Take Another Look


Kate bundled up her shoulders as if to protect her body from being whisked away by the wind, or the beginning of the day. The barista at the Kaladi Brothers counter that day had bright patches in her hair, pink tufts against black. She was cute in a bulky sort of way. Germanic, Kate wondered, with a bit of Icelandic? She was a natural at remembering features and faces. She fingered the cigarette in her pocket as she waited in line. Her hands were trembling. Somebody should sue them upstairs for discriminating against girls, she thought wryly. Upstairs they operated a place called gay city where you could freely get yourself tested for STD’s with a simple finger prick test- if you were a guy. Kate ordered a dry cappuccino and a blueberry scone, but she didn’t have the energy to do more than tear the pieces of bread apart and look out the window with a sense of unease. She gave the girl behind the counter another quick glance, and then lit her cigarette with a silver lighter with her initials engraved on it. She took a few short drags then quietly stubbed it out. She pushed the plate away from her and gazed out the window. An elderly couple hobbled by at a painfully sluggish pace. A young guy who could have passed for 30 shuffled in. He was only 17, but his face was already a compass of haunted insights. Kate could hear he had a Romanian accent, and she wondered if he already had asylum in both countries. An unusual boy for America, Kate thought, then picked up a copy of the papers. If anything, there wasn’t enough mayhem on the covers. The media was tired of covering the war in Iraq, the exit, and now the return to Afghanistan, and it looked as though the writers were more engaged in Tiger Woods philandering than in international events. Do people think we’re foolproof against the mistakes we’ve made in the past, Kate wondered? Things had really changed radically in the last ten years in this city. People no longer addressed each other randomly, but sat alone quietly, so lost in their own thoughts she felt she could paste cartoon bubbles above peoples heads and they wouldn’t notice. Or if they did, they would be too lost in their simple worries to stop her. Everybody thinks they are alone.


{December 17, 2009}   Extreme states

“I thought you always wanted crazier. ”
“No!” I holler. “What would make you think that?”
“Fame is an extreme state by the way. And you have an attachment to extreme states.”
“What does this have to do with me living a crazier life, which is something that would probably get me institutionalized.”
“You getting institutionalized would be like my brother smoking pot. Some things are karmically impossible.”
“So why do you think it is that I can’t write?”
“Why do you have writers block? Maybe you are oppressed by this mercenary mentality. Maybe you are oppressed by the need to look for work. You are not free somehow.”
“I know. I just don’t know how I am not free.”
“Well is it guilt? Some bourgeois implantation from your parents? You should be flipping burgers in your spare time? What is it.”
“I think it’s something akin to fear.”
“Well, maybe you should try for the very compact, the very profound.”
“Who says that something compact is something profound? What do you think are the questions I keep needing answered?”
“Do I still matter, Do I still matter, do you love me, do you love me.
“Who am I asking that of…The world?”
“Maybe. Or maybe just this tri-county vicinity.”
“Well, being angry yesterday seemed to return me to some semblance of what it feels like to have any power at all.”
“I don’t understand.”
“what do you mean.”
“Well maybe I need that explained to me one more time. ”
“Well, remember I explained to you that I felt like a bloody heart without any skin? Instead I was seething with fury, but it was contained. For the first time I felt some control. Being angry gave me some control.”
“Well good, but you always have control.”
“It doesn’t feel like I have control when I am out of control sobbing uncontrollably.”
“Some feelings should be toned down. Not every feeling should be exalted.”
“I do seem to have developed a tendency to look for comfort in the wrong places.”
“Hard to think of you as comfort seeking.”
“It just seemed like all I ever felt anymore. The seeking of comfort.”
“The craving of comfort?”
“It’s a Judaism thing. These late marrying years. So many Jewish girls in history would have been married by now. The organism is aware that you have not started a family by now and it’s making you edgy.”
“That’s very true what you said; I am edgy. But I don’t care about marriage… I mean…. I could be a single everything as long as I had what I wanted if you know what I mean.”
“Well, you don’t have the Jewish papa though. You have a Wasp father. ”
“So how would you explain the conflict? There is a conflict within me. I am willing to sacrifice everything to have my art expressed.. but I feel like I’d be admitting to a huge breach if I admitted- even to myself- that I do want to have a kid someday. The guy I’m with- he doesn’t want that.”
“Poor girl. You should be joyful. You are closer than you have been in the last six weeks. Striking a blow for honesty and truth.And he’s probably thinking about everything. The history, the future, the present.”
“He’s always thinking about that stuff. It’s just his problem with promises. It only happens that things went my way- or maybe I should say our way last night. But I can’t keep forgiving now that I’ve done that for so long and just been treated like shit. It only stands to reason that I should be more vigilant than ever. ”
“Well if you want to be-”
“I don’t want to be! I don’t know. Well, it’s preferable to the pain. I can’t let my guard down. Like this morning I was too blissed out to be angry when he said ‘Oh, we’ll talk before next week. I will call you.’ I should have just answered ‘whatever,’ and rolled my eyes. I let myself hope and I can’t… I left him a message begging him to break up with me because there is no way in hell I want to break up with him! ‘It’s not a relationship if you can’t call me back..’ and I said some other things but it was eloquent, not the way I’m saying it now. But I’ve gotten so many mixed messages from him it’s like reading spam. ”
“I’m sure you have a lot of company. ”
“A lot of company in what?”
“I think there are a lot of women in precarious situations, unsteady alliances, shifting liaisons.”
“Yeah, and the Muslims think we are all whores, and the men here all have conflicting views. It’s the chaos here I can’t deal with.”
“Here, you are not going to get raped and then stoned to death by your family because you dishonored your family. Besides, a lot of those countries practice female circumcision.”
“I wasn’t standing up for that culture- I’m only trying to understand.”
“It has great sides-”
“No! I’m trying to understand MY culture!”
“Our culture doesn’t have enough steadiness. Enough structure.”
“That is the problem!!!!”
“Greed. If we can’t stop worshiping money we will all shrivel up.”
“I sort of worship beauty. Beauty in words, and beauty in art. ”
“Accountants run everything. But they can never tell you the future. But we’ve taken the salesman, the engineers- we’ve kicked them out. The customer is definitely not always right in this marketplace. It’s smash and grab, lowest common denominator.”
“Again, that is something that has been weighing on me heavily.”
“But there is some hope. Our country hasn’t been unified for a long time. Not in my generation, not in the generation before me, and I’ve only heard stories of a time when it was unified. But the left side-”
“I don’t want to hear about the left. The democrats, the republicans, there’s no difference anymore to me.”
“The people in charge don’t want the US to be unified. It’s like the oil companies. They don’t want zero pollution. They want to cross that bridge when all the oil is gone. Or the insurance companies. They are effectively sort of demonstrating that they are more powerful than the people, the president..and some of these people were involved in the bailout and they are still arrogant. I mean that is just not patriotic, that’s grotesque. Even these interest laws. They used to be called usury laws.” ”
“Yeah, the bank stole 125$ in 37 dollar charges because an internet company stole sixty dollars and though they considered it fraud, I have to have the fraud clear it up, and then try and talk them into giving me the money back. I put in 300 dollars into the bank the other day and came out with only 196 in my account. But I have to use the bank to pay my bills.”
“I’m sorry.”
“For what?”
“Well, I wish I could be helpful.”
“I wish so too,” I whisper.

