Tag Archives: Natalia Vodianova

Dense

For as long as I could remember, my sister was always afraid of water.  She was eight years older than me; and as we both grew up, her inability caused me confusion, delight and pride at my own skillfulness — exactly in that order.

“That’s ‘cause you were born a total daddy’s girl!” Marinka teased me.  She was jealous.  Obviously.

It had become somewhat of a tradition between the two us to huddle up in her bunk bed at night (until she’d left for college, Marinka would always have the top); and for hours at a time, we flipped through the albums of black-and-white family photos, while Marinka told me the stories that predated me.  The stiff pages of teal cardboard smelled like the chemicals from the darkroom.  Lying on my stomach, I studied the contours traced by Marinka’s fingers, until my elbows became sore.

In the year of Marinka’s birth — 1967 — the Soviet Union was peaking towards its highest glory.  My sister was lucky to be born with a promising future of the citizen of the “Best Country in the World”.  But in exchange for that giant favor, our dear Motherland claimed the life our father.  Well, not literally, of course:  This isn’t your typical sob story, of vague third-worldliness, in which the parents die off too young, leaving their poor children seriously messed-up for the rest of their lives.  Dad just had to work a lot, that’s all.  So, Marinka wasn’t exposed to a fatherly influence during those tender, formative years.

For weeks, for months at a time the old man would be gone from our household.  According to Marinka, it made our mother none too happy.

“Really?” I whispered while patting yet another image of my mother holding her firstborn in a professionally done family portrait, while father was, well, not there.

At that point Marinka would realize she’d gone too far — after all, I was only six years old — and clumsily, she changed the subject:  “Ugh!  Stop groping my photos so hard!  You’re gonna leave a mark!”  I sat up into an imitation of her cross-legged position.  The secret was to wait for Marinka’s temper flares to fizzle out.

Soon, the story continued.

In response to his woman’s nonsense, father would smile discretely; and mother would have no choice but take his word for it.  No, wait.  Considering the man never spoke much, it was his silence that she had to trust.  And if dad were a cheating, lying scumbag, like the likes of his coworker Uncle Pavel — a handsome, salt ‘n’ pepper haired player with a mustache of a Cossack — he could’ve gotten away with it.  I mean, the man was gone all the time.  No matter the town or the city in which the family settled (for half a decade at the most), soon enough dad would go off to the same place called “the Polygon”.

Now, that’s exactly the part that Marinka could never clarify for me:  While I patted the images of our uniformed father — gingerly this time — she couldn’t explain if he was going to the same place, or if our glorious Motherland had these Polygons up the wahzoo.

“Did mama cry?” I detoured back to gossip.

Marinka considered.  “Nah.  If she did, I never saw it!”  Out came the photo of mother surrounded by her colleagues, laughing at the camera.

What else was the woman to do?  After about a week of her spousal absence, mother would begin going over to her girlfriends for dinner nearly every night.  Sometimes, Marinka came along.  But on Saturdays, all the women dressed up and went to a discoteca, leaving my poor sister to her own devices.

“Oy, no!” I tried my luck at flattery.  “But who’d change your diapers then?”  I knew my time was running out, and soon enough Marinka would get bored by my endless questions.

Sure enough, “You idiot!” sis scoffed.   “She waited until I grew out of them before she started going out!”  For a moment, we both studied mother’s graduation portrait in which she, a Komsomol member, looked like that one actress from Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears.  “You’re so dense sometimes, Irka, I swear!”

Before my sis would succeed in chasing me out of her bunk bed though, I managed to give a decent comeback:

“Ooh!  Look at you, using big words and stuff.  Dense does as dense sees!”

“Get out, I said!” sis flipped out.  A person of great impatience, she really did inherit mostly my mother’s prickly predisposition.  (I, of course — was my father, reincarnated.)  “And look at your feet!” Marinka squealed if she got a glimpse of my sandbox activities marked all over my soles.  “I’m so telling mom!”

I don’t know about the rest of the world and its children — who, as our Motherland promised, did NOT have as happy of childhoods as we did — but Marinka’s telltale threats were worse than, say, the warning of the nuclear attack from America.  Mom was the biggest disciplinarian around town!  Or maybe even in the whole of the Soviet Union!

