just reached for another sharp from the packet and pulled another long length from the spool and began again, and therein lies my constant. Every time I wrap the doubled thread around my finger, twist and pull to make a knot, that very necessary base to hold my work, I think about my mother's beautiful hands because she is the one who taught me that particular practical magic trick. A knot where there was not. 
       She was sitting in a chair, there was sunlight, I was small, her hands at eye level and over and over she showed me how to do it, until I did. It's so easy, and so small a thing, but if you don't know how to knot a thread with one hand it can be a difficult and frustrating thing. And if you make no knot at all your stitches will fall out and all your effort will come to nothing.
       Hearts and needles and thread may break, but we do what we can and we do it again. We make our knots tight and sure, so when they break we don't lose everything. 
       Next year, when the air turns cool, maybe my hands will turn to sewing and my brain will turn to thinking instead of feeling heavy feelings absent of their meanings. I will Walk Around Outside, I will Cry When Necessary, but not too much, and if I find an ant in my nose I will remember that as weird and disturbing as that is, I'll try not to feel overly concerned. When it comes down to it, a nostril is by no means the worst place on your person to find an ant. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This too shall pass. That's something we say a lot in sobriety to each other, and it always feels good to hear it. I like talking to recovered drunks. They don't take any shit, and when you tell them all your wicked secrets, all your gump and refuse they smile that snake bite smile and say, "Is that all you got?". Then sometimes they tell you about the meth lab they blew up, or the children they neglected and lost, or the people they put in the hospital, or the many divorces, or the many wrecked cars, or their prostitution pasts, and you feel better. Better living through "there but for the grace of god..". I haven't been going to meetings lately and I know that's a large part of my depression.
         I haven't been writing either. That's a pride thing, and something else we're told to watch out for. When I get down, I isolate, not because I so enjoy my own company to the company of others, but because I don't want people to know what I'm like when I'm sad. I look like shit, I feel like shit, I don't want people to see that. I want them to think that I'm a funny, happy, sunny girl. Smart, talented, oh pride. Without the company of others it takes longer to get better, but without anyone around, it's easier to forget it was ever so bad. If a Miss Maybelle falls in the forest and there is no one around to see her, did she really fall at all?
       This time is different. This particular camping trip into the Tate's Hell of my subconscious has gone on far longer than in the past. I've run out of breadcrumbs, my sleeping bag is damp, and I've been wandering in circles for days. 
       Anyone who has gotten help for addiction or depression, anyone who has dropped and broken all the eggs in their basket has a fear that once they get "better" people will be watching them more closely, waiting for it to happen again. And they will. Some with love and concern, and some with wicked love of watching walls fall down, but they will be watching. That, I have to let go of. That is not something I can control. It is none of my business what other people think about me. Most of the time they have better things to think about anyway. It's only me who thinks about me all the time.
         So. Sorry about the dreck and dreary of this post kids, it ain't so much for reading, it's more for the writing. Insanity, so they say, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I'm lighting a signal fire, I'm going to try to get out of these woods, and if someone crawls in here to help I'm gonna take it and damn my pride. I don't think I was fooling anyone anyway.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

