Friday, December 23, 2011

presence for christmas.

at this time last year...

do you say that to yourself a lot? i do. i like thinking back and comparing year-ago me to present-day me. on this day last year, i lived on felix avenue in the hip cooper-young neighborhood in midtown memphis, tennessee, in a 2-bedroom bungalow with very high ceilings and very old windows that i covered in plastic, the kind you put up with double-sided tape and seal with a blow dryer.

when i was a kid living on carpenter street in the stealey neighborhood of clarksburg, west virginia, in the tiny, grey-shingled house with a correspondingly tiny not-yard just big enough for a swingset (if you swung too high you'd hit mrs. marchio's house next door), our windows were also old and also covered in plastic. my father's plastic in 1980-something measured perfectly against each and every window frame, with not a ripple in its waxy, stretched-tight-as-a-painter's-canvas surface. my plastic in 2010 had frayed edges, duct-tape-patched holes and generally looked like it had been applied while under the influence of mescaline...suddenly i imagine myself face-painted and wild-eyed like owen wilson in the royal tennenbaums, except not really, bc i'm far too high strung to enjoy drugs for fun; i barely take them for illness. speaking of illness, i don't recall anything worth recalling in 2010, so perhaps my lackluster window-plastic-ing skills weren't for naught. over the years as a single girl i've accepted my default role as domestic handywoman with an attitude similar to my dad's upon his yearly baking of pita piata, the traditional italian christmas sorta-pastry made with raisins, wine, and honey: you don't especially like it, but you do it, and when it's over you're glad you did. proud, even.

at this time last year, i was blogging as i am right now. i haven't reread that particular entry yet, though i suspect it was like a typewritten xmas stocking, strung with strands of colored adjectives, brimming with binary oppositions. i was probably in my frigid front room, space heater by my side, writing at my gigantic, impossibly heavy grey desk that was salvaged from a redecorating purge at memphis' largest advertising agency and handed down to me after my other hand-me-down desk began to cave in from dry rot. or i was at cafe eclectic, unwrapping my extra-long, extra-soft, two-shades-of-purple scarf while perching on a stool bolted to the floor just far enough from the bar to make sitting uncomfortable, most likely ordering a black bean wrap and reminding the server to remind the cook to include the avocado slices that were on the menu description but somehow never made it onto the wrap when you ordered it...that sort of thing drives me nuts. i miss that wrap. you can't find a black bean wrap with avocado slices and spicy nayonaise in clarksburg. actually, you can't find a black bean wrap, period. or a black bean burger. sigh.

the past five months have been heavy on sighs, heavy on thoughts...hell, heavy on my feet. however, like the weight i'll shed in the coming months, i also plan to shed sighs. i've decided that one day — ONE.DAY. — baby and i will have a house on cheat lake in morgantown and will travel to new york city or other exciting places maybe, possibly, once per month. we'll go because mommy will have meetings for work. who knows what work that'll be, but...

one day, present-day me will look back at last-year me and be amazed at the amazing things that have happened in a year.


Friday, November 11, 2011

perspective.

once again, someone's (my good friend's) fb post travels from computer screen to the wrinkled-up mass behind my eyes and becomes inspiration. today's post acts like a mental cowboy, corralling my random thoughts that were milling around without direction for weeks.

my friend, he was listening to lauryn hill's "ex factor," a song that, yrs ago, i would listen to on repeat. songs about ended relationships are often incredibly corny, but not this one. the lyrics are not the kind that are trying. just simple. real. as in what one person could actually say to another without sounding ridiculous. she says things like "tell me who i have to be to get some reciprocity" and "i know what we gotta do/you let go and i'll let go too" and "you said you'd die for me...why won't you live for me." they're good lyrics. sagacious, even. i feel lauryn on this song. like i wanna look her in the eye and say, GIRL.YES. and that's it. and she'll know what i mean.

and maybe i want to ask her what happened at the end, too. bc she also said, "no one's hurt me more than you; and no one ever will." did she mean no one ever will bc no one ever could? or no one ever will bc she'll never make those same mistakes again? i want to know if she forgave her ex-factor. i want to know how.

a friend told me recently that i need to learn not how to give up hope or how to cultivate hatred — bc she knew, intuitively, my internal struggle to choose one or the other — but how to be indifferent. i agree. except indifference is a wild, wild mustang roaming around in my head. catchable, sure. tamable? never fully. admittedly, i'm still hung up on what i really want, which is to forgive. and would you believe, i've even managed to complicate forgiveness. i mean, isn't it supposed to be given, regardless of whether it's earned? i think about people whose family members have been murdered by a psychopath. later, in interviews, they say, "i forgive him." even though the murderer didn't ask for their forgiveness. if they can forgive without reason to do so, why shouldn't i? oh, i know. bc once i forgive, all of a sudden my boundaries are gone. fences, down.

that same friend told me i think too hard and try to anticipate too many things and in the process make life so much more stressful than it already is. right again. and you know what i thought after she said that? but stopping that would require me to be unlike myself. it would require oh-so-much mental work. not that i don't put in oh-so-much mental work anyway, but this would be a different kind. i could do it. i should do it. for one, it would be good for me. and two, it's the same mental work i wish would happen on the part of my own ex-factor. it's that coveted reciprocity. will i ever get it...

right after "ex factor" on lauryn's album is "to zion." i just googled the lyrics bc i forgot how they began. as i began to read, i had to stop and look out the window, collect myself, bc i'm in public. i had to do it a few times. i'm not sure i've ever known exactly what someone meant in the way i do this:

Unsure of what the balance held,
I touched my belly, overwhelmed
By what I had been chosen to perform

earlier, my friend posted that there are few albums out there as good as lauryn's. today, there isn't one.





Monday, October 17, 2011

truism.

versus:

hope limps home. fact, the untamed beast, licks its chops.

postscript:

the beast knows no remorse.



Friday, October 14, 2011

my life as a drum.

this morning i woke up surrounded by my fortress of five pillows at 5 a.m., as i often do these days. i usually lie there rubbing my feet together until i can fall back asleep, always on my left side, because i read it puts less pressure on the inferior vena cava (and accordingly, less pressure on my worries about the phlebitis in my left calf, which, a few weeks back, prompted a trip to the doc and then an ultrasound to rule out a clot. the many surprises of pregnancy, quite a feat to conquer for the anxiety ridden). i turned off the tv, closed my eyes, and soon heard drumbeats. not just any but the ones played during the clarksburg christmas parade circa 1982, when i marched, wearing a red sequined bodysuit and white boots with red-and-white yarn tassles, with the mitzi layne dance academy baton unit. i had thick bangs and a bun way on top of my head...i'd still wear my hair that way if my ponytail weren't so thin from that last bad haircut. i remember every beat of that drum routine. it's too bad some genius has yet to invent a way to recreate sound memory; if such a thing existed, i'd put it in here so everyone could hear those drumbeats along with me.

