Tag Archives: comrades

“But You’re Innocent When You Dream… When You Dream…”

It’s a frantic start.  I leap out of bed:

“Bloody hell!  I’m late!”

I’ve gotten into this terrible habit, in the middle of my sleep:  When the alarm clock goes off, I yank its cord out of the wall.  As a matter of fact, I don’t even know if that thing has a snooze button:  I’ve never had to use it.  And I wish I could give up the habit, but I do it when barely awake.  So, it’s kinda like sleep walking.  Sleep yanking.

The thing is:  I LOVE to sleep.  I can hibernate for hours.  I sleep to cope with stress, loss, life.  I sleep on the road.  I’ve got no problem sleeping in cars, planes, tents; in new beds, in new towns.  The bigger the change — the longer I take to wake up.  Sometimes, I think I sleep to return to my innocence; or to somewhat restore it, at least.

And once I’m out, there is no noise that can wake me.

Motha always jokes:

“Ze Russian tanks rrollin’g thrrough town von’t vake you.”

(This — is Russian humor.  Welcome!)

But on the other hand, I never seem to have enough time in the day to get shit done; so I rarely want to get to bed, at night.

First, there are my survival gigs:  The hustle.

Then, there are auditions and my projects of choice:  The very reason I’ve landed in LA-LA.

The rest of my time is gobbled up by writing.  Every week, the art claims about forty hours.  I’ve counted them the other day because I began to wonder why I was always so tired:  constantly wanting to sleep, but never wanting to get to bed; sleeping past the alarm, then running late for the rest of the day.

I clock-in for it every day, first thing in the morning.  And it must be the only reason I get to bed at all:  to recharge the brain and to start from scratch, all over again.  To return to my innocence — or to somewhat restore it.  To remember it, at least.

The rest of my comrades — are sleepless as well.  First of all, most of the time they’re hungover on jet lag, not remembering in which timezone they’ve landed a few days ago.  They are artists, bohemians, gypsies:  They sleep in my car on the way to or from LAX.  My comrades play by their own rules, live by their own clocks, in timezones of their invention.  They wear their watches like eccentric wristbands.  They use their phones and the bedtime of their beloveds to tell time.  And there have been many nights we’ve used to reconvene, while the rest of the world has long gone to sleep.

Because our love must be how we return to our innocence — or how we restore it, somewhat, at least.

“Bloody hell!  I went to bed at five this morning!” my brother from New York is always likely to tell me.  His voice is raspy when he wakes, but child-like.  Give him a cup of coffee and eggs with chocolate (a recipe of his own invention) — and he is ready to play again.

Innocent.

He should be here, in a few days; and for a week, my sleeping schedule will get jolted into a strange line-up of sleepless nights, midnight talks, crashing on couches, mid-day showers, and running late.  But there will also be tearful laughter, endless talks of art and love; and a closeness so intimate, it will rejuvenate my hopes for the human kind.  And even if it won’t return me to my innocence — it will somewhat restore it, at least.

Back in my college days, a decade ago, I used to be able to pull off weeks of not sleeping.  The weight of the world used to be on my shoulders — or at least, the world’s most poignant questions.  But then, none of us slept those days, especially before finals or the deadline to send our college newspaper to the printing house.  We were young artists, bohemians, writers, dreamers — lovers of the world.  We already suspected we couldn’t return the world to its innocence; but, perhaps, we could restore it, somewhat:  with our art, our hopes, the poetry of our youth.

With New York City as our playground in the backyard of our college, there never seemed enough reasons to get to bed.  But once we did — often at five, six in the morning — there was no noise that could wake us.  We slept calmly, as the innocent do; but only for a couple of hours, before class (and before starting the work from scratch).  Because there was nothing to restore yet.  Our hearts were full.  And we still knew — how to love.

But today, it’s a frantic start.  I leap out of bed:

“Bloody hell!  I’m late!”

These days, I’m always seemingly late.  There is never enough time — to return the world to its innocence, to solve its most poignant questions — and there is less and less of it, as I get older.

The somberness of the day set-in as soon as I checked-in with the world before sitting down to work:  A decade ago, we have all lost our innocence — in New York City; and for the rest of the world, restoring it got a lot harder.

But we continue to clock-in, every day:  my comrades, artists; bohemians, poets; lovers, beloveds.  

Because even if we cannot restore the world’s innocence, we can at least preserve our own.  That is the meaning of an artist’s life; his or her most poignant responsibility.  

“Proof! I Guess I Got My Swagger Back: TRUTH.”

“Hey, Ra-Ra!” — one of my brothers leaves me the same voicemail, for the nth time.  “Don’t you think it’s kinda ironic that after six years, your outgoing message hasn’t changed?”

My brothers call me Ra-Ra.  They’re both Latin:  For them, rolling their “r’s” — is half the fun.

“Rrra-Rrra!” the younger one always winds up his tongue; and he gleams while shaking the long hair out of his squinting dark eyes.  “RRA-RRA – BABY!”

I chuckle:  How I adore those hearts!  

This morning, I listen to the message, and I slide open the windows.  It’s been feeling like autumn, lately.  But how exactly — I just can’t pinpoint yet.

Perhaps, there is a vague aroma of dying leaves, much more aggressive on the other coast, where my older brother now dwells.  He is making things happen over there, moving at twice the speed than we do, in this paralyzed city.  And his energy — his hunger, his passion, his perpetual up-for-it-ness — is contagious, even if only captured on my voicemail, this morning.

