Tag Archives: creation

“Sometimes, It Takes A Thousand Tries To Win: The Wait — Is Ova’!”

When did I decide to become a writer? 

LA-LA is in the midst of a major heat wave, and there isn’t enough air to go around.

I’ve woken up not feeling my own limbs:  The day job got the best of me last night.  Or, it got all of me, seemingly; and suddenly, I remember watching boys on my childhood’s playground torture a daddy longlegs by tearing out one leg at a time from its tiny, silly body.

“A resilient sucker!” they roared at their hideously lopsided creation, as the poor thing continued to make a run for it.  It would crawl sideways, clutching the asphalt with half of its legs.  And if it gained speed, the boys would eliminate another limb.

“Oh, yeah?!  Where are you goin’?”

They fancied themselves as gods already.

The handicap creature would battle with gravity, disoriented by this much loss:  Nature hadn’t prepared it for other people’s cruelty.  But then, it would find its way back to its feet, however many of those there were left.

Six years old, I remember thinking:  “Wouldn’t death be better here?”

I couldn’t stay till the end of the torture:  I ran off, crying.  I always felt way too much!

Telling my mother would’ve been useless, so I calmed myself down by hiding out under the first-story balconies of our building.  It would take a while for the sobbing to subside; but after smearing off the tears and the snot, I sneaked inside the apartment and sat down to write down the story, in my journal.

In the morning, when following motha to spend the entire day in her classroom, I passed the site of the torture.  There was nothing left of it.  No evidence of other people’s cruelty.  Not even a couple of tangled up limbs.

I thought, “It would’ve made for a much better story — if there were.”

This morning, it takes me an hour to get out of bed.  In my mind, I’m negotiating with my schedule, dropping things off the list.  Eventually, I leap up:  I’m gonna be so fucking late!

The legs hit the floor.  They are stiff.  I stumble a little.  Battle with gravity.  Slowly, I walk, clutching the carpet with whatever is left of my feet. The ache in my tiny, silly body is obnoxious and the same two fingers on my right hand remind me of an old injury.

When did I decide to become a writer?

At six years old, I used to dream of being anything else:  a pop-singer, a cosmonaut; or a clown.  The world seemed so small back then, about the size of whatever town we’ve landed in.  We had already begun relocating a lot.  My parents’ vocations would take us all over the continent (which is not much, considering my former Motha’land took up most of it).  And at every new school, on every new playground, I would think up of a new vocation:  a veterinarian, a botanist; or a clown.

At six years old, I began reading.  A lot.  It was the first of my education.  I read as if it were my religion, my painkiller, my prayer for getting better, kinder stories out of life.

I would read to cope with transitions, with all of our new landings.  With other people’s cruelty.  I had already learned about losing friends — to distance or egos. When in pain, I would read in hopes of finding someone else’s stories about the same things I was seeing, feeling.

At six years old, I began traveling.  A lot.  First, by following my parents’ vocations. Considering my former Motha’land took up most of the continent, travel would always be lengthy; and eventually — most certainly — we would be subjected to some drastic circumstances.  I would quickly realize that coping with other people’s cruelty made for much better stories.

At six years old, I would write my first story — for a reader.  At the time, I was taking some calligraphy course to prepare me for the first grade, because unlike other people, I was born to a motha with a perfectionist’s vocation.

“Maybe, I could be a calligrapher,” I thought.  “Or a clown.”

My teacher —  a pretty 18-year old intern from the Teachers’ University — was so impressed with the roundness of my vowels, she asked me what I liked to do, outside of school.

“I read stories,” I mumbled.  I was already in complete awe of her, acquiring my life-long habit of empathizing with other people — by falling in love with them. I must’ve blushed:  I always felt way too much!

“You should write me a story,” she said, and I’m pretty sure she reached over to straighten out my hair tie.

I did.

But first, I would show it to my motha.

“You killed off all of your characters,” she commented at the end, ruining my pages with her wet hands, after peeling potatoes.  “Come help me with the dishes!”

I took the pages back and wiped off my motha’s fingerprints.

“Wouldn’t death be better here?” I thought.

The pretty intern would never get to see my story.  I avoided her, for the rest of the course.  And every time, I would leave her classroom feeling heartbroken that she wouldn’t ask me to write for her again.  And sometimes, I would cry under the first-story balconies of our building.

Because I always felt way too much — and often, I was finding myself alone in it.

I would continue changing my mind about my vocations.  Eventually, I would try a few.

And I would continue traveling.  A lot.  On my own.

And I continued to read, in hopes of finding someone else’s stories about the same things I was seeing and feeling.  And to avoid finding myself alone, I began writing down my own stories.

So, when did I decide to become a writer?  

I didn’t.  I’ve never decided to become one.  I just became.

Or, rather:  I am still becoming.

“And Do You Have Any Clue: What I Had to Do — to Get Here?”

“Hey, baby!  When I write — I am the hero of my own shit.”

