Take Another Look











{May 12, 2010}   Tick Tock

Can’t possibly live up to the expectations. The rumors, going past closed doors and flapping in the wind. How will I return to working there? Doomed if I don’t, doomed if I do. I could go back to school, but it would be like starting over. Finish lines have never been my strong suit.

In January, Lana, my fiancée, stopped asking about my days. I suppose she’d never been somebody who asked. I always volunteered, but the volunteering slowed down to a crawl, which must have created a larceny. A larceny of what we’d built together. Maybe a silent alarm triggered. So, she sabotaged things quietly and efficiently. She was always the one to keep things private, not me. She was way below the radar while my friends joked about the way my name accidentally popped up on the internet where it was least expected. But then I felt like my job became an avoidance clause. I had no good scraps of information to give her. Maybe it was something she was familiar with, being the private one and all, but I had never gone there before. I did it for us. I didn’t question what the government asked of me- not much anyway- because I needed to have something, even if it wasn’t what I wanted. Even if it led me nowhere. When I had to, I filled in the blanks by coloring a picture using markers. I was so terrible at it. And I should have had a photograph to describe. Instead it felt like an invention I had to coordinate. I grasped at straws so we could be together. I attributed her lack of interest to self-involvement. I was grateful but angry that she appeared not to care much about how I spent my time when she wasn’t around, making the decisions.

She wound me up, wound me down. I was lathered like a yo-yo, like in those comics where the guys socks go up and down when the girl uses a certain tone of voice, or after weeks of acting cold, does something affectionate. Maybe I became a downer to be around. It felt like she was a lantern leading my way. And I hate sentimentality. Always!

“Bobbi, I was just about to call you!” she said once, in a soothing tone, even though she’d fallen asleep and was not about to call me. Not that day. Probably would have waited months.

I’d be tempted to tell Lana that “forgetting to call about when and how we’d hang out or not” was the dumbest excuse I’d ever heard, but I kept my mouth shut. But the lack of reciprocity was the focus in the end game. We’ll get there.

Now I just wish she had been more open. She was like a banana that was still green. I only wish I had been able to go to her with my problems, but she came from a certain background . Her parents would have talked her down. Even after what they put us through, they still talked her down. I had a bad feeling that she lied to them. That she wanted people to think badly about me. Projection or just another one of Lana’s many tests?

Never been good at tests. I always go outside the box.

After all I put on the line, I lost her to her own demons. She became more beautiful to me every day, but she closed herself off to me in a calculated way that later gave me goosebumps. In the beginning, I remember I never had to beg. For us, I said, we must have a ritual of our own, where we could discuss anything. In those days she was game. But her follow through was terrible. I might find it funny if it weren’t for the fact that my follow through in my job lacked all sense. Now I’m at risk because I keep flirting with the idea, getting calls from the office, then trying to hide from them. You aren’t allowed out in this game.

The times I left my office turned from weeks to months.

Lana and I got cut short- cuts were made everywhere, so no surprise- but I didn’t think it would feel like a cord that needed to be dispensed.

Now, since Lana’s been gone, I haven’t seen any reason to continue the job. Which is funny, because what if it was the job that mangled our engagement? I know we said it was all these other things, but I can’t help but wonder. In the end, all I’m left with are the memory of her beautiful, brown, undaunted eyes. So alert, never missing a beat. That last year, she wouldn’t let me look into them anymore. Or was it me who stopped making eye contact? That refreshing voice. The way she positioned herself in restaurants so she’d observe all that was going on behind us. Her pithy wit.

I feel like I am speaking at a funeral.

Maybe I didn’t keep her in line enough. She needed that, and that was me, until I became so underwhelmed by the challenges of work that I started to hyper-focus on random things. She constantly needed somebody who wasn’t afraid to stand up from time to time and tell her to stop being such a snot. To keep her whining in line. To make sure she channeled that tyrannical streak elsewhere. Like in bed. She was too afraid. One time she used it, such a beautiful thing, to see her using her control, to have it define what she wanted, for it to turn us on so much, I let her guide us with her restraint. Nobody could turn me like she did. I’d never known desire until I met Lana. I’d had so much experience and none of it counted. I know Lana had her issues with touch, her issues with intimacy, but they were nothing compared to the memories of when she let her guard down. Compromising with me instead of choosing to work against me. I know that she was so used to being on her own that she needed somebody to remind her that adjustments and negotiations were necessary when you involved another person in your life.

Maybe I let her get away with too much. I fell into patterns. Sure, I called her on her shit, but I was a little too sweet about it. I’m a fairly brash person, but the past has eaten away at that, taken advantage of it, if you may. Tell me if I’m playing the victim card, because I used to have more than a healthy amount of bravado and arrogance that accompanied my blue streak at all times.

