Posts Tagged ‘Baby Girl’

I Am The Problem

August 18, 2015

And I am the solution.

I am also not nearly as mad as I was when I had the conversation tonight at the dinner table with the family I work for regarding my time off for Burning Man.

Oh.

Yeah.

I got the extra two days off and they are unpaid and that is just cool.

I am really excited to get to go up earlier than I was expecting and the excitement for going is palbable.

Oh.

And.

I’m not getting paid.

I was taken aback and had to take a moment before asking what the mom was talking about.  I said I was confused I had asked off the time way in advance, I thought that last week with the retreat and then the week of Burning Man were my holiday requested vacation paid time off and huh?

What do you mean I’m not getting paid?

Oh.  I see.  You and I weren’t in agreement about my sick days.

I thought that days I had taken off for some travel, to see my Grandmother in San Diego, for some appointments, interview at the graduate school program, etc.  I had thought I was taking sick days.

Apparently not.

Apparently the contract was not in regards to PTO, paid time off, but strictly negated to sick time, like you’re sick, you call in and you get paid.

Oh, so you mean, the time I was sick and came into work and fucking slogged through it because I was banking those sick days toward my Burning Man and graduate school retreat, I should have just fucking called in sick?

God damn it.

I have wondered more than once about calling in sick the entire time I’m at Burning Man.

Hey.  Sorry, I’m sick.  Yeah, it’s uh, been really dusty in my house and I’m experiencing some altitude sickness and mild euphoria, mind if I take the day off?

I mean fuck.

And I created this.  I did this.  I did it and I can see it and I am in a forgiveness place with myself that I was not in a few hours ago.

But it still sucks.

And.

I don’t give a fuck.

I’m still going.

I took an honest look at wanting to do the experience and doing it in the way that I am doing it with the people who I am doing it with and how I want to be with this group, I love them, they mean the world to me, they are a community and family I don’t have elsewhere and the fact that I am getting a ticket (in exchange for services rendered) and the transportation to and from and the camp infrastructure is set up and I don’t have to think about it, plus early arrival pass, well, fuck I’m suppose to go and be there.

I am so tired of living in a self-imposed model of I can’t have the experience unless I am getting paid and working my ass off to be there.

It obviously stopped working for me last year.

That was a shit show.

But.

I was supposed to have the experience, I really was, I see that now, I see that it gave me the impetus to get out of a job that wasn’t working for me, to a job that has worked pretty well for me most of the time.

Even now.

As I said, I’m not mad at the mom for what she said, it feels uncomfortable, but she was clear and direct and had obviously a opinon about it and it was said and I am so glad I didn’t react.  I paused, I responded, I sought clarification.

Oh!

Hahahahaha.

The god damn T-Group model worked!

Too fucking funny.

I also hereby acknowledge, which I did this morning in my morning pages, that my current family may not be the best situation for me to stay in while in graduate school.

It may well work for me to go back to getting paid under the table, I’ll make more and work less, and also, go back to working with babies, who nap.  So that I can accomplish more reading in my work environment.  I did manage to read for 45 minutes of my break today and I was hella happy about that, but there won’t be breaks moving forward with my current family.

I’m going down to part-time and wouldn’t start work until 2:30p.m. when the boys get done with school

Yes, I would have time to read before work, but working fewer hours to support myself is not going to work unless I get paid a lot more.

And yes.

I do deserve a raise from the family, it is time, it’s been almost a year and being the best they’ve ever had out of five previous nannies means something.  It means, you want to keep me on your employ you pay my worth.

And that was also lovely for me to see.

My worth.

I know what my worth is.

So moving forward I will probably toss a soft ball out to the Universe–find another job?

Stick with the current one?

Make more money has to happen no matter what.

My goal is to work and sustain my standard of living while in graduate school, that means making more money and working less.

It doesn’t have to be a lot less, but it will have to be a little less.

I know the solution, I know how to communicate, I know my needs, I have a lot of data.

So, moving forward.

Perhaps with a little less money than I thought I would have for this month, but whatever.

I am supposed to be there, I know it in my bones and I am supposed to be at CIIS for graduate school and I am supposed to be a strong recovered woman in my community and I am supposed to be in San Francisco.

What does it take to be those things?

I have the solution, it’s spiritual, and I can apply it to the problem.

Myself.

There is a spiritual axiom that whenever I am disturbed with a person, place, or thing, I am the one with the problem.

And I believe that.

My job is not the problem.

How I communicated my needs in my job is the problem.

I can choose to harbor a needless, selfish, self-seeking resentment, or I can communicate what I need.

And if the job can’t fulfill those needs.

Well, hello.

I have seen it demonstrated over and over and over these last 10 1/2 years, I am completely taken care of and I am alright.

I always have been.

I always will.

As long as I maintain a few simple things.

Nothings wrong.

I’m going to Burning Man!

And.

I might be available for a new job and a new experience.

Just saying.

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Way Past My Bed Time

August 15, 2015

I am so busted.

Up late on a school night.

But.

I had to do it.

There was a social event, a sort of talent show that the students put on and I was persuaded to do a piece and then I was persuaded to stay and hear a piece and the next thing I know it’s 11:30 a.m.

Fuck.

I have to be in bed in a half hour, I need to wash up, brush my teeth, contact a few folks.

And.

Oops.

Write my blog.

I don’t know that I am going to write a very long one, just a heads up, it’s been an extraordinary day, however, I have a lot of work still in front of me–two more days of classes and 9 hours tomorrow of T-Group.

Which is intensive group therapy training.

Eleven of us in a circle confronting each other and learning how to do transference and stay in the emotional middle of the boat and not get overwhelmed and also provide a mirror to the other students, to see, hear, and feel what is happening.

Suffice to say what is said in T-Group stays in T-Group.

Except that I am allowed to talk about my experience as long as I name no names and don’t talk about anything specific in relation to another member.

I have had plenty.

And I do mean.

Plenty.

Of working in  groups and listening and sharing experiences.

However.

I have never experienced people saying stuff back to me, confronting me, then sitting still and working through the conflict.

I had a lot of fight or flight come up.

And yes.

I did cry.

I just oozed tears all day long today.

I suspect I will again tomorrow.

Oh.

And I did it.

I asked for what I want.

I asked my employers to give me off August 27th and 28th so that I can go to Burning Man and do the early arrival thing with my people whom I am helping out.

I wrote a lot about it this morning, I read some things, I asked some stuff, I did that thing I do, I kneeled down, heck, I even asked for a sign.

And.

Yes.

I did get one.

Damn.

It was so obvious it was like I was being directly spoken to.

I opened up my morning reader, or at least one of them and the suggestion to do something uncomfortable just for the sake of practicing doing something uncomfortable was the topic.

Well.

Fuck me.

Ugh.

And yes!

And.

Ugh.

I figured I didn’t have to do anything right away and I also really wanted to have breakfast before contemplating asking for time off on short notice, though, it’s not too short, it’s close to two weeks in advance, and how I was going to ask for it.

I made the decision though to ask.

You know what they say about willingness without action, though, right?

Fantasy.

I forgot about it by the end of the day and was dropping off books and notebooks and grabbing other notebooks and going to the next thing when I realized, as I booted up my computer.

Oh.

I have not taken that action.

All the bravado of I’m going to ask for what I want had not gone completely out the window, but it was a challenge to gather up my momentum after such a full, overwhelming–but I did not die from my feelings, though I thought I might at one moment–and intense day of school work and therapeutic learning.

I sighed.

Am I going to do this or not?

I am.

I can ask.

They can say no.

So.

I sent out an e-mail and I asked off for the 27th and 28th.

It felt good to ask for what I want, this psychology stuff must be rubbing off.

Scary too.

But I am letting go of the results.

Fact is.

I’m going to Burning Man no matter what.

I have the 28th through the Labor Day weekend off from work and I am going.  I have a ticket, I have the early arrival pass.

I may have to negotiate a different ride if my the folks I am going with decided to hit the road before the 28th and that’s ok.

A ride will coalesce.

It always does.

In the mean time.

I am going to cut this brief.

I need to hop, skip, and jump to bed.

I am exhausted and I still have two full days of school to go.

Get thee to bed ladybug.

You got T-Group bright and early.

See you in class!

T-Minus Sunday

June 29, 2014

And counting.

One more day before I fly home to Wisconsin.

Not really home, this home.

Wisconsin ceased being home a long time ago, almost twelve years ago now, and I am not going back to the part of Wisconsin that I grew up in.

I am going to Hudson, Wisconsin where my best friend and her skulk live.