my life as told in drum beats began early. actually, even earlier than i can possibly recall because i was only a year old when my brother got his first drum set in our apartment on baltimore avenue in glen elk, with the yard that my picture-memories paint as somewhat southern-gothic feeling, perhaps because of the creeping vines and somber cement statues that my grandfather, nanoo as we called him in italian, poured when he had a paving business. our apartment was underneath nanoo's dim, moody, godfatheresque apartment upstairs that always smelled of spaghetti sauce and coffee and his cologne in the green glass bottle-shaped-bottle that sat on the counter in the bathroom. i vaguely remember what my family's apartment looked like, probably from later visits when dad needed to repair something for one of the tenants who came after us. mom says my brother peed behind the front door in the living room there because he was afraid the toilet would swallow him. nanoo was a hot head, but kev and i were his sweethearts and i bet he didn't care about the pee stains or the noise from his first grandchild's 5-yr-old drum cacophany. ten years or so later, kev was playing with much more skill on his red sparkle set in the attic at our house on carpenter street. all the time, in the middle of the day, for hours. and this is why i know that one neil peart solo...the one from yyz, i think?...by heart.

another 15 years later, a 21-yr-old drummer began the tradition of people calling me dee, his particular style varying from deetrain to deepants to dirty dee. now, at 31, he is also the man who still holds claim to being the last who loved me...not that others wouldn't have; i just wasn't interested in having anyone who could easily be had. or something like that. his drum set was in the corner of his parents' very-full basement in the house with the only teal leather couch i've ever seen. i rarely listened to him practice, though one time comes to mind. maybe it was the day he went to the basement to finishing putting shellac on a triptych he would show at an exhibit at zenclay, a gallery/tea house atop the studio where we took ceramics class together, and then he wandered over to his set, and as i watched his arms and face go wild with every beat, i couldn't help but picture animal from the muppets. he played with a band called asteriskathon for a hot minute, which isn't notable except that i could never pronounce the name until the first time i heard him say it. on the day of his first (and last?) show at 123 pleasant street, the local hangout, with his second band, branches, we hadn't seen each other in a week or two because he had been in boston then vermont to see his brother and i had been in nyc for a weekend with my friend ann. the night before we both left town, we argued and he came to my house later and wrote this note on the back of one of my atm slips: will you be my girlfriend?, with a box for yes or no. i still have it somewhere. so the night at 123 was a happy reunion for the on-again couple. i wore knee-high, shiny stiletto boots i'd bought at the store across from the midtown nyc hotel, and he wore red flared pants from goodwill and flip flops. the next day, i presented him with all the gifts i'd so carefully picked out: the black heart procession on vinyl, bought somewhere on the lower east side, and a mortar and pestle bought somewhere on the upper west side. he said he didn't buy me anything because he didn't know what i would've liked, so he showed me all the things he had bought for himself instead. had that moment been punctuated by a sound, it would've been the slow, dull thump of a lonely kickdrum. ten years down the line, animal and i are friends, and i barely remember the sound.

another eight years later; another drumbeat. the quiet man with the distinctive walk and distinctive way of pursing his lips before he smiled...which wasn't often, and so making him smile became a self-congratulatory thing for me, especially immediately upon glimpsing that telltale movement of his lips. the first night we met was in a narrow kitchen at my friend's house, trying not to bump into each other while both doing a subtle, two-second "hey you're cute" double take. then we went on with our evening, occasionally catching glances but never exchanging words. in the two years after that night, that initial double-take moment returned to me, usually on the frequent occasions when he had done something...or nothing is more like it. turns out that nothing can be just as bad as a bad something. in those times of frustration or hurt or blazing resentment i would wonder, but wait, didn't that look "mean" something? and if it did, then why would he act this way? and then just as quickly wonder, is that me wanting to believe in fate? fate is silly and only for the movies. i never came to any conclusions about it. well, except for one: now that i know what i know, that look he gave me was not singular, nor was i to him. the high hat crashes the heart with the knowledge that you are no one to someone. and then you move forward, in some span of months or years that you can never quite enumerate, because by then it no longer matters. but this time is different. that last crashing high hat was followed by another beat. a tiny, precious one. one that makes moving forward both absolutely necessary and impossibly complicated. and every single day, i reanimate yesterday's lifeless hope for that crash to soften.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

the sound of old perfume.

i can bring home the bacon/fry it up in a pan
lyrics from a mid-80s perfume commercial. a woman singing about how she can do it all. corny and apropos, all at once.

independence has been on my mind, a lot. since i moved from memphis, my independence has been put on hold.
a fact that suffuses my now-bulbous little self with an overwhelming feeling of yuck. while i'm glad to have help, i have never needed this much help since i was a kid. not a great feeling for a 35-yr-old woman, and one who has always relished her independence... now see, there i go feeling slightly uncomfortable upon saying that. i always do. because, for a yet-to-be-unearthed reason, i carry guilt about having parents who have helped me along the way...and i'll be darned, as soon as i finished that sentence my brain unearthed the reason: if i haven't suffered sufficiently to achieve something, then i feel i don't deserve to have it. so, owning my independence usually requires a bit of mental gymnastics. eventually i remind myself that while my parents have done what all parents want to do (which is to help, according to my mom) they have not, in fact, been the ones to do the legwork that got me where i've gotten. that was me. little 'ol me. i did the talking, the writing, the networking, the work. after quitting college then waiting tables and answering phones at a doctor's office for a few years, i moved to miami and folded expensive jeans in a retail shop owned by juan, who fired me for not keeping the store tidy. THE HORROR. look, i'd never use the "he just didn't like me" excuse for being fired, bc i think it's lame, but in this case it simply has to be true, bc one thing i could never be accused of is being untidy. anyhow, before and after my unfounded firing, i interned at a modeling agency for free and within 2 months was hired full time as an agent's assistant. i think i made 20 grand; not too shabby for 1998 and my first job in the professional world. about 8 months later i was promoted to new york city, which only lasted a few months. then i went back to college, where i worked at a coffee shop for extra cash -- bc those student loans i'll be paying off after i'm dead didn't cut it -- and i graduated with honors. and in memphis i worked my way up...well, more like out and around and behind and beneath...from my first job in advertising to my dream of freelancing. around two months before i moved, i was finally making a stable income as a freelancer -- turns out that phrase is not oxymoronic. what a tickly-good feeling. like a first kiss, except i didn't have to wonder when the next one would be. with my newfound steady paycheck, i'd no longer have to bargain shop for toilet paper at the dollar store. no more checking unit prices for me. i'd grab that quilted northern and not think twice.

after moving from memphis to wv, financial bliss died a sudden death. i lost my livelihood. my livelihood. i never even knew i had one. i enjoyed my work; therefore, if i didn't hate my work, then could i actually consider it work? and if i couldn't consider it work, then how could i claim to have a livelihood? these are the trips my brain takes me on. so today -- sometime between drinking that sickening orange glucose cola at 8:46 am and being stabbed with the 4th needle at 11:45 am -- i realized why this move was (is) such a big deal: i've spent a good 12 yrs trying to find the most "me" i could find in a career and get to a place of stability (well, actually, i always avoided stability like gas-station coffee, but i was finally getting comfy with the idea), and just when i had gotten oh-so-close: bomb, dropped. time to pack it up and move it out, little sister. big brother is coming with the uhaul on a friday; you'll be back in wv by sunday. or tuesday, as it turned out. after all, what kind of finale would it be without my brother's back going out and three more family members driving 12 hrs from wv to the rescue? so, on a tuesday night in july, after the monday night should've-been-three-but-turned-into-seven-hour-trip from memphis to nashville, i arrived at my parents' house with not two but three dogs and a belly full of first grandchild.
what i left behind...livelihood, friends, solace, places to eat and walk and hang out...has become my shadow ever since. following me even on the many sunless, rainy days in clarksburg.

i don't harbor secret wishes to run backwards, toward memphis and everything this move took from me. not at all. i do wonder what could've happened had i stayed. but i wonder about all sorts of things. mostly, and fairly impatiently, i await the return of my independence. the baby just bunched up on the right side of my belly. that makes two of us.