All throughout the year, he is in the habit of wearing long, tattered scarves, a couple at a time.  A few — seem to be made out of his own canvases.  Others are thicker:  I imagine they’ve been crocheted by the hands of lovely girls who tend to adore him, with their open, yet calmer hearts.  And when I meet him, in the middle of autumn, on the other coast, I study the flushed tip of his nose peaking out of the bundle of those endless scarves — which he is in the habit of wearing, all throughout the year, a couple at a time.

“Ra-Ra!” he’d say, while untangling himself.

And I would chuckle:  How I adore that heart!   

 

It’s not going to rain here, not for another month.  So, my own scarves, long and tattered, can remain stored for just a bit longer.

Still, I can already smell the oncoming change.  It sits at the bottom of a clouded layer that now takes longer to burn off in the mornings.  At night, I’ve started using thicker blankets.  And when I leave my day job, these days, the sun is already on its way out.  I walk home, alone in this paralyzed city, and I bundle up in my oversized sweaters whose sleeves remind me of the long arms of my brothers.  I bury my face in the generous, knit, tattered collars, and I chuckle.

My brothers:  They stand over a foot taller than me.  My baby-talls!  My two gorgeous, loyal creatures from two foreign lands with convoluted histories of political detours, similar to my own Motha’land’s.  We each belong to the people prone to chaos, to revolutions and idealism.  So, our comfort level — is flexible.

Moving — or moving on — comes easier for us.  Neither one has settled yet (and we won’t settle for less than the entire world!); and we tend to keep our luggages readily available at the front of our closets.

My younger brother tends to get easily distracted.  On every adventure, every journey, he loses himself completely, disappearing for months at a time, on the other coast.  But every time he resurfaces, his energy, his passion — his perpetual up-for-it-ness — is absolutely contagious.

He takes weeks to return my messages.  And when he does:

“RRA-RRA – BABY!” he winds up his tongue, and I can hear his gleaming while shaking the long hair out of his squinting dark eyes.

And I chuckle, instantaneously forgiving him for disappearing on the other coast: How I adore that heart!

This morning, I slide open the windows:  It’s been feeling like autumn, lately.  I pull the luggage out of the front of my closet and I begin packing.

“How ’bout an adventure?” I think.  “Why not?”

And immediately, I am flooded with a certain feeling of lightness and peace.  But what it is exactly — I just can’t pinpoint yet. Where I am going — I do not know.  It’s always been easy to move.  But lately, it’s become easier — to move on.

Fuck it, I think, and I go digging out my long, tattered scarves.  A couple of them seem to be made out of my brother’s canvases.  I don’t remember where I got them though; and I rarely wear them.  So, I pack those away again.  The others, thicker and multicolored, crocheted by lovely girls with open, calmer hearts — those I start trying on, as if with their length, I can measure the mileage to my beloved hearts.  One at a time, I wrap them around my neck, bury my face and I chuckle:  In my life, I have adored so many hearts!  And so many hearts — adore me.

It’s not going to rain here, not for another month.  So, maybe, today, I’ll just drive up north:  Somewhere else to tangle myself up — up to my flushed nose — and to think of my brothers; to think of all the other hearts, dwelling on the other coast.

In less than an hour, my luggage is packed.  I’m ready to go; and immediately, I am flooded with a certain feeling of lightness and peace. Is it gratitude?  My adoration for other hearts?

I listen to my brother’s message again:

“Hey, Ra-Ra!” (he left it, months ago, for the nth time.)  “Don’t you think it’s kinda ironic that after six years, your outgoing message hasn’t changed?”

Because for the last six years, I’ve lived vicariously through my brothers’ energies:  their adventures, passions — their perpetual up-for-it-ness — on the other coast.  My own travels, however, have been carefully planned.

I reach for my phone and prerecord another message.  I think I may use it, in my seventh year:

“Hey.  It’s V.  I’ll tell you something new.”

I zip up my luggage.  Leave a voicemail for my brothers:

“How I adore your hearts!”

And I get a move on.

“She’s So… (Insert Guitar) HEA-VAAAAAAAAY!”

Don’t dwell on the past.

In so many words, my comrades have been telling me that, for ages.

They wait for me at the agreed-upon intersections in San Francisco, at New York delis, or at coffee shops — when in LA-LA.  Some hear me speeding by, in search of parking, while simultaneously texting them:  “b there in a min.”  They watch me march into a joint, with my hair pulled back.  (Unless traveling long distances up the coast, with all the windows rolled down, I keep that mane tamed at all costs.)  I walk into my rendezvous, smiling at the clerks and saying hello to strangers; then, I scan the room for my beloveds.

I see them and immediately move in for a hug:

“It’s been so long.  So happy to see you.  Ah.”

I wrap myself with their bodies: I am not big on personal spaces between beloveds.

And when that’s all done, I start dumping my loads onto the nearby chairs, peeling off my purses and sweaters.  I’m the type of a broad who carries a first-aid kit at the bottom of her endless bag.  A nail file.  A pair of scissors.  A tampon (always!).  A dozen hairpins.  And a sewing kit:  Never know when you may need one.  And you bet your sweet ass, I have a notebook somewhere in there, as well.  I just have to look for it.

“Well, maybe I left it in the car.”

I don’t even own one of those dainty purses I see other girls carry on their forearms into clubs.  Those things always make me wonder about the gap between the purpose they’re meant to represent and their actual functionality.  It’s a metaphor gone awry.  A promise meant to be disappointing.