One Fine Lady, Summer Thoughts

       When I was a little girl I had a friend who wanted more than anything in this world to be a popular, wild, normal girl. Her mother was a yoga instructor and her father, well, I'm not sure exactly what he did but I think it involved taking people on adventures to the Everglades. She had a little brother as well but like most little brothers, he was not important. 
      Their house was a haven of calm. There were geodes reflecting light and gathering dust on all the windowsills and classical music playing softly from the radio on the kitchen counter. Tofu was served, as well as seaweed, and brown rice with butter a treat and on Sundays we might be allowed to put carob chips in the pancakes!
     This was the eighties. In direct rebellion to her mother's ways, this friend of mine had a room of pink and black garish pop boy madness. Her walls were plastered with movie stars and TV actors, her bangs were carefully sprayed into a shower of what once resembled hair, she chewed gum, she snuck cigarettes, she ravenously ate sandwich meat straight from the drawer in the refrigerator at our house with her hands while making wolf noises until she was sated.
        But this isn't about her. Sure she seemed to sparkle when we were kids, she always had crazy ideas that my brother and I reluctantly went along with. We got in trouble, especially Bubba, because he was the smart one and I just a kid and what could you do with her? She'd break the rules and smile and switch that sassy ass as she walked away from whatever empty threats the parents gave us. But frankly, all that sparkle and sass just turned eventually toward bitterness, and I hear she has at least one child now and I just don't care. She married the boy who used to lob pine cones over the fence at us and once shot a cat that belonged to another friend with a bb gun and killed it. He was in high school when he did that. She married a teenaged cat killer, good for her.
        Her grandmother. Her grandmother owned a kennel out on what was the outskirts of town (and is now much closer in) on what seemed like endless acres of pecan trees and oak grove. There was a pond and pasture and a neighbors cows we would torment and who would enact their revenge by eating our clothes when we went skinny dipping. There were great big dogs the size of horses and sand pears we couldn't stop eating even though they were not sweet and pulled blood from our gums as we ate them. The grandmother would swoop us up on long weekends and take us to the grocery store and buy us anything and then set us loose across the pasture to camp out next to the pond. I was eight and they (my brother and the girl) were ten when we started doing this. Steaks! Lighter fluid! We camped naked! We blew up cans of root beer in the fire! We peed on giant ants! And her grandmother not only allowed us to do this, she financed it!
        The grandmother let the girl dye her hair blond. She bribed us with eyeshadow to clean her windows. She had a boyfriend who was an author, who wrote a dirty book that I read in secret, but he also gave me a copy of Alice in Wonderland which filled my mind with colors and opened corners that made me shake inside.
      One time, I don't remember why, we spent some time in the grandmother's closet. It was a large closet, and even though you never saw the grandmother in anything other than jeans and a t-shirt, it was filled with silk and fur and velvet. I remember standing hidden in the clothes, in some sort of ecstatic trance rubbing my face back and forth against the fabric of her clothes. On a high shelf there were stacks of heart shaped chocolates boxes covered in lace and foil, fake flowers and ribbons and I thought they were the most beautiful things I'd ever seen. Were they filled with love letters? My brother would know if that is a true memory or if I made that up, but I was only able to bear the sight of them by promising myself that one day I too would have stacks of chocolates boxes given to me by handsome men and filled with letters tied in string.
        I wish now I'd paid more attention to the grandmother. Who was this woman? More than any other adult in my life she seemed to be a complete person, she had history and depth. This is not to say that other adults didn't but I was a child, it was difficult for me to imagine my parents lives without me. It seemed like the grandmother did not need children to occupy her time, she let us flow in and out of it but her time was already full. She appeared to be living her life, she gave me a feeling of past and future that sometimes caught me full in the chest and stopped my breath. There was more than this! Once she was a girl like me, then a beautiful young woman with lovers, then a strong mother, then a grandmother, an owner of dogs, a boss, a grandmother with a boyfriend, and she was not done! There would be more! What!? That feeling in my chest, that whoosh beneath my feet, that what cannot be named of time passing and me not in it!
         I ran into a woman who knows the grandmother yesterday. We talked about the falling out that happened between the girl and the grandmother. We do not know why and we know it is none of our business, but it is still a shame. I asked  how the grandmother is these days, thinking she must be old now, she must have slowed down. The woman told me that the grandmother has a house on the beach and a boyfriend in New England whom she meets in Spain, whom she meets in Paris. The woman took my phone number to give to the grandmother. She said that I should go visit her at the beach house, that she would love to see me.
           Will she call? I have that falling feeling, that perfect perception that life exists without my existence. I want to go to the beach house. I want to ask about the letters. I want to see her hands and face. I am just a little bit afraid that if I do go visit her I might find myself  discovered tucked deep inside her closet, rubbing my face on her clothes, and trying to find the answers to all my childhood questions in her smell. I think I could, given enough time. Just a few minutes, if she would just shut the door behind her and leave me in the velvet dark.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

