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n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Literally, not metaphorically.
(I know this is not the time or place, but it is on my mind as I sit here typing with my wrists bumping up against the keyboard, and so:
Things that are Not Wise for Slightly-Anemic Writers to Do: play volleyball using a soccer ball)
It hasn’t been the easiest week. I always forget how fervored I get in a fever. How completely passionate and angry and irritable and cranky with the world. How everything matters far far more than it should.
I cried for two hours because my mother didn’t call me, even though I called her on my cellphone and left a message for her to call me, before I remembered she was on a kayaking trip and couldn’t get back to me. I cried because I had to grade papers, and then I cried because I couldn’t make it to school to grade papers. I cried because I couldn’t cuddle with Ellen, and then I locked my room door and cried because I can’t get away from anyone here. Don’t worry. I don’t normally cry that much; I was just sick. The last sad fervor is that I was furious with Lola a sum total of 13 times over the last three days, two of which resulted in Me Snapping At Her.
With one of them, I have to admit I’m a little relieved I snapped: several days ago, I don’t know why, maybe because I didn’t lay into her niece when she did it, but Lola started Coming Into My Room Unannounced. As in: sauntering in without knocking or even a little rap to let me know she’s coming. Although I have been rather Extremely Predictable in my lovemaking habits, I’m not sure how she would be able to know if I were changing or nudey or looking at nudey pictures or whatever. I basically moved from very startled about this, to mentally pleading that she would stop. I’m such a pussy about hurting people’s feelings about things, but Lola was just coming in and asking me for my laundry, or asking me if I was getting up in the morning, or asking me if I had a fever, or asking me how my day went, or whatever, and I was not very happy about what felt like the last breakdown of relative safety.
It took me a little while, but I finally realized that this is what she does with everyone in Norma’s family. That somehow in Ecuadorian culture, or at least in this family, barging into each other’s rooms is an affectionate way to interact. I thought about this for awhile, because being accepted into a family is never anything to look at as a cheap miracle, but I finally decided that no, as much as I like these people, and even have affection for them, they are not close enough to me to be family, and if they were my own family, they’d certainly be knocking, because A would rip my head off, but this is a different family and did I want to cohere to their customs?
In the end, the answer was no. Privacy is more important to me than being accepted as being the same as a member of this family. Family, sure, but exactly like their family, no. Knocking is just insurmountable for me. I even knock when someone sees me coming just to let them know I’m coming in. And if they don’t see me coming, and no matter what, I’m coming in, it at least gives folks the time to toss a blanket over their bodies if need be… So, Lola picked one fevered morning to walk into my bedroom and ask me if I still had a fever and if I was getting up this morning, and I snapped and asked her if she could knock.
She laughed. I’m starting to see that this laugh is more than I originally thought it was. Lola’s one contradiction to the “what you see, what you get” theory. She was also laughing when she tiptoed into my room and told me that she broke my coffee pot. One might think the breakage was a grand old joke, but considering the fact that she has brought up the Broken Coffee Pot topic five or six times since, each time asking me if I really loved the Broken Coffee Pot, if the Broken Coffee Pot was supposed to go back to the Washington with me, whether the Broken Coffee Pot was expensive, what I think will be an adequate substitute for the Broken Coffee Pot… etc., I am now forced to interpret the laugh as more of a Nervous and Upset thing than I thought before.
(By the way, I have taken every opportunity to assure her that one stained, average glass coffee pot was not the passion and love of my entire existence. The filter maybe, but the pot—no.)
So, I basically hurt her feelings by asking her to knock, which I knew would happen, but being that I had a temperature topping 101, I didn’t really care. I am a cruel, cruel lady when I’m sick. (Maybe I should write a list of things that I am only capable of doing when feverish, and keep it by my bed just in case the opportunity arises…)
The second time I snapped is hopefully not part of some repeat effort, on either my own or Lola’s part. I am now vowing to make a weekly run to the supermarket to stock up on Basic Food Necessities. I just don’t feel like going hungry when I don’t want to. Sometimes I think there is nothing more frustrating than being sick and not being in charge of my own diet.
That’s exaggerating a little, and I’m sure you might be saying: what about the sweet chicken-noodle-soupers (like Sarah)? Yes, yes, there is a sick-point when you don’t want to cook anything (always, if you are me), but always one get to decide what to eat, right? To eat or not to each chicken noodle soup. Or to eat lettuce, or fruit, or...
But when your entire diet is in someone else’s hands, you can Ask And Be Denied. Basically, I didn’t want any food-food, only salad, tuna fish, and fruit. Maybe bread sometimes. But the general idea was that if I didn’t want rice and chicken, I didn’t want food. Lola told me that pineapple is off-limits when you have a fever, and refused to buy me fruit—the only thing I asked for—for two days. Then, when I was feeling better and very hungry after two days of relative fasting (salad), there suddenly was a Habit of No Food, and so dinner was nowhere to be had at dinnertime, not even bread or crackers. And then this morning, I needed to leave the house early, on my day’s project to Get Better, and I told Lola and Norma I’d be leaving at 6:30am and asked if I could get a packed lunch for the day (and of course, breakfast). No problem, they said.
Only at 6:40am, when I absolutely had to walk out the door, there was no coffee (Lola hides the grounds from me), no bread, no breakfast items, no packed lunch, and no Lola, although there was a kettle of boiling water and some cooking rice on the stove. So I left. Walking to grab my cab, I ran into Lola, who asked me “Hey, aren’t you even going to have some coffee?”
Yeah, second snapping. But I think I’m getting better? I just said, “No, I’m late. Ciao.” And ran off.
But I knew I said it snotty. Empty belly. 99-degree temperature.
I have to admit: I’m starting to get worried about myself, even if I have the excuse of over 100-degrees and me rolling around for a day in bed for the first sick-day I’ve taken from work in about 3 years. Even if I have the excuse of not being able to take the dive lessons I’ve waited two weeks for.
My two example fever dreams:
1) I give midterms. Midterms. Midterms. All night. All Friggin Night.
2) I find a cavern full of fossilized duck-billed dinosaurs. The cavern is in a park owned by my and Peter’s family, and I tell everyone so we can start excavating. My family decides to remove the fossils by ripping all of the trees out of the park, ripping up the flowers and grass and everything, and I get angry telling them how that’s an irresponsible way to treat a community park (my father responds, “The will of the common man is infinitely patient, my daughter. You should learn from them.”), not to mention the fact that it is not a good way to do a fossil dig. I lecture on missing root systems and rainwater and dirt rushing down into the cavern. (There are certain ironies here about being in a family of biologists and conservationists). In the end, I get into a huge all-out fistfight with my family. Bloody noses. Fury. I wake up mad.
What is wrong with me that I keep getting so mad? What is wrong with me?
Two tasks for the Upcoming Year (July Resolutions): 1) I’m going to break into a neo-hippy, psueda-Buddha self-enlightenment guru-hiri-giri-mecca-licca-solla-bema experiment. That is, I will take either: a meditation class or a yoga class. I will not put flowers in my hair, but I will try to find some practical means of Wresting My Brain back to me. 2) I will either get counseling, or spend every waking moment finding an occasional escape from the city. Speaking of which, read the next post.
Sitting in the back of a truck on a sun-eruption day. Since I’m not in America, I don’t need to hide. Instead, I am close to the cab, sitting up on the edge. I purposely stick a few inches of my butt out over the lip of the truck into the street. I am daring some daring-doer to pass us, roll down the window, and either cop a good feel or make a sweet smack on the buttocks of one sweet-smiling girl with her butt hanging over the edge of a speeding truck.
It is so hot that the 50-miles an hour wind only brings little waves and crests of warmth or cool. I feel the temperatures wrapping around each other likes sheets on an over-sexed afternoon. Crossing and crissing, pockets and ripples, I reach down into my skin and register each sensation. Delicious. My body. The shirt I am wearing raps against my shoulders, each a little mini-thud against some echo chamber I have climbed inside. My hair is tied back, but still I can feel some strands roaming around my face, sliding moment to moment to moment.
Sometimes I am behind my eyes, which are behind a wrap of sheer bluing ray bands. No bugs or dirt can float in, only the drift of hair. Only the images: The campo, miles sprawling out under the nestling arm of tall hills that lift with vertigo out of the flat manglare valley.
