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The wind blew the roof off the barn as she lay awake listening to the metal twisting and clanging. The wind came from the west, which was unusual. More often it came from the south and, not blocked by the low hills, it would wind it's up through the valley at a more leisurely pace. But this wild wind went over the hills and under the barn roof, lifting the aluminium panels and depositing them 20 feet farther west and almost into the road. She pulled up the covers and listened to the chaos. How frightening, a world without order.
The discovery of her second butt came as a shock. She had been standing after a bath when she reached down and discovered the beginnings of a lateral crease where none had been before. Images of old men in hospital gowns with the back open flooded her head. Their butts shrinking and forming a series of layers rather than a roundness of youth. So this was it, then. The adipose tissue that had once graced her backside, while not forming a phenomenal butt, formed at least a presentable one, had migrated to her stomach. In the end, gravity would win.
Some people say that we don't form memories before the age of three because we have no accessible narrative. There are wisps, of course; dream like images and feelings, but most of us loose those too. What images do you have of your years before two or three? And what is memory? How much of it is constructed? If not all of it. The other aspect is that we observe what we expect. Gorilla in a basketball court supports that. It would interesting to see things as they are for just a moment. How surprising that would be, maybe disappointing.
She had been working on Crete, picking fruit, cleaning up the morning's mess at Scorpio Disco and finally managing a small pension. She had saved some money and wanted to go to India. She planned to travel down the Nile and into Sudan, where she would eventually turn east to the coast and get a boat to India. It seemed simple. She couldn't get a visa for Sudan in Greece, but was told she probably could in Egypt. Looking back on it she had a hard time believing she had been so brave and so foolish and so unbelievably naive.
Earthquake this morning. A sharp jolt about 5:30. Nothing big, just a reminder that even the earth isn't solid. The sun comes up and a white crowned sparrow sings his song over and over. Five notes, then three. Five notes, then three. He's the only one singing or making any noise at all on this morning. Is there a sleepy female somewhere listening? Is she enthralled, wondering if he's "the one"? So loud, so vigorous, so industrious! Perhaps she is annoyed at his insistence. Or perhaps he sings to no one, as the earth shakes and the sun rises.
Her daughter had married into a large Russian family and she was looking forward to the upcoming visit with her daughter's mother-in-law, her sister, and her sisters daughter and her husband. They would all come to the big house in the vineyards to stay overnight then continue on their exploration of America. We all spoke a few words of each other's language but not much more. We gestured, inflected, hugged, smiled, we explained in many ways and many times. Meaning was conveyed that fit with individual's personal context. It is amazing how little difference accuracy in meaning meant.
It was after she tried to kill herself that she became invulnerable. An invulnerability based on detachment. Nothing seemed to touch her, not the rapes, or poverty or sickness. All seemed flow off of her like water beading on a raincoat. A woman recently told her that she had been courageous. But she thought not. Courage understands and incorporates vulnerability; Courage comes when you know that you are not invincible and you embrace your effort. The old fairy tales recognize this. The children win through cleverness, or goodness and are aided by other creatures. Marvel comics introduced the invincible superheros.
It is 2 in the afternoon and she has slept for the past 24 hours. It's a beautiful day, but she's too sick to care. She calls downstairs to see if anyone is home. Someone must be because the chickens are out. When they hear her voice they begin to whine. Hoping that she will come downstairs and bring them a treat. They prefer cheese and will park themselves against the back door full of hopeful, enthusiastic anticipation. Her husband made her some chicken soup but it's no one she knows. Her neighbor says they're both ready for the pot.
Well, so what is the difference between a marvel superhero and a fairy tale hero? Why so bent out of shape about the grandkids exposure to the transformers. Ah, she thinks, so sterile. Hansel and Gretel suffered, Rapunzel escaped, the miller's daughter outwitted Rumpelstiltskin, the arrogant emperor made a fool of himself with his new clothes, and Gerda sought her brother over the wide world to free him from the snow queen. Now those are stories you can sink your teeth into. The heroes have courage and perseverance, humility is rewarded, pride is punished. Superheroes are about external, overt, power.
She dreads this time of year. The lost hour confuses. Will she be getting up earlier or later? No, not that will it be darker when she gets up? Who decides on these things? More time for farmers-an urban myth. It's just well, uncomfortable. She likes routine. This arbitrary messing with time seems fundamentally wrong, almost sacrilegious, hubris, defying the gods. Nothing seems right, she gets up too late and goes to bed to early. 8PM she's wandering, her day finished with more light to do nothing in. Just waiting, waiting for the lovely dark and a silent house.