        When it rains for many days we all go a little crazy with it.  My bones swell inside my skin until my skin cannot possibly hold, I feel burstable, breakable, my skin feels like it will tear. Everything is wet, the walls in my apartment are wet, my sheets are wet, I try not to walk barefoot on the slick hardwood floors. The mold. There is mold blooming in my bathroom and itching the tabletops, I feel like I am moldy. Overwhelmed with the mold, what can I do? Attack the bookshelves with bleach? The sun is trying to come out now, I've opened the windows and turned on the fans and maybe the rooms will dry out.
      Outside I can hear the frogs and the cicadas, they are screaming their joy, it is the song of summer. September is coming and with it some sort of relief, or at least hope of relief and this great humping son of a bitch of August can leave us alone. Beware the aides of March? March I long for, this is Florida, a paradise of blooms and barnacles and sunkissed bottoms and goddamn yes the blossoms of mold, a plague of frogs, the laughing stock locusts. 
       A couple of my regulars at work, elderly and sweet, tease me with my Miss Maybelle name and change it once a month. Maybelle in May, then Junebug. In July they called me Miss Firecracker, because they couldn't come up with a pun that satisfied. Now they call me Augusta, and I feel like an Augusta. Ramrod straight, no nonsense hair, a pinched and furrowed brow, a spinster aunt, a bit of a bitch. I don't like this me. September. I have hope for September.
          I have hope for September, but she is a shy girl, a long haired sylph, she has dreamy eyes and wants to be an actress, I think, or a poetess. I hold my breath for October. October stands on her own, she's quick and witchy. October combs gum into the hair of the mean girls, she goes to the fair and rides all the rides, she runs down the street and turns out all the lights and sets the signboards swinging, she cackles back at the crows. In October we paint our eyes to look like giant gorgeous spiders and dress like gypsies. In October we fall in love.
       Now the world smells like wet dog and the low creatures are kings. I am not in a good mood and I am sorry. If you want happy, look to the frogs.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Oh my little soldier boy...

        I've been thinking about this boy I know lately. I used to work with him, he worked at the restaurant where I work now until they cut our hours, economic slowdown. He just graduated from high school, it seemed like he was on the fast track to being a fine chef one day. Now he's decided to join the military.
     He comes in sometimes to say hello, and I think he likes the attention. The ladies, the servers, we flutter around him, hug him, kiss his rosy cheeks, slap him, knock his hat off, rub his heartbreak head, tell him dirty jokes, act like his mom. He basks in our chicken fluff, our sweaty flirtation. What nineteen year old wouldn't like that? To have the attention of a full female waitstaff all moving quickly, shouting orders, hair trailing, white arms encircling his waist, we are a tornado of woman to this boy, all of us older than he.
      Chef says, "Join the military during wartime? So stupid."
        We all cajole this boy, ask him if he wants to kill, ask him if he believes in this war, beg him to stay home, go to school.
          He talks about the money. He talks up the adventure, makes me sick. He thinks he's grown, he thinks he's had all the adventure this town, this country has to offer. He's slept with the girls, the pretty high school girls, he's tried the drugs, he's played in the band, he's had the job and he thinks he knows what's what and all the whos and who cares, oh he's so bored. Thirty thousand dollars (he says he'll buy all us servers dinner out one day) and the adventure of a lifetime, my god his life is cheap.
      At what price a life not yet lived? 
        It's not just the possible loss of life or limb or skin, it's what he will see and do that can't be undone. We ship them off after training them for two years and there they see death, and there they see rape and there they see what chemicals and bombs and bullets and bravery do to a human body and maybe then they know how cheaply they sold their souls. For nothing, for a mistake, for a bloody shameful tangled mess of politics and jingoism.
         Those eyes, they kill me when they get back. They have those eyes that have too much in them to focus on what's in front of them, those eyes are broken and we do not take care of them when they come back.
       When I was his age I bought a truck and lived in my truck. I saw snow in the desert, I saw redwoods and gypsies. I jumped in hot springs naked and ice cold oceans in my long johns. I stalked an author. I joined a circus. I met my lonely. I camped with strangers. I got lost and found. I drove up, I drove down, I got tired and I slept.
        I told him all this and said that there are these adventures, that you don't have to go on someone else's preplanned war story, that you can make your own. But how can you tell a young man so full of hot blood and salty semen that the far-away look in my eyes, of what I have seen and what I have done does not make dumb the feel of soft flesh beneath my fingers and hard wood floors beneath my feet? That love is there, how do you tell him that love is there, when he will sell his soul for thirty thousand dollars and the empty promise of a gun?  

