Yesterday I took to my bed. It started last Sunday when my apartment, over the course of a matter of hours, turned into a hellswamp. I'd been at my father's house participating in the annual tree trimming song singing extravaganza and I'd left all my windows open.It had been very cold, and then it began to rain, and then it got very warm, and the weathers collided in such a way to make Tallahassee resemble the inside of a mouth. My apartment was one of those terrariums you build in sixth grade science class to explain how a rain forest works and it's all very exciting in sixth grade science to discover that you, like God, can create rain, but it is not very exciting when you discover that God, like you, can move into your apartment and say "HA". "ONLY I CAN CREATE RAIN. NOW MOP YOUR CEILING, BITCH." I was very adult. I covered my laptop, hid my journal, and mopped the ceiling. Then I mopped the floor. Then I did it again. I ate some soup on my couch that is actually a twin bed, huddled on the damp sheets like an Katrina puppy on a raft, and went to bed. No, wait, it started Sunday morning, when I decided to make a Christmas tree. I have a history of making my own tree. Who doesn't remember the futon frame I folded and leaned against the wall and decorated all those years ago? (Much to the chagrin of my then boyfriend because it stayed up for about two years.) Last year and the year before I actually had REAL trees and they were WONDERFUL and they stayed up till February (real trees die, so you have to throw them out eventually). This year money is tight, and I no longer have a futon frame, so I cast my mind about my possessions until it settled on a wrought iron plant stand that Mama gave me a while back. It's a lovely little three tiered thing that looks like a spiral staircase you might find inside a cathouse in New Orleans. When I look at it I can easily see tiny hopeful men ascending, with their hats in their sweaty little hands, their mouths slightly open. In other words, ideal for fake Christmas tree making. So Sunday morning I made coffee, retrieved the plant stand from the front stoop, gave it a cursory swipe with a rag (that unbeknownst to me I would later use as one of the many things I would mop my ceiling with), and looked for my Christmas cd. I have one, and I could not find it. I did however, find a mix of love songs that was made for me back when I was sweet and pretty, and that seemed to do just as well. Al Green, Dinah Washington, Etta James, thank you and yes. It was lovely my friends, the music sultry, the rain falling soft, my hands and mind busy in the task of carefully twining multicolored twinkle lights around each and every intricate twirl of brothel-ornate iron- until I finished (it took me an hour) and plugged the damn things in and discovered that only half the strand lit up. Not even the good half. (There was a good half.) Don't you dare say that I should have checked it first! I did! I did check it first! This is not my first rodeo! Remember the futon frame! That took me hours and many many strands of lights! So, I sighed. I turned off the cd, which was really making me depressed anyway, unplugged the lights, and cut the bitches off with some wire clippers. They now fill my tiny desk waste basket, tangled and bitter like chains cast off the ghost of Christmas past. Then the tree trimming song singing father's house extravaganza, then the fetid Godsfault terrarium hellswamp debacle. Monday was a day of respite. I woke up, called my sweet Mama, and followed her advice of closing up the house and turning the ac on. Worked like a charm. I have an old apartment and I do not have central ac, but I do have three window units. THREE! I am richer by far than many of my peers. Two, of course, weren't working. The one that was, fortunately, is the one in the living room (and so the one most centrally located) and it's a giant rattling thing that hums and spits and curses, but damn does it make the air cold. There was a feeling of Christmas as the great humping beast tharumped it's croupy wintry breath into the air and sucked the moisture from the room, all but pouring water onto the ground outside. My coffee steamed, the music swelled, and we went round two on the decorating, and all was as it should be. I worked Monday night and came home filled with a strange lighted energy to make Christmas presents. Here is my favorite part of Christmas- that time when the inspiration to make pretty shit to give to my family fills me up and overflows out my nimble fingers. It only happens once a year and by God it is a Christmas miracle and though late this year, I'll take what I can get, so in a frenzy of glitter and glue and gratitude (the three "G"s of Christmas) I pulled out my supplies and set to work. It was a gorgeous night and I stayed up until 2:AM in happy construction, like an elf with a 401k and a dental plan. Tuesday morning I woke to discover that the glue I had used the night before was, of course, the wrong kind of glue. I can't tell you exactly what went wrong, because that would be giving away the secret of what I'm giving people for Christmas (and really, the secret is the best part of it, this year is pretty weak. No pajamas this year, people!) but suffice to say, everything I had done needed to be scrapped. I did not cry. I went to work. The details of the next few days are unimportant. Here are the highlights: Work. Cold. 100% Chance of rain (I wish the weather man would say something like "I bet you a Million Dollars it is going to rain", it sounds so much more fun that way). Premenstrual. Bone pain to the point of crippling. Serving a table of twelve peevish viragoes. Nausea. Which brings me to yesterday after work when I came home, put my purse on a chair, took off my bra, and got in bed. Done, I say! I am done! I was ready to hang up my apron and live in my car. But today, after fourteen hours of uninterrupted sleep, everything feels much better. I know that all this is just spoiled child's blues, I know that most of you out there have children and it is a luxury I have that I can just lay my pathetic burdens down and go to bed, but oh babies, I needed it. I needed a temporary oblivion, a thick sweet dream state, I needed blankets pulled up to my nose and the world going by without me for a while. Christmas Day is one week away, and I don't want to hate it. I love Christmas. I love the excuse to make silly things. I love the madness that comes over everyone once a year that infects them to drape their houses with tiny lights and bring trees inside. I love the smell of cinnamon and peppermint and orange peel. I love the absurdity of it, the way we hang giant socks from our fireplaces and bake cookies for imaginary men. I love that we make everything so pretty. I love beauty, I need beauty. I don't understand why beauty seems unimportant or unnecessary in everyday life. We have these marvelous bodies that are able to touch and taste and see and hear and why not see color and light? Why not smell fir and vanilla? Why not hear Etta James and Otis Redding? When you reach out to touch, touch velvet, touch silk, touch the oily mottled smoothness of an orange, the prickle of a pine, the warmth of a cheek. And mistletoe? The succulent poison of its fat fleshy leaves and waxy berries, hanging in doorways for promises of stolen kisses. Ginger. Clove. The stab of holly so green and glossy and red berries that fall and make a mess and we don't even care we love them so. Golden globes hung from branches heavy with the burden of family history and each cardboard box of ornaments a treasure you open once a year. When I went to buy the correct glue the other day I had a moment of panic in the craft store. All around me there were the things that make me happy- ribbons, paper, new pens, paints (that smell of alcohol, that smell of rot, that smell of sulphur), crayons, jewels, beads, sequins, bells, needles, and thread. And all around me were people red faced and angry, brandishing advertising circulars like weapons and shouting at other people who I promise you were not getting paid nearly enough to get shouted at. Behind the cacophony of voices ran the tinny sounds of insipid carols that have been done and redone by both celebrities and dogs and everything in between and played only because the words "Christmas" and "Holiday" and "Snow" are mentioned somewhere in them. This is not my Christmas. I wanted to bolt, and bolt I did as soon as I bought the glue. My mother hates Christmas, but she has never passed hate of anything on to her children. I am so lucky for that. I am so lucky to have the family I have that lets me be me, and pick and choose the Christmas I want to have. Each year they let me make my misshapen handcrafted things and pass them off as presents. They let me ignore the mall and get all starry eyed over the sparkly bits, the twinkle lights and glitter trees and red bows that people, in their madness tie onto just about anything that will let them. When I was growing up we drank cocoa out of mugs shaped like Santa's head and felt special, even as we rubbed his cherry cheeks white year after year, and we put out cookies, and we put out carrots. Mama, who does not like Christmas read us "Twas the Night Before Christmas" on Christmas Eve every year until one year we lost the book and my brother spoke up in his tiny child's voice and recited the whole thing from memory. As children we clutched our stomachs in despair at having to eat raspberry strudel BEFORE we could even look at the tree to see what Santa brought us! When we are children it is all magic, even if the "tree" is actually only a branch that dad cut off a pine tree behind the house and our stockings are mostly filled with tangerines and walnuts. As children we do not have to fulfill Christmas wishes and bargain shop and fight tooth and nail for the last Xbox on the shelf. We can sit next to the tree and push our faces up so close so that all we can see is a forest filled with lights and magic, with colored glass so delicate you could crush it in your hand and yet survives year after year because we are careful with our magic, and we wrap it in paper to keep it safe. I try to keep my Christmas a child's Christmas as much as I can. Like fourteen hours of sleep, I know that it is a luxury I have because I don't have children of my own. But I do envy you mothers and fathers. Even if the light is gone from your own tired eyes by the time Christmas Day arrives and you are worn out and you have tape in your hair and cuts on your hands and you feel sick from eating Santa's cookies at midnight to keep the babies believing in make-believe one more year. I envy you, that you will be there to watch the light in your children's eyes. You will watch them grin their gap-toothed grins and wriggle in their nightgowns. You will be able to pass on pretty, you will make beauty for your little beasts, and they will love it, oh they will love it. And when they grow up, maybe they will keep that in their hearts and still get excited each year, because you gave them that. And now, sweet friends, my house is dry, my stomach is settled, and I am well rested. The proper glue is sitting on the table next to me and the scissors are calling out. It is only one week till Christmas. I must get busy. Christmas waits for no man. God says "HA". I may not finish my gifts in time, but it really doesn't matter. I wish I could kiss all your pretty faces. If it gets too stressful, put on some Lady Day, take time to breathe.
