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.

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Little Bones

The lies people don’t tell. Some might say they are socially phobic, to cover that they are hoarders. Some say they want you to come over or invite you out to lunch, only to ask you to drive them somewhere, or ask you to pick up their dry-cleaning the next day and then there will be something after that. They call and ask you what you are doing, not because they are curious, but because it establishes where you are, and where you are not and what you could be doing for them. They throw test statements out to try and see what your ‘code’ is, and then they will ask pretty much the same question using different examples, to see if you waver. They don’t want to hear about your real life, they want a profile, a dossier.

They always seem to manage to take more than they give, be it time, or resources. They talk much more than they listen. They throw subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle hints about things they want, but can’t afford, or wish they had someone to do whatever or complain they haven’t had their nails or hair done in months, when you have never had your nails done, and you have not been to a salon in years, and color your own hair at home- but your suffering or your lack has no bearing at all on asking you for a pint of blood- damage. Sweat- free work- or tears- pain.

Of course, at the rate you had been going, just struggling along to appear a normal person and hardly speaking to other adults for years, you might overlook a lot of things- without ever having been- developing a kind of prison mentality- something- even something kinda fucked-up, is better than nothing at all. Is it though? Tap Tap Tap on the wall? You hear me, comrade? knock-knock… You might overlook some crazy just to be able to sing a song from the past, to find the same things funny, to hear a true compliment. To have someone who would talk to you during the times having locked yourself in a room scared to death of the yelling and sounds of things breaking. They didn’t know what your life was like and maybe they wouldn’t believe you. You thought not many would. So you spend time proving things to them.

You feel you have to prove things because some people take whatever they don’t like about you and decide you deserved whatever bad has come your way, or laugh at your predicament or are relieved it isn’t them, or make fun of you or are simply scared and trying to shield themselves from anything unpleasant, or think somehow it is catchy. It is the very rare person who cares, and even rarer those who might offer help.

You can tell the people who have mostly had people who care in their lives. They reach out because they haven’t experienced these other things, because they are surrounded with other good people. They get upset easily as they expect to be treated decently. They take people at their word. They are still surprised and angry when someone doesn’t live up to their words, or their deeds don’t match their words. They see your caution and mistake it for something they should be scared of as they are so used to sincerity, they see wariness as a sign of something illicit.

When you visit some of the other kind of people, the shallow ones- they make a point to show you all their material things, as if that somehow takes the place of real interaction and conversation, yet they covet what small things you may have, or pretend to,thinking that is a compliment- and that too takes the place and fills the space of non-real conversation. What I have. What I want. What you have. What you want. Look at all my stuff. They also are very good at taking notes on your life, even if you don’t tell them much. Even if you don’t have much- they might feel you have something they don’t- and it might not be a physical thing, but some other part of your life makes them want to take it away from you, even if it is something they wouldn’t know what to do with if they had it. So yeah, maybe rationing information is a good thing.

They reveal little, yet constantly fact-gather, garnering information as it may serve them. It does not do well to make excuses, or be vague as they will still keep asking, consuming, as if you are a bottomless well they need never replenish- and it hasn’t rained in a great while. Give me more attention, give me more adulation, meanwhile they will keep hinting about things that are in the land of make-believe that they have or at least once had, thinking this will impress you.

They make great mention of the little bones they throw you, even if they are leftovers, things they don’t want, even if some of them had actual value, they want to be rid of it- perhaps they are superstitious. You don’t owe them though-in fact, you have always given more if one was keeping score, but they want you to feel like you owe them. Same with if you ever piss them off. They want you always trying to get back in their good graces.

They are generous with other people’s money, and are likely even to consider using some other person’s resources as ‘paying you back’ for all the times you have helped them, thinking that gets them off the hook, while in reality it only serves to indebt you to this third party, if only by proxy, while it lets them off the hook. Again, they are big on recycling, so to speak. Lots of your ‘rewards’ are leftovers from a bigger reward someone gifted to them.

