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In the mirror I see youth obscured beneath shadows and lines, like beams sunlight escaping through rotting slats onto the hay strewn floor of an old barn. Growing up, my brothers told me the story of Bloody Mary (who, of course, shared my birthday). They said you could invoke her evil spirit by looking in the mirror and repeating her name. Fearing my mouth might accidentally form the words, I would run by mirrors to eliminate any possibility of bringing her to life. I wonder, had I stopped call her name, would I have seen the woman I see now.
My finger convulses onto the forward button of the cd player as we cruise towards Vegas. My finger is the beak of a tic-tac-toe playing chicken, bobbing for feed, that I saw when I visited an Amish village as a teenager. I am Sally Field in “Sybil” as I frantically switch from disco songs to country twangs, giving each song an enthusiastic interpretation. I look at the patient beauty in the driver’s, as in control of the wheel as I am out of control of my boredom. Yin and Yang, sailing down the 15 to spin the wheel of fortune.
Bells, kachings, bodies, green velvet tables, lights, girls-girls-girls, one-armed bandits, shrimp cocktails, cocktail waitresses… eyes filled with hope, desperation, greed, and smoke. My eyes are on my past and my future, as we all crowd into our Circus Circus room with two queens (who sleep in one of the queens). My best friends meet the girl of my dreams for the first time, as she gazes on the faces brought to life that she has seen frozen in a hundred pictures. This room is filled with all that I was, am, and hope to be. My jackpot is right here.
She has the fever; I can see it in her eyes – behind them. She doesn’t want to close her eyes knowing a fortune waiting have itself spun out by wild cherries, patriotic 7’s, and double diamonds. The clunker lying in the bed next to her has dished out too much in walking, buffet eating, and too-old-for-this-shit fatigue that the shining chrome, smooth wheels, whoops, and bells on the casino floor offer her more excitement than my old bones could hope to deliver. I wish I had more to give her now. I look to a filled Krispy Kreme for inspiration.
Each day, I write in my at-a-glance daily calendar where I go, what I eat, how I feel physically. Every once so often, I go back to see what I did on random days. Bad traffic on the 1st; red velvet cake and Howell Mountain Zin at e’s on the 21st; most mornings – cbtl (coffee bean and tea leaf). Occasionally, my penmanship renders an entry illegible. “Mausee?” “Maupin?” What in the Hell did I write? What did I do? Instead of this sloppy puzzle of a word upsetting me, it comforts me. I like still being a mystery to myself.
Driving home on the 101. Tonight, I don’t want the top 40, country twangs, or the sophisticated chatter of KCRW. I turn off the radio and listen. Roja, as my girlfriend named my car, fluctuates between kitten purrs and irritable chugs. Other than her rhythms, I hear only my thoughts. The 101 is an overture of life that dances itself into a swift, merry waltz, and, just when you’re on a roll, it slams on the brakes and plays a melancholy hum to signal you’re stuck in a rut. I realize I suck as an existentialist and turn on STAR.
Today is one of those “off” days. I’m off my game, pissed off, off of the mark, turned off. When coffee bean’s line deterred me, I opted for Peets’ black tea and cranberry muffin. I grabbed my bag and hit the road. A mile away, I felt betrayed. When I discovered, dread of all dread, a BLUEBERRY muffin. I angrily flipped Roja around, cussed my way through traffic, and stormed through the door of Peets to pronounce them sinners. As I waited to spout my hatred, I chubby-faced toddler smiled at me. My rage is defeated by a toothless smile.
My sister sends frequent packages from back home. When my one rate box with a tracking sticker (to satisfy her paranoia) arrives, its always covered with piles of packing tape she uses to protect my treasures. Inside are dvd’s she burns, cd’s filled with hundreds of photos of my nieces with rare spottings of my sister –Bigfoot among the trees. She fills the empty space with snack-sized cereal boxes, rolls of paper towel, jello boxes. These items are artifacts of her life. She is trapped inside her domesticity waiting for someone to cut through the layers that seal her away.
Why am I so fascinated with TAPS? Manly men traipsing around in the dark to find evidence of the paranormal. Plumbers by day, ghost hunters by night! Often, they find nothing. This lack of evidence only makes it more profound when they capture shadows or voices on tape. Why am I so thrilled about average Joe’s sacrificing their lives for things that go bump in the night? TAPS members were so moved by a ghostly encounter, they made finding ghosts their life’s mission. Maybe I’m scanning the darkness hoping a shadow might ignite that same sort of passion in me.
My heart is a folk-art painting filled with ducks and horses, school books and diplomas, a home canopied by dark clouds and imaginary spaceships, churches and cemeteries, sweet and sinister smiles on the faces of the townsfolk, a little girl with deep scars and open wounds and tears and tears and tears. Slowly, your love is painting over it, reshaping the story the teller is compelled to recollect. The darkness of the landscape fades into the distance as the foreground takes over. Tears melt away on sun-kissed cheeks; scars connect to form an open rose that I give to you.
