Book One Songs are like tattoos. -Joni Mitchell, Blue
———————————————————————————————————— ———————————————————————————————————— There is a little boy sitting across from me on the bus. He is quietly singing a song and then a little less quietly when he notices my noticing. clap. He needs to be noticed. clap. It is a child’s song and it seems familiar and strange; something clicks inside me. He leans forward, because he knows that I am trying to pick out the lyrics. I follow his lead and look to his mother to see if it is okay. clap. A lot of people don’t like it when you stare at their children, but I find it hard not to because kids are usually the only ones still crazy after everyone else has shuttered the windows and sealed the doors. The mother’s eyes are unfocused. clap. Or maybe she is the big sister. But not a sister. Tired. clap. Tightlipped. clap. She is a sliver inside her thick, winter jacket. She looks pinned in the middle of a keeping it together and falling apart sandwich. The little boy laughs. Shutters close. She has heard this song a million times before. Whatever. clap. It’s not that funny. clap. But a child’s song is never really that funny, even though it sounds like it should be.
Momma says baby clap clap The kid’s going crazy clap clap If it’s a boy—give it a toy clap clap clap clap If it’s a girl—give a whirl clap clap clap clap Shame clap
———————————————————————————————————— My first true love was a soap opera villain, but I didn’t know that. I only knew that his name was Victor Newman, that he was new to the town of Genoa City, that he was tall, dark, handsomely in control of his mustache and that he locked his wife up in the house all day long to keep her safe while he worked hard to become the most powerful man that ever was. Later on I learned that his list of credits also included blackmail, bribery, a secret vasectomy, imprisoning a man in a dungeon, intimidation and possibly murder, but seeing as how he was my first true love, all I knew was that nobody upon nobody liked this guy, which made the reason why I loved him so much more only me and especially only me. I loved him because I could. Sigh. And I could, sigh, because, unlike everyone else, I understood everything there was to understand about him; he was just like me. An orphan. Check. Nobody knew what he was really thinking. Double-Check. He was going to show them. Triple-Quadruple-Check. He never, ever, wanted love to leave. Check-Infinity.
Victor Newman died in the summer of that year. It was the single most saddest day of my whole entire life and I cried so much that even my breath was crying. My mother told me not to worry. Don’t worry, she said. Guys like that never stay dead long. Then she walked away.
In the fall, I started the first grade and so I was not at home when Victor Newman emerged from the ashes and I know it was the first grade because it was also the year of many important things happened. It was the year my father started coming over for dinner again. It was the year my little sisters were born. It was the year my teacher had a baby and we got a guy substitute. It was the year I peed my pants in class because I was too afraid to go the bathroom alone. And it was the year my father went away on a forever business because he had to go. C’ya kiddo.
Mother said he was gone so long that he must have been on vacation. Not business? Your boyfriend. Victor Newman. Obviously she didn’t know anything, because Victor Newman was hiding out. Waiting for his revenge. No, she said, the actor. The guy who plays Victor Newman. He probably took a long vacation so they killed him off for a while. I must have looked really stupid because she said, God I hope you don’t wear that face to school. Then she walked away. Fuck, I said, to see if she would turn around. Watch your mouth! she said, still walking. I went to the bathroom mirror to watch my bathroom mouth. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
———————————————————————————————————— We had a parade when my sisters were born. It was a my sisters were just born parade. I wore a towel turban to make my hair swing long like Cleopatra and I let my cross-thestreet friends wave my Ken and Barbie around like swords and/or microphones. Cha-Cha used Ken and her sister Leanna used Barbie. Cha-Cha’s real name is Rashelle, but we all call her Cha-Cha and nobody really knows why, but probably because she definitely looks like one. My very best friend in the whole wide world also has a name that fits her perfectly: Big Silvia. But she got mad at me and now I am praying that we are still friends, because she is Big Silvia and I am Little Silvie and together we are both the shortest and the tallest. Alone, it is just me and everyone else and I don’t really like everyone else. I told the priest about it and that’s when the tears began to flow and then he put his arm around my shoulder so I cried even more and then he told me that everything was going to be okay so I cried the hardest I could ever cry and then he patted me on the hand which made me go to ends of the earth crying, but after that he told me to do some hail maries and then he walked away. Crying helps, but it can’t do everything for a person like me: Big Silvia’s mom has grey in her hair and I told Big Silvia that her mom is so old she is GRAAAAND-MAAAAAAA! hailmaryfullofgracethelordiswiththeeblessedartthoughamon gwomenandblessesisthefruitofthywombjesus.holymarymot herofgodprayforussinnersnowandatthehourofourdeathamen. hailmaryfullofgracethelordiswiththeeblessedartthoughamon gwomenandblessesisthefruitofthywombjesus.holymarymot herofgodprayforussinnersnowandatthehourofourdeathamen. hailmaryfullofgracethelordiswiththeeblessedartthoughamon gwomenandblessesisthefruitofthywombjesus.holymarymot herofgodprayforussinnersnowandatthehourofourdeathamen. hailmaryfullofgracethelordiswiththeeblessedartthoughamon gwomenandblessesisthefruitofthywombjesus.holymarymot herofgodprayforussinnersnowandatthehourofourdeathamen. Silvie, my mom said. Why don’t you just go over there and talk to her. Because the priest told me to do this.