They place great stock in their image, and spend an inordinate amount of time on their clothing, their hair, their bodies and in general what people think, though they may claim they don’t care. The truth is of no consequence, as long as you didn’t ‘tell’. For this is how they imagine their worth. I asked one of these once, a woman-why does this guy buy you all these clothes? That was a small lie of my own. I meant to say, ‘why does he bother with you? You don’t do anything for him at all?’ The answer she gave was ‘I edify him’. As if just being in her presence was enough of a gift, as if he had to kind of ‘pay’ her for her time, though she did not pursue the friendship, or anything further than that at all.

To these people, every little scam pulled off, every little ‘take’, was a win because someone else had given much more or lost much more. So their losses was counted as part of the win. All those silly things like trust, investment, joy reciprocation, annoyance, sadness, and all the many things that made us human beings were not ‘real’ to them, like flavors to someone who never had a sense of taste. It was only our utility, only things we could do, and only things they could hold that mattered. It was useless trying to talk to them about your life, they had not the attention span, even for a short confidence, or they would reduce everything to its pragmatic lowest common denominator, and take everything back to themselves.

‘So, does that mean you won’t be giving me a ride on Thursdays?’ It was best in general not to reveal too much about how you felt about anything to them, for in their world, emotions were a kind of currency. They would take note of what made you afraid, what your fears were, what made you cry. Then they would try subtly to play upon these things. Sometimes not so subtly.

Even they had patterns though. Even they had ‘tells’. Sometimes it was the tone of their voice. Not only the intonation, the cadence but the actual pitch and the sound of scratchy alcohol, the shaky, febrile tone of a small kid telling fibs, even about things that wouldn’t get them in trouble. They almost have to lie, even when they’re not- because of that problem of unoriginality, and they despise you because for all the things you can’t do as well as they, you can do that. You can do something that you came up with, that wasn’t just adding a different flavor to a jello mold. So you really can’t trust anything they say, they are happy to let you complete what would make sense in your own head.

The more ‘advanced’ ones would try to triangulate, without you even knowing it. This meant bringing up the name of someone, and pretending they didn’t like them, making fun of them. Even if you had said good things about the target, those things could be twisted. “No, that person doesn’t mean what they said, they were just flattering you.” They would then would expect you to join in their crusade to ‘prove your loyalty’ to them, though they would never say this outright.

It would become one of those things that people who have no real core find entertaining and you, well you thought it was actually something shared that was funny, even if it was a little mean or stupid, and even if it wasn’t mean on your part, you knew it was mean on theirs, and though you were too weak at the time to not participate, or didn’t fully even understand the purpose of it- you tried to soften whatever this person was doing, even by playing to their own self-interest.

But doing that didn’t work either, because the goal was you under the bus, you out of the way and maybe the target too, although if it proved useful, either of you could be played against each other, even if you never had any bad feelings toward the fake target, you would at some point see the target looking at you in a strange way, and you would know. Saying good things about the target or trying to get the first one to stop, none of those things would matter, as long as there was some kind of ‘proof’ that you were a jerk and maybe a bigger jerk than the other, as you would appear to be two-faced, while they appeared to be the honest shithead.

Down the road, you would hear that target regurgitate some of the other’s pablum and know that you would soon connect the dots, but still left wondering- why was I considered ‘in the way’? Why was I, in any way, a threat? Perhaps as simply a tool to isolate the target, to use me as some kind of pseudo-betrayer, to take things said out of context and create fear and doubt, perhaps even contempt in the target. You might have tried to protect the target thinking they may be worse off in different ways than you were by making the target seem like a formidable threat. But now, it is likely the target and the first one have reached if not a bizarre intellectual romance, than at least some uneasy truce.

The fact that the self-interest thing even worked some of the time to get them to stop obsessing or to force them to calm down after an irrational tirade of delusional craziness spinning out showed they weren’t as good at controlling themselves or even at reading people as they thought they were, because picking up things often by almost scent- is not the same thing as verbally manipulating them.