Today at work an older gentleman dressed in various shades of plaid and drab told me that he would come back to eat sometime, but only if I was working. He would have to call, he said. He told me that he was getting over a heart condition, that is, a woman had just broken his heart, and that it didn't hurt to see a pretty girl. I assured him that we have other pretty waitresses and he waved his hand dismissively and said, "They aren't hags or anything, but..." and proceeded to give me a long and dubious metaphor involving double-bagged groceries and how you don't really need two bags but it's good to have them in case the primary one bursts. I believe I was the primary bag. At some point he also wandered to the rear of the restaurant to commend the chef. A few weeks ago I met a man named Jimbo who lives on the streets in my fair town. I met him on the street, actually, walking from the health food store to my apartment. He was carrot haired and beet faced and swayed a bit as he walked. Approaching him I could not help but admire the way he owned the sidewalk. We said hello in passing and he called me Sunshine and asked me for some change to help a brother out. I told him I'd just spent all my cash money at the grocery store, and after he assured me that was alright I moved on and he paused to let me get ahead before he continued his walk. Later that same day I ran into Jimbo again, on a different street some miles from our earlier encounter. "Sunshine!" he hailed me, a grand bellow full of gravel and oboe, "Marry me! You are beautiful!" "Not today!" I returned, feeling every bit a Sunshine. The day after Halloween I had the pleasure of serving a fairy princess, a Harry Potter, and their beautiful mama, who was herself dressed as herself. They ordered chocolate chip pancakes, sourdough french toast, eggs over-easy, fruit, and grits. The fairy princess ate only bacon and did so with tiny bites from baby teeth and pinkies out, like a lady. As I asked if they needed anthing else, the fairy princess hid her face in her mama's tummy and her mama said, "It's alright, you can tell her." The little girl looked up at me, her eyes like sugared gumdrops in her berry face and whispered, "I think you're pretty!" and then quick! back to the safe dark hide-away of mama's blouse. I blushed and cut my eyes at Harry Potter, who gave me a wicked chocolate grin. People's eyes are as variable and unreliable as shop-store windows. In some we are tall and thin and young forever, and some cast every awful angle in sharp and haggard relief. I was once told by a manager that if I could not be cute, I would have to be good to cut it in the serving world, and I took that to heart. It's true, I'm not cute. I wear black framed glasses and have severe hair, which I call my Frida Kahlo hair. My bosom is small and my bras perpetually ill-fitting with straps that tend to slide off my shoulders and peek out my short sleeved black t-shirts. When I am thinking of a lot of things at once (which I am always doing while serving) I scrunch my lips and furrow my brow. However. Children and madmen think I am beautiful, and if anyone in this world can speak the truth as it springs flashing from the mind to the mouth it is the insane and the very very young. And if the man is not only mad but also drunk? Oh my, then it must be true.
The girl in the apartment across (or as we in my family say, acrost) the courtyard from me is having spectacular sex. She and her boyfriend moved in about a year ago and all I heard from them was the boy's boorish voice in heavy and pontificating discourse, warped by walls and distance to where I could only make out the occasional word. Words like "halo" and "xbox". He moved out one day in August, one van and a buddy, his clothes and face wrinkled and worn, his hair distraught. He hailed me as I went to enter my foyer and told me he was leaving, the first words he ever spoke to me. "Off to better and brighter things!" I said. "Maybe" he said. The sex started soon after. At first I thought she was weeping, and I put my earphones in. The walls here are very thin, and to give privacy one must do more sometimes than close a window. The weeping went on and on and I took my earphones off, concerned. Ahhhh, I thought, that's not weeping.... and back to book on tape. Perhaps she is not having spectacular sex. Perhaps she is doing many very frightening, very exciting somersaults. Perhaps she is faking. If she is faking she is dedicated to the fraud, committing herself to the act sometimes several times a day. Somehow, I don't think this is the case. I almost feel sorry for the boy who left. Sorry you Shlub, you treestump of a man, sorry you big toe in trousers, you brown haired tousle, you shrimphook, you fat thighed monocle! You didn't do it for her! And now someone else is! All the time! Many times! I hope you're doing well! Don't worry, your girl is fine!! I don't mind hearing the sex. They aren't right next door or above me, there is some muffling involved. From other apartments sometimes I do hear weeping, sometimes I hear fights or screaming or drunken girls in piercing hilarity. From my apartment I imagine other people hear the occasional burp, or me yelling at my cat, or both- making it sound like I am yelling at the cat for burping. Or sometimes I will sing my cat's theme song while she is furiously biting my arm Craaaazy on you! Craa-aaazy on you! Let me go crazy crazy on you! which is what I imagine she is singing in her own head but because she doesn't have words I have to vocalize for her. I ran into a friend yesterday and I told him about the fabulous sex I am not having. He brushed aside my story like cheezit crumbs off a beautiful woman's bosom. You could be having sex.... "That's not the point! I'm not jealous, I'm just relating a story!" he didn't let me finish. You could be having sex. Lots of guys would have sex with you, but you're all "I'm May, I'm crazy!" He said this while flailing his arms in the air and running around. I would've given him five to the two if he wasn't so spot on. I arched my brow admiringly. "Oh, you're good, my friend. You're good." I had a dream the other night that I was in a store that sold only chocolate covered banana products. Chocolate covered banana cereal, chocolate covered banana chips, chocolate covered banana bananas... They claimed to have more chocolate covered banana products than anywhere in the whole world. I related this to Mama and she said, Hmmm, I wonder what Freud would have to say about that? I hadn't even thought about it like that. I'm glad that I didn't mention that in the dream I was in the store because I was looking for someone. He wasn't there. I thought I don't even LIKE chocolate covered bananas! Now if this place sold mustard... Petit Fleur writes about the marvelous brain and it's electric pathways, it's firesnap magic and I have to concur. While I am wandering around my days, wheeling through shifts at work and laundry and money and mold in the bathroom, my brain is doing the jizzy math of my basest instincts. My age plus my solitude multiplied by the moaning thumps across (acrost) the courtyard and divided by the heft and holler of my nephew in my arms = Chocolate Covered Bananas! You don't even like chocolate covered bananas?! says my brain How do you know if you haven't had one in a while? Look at the variety! So many kinds to choose from! My brain may have to wait. In my head there are many kinds of brain (I'm May! I'm crazy!) and the primal sex monkey part is not the one with the keys to the kingdom. I am sober, you know. So very very very sober. It's not like I can go out with friends, get a couple of drinks in me and loosen up enough to sit back in my chair, much less let the hair down and peek over the glasses with that look that means come hither, that means maybe, I take the glasses off. No, I avoid all such situations. The compliments on my appearance I get are from old ladies at the grocery store. They like my buns, and they are not referring to my ass. Today is the fifteenth anniversary of my car accident and I have to mention that here because it is on my mind. I do not recommend getting hit by a car, but I will say that for the first few years after the accident it imbued me with a great courage and confidence. After seeing my bones come through my skin, after watching my wounds weep red stained yellow tears, after waking up each morning crying before I even opened my eyes, falling on my hop-step way to the bathroom and waiting for someone to come along to pick me up, after all that normal life seemed so sweetly tame. The girls who intimidated me no longer had tigers in their eyes, the boys who would not give me the time of day were whitewashed selfish and preening. If I wanted to do something, like get in my truck and drive west alone with no map and no phone, I did it. If I wanted a job I