Tag Archives: lightness

“I Want to… Thank You, Thank You. Thank You, Thank You.”

If this hour — or weather — were to happen back in LA-LA, I would be the only pedestrian seen for miles.

Well, at least I started off — as a pedestrian.  Having left my dear college comrade hibernating in the cocoon of her comforters inside the generously heated West Village apartment, I stepped out into the frosty morning with that blissful gratitude that came from knowing I had nowhere else to be:  Nowhere but here, in this City that left no human heart unaffected.  Because how ever New York — the Strange Iron and Steel Beauty — came off to others, indifference was never among Her effects.

That morning, I quickly understood:  In this City, I was in the minority.  Time moved relentlessly quicker for all others; and in my aimless, fancy free wandering, I belonged to neither the tourists nor the exhausted locals, who made it a point to survive Her every day.

The street sweeper, who was swinging his broom with enough intention to cause a flurry of broken black ice against my ankles and smoking simultaneously, gave me a queer eye, from underneath his Russian fur hat.  I had just passed him and made the mistake of smiling.

“Where is your coat, girl?” he growled in response, then puffed a visible cloud of nicotine in my face.  Yep, he was Russian alright, and not in the least bit entertained by my getup of a single turtleneck, a little red hat and thin running shoes, with funkily striped ankle socks peaking out of them.

“Can’t run in a coat,” I gleefully shrugged.  I was grinning.

Since when did I become so bouncy?  Back in the days of my aspiring to be a hardcore New Yorker, this Amelie character I was currently channeling would annoy the shit out of me.  But there I was:  Having gotten older, I had managed to also get lighter.  And if there were a single chronic mood of my soul — it would be its certain predisposition for gratitude.

To get my point across to the Russian, I began jogging lightly.  Right foot, left foot…  Ouch!  Ouch!  I hadn’t realized that my feet had gotten frozen in a matter of minutes of my being outside.  Stepping on my toes, as if leaping over tiny puddles, was my new running technique acquired back in Cali.  There, healthy living was merely a science; and I had actually studied it, not for the sake of getting off with others, at juice bars of some fancy, celebrity-ridden gyms of Hollywood — but for the sake of healing.

Fuck!  I didn’t even know I needed it, to tell you the truth, until I finally settled down into the natural flow of the local time, so different from New York’s.  It didn’t gnaw on my nerves and upset my inners.  Nah.  LA-LA had its own stresses and costs to the system, but at least there would be much more time — and space — to be a Self.

“‘Scuse me,” I sang out.  I made sure to smile.

(Seriously:  Who WAS that girl?!)

The bundled-up old woman, dragging her comatose Yorkie through the snow buried flowerbeds, looked back at me.  A thought had no time to form in my head before she granted me the dirties elevator look since the one I earned from a Kardashian lookalike, on my first Hollywood attempt to go clubbing.  (That young one assumed I was rubbing up against her man:  A short and hairy creature in rhinestoned jeans buying her girlfriends a round of pink drinks.  I, however, soaked from dancing my ass off next to the Go-Go Girls, was just leaning over the bar to ask for some water:  A request hated by the bartenders all around the world (but hated a little less than when I requested a cup of coffee).)

Upon my “‘Scuse me?”, not even a centimeter did the old woman move over.  Here, time and space had to be fought for; and considering she had to, most likely, persevere through mortal hell in order to own her rent-controlled apartment in Washington Square — the woman was highly unlikely to budge for my sake.

By that point, I could feel neither my toes nor my hands.  Still, it would take a lot more than a couple of dirty or simply baffled looks from the locals to snap me out of my grateful mood.

“Just look at this, would you?!” I kept thinking.

The perfectly aligned, naked and black with wetness trees were covered with sticky snow.  The skies were arguing with its fluffy clouds on whether to grant us some sun or snow that day.  The skeletons of Christmas trees littered an occasional side of the road, but the smell of trash and sewers had been put on hold until the next warmer front.

Left foot, right foot…  Right:  Ouch! ouch!  The black asphalt underneath my feet was sparkling with shards of ice.  Leaping over the tiny puddles and seemingly fallen down stars, off I went:  Navigating the seemingly different City unlike my former self claimed would have done.

But which one of us had changed more?

My every rhythmical exhale resulted in a visible cloud.  I was hardly the only pedestrian, but definitely the only runner seen for miles.  It was my new way of exploring new lands:  Right foot, then left.  Flying.  Slowing down only to zigzag in between the baffled, sleepy or plain disgruntled locals.

Grateful.

Right, left.  Right…

Yes:  Definitely grateful!

“Freedom’s Just Another Word — for Nothing Left to Lose.”

“It should not be denied… that being footloose has always exhilarated us.  It is associated in our minds with escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations, with absolute freedom, and the road has always led West.” 

Wallace Stegner, The American West as Living Space

“What if I walked away, right now, into these open spaces ahead?”

I wasn’t sure if every 19-year-old entertained such thoughts, but as I continued walking in the midday heat of a Southern California summer, I could see the journey clearly.  I could see myself:  A tiny figure whose outline was distorted by the heat rising from underneath the thin-soled Converse shoes, walking slowly but with certainty, fearless in the way of someone who had nothing to lose.