I didn’t know what else to do but give in to her. I thought it would be the solution and that she’d even be grateful at me. Instead, I fear I let myself become the punt of another one of her Saturday night jokes. The butt of one of her cigarettes.

I let out my anger when she wasn’t there. I put it into everything but her. I don’t usually let the people I’m angry with become aware of my anger. Maybe they see it, but Lana and I went long periods not seeing each other. She became unavailable. No comment. No comment. And again, no comment. Voicemail.

The longer this little game went on, the more I felt like the victim to one of Lana’s jokes. Being hypersensitive to criticism in the first place, being paranoid of the advances other men made on Lana, being very aware of that one night she used sex as a weapon against me at my expense.

But I still thought we could make it work. It has to work, I thought. What else? To me, there were no other options. I loved her. Fuck everything else she thought was in the way, she was wrong.

The way we got along with each other, that was a one in a million shot. So we could get through anything as long as we remembered the other. But the way she communicated. It became so rushed, so grudging, and eventually, so blocked, I felt like I’d get more out of a brick wall. I looked elsewhere for my support. I hated going anywhere but to Lana for support, but I felt like she had once driven me to want to be better. Now her avoidance was making me return to bad habits for comfort- dare I say it- maybe even intimacy, the intimacy I felt she was begrudging me. It was nothing compared to the wreck I was when I didn’t even have her resentful permission. I didn’t have her whining, or her annoying blocking, and maybe I wanted that back. For her? Yes.

I had given up a lot so I could be with her. It was gradual. Some were sacrifices she didn’t know about, sacrifices I would never tell her, for they were parts of myself that I’d left behind me. However, there were other sacrifices. The ones that I vigorously let on about. As if she owed me. Yeah, fuck me too.

But my compromise had became greater and greater.I couldn’t stand on water.

We were both stubborn. And when she tied my hands behind my back, not only was I not getting anything from her, she made it so I couldn’t give anything to her without it being something she had to pay for. Like the time I gave her something, and she was upset because, well, she didn’t give me anything in return. What was I supposed to do? Say, “Well, Lana, I will return my gift, because I see it upsets you that you weren’t considerate enough to think about getting me anything. Because you never think about getting me anything. Even though there was that email, where I said I had a surprise for you, and it was three days before Christmas? What did you think I meant? A candy bar?”

I should have said it. Would have been better than watching a movie I’d already seen, swallowing, and pretending that I hadn’t seen it before, because she was really really tired of looking up movies. All my fault, said her reluctant posture, the arms crossed in front of her chest, the cigarette inside the room when she knew how much I hated secondhand smoke. I’d made the process tiring instead of fun, her downcast eyes warned me. Maybe she felt I’d done the same to our relationship. Turn our whole process inside out to search for firewalls and hackers with viruses, and in the process looked too closely, thus taking away the security that she could do no wrong. There are two mistakes people make- they ignore their relationship, or they inspect it too closely. We did both. It depended on the day. But eventually Lana stopped going back and forth on me. She malignantly ignored the relationship, as if it was a snake she was hoping would slither away.

My heart started to slip.

There was a glimmer of hope. That was the shard of light that really burned me. The last time I saw her, she showed me her glaring insights, and shocked me away with her vulnerability. I wanted back.

She chose when to reveal her insights. My guess is as good as anybody elses. But that incredibly empathy combined with her fine-tuned control. Turned on when she wanted, turned off when she wanted. We want what we can’t have, right? I am detached but emotional. And she- oh she was a contradiction in terms, too. But a contradiction I grew to love and respect.

She showed me desire. Who was she to take it away from me?

Let’s take a step back. Back to when I wasn’t getting anything back from her. Should I have really pulled the card I did? The one you can’t take back? Well, I did. Girls flocked to me. But I was ready to settle down. Then she had to fuck with me. Right when I was trying to get in line.

If you tell somebody you might kill them, you should do so very carefully. It’s the same with friendships, when you warn somebody you might not talk to them anymore. In the case with Lana I made threats I wasn’t sure I could uphold. She made promises she wasn’t sure she could finish. My threats turned into her actions, and I kept her promises for her. Switching places was not good. Had it ever been? Why didn’t we just set it straight! We needed to split the difference, make up, and hold hands. In the end, that’s what I thought would happen. I even imagined it did happen, in some foreign universe where we were close, close friends.

I was dead wrong, and I would pay dearly for my mistake.

Her parents would never completely approve, and her friends thought I was too different to ever fit in with her elite group of blue-collar friends and neighbors. (or white-collar? See, i don’t even know the term.) I didn’t really have a collar at all. I fit where I fit, and that was with the people I loved. It was enough for Lana. Then, it became another excuse for me to go. I don’t ever want go where I’m not wanted. It’s one of my biggest fears. That somebody will think of me as so needy I’d chase them down. But I didn’t see what other options I had. The only other option was to bail out.

