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This morning I saw you at the newsstand—has it been seven years, or eight?—in your flowered dress and pilled cardigan, that same raw-red complexion I remembered: so endearing, as if you were perpetually embarrassed. Hair one length and limp, but when you smiled at the man who gave you the
New York Times
, you were beautiful. It was that grin, your humor, that made me love you back then. Just a silent love, which disappeared when you did. Now I pass you on the sidewalk, hoping you don’t see me in my sad black suit. Hoping you do.
Fridays. Cinnamon incense and laundry detergent; cat-hair tumbleweeds blowing across a dark wooden landscape; disaster movie in the background, running over and over: the soundtrack to my day of chores. A mountain of bills and identity-theftable junk mail fills my cabinets, a future, dreaded afternoon of shredding. If I don’t do it soon, my living space will continue to shrink and I will have to move. Originally, Friday was going to be a day dedicated to writing, and several pots of coffee, flannel pajamas hugging my hips. But life is aggressive, so much easier to follow than my dreams.
Jiffy Lube is three doors down from Babeland, a pink sex boutique that caters to women. We dropped off my Jeep and walked over Saturday. It was crowded—at least a dozen women and one man, who asked the sales clerk for extra small condoms. We browsed acrylic dildos, 31 flavors of lube, massage oil, harnesses, nipple clamps, assorted vibrators and DVDs. Robyn bought a black leather riding crop and keeps encouraging me to spank her. I enjoy it, that snap of aggression and release, the fear as I wonder: How rough can I get before she stops loving me?
The television seduced us from our day of hiking in Fryman Canyon, where, one day earlier, we saw a desiccated tarantula half buried in sand and sticks. I almost stepped on it. A hundred yards later, Rob’s quick eye caught a baby gopher, sliding out of a hole and sucking grass into its cheeks. At first, I thought it was a slug, its baby downy fur so soft and new-looking it appeared to be wet, shiny. Such wilderness still alive in Los Angeles. Today, we watched five men chase ghosts, just as satisfying to me, somehow: that lust for discovery.
I’ve seen autistic people pick at their fingernails and cuticles the way I do. One-handed and relentless. The same way my mother does. I hated the habit in her before I adopted it (when did it start? I don’t remember); now I look at her, middle finger pecking at her thumb nail as she speaks, as she sits, talks, sleeps, and I feel doomed. Every decade I am more like her, as if the years passing are numbers in the Universe’s combination lock--once it finally opens: Death? I’ve refused food just to keep tearing away my fingernails and flesh.
This morning I got up later than usual and spent a long time on the bathroom floor, petting my cats. They are two of my life’s greatest pleasures and greatest loves. They were only three weeks old when I adopted them, orphaned and sick, scheduled for “termination” at the shelter. Little Sampson stared at me when I approached his sister and him; he had milky, cornflower-blue eyes. He stared at me, silently, the entire drive home. Even now, when he rolls his thirteen-pound frame over so I can rub his belly, I wonder what he thought he saw in me.
The houses in Beverly Glen push up against the road, stand like dominoes among leaning trees, precarious. One wrong turn and a truck could barrel through your living room. A rain storm could flood your carpet, warp your wood floors, cause a mud slide that would kick your home all over the asphalt. No escape from a canyon fire except left or right on a narrow, twisty road. Perhaps that hint of peril--and accompanying traffic noise--explains all the for-sale signs. I want a house, desperately, but not one here: my life feels volatile enough. I need solid ground.
Last night after dinner, I drove through the old neighborhood and remembered the gunshots, helicopters, peeling paint, dead lawns with ruined furniture piled on them, the general decay of everything. Lisa’s mother dying, for three years, in the room down the hall. Our relationship dying with her. At the Edgewood/La Brea light, I saw an open door: inside, two women in leotards with staffs, bending low and bringing them over their heads. Then, thrusting them in front, at imaginary attackers. A dance of violence and power. But what would have happened if gang members walked in the door with guns?
have a TV talk show? Who are all these people on overstuffed couches, living-room stages, hosting guests and encouraging our voyeurism? Talking is overrated. I’d like to see a show where someone is silently building another world from Lincoln Logs or Legos. Or better yet, no shows at all. I have a love-hate relationship with television. Most shows drain me of any creative impulse I might have and leave me feeling depressed and alienated: Aren’t there more important topics than the latest celebrity gossip? And yet, it’s difficult to turn off, like staring all day into a mirror.