Well, what does he know about it? He’s a guy. He’s a guy, God’s a guy, guys talk about guy things. This is a womanto- woman thing, Mother said with one foot in the wonderful world of a 1970’s topless feminist and one foot stepping into a red sexy disco teddy. To wear for my dad. Who was paying for everything via check. In the mail. I think.
Wrong! I said, because the Virgin Mary is a woman and she is blessed art thou amongst all women so I know she can doubly help us. She’s one of them, Mother said. Don’t count on it. Your grandfather was a minister, so believe me, I know. I know. Now just go talk to Big Silvia and get it over with. No! hailmaryfullofgracethelordiswiththeeblessedartthoughamon gwomenandblessesisthefruitofthywombjesus.holymarymot herofgodprayforussinnersnowandatthehourofourdeathamen. hailmaryfullofgracethelordiswiththeeblessedartthoughamon gwomenandblessesisthefruitofthywombjesus.holymarymot herofgodprayforussinnersnowandatthehourofourdeathamen. hailmaryfullofgracethelordiswiththeeblessedartthoughamon gwomenandblessesisthefruitofthywombjesus.holymarymot herofgodprayforussinnersnowandatthehourofourdeathamen. hailmaryfullofgracethelordiswiththeeblessedartthoughamon gwomenandblessesisthefruitofthywombjesus.holymarymot herofgodprayforussinnersnowandatthehourofourdeathamen
Which is why Big Silvia was not in the parade.
———————————————————————————————————— ———————————————————————————————————— Mama says baby the kid’s going crazy. clap. The mother abruptly grabs the boy’s knee. The boy stops singing. I lean back, lower my hat, and watch his legs swing in time with the song that still floats in the space between us. The bus stops. Goes. Stops. Goes. Mother and boy stand up. I look at him and sorta smile. He sorta smiles back. Stops. What else is there to do? I put my headphones back on. Mother and son get off the bus and are replaced, like everybody is always replaced. Oh,
great. ———————————————————————————————————— ————————————————————————————————————
———————————————————————————————————— Once my sisters grew into their big fat heads it was clear that they were going to look just like me, except they were the ones that got to be twins even though I was the oldest. Not fair. Everybody upon everybody loves little girls and twin little girls are such delicate especialilties that I went from being little Silvie to just Silvie in a snap. But the neighbor guy still calls me little and he said he wanted me to stay that way forever. He said I was very, very nice and that he liked how soft my skin was and then he showed me a magazine with all kinds of pictures in it. One of the pictures was of a woman with her boobs inside boxing gloves so she had boxing glove boobs and just so you know, it was the first time I ever saw a real live DICK, which is kinda exciting if you like that sort of girl on guy thing and believe me, a lot of people do. Everybody was playing salon when I got home. My one sister was putting tiny little braids into the hair of my Barbie in the fashion of Bo Derek’s Ten and Mother was putting tiny little braids in the fashion of Bo Derek’s Ten in the hair of my other sister. Joni Mitchell was on the radio. I am on a lonely road and I am traveling, traveling, traveling, traveling. It smelled like—looking for something, what can it be?—pot, because I know what pot smells like. I read a book about it at Cha Cha’s house. Oh, I hate you some—It smelled like pot over there too and—I hate you some—also in her dad’s car where she put her tongue—I looooove you some—in my mouth once. We were waiting in the back seat of the car at the grocery store—Oh, I love you when I forget about meeee—while the Mothers were inside and—I want to be strong—she got on top me and tried to put her tongue wherever it would go. I want to laaaugh out loud. The Mothers opened the door and said— I want to belong to the living—What in the hell are you doing? Alive! Alive! I didn’t know, but it seemed like ChaCha did, and after the neighbor guy—I want to get up and drive—I know why. I want to wreck my stockings in some jukebox dive. Do you want? Do you want? Do you waaaaaant to dance with me, baaaaby?