As evolved as we’ve become, many like to deny the simple truth: we are all animals, plain and simple. Admit it. I am an animal; I hunger – I feed; I lust – I breed; I hurt – I protect myself. We can choose when we want to let our animal run wild. Saturday night: pop a cork on a jammy Zin, throw in some porn, and bring out the arsenal of toys. We are sweaty, hungry, thirsty, visceral, raunchy, dirty, and downright bestial. We claw, feast, pump and grind, so our animal can sleep and let us go about our daily lives.
This morning, he asked my name. At least three mornings a week, I walk through the glass door, stand in line, and ask for a large apricot Ceylon and an English scone. Today, he wants to know my name. When I tell him, he swears he’ll remember it. Immediately, I make excuses for him, “I know you have so many names to remember, so it’s okay if you forget and just think of me as ‘the Scone Lady.’” With all of the things that I am in my life, in the Coffee Bean, I’m happy with being the Scone Lady.
Normally, I’m an upbeat gal – chipper, enthusiastic – I’m freakin’ Pollyanna with moonbeams and butterflies shooting out of my ass. Today, not only do I bear no resemblance to “me,” but I despise that girl. Laughter hurts my ears; guffaws are guttural explosions like drunken drive heaves. Why is my foul little mood epic when others have bad days on a regular basis? Perhaps, if you taste lemons every day, your mouth grows accustomed to their bitterness. Long ago, my tongue developed a craving for the sweetness and simplicity of the ordinary. Maybe that is why today tastes so extraordinarily ugly.
A friend of mine has been in a relationship for 20 years. When he was in control of their relationship, it was smooth sailing. At 40, she is discovering her own mind, her own body, and her own opinions. Her independence has put her husband into a tailspin. He made her a child ruled by a strict, loving father. Now, she rebels like a teenager, pushing his buttons. She wants to push him until he makes her go, because she is too afraid to leave on her own. Still, he is in control; she can’t leave unless he makes her.
I want to lie in bed with you all day. I want to lie in bed with you, arms entangled, cheeks, lips, flesh pressed. I want to feel your breath make my lungs inhale. I want to hold you in the warmth of our embrace until we shrivel to nothing. I want to sleep and wake with you until there is nothing left of us. I want to make love with you until we are dry, nothing but bones and teeth and hair. I want to stay under our cocoon of blankets until we emerge as one beautiful metamorphosized creature.
How can she love me? Phospho-soda rips through me. I am not pretty. She gathers me and my rolling gut and drives me to St. Joe’s. When the admission girl asks, as my emergency contact, her relationship, she says, “friend.” My eyes pop out of my skull. Is that what she wants to say or thinks is safe to say? I’m just glad she is here. They won’t let her go in with me. Fuckers! When I wake, I insist and insist. Finally, there’s the face I want to see. There is the face I want to see everyday, forever.
She constantly feels my forehead and, when she does comment, she generally offers a concerned “Hmph.” I tell her I know that it’s warm and to stop checking. She can’t help herself, she insists. She knows I would never leave her by choice; therefore, my sweetheart’s imagination, I’m sure, runs wild with a thousand diseases that will take me away from her. Her heart loves like no other I’ve seen – bravely and without judgment. It feels and hurts so deeply, the thought of losing me is tantamount to typhoons or nuclear holocaust. I am hers, so she watches over me.
For 12 years, a brash, brilliant redhead has been my best friend. Eight years my junior, I fancy that I watched her grow into herself. At the same time, she helped me to discover, not just who I am, but who I want to be in my finest dreams. Now, she’s a wife and mother. There’s a part of me that admires her capable grown-up side, and another part that fears it. Will her Midwestern, nuclear family life smother the devilish, fun-loving child I know dwells within her? Will I look into her eyes and stop recognizing who she was?
Turning 40 involves several rights of passage: black balloons, “over-the-hill” cards, and self-reflection. Milestones provide opportunities to take stock of ourselves. Flipping through my “this is your life” slideshow, I realized my imagination is my saving grace. Growing up, it transported me from a rough home life into a spaceship filled with alien creatures with dozens of loving arms. Now, when someone upsets me, I picture karma making them suffer for their transgressions. In my head, the innocent are safe, goodness is rewarded, and all wrongs are righted. My superhero power is imagination. With it, I will conquer the world.
Chronic pelvic pain? Enlarge your penis! Hoodia! Find the Christian Girl of Your Dreams! Does spam really work? Does anyone ever answer these ridiculous e-mails hawking a plethora of whorish wares? Maybe they send it just to sell spam blocking software to those of us who are fed up. Growing up, Spam was a happy thing – a canned, processed meat product with a layer of indiscernible jelly on top that sloshed out of the can with a “smack” into your frying pan. Some days, I wish Spam were made from spammers that I could stick between two slices of bread.
