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Three hours prying siding from the house and then he's belly pressed into dirt, wrasseling with forty year old pipes connecting the tub to city waterways. His hair sticks in his eyes, he blows it away only to have it land pointedly back into the sockets. The pipes are rusted solid, no hopes of wrenching free, so he snakes his way back to daylight and asks for the saw. I hand it over and feed cord behind him as his feet disappear into darkness. I crouch to see him work and feel the cool damp of soil on my cheeks.
Today's newspaper is on top of yesterdays. Nick scoops it up and carries it to the bathroom. He's gone about eight minutes, footfalls heavier when he returns it. He says he reads the Living section but when I look at the paper I can see its Financial that has been ruffled open; checking his stock no doubt. I tuck a hand-towel into my waistband and open the fridge. He peeks in behind me, one hand resting on my shoulder. I smile, angling my head so he can see my smile and the fridge interior. We discuss dinner and his work.
Metrospiritual is the new bull-shit handle being put on city dwellers that shop organic and give a rip about the results of their eco-footprint. This from a magazine printed boldly with various inks on non-recycled papers and headed for a trashcan near you. The magazine also features "5 sneaky weight loss tips"that include daily weighing, a food diary and portion control. Who do they write this crap for? I'm insulted just looking at the photo of a 16 year old model forking measuring tapes into her gaping maw. Her white sports bra and veined arms lend a particular disassociation.
Her father has alpacas and donkeys. They live outside of Melbourne; an old sickly dog hobbles to the front door and weakly barks as Jen stops in for a visit. She spends the night, bedding down in a guest room down the hall from her father. She remembers last year he had a rooster with a 3AM crow. He had his neighbor, a young medical doctor, chop its head. This visit she dreams of ocean beaches, leaning back on driftwood, a crackling fire, bottle of red wine, and bronzed muscles wrapping her waist. The new rooster crows at 5AM, screaming.
She drops her bags at my desk, three bags, one a travel bag, and tells me her head is "about ready to pop-off."She unzips the travel bag and pulls out a white garbage sack of clothing. "I'm going to see INXS tonight,"she says, and turns to a closet, pulls a hanger and begins hanging the clothing. I hand her a magazine and she stuffs it into one of the smaller bags, shuffling some papers around and snapping it closed with a satisfied smile. "I'm going to go take four Advil,"she hefts the three bags and walks away.
I woke up with my neck stiff, pain shooting in a very real way across my shoulder blade and up my neck. I was prone in bed assessing the danger of leaning up and out when my throat began to hurt. A dry scratchiness that indicates it's only the beginning of a long miserable week. D had been passing back and forth through the squeaky downstairs door for a good half hour when he came up to check on me, make sure I was awake. Every move was compounding the pain, rivulets of furrowed pinching deep in the muscle tissue.
All the self-help jargon in the world won't teach you this. It isn't to be found in The Art of War, that book so coveted by business men. The New Yorker won't print a cartoon pantomime: the life of dissipation v. the life of hard work. You could read the whole of How to Make Friends in 90 Seconds, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, and Your Erroneous Zones and still not see it. It isn't being reviewed by an introverted lit journal editor or edited by an extroverted journalist. Where is it? Your feet, your heart, your mind.
Home sick today. I tried to be a good worker bee but the others sent me home. They don't want the whole colony infected. I sip chicken broth made from bouillon in a jar; nearby a roll of toilet paper for blowing my nose though isn't my nose of issue. My whole attitude is problematic. My throat hurts, but what hurts more is attending to a job that lacks interest. Don't tell them, but most days when I appear to be dutifully reading documents I am in fact reading stories, advice, planning my escape: a regular Count of Monte Cristo.
Every day there is a new email from him: congratulating, surprising, gifts, encouragement. Part of me, the scared and angry part, wants him to go away, retract the offer and kick me to the curb. The majority of me, parts that are generally afraid and confused, observing with caution and open to dreaming, is thrilled. It is like finding a dollar on the ground next to the entrance of a funfair. The dollar is just enough for admission and a ticket on the tallest, flashiest, noisiest clanking barking thrill ride on the grounds. Buy cotton candy or take the ride?
My packets are coming together: return envelope, envelope for forwarding, reviews from 2004, reviews from 2000-1, story from 1997, and poems from 1993. I hope it is enough. I hope I don't come off crass and over-wrought, anxious to please or with misguided talents. What if all this time I was supposed to be a tap dancer? Wouldn't that be a pity? I could be doing the Shim Sham Shimmy with a shuffle stomp shuffle stomp, hip step hip step. Instead I'm scrapping together stolen words and borrowed phrases. My jazz hands flicker over the keyboard, resigned to their fate.
