Monday, July 27, 2009

So much love

First there was the end of everything, and then there was childhood, a trap, and then there was that place between childhood and the world. Here I am at twelve again, standing in a field I’m wearing the same colors as the scenery, my hair reddish in the setting sun with the reddening leaves of the trees, green shirt with the evergreens, navy pants between the mountains and sky. Why do I pull my pants up so high, is my waist smaller there? My left arm juts out like it’s stuck somewhere, it’s telling us there’s more than this scenery, my out-of-focus face blending into the surroundings.

And then there’s the beach, here I’ve come out of the water to face the sun, chest arching forward like it’s cold out maybe it’s cold out or maybe I’m just getting ready. Bathing suit bunched up with the water and my hair is long here, pressed against my forehead and behind my ears and again those arms they don’t hang they pull up and out like they’re stuck they won’t go down. When did my father and I start those bike rides, another opportunity for him to scream at me, scream because I was going too slow over bridges I was worried I would fall off. Scream at me when he was trying to teach me to throw, to throw like a boy this was baseball, the first sport I was required to take but it didn’t work out I was afraid of the ball when they threw it at me I knew I was supposed to hit I wanted to run.

The next sport was basketball, they said I was tall I would be good at basketball, those arms. I couldn’t understand the connection between my body in this room the ball in my fingertips and legs. We settled on soccer, I mean we didn’t settle they just left me there, left me there on that hill in all that sun and loneliness. Soccer was better because I could kick the ball and then everyone would go away for a few minutes. I was okay, okay at playing soccer and is that what this is, this picture of a group of guys on a picnic bench, six are kids and two are adults, one of them almost naked so that’s where my eyes go now, where did my eyes go then?

It was hard not to have girlfriends, because I always had girl friends. Like Robyn, my first and only girlfriend, they probably wanted more. I wanted to think more could be something else, and that’s what we had. I wonder if I’ve kept to that model for the rest of my life so far, and whether it’s failed me.

Somehow I got to the makeup counter, I was looking for a suitable base for my mother, she had the same skin color as me -- oh, we could test it out on my wrist, what a good idea. Maybe a cover-up for under the eyes too, how does that work exactly? And an eye cream for these bags under my eyes, I mean my mother’s eyes. A powder, what kind of powder would be best? By the time of that first bathroom it was karate, the sport I was required to take, at least with karate you were on your own. And they had these great dance moves that they called forms, where you twirled around to Beethoven or Brahms I was great at those forms.

But wait -- remember that picture of the girl building a heart-shaped sandcastle, remember I was wondering if that was Cindy Daniels? That’s me -- I’m that girl! But back to my parents, secrets between children and the threat, the threat we posed. The biggest threat to the biggest secret is another secret. We didn’t even know there was something to tell, breathing. When my sister would wake up every night screaming help, HELP ME, even though there is an end there is no end.

We were closer, my sister and I, outside of the house we were even a model, a model for a relationship between sister and brother that didn’t seem like power. Like with the Daniels, our own little family, Steve would tell Cindy what to do but I wanted us all to come to agreement. At school, I never remember an awkward moment between my sister and I, even though there were so many ways she was succeeding socially and I wasn’t. The car on the way to school was a different story, still home, home was a battle don’t breathe, home. Don’t tell.

Never again, never again I would say after every time I visited Woodie’s, the bathroom, or Mazza Gallery across the street, the mall fancy enough to think of itself as art, where I really wanted those Gaultier sunglasses with the blue lenses, but they were more expensive than my sweaters and there were no tags to change. Pretty much every day after school, even though I would always say never again. They would look at me with so much hunger, these men, old men mostly, older than my father and paler too, so many of them would get so pink and I would try not to feel it, what was happening between my legs I wanted to win.
I didn’t call it sex, not even to myself I didn’t even call it. I couldn’t, or else. I mean, I knew I was a faggot, but I also knew that if I ever said anything I would never be anything else. I would practice standing, standing with my hands in my pockets and my knees slightly bent, head cocked up oh that’s this pose in the picture in front of the tiled wall in Mexico, 1987, where I almost succeed at looking tough, tough for the camera there was always someone watching. Here’s one from later, undated, I think it’s later because my face has lengthened, this time I must be in Europe because of the stonework behind me, Europe was always my dream when I wasn’t dreaming of New York. In Europe, our arguments were fiercer because we were supposed to be on vacation. The moment I remember most was at a restaurant in Munich, right across from the City Hall, trying to vomit in the bathroom but I was never good at vomiting. We were arguing, it was awful, I ran outside into the dark city square, thought about what it would be like just to keep running.
In this picture from Europe, my eyes are squinting and I’ve moved on, moved on from that earlier pose into the same pose but more defiant. I’m telling the camera: you don’t matter, nothing matters. Maybe this is the same trip, maybe that stonework is in Mexico because I’m wearing a similar outfit, T-shirt under plaid shirt, the over-shirt flung back like I don’t care about that either. No I think it’s one year later, my face does look different I’m angrier and less afraid. My aesthetic took longer to develop than I thought, but I can see this kid in those bathrooms, I can see what they were seeing in this kid.
But let’s go back to that bottle of Gilbey’s gin, we already know that bottle is long gone but there are more and now I like vodka better anyway, my sister likes the darker liquors so it works out okay, this one might be Gilbey’s vodka. This is Baltimore, after Steve and I have realized we both drink but before the four of us in our little family start climbing out the windows of the beach condo to go downstairs with the other kids out drinking late at night, the kids who look up to me because I don’t care that my sister is running off with random boys I’m not worried on the beach oh the beach this is when the beach really matters. But before the beach, there’s Baltimore and that bottle yes that bottle I’m with Steve and three of his friends, we’re in the drug-free school zone while our fathers are touring the Irish bars, neither of them are Irish but Irish bars have good beer.

There is so much joy, so much joy in this bottle. Everyone else is drinking beer and that makes me tougher and I hold the bottle out for anyone else. This is when I’m succeeding, no one knows and no one cares and I’m just everything, everything that matters exploding into this world and we’re on a hill looking down but also looking up because that’s what this bottle means and there’s so much love, that’s what I’m feeling I’ve never been allowed to feel this love and we’re laughing, laughing when we’re not sucking seriously on cigarettes we need more cigarettes on this hill looking down we start walking. I take the bottle in my mouth, the rest of that burning joy to my head I shake in that way that you have to and my eyes, now we’re in an empty parking lot, no one’s around I take that bottle I hurl it straight up into the air as far as I can get it, underhand like I’m not supposed to but I don’t think about that I don’t think about anything except the sky and these boys look at me like I’m crazy we start to run I’m crazy the glass shatters that sound I love that sound and they’re running but I’m walking because I’m crazy and I love it.


Anonymous said...

so much good stuff in this passage!

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Yay -- thank you!!!

I think this may, in some form or another, become the ending of the next book -- the ending of The End of San Francisco, that is...

Love --

davka said...

you're the original amazing.

this would be a great ending.


mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Davka, thank you thank you thank you!!!!!

Love --