Monthly Archives: June 2011

Substitution

It’s just me.  Me and the sweet oatmeal cereal bars, French toast at midnight with syrup and whipped cream, walnuts, fontina, goat, brie, cheddar, provolone cheese, a banana, no.  A banana smoothie with strawberries and fresh squeezed orange juice, blueberries.  Me and chicken enchiladas, spinach lasagna, cheese pizza, root beer, cashews, leftover meatloaf, lemon yogurt, tortilla chips, potatoes, a six-pack of beer.
There’s no more exercise, unless you count the steps to the refrigerator.

Step
Step
Step
Step

I look in the refrigerator, but you’re not there.  Only the fresh cream cheese, baker’s bread, leftover French onion soup, grapes, a mango, two eggs.  I touch a kiwi, the texture is like the stubble on your chin.  Fresh cut cilantro, like your breath on Saturday nights.
The feeling of consuming each tart little grape, the crunch of peeled carrots getting stuck in between the back teeth, the molars.  For a moment, a rush, like I’m back in your arms, like Christmas with the kids, like washing your back in the shower.  The rush of you, opening our blue door (you painted it), coming home from the market with sunflowers.
The toilet’s overflowed, but all I can smell and taste is the fresh cut cilantro, like your breath, and the kiwi, like the stubble on your chin.
Dozens of sunflowers wilt in the windows.
Yesterday our youngest took the food out of the refrigerator.  All of it: potatoes, eggs, blueberries, bananas, the dark chocolate stash, the lemon yogurt, leftover meatloaf, leftover quiche from the service now molding green, salmon, cookie dough, pickles.  She threw it in the trash.
“Mama, your belly,” she said.  And as I felt my throat tighten, she kissed my hand.  “Mama, I love you.  It’s okay,” she said, patting my stomach.


Immobile In Texas

If my hands were silly putty, glossy and movable, the miles would be fantasy.  If my hands were like this I could stretch to pet your cats, iron the ties, hold onto your shoulders, piggy back down the lavender field at dawn.  One hand could touch your lips, the other grab the sides of your hips.
If my legs were steel or iron, they could move me thousands of miles, and bring my fleshy upper half to you.  Maybe they would start to forget the destination.  Maybe I would have to remind them of you.
If my fingers could pick up a plane ticket and pay green bills, they would, to see your home with the oil paintings of meadows, pines, and dunes, your bed with the silky, enveloping sheets, the leathery chair with your lanky legs resting on the footstool.  They would dance across a counter to pay.  They would act like spiders and crawl all over your back, legs, stomach, face.
But there is nothing left.  I am immobile in Texas with people who piss themselves to sleep.  The rancid smell of shit has fastened itself inside the walls.  People fall asleep in their mashed potatoes and celery sticks.  The families have forgotten or the people have no family, or they’ve simply chosen this existence because they are crazy or depressed, or too fat to move.  It’s true they bring you three meals on trays here.
I too, cannot move.  My body has forgotten what my brain has told it to do.  And this will always, sadly prevent me from seeing you.