I am excited to see them.

And I realized today, anxious.

A feeling I am not particularly fond of and one I would prefer to not feel and also one that it took me a minute to identify that I was having.

Oh.

Hi.

I did not know that was what was happening.

This is actually astounding progress for me.

First that I identified that I was having a feeling.

And that the feeling was not “shit” or “fat” or “fucked.”

“Fat” is not a feeling.

Nope.

Inadequacy.

Oh.

That’s a feeling.

Some shame.

Yeah, there’s that too.

And then the anxiety.

The nice thing about feelings is that they pass.

By the time I was finished with my commitment for the evening it was gone.  I got to check in about it with someone and talk and of course there’s anxiety.

Duh.

Traveling is an anxiety inducing affair, even if I am excited about the trip.  Sometimes, too, I will confuse the excitement for anxiety or vice versa.

And I am not one hundred percent me, ankle stuff and all, and so yeah, this is all a different kind of travel than I am used to.

I also am feeling a bit of anxiety about returning to work.

Will I be ready?

Will I fuck up the ankle more?

Will I be able to handle the kids?

I believe yes to the former and not the latter, and I believe that the free-floating feeling of “there’s something wrong” is just a tendency of an ill mind to try to get me to fabricate a crisis where there is none.

There’s nothing wrong.

My bills are paid.

(Thank you friends again and again and again.)

My ducks are in a row.

I even have a TSA approved travel toilette bag.

And.

I investigated getting the wheel chair today online, to wheel me through the airport on the way to the flight.

Turns out that SFO won’t do it for you, per se, you have to contact the airline that you are traveling via, itself.

Basically I will request it when I pull up to check in for my flight.  I won’t go inside and print of my ticket, I will go curb side to Delta and request the wheelchair at that point.  I will also check into my flight there as well instead of checking in at one of the kiosks.

I may ask my ride to actually come and get me just a tiny bit earlier to make sure I sail through on time.

I don’t believe I will actually need more time, but I would rather have it than not.

Needless to say I will be requesting it, “the chariot” as a dear heart said I should think of it, and I will ask to be seated outside my assigned seat if I can be made more comfortable.

I don’t think I can get the extra leg room in the cabin by sitting in the exit row, you have to be physically capable of assisting others, and well, I would love to play hero, but perhaps not on this flight.

I have a feeling though that the flight won’t be packed, it’s an odd time of day to fly out and it’s a Monday flight to Minneapolis, I think it will be fine.

It feels fine anyhow.

I don’t have much to do tomorrow.

Take care of packing my suitcase, doing a little laundry, taking a shower, having a normal day, whatever “normal” looks like.

Today it was have tea with a confidant for an hour on the back porch and do a lot of inventory.

I also called a lot of folks just to check in and say hi and see how my friends were doing.

I got some sun.

I sat and flipped through a Vogue magazine.

I ate nice meals that I cooked for myself.

I drank lots of tea.

Oh!

I edited more of my book.

It feels good to have done some work on that and to be moving forward with it.  I can see the piece getting cleaner and the showing, not the telling is happening.

I also love seeing the comments from my friend, it’s great to have a reader who can point out, this doesn’t make sense to me, this works, this doesn’t, try this not that, this is awkward, this works, but not so much this here, “you’re showing, not telling” is a big one and it is a pet peeve of mine to be told rather than shown.

I want the experience to be like watching a movie, so the more I can show what is happening the better that feeling will come across.

It feels quite satisfying to have had some distance and some time and perspective away from it and to be reading it bound, my friend bound it for me when he edited the manuscript, I am making notes in the margin and finding fresh ways to retell it in the details rather than in the use of adjectives and superlatives.

Extraordinary too, to relive the story.

Because it’s not just a story, it’s my history, it’s my interpretation, really or my history at that time in my life.

My perspective on the time has changed seismically, however, in just a sentence or two, I can be right back there, in the meat of it, in the city, on the Lake, where a lot of the action takes place, down in the Florida Keys, in and around Homestead, Florida, I am right there participating in the action.

And I see it.

Now I just need to have you see it.

I don’t want to describe that feeling.

I don’t want to say I am anxious.

I want you to see me sitting and bouncing a leg or wringing my hands, re-tracing the lifeline on my right hand while holding a cigarette in my left, over and over again.

I want the description of the action to be palpable and thick so you don’t have to hear the feelings, you can see them loud and clear.

Show.

Don’t tell.

I wrote a book.

Anyone can write a book.

Now I want to write a book that is readable.

I want to tell a story that is consumable.

I want you to want more when you are finished.

I want to inflame the appetite.

Of course going back to Wisconsin is going to arouse anxiety.

I am heading back to that place where I vowed to leave twelve years ago to become the next great American novelist and I shall return not having published or finished writing that great novel of mine.

That is ego.

That is not why I am going.

I am not going back to prove a point or be anyone other than myself.

Because my friend wants me, not the idea of me.

The idea of me can stay home.

I have better things to carry onto the plane.

Or wheelchair on to the plane.

As the case may be.

 

We’ll Record When I Get Back

June 28, 2014

Holy shit.

I ran into a friend of mine.

A dear, sweet, darling man who has known me from the days of yore when I went to an event that he was playing at, his birthday party, and I danced my ass off while walking around with a cane.

I was in the last stages of healing from a really bad back sprain.

The music, his music, was so infectious though, I could not help it but to dance.

“You know, I’m playing one show here for Pride (tomorrow is Pink Saturday and the high holy holidays of queer are here in San Francisco), it’s going to be good.” He leaned in a subtle, conspiratorial manner and whispered in my ear as he gave me a hug good night, “I’d invite you but I don’t think you should be dancing quite yet, heal well, I’ll see you in seven weeks when I get back from Europe.”

Oh awesomeness.

He’s right too.

I would probably try to shake my groove thing.

I have been listening to a lot of jazz of late.

Smooth.

Mellow.

Sit still and heal, soothing.

I do not know what possessed me, but I put on the dance music when I took the train downtown today to run an errand.

I should know better than to run downtown during Pride Weekend when I am hobbling about on my walking boot.

But it was too late and I was there and as I slowly maneuvered through the crowds, I kept myself occupied by listening to a Green Velvet mix live in Dublin, Ireland, that was just smoking.

Best genre I can come up with to classify it is Retro-Electro/Ghetto Techno.

So good.

So dirty good.

I just wanted to shake my ass.

At least the half that wasn’t affixed to the boot.

So, “running” (I suppose wobbling is the much better adjective) into my friend the day before he’s off on seven week tour of Europe was great timing.

I told him about the epiphany I had at Lighting in a Bottle and how I love my writing practice, can’t get enough of it, doing it all the time, but that I wanted to expand a bit more and I wanted to record a full album with him instead of just one song.

I gave him some ideas.

I would love it to be called “Music of the Spheres” or “Jesus Was a DJ”.

Something spiritual, sexual, definitely a little retro and ghetto sexy, but with some sugar lip sass, I have to be able to dance to it, it can’t be too slow.

He suggested we do an EP then play out some clubs and press some vinyl.

Ah.

Ok.

OHMYGODREALLY?!

Fyi.

I don’t even know what an EP is.

I suppose I shall have to Wikipedia that right quick.

I know enough to know it’s not a full length album.

But it’s a set of songs.

Ah.

Thanks Mister Google.

Extended Play.

Not a full album, but an extended set of songs, usually three to four.

Perfect.

That sounds exactly what I want to do.

And play out?

Hells to the yes.

I miss that kind of performing.

I mean, yeah, it freaks me out, but I also loved doing the couple of shows with him the summer before I left for Paris.

It was pretty amazing, even just that little bit.

We played together with another vocalist and a violinist at the Elbow Room and then a few weeks later I joined him with another vocalist at Club 222.

It was pretty epic.

At least for me.

And the opportunity to do it again, but with more music and lyrics and a longer story, I am down with that.

I would not mind calling it “Baise Moi” either or “Sugar Kiss”.

I have a few ideas.

Some old material and some new material.

I also don’t have to have as much per piece written as I did for While You Were Sleeping.

It’s a long poem.

It’s not epic length, but it’s too long for a song.

Knowing that I have an idea of how many words each song can hold.

This means cutting and gutting a few poems.

I can do that.

It’s just editing.

And I have an editing eye.

I want to include “Cry Baby” on it.

OH.

That’s it.

Love Junkie.

That’s the refrain for the poem, the repeating thematic of the piece, a nonce I wrote years ago, “she’s a love junkie.”

We talked about mixing it with Paul Simon’s Graceland.

