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He is a mess, with his five cats, his cabinet full of medicines and his tattered T-shirts. You can see the entire apartment from the door. Thereís only a leaky water bed or the couch layered with cat hair to sit on. And the piano bench.
Heís invited her for dinner, baked chicken and vegetables. When she bites into the broccoli, sand grinds between her teeth. She doesnít yet know him well enough to conclude whether heís lazy or just inept. But he can play Beethoven pretty well. So she smiles, swallows the gritty broccoli and waits for the sonata.
Mail so slow from so far away!
Your fingers, your breath, the cars around you
Everything moving so fast
as you tear open the envelope
This is the moment when you grow up
and set aside childish beliefs
when the sidewalk drops from under your feet
And inside your guts
and where your heart is still beating
Ė but canít possibly be Ė
only a cold wind and a heavy stone
You do not remember how you got home
or what you said to the people there
who must have wondered
how you left a girl
and came back a ghost
Iím shaking, searching faces in the airport. Two years. Five thousand miles. I see you and I need water. You left a boy but came back a man. When our eyes meet, your smile looks tired, relieved. In the elevator, I want you to hold me, but there are too many people. Our fingers brush and I feel the tiny hairs on my arms rise. In the taxi, your scent, warm and earthy, sends lightning through the core of me. You rest your hand on my leg, and I feel my heart pounding, hear the blood rushing. Not enough air.
So many years ago
maybe it shouldn't matter anymore
Long since destroyed,
but I remember the words.
Ödonít deserve youÖ
Ötoo good for meÖ
Öbetter off without meÖ
I was a girl then, and confused.
But I am a woman now
and I know the sorry sound of guilt.
The sound of a man
who has betrayed the one he loves.
I slept alone
night after night
month after month
year after year.
I told them all no.
I waited, and waited, and waited.
You think you have a secret.
But it is I who have the secret.
I Am From
Strawberry farmers and orange groves, trailer parks and country roads. Hurricanes, tornadoes and tropical storms. I am from drunks and deadbeats, illiterates and dropouts, single mothers and pill poppers. Beaters, screamers and hell raisers. Bastards and cast-offs. I am from too many children and not enough money.
I am also from freedom fighters and war survivors. From good brains (but few prospects). I am from hard workers and strong women. From oceans and rivers and sandy soil. I am from love pure and young. I am from the sun.
But this is just the half I know.
I knew when he smashed the cake into her face the marriage was over before it had begun. You could see heíd planned his ambush, waited for his moment, caught her unaware. She was smiling one second, covered in icing the next, from the ringlets carefully arranged atop her head to the bodice of her wedding gown. Some of the guests stood still in shock, others ran to her side with napkins embossed with the bride and groomís name. When we scraped the mess off her eyes, she was crying, but she laughed, pretended she was in on the joke.
A much more honorable tradition is to save the top tier of the wedding cake. She entrusted me with it when they left on their honeymoon. I wrapped it in layers of foil, hoping for the best, and stored it in my roomy freezer. Twelve months later, in the midst of their divorce, she asked me to dispose of it. So I let it thaw, placed it in my car, and drove out to where he stayed at his girlfriendís. Left him some anniversary cake on the windshield. And the door handles. Then smashed what was left into the grille.
There was a thin boy who lived on the other side of the river. He played under the Chinese palms and rested in the English ivy. Sometimes they came out to give him food, other times just to give him a kick. He gathered wood and made music with it. It sounded sad drifting across the water. He was a beautiful boy, though I couldnít see the shape of his face from the distance. I sensed him moving about mostly when the moon was high. One day he built a raft and floated away when the sun rose.
Once upon a time two monsters got together and made babies, a boy and a girl. They were monstrous monsters, with smelly fur and sharp teeth. Every night they would fight over who got to eat the babies for dinner, because of course, they didnít like to share. But in the end, they always decided the babies were too small to bother with. Everyone thought the babies would grow up to look like monsters, stomp like monsters, growl like monsters. Except they didnít. They read funny stories to each other, cooed at children and drew hearts in the sand.
You love me. I saw it in your eyes the day you married me. And all the times we broke up, you always realized what a fool you were.
But you wonít take care of me.
I see it in the way you let your friends go. And in the way you donít call your sister back or visit your grandmother in the hospital. And mostly in the way you look impatient when Iím sick and donít bring me chicken soup or run to the drugstore at midnight for medicine.
One day youíll put me away and forget about me.
Motherís Day card shopping
They say things like always there for me, best mother in the world, I really admire you. No, wrong, reject. Whereís the card for the mother who wonít leave work when the four year oldís been thrown down the stairs like a sack of garbage and is pissing blood? Donít see
one. Stop, before everyone sees how full of bitter poison you are. Shove the carcass back under the house and keep pretending you donít smell the stench. Get the card that lies the least, sign your fucking name and deliver it with a smile.