Edie

The lights, languid movements, bright city sky and roots of farm country life, the factory, used, radiant color, speed, black eye liner, bones, starlet-supreme-celebutante, an artist, years cut, infusing the master’s brilliant strokes with just a glimpse, a head cocked back, and a riveting wide open smile.  For Warhol and Dylan, the muse, an ill one-winged butterfly, a lost balloon sailing above far too soon.
A lost hermit crab looking for its shell.  Used and discarded like a bad hand of rummy.  The factory enforced her drug use.  It enforced addiction.  The needle poked.  Warhol called her a poor little rich girl, but all her money was going to his advertisement, his film, drugs, art, sin.  Dressing like each other, he called her the queen of the factory and she called herself Miss Warhol and they posed together on the streets of New York, the film glitterati, a new Marilyn Monroe.  She paid for his artistic progression and she ended up broke, an addict, a thread on the floor of the fashionable scene.  Dylan tried to lure her away, songs were written, the Chelsea Hotel steamed up with hot blooded creativity, it was a break away from the factory.  The needle poked.
Falling down, broken hearted girl, shattered glass, ash and char, burnt out, 63rd Street, candles caught fire.
Warhol filled her in after he’d spat her out.  He let her know her crush, a white feather, a streak of something different, Dylan had married a woman named Sara.
She disappeared from the underground scene, the spotlight, Warhol, the glitter and speed.  The films, underground, she never got paid.  Wrapped up cold girl, sprawled naked, lost reflection, a family of mental illness, addiction.  She didn’t really disappear from the speed.  The scene of the factory.  The enforced drugs.  The enforced dependence stayed long after Warhol spat her out, long after Dylan recorded the song Sara, which was for his wife, not Edie, not what she wanted.  Dirty girl, used needles, pricked bruises, motorcycle gangs, calling her “princess,” calling her for sex when she needed more drugs.  Selling grandma’s antiques for drugs.  Selling herself for drugs.  Selling out.  Selling songs for Dylan, a used up muse, inspiring “Like a Rolling Stone,” and “Just Like a Woman,” but where was her name?  Just Like Edie.  Why was she never named?  Her artwork.  Her sketches of horses and bodies and Andy probably never did see her work.  Selling film for Warhol, musing his iconic figure locked in time.  Time until October.  This time I’ll be sober.  Spending a trusty fortune, 80,000 dollars in just six months.  Try again, resuscitate, renew, revive.  Rehab.  Recovery.  Repeat.  Rehab.  Recovery.  Repeat.  Nothing.  Nothing matters.  Blank.  Empty.  A party, a short life line reflected in her hand.  A fortune teller’s magic, foreshadowed early death. Accident/Suicide.  Only a short October, sober.  A name, Edie, an etch in time, a wide, riveting smile, a head cocked back, a lost balloon, dead horses, a stone, bones.


20 Reasons Why I Wish You the Worst

1. You put on more makeup than I do

2. You didn’t get me a birthday present

3.  You claimed ownership of my black ring

4. You locked me in your room so I wouldn’t see her

5. You made me waste the day because you did drugs the night before and needed to sleep     Nexttome

6.  Your black ribbon

7.  You refused to get tested

8.  You didn’t get home until 9 am

9.  You told me to put on my makeup with the foamy wedges and not with my fingertips

10.  You got in a fist fight and you broke the bracelet I gave you

11.  You told me that you might have kids back in your country…You said, “I was young and irresponsible”

12. You took your cell phone with you in the bathroom
when you showered

13. You said you liked to see my ribs…I still feel the
seams ripping from my jeans

14.  The black ribbon was on the bed…You said it was
part of a costume…You said you were a Catholic school
girl, but it wasn’t Halloween

15. You asked me to get tested

16.  You made me drink too much booze…When I waited for you to come home at night and you never came, booze became my substitute man

17. You told me if I didn’t use the foamy make up wedges my skin would start to look greasy and old

18.  You said, “I lost my puppy when I was seven”…You kept a blanket with cartoon dogs printed on it on your bed, and when my feet were cold you pulled it off with force

19.  You hid the picture of my favorite DJ behind my closet door

20.  You told me no, not that dress, no, not the black pants, the black pin-stripped pants.  And I felt like you were saying not these arms, not these legs, not this girl


Unfinished Business

I could see her through the window.  Long cascading brown waves.  Her hair.  And the book she held, so close to her face.  Glasses?  Had she lost them earlier that day or month, or no, no glasses, just a close reader.  Perhaps she was a dreamer.  Reading, perhaps an escape.  She paused from reading and cried.  Her hands buried her face and she rock rocked in an oversized chair.
I wanted to touch her.

My breath was short.  The black mask I wore had cut open eye holes.  In the dying light of day I used my night vision binoculars.  Government business.  She was a threat.  But I only got a name.  That’s it.  Find.  Shoot.  Finito.  It was as though she anticipated the shot.  Her crying kept on.  Her arms were crossed and she rocked her upper body back and forth, like a daisy head on a drooping stem, soon to fall off in the wind. Hyperventilating sobs.  I could hear the way she might sound.  She wore a yellow spandex shirt and black leggings.  A honeybee.  Had she worked out at the gym down the street?   The clothing clung to her like a scuba diver’s suit, like a superhero’s outfit.