Sometimes, Marinka did manage to tell on me.  But with age, I’d gained enough escape routes from the house, to never let my mother’s disciplinarian belt to graze the skin of my ass.  If worse came to worst, I climbed out of our kitchen window and hid in the giant pear tree, in the garden.  No one but armies upon armies of honey bees was ever much interested in that giant monster anyway.  In the summer, they flunked the heavy branches of sour fruit.  But for the rest of the year, that pear tree made an excellent hiding place.

Besides, from an early age, I had noticed the difference in the athletic predispositions between the women of our family.  That is to say that my mother and sister had none!  I, on the other hand, was the best son that father could ever desire!  I could run faster than any of the boys in my elementary school, and had scabs to show for it.  Playing with my sister’s girlfriends didn’t interest me in the least, unless, of course, they were jumping rope.  Then, I was like a grasshopper gone berserk inside a glass jar.  And nothing transcended me into a better sense of zen than to climb trees and to organize and reorganize my father’s tool box, over and over again.

(To Be Continued.)

“Except, Around Hollywood and Western — We Have to Keep Doing It!”

“Oh, but everyone’s got these stories!” a man of tired compassion told me as he heard my saga of homecoming, this jolly holiday season. “I mean, after all,” he said, “this country is made entirely of immigrants!”

I wondered, as I studied his ethnically ambiguous face:  Was he East Indian, a couple of generations removed from his native land and now free from all the confines of his original tradition — to make what he could of it?  It not, how ever did he find his way into my yoga class?

Was he like me:  Tasting all religions in his youth, in hopes of finding a recipe to peace?  Some religious texts had tempted me with their poetry before; others — with their majority.  I’d always wanted to belong, so I kept looking.

Was he, like me, at liberty to pick and choose between the details of his heritage, only wearing it when most convenient for his now American identity?  Did he carry his comedy routines in side pockets:  At the expense of his immigrant and heavily accented parents, he could whip ‘em out at gatherings of curious American friends?  Did he practice the routines on paper first, or did he merely get addicted to the laughter he could cause — and so he’d work them out in public?

The evening city hummed and sparkled outside the windows.  Across the street, I could see a casting space where I had once nearly died of shame by bumping into an ex-lover from a disastrous affair.  He sat in the corner, with his giant legs stretched out ahead, sounding every bit like that one asshole actor who must practice his lines out loud, at full volume, in a waiting room filled with his competition and the rookies from Ohio.

That morning, I had announced official warfare against my acne; and my Hollywood haircut refused to cooperate at covering it.

I saw him first, pretended not to, and thankfully got called immediately.  That’s when he must’ve heard my name; because by the time I had stepped out, he was standing by the doorway.

“I thought that was you!” he said and shifted on his feet as if leaning in for a hug.

Our story was so typical, it should’ve made it into a sitcom about actors in LA-LA:  He wanted a rebound with someone with his ex’s Slavic face — another actress — and I had wanted more.

“No fuckin’ way, American buddy!” I thought.

But out loud, I said, “I’ve gotta run,” and blew my bangs out of my eyes.  He noticed the stampede of pimples across my forehead:  stubborn and multiplying.  “Another audition!  Gotta run!”

“Yeah,” he said, mesmerized by my forehead.  “Yeah.  Definitely.  But let’s do coffee sometime!”

Natalia Vodianova

Everyone’s got these stories, it is true.  My friends had all suffered, at least once, from having used someone for sex, or from having been used.  And then, we’d all scrape up our dignity to have the courage to keep showing up:  to other dates and to auditions; and to the companies of friends, where we readily whip out our comedy routines and force-feed ourselves with laughter.

To be happy here, it takes discipline.  Or some serious delusion. Some of us had had those mental breakdowns that justified our flight from this fucking place.  Others would just have an episode, go home to recover — then return for more.

The ethnically ambiguous man continued:

“I’m going home myself,” he said.  “Can you believe it’s holidays already?!”

The traffic crawled along the boulevard underneath.  Two lanes of it:  one fire-engine red, another — silver.  An eatery at the corner was glistening with Christmas lights; and reflected by the changing colors of the traffic light, its giant windows would take on different shades, at well timed intervals.  With the shimmer of the hills behind it, the city looked so pretty, suddenly.  And standing above the traffic, out of it, I thought to find it peaceful.  But then, I changed my mind.

