Tuesday, December 11, 2012

an ism schism.

last night, 8:30ish. bc of the unseasonably warm weather, the basement was accordingly un-cold and i was running on the treadmill in sweats and a sports bra. occasionally, when i couldn't stop watching the clock or staring straight ahead at my brother's stacked boxes of bulk grains, i'd jump off and run laps around the room, wincing a little when passing the shelf holding the 80s-era radio (the kind that only plays radio and has an antenna). wincing bc, on each pass, my right or left ear (depending on which direction i ran) was blasted with various versions of "all i want for christmas is you" or that karen carpenter holiday song i despise (those two seem to be on permanent rotation). i have to turn it up really, really loud bc i can't hear it across the room over the whirrrrrrr of the treadmill, nor will that particular station come in unless the volume knob is turned past a certain point. codgy contraption it is.

at some point on the treadmill, maybe mid-justin beiber/mariah carey duet, i thought about my bare belly, how the skin is nearly as tight as it used to be, before zion. nearly, i say, bc previously it was stretched over my middle section tight as a canvas. i thought about how much more belly i had last year. not had, but held. as my beanie (zion didn't have a name until the day he was born) grew and grew, my belly pulled and pulled on my back and i had to clasp my hands around it while i walked. at some point in mid-december, my belly was so full of baby that my fingers barely met at the bottom.

unlike last year, last night i didn't pass a pile of pitbulls on a pile of old blankets next to the stairs. last night, joker and phaedra were still outside in their houses. and my kaiser was, is, gone. my kaiser, he was not just my pet but a time in my life. he had my heart in such a way. do i believe in soul mates? human-dog, yes. human-human, no. the human soul can't meet its match or its complement or whatever the word "mate" assumes. i find it ... hmm ... funny? strange? to say i could see my traits in my dog, but i could: quirky, and either distant or effusive, depending on who/what/when/where. missing him is long and lasting. when i think about him for too many seconds, it brings a sharpness and impending wetness behind my eyes every time.

the basement is full of last december. during the last weeks of my pregnancy, it seemed my due date was moving toward me rather than me moving toward it. i was merely walking laps in the basement, biding my time. i remember exactly how the weight of my belly felt against my fingers and exactly how i'd spend most of my 30-minute walk trying to reconcile myself w the fact that there was someone 12 hours away who had gotten away w a backward form of asshole-ism that to this day still escapes my forgiveness. oh, did i just write that out loud? am i going to leave it there, just like that, for everyone to see? yes. today i'm duct-taping the mouth of my inner diplomat and using the one curse word that can actually function as an apt adjective. let the choice of words mirror the truth of the action. 

man, y'all, this coffee they're brewing at panera smells good. way better than it tastes. but maybe i like it that way ... the buildup, then the letdown. mom told me recently that i like to struggle, that i have this "need to do everything on my own and not need anyone." what can i say? independence, like brewing coffee, smells good. and while independence doesn't always taste good, it ultimately tastes just right. does that make sense? it does to me. i need to taste it again. i should get out of last year's basement first, huh. work to do, work to do... 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

cut short.

me + macbook + panera. one of very few (two, maybe?) times we three have come together since my son was born. and i'm a recidivist on this reunion day, writing when i should be working. it feels good ... both to be writing and to have work. it's just a small project for a new client, but, as usual when i get even a tiny boost, my hopes are high for the future. btw, the future is closer than i or you think. in fact, this sentence right here is in the future of the sentence right before it. neat, huh.

a big guy just sauntered through the door, his neat dreadlocks dangling in near-concentric circles, each lock the color and size of a clove cigarette. i wish they were uneven, longer, and had that one, lone dreadlock bending precariously forward as if it might fall into the abyss over the edge of his forehead. but his is the hair of a careful man. careful, yes, even in his anti-establishment hairdo. it's possible, you know. it's like people who get tattoos in places only the shower will reveal. they're braver than some but more careful than others. everything happens in degrees.

it's 47 degrees in clarksburg, under a sky that can't decide if it's happy or sad, depending on which window i look from. i wish it were colder and blustery and the sky was spitting miniature snowballs. i know, i know; it's too early for that. or there's more time for that to come. or whatever. who cares. i like my weather like i like my dreadlocks: reckless.

unfortunately, today's coffee-shop musings will be like big guy's clove-locks: cut short. mamma has to abide by the clock and get her work done so she can once again be a writing writer. one day, when the days of how in the world can i make it happen? have passed, my boy will be proud of his mom. i'll be proud of me, too.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

if sleep were a man, i'd stalk him and make him mine.

if you keep up with me on facebook, you will know i'm tired. you may even be tired of my posts about being tired. actually, i could post even more frequently about my lack of sleep, but i'm too tired to think of unique ways to say i'm tired. tell me you're tired of hearing about it. i dare you.

before i became a mother, i had never — really, NEVER — heard of sleep deprivation. if i could turn back time, i'd go back and ask every new mom i ever knew why the hell she didn't say anything. oh, i know why. shhhh. no one is supposed to know that motherhood isn't the way it looks in the diaper ads or when celebrities pose for the cover of People Magazine. let's put some real moms in those ads and magazine covers, complete with dark circles, stringy hair, and leaky-boob stains on their pajamas. oooh and then lets coerce her into an interview where she tells the truth about what it's like to feel like you're 80 rather than 35 when you wake up and then have an all-day hangover (sans the previous night of fun typically preceding hangovers).