I watched Hank last night.  I watched his beat-up, used-up, lived-in, wasted, wrinkled, exhausted face with traces of pockmarks digging into his skin like tear trails; and I let his effortless voice lullaby me to sleep:  a meowing of an aged cat on my doorstep, so demented he had forgotten all other pleasures in life but eating and fucking.  But mostly eating though, at this point:  Fucking — had become too strenuous for his joints.

It was a documentary, and a short one at that:  How do you make an epic about someone without an epic life?  Hank had insisted on living among us — that fuckin’ Bukowski! — that dirty, old man, ridden with vices and women, dwelling in his destiny but never groveling; and surviving his own compassion, day after day.  Elevating himself above the rest of us wasn’t his type of behavior.  No, he left that to his colleagues — the pretentious poets who always wished to write about their suffering but who haven’t lived enough, among us, to know what that’s like:  To suffer.  Because suffering — is bad for one’s skin.  (Just look at Hank’s face:  That fuckin’ Bukowski was a wreck!)  And it’s scary.  Suffering is scary.  So, they left it all — to Hank.

Instead, the pretentious poets got themselves jobs as critics and professors.  They became people of higher esteem:  “The professionals”.  People would pay them for their opinions and carefully manipulated big words.  (The bigger the words — the more esteemed the professor.)  And the professionals would wonder how could they suddenly run out of things to write about.  They would try to write about their tired marriages and affairs with their students.  But boredom always makes for terrible plots.  So, they’d return to their criticism and conference papers, with carefully manipulated big words about anything but suffering.

“What are your plans after graduation?” I remember my own teachers prying during the last year of college; and before they could wait for my answer, they’d spew out:  “You should teach!”

“Really?!” I’d think to myself.  “You mean you don’t want me to go backpacking through Europe and learn a dozen of languages from the pillow talks with my future fifty foreign lovers?”

But I wouldn’t say that.  In those days, my intuition wasn’t perfected yet; so I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint the source of that nausea invoked by those well-wishing mentor chats.  Instead, I would just listen, tormented with doubts and restlessness, and with my own temptations for a more esteemed life.  And then, I would look at my watch, demonstratively, and I would say:

“Ow!  I better get to the diner:  I’m working a double to-night.”

Esteem.  It’s kind of like beauty, right?  It’s in the eye of the beholder.  Except that with esteem, you are the beholder — AND you are the subject.  So, it’s entirely up to you, this esteem thing, despite all the other suffering.

There would be many more waitressing gigs, after graduation, and office gigs, and freelance gigs, and gigs of self-employment — all of which I insisted on committing with esteem.  There would be esteem in serving a table full of cops at 4 a.m. who would flirt and get rowdy, like college boys in love with their substitute teacher; and one of them would always offer to give me a ride home, in his black-and-white Ford.  (Later, sometimes, they would drive down my street and wave:  Heya, pretty!  It made me feel like others feel when they come home.)

There would be esteem in finding the patience to handle a hysterical student with no knowledge of English at my daytime campus gig, when the rest of my employers just wouldn’t have the time for her fearful nonsense.  (Later, she would pass me in the cafeteria — still a child in her age, made even more helpless by her venture in a foreign country — and she would smile at me, with something that combined gratitude and a very fragile secret.)

And there would be more esteem in taking the last train out New York City after my internship at yet another editorial department where I would become adopted by a group of esteemed professionals — or the poets to whom they vowed to cater.

And then, of course, there would be my fifty future foreign lovers, teaching me their languages during our pillow talks.  But mostly, they would teach me the language of my own humanity.  And there would be plenty of esteem in learning that my compassion would never fail, no matter the messy ending to each loverly story; and no matter the suffering that came with it.

To the effortless voice of Hank, I had fallen asleep last night:  He was reading his shit at some poetry hall in San Francisco, filled to the brim with hollering humanity.  And the audience would cheer him on every time he tipped his beer bottle into his crooked, wet mouth.  He would chug it down, like a man dying of thirst, smile fleetingly and bashfully at the dividends of his compassion — and the dividends of all that suffering; and he would resume meowing out his poetry.  Sometimes, he would raise a ruckus while taunting somebody in the audience:  To him, it would be just another bar fight.  But he would always seem so much calmer, when in the midst of doing his shit.

“the price of creation

is never

too high.

the price of living

with other people

always 

is.”

And yet, he would insist on living among us — that fuckin’ Bukowski! — that dirty, old man, ridden with vices and women, dwelling in his destiny but never groveling; surviving his own compassion, day after day.  Being too good for others — was not his type of behavior.  No, he left that to his esteemed colleagues:  “The professionals”.

And if he could, he would kiss every one of us on the mouth, the same way he kissed his women:  pornographically and with an open, wet mouth, smelling of rye.  Because no matter the price, we were his beholders AND his subjects; and with that, we granted him — his esteem.

We made his life — his tortured, used-up life worth his suffering.  And he would be one of us, becoming “the hero of [his] shit” — even when he wrote about others; when he wrote — about us.