I wanted to object to my ethnically ambiguous co-practitioner of yoga:

“It’s not your turn to speak, American buddy!”

But he had been carrying on, by then.  He’s got that story, too!

And so:  I listened.

“Those Were the Days, My Friend…”

Back in those days, we would rise early — to get the fields on time.

It would always happen in the fall:

“Time of harvest,” they would tell us.

We didn’t know any different:  We weren’t supposed to.  We were children, still. Besides, to us — it would be just another adventure.

Most of us (if not all) had seen our parents working on land for their entire lives, tending to the whims of nature just so they could have a little extra to live on during the winter.  It didn’t matter if you were a villager or one of those city people who thought they were better than the rest:  Everyone worked, in those days.

The villagers had it a little harder, especially in terms of prejudice.  They were the simpler people, with more obvious needs and uncomplicated vices.  Most of their children would never finish their education either due to their parents’ alcoholism or because of being bullied, brutally, in school.  Those kids wore poorer clothes than us and carried lice in their overgrown hair.  They smelled of manure, tobacco and liquor:  They smelled — of hard life.

For as long as they could tolerate their young lives’ injustices, they would become outcasts; our plebeian jokers.  Soon enough, though, they would give way to their shame, drop out of school — and grow up way too early.  And the hard life continued to loom, above our unknowing heads.  But the ones that lived by land knew it earlier than the rest.  

In any city apartment, one could find a tiny garden on a balcony.  Radishes and tomatoes were planted in flower beds, upfront.  And in the spring, after the soil would thaw out just enough, our grownups would begin to leave the city, for the weekends.  They would take the trains into the suburbs — and they would return to their land.

Of course, somebody always had to be paid off along the way:  Such was the Russian tradition.  And we didn’t see any malice in that, or any particular injustice.  So, we bribed the city officials to get the better patches of land.  With the owners of live stock, we bartered in exchange for cow dung.  The drivers of tractors were paid off in vodka.  To each — his own.  

Summers seemed a bit easier:  Even if the money was tight, there was always at least some food in the home.  The early months were spent on gathering; and for the entire length of August and September, each woman busied herself with making preserves for the winter.  So, they would work — our mothers — rising early, tending to land; then, spending the rest of their days on mere survival.

But we, the young ones, would always turn it into a game.  In groups, we walked each other home; and as we climbed the stairs of our apartment buildings, we sniffed the doors on every flight:

“Ooh.  Strawberry jam!  Most certainly, strawberry!” we’d smell the lusty sweetness of slowly simmering fruit, then say goodbye to the comrade heading in, into that doorway.

“This one — is pickling cabbage.”

“She is always pickling cabbage!” the disappointed child would grumble and knock on the door of his forever disappointing mother.

We were all just trying to survive.  Although, for a while there, we didn’t know how difficult it was, for our mothers:  We didn’t have to — we were children. And to us, everything — was an adventure, just for a little while longer.

My doorway always gave off aromas much more complex than our young palettes could’ve known:  Green tomato jam, prune compote with red currants, garlic-stuffed cucumbers.  Motha — was always a bit of a witch, at the stove; and I couldn’t hide my thrill at her being so different.  And I couldn’t wait to find her in the kitchen:  What could she’ve possibly come up with, that time?

She would rise early, back in those days.  And by mid-day, several cauldrons would be boiling, simmering, stewing on the stove.

“Here!  Try this!” the woman with curlers in her hair and sweat on her upper lip would order me while shoving a tiny saucer with pink or purple jam foam into my dirty hands.  She wouldn’t even say hello.

Despite the occasional sand on my teeth, “MMMM,” I’d mutter.

“Good! Watch the pots!  I’m going out!”

Motha would depart into the bathroom and emerge in five minutes doused in perfume and sparkles.  I didn’t mind her departure.

In the fall, after the first month back in school, there would be field trips — to the fields.  Normally, they would happen on a Saturday; and we would have to rise early, showing up to the already busy school yard in our best peasant attire.

Most of the time, the children of the villagers wouldn’t show:  They had their own land to tend to.  Still, we would judge them a little, while shuffling ourselves in between the seats of a school bus, waiting to depart at sunrise.  We would be taken to the fields:  to gather freshly dug-out potatoes or to gather sugar beats, for live stock.