raise your hand if you think i sound like a jerk. now, keep that arm in the air. i will be around shortly to rip it off and beat you with it. i'm not a jerk. i love my son. but will i lie and gush about how wonderful motherhood is? no. you know what's wonderful? when my son talks to himself in his crib after waking from a nap...when i throw him in the air and that gummy grin covers his entire face...when he concentrates really hard to let out a fart and doesn't know how funny it is...when he says ma-mom. those things? wonderful, hands down. not wonderful? nighttime. it has been eight months since i've slept an entire eight hours. actually, more than eight months bc the end-of-pregnancy 50-lb-backpack-strapped-to-your-belly feeling tends to prevent restful sleep. look, i don't expect eight hours of sleep, or even seven, with a baby. six would be nice. five would be good. four or three would be acceptable. anything but the one or two hours i typically get before the up-every-hour relay begins. and really, thank you all for suggesting books/websites to read, but the truth is — while i will skim the info and absorb some bits that make sense — i will not do the work it takes to train my child to sleep. for one, it just doesn't seem natural, and two, i have always found mass-produced self-help to be suspect. it's just weird. so i'll figure this sleep disaster out in my own way, as i do most things.

and let's talk about cereal before bed. WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE? WERE YOU ON QUAALUDES WHEN  YOU THOUGHT YOUR CHILD WAS MAGICALLY SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT BECAUSE OF CEREAL? these must be the same people who told me their newborns would nap during the day when they swaddled them super-tight or turned on the vacuum. really? cause the only way my newborn napped was...never. not until he was about two months old. and the only way he slept at night was on my chest on the couch. and then that had to end bc i was introduced to the possibility of him rolling off my chest onto the floor where he'd smash into a million baby pieces or roll into the side of the couch where he'd suffocate between my mom's french country cushions, or whatever decorating style she uses. buncha sconces and swirly metal wall hangings and pillows with tassels and paintings of houses we don't live in. so anyhow...the next person to suggest cereal before bed will be the next to be beaten with their own arm. get outta my way. i'm exhausted.

and we definitely must discuss breastfeeding. nothing stokes the inner pugilist of a breastfeeding mom more than hearing "eww, it's so gross" or "i'm definitely going with formula when i have a baby." hey, guess what? you're gross. and when you have a baby, i hope your epidural doesn't work. i'm making a sacrifice here. i'm giving up my formerly beautiful breasts, my nighttime sleep, my ability to eat cabbage or cauliflower or anything else deliciously gaseous, my freedom to wear what i want (bc now every outfit must account for quick boob access), my ability to drink beer (i mean one or two beers, not six, and not every night. while i'm at it: those of you who continue to drink yourselves stupid past the age of 25, raise your hand. i'll be by shortly). i enjoyed breastfeeding for the first few months. do i still enjoy it? not that much. but i'm not stopping until he's a year old, bc why would i want to give him a man-made substitute, most likely produced with some freaky-ass chemicals, which is made in the first place to REPLICATE THE PROPERTIES OF BREAST MILK? also, no, i don't think it's excessive that i would rather make his baby food myself and that i don't put butter or salt in it. and by the way: STOP PUTTING YOUR FINGERS IN MY CHILD'S MOUTH. and secondly by the way: yes, i know some moms have to use formula and don't make their own baby food, so don't bother telling me your stories now that i've made you feel like a bad mom. that's your deal. i don't care.

next up i would like to discuss women who say men are no help with children. okay, ladies, here's what you do: get pregnant, then break up with your husband or boyfriend. let me know how that works out. let me clarify that i don't have it half as bad as many single moms who don't have help from their parents. my hat — hell, my hat, my shoes, pants, shirt, and nursing bra — go off to them. i have only a mild idea of what they go through. what is happening to me is not the worst ever — but it's what's happening to me, and i feel better talking about it. also, to those who say "you need to get over what happened in memphis": i will when my circumstances don't constantly remind me of what happened. if you can't deal with that, then raise your hand. i'll be over shortly.

you know who tells the truth about motherhood? women with toddlers, grade-schoolers, and teenage children. they're the ones who tell me i'm not a raging a-hole. you know what else? right now i hear my fat baby talking to himself in his crib. and i'm smiling. because he's wonderful, hands down.

Monday, September 17, 2012

thoughts, like sparks.

yesterday another set of bricks were laid in the grass next to my kaiser. my brother "had them kill his dog," as he put it. a stroke earlier in the day had paralyzed her. stealey was nearly 14, a former playmate of my kaiser. i have a darling picture of them in my old apartment on valley view road in morgantown, on my couch with their front paws on the top cushions, looking out the window, tails at happy attention. that was 1999, and my couch was drenched in two types of purple fabric i'd chosen from the tree-trunk-sized rolls at the store on don knotts boulevard. the swaths' edges were held together with safety pins or left free to fray bc i didn't yet own a sewing machine to finish them. my grandmother would buy me one for christmas the next year, and from then on i would become an average seamstress. if i had become a great seamstress i wouldn't have had time to become average at the twenty-odd other hobbies and habits that occupied the billions of blinks and breaths that signaled the passing of thousands of my days. being the best at anything requires a degree of focus that acts as water to the fires set in my mind. tiny fires...sparks, much like those i recall seeing as a child at my family's welding shop...little bursts of red-orange with flashes of white, spitting and bouncing into the air.