But then again, the lesser the load — the lighter the female, right?

Perhaps.  But I doubt it.

In my defense, with time — with age — I’ve gotten significantly lighter, it seems.  It wasn’t a determined decision to drop the endless self-flagellation ceremonies of my 20s.  Instead, they just sort of slipped out of my daily routines; giving room to more decisiveness or to very tired surrender.  Having realized I’m merely an impossible debater to defeat, I stay out of arguments — with myself.

And so, I’ve gotten significantly lighter.  And so have my baggages.

I flop into the chair, across from the face I have now loved for ages, and I let down my mane:

“Ah.  Can I get you something to drink?”

It’s a habit that just won’t go away:

I examine the needs of my beloveds before I check up on my own.

But they’re fine.  My people — are always fine.  They are resilient.  Strong and competent, never helpless.  And even if they’re not fine — that’s fine too; because if ever they ask me for help, I never go telling on them.  And neither do I ever mention it again.

“Seriously.  Don’t mention it.  My honor!” I say, as if threatening.

Love comes with no ties attached.

We begin to talk:  A quick game of catching up with the lapsed time.  A survival of our separations.  If it were up to me, I would have all of my beloveds live with me in a commune:  Some Victorian house balancing on a cliff above the ocean, with a menu of attics and basements, and hiding places for their selection.  And at night, we would gather at a giant wooden table in the middle of an orchard, and we would search our oversized bags — and baggages — for nighttime stories and lovely fairytales about surrender.

But my people — are vagabonds and gypsies; and they go off to conquer their dreams, and to defeat their fears, on the way.

After enough is said to make me want to have a drink or to toast, I finally get up from the chair and start making my way to the counter, smiling at the clerk, again.  In a couple of steps though, I look back, flip my mane and say:

“Sure you don’t want anything?”

Equipped with replenishing elixirs and an item in place of bread that we can break together, I come back to the table, rummage through my purse for a napkin and jumpstart the next round of storytelling.  And I guarantee, most of the time, these are stories of broken loves and departed lovers.

But my people are fine, of course.  They are resilient.  Carefully, they process their losses; and they start dreaming of the next adventure.  The next love.  The next story.

“I’ll drink to that,” I say and tip my mane back while chugging down my drink.

When it’s my turn, however, my stories don’t come out with an obvious ending.  Instead, they offer endless lessons and questions.  For years, for decades, I have been known to mourn my lovers.  I flip each story on its head; and as if yet another endless bag of mine, I rummage through it for details and conclusions.

And that’s when my comrades try to put an end to it:

“Don’t dwell on the past,” they say, and they go to the counter for a refill.

I don’t really know what that means:

None of my stories are ever put to rest.  And neither are my loves.

Instead, they bounce around, at the bottom of my endless baggage, waiting to be pulled out the next time I am in the midst of rummaging for words.  Which must be why I retell each tale so many times, committing it to my own memory and to the memory of my beloveds.

So, dwelling on the past:  I don’t really mind that, as long as I don’t dwell in it. And in my defense, I have gotten lighter, with time, and with age.  And so have my baggages.

He Ain’t Heavy: He’s My Bro!

“How’s the writing?” he asked me, yesterday, as a matter of fact.

As a matter of fact, he was so matter of fact about it, I didn’t think twice that, like to most of my friends, to him, my writing — was just a matter of fact.

As a matter of fact, I am not flocked by my comrades — other writers — all suspended in loaded pauses in between pontificating on the history of the novel or the future of the industry.  We don’t sit around a round table (yes, it must be round) in the middle of the night, playing with nostalgic shticks, like card games, cigars or tea cups with saucers — because we are just so fucking eccentric.

We don’t make fun of humanity while others zealously nod or slap their thighs in a gesture of agreeing laughter; but then, take ourself so very brutally seriously. (Seriously?!).  Many of us have gone through love affairs; several — quite tumultuous.  But we don’t arrive to coffee shops favored by Europeans while accompanied by mysterious lovers (in scarves or berets) that have inspired a poem or two — a sketch or a lovely line-up of guitar chords — making the rest of us want a piece of that creature.  We don’t share lovers, passing them around like a well-rolled joint.  And:  we don’t dis the exes.

My people and I are a lot more matter of fact, in life.  Sure, some of us are stranger than others, worthy to be gossiped about.  And yes, we tend to be adventurous, always up for playing, always on the lookout for a good story.  Many travel, quite often treating LA-LA as a rest stop, even though we all live around here.  Quite a few are in the midst of an art project that will change their lives upon fruition.  But we don’t spend our daily lives in some sort of artistic isolation or exhibitionist suffering; slamming down phones and doors if ever we are interrupted.  We don’t keep lists of our losses and griefs against humanity — or against our mothers — posted up on the wall, framed.

My people and I:  We live, as a matter of fact.

And especially, when it comes to my brothers:  They are the simpler of my clan.  Rarely do I double-guess their intentions.  Never do I wonder about their moods and the words with which they choose to communicate them.  Never do I decipher their facial ticks, eventually finding myself in despair, impatience, followed by frustrated judgment.  And it’s always quite clear with them that even though they don’t obsessively seek my company; when in my company, nothing seems to thrill them more.  (Now, I’ve heard about those moody mothafuckers that torture my girlfriends with their mixed signals and facial ticks in dire need of deciphering.  But no such mothafucker — is a brother of mine!)

