Take Another Look

{February 20, 2010}   it’s on me, bitch

She used to invoke fear in me.
That is how I can measure what steps have been taken; know how different things have become.

She approaches, begging for a deal, but it is all a play to her. She blinks her surprise at the way I don’t try to shrink back.She tries to blot out her dismay and bewilderment like a person who had their face tattooed while unconscious- when they awaken, in shock, they frantically try to remove marks that are there for good using any means at hand.

I remember how patiently I waited for her passed out mumblings to stop. How I would try and patch them into sense. The only time I relaxed was during the pauses. I’d gazed through her hazed, unfocused eyes trying to make it to her inside. I used to believe- that I remember. I believed in her rehabilitation and is this my fault that she hasn’t gotten better, that her tricks have only gotten worse, more sloppy, less in control, but she was not expecting me to be somebody that would make anything difficult.

Only I still don’t know how to fight and I don’t want to draw attention to her or pull hair or dig my fingers into her skin or kick and yell. I want to count my losses and go, the difference being this time I have no wounds to lick for she doesn’t yield the hot poker stick anymore.

I am the one! The one that got you kicked off, that cut the line from your cliff! I am the one who gave the police sniper the sign to shoot.

I wrote the letter that finally did you in. My words were the words that convinced them you were a lying, thieving, conniving terrorist.

The first time I saw Keisha I mistook her for a twelve year old cancer patient.It was as if she had no hair and we always met in the cancer wing. Her eyes bore out of her skull like a death rattle.Now her ass is so large it takes up the space of two garbage cans when she leans over and she wears glasses that are copycats of the ones I used to wear.

She remarks that my hair is darker and I remark that she is larger- you must understand she was just a small little thing, skinnier than a rod. She says something about she doesn’t want to repeat this charade of mine which has irony seeing as she used to call me fat- my my how we’ve buttered up, must be hard to get at that last button buttered up like a girl in a gingerbread house waiting to be stuck in the oven, you should be afraid for it appears you are ready. Her insults never had that kind of imagination but what they lacked in creativity they made up for in delivery. I wanted her away from me and I got it.

Only later did I hear there had been a bed for her in some treatment program- getting that bed would have been akin to the person from the ghetto getting a full ride to an Ivy League Institution. But my letter cost her the bed because they kicked her out of the program before she could get the bed. So, they supposedly caught her saying something in line about selling cream. They wouldn’t have paid attention if it weren’t for the letter. My letter.

Today she led me through a haze that turned out to be a maze. 15 minutes she had promised. I didn’t know what to do when she suddenly stepped on the bus, and my hands, burning from the bills that had been snatched from me too soon were what steadied me as I climbed on and fumbled for a copy of a purple transfer that was stashed in my wallet.

I hadn’t realized just how much I had mellowed out in the last few years until, in retrospect, I noticed that my heart had not bounced off the walls from wild, primal fear and terror. The kind she invoked in me every time she asked me for anything.I ended up jumping off the bus ten minutes later in a bad neighborhood, sprinting across six lanes of traffic to get to a bus going back in the opposite direction.

Screw the sister that was supposedly going to fix things and make it right- part of me doubted it would be anything less than a war zone. And though she kept changing what she claimed she had said five minutes ago, the words were not changing in my head. Her promises had not unwoven from thread to cheap plastic given the span it takes to turn the TV channel from one show to another. The only thing that changed hands had been money, and boy did it bolster her ego.

Suddenly she says the only reason she isn’t busting my lip open is because we have known each other for so long, but this could change, she warns me as she uses her phone to either ask her sister for a favor or pretend to ask her sister for a favor.

“If it is so easy, just give me my money back.I don’t need anything from you. Here’s what you claim you can get from anybody.”

“No,” cries her shrill voice as we frantically push the elevator buttons, looking around for witnesses and security guards. “It can’t be done like that.”

“I want my money back,” I curse.

As she continues to discount the proposition, starting from a strand of the truth and ending in make believe, I’m shocked at  the time I once spent in her company. Off to classes with people who do nothing but study and practice. But then, those binges of racing time, slowly melted away, turned into a composite that made up a year, or two, spent in the company of whom? Of what. A nice balance, I think. People who  live in academia and plan on never leaving academia, and people who have only ever lived on the street, who believe they can only ever live on the street.

As if one morning I randomly decided to study the make up of sick sociopaths: I wanted to get them to love me; I wanted to find a flower in the desert: I wanted to enrich the soil a little: I wanted to see if it could be done. I hoped they all softened under the radiating beams of lamps put up so they would not be forgotten.

But they needed to be hard to survive- it was all they thought and it was all they’d been taught. Their first and last lesson of every day, the steel had been drilled into them every morning of every day- show mercy you get your head bashed in. I forgot where they came from–

something they spend every dime trying unsuccessfully to do.

The only rush of achievement these people know is the taste of blood.

Too often it ends up being their own.


I feed my goldfish every day, but lately he’s been a bit down on me. Martin, I say to the fish, I know all the talk we’ve had has been about me, but when you turn into a human being, which should be soon, but not too soon, because I don’t want you to go and die on me, we’re going to talk all about you.

