The Whole Life

When I was younger, I thought all the older people had ‘given up’ if they didn’t seem to be as passionate about whatever cause, or particularly interested in what was going on in the world, or new discoveries. I also thought that it was selfish for them to be like this, kind of reverting back to childhood- in the way that babies and toddlers are mostly only interested in what their next need was and who would give it to them- and it did pay for babies to be like that, they might otherwise die if they didn’t whine and scream to remind people to feed and change them. I would bring up topics to people who were happy to talk at length about things they lived through in the past, whether that be war or protests or their childhood but they seemed less and less interested in the rest of the world and more and more interested in the smaller details that affected them directly.

“Are you following what is going on in Greece? Or that poor girl who got shot by the ferry building in the city for no reason by some random illegal alien guy? Do you care about the next presidential race?” I would ask them, thinking if they didn’t know, they would want to.
“No, not really.” or “That’s terrible.” they would say and then “Oh, are you going down to the shopping center at all today? Could you bring me a coffee? The tree trimmer guys have been here all week, the noise is annoying… Did you hear the Denny’s is closing? The neighbor has had to take off work because his wife has post-partum depression… I can’t believe how much our cable bill is…”

I was starting to think that feelings one’s mortality more and more as time goes on might be akin to living in Weimar Germany in the sense of bread being one price in the morning, another in the afternoon, and money losing value all the time. You wake up, having slept poorly more often than not knowing that something would start hurting at some point, and no matter how you tried to keep things in reasonably decent working order, little pieces here and there were going to keep falling apart and/or causing one pain/bread was going to cost more later in the day. It was harder and harder to worry about what would happen too far down the road, especially when you realized how far down the road you already were.

It wasn’t quite like the aforementioned ‘chicken coop mommy syndrome’ of previous posts. I wouldn’t say it was quite giving up either. I saw the beginnings of this tendency in myself as well, not because I no longer cared or was not interested, but because some of what I had done had begun to feel inefficient. How much more ‘good time’ did I have left and what did I want to spend it on?

I had never previously much understood all the self-help books or what I estimated to be sort of eastern-y religious stuff telling everyone to ‘let go’ or ‘not be attached to outcomes’ or as some guru proclaimed on the cover of one of my parent’s books ‘Be Here Now’, shoved in next to the Horizon journals, National Geographic and Gary Snyder. It sounded flaky and worse, undoable.

To me all this and the things I mentioned before, all the hippie crap sounded like an excuse to not give a shit, and worse it was telling other people not to give a shit. Maybe I felt this overall philosophy influenced them to not act like parents, but being like that was the popular thing at the time I suspect. Because you wouldn’t want to be like The Man and oppress your own children with any sense of normalcy. I suppose it was a rebellion against the other way taken to the extreme where they have 50 thousand kids and make them wear dirndl skirts and be super religious. Not that anyone was doing that out here.

Now I was starting to understand the older people- what they were doing, perhaps without even realizing it. It wasn’t disaffection, it wasn’t exactly disinvestment. It was a kind of detachment but not completely guru-on-the-mountain nor the kind that carries resentment. Or perhaps it was simply an ordering of their attachments and seeing the BS political phraseology that over time, ultimately rings hollow, though it does continue to ring- perhaps it sounds different to the trained ear. You also see people going though phases of accumulating and then getting rid of much they had accumulated, knowing that all this stuff was yet another distraction that began to feel like it was weighing them down to this material plane.

Perhaps this is where we all ended up, the ones having the ‘whole life’ maybe ended up there first, or perhaps they didn’t ever need to detach, because they had everything right to begin with.

I wasn’t sure if I envied them or not, but the fact that I questioned it, meant on some level- I did. The people who had a ‘whole life’ had all the pieces of their life mixed together. Or at least they were tied together. They were one person- and I don’t mean this as opposed to multiple personalities- I mean it as they were one person across all the different areas of their life. These people were not disaffected or apathetic. In fact, they volunteered more often and were usually more conscientious than people not in their ‘club’- they usually did more than what they were asked and did it happily. They had friends that cared about them, they seemed always to be getting together to celebrate something, they wouldn’t understand people blowing off birthdays or holidays. In their world, if people were shitty to someone, they probably deserved it- because that made sense, and most things in their world did make sense, so they used that filter and it worked, mostly. When it didn’t, they would think lousy things about people who didn’t deserve it, or who were not wholly bad.

These folk, they weren’t mincing, evasive and cheap with their personal information, they wanted to share and they wanted you to share back and if you didn’t they usually took it the wrong way, like you were being standoffish and rude purposefully, because why else would you not want want to blab about your life unless you just hated them? Why else would you not be signed up to everything they were, and why else could you not always participate? If you put up a good enough front, they simply would just dislike you. If you didn’t put up enough of a good front, they would then pity you and avoid you. They knew people at their children’s school. They socialized with these people on occasion. They would be hanging out at the pizza place after a kid’s little league game. The They weren’t afraid of having identifying stickers or symbols on their car.

They wanted people to know who they were-they had the little stick figure people on their minivans with the names of who was on-board- they were into hanging out in groups, either their immediate family and maybe also a couple of families or having other people’s kids over. They were not hiding. They liked meeting new people, because they were not afraid to explain their life- there was nothing to explain because they were what they seemed. They were not afraid to be seen with anyone across various parts of their life- and they were friends with others like themselves, people who had nothing to hide, past or present.

Sometimes it was easier to be friends with total narcissists because everything was about them. You didn’t have to share anything with them, they didn’t care and most of the time, they didn’t ask- and even if they did, it was still asking because the answer was about them, what you could do for them.

You could just let them talk and talk and that was good enough for them and at the time, a reasonable facsimile of a friendship, or whatever it was. They thought they were so clever when they lied and believed. Like I said previously, they almost have to lie, because everything is a lie to someone who has no core, everything is made-up, everything is borrowed, copied, re-arranged. It’s the equivalent of watching bad TV, or eating junk food, or hanging out with lousy ‘friends’. You knew on some level the food would make you gain weight, or the shitty friends would steal from you, be it your time, your bike, money, ideas or even some joke you told- but you were too depressed at the time to see this, or worse, you took it as flattering you had something worth stealing.

Whatever you revealed to them, they likely wouldn’t judge 1)because again, they didn’t give a shit and even if they did have an actual opinion-2) why risk making at best pissing you off and worst, an enemy out of you when you could still be useful, right? 3)they also don’t judge because they don’t see right and wrong the way the whole people do.

You could never really be ‘real’ with these people anyway, because as real as you were, they would never be able to understand what you meant no matter how articulate you were, they just didn’t have that sense. You didn’t want to talk about people who were assholes, because you would find out, in their little delusions-of-taking-over-the-world-but-really-feeling-in-reality-like-an-ineffectual-wuss-and-hero-worshipping-creeps, it would just be another creep for them to admire. Yay a tough guy, wish I were him! It was almost like these people were disabled on some level.