I had lost enough that year to not fear the possible pain of the unknown.  I had lost enough to have nothing holding me in place.  My college applications had been sent off late and only to a handful of unknown institutions with rolling admissions.  Considering it was the end of August, I had assumed I had failed to get in.

Two marriage proposals had happened that summer, by two different men, neither of whom even pretended to understand me much.  A month before, I had lost all of my cash, my car and my place of stay; and the absurdity of my pre-college summer was finished off — with a death.

As a matter of fact, it was the dead that was still keeping me in place.

She had died untimely, from a heart attack-ed.  I was called out of my Anatomy Lab to receive the message.  It was just a note, written on a pink slip that rarely meant good news.  The couple of times that I had witnessed it being delivered into my classmates’ hands, they wouldn’t return for the rest of the day.  Sometimes, they would be gone for weeks; and when they came back, I noticed the difference in their faces.  It looked either like gravity — or weightlessness.  I was about to find out which.

My messenger — an unknowing work-study student from the counselors’ office — ran out on me before I could ask him for any details.

“I have a note,” I told the receptionist in the counselors’ office, while rummaging in my schoolbag for my glasses.

“I know.  They are still on hold,” she answered.

The supervisor of the office loomed in the background, by the copy machine.  I saw his face, however blurry, and knew if I could see him any clearer, he would tell me of his sympathy.  My hands continued shaking, as they searched the bottom of my bag for an item I insisted on needing before picking up the phone.

The next few days had passed in a slow-mo waltz of minutes.  There would be phone calls and somber cards; a weeping husband on a flowery couch; a line of uninvited guests who would never be around whenever I was attacked by a slew of forms and interviews from funeral parlors.

“Whatever you need,” they promised to the weeping husband, as they too began to weep.

Nothing had prepared me for the questions that happened that week, from the people on the other end of the phone:

She was a donor, they said; and could they have my signature — to take her eyes?

Make a list of all the things, they told me:  things to be placed inside her coffin.  Did I know which she had treasured the most?

Choose the clothes she would be most comfortable in, they insisted:  Shouldn’t she be comfortable, wherever she was going?

And was I sure she wouldn’t prefer cremation instead?  (‘Cause that wouldn’t cost us as much, they would mention under their breath:  After all, they weren’t completely heartless.)

The weeping husband continued to assume I was strong enough to take his place.  No one had asked me if I was ready or willing, or knowledgeable of her last wishes.  Perhaps, I had promised more competence than the bulb-nosed man on the flowery couch, who nodded and moaned, accepted troughs of food from the still uninvited neighbors, with their solemn faces and anecdotes about the dead.

“Whatever you need,” they mumbled over his shoulder as they hugged and strained their own faces for emotions.

On the morning of the funeral, I remembered shivering.  They had wanted us to start early:  The first burial of the day.  And the morning would be so cold, and dewy.  The husband continued to weep in the front row of gray plastic chairs, while I accepted envelopes and hugs from people I hadn’t known.

Thank you for coming.

Thank you for coming.

Thank you.  It means so much.

The following week, I had promised to come back and clean out her closet.  The task of deciphering the bus schedules and routes seemed absurd and painfully sad.  I would study the indifferent faces of the drivers as they spoke gibberish about my transfers, and vouchers, and student passes.

I would get off on the last stop and study the desolate grounds and the open spaces ahead.

“What if I walked away, right now,” I thought, “into the open spaces?”

What if I followed the trajectory of black telephone lines or began chasing tumbleweeds:

Where would I end up?  And would I end up free?

And would that freedom feel weightless, eventually returning my joy; my forgiveness?

“How Does It Feel to Be… One of the Beautiful… People?!”

“How do we forgive the people who have wronged us?”

“How or why?”

“How.  I already know why…  I think.”

“You think?  You forgive because if you don’t — you are the only one you harm.  Right?”

I put the book of Mexican recipes face down onto my chest.  Think about.  I can’t be flippant when speaking of forgiveness:

“Something like that.”

That still sounded flippant.  I amend:

“I forgive because otherwise it’s too heavy.  It becomes spite, or even hatred.”

I actually think I am allergic to both.  This last time around, I wore a rash on my chin until it stopped mattering, I guess.

I continue:

“And I forgive because I am still looking for new stories.  When there is no forgiveness, I just keep replaying the old one too much.  Until I get sick of it.  Until it stops mattering, I guess.”

Until I get sick of it.  Is that what happens with me, eventually:  I dig for reasons, I cross-examine for long enough to get sick of the whole story?  Because most of the time, the reasons don’t become apparent.  Not completely.  There are glimpses, of course; and most of them are rooted in some sort of pleasure — or satisfaction at least — on the part of the other.

The people who wrong us seek something that they think they deserve.  They deserve us:  our goodness, our sex, our beauty.

And some would call that love.

“What would you call it?” he asks me.  He is lying on his side, facing the wall, away from me.  The wall is baby blue.

“I dunno,” I say, pick up the book with the Mexican recipes and start flipping through it again:  I am done figuring it out!  “I dunno!  But I definitely don’t call it ‘love’!”