At least that’s the inspiration for me.

There’s a certain time in my life I would like to allude to, where Cry Baby came from.

And then the channeling another kind of music in there, underneath it, maybe some Hues Corporation.

A little mixing of “Don’t Rock the Boat” underpinned by something French retro or new wave.

Oh, the ideas.

EEK.

Yann Tiersen.

The guy behind the Amelie soundtrack.

Oh goodness.

Snowflakes on the steps of Sacre Couer, straight to my heart, the glow lamps in front of the cafes in Paris, the Eiffel Tower glittering in the snow fall and mist.

Baise moi indeed.

I have some writing to do.

I have a creative project.

Yay.

This will make the continued editing of Baby Girl that much easier to withstand.

Not that it’s all that difficult, although I am still cringing at the errors that rife through the work.

Sophomoric errors.

But hey.

I am learning and I get to have this experience and how many folks are in the middle of editing a book, their own memoir, and also writing lyrics for a pending album with a world-famous, globe-trotting dj?

Not so many I am going to suppose.

My friend who sold me the scooter also suggested I get back into dj’ing.

I did it very briefly, very much as an amateur, never played out, when I first moved to San Francisco in 2002.

I might have to do some investigationship.

I would not be getting turntables again, I’ll be honest, I’m too busy and a bit too lazy for that, but a good mixing system, a premium membership to Spotify, and my own ear, I think I could mix a good party.

Not really for money.

Just for the fun of it.

“We’ll press some vinyl and makes some money, and play around some clubs and get you before some crowds, and,” my friend’s eyes lit up.

I interrupted, “oh, I don’t care about making money, I just want to have fun and create and…”

“Oh, you get to make money too, don’t you worry, you make something and you’re going to make money too.”

He hugged me.

“Go, we’ll talk when I get back.”

He ducked into a tacqueria to meet some friends and I walked off to the N-Judah stop to take the train home.

Music rumbling through my head.

Right foot tapping a rhythm.

Happy to have a distraction from the ankle.

I’ll dance again soon.

I know I will.

And I will get to make new music too.

Life is pretty damn grand.

I just have to get out the way.

And ask.

The Universe really wants to say yes.

Just ask.

The answer is yes.

It always is.

Today Was A Good Day

June 23, 2014

I went for a walk!

I know, don’t pee your pants, it’s exciting.

I “walked” two blocks.

It was more like a shuffle and a forward lurching roll.

But I did it.

Then I iced my ankle down for a half hour after.

I just wanted to get out, I wanted to mail a card to my uncle in Nevada City and the mail box is a block away.

I figured I could get there and back.

I had forgotten that it’s a bit of an incline.

Not too much to worry about when I am walking about, doing my thing, checking my list twice, and checking off all the things I like to get done in a day.  Not too much when I am not in a walking boot stabilizing my sorry ankle.

I laughed out loud in utter hilarity at the effort it took to walk up the little incline.

I never made it to the mail box.

Although my card did.

There was a woman crossing the street with her dog and I stopped her, “are you crossing over?”

She smiled and nodded.

“Would you mind horribly putting this in the mailbox, I thought I could make it over, but it’s, well, um, more daunting than I thought.” I said and pointed out my foot.

“Oh, of course!” She took the card, crossed the street and put it in the box.

Sigh.

And that was it.

That’s all she wrote.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

That’s as far as I made it out and about today.

But I took advantage of that outside, out of my studio, out of my tiny little space, to breathe, look out to the ocean, take in the bit of sun trying to break through the clouds, smile at the babies out being pushed in strollers to brunch at the cafe, I got two out-and-out grins, both from little boys, and waves.

It felt really good to interact a little with the outside world.

Instead of the world inside my head.

I also had two visitors today and that helped as well.

Lots of tea drinking.

Lots of chatting about fellowship, community, love, service, expereince, strength, hope.

Loads.

I drank tea.

Loads.

I cleaned too.

I was expecting the company and though I am not an untidy person, the ankle injury has stopped me from being quite as clean in my home as I would care for.

I cleaned the bathroom, the kitchen, swept all the floors, made the bed, dusted.

It felt good to air it out, clean it up, open the back door for fresh air.

“You look better!” My first visitor exclaimed.

“I feel, I don’t know, brighter,” I said, “like I am coming back into my own.”

“You can totally tell,” she confirmed, “you look so much better than last week, not that, uh, you were looking bad, but, er, ha!  You know what I mean.”

I smiled.

I do.

I do feel more myself.

I know, and have been warned, to not push that good feeling too far (just around the block to the mailbox), to let the healing continue, to not get in the way of it.

To basically get the fuck out of my own way.

“You can even call a head and have a wheel chair waiting for you at the airport!” My second visitor said this afternoon over tea.

Apple cinnamon for him.

Bengal Spice for me.

Goddamn I have drunk a lot of tea today, at least I know I am hydrated.

“You’ll be taken right to the front, no hassle, you should do it.” He nodded at me.

I can’t do that, I thought, that’s crazy.

Then.

Well, maybe.

But  I don’t foresee that I will actually be walking in the boot by that time.

Tuesday marks two weeks of wearing it and the doc said “two to three weeks” in the boot.

I am really hoping that I will be able to leave the boot here in San Francisco, then wear it to Wisconsin.

I will.

I mean, I am not stupid, despite my thinking, I don’t need to be vain and wear the cute wedge sandals I ordered on-line last month before the injury, thinking how fabulous they would be to wear about, during the day, at night, why, they are so cute, I may never pry them off my feet.

At least while visiting.

Frankly, it’s too cold and overcast here in July to warrant sandals.

Now, however, I am not even going to pack them for fear that I will decide to get pretty for a night at the carnival and sprain the ankle worse.

I will not be tottering around any Midway with my heels and summer dress.

Nope.

But I really am hoping to not be in the boot.

God.

I can’t even imagine going through security with it on.

That is yet eight days a way.

Eight days of healing and letting it rest and continuing to ice and elevate.

Like I am doing right now.

My only concession to my vain self is a pedicure before I go.

Then again, maybe I should wear the boot, zoom zip through security, not worry about walking through the airport, let myself continue being cautious.

I will be returning to work the following Monday, and if the doctor said three weeks, maybe I go the full three weeks in the boot.  That would still leave me a few days in Hudson without it on.

I don’t know.

Too far ahead.

Better to focus on today.

And it was a good day.

Aside from the visits I also did some more data entry and finished up what I needed to do there, handing it all off tomorrow when I head up to 7th and Irving for the evening.

I also, yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, began editing my book.

Holy Mother of God.

I am so sorry I asked my friend to read it and edit it.

And thank you Jeebus that he did.

I cannot believe that I was sending it out seeking agency.

It is not ready for publication.

I saw that so fast.

First paragraph.

First fucking paragraph, right there, that needs fixing, then this, then that, and oh shit, I’m totally telling and not showing, I know better than that, and oops, shit, adjectives galore.

I mean holy moly batman.

Lot of work to do.

But I busted through 25 pages of it.

And I can see the shape of the story.

It’s good.

Just, in the words of my friend who edited the piece for me, “it’s worth saving (I have had thoughts of just scrapping the entire thing), but you have work to do.”

And.

“The important thing is you got it down.”

He’s right.

263 pages of I got it down.

More drafts than I care to admit too, more editing than I want to do, but I got it down.

The editing is not as noxious as I thought it would be, and I suspect I’ll have a good amount done by the time I leave.

Eight more days of hanging out here, but if today was any indication, it’s getting easier.

And maybe I will go for another walk before too long.

Perhaps to Trouble or Java Beach Cafe.

Maybe even to the beach, the dunes above, not down to the beach, I don’t think I can handle getting down in the boot, but just a “stroll” to the dunes and back.

It will all happen when it’s suppose to.

RICE for now.

More tea.

More getting the fuck out of my way.

Today was a good day.

And everything is alright.

You Did The Thing

February 4, 2014

My friend said tonight over a hot cup of lemon ginger tea.

“That’s the thing, you did it,” he continued, “I haven’t done this, how many people have?”

He was referring to my book, Baby Girl.

He surprised me by pulling the printed manuscript, bound and collated, out of his messenger bag.

There it was, my book, here it is, my book.

It’s sitting on the floor to the left of my “writing desk” while I write this.

“You have something,” he said, “you got to do a lot of work to get it to stand on its own, you might just have to junk the whole thing, but there is something there.”

But the best was hearing, “you are such a better writer, you have come so far with the writing, it’s really obvious that you wrote this a long time ago.”

I did, indeed write it a long time ago.