She remembers walking down the street with Steve and Dave. She must have been about 5. They were wearing their matching cowboy shirts. She knows a car pulled up and spoke to the boys. They were told to get in. For some reason she was not allowed in. The man said they would meet her at the house about half a block away. That's the last of the memory. The last time she saw Steve and Dave. There must have been police, screaming, crying. There must have been questions. She remembers nothing of this, just pieces it together, years later.
They used to call it the hour of the black dog, 4AM, sitting in the ambulance waiting for an accident to happen. Streets wet with San Francisco mist, halos around streetlights- a street person moved his overloaded shopping cart down the empty street, the rhythm of the wheels heard from blocks away. No other sounds emerged from the city. She sighed and took a breath. Maybe one paramedic would lay down in the back,sleep, but mostly they just sat there, quite. Separate thoughts after a long shift. This was the moment of silence, of opening, of beginning and ending.
Finally, rain. It's pelting against the windows and underneath the back door. They filled the bathtub with water, because when the electricity goes out so does the pump and then, no water or heat. They are looking forward to a night of candles and quiet talk. They are going to buy a house (at their age? they are in their sixties. 30 year loan? How ridiculous). It is causing them more discomfort then they might have imagined. They meet at two in the morning, "can't sleep" "no, you either?". No real fears, but well, just thinking. What if? What if?
A message just popped up on the screen. From microsoft or somebody like them. It asks if it's ok to send these sentences to microsoft for some kind of "grammer check". Well, we know that there is no privacy, of course, but many phrases from 100 words, proposals written, poems, etc. appeared on this list of phrases. It was spooky. Everything on her computer is recorded and filed away. Just give it up, she thinks, but still, she is disturbed. Like being photographed without clothes when she thought she was alone. We will all have to adjust, to become nudists.
Her son's third birthday was this week. They were talking at dinner. Today you are three and next year you will be four. "Will I die when I'm 4" he asked? Yikes. "No sweetie, you have a long, time before you die." This was followed by talk of trucks and how he towed mommy" Not something she wanted to or should have followed up on. But she wondered, what did he mean? Did he have a concept of death or cessation? Probably something far different than she thought. But what was it? Is this what makes us human? This awareness?
She realized when her son asked her if he would die when he was four, that at three he had no idea of time. For all he knew his parents or grandparents were four. The difference was a third of his life and in that he had gone from baby to child. When do you begin to understand time? Her mother told a story. When she was young, she had refused to learn to tell time. Her had father tried to teach her, until she looked up at him and scowled "I think you are trying to change my mind".
A half hour until they start arriving for her friends surprise birthday party. Enough time to write, well, she'll give it a go. She doesn't really have any interest in the party at this point or in the writing. The reason is unclear. Last night, she had nightmares, nightmirrors perhaps. All of today she's been off, scribbled, unproductive; suffering from a deep paralysis. In her dream she was being chased, trying to climb a wire fence with the chaser gaining, climbing the fence behind her, closer. She tried to keep herself awake and to not fall back into the dream .
Rats actually seeking our cats? She thought it was a hyperbole or at least a sloppy study. Rats, they said, infected with the parasite toxoplasma gondii were attracted to cats. She thought maybe they may relax,, but attracted? She doubted it. So she went to the original studies and yes, rats infected with toxoplasma gondii sought out cats. The parasite needed to enter cats to complete its' life cycle. Cat-rat-cat. Cat-rat-cat. The parasite actually changed the brains of rats. They propose affects on neurotransmitter GABA. Humans can also be infected with the parasite. Love your cat?
He asked what would she do if she had to do it all over again. She thought he meant life. But the idea of doing it all over again made her so tired she had no energy even to imagine the construct. To do "it" all over again. My God. Those horrible high school days, wandering for so many years. Years as a single mother with a small daughter. But she had elaborated. He meant "What would you study?" Well, it would probably be parasites and by extension, free will. She probably wouldn't have liked it when she was young.
There was an article in the paper that stated that in a large study of people infected with toxmoplasma gondii there was a much higher incidence of having positive feelings toward cats.
Well, are they implying a causal relationship? Sure they are, and most of our anti-intellectual, critically poor culture would make the same association. But, of course, it's a correlation. And really, people who like cats, are more likely to have cats and hence more like to expose themselves to the parasite. But still, to think that a cat parasite changes our behavior, is rather disturbing.
The equinox. She is looking out the window at the bulbs she planted last year. Will she be here when they blossom? She hopes so, but she doesn't. They will move this year. They are buying a house for the first time in their aged lives. Everything is either too expensive or too broken down. Do they have the energy to paint and repair another house? They did this for their last landlord. Once fixed, she raised the rent beyond their endurance. Bla Bla Bla. First world problems, as they say. Yet, neither she, nor her husband are sleeping well.