Manglares, a word much better than our own. “Man grove,” the orchard of man, is so Not Appropriate I want to laugh. This is much more the place of women, or of death and rebirth, I do not know. Manglar, a word leavened with the idea of contortion, of wraparound, of twisted strangulation. The tight meaty hooks or tentacles of octopi. I want to say the word that way, “el pulpo puede manglarte.” And it fits both with the bundle of me inside here, wrapping around itself—a net brought in from off a reef—and with the visual and spiritual feel of this place. The roots of manglares, the trees (names I don’t know), swirl around themselves. Los manglares look like burn piles, chopped down limbs that suddenly decided to make a resurgence. Something that was killed, but was able to grow up out of itself, directly lifting from salt and fresh water. It looks like alder on a brush pile, like ivy on a log, like a fern from a stump.
Tall tall trees standing up on their pliable roots. I touched these legs when we got close to them. I reached up and took a dangling root like I was shaking its hand. It was soft and flexible, extremely delicate. I accidentally broke one of these 2-inch thick roots, and looked into its center where a ring of water-sap was starting to leak outwards. The tide (marea baja) removes the rivers down to ten/fifteen-feet below the white-dried mud mark along the leaves of these trees. Their limbs drown and re-respire every six hours. I do not have even the beginnings of biology to understand this: the salt, the death, the changes.
Little crabs live along these legs. Red-armed, they climb up along the soothe bark like hardened spiders in the jungle. The silt-mud sand of the low-tide banks seems to writhe with these little creatures.
There are fishermen tucked into many of the tributaries. Tributaries? Or outstretched turns of the river-tide. They stand in their dugouts, smoke wafting up from the special wood they burn in the center of the boat to keep out the chiggers and mosquitoes. Their hands, feet, and legs are caked with mud, and they are twisting fishing line and nets tighter so they might catch their catfish and camerones. Some of the canoes have two men, some only one. Some of the fishermen fish with a large net that they fix on tall poles around a tributary leg of the river-tide. As the water leaves, the earthsilt lifts, and the fish splutter around on the mud to be picked up. The net does not capture them, it simply prevents their escape with the Marea, mother of cycle. Other of the canoes have lines out, fish fighting in. And yet others have huge scoops—like the type we see in aquarium shops, when you ask the owner for that one little goldfish with the twinkling eyes, and he gets out a green mesh scoop and sweeps your fish into a plastic baggy for you. These fishermen swoosh out pink and white wrigglers, scoop and dump, swoosh and dump. Their actions are rhythmic and calm.
There are also fishermen in the manglares that swim to fish. They swim around in these thick muddy waters, and wrap the crabs they catch around their back like a lei of sharp blue-red flowers. They bob along the muddy banks like river seals, their dark hair and eyes looking up at mine like waiting for a song as we float by. These fisherman wear black gloves, and they fish by diving down along the shallow banks and putting their hand into the holes that the large crabs live in. When the crab snaps and bites, these fisherman snap and bite back. It is a war of invasion and reparation.
I look for the river-tide dolphins that are said to live in these waters, and dip my hand over the edge of the boat we are riding in. I ignore the chatter of people, the words both interesting and noise. I dip my hand and work out the fever, let it slide from this sick skin and be digested along the sulphurous banks of decomposing dark debris. I call to the river-tide dolphins, and they come and nibble at my fingers, startling me in my sweet-smile nodding. One grabs my fingers and pulls me over the side, and suddenly I am surrounded by playful river-tide dolphins that are churning around me like the wake of the boat I was dragged from. “Naughty river-tide dolphin, naughty.”
A joke I heard earlier enters my head: “You couldn’t hit water if you fell out of a boat.”
These river-tide dolphins are cheeky. Never let it be said that they aren’t. They spin me around and nibble my legs. They lick the mosquito bites I got earlier when we were walking along the dry-tropical forest into the wet-tropical forest.
I tell them how I saw monkeys earlier, the first monkeys I’ve ever seen in the wild. And they jumped and ate, stared at me and then looked away. How close they were, and yet even too far for my lens to even register. Howler monkeys, not howling. In the distance, I could hear their hoarse laughing, the xhoo-xhoo-xhoo of their angst. But up close, they just stared at me. I also saw a tarantula, massive and purple-backed. Not Something To Run Into On My Own. But it just nestled down into the leaves and willed us away. A snake too, huge, the hugest snake I’ve ever seen—“Culebra Siama” as the guide calls it—(it makes me dream I am swimming with anaconda that night). We loud-walkers make it flee the scene. “Wait,” I asked, with little result.
And then, the last fun frolic I saw on the walk that made me feel like I was actually in a zoo, so average we walked, like something out of a tourist movie. (Our guide seemed a bit of a novice. Not as knowledgeable as my dear E of the Puyo Jungle). But there were frogs, froglets, tadpoles, tadplets, and I was even able to catch one of the little creatures and peer in at it from between a gap in my fingers. I was surprised because instead of seeing the frog, I saw my eye peering in through a gap in my fingers. He gave me my perspective right back at me, and for that, I let him go gently into the water I had wrested him from.
That walk was an experiment in mosquitoes making me a liar. That is, they ignored everyone else, and went for me like I was some great Salt Lick standing out in the middle of a cattle mountain field. Mosquitoes in my hair, on my back, in my ears. They ignored the layers of bug goo I put on (was it sugar water?) and sucked me until I got on my truck and floated crazy-lidded through the campo heat. I wonder about the changes of my body, the marea baja that allows my metabolism and juices to change so profoundly as to suddenly attract mountains of bugs instead of repelling them like I more or less did for most of my life. I wondered if it was my fever, the not-from-walking-fast sweat that saturated my shirt.
Those river-tide dolphins. They just laughed and me and reminded me how I used to say that people never change, that they are the same essence from the moment they enter the world until the moment they leave. Those psychic dolphins know how I worry and wonder and go crazy over the fact that I feel Different. New. Like I don’t even really know myself because everything has changed, manglared around. Leaves growing from a fallen pliable burnpile, sucking salt and then waving in the wind. Shed your skin, swim, shed your skin. The river-tide lifted me back into the boat, sun-burned and drydrenched.
By the time we returned to the launch-point, the tide had dropped so low that it was trouble getting the boat back up to the walkway. In fact, we got stuck. I felt spry and wanted to jump out of the boat and help push. I wanted to feel the mud up to my waist, and felt disappointed that I was not with my friends who would have just jumped out with me, splashed around. (I know who you are!). But I still felt spry, refreshed, happy and naughty. I made jokes. High and dry. Our guide eventually capitulated and jumped out of the boat with the boat-operator and pushed our boat ashore. I decided it was a world irony that left me in the boat, clean and wishing to swim, while a man who didn’t want to even touch the water was out pushing the boat.
Finally we were ashore, but there was no walkway, and so I got to discover that the mud is knee-deep thick. Earlier, I had watched some of the fisherman wade through it and felt jealous. I wanted to do so too…
A, before she left, told me that I was the Dirtiest Girl she has ever known. She meant it, and she didn’t mean it metaphorically. She said this a few times, once even accidentally using the word “disgusting,” but then amending that for “just dirty,” which apparently means both my personal hygiene and my house-cleaning skills. Certain skills, that is. Dishes, bathrooms, and bathroom hairs.
I’m tired of a world of women squeamish at the thought of Hair. Hair is the next Spider/Mouse of the female world. I haven’t dated, hung out, or known a woman for about ten years now who doesn’t stand on a stool screaming and waving a big broom at the thought of shower-drain hair. It’s just hair, goddamn it. It comes from our own bodies. It is like dust or soil or anything natural in this world. Something from the living. Something decomposing that will aid the growth of something new. Something that you don’t want to eat, sure, or something that you don’t want to walk around on for days, but also not something that you have to have paroxysms of pain over either.
So, I admit, I am probably the Dirtiest Girl around. Although, I also have to admit I was slightly offended. I would absolutely submit to the title of the Worst Dish-Washer on the face of the planet, but I consider myself reasonably tidy, although not Anal, about everything else. I like an organized area. I like clean countertops. I religiously shower every other day, but do not consider it a Mandate From Heaven that I shower every day unless I feel overly sticky, icky, muddy, yucky, sweaty, sandy, smelly, etc. I like the smell of human beings and don’t bow down to the smell of Febreeze, Comet, Lysol, Gasoline, Tidy-Bowl, etc. I like the earth. I like being clean, but don’t like feeling sterilized…
So, I wanted to roll in the mud along the manglare banks. I wanted to jump out of the boat and get wet and squeal and then screeeee-weeeeee into the mud, rolling and mucking, weeeeeee-weeeeee, like a little rolling piglet, sliding around under the manglare roots, jumping off the hard blue clay of the under-mud and mucking & washing, mucking & washing. Weeeeeee-weeeeee.