Monday, October 3, 2011

pancake puppies, scary roosters, and the creation of life.

yesterday, in the midst of realizing i could not, in fact, steal wifi from mcdonald’s while at denny’s eating 3 of my 6 deep-fried pancake puppies (sans syrup, bc calories should be wasted on more decadant things), i was saved (briefly) by none other than travis tritt. i sang along (or ahead, rather) in my head: “i’m a member of a kuuuntry club/kuntry muuuusic is what i looove/i drive an old ford pickup truck/do my drinkin’ from a diiiixie cup...” i like that song. i grew up on songs like that. as a kid i sang, along with my cousins, along with the grizzly-lookin singer-dude from alabama: “roll ooon eiiiighteeeen-wheeeeler, roll ooon…” and along with john anderson: “just a swaaaangin’….” and along with randy travis: “forehhhver and ehhhver, forehhver and ehhver, forehhver and ehhhhhvvverrrrr a-a-a-a-aaaamennnnn….” i like that i grew up in clarksburg. i like that i got to play in and around the big red barn (which, come to find out, turns out to be quite small as barns go) in the middle of the hilly, aluminum-fenced pasture at grandma’s with my cousin jamie, who had an affinity for hot tea with milk and sugar and for lighting things on fire with hairspray and who once tied beetlebugs from strings to the ceiling fan in grandma’s living room. one time he got a tree branch stuck up his nose; i don’t know how it happened (though unceremoniously would be my guess). another time he used the cordless phone from the barn to call his mom in the house and snarl in a low voice: “i’m watching you. i know where you are.” overall, jamie wasn’t much of a watcher. watching was too slow for him but the perfect speed for me. grandma’s little neighborhood, on top of that very steep hill in the east view section of town, was peppered with the makings of my future mental pictures…roosters and chickens and cows and horses going about their day in the field; i loved to hear the roosters crow, but they were mean as hell so i admired from afar…the cinder-block-sized salt block for the cows, with a big dip in the center where they licked…the honeysuckle vine across the street at violet’s house…the crab apple tree in mrs. what’s-her-name’s-yard on the corner…that huge, ominous, rust-flaked hook hanging from a metal pole near the corrugated steel-and-wire pigpen...the path a few hundred yards up the road where cousins would come out of the woods on horseback, horseshoes click-clacking on the pavement on the way to grandma’s big green house.

if i were still that child, i’d still love being in clarksburg...but i’m who she grew up to be, and i don’t. however, as it often goes, my disenchantment is tempered by the knowledge that i’m lucky. a lot of girlsi should refer to myself as a woman, i suppose, though unless i’m being purposely supercilious or snarky, i like “girl’ just fine… in my situation wouldn’t have parents who’d be as thrilled as mine to have their girl home again. so. i live most days in my little hometown in strange fog of gratitude and despair. which results in me being a strange, foggy version of myself. was i more me in memphis? i was. now, with the background of memphis in my foreground, i realize that while i found that city ever-so-slightly dystopian i had still created a life there…as if to remind me that’s more than a figurative statement, a little someone fluttered in my belly just now…but that story will have to ripen a little longer to tell. missing memphis is complicated; missing the me i was in memphis is not. me… i used to crank up the volume and sing — aloud, and not well — perhaps while vacuuming or with (at) my dogs, who didn’t appreciate it, if their barking was any indication. i used to enjoy my solitude on fall evenings in my house, maybe sewing or using my aunt's old costume jewelry to make gifts for birthdays or xmas. i used to make people laugh, at dinners out with jessi and ellen at café eclectic or young ave. deli or memphis pizza café, or on the deck at otherlands coffee house (before i boycotted it after the day some guy with a napoleon complex copped an attitude bc of my dog. his dogs weren’t on leash; mine was. he told me i should leave. i told him he was messing with the wrong woman...see how “woman” fits there? get it? yeah. and then the owner took his side, and i took my business elsewhere. but not before giving her the malocchio).

there have been many versions of my life, from east view to memphis to clarksburg. i like to imagine them on a timeline, with increments marked by dots and descriptions and big, glossy pictures in place for the best of times. and as i look down at the bulge that makes my belly lopsided toward the right…and wonder if it’s a head or a butt i’m patting…i know the biggest, glossiest, most perfect picture ever is to come. so i smile down at my little someone, take a swig of my now-cold decaf, and look forward to deciding what kind of cookies to bake for movie night with my cousin 5 hours, 18 minutes from now.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

buncha somethin'.

in lieu of the introspective, somewhat-literary-ish blog i should've written/should be writing re: my continual disenchantment w clarksburg, i give you a list (all of which should be in caps bc I AM YELLING):


1. panera/starbucks/almost heaven do not count as coffee shops. coffee shops have character. they have interesting people mingling about. interesting means, for instance: people who are in college and probably did something stupid and fun the night before, or maybe they're skipping class, and whatever they're doing (unless it's hard drugs or harder porn or murder) is probably okay bc they're young, and if you don't think it's okay, you're probably waiting for the sky to fall this very minute. keep looking up. i hope a bird poops in your face. other interesting people might make art or music or film, or dress strangely, or look like hippies or like they enjoy hiking/kayaking and maybe brought their own ceramic mug for coffee rather than buying a paper cup and contributing to the destruction of the environment, or maybe they say funny things or think they know everything about history/politics/economics/religion, or are vegetarian or even vegan - and hey, btw, real coffee shops offer meat-free options on their menu. like fake sausage. who cares if you don't understand why people who don't eat meat want to eat something that tastes/looks like meat. we don't understand why you want to eat the ass end of a pig. pork butt? whatevs. live and let live. and here's the kicker about coffee shops: it doesn't matter if i never speak a word to anyone while i'm there; historically, i rarely did. however, i need scenery. other people provide it.


2. there is no food in this town. oh there is, you say? okay, let me rephrase: when i don't want cheese/fried something/pasta: there is no food. there is especially no food that is healthy or locally sourced or vegetarian or ethnic (besides italian, and the last time i went to oliverio's it tasted like they were trying harder to make money than good food). and hey, check this out - frying vegetables in a brown or orange gelatinous substance and then putting the whole mess over rice doesn't count, so don't even try suggesting chinese food. gnarly. also, i used to go to brunch on sundays. sometimes by myself, sometimes with friends. i looked forward to it. is there brunch here? no. this town is starving me. and i'm mean when i'm hungry. so get outta my face.


3. whoopee, i get to walk in a big circle on the trail by the west fork river for exercise, and wait, don't tell me - the extra effort of trying to dodge never-ending piles of duck and goose crap burns more calories, doesn't it? also, when i walk past the skate park on my daily circle-walking, i have to witness the sad lack of enthusiasm, much less skill, on the part of this town's vans-wearing deviants. seriously, guys, those ramps are barely taller than the tallest patch of frizz on my curly head, thanks to the still-not-fully-repaired razor cut (a surprise! from the snooty, nasal-voiced, tyrannosaurus-armed stylist in memphis who should've asked if i'd like to end up with the ponytail of a toddler. i would've said no.).


