Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Well then it must be true...


My mother wants to know if I want to look through anything else -- no, I’m done for the night; we can do more tomorrow. You’re done because of my agitation, she says. Right. It bothers you, she says. Yes, it does. It really bothers you, she says. Yes.

I’m sorry, she says. I apologize. I don’t know what to do.

I don’t say: it makes me feel like a little kid, like I want to cry. I don’t say: I’m worried that I’m still holding it all in my body, this is where everything started. But I also don’t say: it’s okay. Or: thank you for apologizing.

All we were doing was packing boxes, it could be fun and nurturing and relaxing, wrapping up beautiful things, histories, in paper towels, bubble wrap, figuring out the right fit. For a minute my mother looks lost, here on the patio. I wish I didn’t have to depend on her to help me with these simple tasks that break me; she breaks me more.

Maybe my mother is going to say something, but I break the silence: would you mind turning on those lights? She goes to take a bath, I go downstairs to breathe; I’m trying to cry. When I come back upstairs, she says: I’m more relaxed now, do you want to look at anything? No, we can do that tomorrow. But then she’s opening cabinets anyway -- these glasses, those cloth napkins, these plates. Somehow it’s fun again, and I don’t exactly know why.

My mother says: there’s so much to do, you could be here for another week. But you didn’t even want me to come this long. I know, she says, but I was wrong -- you could come for another week. You wanted me to come for three days, you told me it wasn’t possible for me to stay longer, the only reason I’m still here is that I didn’t listen to you. I know, my mother says – do you want to stay another week?

My mother goes to bed; I go back out on the patio. It’s raining again, I watch all this moisture falling into green, I listen to it dripping into dirt, onto asphalt, hitting the skylights: I only have one more day and night.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

That light

When I wake up in the morning and my mother’s not here, it’s a different world: I can just relax. Otherwise she’s sitting right in the living room outside the room where I’m sleeping, ready to start making plans, there are always plans and with her everything is stressful—I don’t know why she needs it to be that way. But anyway, today it’s just me in the garden with the birds, taking photos, here’s one right up close and this is what I was looking for: I touch the shrubs, wet from the rain last night, the soft tingle on my hand and then, up in the studio, a tiny set of plastic drawers, something usually for hardware but instead it’s filled with strings of beads that my grandmother used in her art, glittery beads and my eyes light up: this is the kind of thing I can take with me, put them out on my kitchen table or in a drawer to look at when I need that light.

But can you believe this was in my grandmother's kitchen cabinet?

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Oh a hot shower, yes a hot shower and the water pressure here is amazing. Until the hot water runs out, and it’s a cold shower. I tell my mother’s no hot water, and she says I know. We should call the plumber, I say – there’s a number on the hot water heater. But my mother doesn’t want to call the plumber, she says she doesn’t want to spend anything on the house, but she just spent $1800 getting the garden landscaped: it does look beautiful.

I say listen, a hot shower is one of the few things that I can rely on to help with my pain – it’s probably just something small, if they say we need to get the hot water heater replaced them we just won’t do that. When the plumber comes over, he pulls a big pair of socks over his boots – I’ve never seen that before, I guess maybe it’s something plumbers do when you have money? He says sorry about your grandmother’s death, and he looks emotional too. He says my grandfather worked on this house, if that kind of thing. In the basement, he’s showing me the emergency switch to shut off the water, the way to start the washing machine, he wants to know if we want the hoses turned on – they turn them off in the winter.

He says: my grandfather died a few years ago, and my mother still hasn’t gotten over it, are you an artist? My mother’s a writer too – she wrote a book of poems about my grandfather’s death, and I can’t understand a word of it. The last time I was here, your grandmother gave me the book of her art, all of her art in the museum collection – he looks up towards the studio: where is the last painting she was working on?

I don’t know, actually – I think it might still be at the funeral home, I haven’t seen it yet. He walks to the back, looks at the garden – it’s beautiful, he says, this was her little paradise. When he leaves, the birds are chirping – so many birds and it’s incredible. Big bumblebees flying around, and a woodpecker in the background – my grandmother was always nervous about that woodpecker, but I think the sound is soothing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I need to examine this transition: an hour or so ago I felt defeated, overwhelmed by the worst my allergies have felt in years, annoyed at myself for looking through drawers at scarves, clothing, jewelry, books, just to see what’s around, hurting my hands and what for? I felt defeated, overwhelmed, so much more exhausted than two days ago and why? I wasn't sure what I was doing here, if I would get that glimpse at childhood hopefulness.

And then, what changed? I mean I was looking through photos, and then I looked again -- my sister and my other grandmother 10 or 15 years ago, my grandmother's parents, me in high school modeling for a photo shoot in my grandmother's studio, my father a few years before my birth, and then a few years after, and then I realized I wanted some of these photos, so I looked through them again, and somehow hurting my hands wasn't the same hurt because I was there, in that childhood place. Or not that childhood place, that place of childhood I couldn't have, or couldn't hold, but still.