Mother asked me if I wanted Bo Derek hair. Do you want to take a chance at maybe finding some suuuweet romance with me baby? The only thing I wanted was to be old enough to fall in love so that all the emptiness I felt inside would make sense. No. Suit yourself. Do you want to watch Charlieâ€™s Angels with us? My two sisters sitting at the foot of Mother created a teepee image of hair and love and camping in a glossy magazine place I would probably never be able to go to. I want to shampooooo you. I want reneeeeeeweewew you again and again. Okay. Applaus! Applause! Well, turn the radio off then. Do you see, do you see, do you see-
Nothing good ever comes in fours. There were only three Angels. Three’s Company. Three Stooges. Three Musketeers. Peter, Paul and Mary. Three Wise Men. The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. Sex, drugs and rock n’roll. The Bee Gees. But… …Once upon a time there were three little girls who went to the Police Academy and they were each assigned very hazardous duties, but I took them away from all that and now they work for me. My name is Charlie… …Somebody had to say Once Upon a Time. And that person was not little or little girl or little Silvie or even just Silvie, but was bigger than all that, was so big was everywhere and all time just like Everything, like God. That’s when I decided to become Charlie. ————————————————————————————————————
———————————————————————————————————— ———————————————————————————————————— Why does crazy always have to take the bus? Can’t crazy afford a cab? I want to buy crazy a cab. I want to pay crazy to stay away from me. Hey you. Crazy. Stay on your own road. ———————————————————————————————————— ————————————————————————————————————
———————————————————————————————————— It’s official. I hate grandma.
———————————————————————————————————— ———————————————————————————————————— But of course crazy is pointed right at me. Why? Because crazy sat down right across from me. Why? So she can stare at me from behind mirrored sunglasses. I turn the music up. Meltin’ in a pot of thieves— ———————————————————————————————————— ————————————————————————————————————
———————————————————————————————————— I had a dream the dads caught a bunch of catfish and put them into the little blue plastic swimming pool in ChaCha’s back yard and us kids were all looking at the catfish swirling around in the shallow water and laughing because catfish are called catfish because they have whiskers and also the way that they were splashing about made it seem like they didn’t know they were about to be barbequed and then an evil man wearing a top hat and pointy mustache came out of the shadows with his sidekick guy and at the same time they both screamed, A-HA! and then they chased us all over the yard and into the house and there was a fire place in the den and screams all around, but Cha-Cha didn’t really have a fireplace, and every time the villain caught one of us he would insert a small metal cylinder into that one indentation part of the neck and then the kid would turn into a zombie and join the villain in the chase until at the very end it was just me and my mom running! from everyone and my mom was pregnant and then we locked ourselves inside the bathroom and my mom was sitting on the toilet going pee with her big belly and smoking a cigarette and actually, the bathroom door was really the kitchen door because it had a window in it with little yellow curtains, and then I was in the hallway looking through the bathroom window into the bathroom and I could see myself in there with my mom and I was next to her with my hand on her bare leg, so scared, and then I looked around the corner to see that on the other side of the bathroom wall was my dad, who looked right at me but he couldn’t see me because he had been turned into a zombie and he was using a big, giant pick-axe to chop down the wall that stood between me and my mom in the bathroom and the evil, evil villain guy, who was standing right next to my dad, laughing. I stayed home sick from school that day and Big Silvia’s mom let her stay home sick too, because mother called Big Silvia’s mom and anyway, something like that happened. ————————————————————————————————————
———————————————————————————————————— We were out in the back of the complex, back where the dumpsters were and we convinced neighbor boy to show it to us and he did and then I was supposed to show it to him, but ha! ha! we ditched him right then and there by the dumpster and he started wailing, wailing, but if he wasn’t so stupid then he would have kept his pants where they belong. Mothers always say that about the guy—He’s too stupid to keep his pants on, and so we gave him something to cry about. And that’s when Big Silvia finally agreed with me that it was better to be a girl BUT, she said, only a certain kind of girl. Everybody knows that housewives are just a heap of shattered dreams! shattered dreams! shattered dreams! so we had to become the other kind of girl. The Working Woman. Like Mary Tyler Moore or something, because she MIGHT JUST MAKE IT AFTER AAAAALL!
I told Big Silvia that I think my mom might make it after all too.
She doesn’t want to be a Working Woman. Your dad pays for everything.
Your dad pays for everything too! As soon as I am old enough to take care of myself, my mom is going to go out there.
Your daaaaad won’t let her. Yes he will. I heard them talking. He’s going to let her go out there next year. That’s when I am going to be old enough.
I’ ll be old enough next year too. But your sisters. Probably your mom will have another baby, too. That’s what my mom said.