They might know where the target was weak because they were weak there too, I knew this even as I soothed that oh no, that couldn’t be the case- and the grade-school bully thing was not so much a cry for help as much as a cry to stay in the game, to stay..I believe the word is ‘relevant’. The irony being that you would be associated with this nonsense, playing this game, even though you were the one who tried to stop it, or soften it. Whatever stupidity you participated in would be copy and pasted, just as so many times it had been copy and pasted to you, unsolicited. Thing is, you had nothing to gain, but these people see anything anyone else gets as something taken away from them. They are the ones who stand to gain out of these games. Or at least they believe they are.

Of course they would not share the part where you were asking ‘why do you even care? this is stupid and makes you look bad.. why do you have such a problem with this person?’ No, because that would not serve them. The whole exercise was to make you the target, or at least a bad guy to the actual target- to be dragged out later like a moldy polo shirt in the attic ‘can you believe he actually wore this awful thing? can you believe she actually said that? omg what a douche.” If they sense you are catching on, or smells something off, they can always say “I was kidding, jeeze….”

The third person, the target- the one who had a teensier slice of the pie than the instigator- would believe all this, and think that you, not the instigator, were the true bad guy, no matter if whatever you had said was said kiddingly or had been goaded out of you. And you would actually look like the bad guy, as they then ran to that person, perhaps in a fit of paranoia, and threw you under the bus they were driving. Still, what did you get again?

In truth, the instigator doesn’t like either one of you (and maybe never did), you are both but tools. No matter what devastation- personal, financial, or otherwise was left in their wake, there was always a comeback such as ‘well if they were dumb enough to fall for it, then they deserved it’. In other words, you had to agree to have been at best gullible or naive and at worst stupid to have believed them, thus perhaps elevating their cleverness in relation to your (now perceived) foolishness. By then, they have decided you have outlived your utility, and if you go, they suffer no loss.

Indeed, it is fitting punishment for not going along with whatever their previous plan was, usually involving having you work for free in some capacity, with no compensation save that of having the association with the liars, because somehow magically, that made you special and important. The line from the 1932 movie ‘Freaks’ comes to mind. “One of us! One of us! We accept you! One of us! Ogga booga!” It’s a privilege to serve me, not a right. I’m like the DMV!

If you were actually at a low point, or you truly were isolated already- what does that make them for coming to you for ‘help’? Do you go to a broken vase to hold water? Would that be weakness on their part, or simply evil and low? And if you were so isolated and beat-down, how was it that you were a threat? Were they in some unnamable way, worse off than yourself? Perhaps they wanted you in that same boat they sat in, and resented you not needing a reason- the same thing as being envious of that teensier slice of pie that the other target had. Maybe they were dissatisfied that they actually weren’t capable of fully destroying you or had taken everything that was worth taking. Little kids are sometimes like this- they act out on whoever is closest as a stand-in for the thing or person they can’t get to.

In reality, beyond the delusions of the soulless thing itself, it always needed you more than you ever needed it- it needs you to steal from, whether it be your talents, your words, your trust or like a rat, whatever it can get. It has to steal because it has nothing of its own, its act is unfailingly and entirely derivative of things they have picked up from others, or TV, something they read, or even other real people they know. They are probably repeating something someone else said, thinking they said it better right now.

Anything this swirling void will try to trade for what was lost will always be a knock-off or something it got for free, or something it wants to be rid of. To an endless void, anything that gets sucked in might be valuable- no matter how noble and true- or foul and defiled it is. A pawn shop of the soul, a glue trap for sanity- and where intangible gifts ultimately die.

Writing Again: Drowning

Now it was all making sense, or at least I could see how everything lined up. The childhood that seemed so dramatic, The parents who alternately tried to come off normal and then were unapologetically super crazy. The many lectures about how it was the fault of my younger sister and myself- the endless lectures that seemed to go on for hours. Eventually my sister would rise up and spout something like “fuck this” and disappear downstairs. If she went downstairs to escape, that must have meant she was already old enough to be downstairs in a room off the basement. What age was I when I moved downstairs to one of those rooms? I know I was there in high school but when did I end up down there? Why can I not remember simple things like that?

A few years back, I had an operation. It wasn’t life-threatening but it was last minute. That same week my second son’s grandfather died. The following week my parents took my older son and went to lake Tahoe. I begged them to please take his little brother, who was then 8 years old -not that I needed to explain, but because everything was fairly hellish. Of course they said no, it would be too much work. He was an average 8 year old, no special needs or other health issues.