Heís driving me home and all I can think is heís going to kiss me, going to kiss me, oh god oh god oh god, heís going to kiss me when this car stops. I play with the radio, tug on my earrings, roll the window up and down. By the time he pulls into the driveway, Iíve worked myself into such a state that before he can turn the ignition off I blurt out, ďAre you going to kiss me or what!Ē His eyes widen and he shrinks from me, ever so slightly. Smooth, Cindy, really smooth.
I have never been happier than when curled around you, my arm entwined in yours and my face buried in your corn silk hair. The sweet smell of you near me makes everything better. Sometimes if I hold you too closely on a warm night you say, ďMommy, stop sweating meĒ and I try to give you your space. But when we wake up in the morning, youíre right there, nestled against me.
I love you, and I will always see how beautiful and miraculous you are. Before I was your mother, I didnít know part of me was unborn.
When I discovered art, a flower bloomed in my heart and pricked me with its thorns. I was looking up at miniature painted canvases aligned in rows and columns to make a big square. Warm earth tones, each different, a hundred shades of pink and brown and peach. I thought big deal, just decoration. Then I started to read the notes under the painting. Infant son. Block A1, behind ear. B10, sole of foot. C3, rim of eyelid. Inch by beloved inch, painstakingly rendered by his fatherís hand, challenging the world to see the abundance and beauty of his colors.
I love this song my little girl sings, the one her teacher leads for attendance. It makes me happy to hear the childrenís names, and they tell me I have my baby in the right school. It goes like this (donít forget pat-a-cake claps):
Ka-tar-i-ya, Ka-tar-i-ya, Katariya came to school to-day.
Gi-o-van-ni, Gi-o-van-ni, Giovanni came to school to-day.
Ne-ha, Ne-ha, Neha came to school to-day.
Ak-shar-a, Ak-shar-a, Akshara came to school to-day.
Megh-a-na, Megh-a-na, Meghana came to school to-day.
Mi-a, Mi-a, Mia came to school to-day.
Ka-deem, Ka-deem, Kadeem came to school to-day.
A-nush-ka, A-nush-ka, Anushka came to school to-day.
The name of the first boy who loved me was Richard Love. I was six years old and the smallest one at the bus stop. He would walk me through the woods each morning, steering me away from the giant banana spiders that had built webs between the trees. When the older kids would dump my lunchbox out, Richard Love would brush the dirt off my sandwich and fix everything back just right for me. One day he gave me a green plastic ring with little flowers inside. I think about Richard Love sometimes. I wonder if he remembers me.
My friend tells me she wants a divorce. I listen with half an ear, murmuring vague reassurances. Iíve come to expect this conversation yearly. Itís how they keep it interesting. They need the ups and downs.
It gets me thinking about how rarely we argue. How
. That night, heís late getting home after the game. Any other night I wouldnít care, as long as he didnít wake me. But this night, I wait up, slide the bolt across the front door, climb on a ladder in my nightgown and disconnect the garage door. This night, heís sleeping outside.
But how? Youíre too far away.
By the time I get there itíll be dark.
ButÖ Wonít we get in trouble?
No, itís just a dream. We can do whatever we like.
But what if it isnít just a dream?
. Just go, then.
Will you come after me?
It would reek of desperation.
Will you miss me?
Iíll catch your scent on the breeze.
Oh? What do I smell like?
Nuts. Almonds and cashews andÖ
Are you still dreaming?
Okay, here I come.
"Look, Mommy, the ants are having a parade!" When I get closer I see a tiny brown line marching from one side of the walkway to the other. Iím struck by the thought Iíd be a better writer if I saw things the way she did. We hunker down, and I exclaim over the clown ants riding bicycles and the marching band ants banging bass drums. But what Iím really thinking is theyíre serfs to the monarch. Queenie works them too hard to allow a day off for a parade. They canít even fuck to relieve the drudgery and toil!
I told myself I was going to start looking decent for work. That my commute is only twenty steps from bedroom to office is no excuse to look sloppy. So I got up, fluffed my hair, applied sunblock (just in case I left the house!), brushed on some powder, dabbed on a little lip gloss, and spritzed on a light blueberry scent. And felt quite fresh and pretty! But after all that, I didnít have any inclination to get dressed, so Iím working at my computer this morning in bra and panties. And a lovely jeweled hairpin. Itís a start!