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I broke three glasses at work yesterday. The final one shattered in my hand like a cherry bomb, I stood holding the shape of what was a glass, all tiny peices of danger now perfect in my palm. The glass rained over my eyes, my clothes, the server shelf where we keep the silverware and coffeecups. Everything had to be taken apart and cleaned. Only one shard, one cubic fortress of solitude chunk did not fall from my hand when I overturned it. I pulled it from the fleshy part between my thumb and my pointer finger, everyone winced and turned away. And then there was blood and my boss bathing my hand like a skinny Mary Magdelene on Jesus. But I am not Jesus. I worked my miserable shift. The glass looked like diamonds in my eyelashes. It was beautiful.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dirty Hands, Clean Heart

A cluttered house is a cluttered mind. My Zen Shiatsu Acupressure teacher used to say that. Of course, he was very zen about it and he meant everything from your actual house to your colon to your soul, but it pretty much rings true across the board.
        When I lived in Phoenix, I cleaned the house of a man named Rhythm and Blues Rick for a little extra income on the side. I was already working full time in a coffee shop, but my tightwad husband (ex-husband) decided that since I didn't make as much as he did and we shared a bank account I needed to get a second job. R and B Rick was a pretty laid back guy, he was a regular at the coffee shop and when he mentioned one day over his single shot cap that he was looking for someone to clean his house I jumped at it.
        The first day I went to his house was the only day I ever saw him there. He preferred that I arrive and finish while he was at work, and that was okay by me. He gave me a key and the tour, showing me where all the cleaning supplies were and the washer and dryer and how to work the stereo (very important), and with great faith left me alone with all of his earthly possessions.
        I liked the job fine, he paid me by the hour, didn't mind if I took my time, and left me tasty snacks and coffee to enjoy while I worked. Also, R and B Rick was a clean man. I vacuumed floors that didn't seem to need vacuuming, I wiped counters that were already wiped, and I mopped a kitchen floor you could already have eaten off of. Mainly, I think he just didn't want to do his laundry or clean the bathroom, as these were the only dirty spots in the house. I guess you can say that I sort-of hosed the man, considering that I charged him for an entire house cleaning that he did not need, but that's what he asked me to do.
      The best part about the gig was not that it was so easy, but that Rhythm and Blues Rick worked at an adult toy/bookstore and he tended to take work home with him. In order to get out the vacuum cleaner I had to push aside the whips and chains. When I dusted the knick-knacks on the shelves I gave just as much careful attention to detail to the framed pictures of his mother as I did to the penis and vagina sculptures. Sometimes there was a surprise, like the time I went to do his laundry and found handcuffs in the hamper. Some people might have been freaked out by some of the things he had lying around, the edible panties under the bed, the Big Book of Big Cocks that I faithfully dusted once a week, but I felt privileged and discreet, like we shared a professional relationship not unlike that of a doctor and patient. Every time I left his house I felt both virtuous and expanded, my little mind awash with the possibilities, some so dirty and some so clean. 
          Eventually the charm wore off, a penis was just something difficult to dust properly and the whips would always slip off their hooks right when I thought I'd gotten everything back in its place. One day, while down on my hands and knees cleaning behind the toilet I thought "That's it! This is the last time I'll clean a toilet I don't use! From here on out it's for love or not at all." 
         That declaration of course proved false as I have cleaned many a toilet for money since then, but they've always been in restaurants, never have they been such an intimate experience as it was then.
         Today I cleaned my house. I think I'm better at it now than I was when I did it for R and B Rick. I've gained some experience, I'm older now, wiser. I can get a polishing job done in minutes what used to take me an hour of relentless rubbing and rubbing! Sure, I can get the job done, but does it really mean as much when it's just for me alone? Clean, yes. Fulfilled? No. 
      In the end I have my clean house, but no one leaves me tasty snacks, and now that I've quit drinking there are very few surprises in the laundry hamper. I suppose that's how it should be. 
      Sometimes I wonder about R and B Rick. I wonder if he got a new girl to clean his house. I wonder if she was discreet, if she was good. I wonder if she was better than I was, or if maybe sometimes he looks back on those days like I do, sighs, and thinks, "She was the best, the best I ever had."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

