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wine & iron
Sunscreen, check. Tanning tank top, check. Layering on legs to avoid last year's lobster turnout, check. New beach umbrellas, check. Music, check.
We arrive at Half Moon Bay to an overcast sky and a walkman with dead batteries. Who needs a tan anyway? I hear pasty is in this year. The umbrellas were only $6; they'll get better use in later years (if we don't mind purple butterflies in mid-20's).
We make up for lack of music by continuing an ongoing obsession with early Madonna.
"Keep pushing my love… You just keep on pushing my love over the borderline (borderline)..."
"I have some good news for you," he said.
I knew it might deal with next summer. I figured Kaz had planned a trip to the States. He'd mentioned wanting to do that with a friend at some point, to hit some shitty US mountains that would pale in comparison to the monsters he's climbed.
"I'll be in Spain for the last two weeks of your trip abroad."
I'm elated in an instant. I see the dark hair of him, dark skin of him. I see countenances I haven't learned to interpret yet, not without the words.
I see poetry.
I find a city full of the air I would exhale in a self-contained room. There's nothing naked nor overdressed, just a place decorated with faces and art, need and leisure, a congress of funky sophistication and its antithesis.
I could retire in Berkeley. I could walk down Telegraph every Saturday for years. One of the scholarship foundation associates said she'd attended Berkeley and loved it. "But that was way back in the Woodstock days and I was… Nevermind, next order of business?"
Sue bought me a gorgeous garnet and hematite necklace. I think I saw my dream ring again.
We're packed into a civic plaza. Free entry and train transit. Not a single parent missed this fact – because for every person who showed up, there seemed to be a three child minimum. I never really saw the stage attractions, just walked by little shops and tent vendors with jewelry, purses, incense, patriotic blinking accessories, and even a guised scientology table.
The port-a-potties had disaster written all over them by the mile-long line. I can barely stomach the pile of bile below me, the vomit dripping down the walls.
But the fireworks are magnificent. I want to kiss someone deeply.
A week or two of text conversations, and now I'm waiting anxiously for a phone signal to connect two voices. Everything feels like a repetition of Michael – how we make our introductions, how I envision his height and hair and lanky limbs, and now the same weakness I hear in his voice.
But there's so much more freedom here, so much less dependence and nervous confessions. This time I'm not looking for a savior. This time I just want to laugh, to hear someone say goodnight, to be able to fall asleep feeling like a feather instead of a stone.
She walks up looking like a picture of business perfection – minus the hot pink pants. Hair parted, purse on the shoulder tucked into the body, a speedy bob in her step. She squeezes us in to the half-hour lunch break that comes in her full working day with the city council making summary briefs out of proposals.
All of her questions are matter-of-fact, formal – college, money, career and work, dates and figures. She'll work for the President someday. She'll post memos about democratic luncheons and keep using the word "colleague" in casual emails.
She will never, ever own a dildo.
I'm about to send a high-numbered farewell to Mountain View. We listened to Damien Rice on the way, and I wouldn't have imagined it otherwise.
We stood outside the airport in San Jose, Pete and Sue inside with my carry-on luggage. After she'd mentioned so many times the way that she'd seen you two here, you and Jason smoking a cigarette in the parking garage, I had to picture it. I ask where Jason stood or sat, where she remembered you.
So many times I've wanted to be everywhere you've been. I paced around, thinking I might've retraced your footsteps.
Coming home from California, I expected to find Raeann safe, strong, leaving Tony, her worst addiction. But it seems there were two; truth breaks through.
She's been using this whole time, a grab bag of meth paraphernalia revealed by Tony. He was trying to sign her death certificate with our parents, ensure that she would crawl to him, helpless, unable to leave him again.
But they offer her rebirth instead. She's curled up next to her son on a single bed, sleeping in a room where she was once a child, where she may always stay as a child, secure.
you're yogurt, some rotten curdled milk still found sweet and nutritious. i'm the spoon that just won't stick to your nose, no matter how many hot sighs echoed into my curve. you're the itch all down the neck and back after a haircut. i'm a fraudulent auction with valuable bidders and bids. you're warm faucet water that melts a cupful of ice to a few drifting cubes. i'm the button that is one loose thread away from falling onto a street unclaimed. you're the chord that never sounds quite right on my guitar. i'm the pen just out of ink.
Cheers, darlin'. Here's to an end and to a beginning, and for the eternity that seems to last in between. Cheers to your pain and cheers to the strain of speaking casually. My mouth is dry and parched. You store it all in the freezer – maybe us too, something to be thawed when anger subsides. But it never does, fingers always pointing with guilt-seeking resolve. I've accepted being at this end before.
Cheers, darlin'. Here's to how we keep ourselves inside zippers, mouths that must be moved to open.
I'm too tired to continue. Put the bottle back on ice.
Dad's sermon today left every pew soaked with tears. He felt driven to preach about depression, discouragement, hopelessness – with Raeann's return home, her approaching rehab.