just went to the place where I wanted to work and asked for a job. If I needed a cheap place to live I called a man I'd never met who I heard charged only $111 a month for one side of a duplex and instead ended up living with him, for free. Why not? But now it's been fifteen years and life has stepped in. At some point a few years ago I realized I was afraid again, and that scared the hell out of me. When I got sober, I made my life very very safe. Part of getting sober in AA is doing a sexual inventory. You write down every sex thing you have ever done and you read it to someone. The point of this is to figure out where you have harmed others, where you've been selfish or destructive, so you can break your patterns and make amends when necessary. I thought it was great. I would go to meetings and say "So, I'm doing my sex inventory and I was thinking about the time when I was in bed with two of my coworkers..." not knowing that most people do not talk about their sex inventory at meetings. Cancer, yes. Bad haircut, yes. Sex inventory? Not so much. They'll listen, oh yes, they will listen, but talking about it seems to make everyone shy. I wasn't ashamed of my sexual behavior as much as I was ashamed of my regular drunken convivaling and besides, it wasn't nearly so interesting as I've heard through the rumor mill that it was. Three-way with the coworkers? Never happened. I enjoyed the moment but hopped out of bed before the deed was done, shouting thank yous for a lovely evening and stealing three Newcastles out of the fridge before sneaking off into the night. I'm a story whore, a make-out slut, but I get as twisted and tight as my professional hair when faced with actual promiscuity. Sigh. So now what's a girl to do? I'm getting wrinkles around my eyes and sag around the back. If my 31 year old breasts are perky but there is no one around to see them, do they still perk? How does one go from talking about kazoos and the weather to slipping off the skivvies? I don't think it will happen at the coffeeshop, or good lord, at the Publix. And I'm not crazy, I'm waiting to fall in love. I'm waiting for that moment of head rush, for my neck to prickle and my stomach to heave. Sex for sex sake is a young woman's game. One who believes that a tumble bump means she's beautiful, or that a warm body keeps the cold out of her own. I have showers. I have a lovely cat. Besides, I have a lot to do. I need to clean out the refrigerator and learn to cartwheel on the left side. Busy busy. Amanda Ziller once said "Birth, copulation and death. One day I was born, someday I shall die, today I will copulate." Today, I will probably not copulate. Today I will walk to the intersection that knocked my bones out and cross the road, and then cross back. I will go to the grocery store. I will get chocolate and I will get bananas. I will stick one of those things in the freezer and one on the stove, and tonight when the cold comes in the windows and the moaning ululations reach with sticky fingers to my ears, I'll sidestep my wicked tender brain's dreamplan by distracting it with cool and sweet. You want chocolate covered bananas, you psuedo-Freudian charlatan? Here you go. You can have chocolate covered bananas. All. night. long.
I saw my baby nephew for the first time yesterday. He is beautiful. We all say he is beautiful! He is perfect. He looks like a changeling, with his very serious face, those hooded eyes and very important eyebrows. His nose is like a cupcake turned upside down and his little mouth is full on top and tucked lower lip that gets dragged into the tiny knob of his chin by his heavy, dewy cheeks. He is pink, and has long, long fingers. His legs are long as well like a jumping frog with the same narrow hips and his feet have prominent heels and monkey toes. His ears make me think of shells cut crossways, or maybe just one perfect nautilus in half because they match of course and are on either sides of his noggin in just the right places. They are soft and have good lobes. Mama says he bleats like a goat when he is squalling, but I think he sounds like a boy. I have not looked overmuch at his tummy but I suspect it too, is perfect. It was the strangest feeling to hold him. He is not my boy, but he is my blood, and it was more like looking into my sister's face than just any other baby. Jason said when he first saw him, his heart just dropped. I was not so much aware of my heart but more like I'd been missing something and here he was. Sometimes we talk about Jessie, and how she was an accident, but we can't imagine our lives without her- that yawning space she would leave without us ever knowing how empty we were. Here it is again. Hello. Here you are. We've been waiting for you, little man. To speak of him in the clumsy words we have and to give the full weight of how I feel about him I would have to say I am in love with this boy. Then if you were to say Well, if you love him so much why don't you marry him? I'd say, Shut up, You Stupid Fool. I already have.
He is here! I'll let Mama get home and get some rest and tell you all about it, but from what I know, Owen Curtis Hartmann fell to Earth around 4:40 this afternoon. Both Mother and child are safe and healthy. He is beautiful.
Still laboring, everyone is exhausted. They gave her an epidural so she can rest, and when she wakes she'll start on pitocin. Mama wanted me to log on here and tell everyone that Lily is the bravest* woman she's ever seen give birth, and that's saying a lot. Also, the resident on the floor right now doesn't know his head from his ass, if there is a difference. (Okay, she didn't want me to say that, but I thought it was funny.) I'm still Typhoid Mary, so I'm quarantined at the house. I think my boss thinks I'm faking because I've been saying I have a fever since Sunday night. HELLO! IT'S THE FUCKING FLU! As if I'd fake sick while my SISTER IS IN LABOR!
Sorry, I must be feeling better, because I'm more pissed off than I was yesterday. Ah, the trippy Zen of fever dreams....
Anyway, keep us in your thoughts (Lily, Owen, and the crew at the hospital). They sound plumb wore out.
*Um, she may have said "More Grace" as in "Lily is handling her labor with more grace than any laboring woman I've ever seen." Sorry, not sure. I am still running a fever.
The day my sister Lily was born, there were a hundred people at the house and my brother and I ran wild. My mother wore amethyst beads around her neck and a tie-died shirt of Daddy's and nothing else, and though her belly was huge her legs were still the envy of every woman in the world.
When we have birthdays in my family we start out like that. At some point, in the midst of kebab making or sushi rolling or river wandering, someone will say, On the day you were born... and the story will get told. In mine, Hank is entrusted to the care of Aunt Lynn, who wisely braids her long golden hair into two braids the way my mother wore hers, to give him something to hold onto. In Hank's, there is an honest attempt at natural childbirth with only a book and a woman who had given birth before as guides. In the story of Jessie I chime in, carrying the thread of the story to say, And as you slipped from the womb, Anne-Helena got so excited that she pushed my face into her very impressive bosom and I missed the whole thing. Lily's birthday is in two days, but today, today she is in labor with her own child.
I have the flu.
Owen, I will say, On the day you were born, I had the flu. Your Mama went into labor at 5:30 in the morning, and your Uncle Hank called me and woke me up at 8:30 to tell me the good news and to say that he and Aunt Jessie and Auntie Taylor were going to breakfast.
So funny this day. It is beautiful and sunny and warming, there is a hush so far and not too much of a busy. I am very aware of the birth story that is unfolding right now and I am doing my best to make only right actions today. My cat is playing Monster Under The Sheet and I am wrestling with my sore hips and rusty bones, but I am clean and I washed with rose soap.
I called Mama and made sure that Lily is wearing her amethyst beads and she is that makes me cry, I don't know why. I want to be there to look into her eyes and to feed her honey and to rub her feet, but instead I am trying to get my fever down and crying over a lavender necklace.
Mama gave that necklace to me some years ago, probably because I borrowed it so many times. It took me a while to get over my selfish and narcissistic desires, I loved that necklace for it's light catching beauty, for the purple shadow it threw against my collarbone. The winter I first got sober, I gave it to Lily. It was always hers, anyway.
She is wearing it now, and laboring. She has thrown up (which is Wonderful, Mama says) and her contractions are regular, though short. They will be at this all day.
I can not tell you how proud I am of this girl.