I made the mistake of staying at my mother’s house after the operation- I seemed to be ok, I didn’t even stay the night, but her house was closer to the hospital if I bled too much after. I remember her saying at some point during one of these late-night smoking sessions in their back room, at a point where I finally felt maybe I was getting somewhere with her, like maybe she cared about what happened to me after all. She said “Is your helping us when we’re old dependent upon whether we help you now?” It was a weird statement/question to ask then and it has only gotten weirder over time.

Is it normal for a mother to ask things like that? It sounded like lawyer-speak. It sounded like hedging her bets. It sounded like any hope I had for escape I could kiss off. The morning of the third day, the day I was supposed to go back home she started in about how I shouldn’t get comfortable and that I couldn’t stay (this was never the plan, it was only about recovering from the operation, if I was bleeding badly to be nearer the hospital. I felt like the nights we stayed up talking, about what I’m not sure about now, I can only remember the things I really had questions about, she would only get all uptight and say things like ‘I’m not going to talk about that. I listened to her go on and on about her father and how she missed him and how she felt my grandmother and her two sisters excluded him and didn’t treat him as well as they should have, and whatever other things were bothering her. I started to feel like I was getting somewhere with her, maybe.

When it came to my turn to tell her things I was having problems with, she didn’t want to hear it. I felt like she wanted to relate to me as if I were a friend- and not in a every-kid-grows-up type way, but as if I never had been raised by her, as if we had no history, as if we were at some kind of bar or coffee shop and she could spill her guts anonymously, without explanation, without investment. God, I remember how that feeling sucked. I didn’t want her to be my friend, I wanted her to be my mother, or at lest act like a mother, even retroactively. Maybe even to cop to things like the middle-school janitor thing (I’ll tell you about that later) and other lousy stuff she either did or didn’t do but show in her actions she did care about me now.

We would be driving somewhere and she would say “see that little studio up there, that’s the kind of place I would do my painting if I hadn’t had kids.” She did paint though, she painted at home. I don’t know if my sister felt like we had stopped her from some great mission, but I did. I didn’t feel guilty though or sad, I felt angry. I still feel angry. Just like when she had to tell me the story of how she used to let me cry in my crib until I threw up when I was a baby. It didn’t even sound like she was telling me this because she felt bad about it, like a confession, it felt more like she was complaining, like what a needy pain in the ass I was. I saw photos of myself as a baby. She told me she couldn’t breast feed. Ok but how could you let me look like that? It’s hard to think about it now. Was she that clueless? I looked like I was borderline starving as a newborn.

It’s really true as a kid you don’t really know how good or bad you have it because it is all you know, you have no comparison until you see other families or have your own. You don’t know it is horrible because you think it is normal, or you say to yourself, well, here I am, it must not have been that bad, ‘cause here I am, I’m alive, aren’t I? Or ‘oh my poor mom, she must have been pressured by society to breast feed blah blah’ or’ oh I feel bad for her, because of me, and my dad avoiding the Vietnam war, I ruined her life as she saved my father’s. And perhaps I saved him too, because at one point being a college student or married wasn’t enough, you had to be married and have a kid to get bumped down the list.

I don’t look at my own shortcomings as her fault or whatever I have done or neglected to do as completely because of her, like you see at AA meetings or in a shrinks office. I see her total weirdness as something unto itself and yeah maybe I would have been different but who knows? I know I’m at least mostly not like her, although I don’t want to be like my dad either. He’s not like her, but he is deathly afraid of any kind of conflict. No matter how crazy, mean or childish, he goes along to get along.

I don’t know if my paternal grandfather beat the crap out of him or exactly what happened. Pretty sure it was more along the lines of some kind of punishment and not anything molestery. When my parents used to fight, he would go into some kind of weird coughing fit like he was going to choke to death if he had to stand up for himself about anything. I learned that he would sooner say ‘maybe’ or put something off indefinitely than say no at the outset, which only made the disappointment worse, because there was hope.