So, when my baby-brother asked me about writing yesterday, I gave him an answer specific enough to be respectful of him and of the time that had lapsed since last we saw each other; and respectful enough to not sound flippant about my work.  (Because my work — I take seriously, not my self.  Seriously.)  But then, a discussion of our lives, happening as a matter of fact, continued, letting my work be — just a matter of fact.

Later, however, I found myself picking apart the category of men that become my brothers.  I am normally quite hard on their gender, especially toward the ones that end up as my lovers.  But with my brothers, I never feel the urge to break their balls or to demand explanations; constantly digging for more honesty (but not realizing that no love can handle that much truth).  As a matter of fact, everything is quite clear with my brothers and I, and I am never tempted to ask for more clarity.  So: I let their mysteries be.

This one — a beautiful child — used to be a colleague of mine.  Both of us had worked at a joint that was meant to pay for our dreams while costing them the least amount of compromise.  And I would be full of shit if I claimed I was never titillated by his loveliness, measuring it against my body in his tall embraces or against my chest as I would rub his head full of gorgeous Mediterranean hair.  I would watch him with others — with other women — and notice the goodness of him.  He was respected, always:  the type of a man worthy of man crushes from his brothers and dreamy sighs from every girl in the room.  His charm would come easily.  Never strained, it seemed to cost him nothing. And it’s because that charm came from his goodness — it never reeked of manipulation or his desperate need to be liked.

Here, as a matter of fact, I would be lying if I didn’t think at one point or another about all of my brothers as potential lovers.  But somewhere along the way of building the history of intimacy, something would tilt the scale:  and we would make a choice to leave our love untamed by so much honesty — it wouldn’t survive the truth.

That something — would take a bit effort to define yesterday, after my rendezvous with my baby-brother expired and we parted, as a matter of fact, never fishing for assurances that we would see each other again soon (because we would).  And it would all come down to:  Goodness.

Even if not with me, my brothers — are committed to their goodness.  Because of their commitment, that goodness happens with ease — as a matter of fact — and it earns them good lives and worthy loves.  It earns them — my love, as a matter of fact.

“Don’t Need No Hateration, Holleration: Holla, Holla, Holla!”

How about:  I start with gratitude?

There are days when the ego wakes up early on me, and like a petulant child nagging his mother for junk food in line at a supermarket, it gets going before I decide to open my eyes and admit to the start of a new day:

“But, but, but…” it whines, throws fits and manipulates itself into more convenient emotions — the junk food for the human spirit:

–  Contempt:  That one always promises to be easier; but so obvious its wastefulness, I haven’t tried my hand at it — EVER!

–  Anger:  A real dilettante, claiming its expertise when leading to solutions; but then, it always runs out of air on me, long before the finish line.  Oh, but it has tempted me enough times to have learned my lesson, by now; so, I don’t follow its lead.

–  Expectation of justice:  I might as well resign to never allow another human to affect me, because such an expectation — is a moot point, fo’ sure; and it certainly cannot be an objective in any of my actions.

–  Self-pity:  I’m altogether allergic to that sucker, so I haven’t seen its face around here, for ages.  Same goes for jealousy:  In my universe, it’s a leper I prefer to keep at ten-foot distance.

But take this morning:  I woke up tired.

“First of all:  I am tired.  I am true of heart!

And also:  You are tired.  You’re true of heart!” *

So, that must be a starting point, for most of us.  A common ground, eh? Perhaps, that is why many prefer to be in love; for in those glorious beginnings of an affair, it gives you reasons to get up.  Exhaustion does not seem to matter.

(The work?  The work surely comes later.  The ghosts come out to play:

“Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man…”

The patterns play hide-and-go-seek for a while; but when the lovers lose their libido at trying to impress each other, the hidden qualities crawl out:

“You’re it!”

So, in comes the work.)

But take this morning:  I woke up tired — and not in love, with another.  For a while, I tossed my exhausted limbs in bed and dismissed the temptations of the ego to start weaving its through-line for this new day.  I checked the phone:  No visible commitments.  Where to start, I thought.

How about:  I start with gratitude?  

So, I got up, mostly out of habit, got the coffee going.  The first obvious choice of action — was to clear the space.  I’m in control of it, this year — my space; but even that takes some discipline.  Because I no longer can blame any outer — or inner — clutter on my bunkmate.  My space equals my freedom equals my problem.  My responsibility.

“It’s a question of discipline.  When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet.” **

And so, I did that, mostly out of habit, but secretly letting the faces of my beloveds slip into my memory.  Perhaps, they were in the things that I shifted around my space.  These things either tended to originate from all my loves or to lead me back to them, in unpredictable ways:

There was that one, on the furthest coast, who mattered the most — she was heard from, yesternight:  She always justified my love.  My brothers, scattered all over the continent because they are that much restless of a kind — they all came forth throughout the last few days.  The lovelies in this city, where, for whatever reason, it’s much easier to get distracted:  They too made their adoration for me audible.

And then, there was a boy:  A boy from last night, who with his youth and beauty, insisted that even though I was tired — I was true of heart:

“I thought you were really cool,” he said, sitting underneath a yellow light on the floor of his hallway.  “But I didn’t know you’d be so different.”

(He would later make me laugh, make me lighter; tease me, teach me; make me sit still — underneath the yellow light, on the floor of his hallway — while respecting my tiredness.  He was not a love.  Not yet.  But oh, so lovely he was, in this city where, for whatever reason, it’s so much easier to get distracted.  Perhaps, it was the late hour of the night…  (Or was it the early hour of the morning?  I never know the difference.)  Perhaps it was the late hour of the night, but the mutual ghosts did not come to play:

“Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man…”

But I was already too tired and true of heart — too wise, beyond my years — to not notice the patterns peeking out their turned-up noses from underneath the door of his apartment.)

