Tag Archives: California

Threshold

(Continued from April 8th, 2012.)

When she first arrived, the older woman took off her shoes before stepping over the threshold.  Unusually considerate, light in her step, she made her daughter nervous.

There had been superstitions, back in her mother’s country, about thresholds, doorways, windows.  Table tops and chairs.  And they were treated like traditions by the women in her family, as non-negotiable as laws of gravity and just as final.  To never kiss over a threshold.  To never sit upon a tabletop.  To never let an unmarried woman be positioned at a corner seat, while dining.  And with the slew of superstitions came antidotes, just as important to take notice of; so that when things did NOT work out — the victim could be still the one to blame:  You shoulda knocked three times on wood, spit over the left shoulder, and hidden a fig hand in your pocket.  These things would grow on one unconsciousness like barnacles of paranoid behavior.  And in a nation of world-renowned courage, it puzzled her to see so many doubtful people.

And was her mother brave at all, to just pack-up like that and leave?  To move herself with a child to the furthest removed continent, after the death of her husband?  His — was a death by drinking.  She didn’t want to die — by mourning.

And now, both women — tired but not tired enough to not be cautious of each other — seemed to be waiting for something.  Waiting for the other shoe to drop, albeit both of them standing barefoot in the empty kitchen.  In this new country, where everyone was in love with fun and smiley faces, they each would arrive to their shared home and try to force a lightness to descend.  It would be mostly out of habit, and not desire.  Her mother functioned better in these new rules:  “Have fun!”  “God bless!”  “I love you!”  She had no difficulty throwing these around, without taking any time to match their implications to the worth of the recipient.

The younger woman now waited by the sink full of dishes.  After enough silence, while stealing glances at her mother, who floated from one room to another like a trapped moth, the hostess began to rummage through the dirty dishes.

Had mother always colored her hair with that unnatural shade of black, when last she’d seen her, in New York?  The snow white roots came in aggressively, all over mother’s head, opposing the other color with no mercy.  When did she age this much?  When did this fear and sorrow find time to settle on her face?

A paw of pity stroked across the young woman’s tightly wound nerves:

“Mom.  Why don’t you sit down?”  She caught herself:  All furniture was made of boxes, uncouth for a woman with a living husband, according to her mother’s generation.  Before the older woman managed to react, the daughter hid her gaze in forming mounds of soapsuds and hurriedly amended her first offer:  “Mom.  Wouldn’t you like a drink?”

“Yes, please,” the older woman turned on her heels, seemingly delighted.  “White zinfandel?”

“Well.  Um.  I don’t have alcohol.  But would you like some juice?”

“Oh.  Right.”  An eyebrow went up and froze.  “No, thanks.”

She turned and walked away again — floating, balancing, looming — stopped by the sliding doors of the balcony, at the edge of the living-room.  The palm trees slowly swayed outside like metronomes to one’s slower heartbeat.  West, West, West.

She’d gone out West, with nothing but the ghosts checked-in as her luggage.  The letters from her best friend on the East Coast would hit the bottom of the mailbox on a weekly basis, for the first two months.  She praised her for the courage.  She mentioned pride, and dignity, and all the other things they’d mutually gotten high on, back in college.

It never happened in any of the books she’d read, but in her life, what others titled “courage” — was merely an act of following through.  Besides, she swore, he thought of the idea first.  What else was she suppose to do?

The best friend wrote her with gel pens, whose color was always given careful consideration.

She wrote in pink:  “It’s better to let it all go to the wind.”

In purple:  “Let justice work itself out.”

At least, unlike the others, the best friend never judged.  She wasn’t in a habit of taking sides.  She never called the husband names.  But then again, they’d never really found men to be the leading topic of their friendship.  Men merely existed.  Some men were good.  And back in college, the two of them hadn’t loved enough men to speak of the other gender with that scornful nostalgia of the other women.  Men merely existed.  And then:  There was the whole of the magnificent world outside.

 

Out here — out West — she could just start from scratch.  She only needed to remember how to breathe the even breath:  if not that of her calmer youth — then of her wiser self.  With time, she knew she’d see the point of it, the purpose, the lessons of her little losses.  She had too vivid of an imagination to not weave her life into a story.

“One’s life had meaning.  It couldn’t be for forsaken.”  (Oh, how she missed those wonderful convictions of her youth!)

So, while she waited to mature into that wiser self, she set aside some time and space in which the hurting self could flail, abandon graces, wag its finger, then call people back with tearful apologies.  But she would not have to confront her past out here, at least; except for when she opened the envelopes of her phone bills.

“So,” mother started speaking to the window, again.  “Natasha?  Are you looking for a job?”

“I have been looking, yes, mom.”

“Okay,” mom turned around.  Change of subject:  “I hear Mike got a promotion for doing the work on that new bridge, in Brooklyn.”

When rinsing a knife after all pungent foods, one absolutely must use soap.  Because if not, the taste will resonate on every meal for further weeks to come.  

“Oh yeah?  That’s good.”

“Yeah!  He’s a smart boy!  I’ve always liked Mike.  For you.”

It’s better if the handle of the knife is anything but wooden.  Wood stays a living thing forever.  It takes on other substances, breeds them, doesn’t let them go.