I think they both kind of hate me now because I figured out all the crap they were up to back then. That and they know that I know that they will never help me and have written me off, though I was never in trouble with the law or drugs or did anything bad to them. I’m either just not loved, not worth it and/or my dad would rather keep what little peace there was to keep than oppose her, even if I could help them as time goes on, even though it is in their interest to help me.

If they didn’t want me to figure things out later, maybe they shouldn’t have told me things like “oh your father is going over to so and so’s house, because she has lost her tampon inside her” WTF My dad was not a doctor. If I asked her how my dad was supposed to help I got no answer- I wasn’t even sure what a tampon was at that point, I was too young. Was this a passive-aggressive move on her part, so that I might have asked him about it. I can’t remember if I did or not. By the time he got home she was probably too drunk and likely they had another fight, which would either be about her drinking or things we couldn’t understand. All of these people were younger than I am now when all this was going on. But they were old enough to not have dragged kids under 10 into it. As fucked up as I am in some ways, I look back at them and say, well gee, at least I never dragged a kid who had hives all over them to someone’s house for dinner, when it was so bad that after they left, I had to go to the emergency and have a shot.

I had a best friend, whose parents were much older than mine- her mother would be watching Lawrence Welk on tv when we would go over there after school and they actually had certain foods for dinner according to what day of the week it was. My friend thought they were boring and terrible, even as she for years would write down the top 40 in a binder every Sunday for the four hours that Kasey Kasem would be on and she was borderline OCD about her stuff and how we did anything. I liked the quiet predictability of her house.

They were nice to me. There was no drama there ever. I think they were from Minnesota or South Dakota. They didn’t seem especially fond of my best friend but at least it was peaceful and that was enough for me. I thrived on their boringness. When she would complain about her relatives coming over and her mom making some awful jello thing and how lame it was I was jealous. I loved that they could be counted on for routines, that her dad wore this grey outfit for working in the garage and that her mom seemed eminently sensible and never said inappropriate things or took jibes at us. They didn’t fight like my parents did. When they seemed exasperated about something or would sigh, it seemed like something to hope for rather than what later I would learn was looked at as par for the course of long-term marriage/suburban ennui. They were not into any of the hippie stuff that my parents liked. It was ironic that while I’m not sure they met my parents in more than passing, they were probably worried that because my parents were relatively young in comparison to them, that maybe I would be a bad influence when in actuality it was my friend who was the party-till-you-puke girl and it was I who had to drive everyone home, or pretend to be the mother calling people in sick to school or otherwise devising a plan.

My mother would ask us weird things occasionally like “if you found out me or your dad were with someone else would you hate us?” or later “Do you enjoy (insert whatever sexual thing). If we said yes, she said we were like our father. I kept thinking in my head, my mother is missing something- why does she always look like she is fake smiling in photos? why does she only get nice or sentimental to my sister and I when she drinks? I hated the smell of wine on someone’s breath for years because of that. How did I not know that using sun-in and having partially bleached hair wasn’t cool? How did I not know that I wasn’t really the school janitor’s sorta girlfriend and it wasn’t ok? I mean, if my mom knew I was a 12 year old up there at the school alone, it was because it was OK, right?

And why was the Vietnam vet guy living with us with his toddler when my sister and I were in the early years of grade school? The guy with the plate in his head who also used to drink? Why did the mom leave? Was she dead? why when I came back from school was he sitting on the sofa in a towel and you could totally see his junk. Why did he have a special name for my mother, the name of a flower? Why did he act so familiar with my mom and make stupid jokes I didn’t get? Why did my sister and I have to drive up to this farm up in the north bay and sit in the car for hours while my parents took turns talking to this couple they were friends with, the woman was the one with the stuck tampon. Why did so many things never seem to make sense?

What was wrong with my mother I still don’t know. The strange childishness, the mood swings, the staying in bed all day, the calling me by the name of her youngest sister, whom she did not like, or by the name of someone whom my dad was probably seeing or once when I was sick, she called me ‘Carmen’, some character from an opera. She was the same physical type my dad had a thing for. Probably the same type he was hoping my mother was, maybe Ingmar Bergman or a Hitchcock blonde or a Julie Christie- but it turned out mother wasn’t actually the type she looked like. Once she said wasn’t I glad she married my dad because what if she had married so and so and then I would look like my best friend- whatever that meant. They both attributed much to astrology, but I thought whatever was happening was way beyond the stuff my dad was into with his charts and discussion groups.