The labor would be hard, and we would overhear the upper class men complain about such an injustice.  But we still didn’t know any different:  We didn’t have to — we were children.  It would become much harder, soon enough.  But for just a little longer, we could be children — and life could be much simpler.

“May You Build a Ladder to the Stars — And Climb on Every Rung…”

I promised to pick her up from school, and unlike all of my own commitments, this one made my heart beat faster.  I was hyperaware of time the entire day; thinking, daydreaming about the nearing hour, fearing its passing:  For I could not, for the life of me, be late!

I mean I’ve seen that happen before, in films:  flustered, hysterical mothers, with messy hairstyles and tired faces, running (sometimes, in heels) toward their disappointed children.  Most of the time, the message of the film was about absentminded motherhood:  Motherhood of the unlucky.  It happened to women in unhappy marriages, with broken dreams.  There was always a justification to all human faults, I’ve learned.  Still, in those films about bad motherhood, I was always more interested in the faces of their children:  with their tearful vulnerability before they would be hardened by continuous disappointment.

“Ma-ahm!” they would whine, pulling away from the hysterical woman’s overcompensating tugging, and hugging, and nagging.  Or, there would be an indifference between them; and it would hang inside their car until someone threw a resentful glance through the rear-view mirror.

Honestly, I didn’t care that much about my reputation:  Her parents would have been able to forgive me if I failed the task; and I could handle all the passive-aggressive remarks by the schoolmasters.  But what I didn’t want to confront — for the life of me! — is the child’s disappointment.  She was a kid — an innocent, still; and even though she wasn’t my own, I had no business letting her down.

I could tell by the density of the traffic that I was near her school zone.  Fancy SUV’s with tinted windows compacted the narrow residential streets.  They double-parked and lingered, with zero consideration for the rest of us stuck behind, and with their break lights flipping us off in our faces.  Staring at the zero on my speedometer, I felt my temper — and heartbeat — rising:

“Why are we sitting here?!”  I swore, wishing I could see the faces of the incompetent creatures behind the wheels of their giant cars.  I wanted to honk and speed around them.  But then, I would remember:  The streets were filled with children, and the loss of my self-awareness could cost a price I was never willing to learn — for the life of me!

Fine!  I backed out, pulled into another side street, parallel parked.  I got out:

“Shit!” I realized my passenger side was buried in the bushes.  So, I got back in, pulled forward.  “Phew.  Now, she’ll be able to get in!”

My heart was still racing:  I was fifteen minutes early; but I couldn’t, for the life of me, be late!

So, I started speed-walking.  Having caught up to the fancy SUV’s, still lingering in their spots, I could see the flustered faces of tired mothers — ON THEIR FUCKING CELLPHONES!  A few times, I saw small children bolted into the back seats while the women continued to gab and block the traffic behind them.

I sped up:  What if she got out early?  I could not, for the life of me, be late!

When I saw her school from the corner diagonally away, I began looking out for her immediately:  the familiar strawberry chin and forever curious black eyes that seem to yank the dial of my heart’s speedometer by some invisible strings.  The crossing guard in an orange vest was sitting in a director’s chair on the corner, and she was laughing with one of the awaiting dads.  At the sight of her, I felt slightly more relaxed:  What a face!  What a soul!  She seemed absolutely wonderful.

A woman with a wrinkly face and droopy bags under her eyes shot me an icy stare in the middle of the road.  She was speaking to her child — an arian boy with golden locks.  But as I got closer, she stopped talking and bent her pretty mouth downward.  I smiled:  How else could I apologize for the nearness of my youth?  When the two of them reached the other side of the road, the woman resumed speaking.  Yep:  Russian.  And she spoke of judging me.

The front lawn was already overpopulated by tiny creatures.  The tops of their heads, of multiple colors, peaked out like a field full of mushrooms.  Not a single one seemed to be sitting still.

Two brown boys were leaping over benches and flowerbed fences, and for a moment I studied the rules of their imaginary warfare.  One of them tumbled down, got up, crouched down to study the scrape on his knees; but then resumed the battle:  Warriors don’t cry, no matter how little!

“M’am!  You have to move!” another crossing guard raised her voice behind my back.

I looked over:  Shit, did I fuck up already?  In the company of these tired mothers, I feared to be obvious in my lack of expertise.  So, I had hidden myself under a tree with protruding roots (not that it saved me from a few more icy looks from the bypassing women).