Here comes the second round.  Ding, ding, ding:

“I wrote Mike a letter.”  Mom searched for the effects of her intentions on her daughter’s face.  “I know!  I know!  It sounds silly!  We live a borough away.  But I have always relished his opinion.”

She felt exhausted.  “Mom.”

Out West, she’d found herself relearning how to use each thing with an appropriate instrument.  The sense of wonderment!   The love of unexpected beauty!  The curiosity she was resuscitating in herself, like a paralysis patient learning how to walk again.  Her days weren’t daunting, at all times; and they were full of curiosity.

And now:  Mom, barefoot yet armed!   In one woman’s kitchen.  So fearful, she could not release either of them from their pasts.  They stood, displeased with being a reflection of each other.  Another eyebrow arch.  A scoff.  One turned away, demonstratively disappointed.  The other looked down onto her pruned fingers submerged into a sink of cruddy water.

Mom faced the window with no curtains, yet again.  Those horrid, flapping, plastic blinds had been the first thing that Natasha’d taken down.  For the first weeks, she let the wind roam through the apartment, while she, sleepless and exhausted, observed the palm trees wave against the never pitch-black night of her new city:  You are alright.  Remember breathing?

West, West, West.

You still have time.  In your defense.

“We Found Love in a Hopeless Place. We Found Love in a Hope-Less Place.”

(Continued from December 6th, 2011.)

The merger to continue onto the 10-East looped around the graffitied walls, arid lawns and long dead flowerbeds.  With one-eighth of my gas tank, I was speeding and leaving the City — exhausted by traffic, lack of time and money, never-ending construction and unrealistic expectations of its dreamers — behind.

Right around Baldwin Park, the freeway got deceivingly wide:  We were free flyin’.  All of us!  For a couple more zip codes, a few expensive cars would still zoom by me.  But as Beemers and Benzes began to vanish like a mirage, I knew I was heading into the Inland Empire.  An occasional five- or six-car train would crawl alongside the freeway; but despite some drivers’ strange road manners, I felt grateful for being able to dictate my own speed of moving — and having the wheels with which to escape.

There stood that giant brown Wells Fargo building of some hideous shape unknown in geometry.  On the way back, I had learned to notice it every time.  Even at night, I see its sign illuminated by the seemingly never ending, moving headlights and the sparking skyline of the City in which I had finally learned to live.

No, not “survive”, like I used to, back on the East Coast — in my more youthful days, when I had better habits for chasing or persevering time.  Here, I had actually been living, on my own terms.  And the case of my unrealistic expectations from the clocks and the traffic of LA-LA had been getting worse.  But then, it was a commonly spread disease anyway.

My chosen radio station was still blasting:

“Ooh, sometimes:  I get a good feelin’!”  

Montclair’s malls sprawled out for miles.  They were the first to signify that I was no longer in my City.  I was leaving, chasing the clock; already late.  It would be something I had to get used to, from then on:  The nearly identical signs, imposed by the same corporations — over and over again! — would begin greeting me in every new city, from the side of the road.  Malls, malls, malls:  The only mode of entertainment.  In Montclair, the modestly covered-up two-tailed mermaid of Starbucks reminded me about my promise to deliver some sugar-coma costing drink to motha.  But then, they seemed to appear on my every other exhale, so I had time.  I checked my dashboard:  Shoulda gotten gas last night!

Mileages for Pomona’s exits began invading every road sign, from the top.  That’s always the half-way point.  In my old, two-cylinder clunker, climbing over this hill would have been a bitch.  So, I would find myself in the slowest two lanes, crammed into the moving wall of white trailer trucks.  And they would swing in and out of lane dividers and make my heart skip a beat.  But somehow, especially around wintertime, they appeared hideously beautiful.  From the furtherest left lane, I looked at the moving, swinging white wall.  This route belonged to them.  They were the common site of California’s self-sufficiency.  And I loved it.

The Forest Lawn Cemetery overlooking our hustle and bustle from up a significant hill had a habit for a serene appearance.  Perhaps, it’s because, in six years, I’d never seen a living human on its evenly green surface.  The white statues at its gate hung above the otherwise flat surface.  On every trip, I kept trying to figure out what they were:  Angels?  Warriors?  The Relieved Deceased?

Motha had always liked cemeteries.  This one seemed endless, so I’d better remember to bring her here, for a stroll.  Lately, she had been obsessing about transferring her parents’ remains from a vanishing town, in the Far East of Russia.

“Otherwise, they’d disappear,” she’d been saying.

Holding on.  That’s perfectly human.

“I wanted love!  I NEEDED love!  Most of all!  Most of all!”

The radio was beginning to struggle with its waves.

Pomona happened with its horse racing tracks and a major attraction for County Fairs.  After it, as always, I went blank until I came up on the convoluted exists of the Ontario Airport where I had originally landed, half a dozen years ago.  The exits for Rancho Cucamonga would never call the city by its name.  Too bad:  It was the only truly idillic land for miles to come.

The mountain range that came up on the horizon after the halfway point would be the only other place of peaceful beauty.  And it was looking mostly gray these days, with ice caps on top.  Below them, in the valley, laid a land where people struggled and survived.  But at least, time and traffic would move slower here.

The slightly tilted bridge of the 15-North onramp reminded me of a roller-coaster.  I hated those!  But there, I went:  Whee!

