Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I was sitting on the toilet reading “Beautiful Losers” when my middle one, the Jan Brady of the family, the weirdest boy, the grey-stripey stepchild came mournfully meowing into the bathroom wanting love and reassurance. He had been locked up in his cage in the basement since six a.m. after a night of carousing around the house for no particular reason. (The valium isn’t working.) In the morning I am blind as I do not sleep in my contact lenses and I usually cannot see where my glasses are. It was two of my other senses that led me to understand after a partial pat and an inhale and a half that he was covered in poop. I put down the book and pinned his clean side to the floor and shouted for husband making coffee and tea, forgetting that husband is growing harder of hearing, as musicians do, and probably could not hear me, but it was early, and it was hard to yell, yelling not being normal fare in our house no matter the hour, unless we are yelling at Max, the now shitty cat. I am sitting on the toilet, blind, pinning a stinky cat to the floor and though I am glad that Pete is taking care of the morning beverage service after a sleepless night, I need his assistance more than I need tea. In a perfect world, cats don’t need baths. Maybe show cats need baths, but housecats are self cleaning like fancy new ovens, but like with fancy new ovens, sometimes, accidents happen, and you can’t just push a button or whip out a small pink tongue and make it all better. This was a bathtub shampoo situation. This is what parentage is all about, though I do not believe, or at least I hope, that our future infants will not be as struggly or strong when they inevitably wind up covered in their own excrement. I envision baths being less violent and less prone to skin breaking physical injury than our experience this particular morning. (It’s a gorgeous morning by the way. 66 degrees and clear blue flawless sky, raspberries and tomatoes ripening in the garden, morning glories blooming.) The cage in which Max was confined sits outside by the back steps now, decorated like a monkey might, and Max is probably still in a windowsill, washing himself of the grapefruit shampoo bath we gave him. I am at work, having renewed “Beautiful Losers” at the library because I did not get nearly enough reading done this morning.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Lost Planet

I guess it was great while it lasted, you know? Being memorized by schoolchildren for generations. Having status. Real status. Like I was SOMEONE, you know? (to bartender) Can I get another Makers Mark, please? Thanks. (slugs whiskey) I mean, I know it wasn’t really much, and I was too far out to have anything to do with the fancier members of the club with their flashy rings and countless adoring moons, but I was PART of something. I knew where I fit in, man; I knew what I was. Now, after all these years, to be just demoted. By committee. Like I was some sort of professor who violated the university’s conflict of interest policies. (pauses and shakes head) No. I didn’t DO anything to deserve this. I have been out here, minding my own business for millennia, and I am not exaggerating. People always say things like “my head LITERALLY exploded” when of course it didn’t, but I mean it. I have literally been out here for millennia, and then this happens. I guess I should not be surprised, I mean, they have been debating this for a long time, and I should have seen it coming, but I guess I was just too enchanted with continually seeing my name in the papers, you know? Like a bigshot. People arguing about me. Important people. They had all sorts of other problems and issues to consider, and they were talking about ME. Cold, hard, little me. Heh. Yeah. That was gratifying. I did enjoy that. And I guess I didn’t worry. I didn’t think ahead to the possibility that I would end up here. I mean, what am I now? Is there even a classification for it? And if I don’t have a classification, do I get to keep my name? What am I now? WHO am I? So go from heroic, god like status—I mean, that is what my name implies, isn’t it? to this… this… this… what IS this? It’s all such a crap shoot, you know? So elitist. They set up the rules so that I would not qualify anymore, when they knew all along, all about me and my tendencies. They did it on purpose. They KNEW what would happen, and they did it on purpose. Now I am just a cartoon dog, a Disney afterthought. But I guess they can’t take that away from me, can they? Some consolation.

(pauses, looks into empty glass)

Dwarf planet.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

This is not the tone that I want.
This is not what I want to say.