‘Why don’t you come back’ they cajoled, trying to get me to take part in some online thing I once was all gung-ho for, but that had lost its luster for many reasons. ‘No one will know it’s you, just make up a fake name.” As per usual, they missed the point: I knew it was me and that was reason enough. I resented the style of invitation for what it was pretending to be blind to, or maybe it wasn’t even pretending- and this blindness, real or pretend- made the whole thing so much worse. I couldn’t decide whether the blindness was real, part-real or feigned in order to be able to say something to the effect of ‘ Jeeze, I was only kidding’, or a dismissive ‘oh pssss that doesn’t/shouldn’t matter anymore.’ But it did. I could not now contribute in the way I once wanted to when it wasn’t for someone’s lulz or profit, a hustle. Here’s a little story for you, it’s kind of a math problem, like those ones in the tests they make you take when they think you might be smart, like if all zaggles are ziggles and all zigs…

You throw a unique ball out in a specific direction, a bunch of dogs run after it going one way and yet a little while later another dog brings it back from an entirely different direction, you can safely assume that the dog that brought it back somehow is connected to that other pack. What is interesting is, years ago you introduced a different dog to that pack, which means that dog and the pack and the one who brought it back are all maybe buddies or at least connected somehow even if all the arrows showing connection don’t go both ways. What is funny to think about is at one time you couldn’t imagine these dogs getting along and maybe they still growl at each other in public- but apparently they do get along- on some level.

The good, the salt-of-the-earth, the whole life people would never have a little story like that about the dogs. Or likely many stories like mine.

That said, I was almost like these people at one point in my life, though it didn’t last long. There was once a time where the stories that needed to be hidden weren’t so bad or so many, or I could tell a couple people a couple things. Now there is no way I could find my way back. I do have to recall it though, because I still see these whole life people almost every day in the way that a person recalls a dream and it reminds me of the fact that no matter how long I have been here- that I will always be a stranger. I have almost completely accepted it. Almost.

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Janitor

I didn’t even understand what we were doing was wrong. I figured, if I tell my mom, hey,I’m going up to the school (the school I attended) to have a smoke with 7th grader groper and she let me, either she was cool with it, or I must be that grown up, that it wasn’t wrong. Back then no one was getting classroom speeches about molesters or inappropriate touching- years later I heard his house, fell off a cliff into the ocean. I remember what he looked like, I remember his real name- it rhymed with a bad word.

The next year, 8th grade, it was late spring- it was storming and he was clearing the storm drain next to my parents house and was pissed off because he thought this was out of his job description. I would have thought he would have been friendlier and nice to my parents for some reason-but he wasn’t. What was weird was my parents were totally friendly and nice to him, but that was probably because they didn’t want a mudslide coming down the hill on their house than anything having to do with me. I wonder if he thought that if my parents got mad at him if he didn’t clear the drain, that I was so loyal and adoring of my parents that I might be all, ‘yeah, he sucks, he did this and that..’ But no, I was too busy feeling bad for him that the school wasn’t paying him to do that, back when we used to have torrential rains here and the drains would flood, stairs to the school would become waterfalls…

He had a red truck, not fire engine red, more like a faded red, closer to the bricks of the school. I didn’t pay much attention then to makes and models of cars but I knew it had writing across the back, light colored letters and they were much longer than four letters so I’m thinking it was a Chevrolet and not a Ford. I remember one of his front teeth kind of went to the side a little, and how he sunburned very badly, and that parts of his hair were yellow and parts were sun-bleached white.

I remember seeing him years later at a local outdoor mall, I said hi to him like everything was fine, Because I hadn’t actually gone all the way with him, I supposed I couldn’t be that upset about what did happen, even after I figured out that it’s not normal for 30 year old’s to want to make out, smoke cigarettes, get high with and confide and cry to 12 year old’s. I know I was this age because of when it started and because I started school early at 4 going on 5 and my birthday is late in the year so when I left that school, I was going on 14 that fall entering high school. How did I not know it wasn’t normal? I guess I thought I was sort of his girlfriend. Did I look older? Probably, I know it was after all the puberty stuff had kicked in but not much after. I don’t remember him being there at the school before all this, there was some old black dude who was older than my parents and didn’t talk to anyone.

The worst questions I ask myself now are about how my parents, well my mother for sure knew I was up there and didn’t think there was something weird going on. He could have done worse to me physically, so I’m grateful he didn’t- but it was almost every single day and it was a lot of listening to his life and problems, the wife who left him, that he had a little boy that was like 2 or 3. It’s weird to think that kid is like 10 years younger than me now. I saw the kid’s photo.

My one other friend knew about this, maybe not every little detail but she knew the general thing that was going on. This wasn’t the one with the parents who hated each other and the weird skin disease thing, this was the one whose parents never fought and watched Lawrence Welk. Occasionally she would also hang out with us up there too. She was a year older than I and taller than I-we were like opposite hourglasses, for me it was always morning/afternoon and her it was always afternoon/evening. I liked to read, she would rather listen to heavy metal. She hated writing reports and English homework; I could do it in my sleep. She was good at artsy-craftsy things, I was good at breaking things. She liked to drink, I was the one who wanted to go home early. I liked to cook, she would burn boiling water…etc.

He would sometimes put things through the air vents in the front of my locker, sometimes I could tell they were things he found around the school, like a kid’s valentine card from one of the kindergarten or first graders. Or weird things like a stamp torn off an envelope, or one of those old pennies with the leaves on the sides. Sometimes there would be a cigarette. He smoked a common brand so maybe he didn’t think it would be automatically assumed it was him if they searched lockers, but they never did search your locker there unless you were a Known Bad Kid and Had Already Done Something. If he couldn’t be there that day or there would be other teachers still around or his schedule was different we had a code for when I shouldn’t come up there. Occasionally he would forget to do the code or I would come up anyway or sometimes I wouldn’t be able to make it but we had an understanding no one got mad about it.

I thought initially he would have liked my friend better- as I used to think men liked blondes better, but he actually told me he liked brunettes. I didn’t believe him at the time even though it was me who was up there alone with him every day until I saw his ex at the school once- she didn’t see me-she looked sort of like an older and cooler rock-chick with perfectly blow-dried straight hair worn Manson-girl style. I could tell even by the way she walked that she might be angry, or that she was kind of a tough chick or both. I wondered which parts he said about her was maybe exaggerated and which not. I thought some might actually be true, because he would have beer up there at the school, and I at least knew even though teachers could and did smoke at the school and sometimes during class, no one drank openly at a school. So they probably both drank together and smoked pot. Apparently he didn’t get that it was weird that he would bitch about her drinking and fighting with him, while he was telling me this, while he was drinking at his job.

There were times when, even at this young age when I was still relatively innocent, I knew enough crazy shit from listening to my parents and their friends that I knew when a story sounded off, how it sounded when there was this plaintive ring to the voice that started someone was either telling stuff that was true initially and then started adding to it to get extra ‘oh you poor thing, that’s too bad, you didn’t deserve that’ or to get people on their side and against the other person- the way a liar will tell more than is necessary, not feeling confident in their own bs, the way a salesman will keep pressuring or copying small things you say and do… and while I didn’t know if I would even like him or his ex as people if I were their age and could hang out as Official Adults, I started to feel a little bit bad for this woman- but I never said that. I also started to feel bad for the kid. I only half-assedly believed him when he would talk about how he missed his kid, because he seemed to hate his ex more than he loved his kid. I also started to feel a tiny bit afraid of this guy because I noticed he was different when he was high or had a few beers.

I wondered if he had a Problem With Alcohol. My mother was different when she had been drinking- it was one of the few times she would get all mushy and sappy with my sister and I. We could tell, we could smell it and it made the sentiment feel sloppy and insincere. Maybe she did mean it but couldn’t express it when she wasn’t loaded. Point being, she was ‘different’ when loaded, and so was he. I saw other people drink and they weren’t really that different from their regular selves, just more obnoxiously themselves.