YOUR MOM DOESN’T KNOW ANYTHING AND SHE’S DEFINITELY NOT GOING TO MAKE IT AFTER ALL! OBVIOUSLY, STUPID, YOU HAVE TO BE YOUNG TO MAKE IT AFTER ALL AND YOUR MOM HAS GREY ALL OVER HER HAIR AND SHE LOOKS JUST LIKE A GRAAND-MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!
———————————————————————————————————— ———————————————————————————————————— I peek out from underneath my hat to see crazy’s lips. Muttering. I tilt my head a little bit to the side to see the woman sitting next to crazy; the aged woman who replaced the mother from before. I wonder what she thinks about sitting next to crazy. She looks at me. For a second there is nothing and then she winks— People say ‘beware!’—I return back underneath my hat. — But I don’t care. It was probably not really at me. Probably her wink is part of a bigger pattern. An overdeveloped coy-trick leftover over from the days when someone my age did not refer to her as aged. The words are just— Big Silvia and I tried to become winkers once, but it didn’t really work for us. Rules and regulations to me, me. ———————————————————————————————————— ————————————————————————————————————
———————————————————————————————————— I used to really really really really really really really wish I had two different colored eyes like David Bowie, but after Big Silvia stopped being my friend and I became Charlie it didn’t really matter anymore. It wasn’t important if anyone ever looked into my eyes again and especially if it was to see a magical something; Charlie runs part of the world and no one even knows what he looks like. We never ever see anything but the back of his head and hand so forget trying to hypnotize people with two different colored eyes, it’s really hard to do, especially if you don’t have two different colored eyes and especially if you can have all the beautiful people of the southern California world doing anything you want with just the wave of one hand. Just one hand and all it has to do is reach for the telephone, or the drink or out to the woman who is always there serving the drink and wearing a bikini. Mother won’t let me get a bikini, not even a white one, but that doesn’t really matter anymore either. Listen, Mother said, I’ll let you get the bikini if you start acting normal for once! I continued to keep the back of my head pointed in the direction of her voice. Mother, I said raising my hand every so slightly, I’m thirsty. Thuurssty? my sisters sang. Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Mother said, not singing. Singing: Hi, Thuurrsty! I’m Friday! Come over Saturday! And we’ll have a Sunday! Not singing: Do you have two broken arms? Make the Kool-Aid yourself!
At first, my sisters were not interested in becoming my Angels. We are our own Angels, they said. But after a lot of practice on my part, my sisters realized the single most important thing of becoming one of Charlie’s Angels is that if somebody tells you what to do all the time, then you never ever have to decide for yourself. Sweet freedom. And also, you are never the one who gets into trouble. They don’t show that part on the TV, Charlie getting into trouble, but that’s because they never show his grandma. Graaaaandma doesn’t like youuuuu! Graaaaaandma doooooesn’ttt like you! Grandmaaaa doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t likeee you! Grandmaaaaaa doesn’t like you! Graaaaandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doooesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doeeeesn’t like you! Graaaaaandma doesn’t liiiiike you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grannndmaaaaa doesn’t like you! Grandma doeeeeesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grannnnnndma doesn’t like you! Graaaaaandma doesn’t like you! Grandmaaaaaaa doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandddma doesn’t likeeee you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doesnnn’t like you! Grandmaaaa doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doooesn’t liiiike you! Grandma doesnnnn’t liiiike you! Graaaaaandma dooooesn’t like you! I didn’t tell my sisters to make up that song, because for one, it’s too long to play on the radio, but even the real Charlie’s Angels practice doing their own thing when Charlie doesn’t need them. That’s what makes them so useful=Angels. They have to always practice independent and free so that when Charlie needs them he can use everything they’ve practiced to get all the power away from the bad guys and then after Charlie gets the power delivered to him on a platter with his drink by the woman in the bikini he lets the Angels go back to practicing independent and free. It’s a good job and way better than being a sexretary. That’s what mother calls them.
But Mary Tyler Moore is a secretary with a C, I pointed out. And she is definitely, is just definitely, regular. Yeah right, mother said and walked away. A few years later, the movie 9 to 5 came out and after that I understood way better why mother called them sexretaries. But that was after. And after that there was an even bigger after.
