REPORT A PROBLEM
I saw him on the street. Through the graffiti etched window of the bus I rode. He saw me as well. I considered who could see who better, and if the other might get a false impression. The bus was suspended in time. Instead of looking away and avoiding eye contact as I normally would, I held his coal eyes in mine. I held his face with the hands of my memory. I held a conversation with him. It felt as if either one of us could have been an animal in a zoo, longing for the touch of freedom.
I’d had a corduroy childhood and there was no escaping it. Returning after 6 years overseas I sat in my parents chocolate brown over stuffed, house-museum of the previous four decades (including the one I was last for). Hopeless. It came back to me. I'd longed for another family then, I long for one now. Under inches of dust, the lacquered wood collection (clocks, barometers, souvenirs) displayed proudly in the lounge corner. I thought about Aziz who I met two weeks before. He had refugee status. I had to leave the country. He had no legs because of the war.
Mamma looked at me in disbelief. I was looking straight ahead, she was to my left. I could feel her looking at me; could tell what her expression meant. Out the corner of my eye was the look I’d been receiving for thirty years. Mamma didn't need to speak, her silence was loud enough. There would be words though, after she had effected her silence for long enough. "I canta believe dis Roberto! What am I supposed to do-a with dis- you tell mamma!" I didn't move. "who told you to puta de pears in a cassata? Tell me? Who?"
Im impressed by your learnedness, Im astounded by your dedication, Im moved by your outspokeness, Im embaressed by your sexual brevity, Im stunned by your verby wordiness, Your nerdyness, couragousness, alternativeness. Im changed by your genrousness, Im excited by your interestedness and your flirtaousness and your rawness, your ness. Im in debt to your helpfulness, Im awed by your dullessness, Im inepted by your ineptness, your flawlessness and your cuisiniality, your congeniality, your plus personality, and your non fraility. I am a man who is loved by your lovingness, peacefulality, carmfulanilty, you ality ness an your nessfullality. I am loved.
Then there was the secret. Secret's can eat you up inside. They sit just below the surface, like a cut finger. You forget mostly that it's there- but on some level you don't forget and as you are busying yourself with the other things that fill your day, and it reminds you. It jolts you right back to the place and time that you didn't want to be reminded of. Thats the thing with secrets. That was the thing with this secret. I had taken that which wasn't mine. Nobody knew. I knew. You were married. And not to me.
So it started with a simple hi, via email and ended up with a coffee date on Friday, in three days. I didn’t know Fie that well, but she had mentioned she was meeting her boyfriends family for the first time, several weeks back. I emailed her to inquire about how that had gone. It’s strange yet so modern that we communicated this way. Between 3 to 15 lines per email, chatting and gossiping, all the while when we should have been working. The pinnacle came at the end of my shift. 45 mins before I went home it started.
The scene was set. I had bought new chops sticks, the incense was burning and I'd scattered a few burning candles about the place. I had set up my iPod with some low beats- just enough.
One last look over the apartment- ah the picture of success. I had to ask myself the question though: was I really ready for this? I had been nervous about this night since we set the date 4 days ago.
I checked the clock, 7:20; almost time.
The phone rung- it was him. I dampened the incense and sighed relief, my ex had
It annoys me when people leave things lying around the house. It gets on my goat. I'm constantly telling my husband to pick up his trainers.
Everything has a home, and in my home people should respect that enough to be respectful enough to tidy after themselves.
That is except for the pair of pink faded puma's near the door. They almost served as an art piece. They were nothing special, had dried mud on the soles, one unraveled lace, a stain.
These shoes were different. They were my mothers, she dropped them there exhausted, the day before she died.
Three things you didn't know about after all this time are: I have secretly been putting small amount of hash in our food, the bolognaise, lasagna and yes, the butter chicken.
I secretly stashed away four hundred dollars from our joint account. I wanted to buy you a really nice birthday gift, but I accidentally spent (lost) it at the casino. You thought I was so creative making you a present.
When I said I would buy you a Mercedes if i wont the lottery, I lied. I wouldn't get you that at all.
I would buy you an island
The speakers bristled terrible noise into the room. A loose wire probably, it started out fine, smooth vocals from some R&B artist I had downloaded. Edging me through the day, house work, coffee, some work. Twice towards mid morning the female vocalist had crumpled metallic-like, not enough to be annoying. Later a few loud burps of old school radio, statically assaulted my ears.