Today is fairly lousy. I have been sick all weekend, staying in bed with books, cats curled on either side luxuriating in my inability to do more than close my eyes or turn a page of a book propped between my hands, chest, knees and blankets. It truly is mysterious how we can read in bed without straining muscles or draining the blood dangerously from our hands. It is akin to reading in a bathtub without getting the pages wet. The preoccupation to keep things righted takes over and every movement is tense with attention, like I fuss this paragraph.
One consistent month, that is what I need. One month to start me. If I can do every moment of free-time focused on my becoming more than I am today for one month then surely I'll be propelled into that new, future-driven me. All the self-help gurus would be asking me to lecture. And of course I would, "Gladly will I share with others my secret for success.""Strive, and when striving seems not enough, press on and on and on. Be a willful Cyrano. Be blind to criticism like Don Quixote. Like Gargantua, stuff yourself with what you love.-
Hot cocoa and a Nyquil hangover, I sit at my work desk staring at my latest story praying that a reasonable end comes along that fits the timbre and preceding events. My throat aches and my eyes blur, the words I wrote last night make no sense. What was I thinking? Mechanic gone missing, run away like his mother ran away. Did he go to San Fran only to find his metaphysical mama doped up and reckless? Or did he die, propelled out his hotrod's window? He's not even the point of the story - the point is broken homes, lives.
I call her Kathy the Superfluous. This isn't as catchy as "catty Kathy"or "Kathy the patsy"but it fits her better. She always spares no expense in the words she uses. For what one person could spend two words on, Kathy will shell out fifteen. If it looks like she can wheel it into a ten minute one-sided conversation then she certainly will. She's not a "chatty Kathy"though. Nothing is said off-handedly. It is always direct, pointed, desperate with intention. Half of this superfluous talk occurs each morning and is about whether the coffee is made or not.
It turns out the receptionist is going full-time. I won't have an hour of play every morning. My 100words will be tricky to slip onto the site. Apparently she starts next week. Apparently I will be at the mercy of the one attorney whose office looks onto my cube. He's a nice guy, funny, quirky. He does bikram yoga, is a CPA, and assists million dollar corporate deals. Often he closes his door, sometimes I think he does it just for me. I'm pretty sure he knows I have nothing to do and I imagine he'd rather not see it.
It was her birthday yesterday and today; tomorrow as well. She gets cake one day, gifts the next and a party to follow. Today she is early and the dÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â©cor hasn't been arranged. She blows up one of her own balloons and holds the pins for the tassel door cover. I gave her a bag and a two piece earring set. The bag she'll never use and I know it. But I consider it an improvement to her collection. The earrings she'll wear all the time, they suit her, right up her alley. I hope I've quit by my birthday.
The more I pounded and pried the old drywall from the framework the angrier I got. I kept envisioning his face with its smug surprise. He was pulling the carpet out from under me, undermining my sense of security. Here I'd thought this guy was my best friend, someone who'd help me out, someone who wouldn't mind sharing. Apparently I was wrong. Apparently my assumption is the end of friendship. I'm sure he wouldn't take it so far. To me, what point friendship without give and take? He wants all the credit, and so I will give him none. Adios.
Deemer sent me three of his books, self-published and printed through LuLu. I flipped the pages and they look of the same good quality as the other texts he's handed me to read. I'm really surprised and impressed by how much he's sharing. I absolutely didn't expect this much. I expected some advice and a pile of, Ãƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬Ëœtoo busy, gotta go, you'll figure it out kid.' I worry about it. I worry about me - about not having enough energy, not having a bite to back up my bark. I worry that I will flake off, my life will die away.
So today begins the new way of writing 100words. I don't like it already. Maybe I'm setting myself up for unhappiness. Of course I'm setting myself up for unhappiness! Why am I even at this stupid job? If I weren't working in this place then this wouldn't be an issue. As it is I get interrupted by my Ãƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬Ëœoffice manager' (formerly known as Ãƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬Ëœcube-mate') b/c she doesn't know how to change a signature on Outlook Email. If she can't remember this simple thing then why can't I write 100words on the clock, privately? Do I spent too much time daydreaming?
I lack tension. I lack the space to sit and write in a powerful, present way. Back then I was angry about everything. It really felt like my legs were cut off, I was going no where...fast. Now I've been places, I've seen Musee du Louvre and been propositioned in Amsterdam. My dreams have been ground down by bills and obligations, a tiny nub from what was once a long, wide sheath of steel. I can get a story started but the reason none complete is dishes, family, work. This is what divides the artists from the every day people.