At times I thought she actually was pleased that she ruined something of mine, once it was a plant I was growing in a bottle, once it was a pair of pants she bleached a hole in, once it was a magazines featuring my favorite band that she gave away. I learned not to talk about anything that mattered because she kept track of everything. It was as if one side of her brain was all but dead, the one that would have been ‘a normal mom’- but the side that was practical and could remember every detail was working overtime. She knew I wasn’t like her, that I could see the details she could, but I could also pick up all these things she was blind to and it seemed she both resented me and feared me, though what could I do?

There were a couple occasions where I wished out loud something would happen- one was a drive somewhere, I can’t remember where it was but it seemed like it was out in nowhereland of northern California. My father seemed to like the driving somewhere better than the actual getting wherever we were going, whereas I hated it. Wouldn’t you, with a younger sister that was prone to carsickness in a datsun 210? Though I was never great at math I could tell by the signs and his speedometer we weren’t actually going anywhere, or in the time he stated it would take.

In any case, during one of these drives, I wished something would happen like the road would be closed, or we would have to turn back, anything to stop the endless driving. I can’t remember exactly what I said but I made the mistake of saying it out loud. We got to this area which looked like a dead end, I don’t remember if we had to pee or why they even thought we should all get out-even get out. It was hot, there was all this dry wheaty type grass stuff, it sucked. I was really feeling bored, mad and like my parents were stupid for even liking to do this.

We got out of the car, it was quiet and hot. Well, it was quiet for about 10 seconds maybe. We started to hear a sound, it started low and became louder. I thought I knew what it was, I could not believe my parents didn’t know right away. “Kind of sounds like snakes, rattlesnakes ” I said. My mom actually attributed the snakes to me and was mad, though of course she was mad like a little kid as usual, her mouth all tight. Unexplained things always happened in our house, I didn’t care what caused it, lightbulbs exploding, stuff falling out of cabinets. Of course I didn’t believe I was doing anything, or had caused the snakes, but weighed if her maybe believing it might somehow help me make her less crazy- mind you this is someone who acted as if inanimate objects ‘wanted’ to be placed here or there, or had opinions or liked or disliked other inanimate objects, like stuffed animals or salt shakers.

How he could not notice what she was like when they met I don’t know. I guess because they weren’t living together first, or maybe he did notice something was ‘off’ but so desperate was he to avoid Vietnam that he didn’t care- and I don’t blame him for that. She probably looked like an ok deal compared to swamps, bombs, entrails.. My mom wanted to move out of her house too, she even said she was tired of looking after her middle sister, whom she told some story about how when she was born the nurses tried to hold her in because the Dr wasn’t there yet- (how could they make a woman hold a baby in anyway?) and her youngest sister, who is only seven years older than myself.

I did feel bad for grandpa, her father. He seemed like a decent guy, if a little eccentric, possibly a touch autistic and set in his routine. He kept his classical music cassettes and albums alphabetized. He used to give my sister and I life savers when we would stay over and sleep on the fold out couch in the living room at the San Francisco house and say ‘good night boys’. Maybe he was disappointed at the second generation of girls but I don’t think so, rather it seemed to be his only joke. We would lie on the fold-out sofa and watch the lights of the cars go through the metal blinds and across the plaster-textured wall, across all the Catholic stuff my grandmother had in the little indentation above the fireplace.

I still remember when he died, about ten years ago-how he was on a respirator. I think he is the second person I have seen on one of those things. It seems like it’s horrible. My sister and I were on either side of the table/bed thing he was on in the ICU each holding his hand – we were saying for him to get better and we loved him and were waiting for him to get out of there, He was shaking his head back and forth like no and squeezing our hands.