I want to say that we all want to leave something behind. Material things that will lend to the memory of us and shape our perception long after we are gone. We sent spacecrafts up decades ago to explore, and included something of ourselves in case we should be gone as a race and unable to tell our story. We had, or our representatives had, a sense of time, of thinking back and forward, a sense of how we wanted to be remembered, and we did not sample from the culture of the time and risk offending a far-off race with disco but sent Wolfgang and Johann Sebastian instead. We wanted them to know that we were capable of beauty and love. We did not send the four horsemen and the seven deadly sins. We sent the seven wonders and the sound of wind, rain, and surf. Those spacecrafts bearing our essence, or our best selves, are still out there, beyond Pluto (who is no longer a planet, but that is another story), still traveling toward the dog star. Our best selves. Open to interpretation.

I am not getting there.
I am not putting my best foot forward.

But it’s just today; this morning. I want to make my mark, send out my best self, but it was an ungodly hour, for staying up or getting up. The years have added punishment to the rollicking that would have led to being up until 4:58 a.m., and I want no part of 4:58 a.m. Finding myself driving the streets, I wondered what those other people were up to. Knowing my purpose meant that only I could possibly have one; those others in their cars or unlocking their bikes or standing at the counter in a convenience store could only be up to no good. That I belonged was clear—-their purposes were nefarious and the individuals not to be trusted.

Having deposited my mother at the airport, we returned home and to the strains of heavy metal music coming from the house of the Neighbor We Don’t Know. “I keep thinking he’s making porn movies and using the music to cover up the noise” said Pete. “Have you SEEN him?” I said. No, again, whenever someone is behaving in such a manner, my mind, saturated with literature, pictures violence and dark strangeness coming from behind the lit but always drawn blinds on the tiny white house next door, and the thought of leaving even a small yellow post-it stating “The music is too loud. Could you keep it down please? Love, your neighbors, Pete and Karen” would be too much exposure for me, a mark I do not want to leave, and would open up an avenue of communication that I don’t desire. He has done nothing but move into his grandmother’s house after they shipped her off to a nursing home. Perhaps I hold the grudge of Violet’s dignity, who did not want to leave her home and who was lied to, as old people often are. There is probably nothing going on, nothing interesting, as this is not a movie, just my life, and it is probably as simple as he works odd hours, has questionable taste in music, and enough self involvement to not understand that his noise travels. Or perhaps, like the young men in their slick cars and their thumping bass notes, he just wants to be noticed. To leave his mark.

Returning to sleep at 5:00 in the morning is not as easy as it should be. Sleep is something that I am not good at, and as with all things that I am not good at, I don’t particularly like to do it, not wanting to make attempts in areas in which I do not excel. Not that sleep is something that will expose me to public ridicule; after all, no one will be watching me, except for possibly Pete, and he has a legal right to do so if he pleases. And, as Pete is not crazy, watching me while I sleep is sexy and not creepy.

I slept into a dream with a new house, overflowing with cats and neighbors and family. My aunt Ann was there, back from the dead, and we all knew it, including her. I wanted to ask her what it felt like, to wake up not dead and know that she had a finite time, and had to go back to being dead. I wanted to ask her how it had happened. Did she wake up in bed with her husband in the morning, like nothing had happened, but knowing that two years had passed? Was his new girlfriend there? Was he expecting it? But I did not want to be indelicate. Her husband, however, easy going and filled with humor, responded to her concern over having to be dead again soon with a blithe “Oh, Ann; it’s not like you haven’t died before.”

As I made coffee this morning, up for the second time in one day, I thought that perhaps this was Ann’s mark, for me. Not her mark for the rest of the world, like the terror alert colors that she inadvertently started, not like the mark for her children, their memories, but these little visitations that she grants me periodically. I want to think that they are her, not saying that she is OK, or that everything is fine, but checking in to see that I am.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Morning Thanks

It was a cloudy grey sky complete with drops of rain on my face as I rode my bicycle to work, thinking about how you spent so much time adjusting your orange tee shirt on your arms and shoulders. I could not figure out exactly what you were trying to achieve, but I found it charming. I am told that these things should be irritating me by now because that is what happens when you get married. Along with not having sex anymore.

