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In my mind, I chant a mantra each time I enter the Ladies’ Room here at work:
empty, empty, empty
... It’s a two-stall room, with flimsy walls and cruel acoustics. The slightest move bounces off the tile walls and echoes into the hall. Invariably, there is at least one woman in there with me. The two of us sit inches away from each other, discerning identities from shoes, waiting each other out. I’ve never been so constipated since I started working here, nor as absent: Sometimes I run down to El Pollo Loco’s dirty one-staller, just for a little privacy.
The first cat I fell in love with, Smoochie, was given to me when she was six months old. She was a dickens. I’d thought of myself as a dog person before she purred her way into my heart; now, I love dogs, but I
cats. I lost her in a break-up, and last week my ex told me Smoochie is losing her home soon. If she got along with other cats, I would take her, but she is very territorial. I’m trying to find her a home, crying inside that my tiger is so powerless over her future.
What does it really mean when someone says
support our troops
? I support the troops--I don’t want them to be hurt, and I want them to have all the protective armor and gear they need. What more can I do to support them? Send them letters, money, flowers? I think, when people scream
support the troops
, they really mean
support the war
. I’ve never supported it and never will. I don’t want anyone to suffer, American or Iraqi. I agree with Alice Walker, who said “War is a failure of humanity.” How does this make me a bad person?
I’m in the mood for Provincetown today: Renting a fat-tired old bike and riding through the hilly cemetery at sunset. Hanging around the Fine Arts Center and reading in an Adirondack chair. Meeting my best friend for dinner at a little bistro, where they serve filet mignon with a bleu cheese sauce. Watching the sun go down over the Atlantic while sipping wine. Walking through hot sand and high grass to the secluded nude beach, toying with the idea of taking off my top, feeling the heat on my nipples and pretending I never have to return to real life.
Spent twenty minutes looking for an alternative cat food at Petco; only the “reduced-calorie” Natural Balance was left on the shelves. My cats aren’t fat, except for the little potbellies that swish back and forth when they run. I love those bellies. I think that, if there were a disaster and I couldn’t get home to feed them, they could live off those furry bags of chub for a while. Anyway, I could find nothing without corn or by-products--they eat better than I do--when I ran across one last bag of
Natural Balance, hiding behind Iams. Joy.
A woman stared at me this morning while I was getting coffee. Perfect blond highlights and a periwinkle blouse that accentuated her blue eyes couldn’t hide the fact that, sadly, she was aging: I could see the crows’ feet around her fiftysomething eyes from across the room. She gave me a polite smile when she realized I saw her staring at me... As I left the coffee house, she glanced at me again. What did she see? Bad hair? Makeup smudge? Something ugly, or possibly something good? I will tell myself that she liked my jacket, instead of imagining worse.
Everyone at the company must take an online, 53-screen ethics course. The higher-ups are insisting on
, never a good sign. I was emailed the link this morning and I nearly deleted it, thinking it was another phishing scam. The HR director clarified that it wasn’t, so I grabbed a cup of coffee and clicked through various scenarios the instructors had set up to illustrate non-ethical behavior. A woman named Edna was the moral compass, passing judgment over her co-workers and calling the whistle-blower hotlines. Are we supposed to emulate Edna? If so, she should have a better name.
My sister calls the fact that my parents are half-persons without each other
. Most people would say the same. I’ve heard staff members at my dad’s nursing home compare my parents’ relationship with a classic love story, where two people fall in love at first sight, come passionately together and then are separated, leaving each spiritually dead.
. But shouldn’t they learn to cope? I don’t find it romantic to depend on someone so much that I am handicapped without them. Mourning is one thing, but I want to be able to open my door and breathe again, eventually.
Today I decided it wasn’t in my budget to go a little further in my efforts to be
--I bought clay cat litter instead of biodegradable. I was lured by the lower cost: $8 (instead of $23) for 25 pounds. It disappoints me that I have a price, that I will denigrate the environment for a mere $17 every other month... My office mate keeps a cardboard box under his desk, which he fills with everything recyclable that he uses. He takes the box home every night and throws it in his blue bin: Al Gore would be proud.
A recurring dream: I am visiting a writer friend of mine, who in the dream owns a house in a hilly, gang-infested area very close to the freeway. Echo Park? I’ve ridden my bike all the way there. It’s twilight, and I’m not sure if I’ve seen her yet, but now I need to get home. I realize I don’t consciously know the way, but my bike does. I battle thugs and gangsters who try to kick me off my bike and steal it, kill me, but the bike takes me home. What does the bike represent in my life?