my brother raised stealey with great care and focus, and she was far better behaved than any of my dogs. discipline dampened my affection for my dog-children, and so we went mostly without. we fared okay over the years, despite. as for my human child, it's much the same — thus far, i'm allowing him to wander along his big new world as he pleases. eventually along our way — maybe this week or next year or whenever the occasion or unruly sparks in his burgeoning thoughts call for it — i'll intervene in his world. hopefully not too much bc i want him to be independent, but hopefully enough bc i want him to grow to be a man of integrity. tread carefully, my son, for you'll leave footprints wherever you roam.

men of integrity. a subject that has smoldered inside me for years. there are a few men of integrity out there, although too few in my experience. i have always struggled with feeling i had to choose between believing it was my fault for choosing poorly or the man's fault for behaving poorly. these days i'm less inclined to think i have to choose; i accept (with a degree of embarrassment) my missteps and hold an awareness of (accompanied by dormant resentment) the reckless urges of men. essentially, the fault in relationships lies exactly how faults lie: it is a chasm between two sides. depending on the forces within, it might remain narrow and silent or stretch wide and furious.

fire, like thoughts, can be a thing of creation or destruction. thoughts, like sparks, like this blog entry, can shoot in all directions from their starting point and sputter in quiet irresolution.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

a muse and a million.

every blog begins with a muse. something that crosses my path, be it one of the few paths i walk in real life (around the house, around the park, around the mall...clarksburg, land of going in circles) or one of the many paths that cross and criss-cross my mind like highways. except each time i travel a highway in my mind, the trail erases behind me, leaving free space for all the new ones to come.

the adventures of mamma d
how motherhood didn't change nothin' but my tax return

that title crossed my path recently. i envisioned it, as above, as if it were on a leather-bound cover, while i was driving...in an almost-circle, around my almost-circular neighborhood. i looked in the rear-view mirror at my fat baby, his poofy lips looking even poofier as they hung from his position of sleepy surrender. we had just come from walking at the park, where i saw fake billy corgan on the trail. we see him often. i wonder if he knows he looks like billy corgan. who, btw, wrote the song that always brings to mind my senior-year trip to the state basketball championships in charleston, where i had too many screwdrivers and couldn't get out of bed for breakfast at bob evans the next morning. one of my classmates brought me biscuits, though. a real pal, whoever it was.

life is unimaginably altered once you've given birth, or, on the real: once you've lain writhing in a hospital bed for 15 hours, then were wheeled down to a room where your dead-weight body was transferred by multiple strangers like a dead whale onto a metal table where they gutted you like a deer, and, upon them reinstating your innards, you insisted you couldn't breathe but the anesthesiologist insisted that bc you were speaking, you could, indeed, breathe. your self, however, doesn't change once you've given birth. well, unless you're a person inclined to lose your self. the only thing i lost post-motherhood was weight: in the form of a few pounds and the habit of entertaining unworthy men. bc, you see, now there's a fat baby sittin' like a gatekeeper at my heart. and any man who wants in had better be worthy of that boy.

that boy, he is sure like his mamma. headstrong. living life on his terms. people often exclaim, upon meeting my fat baby, "isn't being a mom wonderful!" which translates roughly to: you aren't allowed to be mad about sleep deprivation or your everlasting dark circles or the fact that a hot meal no longer exists in your world or how your boobs look great now but once he's finished they'll look like shrunken rutabagas or how daily plans are mostly laughable bc all things are now subject to the almighty nap and length thereof. i wish people would instead say, "do you love him endlessly, ruthlessly, mercifully, wholly, incalculably and despite how immeasurably difficult it is to raise him?" and then i would smile and say, unequivocally, yep.

my boy didn't sleep well last night. and i awoke wondering if this month-long neck-and-shoulder spasm would ever subside. like every morning, though, i made sure my smile was the first thing he saw. i made sure of it, beyond the aches and beyond how angry i was about a particular other thing that gets under my skin that i have yet to figure out how to transcend. i wish i could take that unpretty circumstance and transcendtranscendtranscend until it becomes a million drops of rain, soaking into the earth, making way for something more beautiful to grow.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

longing, in short.

longing. i do it often. it should instead be written loooooonging. because longing is long. and, perhaps due to poetry and dramatic cinema, longing is perceived as a sad state of being. i find that a bit skewed. myopic. unfair. for me, longing is the birth of dreaming. and dreaming is the very breath of living.

last night was friday. the only thing that differentiated it from any other night in my calendar of stir craziness was the storm. the darkness overtook the clear sky quickly, like someone pouring black ink into a tub of water. it was terrible, at least by this town's standards. in memphis it would've been an average occasion of the summer sky, throwing bolts and tossing trees in a fit of overheated rage. the swirling wind sent mom spinning like the leaves, flitting around the house and onto the porch to put down the blinds, and when the power finally sputtered out, dad was quick with the hurricane lamps and just as fast out the door to get their dogs from the backyard. as lightning began to streak the sky with yellow-white, i handed mom the baby and began that be-damned journey down the stairs, across the giant basement, and out the back door for my dogs. joker was already at the door, ready to run inside and play like we do when he comes in for the night — which is all i can do to try to make up for disrupting (ruining?) his life with all the changes in my life — but instead i led him straight to his kennel, his tucked tail speaking his disappointment. back out the door for phaedra. by this time the storm had already brewed to nearly full force, and as i fiddled with the latches on her chain-link cage, i hoped neither she nor i would be in the way of the next bolt. in we went. it was so black in the basement that i had to feel around to guide her into her kennel and feel around some more to guide myself to the wooden stairs, where my fingers brushed against the rough edges of the bottom three, which joker had chewed in the earliest months after we moved here. if the basement were lit, the plastic sheets covering the first two feet of everything and anything in the entire basement would also be visible; my dad's attempt at fending off three sets of curious teeth and unruly bladders. three sets at first; now only two. last night, amidst the blackness and fury, the absence of my kaiser's frenzied barks was just as dark and loud.

