I can’t carry the metaphor any further than that. The language becomes dense. I get caught up in the verification, checking my emotions and experience to see if the metaphor really holds. Everything becomes obtuse, a syllogism, my imagination caught in an attempt to match reality’s formula. And the danger for a metaphor-logic tangle is high today, the day after my semester finale, with its stressful, test-filled end, my mind still tied down by facts and tasks, by worries about being evaluated and found lacking. The danger for getting lost in metaphor, to trap myself among the October cornstalks, all crackle and snap, or to get lost in the rainforest, all squelch and cling, is that I lose both the writer and the reader. I can’t afford to lose either of us right now. I need me. I need you.
I was signed up for a summer class, but decided a few days ago to drop it. It is too expensive; my mind is fried from being in classes for almost a year (including last summer) without stop. Now I can now go on our early July trip to family camp! Suddenly, I have an expanse of time opening up! I am writing to-do lists, which include making the backyard palatable (it’s all about the dry right now; even the weeds are choked with thirst). There are rooms I want to paint, curtains to make for the as-yet-unpainted rooms. Closets still need to be organized, old clothes given away. I have research to do as well: soon I will know more about my traineeship and can start to look into common issues among the population I will be serving as well investigate possible counseling techniques for that population.
And there’s my writing. I have a very good friend who has talked about helping me get published. I don’t know what that means for me, really, but I wouldn’t mind working a little harder on the writing in some more organized way, as well as reading some books and blogs that I have been neglecting. In fact, there are books by bloggers that I’d like to read. I have a lot to catch up on.
At some point in the last year, I accepted that this is how I write and what I write about, the generally autobiographical, heavy with metaphor, thick with imagery. I may write fiction now and then, but the extended fictional narrative is not for me. Still, I want my words to speak to people, my sentences to be familiar, evocative, not all about me even if the writing is ostensibly all about me. Part of my approach has been to write about the moment, recording what is going on in my mind as I write. I’d love to take a look at my work of the last five years and find a theme, identify the narrative threads, and edit it into something other people might want to read. We’ll see. It’s another good summer project, one that is all for me.
I can’t see the middle ground. Sometimes I don’t believe it exists. It is obscured in a rim of fog. It is just off that cliff in the space between rock and sea. It is the land mass in the distance and I’m on a ship that has circled the globe more times than I care to admit, gorging myself on wine and dark chocolate at times, sticking to bread and water at others, still trying to figure out how to get to the spit of earth that represents a kind of ambiguity, a type of satiation, the intersection of deprivation and excess, the greyscale world.
Image of shipwreck, at the eastern border of the Peloponnese “middle finger,” Greece, Some rights reserved by petros asimomytis.
fidget, squirm, talk non-stop, constantly in motion
fidget, squirm, talk non-stop, constantly in motion
I would like to fidget, squirm, talk non-stop, be constantly in motion. Instead I’m typing, still, silent as night, and I’m firmly planted. It’s yet another café post, me at PIQ again, this time downstairs, in between the kitchen and the street, and the doors are open to the songs of Shattuck (cars, a tootling saxophone, whiny brakes, the omnipresent rumble of road construction). “Fidget, squirm, talk non-stop, constantly in motion” are some of the behaviors listed under the hyperactive symptoms of ADHD. I like the rhythm of the words, the way they fit my slightly crazed (but still firmly planted in reality) mood.
This is a half-assed life, my full ass on a hard chair, my mind swimming with disorders and various psychological assessments and their rules and structure, their hocus pocus interpretation (yeah, yeah, with science behind it). I feel like I am cramming. I am cramming. But my 43-year-old mind has been filled with years and years of experience and facts – another thing I didn’t take into account when going back to school. My mind has about 50% more stuff jammed in it than it did in my last grad school go-round. And the brain, she is rebelling. But back to the half-assed life. I write as my husband and son are out and about (because Berkeley celebrates Malcolm X’s birthday and the boy is out of school), I was studying, but am necessarily done for the next few hours at least. I’ve had all I can stands ‘cuz I can’t stands no more, but here I am, head buried in my computer so that I can post something, so that I can toss my tension from Berkeley to wherever you might be. And I know that the tension fills the space between my letters, the gaps between my words. But, damn, the words are coming fast.