I can’t remember if or how we officially ‘broke up’. I remember him trying to go too far and stopping him- He did stop, but the next time I saw him, he was mostly worried that I had told someone about the last time I had seen him, about how long I had been going up there after school, about all of it.. I reassured him I had not. He then started semi-crying and talking about how he went to confession. By this little show of his, it seemed to cheapen the confidences, the friendship I thought we had, and also make it wrong. What was he this sad about- just because I stopped him? He didn’t need to be this sorry, I thought.

Funny, he had not mentioned church at all before this. I wasn’t even sure what ‘confession ‘ was other than I knew it had something to do with church and of course, confessing something. I was scared that he had told someone now that he was scared that I had. I was upset that he was this upset, in my 13 year old brain I was confused and sad that he was this upset, that he seemed for the first time, not like the co-conspirator he had always been, but guilty. Which made me feel as if I had made him do something bad, which made me also feel guilty- as if I had led him into stealing candy bars and then one day he had an attack of conscience even if I hadn’t. That our being together in some way was bad, that invalidated the whole thing- my parents and their friends had tons of secrets, but secrets weren’t always a bad thing, were they?

I listened more than I spoke with him, wanting to hear his tales of adventure, places he had seen, what his parents were like- I let him talk way more than I talked to him about my life- not because I had not much to tell, but because I thought it wouldn’t look well on me if I told him the truth. He probably knew something was wrong at home simply because I could be up there and eventually I think he knew my mother knew I was there. Actually I’m not sure he did know she knew until the second year- he asked me where I said I was, as if I would have had to lie. I had lied to him following his lead but I had told my mother the truth initially- then somehow he started kidding with me sarcastically about what story I had told today, as if he knew I hadn’t made up one- the school was very close to our house and at times I wondered if he wandered over to the fence and had seen or heard things . I wasn’t understanding why I would have to lie, and figured that myself and my parents were just so mature that I was trusted to do whatever- they acted like I was an adult- that must be why he liked me as well.

I got that he didn’t want to lose his job, but he made it sound like he would get fired because it would look like he wasn’t working and he was slacking off if he was talking to me after school-but not because of things we did. Several years back there was some political scandal about something even weirder than this and it got me thinking about that 2-year period and it made me really mad at the time. Mostly now I’m glad it wasn’t worse but I kind of think him pathetic. I guess this whole episode got kind of buried or rewritten, like when files on a computer are renamed 000001000 even though the actual file is still there- when worse things happened later with someone else. Don’t get me wrong, this guy is still a perv for going after a 12-year-old.

Occasionally I still think I see him at the grocery but I’m not sure if it’s him, because he is only a few years younger than my parents. What would it even matter now to say anything to him? I did see him for sure once after I had graduated high school and was going to the bank or something at a local outdoor mall. He was friendly but seemed a little freaked out. It made me feel bad that he looked around to see who was around. I didn’t fully get what that meant at the time but I thought it strange. I still sort of wished he seemed at least happy to see me on some level, but as he talked he kept backing up and we didn’t say too much before he drove off. I bet he moved at some point because I still live in the same area and people pass each other here all the time because of the way the roads are laid out, where the grocery is and so on and I didn’t see him after that, unless that man that I saw in the grocery months ago really was him and he kept his head down.

At the time, I was more upset that I had lost someone to talk to, someone who would talk to me- someone to whom I thought I mattered much more than the ‘breaking up’ part-and somewhere to escape to. He didn’t get that I knew I was going away to high school and would leave him behind, but what about the friendship part of it?

Worse, the main concern seemed to be getting in trouble, and that was totally like being a kid, I thought. Being scared about getting in trouble or just plain scared is also a kid thing. Another strike at adulthood. Man did this all seem so skeevy.

This made us both like kids instead of making me more grown up. All this time I was reading my parent’s books and years of hearing all this hellish and endless fighting/random drama/more stuff than I ever wanted to know from them and their friends and all their beatnik poetry and weirdo astrology stuff (My dad on the janitor ‘he’s an Aries- an Aries is the baby of the zodiac..’) and my 30 year old ‘boyfriend’ is ‘dumping’ me because he is going to get in trouble. Great. There is no real freedom, even when you’re an adult.

Some Old Ghosts

In this strange past place lurked many a ghost. A childhood friend was there from elementary school- this is a different one than the one I mentioned before. She had an unusual name and an even more unusual skin condition, and parents who openly hated each other. I can’t remember much about the father other than the fact he looked like he was going to work even when he was not, sort of like Darren on ‘Bewitched’ but somewhat sloppier. He seemed to stare at all of us girls but not in a pervy way, more like a combination of suspicion and resentment, as if we were secretly in cahoots with the mother, and we would all decide we needed to do away with him, and he would wake up from falling asleep on the extend-rocker only to find himself tied and surrounded by gasoline-soaked rags.

The mother was tall and large-boned, and had a sensible, slightly longer than chin-length blunt cut- her hair was that thick but super-straight heavy kind like my sisters, so you could see how it all separated when she moved and every chunk knew just where it needed to return. I found it fascinating that it seemed to not have any ‘fluff’ to it. None of those endless little baby waves close to the hairline, and her hair never seemed to change with the weather, collecting all the fog in it and turning it into this wavy matted mess, like mine. I knew she probably couldn’t do anything with it, the way my sister’s heavy straight hair could not take a curl or even a permanent.

I remember thinking more than once, I were her size, which was likely close to 6′, no one would ever kick my ass again, I wouldn’t care that I would have to wear sucky clothes, maybe special ordered from the women’s big and tall store catalog, I was already wearing sucky clothes. Her voice was on the deeper side with a slight accent from somewhere I couldn’t place- it wasn’t from anywhere in the West, or south and it wasn’t anything I could remember from TV. Now I think it might have been Northeast. Her voice when irritated would seem to make this accent gear up and she could reach a pitch that would make me cringe.

I remember thinking hmm this is a different kind of fighting than my parents. They scared me but I liked the way at least their fights had an end. One would slam the door or leave or tell the other one to go to hell and then there would be quiet.
Even though I was a witness to it, I also thought at least they had the decency to get their bullshit over with during the day, instead of keeping their kids up in the middle of the night, having conversations where both sides seemed like they were not heard or understood no matter how much yelling, crying, asking what the other wanted, apologizing, winding down, starting back up and nothing ever really getting resolved. At least her parents fought neatly, it was during the day and it was short, At the time, I didn’t think they also could be fighting in the middle of the night. Their style seemed to be a constant undercurrent of contempt, marked by abrupt nastiness in small bursts.

In this fucked-up attic of the distant past lurked the various houses my paternal grandparents lived in, the house my maternal grandparents lived in San Francisco, which now sits empty. Some people like to deny history, like the time I found the gun in a metal box under this dresser-like thing that held all the ‘good china’, next to a bunch of crayons. I brought the box to someone, I can’t remember if I got yelled at or not. Why the youngest aunt, the one only 7 years older than myself- to this day denies it happened.

Yes, I was a kid, but I knew what it was, knew that it was real,and I knew it was dangerous and I shouldn’t play with it. I remember thinking that they were either stupid or crazy to have a gun like that on the floor next to the stuff my sister and I played with. Many times I thought the adults that surrounded me were stupid or crazy or both. Then I felt bad for thinking this, but it made me not trust them insofar as trusting the whole concept that adults had their shit together and knew what they were doing.

At that same grandparents house I was trying to skate outside their house although it wasn’t easy on sloping hills. I got thirsty and there was a metal frozen orange juice can with the top off on the workbench, I thought it was water inside, but it was turpentine. I remember not being able to talk but bringing the can up and pointing to it. They made me drink milk, I didn’t get sick. I think someone yelled at me but I don’t remember who. They mostly all gathered around and stared at me and talked about it. I can’t remember if they called to ask advice. I know I didn’t go to the dr.