You Can't Eat All the Cookies at Once

I believe in the power of the fortune cookie. Somehow, the universe is able to send me messages through seemingly random slips of paper encased in slightly sweet crispy cookies wrapped in clear plastic that is sometimes printed with roses. I like those. I keep all my fortunes, have for years and whenever I need a little direction in life I dip into the pile. Sometimes I have a question on my mind, like it's a magic eight ball, sometimes I just dip with a clear mind and an open heart.     
Today I woke up feeling a little lost. I think I'm on the right path, I'm trying to do the next right thing. I've been sober for eight months. Eight months of recovery, healing, strength. Recovery is a funny word. Whenever I heard it before I only associated it with recovering from illness, or recovering from a disaster, like it was synonymous with healing. It's not though, it's not about getting better, it's about getting back what you've lost. 
Addiction will slowly steal so much from you. It comes in on kitten feet and takes the tears and tatters of what makes you you. And silent and sleepwalking you don't notice or you don't care, a bit of joy, a bit of creativity, your energy, the things you love, you lose them, you forget. Yes, drunk people may get in a horrible car accident and kill someone, they may lose their jobs and families, but the people who don't still lose so much. I lost myself. 
     I lost myself so quietly I didn't even know I was gone until I looked around and found this great yawning emptiness, this dark tunnel of bewilderment. There was something here, but what? And where did it go? Then comes work. I didn't want to continue going to work. I didn't want to get up every morning. I don't want to wash the dishes or do the laundry or brush my teeth or sweep my floors. I wanted to have the great spiritual awakening all quick and fast, as easy and shocking as an impulse buy sour apple candy in my mouth. But, surprise instant gratification girl! It takes time to lose yourself, it's gonna take time to get it back.
       The real surprise to me is that it comes back as it left. Tissue thin and bubble breakable, little bits of me are slowly finding their way home. They come when I'm not looking. I'll find myself with needle and thread in hand and realize that it's been years since I sewed anything. I'll find myself on the floor, sweating over a painting that really isn't any good, but it feels so damn good to have that brush in my hand. If I try to force it I get frustrated, like a child trying to read on a level she isn't prepared for. It's better if I keep chopping wood and carrying water and looking straight ahead, because the stars are there, and they are always better seen and far brighter out of the corners of the eyes. My little will-o-the-wisp memories, my lost dreams, I'm learning patience.
I'm not good at patience. So some days I wake up and I think, "Alright, so what I've been sober for eight months, what have I done today?". That's a good day to Chinese fortune dip. Today I reached in, swirled them around, and held my breath. I pulled out one tiny perfect slip of paper. It reads "Now is the time for peace in your life. Go along with other's ideas." Then my brother called me and invited me to go to trivia tonight. Okay Universe, I accept. There is buried treasure to be recovered in spending time with family. I just hope my brain can recover useless bits of trivia, and we don't come in last.