(In my experience, these things happen before you get married the first time, but you are too wrapped up in wedding planning and living arrangements to notice, and if you do notice, it's too late now to call it off because what would people say? You'll go through with it. You'll make it work. It's better if he loves me more than I love him, isn't it? Isn't it?)

Even your inability to use soap anymore after it has reached a certain small size only makes me shake my head in wonderment. Why don't you throw it away? Why do you hide it under the new big bar of soap? You know that I will continue to use the small soap until it is gone. And because of this, I never get big soap. I am a soap martyr.

This morning a few blocks from my work, a young woman was killed on her bicycle, hit by a perhaps speeding pick-up truck. Both people were probably at fault, and it's a terrible thing. But how do you live after that? I might wish that I were dead, too.

If I were alone.

It changes everything, happiness does. Equal shares in a love relationship. For instance, I hardly ever surf porn anymore. I don't feel an insatiable need to go out every Friday and Saturday. I almost never sit on the couch and watch television shows on DVD and drink an entire bottle of wine by myself. (Unless you are away on business and I have been to two funerals in two weeks and have PMS.) I don't have tales of woe or drama to relate, which has led me to entirely uninteresting telephone conversations with people I have not seen in a while and an obsession with celebrity gossip sites, which are, I suppose, my new porn, as I am having sex, but I am still not famous. Probably because I did not parlay having sex into a career, but those possibilities are behind me.

And all of these things are good. I do not miss the things that have changed. Except for my old body, which was thin and fit but lonely. In this new body, it is easier for me to smile at strangers on a rainy sidewalk or appreciate the fact that the outdoor cat who we have adopted likes to sit in the plants in the front of the house and meow before you can see him. Now I am surfing the internet for puppies, not porn, and I feel linked to you with every cell in my body.

Even the fortune cookies seem to know that I don't need them anymore...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I don't have any answers

As far back as the 1790’s in the United States, when the political parties were developing along with the new nation, actual “upstart” men (most of them democratic republicans) were ridiculing college educated men (most of them federalists), book learning in general, the aristocracy, and refined manners. They believed that these American gentry, the Founders, were removed from The People because of their education, money, and social status as gentlemen.

In the twenty-first century, college educated, aristocratic, wealthy, “first tier” men are using the rhetoric of populism, the guise of lowly origins, a “man of the people” platform in order to gain popularity with the sector of America that resents the intellectual elite and the wealthy. Thus gaining the support of the very people they will grind through the churning gears of their policies.

It’s brilliant. An Ivy League educated man from a wealthy New England family has gained the highest position in the land by condemning the very thing that he is, and the public has bought it. The public, with a misguided conception of loyalty to “God and Country”, has purchased limits on freedom, less safety in a increasingly unsteady world, more government, less money in pocket, fewer desirable jobs, crippled public schools, declining access to health care, a burgeoning underclass, tax cuts for wealthy liberals, and worsening air and water quality.

Thomas Jefferson, the most famous of the “democratic republicans”, might be dismayed to learn that his unwavering, romantic belief in the virtue of “the people” would lead them to sacrifice themselves on the altars of political avarice.

Is this a critical, necessary evolution in the Great American Experiment, or the beginning of the end? Is it just another political swing of the sort that we have been enduring these 230 years, or is it the final ushering in of what Madison, Jefferson, and others of the post revolutionary period feared: the gradual ascendancy of a type of monarchy in the United States?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Wednesday Night

Having come to the realization, two and a half years ago, that, statistically, "someone" has to die alone, that the "someone" could well be me, and that I had better make good and sure that I was happy with my life--the one I could control--my actions my choices my responses--I gave up. I decided that I would rather be alone than settle, having settled for periods of time in the past. I would rather be alone than be struggling to win--his notice, his approval, his love, his devotion. I would rather be alone than go back.