4. the kroger here doesn't have half the health food section of other krogers. it doesn't even carry tempeh. do i eat tempeh often? no. but what if one day i need to make buffalo tempeh nuggets? i can't. and then i'm mad.


5. i realize i need to stay in clarksburg for whoknowshowlong until it's feasible to move to morgantown. this does not, however, make living in this town more pleasing or less annoying on a daily basis. and unless you can teach me how to live on some other basis, you can't help me out. and really, i don't want suggestions. i know my options here; it's just that they're not enough, not when i've spent too many years living elsewhere and building my own little world, chaotic and confusing and not always pleasing as it were but it was still mine. also, i am in no way saying that everyone should dislike clarksburg, bc i realize some people like clarksburg. some people like to eat boogers. some people like avant-garde art. some people like the band nickelback. it takes all kinds.


6. my kid is gonna have an interesting mom.



Friday, August 26, 2011

what i learned from a monster.

what do you want?

four little words. scarier than spiders and spaghettihead. the latter being the monster who lived in the attic when i was a kid, according to my brother. the attic door was conveniently located in my bedroom. if spaghettihead were so inclined, he could've easily snatched me up before dad could grab his gun. he never did. perhaps he was too busy up in those rafters — which may or may not have been painted crayon gray like the steps and walls and floors — entertaining himself among the relics of my family's past...my brother's record and tape and coin and marble collections; the white cardboard box, decorated (barely) with with one pink and one blue line around its edge, that united hospital center provided for my parents to take home their new baby girl in july 1976; the gun-metal gray cabinet with kev and i's snowsuits and someone's (dad's?) old two-piece suits; the collection of 1960s dresses my aunt gave me to play in — i recall especially the tea-length, white and blue cotillion-esque one and the full-length, puffy-sleeved halloween orange one; the toy chest (which eventually found its way to the foot of my bed in memphis) crammed with barbie and her pink corvette and her friends, all in disreputable states of undress, their coarse hair most likely tangled around the spindly legs of all my toy horses; and bags and boxes and trunks full of who knows what else. through the years, i was often sitting on the wide, wooden, stairs to that attic — writing my first novel, about a horse, which reached a full two pages in my notebook before i got bored with it, or scribbling names and dates on the cardboard walls in black or red marker with my friends, or talking on the phone to boys. truth is, all along i was less afraid of spaghettihead than the old woman whose profile would appear on my wall on nights when the moon was positioned just so. perhaps spaghetti knew, and a lack of reciprocity eventually became his demise. turns out monsters are much like love.

so is love the answer to what do you want? on holidays and special occasions, yes. otherwise, it's still scary as spiders and unreciprocated as spaghettihead. what do i want? to start what i finished on those attic stairs. the writing, that is. not necessarily on the subject of horses or in the form of a novel. a weekly column in a newspaper or magazine sounds pretty amazing. or writing random whatevers for random whoevers, as long as it's consistent. and editing books, especially the kind i'd like to read. sometime recently, maybe somewhere between I 40 east and I 79 north, i realized that finally i do know what i want. because i have someone to want it for, though i haven't met this someone...yet. and in a way, i guess what i want more than anything is love. a kind i haven't had. i hear it's the best kind ever, though.


Friday, August 19, 2011

in wooden shoes.

coffee shops are notorious for uneven tables — you know, one leg propped up by a folded napkin. yesterday, my table was not. i considered it not fortuitous but simply what i deserved: an uncrooked table. a non-crooked table? no, a settled table. settled. something i am notoriously not. who has time for being settled when there's curiosity to quench. that's been my way from the age of 17 until...now, i guess. i turned 35 a few weeks ago, and i can now say my list of curiosities has dwindled not fully, but significantly.

today i'm at the coffee shop again. my table is not uncrooked or non-crooked. it's wildly uneven. i don't mind. if it weren't for unevenness how would we know to appreciate evenness? we wouldn't. i remember some philosopher or theorist said something to the effect of "we can't know anything without knowing its opposite"...actually, i just googled it and kierkegaard came up. so i guess he said it. and i believe him. sometimes, our awareness of appreciating whatever it is we're currently appreciating is subtle, nestled somewhere in our subconscious. but whether we recognize it or not, that awareness is what helps us to enjoy things more fully. other times, awareness is right there in front of your face. when i lean my right elbow on the edge of the table closest to the nearly-floor-to-ceiling front window of the coffee shop, it wobbles. and the wobbles are what prompted me to write today.

outside this window — which i just found is made of plexiglass bc when the guy leaned his mountain bike against it, it went thunk instead of clack — a young couple, both strawberry blond and heavy-set...their resemblance is kinda weird, really... grasp hands as they walk around the corner, where they'll pass the adult book store with the blacked-out windows. in all my years living in morgantown, i never went in that store, though for whatever reason i had decided it was much more seedy than the other adult book store across from the coffee shop, where i had been inside. and i can say for sure that the 35-yr-old me would have the very same reaction as i did back then: i'd giggle and run squealing from gigantic phalluses as if they were about to jump off the walls and get me. i went in there yrs ago bc a girl i knew worked there. her name was tonya, but everyone called her "teabag." she had a tattoo of a wrench on her forearm and she called me "granny" bc i was so much older, and once she laughed like a hyena out the window of her car when she saw me trip over a caved-in section of the sidewalk as i was running down beechurst ave. i laughed, too. unevenness can be funny, you know.

outside the window again...college boys carrying cases of miller light or foil-wrapped hoagies from the joint two doors down w the chalkboard advertising "FAT SANDWICHES!" are looking in at me as if i'm their age, or as if they don't care that i'm not. i prefer to think the former. one even tapped on the window at me. i laughed. if circumstances were different — and i don't mean my age — i might entertain the idea of hanging out with them. just for kicks. one boy with a ponytail and hippie-looking outfit just passed by. i've seen many of him today, in various lengths and widths and heights, in different shades of skin and hair and clothing. and these boys in particular make me think of my first year of college, 1994, and how boys with ponytails and hippie clothes would live in sunnyside — not on the first few blocks of grant ave. next to...what was the name of that off-campus dorm?...but maybe down a few blocks or on mclean or 3rd st. — and they'd hang out at terrapin station, or dr. johns if they were more serious about their drugs. i didn't know many people who did drugs when i was 17. one girl comes to mind. she was older and related to a friend of mine, and i recall hanging out with her exactly once. in fact, when i was here in morgantown yesterday, i drove past the parking lot where she took me that night to pick up mushrooms. she ate them in the bar later that night. of course she was polite enough to offer me a nibble, but i was more terrified than intrigued, so i declined.

i've been sitting here for hours. soon i'll have to go back to clarksburg, which is the thunk to morgantown's clack. i prefer the latter, but only bc i know the former. did i mention kierkegaard was dutch? i wonder which sound wooden shoes make...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

a mighty pen.