Unfortunately and amusingly both, there was a line of men chopping down tree-branches and laying them out across the mud in a little gringo-trail. I sat down on the boat and silently laughed to myself for fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes with five white tourists looking out across a 12-foot mud flat, rolling up their jeans, wondering aloud whether to take off their shoes, and telling each other that they don’t want to get muddy, while five dark-skinned tourist-workers with machetes walked knee-deep through the mud, dragging scraggly little tree-branches for us to Balance Upon. The only only reason I didn’t jump out of the boat at that moment is that it seemed too beautiful. Too sweet. Those men were working so hard so we wouldn’t get Dirty. I couldn’t spoil all their hard work. I couldn’t crush their image. I knew somewhere inside me that it would probably be a good thing if they understood us Americans differently, but I also knew that for five-sixths of us, they were right. And they meant so well.
Instead, I made it a game. Who can balance the best. Unlike in the metaphor world, I have a fair sense of balance from fishing (although it is weaker than most fishermen), and so eventually scampered across the limbs quite quickly. In a world of ironies, I arrived at the other end the least Dirty and Muddied of all of us.
Arrived into happiness at one of the most beautiful structures I’ve ever seen. I wanted to live here. I wanted to swim here. I don’t know what I wanted, but something was breathing here. It was frustrating to have only ten minutes to look.
the shrimp farm:
And so, I finished up my day climbing back into the truck, and feeling the fever had left me completely. As we drove, I tucked the powerwind down into me, let it wash me completely over. The images: Houses built on stilts standing cranelike in the manglares. A welter of people following donkeys down to corner markets. People standing on the curves of roads. Tall hills and low trees. White ibis and cranes ducking their bills into the mud that squeezes between their talons. Blue sky mostly leaking through a few low clouds.
But more than that, the heat, the skin on my back, the changes inside me. I smell the world flapping around—first, hot earthy water, then the chicken-truck as it passes us by. The smell of hundreds of chicken butts riding out over the edges. Then the banana plantations—not the smell of bananas, but of trees, of trees. The quick smell of a brushpile bonfire. The smell of fertilizer in a field. My sunscreen (which worked inadequately, by the way)—Hawaiian tropical. Chicken legs roasting on a barbeque. Heat, smell, wind, no fever, brushing the insides clean away from the city that makes me so angry and furious, so wound up and tight and marea alta. The sensation of plastic waving and reflecting. These changes, these changes.
I do not ask myself who I am while riding—big-smiled, burned, soft-skinned, and breathing something ininin through my nose and out through my mouth—on the back of a truck.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
To the Love of My Life
You were the first on stage, in a group of Geisha women, your eyebrows painted apostrophes at the end and beginning of words I could only imagine. Your mouth, large lipped, but it’s the teeth I keep coming back to, teeth with a small gap in between them, rounded and soft like there is no language you couldn’t twist suave and full as you press the syllables between your tongue and the hard calcium of your life.
You were the first on stage, and you were chewing gum even though you were part of a Japanese Geisha show, wrapped in kimono with apostrophes above those eyes that anyone, absolutely anyone, could fall into and find reefs full of coral and blowfish and silver darting runners. I wanted to tell you I’m taking a dive course this weekend. Would that make a difference? I watched your mouth take two or three well-selected chews on the gum, and I giggled to see you do that. Then you must have swallowed.
And I know you are a drag queen, and that technically speaking, you like men. But I’d like you to consider becoming a lesbian. Please think on it. You should know that you are more woman than I’ve seen in a long time, and I’d be willing to be your fag hag (I’d even put on make-up for you, darling) or your man (I’d work out) or the father-mother to your delicate little child. You are the only creature who could make me turn hetero again, dear, but you and I would both know how that would only be a technical label, and not the reality of our little androgynous love affair.
Your Geisha dance turned techno before too long and you seemed somewhat uncomfortable transitioning between slow sexy and rigid Geisha twitchings. I thought of that movie—the one with Claire Danes and the gay opera singer—when the gay opera singer was saying how he knew all these positions that indicate “Woman.” The rigid supplication handhold. The sadness arm overlap. I wanted to tell you, my love, to stop trying so hard, and then you listened because all of a sudden you weren’t a guy anymore, but a woman so wicked-smiling and naughty. You were spinning with your stomach rolling outwards, wrapping your small hands on your thighs, and you knew we were watching you. This is the hallmark of women: the knowledge of who is looking (perhaps we call it intuition, but it is something you can see on a woman’s face at times).
I stared up at you in the center of the crowd, and maybe you would tell me that you were staring at the man next to me, but I know you sensed the full amaze of my desire and were really looking at me. I saw your eyes keep coming back. I saw you wonder who that white girl was who was staring at you. I saw you feel flattered and smile at me. I saw your wily female flirtation spin across the floor at me.
After watching you, my love, I felt dizzy. I lost my dancing mojo. Normally, it is hard for me to lose this sass, but I felt all my attention run upwards to my gaze, and all the motion leave my legs. I needed to sit down. I needed to breathe slow and watch you.
I also need to mention here that the little white boy with the pageboy haircut was really obnoxious. Have you noticed how his shoulders are much much wider than his anorexic hips? How he has no carne fresca (como la tuya, mi cariño) on his thighs? He’s not good enough for you, dear, and you needn’t have encouraged him just to not hurt his feelings. He’ll be fine: I heard him speaking English and really, if he’s American like he looks like, he’ll probably be back in San Francisco before too long. And besides, he was effeminate, but I do that better than he, plus I have the whole macho thing down pretty well too when I want to. He’s really a pale comparison.
If you need further encouragement, you should think about how I was the first person on the dance floor, how everyone was hovering around on the edges like it was some goddamn junior-high supervised dance-party, and until I got out there with my gorgeous tattoo and my swinging hips and flurried hair, nobody was dancing, but then fifteen minutes later, the floor was full of fags curling up around me, spinning me, smiling at me, and mouthing the words “First I was afraid, I was petrified…”
Yes, I would learn all the words to your affirmational drag songs. I would come to your every show and hover on the borders of the stage, mouth open, eyes only for you.
And if you’re worried that your friends would make fun of you for hooking up with an American lesbian, consider how in love with me they were. How gayboys the whole dance floor over were pressing Redbull’s into my hands and looking me up and down with an “mmm-hmmm, girl.” Truth told, I could pass for a drag-queen too… just think of how meaty my upper arms are: the sure sign of a male in costume. The only person I’d dress in high heels for, darling, is you though. But I’d do it. If you were worried about your friends.
To finish this love letter that I am pressing into my eyes and emitting versus high-frequency gaydar-compatible radio waves, I will say just once more: I have fallen in love with you. When I told that cute little Columbian fag that you were the most beautiful of the drag queens, I didn’t mention how much I loved you. I didn’t tell him that I wanted to stare at you endlessly, and couldn’t he just move a little to the left? I didn’t mention that I was not kidding, that even though it appeared ridiculous and inexplicable, it was nevertheless, extremely true.
Oh, how I wish I could go up and press myself between you and that obnoxious little pageboy anorexic who was dancing with you after you shed your Geisha and put on your punk-girl outfit and swirled your butt so extremely naturally and convincingly. How I wish I could press my fingers to that mouth you purposely used to beguile me.
Instead, I woke up three times last night thinking of you. I dreamt of interactions we never had, soulful moments of Seeing each other. I picked myself up out of bed, went to the bathroom, and then returned, telling myself to find a more realistic dream. Like one where I am floating on the outer recesses of the solar system in a high-riding skirt with mesh stockings that slide right on up to my bikini red underwear…
Saturday, July 16, 2005
a toast to the ones...
may your nights be full of bats. may the bats sweep along the river and free the water loose and mellow. may rats jump out at your sister and make her jump three feet until the laugh hits and makes you roll. may your bladder fill and strain against its pocket until you find an empty lot, squat, and tell yourself that all the lush twitter of leaves are actually lizards and not rats. may all the guards nod at you, call you bonita. may dead bluebirds erupt from under your feet, suddenly reanimated at the thought of your sadness. may you ignore the shouts of all the people who will turn your evening, take it into their hands, and tell you why the world is to be feared and not loved for all its rusted metallic 4am scent. may you.. may you..