Graaaaandma doesn’t liiiike youuuuu! Grandma doooooesn’ttt like you! Grandmaaaa doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t likeee you! Grandmaaaaaa doesn’t like you! Graaaaandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doooesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doeeeesn’t like you! Graaaaaandma doesn’t liiiiike you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grannndmaaaaa doesn’t like you! Grandma doeeeeesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grannnnnndma doesn’t like you! Graaaaaandma doesn’t like you! Grandmaaaaaaa doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandddma doesn’t likeeee you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doesnnn’t like you! Grandmaaaa doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doesn’t like you! Grandma doooesn’t liiiike you! Grandma doesnnnn’t liiiike you! Graaaaaandma dooooesn’t like you! ————————————————————————————————————
———————————————————————————————————— ———————————————————————————————————— Crazy is still muttering and I slowly, so slowly that she will never be able to tell that I am trying to see more—let my eyes rise to the big tower clock—Eyes! Crazy took off her mirrored sunglasses and now EYES that twitch/flicker, have a permanent wink embedded into the lines that run around them and crease all the way down past her chin, down her neck, shirt, probably all the way down to there and back up again. Eyes that g-g-g-get around! Eyes like the headlights of a sad and lonely, no-brakes, going down a mountain semi. She is Patti Smith inside my headphones eyes, and my whole entire world is Horses eyes that— heard the bells chimin’ in my heart—are driven by baby, by baby girl, by grown up lady, by lady friend, by lay-ladylay, lady killer, killed lady, dead lady sexy woman, by old woman, old witch, by old lady baby girl witch woman baby momma lady baby eyes, so witchy. Eyes that are before and after. Timeless Eyes—Going ding dong ding dong ding dong ding. Ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong— Eyes still alive despite the fact eyes. Eyes looking at me eyes! Counting the time—and she’s looking at me and—we took the big plunge and oh—I can’t look away from her. Make her mine! Make her mine! Make her mine! Make her mine! Make her mine! She won’t let me return to myself. G-L-O-R-I-A! ———————————————————————————————————— ————————————————————————————————————
———————————————————————————————————— My grandma is not American and so that’s probably why she is mean, beyond mean, mean. She and old auntie live all alone and everything in their house is so neat and clean that their house is crazy neat and clean and every time we go over there I end up sitting in the corner. My grandma makes us go to church two times a week most of the times and three times all the other times. My grandma doesn’t like my dad anymore and so that’s why I am definitely his daughter. I understand why he doesn’t want to be around here anymore. He left the neighborhood a long time ago to make it big and everybody knows that he made it big, and everybody knows, so that makes him famous. My grandma speaks to my auntie in their language so I can’t understand anything that is going on and I know it’s just so that she can keep all her secrets. The only thing my grandma truly loves is her secrets, because she won’t teach me any of her words. She says, It is better you don’t know. My grandma doesn’t let us watch TV. My grandma has chickens and goats in her backyard even though everybody else goes to the grocery store. When we go over there, which is all the time now that mother is starting to get out there, she makes us feed the animals and rake and pull weeds and pick up poop and work all day long and sometimes, when we are all done she makes us EAT one of the chickens. G-R-O-S-S. My grandma has crosses made of cornhusks pinned above every single door of her house. My grandma is mean to everything, but especially traveling on Tuesday, all cats but black ones are the worst, spilling salt, there is haunting owl that lives in the tree behind her house, a ghost in the attic that rattles the hangers in the closet of my dad’s old room and her number one especialiaty that she works extra hard to ward off is The Evil Eye. She says she remembers the day my dad got sick from it and he will never ever be the same again.
My grandma makes all of us wear Evil Eye Protector bracelets because she thinks that a lot of people want to steal the power of little children, but especially little girls and after my dad she is pretty sure that it runs in the family. One time I got the flu, but she thought I had been touched so she and old auntie rushed over with garlic soup and then she rolled an egg all over my body then she cracked the egg into a glass of water then she put the glass underneath my bed. After she left, our dog Lady got underneath there and lapped up the egg with her big long tongue then Mother set me up on the couch in the living room with some crackers and 7up and let me watch TV. My grandma came back the next day and I was still on the couch with my crackers and 7up. Her and Mother started yelling at each other in the kitchen then my grandma came back into the living room with an egg. Before she got to me, I stood up with my blanket draped over my shoulders like a cape and raised my hand, but less like Charlie and more like a priest so that my grandma would understand better and said: This is America, grandma. We have HBO now.
———————————————————————————————————— ———————————————————————————————————— There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance There’s a hole in the wall were the men can see it all But the men don’t care cuz they have no underwear ding-a-ling-a-ling ———————————————————————————————————— ————————————————————————————————————
Book Two Really, I thought, sometimes I would like to have a child. A very wise and witty little girl who’d grow up to be the woman I could never be. A very independent little girl with no scars on the brain or the psyche. With no toadying servility and no ingratiating seductiveness. A little girl who said what she meant and meant what she said. A little girl who was neither bitchy nor mealy-mouthed because she didn’t hate her mother or herself.