None of his side of the family was there when they took him off the respirator. True to form, my mother made my dad go alone. None of them said anything when he passed at the funeral. It seems like it has become my job to write something and get up and read it when anyone goes. As time goes on and all the grandparents have passed it has made me wonder if they all secretly hated each other and that is why no one gets up to say anything but me. I get really mad when I think of how he was supposedly in bed for like a week and no one made him go to the Dr, they called my mother when apparently he got really bad and they needed to call an ambulance.

The fact that they called my mother when things got bad (of course at the last minute) was worrisome, why would they call her, she rarely even goes over there. She used to call them when she would panic about something. Then she was mad at them for not helping him. I try to look at it like he still won, because he used to smoke and drink until the dr said when he was in his 50’s -if you don’t quit you don’t have long, but he lived till he was about 85, limiting himself to one smoke a day and like one highball.

It’s like all of them are afraid to do anything, even if it is something that helps someone. Maybe especially if it helps someone. They all prefer to quietly whisper and conspire and basically not do anything. I told them years ago to stop telling me horrible secrets (like the thing about my mom and the vietnam vet, or that one of my aunts has the blood type of grandpa’s brother, or that grandpa’s father, my great grandfather was married three times to women with the same name and they all died). I told them that from here on out if they kept telling me things I would not at all promise to keep it secret.

I want to try and hold on to the good parts, or the parts that at least save them in my head-the parts that while not absolving them made them at least interesting but it seems like when I try to it’s like I’m drowning and the bad parts keep filling my pockets with rocks and my throat with tears sucking me down. Ok back to the ‘good’ they were educated, they had friends over to discuss writing and poetry, the solstice parties, that both of them had published random things or taught writing classes, that there was always tons of books around, although I probably shouldn’t have been reading Heller’s ‘Something Happened’ when I was like 9 or 10, not to mention the Shere Hite books.

No one could say my sister and I could definitely say we were not spoiled, not in the least little bit, or that we never learned how to entertain ourselves, although because they didn’t get up in the morning likely led to me overdosing on Flintstones vitamins once and baby aspirin as well as finding my sister with a taken-apart kaleidoscope, her pinky finger hanging by a thread and blood everywhere.

They would eventually take myself or my sister to the doctor and fed us. I know and hate the fact that either my dad didn’t leave because of my sister and myself, or at least I like to think that, it’s better than thinking he was just too afraid. Maybe he couldn’t afford to leave. I remember during their fights hearing him threaten to and half rooting for him, half hating him for not inviting me to escape with him, but I knew the hope was fake, as were the threats to leave.

They didn’t make us go to church, though when I stayed with my paternal grandparents I actually didn’t mind that much, as the orthodox church on Brotherhood way in SF was quite beautiful. That and my Yiayia made clothes for my sister and I. I remember staying with them and not wanting to come home. It makes me feel better to think of the good points or sometimes think them both into an alternate universe where we are all someone else’s who aren’t somewhat fucked up , even if that meant wishing away the Vietnam war, my parents getting together and my own possible existence as this version of myself.

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.

No WN Left Behind. Read. Write. Learn.

http://www.podcastingnews.com/details/www.qdnow.com/grammar.xml/view.htm

                      Been listening to this to try and improve writing, speaking skills-If you can get past the  somewhat smarmy voice and style, the content is educational-  I still can’t get over when I ragged people out on a forum  last August or September and  got called an “elitist” (!?) for wanting people not to come across as illiterate. I am not talking about speaking the “King’s English”  or posting as if one was in Elizabethan England.  I’m talking about not sounding as if one just “excaped from a ilitrate expresso bar (n grill) ” .  Because there aren’t all kinds of resources out in off-line land, it is vital we at least make an effort to not look ridiculous.

I must have got someone there  worried about  ‘raising the tone”  and the WN image improving but it is going to happen even if not overnight. If you want to be legit, you have to act legit, and sometimes form actually follows thought and isn’t fake or illusory.  I have at least four things in my arsenal against the nay-sayers and name-callers and ZOG who want us to look like inbred , illiterate trash- I’m creative,  willing to work hard, I don’t give up easily, and while I am not a mensa member, neither am I a  mental nite-light.