and the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

a verse from pablo neruda's "poem twenty." i understood what it meant, or rather, i had my own interpretation of it, when i had it tattooed on my right hip 7 years ago. its meaning to me has become more significant with time. it's as if the 27-year-old me knew...except its that kind of unknowing knowing, the kind you only find out later. my friend tattooed me in his shop above the bead store on high street in morgantown. depending on factors insignificant, people might call my friend "the mayor," because he knows everyone in town, or "big seize," bc seize is part of his graffiti tag. i met him when his older shop was next to the coffee shop where i worked. he and my boyfriend at the time were both into graffiti, and a group of us used to go to the park in osage, right over the bridge from downtown, to watch the two of them paint the wall of the building next to the basketball court. those were good days.

seize is a tall, burly fella with an affinity for cafe bikes and w.b. yeats. he has countless tattoos, though the sword beginning right above one collar bone and ending on the other side as if it went through his neck is a standout. his hair is the color of my dad's favorite black licorice but his beard is not, and sometimes his beard's length and girth give that sword tattoo a run for its money. seize is an intimidating-looking dude, though if he lets you get to know him, you'll find a big 'ol heart buried just due south of "diem," as in carpe diem, which is tattooed in a half circle on his chest. he and i don't speak often. i don't think about him much, and vice versa, i imagine. but i thought about him recently and it hit me that i hope we'll always be friends. we have one of those friendships where we always pick up where we left off. he loves to give me a hard time just for fun, and i love to be given a hard time just for fun, so it's always nice to see him. seize will give me my next tattoo for sure, but it'll be a while, who knows how long. all i know is it'll be a name.

i have a copy of pablo neruda's poem twenty laminated. it sits on my coffee table, gathering dust until i remember to wipe it off, which isn't as often as it should be bc i rarely sit on my couch to look at it. actually, it's not a couch; it's a futon. my dad bought it for me a few days before i moved to memphis. he insisted on the most expensive cushion. he and mom and i went to the futon store next to the mexican place next to big lots; mom loves to browse but dad and i like to get things done and get out, so we hurried it up. i remember saying let's get the least expensive one, but of course dad couldn't stand the thought of me sleeping on it for any length of time, which turned out to be a short length at that bc not long after i arrived in memphis he bought me a bed. the futon stayed, though, bc i could never afford a couch, or at least i never thought to save up for one. i've never been much for planning ahead. bc then i'd have to eschew whatever i'm presently yearning for in favor of some sort of calm assurance that in some far off span of time i'll be able to have what i want. and if there's one thing i'm inclined to do, it's yearn. and if there's another thing i'm inclined to do, it's to have an aversion to doing away with my yearning. discipline in my life is reserved for exercising and paying too much attention to my dogs.

so over the past five years, this couch issue became oddly important to me. i thought about it a lot. i wanted a leather a couch, a sectional. leather so the dog hair wouldn't stick and dog slobber wouldn't stain. i'd daydream about how good it would be once i got a couch, how i'd invite friends over to sit on it. not just to sit on it; i'd make food and it would be an occasion. as of today, though, i'm allowing myself to squash my own dreams of the couch. while another thing i'm inclined to do is enjoy being right about things, i am not always right. the damn couch won't change a thing. and i know this bc more and more i'm finding that oftentimes the things you don't think about — bc you take them for granted or they're too difficult so you push them aside — turn out to be more important than the thoughts, much like gray hairs, which take up residence in your head without you noticing.

today i thought about pablo neruda not bc of the verse on my hip, but bc of the verse a few lines down in the poem: my voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing. my voice all too often goes hoarse in the very same attempt — to touch another's hearing. i bet that's not how he meant it in the poem; i bet that voice was softer, less urgent, and perhaps even more accepting of its own limitations. i bet neruda knew that other people have to notice their own gray hairs. and if they don't, it's better just to let the verses fall, to quiet the voice and pick up the pen.




Friday, June 17, 2011

two hearts and a scale.

a week ago i weighed 102 pounds, plus an ounce or so. today, i bet i'd break the scale. if you counted the weight of my heart, that is. not the one pumping blood in and out of itself, somewhere behind my left breast, which lately i've noticed is bigger than my right. i mean that other one pumping feelings and thoughts in and out of me, somewhere undefined.

i'm not unique, though. i think we all have two hearts. and i think both are necessary to sustain life. though different people tend to their two hearts differently — maybe one more so than the other or maybe not tending to either at all. truth is, both hearts can bring you down if you aren't careful. that's why i'm writing this.very.moment. today, for maybe the first time ever, i realized i had to — just absolutely had to — let it be. i had to let my bandaged-but-burning-bright heart burn itself out rather than burn me.

it occurred to me on the drive from downtown to my house.

i was on the phone with a friend who was in despair over a decision, although i never worry about her bc, more than anyone i've ever met, she never runs from a hard decision, no matter how hard it is to make. i was driving down peabody, listening to her explain all the feelings clogging her second heart as i passed the corner store with "cold cuts" in giant letters across its facade, the quick mart by the housing projects where the woman with the large rear barely covered in blue spandex shorts was rocking her hips back and forth while waiting for the light to change, another liquor store with the barred windows where the guy with a bag full of chips and beer yelled something unintelligible at me, all the while my belly growling in anticipation of the leftover tabouli i made last night with fresh parsley and mint and my second heart pumping the same thought in and out, in and out: oh god why can't he just understand. as i crossed the four way stop where i never know which person is supposed to yield first...i never know in real life, either...i told my friend that her heart, at least that troublesome second one, was in one place, while her body and her life were in another. and i said to her: all of you should be in one place so you can be at peace.

from now until forever, i hope i can take my own advice, and maybe sooner than later i won't break the scale.

Friday, June 10, 2011

the lesson in sticker collections.

last night, sleep came and went in short bursts, the way clouds spill rain in summer. at least for the first few hours. i eventually fell into deeper sleep, because I remember dreaming about...something...it was vivid the second my eyes popped open this morning but now it has slipped away. during one of my wide-awake bursts in the wee hours, i remember looking up at the ceiling and wishing it were covered in glow-in-the-dark stickers that were popular when i was in junior high...stars and moons...were there constellations, too? i can't recall. i never had them on my ceiling. i'm sure i would've had i asked, but i never did. i don't think i asked for much as a kid. i remember specifically pining for a few things...a huffy bike, which i barely rode...a barbie doll house, which i never got...a hot pink nash skateboard, which i only rode sitting down...a brass vanity with glass shelves, which i grew to hate bc it constantly collected fingerprints and dust...a horse, but i settled for frequent rides at my aunt's house and a set of plastic horses from the movie the black stallion...and a puppy, of course. a beagle my brother named cujo. we got him when i was in 4th grade from the older couple up the street who had tons of dogs in their backyard. cujo was smart and obedient and lived from the time i had my first fake boyfriend at 10 until i had my first real boyfriend at 24, the same year he had congestive heart failure. one day, mom called to say cujo had to be put to sleep. i remember taking the news well; i didn't cry at all, which now i think is weird, especially bc my boyfriend and i were broken up at the time. you'd think i would've been emotional. but back then i was still doing that terrible thing where i kept my parents at a distance. i don't know why i did it for so long, but i did.

mom said the day they put cujo to sleep, dad was crushed and swore he'd never have another dog. then i brought home chloe from wal-mart later that year. he looked exasperated when i came in the house with a big smile on my face and an armful of silky fur. chloe is 10 now and dad calls her cody girl and gives her special food and glucosamine and all sorts of herbs at my brother's direction. dad also hated cats for i don't know how long, but he for sure stopped the year he and mom moved to the house on the edge of the woods and their cat collection grew from zero to four — dixie, dusty, lacy, and josie. i named josie after josie wales.