Thursday, July 14, 2005
He says to focus and finish, finish and focus. But rather than this (I know I will have to finish some of these one day), I usually have about four stories going on at once, all of which drag on (usually until I get bored). Yes, that is what is happening, and so I thought I'd put up another one of the stories I've been working on.
This one I think is about 1/2 to 1/3 done. It's a short story, unlike "Swallow." This is the one that I use to be sarcastic and biting about life when I need to do so. I hope to finish it soon and paste the rest up here for you consumers of my little crazy mind....
When Jose Luis—the only man Errol depended on for extreme villainy and petty theft—fell fast in love with the thirty-first woman he mugged, Errol felt everything slide away from him with the frenetic energy of a house caught on the downside of an undermined cliff. Later, a pissed-off and egregiously-victimized Errol would think about that moment, trying to decide which detail set the occurrence just on one side of inevitable, instead of simply the possible. Was it the t-shirt, a black rag with the Boy Scouts insignia on the left breast, that Errol had found in a free-bin and given to Jose Luis because it promoted irony, but was still too large for Errol’s slight frame? Perhaps that was the tiny detail that screwed up Errol’s life forever; never prone to homoerotic thought, Errol knew for certain that Jose Luis’s tattoo, subtly creeping out of the right sleeve, caught the black hue of that shirt and glimmered in a way that was considerably attractive, particularly to high-strung white girls in a crunch. Errol could never be sure, and possibilities like these left him wondering if perhaps the whole incident was his fault. And the result was, endless such details comprised the bulk of his thoughts for an extremely lengthy period of sulk.
From this later vantage point, the evening seemed to start off the right way. Errol had been knocking about the video arcades most of the day, and was starting to feel the profound weariness of having glued eyes to a screen that disappeared each second, only to be continuously replenished by slightly modified screens, transitions that were somehow dependent on one flick of the finger, one twist of the hand. Errol loved this light motion, although he would have had a hard time pinning this love of the arcade on any particular moment of achievement or catharsis. Perhaps it was simply the sensation that if, at any moment, a film director caught on the wrong side of this humming Bville metropolis, happened to wander into the arcade looking for directions, he might note Errol’s primed musculature, his inner focus and drive, and perhaps Errol’s high scores, and thus offer him a job, or at least a spot on a new game-show that featured beautiful gamers in their milieu.
Despite the recurring fantasy, Errol’s interest in the game was beginning to wane when Jose Luis walked by the arcade window toting what distinctively looked like a forty wrapped within a carefully squeezed brown paper bag.
“Now that,” Errol said, slapping the side of his machine, “Is what I was looking for.” This being said, he grabbed his seven remaining quarters from the edge of the game and ran out the door, taking only the time to slap a thirteen year old on the head as he passed him. “Fucker.”
Running to catch up with Jose Luis, Errol watched the gait of his friend: the low pants riding the knee-line, the black leather belt strapped loosely, allowing sufficient room for hitch, and the new rag-shirt draped casually over a pair of Simpsons boxers. Jose Luis was recognizable anywhere, not for the adherence to fashioned cliché, but for his specific guided aimlessness as he approached various sections of the sidewalk. While Bville, a small outback north of Seattle, tended to produce acned boys with wicked-bad pants, Jose Luis threw new light with his disingenuous propensity to step off the sidewalk into busy intersections and then look up startled as fingers flew around him. Errol, who was more like the spotted apple lying nonchalantly close to the local tree born down with fungi, was a great admirer of Jose Luis’s idiosyncratic luminescence, and he especially bowed down to all the words Luis used, words that seemed quite intelligent enough to scorch the ink off the local college students’ theses. This verbal genius was also compounded with more genuine punk macho than any of the other cabrónes within such a small and lost little town.
Errol practically swooned under the idea of becoming, or perhaps just growing into, some micro-version of such reality-escaping high, and he took every possible opportunity to follow Jose Luis, just as he was doing now, although he would rather have committed a diver’s seppuku by throwing himself down a steep bluff, than admit, via action or verbalization, the true extent of his platonic adoration. As he made the last sprint to finally catch up with Jose Luis, he leapt into the air and slammed Jose Luis’s back, almost knocking the forty out of Luis’s hands.
“Shit, Errol, fuck-you man.” Jose Luis did not even need to look up to know that it was Errol utilizing the masculine teenager’s form of hugging. Sliding off the sidewalk, he handed over the paper bag and shook his head. Errol noticed right away that Luis’s eyes were rimmed red, and wondered whether they might be able to make an evening out of it. Something stirred harder, the winter hours slipping feline into alignment, cold and echoing, some good shiznit going down.
Before the unfortunate incident that Errol was to later endlessly analyze, Jose Luis and Errol had been enjoying themselves quite a bit, frolicking in nightly anarchy, garage music, tattoos, and philosophies that Jose Luis understood, but that Errol thrived under, and Errol had developed a taste for it, perhaps an urge to backfill mines that could not be filled unless they were doing—not that the doing lead anywhere, but that staying still was cause for panic, as if Bville could, if it chose, eat the world, and Errol needed to keep hitting new spots, finding new folks to mess with, to not be swallowed too. Errol took a drag from the paper bag, churning the piss-thin beer as far into gut as possible.
From here, the night seemed to stay on track, although Errol would sometimes tweak one action or another to see if he could just re-adjust history enough to make things a little bit better, for himself of course.
Jose Luis and Errol finished their beer, and although it was a pleasant size for two teenage boys both under the ideal height of six-foot, it was not quite enough fill their expectations of sufficiently drunken debauchery. After the forty, their actions turned into a game of hunt-the-alcohol as they ended up pacing the downtown area, stopping at two gas stations where they tried to bribe several unfortunately-idealistic customers to break the exceedingly unreasonable alcohol laws and buy them several more beers. The fact that these folks all turned Errol and Jose Luis down, even under a potential ten-dollar influx into their wallets, showed that even the most suited of Pacific Northwesterners (as indeed, three or four were) truly had no solid sense of supply-demand ethics. Jose Luis and Errol started to get frustrated.
Truth be told, each of them had their different reasons for wanting to get shnockered beyond belief. A good shnockering was really the height of ambition for most boys their age—an almost-universal characteristic that doesn’t truly change until boys hit their mid-twenties and find different forms of ambition to keep them busy until they realize that their passionately adhered-to ambition was really formed under a tight denial of their inevitable demise, and thus revert back to their teenage goal of achieving a good shnockering, only this time with different deterrents to finding alcohol (such as a “good” job, a “good” wife, or maintaining “good” health). But despite this, Errol just wanted to get drunk because it seemed like a good change, a means of driving off the ennui, and something great fun to do with his platonically-adored friend Jose Luis.
Jose Luis, however—and it must be admitted that Errol truly had no idea about what was going on in his beloved’s head—was at the moment undergoing an admirable existential crisis. A few astute observations on Jose Luis:
You might be inclined to notice his name and wonder if he is Mexican, if his family was a poor immigrant one, and whether he was suffering under the burden of a society that eats immigrants for scapegoating fodder. Although the latter was certainly true, the former two were not. Jose Luis was partially Colombian and his family—indeed his grandfather—had escaped Columbia right before the major perception became that Columbians were nothing but drug-traffickers or thugs. In fact, this grandfather was a bookbinder in Columbia, and had simply run out of work, as Gabriel Garcia Marquez had not yet become popular and things were a little economically tough in his homeland. So, he moved to the land of opportunities, married a poor German woman, fathered a half-European daughter who then insisted on naming her one-fourth Latin son after a book-binding grandfather who had died when she was quite young.
As a result, Jose Luis had the name, and he also had most of the skin—he was slightly darker than most of his classmates, and also had dark eyes and hair. This, coupled with a sneaky Pacific-Northwest subliminal, but ferociously denied, dislike of anyone who could potentially not speak in an unaccented English (although British and Australian were cute), meant that Jose Luis had grown up under a pressure to meet Standard. Grade-A Latin boy standard. The Granola and Redneck of the county joined forces in Jose Luis’s Ferndale school system, and simply expected him to dance.
The dance was something like a salsa, combined with handkerchief-wrapped gang warfare.
