REPORT A PROBLEM
Sanctuary. Is there such a thing? Well, first a definition must be agreed upon. If sanctuary is a holy place, then no, there is no such thing. If it’s a place affording immunity from persecution, then no, it’s an obvious lie. If it’s a place of refuge or private retreat—then yes, I can agree to that definition, though I would add the qualifier
to it. So having specified my definition I can say that this place, this flat, this city, gives me qualified sanctuary. And given that exactly nothing goes unqualified, I will be happy enough with that.
Today we do nothing. I like days that contain absolutely no obligation. We wake not knowing what we’ll do or where we’ll go and we like it that way. We might spend the entire day wandering around the city, finding ourselves happy in a bar at midnight. Or we might spend the balance of the day in bed. We don’t care. We just like knowing it doesn’t matter to anyone but ourselves how we chose to spend our time. Time. Free time. Now that is sanctuary. Anybody know a good broker who deals in time? I’d like to buy some.
Oh and ouch, I think that last brandy does me no favors this morning. Still, I can remember the lovely, soft and languorous segments of time ticking by slowly in the moment. I can remember being full of you yet unable to discern the difference between us in the dark. I can remember falling into sleep as I rested my mouth against your back. And I can remember half-waking several times, still under the influence of brandy—or maybe love, it’s hard to tell. At any rate the darkness of the room was soft. And this fragile awakening is fine.
What do the details of beginnings and endings signify? Do they accumulate? If you say goodbye enough times do you become used to the concept in some deep way? Or do all of the necessary beginnings and greetings balance the scales? I’m so used to missing you it seems normal now. I think it’s getting to be time, love. I think I need to learn how to live with you rather than without you. How strange it is to see that last sentence. I’m so good at being alone—too good. It’s time. Isn’t it? I can’t even tell anymore.
Yesterday I was in another country. Today I am behaving as if it never happened. When did this become so commonplace that I treat it as if it were a normal weekend? When did flying to London become ordinary? I’m tired. I’m tired of myself and tired of writing about myself and tired of breathing. Enough.
Did you hear the one about the Irishman who wanted to live and work in the US?
He married a Canadian National.
Enough, already. Not even ninety words yet and I’ve stooped to this old conceit of counting them as I go.
It’s the usual thing. We get ourselves into stupid situations, look around and marvel that we got there, and then shrug and get in a little deeper just to see what might happen. Always there’s that interior voice intoning
, which is briefly noted and then ignored. I once knew a man who summed up his life by saying, ‘On some level the intricacies of my fuck-ups are just pure genius.’ I don’t know, maybe his are genius. And always, I know when it’s happening. No matter how big or small the transgression, I know when I’m behaving badly.
I’m bored with this. I’m bored with trying to say something everyday. When I started this I loved doing it. It felt good. I kept having ideas. I had to stop myself from writing two or three ahead. Now it’s another obligation on a too-long list. The thing is, right now everything is an obligation on a too-long list. So I’ll keep it up, like I keep everything else up. But damn, doesn’t anything last? If you pick up Roget’s Thesaurus you’ll find that there are many more words for
than there are for
. Who planned that one?
The measure of her powers. A boy has made it known he likes my daughter
. She never noticed him until this occurred. But because of this she finds that she likes him back. She doesn’t really like him for himself, of course. She likes the drama. I’m listening to her on the phone with her friends. Twelve years old and already she’s in the game. I threw my first boyfriend over after two weeks. I became bored with the concept. I’d like to save her the trouble and tell her not to bother. But then she’d never learn.
He is stranded in the darkness of his dreaming and in the light of his computer. The former is inaccessible to all but himself, the latter protected by passwords and firewalls and the insurance of deletion if he’s lucky enough to time it right, so he can keep us all from knowing just how bad it gets. I can accept it as an unknowable fact and I can live with its manifestations. I can and do love the whole of him without that particular knowledge. I just don’t want to experience it as he does and must. It isn’t mine.