“M’AM!” the guard was pissed off by now.  She was knocking on the tinted window of a white Land Rover.  From where I stood, elevated by one of the roots, I could see a naked elbow of a woman holding an iPhone inside, with her manicured hand.  Immediately to the right of her double-parked vehicle, I could see the neon red of “NO PARKING”.

Hesitantly, the Land Rover began pulling away.  As the crossing guard turned her tired face at me, I smiled sheepishly:  Could she see my being a total fraud?  In response, she pressed her lips tighter and shook her head.

“People…” she seemed to be saying.

I watched a tiny girl with my complexion skip unevenly, with no apparent rhythm, next to her slowly walking grandmother.  A beautiful boy holding a basketball walked upright behind his father who was texting on his BlackBerry, non-stop.  A luminous woman patted her daughter’s head as the little one was telling about her destiny earlier predicted in the game of M.A.S.H.

I began recognizing the classmates whose names I’ve heard in so many stories.  My heart began racing:  Have I missed her?  Am I standing by the wrong gate?

“M’AM!  YOU HAVE TO MOVE!” the crossing guard was pissed off again.

Behind my back, I saw a giant Lexus packed at the curb with the “NO PARKING” sign.  A disgruntled old woman with a boyish haircut was standing outside of it, with her hand holding the car clicker up in the air.

“Where am I supposed to go?” she said, through her clenched teeth.  “I’m running late!”

I sensed myself shooting the woman an icy stare:  A look I quickly censored when I noticed the familiar strawberry chin marching toward me across the lawn.

She had seen me first.  I felt my heartbeat speed up again.

I didn’t fail the task, this time!  I didn’t let her down!

And the day was young and suddenly reinvigorated:  with endless adventures and her trust the loss of which I could NOT — for the life of me! — afford.

“You Meet Me Down On: Heartattack and Vine”

This is an ode to you, my Holly:  

You’re looking quite glorious this morning — all decked out in sunlight so bright it appears hazy; with your birds going bonkers in trees, as if they’re still coked-out of their little heads since 2 a.m., once you closed your clubs and bolted shut your dive bars.  And if it weren’t for the frequent sirens (those fuckers woke me up today!), I could pretend I lived somewhere like paradise.  Or the Greek Isles.  But only until I step out — out and into — letting you hit me with your tales of humanity, my Holly, of which you have galore.  

You weren’t so easy to fall in love with, my Holly; and it doesn’t really make me cool to fess up to it. 

It is much cooler to dig New York.  Because New York always treats you like an arrogant lover to whose skills in the sack you find yourself quickly addicted; confusing all that lust, and all those hormones — and its reeking fluids — for love.  But when it doesn’t work out with New York, you are sure to find another brokenhearted with the same addiction.  Then, you can all hang your heads over your drinks at a random dive bar — in Holly — and share your scars.

With you, my Holly, it’s different.  You are much quicker to reveal your armpits and your glitz.  You’re such an exhibitionist!  But it took some serious hanging with you and more patience than I knew to possess to discover the pockets of those tribes and ‘hoods to which I didn’t mind belonging. 

And so:  This is an ode to you, my Holly!

To the jingling sound with which you tickled my ears yesterday, at one of your art spaces.  It was so dainty and arhythmic, I was sure it belonged to a lovely, fragile installation I just had to see.  But when I looked around for the source, I found it on the ankles of a tiny girl-child, in the arms of her Indian mother.  So intensely was my stare, the young mother got startled at first.

“She’s lovely,” I said; nodded and quickly walked on by.

The woman relaxed and smiled.  “It’s alright.  She’s brown.  She’s ‘one of us’,” she must’ve thought, of me.

Oh, Holly! 

It surely helped that you’ve found my skin color so perfectly democratic from the start:   Smoothly, I become “one of them,” “ethnically ambiguous,” or just “not from around here” — depending on whom you ask.  To my comrades visiting from Beverly Hills, I am “sort of white” — but mostly “spiritual”.  Next to a brown man, I am his “hot Brazilian girlfriend”.  But really, it’s the Chicanos and their gorgeous, curvy brown girls that dig me the most:  Somehow, they know I’m not above their strife, not too far off from their survival.  And the further in crawls your long summer — the darker I get — the more I become “one of them”.  And it is just my fucking luck it’s more fashionable to be “exotic” anyway, around here.  Around you, these days.  

