REPORT A PROBLEM
After finishing my book, having been compelled to read the end in one great rush of words from before the trial through the final words, i realized i must have faked reading
To Kill a Mockingbird
when i was in school. This was also the case with
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
, which i recently reread in the form of a beautifully pastelled graphic novel.
School was mostly like that for me: a lot of faking to cover the real lessons learned in secret. Deep down kinds of lessons, the sort you learn when you are young.
There are things i know i will do in my life, not big things, just certainties.
I will miss friends terribly.
I will bake cookies without intending to eat them.
I will age and die.
These are things so certain that i draw comfort from them.
I always thought i wouldnít grow up. Or worse, that i had already done so. Now, in the face of having to make the decision to actually get on with it, now that i have to man-up and take responsibility, i can see just how little there is of which to be certain.
I am in my thirties, single, child-free.
I thought i would never want children, never. I looked down my nose at girls who were surprised by pregnancy, shocked that drunken escapades could end in babies. I joked about selling my fully functioning uterus to the highest bidder.
Now i think of Girlís thoughtful eyes, or Boyís odd, lispy voice and iím sort of sad about the way my life has gone. The sort of sad you get used to but definitely get over.
Then i buy one goddamned package of fucking adorable gerber onesies for Charlie.
Stupid biological imperative.
Along comes thanksgiving. Sixteen days.
I still donít know if anyone's coming in, Laura canít seem to remember her name from one day to the next, let alone the holidays, which she hates, and i miss my mom.
Oh, my mom. Sheís farther away now than before it seems. There are two-thousand three-hundred and sixty miles between us. There have been for months now. So why is it that i feel ten times that many separate us now?
Itís the holidays i guess, same old story.
I like this time of year, i do, but still thereís this.
Hair washed, teeth brushed. Fed and warm.
I smell good and feel good and iím still bucking against the idea of having to get up tomorrow. Iím not depressed or malnourished or afflicted with a rare sleeping sickness. I thought briefly that i had that disorder where your joints ache and youíre tired all the time, but now i think noóiím just lazy.
I may need a ďrealĒ job to wake up for.
Donít they say that retirees die sooner than people who still have a job to do? And lessons learned in Tarantino movies are always right, right?
The first annual caucus regarding ďshould i go back to schoolĒ is meeting shortly.
On the schedule for intense, heated, (
yet ultimately pointless
), discussion: time i could be playing spiderman being used instead for studying. Also: recreational reading vs. enforced reading or, why in the world would i read the faery queen when i could be rereading harry potter. Lastly: F*** me! was college always this expensive? and Why i hate the M.L.A Handbook and always will.
While none of us expect to come to any resolution, weíre still going to overanalyze this until it makes everyone sick.
It seems impossible that there was ever a time when i wished for distance. Was i ever so keen to be alone? But i was a little sister, a loner and what psychologists called, ďdissociative,Ē so i must have sought out separation. I remember the time my aunt and cousins, (
and her horrible, shark-grinned husband
), came to live with us. I hated them and resented them taking my room. It seems impossible, but there it is; a mental picture of me hiding in the backyard, past the thorny, wild rosebushes, wishing the rest of them would just stop being.
Thereís a cold in here that seems to have moved inside my body. I shiver and canít warm up. I have a two-inch-thick feather comforter and canít get warm. Two more blankets, another sheet and a pair of very unflattering thermals, freezing.
So we huddle, me and my cat, under the covers. Sheís puffy and purring loud enough to raise the temperature by three degrees. Iím curled in impossible positions, jack-knifed, tucked, twisted. At one point i think my feet are actually frozen and think the word, ďamputateĒ and then ďhypothermiaĒ.
Itís cold and i canít sleep.
A few things i considered today:
You know what word i like?
These tooth whitening strips taste like evil.
I miss my mom.
God! I hate failing.
I can be such a jealous idiot.
I fear i have let unimportant things interfere.
Aww, my brother.
I do not love potato chips. I like them just fine but itís not love.
My housemate is such a colossal jerk.
If i am letting unimportant things interfere, and they are taking a terrible toll on my life, then they have become important by nature of being in my way.
Susan is dead.
This time last year my house was filled with preparations. I had piles of food, a dozen recipes, placemats, hors díoeuvres even. It was cold but not terrible and the snow had popped in for a quick tease before disappearing behind a stretch of winter haze. Salt Lake in November. I was already planning my escape.
I didnít even know it then. I was just making lists and watching lawrence welk. I donít know when it started really, my leaving. Probably right around when i began to feel like i would be missed.
Iím like that, generally.
Most people are.
