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

Friday, September 14, 2007

commonality, startings

One. Like most people (I suspect), I do not remember my first birthday. In fact, I remember very little from this year. What I do remember is eating cat food. Watching the feet and legs go by, and then shuffling over to the cat bowl and scooping out its illicit cuisine. If nothing else, the year is not a complete waste, as I well remember its flavor-- delicate, like stale pretzels rolled in paprika after baking.

. Ah, the glory years, such nostalgia for what goes unmarked. Except on the fourth birthday, I have to contend with a sister.

Five. On my fifth birthday, I have a party, and when we go outside to play soccer in the yard, I trip over the yellow and orange-striped ball and fall headfirst into the concrete drainspout at the northwest corner of our house. My friends run off as I gather my bleeding face and stumble around to the back patio where I pass out at the screen-door as soon as I manage to open it. When I wake up, I am on couch in the Red Room, the couch where I liked to look at my mother’s feet and think how old and cracked they seemed. My friends are clustered around me, and I have an ice-pack pressed to my nose. Apparently, I have broken the nose, and blackened my eye as well. There are so many people looking at me, a good birthday.

Six-Eight. These are, by and large, uneventful birthdays. Although we do get to roll peanuts along the green carpeted floor with our noses, and I am allowed to invite the two neighborhood boys whom my mom had banned from my friendship because they had locked me in their shed one afternoon and left me there until I touched their penises (mother was not aware of the whole story; she only knew she called and I did not come home). It is good to spend time with them again.

Nine. We have moved to a new neighborhood, and I do not know anyone, banned or not, to invite.

Ten. We have moved again, and also my parents have divorced. I am resentful to have to spend a birthday with my father, the difficult parent, even though we go to the top of a mountain and he brings a cake with us. I do not want his girlfriend to witness my aging.

Eleven. We have moved again, but this time I have my mother.

Twelve. One of my friends throws a fit at the party, and says nobody pays attention to her. I walk with her around the asphalt track used by the jr. high students, and listen quietly.

. I have an overbite like a beaver’s wet dream in all the photos, but what I remember is screaming when my sister wants to watch the scary movies with us at night. I tell her she isn’t allowed to be there, and a friend protests, saying how cute my sister is. My mother later calls me upstairs and tells me it’s not right to deny someone else participation. My sister later bans me from her birthday parties altogether, although she does let me hang out with her friend who is too scared to watch the movies with them. I am so shamed by my mother’s words that I do not even protest.

. I don’t remember if I had one last party in that house, but I did carve my initials in the southwest corner of my bedroom closet. Later that year, we stay in a house that is perched on the top of a hill so steep we have to sled down to the car in the morning. It is still dark as we slide down, and still dark as we climb back up. And so when I lose my watch, it proves impossible to find-- until the day we leave for a new temporary house, when I find the watch crushed under our car wheel in the snow. Still ticking.

Sixteen. My mother is stuck out of town because it is snowing and she can’t drive her skiff through the storm. So her friend, who is small and thin from her hysterectomy, throws my sweet sixteen. Mother has pre-arranged for a bouquet of sixteen yellow roses to be delivered to me, and I cry afterwards because she isn’t there. The refrain “and never been kissed” keeps passing through my head, but I have my driver’s license three days later, after a harrowing drive, in a borrowed car, through the rural Alaskan streets, with the parking break on (I notice this just before we return to the DMV, and pretend to crank the parking lever up when we hit the parking lot. Apparently the deception goes undetected).

Seventeen. We have moved again.

Eighteen. My mother drives down with my sister to visit me at college. I greet them in the parking lot near the rugby field, and I am excited to see how my mother will react to my purple hair. “How bright!” she says as she passes her fingers through it, and a week later I get a nose ring to show her exactly what bright means.

Nineteen. For my nineteenth, I throw an ice-cream-cake-and-Aliens-trilogy party at the new house I share with four friends. I make the ice-cream cakes myself and they are intensely sloppy, but everyone approves of the chocolate-chip mint. Even my friends who don’t like Aliens show up. I prevent them from eating only one slice of the cake, which I tuck away in the freezer for the girl I like who said she might come later. I eat the slice later in the week, for very particular reasons.