He told a sanctuary of listeners about a time in his 20's, alcoholic and hurting for a life he was losing day by day, loading a gun and putting it to his temple. Alone, afraid, apologetic… he has another drink, accidentally firing a bullet into a basket of laundry.
We wake up the next day, clueless… until Mom dresses us in holey skirts and pants, swiss cheese t-shirts. But spared the holes in our hearts.
Two hours of sleep. Try to catch up on the ride to the airport. Mom cries when she says goodbye; I see sacrifice running rivers on her cheek. Have a cigarette for breakfast.
In and out of sleep on the plane, ten minute intervals. It makes for lucid dreams, makes me wonder if the entire flight is the dream instead.Layover in Seattle. Just enough money to get a whopper, a diet coke, and four pennies back for lunch. I keep looking around for Michael even though I know he can't meet me.
Giggle when I arrive, little sister again.
They took her in today. Chandler Valley Hope will be her home for the next thirty days, her rescue, her sanctuary. She'll reside among the users, addicts, derelicts, deviants – the ones we've been here and there, minus the labels.
She has to stop being a mother for awhile. She has to stop being anything but an honest woman facing her demons. Twelve steps and recovery – this must be at the forefront of her mind.
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me.
I can't believe I did it. Without wincing, without vomiting, without feeling that god-awful curling in the back of my throat from the texture of my food taking a mental turn.
I ate fish. I have partaken of the world of seafood that so long did me wrong.
Maybe it's because it's not even a day old, straight from Alaskan shores. Raul says it's difficult not to like red snapper. For me, however, it feels like an amazing feat to have swallowed such a thing – willingly, even – with an ounce of satisfaction.
I can't wait to move on to halibut.
Walked into downtown Eagle River. Probably eight miles altogether in sandals. Bought some cards and a beautiful dish (future ashtray) from Artworks Gallery, and a stack of used books from The Book Shelf. Ate at Chepo's (pronounced Cheap-o's in my head, to be apropos). On my way home, I passed by Easy St. and Lazy St. and Celestial Rd... I must belong.
There was a work party on base. I stayed in a corner the whole time, at least until Raul unsuccessfully tried to socialize me, at which point I silently shadowed him for a half hour, smiling when appropriate.
Someone died. We're marching in tribute, Thomas, me, a crowd, mini-flags flags raised, arms outstretched. Feels cult-ish. The sky is pale yellow, rolling green hills, fake like painted.
I arrive at a palace – columns, pillars, oversized furniture, harems and golden goblet feel to it all. Sheer beige material blowing in the breeze. I see three women: Carmen Electra and Gina Gershon in lingerie at a table; a 16-yr-old plain jane in a baby-tee, bottomless, sucking a lollipop.
Why are we here? Auditions, they say, for your pussy. Then nothing but flashes of these women's vaginas close-up in my mind.
Six-hour cruise touring the Kenai Fjords from Seward. Saw otters, paraffin, cormorants, sea lions, orcas, humpback whales, dolphins, the works. Saw the Aialik and Exit Glaciers too – my favorite part.
They're massive, a mile and half across or so. Not a snowy white like I'd imagined – but this beautiful pale blue, cotton-candied. Everything's so calm and serene as you near; then the crackling in the silence, a mini-avalanche, a sheet of ice riding the slope. Crashing at the surface of the ocean, it booms exactly like thunder, roaring and echoing… Then returns to silence until another edge heavies itself off.
Catholic churches seem silly. All the formalities - the standing, sitting, standing, kneeling, sitting, kneeling, standing, chaotic communion. The sermon was a minute detail of the service.
Hiked along Dew Mound trail of ERNC. Normally you're hiking to get to that one good spot with a nice view to take it all in. This was an endless gorgeous scene. Trees heavy with green, flowers and berries splashing it with color, logs creeping with moss, roots grabbing ground in tendrils. The trail goes by a lake of silence to teeming rapids. Rivers of silt - like b&w photos melted into liquid.
If I could speak decent Spanish, I'd be working in a Mexican restaurant… in Mexico. I want to be within hours of the border – close to family, but not gringotown. I want to make a famous margarita and serve plates from hand-painted trays. Off-the-shoulder shirts and black skirts with ribbons laced across some of the seams. A hammock nearby for downtime. Maracas during the birthday song. Fully learn to salsa so that I could be the one teaching another, dragging people up to dance. No make-up, just an even tan and a smile. Yeah, I'd definitely be there by now.
Three seconds. Four seconds. Six seconds. Six degrees of separation. What would happen if every action, reaction, movement, motion of mine was delayed by six seconds? How much of my life would be different – test scores changing my chances at college, the friends I've made, the partners I've had. Six seconds could've landed me in a car crash instead of safely through an intersection. Maybe my hair would be blue, I'd be fucked up on heroin, driving my ass to Portland. Maybe I'd be in a movie. Maybe I'd have killed myself. Maybe I'd have a child in my teens.
Grilled steaks, a glass of Estancia, and something soulful and bluesy playing on the radio. I could get used to this. The table in the dining room is centered on the window, overlooking their backyard; a small fenced-in plot of space, and then miles of trees and climbing mountains. Luscious green.