Then, another freeway, recently renovated — and my radio began sounding like shit.

“We found love in a hopeless place…” — it gargled.

Turn that scratchy shit off!  Get some gas!

I sped up.

Since the city limit of LA-LA, I hadn’t seen a single cop car, for sixty miles.  And motha’s exit was coming up.  I couldn’t believe I had pulled it off.

The gas light went on, while I was on the off-ramp negotiating my way behind a clunker of an uncertain make with horrifically smashed-in rear.

What this?!  A 7-Eleven gas station?  A wolf whistle came from behind me when I stepped one foot out of my car.

“Really?!” I looked back at two Mexican workers sitting on a curb.

“Hola!”

“Fuck off!”  I barked.

Yep:  I had arrived.

“And It’s a Hard, It’s a Hard, It’s a Hard, It’s a Hard: And It’s a Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall!”

It was her first fall in LA-LA.

“What is — this place, out here?” she thought, when she noticed that beauty wasn’t throwing itself, suicidally, into her face.  Or, humanity, for that matter.

“May I, at least, have some humanity, around here?”

On those first mornings when she woke up in soaked sheets, she would slide open the windows to air-out her bedroom.  But it made no difference.  The heat would keep hanging at the ceiling of her top floor apartment — much more spacious than the one she dwelled in, back in New York.  And by the end of the day, its molecules smelled of smog — and of her own sweat.

And the sweat was different here, too.  In the heat of August that made New Yorkers flee the City, she loved to venture out into the streets, still just as crowded, but mostly with baffled tourists — not locals — who would jump out of her way, startled by her outraged footsteps.  She would walk around for hours, feeling the unmistakable humidity that made the City smell like rotten garbage and, yes, human sweat.  And while she stood on subway platforms, she could feel the drops of her own perspiration slide slowly from her ass cheeks to the back of her knees, under her long skirts.  She felt the whiff of sex, hers and others’:  And it promised — more life.

There seemed to be some unexpected romance in those days:  For the first time, she finally felt like she was belonging.  But how could she belong in a place she was leaving, so soon?

The one-way ticket already had been bought by her mother, who upon hearing the news of the divorce, put away her dramatics and got stoic, for a change:

“You’re coming to California,” motha said over the phone.

“You make me sound like a folk song,” she thought, in response.  Yet, she obeyed. 

It was the wisdom of the women of her motha’s clan — to never plead or grovel for a man to change his mind.

She was going to California.

There would be plenty of chaos upon her landing:  Finding an apartment seemed easier; for there always seemed to be plenty of departing who packed up their shit into double-parked U-Halls, sweating and swearing at the city’s expense.  But the city’s leasers seemed indecisive and slow.

“Everyone keeps acting as if they’ve got better choices, out here,” she told her best friend in New York.  “Or, they just namedrop.”

Like the little man with glistening eyes who, despite being bound to a wheel-chair, managed to lurk over her when interviewing her for a roommate position.  On his living-room wall, she could see a framed, autographed poster of a recently released indie flick that was pretty well reviewed in The Times, that summer.

“I produced that,” the little man said, reminding her of one those exotic birds on the Discovery Channel that puff themselves up into alien shapes — just to get some tail.  From under the smeared lenses of his glasses, his narrow eyes were sliding up and down her body.  His face was glistening with sweat.  She got up, feeling like she needed a shower at the closest motel she could find, on Sunset Boulevard.

“Well, what do you think?” the little man wheeled after her, to the door, lurking.  “I could make you a star!”

She walked out.

“Really?” her best friend said calmly.  “Do they actually say things like that, out there?”

And then, there was the job search, in which every lobby looked like a waiting room for an audition or a cattle call.  And no one else seemed to be breaking a sweat, after driving in the apocalyptic-degree heat.

“We aren’t making any decisions right now,” the interviewers kept saying.  “But we’ll keep your resume on file.”

“Then, why did you waste my time?” she actually said to a group of young entrepreneurs who looked like the cast of Entourage and, after sliding their eyes up and down her body, asked her to tell them “something they couldn’t have known — by looking at her”.  (She told them she was good at harakiri.)

She walked out, got back into her car and wasted more time.  The heat outside was still insatiable!  And in the midst of it, everyone was always up for a hike.  Or “a coffee date, sometime”.

The rain would finally come by the end of October.  And it wouldn’t stop.

The roads would get shiny at first, and for the first time, since landing, she would smell the nearing of another season — not of her own sweat.  The nights would get cold, and she would insist on walking, to any outside cafe, on Sunset Boulevard, and getting soaked. It was the first time she would cry the tears worthy of the women of her motha’s clan:  They weren’t filled with self-pity anymore, but with rage.  And rage — was always better, for survival.

 

Finally, there would be a callback for a maitre d’ position at some pretentious overpriced restaurant, on the West Side, with a diva-chef in the kitchen.  She would swim in her motha’s decade-old clunker to other side of the city.  Driving in the middle lane seemed safer, but some maniac in a German car would always honk and zoom past her, on the right, and give her car a full rinse with the filthy water from the gutters.

“You’re terribly overqualified,” the general manager with a bulldog’s jaw would tell her, at the end, after the two-hour drive.

She got up and tried to make it to the door without breaking down into another outraged tear shed.  Her scuffed shoes made a chomping sound:  Her feet were soaked.  So was her hair.