I got to school early this morning, for no particular reason. I was done with facts, so I ended up wasting a lot of time staring at my computer in the library. On the BART ride out, I saw a young women who reminded me of someone. Maybe she was that someone. Asian, petite, long hair with a henna tinge, a hint of bangs, dark-framed glasses, a rounded belly–the beginning of something?–wearing a pink knitted item that was kinda cute, kinda funky. She never turned to face me directly, so I didn’t get a good head-on view. Caught up in her texts, the woman leaped out of the train once she confirmed we were at Montgomery Street station. Did I know her? From where? Was she a character from a dream? A shadow? My projections made solid and real? It’s a big city and the odds are not good that one of my dream figures would roam my commute, hopping from train to train until she found me. I’ll probably never see her again. But if she sounds familiar, if she’s out there reading – well, I hope she understands how those moments of confluence are heavy with meaning, the meaning obscured by emotion. It’s about flow. There are no coincidences.
I started this at PIQ and I am finishing it at home, beer by my side, cat at my feet, mind somewhere between here and the outer reaches of the atmosphere. I walked home and I saw no one I knew. And I can’t bring my mind back, but I know it will return to me, sometime on Thursday afternoon when everything is over.
Image of me, by me.
My apologies, Round Robin partner, for my distractedness this week. For the first time since I was 22-sih, I find myself crunched, trapped, stressed by finals, though I think I never had to also hand in a ten-page paper during finals week back in the CUA days. If I think too much about it, I’ll become paralyzed. If I don’t let off steam, I will explode.
I don’t understand why a graduate program has finals, to be honest. Library school didn’t, or if it did, I probably did those finals hung over, with one hand tied behind my back. I also know that the people who taught me back in my undergraduate philosophy program and my graduate library science program were professionals. Nobody changed the rules at the last minute. When there were finals, the questions were all essays, which were pretty easy, relatively speaking. If you could think and remembered the general bent of a philosopher (my favorite remains David Hume – he was so sensible), if you could tell your Dewey from your LC, then you were fine. I was fine.
I’m not saying that my instructors aren’t professionals in most senses of the word.
Blah blah blah. This will all be a fading memory by Thursday afternoon. By the time my ass hits a BART seat, all I’ll be thinking about is the celebratory champagne, though because my son’s school has an open house that night, the celebration will be put off by a day. Which brings me to another stressor: family. Last time I did this, I was unfettered by responsibility. I had jobs, yes, and I had an on-again-off-again relationship, one where the person felt just fine showing up at my apartment unannounced and intoxicated the night the Redskins won the Super Bowl, but without the emotional investment of a full-time dating gig. That had its own problems and I was a total mess emotionally, but the dark side of me, so heavy and full, was always tossed aside for the challenge of thinking and writing.
I’m less of a mess now, or maybe I’m more controlled, and I have to divide my time between me and them. So I hide out in the office cave. I decide to take the RR despite my schedule because I need something else (and then I spend all my time writing about my life). I get up with the cats, early and groggy, to do very little but warm up my brain and fingers. And I am now out of time.
Thanks for your feedback so far, btw. It isn’t like VZ’s last week, but who else but VZ can be as detailed, specific and generous? I felt blessed. Things like that can’t last forever.
p.s. -- Twelve minutes isn’t enough, is it? Because now I want to write more, to tell you about how the energy in the air tonight disturbed me, how I heard the tinny, lonely sound of a radio playing through someone’s propped open door, the woman’s screams that may or may not have been for real. It felt like the 70s all over again, me small, a neighbor crying, while underneath it all, Donna Summer sang her heart out.
From the prompt “the dark side.”
Written in 10-12 minutes, edited for your eyes in about 8, added to after the dog walk. I’ve got a draft of my paper done, have put together my portion of a couple of study guides, and await tomorrow to do more because my brain is now officially mush.
Image from Cool Things, Pictures, & Videos. It’s a bit of a non sequitur, but it amuses me.
Never post on a full mind. Never post on an empty mind. Never post when in doubt. As I type, I don’t know where I stand on any of those conditions. Too full? Too empty? And what about the doubt? Does just asking prove my point?