with our four beasts safe and sound, save for the three cats hopefully fending for themselves, i found mom and dad sitting on the floor in their bedroom with my fat baby rolling back and forth on a green blanket, smiling and showing off his newest expression — a wide-mouthed, gum-displaying grin, which is my favorite...along with my other numerous favorites. i stretched out beside him and shook the heavily faded, pink-and-white hard plastic ball with the bell inside of it; the same ball i played with in 1976. my boy made a half-attempt at crawling toward it, and we praised him with squeals and claps and "what a big boy!" on repeat. as i lay there watching the three of us watching him, despite the joy evident on my parents' faces and my own smile, i felt a twinge of this scenario isn't quite right. or perhaps it's not right juxtaposed against the norm. except that whole mommy-daddy-baby thing is a total mind-bender. i want to want it, for pragmatic reasons, for my son. at the same time, it interferes with the vision i've always had for my life, in which there was no man-void. my vision was me and my career and my dogs and my home, in various manifestations over the years according to which place and which iteration of my career i was longing for at the time. now it's all that, plus 18 pounds of ever-fattening baby. and i'm happy to have him along...despite the torment of sleep deprivation, which i'm promised does have an end (somewhat), and i deign to admit that when that end comes i know i'll easily forget how momentously much it has sucked. i dream of living with my son. having adventures. building traditions. i remember that day — standing in front of my clawfoot tub, which i always wished had been in better shape bc it would've been so pretty without that peeling paint — when the white plastic stick showed a plus sign. i didn't cry. i think i thought something along the lines of well, look at that. it happened to me. and from that moment on i didn't wear single mom as a banner of sadness, of longing for what wasn't to be. weird, right? nonetheless true. i wasn't even mad, either...although i became that way, for a heavy handful of other reasons i'll elucidate some day down the road.

anyhow, single is uninspired. instead, i am a singular mom. one who will hurriedly blow a kiss goodbye to this unfinished blog, for there's a particular grin i'm missing...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

of dinner and unfinished things.

yesterday i found a mix cd a dear friend in memphis made for me a few years ago. it's bright pink and has no writing to identify it, and that's how i know it's the one from her. funny how a lack of something or other can be just as telling as the presence thereof. the cd was one of those for-no-good-reason happies we'd occasionally give each other. my happies usually involved some combination of sugar, flour, and butter. i am always making desserts.

yesterday i was rolling down route 98, easing below 45 mph just as i passed the cop car creeping at the crest of the hill. the speeding ticket is to police officers what advertising work is to freelance writers: it's the job you do most of the time so that some of the time you can do the fun stuff. or that's my take on it, to avert my thinking that cops are just on a power trip. years ago on an evening in morgantown, while i was walking kaiser down high street, a cop yelled at me bc kaiser got too curious around his car. i sighed indignantly and stood there a few seconds longer just to spite him. i am often indignant.

i hadn't listened to my friend's mix cd in a long time; i assumed it had suffered the fate of most of my cds upon ending up everywhere in my car besides a safe place: scratched, ruined. what am i doing with cds anyway. ipods have been hip for ages...to the point of no longer being hip, i suppose. my phone has an ipod, but i'm not interested in spending my valuable time loading it with songs. so i rely on whichever cds are still listenable, their numbers dwindling with the passing of time. i carelessly let my music fall away from me, almost as if i dare it to do so. and then i long for the songs that are gone. maybe i do it bc i know i can find them elsewhere if i really want. yesterday was a music windfall, though. i came across that bright pink cd and decided to give it another try. as luck or fate would have it, it actually worked. i am always giving things another try.

toward the end of route 98 — or the beginning, depending on which side of town you live — the instrumental opening to bobby bare jr's "flat chested girl from maynardville" came on. it's slow and makes you wanna sway and sing lalala along with it. and i always thought it was a harmonica there at the beginning, but after looking at the video on youtube it's an instrument i've never seen — a mini keyboard-looking thing with a tube that goes in your mouth. whatever you call that. anyhow, the song seems to be about a mental-case girl who gets high and hates the way she looks and thinks no one likes her. i love to sing along, although i can't sing very well, nor can i relate to crazy girl at all. i haven't gotten high for eons and never liked it much the few times i did; pregnancy body-weirdness aside, i've liked the way i look for at least the past decade; and i generally think i'm likable. there's another bobby bare jr song, about a different girl, and i can relate to her. it's called "painting her fingernails." i've listened to it 33 times give or take, but every time he sings "she could fix a cheese sandwich but someone might ask her to dinner" i feel like he knows something about me.

going to dinner is to me what going to the toy store is to a kid; it's my fun. some people think going to dinner alone is weird or sad; not me. i've been doing it for years. one of my first dinners alone was in pensacola, florida. summer of '94. i spent a few weeks there with a friend. we planned to spend the whole summer but i got sick and went home early. we drove down there, so i had to take a plane back. i have a picture of myself standing in the airport, my head tilted to the right and a smile underscoring my spotless complexion. i'm not sure how i straightened my hair in that humidity, but it was straight as the stripes on the shirt i was wearing, which showed a peek of my flattest-flat belly, although you can't see that in the picture. i bought that shirt on a shopping spree with my high-school graduation money. 

in recent years, going out to eat with others has become the staple of my social life. however, it isn't easy to come by. i am often wait-listed. because, as a single person, you are no one's priority. except your parents, that is, and only if you're lucky to have good parents, at that. so i'm always waiting for someone to be done with whoever else — boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife — before they can commit to being my dinner companion. it makes sense, of course, yet is no less frustrating...just as i typed that, i realize it applies not only to the wait-list thing but also to being single. i am always finding hidden meaning in things.

today's rain clouds took their bulk elsewhere, sometime between a text message and an un-ripe apricot. neither will be finished.

the end.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

big as the sky.