The Granola were entranced and supportive. They would ask Jose Luis if he was bilingual (he was not), and then cluck their tongues in sadness over the lost cultural inheritance. The girls would both secretly want him to take them out, pay for all their meals, open doors for them, whisper delicates about their twinkling blue eyes, then spin them silly in dances of one-two-three, and also be scared that he was going to pressure them hard like a Latin man. Because he was handsome, no denying that. And so their actions, the actions of the granola, would be to overtly support him, while secretly convincing themselves that their support meant that they were him. This little imaginative denial gave them a brief window of opportunity to shirk their boring, moderately evil, certainly non-artistic, white, related to “the Man,” hegemonic heritage, in favor of something that let them off of the historic-responsibility charts. Pretending to be a real live “minority” could be so relieving sometimes.
The rednecks, on the other hand, had a slightly more honest approach to friendship, if not more admirable. For their parts, they would simply steer away from Jose Luis—avert their eyes, their friendship, their dialogues just to the corner of the room that Jose Luis was not in. For the most part, Pacific-Northwest rednecks would tuck their hats further down upon their head, look the other direction, and mutter very inaudibly under their breath about “speaking English or getting out” and “soccer, a pussy version of football.” They weren’t interested, didn’t act interested, and felt no pressure to appease a half-century’s worth of using Jose Luis’s direct relatives as cheap migrant labor to fill their capitalistic pockets, in part because they couldn’t even imagine themselves a part of some smoothly-oiled capitalistic machine. Their responsibility, as they felt it, was to make their life work as best as possible, and they didn’t have time to feel bad about anything but cheating on their spouses or drinking too much.
All of this, whether resulting in hospitality or not, had a crisp sort of irony for Jose Luis, particularly at this time of his life—seventeen and simply waiting for school to be done with—due to the little fact that he grew up in what was decidedly an upper-middle class household. He had no brothers or sisters, his family was no longer Catholic, and his father was a seventh- or eighth- generation American business-owner, who had a rather prosperous lumberyard that catered more to Seattleites than to the local residents. Jose Luis grew up in a house with five bedrooms, a once-a-week maid (Latin to show patronage), and two educated parents. His room had a large-screen television, a computer, the latest video games, and also some windsurfing paraphernalia, and the garage held Jose Luis’s unused Mazda Miata, which got admirable gas mileage that meant the hundred-dollar allowance Jose Luis was given to keep it in gas was no problem.
But all of this was in direct contrast to the dance. The dance he was asked to do. And for quite some time now, Jose Luis, with the enlisted assistance of Errol, had been stealing and thieving, drinking and fighting, and in general living up to what seemed to be the forced expectations of everyone around him. This wasn’t because Jose Luis was an easily manipulated boy, but rather because he was profoundly exhausted.
Actually, the transition had happened two years ago when a teacher Jose Luis had a crush on lived up to the title, and crushed him bad. To keep it short, there is inevitably a time in a boy’s life when they fall in love with a pretty teacher. They have to do it, or they will never ever develop the appropriate respect for women. This rite of passage allows the boy to acknowledge women’s extreme potential for brilliance (even if what they are admiring are some legs), while meeting some high expectations of student/lover behavior themselves. This particular crush, however, ended up with a bitchy former-sorority girl, who was desperately pleading with her god to get her out of the Ferndale school district, to accuse Jose Luis of cheating, kick him out of her class, fail him, and call his parents and tell them that they had raised a morally reprehensible boy, just because a granola had cheated off of Jose Luis’s paper and Jose Luis had also brought an apple to his crush. The former-sorority girl teacher convinced herself that the apple was a mortal insult to her, a slimy smile after an intellectual rape, and thus slapped poor Jose Luis harder than even a cheat might have deserved. And of course, this slick-haired Mexican boy was the cheat, a thought that wasn’t even challenged in this slightly stupid teacher’s head.
As a result, the very intelligent Jose Luis got pissed off. And decided that it was time to re-align this County’s ethical and financial status quo.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Even if it is lovely being out alone on the coast, it’s just a bit too much when the manager of the hostel you’re staying in tells you that she is leaving town, and could you take in the hammocks when you’re done and lock up? And pay now, before she leaves.
Very trusting, but not what I was completely in for. I was hoping for some solitude after being very busy with people for a couple of weeks, but I was thinking more like 80% solitude, 20% pool-playing or beach-talking, rather than the complete isolation. So, I come back home Sunday afternoon rather than Monday morning as I had projected.
As soon as I get home, I run to the kitchen; I am actually quite famished after seven hours with no food. My eating schedule has evened out a bit over the last three months, and I am no longer having my first meal at 5pm, but am instead having the three regular meals a day. These meals have taken quite the same amount of skirmish that the Coffee-Leche Wars have taken, but they seemed to have found their keel as well.
A note on Ecuadorian cuisine: if you don’t like rice, eating in Ecuador will be the equivalent to visiting the ring in hell associated with gluttony. Ug. I do love sushi, but other than that, I am not a rice fan. I thought everything would be great, because I love Mexican food, but Ecuadorian food is absolutely nothing like Mexican food. It is mostly rice, rice, rice with the addition of slabs of fairly bland meats, soups with far too much oil and not enough seasoning (I finally baulked and refused to eat the “milk soup” with milk, oil, potatoes and pasta noodles). In general, it is a culture of far too many carbohydrates supplemented with meat protein. As of yet, ceviche—a cold soup with cilantro, onions, peppers, lime, and seafood—is really the only exception: something with flavor!
I have noticed that, especially among the wealthy, this diet has resulted in some weight issues. Ecuador is not really a thin culture. This isn’t entirely due to the diet itself, but the quantity of food. At first, when they served me rice, they would load down my whole goddamn plate with the stuff, and then drop a cut of meat on the side and call it a meal. Their goal seemed to be comparable to that of Gretel’s witch. Fatten me up. They would even look at me and talk about it, like I couldn’t understand what they were saying! Give her more! Part of the problem is that Big Tom is their model for American diet, and he is not a tiny fellow. I found myself saddled with meals the same size as a man’s who weighs over a hundred pounds more than me.
So, I had to grind in my heels, just as I had to do with the coffee, only it was somewhat easier: I just didn’t eat half of what they fed me. I did this pointedly. When they asked me if I wanted seconds, I looked at them like they were crazy, and at first, said no, and later, said something more like “ugggggggg.” This is a technique I’ve learned from listening both to Denise, the local 7-year old, whose favorite phrase is, “Este no me gusta; tu lo sabes bien,” which must be said in the most whiny tone of voice possible, and her mother, who is also a bit whiny.
I compromise by simply being honest. When they ask me if I like something, and I don’t, I will say “No.” It seems so easy… Sometimes, if I am not asked, I will say it anyways: “No mas gracias. No es mi favorito.” And, on the other hand, if something catches my interest, I will make a big deal about it. “Mmmmmmmmm, Mmmmmmm, Mmm!”
Through this, and a tricky series of negotiations involving me pointing out my adoration of the local specialty, which they take entirely for granted—fruit!—and also my love of vegetables and salads, I am finally down to the following consistent diet: Bread, cheese, coffee, and fruit for breakfast; their chosen infliction for lunch; and a chef salad for dinner.
Some of this was managed when Lola opened up the conversation by asking me (ME!) how she should go about losing weight. At first, I laughed at her, but when I saw she was serious I told her “dolor del corozon,” which she found funny enough to chuckle over for a few hours. But then I thought about it, and decided that it was a moment to attack and use the question ruthlessly. So, I told her about balancing rice with the other important food groups like fruit and vegetables. I told her you could never eat too many vegetables. I told her that I loved vegetables.
I did, however, refrain from telling her that if she wanted to lose her cute pregnancy-style belly, she might try not eating the leftovers, or indeed the non-leftovers, to everything she cooked. I also refrained from telling her that watching the help reach their unwashed hands into your food and pick rice or tuna to put in their mouth and chew wide-opened with much smacking and slurping was also an aid to weight loss. That woman eats bits of everything and then amuses me by asking how to lose weight! I think she looks fine, though—she is really not overweight at all—but I did take the chance to put in some bids for food other than rice.
Ever notice that rice looks somewhat like a pile of maggots that sat out in the sun a bit too long?
Back to the story. I got home on Sunday night starving and ran straight to the kitchen. But Lola was nowhere in sight. Instead, Norma was there, and the first thing she said was “There’s no food. You said you weren’t coming back until tomorrow.”
