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When I was a kid, Labor Day weekend meant a huge cookout with lots of cousins and aunts and uncles in attendance. There would be lobsters and steamers and corn on the cob; my Dad and the uncles would gradually get drunk on Budweiser or Schlitz, my Mom and aunts shaking their heads in a disapproving knot; the older male cousins would organize a game of touch football, looking all hot and sexy, barechested and barefoot. I gravitated to my older sister and female cousins, with whom I felt most comfortable.
Now it's merely another long weekend, Party of One.
Our own inherent laziness as human beings often disallows complexities in others. We frequently make judgements and draw conclusions about our earth-bound brethren based solely upon their looks, or even their clothing. We are often blind to the human frailties in others, ignoring unspoken telegraphed signals, incoherent murmurs of unfulfilled desires and soul-healing needs. My attempt to always keep this in the forefront of my mind leaves me open to the accusation that I'm a bleeding-heart, or—worse still, since sometimes the most reprehensible can inspire empathy from me—almost pathologically lacking in conscience. I'm just trying to be fair.
I hosted an informal dinner party over the weekend with a group of people that consisted of a 50/50 mix of straights and gays. Although I was nervous, everything went off without a hitch; the food was good and the company was great.
Later in the evening we began playing a spirited game of Pictionary. There was lots of laughter and frantic artistic endeavors, but most of the hilarity centered around the words I had to draw. Everyone else got words like
; my selections included
. How the fuck does one draw
My childhood home was a wonderful old Victorian, with a magical staircase—or, more accurately, the staircase's first landing was magical. One would climb seven steps to the spacious landing, and then turn left to proceed to the second floor. I would sit transfixed on the first landing, my back against the wall, a round, stained-glassed window haloing above my head, and I would have visions of the future. Among the many outcomes I witnessed from my vantage point on the first landing was the figure of myself as a middle-aged man, burning alive in a car fire, melodiously shrieking.
I can almost hear David intoning soothingly, "Lighten. Lighten. Lighten." I'm in a mood tonight. One of my "dark spaces." A roaring rush in my ears. My chest cleaves. The tremor inside me pushes outward, against my ribcage, against my reason. It subordinates me. It conceals me. I have always wanted to be, if nothing else, meaningful. Tonight I am not. Tonight I am nothing more than blood and pus and phlegm and shit contained within a skin I cannot slough. Lighten. Lighten. Lighten. Lighten. Lighten. Lighten. Fucking LIGHTEN, for piss sakes!! Lighten. Lighten. Lighten. Thank Christ, I've reached 100.
Your nomenclature is Prick. Fuckstain is your sobriquet. To you I'm an innocuous good-natured fag. But here's fair warning—don't fuck with me. And especially don't fuck with my friends. There's a world of hurt waiting for you at the end of that rainbow. You're messing with the wrong person. I choose my battles carefully. And once chosen, I win. Keep it up, dickweed, and your tookey will be in a vice faster than you can lap pussy. Piss me off just a little more, twist my spirit into tight-gloved fists, and you'll find I'm neither innocuous nor good-natured. Assbag.
I'm in a funk, and no mistaking it. As much as I try not to take it out on those around me, I can't help but present this bleary-eyed shell of myself. People at work tell me I look pale. They ask me what's wrong. And that's when I know it's ShowTime. That's when I become sunny and "such a dear," as one coworker calls me. That's when, once more, I sublimate my pain and pretend that I'm over it. Over David's death. Over my Dad's death. Life should have returned to normal long ago. I agree.
But it hasn't.
I recently told someone that I had vowed I would stick to 100 Words until I felt I had said something of value, and then I would cash in my chips and hit the proverbial road. Baddah bing. But isn't that akin to the theory that suggests if you lock one hundred chimpanzees in a room with one hundred typewriters, eventually one of them will produce
? How much drivel do I need to expel before I've imparted "something of value?" And who in holy hell gives a flying fuck what I have to say, valuable or otherwise? I'm fucked.
If this spell of inclement moodiness continues, I may have to speak to my doctor about going back on the antidepressants. My brother organized an impromptu family dinner tonight ("impromptu" meaning we wouldn't be eating until about ten o'clock) but I just didn't feel up to it and declined to attend. I could see my sister and my mother exchanging silent but eloquent looks. When my brother started to give me a hard time about it, I went postal, belching forth a barrage of verbal magma and vituperative vitriol. In other words, I was a Bitch with a capital "B."
Bob, who had loved David dearly and was so wonderful to us when David was dying, was on board AA Flight 11 last year; I had spoken to him just three days prior. This approaching anniversary was at the source of my recent melancholia. It was bringing up feelings with which I didn't want to deal.
This morning I awoke in tears, and the floodgates broke. I sobbed and wailed and raged, Alone In OUR HOUSE, locked in a paroxysm of grief, of finality, for hours.
And, somehow, I managed to punch a hole in this cloud hanging over me.
The many voices of 100 Words makes for a diverse, eclectic little on-line community, but Jeff Koyen wraps his arms around it and gives it its class.