Alex is long and lanky, and growing an afro, which makes him look even taller. I havenít seen him in months and canít help asking if I can feel it. I love hair that stands up and advertises itself. Alex is quiet, but this hair is friendly and fun. He smiles a shy yes, and I have to reach to sink my hands in. Though I expected it to be soft and yielding, itís course and springy. It looks great, I say, and his shy eyes slide to the floor, but a grin turns up the corners of his mouth.
Sheís a big woman, broad shouldered, with size 11 shoes. When she talks, her voice booms like she thinks youíre deaf, and her red hair is just as loud. She bosses her man around like heís a slave and never forgets to remind him how he just doesnít measure up. She
complains about the food at restaurants. But if she likes you, sheíll rub your back when youíre worried and make you feel like everythingís going to be okay. You donít even have to feel ashamed to cry in front of her. Sheíll hold you like a baby.
Iím a daydreamer, always off somewhere in my head. Itís why I donít notice things. Iíd be the sorriest eye witness ever because I would never see the crime or the car crash until it was over. I never know the latest gossip, and I donít much like drama in real life; I have all I need inside. I make up stories, and they can go on for months at a time. Whenever I get a moment alone, I just pick up where I left off. Sometimes they make me cry, and I worry that people think Iím terribly sad.
Hi, Ira, hereís the song I wrote! Men are a wellspring of inspiration, haha!
How can I get your attention
when you donít wanna talk about
poetry or fiction?
Oh yeah, now I remember
From January to December
All I have to do isÖ
Take my shirt off
Take my shirt off
Take my shirt off
Did I happen to mention
That I wanted your attention?
So Iím walking around with my shirt off
forgetting Ezra Pound and Checkhov
ĎCause all I have to do
is take my shirt off
take my shirt off
take my shirt off
Some days itís like being roommates, the dulling of familiarity and the constant availability of something you want rendering it less desirable. An ocean apart, the longing was exquisite. Iím sure Iím romanticizing it; I was miserable. Yet so alive with this fierce, throbbing thing inside to wrestle.
Other days it rushes back in, a flash flood. From the kitchen sink I see him kneeling. Heís working on the house, pounding something, and the sun is bouncing off his arm as he swings the mallet. I stand there a long time watching the way the muscles move under his skin.
While making dinner and giving our daughter a bath and doing all the mundane little Saturday chores, I hold onto the image of him working in the sun. That night I reach across the bed and lay my hand over his heart, then slide it down his belly and under the edge of his shirt. But our sick baby is between us and his breath is already slow and steady. I have always envied the way he can fall asleep in seconds. I close my eyes and leave one finger resting on his hip, needing to touch him somewhere, anywhere.
Iím here to tell you Iím a cheater. Iím a cheater! Thatís right, I cheat! I know full well Iím supposed to be posting here every day before I go to bed. And just so you know, almost two full days have expired since my last entry. I cheated and slept without writing! What are you gonna do about it? Not post my entries now? Why should I care if anyone sees them anyway? Okay, I said I wasnít going to do this. You know, get so desperate for something to write that I write something pointless. But I did.
When I was a girl I found a black crow with a broken wing hopping in the grass. At church, they were always saying to pray, to
ask and ye shall receive
, so I picked up the bird and cradled it in my arms. When I thought I had prayed long enough, plus a little extra just to be sure, I held the bird to the sky, counted to three and let go. The bird fell to my feet with a dull smack. I had killed it. I didnít go back to church after that. Church was full of liars.
I saw this question posed recently. Which do you prefer: cherries, pears or melons? Upon serious reflection, I must admit I prefer bananas. Nevertheless, if I were hungry enough, with no banana trees in sight, and had to play by
rules, Iíd choose pears.
Anybody wanting to partake of fruit with me, however, had better like melons.
God, I canít believe Iím writing this. In some remote corner of my brain, I feel certain there is a 12 year old boy giggling. I am done writing 100 words! I have sunk to complete inanity. Is the month over yet?
You ever get the feeling this showís winding down? That the band has written its greatest album and done its last encore? The house lights are about to come on and theyíre tearing this old theatre down. Thereís rats in the walls and the tattered curtains smell like smoke. Theyíre gonna tell us to find some other place to hang out, except there is no other place. This is it.
I hope not. I really hope not. But it takes more than hope. What we need is some new management, for one. And some do-gooders to come in and renovate.
Body kisses are better down the back than the front. You donít see them coming from behind, donít know where theyíre going to land next. They tickle in the most delicious way and send up chills all over. Theyíre best with a soft nibble, not a rough bite. I love a sucking kiss on the bottom lip, and a sliding kiss over the shoulder and down the arm, or down the waist and over the hip. An ear kiss is best when itís dry, but a kiss in the shower wet and sloppy. Eskimo kisses I save for my baby.
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