my dad was a tough guy back in the day but time has softened him, which is exactly the reverse of what it does to his favorite italian bread...it gets harder and crustier with every day, and he likes it best that way. i bet mom likes dad best now that he's like the bread on the first day it's baked...warm and just slightly smooshy. nowadays, dad doesn't even try to hide it when he talks to the cats in that tone of voice men only use when they really love something, usually a child or a pet. or maybe a woman, depending on the guy...and the woman. me, i'm not into baby talk. or whatever you call it. but i do like to be called baby...or babe or darlin, or sugar, even. maybe i might be okay with a man using that soft, cutesy tone with me on specific, brief occasions...i can't think of any off the top of my head, but i imagine they could exist. i also don't like when men get that sexy tone of voice, the one that makes me think they've watched too many sex scenes or gotten some misguided advice along the way about what women like. a few years back, i went on a couple dates with a guy like that. he tricked me, though. at first he seemed really cool, with the exception of the way he wore his peacoat with the collar turned up...but mostly he seemed like an eclectic southern boy who liked to shoot guns and listen to good music and make good art. he had that way of making me feel like i was out with a real man...i can't explain that feeling exactly but it has something to do with me knowing that i'm in charge but letting the guy think he is. i like that kind of thing, though the re-occurrence of it seems on a par with me getting anywhere on time. i wasn't terribly attracted to southern boy, but i liked our dynamic at least. then one night he kissed me and i don't know if he'd had too many drinks or what, but out of the blue his voice lowered and his eyes narrowed and he clearly thought he was working his magic on me, and i couldn't get away from him fast enough. he sent two text messages after we parted that night, and i could just imagine him feeling sexy as he was typing them. i never went out with him again. similar things have happened on dates with other guys, all of whom i've never went out with again. i don't mind a man wanting to win me over if i've decided i like him...a decision which is usually as dangerous as driving blindfolded on an old mountain road full of hairpin turns and no side rails ...but anyway, overt sexy talk is decidedly un-sexy, and kinda hilarious. so while it never results in more dates, it does give me a good laugh.

early this morning i'd already started writing about glow-in-the-dark stickers in my head. i almost got out of bed to start typing bc i was afraid i'd forget the string of associations i was making from staring at imaginary moons and stars on my ceiling, but then i fell back asleep. today all i remembered to write about was the stickers. so i started with them and did what i don't do well in real life...i let go. and i ended with a good laugh.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

who'd wanna be...

that narrow rectangular box on my fb page is always there, beckoning me to tell what's on my mind. i frequently oblige. however, in particular moments, i find myself typing and retyping, trying to condense my overflowing thoughts into — what is it, 420 characters? i could do it. after all, finessing words is what i do for a living. but this isn't work; it's life. and in those particular moments during the tug of war between my fingers and the backspace key, the writer in me comes along and beckons me elsewhere. so i come here, to this forgiving rectangular space that stretches as long and wide and deep as my thoughts. this space, where i can be that "jug filled with water both magic and plain...only to lean over and a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me." that quote is taken from too loud a solitude by bohumil hrabal, a czech writer whose tiny little book is so simply, beautifully written that it doesn't matter that in real life we are far less inclined to see beauty or find depth in the life of an aged, lonely drunk. unless you buy into bukowski's brand of smug self-satisfaction disguised as literature. i do not. hrabal and bukowski are both dead. but if hrabal hadn't ended up in a pile on the pavement — just like the droppings of the pigeons he was supposedly feeding that day in 1997 from his 5th-floor hospital window — he'd be doing the world more good. as for bukowski, modest mouse says it best — who'd wanna be such an asshole?

i've no reason to write about hrabal or bukowski today. they crept in unexpected, just like everything else that ends up making sense to me later. today my mind was pacing back and forth between wondering why i never know when to give up and knowing that if i knew when to give up, i'd be somebody else. and i like being me, even when i want to not like being me. did hrabal and bukowski like who they were? doesn't seem so. the former internalized it, to the point of suicide; the latter externalized it with women and booze. so they both got it, it being life, horribly wrong. what a waste. i think about things like that...how i never want to feel like i've wasted an opportunity...to speak my mind or go after something i want, whatever it may be. lately my life has become immersed in things absolutely heart-making and utterly heartbreaking. so i held my breath and dove in, looking for whatever opportunity i shouldn't waste. so far i've found myself nothing but out of breath. i told my mom today that i'm fed up and frustrated and tired of false starts and dead ends and really, mom, i think i need a miracle. and she said they're still out there. miracles. hmm. i can't say i believe that, or at least not in the sense of something wonderful happening without me doing a thing to facilitate it. you give good; you get good. that's how it works. so of course i knew there would be no miracle, that i'd have to fill up my own little jug with more magic. and to hell with bukowski.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

even rain stops for cake.

i am most moved to write when i'm supposed to be doing something else. it's habitual. and i have to tend to it, bc the things in this life that inspire me are few...fragile and shiny like the bubbles a child blows from a wand. these things don't wait for me; i wait for them.

this evening the bubbles floated over to me from the family party across the street. moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas sitting on the porch. grandkids, mostly grown from what i could tell, playing sandbag toss in the driveway. one of them resembles a guy i see occasionally and only at the deli. a not-very-tall guy, thin, with a half-circle of hair that matches his crayon-brown eyes and a habit of running into me as i'm going one way and he's going another. it's always a quick hey, how you doin, and then we're off. though with this guy it's not one of those obligatory hellos, bc we know each other so remotely that it would be just as well if we didn't say hi at all. he speaks bc he's a friendly, plain old nice guy. i just know. the grandson (or son or nephew) playing sandbags in the driveway across the street isn't the same guy. he's just a stranger who reminds me of a near-stranger.

i got up maybe twice to look out at the party. it made me feel better, more so than when i see the young couple with the two small girls across the street, on the porch having a tea party or in the front yard playing while daddy waters the lawn or stands way back on the sidewalk near the street and looks up at the house as if he's assessing some sort of repairs...though he doesn't look remotely handy, if you ask me. once he walked down my side of the street with one little girl on his shoulders and the other by his side, holding his hand. they're an ok family. but it's just the four of them, which is not as comforting as the extended-family party a few doors down. more history there, i guess. more assurance of longevity, that some things do last. my dogs have been sitting at the window watching, too. thinking about the morsels and crumbs of food tumbling from plates filled with hot dogs and baked beans and potato salad. or whatever they're eating.

after my last peek, i came back to my desk, resolute that i'd finish the last 8 pages of this neverending book i'm working on, only to be reined in by the change in tune, literally, from across the street. they were singing happy birthday. i bet they're having cake next. i talk about cake a lot. cupcakes, mostly. bc they're small and cute. but i like all cake. cake is the edible manifestation of things carefree and innocent. people who don't like cake, i'm convinced, have lost touch with their inner child. not me. not even on days when my faith in people seems to be thinning soo quickly, like that nice guy at the deli's hairline. except my faith can be restored more easily.