Like, opening a little box inside the bigger sewing box, a box of glittery sequins, a clear glass leaf and my eyes, sparkling. And then I can look at everything that way, holding me holding the world and I still feel those allergies, I'm still worried that when I get in bed my nose will close like last night, maybe I should be sleeping in a different room, my mother says it was just the mothballs, she was allergic to them too, why didn't she get rid of them earlier? The mothballs and the season, the trees and all their moisture I can even smell that moisture, that east coast humidity and the trees and all their moisture inside I can smell the dust too, how is there so much dust when the house is so clean and when my mother was here she was rushing everything into my head, wanting to tell me before leaving for two nights but why? There is no need to rush, but I felt her urgency and I wanted her to tell me too: I stopped breathing, I felt my body freezing into a picture of calm, that picture that never calms me I could feel myself picturing something, what I wanted, and my mother, telling me, kind of what I wanted but with so much surrounding me, her rush and I took breaks to take it all in, the finances, that's what she wants to talk about, right away, the will and the estate and the artwork and I'm trying to take it all in, because this might be when I get what I was asking her to create for me and she didn't, now it's my grandmother’s will but my mother as the trustee so everything bends around her and I know she's fighting for herself while saying it's all for me and I know she's fighting for herself and it's all for me and I think I will be getting a large sum of money but what I want is a permanent security, my basic needs taken care of, and my mother keeps pulling, pulling out of that sum and pulling me in and I just want to look at sequins, I want to look at sequins first, but I just read the will and I'm looking for the rest. I'm looking for the sequins, it could all be sequins except for when they puncture your skin to sew them on.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A New York moment

It's 56.4° out and I'm sitting on the newspaper box watching people go by, all these people, sunlight through clouds and I watch the different kinds of attitude like the woman with dyed black sculptural hair giving former goth into high fashion or the skinny fag in head-to-toe Gap with Ugg boots, why does she have so much attitude? Oh, right, because it's New York, and then moustache couture walks by, twice, and it's really New York, and I'm wondering if I could really live somewhere where no one walks by.

No, not really, but still...


This guy thinks I must be really young, because I like kissing, I'm really affectionate, I grab him and I'm laughing and I'm saying hi to everyone -- he thinks I'm somewhere between 20 and 25, I'm crazy, I must be on drugs. Now I'm laughing more -- you're drunk, he says, you must be drunk.

It’s the moments between the moments when he's uncomfortable that are the moments why I'm here: you know that. He wants to wander around, I'm good at that -- onto the sofa for a group with these two other guys and I see what he means; this isn't sex, it's something that involves hands and cocks and mouths and a mirror and a sofa but nothing else around. Finally this one guy is fucking my face, which is where the mirror comes in, that's what he's watching, he wants a view of himself so I don't look up I'll take this sensation without all the awkwardness and posing until the first guy pulls me away, boyfriends in that moment, where we going? He was using you, my momentary boyfriend says.

But that's what I liked. The next day I'm cooking for the train and this guy unlocks the door and ruins my calm day. Who are you, he says. I'm a friend of Diane’s, I say -- I'm staying here for a few days. You don't have permission to stay here, he says. What do you mean, I say -- Diane gave me permission. I'm the building owner, he says -- you need to leave right now. I can't leave right now, I say -- some friends are picking me up in a few hours. He says: you need to leave right now, or I'm going to call the cops.

Like Conrad says later: I've seen the movie -- there's punctuation at the end of his sentence, not quite a period or an exclamation mark, but not exactly a question either. I'm standing there in my underwear and this guy, the building owner, is telling me Diane's crazy, this is someone's apartment, the tenant is taking care of her mother on the South Side, she could've come in with an ice pick to your head while you were sleeping, she's a black woman, you're lucky I found you, I could call the cops on you but I'm a nice guy, the tenant is coming over at 6 pm to sign a new lease and you need to be out of here, do you need help with your bags? Are you packing? Hurry up -- do you want me to call the cops?

This is crazy; at least I know how to deal with ridiculous situations like this; when he yells, I act calmer. When he threatens me, I act like I don't notice. When he tells me Diane’s in a mental institution, someone said she checked herself in, he can't get in touch with her, that's not her number she gave me that’s his number, this is his knife she leant me for chopping vegetables, I seem like a nice guy, I need to get out of there right away, hurry, any apartment but this one, why did she give me this one, someone has a lease on this apartment, if I want to do this the right way just give him a call next time, he's a nice guy, do I have his number?

I don't even know Diane -- she made me a sweet offer, took me out grocery shopping, and then disappeared. She told me it was the least she could do for a great writer, but then why did she leave me in this terrible situation? I'm waiting in the vestibule for Conrad to rescue me, the owner comes back a few times, one time with someone who's obviously a hired thug, just to take a look at me, he can't believe Diane is doing this to him, he knew she had a checkered past and he was giving her a break, he paid her twice what he told her he would.

Then there’s the train that doesn't have anywhere for your bags, eventually I stash one on top of the toilet that's in your room, and the other on the only other surface. It works okay. When I wake up, and open the door, the guy in the room across from me looks excited -- I can't see him that well because I don't have my contacts on yet, but I like the way he zooms right in, he never thought he would be doing what he does, he runs his own business, a mortgage firm. He says: everyone in the mortgage business is a Republican, and straight, and I'm the opposite.

And then: I was living with my boyfriend in Florida and that wasn't going to work out, so then I got this job, just an entry-level position, and then that led to another position and eventually I realized hey, I can do this better, so then I opened my own firm. Is it he who says something first about gay marriage, what do I think of gay marriage? That's certainly a question I can answer, and I always find it interesting when someone is such a dramatically different world that might seem counter to everything I stand for, seems to agree with me entirely. Perhaps not on mortgage regulation, but still -- this is the possibility of random conversations on trains.

He wants to know what I'm doing, are you just bumming around? I tell him the whole story, I mean a summary of each of my stops, and then we talk about my writing, and he's especially interested in That's Revolting, but then after the train stops and we get off for air then back into the train he disappears into his room with the door closed, so I'm guessing that something I said threw him off. When we finally get to New York I tell him he should send me a note if he ends up reading one of my books, my contact info is easy to find -- he says I hope you don't think I'm a stalker or anything, but I was checking out your blog, I liked the photos of Santa Fe -- I say no, that’s great, that's what it's for, send me a note.

I hope he does write -- there was some kind of connection that I'm curious about; and sometimes the connection is just that, it stays there on the train and I wonder.