Likely, Martin thinks. I’m not going to play along anymore. I won’t wag my tail when you talk anymore. Now you won’t have anybody for company! It’s going to make you better. After all, the only way somebody gets better is by abandoning them the way I’ve been abandoned!

Martin, I say, don’t be that way. You make all these assumptions because I come over here to the fish tank and tell you these dreary stories that you inquire about. If you want to talk about yourself, I would be all ears, but you seem to have forgotten mentioning yourself and have re-routed all memories so that they are all about me. And I’m tired of hearing my life put into your cliche’s. Now please pretend to have some dignity and step out behind the fish tank?
He steps out, in his muddy parka. He’s dripping wet. He talks in tongues. It is no use. I can’t hear him anymore. His poetry talk has gone to far. He is gone. Like J was gone with the science. They think it’s only real when they are so reimbursed in it that they can’t see anything but what they produce. There is also the appreciation of beauty. And he talks in circles, telling me he looks forward to talking to me when I am no longer the “pining” girl, but when I have moved on. By that time it will be too late, and I won’t want to talk to him. See, I seem to treasure unconditional loyalty above all else. It’s sort of a flaw in my character, you might say. Not “when I feel like it” loyalty.

You were wrong, I say. I can live with that. But can’t you stop talking for one minute to realize that the only thing I’ve said in our conversations lately has been to actualize something. But no, no mention of our music project. The seaweed. All tied up in you. I have good days, I have bad days. Sometimes people, especially poets, are good at casting off nets with all of their knots and they catch somebody who thinks, oh yes, they just described my web of problems. But it wasn’t. It was just a net.

He’s wrong, and I’m sick of people being wrong. I just wanted to hang out with somebody. In silence, whatever they want. Looks like he hasn’t realize that I pretty much will acquiesce to anybody who makes an order clear. Except his order. They are all the same, really.. they only want me on their terms.. Martin only wants to talk to me when I stop talking about things he doesn’t like, and other people only want me when I stop doing things they don’t like… for instance, one guy would like it if I dressed differently, another if I never wrote things down, another if I conformed to society, and another likes me the way I am…. but only on Wednesdays.

{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.

{September 24, 2009}   Revulsion

The phone rings. First it is my mom. You know how most parents, they try to protect you from the world? Well my mom tries to protect my dad from the possible damage my sister and me might inflict. “That’s daddy’s chair, don’t you dare sit there.”

“Get the fuck out of the way,” she’d say when I was only three. “Daddy might trip.”

“You piece of shit,” she’s swear when I was four.

I went through this phase where I had seizures where I thought I saw the devil eating me, killing me, torturing me. Later it was nightmares and I always got kidnapped, and I often wet the bed, and at eight I often was so filled with confusion and embarrassed I would try to knock my fists and my head against the wall so that I made enough noise to scare the darkness away.

I’d look at my dad with a hurt expression on my face, but he couldn’t see. So I was like stone. Always. My mom just liked to taunt and hurt me with my feelings, so I had to turn them against everything around me. The only thing I had going for me was the piano. And even then.

“Do you have to pound it so angrily? What is wrong with you, Nicole, why are you so angry? There are rules you know,” they would gang up on me when I was 16.

And now. They call me relentlessly, even though I’m supposed to be an adult.

First my mom calls. She who almost never calls, since she doesn’t give a damn. The only topic she ever calls about is my father. “Dad is stressed out and it is all your fault. You need to straighten this thing out with your insurance agency, I received this thing in the mail about it, and it says that they denied it, you need to find out why they denied it, and don’t ask dad about it because he does too much.”

I thought I’d already resolved that issue earlier in the morning, but apparently not. She is the voice of reason, and I am logically impaired. When I am done wrestling with her, my dad calls.

“You don’t have your priorities straight,” my dad says in a high, wheedling voice, like he is begging. His sappy neediness makes me want to vomit.

“You said you’d do this, and I don’t think it’s straightened out yet. You said you’d do this, and yet I don’t think you did it. You said you’d return your library books yesterday, but it’s today. Where are you right now?”

He is relentless. He won’t stop. But he likes it if I tell him whatever he wants to hear.
Maybe that’s why he and my mom married.

“What is it? I can try and help you. Anger? Depression? What is it?”

I just want to get off the phone, as usual. Anytime I tell my parents anything they use it as a weapon against me. It’s been this way for so long I can’t count. So it got to the point where I made my friends my family. Only they sort of spread out, like birds in a flock going different directions. I said it was a guy that burnt a hole through my heart, but really I think it was watching all my beautiful friends spread their wings while I sat and kicked at the ground.

They are two children begging me to pretend I have everything together. That I am fine, all the time, like I tell them, because to have any other feeling other than “fine” would be an injustice. It might be unfair to them. They want to remain as insulated from the corruptions of the world. I might taint them with my experiences. They want to know as little about what I’m really passionate about as possible. It might scar them.

They always have made me feel only one thing. The desire to get away. I don’t always know what to do with this feeling, I just know it creates all sorts of conflicts inside. And that these conflicts manifest in all sorts of ways around me until I feel like I am a danger to anybody around me, and that to be loved, I must sacrifice everything, because I had to sacrifice who I was to get them to love me. Why would it be different anywhere else?

et cetera