The time my sister did something to herself on these awful metal playground bars when she was probably about 7 or 8, hurting herself. My parents thought it was maybe her getting her period, but I had not gotten mine, and I was 18 months older than her. We had some kind of insurance through my father’s job, but it seemed they always waited forever to take us to the Dr. She kept bleeding and bleeding until finally she had to go to the emergency room and get stitched up. As different as my sister and I are, and as much of a pain in the ass she can be, I often think that she could have bled to death and how angry I would have been at my parents for not wanting to pay the ER co-pay, and this was with them having decent insurance from my dad’s job. I would have known, ok this kid is too young, it’s not her period, she said she hurt hurt herself on the bars, this is definitely a doctor visit.

Another time, when my parents were asleep one morning, and this is when we were very young, I might have been maybe 6 and she 4 or it could have even been five and three- she was playing with a kaleidoscope and had opened it up. It was one of the things I couldn’t stand about her, she was always breaking everything, every time she borrowed my clothes she wrecked them, or spilled stuff on my books or puked on my favorite blanket. Her endless ear infections and high fevers and carsickness. We both cut our heads on a sharp ended low coffee table as babies or toddlers. How did my mother not get it to get rid of the table with kids that close in age?

.

I was probably like 4 or 5. Even at that age I knew she had fucked up badly. It looked like in getting the kaleidoscope apart, she had about cut her little finger off. I remember thinking, great now I have to wake them up. I kind of don’t blame them, I’m a night person myself, we all are- except for the being the kid part. I knew I had to, it was bad, but they hated being woken up and feared they would not believe me, or not take me seriously when I said her finger was hanging off, that she had almost cut her finger off. I used my most serious little kid voice and didn’t try to hide how freaked out I was. I may have even had to say ‘please go look’.

I guess one of them must have gotten up and saw the horror. The drive to the hospital, the white kitchen towel with ice and blood. I remember being pissed off that I had to go too, when I wasn’t the one who was always doing these kind of things.

Like the other time when she was running down our steep hill like a rhinocerous straight into someone’s open car door and put a gash in her head. Why she was doing that I don’t know. She was officially a girl but she always kind of seemed like a boy, and she didn’t look like me or either one of my parents really, she looked like my mother’s father, the one who alphabetized his classical music collection and talked to his bird more than anyone else.

Yes I did overdose on flintstones kid vitamins and also baby aspirin when I was pretty young. Too young to know what would happen, but old enough to climb onto the kitchen counter and go in the cabinets. I didn’t have to go to the hospital though, I just got sick and that was that. Aside from the hives and the ODing on good-tasting goodies found in the cabinets, I can’t remember many injuries or even very many sicknesses of note, I just wasn’t as rough and tumble as my sister.

I guess I thought no one’s parents watched them and all this was normal. The time I had hives really bad back when I was allergic to chocolate. The hives were not small, they were like raised continents. I got dragged to dinner at some people’s house that my dad worked with. Why it was such a big deal to have to go there I don’t know, it’s not like they were closing a deal. The guy worked at the same place as my own father, the wife dressed up more than my mother and wore more makeup, but they lived in a similar crappy tract house subdivision not a mile from us.

I remember taking a bath there while I was over there covered in hives, one of the adults thinking that would help. I had the hives before we even left our house. Of course at the end of the night, when it was clear it wasn’t going to go away, the ER as last resort on the way home from the oh so vaunted Weinberg’s (not their real name). A shot. They said it would make me jittery. If it did, I didn’t even care at that point, I wasn’t afraid at all. I was relieved that it seemed at least temporarily, I was in the semi-care of sane, rational people. I kind of didn’t want to go home. I didn’t care anymore about never going to Disneyland, I probably wouldn’t like it anyway.

I regularly wondered why my parents sort of worshipped one or another of their friends,and whatever friend or friend rotation drama was going on seemed to eclipse everything else in their life at the time. My kid self wasn’t really all that bad of a kid. Thinking back, I am lucky my sister and I survived my parents. Not because they starved us and beat us but by not really paying attention, being so absorbed in their own stuff, their friend’s stuff.

This large group of weird hippie friends would hang around the house , drop by whenever, and worse, sit and drink with my mom and go on and on and it was all so vague and spacey, I hated it. They thought they were speaking in ‘adult code’ so either myself or my sister, who had zero interest in listening to them ( but used every drawn-out drunken-hippie conversation to get away with something) would not be able to figure out what was really going on. Of course then I didn’t know as much about them as I do now, but although I could easily tell the ‘code’, listening to them only served to enrich my overall disappointment in adults.

I don’t know if I even can accurately portray the type of roundabout, airheaded, go-nowhere conversations they had. Knowing how my mother is now, I pretty much know she either envied these people’s problems, thinking that their lives contained more adventure or something than her own, or by turn had contempt for them and thought them stupid or boring, or just didn’t care-or maybe it she was so bored it was something to do- like a soap opera, days of our wine-fueled, post-shit-war-had-two-kids-too-close-together-wish-I-had-been-a-painter lives.. but she could smoke and drink wine while listening to their bullshit and my dad wouldn’t rag on her for drinking if she was ‘being supportive of a friend’- at least not while the friend was there. How they could sit there and go on and on with my mom being, well, my mom, not really empathizing with anyone but asking informational questions, I don’t know.

Perhaps they saw it as she was trying to be neutral like a shrink, because that was the good way to see it. Maybe that’s why sometimes I don’t know how to respond the approved way to people’s problems verbally with something like ‘Oh I’m so sorry, I’ll pray for you..” and instead want to feed them or hug them or rub their back or make them laugh or just let them rant, or affectionately tell them they are being crazy or agree with them that whatever it is royally sucks. I don’t know, maybe that is good enough.

“I just don’t know what I want, you know Lisette? I love Werner, but I need my space to be Gayle..it’s just the energy of all the water because I’m a Pisces, and he’s a fire sign, I mean, I’m just not used to all the intensity..when I was with David and he would have his poetry blah blah blah blah”..(or gee Gayle, maybe it’s because Werner is probably still hung up on my mother- I don’t know why except for the fact she probably didn’t expect much from him and probably wasn’t that attached to him either- from when he lived with us with his kid after he got out of Vietnam . Of course this was probably when my dad was busy with Sue or Marge..or weirder, maybe Gail did know this since all of them were always ‘oversharing’ and that’s why she thought she would come to my mother for advice, which would be the worst possible idea). Sometimes I wish I could be selective about which memories to lose or rather specific information. Just because you can now make better sense of things doesn’t necessarily make anything better.

My sister made me not want to have kids and so did my own parents but I did anyway. Is consoling myself with the ‘at least I’m not like them’ not such a good thing? I have my faults – not anything that would make the news or cause child protection to come out, more like I just hate schmoozing with other moms and talking endlessly about stupid shit like shoes and ombre hair and if corn syrup is more evil than gluten and hate making art collages of presidents and annoyance at the schools changing the way they teach basic skills every couple years and all the lame cutesy things they feel compelled to rename everything. “oh we don’t call it sounding the word out anymore, we call it ‘word blending’ and crap like that. I know I’m not like my mother as unsocial as I can be, people say I’m not cold. I used to think I was like my father, but now I’m not even so sure of that.

