Take Another Look











{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.



{December 30, 2009}   EXPOSITION-WORK IN PROGRESS

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.



{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