I left early this morning and let distraction throw me off course. I handed in a paper that may or may not be what the professor expected. I sat with that unsettled feeling. I ate a waffle that tasted of caramelized sugar. I sat in a classroom with closed windows. I sat in a windowless classroom. I summed up my developing theory of counseling in 30 seconds. I stood on the 29 to Balboa Park and listened to the hollow bravado of young white dudes who took up too much space and didn’t move to the back of the bus. I got on the wrong train. I got off the wrong train. I rode the train to Richmond as far as North Berkeley.
I stared at my phone. I stared into space. I stared out the window. Between then and now, between the time I walked out of my house and walked back in, the skies had a little cry, the fog clung to the city and then abandoned it, the saturated air formed a protective layer over campus and the sun took it away. Blue reclaimed the sky. The wind picked up. And through it all, I wore my sweater and kept on my shoes.
I came home and I wanted to cry. Cry for self-acceptance. Cry for the sins I no longer let define me. Cry for the knowledge that I have caused damage that I cannot change. Cry because my only option is to make amends. Cry because it’s a tricky business. Cry in relief. Cry in forgiveness. Cry because what else does one do at the end of a long week with so much ahead?
Image by me, taken at the Daly City BART station. In what sort of emergency does one break the glass? And what does pressing the button do? I have no idea.
You can remove me with a click, pack me into a set-aside thought, make me a boxed-and-buried emotion, but you can’t erase me. I get it, the attempts to whitewash, to remove the stains, to air out the heart in order to rid it of the smell of cigarettes and perfume. I have been on hands and knees with a toothbrush – a toothbrush! – scrubbing what was left of other people out of my soul. I’ve lit the incense, burned the bridges, bleached the sheets. It was all useless. The others remained. To pretend they never existed was to deny a part of myself.
I understand the urge to excise someone’s role in the larger narrative, to go with the current story arc. We do what we need to in order to keep the peace. And many of the characters in my life story are long gone, some for good. But nothing has really changed since our first conversation, no matter how long ago it was (I know you remember it). They continue to exist in my sinuous trajectory, with its sidetracks and rebounds, with its stories that coil back on themselves. They are now products of my imagination, the best of my projections made “real.”
I am in your mind, too, shrunk to the size of a Barbie, handcuffed to the steering wheel of a toy car, hidden in a lockbox with the other untidies, saved for special occasions or just left to disintegrate over the course of a lifetime.
My extended narrative is crowded. It is slow at times, boozy and genial at others. D, J, and R are there (if anyone deserves the boot from my story, it’s R, but he played a key, if silent, part). I’ve got the pseudonym sisters Maureen, Martha, and Joan. A boy I made out with freshman year in college, who had the same last name as me and dropped out after a semester, is there, forever 18 and confused. P, the coworker who played it straight until he came out, remains the man he was before and immediately after. Sometimes people I’ve barely met are permanent fixtures in the storyline. M, who rocked my world, for example. I’ll always have a little place for her. The ex-wife of my ex-husband is crammed into a mental attic space, and we only spoke on the telephone once or twice almost 20 years ago. And then there are the those I once knew where we both pretend to forget. They are my wayward flock, the lost-never-to-be-founds. We are members of the Mutual Denial Society, each one of us skipping along alone, leaping over entire sections of backstory.
I understand denial. It keeps the story neat and tidy, the plot line on the straight and narrow. Denial removes emotion when emotion is inconvenient. It allows us to pretend we leave without a trace, that those we once knew were nothing but passing moods, clouds overhead that dissipated into rain before their remnants disappeared into the horizon.
Edited slightly in the gloomy light of morning.
Image Some rights reserved by kcryder.
The press wanted to know how it started. So we told them. We both had a thing for costume, the riding crop, the velvet helmet, the spurs that had never seen horse flesh. On weekends, he would go out in tattered khakis, a faded oxford shirt, and lipstick, his hair slicked with product, while I wore overalls and wife-beaters, put on a beehive wig, shadowed electric blue in the space between lash and brow. Sure, it sounds like we were all about the fashion, the fabric, the hair gel, and the makeup, but really we were about the narrative, the stories in our heads, the stories other people made up about us, even if our narratives were mixed, the dots difficult to connect.