Into the Ether

The man walked across the crosswalk, in the intersection. He had the look of someone one might see in a mugshot- he was a white man, probably late 30’s or 40’s, he had a shirt with a collar, with some kind of pastel-colored striping on it, but it was untucked, messy. His eyes  deep-set, focused off in the distance and  seemed  mismatched with the features of an aquiline nose and the  puffy dark lips of a puglist, or someone deprived of oxygen- a color I had only seen in a child with asthma, or one getting out of the large local pool, which was very cold. The look on his face was more fiercely determined than would be necessary to cross while one had the light.

His hair was a little bit longer than what would be considered clean-cut, and also had that messy look, but a groomed messy look, as in those print advertisements where attractive people lounge amidst horses and sports equipment, though all of his separate pieces did not add up to anything resembling that. Those ads made certain everything was congruent to the smallest detail. One could practically catch a whiff of pipe tobacco, leather and maybe a faint whiff of horse manure. Observing from the car waiting at the light, I imagined he may have smelt of BO, some kind of vainglorious, overly-priced after-shave and a faint whiff of this morning’s hangover puke. The light changed and I drove on.

I was driving to a place I frequented more and more, so much that I was afraid I may have to abandon it for a new place that felt like ‘somewhere else’. For now, it was still in the border limbo-land of the known/unknown. I measured out the amount of time I would spend there, how much I wanted versus how much I could reasonably get away with versus chances of being recognized.  Conspicuous, conspiracy, conspirator. Conspire: “to breathe together.” It really was an art to be invisible, or be seen without really being seen. To hide so well one didn’t feel one was hiding.  Perhaps even, to cease  to care.

I purchased the few things I usually did. Salt, soap, a sandwich, a few rolls, milk, a can of soup. The things I used like a ritual when I felt this way, good, somewhat dazed.  This feeling reminded me of so long ago, when the constant demands of simple things kept the darkness away- taking care of someone else- and in comforting and caring for him, somehow it seemed to comfort me, it was the only comfort I had, then- that part which had been buried so deep it was mostly unremembered. If the bad guy was now in a dungeon, somehow it was easier to unhappen it : What was for a snack, what needed to be washed, what time would we go to the park, what time was the bath etc etc. It filled up so much of the time- and there were no computers then. Yes, there was TV but we made much of our own entertainment and were quite happy with only that. Reading, playing, the trees and sand. The feel of ice cubes in a bowl. You once asked me if people had to put salt in the sea to make it so salty, when you finally did talk.

I brushed my hand over the silky purple flowers. I was old enough to know these things were still with me, that they sort of dangled off my shadow, like a thread unraveling off a dress, like a gnat hovering over a piece of fruit. But they were small and trivial now compared to the monster which they had collectively gestated for so many years-,  a cursed leather knot , like shoes tied together of the drowned, now dried and so very hard to untangle..it never totally went away and it had even been added to, by others- but sometimes it could be ‘handed off’- a  kind of baptismal release.  Was I cured? Was it now ‘gone’?

How was it that although I was not a great, hulking woman, certainly i was not all that delicate- how was it that I felt lighter?  That even much of the physical pain was gone? What was it that went into the ether? When I felt light like this I needed less sleep – I dreamed so deeply I felt as though I floated the entire night through. Yes, I did think part of this was that I was now getting closer to death than life- in years at least- but somehow being reminded of this was not always altogether terrible. Bittersweet is still partly sweet.

When as children we watched magician shows, we didn’t need to believe it was ‘real’- it gave us a sense of wonder. Perhaps because we find out that it pretend, when we are older we tend to view anything that makes us wonder as ‘a trick of the light’. The large shadow that a moth flitting inside a lampshade casts upon a wall. The moth itself is still real, as is the light. As is the shadow itself. We hear the howl of the coyotes, not dog, not wolf- they are unafraid of us. Standing on a cliff, looking out at rocks at sea, and yet looking back at still more cliffs, in between what had been and what would be soon washed away, and what would stand, beautifully albeit precariously, an unknown amount of time.

Inequalities … Fiction Continued,,,

The atheist that goes to church. The lady that won’t fit in the airplane seat. The good father that got taken away in a crash, the drug dealer who won the lottery, the innocent incarcerated, the guilty that walk free, the genius with OCD, the neighbors whom you have helped who then steal from you, the raccoons I didn’t mean to run over, the plastic bags that kill the fish, the paper bags that kill the trees, rescue volunteers lost at sea, the idiot savant musician, water with no land, deserts with no water, mountains with no air, that not every dwelling can face south, gifts bestowed upon the ungrateful or gifts given with an agenda, false-flattering con men, people who got in on quotas while your stellar test scores meant nothing, the lonely that cannot reach out, the ones who want to be alone but never have any peace, the rich girl who still put gum in your hair, those born too early, those born too late, the good people watching people they love suffer while assholes never notice or care yet then inherit a fortune, babies that get shot in the face, where is it, tell me where exists this equality? Is equal fair? Is it even possible?l If it were even possible to find some splinter of joy, would she have to steal it? Or would it even be stealing if she had paid enough in pain along the way? Was it natural to be suspicious of anything or anyone actually at least mostly good? If there were any way to ‘steal happiness’ she would do it while she still could. She had done it, and would do it again.

These people she was thinking of, from so long ago, why were they reappearing now when they had been sucked into the vortex of unmemory, why had they arisen now, unwanted spectres telling their not funny jokes, singing along with every song from every band she didn’t like, hordes of them, young ones with their rock concert t-shirts and way-too-old press-on attitude “life sucks then you die” “the one with the most toys wins” older ones with their endless girlfriend- placating/reassurances “I wouldn’t even know what to do in a strip club” or “I didn’t even know I was at a nude beach, really these days you can’t tell.” The first was awful because they believed their world-weary stoner cliches, the second was awful because other people believed them.

It was a long bike ride and while it was great, if one stopped, within minutes the cold sea air would set in, making one’s clothes damp and freezing. It wasn’t technically all that cold at between 40-50 compared to other places so why did it feel colder than when she was in the mountains at much lower temperatures? The dry, crisp cold of six thousand feet was preferable. Even when one did keep moving, the more one sweated, the worse the recovery from warmth back to cold was. How could it not be freezing yet steam was coming off her indoors and she could see her breath more often than not. On the coast, wool was one’s friend, as bulky and uncool as it was, it stayed warm and didn’t get soggy with the dampness.

With the advent of the internet she did find out what had happened to one of her childhood friend, the one with this skin disease, impetigo, which made all the other cruel little bastards treat her like a leper. She worked for some health-care giant and had turned into a very big girl, but not in the way her mother was, likely almost 6 feet tall with sensible, blunt-cut hair and a gap between her teeth and heavy tweed skirts, beige shirts, things that looked like a cross between a camp counselor and a prison guard. She knew her friend’s family weren’t actually Officially Poor, though no one who lived in that same modest tract-home development had much. Not like now. Her father vaguely resembled the father that killed himself on that show ‘bewitched’, Darren.

During the time her friend’s parents were splitting up, the parents came up with some kooky plan to take us all on some field trip of their own to somewhere ‘fun’ – a place that I can’t remember now, some amusement park type place, or maybe it was just pee-wee golf. I don’t remember any fun, I don’t even remember what it was or what we did there- only that some of us got to go with the mom on the ride back and some of us had to go with the dad. Those of us that went with the dad did not have a fun trip back. I heard the mom’s bunch didn’t get back till hours later and had stopped somewhere for food. We didn’t stop anywhere, we just listened to the dad swear under his breath while driving and telling us to shut up and feeling somewhat afraid and wishing we never went. He had that same slicked back creepy hair as Darren too.