On an October afternoon in 1999, I visited a shabby back yard in the North View neighborhood of Clarksburg, West Virginia. Not 20 minutes later, I left with who would become my great love for over a decade: my Kaiser. I was 23 and had returned to college after five years of bouncing around Clarksburg and Myrtle Beach and Miami Beach. I lived alone in the brick apartments on Valley View Road in Morgantown, West Virginia, where I went to college. The building had a rectangular cutout in the center, where stairs started at the ground level and went up to the fourth floor. Kaiser was scared of those stairs, so I would carry him up and down to our place on the second floor until he was brave enough to do it by himself. I forget how long that took. In that apartment, Kaisie met his first great friend, Michael, the singer-songwriter who was the first boyfriend I'd had since high school. They were great friends for years, even after Michael and I broke up. He even volunteered to watch Kaisie while I went to New York City with my friend Carrie. I bet they listened to Sam Cooke and shared scones from the bakery where Michael worked while I was gone.

We moved all over Morgantown, my Kaisie and I. From Valley View Road we went to the triplex on Quay St., where we lived next to Will, a pot-smoking, alcoholic college guy with lingering dark circles and a pleasant Rottweiler named Eisha, and above a nameless (and I always thought homeless) rotund old man who dressed his teeny dogs in sweaters and begged for money on High Street with his equally rotund girlfriend, whose hair looked like a maniacal steel wool pad. My place was two story, with a big attic that had all the makings of my bedroom, but Kaisie and I slept on the futon in the living room instead. Sometimes Michael slept over. I have the sweetest picture of he and Kaisie snuggling, fast asleep on that futon. On a fall evening in 2000, a bat visited Kaisie and me. I was sure my burly, part-pit bull would take care of business, but instead he nearly bowled me over trying to beat me down the stairs and out the door. Not long after that, I discovered one million roaches in the kitchen and some type of creature living in our walls. We moved out abruptly. The landlord, who had a French-sounding name and a West Virginia-sounding accent, didn’t sympathize with my critter-and-bug story and kept my deposit.

The basement apartment on Willowdale Road was very well kept, owned by a realtor named Fran. On the day I went to sign the lease, at the office on Beechhurst Avenue, dad came up and Kaisie rode with us. As soon as I opened the car door, Kaisie ran like hell. I can still see dad, also running like hell, trying to catch that big brown blur racing alongside the busy traffic. He never came when called, my Kaisie.

A few months into living on Willowdale, in 2001, Kaisie's best pal Phaedra came into our lives. My boss at the coffee shop found her running loose and figured I couldn’t resist. She was right. We quickly became a family of three: the angsty college girl, the neurotic brown part-pit bull, and the spastic black-and-white baby pit bull. The first night Phaedra was with us, Kaisie got loose. I searched for him until two a.m. and cried myself to sleep without him. The next morning, he was lying at the front door with a look that said, "Hey mom, where's breakfast?"

I can't remember if it was before or after Phaedra, but at my Willowdale place a car got hit by Kaisie. He ran right into the side of it as it descended the hill in front of our house. For a few seconds I was terrified. Kaisie flipped over, and got up barking. And that was that. He never had a run-in with a car again.

At Willowdale, Kaisie met his first girl-friend, Erin. If I had a sister, Erin would be it. We haven't seen each other in years, but we go through everything together, from afar. How she loved Kaisie; she'd pinch his saggy lips and kiss his big, blocky head, and scrunch up her face and tell him, "Aunt Erin loves you, Kaisie." All these years we've been apart, at the end of every phone call she says, "Tell Kaisie his Aunt Erin loves him." It was on Willowdale that Kaisie met his next great friend, Nate, the tattoo artist/painter/cook who became my love, on and off for nearly a decade. I can still hear the funny voice Nate would use when he talked to Kaisie and picture how his full lips would sort of raise up and press hard against his teeth when he was especially animated about talking to him. Nate was often with us at my next place, a triplex on Brockway Avenue. A dump, according to dad when he came up to inspect. Brimming with character, according to me. The winter of 2002 was especially harsh, as was the love between Nate and me. Rough as the pads on Kaisie's paws. Nate’s love for Kaisie was always perfect, though. I have a picture of them in my bedroom on Brockway: Nate ready to leave for work at the Blue Moose, where we both worked, dressed in a tan down vest and scarf, a sweet smile on his face, and an arm full of that sweet brown dog. Nate moved to Portland that summer, and Kaisie, Phaedra, and I, packing my crisp college degree, moved in with my parents until we could make my way to Portland, too; we never did.