Instead of appear unwanted, I immediately bailed. But if this were some kind of game, Lana won over and over again, because I couldn’t hold back the force of my will. From a distance I tried to win her back. I didn’t go over to see her, and there was no chance we would run into each other. Maybe if we had run into each other, she’d have remembered. I left messages, I wrote notes, I sent flowers. I felt like the fool. I hated myself for my so-called “weakness.” My weakness was that I continued to care for her, my weakness was that I continued to tell her so even if she wouldn’t pick up the phone. My male friends told me she was the bitch, the cunt, the self-serving piece of shit, but Lana already knew that in a juries eyes, she would not be seen as a friendly party. I didn’t care about the coldness, and even though I thought my friends were trying to be helpful when they weighed in, all I wanted was her. I wanted us back.

I never even saw her back again. I watched her back. But the distance became greater and greater. I don’t know if Lana knew how to make contact with me without committing some kind of social faux pas her elite friends would have to comment on. As the seasons passed, I wasn’t sure how well I knew her. Doubt crept in. And I felt like if I didn’t know, she did. So the sting of her control hurt but reassured.Why? Because maybe she could assuage my doubts, if I ever did get a hold of her. But it stung because I felt like I couldn’t move.

In my eyes, she chose to use something I used to treasure about her as a weapon against me. I felt very conflicted that I wasn’t using weapons against her. There was the truth, for one. There was power, number two. I threw them away. I wouldn’t use anything against Lana. Never. Lana might consider me a masochist for not treating her like an enemy, but I kept her words in a bag beside me. She had said she wanted my friendship. Her actions, as usual, contradicted her words as much as possible. I should have seen it coming. I usually do. I suppose I didn’t want to look forward ten moves. This time, I chose to walk in blind because of trust.

I trusted her…

even with eggs on my face.

Her fucking friends poisoned her. The took a beautiful girl, and they made her feel unworthy of herself. So she pretended she was someone else, someone she was not. This angered me so much. Unlike Lana, I didn’t turn to my friends with my anger. Nobody was better here. I was just filled with self-indignation, something I don’t usually fear.

I’d been warned, and I’d ignored the warning.

I wanted a new line of work but my work wouldn’t let me go. The past has a way of grabbing onto you when you turn away from it. I think because I didn’t see an end in sight, I didn’t know how I could go back there. And without Lana in my life, I didn’t know how I could deal with the baggage. Sure, I was really good at what I did. And if I tried, I could be the best. But I wanted to put everything on hold. In the end, I did. I watched the clock move onwards. I put one foot in front of the other and counted the days. Until I stopped counting how long it had been since I saw Lana. Until every Wednesday wasn’t characterized by the fact that it used to be our Wednesday.

Still, in the back of my mind I remembered. I’d get brutal cravings to send her text messages. Harmless? Not to me. Because for every message I sent, I wanted to kill my ability to reach out to anybody. I wanted to punish myself for being so brazen as to act on my impulses. And I had a record. Even if I deleted what I sent Lana, there was the record in my brain. How many times I called. It wouldn’t go away.

Finally, I felt like it was a lose lose situation. If I didn’t call her, I would lose her. If I did call her, she wouldn’t pick up, and I would squander what little belief I still had in my self-control.

To reach out, to yield as far as I could, to turn to water and let her float in my surrender. I’d fight these cravings by turning my stereo on, closing my eyes, pouring time and place into some meaningless Buddhist pool.

Sometimes my friend Dale from the army would call. He said I sounded really sketchy. He got me to talk about Lana. I ended up ranting to him about Lana, which was strange, since I now spoke of her to no one. I didn’t want to burden anyone. He was the exception. After I talked about her he said I sounded better now, less “shut off inside.” I trusted his judgment. Who else was I going to trust, myself? That was a laugh.

Lana had effectively proven her case- I would never be able to trust myself again. I was too prone to spontaneous gestures, to whims and impulses few people understood the meaning behind. All they could see was the desperation on my face. I was transparent. To make matters more complicated, I never saw shallowness in others. If anything, I took it to mean potential. Impressed by their presentation, something I never had, I took what they said as if it had a special meaning to them. I saw potential in everybody.

I wore the same clothes days in a row, or forgot to shave. Stumbled out of bed and didn’t bother to shower. I dressed like a gangster, with larger jeans and shirts with cigarette holes on them. Couldn’t bring myself to throw out my favorite sweatshirt. I got attached to everything, even the simplest possessions. I cleaned up real well. So well that Lana never understood why I dressed the way I did. Why didn’t I “grow up,” she wondered. My dress code didn’t sit so well with her friends and family. Never mind that I would have “cleaned up” if she’d taken the chance to formally introduce me to her relatives at a dinner. Fuck, I would have taken them all out and paid.