I called my mother last night. She has had chronic bladder infections for the past year. Finally a specialist in Puyallup is on her case. Meanwhile her husband, not to be confused with my father, has infections in the skin of his legs, cracked a rib while getting up from his chair, and can't see with or without glasses. She remembered my father's graduate thesis: lesbian wrestlers. She hasn't seen my father in twenty years but she remembers the reaction of his peers. He was panned. Awarded an MFA with no hope of a job, the wrong thesis lingers balefully.
She told me yesterday that her grandmother had a lapel pin shaped as a vial in which she would stuff a kerchief soaked with Lysol. I'd never heard of such a thing. My immediate reaction was "Wonder how I could pull that off,"and then an image of Glenn Gould flashed by indicating I'd be indulging in my more anti-social, semi-autistic side. Nobody wants to make-out with a lingering sanitary smell and if there is someone who does I am pretty certain I don't want to make-out with him or her. Now fresh squash, jam, or meringue - that's something else.
My grandmother is dying. We are all dying, flushing ourselves away. Do you believe in manifest destiny, the hand of God, or the Fates poised with scissors to cut short our lives? My grandmother is on the chopping block, bound by nothing but her age - the parts of her body corrupted and unusable. The bone-man waits. She has been around long enough and would never insist on staying longer. While others would secret pain pills and Hershey bars she requests broccoli and spinach. She's friendly with the bone-man, asks him about his day, and invites him for a drink, contented.
Start over. Don't let it get to you. The more time you spend organizing the less time you have to work on it. No one is going to help. You've already asked. That's the way it has to be. Think of it this way: at least you've got your health. And there's a fresh pot of coffee on the counter. Your hands are dry, cracked. Your hair is oily. It's okay because what you're doing won't reflect sticky pits, heavy eyes and stiff joints. You will create poignant written illusion. Advertisers won't find you interesting until your book is published.
God I hate morning talk after the weekend. X just got all mad at me - she was like, "Wasn't it hot working?"And I said, "We were in the basement so it was pretty cool."And she kept saying, "But wasn't it hot?"And I kept saying, "We were in the basement so ..."And then she got upset, in a huff and said, "Okay. I got it"and stormed off like I'd totally insulted her. Sometimes I think I'm not cut out to be a human. I just don't care about small talk exchanges. I don't want to share.
I feel like a million bucks that was pressed, lost, trampled on, found by a vagrant, used to purchase unspeakable things, divided into small change, disbursed around the globe, traded and divided and reunited multiple times until finally pooling in a World Bank reservoir to be picked over and counted by machines and tidy women with buns who use antibiotic lotion on their hands, leaving my parts tacky and organized though still separate and longing for continuity, rejoining, camaraderie. It is pathetic how I feel. And yet there is some value to it. As though more caffeine will polish me.
I spent an hour surfing celebrity weblogs and looking up addresses of tanning salons. I feel disgusting. I should be disgusted. If I could puke right now I would as punishment. The only thing balancing my morning Brit-Brit lotion injection is looking up Aphra Behn on Wikipedia, filling the hole in my education after discussion George Elliot and George Sands with Philip last night. By the way, I talked with Philip last night. He made a new painting: two girls waiting for someone to join their tea party. Whimsy in a sinister setting; it was bought before it was completed.
Yesterday I unlocked an old diary and am so ashamed. It was from when I first moved to Portland. I was with a well-intentioned young man who wanted to be a monk or join the Peace Corps. Being with me made that improbable. The journal recounts how we talked - the end of the relationship - how our three years together was misguided. A few pages later there are entries about dates; ugly men, men with no pride, men flirting shamelessly. Then an entry about the next long-term guy - that relationship doomed from the beginning, I stopped reading and closed the journal.
David Lynch's obsession with eigengrau inspired me when I was 19 to wear the brightest, most flamboyant clothing I could find. Now they would call my style "retro"- then I was a crazy antique collector. My daily obsession: cruising the antique stores, digging in the discount bins and striking deals like two horrible orange dresses for one. No one else would buy them. After a few years I had tapped out the potential of my town. And when I traveled I felt I'd seen it all - everything was overpriced and over worn. The final fashion-coffin nail: Retro became Pop.
I started and stopped and it seemed ridiculous to keep trying but what's the point if not to try? So I started again. My unicycle kept kicking out from under me, my ass moving by degrees in the wrong direction. My feet pushed difficult, alternating weight screwing the balance. SO laughed, stood by me with an arm out in case the wheel skidded off awkwardly. With a twenty inch wheel one would be hard pressed to find significant danger. Each fall is controlled, and my inner thighs are killing me, it seems like I'll never get the hang of it.
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