Friday, April 12, 2013

scattering seeds.

here's the thing: i have no idea what i'm doing. i might know after i'm done. done has a very final sound to it, doesn't it. except it's full of exceptions. done can take 3.5 seconds or ten minutes or fifty years and six days. done can be a way of hedging, even though by definition it's not hedge-y. done is sometimes merely an adjective. or it's a bookmark, stuck there in your sentence until you revise your thoughts, moving the bookmark forward with other words—words that might negate or amend or altogether erase the doneness of what you previously said was done.

all in all, we are all in various stages of doneness. some of us are attuned to it. others aren't.

undoneness sits like a fat little grape on the vine, waiting to ripen or be plucked. or be squished. my grapes are often squished. i squish them, joyously or angrily or carelessly. a friend squished one recently. she made some comments along the lines of "well i know how you are about [certain subjects]," intending to imply something unsavory about the way i go about making choices. the passive aggression was merely an indication of her raw thoughts, which were clawing up from her gut toward her mouth but lost the lead to her more-polished-but-no-less-sour comments. plus, i knew from knowing her that she has no time for the trifles of my existence. but i always had time for hers. even when i didn't have the patience.

i had an epiphany years ago. it was when i lived in the guesthouse on nelson avenue in memphis. i was walking kaiser and phaedra around my neighborhood, cooper-young. the neighbor guy—i'll call him wally because he looked like a wally with his bald head and slight mustache and average stature—was probably arranging landscaping bricks or digging dirt in his front yard. he usually was. he'd smile and nod, and i'd smile and squeeze out a small hi. a few times we chatted about my dogs or his two labs, which were allowed to roam the front porch and yard because they came when called and were not perceived as a menace to society, unlike my two rabble-rousing pit bulls. on my last full day in memphis, i visited the farmers market downtown, and lo and behold there was wally, selling his homemade granola. i hadn't lived next door to him for nearly two years, but he remembered me. i didn't buy his granola. i felt kinda bad, but i was rationing my dollars. instead, i spent ten on a tee shirt from the dog-adoption booth.

after passing wally's house, i'd pass the next-to-next-door neighbors, the lesbian couple i only saw upon immediate exit or entry of their home. they had small-ish dogs that were only visible when i'd peer into their backyard through the black wrought-iron gate and a child (or two?) whose toys i'd see in the small front yard. near-phantoms, the five (or six) of them. we never exchanged words but would smile and wave, and i decided they were nice. then i'd pass by the house with no windows and then, on the opposite side of the street, i'd pass, with an inner scowl, the house of the woman with no common sense.

i was never friends with my neighbors on nelson avenue. i never knew any of their names, with the exception of wally, and he almost doesn't count because i can't remember his real name. i did entertain the idea of being friends with them—except wally, because although he was nice, he was 60-ish and married to the woman with brown, curly-ish 1980s middle-aged-woman hair, who may or may not have smiled at me in passing; and he had an adult son living with him, whose beat-up blue van moved from its parking spot maybe once in the four years i lived there, who spent all day in his room with the black curtains, listening to bad metal and eating beef jerky sticks. or something like that. actually, now that i think about it, i was walking in the opposite direction and didn't pass wally or the lesbians on the day of my epiphany. i passed the houses of the neighbors whose dogs and children and faces are completely unremarkable in my mind. i turned left onto tanglewood, and some time before i reached oliver street, which was only a block over, i realized being undone leads to judgment.

judgment is universally abhorred and universally practiced. the only thing that separates judgment from opinion is the fact that the former is always negatively received or perceived, while the latter can go either way. i don't have a problem with judgment. except when i have a problem with it.

here's the thing: i'm undone. i'm sorting. gathering. plucking. trimming. i can be held to a few, specific claims about what i want in life. otherwise, all the other words i toss around in conversation are nothing more than seeds, which will grow to become a plant or a flower or a weed, whose roots may or may not reach out like starving hands in the direction of the sustenance they need, whose shade will become green depending on the presence or absence of chlorophyll, whose flowers will stretch and awaken if the perfect amount of sunlight shines down at the perfect time.

some people surround themselves, either by default or desire, with people who are similar to them. i get that. it's hard when people don't get you. it happens to me a lot, especially now that i'm back in my hometown, where i feel not like a black sheep but maybe a purple-spotted one. overall, my world is packed tight with people of all sorts of configurations—religious, political, you name it. i feel generally loved and occasionally judged. about the latter: i'm an easy target. a lot of people i know, both friends and family, are further along in their doneness than me. i don't envy them. their lives would crush my spirit. just as mine would crush their spirit, or whatever it is that drives them. some people are driven by practicality or money, or they're guided by the unseen hand of circumstance. people who are settled are more prone to judgment. it makes sense but is no less frustrating.

lately, maybe as recently as last night, i decided to stop caring why you don't get me. whoever you may be. this goes against my nature, because i like for people involved in my life to understand my perspective. i'm still a little mad at my friend, at the part where she talked to me as if she were talking to anygirl rather than her friend, the girl whose soul she's supposed to understand and keep in mind when being a listener. of course "supposed to" is prescriptive and therefore unrealistic, so what's the point in holding her, or anyone else who doesn't get me, to that standard. i love my friends and family, whether they get me or not. good times and such aren't solely dependent upon similar mindsets. however, having those kindred spirits in life is magnificent. spending time with other creative souls makes me feel like i'm right up there with the sun. burning and bright. sustaining the entirety of my world.

in the real world, plants and flowers and weeds sprout and grow and live and die according to the type of soil, amount of rain, availability of food, and the angle of the sun. some of those factors are controllable but most aren't. i'm throwing out seeds every day. i'll know the right thing has blossomed when ... when i know.