I started the manuscript in an orange 5 subject notebook 8 years ago this month.

I finished it three months after starting it.

I let it sit for about six months then took it to second draft.

Then I left it alone for a while.

Never printed it off, just had the original manuscript and the “second draft” which was really just me typing almost literally word for word the work from notebook into my ancient PC.

I mean ancient, this thing was so old, running Windows that was registered to DeForest High School, I still don’t know how my friend managed to pull it off my computer when it looked like the thing was finally about to die.

But she did.

And the book lived on.

I re-wrote another draft of it a year or so later.

Somewhere in my head I got the idea that I was a great and capable writer and that I just needed to get this book published and the world would bow and scrape at my feet, throwing money and applause to me while the champagne swirled and the caviar glinted.

I mean I have not an idea why I did that to myself except, perhaps to help manufacture a great deal of misery when those things did not happen and the work just languished and sat and mouldered in a drawer.

“She went to Paris to work on her memoirs,” he said to his friends in front of the Cole Street Cafe as I was walking by with the boys in the double stroller.

“How amazing is that?” He said and his friends looked at me goggle eyed.

Yes.

I did.

And see me back here in San Francisco just doing the nanny thing again.

But you know that nanny thing it gives me the kind of job that I don’t have to take home with me.  It gives me some mental freedom and some space to write, much more so than when I worked in the service industry and thought, you know I’ll write before work.

I was too busy before work sleeping it off from the night before to write.

I did manage a little when I first moved to San Francisco.

I can compile some things I wrote, I won’t get rid of them as they are part of who I am and my experience, but I am, as my friend noted, a much better writer now.

I would not change a thing of the way it all has happened.

Not going to Paris.

Not taking years and years for the manuscript to evolve.

Or devolve.

“You might want to scrap the whole thing and start with a blank page,” he said, “you know, re-write it completely from scratch and see what happens.”

What he means is ignore the draft that I have saved to this computer and to my blog and to my Gmail account and start over from beginning the way that I write now.

Can I do that?

Sure, why the fuck not?

He also suggested that I sit down and read it straight through, I have not done that with a bound copy of the work.

The feed back he gave me was absolute gold.

I have a new idea how to frame the story.

I need to start with the end rather than end with the start.

I need to do a lot of work.

And will it be worth it?

Duh.

I did the thing.

I wrote the book.

Now.

I have to keep writing the book.

Maybe it will be done when I am 95 years old and I will still be talking about that damn book I started working on in my early thirties.

But so be it.

I have a purpose.

I mean I have a primary purpose and I attend to that every day, but I also have a purpose as an artist who predominately creates through her words.

I have an art.

I have a craft.

I have something to sustain me and something that I get to learn from and grow from.

I am excited to have this opportunity.

The best things take time.

They take re-working, you don’t just go in and become a virtuoso over night.

At least I don’t.

I have been practising my craft now for a few years.

I have the time, day and night, devoted to it.

Most times, I admit, I am not thinking that I do this to get better, I am thinking I do this because I can’t not do it, I am compelled and in the compulsion is the subsuming of who I am.

I become something more than just the characters shaping themselves on the screen or to the page.

I become more myself every time I write.

More concise.

More alert.

More aware.

More allowed to be authentic in my person and to sustain this amazing life that I have been granted.

“That is so white trash, I can hardly stand it,” my friend laughed shaking his head, after I told him some of the stories that happened directly after the story arc of the first work.

It was.

I was.

Yet.

I grew and became something more.

“Wait, wait a second, I think I have a picture of him somewhere,” I said and disappeared into the garage to find my old photo album.

I did not find that photo I must have it stashed elsewhere (and I just remembered where!), but I did have a photo of me from not too long after the events in the book take place.

“You look exactly alike and yet, totally different,” he said looking from the photo of me at 20 to the reality of me at 41.

I am exactly alike.

And totally different.

I did the thing.

I am going to continue doing the thing.

Because I deserve all the things.

And this is a part of my journey to get there.

Nine Days And Counting

August 8, 2013

Well, sort of.

Just staying in today was enough.

I realized as I slept in that today was actually the only day until I leave for Burning Man, that I don’t have something scheduled, something committed to, something to do, somewhere to work or to be.

Which meant, sleeping in.

Tomorrow the alarm is set.

And for every day there after, with perhaps Sunday being a day where I do have a commitment to be somewhere, it is later in the day and as such not an alarm sort of day.

Nine days until I leave.

I don’t want my blog to be all about Burning Man, but that’s about all my head is filled with.  Aside from the fact that someone google searched ‘Elizabeth City’ found my blog and read my book that I posted up here years ago.

I wonder how it looks.

I never read it on the blog.

I just chapter by chapter pasted it into the server and published it.

It’s not the same book that m friend has, it’s not the same book that I will end up publishing, I will publish it, but it there are a lot of similarities.

I suppose the writing has gotten better since I posted it.

How could it not?

I practise every day.

I write twice a day every day.

Sometimes I thrash myself a little for not actually writing more, but that is silliness.

Sometimes I trash myself a little for not actually being a published author.

But that is lie.

I have a published song, a published photography essay, a short story, and of course, my blogs.  They get published you know.

I suppose you do.

It was titillating to see the hits on my site and nerve-wracking too, every time someone hits a run on my blog I wonder if I know them.

Who is it from my murky past looking me up?

But that is both egotistical and self-deprecating at the same time.

I am the piece of shit that the universe revolves around sort of thinking.

I mean, I am all I think about, but occasionally, I do want to be there for you too.

I do.

I wanted someone to give soup to today.

I made a big lovely batch up.

French red lentils, one yellow onion, garlic, fresh picked rosemary out of the yard (and I did not get locked out this time!), Italian Roma tomatoes, a can of organic tomato paste, one container of organic vegetable stock, two heads of broccoli, five carrots, one pound of fresh spinach, lots of salt, black pepper, cayenne, and something new for me, quinoa.

I made a pot of red, or ruby if you will, quinoa.

I was surprised and happily so, it is a nice little addition.

I normally make brown rice with this, but I wanted to try something new and I have a friend who raves about quinoa and well, it’s good to find new things in my cooking vocabulary.

It says hippie earth mother muffin when I say it’s vegan, gluten-free, and all organic.

But it’s true.

It also tastes ridiculously good.

And it cooks in less than one hour.

And makes a pretty picture when all portioned out for my weekly meals.

 

Soup

Red Lentil Soup

That was my work for today.

That and a little check in with the e-mails for the design firm.  I will be seeing the boss lady, and my dear friend, tomorrow for lunch.

Super excited to hear about her travels and to catch up.

The only other thing I did today was laundry and some reading.

I drank a lot of tea.

I confirmed my hair appointment for tomorrow and made lunch plans.

That is it.

A really chill, relaxing, mellow day.

The rest of the week up until I leave is work.

And this is good.

And then there will be the work on playa.

And this is good too.

I am ready.

I am rested.

And I am off to relax for a few more hours.

This may be my last chance for a bit.

I Would Read That Book

April 22, 2013

 

“And you do need an agent,” he finished.  “That is the way to go, you are right in the not self-publishing.”

That being said he also described how the aperture on the publishing industry had grown 20 % smaller in the last seven years.

Of course it has.

“But you have faith and you keep putting it out there and you will get published and I will read your stories.”  He added, and then asked, “what’s the title?”

“Baby Girl,” I replied.

“Good title!”  He exclaimed then smiled.

It was validation to my little writer’s heart to hear that from a published writer.

Then I told him about the follow up pieces, “The Iowa Waltz,” “Madison,” and “Mother”.

His eyes grew round beneath his black frame glasses, “all good titles!”

I wanted to roll around like a little puppy at his feet, groveling for more attention, or maybe the name of his agent, but I refrained.

It did however, rekindle the small flame that although not guttering out, was beginning to not burn as fervent as it had in the first weeks after I finished the final edits (which when I see my friend in San Francisco I suspect, will not be the final, final edits), the weeks in which I was querying for agency every day.

Every day.

Since I made the decision to turn around and ride the horse the direction it was galloping, (it was suggested to me that it is easier to ride the horse the direction it is running) to Oakland, back to the Bay Area to be of service for those that are of service to Burning Man, I have not been querying as much.

I have sent out some follow up e-mails and I have sent out a few more queries, but it has not been a daily practice.

I began focusing on trying to figure out how and where I was going to land and what I was going to do and where I was going to work and how am I going to get money together for rent, and ad naseum, that I forgot the whole reason I came over here was to write.