Girasole and Pinkberry last night, celebrating Lisa’s 44th birthday. Paula sat us at the table where we had our first date eight years ago. So much has changed for us. Lisa wore a white pantsuit back then, and Angel perfume. Brought me a bag of Starbursts and an
magazine in which her photo had been published. She was charming, seductive. I kissed her on the stairs and
began. Last night, she was my friend or my sister. I still love her, but I could never go back. And I am overjoyed, relieved, at having achieved the impossible.
The Santa Ana winds are violent, stir up allergies and odors. I love the impact when I step outside, like a hearty embrace by Nature, but I don’t love the after-effects. The cheap wall heater in my 1920s apartment stinks in this weather. The outside vent faces pine trees and the neighbor’s roof. I don’t know what’s blowing into my living room, but it smells like cat litter and natural gas. I can turn off the heater, cover it with tin foil, but the odor won’t stop. I light a stick of incense and hope it brings back my home.
Books: Tiny, encapsulated worlds that belong to me. I house them on pretty shelves; some of them will never be touched except for relocation. Unexplored planets. Others, I will alight upon briefly and leave. Still others, the ones I stroll through again and again, will become part of my reality. The characters become friends whom I see infrequently but think of fondly, the stories and plots become my own memories—one day, will I wonder if I discovered a secret garden instead of Mary Lennox? Will I remember my first love, Antonia, with as much passion as Willa Cather had?
I begin to give away things: the beginning of a serious relationship. Soon, we’ll share a home—for a very long time, I hope. I give away what I accumulated quickly and impractically at the end of another relationship: A green velvet recliner that promised countless hours of comfort and relaxation. Truth is, I sat in it less than ten times during the past three years.
. And farewell to the beaded curtains that sectioned off the rooms of my life—when I am in pain, I want small rooms full of soft things. Then, too much space scares me.
My MAC Studio FX powder—NW20—crumbles suddenly. I open it in the morning, daub it on my shining t-zone, stare into the little round mirror at my pores, my deepening wrinkles. And the strange, Harry Potterish wrinkle-slash across the left side of my forehead. Where the hell did that come from? I’ve never seen a wrinkle that runs diagonally like that, across the “grain” of one’s face. Weird. I open the compact in the afternoon, and now the makeup is in pieces, the mirror foggy with dust. I can’t see myself well enough now to cover up. What happened?
It bothers me that I’m not more upset by the shootings at Virginia Tech today. It’s horrible—yes, I realize that. But why am I not shocked? Why am I shocked
that other people are shocked? Our society feeds off violence; we inhale and exhale it. Of course something like this will happen. It’s happened before. Thousands of college-aged kids are over in the Middle East right now, at our request, murdering others and being murdered. Isn’t it hypocritical to mourn only when the bloodshed reaches our shores? This is what we’ve created; it’s only going to get worse.
Emergency meeting today on emergency preparedness! Something like this could happen at our campus! We must do something to protect our community, or at least appear as if we’re doing something! Meeting at 1pm! We will find new ways of alerting students, staff, and faculty of emergencies! No shootings will happen on our campus, and if by chance they do, the media will not be able to rake us over the coals because WE will be prepared! Let us look busy! Let us get the documents in order so that, when our time comes, we will shine in the spotlight!
For our bedroom, we choose melted chocolate and Wilmington tan, which we rename peanut butter. Reese’s peanut butter cups, with a wrapper-color orange duvet to top it off. Velvety curtains with the same colors, a dash of cinnamon thrown in. Simply put, the room is delicious. Robyn calls it The Oasis, and I imagine hours of our near- and distant-future lives spent here, reading in bed, watching movies, making love, dreaming. What could be better in life, truly, than painting the bedroom with your lover, choosing the colors you will see every morning, even before you see her beautiful face?
I wonder if people who have their heads frozen after death have seen the cult movie,
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die
. I watched 20 minutes of it last night and nearly fell asleep, but I was left with the haunting concept of being without a body but conscious, vulnerable. Who would want to be
a head? What was Ted Williams thinking? His unimaginable, ice-birth cryogenesis in xx years: a brain without the power to act, at the mercy of any mad scientist, no voice over what body you might get—if any at all. I would rather be dead.
I’ve just had the worst veggie burger
. I never thought something non-animal could taste so repulsive. I love meat and fish, but there are times when you take a bite and it’s B-A-D, as if you’ve bitten into Death itself. Now I know that plants can have that flavor, too. I’m stinking up the office with this onion-roasted soy patty I just threw away. Must I drag it out of my garbage and toss it into the breakroom trash? I think so. I simply can’t smell this for the next six hours. Time to walk to In n’ Out.