She said the rebellion wasn’t really me. Her presumption! As if she’d known me longer than I’d known myself. Yes, I admired her presumption, and for her, I might have worn a suit every day. I might have found a nine to five job. But we will never know now, will we.

I gave up… It might be the biggest mistake I’ll ever make.

But then there is tomorrow.

I don’t need to love again anymore. Nobody else. She was enough for me. But I wasn’t given enough time. And for that, I will remain angry.

So it ended badly, you are thinking.

But maybe, that’s all you need to know.

Maybe someday I will find somebody who shares my interests, and she will bear my children. I would like a son. Time is still clicking, but I’ve been ignoring the clock. I need to start paying attention. I plan on changing soon enough, but nothing is demanding it. In the meantime, I’ve stayed as far away from the recruit as possible. Teaching, paying bills late, and considering whether it’s worth it that every cent I make goes into my rent.

Rent has never made sense to me. I keep making money, it keeps getting funneled into this hole. If you took all the money I’ve paid for rent over the years, you’d have enough for a house. It’s sick the way people actually charge for rent these days. My idea for society is different, one that I’d like to bounce off somebody else somebody.

My time with Lana made me over-cautious. I wear latex gloves anytime I open any doors, in case somebody traces for prints. I’ve gone from being made of steel to being invisible. I’m not sure it’s worth it. Any of it. I’d ask for my money back, but I don’t want to ask. They should just give it to me, but I’m not stupid enough to believe they’ll ever do that. I want the old days back, and I miss the days from the army, when camaraderie was more than a word. It meant everything, and without it you were alone without anybody watching your back. Sure, you could become a sniper, but somebody could find your hiding position and take you out. Without anybody to protect you, you were AWOL. No benefits, no pay, no friends. This was a little like how Lana thinks she wants to live life. But like everything Lana says, her actions go against her words.

She reminds me a bit of a Dale, who can fill me with hot boiling anger. Hypocrisy is something I can live without. It makes my blood run fast, and suddenly I am working overtime just to stand still. Standing still in the same room with somebody who doesn’t know themselves is hard for me. I start yelling at them, showing them big pieces of a mirror. They keep repeating the same blackmail. I don’t like their argument, it breaks the mirror into slivers until I don’t have much of a case left. I can’t show them anything with that kind of high-pitched wrecking ball in the office. Well, you should have thought of that before, they tell me. No, you should have looked at a mirror dammit. I don’t like mirrors, they tell me. I don’t care what you do or not like, you make it a priority to see what you actually look like instead of what you think you should look like. They argue some more until I just nod and gesture. Face goes down, hands point at things. Motor skills. Second thing to lose in these arguments. They are such close friends, but they argue me to pieces. The adrenaline that was straining against my vessel walls starts to break down into something toxic. They understand toxins, they always do. Suddenly it’s me who needs them. Testify at the trial, I tell them. They refuse. Another example of your hypocrisy, I tell them, too warn down by the circumstance and the dialogue to watch my words. They don’t turn on me, but they take out their black book and draw a big black line for the times that I’ve become “unpredictable” or “unreasonable-” not to mention “unfathomable.” They tell me that they love me- except for this one percent of the time- and they show me the lines in their book. I continue to nod and gesture. They take this as a measure of agreement. Evidence for their pretrial motions. They can now say they don’t want things suppressed. Motion granted. This is a complex stature of limitations, after all. Time marches with them in the room. When they leave, I see it start to slide.

I go to my favorite diner. Who knew it still existed? Margie is there. I drink coffee sludge. Extra cream. as always.

“They are going extra hard on the felony convictions this year. I don’t like it Margie.”

I read my book. I turn the pages. The days pass. The bills pile up. The rent is due. I don’t like it.

I have no idea what I will do, where I will go, but that’s always how it is. Even as I know myself, as deeper and deeper I go, I can’t do a thing about the time.

PROBLEMS WITH THIS STORY- how do I solve them?

It needs work. What is Lana’s job? Is it so unimportant that it’s never mentioned? What about her point of view? Maybe she had good reasons for backing out, if that is what happened, it gets purposely ambiguous. Is there too much ambiguity in here? and wtf is Bobbi doing that he feels doomed by? that he feels subversively jeopardized his wedding? Is he some kind of assassin? Lana knows about some things, but what does he feel he has to hide? Do people need to know? And when does he start to hide? Since it doesn’t follow simple chronology, what can hold it together? There are a lot of sticky metaphors in there. The story needs more simple ties… to something. Maybe to a base of some sort.. descriptions. And the random diner… comes out of nowhere.