A balding, sadly aging museum guard with a blubbery body absorbed me with his wet eyes, yesterday.  No way he could ever afford a girl like me; and if he happened to touch her, she could only tempt him from behind the screen of his computer.  Or from a stripper pole, at a safe distance.  When I looked at him, he freaked, turned away and adjusted his crotch.

“Don’t look now, mister,” I thought at the back of his clammy bald spot, “but you’re standing right in between DIVORCE and REAL HUMAN HAIR.”  (They were signs that some artist found ironic enough to replicate and hang onto the wall that the sadly aging man was guarding — but for not enough money to afford a girl like me.  The irony — worked.)

“She’s brown.  She’s ‘one of them’,” he must’ve thought; and when I granted him the last profile of my face, he turned away and adjusted his crotch — again.

Oh, Holly!

I am anonymous, like the hundreds of your graffiti artists that tag your skin with their marks.  My markings are not as well distributed yet (my publicist sucks!); but I too prefer to blend in, moving in between your demographics, collecting my stories when no one is looking, often in the dark. And once the mission is accomplished, I walk away with enough surrender to not have to sweat about what’s going to happen to my work.  Because, once I’ve found what I dig in life — humanity, of which you, my Holly, have galore! — patience comes as easily as breathing.

I am content with being your next Bukowski, hanging with you long enough to see your other layers (not necessarily pretty or dignified, but always relevant) and drooling at your girls:  Yesterday’s stunning Filipino creature in a tiny, ruffly skirt with strategically placed beauty marks all over her face.  The funky Harajuku girls who stormed past me with their fashions and smells and chatter, making me grin moronically and confusedly.  The African princess on your subway with a wide wrist band of faded gold who played with the ringlets of her hair for the three very short stops.  The young Mexican girl accompanying her awkward, unknowing boy who granted me a tiny nod:

“Aren’t you brown?  You must be ‘one of us’!”

This is an ode to you, my Holly; to your being so many things, depending on where I look, how long I hang, and whom I ask — sort of like me. 

You are sort of like me:  democratic, and anonymous, and not above the strife.  You’re “one of them” when I find you discomforting, “one of us” — when you reveal something I don’t mind poking.  Or jotting down, leaving my mark. 

Strangely, against all fashion, I’m into.  Into you.  I’m into your people.  And as I continue to walk your streets — so strange, worn-out, used-up, repaired; tagged and marked-up; not necessarily pretty or dignified but always poignant — I offer my ode to your humanity, of which, my Holly, you have galore.

And so:  This is an ode to you, my Holly…

Boys Will Be Boys. Thank Goodness!

Boys, boys, boys.  Men and gentlemen.  Players.  Soldiers.  There are so many of you in the world — and thank goodness for that!

You beautiful creatures that are born as our sons, then grow into our men; but then again, despite of our occasional complaints, so many of you remain our children — even as our husbands and lovers — and so many of us would NOT have it any other way!  Because when you stumble out of our beds early in the morning, scratching your bodies — youthfully supple or gracefully aging — when you clumsily rummage through our cupboards, then reach for your favorite cereal (which we’ve memorized long before learning your Social Security Number, or your mother’s birthday); when you pout, whist still barely awake and unaware of your age — you make us, women, wonder about the little boys you used to be; and in that moment, you are indeed — our sons.

And there is no higher praise to your manhood — and all the abilities, endowments, talents and skills that come with it — than when a woman chooses you to father her own child.  Because somewhere along loving you, we begin to daydream about watching that same sleepy face reappear in the cribs of our firstborns (and that pout!  oh, that pout!).  And when it is time for our children to start stumbling out of their beds, we will weep at their resemblance — to you.  It’s ALL dedicated to you! 

Because we too wonder about your teaching our sons how to throw a ball or a punch; how to shave (or whatever else you, boys, do behind those closed bathroom doors:  we love you, but we don’t really want to know); and how to choose the right socks or the right girl.  And we too desire for our daughters to worship you more than they seemingly do us; to adore you enough to look for you in their choices of men who, of course, will never be up to your standards.  (Because it’s always different with daughters:  They turn our men into pussycats.)  