Twenty. I am in Russia for my twentieth birthday, and by luck and chance, it is my host-mother’s fortieth birthday on the same day. Her entire extended family drives in from Moscow, and they make a meal to curl the teeth off a dog’s hind leg. There is one entre that looks like clear jello, only with meat swimming around in it and fat congealed at the top. I am thankful to be a vegetarian. I allow her family to press a number of vodka shots on me, but am petrified they will ask me to say a toast when the only toast I know in Russian has already been said. They don’t ask me to say a toast, but later my host-mother’s brother corners me in the kitchen and hounds me on my Russian, which is dreadful, which he tells me, which I already know but nonetheless feel defensive about. A day later, my friends throw another party for me at a Georgian woman’s house. Her daughter, Armene, who has long black hair she wears draped halfway down her back, bakes me a five-layer cake with whipped cream between the layers. Jennifer, Armene, Big John and I drink plenty of vodka and glut ourselves on cake, right after I blow out the singular candle. I later refer to this birthday as The Birthday With Three Parties. I have no idea what the third party was, unless it was the cucumber-sauce dinner prepared for me by the Turkish boy who later presses me to have sex with him.

Twenty-One. It’s your ruddy twenty-first! Of course, as I am back in the States, I am grateful to finally have access to clubs, and booze, and seedy milieus in general. So I take my new girlfriend, Sarah, and roommates Zack, Cameron, and Matt, and we head out on the town. The first bar is lowbrow and honky, the lights like a cigarette filter. The second bar is highbrow and out of my league (I try to pick up my drink with my pinky finger extended). The third place is a notorious dancehouse grind in downtown Portland, and although the first room is too grindy, the second room proves to have ample space and a pleasant ‘tronic mix. I have no recollection of driving home.

Twenty-Two. There is a small celebration in the House-We-Rented-For-Two-Months. It’s quiet, but before I go out with Sarah, we get in a fight because I don’t like what she is wearing and when she asks for my opinion, I am honest. We nearly break up, but I cry.

Twenty-Three. Sarah and I are in rushing madly, as we are just about to leave the country on a trip abroad for a year. But we let my mother throw a party with the guest list entirely composed of her friends. I know everyone, but think it an odd birthday party. Sarah makes me a cake, which I don’t remember, but later that year, for her birthday, I make a cake entirely under her direction, and it is pure chocolate with a rose-cream filling in the center, and three sprigs of lavender on the top. When we lift the lid, a chocolate rose lavender scent entropies through the Italian kitchen, and I am briefly jealous that my birthday did not smell like this.

. We are back from Europe, and I am depressed and clueless. Sarah drives up from Portland, where she is attending classes at community college so she can attend the grad program she has chosen. She makes me a cake, but I do not remember how it smells. My mother throws another party with her friends, only this time it makes me realize how much I miss having friends besides Sarah.

Twenty-five. A very big blank. It is entirely gone. What I do know is that I am with Sarah, and I am no longer in love with her. I do love her and do not know what to do. Later in the year, for my sister’s birthday, I buy her a ticket to fly down and visit me in San Francisco. It is a greedy gift, as I want nothing more for her birthday than for me to see her. We buy bags of oranges in the Mission District, and go dancing at a queer bar. My new girlfriend, Rosario, refuses to talk to me for a day for not paying sufficient attention to her during this time, and I am embarrassed for my sister to witness me begging. But I do it anyway.

Twenty-six. I attend a meeting for a new grad program I am in. It is a teaching meeting, as I am to be a new teacher. I’m too shy and nervous to tell anyone it’s my birthday, and when I go home, it is just my mother, her boyfriend Chuck, my grandparents, my sister, and her boyfriend. It is a gentle celebration, and I am startled to notice that I have hives from being so nervous about the new program I am starting. Rosario calls and I am also startled by the sensation that I don’t want to talk to her.

Twenty-seven. I mark the passage of this birthday in the hammock I have strung out on my back patio, but I wake and spend the morning crying in my studio apartment. The day is sunny with clouds and a blue sky outside, and after I am done crying, I take three of my plants and separate them out, repot them, and then take the new pots over to four of my friends’ apartments, where I leave them on the doorstep. After this, I feel better, but not so much better that I pick up my phone. I feel guilty for being resentful that none of my friends planned to go out with me for beers, and I wonder secretly if my plants were a celebration of new births, or a reproach.