Granted, I will not brow beat myself here, I am writing now.  I wrote this morning, sitting at a table in a kitchen in Rome with my notebook and pen, as well.

I continue to write everyday; however, I wish to re-commit to getting my work out there as well.   I need to find agency.

Yes and I do still want to work at Burning Man.

As more than just a nanny or a fluffer.

I like both those positions, and I have had some ideas about putting together a book proposal for Chronicle Books in San Francisco—“You do What At Burning Man?” tales of a Burning Man nanny.  I have had it for some time, this idea, it is time to do it.

It would be mainly essays and photography.

I write every day and I was blogging while I was at Burning Man the last few years.  I also take photographs and I have a lot of them.

Holy Jesus the Pope dropped his hat; I have a lot of them.

Slight segue, I think this is why my computer is running slower and the fan sounds like an over active vibrator.  Whenever I download my photos from the day to my hard drive it kicks into gear.  And whenever I post photographs to my blog it goes haywire.

I just saw yesterday that I have over 4,500 photographs on my computer.

The majority of them have been taken in this last year.

I have to get them off, off, off.  The next project in the list of things to do.

Yes, so writing, publishing, getting myself and my words out there.

And my photographs, I really do have fun taking them.

I got rained on a lot today.  I would stop, try to hold the umbrella, point and shoot and frame and set up the shot.  I gave up trying to stay dry and I just would stop, gather my things about me to the best of my abilities and take the photo.

After I came back from my walk about Rome I sat and down loaded them and edited them, cropped them, adjusted color and exposure, brightness, shadows, high-lights.

I love the ritual of doing this.

It often takes me an hour to an hour and a half and I joke that it is the job that does not pay.

Just like my regular blog.

Except that in both case that is not the truth.

This blog does pay; I received another lovely infusion of 40 Euro to get me through the rest of the week.  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

I have a lot of hugs to give to people when I get back to the Bay.

They both pay, really, in the joy of creating, in allowing my artistic side to come out.  I told a friend of mine recently that I had an ex-boyfriend who knew I wanted to be a photographer and he bought me a really nice camera.

Except that I did not know how to use it and it overwhelmed me and when I developed the film and discovered that only one of the 80 photographs I took turned out I became discouraged and put it on the shelf and when we broke up he asked for it back.

I gave it back.

I also changed my track in college.  I had originally gone back to school after the fabulous flame out I had my original go around, to be a photographer, to perhaps be a photo-journalist, or a nature photographer, work for National Geographic, who knows.

Except that I had to take a load of art classes and I was not a sketcher or painter and although I appreciated art, loved art, got high off of it even before I knew what it was doing for me, I did not believe myself an artist.

I did not believe that I could make it through the art classes so after one beginning art class, I dropped it and decided I was not going to be a photographer.

Cue my trip to Paris four years ago and buying a digital camera.

Add to that one photography workshop with John Ater last spring and a year later, I won’t say I am a great photographer, but I can frame a good shot and I love doing it.

That is what being an artist is about.

Not doing it to be great, but doing it because I love it.

I love the writing too.

I want to continue to do both.

So, I will.

Who’s stopping me anyhow?

“Honey,” John Ater said to me in a deep sonorous voice, “you are you own enemy, you step on your neck all the time, you hold you down.”

He continued, “you are a good writer, I have read what you write and you are a good photographer, I like you photographs, so get the fuck out of your own way.”

Here’s to me doing just that.

Whether in Rome.

In Paris.

In Oakland.

Or where ever I am supposed to be.

Because if he will read that book, then so will a lot of other people too.

 

In Today’s Top Stories

March 30, 2013

The going vegan debate has raised its head again.

I wrote five more pages in my new work, Mother.

I took the dog for a long walk.

I took a bath.

I read the first 100 pages of my manuscript The Iowa Waltz.

The last makes me the happiest.

It is good.

Not great, but much better than I had hoped for.  Much, much, much better.

I had not voiced the fear, but it was there, lurking around in the brain, sliding around the corners, obsequious and sneaky, “you don’t really want to read that do you?”

It’s going to suck and then where will you be?

Thanks, brain.

Thanks for sharing.

Fact is, it is good stuff.

I wrote the book on a white-hot streak after finishing the first draft to Baby Girl on Alan Kauffman’s recommendation that I continue moving forward with fresh work.  “Your pen is hot, just keep producing.”  He told me.  I did.  I wrote another entire manuscript in about a month.  Then another.  In 90 days I wrote three books into first draft.

Now that I have had some time and distance from the project I can see another thing that may change how I proceed with the works.  They are all of a piece.  Meaning that though they stand completely on their own, Baby Girl is 76,000 words, they could be all brought together into one piece.

JRR Tolkien originally wrote the Trilogy of the Rings as one work, his editors made him break it up because they did not believe that the reading public would be interested in reading so much at one time.

I am not Tolkien, nor will I ever strive to be.  I am just me and my words are just my words.  However, the works might stand together as one cohesive piece.  As I was reading through the first 100 I thought this could be a nice middle piece if I collated them all together. It’s just a thought for the moment.

As it stands, I still need to read the rest of the work, then take it into second draft.  What I am also ecstatic about is that it will not take nearly as much work to pull into second draft as Baby Girl did.

I had already been doing the practice of writing and I had the additional criticism from Alan and the rest of the writing group that I was meeting with on Thursday evenings after I got done with work at the veterinary hospital.  The second piece is cleaner, stronger, has a more coherent voice and a good synopsis.  In fact, when I read the synopsis today I just about fell out of the chair.  I had forgotten a good amount of the action.

I was also startled by how much I remembered when reading it.

I managed to capture the essence of the story, the environment, and the voices of myself and my sister, who is a major character in the work, are bright, strong, coherent.

I was thrilled.

I was also again transported.

This time to Iowa, where the majority of the work takes place.  I actually found myself emotionally responding to the characters.  Yes, the characters are real people, but to me, they feel like characters, two lost teenage girls doing the best they knew how with the extraordinary circumstances of living that they found themselves in.  A few times I teared up in wonderment that I ever got out of there alive.  I also laughed out loud more than once, I was a brassy girl, with a lot of opinions.

I still am.

This time here, out of the city, has been good for me.

Really good.

I wrote this morning that I am going back.  I gave up, gave in, and said, ok, I quit.  I knew this was going to come down to this and I need to start making plans to take action to move back.  There is no staying here that I can figure out.  Despite wanting to, despite beating myself up for not having figured it out, there is no getting around the situation.

I don’t regret it though, not a moment, not a minute, not every time I cried and wondered what the fuck I was doing.

I was discovering that I really am a writer and that I do have words, words that just seem to sweep out of my hands, as long as I sit down to let them spill forth.

It really is the sitting to the task that takes the most out of me, but once I am there, the words, they come, torrents of words.

I opened the four notebooks that I have been working through and laid them out on the table and took a photograph with my phone.

Look at all those words.

They buoy me up, the carry me along, through the days and nights of anxiety, through the wilderness of not knowing, my lifeboat.

I would like to make it as a writer. I would like to be fully self-supporting with the things that I write.  I don’t know if I will or not, and the fact is, as I have written time and again, I would write regardless.  The practice feels so good.  I love sitting here at the keyboard tapping away, watching the words pop onto the screen, reminding me of where I am in what point where in my life.

These books, journals, blogs, a history of myself and my life.

I have a great memory, and I tap into it when I write, never knowing what I will remember–just that the picture will be there for me to describe, sound of the people talking, the time of day, the clothes they are wearing; it is so much like watching a movie and just writing down what I see.

Or what experience will work its way in where.  I do know it is important for me to continue filling the image well.

I use this today to get out and take a longer walk with the dog on a different route, down a road I had not seen before, or say yes to experiences that many may not even think about doing.  I am saying yes right now.  I am saying yes to what is next.  No questions asked.

I was made an offer and as I walked along through the woods today, I thought, this person is crazy pants, what do they know about me, how could they offer that to me?  Then I thought, so what if it doesn’t work out, or the person should change their mind, how about I say yes the next time it is brought up and see what happens.

I have not been dropped on my ass and it would be another experience to write about, to spin a tale about, to look back on ten or twenty years down the road and say to myself, “remember when you moved from Paris to….”

As I read through the manuscript reliving the incidents from twenty years ago I marveled that I was here in France.

I had no clue when I got onto that Grey Hound bus in Madison, Wisconsin headed to Newton, Iowa where I was going to live or what job I was going to have, let alone imagine that I would ever actually live in France.  Or that I would write a book about a that year I lived in Iowa.