He would follow her, to the door:

“We’ll keep your resume on file though,” he’d say.

“Please, don’t!” she actually said.

Because it was the wisdom of the women of her motha’s clan to never plead for a man to change his mind.

She walked out.

“Birds Flyin’ High: You Know How I Feel! Sun In The Sky: You Know How I Feel!”

(Continued from August 25, 2011.)

“Um.  Vie-rra?”

I look up:  The badass to take me flying is heading toward us, with an already extended arm for a handshake.  He is so much larger than me.

I make my move, grinning:

“I’m Vera!” I say.

I feel calm and yet impatient:  I cannot wait to leap out into the sky.

“Sean,” he says.  What a decent name, on a decent man!

Then, he adds:  “And for the next hour, I’m going to be — your bodyguard.”

“I like that!” I say, still grinning.  Apparently, for the next hour, I am going to speak only with exclamations.

Sean gives me his forearm.  I grab it, and for the first time in the history of my womanhood — I actually mean it.  I let him lead the way.

On the sidelines, I can see the other instructors readjusting the gear on their students.  But mine is much cooler than that:  He doesn’t fuss.  He’s not even wearing his own gear yet.  Instead, he starts talking to me, calmly, about today’s “exceptional” skies.

“You can see everything much clearer, from up there,” he says.

I assume it’s metaphor for something:  A life of wisdom, of persevering past the suffering and finally landing into humility, which often takes the very place — of grace.

It must also be a metaphor for luck.  And then I think it’s a good sign that in his name, there is an equal number of letters as in mine — and we share the same vowels.

We talk.  Where did I come from?  How did he land here?

“I used to be afraid of heights,” he tells me.  “Until my family gave me a skydiving lesson, as a Christmas present.”

And this, I assume, must be a metaphor for something, as well:  For human courage and the choice to defeat one’s limitations.

“THE SKY IS THE LIMIT,” says the sign behind Sean’s back in the alcove where we’ve walked off to pick up his equipment.

And this!  This too — must be a metaphor.  A good sign.

And I already know that I shall continue rewinding this day in my memory every time I want to land into my own humility.

The aircraft pulls up.  It’s a tiny thing.  It sounds rickety — and I LOVE that.  Because it makes survival seem easy, nonchalant — not a thing to fuss over, or to fear.

Calmly, Sean goes over what’s about to happen.  As he gives me instructions about my head and limb positioning when up on the air, he throws in a few metaphors:

“When we come to the edge, you kneel down on one knee, as if proposing to me.  Rest your head on my shoulder.  Wait for me to tap you like this; then bring your arms out at a ninety-degree angle — and enjoy the view!”

I imitate his movements.  The thrill, the impatience, the anticipation makes me a terrible student though; because besides grinning, I don’t notice myself doing much else.  But my bodyguard must know that already, because he continues with his metaphors.

“If you feel like you can’t breathe — scream!”

And this too!  This too — must be a metaphor for something.

There are three other students besides me.  Two of them start leading the way to the non-fussy aircraft, accompanied by their instructors who are still adjusting their gear, yanking on the belts, clicking the hinges.  But mine is much cooler than that:  He doesn’t fuss.  Somehow, he’s managed to get geared up already and to check up on own my belts and hinges.  And he has done his job with grace, without arousing any adrenaline in me.

I feel calm, yet impatient:  I cannot wait to leap out into the sky — which must be the limit — and past my own limitations.

We are not even inside the plane yet, but already, I can hear the echos of Sean’s metaphors:

“When we come to the edge… kneel down as if proposing.”

“Rest your head…  Wait.”

“If you can’t breath — scream!”

Inside the aircraft, the two students making the jump at 10,500 feet straddle the bench ahead of us.  Their instructors start adjusting their belts again.  The four of us sit behind them.

My bodyguard and I continue talking.  Come to find out:  He is a gypsy, just like me, traveling mostly in pursuit of conquering his fears.  For eight years, he’s been leaping out into sky.

“You must be fearless!”  I say.

“No,” Sean answers, calmly.  “But this job — is a good metaphor for dealing with life.”

Underneath us, I can see the pretty geometric shapes of farmlands and fields that I have seen before out of the windows of other planes.  Since a child, I had always wanted to leap out into the clouds, somehow knowing that there wouldn’t be anything to fear about that.

I turn to Sean:  “How high are we?!”

I notice:  I myself have started speaking in metaphors.  Or, maybe, I have always done that.  Which must be why I still find myself leaping out into the skies of my limitations — on my own.  It must be hard to keep up.

“Six and a half,” my bodyguard answers and he shows me a watch-like device on this wrist with that number.

I grab it, meaning it, wanting to devour every bit of knowledge and skill that comes with leading a fearless life.  Sean tells me that’s the exact height at which he’ll open our parachute.

I do the math.  (My mind is clear, still unaffected by adrenaline.)

It means:  We shall free fall for 7,000 feet.

Wow.

My gratitude — floods in.

Calmly, I watch the other two couples leap out at their heights.  There is something very incredible in the way they make their final choice to go, letting the skies sweep them off the edge.

AND I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS.  IT’S HUMBLING.

We keep going up to our height.

“In what order do you wanna go?” Sean asks me, over my shoulder:  Somehow, he’s managed to have done his job again, and I am now sitting strapped onto his body, at my hips and shoulders.

