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.