In the last few years, our narrative fragmented. He stopped caring, I stopped trying to impress.Today, I wear a tunic over tights, let my hair go wispy while I go barefoot. He hangs out in a bathrobe. You’d think we would be able to amp up the fantasy, but that’s all we’re up for these days, the suburban hippy, the apathetic ex-lover, stuck with one another because we don’t know who else to be stuck with. It wearies us both, but who has the energy to shift the plotline?
Happy Mother’s Day to all who have mothered or been mothered!
From today’s prompt (edited) “It’s time,” with a little bit of last night’s dream tossed into the mix.
Image (“Woman in Sun Dress,”) by Cindy Sherman from Joseph K. Levene Fine Art, Ltd.
The night the roof blew off Bennett’s liquor store, I was out with my boyfriend, D, to get beer, having (as usual) snuck out of my little cottage while my grandfather watched TV and my mother was preoccupied in her house down the street. Bennett’s was in the extremely small strip mall where Ed’s business was foundering. We pulled up right after the small tornado or whatever it was touched down and did its roof damage. So did Ed and his state cop friend, a permanently tan man with permanently bloodshot blue eyes.
They had a Styrofoam cooler, emptied of booze but with some still-serviceable ice. Ed was pumped up in a way that did not suggest being liquored up. He offered us their cold dregs: Want some ICE? Want some ICE? He repeated this enough times that it became an inside joke between D and me.
The next morning was a school day, and as my mother and I drove past Bennett’s at the beginning of our long drive to Wilmington, she noticed the curl of metal and the flapping blue tarp covering the roof. I had to play dumb, to keep mum.
It was just another night I held on to in order to protect us both.
*Not real names.
From today’s prompt “Ice.” And to keep it real, in more ways than one, I’m keeping last night’s lament, Temporary. I can’t tell if it is any good, I know it’s obtuse, but it’s representative of a certain kind of mood.
For another take on that time from the early days of the blog, read Would you like bloodworms with that?
Image Some rights reserved by Furryscaly.
Over the last week, I’ve filled up pages that were meant to be shared but never will be. A creature of habit, I wanted to send up smoke signals, to have a romantic tête-à-tête in the pied-à-terre with the one who pretended she could erase me. She left the country. Or she was never here to begin with. She was a whiff of floral perfume, the bouquet off butter infused with garlic, an intermingled scent of one on one, ineffable as a skipped heartbeat.
I borrowed people, made them my muses. I created lives and facts and motives because the stuff of my day-to-day bored. I was afraid to sit with emptiness, to sit with unhappiness, and so I distracted myself with fantasy. My muses were figments, which was just how I wanted them, pliable, taking up only as much room as I allowed, opining my opinions, gently tugging at my elbow when I needed direction.
I wrote about yearning because it distracted me from yearning. I wrote about being seen because it made me believe I was visible. I wrote to make the intolerable tolerable, to create meaning in the face of nothingness.
I fought my urge to write in sentence fragments. I sat in the space between silence and stillness, where the only sound and movement came from my hyperactive fingers on the keyboard.
I told myself that it would be better in the morning.
Image of “Holiday’s illustration (1876, cut by Joseph Swain) to the chapter “The Vanishing” in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark. Some rights reserved by Bonnetmaker.
I pulled out of it. They helped me. Conversation helped. Getting out of the office and away from my computer helped. As usual, I knew it would be better in the morning.
We went to Robyn Hitchcock’s 60th birthday celebration at the Fillmore on Thursday night. It was a musician-studded affair (mostly musicians I did not know) organized by Colin Meloy of the Decemberists. Robyn Hitchcock himself was there, first resplendent in pink, then wearing the traditional black with white polka dots shirt to match his black and white guitar. Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) was the MC. The Fresh Young Fellows, no longer young, but still sounding fresh, played a song or two. Neil Gaiman showed up briefly, wearing a faux straw hat (an introduction to Uncorrected Personality Traits, sung barbershop quartet style from the balcony down to the hoi polloi below). And, of course, Peter Buck of R.E.M. fame was there, too, with his grey pageboy, flat expression, and guitar talent.