On the day Lily was born, I was not afraid, because my Mama was the strongest woman in the world, and I myself was proof she could do it. Now Owen is getting born, and I am not afraid. Lily is the strongest woman in the world, with the biggest heart and the longest legs and the arms made for holding and a well inside her deep and pure. She may have to dip into that well today, deeper than she ever has before, but it will never be empty. Her strength has no bottom.
Owen, on the day you were born, I had the flu. But my every waking thought was you. My every stretch a lean toward you. My very dreams a moving train to you to you to you. And every moment before and after you are born is love for you.
No doubt everyone who comes here has already been over to Bless Our Hearts and read my mother's post about the health care debate, and the comments that followed. Some of the people who commented are new to her blog, and felt the need to tell her how wrong and backward she is. I of course, wanted to jump in, eyes blazing, and pick apart each comment one by one. It is the daughter in me, the badger, but I realize that her blog is not mine to defend. She does a fine job of that already. Luckily, I have my own.
This is not a democracy. This is not a newspaper. This is Roll Up The Rugs, and these are my thoughts and feelings. If you don't like them, be happy that you are free to write your own damn blog.
I'm not for communism. Okay, sure, in high school I entertained the notion that it seemed like a good idea, but since then I have seen that it is a good ideal and not a very good idea at all. It doesn't work, it never has, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with public health care. I don't know why people keep bringing it up.
I happen to like capitalism. I like the American Dream. I like that I can work for my money and buy whatever the hell I like with it. I like that, if I wanted to, I could take classes and work hard and get a job that allows me to climb a ladder and get to the top and make a bunch of money and eventually own a house in Paris and St. Tropez and go to the Isle of Capri and not worry about breaking my leg and being able to afford to go to the doctor. I like that I have that option, but the fact is that we can't all do that.
I'm not saying that we don't all have the potential to do that, I'm saying that in order for this country to run, we absolutely can't all do that. It wouldn't work. It's fine and well to say that we are all free to make our own money and take care of ourselves, but really, we can't.
Do we like our restaurants? Our grocery stores? Do we like to buy meat, purchase clothes, find new music to listen to? Do we like to have clean toilets wherever we go? Do we like to be able to walk down the street without stepping over dead dogs? Do we like to have someone else get an armpit full of hot oil as they pull the oil filters from our cars every few months so we don't have to? Do we like the service desk at Target? Do we like to stop at well-stocked gas stations when we are on long road trips? Do we like our lives, our clean and comfortable lives in this country? If so, we better be pretty damn thankful that a huge amount of people are willing to work in low paying jobs to make this lifestyle actually happen.
Poor people are not necessarily lazy, they are just poor. People, real, living breathing people pick the vegetables, slaughter the meat, cook the food, clean the restrooms, sweep the parking lots, paint the houses, stock the shelves, iron and steam the clothes (that come from Paris, that come from India, that come from Mexico), change the oil, deliver the goods. Human beings write the music that inspires, that makes our hearts open. They paint the pictures that make us think, or catch our breath, or break our hearts. They take the photographs. They self educate so that they can give us information about the toys we want to buy, they fix our phones and our computers. They write the books. People do everything that must be done in order for having money to mean anything at all.
And most of these people do so without health insurance.
Whenever I hear someone say that they don't want to pay for someone else's health care because those other people have the same opportunities as everybody else, and that it is their own fault that they haven't made more of themselves in this free country, I get confused. The ones among us that are privileged enough to have the jobs that provide the money that pay for health insurance should be pissing themselves with joy that there are so many people willing to do all the things that they do not want to do. Personally, I like being a waitress. People like being served. Do you like being served by a sick waitress? Do you want your butcher to come to work with the flu?
That's really what it comes down to for me. I'm not even going to get into the fact that emergency care costs all of us more in the end than preventative, and so we end up paying for it anyway. I'm not even going to bring that up. (ha.) What I am going to say is this: If you like your capitalistic lifestyle, you must accept that you are able to have it because of the hard work of people who have less than you. In order to continue living the way we do, we must take care of those who provide the goods and services that keep us happy and content. This is not communism. This is simply what it takes to let the rich enjoy their riches.
Now go enjoy your filet mignon, tip your waitress, and shut the fuck up.
It's been too long between posts but the words won't come. The words come, but not the connective tissue. Wanderlust. Fall. Raindrops. Waitress. Heartbeat. Love, love, or lack thereof.
I've written for an hour and deleted every word. I feel like the world is in motion now, or my world, my world is in full spin, where it has been stalled for so long. I feel there is a change a coming, but I always feel that when the fall comes.
I like my new job. I like the restaurant, the people, the food. I like the mood of the place, the lighting is forgiving of my oh so recently sedentary ass. If I ever decide that I'm going to take time off again to figure out my life, will someone please knock me down? Please remind me that a body in motion stays in motion. Still, the time off has made me thankful for the movement. I'm sick to death of laying around, as much as I needed it.
But back to work and being busy. The working makes my mind work and perhaps that's why I cannot write. I can't sit still. I walk and paint and clean. I feel the desperate need to clear the dust out of my corners, in my body as well as my home.
The rain is really coming down now. There was no sunrise today. A long time ago I was in Guatemala and my friends and I climbed to the top of the Jaguar Temple at Tikal in the dark to see the sun rise over the ruins. We sat for hours and though we saw the purple flowers and we heard the scream of monkeys, there was no sunrise, just a slow and gradual lightening. So we climbed down.
I'd like to go back there. Who will take me? Who would like to go? I don't think they are burning buses anymore.
I don't know if it is the motion of getting a job that gives me the wanderlust, or if it is the change of the season that gives me the motion that allows me to get a job, and the coolness of the air through my open nighttime windows that makes me dream of highways, but it is raining and there was no sunrise today.
Lately I am thinking that I seen so many beautiful things, but those are only a tiny tiny bit of the beautiful things to see. I have seen snow on yucca. I have seen breastfeeding babies. I have seen wildflowers on train tracks. I have seen a toucan in the jungle. I have seen a scorpion as big as a kitten. What is there to see that I don't know is there to see? And so my mind jumps.
I'm going to give up on this tattered post and I do apologize for it. If you live in Tallahassee I invite you to come downtown and float boats down Franklin Avenue with me as I do not work today. We might catch cold, but we might also catch a frog, you never know.
My cat is a crazy bitch and I can't write. Of course, it occurs to me that that sentence would be equally true if reversed.
I have a block. I am blocked. I can't even write in my journal, because the pens are too scritchy and the air is too moist and Tropical Storm Claudette is making my ass hurt and I am on my Period (sorry boys) and because of that I am so puffy, so bloated, if anyone saw me they'd think I just got off a five day bender. I only wish I had knees. You can call me M. E. Puff-in-stuff. I should be in burka, but as I am not Muslim, I am in a dress that is both too short and too wide. It reminds me of the dress Kurt Russell tried to pass off to Goldie Hawn in Overboard that inspired her to say, "I was a short..... fat..... lush?"
Really, the reason I can't write is because nothing is going on with me. I've decided that if anyone asks me what I've been up to lately I'm going to say Oh, you know, bringing sexy back but that is simply not true. I'm unemployed and under stimulated. I dropped off some resumes last week and one place told me to call back tonight so the fantasy is they'll say Yes! We'd love to hire you! You start next week! because I need the job and God forbid they want me to come in tomorrow before the swelling goes down. If they could see me now they'd say Oh, I'm sorry, we just don't have room for the Macy's Day Parade right now, but check back around Thanksgiving! Of course, there's a huge possibility that they will have already hired Boo-Boo the disher's cousin and they'll have forgotten me entirely. There is always that.
So as I have nothing to say, here are some things that I've been thinking about lately:
(1) When you buy trail mix from the health food store it tastes like what it is: dried fruit and nuts. The fruit is chewy and sweety sourish and the nuts are crunchy and meaty. It is delicious and it makes you feel very earthy and righteous, like maybe you are a lumberjack or Jesus or a Lumberjack For Jesus, or maybe a Norwegian. When you buy trail mix from the drugstore or the gas station, no matter what, it tastes like it was made in an airport out of great plastic vats that have been sitting open long enough to absorb a smell of carpet and desperation, and for the fruit to become hard and the nuts to become soft and banal. It tastes as though a donut has farted in it.