The pictures in the book are delicious.  Delectable.  I secretly daydream of my future bakery:  It would be so good for my soul!

“Love ought to be selfless,” I resume.  I guess I am not done figuring it out.  “I love for the sake — for the benefit — of the other person, as much as I do for my own.”

“That’s not true!” he says and finally rolls over onto his back to look at me.  “I’ve seen you love, love.  You often love — despite yourself.”

I want to laugh but feel slightly defensive:  “Well.  That’s just what I do!”

I get a mighty hold of the book jacket and start skipping the section on meats:  I don’t want to know!

He is waiting for the rustle of the flipping pages to stop.  “That’s what you do alright.  But that’s not good either.  You can’t keep sacrificing yourself like that.”

I still want to laugh.

“At least, at the end, I needn’t be forgiven,” I say.

I’ve found some great comfort in that, before.  Even pride.  Because when I leave, I don’t take much with me.  I don’t take away a former love’s dignity.  I don’t destroy the self-esteem.  And I only carry away the things that have always belonged to me.

So, no:  I don’t take much with me.  And I don’t take away much either. But the weight of trying to forgive — is quite heavy, and I choose to lug it with me for a while.  Until it stops mattering, I guess.

I dig.  I cross-examine.  I recycle.  I search for the reasons until I realize that the reasons may never become fully apparent.  There are glimpses, of course.  But the consolation they offer aren’t strong enough of a painkiller.  So, I continue to dig, thinking that if only I find all the reasons — it will stop hurting completely.

“But how much of yourself do you leave behind?”  He is now staring at the ceiling.  It’s white.

I stop flipping the pages, put down the book face down onto my chest and start staring at his spot as well.  (Are those fingerprints on the ceiling?)

I may leave.  I may take the things that have always belonged to me.  But when I keep the connection — just so that I can continue cross-examining, digging — I linger.  And in lingering, I leave parts of me behind.

How do we forgive the people who have wronged us?

I am afraid that my previous “how” — is just a theory, and with time I’ve learned that it doesn’t really work.  I never find the complete reasons:  I only find reaffirmations of the others’ previous choice to wrong me.  The original choice to deserve:  my goodness, my sex, my beauty. My generosity. My love.

And then, there is this forgiveness:

“Time,” he says.  “You give it time.”  He is still staring at the ceiling.

“Kinda like putting it to rest?  long before it’s ready?”  I am studying his spot:  Fingerprints.

If I put it to rest, the story won’t stop mattering.  Instead, it will remain as a tale of Just Because.  And I have to have enough patience — enough self-love — to leave it at that.

Because there are glimpses of reasons, of course; but not even the most powerful empathy can make me understand these reasons completely.  So, I should just let them be theoretical.  Otherwise, it’s too heavy.  And I only harm myself.

And after enough time, the reasons stop mattering completely. 

I let it be — I let them be — in time and silence.

And I let myself be light and kind, as someone who needn’t be forgiven.

“When You Got Nothing — You Got Nothing To Lose.”

I was studying the face of a good man the other night…

“You jump to conclusions too fast,” my father would have said had I told him this story.  “Too trusting — that’s your problem.”

Dad is fearful, especially as a parent; and I can’t really judge the guy for that.  History has played a hideous prank on his country and his life, and it continues treating him and his people as dispensable.  Surely, there cannot be a bigger heartbreak than that.  There cannot be a bigger absurdity.  And I can’t really blame the poor guy caught in the midst of a Kafka play.  

So, I forgive him for his limitations, his shortcomings, his imposing fearfulness.  Instead, I stretch the boundaries of my unconditional love — of my compassion — and I choose to think of him as a good man.

My father — is a good, good man.

But I would never tell him this story:

I was studying the face of a good man the other night.  I barely knew him, but not once had I wondered whether he had made his share of mistakes in life, his share of missteps.  I suppose I was certain he had.  But they mattered little in that moment.

Because I chose to think of him as a good, good man.

(I AM too trusting — that’s my problem.)

And I listened.

He spoke to me of his travels, of leaving his doubts, vanity and fears behind; and biking across the country with nothing but a backpack and a camera.

He told me about the perseverance of the body if only one could control the mind.  In survival, he said, there was a chronic juxtaposition of reflexes versus fragility.  And when confronting the most basic needs, there was a balance and a great humility.

And there was beauty in the defeat of despair with one’s courage, in the elation of that success; and in the overall simplicity of living.

“What a good man!” I thought.  “What a good, good man!”

The road threw him for a loop a number of times, but he told me about the clarity of the mind if one was traveling light.

“It’s a good thing I hit the road without any expectations,” he told me.

It made sense.

He spoke about having no possessions to weight down his choices and no expectations.  Neither were there any grudges or resentments against humanity — others’ or his own.  His journey was not a conquest:  Not a thing dictated by the ego.  So, he traveled with a lesser emotional baggage, as someone who knew the power of forgiveness all too well.

His only responsibility on the road — was his family.  He would have been a lot more reckless, it seemed, had it not been for the nightly on-line messages that he promised to send their way.  And so he would.  No matter the difficulties of the day, no matter the survivals and the defeats, the despair and the courage, he would telegraph his experiences home.  And these letters — his road journals, the confessions of a transcendent mind — were the only threads leading back to the people he loved.