Checking out, checking in. She wouldn’t believe what the head-shrink said. Just because she thought the sound was coming from somewhere else and asked ‘are you hungry?’ when her stomach growled, just because she sometimes used ‘she’ and ‘I’ interchangeably, just because it took a second sometimes for her head to catch up to her body didn’t mean she had lost it, that she indeed was ‘dissociated’ or had some unfixable ‘disorder’ . And just because she had dodged a few bullets doesn’t mean she saw them coming. If the bullet was big enough, there was really no way to dodge it.

A bullet like the secrets that had been kept from her for so many years. Secrets she had never learned directly but that she had figured out. Sure, things made more sense now, but they still sucked. She was not like them, and actually had now not spoken to them in years. There were parents out there who kept promises, parents who actually got up in the morning with their kids so they wouldn’t OD on Flintstones and baby aspirin. There probably were parents who didn’t think it was ok if their 12 year old daughter went up to the middle school after hours to talk and smoke with the 30 year old janitor who had other ideas. They probably wouldn’t have let that go on a week, let alone for two years. There were parents who didn’t stay up all night getting drunk and parents who let their kid’s friends come over. There were parents who didn’t drag their 16 year old out of a high school dance , screaming about them being ‘on drugs’ because there were a couple of no-doze in their teenager’s purse.

Some of their friends she now disliked retroactively, not because they were annoying hippies who talked about astrology but because of the things she had figured out about them and what their various connections were to her parents. Now little comments, and even digs they took at each other made sense. Now she knew why they had to drive up to the farm in Petaluma and sit in the car for hours, while her parents took turns going into the house. They were friends,then they weren’t friends, then they were friends again. The guy with the plate in his head from the war that lived with us, the schoolteacher who was always patting her hair and looking uncomfortable. She looked back and hated the effing 70’s. Long jean jackets, floppy hats, feathered hair, big combs sticking out of the back pockets of bell-bottoms. Awful fringed vests.

Another friend,not the one with the skin condition- had older, boring parents that she coveted. Her friend’s mom watched lawrence welk. Her dad wore a mechanic’s blue coverall thing and hung out in the garage and smoked. He used this stuff called wildroot to grease back whatever hair he had left. They had a certain food for every day of the week. The friend spent every sunday from 10 am to 2 pm writing down the top 40 which then went into a binder- she had been doing this for years. Calling her on the phone during that time period would elicit a panic every time the commercial break was about to end and the next song would be announced. This friend was somewhat like a girl she knew now, whom if asked a difficult question, answered it in a somewhat sing-songy way, as if the preschool teacher tone of voice made up for lack of content.

This one, the younger version of the first would say things like “Are you judging me?” if any kind of debate arose. We had to be in total agreement. I was willing to be wrong, to not have an opinion if I didn’t know enough but this seemed silly to her. She seemed to have this middle-of-the-road pat answer for all the ills of the world that often started with “people should..” She often seemed to try to work at finding things that she said she liked probably because I did but somehow it didn’t feel real.It could have been she just needed a ride somewhere and didn’t have anything better to do, but I didn’t really care. I believed she did like me, at least as much as she could. There was a certain quality of relaxedness about hanging out with her because it was just so predictable.

Friend one, whom I hadn’t seen for a long time, my own fault- maybe I felt like I didn’t want to burden her with my life, or didn’t have it in me to try to live up to hers- and friend 2 were very into brand-name things, and just like on the commercials, both said it was because they trusted them- like accepting anything else would somehow be demeaning. How was it that both of them routinely would go to parties, and report back they got so drunk they dyed their hair blue and puked and passed out, yet if anything slightly deviated from their routine, or was even questioned, they would get all snippity – as if somehow part of their life they had sort of shellacked into place, endless memento collages and photos and cutsey clutter, like fluffy cat phone holders and framed rock album covers and best friend half heart necklaces and and the other part was like playing Russian roulette with a wasted dr kevorkian while telling him you didn’t care if tomorrow came or not. It wasn’t equal, these friendships.

Nothing was ‘equal’ in actuality, and likely, nothing was ‘fair’ either. Because of this recognition that usually accompanied that ever-present sense of mortality, when the scales even momentarily tipped in her favor, she would notice, she would appreciate, and she would reciprocate and then some even if it meant doing without something else. For now, the down blanket on some other neighbor’s discarded leather sofa meant warmth. The pervasive sense of calm would usually last a few days and she would sleep deeply in the quiet wake of what had started to feel like a protracted exorcism.

III Writing, Continued…

How long would this little bag of food keep? I put it into the trunk,knowing it was cold enough, the milk would probably not spoil overnight. All windows closed, doors locked. Already peed in the bathrooms by the rest stop, if I had to go again I was parked by the trees.The key was getting here when it was dark and parking but not so late as to make one’s arrival super obvious. By now it was almost 10.
I crawled into the backseat from the front of the car rather than getting out and then going in through the back door and lay down as best as I could, shoveling the coats and blankets over, trying to create a kind of nest. The wool blankets seemed to be warmest.Old classic IPOD starting to lose charge but enough for tonight. Looking up on the night sky through the back, I noticed that the huge expanse upon which I was gazing was not static,that much was going on up there. A shooting star, sparkly clusters randomly moving around, the little dipper there was a lot to see.

Never having been, I thought: this is sort of what camping must be like, only not in the car. Then I thought of the dangers of camping and realized, with some smidgen of anxiety, that I had no real weapon. I did have the little throwaway go phone which still had some money on it, but that would be little actual help if something went wrong. No one could see me curled up in the backseat though, and having kept the car somewhat purposefully messy, it didn’t look like there was anything good to steal.

It was a good spot, a road where one could see everything but a road that wasn’t much traveled and yet close enough to where people lived that I could park in such a way that I could pretend that my car was one of theirs. Hiding in plain sight, kind of. Other cars would drive by, but cops were looking for people sitting in their cars- people smoking pot, drinking or making out-the cops didn’t get out and check to see if there was anyone sleeping in the back.

At one point I thought I heard some people walking by, maybe walking their dog. They didn’t notice me, or if they did, they didn’t call the cops.I locked the ipod so the light wouldn’t come on. I fumbled around and found a small water bottle on the floor and took a benadryl. The nights when I was up here I would wake up during the night, a couple because the blankets had become dislodged and it was cold, and once or twice because it was so cramped back there one had to wake up in order to turn a different way. Even for a relatively not-so-big person, these little cars were not made for this. The seat was angled back, so one always felt as if one were sort of rolling towards the trunk. I thought of the people at the RV ‘resort’ and envied them their real beds, their own bathrooms, their mini-fridges. BBQs and their electrical outlets where they could charge their gear.