{March 15, 2010}   Seattle

“You want a sleeve, dahling?” the barista says in his metro sexual tone of voice. I show him the tip of my brown sweatshirt. “Sleeve,” I repeat harmlessly. He reacts with a quaint mixture of how cute with it’s Seattle so it’s romantic and cool. Seattle is like Paris but instead of being about young love and young promise, it is about youth, illusion, and hardship. The promises broken, the naiveté shed, the days that repeat endlessly because you want your love to be more than a song. The hard edges come out, but the metal is the color of a hundred rainbows folded over on top of one another. Too many visions for it to come together. Graffiti too dense to wash over. The mixture is complete. Nodding Off Guy sits in a corner with his creepy stare, his jaundiced skin, and his battled veins. I’ve seen his face around these streets since I was twelve. Two asian girls sit with their calculators dedicated on solving a problem. A man with glasses and shorts and a big mug sits, wearing cache shorts that seem age inapropirate with his thin grey hair as he eyes a magazine, his square glasses stating “I must be an editor of something unimportant but recognized by a small number of people.” A woman of mixed descent wears a scarf and listens to music, her head going up and down. A girl sits on a couch surface, her toes curled up, reading The Stranger and cuddling up inside herself. Just another sunday night, the end to a start of a week. An old man with a hat sits down next to Nodding Off Guy and makes it his night to stare around observing everybody. The baristas do a quick sweep of the room. I remember the last time I was here, my friend saying “what a mix, oh, what a mix.” The music sings in a honey tone, edging everybody on with the lyrics “I feel good,” the song “I Got you” by James Brown.  I can almost feel Janis Joplin in this song but this music is celebration, and there isn’t enough edge for there to be a Janis song. Instead of “can’t do you no harm” she’d be singing “Oh you do me harm, and it feels good, what should I do?” This whole city is beating, it is a heart, it has veins all over the place, veins it doesn’t know what to do with. Veins that are blocked by cholesterol, veins that are blissed out by needle pricks filled with speed or heroin or both. Anything to speed up the mixture of colors. The city says, do it, do it now before you lose the chance. It is the place to lose everything because the next morning you won’t know what hit you or what you lost. The chances, they build up on you like drops on a flower until the flower falls over and the water hits the ground, splattering onto the sidewalk. There is too much color, not enough production. Too much possibility, not enough opportunity. Too much talent, not enough agents. Too much risk, not enough safety. There is a big divide. There is no stealth here, and everybody pretends to be a star. Everybody is young, and everybody can dress how they want. Everybody is immune to judgement, and nobody speaks to each other unless that person is giving you your coffee jolt. Only when you work as a barista do you learn about the people around you. And then you find that they need your inane small talk more than they need their java. You ask them how they are and they erupt. But ask the same person how they are when they are alone, cornered in their space, reading the paper or eyeing the room, and they will guffaw and find another chair. It’s just the way of the city. Don’t approach unless you are below 21 or can pass for 21, or are in the company of somebody who floats like an It-Girl butterfly, attracting party flavor energy everywhere you go. Putting everything into 3-d if need be, or giving everybody orange glasses to see the world from. People need limits, you hear? Just tell them to see it from one shade and you will be the babysitter that helps them as they travel within this acid trip, trying to make something of themself.



{February 22, 2010}   AWAKE

Dreams and more dreams so vibrant. Take the veil of sedation away and I can finally see what is going on without being tied up with a hood over my head. That was the difference in dreams before. Now I’m sore and my eyes are not used to anything but the dark and the dreams are psychotically unpleasant if I play the plots back in my own head- so much sickness, for instance, so much was forced…but I was able to escape the usual horrors but I shouldn’t get too ahead of myself, a few days without the biometer that changes everything in my body- my temperature, appetite, mood, respiratory system, breathing, all so I don’t have to feel what? My own abilities and failures? Who cares about what I’ve been caring about for so long there was a reason and it is so like me to spend all my time dismantling the tiniest spark of confidence left. I think I scared Downey away forever, I mean my whole being patient thing was getting annoying so I threw a grenade in the mix I’m tired of games. It had to do with something relevant at the time…sometimes somebody floats so far away from you (but they might be hiding in the cargo silent u just don’t know) so.u cut the strings or you dive out in the water looking for them anything you do could be fruitless with the opposite approaches u are taking. And while I expect anybody who dares to be involved with me to take a very stealthy approach that could mean being lost at sea for a very long time since the only approach they accept is on their terms; terms they won’t and don’t share with me. So even when I do things on their terms they might not realize it because if they are assuming a stealthy approach it could all be blown to smithereens but I’m not sure of what I’m speaking.