(I chuckled.  I would never tell my father this story:  He’d find me too trusting.  That’s my problem.)

“What made you do this thing in the first place?” I asked.

The humble badass smiled at me as if he could read the answer on my face — my good, good face — and he said:

“Because the one thing I know — is that I cannot stop knowing.”

And so, I was studying the face of a good man the other night; and it made me think of life as a sequence of choices.

My life — was not the life of my father:  I had bigger control over my circumstances; enough control to allow myself the occasional hubris of assuming that I was a person of consequence.  I could make choices, you see.  Unlike my father — my good, good father — I could choose my situations, or even change them.  And I had the luxury of freedom:  to pursue my life’s ambitions and to continue “knowing”; to continue learning.

Somehow, I had made the choice — to be good, in life.  There had been plenty of situations that tested my ethics before.  Yet even in defeat, in shame, in pain, I could always return to the track of goodness.  I could always see my way back to redemption.  Because even though my life was not my father’s, my ethics — were indeed his.

And my father — was always a good, good man.

And so, I was studying the face of a good, good man the other night; and it made me think of life as a sequence of choices.

“But I just can’t forgive myself,” my father had confessed a number of times.  “That’s my problem.”

Alas:  That was the main difference between my father’s character and my own.  I always chose to travel lightly, as someone who knew the power of forgiveness all too well.  I chose to have the power of self-forgiveness.   And I could always see my way back to redemption.

“‘Cause I’m a Gypsy. Are You Coming WITH Me?”

This shirt, right here — I’ve worn it no more than a couple times.  So, why am I holding onto it?

Why am I holding on?

It was a gift by a New York girlfriend.  She is married by now, and a mother.  The last time we saw each other was on the West Coast, after my divorce, when she came to see her father to tell him she was engaged.  That was the day I got the shirt.  It was Christmastime.  My car would break down on the way back to LA-LA, and I would call my ex, in panic.  He would answer…

Why am I holding onto this shirt?  

Why am I holding on?

I’m going to give it away.  That’s it!  That feels right:  Perhaps, I’ll just give it to the young girl who reminds me of my former self — the one prior to the divorce.  That’s it.  Give it away.  That feels right.  Give it away.

And this sweater:  How long have I had this sweater?  Let me think.  About twenty years?

Twenty years?!

Who in the world holds onto sweaters — for twenty years?!

Someone who is in charge of her own keepsakes and who makes up her memories, as she goes along; because there is no one else to ask for a cross-reference.  

Someone who has no home and no homeland to revisit because neither exists any longer. 

Someone who has spent her childhood on the road, and her womanhood — in a whole different foreign land. 

Come to think of it, that’s a quirky split.  When I try to remember myself as a child, I catch myself thinking in my native language:  My former language, of my former self.  But the language of my womanhood — is my second.  But it is also the language of my love — the language of all my loves — with which I’ve learned to communicate, to hold on and to let go.

“But V makes up her own language,” my last love once told me.

Forever, I am a foreign child but an American woman.  Which one is the most organic, the most relevant self?  Which one do I keep on the forefront the most?  This split is hard to interpret into either language for others trying to comprehend me.  But then, no story of immigration is a simple one.  So, I barely even try anymore.

And this sweater:  I think I used to run in this sweater, as a child.  And I still do.  All the threads in its seams have now lost their original shade, so it is slightly embarrassing to wear this thing out in public.  But I still run in it.  I run fast enough to camouflage its faults.  My faults.

Perhaps, I’ll just keep it:  This sweater — is the only thing of my childhood that I have left to hold onto.

Here is a couple of white nightgowns.  I don’t even wear nightgowns, so why do I own them?

Why am I holding onto them?

Why am I holding on?

This one:  It’s from Eastern Germany.  I remember it was given to me by my motha after I refused to wear my training bra.

“When you’re older, your underwear gets prettier,” she promised in my native language, when I was still thinking in that language, too.

But at the time, I was breathless:  Mama (or “motha” as I call her here, on the foreign land) used to be a stunning woman.  Her face was bewitching to men:  To them, it promised adventures no other mortal woman was able to provide before.  Because it took them into the very depths of their souls — the depths so terrifying, the two choices they had at the end of the affair were:  to pull out or to hang on for their lives.  Either way, they never came out of it the same.  (And I would know:  Quite a few have pulled themselves out of their souls, in front of me.  What an adventure!)

But at the time, I was breathless:  utterly bewitched by my motha’s face; in love with her, for the rest of my days.  And that nightgown would stay stored inside a drawer when I left home.  Motha had to mail it to me, for keepsakes, as an American woman.

The other nightgown is vintage.  I bought it in Ventura, years after my divorce.  It’s satin, with two shades of handmade lace.  One of the straps is broken.  Broken by a lover’s hand.  He, too, pulled himself out.

So, why am I holding on?

Well, I can’t really give these to another woman — or to the young girl who reminds me of my former self.  It’s bad enough our beds have memories.  Freud said we sleep with our former lovers for the rest of our lives.  We carry them.  We hold on.