when my family has birthday parties, which is all the time bc there are hundreds of us, there are two aunts who make the cakes. i can't remember if both of them make it the same, but at least one of them fills the layers with a mix of homemade buttercream icing and raspberry jam. i always eat two pieces. or two and a half. i haven't been home for a party in years now, so i get lots of phone calls and text messages about the cake i'm missing. i think the last time i had my aunt's cake was my 31st birthday. my family had a big cookout for me at that same aunt's, right down the hill from my mom and dad's house. my uncle — who i will always remember in his red polka-dotted welder's cap, even though i haven't seen him wear it since i can't remember when — gave me a check and told me to eat a fat burger. even after 16 years the vegetarian jokes haven't died. after this long i'd probably miss it if they stopped.

at family cookouts certain things always happen: we eat way too much, we make fun of whoever isn't there or whoever did whatever annoying thing in church last sunday, and we play badminton in the yard beside the pool. we do it completely wrong...no score kept, no rules followed, too many people on a team and some playing with tennis rackets bc there aren't enough badminton rackets to go around. we play forever, and usually about midway through, the game is interrupted by a small child whining for attention until a young parent drops their racket to take him or her to the trampoline next to the pontoon boat sitting by the fence. my cousin who likes motocross and beer cracks jokes the entire time until we're laughing so hard we forget to pay attention to where the birdie is, and then he makes fun of us for not being able to play. at some point he always yells across the net at my 60-something uncle — don't play too hard, old man, you don't wanna ruin your thrusting hip. and it's never not funny.

it's dark now and the party is long over. i won't finish those 8 pages tonight. but i will be home for my birthday this year.



Sunday, May 15, 2011

"love and a few verses"

4:51 am promptly punctuated last night's sleep, and this morning i didn't even bother with the under-eye concealer. i knew i wouldn't be going anywhere, and if an uninvited visitor stopped by, well, i just wouldn't answer the door. i think it's rude to come by unannounced anyway. i'd never do it. maybe it's a southern thing that i don't understand, like the way girlfriends in the south go everywhere together. that one struck me early on after moving to memphis. it was new to me. i've warmed up to the group thing a little, mostly out of necessity, because you can't make friends being the new girl unless you give in a little to the way things are done around here. social hegemony, i call it. but i budged a little, and lo and behold, it wasn't too painful. well, a few times it was. either way, on the whole, i'm better off dangling like a stray thread from the fringes of social groups. that way, i can come and go as i please, which is what i'm used to. maybe it's one of those selfish habits cultivated by people who live alone for too long..."too long" as defined by the same authorities who decided it's improper to wear white after labor day or have long hair past the age of 50, i imagine. those people.

today is distant and cold, the defiant child of spring. i'm supposed to be writing an article about the beach, to be published in a magazine, but who can think about that kind of day while having this kind? not i, says the girl whose once-charcoal hair is now laced with a few too many strands of silver, whose hazel eyes, unembellished by thick black mascara, are underscored with dark circles. i'm that girl. or woman, i guess. though i never think of myself as a woman. women have homes and husbands and long-forgotten dreams. don't they? i like to think of my life as an experiment in prolonging girlhood. how long can i make it stretch. at least for the length of this day, for certain.

this girl will write about sun-basking and nesting sea turtles later this evening, after coming to terms with the state of today.

maybe 30 minutes ago, as i looked out my window through the 6-inch gap left bare by my too-short mini blinds, i saw the stray dog who is being looked after by the girl in the guesthouse in my back yard. i call her pretty girl because she has no other name. she looks like a mix of beagle and pitbull, mostly butterscotch with patches of white, and she's
sweeter than sugar. more often than not, when neighbor girl goes out...lately with her ringlets flat-ironed poker straight, dyed neon orange, and parted into two thick pigtails...pretty girl gets loose because the guesthouse gate is broken. neighbor girl found an old tire to push against it, but you really have to position the gate and the tire just right so the dog can't get out. many days and nights now, i find pretty girl on my front porch and have to coax her back into the yard and fiddle with the gate to make sure she doesn't escape. my yard and the guesthouse yard are connected, so on late nights or when it rains, i leave my gate cracked so she can wander between my yard and hers. she seems to bark less that way. i feel responsible for her, even though i'm not the one caring for her. but neighbor girl is young, maybe 20, and i can tell she's not entirely responsible. nor am i, in a handful of ways for certain, except for when it comes to anything i might, possibly, could, almost, sorta, or outright love. pretty girl has stolen my heart. she'll break it eventually when she goes. there won't be a thing i can do about it. i always think i can, you know, fix everything if i love it enough. and love does conquer all. except not always in the overcoming odds sense. sometimes it simply conquers the good intentions we can't make good on. and that's just the way it goes.



Sunday, May 8, 2011

the greatest love.



Us, 1979

Eyes of ocean glass

complement the curtain

hung behind her bed's

mahogany crown.

She is so long,

arms and legs encircling

my abbreviated limbs.

Her cherry-stained hair,

straight as truth,

reaches the slope of shoulder

and then some.

She is warm to the touch.

my autumn mother,

cradling her winter child

with the unfinished face

which will grow to resemble hers:

hint of cheekbone,

crooked bottom teeth.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

this way and that.

home. i haven't been there since the xmas before last. in the first few years i lived in memphis, i would go home to west virginia a few times a year. i didn't plan ahead, really. i'd decide maybe a few days in advance. sometimes i wouldn't tell my parents. i liked to surprise them. that giddy feeling would always hit me right when i saw the kovach memorials sign across from bassel street. kaiser and phaedra knew, too. they'd stick their heads out the window and start sniffing and bouncing all over the back seat. when i reached the gravel road at the bottom of my parents' hill, i'd try to drive slowly so the sound of the rocks spitting out from my tires wouldn't give me away. these trips were usually in the spring or summer. the front door would be open. and mom would come running from the kitchen, squealing, "there's my baby girl!" and dad would say "oh my gosh" and i knew i had made his day even though his voice didn't rise at all. his pitch only changes when he's laughing at himself for getting under mom's skin or when he's singing a silly made-up song. mom would squeeze me really hard and peck my face all over with kisses, and dad would make his way to the basement to make a place for the dogs to stay. it would happen that way every time.