I was dreading this day, September 11, 2002. I didn't want to be told by the media how to commemorate the anniversary, but I didn't know exactly how I would go about it on my own. Then I logged on to 100 Words and my problem was solved, Koyen supplying the answer—allow the past voices of 100 Words.com to eloquently speak again. It's a dignified, honest, moving tribute.
Bravo Jeff, and thanks.
I notice my Mom is becoming increasingly fragile and forgetful. She often loses track of what she is saying, and she will look to me or my sister for prompting. She has also become very nostalgic, and will sit for hours, expelling a plethora of fibrous memories and cherished sorrows—cloud-like, vaporous moments from the wellspring of her personal experience library. The events she relates sometimes seem elaborately disjointed to me, but they are obviously connected for her on a deep, infinitely significant level; an intricate, criss-crossing web of threads that comprise the network of her eighty year old life.
The Cheethams were made of the stuff from which neighborhood legends are born. The widow Cheetham was a recluse, shutting herself off from the traumata of everyday living, and was cared for by her unmarried children, 52 year old Lucy and 49 year old Clyde. A believer in long walks, Mrs. Cheetham did not allow her cloistered way of life to preclude her from this activity. And so the neighborhood was treated to the daily spectacle of Lucy and Clyde escorting a rolling mannequin, resplendent in the widow's frocks, jewelry and wig, along the bumpy sidewalks for her effigial constitutional.
A lovely evening with David and Christine. We sat out on the deck and drank some wonderful dry white wine, noshing on nibblies like brie and cheddar cheese on crackers, grapes, and hot salsa with tortilla chips. We looked at photos of their recent trip to London, Paris and Normandy, on a magnificent evening embraced by the rolling green hills of rural Massachusetts, the soft air of a summer in graceful exit surrounding us in cool breezes and soft whispers. Crickets sounding. Bats flying above. My contentment gauge is set on a soft simmer, and I feel a shivery happiness.
I know when I've had enough to drink because I start to sneeze. About ninety-five times in a row. It's worse than being a slobbering drunk. I come from a long line of alcoholics, and booze is clearly poisonous to me. That's not to say I don't imbibe. But I've only been staggeringly drunk once in my life. I suffered a monumental hangover the next day, and have never repeated the experience because of my sneezing fits which occur just around the time I'm getting a buzz. I swear I'm sneezing out dead brain cells, like loose dandruff. Skull litter.
Someone asked me why was I still single; after all, David croaked six years ago. What was I waiting for? His resurrection?
Questions like that feel akin to chewing aluminum foil with a mouthful of fillings. It's a kind of rape, really. Crushed with a callused hand. It tastes cirrhotic and bile-ridden. It jumpstarts the tremors within, fuels them with it's acidic "meant-to-be-kind" mentality. A nasty nelly, I call it, a rabid kiss, a poisoned teacake.
I choose not to answer such questions, to acknowledge their indignity. I stared at him with expressionless eyes and stepped away from the dark.
Daybreak's a-comin', Sleepy Head. It is assembling itself aloft the Atlantic, in a patient, rhapsodic crawl. Time to put your noodle pillowside, and temporarily vacate this world for the one therein. But that world resists with unvanquished stubbornness.
Sleep should never be forced or controlled. There is no such thing as insomnia, not really. There is, more precisely, an inability to conform to The Regulated. If I didn't have to get up for work in the morning, the exact timing of my slide into the unconscious would cease to have meaning.
A very long night. An even longer day awaits.
I had reluctantly responded to another one of Jesse Helms' ‘urgent' phone calls summoning me AT ONCE to his place. Upon arrival, I stood aghast in his living room.
"Jesse," I stammered, unbelieving, "it looks like a dildo factory exploded in here!"
"If you can find the white one, you can shove it up your scrawny white ass and keep it," he giggled.
I was offended. "I do NOT have a scrawny ass! My husband Tom Cruise says my ass is full and voluptuous."
Jesse put his hands on his hips, exasperated. "You are
a little faggot," he remonstrated.
Jesse Helms II
"No really, Jesse, what's with the dildo parade?" I queried, squeamish yet admittedly impressed by the fantastic quantity and array.
"Well," Jesse drawled in confidential merriment, "I found out my boyfriend Vin Diesel simply LOVES The Beatles. So I'm trying to find the dildo John Lennon autographed for me during the
tour to present to Vinnie as a gift, and I need your help. So dig in and start looking!"
Wishing I had had a booster shot of penicillin—or at the very least a pair of rubber gloves—I reluctantly—
—began to search.
Jessie Helms III
It took hours, but we finally located the prized autographed dildo Jesse had sought. He lovingly wrapped his present to Vin Diesel in gift paper decorated with multiple renderings of a muscled, shaved-headed leather hunk spanking another bare-bottomed hunk over his knee (Jesse drew arrows labeled "You" towards the Top and "Me" towards the Bottom). He then unceremoniously shooed me out of his house.