Four years later, I made my way to Memphis. That's where Kaisie met his next girl-friend. Ellen. Within two weeks of knowing me, Ellen was at my tiny guesthouse on Nelson Avenue, on my futon with all 67 pounds of my brown boy in her lap. I have a picture of them just like that, with her kissing his head. She would squeal his name when she walked in and would spend much of her visit rousing him to the point of incessant barking. He had a great time with Ellen, his giant, yellowed canines always punctuating his smile. She once grabbed him around his belly, heaved him upward, and held him sitting upright in her lap — she's the only person who ever managed that. I have a picture of it, too. It was Christmas, 2007.

It hasn't been an entire day since Kaiser has been gone. Cancer, the vet said. So much of it crowding his lungs that his heart wasn't visible on the x-ray. Lung cancer? I don’t smoke. Who cares about that stupid x-ray anyway. Nothing, not even cancer, could hide my Kaiser's heart. He had such soul and such a personality. It would take pages upon pages to tell the stories of Kaiser. Two of my favorite things about him were also the most maddening: When he didn't want to go somewhere I wanted him to go, he'd lie down on his side and go limp, and I'd have to beg and plead and yank on his collar to get him up again; and when he wanted on the bed at night, he'd sit at the edge, whining that pathetic half-hearted whine of his, and I'd invite him up, but he wouldn't jump up until I positioned myself on the bed to suit him, and if I moved too much after he jumped up, he'd jump back down and the whole thing would start again.

As all endings, this one had a beginning: Last week, he started coughing. Within a few days, he stopped barreling into the house like he did every evening with Joker, my newest, foster-became-forever pit bull, as if to say, "Please, young'n, I can keep up with you." Kaiser had been a spry fella all his days, even after he was neutered and people said he'd slow down. He had a big bark and used it often; I hadn't heard it much in the past week. I knew something was wrong.

After the vet left the room, I hugged my Kaiser and stroked his snout. I took him outside and let him walk around in the grass that was so bright it looked cartoonish. I hugged him some more. Took a few pictures of us with my phone. Then we went back inside, into a tiny room with a dog bed, a chair, a sink, a bottle of hand soap, and a box of tissues. I petted his chunky head and slipped his soft ears through my fingers. And when the vet came back, I kissed his snout and my lips continued to brush against it while I told him, "Mommy loves you, Kaisie."

Dad buried my Kaisie yesterday evening, on the hill below the back yard. Mom and I told him to wait until the next day so he could ask someone to help. He said no, he wasn't going to leave Kaisie that way. So he dug and sweated and dug some more. Mom went to the truck bed and patted the black bag that held my best friend in the world. I didn’t touch that awful bag. We had already said goodbye. Instead, I stood watching dad, rocking back and forth with my fat baby snuggled against me in his carrier. My son met Kaiser only once — the afternoon I brought him upstairs from the basement to go to the vet. My pumpkin looked up at my baby boy, with those soul-filled hazel eyes. "You see the baby, Kaisie?" He looked at me like he understood. My two great loves, they would've been the best of friends. What a year it has been.

I used to tell Kaisie, "I love you big as the sky." Last night, the sky opened up and shed hard, trembling tears on my Kaisie's grave.

I will miss you so, so very much, my pumpkin. My great big brown love.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

buckets of rain, buckets of honey.

today. i woke up tired, and it was raining. neither is uncommon. it's a saturday, which is not exceptional. the days tend to run together for me here in clarksburg. except for sundays, bc mom usually cooks a big meal after church and invites my 70-something uncle, who tells stories of his days as a hell-raiser. i especially like the recent one, where he told some unfortunate fella, "man, lemme tell ya somethin' — i'd like to set you on fire just to see how far you can go on a gallon 'o gas." his stories are often quotable. he calls my boy "snuffy smith," bc in these parts if you're not italian you're a snuffy. my boy is somewhat italian, bc i am, but he doesn't look it. not yet, at least. sundays never feel too empty or too full. the other six days, well, like i said, nothing much to differentiate them. it could be tuesday every day for all i know. it's been that way since the novelty of being home wore off, not long past my arrival on that mid-july evening last year, maybe in early september, i'd guess. i didn't have time to consider how living here again would feel bc i left memphis like leaves do trees in the fall: abruptly. during these nine or so months back at home, people have often said "make the best of it," and i've often told people that i'm "making the best of it." some days, i'd like to take the phrase "make the best of it" and shoot it full of holes. but instead, i keep on being me, a mismatched mashup of eeyoor and winnie the pooh.

this morning, as every morning, i collected my achy legs, threw them over the side of the bed, and filled my arms full of my ever-smiling fat baby, who makes me smile through sleepless eyes and drenched days. i peeked into dad's office so he could whistle at him, the way he does every morning. it's the same whistle i heard every morning as a child, when dad would wake me for school. he'd have on dress pants, a short-sleeved button-down shirt, and one of the many ties that hung on the inside of the hall closet door, and before i rolled out of my white-metal-framed daybed, he'd be on his way to teach english and world history to uninterested high school kids in taylor, one county to the right of harrison. those kids were more interested in writing love notes that dad would confiscate and then laugh as he read them to himself. or maybe i made that last part up. 

shortly after dad's whistle on this rainy saturday, mom appeared beside the changing table to sprinkle my fat baby's face with kisses and tell him he's a good boy even though he keeps mommy awake at night. then she told me that my other fat boy, kaiser, wouldn't get up this morning when dad went to the basement to let him out. he's my first baby boy, mine for nearly 13 years now. he hasn't felt well for a few days. and there's nothing i can do to help him. i've failed him, my sweet, unfailing companion. this move, it has been hard on him. there is more grey than brown on his snout and, for the first time in nearly 13 years, less energy in his lopsided gait. fatty tumors stick out, displacing patches of shallow fur on his belly. the vet said they're benign, but i hate them just the same; they are a sign of his waning years. 