After Lisa and I broke up, I wanted to run. I had many dreams about jogging through cities and forests I’d never seen. I read books about jogging but didn’t try it; my legs felt restless—they still do. Sometimes at night, when I watch TV or try to sleep, they ache to move. And I close my eyes and imagine them taking me, in a two-foot gallop, as far as they can. It would be a relief to tire them out so that they’re peaceful again, but my lungs and heart will always give up before my legs do.
Lately, I’ve been drawn to stories about the Holocaust: Elie Wiesel and Anne Frank,
Au Revoir, Les Enfants
, the entry into an intimate, claustrophobic world of terror. The anxiety and torture of being marginalized to such a degree that it ends in death. A few years ago, I had an obsession with sea and submarine stories, around the same time the Russian submarine, Kursk, sank in the Barents Sea. More than a hundred men drowned, slowly. Do I wonder what I would do in such extreme situations, what kind of person I would be? Am I preparing myself for something?
Heard a story on NPR this morning about Iraqi children playing
in their front yards, using fake knives to "slice" their friends’ throats. Then, sitting down for milk and cookies (or whatever the childhood treat is in the Middle East). I’d love to blame it on Bush, the increasing violence in the world--sometimes, you can feel people’s rancor in the way they drive, in the looks they give you. But there are so many other factors: fear, injustice, ignorance, greed, hunger... Someone recently attacked Elie Wiesel, an old man and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. What are we becoming?
Why do rich people have so many vases? I drove by my favorite apartment building on Wilshire this morning, a faded mauve art deco building with green marble accents—30 stories, at least, with a fountain in front—and glanced into one of the windows: A living room, with a long wooden console that barely supported two giant, empty vases. I imagined there were intricate flowers painted on them; perhaps they were Ming knock-offs (or the real thing?). I’ve always thought of vases as wholly utilitarian. Even if I were rich, I wouldn’t collect them, especially just to capture air.
A white rose was on my chair when I got to work today. No note. I assumed it was from my office mate, but he denied it. So for while, my PMSy mood lifted and I felt cheered. Someone had thought of me and made a gesture. I forget sometimes how much a small, sweet thing like this can affect a person. People being kind, going out of their way just to say, “You matter.” I want to spread kindness more, be the cause of happiness, even if it’s fleeting. This gesture reminded me of our humanity, our inherent goodness.
You folded my clothes last night. This morning I found them, arranged atop my wicker baskets, where I usually throw them at the end of each day, leaving pant legs to dangle on the dusty floor, sweaters and blouses in wrinkled heaps. But today, folded. You were in the kitchen making my coffee, half naked, and I had the impulse to rush to you, nuzzle my check against your warm breast and thank you. You really do love me! How did that happen? I am constantly amazed at my luck: The miracle of you happens over and over, every moment.
Something that is a constant struggle for certain people—they try hard to attain it, but it will forever be out of reach—is effortless for others. I’ve always wanted to be beautiful, like my mother and sisters were, and I think I’ve been able to achieve “cute,” but only if I put energy into it. Makeup, the right blouse, hair cut, color. At times I even walk around feeling mildly attractive. But then I go to dinner with friends, one of whom is literally breathtaking. And I realize I will never be beautiful; it is heartbreaking and a relief.
My parents have been ailing for years. My dad is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s and other diseases. My mother, his wife for more than 50 years, doesn’t know what to do without him. Their relationship is so symbiotic that, living separately, they are both breaking down. Disintegrating, cell by cell. My mother won’t take her medications, she doesn’t answer the phone. My dad doesn’t remember yesterday. It is death in slow motion, and my sisters and I grieve. But I know it will be a million times worse when they are truly gone, and that thought is terrifying.
Who would think writing 100 words is difficult? It seems harder to pick 100 dandelions, walk 100 steps, take 100 breaths. The words are in your mind all day, but if you don’t stop to write them down, they disintegrate, like milkweed in a steady wind. Perhaps they land elsewhere and take root in some other brain belonging to a person of more discipline or motivation. A gardener. I’ve never had a green thumb, but I love to surround myself with greenery, foliage. I wonder what the world would look like, if left for me to tend. Would anything grow?
A perfect morning on the Queen Mary: you, holding my hand, a light fog and chill blowing across the bay, a sheet of drizzle obscuring our search for morning caffeine. Our footsteps on old wooden decks that have steadied billions of other feet during voyages across the seas, during wartime and peace. Being here reminds me of how big the world is, how we are only two people amidst innumerable others. But when we close the door to our stateroom and settle back on the bed, hot cups in hand, it’s just us. And that is how I like it.