I hunkered down, opting for bent legs rather than half-sitting and being able to stretch out as I could then better disguise myself as a pile of clothes. I thought of what I might do in the morning, how I would fill my thermos with coffee at the quik-mart, then without using much gas go to a different spot and have a kind of makeshift breakfast in the front seat.I wouldn’t be able to sleep much past the overly-bright dawn. Staying in the backseat until the morning commuters passed was a good idea. If I didn’t drink a lot of water now I wouldn’t have to pee and thus I could stay sort of half-sleep waiting for most of the morning rush to drive by, yet still be out of here before the dog-walkers and joggers started.

~~~~~~~

There’s not much out here, a long promenade, a peninsula of parking lot, a pier,
People whisking hair out of their mouth, pulling their jackets tighter. A sense of communal amusement and suffering because of the wind, the fog, the bird noise. The door to the cafe has some sort of fan/vacuum that supposedly keeps flies out. It’s loud and evokes a sensation of entering some kind of spaceship, or other controlled environment.

There’s a bunch of older locals sitting in the prime view seats. There’s one table, in the corner for parties of three only, a little sign on the table warns. One of the local fisherman will likely talk to me, start asking questions. This isn’t a great place to hide but it is less noisy than some of the other options, the place with the over-priced framed artsy scenic photos on the wall and a bookshelf of donated books like the 90’s version of ‘PC’s for dummies’,or or ‘Belgium on 20 dollars a day’.

There were places to go, away from here. I use to think about leaving the area mostly be I was still afraid of someone from many years ago-that he might know where I was, yet he suggested in a court document that he did not. If that were true, in between stints in prison he must not have gotten on the internet much. If he didn’t try, that was good. I pictured a dumpy halfway house, then a series of grotty sofas and crash pads-friends of convenience, girlfriends met at 12-step meetings- cigarette butts, old VHS porn tapes, mean dogs, gross pizza, dirty bathrooms. If that had been a lie, that he did not know my whereabouts- he had not bothered me for a very long time. I felt sorry for the latest kid he created but I was secretly relieved he had other irons in the fire.

There were ways out of the enclave, the north way led to more people, people I would not know and lots of them. More public places in which to hide. The south way led to nice outdoor places, places to wander, places where I had purposefully created good memories so I could retrieve and relive them. Places where the new, good memories would then overwrite the bad, or sometimes even rewrite over other good memories, but good ones that only made me miss my previous self, a self so long deceased that it needed other, external yet related memories to help recall.

Remembering and recalling this self-it was like crying- instead of actually crying, what replaced that was simply thinking of crying. Sometimes my gut would tighten up, or my eyes would become hot but nothing else would happen. Or I would make a sound almost like a low howling but nowhere near full-on crying. On rare occasions when I was lucky a few drops of the salt-water would drop without any sound or movement. Why had I lost this ability and why when I did have the ability, it was not the right moment and would almost have to warm up to it? Why was some part of me still annoyingly dead, a sensation or rather a lack thereof I had had since almost losing consciousness (or maybe I did) when I was being strangled a long time ago.

It was a kind of doubt that this life was ‘real’ and instead, it was some kind of parallel universe, some kind of mental/spiritual construction that was believable enough for me to mostly buy the scam. Even though I usually insisted on logic, ever the skeptic, sometimes cynic – this particularly creepy belief didn’t need to make logical sense or need to be proved ‘true’ for the suspicion to be there.

Somehow it was possible in this schema that other people’s reality and lives could be real, yet mine not, even as theirs was in inextricably tied up with mine in their real lives and world. I was haunting my own life. This half-self me was here in the parallel universe, a kind of blade-runnery replicant, the other parts were sort of hovering in the ether of others lives and the original self was back in that apartment, seeing the light start to darken, turn that greenish-grey as if one had stared at a light bulb or the sun yet closing in like the unavoidable tunnel of general anesthesia . Perhaps that was why I was not at all afraid of going under – maybe it somehow took me back to a place I already half was, or that it was ending the thought-noise of one of my divided selves.

And why when it was so hard to cry, how was it that other senses were as active as ever, often times saying what someone else was thinking, thinking of someone and then they would call, being able to see the weakness, darkness and emptiness in others when before I would only see their false construction, their imitation of life. This was not always a gift – sometimes they could ‘tell’ that could see these things. Sometimes the good could tell, sometimes the not-so-good.

Leaving things of this earth, the loss of the ability to cry out loud spooked me. Had I lost this because I had indeed become stronger, or was it actually the opposite- was crying something essential for survival that my old self had needed, but this one did not? If I was still myself, but once or more removed, then where were the other selves? There were times where it seemed I had passed myself on the street, an older self, a younger self. And there were people that seemed like others that I thought I had lost, that were gone for good, that ‘came back’ as new people I was meeting for the first time. Of course I never told them any of this. I wondered if they too also had some of these bizarre feelings or if that was just too ‘out there’ for how they were wired. Hardly anyone understood any of this, and why lose whatever trust and credibility one had to the land of ‘what if-ness’ mixed with total weirdness? No way would I try to foist this stuff upon their hapless selves- if they picked up anything strange, they could tell me or they could blow it off or shrug it off..

I asked one of them, actually one that did not fit into that same creepy schema, someone who was outside of that, asked him what he thought, not quite this kind of thing I am telling you, reader, but the ‘what’s it all for?’ question, the ‘what’s the point? why are we here?’ His take was disappointing: there was no point, there was no purpose, there was nothing after, there was nothing before. I guess he basically thought we were just random muck, mucking around here and there, making new muck, and mucking up what we could and rolling around in the muck whenever we got a chance.

“That’s it, huh? That’s what you really believe?” I think the response wasn’t so much affirmative as it was self-convinced “yep, that’s all there is, that’s it. Why do you waste your time on this crap?” It was as if the very idea of questioning it was irritating in itself to him- but…how could one not ask oneself the big questions?

He was sure that all that all that stuff was crap, just as I was fairly sure it wasn’t. I wondered, had he never had super vivid and realistic yet otherworldly dreams like I had all the time? Did he lack any and all of the ‘extra-senses’ that made going to malls or family reunions unbearable, because of all the things one would mentally ‘pick up’? Maybe it was true. Maybe he had none of those things …so in his reality, all there really was, was food, money, winning and losing, mucking around ,and material stuff-an endless loop of the same thing over and over. No wonder he didn’t even have the possibility that all this had meaning. If one didn’t have legs , one could go on and on about running and they would still never know what that was like. He didn’t take me seriously when I nagged him, maybe you should finish this project, maybe you might want to finish this other thing, while you still could. How could one be so ‘meh’ about everything and still be alive. Perhaps he too was divided and didn’t know it.

But what did I know, I was starting to be convinced it was better to be liked than loved as one didn’t really always choose loving, as in one’s children, you just did it, like breathing- but usually liking was a choice. Someone had decided came to a conclusion that they enjoyed your company, character, personality- whatever- whereas lots of people used the word love in the same sentence as an apology: “I know he drinks, but …I love him” “I love her, so what’s a little lateness?” You didn’t often hear ‘like’ used as either an excuse or disclaimer, used as a kind of tacit apologetic. Usually you heard ‘like’ before something good: “I like that guy; he doesn’t bullshit.” or “she never flakes out, I like that in a person.”

Maybe the selling of the idea that this is all there is and then kaput ,lights out is in someones self interest as a means of distraction. As a means to a kind of ‘theft’-not only distraction but a form of advanced lying/stealing. How different were lying and stealing anyway? Theft of the truth was a lie, wasn’t it? Telling you ‘ Hey look over here, you need to listen to my agenda, I have the answer, don’t look anywhere else, everything else is bullshit, I’m sooo confident, it must be true!’…and the more you gave of your time, of yourself, the more you believed the lies and the ability to get to the truth, that the ability to see the lies was sucked away.