Monday, April 1, 2013

like a life.

ain't been transcendin'
much of nothin'
i been down in it
i ain't free
weren't no experiment 
these seven years
they went 
like a life out of me

from "the corner" by cory branan, a fantastically talented singer/songwriter i came to know in memphis. the lines above struck me the other day, because my last seven years have felt like a lifetime as well. cory wore his big smile better than his rolled-up jeans. he was often found at the coffee shop, book in hand. he was a hugger, as many people are in the south. some of those southern embraces felt forced, while others grew on me. cory's were okay by me, as were those of another coffee shop favorite and another talented singer/songwriter, misti, whose perfectly arched eybrows and flawlessly lined eyes were the reincarnation of ava gardner's, circa 1950-ish. she played bawdy songs on a shiny, turquoise guitar and always wore a dress and heels when she performed. as she should, with those skirt-worthy stems of hers. she always told me how pretty and sexy i was, and i always told her the same, and we both meant it. it's nice when women can be nice to each other like that, because social lives and fashion magazines and reality tv tend to pit us against each other. misti was one of those people who brought out the performer in me, although i've never performed ... unless you count church plays, singing "friendship" with ellie gray at the morgan grade school talent show, playing an unnamed little girl holding a pinwheel in evita at the robinson grand theater in downtown clarksburg, or hijacking the stage for spoken-word rock 'n' roll performances at various locations in morgantown. misti and i shared a vulgar sense of humor and a love for vintage clothing. in my first few months in memphis i gave her a snazzy brown-bear-brown fake fur swing coat that i'd snagged at the flea market on walnut street in morgantown years earlier (along with my favorite scarf, a narrow, silky thing made of thin, multi-colored threads, which i refuse to part with even though its many strands are barely clinging to each other). although we didn't hang out much, not much at all, misti and i had a particular affinity. you know how people always say, about love, "when it's right, you just know"? well, love is many layered and can't be reduced to such a terse assessment, but i do believe it about friendship. i may never see misti again, and if i don't, i'll know she was one of the ones who got away.

another one who got away was my friend, e.r. thirteen years ago there were four of us: me, my boyfriend, his friend k.h., and e.r. the latter two were a couple, although i met e.r. before she was k's girl. it was at eat n park, back when there was still a smoking section. maybe 11 pm. we were sitting in adjoining booths and i bummed a cigarette from her. i was studying. except not really, because i was never much of a studier. i was probably hungry or bored and figured why not go to eat n park and kill two or three birds (or more, if i ordered eggs). e.r. was an english major with a theater minor, or vice versa, or something like that. she had unruly brown curls ... and a bunch of other unruly qualities that i would later discover, which would only further endear her to me—like the time she showed up unannounced at my apartment on valley view road, when we still barely knew each other, and commanded, half-giggling, in her louisiana accent, "gurrl, you best get dressed cause we're going out!" so i put on my black silk slip that i found on the crowded nightgown rack at goodwill and my jean jacket and some black knee boots, and we went, of all places, to the cheesy sports bar underneath the boston beanery on high st. in morgantown. i think e.r. had a friend there. otherwise i can't imagine why we'd go, when our usual spot was d.j.'s, the dark, smoky joint in sunnyside where you'd be more likely to hear the smiths  than destiny's child. d.j.'s was where the stoners, druggies, and musicians hung out. e.r. and i were none of the three, but we fit in. on another night, e.r. showed up at my place, ready to go out, with black eyeshadow applied in big rectangular strips across each eyelid, nearly blacking out her otherwise bright blue eyes. we were partners in crime, for a short while. her relationship with k.h. took a bad spell and she moved to new york. we've stayed in touch over the years. her wild ways have given way to motherhood and a ph.d. i'm proud of her, although i miss the girl who was bound for hollywood. when i moved to memphis, i said i'd drive to see her and her daughter. the years went by. when i moved back to west virginia, she said she'd come here for a wvu football game. another nearly two years have passed. e.r. and i were the kind of friends who were out to conquer the world. if i never see her again, or even if i do, i'll always wonder what we could've been.

there's a song called "wine and wonder," written and performed by e.r.'s old boyfriend, k.h. i have always listened to it on repeat, even to this day. at about the three-minute mark, when the guitar, played by my old boyfriend, starts to reach upward with each note, climbing toward the place in the sky where k's voice has stretched, the line "my knees to the floor" takes the entirety of the sky into my stomach. the song is inside me at that point, and although i can barely understand the lyrics anymore, the guitar keeps telling k's story. sometimes i'll fast forward the song to that point, just to feel the way it makes me feel. 

the years of my life can be recalled in many ways—which dog i had at the time, or who i was dating, or the city i called home, or the songs that colored my world. the great and cool and heart wrenching and uplifting thing about music is that it can tell the stories of all things to all people. and the songs will outlive us all.