But with every woman, there are also memories stored in the drawer with her lingerie.

Perhaps, I’ll just throw them out.  Discard them.

Let them go.

With every move, with every relocation, I am a different woman:  a lighter one, it seems.  Every time, I pack up my possessions, I discard at least a half, as if making room for fresh memories, fresh stories.  New loves.  New selves.

Forever, I am in charge of my own keepsakes.  But with time, I seem to need less of them.

And I learn to let go.

At least, I learn — NOT to hold on.

“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.

I Came To Win. To Fight. To Conquer. To Thrive. I Came To Win. To Survive. To Prosper. To Rise. TO FLY-AH-AH-AI!

I normally don’t do this, but after serving nearly seven years in LA-LA, I decided to skip the shortcuts the other night — and take the long way home.  It’s rare, but I felt like I had nowhere to be.  And no one — was waiting for me.

By now, I had thrown myself into a few affairs; and for while, each would fool me into thinking that my life was somehow made better:  Elevated.  And I would dash across town, using shortcuts, to get myself tangled up in my lovers’ limbs, stories, messes and hair — just so that I could get distracted from the mundaneness that happens after one starts taking her breathing for granted.

The men wouldn’t last:  They had “their own set of problems”.  They too — were serving their time in LA-A.  And they would go away, taking shortcuts out of my limbs, my stories, my messes.  My tangled hair.

So many of them had left, during the last seven years, I would start confusing my heartache for being alive.  And I would crave this chronic state of getting over a man — instead craving the love that I had never actually received.

“This one — is for the sake of the departed,” I thought when choosing my route, in my mind, while simultaneously starting up my car.

I was leaving the West Side of the city which runs in its own timezone depending on how many people are trying to get through traffic — to their own shortcuts — and into the limbs, the stories and the messes that wait for them in other distant neighborhoods.  After nearly seven years in LA-LA, I had learned how to wait out the crowds:  not because I dislike serving my time amidst humanity; but because I prefer not to do so — amidst the worst of it.

So, by the time I was choosing my route the other night — while simultaneously starting up my car — I had avoided the traffic and the worst of human behavior that comes with it.

I looked in my rear view mirror, West bound.

“Remember that departed?” I thought while seeing the neighborhood I had started to explore in a company of a man full of stories and messes.

I looped around the block, but then realized:

Love had never really lived there.

So, I got back onto Venice — and started heading East.

Venice was moving, speeding at times.  I saw the tired faces of other drivers taking their shortcuts, after serving enough time on the West Side to avoid the traffic and the worst of human behavior that came with it.  They seemed focused:  in the know.

A pretty blonde in a well-aged red Jeep seemed to sense my curious gaze, studied me for a split second:  She saw that I was meaning well, smiled tiredly and took down her hair, out of the tiny ponytail at the base of her neck.

“That’s my girl!” I thought, speeding past her in the other lane.  My windows were down:  I wanted to taste the incoming marine layer, crawling in like a giant wet tongue — and to outrun it, while heading East.  I slid open my sunroof, and the wind immediately swooshed inside.

I took down my hair.

The Melrose District came up on me quite quickly, despite my taking the long way home; and it greeted me with heavier pedestrian traffic and the smell of anything else but the Ocean.  Joggers in stylish clothing, smart enough to wait out the heat, strutted along the crooked pavements.  Pretty Jewish girls in modest, long skirts somehow reminded me of the old country.  Sporty mothers with yoga asses:  What made them flock to this ‘hood?  And girls, in gladiator sandals or sparkly stilettos, smart as whips, chasing their bargains along Melrose:

They weren’t a breath of fresh air, no; but a mouthful of something very specific.

Normally, I would take a shortcut here.  Instead, I obeyed the residential speed, turning into the less travelled streets with open-mindedness; and I let them surprise me with memories.

“And remember that one?” I thought suddenly, swinging past a lavender sign of a restaurant resilient enough to serve its time for the last seven years, in LA-LA.  I had first come here with another departed, even though love — had never really lived there.

“Or this?” I was sitting in an alley, passing a funky yoga studio in which I had once fallen for a boy.  He wouldn’t last:  He had “his own set of problems”.  And he would go away — run away, actually — taking shortcuts out of my life.

I took the long way home.  I never planned for it, but after serving seven years, here — has become my home.  And history was written everywhere.

“It’s Alright, It’s Alright! ALL-RIGHT! She Moves — In Mysterious Ways!”

En route to Lompoc, to jump out of a plane.  Bono is screaming about love.

And when is he not, that preacher of the better part of us?

Here comes an unexpected detour.  I catch myself thinking:  I cannot wait to fly!

But instead, I make Bono hush down for a bit and watch my co-pilot navigate through the unknown neighborhood with patience I am known to not possess. I’m intense, even in my mightiest lightness.  We follow the neon orange signs that appear dusty and somehow tired.  It’s a beach town, and other drivers aren’t in a hurry at all.  Around the bend, however, I see the pillars of the 101:  The cars are zooming by.  Freedom!

“I WANNA RUN!” Bono is back to screaming, screeching occasionally, to get the message across.