What I really wanted was to give birth to myself—the little girl I might have been in a different family, a different world. --Erica Jong, Fear of Flying
That tree: Thick twisting branches spiral up and up and up to the very top of the frame of this picture window. It is about a hundred feet away and I am on the third floor, so I can see the full length of it first thing every morning from the comfort of the bed I positioned for that very reason. When I first got here, it was summer and I thought the tree was a really nice thing to wake up to and now this seems like a ridiculous thing to say, ‘the tree was a really nice thing to wake up to.’ Trees are bigger than that. Trees are bigger than what I can see outside my window and hopefully dwell far beyond my own sleepy comfort. Their true definition is rooted in some ethereal poetic landscape and perhaps even extends into the unnamable places inside the mind, but I don’t really know that. I don’t really know what an ethereal poetic landscape is and if I have ever been to any unnamable place inside my mind, I cannot say anything about it. I do not know what it would take to meet the tree where I think it might truly exist, but I want to know it and so I drag the tree into the world I understand. That tree: Contained entirely within the frame of a lovely picture perfect postcard; it could be cast in a movie starring the picture perfect postcard life. Opening credits pan up the trunk of the tree to see notches in the worn and heavy bark. This revels worn and heavy things like strength and wisdom and a little bit further up, evidence of a woodpecker. If there are any holes in our metaphors, they are perfectly natural. Oh, look! A chiseled heart with the names Jenny and Eric inscribed childishly. A butterfly! The chatter of birds high up mingle with the high-pitched squeals of children in the playground across the street. The camera turns. Is that Jenny and Eric as children? In the sandbox, even. Blue skies support marshmallow clouds. And then back to the tree we go, up and up and up all big and all shady, oak-like, fat leaves, strong tree, having stood forever tree and ‘I’m not going anywhere’ tree and what’s so special about a tree whose story has been told for over two hundred years? I want to say everything. I want to scream like cheerleader, Goooo Aaamericaaaaaa! I can see the playground from my window and there are two men pushing two kids on the swing set. One little girl, blonde. One little boy, dark-haired, because boys are never brunette. Both men are bald and I wonder if they are friends. “Uncles” to what has now become the story of
Jenny and Eric. I think I see chips and char-grilled everything in the near future. I try to squint past, but cannot get beyond a trip to the store and a twelve-pack of Budweiser or micro-brewed beer. In this neighborhood, my bet is on the micro-brewed beer, but maybe the Uncles are feeling nostalgic for their low-class living college days or they want to have a honky-tonk Rockabilly theme party in which case, Pabst Blue Ribbon. A favorite Disney movie. I want to go to the barbeque, but understand my odds of ever being invited, given that I am three flights up, up and away and trying to come to terms with the fact that I will never be invited. I think it’s pretty clear to everybody that if I go I will hover at the edge of every conversation, drink way too much and then have sex with the one person at the barbeque everyone secretly thinks is an asshole. Man or woman. Explosions make a lot more sense than implosions, because somebody else can make sense of them and then tell you what it means. I’ve heard I am anxious and confused about where I fit in the world. What if someone looks at me and says, how are you? What do you do? Where are you from? Brothers and sisters? Mom and dad? What would happen if Jenny and Eric died? What would happen if the Uncles die? No, not would die. Will die. Will. Now there is an entire row of man/woman/man/woman man/woman pushing kid/kid/kid/kid/kid/kid and there are other kids and other parents being kids and parents and just beyond all the action is the highway into town and just beyond that, I can see the tiniest sliver of water glittering beneath the all blue sky. It’s a beautiful day out there and I am choking on the contrast. I just got off the phone with Silvia and she said, The only thing you ever really know about a person is what you tell yourself you know. She was informed of this limitation by death. You can be around someone, friends with someone, the family of someone just died and never know why anything or how anything and nothing at all makes sense when it is only in their death that you realize just how lonely that person really was. Your proximity to this loneliness is a self-inflicted bullet wound. You could have made that loneliness vacate by stepping into it. You would have, had you known. Your mind screams.