my kaiser was already looking, waiting for me, as i descended the basement stairs. he got up when i called him. i knew he would. we walked together, slower than usual, to the door. after he peed, he lumbered back inside to his pile of blankets, and i sat next to him on the cement floor and rubbed his favorite spot, right in the front of his chest, next to one of the bigger tumors, and i whispered next to his silky ear, "hi, my pumpkin. you're the best boy in the world." 

the sun is starting to push its way out from behind the clouds. it's 3:38 and there's time for a better day. says winnie the pooh.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

for a change.

yesterday i came across a favorite singer/songwriter while flipping through youtube (of course you can't "flip" through youtube, but i like that word better than "browse"): justin townes earle, the spindly, high-water-pants-wearing son of another great songwriter, steve earle. it's possible i like the younger earle's songs better; however, i'm less a fan of his nerd-cum-hipster appearance, which seems too-carefully cultivated in contrast to his father's accidental cowboy-rambler look. i don't like men who carefully cultivate things...if i were writing on paper right now, i'd draw a line with an arrow to the previous sentence and write in the margin: there are exceptions to this, including men who cultivate a love for cooking me meals or bringing me surprises or picking me up (in their arms, not their car) or telling me the truth (i have (had, that is) a habit of stumbling upon those who were terribly allergic to truth-telling, it seems, and worse, the season for that allergy lasted all year long)

at the beginning of one youtube video — not sure which, other than it was from his album midnight at the movies bc i like that one a lot — earle, while mid-story about a girl he once loved, grinned and turned slightly away from the microphone, saying "i'm forgetting myself here"— and in that very instant, the slighter of two earles, in a slight way, reminded me of a man i used to know, bc he would say something just like "i'm forgetting myself here." he was also slight and wrote songs. he wrote me a song once; read it to me over the phone, actually. which did not make me swoon. when i tell my mom things like that — that while a man was reciting a love song, i was on the other end of the phone making a face like someone was reading me the phone book — she says things like "honey, i just don't know what in the world is wrong with you." she thinks i'm unromantic. i don't consider myself unromantic...but then, i'm not entirely sure what romance is. anyhow, love-song singer-guy and i went out for about a month. i'd known him for a year or two, from hanging out around town. nice guy; highly intelligent; witty. all qualities that sound good on paper. hmm. what is paper but mutilated trees. 

so. love-song guy insinuated himself into my life like freckles do my nose under the sun: one day something is there that wasn't there the day before. right from the start, he was exuberantly attentive. texting all day long, just to check in. i'm not a checking in kinda girl. when there's a guy around, i do like to know he's around, but, you know, after one hundred check ins, i start wishing i could reach through the phone and bend his texting thumb backwards until he cries. he did all sorts of thoughtful things...brought me ice cream and cookies (not as in showed up to my house with them, as in showed up to my house without them, then left to retrieve them upon my casually mentioning i wanted ice cream and cookies), drove extra-carefully when i was in the car, always told me the small things about me that he liked. a week or so into our fling, he texted me "i don't miss you one bit," naturally meaning the opposite. i had to put my foot down: look, love-song guy, i like you, but i'm not ready to say that kinda stuff. he took it well. so on we went. a few days later, upon realizing he'd rearranged his friday-night plans to better coincide with mine, i'd had enough. it went something like, "HEY.  why did you do that? you don't have to be everywhere i am." and his reply: "damn, woman. i'm just trying to be nice to you." oh. whoops. so on we went. i liked him. in the way you like someone likable. not in the way you like someone you can't wait to kiss again. and againagainagain. i was tormented by wanting to want him. i would call my mom and try to make sense of it, and she would say, "honey, you can't make yourself love someone." BUT...love-song guy was nice; highly intelligent; witty. so on we went. until i ended it, then fretted over ending it. it was a strange month. 

if i were writing on paper, i'd draw an arrow and a stick-figure me, running back to the paragraph where i first mentioned love-song guy. and i'd write in the margin: looking back, it's nice to know what it's like to be someone's darling, even when the feeling isn't mutual. 

men and me. the games i played with myself were damaging to me; the games men played with me were damaging to me. double trouble. nowadays — while men are still fun to watch, in the way they walk and talk and smile and dress — they're more like background noise. nowadays, the only man i'm weak for weighs 16 pounds and still has no idea he's got me wrapped, no matter what, forever. and that's nice, for a change. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

a reel, and what's real.

my fat baby is asleep in his swing. i'm sitting at the kitchen table, taking pictures of myself with my laptop. i'm bored. and i want to see if my newly cut bangs are too harsh for the rest of my soft, lazy ringlets, and if my dark circles are as dark as usual — they aren't...or maybe it's the lighting? good lighting is important when it comes to photos. i don't like that. i don't appreciate that light can make me look either bad or good. the former feels disappointing; the latter feels fake. just now i took a few pictures of myself making funny faces. bc it's funny. i deleted all of them. that's the good thing about modern cameras. you only keep what you want. i guess life is that way,too. or it can be if you're up to the challenge.