Friday, July 11, 2008

If You Want to Make an Omelet, You Have to Break a Few Legs

Did I imply that waitressing is a fun gig? Once I took a ballet class from a woman who told us to imagine that we had a $100 bill stuck between our ass cheeks. After that all she had to do was yell "Hold your money, girls!" and we would all meercat up, spines straight, heads held high, ass cheeks clenched. Lately, I have not been holding my money.
    Business is slow, tips are bad. The bathrooms are especially nasty. The trays are especially heavy. The weather is like the inside of a mouth.
There is one man, a regular, who comes in everyday and says inappropriate things. One day, as I was presetting for his desert he asked me for a napkin of a different color. Okay, fine. Then he wants a smaller spoon. Alright, here you go. I put his trio of peach sorbet balls before him and asked "Okay Mr. __? Is there anything else I can do for you?" "Will you eat my sorbet balls and let me watch?" he replied. "No Mr. __, I am afraid you are going to have to eat your own balls." I said, and swept regally from the dining room to go scrub my skin with a metal scrubber and throw up. 
The thing is, this restaurant is of a higher class than any other place I've worked. It doesn't matter, rich people are rude. Rich people feel that they have a right to be rude. Poor people look into my eyes and see a human being. Rich people look at my tits and see tits. Tits they will leave a 10% tip to.
At least I'm employed. That's what I said to myself today as a fellow server broke a glass and spattered me with cappuccino. At least we're employed, we whispered to each other as our hostess' voice rang out requesting us to clean the patio. As we watch our anorexic boss get skinnier. As we scrub gum off table legs. As we are spit on (yes, SPIT ON) by children.
        Someday, I will spit back. Until then, I need my job. I'll just take a deep breath, hold my money, and try not to have to eat any one's balls. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I Have a Friend in Dirty

I don't have many friends. I never felt the need to have a lot of close friends around all the time. I remember after my divorce I would sit at home and watch episodes of "Friends" and cry and think "What is wrong with me? Why don't I have a group of kooky people to hang out with? Where is my Joey?" but that passed. I have some friends. Those friends I have I love, oh I love them, I love them fiercely. Maybe I only have a few because I love the ones I have so much, I can't imagine loving a lot of people that deeply.
Earlier tonight I heard from a friend of mine who moved away from town a few months ago. He's back in town for a visit, said he'd been thinking of me. I saw him not too long ago, at Jarryd's memorial. Jarryd was quite a man, too. A sunshine of a man, a gorgeous boy. When brother called me to tell me Jarryd was dead I thought, "He can't be dead, I just saw him" I thought, "He can't be dead, he's so pretty". Pretty face, pretty soul, loved the pretty ladies, Jarryd. When I got to the memorial I arrived alone, tripping over the rocks and roots at the land co-op community center in my unfortunate shoes. I felt lost, so many faces, so many people I hadn't seen in so long and not one among them I wanted really to share my grief with. Until I saw Dirty.
     Dirty is one of his names. I don't know how he came to be called Dirty, other than maybe sometimes he is. Dirty skin, sure, dirty fingernails, maybe. Clean soul, giant heart, the man is a lion. He's got curly dreaded brown hair he keeps tucked back in a bandanna and prison tattoos, he's tall and broad and when he smiles you'd think the sun just came out and those eyes, good Lord those eyes. There are stars in those eyes, but also oceans of sadness too he does not show. Dirty has been a hobo, he's lived in train yards and on rooftops. He would just as willingly protect me in a fight as he would hold my hands and kiss my face. 
        So I saw him, standing a bit away from the crowd, side touching another good boy we know. I made my way over and he just pulled me on in. His hand on the back of my head, one arm around my waist, he tucked me right in there between them so strong, and the other boy rounded out the knot of us. I dropped my purse on the ground and had my arms around both of them as much as I could hold and I cried, god I cried, and they held me as I shook and they were shaking too. The crowd was in the shade and we were in the sun, it was so hot there were rivers of sweat between us and rivers of tears on our faces and our shoulders, down their backs I cried and pushing my face into Dirty's chest I cried. I hurt so bad I wanted to crawl up in his strong strong heart and just stay there till the pain let up. And he let me. On beyond when it would have been polite to let go, on beyond when it was even comfortable anymore to be holding someone in that hell hot sun, he held me. 'Cause that' how strong that man is. That's how strong he loves me, and loves Jarryd, and loves that other boy we were holding.
He left town that same day, and I hadn't heard from him since, but that's how he is. He's a sojourner. Once he bought a beer from me and wrote on the five dollar bill "Dirty loves all of you" and after he walked away I put five ones from my pocket in the till and kept his fiver. I took it home and clothes pinned it to a trailing hanging plant that lives in my living room, just for a little makeshift voodoo, a little blessingway to keep Dirty and his love safe and healthy.
Some people just touch you. Maybe Dirty isn't the kind of friend who will sit in a coffee shop with me and be catty about the people we know (or actually he might, he's a pretty well rounded guy), he's the kind of friend who will come and go in my life as he wishes and that is fine. Just knowing he's out there makes me feel safe and loved. I love me some Dirty, that boy is hearts ease.