But take this morning:  I woke up tired, not in love with another, but slowly, seemingly in love — with so many.  I continued to shift things around, organizing the space, getting ready to do my daily work.  Slowly, the sleepiness evaporated.  The exhaustion — suddenly didn’t matter.

I was loved, I thought, or at least adored — by many.  And they were all so magnificent:  These hearts, equally tired and true, searching for something just a little better than survival.  And whenever they chose to remember me, they gave me reasons to get up.  My tribe.  My comrades.  My witnesses.  My better selves.  They made me matter, rebuilding me every single time I was too tired to start a new day:

“You are fabulous creatures, each and every one.

And I bless you:  More Life.

The Great Work Begins.” ***

With the space cleared, it was time — to do the daily work.

“But where do I start?” I thought.

How about:  I start with gratitude?

 

*  Dave Eggers, A Heart Breaking Work of Staggering Genius.

**  Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince.

***  Tony Kusher, Angels in America.  Part Two:  Perestroika.

“Do Your Thing — Like There Ain’t Nothin’ To It!”

“How do you never run out of things to say?”

My comrades ask me that, quite a lot, these days; and most of the time, they follow-up with their ready theories:

“You’re just so disciplined!”

“Maybe this means you’ve found your calling.”

“But you’ve never done anything half-assed-ly!”

And then, the voice of my most beloved soul that has witnessed my hustle from the East Coast, for over a decade, resonated on the phone last night:

V!  You’ve never procrastinated!  Not even in college.”

Damn it!  Well, today, you just watch me:  I’m gonna do some serious procrastinating, as if I have nothing to say indeed.

It’s an experiment that rings true considering my feet are so swollen from my weekend’s work, they’d look better on a cartoon character (or on the Michelin Man, if he were drawn barefooted).  For the last few morns, it’s been a slow start.  My sleep has been dreamless, so I find no material there.  And once awoken, I’ve been opening my shades to cloudless, clear skies outside.  So, even the weather can’t justify my proneness to heavy pontification today:  Oh, it’s summer alright!  No doubt about it.

As for the little break-up related chaoses of the last two months, they have quietly slipped out.  Finally.  Yes, there had to be a lot of work — and so much agony! — with all that self-searching in the name of growth, and lessons, and my future, better relationship.  (Lord, Shiva!  It was starting to feel so excessive.)  The Zen peeps say all human misery originates from a refusal to recognize the impermanence of things — a refusal to surrender, to let go. 

And if it weren’t for the previous break-up related chaoses, I could’ve carried on like this for years:  with this love, coming and leaving the affair, then cradling my misery as if it were my lovechild.  Holding on.  Refusing to let go.  But no!  Not this time around.  Yes, it took me a while to acknowledge my partner’s decision to quit; but once I heard it:  Oh, it was over alright!  No doubt about it.  (But then again, I hear I’ve never done anything half-assed-ly; and that must include my new ability to let go.  To surrender.)

So, you see:  I have no readily available material this morn.  So, you just watch me:  I’m gonna do some serious procrastinating!

Here comes — my morning coffee!  It’s the first thing I’ve done every day of my adult life:  Turn on whatever device is going to deliver my wake-up elixir.  It could be preceded by the whistling of a tea kettle or the laboriously percolating of my rusty drip machine; but the smell that follows is enough make me want to start.  Start what?  ANYTHING.

So, is that it then?  Is that why I never run out of things to say:  Because despite the losses and the regrets, the suffering and the unpredictable strife ahead — I adore the very act of living? Because I’m not done yet, with any of it:  art, craft; love, worship, discovery; friendship, camaraderie, motherhood?  And because it is a quality of my own motha’s spirit:  to be in awe with every activity, however new or habitual?

Armed with my chipped Starbucks cup containing about a liter of caffeine, I proceed to my laptop.  First stop:  The New York Times.  I roam, I skim through, click away.  I proceed to the NY Region section, linger on this summer’s production of Shakespeare in the Park.  I can already hear it:  The sounds of that City poorly absorbed by the man-made strip of nature running through its middle.  I surrender to the feeling of immediate gratitude:  for having lived in so many places; for having lived so much and so well.  So, is that it then?  Is that why I never run out things to say?

The side column is flooded with editorials on this weekend’s Gay Pride Parade.  The photographs of those well lived-in faces — bohemians and lovers, subversives and revolutionaries, and local leaders — they all seem so different this time.  Yes, there is still joy and flamboyancy, and utter emotional freedom.  But I cannot ignore those who are tearful or hysterically relieved.  I roam through the pictures of the same sex couples, some with their children, all looking like they’ve all suddenly learned to let go.  Yep, New York has done it again:  It stepped up to the plate and despite its relatively small territory, it gave its people enough room for their dignity.  Oh, it’s New York alright!  No doubt about it.

I pour myself the second liter of coffee and proceed to my books, spread all over my joint and in different stages of being read, yet equally marked-up.  Here is Junot Diaz, both of his bestsellers on my desk.  Like me, he is bi-cultural; speaks fluently in two languages — and irony.  He is badass, you can tell; has lived a lot, and well; learned some serious letting go.  Zadie is right underneath him, but oh so equal.  She is funny and brown, always good to flip through.  A master of dialects, she is so far ahead of me — so worthy of my worship!  But in our empathy, we are equal.  In my bedroom, I find my favorite Manhattanite, Tony Kushner, and his shit never gets old.  Or maybe, I’m in the mood for some melancholy:  I wander into the living-room and find some Lorrie Moore, on the floor, near the balcony.  I park my coffee, get lost.