On sunny days, I feel close to God. I thank Him for the warmth of the day and this incredible world filled with beauty and love. On cloudy days, I feel as if He is hiding from me, or – maybe – I’m hiding from Him. Clouds, for me, are filled with doubt, raining questions that I don’t want asked or answered onto my face. I like to think that God’s light is inside of me and can shine from the Earth to the clouds without the aid of the sun. If He is there, why does the rain extinguish my flame?
If I ruled the world, I would make world peace a priority. I’d have leaders in the Middle East dress in those big fat sumo wrestling suits and duke it out, or I’d make them jello wrestle; I’m not sure. If I ruled the world, I’d make food manufacturers send a percentage of their product to the hungry to line bellies with nourishment instead of annual reports with profit. If I ruled the world, I’d pass a world-wide law that everyone must blow bubbles for 5 minutes at the same time every day. Think of what that would look like.
When I approached my usual left, there he was. When he recognized me, he smiled and wiggled out a little “happy dance.” I rolled down my window. “You always come when I need you most,” he chirped and flashed his jack-o-lantern grin, making his old worn shoe of a face crinkle upwards, before he reached his petrified hand into my car to shake. I shake his hand and fill it with singles. I think to myself, “You’re not my friend; you’re the guy I give money to on the corner.” To him, I am his long lost friend, lady luck.
The older I get, the more comfortable I feel in my own skin. I sport my flesh and bones like a well-worn shoe. Ten years ago, I would pinch every ½ inch, count every calorie, and tone every curve. Perhaps I’ve made peace with my middle-aged mass, because my priorities have changed. Now, as long as my body parts work and fit in my clothing, it’s all good. Perhaps I’ve made peace with my middle-aged mass, because my priorities have changed. I am so thankful that when my love gazes at my less-than-perfect form, she makes me feel like goddess.
Sporadically, I coach college forensics aka “the speech team” for a local junior college. It’s a crazy activity. College students (aka straight girls and flamingly gay boys) dress in their finest, carry little black books, and perform grand dramas and innovated speeches at the front of a classroom. Hours of work, heartache, and sacrifice go into each 8 – 10 minute event all for the glimmer of hope that they may get an “out round.” I know that, for some, it’s their only chance to shine they will ever have in their lives. That makes me infinitely happy and profoundly sorrowful.
She brought me Tiramisu, and it made smile. When the cancer took half of my brother’s jaw and left, in its stead, a nexus of raw nerve endings and bacterial infection, he could eat very few things that weren’t baby food bland and made safe for passage by a blender’s claws. We dined (as most Midwesterners do) at the Olive Garden. When my Tiramisu came, he scoffed at my fancy dessert. After I convinced him to try it, he ate every drop of mascarpone cream he could scrape off the plate, his hunger for pleasure over pain broke my heart
Sunshine and the crispiness of a Spring morning give way to a storm of dust and dirt and tossed away receipts and random trash. As I watch out the 20th floor window, I try to identify the objects d’air that fly by with the speed of tiny fighter pilots. Instead of gently sailing through a fairy’s dance like the grocery bag captured gracefully in “American Beauty,” a white plastic sack streams by doing its best swooping falcon impersonation. Sirens wail in the distance. A tempest brews outside; I feel winds of change trying to reach me through the thick plexiglass.
I’m wearing her underwear and her sweater. Sitting in my task chair in front of my monitor, complete with privacy screen, I’m wrapped in pieces of her. As I look into the faces of my co-workers and discuss who is will be kicked off of “Idol,” how terrible Sangina’s hair looked, and how Melinda rules the world, I know that they can’t see my secret. My clothing hides her shimmery purple bikini cut undergarment the way my privacy screen hides the 100 words I’m typing. I feel like a secret agent with a cryptic code embedded in my every word.
She worries about me cleaning on my one day off this week (since I didn’t get any days off last week). Clearing out the downstairs closet won’t be work, I insist. It’s one of the many projects I have to do before she moves into the two bedroom we will call our home. “I’ll be nesting.” I love the idea of crafting a nest for us. Hours will be spent reorganizing, garage-sale hosting, and just tossing away old pieces of my former days. I want to clean and purge to make room for her, make room for our new li
We took a trip to the roof of our 39 story office building in downtown LA (a perk of owning the building), snaked our way north on the rooftop, and set our eyes towards the gigantic white letters than have seduced millions. Behind the Hollywood landmark, stretching for miles, was a huge wall of smoke. Above it, the sky was turned into a dirty butterscotch hand reaching towards us. I picture thousands of hopefuls who have conjured this very image. Is this what they saw when they gave up everything for a dream, and it all went up in smoke?
One more entry to end my first batch. When I finish, my words will be out there - exposed, permanent. Of all of the eyes that might gaze upon them, I worry only about two sparkling blue ones – her eyes. What will she think of my silly little thoughts? Will she think I’m clever, trite, vacuous? To be the kind of writer she is, the kind of writer that I hope to be, I have to be willing to lie naked and eviscerated, let my soul flow until it’s empty, and I can refill it again. Can I be that brave?
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