“Let’s go first!” I answer, still grinning.

And still:  I am calm.  And still:  I am impatient to jump out into the sky.

Soon enough, we start sliding onto the edge.  When I put my goggles on, I hear the echo of Sean’s metaphor:  He must’ve told me that it would be the last gesture we do — before leaping out.  He’s amazing.

The four of us shake, slap, squeeze each other hands.  I can feel the heat rising up behind my goggles:

THIS!  THIS HUMILITY AND GRACE — THIS VERY HUMANITY — IS WHAT LIFE MUST BE ABOUT!  

Sean slides the door up.

“Come to the edge.”

“Kneel.”

“Rest.”

“Breathe.”

I hear the echos.  The heart — is on my tongue.  I think:  I’m screaming.

Maybe not.

We get swept off.

IT. 

IS. 

AMAZING.

When daydreaming about leaping out into the sky before, I used to think I would cry.  I was wrong:

It’s all joy!  All rapture!  All gratitude! 

Like a giant orgasm, for 7,000 feet!

And it tastes — just like the Ocean!

I am air-bound now, above California.

Above my life.

“And I Still Have Hope: We’re Gonna Find Our Way Home.”

I’m on the 405, northbound.  Where I’m heading — is not really my kinda town, but it’s pretty enough.

Along the 405, such towns don’t seem to exist.  But I could always jump onto the 101 — and go home.

HOME.

It’s one hell of a hubris to assume that I could ever even have a home.  I’ve given it up, years ago, right around the time when most children cling to theirs.  They reach out for a sliver of Life in college, taste it, then scurry home to regurgitate it inside their childhood bedrooms still decorated with high school plaques and the faces of their expired heros.

And they whine:

“I’v changed my mind:  I am not hungry anymore.  I’d rather stay home.”

In spoonfuls, I ate mine up.

And then, I asked for seconds.

How Life flooded in!  And it continues to do so if I keep admitting to myself that I possess more hunger in me than most grown-up children I know.

Sometimes, my eyes are bigger than my stomach, but the ego doesn’t admit it:  It just stands there, a scarecrow in the path of a hurricane.

“I can handle it!” it boasts — and when I withstand; soon enough, I ask for seconds.

The things is:  You have got to keep raising the stakes!  Other people won’t do it for you.  You — only you! — know how much you can handle; and even if you don’t, there will be a growl in the pit of your stomach that tells you:  You can!  You know you want it!  C’mon!

And if you don’t do it, Life will flood in on its own, without asking, but this time it will break  down all the levees to shit.  Then, you’ll be hustling around, trying to catch up; trying to pick up the pieces:

“But I wasn’t hungry,” you’ll whine again.  “This is too much!  Why does this always happen — to me?!”

I pull off the road to fill up the tank.  At the service station nearby, I watch two heavyset mechanics trying to decipher something on their computer.  They mirror each other in the way they jam their bent wrists into the non-existent waistlines.  And all this could be idilic, except this is not really my kinda town.

And then, one of the mechanic whines:

“Is it time for lunch yet?  I’m not even hungry but bored outta my mind here, today!”

I keep on driving.  The sunlight bounces off the gas station signs and it blinds with something called V-Power.

I jump onto the 101 after all.

HOMEBOUND.

But by god, it is so beautiful around here!  After all of these years, I still haven’t gotten used to the sight of palm trees.  They stick out, like gentle, goofy giraffes, and they make me chuckle with an awareness of Here:  However odd or unimaginable, my Here — is very specific.

The rest of my Here sprawls out for miles.  It winds up, then drops down into the valleys colored with that deep green of my former home — so deep, it seems purple — it’s breathtaking.  When the roads narrow, I’m likely to slip in between two peaks.

I pass the burnt out hills:  It’s the end of summer, and the drought is yet to come.  So are the fires.  Yet, I have never seen such a shade of orange before:  It announces the proximity of possible disaster.  How thrilling!

There is an occasional greenery around planned communities where all the houses look alike with their pastel colors and idilic laziness:  They are — other children’s homes.

Except that these are not really my kinda towns:

My towns must be rougher around the edges.

So, these are not my kinda homes.

The PCH greets me with a marine layer that I’ve been taking for granted since leaving my home:  At home, that layer is perpetual.  Over there, they stumble through fog.  Over there, they cope.  Life floods in daily, over there; yet, still the days pass in a perpetual state of denial, unreadiness and self-pity.

But I never wanted to cope.  I wanted to live.

So, I’ve given up my home, years ago.

Besides, there was nothing left over there to cling to.  Life has flooded in so much, it has taken all the levees out completely; and many have given up on picking up the piece.  Instead, they choose to live in ruins, until Life floods in again.  And then, they cope.

But Here:  Here — is where I live!  And by god, it is so beautiful —  around Here!

The fog is burning out quicker than I can burn the miles.  The smell of the Ocean slips inside my car.  I roll down the windows.  Take the hair down.  The Ocean is stretching until the horizon, and right past it, I think, is where my home used to be.  Not anymore.

HOME.  HOME.  HOME.

I speed up, homebound.

Summerland.

Montecito.

Santa Barbara.

These towns are all very pretty.  But they are not really my kinda towns:

My town must be rougher around the edges.