A few days later I called Jesse to see how it went. "Don't ask!" he responded, his voice aquiver. "Just meet me at Anthony's for an egg cream and a cosmopolitan."
Away for the weekend in Gloucester MA, tra-la! A drive through the town's center and one can easily see the blue collar roots of this photogenic community. Some of the downtown buildings have been gentrified for the sake of the uppity, but this burb still belongs to the fishermen. And the seafood is the real reason to visit Gloucester—fresh shrimp and mussels and steamers and codfish cheeks and calamari to die for. And of cus, one can't visit Glosstah without samplin' one its fresh-caught lobstahs!
Last time here was with David, so it has been, predictably, a bittersweet return.
I have been in a relationship with a wonderful man I shall call V.D. At first everything was simply divine. The sex was incredible, and he courted me like a young Romeo, plying me with expensive dinners and lovely flowers and fancy dildos. Lately, however, he has become more distant. We have sex, and then we climb into the front seat, he immediately starts the car and drives me the two blocks back to my house. I think he might be losing interest in me, but I don't want to lose him. What should I do?
Dear Jesse Helms (who were you trying to kid? we ALL know you're "J.H."),
Take your head out of your gloryhole and smell the coffee. You need to get over your withering self. Vin Diesel (the "V.D." of your letter) is the newest up-and-coming hunk, destined for stardom. You? You're a shriveled old hag who has had so many men up inside you that you could host a large spelunking party, exploring your ancient anal cavity. Why would Mr. Diesel be permanently interested in THAT? Erect a sign on your wrinkled butt entitled "Bottom's Up" and sell tickets. REALLY cheap.
My sister and I took our mother to Gloucester MA this past weekend. For my Mom, it was as if we had flown her to Paris. She had a wonderful time. We stayed at a motel where the rooms were just barely passable, but, situated high on a hill overlooking the ocean, the view was spectacular. At night we would sit out on our patios — Mom with her Gibson, my sister with her Budweiser, and I with my Ginger Brandy — watching the full moon sparkle on the calm Atlantic, silvery and bright, each of us in our own private heaven.
I had to lay off my administrative assistant today. Worse yet, I was forced to attend a training class yesterday for the proper etiquette therein. It was a lesson in coprophagy: how to sanitize the words "you no longer have a job" and to do it in a way that will not reflect badly upon The Company. I was not to be engaged in ‘bargaining.' I was not to be emotional. Do it in ten minutes or less.
Fuck that. I cried along with her, and sat with her for almost an hour before she was ready to move on.
There are a fortunate few whose life seems one of quiet grace and dignity, who seem to float inside an existence of benevolent intelligence and silent peace. One of the casualties of yesterday's layoff is just such a person. Kris is an affable, soft-spoken, clear-eyed and clean-hearted guy who loves his wife and his dogs and the water, a person of honor and compassion. That such a wise old soul could fall victim to a questionable business decision forces me to believe there must be something wrong with the equation itself. How did Society evolve towards such a reckless path?
One of the worst aspects about being alone is not having someone to go home to after a stressful day (like today); someone with whom you can discuss the day's unsettling events, who will commiserate with you and hug you up tight, into the deep quiet of the night. Troubles don't melt away but they become decisively easier to deal with. Work was a miasmic mess, made worse by the loss of my assistant. On top of that, my Mom's recent mammogram looked awry, and she has to have some tissue biopsied.
(Sigh) I need a hug. Big time. Damn.
On a very special "Whispering Pines Valley …"
Kakkie (Emmy-winner Jeannette Flerba, pictured) is given the heartbreaking news that her infant son Thimble did not survive his ride in the clothes dryer, and she dons his last soiled diaper on her head in memoriam. Feeling slighted, Kakkie's older son Aspirin conjugates a verb, but is unable to gain her attention. Meanwhile, neighbor Quelba Boreson and attorney Truck Longstop's affair heats up a notch at the church pancake breakfast. And Roth miraculously regains his sight, and sees – for the very first time – his beloved Malfesia, disfiguring hump and all.
I watched an incredible gay film tonight called "Lilies." A bishop is summoned to hear the dying confession of a prison inmate, a man he knew in childhood. Once inside, the bishop is forced to watch the other prisoners reenact a forty year old tragedy, culminating in the inmate's imprisonment as a result of a monumental betrayal. This film has it all; love, passion, jealousy, and one man's Day of Reckoning. Straight movie-lovers should not be put off by the gay theme, nor by the all-male cast performing characters of both sexes. Brent Carter especially is quietly astonishing. Highly recommended.
"Is it the wind over my shoulder?
Is it the wind that I hear gently whispering,
'Are you alone there in the valley?'
No, not alone, for you walk,
You walk with me.
Is it the wind there, over my shoulder?
Is it your voice calling quietly?
Over the hilltop, down in the valley,
Never alone for you walk with me.
When evening falls and the day gets colder,
When shadows cover the road I am following,
Will I be alone, there in the darkness?
Never alone, you are walking,
You’re walking with me."
G’night David. Love ya’.
The Tip Jar