The last text I send, before turning off my cell phone, is to my BFF — my most kindred heart in this world that has put up with my messy head and impatient soul for over a decade, without much objection.  She is my In Case of Emergency; has been, since college.  Sure, there have been partners before, who would take over that burden, on an adventure or two.  But once they go — the job returns to my most kindred heart.

“In the name of love!

One more!  In the name of love!”

Ah:  St. Bono!

Interestingly, my BFF and I have rarely spoken about our heartbreaks to each other.  Perhaps, it’s because we both know that even when a heart breaks — it gets better, with choice.  And our choice has always been for the better parts of us.

Bono puts in his two cents:  

“You’re dangerous, 

‘Cause you’re honest.”

On this part of the 101, the traffic moves.  It’s a two-lane construction and we all seem to be quite certain about where we’re going.

For miles and miles, I see California — and it is glorious!

Here she is, stretching in front of me like a reclining redhead, so sure of her witchcraft; with her floor-length hair spilling around her nudity like a shadow.  In the fields and farmlands, I am exploring her long limbs:  This girl’s got some freckles on her!

When passing through her mountains, I enter her mysterious parts:  the curvatures of her hips, and the dimples on her lower back, the hills of her sumptuous behind.  In between two green peaks, I am aware of my privilege:  My glorious girl has just let me inside.  She has surrendered.  I dive.  I hold my breath a little, pop my ears.  I come out on top.

Bono chimes in:

“It’s alright, it’s alright!  ALL-RIGHT!  

She moves in mysterious ways.”

We take the onramp:  1 North.  I’m in the vineyards now:  In her hair follicles, behind her earlobes, heading toward the magnificent head of the State.  I do love it up there, but I’ve gotta make a stop (somewhere along her clavicle, perhaps):  So that I can jump out of the plane — and into the next chapter of me.

And I am thinking:  I cannot wait already!  And I feel so light!

We pull off onto the side of the road:  Here.  Finally!  But if it weren’t for the single-engine aircraft that looks like it’s been constructed from scrap metal found nearby, I wouldn’t know it.

We check in with a girl next door — at the front desk.  She’s skydived 87 times by now!  Badass.

In a company of a giggling young lovebirds, we watch two safety videos.

Sign off our lives.

On the other side of the building where we’ve been sent to wait for our instructors, I see a handful of young boys cracking themselves up at the footage of other people’s faces blown into the hideous grins by the g-force.  As these impatient souls fall out of the plane, one by one, the video plays music.  But I can lipread:

“HOLY SHIIIT!”

“OH MY GOD!”

And:

“FU-AHH-UCK!”

I laugh.  I feel so light, so fearless!

Can’t I just live like this forever and ever, in a perpetual state of expecting my next flight?!

On the other side of the divider, two other badasses are crawling all over the carpeted floor, putting together parachutes.  And I see her — IMMEDIATELY:

She is exactly my height, small and equally as brown; with an intense face, that also resembles mine, even in the moments of my mightiest lightness.  Besides a sports bra and a pair of boy shorts, she is wearing a pair of giant headphones. She’s in her head.  After all:  She’s got human lives in those brown, strong hands of hers.

“Yo, Eric!” she screams out and lifts up one of the headphone muffs.  “Fuck the apple!  Get me a Red Bull, yeah?”

And then, she’s back to crawling all over the carpeted floor:  Badass!  She untangles the lines, gathers the off-white nylon into her arms and dives.  The cloud catches her small, brown body and it deflates, slowly.

“Vera?  Um.  VIE-RRA?!”

Another brown girl has been calling me over:  It’s time for the gear.  She is a sweetheart, but her hands know exactly what to do:  Badass!  She insists on talking to me the entire time, but about life and something so light and so fearless.  The harness is heavy and I feel grateful for that:  It weighs me down, or I would fly off, from all this lightness and love.

And suddenly, I’m thinking:  I’m not fear-less.  I’m:  Fear-none!

I hear the rickety, single-engine aircraft land.  Soon enough, the skydivers start coming down, and they rush through our waiting zone with forever changed faces.

“How was it?” I ask a young boy with a headful of crazy curls.

“OH, SHIT!  AMAZING, MAN!”

He’s screaming at me, with an Aussie accent:  I’m the first civilian soul to meet him on the ground, and I bet if I weren’t being strapped in right then, he would kiss me, open-mouthed, on the lips:  So light!  So fear-none!

The instructors arrive last:  They are in red t-shirts and shorts, as if they’ve just come out to play some beach volleyball.  But they’re wearing the backpack-looking things on their shoulders, while carrying the white bubbles of chutes in their arms.  Badasses!

One of the instructors immediately chips off and goes to grab a bite of pizza.  He devours two bites.

“Um.  Vie-rra?”

I look up:  The badass to take me flying is heading toward us, with an already extended arm for a handshake, even though he’s uncertain which of the impatient souls on standby I must be.

I inhale.  Here I go:

Not fearless — but fear-none!

(To Be Continued.)

“‘Cause, I Built A Home. For You. For Me.”

Beautiful.

Beautiful beach.  Beautiful bodies.  Very beautiful boys, tall and lean — lovely, really.  And those gorgeous behinds of the girls — who are also beautiful — passing along the tide.