{January 6, 2010}   No word for No, ever…



I looked around the place where he no longer lived. It was strange to see the things he had touched. Why was it so hard to remember his smell? Memories did not come when I chose them to come to me. They came randomly or listlessly. I often thought that I had brought them to me, that there was a kind of sense being played out. I tried to make sense of what could not make sense. There were messages where he said he hoped his mindset was not destroying our relationship. Was his self-awareness extended enough to later remember saying that? I’d never known somebody so intimately. Simultaneously I yet felt so lost. Every time I used to dial his digits, I didn’t know what kind of mood calling him would inspire. Before he got on the phone, I could be in one of a hundred of different moods. And there were so many shades of beauty he missed out on when he didn’t answer. Sometimes it seemed like he answered only when I was not in the right mood to talk. But I persisted to call even when the mood was bad, if only to connect. And still, I didn’t know what disconnection meant. All those things I did not know but could see and hear and feel pounded on my door and chased at my nights. It held me captive, the thing I could not know. The space that we did not share was where I kept trying to break in. I wasted time trying to pound that place open. I think he saw me there and pretended not to. I think he saw me and it’s what made him want me to go away. But he wanted me to stay, too.

Occasionally my heart would leap out of my throat as the phone kept ringing. This especially happened when I sent him emails I could not retract. My words were like bullets meeting their target, but I never thought I was a good marksman, and I always assumed I had not been heard, because nobody heard me in my youth. I thought I was wildly scattering fire because I needed an outlet, because he wouldn’t let me communicate in words anymore, and when I couldn’t communicate in words I tried touch, but he had long ago banished communication from entering any realm we inhabited. I loved him so much I could not breathe and I hated myself for a weakness that he seemed to hate. I let words be more decisive than I was but I did not know what words were doing. I could not see things the way he did. If he had changed, how much had I changed? I later was able to see things in a logical way, but unfortunately, I wanted to share that with him too. Was there ever going to be a time when I didn’t want to share things with him? All of my friends kept saying he didn’t give a shit about me, that he was not right, and they pointed at my checkered judgment to prove it. Their words either pushed me closer towards him or farther away. But I never knew where he was. The longing to know possessed me. It became more important than finding my way. The uncertainty came in waves. One week I was both irritated with myself for stirring up trouble and speaking what I thought was pure logic, but I was most irritated with him for not responding and causing more uncertainty, which in turn caused me to try to ignore what was going on too. I felt free, as if the bullets had freed me in some way. And yet there was only silence on his end. I tried to imagine a life without all the pain he’d caused, but that also meant a life without the pleasure. I cursed him in my mind for the parts of himself he hid from me over and over again, especially since it was getting worse. Or so it seemed. I tried trusting his judgment, but it cast me astray because I could not know the full picture. I tried trusting my judgment, but it was full of holes. I tried trusting the piercing howl of anguish that came over me like a shod of electric shocks. The shocks did not dissipate. And then they quietly left for a while, and I peeked around uneasily. Again, had I trusted my friends more than me?

I looked in the mirror and held my gaze firmly. I was attractive. He didn’t tell me that much. Was that something I liked about him? All those things I attacked, they’d also drawn me to him and now I was blaming then forgiving him for qualities that he had always had but that I kept discovering anew. One time he said I was blaming myself, but when the tears came I was restless that he couldn’t turn over and face me, wipe the tears off my face, kiss me and assure me. I thought that was all I needed but what did I know about need, after all was said and done? I needed so much for that one gesture to be in there somewhere but I felt like an unwanted occupant taking up space next to him, neither mattering nor not mattering. Why didn’t he wake up in the night and randomly whisper things to me? Why was he so effusive, so cold, so habitual in all of his tendencies? Was this a particular tactic to get me to leave or to stay? I could not accept that he could not take on my love except in his own form. I had to see it in my own way. And my own way was so stripped and naked he seemed secretly at a loss. I was at a loss, too. I didn’t know what I could stand to lose. It was strange to believe somebody when they only spoke their thoughts once, then never repeated them. The most important things were unswayable and I latched on to what could not be said like a tiger and her prey. I knew my capacity to love was too large. I had to hide it. It was too much. I was too much. But he was confusing me again. I didn’t belong anywhere.

Maybe he wasn’t really dead. Maybe he had created this house for me as a place to think he had left. But no that was just hope talking. Did I hope I could forget? I think I was scared that I hoped that I would never have to stop breathing in his fumes, his embrace. But I also wanted to be unfettered. I would never trade freedom for security. Except in small items, one by one, the hook sunk into me as into a fish. I could not rely on any one belief, nor could I rely on what the whole picture said. No wonder I was so filled with yearning for him to take me to some cold place and quietly disembark my contradictions with the soft taste of spring water. So he could fill my thirst with something that was cleansing. I did not expect to feel my face burn in a flash of indignation, nor for my hope to give way to a shy but fierce awkwardness. And if it did he had to be there to make it better, and when he wasn’t, I wondered if I didn’t know who he was, and this thought despaired me the most of all. I had to assume everything was a lie if I was to try to follow the trail backwards, to know how far I had come and from where.