(2) Do you remember those commercials for Summer's Eve (at least I think it was Summer's Eve) where the girl goes to her mother and says, Mom? Do you ever have that.... not so fresh feeling? I think about those commercials a lot. They came out when I was a child and they scared me. I wondered if being afraid of the smell of your own vagina was an inevitability of growing up. Now I know that if you have a not so fresh feeling that can't be taken care of by a shower, chances are you are a skanky bitch. You need to go to the doctor. Really. Also, how vague were those commercials? It wasn't exactly obvious that they were talking about the vagina. If I was the mom I'd be like, Maybe you need to shave your armpits because that is what I do when I have a not so fresh feeling and it works. Those commercials would have sold a lot more douche if they showed only men saying, Bob, I can always smell my girlfriend's vagina. THAT would've sold SHIT TONS of Summer's Eve! Or even Summer's Eve- it's a shower for your cunt! Truth in advertising.
(3) Fashion forecast: Skinny jeans and sushi are on their way out. They will try to sell you last year's skinny jeans but do not fall for it. Chances are you have a butt and some thighs maybe and they make you look like a triangle. Give them to your little brother because even if he is fat, they will look better on him. And he will need them because I think they are going to try to bring back pleated pants, which won't go over well because no one ever liked them to begin with. They have the charm of a belted garbage bag and the added bonus of creating a pocket of moist heat in your crochular area, which may give you a not so fresh feeling and will inspire a resurgence of Summer's Eve and fungal sprays. This may be good for the economy because it will force you to buy things to correct the problems that other things you bought will bring, but that does not mean it will be a Good Idea. Ass shorts will give way to stretch pants, yoga will give way to ballet, and Thai food will be the new sushi, which means that the approximately 425 new sushi restaurants in Tallahassee will be SOL but you can eat all the pad thai you want because you will only look as fat as everyone else in your pleated pants.
Okay, that's it. Three observations are pretty much my max. I'll keep you posted on my possible employment. Hopefully soon I'll have something worthy to write about. Here's a challenge to all who wish to accept: Try to bring sexy back. Report. 500 words or less. Good Luck! (Successes and failures welcomed equally. Roll Up The Rugs is not responsible for any injury due to attempts to bring sexy back. Pictures appreciated.)
My mother's house. It is truly beautiful out here. When I was in high school this house belonged to my friend's family. Her mom and dad were married underneath an oak tree out in the yard, over by where my mother's garden is now. The oak tree is gone, and my friend's parents are divorced, but they produced three beautiful children and this was where it started. In high school my friend brought us out here. At that time were a tight group of mostly girls, one boy. One time we all got on a canopied bed that was in what is now the library and traded off massages. One of us would lie in the middle and the rest would settle at her head, her hands, each of her feet. It was heaven. Another time we ate acid and walked down to the railroad tracks and stood five feet from the train (which was as close as we could bear to get) and we screamed into it's oncoming horror and it roared back and we could not hear ourselves scream. Now it is my mother's house, and no one could mistake it for anything else. My mother is a homemaker. By that I mean that she is able to make a home, which I think is more rare than people realize. My mother has light and color in her soul and she is able to bring all that up and out, through her hands, through her eyes. She understands that being around beauty makes you a better person and so she fills her surroundings with beautiful as if her house is an extension of herself, and it is. To walk into my mother's house is to walk into her. Everywhere there is something to look at, something good to rest your eyes on. I see a chime. I see a doll. I see a feathered mermaid. I see a virgin. I see a chair with curve, a flowered cloth, a chicken lamp. There are pitchers of flowers here always, she brings the outside in. Oh, and the outside.... When Mama is here and we come visit she takes us out on walkabout. She points out her new babies and her old babies, telling us their stories- where she found them, which ones she rooted, which ones are lovely mysteries. We wander through the garden and she pulls cucumbers from vines and from furry stems tomatoes that are so sweet they taste sugared, and she puts these in our open hands and goes for more. There are flowers here in purples and pinks and reds, and succulents that are jade on top and magenta on the bottom. There are plants that shine like gold and plants that are the color of fresh bruise. While my Mama is not here, we (her children) watch over the house and the chickens. I would put up pictures of their funny surprised faces but I have no camera so I will have to tell you. They miss her, these chickens. She calls them all by name and they eat out of her hands. I tell them they are fine chickens, such pretty chickens! And they are greedy little buggers too. They bumrush the collards and the watermelon, they snatch a flung cockroach from each other like drunk-mad bridesmaids to a bouquet. They sidle and cluck, one eye on me, then the other, sidle sidle step-hop feet and cluck. These chicken ladies have bosoms that make me feel inadequate, and they are lucky they are so pretty and I don't eat meat. I have not seen the front step toad. I think he is waiting for Mama to return. The whole house is waiting for Mama to return. It has taken a great inhalation and rests patiently. I think a house can hold it's breath for a long long time. She will not want to come back. She never does when they go to Mexico. But she will, and once here she will be glad. There are chickens. There is a baby on the way. She will breathe in her house and her house will breathe with her, relieved to hear her footfall and her laugh, relieved to see Mr. Moon duck his head when he comes through the door. Did you know there are love notes from him to her tacked on cabinets, tucked behind photographs, all over the house? A woman in love always returns to the place her love notes are kept. Until then we will wait, the house and I, for her to return and make this place her home once again. This is a beautiful house and I love to be here, but my Mama is my home.
Ten AM today and I was leaping down the stairs fueled by goat yogurt, four cups of coffee, and an extremely satisfying journal write. The sky looked like a pool with the pale horizon shallow end and the view above where children dare not stray for fear they will sink into the universe, there was a breeze and I was wearing my flappy green shorts. I was ready to hit it, and hit it hard.
On the way out while crossing a street I noticed that an iron pipe cover had come loose, and feeling warm toward my fellow man I kicked it back into place, barely breaking stride. I thought Yay Me! as I speed walked past all the men and women in ill fitting business suits carrying plastic Publix bag lunches and looking pissed, as we all do when we are going to work and the day is hot.
The walk was fine and so was I. There was no more walking, it was all flying, the people, the birds, the buildings and the cars all a blur and I sang songs under my breath and felt assured that I looked no more crazy than I really am.
Halfway through my walk and I've already passed the Witch Family House, the Fairy Family House, a former apartment of a friend where I always holler HEY JOE!, the House of Strange Trash (today it is still the matrice set complete with sheets, the other day it was a box of Easter paraphernalia), and the Tree That Grows Out Of the Sidewalk (that knobby bitch always tries to trip me up but I can dodge and feint with the best of them). Now is the Big Hill. It's not a very high hill but it is a very long hill, it is the hill that I was never able to run the entire humping length of it at one go before my screaming bones told me to stop fucking running. I don't even try to run it, I'm in it for endurance not Popeye calves, and so I walk like the hounds of hell are nipping at my heels (but only the walking hounds of hell) and I pretend that I am in a race and I am winning.... until.... Until a crazed mother mockingbird dive-bombs my head and again and Yes Ma'am I am Running! I am running up this motherfucking hill with the now running hounds of hell and the dive bombing mockingbird from hell and I am doing those crazy arm whipping motions around my ducked head thinking Not the eyes! Please God don't go for my eyes! and now I am at the top of the hill! I am fucking Iron Man!
Now the coffee has worn off but the adrenalin is full free flowing, I round the bend, I pass the German Lady House, I pass the Italian Man House, I pass the What-the-fuck-someone-painted-two-fucking-knights-of-the-round-table-on-the-wall House, I can't be stopped, I won't slow down, it feels too good. I get to the Korean War Memorial and do my soft shoe flim-flam shuffle that firms my abs and plumps my butt up the curvy path and down the curvy path, faster than I've ever done it before, an old man watches- his mouth open in pure amazement. I am Youth! I am Vigor! And then as I am crossing the street that leads to my street and almost home I bust my toe on that same damn iron pipe cover that I kicked back into place not an hour before. Foreshadowing people, powerful stuff. I almost go ass over tea kettle but I'm crossing a damn street and if there is one thing I will not do it is fall down in the middle of the road.