The Humane Society keeps sending me e-mails on the seal hunt in Canada. I’ve already written messages to the “powers that be,” begging them to stop the barbarism, and just like with the United States government, nothing changes. Millions of people can protest, give their lives in a pointless war, but it doesn’t matter. Meanwhile, we’re being tortured with images of tiny white fluffy seals being bludgeoned and skinned. Such a metaphor for society today: We kill all the best, most sacred parts of ourselves and our world, and value only what makes us money. Will the irreverence ever end?
Sure, I’m just as bad as everyone else: I eat meat sometimes, even though I know how poorly the animals are treated. I don’t always recycle. I drive a Jeep instead of a hybrid. I leave the television or a light on when it’s not necessary. I’m wasteful. But I try to be conscious about it 70% of the time, and best of all, I feel guilty 100% of the time. The world I imagine—peaceful, with compassion for all life and the Earth itself—is so far away from what truly exists. Sometimes I just throw up my hands.
My sister Louie is pissed at my sister Linda for real and fabricated reasons. My mother is mad at Linda; Linda is angry with my mother. I haven’t talked to my third sister, Carol, in almost a year. We just never pick up the phone. And I’m annoyed with my mother for stressing all of us out unnecessarily. The whole family is nuts. Sometimes I wish I could disappear like my Uncle Jerry did. He died a few years ago and no one wanted to spend money on his burial, so his ashes were scattered in some cemetery, no headstone.
Tomorrow’s my dad’s 80th birthday. He was born in Detroit, 1927, and spent his childhood in a huge brick Victorian. Summers on his uncle’s farm in northern Michigan. My grandmother kept my dad’s hair long and curly. He had five brothers and no sisters. One brother fell into an outhouse hole that was covered over with snow. Another brother was a pianist. My dad played the trumpet, beautifully, and wanted to go professional. But my mom made him choose between music and family; he loved her so much that he buried the trumpet in the closet and became an alcoholic.
My mother complains that all her daughters are liars, that they try to catch her up in their stories to make her look bad. “They were never like that when they were little,” she cries, “it was the shrinks who did this.” She weeps for more than an hour about her life while I maneuver rush-hour traffic. I offer suggestions—go back to church, make friends, join a support group, get on an anti-depressant until things get better, visit my aunt for a week—but she has an excuse for not doing any of them. She would rather be miserable.
When I eat lunch at my desk, I open the big window next to me so my office mate, C, doesn’t have to smell my (a) bean and cheese burrito; (b) split pea barley soup; (c) tempeh burger with thai sauce; or (d) something equally pungent. Then the noises rush in: ambulances screaming to the medical center just a few blocks up campus, the homeless people—and there are a lot of them here—shouting at passersby, the car horns, the wayward seagulls (about ten miles away from the Pacific). Once in a while, a blessed pocket of silence. Ah.
I think I’m becoming selectively agoraphobic, or at least chronically misanthropic. I go from pocket to pocket of blessed space—the office, the car, the apartment—with stretches of people between. Inevitably, someone slow gets in front of me and I must adjust my pace, driving, walking, thinking. My temper flares; sometimes I’m not good at hiding my impatience. After a few quick errands today at lunch, and one car that almost hit me because it couldn’t wait for me to begin crossing when the light turned green, I am socially exhausted. Thoughtless, selfish people: That is what I hate.
In what moment had her life shifted into high gear? While she was filling the cat’s bowl with ultra premium food (guaranteed not to contain corn, rice protein, wheat gluten, poison)? Kissing her equally harried lover? Hanging up the cell phone while speeding through a light? Life had gotten too fast for her, and she wasn’t even middle aged. She didn’t remember when, exactly, she began feeling tired from it all. When the daydreams of retreat became so vivid and demanding. She constantly pictures a secluded house in Topanga Canyon, the scent of jasmine. The only noise, what she chooses.
I didn’t send my dad a card or gift for his eightieth birthday. The simple act of putting something in a box and writing an address on it felt enormous to me. I hate that about myself. I hope he didn’t notice. What likely happened: He didn’t even realize it was his birthday except for those few moments the cake was in front of him, and everyone was urging him to blow out some candles. Later that night, after he returned to his room, his only recollection of the day’s significance was a sweetness at the corners of his mouth.
My intention for May: I will stop being negative with other people about my parents. Sure, I can do it here because no one will fan the flames, so to speak: I say it and that’s the end of it. When I talk to my sisters, they just mirror my negativity, which begins an ugly cycle that leaves me feeling not cleansed but burdened... My mother does the best she can. It is in no way perfect or healthy, but it is
way and she will never change. Accept this, and focus on what I, alone, can do better.
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