Even if you came away with some grain of truth, you had probably paid for it so dearly you likely would have been better off discovering it on your own. What if you didn’t agree or had questions? Well you were surrounded by so many others who on some level, probably unconsciously, knew that they had so much time stolen already, they felt like they had to commit absolutely and mindlessly to whatever the agenda was. Besides, everyone would turn on the questioner if they called someone out, even if they weren’t called out for the actual belief system that was being hawked, but called out for ‘hey are you getting anything done, is this really good enough for you? ‘

And some people couldn’t take being turned on and questioned -much less ask these things of themselves-especially on the internet. People didn’t enjoy being questioned, hassled or trolled unless they liked just any attention at all, and making a career of trolling was so derivative- you had to start with something someone else did first- it didn’t seem very creative once you dissected the whole premise.

Trolls, while they are hanging out under bridges, don’t usually have epiphanies (well OK maybe even some huge trolls might actually get sick of it, epiphany or not)and ask themselves:
Is this how I want to spend whatever I have left? Maybe believing one’s cause was the only cause worth a crap stopped one from questioning, is this it, is this truly the stopping point- I knew people who couldn’t be wrong, if they were, it would eff up their entire construction of their world.

Others didn’t want questioning because people who were so invested in whatever scheme was their bread and butter. As I told someone once, some people just can’t be wrong. I should have then followed that up with, cause when you are wrong, it’s usually your fault. You’re not only wrong. You’re to Blame. You effed up. Some people can’t get this and every time they know they weren’t wrong, like hmm what side of the street paving will that leaf fall? When they are right, it’s like: YAY I WIN, I WAS RIGHT ! Then they do a little victory dance.

If the leaf didn’t fall on the side they guessed it would be, then it’s ‘oh I was going to guess that other side’, or ‘oh I wrote the wrong side down but I meant this other side’, or ‘oh I was looking in a mirror and so left was right and right was left’…. ‘I was thinking of this side because there was a red fire hydrant and I was distracted and somehow yeah, it was your fault because I would have picked the correct side had you not got me off track, cause you suck’…to them ,being wrong was like some horrible OCD Hydra that would carry down to make spiraling generations of wrongness, like Lake Wobegone in reverse would happen-therefore in their universe, there would not, could not ever be any original wrongness: thought behavior, calculation, beliefs, anything. Being wrong was just too scary and didn’t have any payoff.

They couldn’t afford to be wrong or to say hey people, get a life, do other stuff besides this, put energy into that and what you want will probably happen anyway as a result ..but it sure as hell ain’t gonna happen this way, and oh yeah, duh if the problem got solved, I’d be out of work , my little kingdom would crumble and that would sure blow.

One would think truly feeling one’s own mortality would give one more pause as to what one wasted time on, whether or not one believed in something more. But maybe there was some payoff to getting people to ‘overspend’ their time on whatever the agenda was, even if that way didn’t work and had created it’s own government-like money, time and energy grab program,a life and spirit-sucking machine, not so unlike the official one that people railed about constantly.

After all, time is and would always be the greatest currency there is for mortal flesh. Stealing that was like soul-stealing. The greatest thing that could be stolen, a kind of subtle murder.

Writing, chap II

The cans, filled with sand and heated on the makeshift wood-stove, had finally warmed and begun to give off heat. I placed a ceramic cup filled with milk on top of one of them, taking care that it was not the hottest one or the cup would crack and the milk would be wasted. She had arranged the refrigerator so that she knew what was what even without much light, so a gallon of orange juice would not be confused in the dark for the one full of milk. This is how the blind must do it, she thought. The glass being half-empty or half-full was a common saying, but how would the blind know when to stop pouring? The old microwave made the milk half-hot and half-cold and this neither/not she did not like.

She reached into the stove with her metal stick and stirred what was left of the crumbles of the fire-log, thus temporarily brightening the room. Looking across a long, narrow valley, there was nothing but an occasional streetlight. Well, it was the middle of the night. She imagined the good people of the town, in a kind of collective snoring and as she looked out at their dwelling, felt as if she were looking in on them, as one would a child. Sometimes she felt as if she could hear them cry, in a way, or rage, or sense their happiness, or worries.

She could always tell if someone was behind her or nearby, or even casting a glance on the rare occasion she was out getting supplies. Why then, when she stood in the window like a sentinel, did they never see her, whether in the full light of day or back-lit by the fire? How is it she could move right next to them, ride her bike right behind them and they did not sense her?

Sorting through a trunk that had some old clothes in it, she thought of someone that she used to know in college. How this person would trade in excessive superficiality and copycat-ism because likely she had not established enough of a real self. She collected all the accoutrements of the time, had big hair-sprayed bleach blonde hair, spiked wristbands. She didn’t care much about having all kinds of people she didn’t know that well at her apartment, or if she partied till sick or spent all her money on coke or the latest style of leather jacket.

The apartment seemed to be decorated with head-shop memorabilia, from elaborate colorful glass pot bongs to silver spoons strangely juxtaposed with girlie childish stuff, like black and pink stuffed kitties and assorted zebra-print seat covers. There were rock-fan books and concert programs, but no books in evidence.
Was all this even real or just the result of an unimaginative false and handy construction? Looking back from this far, she could see how her friend was perceived as much more ‘fun’. It didn’t make sense though. How could someone
only care about motley crue, boyfriend(s) drama, wasting money and drugs, yet be in these same classes and why did she even want to hang around me? Looking back, why did I ever want to hang around her? Maybe because it seemed she could do whatever she wanted. Her dad still paid the rent on her large 2 bedroom, 2 bath (plus walk in closet!) tower apartment near the college, maybe because it was rent-controlled, maybe because he didn’t want her to follow him to the outskirts of the east bay. Her mother was dead, some kind of illness. Though my own mother was creepy and cold-blooded, I still felt bad for her because of this, though it seemed as though she used the fact as a quick lever for sympathy rather than actually talking about things she remembered about her mom, or her qualities. I didn’t get this then- it was one of those things you can only figure out later, after one has lived more life and heard stories from more people.

The things we learn only over time. There were other people that came later- as ‘friends’ kind of well, similarly untrustable in the same way. Similarly indirect and weaselly in their approach to others, always angling to give out as little of themselves as possible. The inevitable pause when asked a common, innocuous question. The way they were selfish about the tiniest of things even after receiving much more “oh can I have my hair rubber-band back?” and much more concerned with arranging their rock/drug/mall memorabilia and keeping that in order than the well-being of their friends. How I actually believed at the time a phone call out of the blue saying “I miss you” actually meant ‘I’m calling to check where you are, I’m calling cause I want something, etc’.

Why then, when she had more money, more freedom, more ‘friends’ of whatever type than I did, why did she start to copy me, why did she want whatever I had, when I had so little? Why did she hear a terrible and true story from myself and then, later take the opportunity to make that story worse? She was awful and cruel and manipulative and fake but around the time I realized this was, I also realized all these things could easily come without a high degree of intelligence. She tole when she could have simply asked and received, or ‘earned’ most minimally. She lied when lying wasn’t necessary. Her lies were imitative, almost lifetime movieish in all their self-righteous, reproachful horror -“I’m terrified” “this is the worst thing/greatest thing I’ve ever done” Blah blah blah. I’m surprised she didn’t affect a British accent.

But for all the fake sweetness and continual lying, she didn’t get or perhaps it never occurred to her that one of her pawns could ever exceed her level of shining people on. Perhaps not in the same exact way that ‘friend’ did it, perhaps in a far more low-key, inscrutable way. ‘Friend’ went for the covert, yet spur-of-the-moment and hastily-slapped together. Even then, I looked at her betrayal as a kind of ‘art of war’ opportunity, though at that time I knew nothing of either Machiavelli or Sun Tzu. At that point, I hated her enough to accept that in order to avenge- it wasn’t really revenge, it was more complex than that- that I too, would bleed.