The problem I had right now though was my phone. I'd settled for a retro powder blue counter top phone, wired if you please. I was on hold to the tax department, having to tolerate this noise.
I have seen a lot of things I guess. The Niagara falls, and India’s Poverty, I have stayed at the palace of a friend of a friend, on Lake Como.
You have seen a lot then?
Well, Yeah. I have been in a situation where I earned lot of money and lived the high life. Six months after that I was without money and with a lot of debt, so I guess I’m pretty lucky, I responded.
The old lady smiled with her eyes. She remembered holding her beautiful newborn baby, after he’d died. Life had been her best teacher.
Another time the old lady, who’s husband had long but left her, a time when her breast’s were more resembling of cow-pat’s, vertical; was out with her friend. They’d gone to market to buy fresh bread, stopped for some grappa, to watch life pass by. Being a hot afternoon the two decided to stop by the river, and due to two too many grappa’s ended up naked and swimming.
They’d never laughed so hard, floundering naked in the river while a group of school boys stood laughing at the pair of fools. Both with hidden scars from before, and careless.
I made eye contact with the woman, whose name I don’t think I knew.
“Have we met?” I asked.
“I don’t think so" she said.
I looked to her waist. “When are you due?” As soon as I said that I thought of another time when I asked a woman when she was due and she wasn’t. She’d been very offended. Understandably so.
“In two weeks” she told me and added, “I hope he doesn’t turn out like his father”
I had no right to think this, but I thought
“I wonder if you even know the father that well”
His maneuvering of the car on the windy road, was disconcerting. Perhaps it was the weather, the windy weather was disconcerted. Rain was coming, the sky was deep gray, I was hanging on. Hanging on to what was the last shards of our time together. This was to be our last time in the confines of a small space and the air in the car was tense. I wondered to myself if I would survive this. It would be over soon. As we pulled into the airport I looked at him. It doesn’t have to be this way, I thought.
Would you let yourself go wild? That was the question. I don't drink and I don't like the thrill of meeting new people, especially so when those new people are befriending me not to be friends. No, I don't think I would let myself go wild, I responded. I quickly added 'it depends on what you define as wild'. He smiled. It was a smile like being a kid making my parent happy, and at once it was charged. He was good looking and had a great smile. This wasn't about that though. I was surprised at myself for being superficial.
My friends and I had a saying "this is a kill bill moment'. We would say it when we felt like taking a sword and slicing someone's arm off, or putting a gun o their head and triggering a blow to the head. Not that we were violent. We really weren't. In my relationship though, that had progressed. I sat across the dinner table from my love. In front of the other 8 people I had made the comment 'If only he would learn the skill of housework.' For i was in a relationship with a man who could give a kill bill look. I turned to my plate and frowned.
"How come you talk about 'him' all the time, you mention his name vaguely and . . ."
I defensively cut in "I don't talk about him all the time, I've mentioned him like 3 times" It was a weak argument and I was blushing. I felt my ears turn red first, then my face. I never blush. "He's just some guy, some guy I met . . ."
"I don't need to be jealous do I?"
I knew I couldn't hide my feelings. I held my arms out. "Mom, you will always be number one on my love list!"
He stood wearing his army green jacket, with a red star on the sleeve. She wondered if it was indicative of some army design- Russian or something. They were both in the library, she seated and he standing about ten feet in front of her, stopped, reading a book, Indian. He was slim, tallish (taller than her at least), blue jeans with a modern haircut. He looked kind, genuine too. He caught her looking, so quickly she didn't have time to turn away, instead she smiled. He looked her up and down and turned away. Frowning, she wheeled herself away.
Lady Prokofiev stood in the boutique in Beverly Hills. It was her first time in America. She had been exposed to things she'd never seen in her 47 years, coveted away within her husbands wealth outside of St Petersburgh. Her lady in waiting sat, as was tradition, to the side patiently waiting to be summoned. Lady Prokofiev had no intentions of trying clothes on in the store. America and it's modern ideas, she' d frowned to herself. She picked up a pink blouse, not deterred by the price tag. Then shock, it buttoned from the other side. How would Ana dress her?
The angular woman slapped the stranger hard.
"I see you have an interest in farming" said the woman, tall slim and wearing a bright modern sun dress.
"Interest in farming?" questioned the very angular, very well appointed, very fashionable stranger. "you think I look a farmer?" she added, disgruntled.
With a large, genuine smile "Not at all" replied the first woman.
"Why would you say that then?" defensively asked the angular woman.