My index finger rested on the trigger.  She was so pretty.  Those cascading waves.  Those long legs.  Her hands pushed up against her face.  Her delicate face.  Little features, a tiny pointing chin, large eyes, lashes like a llama’s, a model, a queen, pale, she could be a mermaid or empress.  This was new.  I’d never done a woman.
She lived alone.  No one to help her bring in the grocery bags.  She’d been to the market.  I saw her bring in the bags and leave them on the kitchen counter.  Wouldn’t the milk go sour?  Did she have a backache?  How I’d love to rub and smooth out the kinks.

My index finger rested on the trigger.  I could see us.  The two of us on some beach, maybe Malibu.  Bali.  Brazil.  She’d be wearing nothing.  I wouldn’t either.  It’d just be us.  And I’d run my fingers through those cascading brown waves.  I’d touch her on that sharp little chin.  We’d read together on the sand and drink mojitos.  I’d marry her.  She’d look pretty even with a belly.  And we’d grow old and live in a simple house with a red door and three bedrooms, two baths, and also, we’d have a cat or dog or parakeet named Jim or Hector or Phyllis.
My suit was so hot that evening.  All the black.  I could have torn it off.  I could pretend to run into her on the street.  Tell her she looked familiar.  Ask her to coffee or shakes.  Shakes.  It’d be more fun, old style, white picket fence, simple house, red door.

I was sweating profusely.  She continued crying.  I could see it through the window.  And then I started crying.  Just a case.  The government.  Just an assignment.  A task.  A goal.  A contribution.  It was a silhouette.  Nothing more.  Just hair, legs, torso, nose, chin, the sharp little chin.  The legs, long, she moved like a gazelle.  Waves and waves of brown cascading hair, an ocean of tresses.  Who had the time to read?  And she’d read and then cried and then read some more.

My index finger.  My mask like fire.  All the sweat.

An eyelash.  I see it on the side of my finger.  My index finger.  The one on the trigger.  My brother used to say, blow and make a wish.


Arizona

Passing by a shooting range, along with miscellaneous signs to lost desert highways, I was abruptly startled when Pam, the driver of my shuttle, said,
“Don’t nobody live round these parts except havelinas and black beetles.”
“What are havelinas?”
“They look like a cross between a pig and hienna.  No relations to the pig though honey.  None whatsoever.”
“They just look like pigs?”
“Well, like a boar pig.”
“Oh.  Cool.”
I was experiencing an overwhelming sense of doom.  I was headed to a cattle ranch that had been converted into a bed and breakfast.  I had expected cowboy boots and other cliché desert things like cactus and coyotes.  Havelinas and this odd rain even though it was over a hundred degrees outside were not what I expected.  I expected resorts on the side of the road, quaint bed and breakfasts, I expected to feel relaxed.  A loud boom struck outside.  Thunder, but no rain.  An incoming storm.  Perfect.
A fat balding man was sitting in front of me, I think his name was Robert, and he couldn’t stop talking about his nurse girlfriend that he’d be meeting in a little town called Jerome.  They hadn’t seen each other in months he said.  “I’m a lucky dog,” he said.  After discussing his girlfriend for a long half hour, he mentioned how McDonalds would hit the spot.
“Mind if we stop somewhere along the road here?” Robert asked Pam.
“Well we’ve got some other people in the van, mister.  Does anyone else want to stop?”
The man sitting next to me was asleep.  All I knew was that his name was Sven.  He was Swedish, headed to Sedona. Pam’s dad, an old man whose face was covered with coarse gray whiskers, was sitting in the passenger seat saying, “Shoot the trigger,” and other unintelligible phrases as we drove past Anther, a town that Robert said might have a McDonalds.  Pam asked if we wanted waters.  It began to rain.  The booms outside were getting louder and jagged streaks of electric blue lit up the sky every few minutes.
Everyone was ignoring Pam.  She tried to ask again.
“Cool and fresh waters,” she said.  “It’s been as high as 119 degrees out here.”
Sven had started to snore loudly.  He had a cold too, you could tell, because a green iridescent bubble grew out of his nose each time he exhaled.  Pam pulled the van off the road to stretch out her neck.  The rain had temporarily subsided, but not the lightning or thunder.  I got out too and rotated my feet in mini circles until I heard each one crack.
There were black beetles crawling everywhere.  It was a task not to step on one.  I felt a couple crawl up the side of my leg and in order to get them off, I kicked my leg out spastically.  The land looked like a black river, there were so many of them.  They didn’t bite, but they were everywhere.  I wanted to get back in the van.  I was exhausted and alone.  There was only me and the shrubbery and heat and beetles outside the van.  The earth’s soil had that rain smell—fresh sage, mixed with red Sedona rock.  Every smell attached to your skin, dug deep in your pores, so that you were a rock and plant and a beetle.
As I sat back inside the van, I could feel the itch of shrubbery that had rubbed up against my ankles.  Everything was pulling me down, making me level and flat, as though the landscape were trying to pin me to earth.
Without warning, as if it were pulled right from my brain bank and whirled into space, a very large, in fact human-sized black beetle knocked on our window with its right antenna.
“Hello.  I’m lost and don’t feel well,” she said rubbing her enormous belly.
“Oh hey Ella, how are you?” Pam asked the beetle.
“I think it’s time.  The babies are coming.”
All of a sudden, the van was very dark.  The windows were coated with wet, sticky black goo, and swarming baby beetles the size of human hands crawled all over the windows.