You stubbly creatures of the opposite sex:  How you can break a woman’s heart with a mere aloofness or a deficit of attention; but then to build her back up with a single curious gaze that so many of you still don’t know how to execute without being unnoticed.  Please don’t ever stop giving us compliments, even if — and especially if — they won’t get you anywhere!  Don’t censor your praise of our hair, or eyes, or earrings — compliments that make you sound like an admirer of beauty, even if you haven’t figured out its source.  You often have no idea why a certain woman makes you turn your head (while hundreds of others can pass you by unnoticed).  And even if your compliment doesn’t earn you our time or phone number, please know:  It is never taken for granted.

The rougher men who have suffered through difficult lives and mean jobs:  You still have the ability to inspire a woman’s fantasy about being lifted with those capable arms of yours.  Some of us fall in love with women:  their grace and softness, and the way they manage to always smell so sweetly.  But for those of us who still adore the other gender:  It’s your physical ability — your capability to always be stronger than us, to stand taller, to be more ready — that makes us worship you until heartbreaks.  And when you do those things we needn’t know how to do (change a tire, fix a sink; negotiate with a mechanic or a cabbie; catch a fish or play the stock market), you make us feel safer.  And for that rare, fleeting sensation in life — we are forever grateful.  (A little secret though, boys:  Some of us have learned how to do those things, but we’d rather watch you take over.  Thanks.)

Those smooth players who choose to move through their lives as gentlemen:  How ever do you know where to buy a suit and when to tailor a jacket?  Who’s taught you how to be decisive about our first date’s destination and time; and how to settle the tab without making a fuss?  When do you make up your mind on whether or not you will ever wear cologne or the style of your underwear?

Your stubborn choice of your own higher standards — your substance — will continue to turn us on until the end of civilization.  Don’t ever stop getting our doors and chairs; lifting us over puddles or carrying us out of fires.  Continue to show up on time, to come through with your word (a man’s word!); to tolerate our emotions and to guard your own.  Insist on asking for our opinion on those pastel-colored Banana Republic shirts, but remain authentic to your taste (and always devoted to your collar stays!).  Know the best dry cleaners in town but don’t mind us if your dress shirt — is the only thing we want to wear while fixing you a sandwich.  Do send us flowers and hand-written notes.  Do make the first call, but allow us to keep the illusion that we — have the last word.  And the sooner you let us have the remote control, the sooner you can take us to bed.  (But you may also proceed on the couch.  Or the floor.)

And when you do undress us, fumbling with our buttons, or bra hooks, or garter belts — all too dainty for your rough, manly hands — continue to study us as if we were a work of art (perhaps, while unawarely pouting).  Or your dream car.  Or your dream girl. 

Oh, to the modest smile of Paul Newman and the intelligent squint of Robert Redford; to the swagger of George Clooney and the slight indifference of Clark Gable; to the promising ability of Steve McQueen and the effortless power of Bill Clinton; to the mastery of Obama’s self-deprecation and the reserved grace of Eastwood; to Denzel’s esteem and Jay-Z’s universal rule:  To you — we sing our odes and griefs!  To you — we give our youth and dedicate our sex.  Because no matter how many times you break our hearts, it is YOUR love that we continue to seek; and it is ONLY that love — that makes us better women.  And thank goodness for that!

(But don’t you worry:  We will always return that last favor, no matter how late in life:)

So, Hush, Little Baby… Don’t. You. Cry.

Guess who just hibernated for half a day?  Not kidding, kiddos:  Twelve hours of sleep!

And I would’ve kept going if it weren’t for my self-delusion that someone out there was waiting for my words; that my art was relevant (some days), and that this daily activity made up my life’s meaning (for now).  On such mornings, I wonder what it would be like if I had a child to feed.  Or a goat.  Would I still exercise such selfishness in my sleeping habits?

And let me tell you, my kiddos:  I’ve got sleeping habits galore.

According to my motha, I was never the child to refuse a midday nap.

“Vera?  Boom!” she would order me whenever she caught me spying on her from behind the bars of my crib.  (She’d always be saying my name in such a way as if I were perpetually in trouble.)

“Vera?!  Boom!”

That shorthand command for sleep would interrupt all of my activity, and I would collapse into slumber.  I could be gnawing on my toe, or constructing caves out of crocheted blankets; or trying to balance on my pigeon toed feet while frowning at our black-and-white telly:  If mother said “Boom!” — I was out, in seconds.