It’s a two-lane road, from Here.  I see the arrows, pointing onward:

San Francisco.

HOMEBOUND.

“Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.”

LA-LA started purring early this morning:

“Purrr-tty.  I’m purrr-tty, don’t you think?”

Yes, you are, my darlin’.  Yes, you are.

But today, I have woken up with a headache:  This life of a freelancer is one pain in the ass.  Floating, always floating in some vague self-assurance that it is all gonna work out for the better; that everything is gonna fall into its place.  Because it always has, before; and because I’m good enough.  And even if it doesn’t work out, there are lessons to be learned, right?

“Yeah.  Well.  Sure!  Everything happens for a reason!” — other people tell me.

It takes very little for other people to chime-in.  Other people always seem so much smarter, or more opinionated, at least; more self-assured.  Or maybe they are just full of shit and know how to talk out of their asses.  I don’t know.  But do they know?  Do they know that they’re full of shit when they start their talkin’?  Or has their self-assuredness taken them beyond their recognition of denial — beyond their awareness of their full-of-shit-ness?

Yet, still:  It is all gonna work out for the better, I must believe that.  Because it always has, before.  And because I’m good enough.  And because (and herein lies my leprosy) I so fully, so strongly believe that it’s all in the intention:  One’s life — is all in one’s intention!  And my intentions — have always been good.

So, it is all gonna work out for the better.  It must.  It absolutely has to!  Because it always has, before — and because I had always been good enough.

And LA-LA:  She started purring early this morning, slipping through the shades of my bedroom window with that hazy sunshine that only She can manufacture.  I’ve never seen this sort of weather before, anywhere.  Not anywhere else, in the world!  There is a decisiveness in this mood of Hers:  It’s gonna be a hot day.  No room for negotiating.  You, little humans, can cough up enough smog to block some of Her rays with your fake clouds.  But as far as LA-LA is concerned:  It’s gonna be a hot day — decidedly!

And early this morning, She purred, rolling over onto Her back and playfully sharpening Her claws against my windowsill; nibbling on the chipping paint:

“Purrr-tty.  I’m purrr-tty.  Don’t you think?”

Yes.  Yes, you are, my darlin’.  Yes, you are.

But today, I had woken up with a headache.

I had just returned to Her, the other day.  Like a thief, I slipped into the city without telling a single soul.  Because I knew that even before the pilot announced the descent into yet another decidedly hot day, I would begin to get homesick for the City I had just left behind.

I have never seen that anywhere.  Not anywhere else, in the world!  LA-LA is not really a chosen city, for many of us.  She is the one we settle for, while impatiently waiting for the fruition of our dreams.

And it’s a common pattern out here:  I have watched too many bait their dreams against this city (which is way too much pressure for any dream to withstand). When the dreams don’t happen fast enough, they fling their failures in Her face, forever blaming Her for the slowness of Her clocks; for Her lack of cooperation; for Her traffic, for Her industry, for Her lack of imagination; for Her decidedly hot days.  So, I thought I would just slip back into Her, quietly — under the sun of Her another decidedly hot day — and not voice my immediate homesickness for the City I had just left behind.

Because it takes very little for other people to chime-in:

“Yeah.  Well.  Sure!  It sucks!  But at least, you’ve learned a lesson!” — and off they go again, talking out of their asses so self-assuredly, I begin to wonder why they had settled here, so decidedly unhappy.

“I’ll be leaving in a month,” a neighbor had decided to confide in me during an elevator ride this morning.  I hadn’t seen him in a while — and I hadn’t really known him all that well.

So, “What the fuck is his name?!” I thought, squinting at him past my headache.  All I said this morning — was,  “Hello.”

“There is just nothing for me to do here!  No good jobs.  No good women,” he carried on; and then, he shrugged in a way that made me want to recoil inside my very spine.  There was an aggression in that shrug:  a painful flaunting of his griefs.

Goddamn it, I thought, squinting past my headache.  I was just picking up my mail accumulated during my departure and the days that it took for me to get over my homesickness for the City I had just left behind.  And all I said this morning — was “Hello.”

“So:  Where to?” I asked.  Somehow, the elevator has been programed to stop on nearly every floor; and to avoid that elevator silence, I chose to participate.  But I would chime-in very little, laconically.  Because I had woken up with a headache, and the unhappy neighbors’ griefs were a pain in the ass.

“San Diego!” he announced emphatically.  “Makes so much sense!”

In all truth, I had not a single clue as to how that other city made sense; but in juxtaposition to his griefs, his reasons to celebrate were a better cause.  So, I squinted at him, past my headache, and said:

“Well.  Yeah.  Everything happens for a reason.”

Not good enough of a response made my unhappy neighbor shrug again, this time definitely at my expense.  And I would recoil inside my very spine, but the elevator jolted and came to a stop.  First floor.  The ride’s over.  So was the confiding chat.

“Good luck,” he said to me, and started jogging across the lobby filled with that hazy sunshine that only LA-LA can manufacture.

I wasn’t sure why I needed luck, but I swear I thought I heard the city roll over onto her back again and whimper:

“Purrr-tty.  Am I purrr-tty?  What do you think?”

Yes.  Yes, you are, my darlin’.  Yes, you are.