Skeletons

The little girl, Anna, saw a skeleton and pointed.  It was in front of the museum.  Her Aunt Carson, a frail, pasty woman, took her hand and said, “It’s a blue whale.”  “White whale,” Anna said.  Her teeth were small, she had blonde curls and a scrunched up nose.  She was laughing.  “White whale,” Anna said again.  How do I explain this, thought Carson.  Shall I just say it’s white?  But Carson continued to try and explain.  “It’s the inside of a blue whale.  This is what the inside looks like.”  Anna laughed and grabbed Carson’s hand.
The bones bothered Carson.  The last ones she’d seen were tiny.  The accident, she thought.  The swerves.  She kept replaying it in her mind, over and over, a song on repeat.
On the way into the museum, Anna and Carson followed painted dinosaur prints.  They hopped from one to the next and little Anna sang, “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”  This was odd to Carson.  They weren’t in a game of ring-around-the-rosy, but Carson sang too and let little Anna enjoy herself.
This was a day away with her niece.  Away from all the photographs, the carnations, those awful pink and red speckled carnations.  She hated them.  And the sticky, humid air after the funeral was too thick, she had trouble breathing.  Carson hadn’t opened the blinds or the windows.  Her food was beginning to rot.
But here, alongside the dinosaur path, midnight-blue morning glories with long winding vines, yellow honeysuckle, and iris shimmered in the sunlight.  They were all wildflowers and thank God, she thought, there were no carnations.  Carson touched the vines as they hopped along.
They went to the insect exhibit first.  “Butterflies,” Carson said, and then “Look.  Bees, grasshoppers.”  Anna looked up at Carson with a pushed out bottom lip, “Not flying.  Butterfly.  Not flying.”  And again, Carson wondered how she would explain.  “These are the butterflies who were tired,” she said.  “Oh,” said Anna, but she’d stopped laughing.
In the mammal exhibit, Anna pointed at two cougars.  “Mommy and baby cougar,” Anna said.  “Yes.  I suppose it could be,” said Carson.  And then Carson stared so long at the cougars they began to frighten her.  It’s like if you look long enough, they come to life, she thought.
And then she wondered if she’d looked at her dead child, Charles, long enough, before they shut the miniature coffin, would he giggle?  Would he burp?  Even a twitch?
Anna rubbed her eyes and yawned.  Nap time.  She had started wailing the song, “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”
It was time to hop back out, dance down the dinosaur path with the loose vines and vibrant morning glories.  Hop past all the blossoming yellow honeysuckle.  Carson reached out and touched one of the flowers that had changed from yellow to brown.  “Don’t worry, Anna.  We’ll be home soon.  Maybe let’s sing another tune.”