It’s lovely, really, to not be so blind to life.

I’ve only got an hour here — a small break I’ve permitted myself smack in the middle of my day.  I have chosen this life of malleable schedule; and it demands much more responsibility than showing up at one place, every day, at eight.  But then again, that other life seems so brutal.  That other life of others:  I’ve tried it.  I can do better.

An hour.  That’s all I’ve got.  I’ve imposed a halt onto my day and taken a detour to the beach.  I’m going to make up for it later, I think; and I wish I could be more romantic about it:  more romantic than crawling out of my skin with my chronic impatience at time.  Just how much longer is it going to take until I achieve the life that’s unlike the life others?  A life of my own:  How long does it take to mold?

In this part of the beach, mostly populated by locals, it is always so quiet — and so beautiful.  It’s lovely, really.  But I do wish I could be more romantic about it:  I wish I would catch myself thinking about the opposite shore where I just happened to be born several decades ago — and that must be why I keep coming by here.  To recharge.  To reconnect.  To think of home, as others often do — in their own life of others.  But I have left that shore — that’s the truth — on purpose, several decades ago.  It wasn’t working.  I tried it.  I could do better.

Still, I raise myself up onto my elbows and squint at the line where the dark blue of the water meets the dusty white of the sky:  Nope.  I can’t really see home from here.  Home — is just gonna have to be wherever I am.

But still:  It is so lovely, really.  And it’s lovely — to not be so blind to life.

I watch a threesome of youth things fling a frisbee to each other, near the tide.  One of the boys is stocky.  He’s the funny type.  I can tell by the way he makes the other two double over with laughter, even though I can never hear the ending to his jokes.  The other boy is tall and lean.  He’s lovely, really.  Whenever he leaps to catch that thing in midair, he reminds me of a dog.  I wish could be more romantic about it.  I wish I could catch myself thinking about a lovely boy of my near past.  But that’s all done now.  The thinking, the rethinking — the endless groveling for reasons, clarifications; hastily gathered apologies, crumbs of hope for a reunion, or for some sort redemption, at least — that’s all done now.

I watch the boy launch the frisbee with a mere bend and release of his wrist.  Vaguely, I begin recalling all the ones I have treated with kindness, in my life.  Thankfully, the ones that got the lesser of me I can count on only two fingers.  Because less than — wasn’t really working.  I tried it though.  I can do better.

And then, there is the girl of the threesome.  I think she is very young, hiding her torso underneath a long-sleeved surfing top.  She giggles too, a lot and often completely unprovoked.  But it’s the ruffle that circumvents her hips along the bikini bottom that tells me she’s still got so much life ahead of her, and way too much youth.

Out of the three, she is the least equipped for the game.  When she dashes to catch a throw, she never takes off on time and she always misses.  And when the frisbee lands, she runs to it, while laughing; bends over to pick it up, then starts slapping it against the bottom of her right butt cheek, shaking off the sand and making the rest of her body vibrate with suggestion.  I think I can overhear her apologies:

“Sorry,” she giggles, vibrating with laughter and the bounce she has started against her gorgeous behind.  “I suck!”

But the boys are mesmerized.  They don’t mind the stupid game, or that it slows down every time it’s her turn to throw.  The tall, lean lovely attempts to coach her a little.  But whom is he kidding?  She is not interested.  Soon enough, she pulls out of the game completely and runs over to the camp of their towels.  The beautiful boys do a couple of more throws, but the game is no longer fun.  They follow her: Their girl.

Lovely.  Really.  It’s lovely — to not be so blind to life.

And I’ve only got half an hour left.  I shoo away the fragmented thoughts of my next obligations.  It’s my life — it’s not the life of others — in which even the breaks have to be disciplined.

I think I doze off.  The smell of coconut and perfume brings me back up onto my elbows:  Three meters down a family of four is stretching out a cotton sheet, bleached out to perfection.  It’s gigantic, waving up in the air like a sail of a boat bringing home a beloved vagabond.  The two sons are on one end of it:  They are tall, lean — lovely, really.  The father is giving out commands from the opposite end, but whom is kidding:  He cannot stop from twisting his neck sideways toward a lean and handsome woman, applying sunblock all over her youthful body.

“Hence, the coconut,” I think; and I watch her bend over and slide her thin wrists along each leg, methodically.

This is the life of others.  Not my life.  And I find myself feeling romantic about it.

The family positions itself onto the white sheet:  The handsome woman chooses her place first.  The boys immediately flock her, in their unspoken adoration; but they cannot stay down for long.  Soon enough, they take off for the tide, with so much youth ahead of them.  The father inches over toward his lovely wife:  His girl.

This is the life of others.  And it’s quite lovely, really.

Okay.  Five more minutes.  I give myself — five more minutes.  They can’t delay me too much.  I squint toward the horizon where the two gigantic matters meet, but not where my home is.

My home — is just gonna have to be wherever I am.  And wherever I am — is quite lovely, really.


“‘Cause I Ain’t No Hollaback Girl!”

“Any woman who counts on her face is a fool.”