it's 7:58 pm and i've been home an hour already from my saturday evening adventure. two thirty-something moms, both in need of a getaway from the clouds (real and figurative). the furthest we could manage to escape was the 3:55 showing at the malco. i rushed into the theater lobby at ten after four, hoping i wasn't too late to buy popcorn. she was already in line at the snack bar. good girl. i like being friends with people who have their priorities straight. i suggested we share a bag, but she said she wanted her own. good call. i didn't know i wanted my own bag, too...until about 20 minutes into the movie, when my fleshy finger-ends were bumping the bottom of the bag for those last few niblets drenched in faux butter (the self-serve dispenser labeled "butter flavoring" did not escape my attention, but this was my night out and i forgave myself for indulging in chemically altered oil-as-butter). the movie was raunchy-funny, and i laughed a lot — the real, out-loud kind, not the lol of the internet and texting. people lol even when things aren't laugh-out-loud funny; they're devaluing the real thing. it feels fake, like good lighting in pictures. 

my fat baby is nursing as i now peck at the keys with one finger. his eyes are closed in either bliss or concentration. my fat boy was born mostly bald, and he's still mostly bald...although i notice some effort forming near his crown — a patch of short hairs standing at attention. if his hair were dark, that patch would be more visible, and funny looking. eventually his hair will turn from brown sugar to black peppercorn... sweet to spicy as he grows and gathers bits of the world around him. 

i missed my fat baby while i was at the movies. it wasn't him i wanted to escape, anyhow, and i would've brought him if i thought he could sit still that long. it was dark in the theater, but even in the absence of good lighting, my mind's pictures of him were better than good. 

on the way out, i asked my friend what time she had to pick up her kids, and she asked me if i needed to get home to feed the baby. as we parted ways in the parking lot, that brief exchange struck me: i'm a mom. it's still an oddity. and i thought, in the past, after a night out, i used to hurry home to eat toast. with real butter. on this night out, i hurried home just for a hug. the real-est. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

i belong to you.

hello again, my favorite empty white space. i've never waited so long to fill you up with the letters that make the words that make the fullest mind a little less full...until it fills up yet again with a thousand drip drops, like that puddle at the end of our road where gravel meets pavement. three months and 17 days ago was when i last wrote. one thing has happened since then. a tiny-yet-enormous thing. his name is zion. he presented himself to the world in a way much befitting a child of mine: late, and the hard way.

there was a full moon the day zion and i met. dad was driving my car to the hospital bc it had the car seat. mom was in the passenger side. i don't remember their conversation, though i imagine it was choppy, nervous talk. i was in the backseat, not being nervous at all. a fretless me is a rare and wondrous thing. it was a 45-minute drive. when we passed fairmont, almost to morgantown, i rolled down my window and stuck my hand into the january wind to take a picture of that moon with my phone. then i sent myself an email that said only this: 2 am. full moon. i sent it so i could write about it one day; i knew i would. i knew i'd need it.

we're learning each other, my little zion and i. one day all the nooks and crannies of my mind's attic will be filled with him, all about him. for now i'll tell you just this: he has a stockpile of facial expressions, my favorite being the one where he grins and looks at me sideways, from the corners of his eyes, which are the only part of me i can find in him, and only when he smiles. sheepish, i would call that look of his. it'll get him out of much trouble when he's older, i just know it.

zion is playing with my mom in her bedroom on the other end of the house. i can hear her singing to him. she sings, as they say, like angel. an angel singing to an angel. my singing isn't even a close second, but i try. if zion could talk i imagine he'd say something like "it's okay, mommy, i like your singing, too." i'll teach him to be diplomatic like that. i hope.

from the other end of the house i'm sure mom and zion can't hear the singing coming from the office, which isn't mine; it's ben nichols' gullet-full-of-gravel voice, on lucero's "mine tonight." i found it on youtube while looking for another lucero song. i'm not watching the video, just listening. over and over. it's not my favorite, but it felt right for this day. i like when things feel right.

within the first few flicks of someone's (brian's or ben's, i can't remember) fingers against the guitar strings, i was back in memphis. driving down union avenue toward the river, maybe with one of my dogs; or with ellen or jessi, skipping rocks or eating ice cream on the bank in harbortown; or alone, sitting on the grass on the downtown side bc i never went to harbortown alone, i'm not sure why. the great mississippi. admittedly, it was never all that great to me. it was too...removed. what's a river you can't jump into? nonetheless, in all its aloofness, the mississippi had a place in me. yes, in me. in one of those places i never discover until afterward. after whatever beckons me to be contemplative. today it's a song.

as the song plays each time, i'm somewhere else in memphis during my earliest days in the city. on my 30th birthday: at the lucero warehouse with roy and jessi, looking out the windows — as broken as the tattered pirate flag above them — onto overton park avenue. maybe we were looking down at the parking spots below, talking about the van trailer getting stolen. later, we took pictures of my dog, kaiser, wearing a top hat. i took kaiser everywhere with me for the first two months bc phaedra was still in west virginia with my parents and i didn't want to leave him alone. he had a habit of peeing in new places, but he didn't pee in the warehouse. not that it would've mattered.

back in my tiny guesthouse, around 2 am or so, when i was 30 years plus a few hours old, kaiser and i slept in my new bed in the house i'd lived in for 19 days. although i can't remember, i bet his head was on the pillow next to mine.

i just pushed replay on "mine tonight," and i have at least a thousand more memories of memphis and friends to type into this little white space. they'll have to wait. i write in stolen moments these days. just now, ben sang the verse, "tonight, she's mine."

tonight, and today, tomorrow, and forever, i am zion's.