Considering that all I wanted was a peanut butter sandwich or something, I felt so very very welcomed back. I know I shouldn’t have been so irritated, but her tone was accusatory, and this is the only home I’ve got at the moment. I told her it wasn’t important and fixed myself a sandwich, which was, afterall, all that I wanted. But a few hours later she rousted me out of my room and served me, as is her very stubborn want, a massive pile of rice, bland beans, cucumbers (which I’ve never been fond of, but am starting to hate… as it is their understanding of “salad”), and an unseasoned pork chop slap-deposited on the tippy top of the rice. Ug.
A quick note on Norma: she is La Duena. She is the very prototypical upper-class matriarch of the house. Her mission is to protect and badger. To give unsolicited and well-intentioned advice. She would do anything for any of her boarders, and nod precisely and importantly when people tell her things. She speaks slowly and always understands what I’m saying. She also has a habit of calling me “la nina” and treating me as such, despite the fact that I’m approaching thirty.
An example is when I asked if she would call Budget Cars for me and let them know that I was going to pick up the car later than I said—around 9pm (an hour before they close), instead of 10am. She called them, repeated about five times that she was calling for me because I spoke such exceptionally horrible Spanish (which is opposite of what she tells me to my face, and which is a phrase that I can understand just as well as everything else she said), and then re-arranged my pick up time for 6pm. When I asked why so early, she told me that renting a car was a very long process, very arduous, and I would need the extra time, and also Budget said they frequently close up earlier than their advertised closing time. So, I sighed and went with A to pick up the car at 6, only to run through the process in 15 minutes and have these incredibly efficient good workers tell me that no, they did indeed always close at 10pm prompt. So, Norma inserts her opinion, and as a result, I had to drive back home, then drive back to the airport at 10pm to pick up my mother.
That’s Norma. She’ll do whatever you need with good cheer and loving help, but will always change things to what she knows is better.
Lola, on the other hand, is my girl. She speaks a hard-to-understand country dialect that has us grasping to understand each other most of the time. We are now used to the “que, que” repetition. At first, she would never repeat herself, but would instead look at me like I’m crazy. But now she slows down, rephrases, and translates everything for me. We understand each other just fine most of the time. And now that the Leche Wars have been resolved with a filtering system (my job is to set up the pot, her job is to pour in the water and bring me a mug—a division of labor that somewhat satisfies both of our urges to “do our own work”), we spend quite a bit of time chatting and everything.
The thing about Lola is that she is exactly what you are looking at. We are completely exotic creatures to each other. Her life will never change and will never be laden with some Huge Need for Meaning. She accepts things that I could never accept, and I live a life she could never fathom unless she saw it someplace on a television set. She stares at me openly all the time, stares and stares, and I can just see the wheels rolling. Even my mom and A commented on the stares.
Big Tom has a way of putting things too bluntly; for example when he said, “In this world, you are someone who is larger than life. And she is someone who will always be in the negatives.” While I disagree on the fundamental Buddhist principle of the statement, I see what he is getting at. She is the worker who will disappear into the darkness of unspoken history, as Amitava Kumar puts it. Whereas I am someone who will travel the planet, write, study, have exceptional friends, and exceptional opportunities. I am starting to accept that about myself: that my life is unusual and needs to stay marked that way for me to do what I need to do. Maybe I’m started to see, if not completely understand or accept, the responsibility of privilege.
So, Lola and I are quite different. And that difference explains why she is my friend, whereas Norma and I are nodders-in-the-hallway.
Although I know much of the help (for example, the two women who do the laundry) are quite intelligent and sharp, I know Lola is neither of these. Not only is Lola the most uneducated person I’ve met, she is also the “simplest” I’ve met without speaking of developmental disabilities. Please don’t call me mean; I say it with no evaluation, only simple observation. She has her own cleverness, I guess. One of such is that she can negotiate well for prices. I’ve seen her push the arm of a fruit-vendor from her shoulder, and demand 3 dollars less on a 6-dollar purchase. But I’ve also seen her do the strangest permutations in the world of coffee, food, cleaning, not to mention some of the trouble she gets herself into with Norma.
Gossip has it that about a year ago, Lola ran off with a man, and when she called to report her action, she refused to talk to Norma, but instead insisted on talking to Mariola, Norma’s daughter. But then a few months later she came back… a mystery I’ve been curious of. Now, she is a forty-year old woman who carries this sadness in her eyes that she never achieved the only real thing that lower-class women here believes they can Achieve: marriage and a family.
Lola also cannot read, and so has taken to handing me the newspaper and having me read her horoscope. She is a Pisces, a swimmer girl like the one I’ve branded on my arm (yet another cause for extreme curiosity and incomprehension). I actually enjoy reading the horoscopes, and so will also read my own aloud as well as my Mother/Sister/Sarah’s. We then discuss what it means, Lola laughing at my sarcastic interpretations, and me laughing at Lola laughing.
Right now, Lola has this niece visiting from the country who is 14-years old and driving me to distraction. She is like a mini-Lola who has not yet learned the ways of diplomacy. She peers into my window and watches me move about my room until I notice her, jump a foot, and tell her not to do that! She also stares and me and asks me many many questions that I have a hard time understanding due to the country-dialect. She also likes laughing at me.
Last night, I came in and they were watching this obsession-worthy channel where they have these very plain looking Ecuadorians dancing on home-video quality stock along the beaches to home-sung songs. Always salsa, and the dancers are okay, but really not that good… And so, seeing this, I started to dance around the kitchen for a while, making fun of the TV-dancers. To which Lola and her niece laughed uproariously and then begged me to keep dancing when my ego finally caught up to me and asked me what the hell I was doing.
For them, I am TV come alive. I am the American soap opera. Or America’s Funniest Home Videos. This is the job they have planted on me. How odd!
But when you consider: I go to the beach at least every other week. Or travel to the jungle, or fly from distant countries, or go out and party on the weekends. I spend hours writing and reading. Whereas, Lola never leaves, except on Sundays when she goes to church with her family and then goes to her sister’s restaurant and eats some food before coming home in the early evening. She has never flown, never driven, never read a book. She makes about $150 a month if her salary is consistent with every other maid’s in Ecuador. She lives in a little back room, and if you want to get to it, you have to go through the cat shed to get there (and she’s allergic to cats). Her niece tells me her room has no window.
And yet, Lola usually is smiling. She asks me questions about my age, my sister, my family, my job, my male friends. She badgers me weekly about boyfriends (not giving advice, but asking with complete incredulity why, oh why, oh why, I do not have one). She is endlessly amused at my escapades, and treats me so kindly. I’ve noticed she’s a bit mischievous and subtly teases the owners, and me, when she can. But never maliciously.
She never complains, even though I know she wishes for her own life.
When she gets back Sunday evening, after I’ve been fed my hated rice, she sits down and gives me some strawberry yogurt. The next day she gives me a mini-pile of rice, instead of the quantity that will be neglected. She asks me about my journey, why I came home early. Her eyes smile at me. She pays attention to me, my needs, as if it’s her real, and not just paid, job. Sometimes I feel bad, like I am participating in the slave trade somehow, and this is just a modern mammy speaking to me. And so, I remind myself, each time, every single second of the time, fighting through any inch of self-entitlement that I might bear tight in my occidental brain, to never stop noticing how extraordinarily… what is it?… thoughtful I must be about the beyond-gifts of my life.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
la noche de association libre
I’ll go. Yes, I’ve admitted to myself. How the hell am I going to survive in Chicago, yet another big city with concrete?
I walk on the beach. It takes so damn long to actually focus on what’s around me. I’m too busy burrowing into my past, my friend’s heads I never see, my anger, my loneliness, my sadness, my conversations with self. I come up with some good lines:
N, I thought of you when the bus rolled past the town with all the rows and rows of boats stacked up upon the sand that churns with camarones y ceviches y pulpo y cangrejo. I wanted you here with me, sitting right next to me. I could point out to you. We could laugh and find a place to get a margarita and we would climb everything around us, because climbing is what we do together. We scale. We are the scale, really. We reach right up and thought talking cha and it works and life works and I find such a relief, and when I’m thinking about it in a panic, I calm down when I remember we can talk cha yeah with no drunken problems.
ER, will you forgive me for making you my salvatory thought when I write the novel that was saved from my innards by the shear overwhelming force of the fact that you love me?
AL, I dreamt of you last night and you were Vietnamese. When did you become Vietnamese?