You may not work out for your every unhappy resident.  You may not live up to every dream.  But you do happen to all of us for a reason.  And somehow, everything does tend to work out.  It always does.

And everything falls into its place.

And everyone falls — into his.

But regardless:  You’re very pretty, my darlin’.  Very, very pretty.

Yes, you are.  Yes, you are.  Yes, you are.

“Weren’t You the One Who Said That: You Don’t Want Me, Anymore?”

Yes, and.  That’s the main rule of improv:  Yes, and.

My badass bro taught me that.  When you are going at it with a fellow player on stage, no matter how stripped or idiotic you feel, you don’t get to back out and say, “No!”  In improv, you “yes and” that shit until you run out of options, until you’re done; exhausted.  Until you reach the dead end:  Yes, and!

Yes!  

And?

And chances are:  If you “yes and” for long enough, you can go at it forever.

My badass bro told me that a long, long time ago, when my pathetic white ass met him in Hollyweird, after my break-up back in New York.  So beat-up I was in those days, so defeated, my body preferred to juggle only two of its functions:  how to weep and how to breathe.  Because I had just left a man:  Surprise, motherfucking surprise!  And it seemed, I could barely chalk myself up to the camp of the living.

When it comes to my men, I’ll love ‘em till death do us part:  I’ll “yes and” that shit until I run out of options.  I’ll adore, cradle, nurture, and mother them; breastfeed them if I must.  I’ll cook and clean for them, spoon-feed them with jello in bed or sponge-bathe their asses when they’re at their lowest (and I won’t even tell another living soul afterward).  Willingly, I’ll rebuild my men, from their bad choices, bad women, bad mothers; and give ‘em a brand new set of balls for Christmas.  Yes, and:  I’ll doll myself up for their fantasies or for their office parties alike, just so that there is no mortal in the world to questions their talents — or their endowments — in my bedroom.  Yes, and:  I’ll strut next to them, like the most expensive escort in town, and make them feel good enough to have a chance at Angelina Jolie herself, after we’re done.  And, yes, and:  I’ll give them the best sex stories of their lifetimes.

I’ll do all that, for my men; but there ain’t no fucking way in the world they — get to leave me.  Fuck you, my loves:  I — leave you!  That’s just how it goes.  Between the two of us, I’m the one yanked out of a gypsy’s womb:  So, I get to leave.  I get to go.

Yes?

And, so:  A long, long time ago, I had left a man.

It was his idea at first:  Something wasn’t working, he said.  He “couldn’t do it anymore”.  I cried, I wept.  I lost weight and sleep.  I broke shit, tried to repair it.  I even found enough room in that crammed-in basement apartment of ours to pace and wonder, “Why, why, why?!”  And then, one balmy, New-York-in-August afternoon, it hit me:

I would never find the reasons!  Because in every break-up, each party has his or her own grief, and that grief is never identical.  And neither are the fucking reasons.

And, yes, and:  I could!  I could’ve stayed behind, back in the Bronx, and turned gray while resorting, reliving the dead affair:  Where did it go wrong?  Who dropped the ball first?  When did it break?  And my fave of all time:  How could it all be prevented?  But:  I don’t do that.  I am not the type to get petty while dividing mutual property, or mutual guilt.  I don’t destroy my men, and I never take shots at their dignity.  I don’t leave them in ruins for the next broad, even if she is — Angelina Jolie herself.

But also — (yes and!) — I don’t grovel for closure.  I may cry, I may weep.  I may lose weight and sleep.  But then:  I leave!  I go.  I walk away, while you — you stay behind and pick-up the pieces.

And so, one balmy, New-York-in-August afternoon, I said:

“Oh, yes.  And I’m leaving.”

I  had asked him out to dinner, in between my waitressing gig on the Upper West Side and my fantasy life up in Harlem, where the mere sight of a woman’s ass was enough to get me off on the idea of all the future possibilities.  He showed up with flowers:  Lilies.  As the night carried on, I watched their giant buds open completely in that summer’s heat, then begin to wilt.  And like everything in New York, at that time of the year — from sweat glands to subway sewers to perfume shops — they began to smell aggressively, nearly nauseating.

Yes and:  I continued to break it down.

“I’m going to California.”

“When?”

“Soon.”

I was vague.  I didn’t feel like I owed him a calendar date, or a reason.  Or an explanation.  Because in the end, I knew — we both knew — it was he who broke the main rule of improv:  He said, “No”.  He gave up.  He dropped the ball.

Yet, still, “Why?” he asked, pleading with his wilting face to be etched onto the back of my eyelids for my later nightmares, in Hollyweird.

I don’t remember answering.  Because so beat-up I was in those days, so defeated, my body preferred to juggle only two of its functions:  how to weep and how to breathe.  So, I breathed.  I inhaled it all:  The smell of the cologne I’d given him, along with a new set of balls that last Christmas.   The sour charcoal smell from the fajita plate, sizzling under the chin of the solitary male diner behind us.  The schizophrenic aromas of the city, from sweat glands to subway sewers, to women’s asses.  And the aggressive, nearly nauseating smell of lilies on our table, completely open in that summer heat and quickly wilting.

And chances were:  I could’ve “yes-and-ed” that shit forever, no matter how stripped or idiotic I felt.  But we were done, at a dead end.  Exhausted.  And all I preferred to remember was how to breathe — the ultimate act of “yes-and-ing” to all the other future possibilities.