I feel finally at peace with letting go of Paris.

I am just off to another adventure.

Who the hell knows where I will land.

I don’t.

And for once, I don’t care.

Reader Alert: Baby Girl Post

March 9, 2013

Hello all.

I will be writing my standard blog here momentarily.

However, I am about to have a Skype call with the fabulous John Ater.

Since I am waiting for the call and I recently had it suggested to me that I post up Baby Girl again, the edited version, I am going to do that now.

Then I shall return to my regularly scheduled post in about an hours time.

Here then, Habit, Chapter 1, Baby Girl, 5th draft and revised edition.

 

 Habit

 

“Tell me what is was like,” Dawn leaned into me eagerly, the long ash of her cigarette nearly falling into my lap, her straw-colored hair shielding her face, but not the sharp gleam in her pale blue eyes.

 

            “Take a hit and pass the can, but don’t exhale,” said Billy.

I placed the hot aluminum can to my mouth and took the largest possible pull I could, drawing the smoke deeply into my lungs.  My heart started beating faster, the walls of the hooch, the small shackled together pressed plywood room we called home, expanded and contracted with each boom of my heart.  Billy reached over to me and took the pipe fashioned out of an empty Budweiser can away from my suddenly unsteady hand and gently tamped down the smoldering rock with the butt end of a sky blue plastic lighter.

Nobody blows bubbles like my old lady,” he said grinning with a kind of misplaced parental pride, “her lung capacity’s fantastic.”

I thought I was going to pass out, my field of vision foreshortened and the walls crawled toward me.  My heart rate sped up further, sweat began beading off my face, curling down the backs of my knees, and feathering in hot waves across my shoulder blades, and streaming down my chest in rivulets.  Unable to hold my breath in any longer I expelled a plume of dirty gray smoke into the air, effectively fogging up the small crowded room—Billy, myself, his best friend Leon, and Leon’s “companion”.

“God damn it, Baby Girl, you have to hold that shit in.  You wasted all that good smoke for nothing.  Fucking Christ, I’ve shown you often enough, haven’t I?”  Billy looked up from the fresh batch of crack he was preparing and growled at me, his blue eyes darkened to a steel grey as they narrowed in on me.

“Jaysus,” said Leon, “that girl’s got lungs o’ steel.  Gimmee, the can, lemme see if I can out puff the lady dragon.”

Billy ignored Leon, staring directly at me, his full upper lip rising along with his blonde mustache in a sneer, “Watch, this is how you do it, last time I am going to fucking show you.”  He settled the grey yellow rock gently on the bed of cigarette ashes nestled above the vented holes of the pipe can, pushing it just so with his finger.

He held the can up to his mouth after exhaling every bit of breath out through his nose, like an angry cat, then rolling the wheel of the lighter with his thumb he danced the blue flame over the rock, continuously inhaling as the crack melted down, pulling off a huge hit.  The sweet scent of death danced in the air, intoxicating, pulling every mouth in the hooch toward the wavering heat of the pipe.

Billy then began the soft tamping down of the orange glowing rock with the lighter to extinguish the small flame.  He gulped back more smoke into his mouth never exhaling until the rock had completely stopped smoldering on the can.  His face grew pale and sweat broke on his forehead, a thin trail ran from his temple down the rough shadow of his beard.  Billy raised his left arm unconsciously and mopped the sweat away, rolled his face back, eyes closed, face drawn tight in esctacy—pausing for a moment his chest rising with the struggle to hold in his breath.

He opened his eyes, wide black discs of pupil ringed with sky blue and turned toward the woman sitting on the bed.  It was a plank of wood an inch and a half thick of crumbling pressed dry plywood propped up on dirty brown plastic milk crates draped with a thin foam pad and covered over by a dusty green and blue plaid sleeping bag.  Leon’s friend leaned toward Billy with eyes glittered wet with want.  He put his mouth to hers and exhaled into it.

The woman sucked back his breath and then leaned into the wall of the hooch.  She pulled back her shoulders and her breasts heavy, low, sloppy in her baggy black tank top, swayed into the dimpled white flesh of her upper arms. Her nails were thick and dirty, laquered with heavy chipped flamingo pink nail polish, and they rolled up and down her thighs as she felt the hit descend into her body.  Her face suddenly flushed and she sat quickly forward, gesturing at Leon to come to her.

Leon clambered eagerly toward her and compeleted the circle to the strange menage a trois I was witnessing.  She grabbed his face and pushed her mouth onto his, exhaling into Leon as he eagerly drew from her mouth.  Leon’s face intent, eager, hard, softened, his mouth drew up in a small smile and his eyes rolled back to half-mast.  He took her hands away from his face and rocked back onto his heels, leaning dreamily into the supportive wall of the hooch.

A full life time of minutes, perhaps one, perhaps two, passed before Leon slowly exhaled—the plume of smoke was not nearly as large as the one I had exhaled, but still substantial.

Leon slapped his knees, his face slowly returning to it’s true ashy color from the mottled eggplant it had been, and whined up at Billy, “Dang it man, I threw in for this shit, and this is what I’m getting not even seconds, but thirds?  Pass the fucking pipe and serve up a fresh rock while you’re at it”!

Billy looked at Leon through slit eyes, and then took the proffered pipe out of his hands.  He carefully scraped at the can with the flat edge of his generic Swiss army knife then scooped up a fresh pile of ashes from the Shoney’s metal ashtray he’d swiped the last time we’d eaten their aka dined and dashed.  He shook out a smaller piece of rock and laid it on top of the ashes.

“Here you go man, but make sure you pass the smoke around, don’t waste it like my old lady does”.  Billy glared across the small space at me.  I looked down at the hem of my dress and held my silence.

Leon hit the pipe, and then mouth passed the smoke to the woman.  She barely paused to enjoy the hit before passing it on to Billy.  Her greedy thick sticky lips fastened onto his and stayed there far longer than she had with Leon.  They lingered against each other, her hand on his knee. It was not a kiss, pers se, but the contact lasted far beyond my comfort level, and I tapped my foot rapidly in the corner.  Billy finally turned to me.  I leaned into him and he blew the hit over my face.  My eyes watered and I coughed, watching the smoke waft away into the corner of the room.

“Now do it right this time or you’re not gonna get anymore”.  He snarled but handed me the bent can, I reached for it with hands that I mentally stilled from shaking.

He did not bother to load up a fresh piece of rock or even to scrape up the one that had melted down into the ashes.  I rolled the lighter and the flame sprung up-floated it down and over the ash crusted plastic pool before I finally found something that would hold onto the lick of flame.  My breath was painfully short from trying to draw against the nothing that was there. But I knew there was something there—I could smell it.  I could smell the wire hanger burn igniting in my lungs.  I wanted it.

Billy pulled the can out of my feverish and once again shaking hand, “enough!  There’s nothing fucking there, Carmen, stopped tweaking on the can!  Give it the fuck up girl.”  He shook his head in disgust and then set the pipe gently down on the edge of the bed in a fold of sleeping bag, and turned away from me to get the last of the rock from the narrow ledge lining the hooch.  I stepped behind him and tapped his shoulder.

“Hold you’re fucking horses, girl!”  He said and shrugged my hand off his shoulder.

I tapped him again, insistently.

“What the fuck, get off me!”  He said and spun to face me.

I beseeched him to come toward me.  I was drenched in sweat from the effort of not exhaling.  The anger faded off his face and he quizzically looked into my eyes, then, as though his body sensed it despite the annoyance of listening to me, he acquiesced and leaned into my body.  I pressed my mouth to his and exhaled.  I could feel the pressure from his lungs as they struggled to take in the large volume of smoke.  He sucked in  what he could then pushed me off and gagged.

“God damn,” he said breathlessly disoriented, his hand groped to the wall and he leaned against it sagging down, “I guess there was something left of that hit.”

I still had smoke rolling out of my mouth.  My dress clung to me as my chest heaved.  I was soaked with sweat.  I sat down wilting, using the wall of the hooch to hold me steady as I slid to the floor. I felt the crumble of press pinewood push soft splinters into my back. I ignored the room and closed my eyes.

Mama watching The Waltons with Grandma Vivvy and Cissy, on the couch in the late afternoon sunlight; the light fluttering like moth dust through the waxy lemon tree leaves.  The grass in the back yard is high, dry, and prickly.  The honey suckle tumbles down heavy on the sun bleached high wood fence enclosing the lot.  The cement patio is hot on my bare feet.