A-W, I sent you dreams. Yes. Images. I walk on the beach, the sand under toes. I have been tipping the bottle again, and my feet seem so lovely and the sand has little ripples and I think of how sad you’ve been and how I loved and love watching you dance. The clearest vision: you dancing with a chair. You stand on it, your jeans rolled up to your knees, and you have this bounce. The Bounce of Confidence. And I think of how badly I want to pound anyone who put The Bounce at risk. I think of riding the buses with you, the rhododendron garden, of how much I need you. I think of the stories you tell, over again, I like hearing them over again. I remember when you were obsessed with an old friend of your family who had aerial shots of England taken in WW2 and how you wanted to take them and store them, and he had stories that you were, and are going, to make real, and how you are of my soul, and how there are those out there who are of my soul and how you are a writer, and that spirit of yours so sensitive and tuned and now injured hurt and I want to reach out and tell you that you are so wonderful with Bounce and I need you to be well. Yes, we should be well. So, I send you images, I particularly place them in your dreams and I hear me saying in the future: “Do you remember the image from you dreams of the ripples in the sand as the Ecuadorian waves washed over everything?” I hear your response of “yes,” (which pleases me), and “no,” to which I chastise you and tell you to practice remembering each and every part of all your thousands of nightly dreams, so that you remember I sent you an image.
S, I ache. I ache. I try to put the thumb down, but can’t figure out why or where? I heard your name again today and it ached me all over again.
There are too many conversations. I figure the line: “I come away from almost every interaction with you feeling like I’ve been varnished in cow dung. Anybody have sandpaper?”
Sometimes when things are broken, they need fixing. But who are the fixers of the bridges burned down? Yes. I whine to myself. Maybe the states of existence are as follows: pretense, poor pretense, filling up someone else’s hold, ache, self-pretense, out-of-body, and connection. I wonder how it is possible to move from a weekend like the one in the jungle to the week like the one I just went through, where most of my thoughts are pure misery and I have to remind myself that the week is nearly over. Life should really involve more balance. I think about the factors:
Balance. Clear Vision. Sense of Direction. No Fear…. Odd. I used to have all but the last, now I have none but the last.
Of the four, I really must start at home. Life should not be an act of teetering. I think about it, and as I do, I walk past a child’s playground. There are three teeter-totters, and I want to play. But all I can do, since I’m pacing the Manglaralto late-night, is notice how, of everything on the playground, the teeter-totter is the only thing you absolutely can’t do by yourself. Odd, that. All you can do is basically sit on the goddamn ground.
I think about the sense of direction. Should I decide today how many words I’m going to write? Make it happen? How many short stories? How many lovers I should take? People to kiss? Friends to make? All that jazz. I decide instead that my s / d is: surprise myself as much as is feasible for one lifetime.
Clear vision: this depends on how the rain murks the water. But what is as consistent as mud is the mirror. I once heard that wisdom is understanding others, but enlightenment is understanding the self. I feel wise these days. Old and wise. Practically creaking. But I’m about as enlightened as a baby ripping its way from the womb. How is this even feasible? Is it a fool who thinks they can see one way with seeing the other?
What I decide: I am walking, thinking. I write bitter bitter dialogue. I edit my bitter bitter dialogue because truth is not truth unless it brings something bigger. Otherwise it is destruction and half-story. Nothing is more destructive than half the vision, half the sight. The imagination only thinks it can fill in the rest, but it really needs to stop and think.
I decide that bitter bitter dialogue is shredding me up. Batman has it right: my fear, the fear that is left, is of my own anger. Will it tear me into pieces? When will it ever give me back my head? When will it move past itself?
All I know is: Puedo hablar. Si, yo estaba escuchando a una mujer hoy, y a veces tuve que preguntarla repetir una oracion, pero despues entendi. Y si no puedo hablar tanto, no importa, porque puedo escuchar y entender mucho mas cada dia. No me parecen ya que el espanol tiene tantas palabras que no conocen. Es la verdad que estoy una ignoramus, pero puedo appreder todo un dia. Porque no? Why not? I now have conversations with myself in Spanish… why not? I say them outloud, to myself, my mouth moving at the sheer lovemaking that thinking another language entails.
All I know is: I am walking at night in a town in the dusty dusty campo of a place I never grew up in, never expected, never asked for, and I am going back to my hostel, grabbing my camera and walking drunk all over this town at 2am taking the pictures that will make this head realize what it needs to realize.
All that is not: Rules. Fines. Laziness. BS. Inert dialogue. People fucking with each other. Lies and manipulations. Sadness. Silence.
All that is: Lines. Jumble. Limping one-eared donkeys. Dogs barking. Teenage boys sprawled on the concrete of the town square playing cards for shots. Dogs pretending I don’t see them. Plastic bottles in puddles. Concrete piles. Words. Che. Men tossing empty propane tanks with a clang into an empty lot. The Waves. Me by myself, here, sharing my head. My friends everywhere else, sharing their head. Images. Light slicing blending humping hiding the dark. Pine needle webs. Cats sitting on slats. Woven hammocks. Coconut bundles. Infinite inwards.
Isla de Plata
I asked my students this week: What is it like to know that thousands of tourists the whole world wide come to visit your country for one reason only: a plastic-looking bird with crazy caffeinated eyes that at one time must have toured Willy Wonka’s factory and eaten the forsaken gum? That’s right, folks. The blue-footed booby. Let us reflect for a second on how this creature must have earned its name. A booby. In case you’re wondering, that is not Spanish for “beautiful” or “exotic” or anything of the like.
Our guide was particularly prone to make ill-advised jokes with no timing or humor about various Isla objects, and his favorite seemed to be some sort of joke about creating a stuffed animal booby. “Instead of a teddy bear, you’d have a teddy booby.” For a second, I thought that he was making a weak stab at the teddy-negligee connection before deciding that was just a little too complex for his broken English. His Spanish jokes were slightly better, but only just slightly.
Back to the question. My students looked at me puzzled. I asked them if they felt like dipping their feet in Kool-aid. Or if they were male, learning how to deposit sticks at the feets of their loved ones whenever some feelings were hurt. Or if they were female, how to tilt their head back and open their beaks wide. My students did tilt their heads and look at me like I was, indeed, some wacko who had no comprehension of their country whatsoever. I didn’t feel like correcting them.
As for my mother, I do feel that her journey was made complete by having seen this one particular type of bird that seemed to enjoy sitting in irritable twosomes right in the center of dusty scratched out openings with encircling shit to keep the insects from eating their eggs. As for me, I was rather nervous about their eyes, and felt that they couldn’t possibly be real, but were instead part of some economic planning on the part of high-ranking robotics engineers within the Ecuadorian government’s tourist brigade. Clever, that.
All in all, it was an enjoyable trip though. I was coming down with the “my vacation is ending” blues, but I did enjoy the humpback whales breaching on the trip over to the island, as well as the promised 30-minute snorkeling that we had to beat out of our uninterested guide. There is always something irrefutable about hopping in cool water and looking at coral that doesn’t quite look like coral, and fish that flash bright colored.
On a related note, after the whole Visa-fine debacle, I have decided that I just can’t afford to go to the Galapagos. It just pressed my budget a little too tight and I’m panicking about Chicago and the fact that I have no job lined up to float me through the whole “need to eat” thing. But it seems a shame to leave Ecuador with such a disappointment on my back, so I decided that I will instead take that extra day’s vacation and do Something Else Valuable instead. In particular, the isla trip made me decide that I could instead sign up for a 5-day dive-training course, and do a few dives on the coast somewhere around here. So, we’ll see how that goes…
I asked my sister the other day if I was always so uptight, and she said yes, and I started wondering why I spend my life being so freaked out all the time and running from one wound-up state of affairs to another. I also realized that whenever my life is lacking in the stress department, I usually find a way to supplement it. Stress Supplement Pills. Life too boring? Go to your local hippie store, or perhaps a nearby S/M shop. Part of me thinks that I’m going to have to do something about This, or I’m going to have a heart attack by the time I’m forty. The other part of me points out that my blood pressure is fine, and maybe I just, in the end, after the scream, thrive on feeling life squeezing the little bitses out of me. (Within reason: I will never ask to repeat the end of my MA career).
So, the isla trip was the end of my journeying with mother and A. Remarkably, they made it back from all their solita driving without a ding or a car-jacking or any of the above, and now my mother is back home, and according to Chuck, going out and getting drunk with her friends and gossiping (I heard some really wonderful gossip, by the way. It made my day to get such good news. But then it was tempered by some saddening gossip about friends.) A, on the other hand, stayed around, but ran off to the NE of Ecuador mumbling about kayaking on jungle rivers and the such like. I will pretend that I don’t extremely dislike her. Extremely.