You Oughta Know, No?

Trying something new this morn’, my kittens:  Naked rant blogging — IN BED.  Knowing me (and some of you are getting to know me quite a bit these days, thank you very much), I am shocked I haven’t done this one before.

The thing is, this week:  Besides working really hard on my dreams (The Perpetual Dreamer is my life’s finally declared major), I’ve also invested a few hours on the most significant relationships of my life (which although do not currently include a romantic interest, but plenty of loves).

I’ve received my girlfriends’ strife and got updates from my comrades on the state of their own nostalgia for our no longer existent motherland:  Bohemia, alas.

“Hear me out!” — a gypsy man ordered me the other day while he endlessly wondered about his next wandering.  And I did.  I did:  I heard him out.

Compassion.

I’ve held my breath in silence yesterday afternoon while listening to my goddaughter far away from me, on the other coast, who hasn’t learned to talk yet but speaks volumes with her silence and her tiny furrowed brows inherited from India.  Breathlessly, I held back my tears to the noise of her twirling her mother’s cell phone, in her little brown hands; and when she finally produced a noise that’s impossible to spell or imitate — (was that Malayalam, my love?) — oh how I wept!  But then, again:  I’ve claimed my breath back:

Compassion!

Now, I’m sittin’ here, in my canopy bed, with the most gorgeous skies tempting me from outside.  My body — albeit its looking delicious this summer already, thank you very much — is feeling as if someone has ran it over with a truck.  Better yet:  a tank.  Exhausted:  That’s what I am, my kittens.

But regardless the state of being, I always come back to the blank page, every single morn’, as I’ve done for years, on my own.  Alone.  But now:  You’re here.  And these every day reunions beat every other desire I may harbor.  It’s permanent — this wanting to be read.  And even though I never allow myself the hubris of assuming that I may change a life — with my words — I hope I at least reveal enough compassion.

Compassion…

“How do you find what to write about?”

I hear a voice from another day — a voice of one of my broken-hearted.  She’s always thought so highly of me!  She wishes for my strength and esteem and discipline; while little does she know that all I wish for — is her time.  She’s still got time on her side — time and youth, you see? — while I’m perpetually running out.  Too young to know what chronic nights of loneliness feel like, she thinks I don’t cry behind my closed doors and curtains; that I’m immune to doubt.  She thinks my compassion comes freely, at no cost.

How DO I find what to write about?

Compassion.  That’s it.  It never runs out.  That’s my privilege, in life — and my burden:  I’m never immune to humanity.  No matter the stupidity or the disappointment, I always come back to it.  And now:  You’re here.  And even though I never allow myself the hubris of earning your understanding, your misunderstanding — I just cannot afford!  Because these tales come from my compassion:  FOR YOU.  For the sake of you.  For the sake of my own kindness.

Kind-ness.

The hero of today’s rant blog shall be named Stan.

Stan was a simple man, my kittens; not really artistic or fearless.  He just wanted to live his life, to live it out in calm — in some blah-ness of a simple survival.

No, he didn’t want much.  Aspiring — wasn’t his thing.  Ambition was somebody else’s spiel.  Because to live — wasn’t even his choice in the first place.  He was sort of born one day, to a pair of unartistic, fearful parents, somewhere in the middle of the country.  They taught him how to walk and to use the toilet; then, sent him off to school.  Then — college.

Stan got by.  Started losing his hair early.  Met a girl.  Learned to wank himself off.  Married the girl — knocked her up, clumsily, in the dark; then, returned to wanking himself off, alone.  Pleasures were always simple for Stan.  So were the solutions to his problems.  (I wish he didn’t have any, to tell you the truth.  But then, we are never granted more than we can handle.  So, Stan’s lot had to be lighter than mosts’.)

“I hear California is nice,” he said to his wife one day.  She was in the midst of matching his tube socks after doing laundry.

That was the day of Stan’s midlife crisis.

So, they moved.

And that’s where Stan and I met:  At some random gas station on Western Boulevard.  I was running low, in the midst of my Perpetual Dreaming.  (Otherwise, I’d avoid that street at all costs:  It’s got a special talent for inspiring depression.)  And Stan?  Stan was on his way back to Glendale.  This — was his regular stop.

At first, he was the jerk answering his cell phone at the gas pump next to mine.

“Is this fucker suicidal?!”  I thought and looked at him with the disgust I learned on New York subways.  Don’t know about his simple life, but I still had plenty of aspiring to do!  Ambition — was my spiel!

Stan noticed the look, realized his wrongdoing.  He brushed his thin hairs over the bald spot, lowered the phone and said:

“I’m so sorry, M’am.  I have to get this!  My wife…”

Stan started weeping, my kittens.  Subduedly at first, just so he could finish the phone call.  But once the flip phone slid into the pocket of his un-ironed khakis, Stan became all about his “ohs” and “goshes”.  Repeatedly, he tried to double over the hood of his car, then the trash bin with pockmarks of gum all over it.  He tried so hard to face away from me.

“Sir?  Sir, let me…”

With my hand on his hunched over back, I tried to guide him to his driver’s seat. But Stan was all about his “ohs” and “goshes”, clutching onto that filthy trash bin:

I was running low that day; but when compassion flooded — it took me with it, good riddance.