            I don’t want to go to bed yet; I don’t want to come in from the warm air.  My underwear is stuck.  I reach back and pull them out.  I dance on the cement watching my reflection in the patio door.  Maybe I’ll just dash down the hallway, run to the bathroom and sneak back.  I can watch the Waltons behind the couch! 

            I slide the door open and patter past Grandma Vivvy; she smiles at me.  I sneak off through the dark  tunnel of hallway with its avocado green carpeting, down to the bathroom just past mami and papi’s bedroom door.

            “Who’s out there”?  My papi’s voice rumbles out from behind the door.  I pause, frozen.

            “It’s me, papi,” I take a hesitant step toward the bathroom. My eyes are still adjusting to the change in light.  I blink and wish my papa were home.  He has been gone for days.  My mama is angry, I don’t know why.

            “Come in here,” says papi, his voice is choked with mucus, gravely and thick.

            “Hi papi,” I peek in.  He is watching a movie on the TV.  I look past the orange and green and brown check bedspread, it is Tarzan! 

            “Come here, keep your papi company,” he pats the covers which are pulled up over a grayish green blanket and stark white sheet.  He is under the covers in his pajamas, sky blue with navy piping.  I look back toward the living room; I can’t hear the Waltons anymore.  I look at Papi; his dark brown eyes glower at me from under bushy grey eyebrows. 

            I step back.

            “Come here, Carmen, now” he says in an insistent soft voice, it is not a voice to ignore.

            I push open the door, my hands glow against the dark grain of the wood.  The curtains are pulled closed against the falling of the day.  I walk into a cave of gloomy murk.  I squint.

            “Baby girl, go turn up the TV set.  Your Papi’s hearing isn’t so good anymore.”

            I nod and walk further into the room toward the TV set at the foot of the bed.  It is big.  It stands on tapered peg legs and has rabbit ears on top.  Jane sees a leopard on a tree branch; her dress looks like the leopard.  She is pretty.  I turn the volume knob up two clicks and look back over my shoulder at my grandfather.

            “Louder, honey, good.”  He nods as I turn up the volume louder.  “Thank you, know why don’t you shut the door so we don’t disturb mami with our show.”

            I walk back to the door.  I can hear mama laugh with the show in the living room.  I hesitate at the door.

            “Go on baby girl, shut the door.”

            I do.

I open my eyes, sticky and cloudy with the high, I lick at the top of my lips and wipe my clammy hands on the bottom of my dress.  I do not, however, bother to wipe off the sweat rolling down my face.  I like it, it is good wet physical proof of the high.  Billy shakes a Doral out from the pack he keeps in his breast pocket, lights it and hands it to me.  I nod my thanks, draw my knees up, close my eyes again and smoke the cigarette.  I enjoy the peripheral high of the nicotine and formaldehyde combining with the residual crack in my lungs, the cigarette after getting high is almost as good as the getting high part.

I walk back out to the living room.  The light has changed.  Grandma Vivvy turns and looks at me from over the top of the couch, she smiles.

“That was nice of you to keep your papi company, he doesn’t like the Waltons.”

I walk around the sofa.  The backyard is dark and the TV set glows against the sliding glass door.  John Boy is stuck at the top of a Ferris wheel.  I sit down on the cushioned carpet and press my back against mama’s legs.  She is warm.  Her hand falls on my head and plays with my hair, gathering it up and letting it fall.  She twists a curl around her finger and tugs at it.

            “You’re up past your bedtime,” she says, patting my head while regarding the screen.  My sister is asleep in her other arm, curled up small and protected in the circle of her warmth.

I nod.  I know. I won’t ever stay up late again.  I get up and go to my room, shutting the door, I crawl under my covers.  I am sticky.  I wipe myself off and huddle against the wall farthest away from the door.

Billy loads up the last of the rock, making sure to carefully slice open the cellophane that houses the rock to lose all the stray crumbs.  He lights up and draws hard on the pipe,  then he passes it around to Leon and the woman before I have the chance to ask for my share.  I come out of my strange reverie to the sound of the can being crumbled.

“Shit,” said Billy with disgust, “that’s it, fuck.”  He stepped out the door, blinding me in hot white sunlight, and tossed the crushed can out behind the hooch. It was a garbage pit of junk that slid down a steep slope to a man-made lake on the abandoned air force base we were camped at outside of Homestead, Florida, a suburb of Miami.

“Hey man, no way,” said Leon jerkily starting up, “what are you doing? There’s still plenty of hits left on that.”

“Bullshit,” said Billy, “it’s gone, and don’t you dare go looking for it,” snarling at Leon.

“Fuck off man, I can at least scrape the inside of that can, I bet there’s a fuck ton left inside.  I gave you the last of my fucking money ‘til Friday, I want what’s mine” Leon shambled up and scooted out the door.  Billy went after him; they scuffled in the garbage sliding down the embankment taking their argument to the shore of the lake.

I slowly blinked and pulled myself up off the floor.  I looked over at the woman, this “friend” of the boys.  She smiled at me revealing her yellowed crooked teeth, one incisor missing, her gums a dark plum and diseased looking grey.  I pushed my mouth up in the semblance of a smile and plucked the soaked bodice away from my body, it peeled off my body with a soft sucking sound.  I fanned myself with the material.

“You want a smoke,” I said unconsciously groping to instill some sort of normality into the situation, to be a hospital host, despite wanting to push her out the door, I offered her a cigarette from my stash pack.

“Sure,” her eyes lit up and she swiped the cigarette from me.  I was glad I had not handed her the pack, she probably would have smuggled a few extra out of the pack.

She walked outside and I followed her out into the hot sun.  I climbed up on the hood of Billy’s silver two door Honda Accord, pulling the skirt of my dress up and off my legs.  She leaned against the passenger side of the car noisily inhaling her cigarette and sucking on her teeth as though there was some last residue of crack tucked up between what remained of her teeth and deteriorated gum line.

“What the fuck are you doing hanging out with Billy,” she said suddenly, slowly looking up at me from behind a curtain of cigarette smoke.

“What?  What do you mean,” I asked startled by the directness of the question, “Billy’s my boyfriend.”  I replied, as though this dutifully qualified me to smoke crack with him and his best friend and his best friends “lady friend”.

“Honey, girl, you too young for him and you’re pretty and you seem smart, why the fuck you hanging out with this dumb motherfucker?”  She turned and gestured at the hooch with her cigarette.

My hackles raised.  This dumb motherfucker who you were all over just minutes ago.

“I love him,” I said indignantly.  Then I looked down and began kicking out my foot from the bumper, trying to distract myself from the truth.  I did not love Billy, I was his hostage, even if I did not acknowledge it out loud, that was the truth of it.

“Oh please, sugar, you don’t love him, do you even know what love is?  That man is a fucking red necked hillbilly motherfucker, you don’t really love him now, do you?  Tell for real.”

“Yes, of course I do,” I said pausing, I fished another cigarette out from my pocket.

I could not love him.  But there were things about him that excited me.  I was in love with some one else, but Billy had attributes I found myself quite appreciative of–he was furry, downed with light golden fuzz that was softer than male hair has any right to be, I liked to stroke his chest hair, there was something deeply appealing to it. Then there was the way his blue eyes looked at me, constantly hungry, I was desirable.  I liked his tattoos, even the faded out ones with his children’s names scrolled in blue cursive around his biceps, one for each arm. Or how he looked in overalls with no shirt on, the tight round high globes of his ass bouncing underneath the faded denim.  He was sexy and raw and leonine.

“I love him,” I said again, this time adamantly, turning away from the blue sky back toward the woman and looking into her jaundiced eyes.

“You a fool.” She said with derision and flicked her cigarette away from her.  I was being called a fool by this?

“Well, don’t you two look cozy,” said Billy walking toward the car.  He came up behind me and slapped my ass, “get off the car, we have places to be.”

“Baby Girl,” he said leering at the woman, “it’s been fun, but you need to scoot on outta here, we got business to attend to.”

The woman leaned over and kissed Billy on his cheek.  He reached out and slid his hand underneath the dingy fabric of her sweatshirt, grabbing a handful of breast.  She slowly slapped his hand away, “no pay, no play, you know the rules sugar.”  She laughed and then continued, shooting me a fast look, “’sides, looks like you got your hands full with this one.”

Billy laughed, “She’s a little hellcat in the sack, that’s for damn sure.” He turned away from us, “Leon,” he bellowed, “move it man, I want some beer now!”

“Beer,” I asked quizzically, raising my eyebrows.  “I didn’t know we had money for beer.”

“Yeah, beer, I need to calm down this god damn tweak before I’m down there scraping every damn can I run across like my man Leon over there.”