During the entire time of their separation, from the day she left to the present, he has not slept with a woman. It turns out that she had been the last partner of his lifetime. He’s never admitted this to himself. At all times he’s assumed that he would sleep with other women on an ‘as-needed’ basis. He’s worked out in advance the circumstances under which these encounters will happen, and what they will be like. But over and over the timing was wrong and in the end he is never up to it. Still he does not admit truth.
So I continue to shake my head and respond with disbelief when faced with the evidence. People are idiots. They do not think. They do not think before they speak. They do not do it wearing sox. They do not do it in a box. They do not do it eating pretzels. They do not think before, after or while they act. Isn’t such idiocy supposed to be an exception? A disability? How did it come to be the norm? Can an entire nation be cognitively disabled? Wait, what am I thinking? What goes through my mind? I am American.
You know, just because you fucked up doesn’t mean I need to fix it. Just because you want something doesn’t mean I have to give it to you. Just because you’ve gotten used to having things your way doesn’t mean I won’t persist in having them my way this time. Just because you set a precedent for prevailing doesn’t make it Natural Law. Your desires are not mine, your wants do not signify, your influence does not extend far enough to move me. You want to get on with it? Here’s a piece of advice: don’t count on my cooperation.
You miscalculated. You’ve failed to realize that your threats hold no sway. You’ve already done your worst and I’ve already sustained the only losses that matter. You can make as much noise as you like but you’ve already stripped me of what I held most dear. It was a powerful move at the time and certainly some sort of victory for you but it’s old news now and I’ve adjusted. Listen carefully. There is nothing left to take. What’s left cannot be manipulated, removed, edited, deleted or owned by you. How does it feel to run into an immovable object?
I told you. Not that it matters, but I did. And now you’re back with complaints and I’m wondering why you think I should be sympathetic. Did I not outright tell you it was a bad idea? And did you not agree with me? And so even though we both knew you go and do it anyway I foolishly imagined you’d have the smarts to keep the outcome to yourself. But no. Here you are. And here I am. And you know and I know that I am listening with insulting lack of attention. So why are you still talking?
All week I have wondered if I have lost my ability to speak clearly. Why else would everyone around me suddenly become uncomprehending morons? I speak as directly as I can and still find myself explaining and repeating constantly. Make a simple statement and get a stupid question. I’m starting to understand why programmers like what they do. It’s on or it’s off. It works or it doesn’t. Give me quantitative over qualitative any day, please. My last moments in the office on Friday: life is someone else’s shit in a bathroom stall. This is how I conclude my week.
You know that bar game you play where you listen to juke-box picks and try to imagine what’s going on with the people who picked the songs? You know, like what is with the guy who has played
Take It With Me
by Tom Waits three times? Or that skinny kid who always, no matter who he comes in with, plays Costello’s
I Want You
? Okay, so I like both those songs too. I might even select them, along with
Talk Show Host
. So maybe it’s all random and meaningless. Still, reading into things is always a decent pastime.
The night was not a success: the dream of terror and the one of calm seemed to cancel each other, and therefore he had received no comfort, no insight into the future, nothing to synthesize. He’d long ago given up on finding answers from the usual sources—they had revealed themselves as frauds, employing the language of their various disciplines to dispense the useless generalities found in the syndicated daily horoscopes. He remained convinced the answer was in the dark—though despite this certainty he sometimes stretched toward the perceived light. In the end he returned to his dark equilibrium.
Emma Goldman had it right, dammit, but her words get too often twisted. She never denied love—only the institution of marriage. And Shakespeare had it right as well, and I shout
let not the marriage of true minds admit impediments
! Okay, so Emma was right when she asserted that if love continues in married life, it does so in spite of and not because of marriage. I think I have the hang of love and I admit to wanting to conquer marriage too. So go to hell, Emma, I’ll manage. This is about
, outside of all received wisdom.
I’ve run out of things to say. Every conversation feels like a rerun. All of you hand me topics like they’re gifts and I should be thrilled with them. But they’re just the same old shiny apples and I’m tired of polishing them. You think you want to have a baby? Fine. Go do it. You think you ought to go back to school? Then go. You hate getting older? Me too. Next topic, please. You never felt so in love or so hurt before? You and everybody else at one time or another. Let’s just shut the fuck up.