My almost ex-husband in, what I believe was a combination of trying to win me back and trying to elevate himself above me, once told me that he worried about me; that no one would ever be good enough for me; that I would wind up alone.

It was "you won't find anyone better than me" and "I am better than you" all rolled up neatly in his nasal cartoon voice, a scoff at my choices. And I believe I listened in silence or I shrugged or maybe I said that he shouldn't worry about it. In any case, it didn't work. I didn't take him back, and I didn't feel chagrined.

And I did wade through a shallow sea of not better but different, pounding out the same weary lessons like stones on grey laundry. I never looked back to him. Only to me and those tired habits of unresolved emotion that included the fragmentary figures of men past and present. Until I washed up gasping with the effort of trying to control control mold and change what I could not.

Tuesday, 10:00 a.m.

The fish in the work tank have had a rough time of it, though if you asked the current residents, they would probably not spare a care for their former troubles, being, well, fish and not, say, jilted lovers or anorectic college students. It's hard to imagine--being human--overdosing on nitrogen, swimming through increasingly murky waters while your comrades float tangled and decomposing, pale in the brightly colored plastic plants, but at least--being a fish--you would not have the foreknowledge of your pending doom swimming around with you. You would only grow perhaps increasingly tired and short of breath as your gills clog up and your eyes cloud over. I suppose that might be a better way to go than some, but it's hard to say.

The fish in the work tank are all new since the tragedy, though some newer than others. The first four test fish we thought dead having seen neither fin nor tail of them since two were netted and tossed ingloriously into the office trash can--the one by the coffee pot. The new four, orange and vivacious, seem more like tame birds or puppies (most puppies are tame). They gather together at the upper corner of the tank when I arrive in the morning, nosing the glass for their flakes of food. Indeed, their fishy exuberance brought the two remaining, long thought dead members of the first group out of their hiding, tentatively swimming into the open, their more sedate champagne-colored translucent flanks propelling them slowly toward sustenance.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Tuesday Afternoon

On page 66 of the book of poetry, I ran across the poem, which I had read elsewhere, that made me buy the book of poetry in the first place. Although I had been enjoying the poems to this point, quite immensely, in fact (I like it when poets make me laugh), I was pleased that the initial poem was recognizable and no less pleasing when I first encountered it. I stopped and placed the book on my lap. I was on my second bus, coming home from work, having sat on the second bench in the blazing sun, sweat running tracks down my back under my tank top, and I did not want to forget before I reached home. Page 66. I had gotten on the second bus first, willfully not waiting for a young mother to precede me because I do not believe that the simple act of having children necessarily affords one respect. After all, almost anyone can have a child. But perhaps I will feel differently when I have children. If I can have children.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Monday Morning

The day began at seven a.m. to the wet retching sounds that signaled an imminent hairball that would most likely be quite inconveniently deposited, as cats have no ability to leave these mighty offerings on bare wood or linoleum preferring rugs or carpeting or--even better--an article of clothing or important paper, perhaps a library book. I had the split second between receipt of sound, recognition of sound, its meaning and consequences, initial sleep-caked decision to ignore, quick reconsideration, and final leap from bed to convulsing cat who was indeed on the rug mere inches from the wooden expanse of floor. They must be moved and held through both the primary, more copious, ejection and the secondary, for if they are simply caught and released, they will drag themselves slowly back to the rug or object on the floor like morning glories reaching for the nearest limb (this is another thing on my mind today, but that was the last thing I did before leaving the house, and this is the story of the first).

It was just a hairball--a small plug, at that, decorated with small lavender flecks that can only mean that he has been nibbling at the dried remains of the last bouquet that stood on the piano until the brackish water began to emir that sulfuric, biological cloud that ends every nice bundle of flowers no matter the level of love or sympathy or regret with which they were given.