{December 16, 2009}   Who are you?

I walked there with my head down, letting my feet take over. I’d woken up in a mood. You must understand- noticing any mood at all was a change of pace for me. Even if later I wasn’t able to differentiate what mood it was- whether I’d felt relief, or clarity, or just a subtle awareness of my surroundings, I knew it was a change from the billows of gray clouds that served as one giant mental handcuff for my thoughts. Once I reached my destination, I noticed huddles of disgruntled beggars in front of Rite Aid. People sitting on the steps engaged in complaints about their broken lives. I said excuse me, but nobody noticed. I had to step around to get by. I walked carefully, as if I weren’t so focused on letting the sting of cold air burn my cheeks rather than wonder why I felt so hurt all the time. But it wasn’t as if I was paying any mortgages anytime soon and I lived in this head. Even when I wanted out. Escapism wasn’t working so well, you see.

I guess I didn’t understand how fully I believed in them. Even though their words may have been spoken with ardent resolve, each time the affairs surrounding the proceedings were taken as an excuse for breaking the word. I wasn’t perfect. Maybe it was time to turn the telescope back onto me. But my hands were trembling too badly to hold the equipment in place.

It started in my head. Most things do. My head swarmed with knots. Dread overtook the simplest actions. Every time I fought to forget anything they had ever said to me, I failed. The gigantic leap between where they said they’d d be and where they were now was implanted. I imagine that certain drugs eat holes in your brain. Now I had one in my heart. Maybe it was a shadow, or maybe just a little inflamed tissue. Surely nothing to be afraid about. But just in case, I blocked everything up so nothing could get out.No more leaks.

But the music in my head kept going even though I’d put a stop to music. I’d broken the metronome and put the lid to the piano down. I’d thrown my scores into a vaporizer and waited with my hand on the detonator.

For no matter how many times I’d forgiven, I now lived with a new kind of hesitancy that took over my movements. I no longer walked in a stride. So afraid of the next time the discord would strike. All because I had no weapons against it. This from a person who hated the usage of weapons, desperate to find someone more desperate than me who had survived without weapons. Their bare fists. Their bare everything.

The stakes had changed. What was there to lose? I tried. To turn the music in my head backwards was like a screeching sound, drilling railroad tracks. I thought I knew how to escape pain. I thought I was strong. But I’d run out of chances. There was no escape from something that repeated so many times. My faith was my only weapon but it kept hurting me. I kept believing that this time they wouldn’t lie, as they did so many times, because there once was a time when they did not squeeze everything they touched. I kept trying to pry the tension from their grip, “Stop trying to force me, I don’t like how it feels,” they told me.

I didn’t like being pushed away. They didn’t like being pulled. We both had bloody knees.

“Pray to God on it,” the lady with olive skin and profuse, accepting eyes told me. She held my hand and kissed me. “The people who blow up buildings say God told them to do it,” I told her. I had a feeling I’d interpret my hearts wishes as what I wanted me to do when there was no way I could know what the right thing to do was.

It was not useful to go places where I could not trust myself. That was everywhere. The shadows.

et cetera