She hesitated "well you are wearing the guilt of at least 80 chinchillas in your fur coat"
And that is why the angular woman slapped a complete stranger.
as i walked
down the street
I saw two men
who each had
The first had
one eye that
like an opal
it held all the world's
the second had one eye
and a hole where
used to be
as i walked
down the street
there was a lady
and bag full
of christian shopping
complaining to her friend
about her dog
who had eczema.
as i walked
down the street
i saw with my
just how life is
as i walked
down the street.
The cherry tree still stood in the driveway, bearing the scar of a 15 year old version of me, trying to do a three point turn in the Falcon 500.
The car, in a shed at my brother’s, bears the same scar.
If my mother was still alive, she would still happily defend me.
"It wasn't his fault' she had told my dad, "You wouldn't take him for a driving lesson."
"Where is the car now?" my father asked on the phone.
Mum smiled at me "Still up the bloody tree!"
We shared the same humor, but not with dad.
I know it had a proper name, but we called it cutty grass, it sliced our bare legs, as we ran through it. There was two ways of getting to the pond; the cutty grass way, or the long way. The long way was usually reserved for the homeward trip. That's when we dragged our feet, knowing we'd have to go to bed when we got back. The few times we had gone home the cutty grass way, it was unbearable having the sheets on our legs. On the way there, we had the cool pond water waiting for us.
She smiled and smiled and smiled. Everyone loved being around Darlene. Whatever yarn, gossip or stories being told, Darlene would see the good in it. She could see folk made mistakes; she forgave; could see forgiveness in her eyes.
Even the time she had a black eye. "I fell down them stairs again" she'd told us at work.
We knew she didn't fall down no stairs.
I wondered how life really was for her at home. I wondered how she kept that smile on her face. How she kept her optimism. How she was dealing so well with breast cancer.
The Japan girl told me (and I only met her that once) that we all sit under the same stars. It was too deep with me, I didn’t know what. I rode my bike to deliver the painting, to have a coffee, to go home again. The Japan girl said "Please don't leave me" and I thought, I might as well stay. It was only three hours until her plane departed. The Japan girl was talking. We both knew that I knew she didn’t want to go. She liked it here. She didn’t want to be in Russia, people stared.
If ever I was going to smoke it would be now. It would be right now that I would walk to the store, buy smokes and smoke 'em. I would probably consider drinkin' whiskey as well. But the fact that I am thinking this tells me that I am not so upset, but looking for the excuse to start. That’s what I learnt when I did the twelve steps. If I hadn't taken the last twelve steps, in silence, to the top of stairs, I guess I wouldn't have seen Dianne sharing her jewels with the neighbor. 12 years married.
There was very little English being spoken. There were not many tall blue eyed whites, like me. The city stunk of mechanical fumes, air con units, transport. There were rotting gutter smells too, being ignited by the heat, the careless tossing of garbage. Store fronts were messy and cheap; expensive and glamorous. The people mirrored this also. Other people pretended not to stare at me. "You are a thing of beauty walking among us" a Japanese friend told me once. He tried to sleep with me, unsuccessfully. This city, I loved. This city, I didn't love. This place was home.
As my father slept, I walked quietly through the house to the living room. As some of the floor boards sighed, I stood frozen, hearing dad rustle, waiting for him to settle again. Feeling almost deceitful, I kept the lights off and in the moonlight moved to the side board. I opened mom's photo album. Losing grip a little as I opened it, the back cover slipped from my hand. Out fell several photo's. They had been tucked into the back. There it was. Two photos where my late mother was romantically entwined with a man who wasn't my dad.
"You are a fat Asian pig, you are a fat Asian pig" Maggie chanted over and over. She had some of the other kids joining in as well. Kee Ling cowered on the wooden bench, acting as if her hands over her face would make it stop.Would it stop them from seeing her tears. They saw them. When Kee Ling arrived home her mother saw she'd been crying, that her dress was torn. She could see she'd been picked on again, and bullied. Kee Ling looked at her mom, ashamed. "You been bullied again Stupid fat pig?" said Kee Ping
as the plane gathered momentum in sky the city got smaller, and smaller. I could swear I spotted my apartment building sticking out from the street where I lived. My job, my bus route, my local shops- all became scattering bugs bathed in light, growing dimmer. The orange street lamps started blending to a whole. The activity amongst them stopping still. I tried to but couldn't relax into the seat. My life as I knew it fading into what I would come to know as my past. My first task at the other end would be to discard my passport.
The Tip Jar