And is that it then:  Is that why I never run out things to say?  Because there is still too much to read, to learn; because others have not procrastinated from speaking?  They speak in different voices — some in awe, others in surrender — and in that likeness and difference, I can always find inspiration. 

Or is it because we are all so equal, in our love for the human race?  Because we dwell in the very act of living — anti-procrastinating — none of us running out of things to say? 

Still, you’ve just watched me doing some serious procrastinating.  I did that!  And how did I do?

“Hey, Pretty! Don’t You Wanna Take a Ride with Me?”

I had a beautiful girl in my car the other night, and I could’ve driven like that — forever!

‘Cause here is the thing:  I like it when people ask me for help.  Nope, scratch that:  I like it when MY people ask me for help. Because just like me, my people are self-sufficient and competent; so proud, so beautiful — quite the badasses of the human race! — and they act as if they’re permanently alright.  The fact that youth and ambition is still on our side makes that last illusion believable.  We still have that strut of the young, their health, endurance and strength; so even if life serves us up some uncertainty, we lap it up like a juicy, slightly sandy oyster:

“Slurp!  Delicious!”

Some of my people — blossom in uncertainty.  They are the most fearless of the bunch, dwelling in a higher dimension, yet mercifully extending their hand from up there when I am ready to expand yet again, to grow.  But even if I’m not ready — it’s alright, they reassure me.  Really:  It is!  Go at your own pace and don’t try to become anyone else but yourself.  Because there are enough lies in life, so you better be in control of your own fiction.

For others, uncertainty may set off some emotional white noises:  doubt, lack of confidence, and very rarely, a sliver of self-pity.  And I get it:  I ain’t judgin’!  Because my people have had an earful of my own bullshit, yet they have loved — and even worshiped — me despite of it.  So, they bitch and moan for a lil’ bit; and we all go to sleep, eventually, tangled up in each other’s limbs.  Early in the morning though, I wake up next to empty pillows with imprints of their beloved heads — and they will already be onto the next thing:  Gone.  To the next, higher dimension!  They are so self-sufficient and proud, permanently alright; forever beautiful.  Such — are my people!

So, when under the influence of an impulse, one of them suddenly turns and says:

“Hey, V?  Can you give me a lift?”

“FUCK YEAH!” I go.  “I thought you’d never ask.”

And so, they get in.

I don’t often get passengers:  It is the style of this city to be more solitary in larger spaces.  The larger the space — the more solitary you find yourself.  Yet, we demand space around here, get blue in the face when we don’t get it; and Shiva forbid a boundary gets crossed — we foam at our mouths, outraged at such a crime!  But the geography is large enough to accommodate us all (us, our egos, what we think we deserve or have been robbed of — and all that personal space!).

Most, however, are still solitary when driving:  So solitary they forget that the rest of us can see them through the bubbles of their glass walls.  As if invisible, they insist on negotiating with ambiguous gestures:  honking or revving up the engine, or flipping their version of a “fuck you” once they are at a safe distance apart from their often unknowing offender.  And it would all be quite funny, if it weren’t so dangerous.  Because that’s how isolation is — dangerous.  And sad.

And so, they get in — my people — taking over my space.  Willingly, breathlessly, I surrender:  I always have too much of it — this fucking space, in this fucking city!  My people get in, buckle up, adjust their seats.

My boys are always taller than me.  They need more room for those athletic legs I would rather be wearing around my belt line.  So, they shift back and around, get comfortable and buzzy with excitement, like 5-year-olds after a camping trip.  They start opening my compartments and examining into my corners.  And if they ask me too many questions, I laugh and kiss them — on those tense foreheads, or directly on their dry lips.  I dig out my car’s never-studied manual and thump it against their athletic legs:

“Here is a bedtime story for you!  Happy?”

While the girls — those lovely kittens that smell like lavender and honey — they curl up, with their feet tucked under; some even recline and attempt to go to sleep.  Others, the more statuesque or the ones who are freer in their bodies, stretch out, putting their prettily pedicured toes onto my dashboard, and they roll down their windows.   And, oh, how I love when they take their hair down, releasing more lavender and honey into the air!  And it flips and flies around in the wind, like a firebird flapping its magical wings.

So, when the beautiful girl of the other night had climbed inside, I was immediately breathless with attention.  She smelled like a drawer of essential oils and exotic spices.  Being one of those brown types — blunt and beautiful, so strong! — her sex tempted me with myths from a very foreign continent.  Because where she came from, women — survive.  They are capable.  Capable of carrying their men on their backs, across deserts and blistering rocks.  Capable of surviving wars, to live and tell the horrors with their skin.  Capable of outrunning, outdoing, outhunting, outsmarting.  And when they happen to surrender under their men’s care, they merely humor the rules written centuries before them.

And so, she got in:  adjusted her seat, paid a compliment to my space.  (Take it:  All this fucking space, in this fucking city!)  Readily, she began laughing at my flippancy and temper; sighing when finding me poetic or poignant.  A couple of times, she sharply exhaled at my mercurial driving habits.

“Ow!  I didn’t realize we’d be doing this!” she chuckled in that teasing manner that only women from her very foreign continent can do.