Monday, June 30, 2008

I Can't Sit Long Enough to Write

The rain is making me crazy. I understand that we live in Paradise and in order for it to stay so beautiful and lush we must have the rain but I need a reprieve. Once, a long long time ago I was hit by a car, and when it rains it feels like my bones are filled with lead, lead that is made of bees, angry bees that sting and bite (okay, I know bees don't bite, but these are lead made biting bees) and weigh me down. It's rained everyday for a week. I want to snap at the raindrops like a nervous dog.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Come Onna My Kitchen

I am a waitress. I am a waitress because at some point some years back, when I was still of an age that being a waitress was an acceptable and respectable thing I got a job as a waitress and realized that I was very good at it. Some days. Some days I am the worst waitress in the world and I will forget whether you are drinking sweet or unsweet tea, I will kick your chair when I pass, and I will caress the back of your head with my boob when I lean over you to retrieve your empty plate. You will pretend this did not happen. Hopefully. However, the bad waitress days are few and the good waitress days are plenty and most of the time I love my job. I love my job because I love to walk across a floor, I love to carry many things in my hands, like so many things that I imagine people are noticing and thinking "My! That waitress can carry more things than is humanly possible!". I love to multitask. As I'm pouring water at the server station, my other hand is already reaching for lemon slices and my body is already turning to be in position to pick up a bread basket and I'm thinking about table 12 who needs refills and as soon as I do that I must drop the check on table 3 so that means that I'm calculating the tax in my head, oh 7.5% on a slice of quiche and an iced tea is .68 so that comes to $9.68 and by the time I've thought of that I greet Mrs. Blankenship at the door, "Oh! Hi Mrs. B! How are the cataracts? Has Sally had that baby yet?" and turn and drop drinks and pick up plates and ask if everything's alright and already turning again to bus the plates in my hands, pick up the order for table 8, tell a dirty joke to the grill chef, think about rebrewing the tea, think about the level of the lemons, check the 86 board to see if we're out of something and out the door again to the dining room and smile and smile and smile. If all is going well, and I do my best to make sure everything is going well, it feels like I'm flying. Everyone is happy. I love it when I look around the room and all the diners are smiling. If they aren't, I try to make it so they are by the end of the meal. Maybe I flirt with an old man, maybe I ignore the old man and ask the wife how she's doing and really listen when she tells me her hip hurts. If I go to a table with a very glamorous looking woman and a shy looking woman, maybe I'll tell the shy one that the color of her blouse makes her eyes look amazing. I don't care if the glamorous woman is paying and I may be shorted in my tip,  the shy woman my carry that compliment all day, maybe she'll smile more and the people at her office may smile more back at her. If you open your eyes there are always good things to say to people, and I never lie, or say something just for the money. It makes me feel my job is important, that I make a difference in their lives. The food is not my job. It is the chef's job to make the food taste good. It is my job to make the people able to enjoy the food, and if they do not, fix it. You can't enjoy your food if you are uncomfortable. I'm lucky that I work in a restaurant that does have really tasty food, it makes my job so much easier. If I worked at an Appleby's I would stab myself in the throat.
        Having said all this, I am terrible at fine dining. That is what this restaurant becomes at night so I can't work nights. The money is great, yes, but you can't talk to the customers, you can't laugh. You can't dance. Once, at a restaurant, a manager walked past me while I was getting down while putting sour cream in little plastic cups and said "Stop dancing or your fired". I quit that job. If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your re....staurant.
     I busted my chops in a very different sort of restaurant than where I work now. The man who ran that place had a lot of fire and a lot of passion but very little business sense. Part of my training was to inform me that a "Safety Meeting" was when the staff convened in the walk-in to smoke pot. I did not smoke pot but I liked to cram in there with everyone else and sip a little cold white wine out of a soup cup while the frosty air filled with that beautiful green fragrance and we all calmed down and told jokes. Service was shoot from the hip. We were all expected to develop our own style and develop we did, every table had a very different experience. We tried to match the personalities of the servers with the tables but that didn't always work, the whole place had the feeling of eating on a ship in stormy waters with everyone careening here and there, port to starboard, with the place crewed by children and escaped exotic animals headed for other territories. We were drunk, we were stoned, we were sweaty, but damn if we weren't a family and we did care about the food. I miss that place, I miss the camaraderie we had, but I don't miss coming in to find my fellow server puking out the back of his van or the disher awol because he got arrested the night before. Once the cops actually came to the restaurant and the chef tried to get one of the severs, this sweet little girl from south Florida, to sneak out to the dry storage shed and hide the bong. No, I don't really miss that. But the thing is, I learned there. I learned how to do things on the fly and how to improvise in sticky situations. How to think on my feet and how to, no matter what, make the customer happy.
      Someday I will run my own cafe. I dream of it at night when I'm falling asleep and in the morning over coffee. I think about the good parts of all the places I have worked and I plan how to fit them together into a crazy quilt that could be beautiful and strong. I think about a place that does not careen so much, but does allow room for a bit of listing. A place where the food is good and simple, where everyone gets fed, where you can see the cooks laughing in the kitchen. Someday I will serve my shortbread with coffee, and I will make a mean shepherds pie, I will slice jeweled tomatoes from local gardens onto sandwiches, and I will greet you when you come through the door. And I will encourage all the servers (who will probably be my family and friends and need no encouragement) to dance. Until then, all this is just training.  