Directly below her peak, you can see the heart of the mountain – some natural etching of God's hands that put a furrow into her face – the trace of an almond shape or peach's pit within the inclined trees, her vertical eye watching over the valley of idyllic homes here.
I saw three kids riding bikes and eating popsicles simultaneously. I never did that, afraid to steer one-handed, horrified at the thought of no hands.
Maybe I'm afraid of motion. I know I like the still; I can survive there. Maybe I'm so afraid of things that could happen, no longer able to see what should happen if I allow it.
Beautiful, living… But on the boat, I envision the Titanic. In cars, I see blood. I find what I want - making lists of the ways it could never happen, what might go wrong, noting what I'll probably lose.
Raul got home from Seattle. We celebrated with scotch, pizza, and learning to play pinochle. The evening turned out a little harsher than I'd initially imagined though...
Keeping up with Raul's drinking – straight on the rocks – I got to the kind of drunk where emotions are in high gear and… I don't quite remember the path there after playing cards, but I ended up balling on the bed, Raul rubbing my back comfortingly. I know I talked about Raeann, our pasts, how I need her to be okay.
I woke up wondering how much of my heart I'd let loose.
Went to Val's welcome home party. Met everyone casually this time. They played volleyball outside; I couldn't help but laugh, realizing all these cocky suckers are living their Top Gun fantasy.
I got introduced to "jungle juice"... liked it too much. My vision doubled by the time we gathered inside for guitar and songs. Angela said I had a "pottymouth" and took a liking to Chris. Raul asked me if he'd be getting rumors and shit about me from everyone when he gets into work tomorrow. I couldn't tell him.
There certainly was a lot of jungle in that juice.
"You know when you microwave a hotdog for too long, and it bursts and splits down the middle? That's how your legs'll feel when we're done."
The summit… you're a tiny gnat in a massive creation; all the spilled milk, broken mirrors, dirty laundry seem futile, faint. Hiking past the peak was walking to the end of the world, the soul of loneliness, so far removed that I struggled to understand my existence, feeling truly human, a fingerprint of God's.
I wanted to write my fears/confessions on a boulder, send it down the slope forever, refuse Sisyphean faults.
At a concert in pajamas, separated with the homeless bums and mental derelicts instead of inside with the normal ones. We stampede in. I'm bouncing again, the ground a trampoline, until I bounce myself into a wall too high, knocked out.
Housesitting with my sister the next day, we are only the size of children. I nap and she disappears. I wake hungry, search for food, but the pantry is a series of shrinking doors. They rush me out; the house is diseased.
Mom asks if I was "trying to die again" when I flew and fell unconscious.
They're taking him. The possibility has always been there; the fear, however has always been latent because of the unlikelihood. But his card has been drawn.
They're taking him. They're shipping him off to that god awful desert, to that war torn sand pit, to a place of bombs and blood and death, to a place he does not belong.
They're taking him. He signed up for this. He volunteered. If there is any blood on his hands, his own or another's, I will have no well of forgiveness to draw from. Death and my anger and sadness will mingle.
Got dropped off in Eagle River today. Felt heavy even before breakfast, a club and a beer; bought a pack of smokes with leftover cash, hoping I'd never turn into the woman behind the counter, who somehow resembled a cigarette, if that's possible.
Walked home in the rain, cleaning the streaks from my glasses with my t-shirt over and over again. It bothers me trying to see through the liquid pockmarks, as though it's not hard enough trying to see through tears.
I listened to Either/Or the whole way home, three times on repeat. Rain and pain between the bars.
Ate sushi tonight, which I think I've had once but didn't necessarily have actual fish. I rather enjoyed it all – green tea, miso soup, gyoza, sushi rolls with salmon, tuna, crab, cream cheese, avocado, wasabi, ginger to clean the palate.
My first truly successful attempt with chopsticks – most likely because we weren't offered silverware. I thought, "How in the world can they serve soup without a spoon?!" and felt so foolishly American when I saw the people next to us sipping it from the bowl.
I honestly do want more moments to teach me what an uncultured asshole I am.
Early in the night as everyone got to the bar, he asked what kind of drunk I was. Angry? Friendly? Loud? Giggly? I said it depends on the company, the degree of inebriation. That night, as if to give us both a dose of what was asked, he sees some of the ugly.
Mental switch flipped: I'm ranting in incoherent mumbles about how I fucked things up, how I worry about what they're thinking, say there's no use explaining because none of it matters. I cry. He tells me I need a good night's sleep; I mistake it for insensitivity.
Hatcher's Pass. The night before, I bled my heart to Raul –my fears regarding my parents, people around me, my abilities, all the sadness that has kept me curled up and immobile, the barrel of mistakes I can't face or confess, that I'm incapable of being who I think I am.
He said I knew my own right answers; I just don't put them into action.
The whole way up the mountain, our talk tore me down. Paralyzed half-way, not knowing where to step next, he coached me up. I cried, back facing him, wishing to separate mind and body.
The Tip Jar