So, I started a joke:  Three minutes or five blocks before each turn, I would shoot her a gaze habitual for the women of my own foreign continent and say:

“So…  Um, we’ll be making a right turn — eventually.  Get ready!”

And she would laugh.  Oh, how she would laugh, suddenly getting lighter from having to carry her man on her back, across deserts and blistering rocks; from having to survive!  She would tease me, so quick with her comebacks; and not even know that, in that hour, I too was asking for help.

“So…  Um, we’ll be making a left — eventually.  Are you ready?”

That night, we didn’t need to tell the tales of each other’s suffering.

We could’ve just driven like that, forever:  self-sufficient and competent — so proud, so beautiful, so strong! — and permanently alright. 

But God Bless the Child That’s Got Her Own

“I want…  I want…  What is it that I want?” she was squeezing herself into the corner of a vintage, peach-colored chair that couldn’t have been a better throne to her feminine divinity.

She scanned her eyes across the tiny room she’d made her home, as if the answer were somewhere around there:  Was it under this tiny bed that she’d surrounded with her art and nature?  Or had it fallen out of these mismatching picture frames in various degrees of hanging on and leaning against the walls, as if Frida Kahlo herself had been living, working, pacing here?  Had she slipped it, by a forgetful accident, into the unfinished pack of cigarette on her windowsill — the only visible sign of her insomnia and self-destruction, committed in the name of the departed, then turned back into her art; her nature.

“I want to be adored!  Because I — I adore!”

This entire evening I had been watching this face — and all that hair — and her gentle grace; and I had been wondering:  Was I just like this, in my own youth?  Or did I possess more corners:  All anxiety about my self-sufficiency and my self-enough-ness?

I’ve arrived here from a harder history, you see.  For centuries, it had been unforgiving to our women’s youth and tenderness.  Back where I came from, we worshiped our men, but only behind the closed doors of our bedrooms.  For the rest of the day, it was a nation filled with female fighters, women-survivors –hustlers — who assumed enemies in every living soul (especially other women, younger and more tender) and who are most content when standing in breadlines.

But by now, I had paid my dues around here.  I had suffered and survived the often ungraceful — and sometimes undignified — existence of an immigrant.  I had done my share of standing in different lines to get approved as worthy; only to rush myself back to the university library and learn at double the speed, just so that I could be more than that:  Just so I could be equal.  And I worked.  I worked hard, harder than most of my colleagues, American or foreign-born, like me.  And only behind the closed doors of my bedroom would I worship my men:  For the rest of the day, I was just an Amazon, refusing to let them in on any of my softness.

“I want to be adored,” she repeated, then looked in my direction.  Had I seen it laying around her artist’s quarters, by any chance:  This adoration that she deserved and was willing to return ten-fold?

“You know?” she asked, then didn’t wait for my answer and said, “You do know.”

My comrades and enemies had so far been unanimous at calling me out on my generosity.  In my motha’s fashion, I tend to grant it upfront, as if to back up my name with it.  My name:  Truth.  (Or Faith, depending on which language you speak, or whom you ask around here.)

But even that has altered a little bit with age and cynicism:  I am slightly more withdrawn these days; more careful.  Because I have yet to raise a child, so I cannot give it all away.  And because I myself haven’t finished dreaming yet, so I need my strength.  Because these days, if a lover’s departure must be easy at all, it is only if I hadn’t lost myself in him.  So, I take my time now.  I only meet my people half-way.  And I wait:  I wait to see if I am — to them — indeed, the adored one, too.  

Some souls though!  They still know how to draw it out of me:  this uncensored generosity, this kindness that hangs in the back of my first name, like the middle initial “V” by which I had been called for most of my life (in all languages).  And she — the soul resembling the past child in me and the future one, at the same time — had been like this from the first embrace she’d once decided to grant me.  Never once had I caught myself wondering if I was going out too far on the limb, for her sake.  Because I knew that her need — was not all consuming; that I wouldn’t lose myself in it (even though, I’d much rather, at times).  And in her case, my generosity felt returned ten-fold:  The more I gave, the more it replenished me.

So, despite the exhaustion (that this late at night begins to feel like defeat), I had shown up to her home.  Other women had come and gone already.  I could tell by the variety of the pink shades of lipstick they had left of champagne glasses.  A couple were in the midst of departing as soon as I arrived:

“Here!  You look like you need a lot of space,” they seemed to be saying while peeling on their coats, and sweater, and ponchos, and shawls.

And I did.  I did need (even though I had come here only to give).  I immediately dominated her bed.  I took over her library, dreaming of the day I could find my own name leaning on it, sideways.  And after the last woman departed, I took over the kitchen too:  Putting away the disorder, just so in the morning, she would find a clean slate.

She chirped behind me — my darling sparrow! — about whether on not to discard this aging chunk of cheese, or whether or not to dismiss this old lover.  Occasionally, I would look back — at that face and all that hair — and wonder:  Was I just like this, in my own youth?

But then, suddenly, I blurted out:

“Did the other women bring you food?”  My words came out commanding and little bit too loud.  She got silent.  I landed:

“Oh my!  So sorry!  I’m so sorry!”  Wiping my hands on the towel with force, like all the women in my family do, I gushed:  “I sound like my motha.  I’m so sorry!”

But her face showed no evidence of having been undermined or offended.

Instead, she rather seemed tickled by this hard softness of mine — an underbelly she must’ve suspected long ago (or why else would she decide to grant me her embrace?).  She was in the midst of being adored — by me — and she knew it.  She adored it.