Silvia says it is only in death that one is ever truly revealed to another, and sometimes sex. But rarely in sex and, when it does happen, sight is somehow turned inward so seeing is not really how you receive the other person. You feel them through the exposure of your total feeling self to your self that has to go about the rest of the day, unfeeling. Surviving. Silvia says that in sex, you are surprised by all the quivering possibilities opening up inside you and the other person gets in through your wide open surprise. It is an interesting theory, but when it comes to your mother, impossible to apply. But then, everything is impossible now. You did not see or feel or receive through any of your senses the tiniest hint of what was going on inside the life that stood so close to your own. You barely talked to her toward the end and Yes, you did slam the door as you were leaving when she was trying to tell you s—Bam! Maybe, Silvia is right. Everything you told yourself you knew about your mother covered up the enormous loneliness that settled around her life like a moat. In the beginning, when little puddles started to collect, no one thought to install a bridge. At first, it was just a little seepage, but then it was too late. You were already flying away. Flying away from her door, down the street, out of the neighborhood, the town, the sisters, the state, the country, the idea of Dad and daughterly thoughts of Mother, because that’s the kind of girl you were. Are. If you were in a movie you would be that girl. Flying away girl. And your mother would be the mother of that girl and everyone knows what kind of mother that woman is: the kind you fly away from. You are flying away girl and you repeat to yourself and to anyone else that will listen that she was shallow, selfish and intolerable for these reasons. That’s why you flew away. Obsessed with her body, obsessed with any man that would look at her body and obsessed with looking like everything was okay inside her body, even though the doctor said otherwise. Wake up, Mother! you yelled into the phone and then you stopped yelling, because you realized she could not hear you inside her secret chain-smoking, part-time drunk, romance novel reading world and nothing would ever break the seduction of life inside her little moated castle. Impossible, flying away girl says, That woman is unfit to be anybody’s mother, grandmother or wife. But still, it is true that that woman is why flying away girl doesn’t know what to say when somebody asks her about her life. Flying away girl’s entire being is a response to that woman. That woman
whom she flew away from and knows as well as you . Will never know. But still, she is right and hopefully this explains everything about flying girl so that she never has to explain herself, because everybody already knows. But if Silvia is also right, and all you really know about someone else is what you tell yourself you know, then it must also be true for you. All you know about yourself is what you tell yourself you know. You are flying away girl, made by that woman. That woman over there attached to the child in the swing and attached to one of the Uncles pushing the swing. The one who is standing in the shade of the tree. That tree: three flights down and away, and away, and away. She is the one looking at you and you are looking at her, but neither of you know this, because you are both so far away. You watch her as she steps out from underneath the canopy of leaves. She shades her eyes with one hand and points at your building with the other. The Uncle stops pushing the child to look where she is pointing. What are they looking at? She is saying something. She waves at you, but she canâ€™t be waving at you. She doesnâ€™t know you. You duck into the shadows of your apartment, but you can still see her when she cups her hands around her mouth and yells something. If your picture window was open, you would know that she is trying to warn you. There is something seeping from beneath the sill of your window. It is dark, thick and pooling into a dangerously slick puddle down below. The puddle is stretching out and out and out like a gaping mouth, like a yawn. Like a sick yawn that can never stop yawning. Soon, it will surround the entire building.
———————————————————————————————————— ———————————————————————————————————— My flight is delayed. How did I know this was going to happen? Sometimes I know about things before they come to be and I am glad I got the feeling about this, because I found a bottle of pills in the junk drawer of the apartment I am subletting and swiped it just before leaving. I park myself in the airport bar, open my computer and look up Tramadol: a centrally-acting analgesic, used for treating moderate to moderately severe pain. I don’t know what centrally-acting means, but rate indefinite delay/international airport as severe pain, take one and order a Bloody Mary. The bartender walks away and tucks the electronic ordering card into her bra. Excuse me, ‘Mam? I look up to see a real live cowboy in a shiny suit lift his hat an inch off his head in a real live cowboy greeting. Yes? You mind if I take a little space up here next to ya? He is a West Texas mix of Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison all worked over in the face from a hard and sexy life just like a real. live. Clint Eastwood in a Spaghetti Western. cowboy. he orders a whisky with a coffee back. Make yourself at home. ———————————————————————————————————— ————————————————————————————————————
———————————————————————————————————— I mostly gave up trying to be Charlie after I watched Coal Miner’s Daughter one hundred times. It’s a movie about Loretta Lynn and her dad was a coal miner, which meant that she was really poor so she fell in love and got married at thirteen and had kids with the hell-raising handsome neighborhood guy even though he was a full-grown man. He just got back from the war-hero-and he was always trying to not work in the coal mines, which is why she loved him in the first place, but then she was even more poor, because working in the mines was the only job in town. But the whole time she was so full of all this talent and nobody ever knew; she would just sing to the babies on the front porch. Finally, her husband started listening to her and bought her a guitar and then, just like in Charlie’s Angles, he became her manager, but the big difference is that the movie is not about his managing, but about her singing and also how she is a devoted wife and mother even though her husband would drink all the time, spend all the money and then beat her up, because deep down she understood that he really, really loved her and his family. He was a family man. Then she got addicted to pills, but no matter what, she was always and forever proud to be a girl from Butcher Holler and at the end she was rich and famous.
I asked Mother if she was proud of herself. For what? Don’t get all smart with me Silvie. Is my dad proud of himself? Oh, I bet he is.
Maybe it’s better to be in the limelight because, with everybody looking at you, you know you got something to be proud of and plus, you get to write your own songs. Charlie never wrote his own songs, he only wrote songs for the Angles. Besides, nobody really heard me when I was trying to be Charlie anyway. With my back to world, the only response I ever got was, What? What?