Zadie Smith, On Beauty

Not the first time I’ve heard a beautiful woman call herself “a nerd”!

As a matter of fact, I think it must be some sort of an insider saying of my clan — my half of the species capable of dusting off a compliment either due to its insincerity or whatever insecurity it has activated.

“Oh, you mean:  this old thing?”

But she would say, “Yeah, I’m a nerd,” — and she would pout, do that thing with her eyelashes; flip her hair, shoot down your heart from behind its cascade; and thrust forward one of her magical hips.  She would take a stand:  “You have no idea!  A complete.  And total.  Nerd.

And doesn’t it make you want to die at her feet, like a sacrificial slave at the pyre compiled in her name?  You goddess!  You perfection.

Celebrities say that, and all the pretty actresses.  Some stunners have testified to their once-upon-a-time addiction to knowledge as well.  And I get it, but still I find myself doubting them ever so slightly.

But of course, of course!  Brain and beauty — is one powerful combination, and I am a lifetime fan.  (Just ask my girls.  Or, just look at them, really.)

But by its very definition, it seems, beauty cannot be isolated.  It shouldn’t be isolated because we all want a piece of it, so much.  Oh, but it consoles us!  It fools, even if just for the duration of being in its company.  For just a little while, it disorients against the ugliness of our griefs.  And somehow life begins seeming quite alright.  And we all seem so much more deserving.

So, it would be so unfair, so odd, or mismatched when a beautiful thing claims to have been burdened by so much knowledge it makes her socially inept.  Because theoretically, a beautiful person should be better equipped than the rest of us:  Attracting attention with one’s mortal coil must come with a life-long skill, right?  An advantage.  A leg-up.  An in.  Otherwise:  What’s the fucking point?

But last night — or at a painfully early hour of this morning — I heard myself say to a comrade, in my low-registered half-mumble half-whisper for which I blame the native tongue of my people:

“Sorry!  I’m such a nerd.  A complete.  And total.  Nerd.”

And then, I flipped my hair.  Oh, you mean:  this old thing?

Knowledge has been an addiction of mine for — what’s the expression? — “longer than I can remember”.  Back in my childhood, I was a loner, perpetually hiding behind the book covers of all the heavy Russian dogs.  Because while peaking from behind Nabokov’s spine, life seemed mellowed out by melancholy.  And with Bulgakov — it was just a fucking trip!  A joke!  A comedy of the absurd.  Leo Tolstoy intimidated right off the bat, even my own people; while Yesenin attracted conversations:

“Did you know he fucked around with Isadora Duncan?”

Scandalous!

“They killed him in bar fight, with a knife.  Like a dog!”

And Akhmatova:  She always demanded for me to lower her stanzas, even if because I couldn’t take her any more, with all that sobering truth.  And she ordered me to take in life, instead.

Adolescence would be spent behind the spines of other dogs, more foreign, more worldly; and much less in love with the Motha’land.  But then came a day, on a bus ride to my father’s town, when I lowered a tome to catch a breath and found a pretty thing distorted in the window’s reflection, with nighttime behind it.  From behind the cascade of my hair, I examined her; did that thing with my eyelashes — and then, I went back to reading.

Because it wouldn’t change a thing:  I would still chase the big dogs and dust off the clumsy compliments from young boys and the drooling older gentlemen either due to their insincerity or whatever insecurity they would activate in me.  And I would chase my dogs far enough to the edge of the continent.  And when the big dogs jumped — I jumped right after them and swam to the other coast.

Years later, I still find myself addicted to my books.  But more than that, I have perfected the addiction to fit more life into it:  I am now addicted to learning.  Any learning!  All the life’s new things:  show me, tell me, guide the way!  And often pro bono, I grant my life the immediate curiosity so easily available from behind the spines of all the big dogs; and it, most of the time, pays it back –tenfold.

So, last night — or at a painfully early hour of this morning — I heard myself say to a comrade, in my low-registered half-mumble half-whisper for which I blame the native tongue of my people:

“Sorry!  I’m such a nerd.”

I have been pacing my apartment — with all the big dogs lining-up its walls with their spines — and I have been sweating my ear against the phone while trying to explain the new curiosities of this year.  The poor comrade could not have known that I’ve been laboring over my work for eleven hours already:  that I had written for five and researched my media for the rest.  That I have already played with a few other bloggers — other nerdy and, as I imagined, very beautiful girls taking a peak at life from behind the cascades of their hair and from behind the spines of their laptops in their own apartments, illuminated by nothing more than the light of the blogosphere.  That I’ve had a day full of life already — and full of curiosities paid back to me tenfold; but after the town shut down, I still wanted more life.  And I would find it — behind the spine of my laptop.

“Yeah.  A complete.  And total.  Nerd,” I giggled.  Or maybe I didn’t.

But I do remember flipping my hair and thinking how light it was — and how easy! — to grant my life the immediate curiosities so easily available from behind the spine of my laptop.  And even though most of the hours of my learning have been spent in solitude — in isolation so typical for a nerd — everything seemed so much fuller:

Of life.

Of light and lightness.

And of purpose whose source of enlightenment was not only knowledge — but gratitude itself, paid back to me, tenfold.