Shake it off, Slugger I tell myself, channeling Shoeless Joe Jackson I pull out of my stumble and go for home. It's not wrong to finish strong I tell myself The toe's not broke if you can still kick ass.
Post protein shake and shower, the busted toe and murderous mockingbirds aside, it seems like a good idea to walk to the library. This is a chillin' walk, a saunter in my summer skirt with the lace at the hem that kicks out over my tanned (ahem) calves and flip-flop clad feet. It's hot but it feels good, which is pointed out to me by another old man, this one on a ladder painting a house. We agree we live in Florida, we agree we like the heat, we grin thinking about all those suckers who live in northern climes, we bid good day.
The library is there in all it's bookly glory. The librarians are ornery, the homeless men are grunting craziness, the children load their mothers up and dash away to get more books already forgetting the ones in arms. I got two talkies and three fat eye-reading novels full of potential. I am as satisfied and excited as a dog with an unwatched cake.
On the way home two girls in a white Camero honk an air horn at me, laugh hysterically, and then honk at a guy on a bike who swerves into the next lane and narrowly misses getting creamed by oncoming traffic. The girls laugh again and speed up. But guess what ladies! There is a red light up ahead and I AM PISSED. Gone is my sunny day and disposition. Gone is my warm regard for fellow man. In two seconds I am standing by their car.
Roll down your window. I shout at the glass.
No! Screams the girl, looking at her companion.
Roll down your fucking window! I say, my words and eyes steel.
They do. They comply. The girls are at the most 17 and pretty. They squint their doe eyes at me, looking up through matching curtains of over highlighted hair. I pull out my cell phone.
I am calling the cops. I have your licence plate number and I am calling the cops right now. It is illegal to blow an air horn out of your car in traffic. You could've killed that dude.
Bitch. Says the girl in the passenger seat.
You're a bitch. That guy could've died.
The window goes back up at the same time the light turns green. They speed away. I put the cell phone back in my pocket and walk on down the road. As the light works its way back into my eyes and the blood drains from my face I see a stair car driving down the street and I stop to watch thinking about that show Arrested Development and I realize I am smiling. It's a good day to be alive my friends, a very good day indeed.
I have a sister and her name is Lily Rose, and she is pregnant.
When Mama was pregnant with this sister I was seven. I had an older brother but until then I had been the baby. I don't remember if I was reluctant to relinquish that position, I only remember being excited. I told my friends at school that I was going to be a big sister soon, and that she would be born at home, and that I would get to see.
I'd seen pregnant ladies before, but none so close up and personal as this. I watched my Mama's belly grow to outrageous proportions and I accepted it as the norm. My Mama was my first baby maker teacher and she was a very good one. It did not seem easy to carry this baby. Mama sweated through the hot Florida summer with that belly poking out. She washed herself in cold Wakulla waters, she ate chili dogs, she wrapped herself in magnificent zebra print maternity, and sometimes a scarf flecked with rose and gold tight around her middle, and no it did not seem easy but she made it glamorous.
When my sister came we were allowed to stay home from school. As my Mama labored, walking around the house and deck wearing only amethyst beads and my stepfather's tie-dyed t-shirt, her friends came outside and told us not to be afraid.
My brother and I were not afraid! We had been told all about this! We had been told by our very own Mama! We were busy playing! All day we made everyone wreaths of morning glory to wear in their hair to welcome the baby, and we played our secret made-up games where my brother was the king and I was everyone else.
That is how Lily came into the world, with friends and family all around. I remember there were so many flowers and so many of them were lilies and roses.
Lily was my first baby teacher. I learned how to squish her rubbery little arms into tiny cotton shirts, I learned how to change a cloth diaper and wipe a wee butt. I learned how to walk and walk with her baby bean body until my skinny arms were cheese and I had to pass her off to someone else.
Sometimes I was not the best big sister. She was a force from the moment she was born, a howling tempest with feet that stamped the air and fists raised high in grand protest. I lost my temper. I lost my patience. My mother lost her sleep and her mind. I got off easy.
Here's the deal- we always talk about how difficult she was but what we forget to say is that she did not frighten us off. When Mama got pregnant again three years later I never once thought Oh God here we go again.... I was just as excited for another. As feisty as she was, I loved her furiously. I used to make nests for her on the floor out of blankets and toys all around so that wherever she looked there was something fun. She had a stuffed caterpillar that she called a callipiller and so I called her Lilipiller, and I still do.
Now she is all grown up and the girl who was my first baby teacher is now my second baby maker teacher.
I haven't written about her pregnancy because my Mama has done such a good job at that over at Bless Our Hearts, but I was looking at her today and she looked tired and a little worn and oh so beautiful. I have never seen such a beautiful woman in my life.
She glows, she really does. I watch her belly grow and it is not so much a swelling as it is a blossoming. She was lovely before but now she is opening, like, yes, a rose. When I'm around her I want to touch her, I want to press my face to her skin, rub her under my chin like a buttercup. I want to smell her. She smells like baby.
I never would have guessed that this girl, this baby, would have a baby before me but I am lucky for it. If and when I am so blessed I only hope that I will have one half the grace she does now.
My luv is like a red red rose. She walks in beauty like the night. I have no words, no words to speak of her or of how I love her. I have a sister. Her name is Lily Rose and she is pregnant.
I'd like to talk about pain. Not the pain of heartbreak, although a friend of mine asked me about that the other day because he'd never experienced that before. I told him that it was the worst to get your heart really broken, the most physical and emotion tearing you can imagine and the worst part of it is no one cares.... but no. Heartbreak, blah. If you're lucky you'll know it. It's bad but it's boring. Unless you're going through it and the I'm sorry for you. Go ahead and call me at 4:AM and I will drowse while you cry.
Ah but pain. Pain the body breaking down. Pain an injury. Pain a break. Pain a smash. Pain a growth that knocks your insides around. Pain with jagged edges, with teeth that bite and claws that catch. It's so personal and so relative and we really don't know how to deal with it.
My sweet girl, my baby sister Honey Luna just posted on her blog, Finding Those Dulcet Tones talking about her knee pain, and discovering that after all these years of us telling her that it's nothing, it's something. I feel bad about this.
Not too bad. I'm not rending my clothes or anything, and actually I'm glad that it's something, that she can get it fixed. She just.... well, it's a matter of timing.
This girl grew up so fast. I mean that literally. At one point she was small, and then over a few short years she grew about three feet. It was a foot a year, like a teak tree, and sometimes I thought that I could see her growing before my eyes, and her legs hurt. Now when I see her I say, "Nice Stems Baby-Cakes!" but of course her legs hurt her! She is not a tree, she is a Girl. Bones and tissue and muscle, sinew and tendon, racing and unfurling inside her stretching skin, she hurt. When her knees started hurting she was still growing and we were used to saying "Oh Baby, you hurt because you are tall". In retrospect it doesn't make a lot of sense, but none of us can deal with the pain of those we love. We didn't want to get down in the guts of her pain and ask, "Is this a new pain? Describe your pain."
Describe your pain. Well. It's an aching. Sometimes. And a sharp where it should be smooth. It feels like a crunch, and I may have gear sheers in there, but sometimes it is a jump pain like a shot that makes you jump. I have a buzzing, there is a tender buzzing that is pink but when it is red there is a stinging and then the bits are all angry. Sometimes it is not a pain at all but a weight, the area is filled with lead I have to drag it and it doesn't move when I tell it to move and sometimes I fall. Sometimes the pain is a coming out pain, like the bones are swelling and will burst through my skin and sometimes the pain is a smashing crushing, an ever so slow and tightening vise that turns and turns. Something like that.
That's my pain, from my magically healed bum leg, that gives me my sexy gimp walk (Gimps up, ho's down) but what good does it do to say it?