An overcast day in Los Angeles: what a pleasant surprise! A few more of my favorite things: Robyn’s face/body/skin/spirit; my cats; dark chocolate (especially with flecks of coffee bean or crystallized ginger); red velvet cake from Doughboys; flannel sheets; a hot bath in candlelight; DuPar’s pancakes; hearing “I love you;” Zotz!; hiking in Fryman or Runyan canyons, with a whole, unclaimed weekend stretching ahead of me; a jammy zin; possibilities; hope; peace; a rainy/snowy day outside the window; a good novel; writing/creating something beautiful or significant; the feeling of abundance (time, money, love), which I’m trying to cultivate; purpose; meaning.
She hated the idea of time away. She spent so much energy trying to catch time that hearing it paired with the word “away” gave her anxiety attacks. She wanted time
, to catch time and make it sleep on her lap like a kitten, feel its rapid little heart beat under her palm. She dreamed she was chasing black clocks; bony sundials meowed as they impaled her. There was never enough time. The last thing she wanted was to lie on a chaise and watch time jump the fence and run away, its quick silhouette illuminated by the moon.
Everyone’s talking about
, a show/theory/philosophy K. described yesterday as a “dumbed-down version of
What the Bleep Do We Know
.” I haven’t seen
, but quantum physics has intrigued me for years. The idea that we create our own reality, every moment. That we attract to us what we envision. The vibrating strings that supposedly make up the universe are influenced by our thought-energy. I believe it, but sometimes I wish I didn’t--I don’t always want that responsibility. Can’t I have the luxury of being negative when I feel like it, without worrying what it will create?
If I don’t exercise now I’ll feel like a failure for the rest of the day. What remains of it, anyway. It’s almost two-thirty--I’ve been avoiding it since nine this morning. I’m miserly today with my energy, for no particular reason, at least not one I can recognize. I’ve been reading
and getting angry at how we are destroying our environment, how different things were 100 years ago, before science and technology “improved” agriculture. What I wouldn’t give now for a tomato that tastes like a tomato. Why burn toxic calories, just to replace them with more?
My mom calls days like these “drop-out days.” She had variations of them: drop-out weeks or weekends, drop-out half-days, or even just a few moments, when she would be in her own world, a sad expression on her face, every answer to a question or comment a dreamy, “Mmmm hmmm.” She sometimes used Xanax or Valium to help her escape—it’s easier, I imagine, to shut the door on your family when you are truly asleep—but I don’t need drugs. Sometimes, my need to withdraw is so strong, I can barely keep my eyes open. But, I do try.
A helicopter woke me up at one-thirty this morning. It was flying so low that the engine’s vibrations rattled the windows and hurt my ears. I put on my glasses and stood at the window, watching the copter’s floodlight follow someone—something—just slightly southwest of my apartment. It’s happened before—not often, thank god—and each time it feels like I’m in a scene from
. I know the copters help catch criminals, but I hate them. So invasive and loud, peering into windows, waking us out of sound sleep to remind us how dangerous the world is.
I just threw your undies in the washer, and I’m thinking about our discussion yesterday morning, how the topic of living together appeared and evolved so easily. By the time I’d finished my coffee, and you’d finished your tea, we’d made the decision, and I’m happy (exclamation point). Surprise. I never thought I would want to live with anyone again, give up my solid, personal space to share everything, all the time. But I do, with you. In my mind today are floorplans; I move furniture around on them, trying to create the best home possible for you and me.
On NPR right now: An interview with a girl who likes to take photos of herself wearing tiaras. “Are you narcissistic,” Luke Burbank asks. “Not at all,” the tiara-wearer answers. (She is serious.) There was an Official Study on whether young people are becoming more self-involved. Instead, it should have queried people in general, because we are all increasingly obsessed with ourselves and our luxuries. We are insular. We admire people, celebrities, for being beautiful and rich, instead of admiring those who are intelligent or humanitarian. People are suffering everywhere, but as long as we have cable, we don’t care.
I’m not checking the winning lotto numbers yet--Mega! Millions!--because I like this feeling of possibility, that I
have won at least a few hundred thousand. Right now, I can make plans and feel special, as if it’s my birthday and I know I’m getting a gift later. It amazes me that, with all the people in the country buying tickets, I still feel like I can actually win. And I’m always abnormally disappointed when I don’t. But I keep buying quick picks. Never give up hope; ah, the dream of no debt and a full bank account...
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