Good or bad. Had he been good or bad for me? Why was the house vacant? If he came home he might find me here, still standing and waiting for him to appear. Or he might find me tapping on the table, impatient and ready to coil with a wave of questions. Or still, I might be calm and still, simply wanting that lucidity I felt I deserved. I’d thrown too much and now could not wait. I was walking around in my own cage and feeling deserted all the time if only for my own issues with abandonment. But there was more to it than that, and it was what incensed me to not give up. I wanted to start from a blank slate, I had said, without realizing I was eroding the latest of floors that he had started working on. I kept breaking things and he kept trying to protect me until I was floored to discover that my hammer had a safety valve on it that I couldn’t undo. I used the safety valve as a hammer instead. All the while, my own sense of isolation drummed at me like a pulse. I knew I could live without him, but when he was there I felt like I could not live without him at all. I didn’t understand how things could be so different when he was there and when he was not. Was he the only one making an impact on things? It seemed nothing I did impacted him after a while. Which was why the house looked unaffected by my presence.

Damnit, I had desensitized him. With my words, I had made my moods too indistinguishable so that he was so used to a flourish of ten pages that it made no difference to him when I tried other tactics. I had already poured so many paint colors in there it made no difference when I used white-out. I feared nothing would make the difference. I would have called an “Inaction Hotline” to see if that would fix things but there wasn’t any Inaction Hotline for me to go to and I could not refrain from acting. Whether it was calling or forgetting or thinking or trying not to think, I had no finality. Even in asking for it, did I really expect to get it? I gave up on my ability to use words further. I was sending him two messages. I love you and I hate you or I don’t know, do you know, and I had sent it too many times. And we were tired, so tired. I was tired of doubt, and he, no doubt, was sick of reassurance. He had no more to offer me because in one click, I erased my own message but not the internet footprint it left behind.

I was furious when I found out that the messenger service was so flawed. Why couldn’t my love be greater than my hate? I suppose it was, but when the stain of blood entered the picture, the sense of timeline was lost. What did I know about endings anyway? There I was saying he was ending things all the while asking for a beginning or a new one anyway. The first one was good enough, but I wanted a repeat I guess. Please, I’d just wanted to make things better, that’s why this all started in the first place! I wanted it to be getting better and I was a self-improvement kit I felt he never used. He must have felt like everything he said went on deaf ears after the contradictions were sent out like nuclear warning strikes.

My heart felt like it was locked up inside, and my thoughts felt like they were crying against my skull to get out. I felt like if he could only hear me he would understand, he would understand. I had to believe that. Don’t you see why I had no choice but to believe that?



{December 17, 2009}   Extreme states

dancers
“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?”
“Yea.”
“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 6, 2009}   Description

“Anything But Normal”

A man chanting native american speech “yo ho yo ho” was lying on the couch, his legs sprawled out there as if he belonged there. As if he was a part of the lightning fixture set in concrete. There remains a cloud over the room, as if something had gone terribly wrong and nobody had looked up at the ceiling since. The floor was scrubbed over and over again with pine sol or more advanced brands of cleaners, as the owner was lucky to be dealing with a hardwood floor and not a rug. A rug attracts fuzz, stains, and cigarette burns. You can’t erase the memory from a rug. You can’t really erase the memory from a floor, either, but if a stranger walks in they can’t see the memory unless they have luminol and a whole bunch of other investigative tools that detect any forensic evidence in play.

Perhaps scientists probing these floors would be able to see the real truths but plenty can be seen by the naked eye. For example, a scientist might see residue from a kids watered-down fruit punch orange juice spills. A visitor might notice paper cups carefully handed down to the kids so the cups don’t break. But can an outsider see a history that has been sleekly erased?

A scientist can see history. A single scratch that occured after a dish went flying because a wife criticized her husband demands retribution, appeals that time lost be time taken. They call it the suburbs and they call the suburbs normal. So why is the rain outside so heavy? The water has filled up two feet of a plastic pool made for summertime.

Why do the swing sets outside call to the children the way the sound a Bach prelude and fugue calls to a man on his death bed? And what does it mean for a man to give up his home, the home he remodeled with his own bare hands? Uprooted once again, but now it’s made clear that the whole time home was just a fleeting idea. One to fill a children’s book so that Goldilocks and the three bears could call what they had a name.

Who knows better than a man who builds what a house means? To some it could be any four walls with a door, a frame, a window. But a house that has a longstanding address is supposed to be a symbol of security, and that security is now being uprooted and he knows better than to raise his fists in protest but fortunately he does it anyway. There is no fight left in this home. A sign should be raised, a flag should be saluted: fights not allowed in this house. But the furniture announces it so the sign is not necessary. The chairs are not big enough for two people, so affection may be limited to children and dogs. The dog goes between hyperventilating, running around madly, breaking rules, but mostly his nose sniffs around like every pat to his head is going to be his last one. The way the dog uses its eyes to try and get what it wants is nauseous to those who don’t have the time to dole out empathy as if it were candy. Empathy is not a luxury here.