I remember when I was in recovery from my accident and nurses would ask me to rate my pain, 1-10. I really stressed out about that, probably because I was all wooped up on percoset and morphine, but what I wanted to know is, what are their reference points? If I said 3, what does that mean to them? All they wanted to know was could I stand it and did I need more medication but it seemed so existential to me. How do you rate pain? Every day you live your pain meter changes, every one's is different. Have you had a child? Do you suffer migraines? Have you been punched in the nose and boy that hurt? Is your pain as bad or worse than when you swallow a potato chip you haven't chewed properly? Is your pain as bad or worse than if someone were to stand on your calves and wiggle around? Have you been hit by a car? Have you any tears and cysts in your knee?
It reminds me of when old men joke about stomping on your foot to take your mind off the pain of your ear. THAT would actually be helpful. YES! YES IT HURTS WORSE THAN THAT!
Then there's my girl, and how she's been walking around so tough. We do want to be so tough, don't we? We don't want to complain, because we don't want to be complainers or martyrs or, god forbid, pussies. But who has the wimp-o-meter? Where are the pain police?
I don't feel too bad about not addressing my sister's pain, because she has been so quiet about it, but what I do feel bad about is maybe I like that I'm in pain? That I gain some sort of sick personal power from my constant ache? I don't hurt myself on purpose, but somewhere down the road of dealing with my chronic pain I've made it into one of the things that makes me special. And I want to be special. And I think that this has made me less sympathetic when someone else is in pain. Instead of feeling tender toward them I feel a cold comradeship. I don't like this side of myself. I don't know how I could have gotten to the place where I thought misery made me anything but miserable. I'm only really able to see this now because I do feel tender toward my sister, if there is any one on this earth I feel that soft protectiveness for it is my baby sisters. How can I call myself kind when I am so unkind and so uncharitable toward the people around me, and to myself?
It's such a delicate balance between being strong and stone. I am not glad that my loved ones feel pain, but I am grateful that there are people I love that help me see the softness in my heart, and the selfishness too. I'm so glad that her knees can be fixed, and that some pain is not necessary.
Ah me, this has ended up so far from where I thought I was going. Start out so sassy and end up so introspective. I have to learn to be more gentle. And not so serious all the damn time.
Okay Honey Luna! Get your knees fixed girl! You are far too tall to not be able to squat.
"I don't want to go to the river", I told my Mama. "I don't like to be on a boat. You can't walk around, you can't leave, you can't pee when you want to. Then we're going to a bar. If there's any place I want to eat and drink to excess, it's in a bar by the river."
"If it's beyond your comfort zone, you don't have to go" she said.
"It's for Hank, of course I will go."
I am a forgetful girl, and a contrary girl. Sometimes I can be a very stubborn girl, but if there's one thing I should remember, it's to trust my brother.
My brother is a genius. He taught himself to read when he was three using the Playschool play desk. I only learned how to read when he stopped being so kind as to read to me. I was seven. He told me when I was eleven that I did not feel the opposite of love when I purported to hate my first-kiss boy, that disinterest was the opposite of love. He taught me the difference between 2-D and 3-D by holding his fist beneath my nose ("THIS is 3-D") when I was five or six. He let me stay ignorant when I thought that a mini skirt was named after Minnie Mouse, and when I thought I could run as fast as the wind. When I went out of my head at college in Sarasota he let me come to him in St.Pete, he took me to vintage shops, he let me walk around in leather and wood platforms I bought there, he bought me bloodthick island juice, and he let me sleep while he wrote my gender studies paper for me. And when he wanted to go to the river for his birthday, I didn't want to go, but I went anyway.
We docked at St. Marks and ate at the Riverside where we could tie up our boat and walk up the ramp. Mama watched me with a keen eye and pointed out the steamed vegetables on the menu. I was smelling the fish and the water, that delicious river stank, and I ordered the peel-and-eat shrimp because I wanted that swamp water in my gut, and I'm glad I did. Our waitress was inept and spacey with leather skin and her lips a violent slash, I wanted to be her for a moment, but I let it pass.
With our bellies full we were all hands on deck and the river looked the other way as we slipped onto her back bone. Shrimp in my mouth and all down my hands, river in my eyes and nose, and boat hum in my ears, I finally relaxed and let it all go.
It is the river and it is June. The jungle on either side of us and at bends up ahead was full-on green, fecund and breathing. Each waterpath away from the main stream gave us glimpses of whole other worlds, adventures of sleeping girls, pirates, and horrible screaming blood sucking spiders, it made my mind go wild while the river kept my heart a steady beat. We saw turtles, we saw birds, we saw a great goddamn boat, and when Daddy climbed the bow to pick a swamp magnolia he did not fall off.
The river is not tied up in knots, it is a loosening thing. I get so twisted in my head sometimes, my face and stomach pinched, trying to work out all the end results so I won't be caught unawares. The slowly slip and glide of the water worked it's magic on me and reminded me that I am just an animal, made to smell and feel and prick up my ears. I felt no pain. We were in paradise all around, and when Daddy took the boat very fast we were flying through it. At one point I even went swimming.
And to think I didn't want to go! Sometimes I think I am quite stupid without my brother. He can make me do anything, thank god.
This week is his birthday, starting yesterday. Hank gets a whole week of birthdays, just because he can. I'm going to dredge up my old self. I'm going to rabble rouse around him. I'm going to punch him and kick him. I'm going to hug him on the neck. Maybe I will get him a goat cart for his birthday! (just kidding) (not kidding) (just kidding) Maybe I will get him nothing! He will love me anyway!
You are a very fine thing, you dastard, you bastard. You may not be thoughtful sometimes, but you are the knowingest man I ever met. Happy Fucking Birthday! I love you till the river falls off the earth, and straight on till morning.
If you want to see pictures, go over to my blog list and click on Bless Our Hearts. (Thanks for having our boy, Mama.)
My kitten is like a robot shark. One time, in a bar (Waterworks, for all you TallatrashyLackeys) I conducted a survey to prove my then boyfriend wrong, with resounding success. The survey was made up of only one question: "Robot Shark- Made to bite?" The only answer that makes any sense is "Yes". People who try to question this are assholes. What, a robot shark would be made to sneak into enemy HQ? I think not. Scare children? Perhaps, but children are more easily scared than making an entire GIANT ROBOT SHARK would warrant. Make a movie? Yes, but the role would probably be advertised like this: Wanted for movie/ One Giant Robot Shark/ Made to Bite.
I believe my kitten is made to bite. Her claws are only more razor sharp teeth on the end of her paws. It is not fair for a cute little animal, one that many people seem to think is appropriate to have in the home, has so many teeth in so many places.
She especially likes to bite my toes and ankles, but perhaps that is just because they are generally down on her level and therefore easy access. I have become more adept at leaping and tucking. She gallomps after me and I trot like a Lipizzaner around the tiny apartment. Making coffee has become an entire Riverdance unto itself.
My ass also, she likes to bite. Because I am not tall and I like to have my feet on the floor I tend to perch on the edge of everything I sit on, including the toilet. I had no idea there was so much space behind me back there, enough space for a kitten to jump up, dance around, and bite me on the ass. I think she sees my ass as the enemy because I allow it to play with the toilet paper and she can not.
When I tell my family about this they smile indulgently and say, "Oh, that is what kittens do!" as if this makes it all okay. But I am no fool, I remember Jagger with his horrible mouth teeth and his terrible feet teeth and he was a grown cat and he was a smart cat and before he ran off with Mama's diamond on the day of the Bruce Springsteen concert, his joy in life was to make us cry over our morning breakfast cereal. I also know Baggy, who is the Meanest Cat in the World, who lives with Down Town Guy, and who makes me curse and spit and bleed.
My kitten is becoming not-a-kitten. She eats like a dog and is getting those chunkamonk rolling shoulders of a lion, even if she still has rabbit back feet. We're going to have to come to some sort of a truce as we live here alone with only a mannequin head named Leto and a ceramic squirrel for housemates. My God! She is biting me right now! If I were not such a pussy myself, I'd bite her back.
We had a death this week. My brother, Down Town Guy, wrote about it on his blog TallyHassle, which I would link if I knew how to do that, but if you want you can go to my blog list and click there.
I can't write much about Demitri, I didn't know him well. I knew him in high school when he was a boy, climbing trees, writing and painting. I met him again a few times at parties and gatherings of friends, his face all sharp angles and he was a man.