when i got back to memphis, i would meet up with my good friend the next day. that was our routine, every time, in those first few years. we'd have dinner, usually at the deli or pizza cafe, or maybe she'd come over to my tiny guest house and we'd sit at my vintage kitchen table, smoking cigarettes and looking at her facebook, bc i didn't have one back then. before she got there i'd always tell the dogs she was coming. i thought it was cute how they'd learned to recognize her name. it would be early evening when she'd come down my sidewalk, which was lined with monkey grass all hacked up from the time i took the weedeater to it, and she'd be in old navy jeans and flip flops, with one shoulder weighed down by one of her giant purses...i always made fun of them, and she would in turn make fun of something about me...maybe the way i fuss over my hair or use safety pins to hold my clothes together...and my life at times, it seems. some friends have this way of looking at each other in caricature, seeing the parts of each other that stand out the most. that's how it was with she and i. still is, although i rarely see her anymore. she fell in love, in almost a literal sense. like she wasn't watching and fell right into a puddle of it. and i love the way she's still giddy about it, even after a year. she has since stopped smoking, but back in the days when she'd come over, i always liked to watch her cigarette hang from her lip while she used one hand to open the door and put the other against the frame to steady herself as she climbed over the baby gate. i had to put it in front of the door bc the dogs could've easily pushed through the screen. it was one of those flimsy wooden-frame screen doors that cost twenty bucks at home depot. it didn't come with the house but my landlords put it up just for me. best landlords ever. two guys, in their early forties. both pilots, a little on the preppy side, though not pejoratively so. they owned the house in front and rented it to pilots as a crashpad. i usually talked to the short one whose face was drawn in sharp angles, especially his chin. he was a smart ass who drank imported beer and had a mouth full of vulgarities...not around me, not but little bits of it here and there. and i like that in a person, so he was okay by me. i wouldn't call us friends, but if i'd see him on the front porch when i was pulling into the driveway, i might lean against the metal rail and shoot the shit for a minute. politics usually came up. he was very conservative, and although i'm not entirely un-conservative i'd still counter every point he made...at the behest of whatever quality i possess that causes me to do that sort of thing. give me a point to argue, and i will map out every possible route to every possible outcome. and he would argue right back, which was fine for fun. though it always got me thinking how i couldn't date a guy like that. or rather, why it has never worked out when i have. i like a challenge; i do not like to be challenged. the difference is subtle but significant. and then i'd think about how life was with him and his wife. i'd wonder if she humors him, the way my dad does my mom when she's going on about whatever's gotten her worked up, which is always something. i love that about my mom. pure passion, from the inside all the way out to that smoky auburn hair and those blue-hot eyes.

personalities are puzzle pieces—all shaped differently. sometimes you can shove the wrong ones together, although eventually all the other pieces displaced by that mismatching will pile up. but when the right people are in the right place, their idiosyncrasies—the things that stand out and stick out—are the very things that make them fit.

and just now, it came to mind that i've never put a puzzle together. but i know a thing or two about them. just from paying attention, i guess.

Monday, April 18, 2011

she.

some mornings, too many, i look in the bathroom mirror as i rub the soap into a lather on my face and i wonder...who is she? who is this woman whose greatest joys are experienced mostly in her imagination. she is not me. no way. i have seen me, in photographs—smiling, laughing, making silly faces, in different cities, with friends old and new, running like a child chasing the kite tail of my dreams. where did that girl go? she has been hiding for nearly five years now, leaving me with this other woman.

this woman, she is so tangled in what could be that she loses count of the hours of the day and forgets to do all the things she should have done. this woman, she paints possibilities in her mind—in oils, so they'll never quite dry. she has never seen her garden... but knows it is small, humble, neatly arranged, overflowing with creeping tomato vines, spicy peppers, 2 or maybe 3 kinds of lettuce,and more basil and cilantro than she'll ever be able to use herself. she has never learned to can green tomatoes with the old calabrian recipe that calls for a huge crockery pot to sit full of garlic, spices, olive oil, and tomatoes sliced paper thin for two weeks before it's time to fill and seal the old mason jars...but she has already picked out the fabric for the squares she'll put on the lids so she can give them away as gifts like her father does. she has never entertained friends in the home she has created all on her own, the one with a swing on the front porch that is lush with flowering plants, rooms warmed by picture frames of loved ones placed on vintage end tables found at estate sales, paintings and sculptures made by her friends, candles clustered in the space where a fireplace once burned real logs...but she sees the dining room table filled with friends and ceramic serving dishes and she hears the chatter, which becomes more off-color as the wine bottles empty. she hasn't seen the ocean for 10 years or a lake for 3...but she pictures herself sitting on the sand or grass or on a dock, watching and listening as the waves say shhh as they lap against the shore. she hasn't had love in 9 years and only barely tasted it then... but she fancies a notion of love again, one that fits who she is and not who she should be, a love that is colored outside the lines the world has drawn. she has never traveled to new orleans, but she can feel the moss through her toes as she sits with her knees against her chest, under the canopy of a live oak; she can taste the sweet crust of a beignet around 10 in the morning before the drive back to memphis on a sweltering july sunday.

...


Monday, April 11, 2011

brevity, and a kiss.

it was a week or so ago when butterflies became an affirmation.

it must have been a wednesday or a thursday...they are my softest days, when my mind is free from the baited expectations of friday or saturday, the uncertainty of sunday, wariness of monday, bleariness of tuesday. i had been thinking about the way hope and despair come and go. here, then gone. the way butterflies do. the thought came to land on my shoulder that day, and before i could write about it, it had already fluttered away. the thought of a butterfly is a butterfly itself.

every april, i am bitten by the sun on its first blazing afternoon. this time it was a sunday. and today, tuesday, i feel the heat on my chest and look down to see it glaring right back at me, scorched and stinging. it's an angry color. but i know that in a few days it will give way to tan. in summer i am the color of cardboard—an unsavory description, i know. but i like it. and i think i need that initial burn, as if to say, remember, the burn of emotion is both momentous and momentary.

have you ever seen a butterfly land on the ground? i have never. they perch on narrow leaves or flimsy branches that hang from the furthest tips of trees or on the bare arms of someone—a girl, never a boy—sitting very still, maybe in a park on a blanket under the sun. they flit their wings in slow motion a time or two, briefly, and suddenly they gain momentum and are off again. they seem directionless, uncertain, sensitive. me too, sometimes.

it was thursday, a few weeks ago. one of those nights when a beer or two are enough to slow my swirling thoughts, enough so sleep comes easily. the tv was still on and the time said 3:36 when i awoke to my dogs barking, as they sometimes do in the middle of the night. and joker, who almost never barks at all, was barking the loudest. the three of them ran back and forth from my bed to my office, then back to the window beside my bed, sniffing at the windowsill so loudly and persistently that i remember thinking it was odd. when their paws and snouts eventually pushed aside the mini blind, the nothing that is usually out there was replaced by a man. standing there, looking in at me. and all the things i should have done in that moment, i didn't do. and the way my dogs have always made me feel safe disappeared in an instant.

he stood for forever. or minutes. sometimes the two are one in the same. i waited in the doorway, watching his shadow against the blinds, moving to the left, then disappearing. the police came and went, unconcerned. a man at a window is nothing new. and i keep telling myself that maybe i should think of it that way...except to do so would be to tame my thoughts, which i have always allowed to run free. it's better that way.

you are strong. you've done so many things, all by yourself. don't let this break you. that's what mom said the first night i spent alone after it happened, when i woke up in a panic at 3:30 am. but i'm tired of being strong. i said it aloud, and she let me say it, and neither of us believed it, because it isn't true at all. except in the moment, emotion is momentous. then the moment is gone. like butterflies.

in the past few weeks i have slept well, away from worry and windows. waiting for it to feel right to be back in my own bed, alone. in the midst of all my travels to and from couches and unfamiliar beds, on one of those nights i kissed a friend. i didn't intend it. all i really wanted was sleep, though the possibility of kisses floated around all night among winks and crooked smiles and body language. just for fun, i thought. but when the night had stretched so long that my eyes were struggling to stay open, he suddenly reached over. oh. well, why not. i have known many kisses born of proximity and not passion. they are stillborn. dead before they begin. dead kisses are never to be mourned. the only ones worth mourning are the kisses you're afraid you may never have again. the kind that begin in your belly and rise up to flutter from your lips. the kind that come and go. the way butterflies do. and the only thing you know for sure is the uncertainty with which you believe that maybe, possibly, one day, one of those kisses will be like the monarch butterfly, the fourth generation of which survives longer than all the rest.