I wouldn’t know about Robyn if it weren’t for my husband, a longtime fan since the Soft Boys days in the 1970s and 80s, and if you don’t know Robyn’s music (he’s never been a household name), it’s hard for me to describe it to you. It’s often described as psychedelic, though I don’t though think I’d go that far. His lyrics are surreal. Bob Dylan, the Beatles and early Pink Floydian Syd Barrett are influences. Robyn does not have a huge draw, but he does have loyal fans and I’ve become one of them. In fact, I have a bit of a crush – he’s intelligent, funny, and talented, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve acquired a thing for aging British musicians with white hair. Robyn Hitchcock and Nick Lowe: fellow Yep Roc-ers and members of my dream band.
The night has stayed with me. It is still turning around in my mind. It was the music, the talent, the variety of sounds and people. It was also the enthusiastic couple in front of us, her short, soft, rounded and bouncy, him tall, lean, pageboyed in the style of Prince Valiant or Peter Buck, wearing a Yep Roc t-shirt (“I still buy records.” on the front). As the night wore on and their marijuana consumption ratcheted up, the man because increasingly irritated with the dancing slackers around him. He dipped, he bounced, he stomped his feet, threw his fist into the air. He’d been doing this from the first bars of the first song, but then he started swinging around to sing the lyrics menacingly at those of us behind him who were not similarly celebratory. I Wanna Destroy You (dedicated to Maggie Thatcher) was the apex of his anger and then things calmed down.
All in all, it was a beautiful evening, another reminder of the necessity of live music. Something ineffable happens when people are up on stage creating something in the moment. It was hard to believe that we almost didn’t go, that I thought both of us would be exhausted and it wouldn’t be worth the sore feet and useless minds on Friday.
I was wrong. Not only was it worth it, the day after was efficient, like my dulled brain had been cleared by the creativity of others. And if we hadn’t gone, I would not have the haunting song Glass Hotel, performed on Thursday night by husband and wife Sean Nelson (vocals) and Shenandoah Davis (keyboard), going through my mind. I leave you with an acoustic version by Robyn, filmed back when his hair was dark. It’s a beautiful, sad song, more fitting my mood of yesterday afternoon than this morning. But even the dawn can accept temporary tears.
The bulk of this is adapted from the prompt “I found the silver lining,” written the morning after the concert.
Title from a line in Glass Hotel: “Well, there’s nothing in the future and there’s nothing in the past, there is only this one moment, and you’ve got to make it last.”
Image of Robyn Hitchcock a few years back, from the Interwebz.
At the end of my long days on campus, my BART ride back to Berkeley is distracted, delusion-filled. Early on, above ground, I look at the box houses of outer San Francisco and imagine myself there, believe I know exactly what it’s like to sit at the table in the postage stamp dining room, to stare at the clods of dirt in the feral backyard as yet another train shakes its way through my neighborhood.
Underground, if I can get myself to put down the phone, to stop checking mail or reading fluffy news stories, I pay attention to those around me by looking at their reflections. They’re getting to be obsessive, my sideways glances, my surreptitious camera work. Wednesday night, a woman in a black and white polka-dotted dress stood waiting to disembark. She had delicate arms and a lovely solid frame. I liked the contrast, the patterns, the way I could see her ghost self, clean and light in the window. As I discreetly aimed my iPhone, I accidentally turned on the video function. Now I have about four seconds of her polka-dotted phantom, its solidity interrupted by flashes of light from the tunnel.
Turns out this is the best way to capture the energy of the double. I want to watch it again and again, to put it on a loop, just to feel like I am back there, weightless, the observer seeing the best of people, a witness to their stripped down selves who do no wrong.
When everything is beautiful, when the people on the train give me stories, I am at peace. When I pay attention and do not let my weariness pull me into the pit of my phone (the opposite of weightlessness, an eternal fall into a deep well, the mind acquiring a paradoxical heft, the body disappearing), I inhabit the seat, the place, the moment, the loveliness of unknowing, of taking in, where a woman’s scuffed appliqued sneakers and hair like wheat before the harvest show me her long-gone youth, the commune, the carob and granola, the never-ending nights of cooking and clean-up, the exploitation by hippie boys she eventually threw over to make her own way. I let the shadows reveal the plot, allow the allure of purity of form to seduce me. I watch as the polka-dotted reflection exits one story and enters another, all mine to tell.
Adapted from the somehow-related prompt “A bad habit.”
Image by me.