I grew up around the corner from a cemetery. It wasnít very scary or even particularly haunted. Sure, i wouldnít walk past it at night, (
preferring to cross to the south side of southern
), only because scary movies taught me not to walk past a wide, endlessly dark park while alone and potentially scared. Occasionally i would spook and get the willies but i do that now when i pass the darkroom at home.
The cemetery was peaceful, mostly. All those people laying quietly, and grass. A cool, tree-shaded lawn in the middle of all that barren arizona clay.
Itís that time of night where late is turning into early. That in-between time. I am dizzy and tired but still wired into today. I am eternally ambivalent about this time of night. This is when sick things finally let go and die. This is when the internal darks start to take over. This is the answer to questions posed by dusk. When i was crazyówhen i am crazy, (
because denying it encourages it to anger and dominance
), this is the time when it begins to take over. This is when i feel it trying to come back.
I understand that, as social creatures, we are driven to group in order to survive. I understand that generally those groups fare better than loners, who are seen as potentially dangerous variables in the eyes of the societal whole. I get all that. But why does this mean i have to depend on someone elseís moods to dictate if thereís an inch-thick sludge of cold, congealed egg, five-times-cooked macaronis and stinking, unidentifiable whatever in my kitchen sink? This canít be better. Iím not increasing my odds for survival; Iím increasing my odds for vomiting until i die.
I thought i was over what happened and, mostly, i am.
I thought i would never think about you again. But here we are.
Sometimes i do think of you.
You left ugly, hidden bruises. You berated me. You even tried to push me off a roof and you were always so drunk that you donít even really remember what you did. What you did to me.
You made me into one of
Then you wrote me a few more apology emails and because i donít want to be your friend, iím immature and horrible?
Youíre a jerk.
Did this really happen? It doesnít seem real.
I remember a beach and fog.
Lights from some distant celebration filter through the heavy air and appear as little glittering clouds. We are here after hours, after the parkóknottís berry farm, i think. Itís dark and almost cold; we brought the blanket from your auntís couch. Itís thick and not soft.
This is California.
You had the Rand conference and i went with you, dancing at the farewell banquet when you secretly requested
lady in red
. It was cheesy but i liked it, liked the way everyone looked at us.
Have i mentioned lately that i like this city
? A few hours ago i was walking down chestnut, around twentieth; it was past four and the sun was setting. The amtrak building was cloudy, angular and reflecting the kind of blue sky iíve only ever experienced here. Idyllic blue. A perfect blue. The kind of skies you run away from home for. Philadelphia on a bad day is still a beautiful old dame. Shining and cool, with big history on every corner, a place to call my ownóand iím still amazed, shocked that i actually live here.
When i was younger, we had feral kittens in our yard.
One morning my mom was late for work and i was late to catch the busóthere was a fair amount of chaos. The radio was playing some song iíve since forgotten, my cereal was poured and forgotten. I was maybe fifteen? Sixteen?
There was this terrible sound. A horrible, terrible sound came from the carport which iíve never heard again. Abrupt and mean. Even though the tire went right through its spine, the kitten was still alive, begging for something, suddenly tame.
Thatís a thing you donít forget.
I waste time. Itís my least favorite thing about me. In surveys where they ask,
if you could change something about yourselfÖ
Focus. I just get so distracted. If i believed in offsetting blame iíd point to my chemically maladjusted brains but i donít.
Itís the phenomenon of the orange:
I see an orange. I think of the tree. The man who picked the orange. An old blue pickup. His family. Kids. A toy in dirt. Bare feet. Cacti. Weíre in Mexico. Iíve never been to Mexico. Riots. Privilege. CalderonÖ
To infinity. A million of these continuing in all directions.
Itís my first time going from home to new york two hours away. And, oh. I had forgotten it. I had forgotten this feeling. How could i forget new york?
Thereís a first time for everything.
A loud woman flagged this bus. Once on, she began shouting and sounding drunk; i immediately played possum. Body relaxed, slouched across two seats, eyes closed. Then i realized she was just really upset and heavily accented. Shouting about her Ďandbok and her Ďusben.
That made me feel a little bad about my snap assessment, but not bad enough to sit next to her.
I ordered a roommate from craigslist in october. Sears arrived a week late , snotty, reeking of debt, with his sweater on inside-out and backwards. He had this horrible, peeling-face grin and three suitcases full of porn, cigarette smoke and pencil-thin jeans. He tricked on my sofa, (this was the whorehouse in Utah), and peed on codyís couch on Thanksgiving. He drank like an asshole and was probably on meth. When he disappeared at Christmas i wasnít surprised by his leaving, nor eager to get him back.
Heís still the only police report iíve ever had to file.