Twenty-eight. I cry the whole day. Later, I go out for Indian food with my mother, Chuck, my friend Camille, and her boyfriend (who does not like me). I am utterly miserable, and when I go home, I am relieved that I can continue crying. This weeping is partially due to the dinner I had a night prior, also in celebration of my birthday, with Elizabeth, the girl who I loved like a horse whipped to slather, also the girl who started up with my friend directly after breaking up with me. We got into a disagreement partway through the meal because in the course of conversation, I tell her I am able to be friends with her because I pity her (“Pity” is perhaps not the right word to use. “Feel compassion” or “Forgive her moral ineptitude due to parental mismanagement” might have been more appropriate, but the distillation is remarkable similar). In defense of her right to not be pitied, Elizabeth tells me the honest truth, not hitherto mentioned, that she does not feel that she has done anything wrong. I am certain I should leave at this point, but cannot as we have carpooled and my car is back at her place. I instead let her pick up the bill, and cry in her car on the way back to my car. At her apartment, I want to just say goodbye and drive away, but I also want her to change somehow, so we sit in her car while I yell at her. At some point she says, “do you think I’ve never thought of simply walking away from you as well?” and I wonder what she means by that. As soon as I drive away I start crying again, mourning equally the fact that I am still in love with her, and that I hadn’t hitchhiked home from the sushi bar. I continue this well past my birthday.

Twenty-nine. I mark this passage in a hammock as well. It is thunderstorming in Chicago, and I am pleased to be outside, inside it. Rosario calls me and I talk to her from my hammock. She empties recriminations on me, and they are untrue enough that I tell her not to call me back until she is ready to play nice. She calls me three months later and we become tentative friends. In the morning, I drag myself to my room and sleep solidly, and then get up and make myself an omelet. I am content, though not happy, and spend the day with the contentedness to be in a new place, far away, starting over again. I go to the store to buy a wine bottle for a gathering later, and as I am walking, Elizabeth calls. I choose not to answer her call, sure that this day needs to be different. I call her back two days later of course, an ordinary day, and she tells me her new lover is our former professor, upon whom a friend of mine and I had a bet regarding which grad student she would hook up with. Never having presumed, I guess I lost the bet, but I don’t tell Elizabeth this. It is the last conversation I have with her. Later on the evening of my birthday, I attend a party that is not in honor of me. It is a perfect party, and at one point, people play with this electronic device that shocks the person who does not release their grip fast enough. I do not play the game (certain I'd lose), but enjoy watching people deal with electricity. I finally tell the host that it’s my birthday, near the end of his party, and he gives me two shots in addition to the liquor I’ve already consumed. I walk drunk with a stranger for miles and talk endlessly to her, until she hops in a cab and makes her way home. I search for a subway for an hour longer, stopping at one point to pee in an alley. The subway is closed when I arrive, and it is the wrong subway anyhow, so I catch a cab and when he drops me off, the driver tries to make-out with me, but I duck away. Instead, I walk home and am sick when I get there. But safe.

Thirty. I say Fuck It. I fly my best friend out to spend the weekend with me, and we explore as many places as we can. We eat so many meals, and on my birthday, I throw a party and invite new friends who come and eat even more with us. Sarah, Ellen, and Benjamin call from Germany and sing Happy Birthday to my voicemail. I ride a Ferris Wheel the next day, and the skyline looks as big as it gets.

. Next week, I will get up in the morning for my Saturday class, and sit and enjoy it with my phone turned off. I will turn on the phone after class and talk to my mother. I will go out dancing in the evening, and feel as old as a newborn, young like a language. It will be a normal day, but I will remember it later.

Zero. This is the day I am born. I can’t recall it, but my mother assures me there is pain involved, and also the world churning like great map marked over another map marked over another story marked over another event marked over another lie marked... And So Forth.
oh, dear sweet sweet! I love this post (et tu) fabulously! would that I could bake, I would bake many cakes in your honor.

ah, annie-wife. i'm sure your if-you-baked cake would have a flavor to roll around in.

this was surprisingly a very fun post to write, and directly after writing it, I had dreams of caterpillars used for pest control in wooden booze shacks along a river. Elizabeth was in the dream, and it's the first time in a very long time that I've dreamt of her. She was remarkably neutral in it, which was a relief.

alright missy, we must speak soon. hugs, your wife
bah! stranger? no stranger at all.
well, missy, you were a stranger at the time, no?

don't hold it against me though... i remember the evening well, and i do recall you insisting at some point that we were looking at a Greek Church when we were looking at a Catholic one...

i never could decide afterwards whether I was flirting with you or not. Was I?
Happy almost birthday, bez!
I wish you all the great things in the world and then some.
Much love,
thanks La.
Post a Comment