I, on the other hand, felt Very Pissy and decided to go back to the coast by myself, and that is how the weekend has continued. I have ended up at two hostels with no other people around, which is probably good because I am laden with student papers to grade and am feeling extraordinarily apathetic about grading them. People would be a little too cheerful and such. But I am feeling more relaxed and centered again. I took a walk into Montanita along the beach and found a mess of lovely shells, covered the hole to a sand crab and tried to wait until it dug itself out (either I’m impatient or I asphyxiated it, because I was disappointed), chatted it up with several people…
boy, folks, I really didn’t think it was going to happen this time, after 3 years away from Spanish, but I’m actually understanding almost everything that is said to me, or am able to ask for a rephrasing. My spoken Spanish is still pretty shoddy when I’m thinking about it, but it’s getting great when I’m not thinking about it… suave, bebe, suave…
bought some postcards, talked with Chuck and Nattie Gahn, who is back from the Vietnam/Laos sojourn, and then hoofed it back to sit in a hammock, grade, play pool by myself, and feel halfway between pleased to have a whole large space to myself and lonely for all these people I haven’t seen in ages and probably won’t see for ages more.
Some last thoughts before I leave:
When A and Mum were traveling in their car by themselves, they came upon a group of kids with a rope stretched out across the road. The kids would lift the rope and demand a toll for the crossing. Apparently Mum was cooing over how cute and precocious they were, whereas A was noting that the kids were also cursing them out. Sounds like future government workers to me…
The Military Man who stymied my plea to escape the poorly announced change in fine-system had pictures on his wall of himself parachuting, marching in formation (legs up high), and shooting at a range. Very Impressive. I felt the temperature of my eyeballs drop to below freezing and realized that if he looked at me, really looked at me, I could take him. I also thought for awhile on how appropriate it is for me, Little White Girl, to be facing such Visa-crap. Karmic balancing out the face of the world. All the little extra fines I get, the higher cab fares, the constant construction in my house, the honking of the cabbies fifty times a morning because I look wealthy enough to pay for their gas, the Evil Copy Center Woes—really they are just a start on the type of atonement that Brits and Americans are going to have to pay for centuries of lifetimes… It starts placing the difficulties of my illegal-students in California into perspective.
But I also have to remind myself that as soon as I get out of Guayaquil, the folks of Ecuador have been nothing but kind and generous to me, particularly spiritually. And my students are mostly lovely little imps. Mostly.
By the way, they caught me on the whole blog thing… asked me if I was planning on posting the poems I had them write. (I had fun on that quiz… they had to correctly capitalize and denote with quotation-marks/underline an imaginary poem title I gave them: what would you think of me if i stole your ugly little cat with the incessant yowls? Then, for extra credit, I told them they could write a six-line poem to go with the title. I was expecting some sarcasm, but received less that I thought I deserved.) I was, of course, planning on posting any good ones, but as soon as they asked me, I realized shame-facedly that it was not very Responsible Teacher Behavior on my part, and really they should post their own poems… so, alas, I will be a good girl from here on out.
…although… I told the maid, Lola, that I had written about her on my blog, just to see what she would say, which was not much of anything. I then told her that I should take her picture to also put on the blog, to which she also did not say too much. But the next day, she informed me very very seriously that she would be ready for a picture on Sunday. So… Who the hell knows what people think about Sharing Lives and Words? Pleased sometimes I guess to know that someone is seeing them, at least from one perspective…
Some people are like candy. Or daiquiris. Irresistible and suckling.
I’m not one of these.
Mosquitoes usually leave me the hell alone. I’ve seen others surrounded by them while they just disinterestedly float by me. They only other person I’ve met like this is my sister. It makes me wonder about the type of blood we’ve inherited. Garlic? Would we repel vampires in a similar fashion? Maybe my great great great grandmother was a Transylvanian vampire huntress who carried stakes hooked into her belt buckles and crossed spurs on her heals.
Blood not up for grabs. (Only when I give it to you).
But last night, the mosquitoes are getting me, and the battery has run down on the computer that I dragged kilometers to the beach, and the pluggin is wrong, and all the student papers are making me want to find a nice tall tree to climb, and then fall out of. I could go on a rampage like my first night. I could hunt down a party and make sweet love to borachos who can barely lick my chin.
I decide to sleep, but the mosquitoes are biting me, and this I am un-used to and incredible impatient with. How do others deal with this nuisance?
I pull down the netting, so very precious and fairytale. I tuck it into the bedframe, careful not to let the corners up so that I trap mosquitoes on the wrong side of the net. I then quickly lift up the edges and climb in.
And notice how… the mosquitoes alight on the outside of the netting, as if they could suck right through its mesh. I curl tighter into the center and read my book. I see shadows of mosquitoes and hear their peeved hummmm. I look up, wondering if one has slipped in. They are all nestled right above me. They are all looking at me, waiting for me to make a mistake in my sleep, roll right up to the edges of the net where they can stick their proboscis through the holes and reach me. I see it in their eyes.
I turn off the light and climb back into the bed quickly. The same way. I know they are still around me, and hope that one didn’t ride on my skin under the net. At least I can’t see them. But as I sit very carefully, right in the center of this barrier, not touching the sides, I think of how very very alone I am. How unexpectedly hurtable, breakable, drainable. The moonlight comes in from the window and casts mesh waves around me. I hear the humming. I feel strange. Very Awake. The only person in the world to be in this place.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
in principle, I think even one-hundred bucks is BS, but in practice, it's good enough for me...
(i got the powah)
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
about to explode
There is no stability. Right now i'm in an absolute fury because the Ecuadorian government changed its policy and notified us after the fact, moving a 50cent fine into a $200 fine for which I (surprise!) qualify, and my school is like, "oh bummer," you got your visa, registered your visa, did everything we told you to, but we didn't get that one last bit done in time... sorry about the couple hundred."
I feel like crying. I'm thinking about leaving.
In addition to this, they changed their copy-policies at the copy center. There are now 5 superior-administrators who have the Authority to sign-off on copies for the whole school. Add this to the fact that all the projectors are checked out during my class times, and basically what I have left are the options to send stuff to my students via email, or write everything up on the blackboard. Try negotiating 60 students and email. Try writing 500 words up on the blackboard. My students pay the same amount for this college as students in America do at a private school... hmmm... I wonder where all the money is? I wonder why they are telling me to suck up $200 while basically making it impossible to make $5 worth of copies.
This is not all. It's endless. Sludge sludge sludge. I feel like shredding. Walking away. Demonstrating to them what a "bummer" it is to lose a damn good teacher in the middle of a quarter with no notice.
Is it reasonable to expect to pay for relaxing by getting an ulcer?
When clouds squeeze soul white down
shake off those crusted layers…
when snow waves slantways, whirl, criss, and sloped
like some incredible dream of a life that could be
that was, that reached out brave and right
to fix everything we all fucked up…
(It is night and we were crying again
but snow always makes us gasp)
When this happens: snow, gasp
falling backwards again…
All we can do is whisper your name
tell you it is snowing where we are
We are masters in the art of Calculus
We tell you over and over again how the sum
of each of your actions totals 0 or
if you figure in the usurious interest, losses
incurred as result, plus the debited lifespan, -73.
We add in the imaginary numbers: i and its counterstroke -i
take their square roots and stretch them over ∞
figure their sine, cosine, and then add the fuzzy spinning radii ( ∫ )
of our reasonable irrationals
We learn to be good at both precise and intangible math
The struggle is finding the question we figured the answer for
Like those Evil Word Problems our jr. high teacher tortured us with:
If the sum of actions created
by the names we whisper when snow
(the most real of imaginaries) changes life
is the cosine of (∫√2x∏r ∕ -73i)∞,
is this our worth or theirs?
This question we ache—
feeling life as an impossibly beautiful and endless joke
with no feasible achievement, end, or gain—
because no matter how many people tell us
your actions have nothing to do with ours, we know
what you were worth to us
and what we were worth to you
Which is why we call each other
gasping, purring in the night, snow around
(the question of who we really can call
at 3am bothers us more than original gasp)
to talk, hiccup over the zero
(we want to belief in reincarnation, not cessation)
to find relief
because the person we are talking to is Everything
an infinite / a snow flurry / a massive huge grace of law and imaginary /
a dream / a disembodied shine soul swirl /
(yet someone who has felt the zero inside them)
and their chosen action
is to pick up the phone and talk to us
while the snow drifts itself around