The reality of time fascinates me. Itís something iíve never understood, something iíve always been outside of in one way or another.
I was sitting on a bed, early morning in boston, listening to
. It was a certain time in a certain place in the world. (
I am in a life suspended, a place i used to live.
) The air a bit warm, the clock read nine-whatever. I closed my eyes and my head spun, swung out of that place and higher. I was hours away, lifetimes, and also immediate.
always does that to me, amazement. Awe.
This holiday makes sense to me. So many of the others just donít. (
My birthday makes sense to me too but thatís not something iíve been able to convince the world to celebrate with true vigor.
) Nationwide easter in an officially non-religious nation. What?
But a table of pies to celebrate being alive? Rather, many foods to celebrate being alive, that i get. I know about the native caretakers being raped and pillaged, and it sucks, to be sure but the reality of history plays little part in most holidays anyway (
look at christmas,
) and i really like cooking.
Someone looks at youó you think there must be a reason. Walk down a street and some guy is staring you right in the eye, is it odd to think that might be personal? But it probably isnít.
Even knowing that, i canít help but think this girl across the aisle from me (back on the bus, back home), sees something i donít. Do i have something stuck to my face? Am i too ugly? Am i familiar?
Sheís probably just looking at the miles slipping by outside the window behind me; passing the time by looking through my face.
Activity is such good kinetic memory enhancement. Itís so easy to forget to do something if iím doing nothing. I have this big laundry list of things to get done. I have swaps to finish, clothes to throw away (
winter cleaningó coats take up a lot of room in my foot-deep closet; welcome to city living
), christmas preparation. I have to write many letters, hey, wasnít i writing a book? and talk on the phone for several hours every few days. One hundred words every day. Re-learn basic math, call my mom, watch transformers. Ah, the privileged life.
I was on campus walking towards the memorial union, near the palm trees. There was sidewalk, a building pulling steadily nearer. Grass on either side. It was warm, almost summer in tempe.
There was a shimmering going over the world, like oil ready for frying tortillas. Shimmering with a hot kind of readinessó shades of gouramis and tiny fancy fish scales tied to trees with strings. There was a rushing sound, the kind you think will never stop. I was dazed, captivated. I was slain by it: the absolute, shocking gorgeous gleam the world suddenly shone under. I was doomed.
Sometimes i am incredibly stupid. Beyond printing a typo into a resume, beyond a spoonerism or miscalculation. Sometimes i forget how old i am. Sometimes i forget perfectly well-known friendsí names. Sometimes i play facebook online instead of posting my hundred words, forgetting that someone let the comcast get turned off at home. Sometimes i do stupid things like that.
I have no utilities in my name here because every month i watch laura pull teeth in order to get the rent, gas, and electric out of the housemates. Staying clear of it was one of my wiser decisions.
A week ago i was in boston. There was a mist all over and i felt at home. (
I liked boston but the home feeling was cody.
) Itís clean there, the sense of the place is just clean. upstanding and ordered.
The water is close enough to rely on, like mountains out west. Like a new magnetic north. Because i know itís there, i want it. I want to walk on the atlantic, just one small inlet or bay or harbor from the ocean. A place where the world is quiet, even while the waves are roaring at the devil.
I was raised within the pop cult.
I quote Simpsons with deadpan so practiced, so innate; I reference fifty television shows, movies and books daily. My childhood was a lateral view of america through the eyes of a million acerbic writers, poets, rabble-rousers. I heard about that other stuff, Rockwellian values, but not as realism. Those were fairy tales, like news reports of vast riots and murders iíd never met.
Is it any wonder that pop culture is its own language? Weíre bilingual, people like me. We speak Old American and Pop-Adaptation. Like computer language but practically comprehensible.
There is a certain sexiness about winter. Everyone is all tucked into their clothes and wrapped in layer after layer. Thereís something sensual in having a visual reminder of how much anticipation lies between you and the body of the girl across the aisle on the bus or the guy you just brushed wide, wool shoulders with in the street.
I always look my best in winter. It has something to do with the sense of power i must feel to make me stand so tall in my warmest coat and how the chill air allows for loose, wild hair.
Christmas keeps turning on me. Last year i didnít feel anything, i faked it and did a pretty good job. The great thing about christmas is that the veil between fake and real is much thinner. Everyone is faking something. Even if itís the bah-humbugs.
This year i am ambivalent. Iím separated from everyone i want for christmas. Having an open door with cinnamon and chili smells pouring out of it, cody walking in, thatís christmas. Here i have Crazy, Absent and Awful running around spraying my tinsel tree with cigarette smoke and vitriol. Not christmas, not even close.
The Tip Jar