The little girl cries to be lifted in her daddy’s arms. “Uppy,” she says. The word rhymes with puppy for a reason. The older daughter just curls up on the other chair, feigning indifference. She knows better.

“And don’t act too excited about something or he might say no, so you have so sound kind of excited, but not too excited…” she lectures on how to sound suitably convincing when trying to participate in something engaging that might involve the slightest bit of action or agreement.

Diplomacy is as fallen as the leaves outside. The chickens no longer lay eggs; it’s everyone for himself around here the tractor outside shrieks, and the more scraps of devotion in your heart the worse off you’ll be for the endgame. Maybe the endgame is adulthood; maybe the endgame is tomorrow.

The best thing is to not want affection. Then you win the game you didn’t want to play because everybody is off wanting a piece of you and you just want to be left alone. And as long as they continue to want you, then you can yield the poker stick and poke them into the fire as many times as you want. Because some people aren’t winners. They don’t have it in them. Or worse, they don’t really care about winning or losing, they just wanted to be included, and when they walk off having lost all their savings instead of being broken they are just bewildered because this sort of swindle does not happen to them. It just does not happen inside a nice house like this.

“This is a piece of shit house,” the architect says when describing the place. He says this because the home is manufactured and looks like hundreds of other homes that were carved and cast from the exact same design mold. The room attached to the bedroom is completely unfurnished and the sheathing boards are exposed, with bits of dangerous looking nails and lint leaving what was meant to be the floor to a bathroom exposed.

Don’t hold on to anything too closely because there are more than a million excuses that can be used to push somebody away. More than one muscle aching or one bad mood. Those classics can all be used over and over again, and hell, if you need another one, why bother being creative? Just shove the person out on the porch and remind them that they wanted you and if they decide on out now, it’s a little late, and they knew what they were getting into. And plus, this is just a phase.

You pray it is a phase. You wonder if it is a phase. You wonder how much you can take. You wonder how much you really can put up with because your memory doesn’t like to play tricks on you but when it goes into survival mode it cannot be stopped.

Once you really like someone or something and they hurt you in “the way you deemed unacceptable,” as people inevitably do, because that is how time works, you try a million ways to reconnect. When (it’s only a matter of when, not if) that doesn’t work you easily lose the little patience you had. The only answer is retreat, and even that you do have to do with snot in your nose from crying so much. You’ll learn that dignity at times like those was never important anyway. You threw dignity away at the bus stop when you continued on, refusing and refusing to give up. “I can’t give up,” you say, not noticing that you refuse to say won’t. You don’t believe you have a choice in the matter, not when your head makes arrangements one way while your heart assigns you to another precinct altogether.

“It’s sort of like being an angel, and you meet up with a priest that wants to believe in miracles, but to him you don’t look like an angel, so he sends you out the door. Like on that show Saving Grace? It’s so funny when the priest of the drunken policeman sister meets the sisters angel and dismisses him as somebody of no importance. Do you know what that’s like? Hey, are you listening to me? What are you doing?

Listen, sistah, you gotta find new ways of destroying the memories. Drugs do the trick, but they aren’t thorough enough. You really have to find the memory. Locate. Concentrate. Falsify.

It’s shocking how lousy you are at pretending that what you loved was something that was positively atrocious! You have to pretend that despite the fact that what was once so significant to you that you refused to give it words- for even the meaning was so bursting, overloading with joy that it was that untouchable- or so you thought. In order to lose it, you simply must come over there with razors and a plastic hat and tear it up. Just don’t get too emotionally unglued when you find yourself smashing it over and over again; it’s just a memory chip and the chip itself it not to blame. It’s like burning down every house you built. It’s not personal.

It never was. What is wrong with you!

The fight between asserting and withdrawing feels like a choice that has to be made at every second, and making that choice gets so tiring that eventually you fall into a dizzying silence, a silence that is choked by labored breathing and tears that fall for so long people wonder if you have allergies. Yes, you have allergies. Nobody cries for that long without knowing why they are crying. Crying implies mourning, so what could anybody possibly be mourning here?

It is what is unspoken that is being lost. The reason the tears flow is because retrieval is not possible. You can retrieve anything except the intent to connect.

You get so cold that you get the chills, even with the heat on and two jackets, and even when you are soaked to the bone in the hottest water possible, you are still frozen to the core. The goose-bumps don’t go away. And it is then that you know. You know what you feel the loss of. It’s particles and it’s science and it is feeling what another refuses to feel and please don’t let the warmth be gone and all you can do is shiver and please you cannot ask them to hold you or God forbid stroke you because they will not only resent you for asking because you should know better, they will turn away and when they do that again then your worst fears will be confirmed, but you don’t care about your worst fears as much as you care about stopping the shivering and you can’t stop shivering not again not this time. And you don’t know if the warmth will be back. Until then.



et cetera