“Fuck you man, I can hear you,” said Leon his voice a thin strained whine.

“Then let’s go!”  Billy turned to me, “Baby Girl get the fuck in the car.”

Leon pushed his way past me and climbed in the back, clambering over the passenger side seat, feet tangling in the seat belt.  I flipped the car seat back and rode shotgun.  We headed to the little gas station run by a Cuban family.  Billy pulled up to the island and started filling the tank.  Leon tapped my shoulder; I slid out, flipping down the seat to let him out.  I settled back in and contemplated the window streaked with dust.  Leon swabbed at the car windows with dirty water from the bucket next to the gas pumps.

“Whaddya want,” Leon surreptitiously asked Billy.

“Budweiser, what do I always want?”  He replied, looking at the numbers on the gas tank rolling forward.

“And a Coke,” I chimed in, wondering again where the money was coming from, gas and beer, cigarettes and soda?

“Girl, I ain’t gonna support your Coke habit no more today,” said Leon cackling like a lunatic right outside the car door.  I reached out the window and swatted at him.

“Fuck you Leon,” I said grinning.

“Hee, hee, hee, watch what you say, or I ain’t gonna git you a god damn thing,” he said placing the squeegee back in the bucket.

I batted my eyelashes and leaned beseechingly out the car window, “pretty please, Leon, may I have a Coke?”

“Shoo,” he said, I thought I noticed him blush, but he turned and walked toward the store front before I could tell for sure.

Billy shook the gas hose from the car and hooked it back into the pump, then climbed in the car and started the engine.  He pulled away from the island, angling the car toward the driveway.  He fiddled with the rear view mirror, which he kept glancing from to the roadway.

“Open up the door,” he said suddenly turning to me.

“What?” I said startled, I was watching the traffic and wondered if maybe it was too soon to ask Billy for a cigarette.

“Open up the fucking door,” he said shoving me aside he fumbled with the door handle, a button on his shirt cuff getting caught on the buttons of my dress.  My favorite dress, my only dress, a black cotton sundress with orange blossom and tiny green leaves scattered across the fabric.  He shook his hand madly in annoyance, tearing off a button, my bodice gaped open and I pushed his hands off me.

“Billy!”

“Open your fucking door!” He screamed at me, spittle flecked my face and dotted my chest.  His breath hot with cigarettes fell on me and I winced with barely veiled disgust at his smell.

“Ok, ok, what the fuck?”  I reached for the handle, which was suddenly ripped from my hand bending back my nails, I cried out with alarm.  Then I was being slammed into the dashboard as Leon smashed himself into the backseat.

“Go, go, go!” He cried slapping the back of my seat rapidly with the flat of his hand.

Billy pealed out, tires screeching, my door still open flopped out of my reach.  I screamed and slid toward the open door, I grabbed at the handle and screeched again.  I banged it shut as we bounded over the speed bumps and onto the street, causing traffic to halt around us.  My nose and mouth were stuffed with dust and the burnt smell of rubber.  I struggled upright in my seat and glanced back at Leon only to see a man running behind us, hand raised, fist closed, screaming at the backside of the car.

“Shit! Shit! Shit!” Leon turned watching the man. “God damn it to hell, girl, what the fuck is your problem?  You just about got us fucking caught,”

Billy glared at me as I shrank into the side of the door,  “what the fuck did I tell you?”

Leon tossed a liter bottle of Coca Cola over the split in the car seats; it dropped heavy and cold with recrimination into my lap.

“That is abso-fucking-lutely, the last time I support your freaking habit. Damn. I could have gotten clean out the store without them noticin’ but no, I had to go back and get little miss a Coke, fuckin’ hell.”  Leon mopped his brow, “man I just about shit my pants, dude actually caught on to the back of my shirt. You owe me a new button up, girlfriend.”  He tucked the his shirt back into the waistband of his jeans.

I stared at Leon with wide eyes in the passenger side mirror, “I’m sorry,” I stammered, “I didn’t know what was going on.

Billy drove the car silently, hands gripping the wheel so tight the whites of his knuckles shone through his tan hands,  constantly checking the rear view mirror.  Leon ripped opened the case of beer and handed one up front to Billy, who promptly cracked it and drained the whole thing without taking his eyes off the road. He belched and flung it out the window.  Leon handed him another, then a third.  Finally, on the fourth can, he sighed deeply, then settled it into his crotch.  He tapped the top of it rapidly with his fingernails.  He was fastidious about keeping his nails clean.  I looked down at the round moons of pink and white and bit my lip.

We drove past the Lake without stopping.  We drove into a nicer neighborhood to a strip mall with a Food Lion, parking in the middle of the lot between two nondescript suburban cars.

“Get out,”Billy said to me, finally breaking his silence, “make yourself scarce for fifteen minutes.”

I did not question him, I just got out and walked toward the sliding glass doors of the store, trying to keep my dress discreetly pinned together.  I was not wearing a bra and with the middle button on my bodice now gone it was quite apparent.  I walked into the cool relief of the store trying to adjust the dress around my shoulders to not draw more attention to myself.

I circled the store twice, before realizing that security was following me, I had a shadow guard keeping and eye on me.  I walked past the racks of candy bars, eyeing them wistfully and exited back into the hot breath baking off the blacktopped lot.  I wondered how much time I should give to Billy, then I saw a bank of telephones.  I walked toward them and started sticking my fingers into the little metallic mouths, maybe I could find enough change to get myself some chocolate.  I paused suddenly, looked up at the hard black plastic handsets and then picked up a sticky receiver.

I pushed the zero on the keypad.

“This is your Bell Operator, Shelia, how may I help you?”

“Collect call to Patricia Munz at 608-257-2180, please.”  I said and glanced behind me to the parking lot.

“One moment please, now connecting you to 608-257-2180.”

“Hello?”  I heard my mother’s voice far and small on the other side of the country answer the phone.

“This is a collect call for Patricia Munz. Will you accept charges from,” the operator paused, waiting for me to say my name.

“Carmen Martines,” I said into the round circle of holes.

I heard a gasp on the other line and my mother quickly responded, “yes!”

“One moment please while charges go through,”  the operator intoned and a number of chimes beeped in the back ground.

“Baby?”  My mother’s needy voice rang out into my ear.

“Hi mom,” I said softly, what was I doing?  This was stupid, what help is she going to be?

“Oh my god, baby, where are you?” My mother spoke in a rush, then paused, I could hear her fumbling for her cigarette pack.

“Homestead, Florida,”  I replied, suddenly tired, so tired, I just wanted to sink down onto the sidewalk and sleep.

Florida? When are you coming home?”  She asked, inhaling quickly, the sound of  her voice whistling out as she sucked on her menthol.

“I don’t know,” I said in flat monotone.

“Please come home, Carmen, please, I can’t stand not having you here, not being able to talk to you, not knowing where you are, this is killing me.”

“I can’t right talk right now, I gotta go, I just wanted to let you know I’m ok, love you mom.”

I hung up the phone.

 

 

“Took you fucking long enough,” said Billy with a glare when I got back to the car.

“I’m sorry,” I said under my breath.  I sat very still in the passenger seat, gritty balled hands in my lap, head down.  I could see the white skin demarcation from my tan line underneath the collar of my dress.  I focused on the line of dark next to the white and sat without moving or looking up at Billy.

“Fuck it, whatever.  Here,” he said tossing a flat hard piece of metal into my lap, “hat’s now your responsibility to take care of.”

“What do you want me to do with your license plate,” I asked startled, turning to him.

“I don’t fucking care what you do with it, you can shove it up your fucking ass, for all I car, just get rid of it!  Leon helped me steal one off a car in the parking lot so we don’t get nailed by the fucking cops since you took so long to move your sweet ass that Cuban fuck face probably got the number on my plates.  Can’t have that illegal fuck report my car to the county, you know I got warrants out.”

“Ok, ok. Billy, please,” I said reaching for his hand, “I’m sorry, I did not mean for that to happen.”

“Shut it,” he said and swatted my hand away.  He turned on the radio and we drove back to the Lake, the hard metal of the cars licence plate a dirty reminder of my shame.

 

“That sounds bad,” Dawn said to me, “was it always that bad?” 

I did not know how to answer that.  Was it always that bad?  Had we ever had any fun?

            “It was not that bad,” I said, with a forced smile, “we had some fun, Billy liked to go down to the Keys, we always had a good time there.”

 

“Tell me more,” Dawn demanded. She crossed and uncrossed her legs and reached for her pack of Kools from her large overstuffed bag.


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