Is it that I feel partly responsible for your misery or is it that I just want it to go away? I can’t tell. Without stopping to worry too much about my own agenda I know this much: I wish this didn’t happen to you. I wish life weren’t so crappy and ridiculous and stupid. I wish it were possible to fix things and keep them fixed. I wish it were reasonable to think we could achieve perfect happiness and then keep it. I know better than that. Stupidly I keep wishing it anyway. Let’s all give it a rest.
An atheist using a word like grace is odd, I know. But those words
state of grace
have always resonated for me. I have often reached for religious words when thinking about love. Love is an affirmation. Love is sanctuary. Love is a revelation and an epiphany, appearing when you least expect it and never when you demand it. Love is a state of grace. Like faith, love does not depend on reciprocity. Like faith, love is a promise and a pact. Like faith, love does not always reward. Love is jealous and terrible. Love is grace. It simply is.
She saw with horror that she had become a marginalized body. That she was reduced, annexed, to the reflection she saw daily in his behavior towards her. She was merely something incidental from which he drew power. The more he achieved the less she signified. She jealously began to protect what little authority she had—matters concerning the children or decisions about what color the bathroom should be repainted or whether or not they needed a new car. She became a domestic terrorist, a pathetic little micro-nation, and all achievements were the outcome of explosions and threats. Finally she defected.
Make fun of me if you want, but the only thing to be proud of in life is love. In the end there is only the ability to love, the willingness to love, and the constant courage required to love. Above all, love is no small thing. Love is neither unthinking nor blind, though many other things are. It’s not simple and it’s not easy. I believe in very little, but I do believe in this: love (and its sinister opposite) is the only power we ever truly grasp. And of the two only the former seems worth the effort.
Dream: opening my mouth to speak and finding it full of ashes; trapped in the dark, no oxygen; being lowered into a cave, unnatural passages of concrete chunks, glass and steel; swimming in the air, lifeline a cable attached to a crane; collecting the bones.
The bones: when I took Anatomy and Physiology I could identify every major bone blind-folded. In my dream I still can, running my hands over the vertebrae and sacrum, naming each cranial bone, the obvious humerus, ulna, radius, and the more difficult twenty-seven bones of the hand. There are 206 bones in the human body.
It’s 11:00PM here and nearly dawn there. I like thinking of you asleep in your quiet flat, in your quiet room. I know if I could ask you now you’d say you aren’t sleeping well, but I like to imagine it anyway. For all of your dreams and your disturbed awakenings you’re really a very quiet bedmate. You never seem to toss and turn, you seldom snore, and whenever I wake you are there—quiet, still, breathing softly in my night. So I am here and I will close my eyes and imagine you sleeping. And then I will sleep.
Okay, so I think answering your email is a bad idea. I mean I’m on my third attempt and the harder I try for dignity the more and more defensive and snide becomes my tone. I know about these email wars. They’re always a bad idea. I figure your mood is nonspecific and not to be taken personally, so I’m going to be impressively mature and call you and apologize. You’re my sister so we’ll laugh and pick it apart and then let it go. Then we’ll move on to other topics. You’re my sister. That’s how we do it.
This is supposed to be the shortest month of the year. So why has it been so damned long? And why doesn’t it rain? And what’s with the flowers and the bears waking up? And who is the idiot with the car alarm going outside my window? Would someone please throw a brick through the windshield and give that effing car something to really honk about? Why am I sitting here with my eyes aching and my head hurting? I’ve never liked the month of February, who would? What idiot would like an inconsistent half-assed month that pretends to spring?
Signs of intelligent life: someone is painting a mural on the wall across the street. I wish I could take the evident effort and enthusiasm and make my life a mural I’d like to live in. Actually, just my apartment would do for a start. Maybe I should indulge in a little
. I could sit and gaze into the painted perceived rooms I haven’t got. Or out false windows onto landscapes I’ve never visited or ones I’ve lost. I don’t know. It’s definitely activity down there. But is it intelligent life or just another artifact? I can’t tell.
The Tip Jar