I asked Mother if I could get a guitar. We don’t have the money for something like that. I went to the music room at school to see what mostly free instrument I could learn to play there. They didn’t have any guitars, but we were learning how to play the recorder in music class and so Mizzzz. Green, who wore a lime green pantsuit everyday so that we would really get the point of her name, said maybe I could learn the clarinet, because the school had clarinets. We had a different kind of band at school then they had on the radio. I asked Mother if I could learn the clarinet. Why? Nobody plays that. I don’t know. Ms. Green— You have asthma. Instead, Mother got me a notebook for all my songs and a Loretta Lynn record to add to my collection.
My grandfather was a really brave man and he died being a hero so my dad takes after him. Heroes are never at home, that’s the thing about being a hero, you can never be at home.
———————————————————————————————————— ———————————————————————————————————— Cowboys never sit down at the bar. They always lean, one boot notched into the foot railing, sometimes staying tall, but most of the time hunched over with both elbows on the bar so that when he looks to the lady sitting just to his right, she can clearly see that he is stooping to get down to her level in order to say, Going home for the holidays? Sorta. Yeah. Kind of a funny book to be reading in an airport. It’s not really about flying. Is that right? It’s a metaphor. So, it’s a poem, huh? Not really. More like a novel. Oh, yeah? I like to read novels, too. Cool. Whatcha reading? He reaches into the inner pocket of his blazer and produces a copy of Siddhartha. You heard of this? I have. You know what Siddhartha means? Uh-uh, is all I can say because my mouth is now full of celery dipped in tomato juice, tobasco sauce and vodka. I looked it up before I even started reading it. Titles are important, you know? I nod my head. Siddha means “one who is accomplished,” like being a master at or, of something, and artha is one of the five goals of life. To achieve artha is to achieve fame and
money. So, Sidd hartha is one who achieves the goal of fame and fortune. Really? I didn’t know the book was about that. Yep. I think most people think about India and they think, oooh, poverty, which leads them to think that their religion, Hindu, is all about being humble and well, basically about being poor. It’s not true. They want to be just like us, because essentially we all want the same things. Fame and fortune, baby. He taps the spine of the book on the bar. My friend says that Jesus was the first pin up boy. What? Just like us, right? They want to be just like us? Yeah! Hell, why not? He tucks Siddhartha back inside his fancy suit pocket. Why would anybody not want this? And I’m agreeing with you! So if ‘us’ is Christian, right? And Jesus is at the center of Christianity, right? And everybody wants to be like us, because obviously we are rich and famous, which can be translated to mean hot and sexy, then Jesus is the first pinup boy, viola. That makes no sense. No, it does. It does. Think about it. I’ll think about it later. Okay, but what about this. Listening. Was Jesus the first cowboy? It takes a moment, but then satisfactions spreads across his face. You know what, baby? He looks at me and smiles. I think you can hang your hat on that one. Yes, I think you surely can. He definitely was. ———————————————————————————————————— ————————————————————————————————————
———————————————————————————————————— Mother got a job as a Tupperware lady. She makes parties for other Mothers and they all sit around in a circle and drink pink wine and throw their heads back and open their mouths laughing, laughing. They show pictures of it in her catalogue. I don’t really see the difference between that and being a sexretary and I tell Mother. Because Silvie, there’s no men at the Tupperware party, that’s why. Sexretary? Men? Get it? Shit. I still didn’t get the difference, but now we have to go to Grandma’s house all the time. I am definitely old enough to watch myself, but Grandma says I’ll probably start smoking cigarettes like Cha-Cha and God knows what else Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Whatever. Cigarettes are gross. Grandma doesn’t know anything, but at least she doesn’t make me be her slave anymore and now I just hang out in my dad’s old room and listen to his records. I asked my sisters if they would be my backup singers like in the Kool and the Gang. If I could be like Kool then I could get us out of here, but they said, We don’t wanna get out of here and we don’t hafta be backup singers, because the Jackson 5 is over and now we are Michael Jackson! One sister was Michael with the glove and one was Michael without. Shit. I had to go solo, I wasn’t yet married so I didn’t have a manager, my sisters were already Michael Jackson and I had be babysat by my grandma= Fuck. The. World. But my dad had every single one of Janis Joplin’s records. He must have really, really loved Janis Joplin so I listened to her all day long and practiced singing and being and moving and smoking my candy cigarettes just like her in the mirror above my dad’s dresser— Trrrriay, try Trrrriiiaay, try Trraiyiyiy Try just a little bit harder— So I can love, love, love him! ————————————————————————————————————