I went to sit on my brother's steps with our friend who was close to this man, and bear witness to his grief. Then, when it was time to go I gave him a ride home, because he lives almost right across the street from me. His plan, which wasn't his plan at all, was to ride out that night with friends. To drive eight hours through the night to go to the wake in North Carolina.
I suggested we go to the grocery store to get him food for the road. The grocery store was bright and surreal and I remembered a trip I took there at night right after my Aunt Lynn died. I knew I had to get food, I didn't want to be there but I wanted to be home and well stocked and so I had to go. I remember I put things in my basket but I don't remember what those things were. I was hyper aware that every one is in their own world, that you never know what people are going through. Their faces seemed painfully alien to me. I saw one person I knew and I grabbed on to him, pushing my face in his shirt saying "My aunt is dead".
Togi was in shock as we walked the aisles, both of us getting a few things. I had to keep saying, "Would you like to put that in the basket?" because he seemed to forget the items were in his hands the moment he picked them up.
We drove to his apartment and I parked around back, eventually turning off my car to sit and talk and smoke awhile. Togi and I have the most wonderful conversations. There is something about him that lets me say anything, that puts me at peace and allows my true thoughts to come out. I am not afraid of what he will think of me, and I am always curious to know what is on his mind.
We didn't talk about Demitri in concrete terms much. Mostly we talked about life, alcoholism, and death. Not necessarily in that order. He shared two death stories with me, one in which the person was old and in pain and was able to die when she was ready, and one in which the person was young and alcoholic and died horribly, kicking and screaming and saying he was not ready. He told me that he thinks that we live relatively long lives so that we can gradually let go of our egos and then, when it is time, we have very little to give up and we are ready to go. I hadn't thought about it that way and I liked it. I told him I would have to think on that some more.
We talked about alcoholism, and is that any better or different than shooting yourself in the head. The idea of it being that when we are using we are killing ourselves slowly. I suppose the difference is awareness, and the struggle. I brought up people who eat two double cheeseburgers everyday and die of heart attacks when they are 55. I reminded him that, other than the alcoholism and the smoking, he and I are very healthy people who exercise and are vegetarian, and that to live a life that does not hasten your death at all would be a very ascetic life. And besides, I said, the end result is the same. It's what you do before you die, the loving and the living.
We talked about a lot of things and then at one point he said, "All this is true, but it doesn't help." It doesn't help. It doesn't help when your best friend shoots himself in the head. It just doesn't.
I had a moment a couple of weeks ago when I was walking down the road where I all of a sudden desperately felt death so close. It wasn't a feeling that I would die soon or that someone I love would die soon, but a feeling of the inevitability of it, and it was so sharp I thought, "Get Off The Road". Not the physical road that I was walking on, I was on the sidewalk actually, but it was the thought I had when I'd been hit by the car back in the way back and I knew with absolute certainty that if I did not get off the road I would die and I was not ready to die. Then, after I had that thought, it was like a wrenching in my guts, a whirling away from death. Not to run away from death, that would be futile, but to face and to fight my loved ones as they marched toward it. It was a funny thought, me with my back to death, battering back my friends and family, and it snapped me out of the desperation I was feeling but the image stayed with me.
When I was talking with Togi I remembered that, and I didn't bring it up but I tried to tell him that the rest of us left would not leave him. That we would hang on.
Another thing he said was that each death was different, just like how you love people is different for each person. That there is no way to prepare for how you will feel.
I couldn't feel what he was feeling. I could be true but I could not help. I watched the emotions wash over his beautiful face and I thought that the only thing I can do, the only thing any of us can do to help the ones we love is to stay alive for as long as we can. To be careful with ourselves. To keep living our lives, no matter how hard it may seem or how unfair or frustrating. Watching the cavern open up in him, I don't want to cause that rift in anyone else.
When you love someone, their life gets in you and becomes part of your life. When you love someone you are taking an awful gamble. When you let people love you, your life is no longer wholly your own.
I don't blame those that take their lives. For them, it must be a more terrible thing to live, and that is very sad. I suppose that our friend was ready to go, even if we were not ready to let him go. We can never be prepared for how we will feel.
I am thankful to Togi for letting me sit and talk to him. He helped me more I think than I helped him. It's easy to walk around with blinders on and do our work and eat our food and forget what the end result will be. Last year when my friend Jarryd died, he had just that day told me he was happy, that he'd been swimming naked with pretty ladies and spending time with friends. He understood that life was in the living and loving, and that you never know what may happen. I wish I did not have to be reminded of that, but I do, and I am.
I am loving you, you people I love. I am loving your life. I am living for you. I am living and loving you.
And just like that: Spring. Last night my check engine light came on and a strange smell of burn pervaded the interior of my car. I was wearing my nightgown covered by a sweatshirt, flipflops, and nothin' else and I'd left the safety of my home to get cigarettes because god knows when one is in a funk one needs her smokes. It was 10:30 at night and I'd gone to bed early, but I'd woken up in a nightmare of small creatures biting me and something oh-god-what-is-it was hiding behind my door, watching me. So off to the corner store for cigarettes with only my wallet, cell phone left behind.
Car problems frighten me, honestly my heart beat faster when the engine light came on than it had when I woke up from my dream. I parked down the street, scurried inside, slung my sheets over my head and talked myself down until I was dreaming of two sweet baby boys, one for each hip.
The morning came quick and I called my dad. Not the dad that bought my bed, but the other one. He is tall and that's not all, I am a lucky girl indeed to have two such darling daddies. The man came as soon as he had finished his meetings for the day and his soup, and after I had hollered her down from her apartment across the way, my sister was there with me to greet him. As is always the case when Mr. Moon is around, I at once felt everything would be fine.
A couple of hours later and some stops along the way I had a headlight replaced, my battery connectors fixed, and the car left at Pedro's because it suddenly developed a desire to lunge.
I don't know when I'll get the car back, but here's the thing- it's okay. Maybe every angry person should have their car taken away. Taken away when they are hungry, and there is no food in the house. How can I be angry at the world when it is so pretty?
I put my walking shoes on and I stepped out. I love to walk. I don't love to walk for exercise, no, but I love to walk to places. I love that I can just step out the door and put one foot in front of the other and get somewhere, without a car or pedals under my feet. My own sweet legs that work and work well, the slow shift of my thighs, the muscles sliding soft under my skin, the well placement of my ankles to my arches and the strong balance of my toes.
I relearned how to walk in Paris, back when I was married. I watched them walk, and perhaps it is because they use walking as a way to get where they want to go more than we do they seemed long-leggier. We (and here I am generalizing) seem to walk with the idea that it all starts from the knees down. They (and again, really a gross generalization) seem to walk from the highest of their hips, they slang those legs out with a toss and stride, shoulders back, chins up, eyes straight forward. So did I, from the Louvre to the Musee de Orsay, to the Eiffel Tower, and all along the Seine, and I ate some cheese, and I watched people kiss, and I have to say they are good at it.
Tallahassee is not Paris, but it is my home, and by that I mean my heart. I walked to the health food store and I felt my heart and my eyes open. I was hailed by construction workers. I smelled the corner of Magnolia and Park, that always smells like the fair. I saw a half eaten cookie placed carefully on a post a though someone said, "Oh, I've had enough, maybe someone else will want it". My skin sucked in the sun and on the way back I picked pink azaleas that I put in a glass in front of a picture of my sweet Mama and Mr.Moon on my dining table. Later I walked to the library to restock and I had a discussion about Zora Neal Hurston with a man in a tie and sneakers.
I feel humble now and quiet. The sun is setting soon and people are out there driving home. I am so thankful to have my family. I am so thankful to have my legs. I am thank you three times. I am thanks a million. In my kitchen I have arugula and organic tomatoes, a hunk of fish, a cup of tea, I will feast well tonight.
Rugs hold onto dirt and catch your high heels. I have no time for rugs, let's roll them on up. Let's throw some sawdust on the floor. Let's put some music on. Let's wake the children, rouse the neighbors, and see who has the rhythm in 'em. It's time to dance.