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Everybody Freeze

        Do you remember that game "Freeze" we all used to play in kindergarten? The teacher would play some sort of music and everyone would be instructed to dance until "Freeze!" the music would stop and you were supposed to pause in whatever position you happened to be in at the time. Remember? Remember looking around at all your friends, their google eyes and spider monkey hands hung limp from arms spread wide, hips cocked out, do you remember the stumble of it? Then back into the music, unfreeze. Lately I've been trying to play this game in real life. 
          I've been listening to my Mama and her friends. They say, "Oh, what would you do if you had your thirty year old body back?" they say "It sucks to grow old" and I think about how I have a thirty year old body and I think about how to me, they are not old. But I know what they mean. The years are just wooshing by faster and faster. I get lost in the past sometimes, a smell, a song, and I'm 15 jumping naked into a sinkhole, I'm 20 riding shotgun down those long hot streets of Phoenix with the stereo on full blast, I'm 21 getting married, whoosh I'm 24 getting divorced and getting down and getting a sunburn and getting laid and giddy-up go, and I'm thirty. Thirty is good, I like thirty, but it's true, we don't pause to catch these moments as they pass us. We keep them as memories and they are so shiny, we were always so much prettier back then, more free, more alive. At least that's how we remember it so it must be true.
       So now, I'm playing Freeze. Not all the time, just sometimes. Walking down the street this morning the world was washed clean from last night's thunderstorm. The sky was so blue and the clouds were just flirting, and the sun was gentle on my face and bare shoulders. There were limbs down, the weak and the dead slung from the trees, but this morning the trees were still. So still and the birds were calling, taking inventory of themselves and each other. I pulled limbs out of the road. I thought about the cyclists and the man in the wheelchair and the lady with the walker who all use that sidewalk and I cleared that too. I felt the pings and pangs in my bones as I bent and tugged. I felt the elastic of my muscles and my skin. I paused. There it was, Freeze! Thirty years old, this is what it feels like to be thirty years old, right here so fine, so pretty, so alive. I looked around at the people in their cars with their google eyes and their monkey hands and it was a laugh to see what positions we were all in. Then Unfreeze! and I went on my way, swept up in the crazy music of the morning and the dance to get to work.
I hope I keep this game up. I wonder what position I'll be in next. I wonder what new game I'll learn if I keep listening to those wiser than I am. Till then I'm going to play the music, okay guys? And when the music stops, no matter what position you happen to be in, everybody ...... Freeze!