And I, suddenly finding myself standing out on a limb, didn’t mind this incomparable generosity of mine:  Because it was already replenishing me, ten-fold.

I’m Just a Soul Whose Intentions — Are Good!

I was dreaming last night.  I always dream, apparently; and my occasional sleep witnesses always testify to it not being a very pretty picture.  Actually, fuck “pretty”:  Apparently, the “picture” is not even tame.

And every morning, when I make my bed, I must agree with them:  As I untangle a mount of sweat-soaked sheets, feline hair, crumpled up pillows and turned out blankets, I always wonder:

“What the fuck went down in this joint last night?”

Sometimes, I am able to remember these wild dreams in the morning.  But they have to be particularly disturbing for me to launch into the research of their meaning.  One thing is for sure, though:  My brain is never at a deficit — for bloody metaphors.  (Now, okay:  They aren’t always “bloody” bloody, but when they are, they make Quentin Tarantino’s flicks seem like Disney toons in comparison.)

Some metaphors get written down.  Most of the time though, the dreams simply get retold to their participants:

“Had a dream about you,” I usually start.

“Oh yeah?”  And the poor, non-expecting suckers always get so excited:  They are clueless as to what I’m about to unload onto them.  “What about?”

“A’right:  Here we go.  You’ve asked for it.”

As I watch my dreams’ cast members get petrified and puzzled, their faces deconstructing into a Miro-esque canvas, I think:

“I could’ve given Freud a fucking head trip or two.  Dora’s got nothin’ on V!”

And in the mean time, my people have no idea about the challenge of my having to choose calmer vocabulary to describe the utter atrocities they were doing in my head the night before.  Still, even when watered down by my mercy, this shit ain’t “pretty”.  Or “tame”.

“So… Yeah.  You go figure this one out now,” I tell ‘em.  “And, um…  Have fun with that!  Yourr velkom.”

During the times of coping with loss, such as death or a break-up (same shit by the way!), my dreams get even more intensified.  It’s hard to believe that my head can go even further out, and yet it does.  Sometimes, I get more than one viewing in one night.  Several scenarios, one madder than the previous one, play out against my closed eyelids.  So, no wonder I tend to get reacquainted with insomnia during times of change:  It’s not that I have troubles sleeping:  I just don’t want see this sick shit again.

But last night, I had a dream that made me realize that I’ve finally hit the bottom of my current, death-related disturbance.  Just two nights ago, in my dream, I got struck by a weird looking black snake with erected scales.  I woke up screaming.  (Lovely!)  So, when I finally talked myself into hitting the pillow yesternight, I was prepared to be awake — and screaming — in a matter of just a few hours.  Instead:

I dreamt of San Francisco.

It was like that one passage in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America that signifies the end of the world, or death;  or the ultimate love:  “In the Hall of Continental Principalities; Heaven, a city much like San Francisco.”

All the major players of my life were scattered around a Victorian house in a small vineyard, somewhere by the Ocean.  (We couldn’t hear that ancient monster, but we tasted its salt in the air.)  And I couldn’t see all the cast members, but somehow I knew:  Everyone was there.

My godchild who’s grown into a less dainty version of Frida Pinto was writing poetry on a crocheted blanket in the tall grass of my front yard.  (Or was it a dissertation on curing cancer via meditation?)  Her mother — my best friend, the love of my life — was reclining nearby, gently stroking her daughter hair, looking older, like her own mother; yet still in awe of time.

Younger women, related to me by spiritual adoption, not blood, were dusting off a rustic wooden dinner table by the bushes of lilacs.

I could hear the voices of my friends:  

My brother from Bohemia, whose contagious laughter was punctuated by the clicking of shutters, was making my motha feel young and beautiful again:  He was making her howl;

Women who had married other women and gave paths to more women; who have granted me a dozen of artistic births throughout my own life but never claimed authorships of it — they were gathering giant strawberries from heavy vines underneath apple trees;

Broken hearts that have been replenished by my love — but never fixed — were nibbling on platters of Mediterranean snacks coming out of my kitchen on a verandah with chimes;

Exhausted artists, always so hard on themselves but so kind on me, were napping in hammocks and tree houses;

A fellow insomniac with the voice of Tom Waits was sitting on the front steps, and with his poignant imitations of the human race was making me do spit takes, over and over, into my glass of Malbec;

Lovers who have loved me — but loved my freedom even more — were arguing over a game of backgammon in my master bedroom;

A reincarnation of Nina Simone was singing anecdotes to gypsies up in the attic while they unpacked and dusted off my books;

The sound of wood chopping resonated from the garden:  Dad!  Dad, refusing to give up on his country’s habits, was getting his pre-dinner workout on.

Were we all living together, or had we gathered there, to rest; to drink away the night?  Had I flown in my hearts to celebrate the news of another book contract — or some incurable disease? 

And what had happened to the world, in the mean time:  Had we had survived another Chernobyl?  Were we even closer to the coming of the end?  Or had we snapped to it — finally! collectively! — and retracted our mistakes, apologized for the gaps in our love and redeemed ourselves with more kindness, served for dinner?

I didn’t know.  But this morning, as I untangled my sweat-soaked sheets, I remembered the talk with my brother from Bohemia, whose contagious laughter just a few nights ago was making me feel young and strong again (and it was keeping me awake from my nightmares).

“Is the end of the world still coming; or is it the beginning of it?” I asked him then.

“But does it matter?” he answered.  “We’ll still be kicking ass — with kindness.”