It was the Jehovah Witnesses. Had she thought about world peace, they asked? Yes. She had. As a matter of fact, she had the answer. They seemed puzzled but interested. She had been thinking about it just that morning when the subject of hunting came up. Her friend felt it was OK as long as he ate the animal. It was that general premise "you have to eat what you kill" that gave her the idea. What if we applied this to war? A kind of Cuisinart of War. No freezing, no drying rack allowed. It had a certain immediacy.
Another dark blue box changes to light blue. What an odd sense of accomplishment. There is a desire to finish, to tie it up, to complete, but at her age that is a most foolish desire. She began writing this at 2:30 in the morning, then hit the wrong button and moved into the ether, electrons moving on. Disgusted, she left it until later, but it never really did come back. Those blue boxes, so ephemeral. And she supposes that the days themselves are really like that. There is only one brightly colored box and that box is today.
She would like to experiment with "character studies", but she wonders how to begin. Does one start with the clothes (as many of the cheap detective novels she reads does), or perhaps a habit; an odd little quirk, a tick. Perhaps appearance? Bags under the eyes, signs of dissipation, spider veined nose? Or a fresh faced innocence. Manners? Courtly, brusque, natural, contrived. The eyes count for a lot she has read. Shifty, clear, , observant, or in personal, concealed world. So how does one begin to create someone, or recreate someone? She needs to think about it. read more, practice.
She had her nose broken twice. The first time was at the International Center at UCLA. She was to meet her North African boyfriend at a dance- "Benefit for World Peace". Arriving early she enjoyed the opportunity to speak French she found herself in deep conversation with a young French man. The next moment she found herself sitting on the floor watching blood drip from her nose to her dress, Majid standing over her restrained by by a group of friends. The most curious thing of all was that he felt fully justified and insisted on complaining to her father.
When you are young is the time to form and solidify an ego. She remembers reading in High School or maybe it was college, "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life". It seemed to speak directly to her. How would she present that self that even she didn't know. And to realize that all the time she was presenting somebody's self and well, if not hers then whose? She was very slow to form a self and tried on many. Sometimes it would fit for years, sometimes for only a few weeks or days, hours. Now she has lost interest.
In that youthful search for self, she realized that it was a case of too many rather than finding one. Her "self" never seemed to "stay put". There were many selves, one transcending and replacing the other to be replaced by yet another. Upon arising in the morning one might dominate. One self sometimes made excuses for another self, she hadn't slept well, she was worried about something, someone had treated her unkindly, etc. Keeping track of these various selves became exhausting and she began to realize useless. Could she accept that there really was no self separate of circumstances?
How to get rid of that carefully constructed idea of self? Or, just let it go. How much do we do, the purpose of which is to reinforce our ideas of who we "
" are. What would life be like if we didn't really care about this? Praise and insults would be equally insignificant. Wouldn't that allow us a freedom to just act? Would that produce a kind of Crowleyesque type of amorality? "Do what thou wilst is the whole of the law"? She didn't think so. It was the difference between transcending the ego and embracing it.
Puerto Vallarta wasn't such a big deal then. That was before Night of the Iguana, and the invasion of Hollywood. Back then, it was jungle, rich villas and poor shacks. She was 13 and on vacation with her parents. At 13 she maintained that kind of rigid morality that only 13 year olds can muster. It is a morality without compassion of doubt.
She had met a boy, Mateo, prostitute's son, Senora Idea, the patron, explained the inappropriateness of this. That was when the foolish girl ran away to the jungle, spent and the night in a tree.
Her parents had forbidden her to see him. This seemed to her hypocritical, as she had been led to believe that individuals should be judged on their character rather than shallow social norms. So she and Mateo met secretly, in this case, in the back room of a small shop that sold frijoles. When her father found out he dragged her out by the hair in true Mexican normative fashion. She took off. What she hadn't considered were the mosquitoes. Brutal and pitiless they swarmed. She was almost relieved to to see the Federales at the foot of the tree.
It's two o'clock in the morning and once again her eyes have sprung open on full alert. She tries not to think, a count of ten, concentrating on the next number. She gets to three. She hasn't slept well in weeks. She tries again and this time gets to five. The night extends into the long quiet and she lies in the darkness, listening. She can hear the million frogs calling and an occasional car as it winds it's way along the wet road. She knows she will be exhausted tomorrow but there is a beauty in these dark hours.
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