At first, it amused her to no end.  She’d wait for me to be entangled in the most awkward position, like trying to reach one leg to the top bar, or braiding myself into a pretzel.  (Apparently, I was always quite bendy.  Still am, to this day.  My lovers — are so lucky!)  On command, I’d drop everything and hit the pillow; and she would laugh and laugh — in the way that only my motha could:  violently and shockingly loud.  Then, she’d tell my father to go check on me.  (Apparently, tucking me in was his duty alone.  Still is, to this day.  My lovers — are so unlucky!)

For a while there, she swapped my name for “Boom!” altogether.  Why waste her breath, right?

“Boom?!  Boom!”  (She’d still be saying it in such a way as if I were perpetually in trouble though.)

Eventually, the joke got old; and although motha still utilized shorthand for most of her parenting, she would no longer laugh, at my expense:  violently and shockingly loud.  It must’ve made me sad then.  I don’t really remember.

These days, it is my lovers’ lot to suffer through my sleeping habits’ galore.  Many have testified to some violent shit that goes down on my side of the bed.  Some have even had bruises to prove it.  And many have wondered about all the heat and sweat I produced when in the grips of my unconscious:

“It’s like a war zone, in the tropics — sleeping with you,” one of the departed joked.

And if I get comfortable enough, I can fall asleep anywhere; which is why all of my beloveds harbor anecdotes of my naps in the strangest and most unlikely places.

“I was afraid to walk out of the room,” another, most recently departed recently testified.  “I’d come back:  and you’d be flat on you face, asleep…  I’d have to wake you up, just to make sure you were alive.”

Yesterday, I fell asleep on the beach, my kiddos, waiting for a brown honey to join me.  She was running late:  My love.  But while I was dreaming of her hips and soul (both quite generous); while I was listening to my own heart moan with gratitude for this love (one and many); while I suddenly discovered myself no longer alone in this lonely city; someone must’ve said, “Boom!” — and I was out, in seconds. 

Or may be it was the hissing of the Pacific that knocked me out.  It was so violent and purposeful, kind of like my motha’s laughter.  Fucking lullaby.

Or perhaps it was the background murmur by a group of young French boys who insisted on dropping their towels two meters down from my brown ass.

“San-tah…  Moni-kah?” they took turns pronouncing.

“Shhh,” the Ocean joined in; and I was out, in seconds.

Occasionally, I’d wake up, look back over my shoulder and catch one of the boys grinning his silly smile, at my ass, then my face.

“Yourr velkom,” I’d think.  My brown love was still running late; so I waited to go back to sleep while watching the planet do its thing from underneath my Lorrie Moore novel, with which I’d covered my eyes.

At a mat nearby, an aging, balding athlete was fixing a bulge underneath his navy blue speedo.  He would seem ridiculous, but his bulge was no laughing matter.  And he was oh so serious!

“Mazel tov,” I half-thought, half-dreamt, and turned my face the other way.

I watched young, limber women get dressed.  The way they got up, caressed themselves from dust and sand; the way their hair flapped in the wind, like the Golden Fleeces — it made me wonder if they were already in my dreams.  Their curvatures blocked the sun.  (Or was it Lorrie Moore, on my face?)  I watched the intricate workings of their zippers, and buttons, a ties; and they would be so focused and calm, I had to have thought them up.

A handful of young kids walked by my head — each a mixture of several countries — talking their eco-politics.  Oh, they were so of the now!  Bits of sand got separated from their feet, landed in my hair and woke me up — to their now.

I rolled over.

At the other end of the beach, half a dozen of boys were playing volleyball.  I watched them move, so unlike me.  So unlikely.  One young one was standing to the side, with his hands on his locked hips.  He reminded me of a three-year old I’ve never had; and of a man-child I’ve just finished having.  I started to weep, into the open pages of Lorrie Moore.

But:

“Shhh,” went the Ocean.

And I was out, in seconds.

You Oughta Know, No?

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

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

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

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

Compassion.

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

Compassion!

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

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

Compassion…

“How do you find what to write about?”

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

How DO I find what to write about?

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

Kind-ness.

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

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

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

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

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

That was the day of Stan’s midlife crisis.

So, they moved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sir?  Sir, let me…”

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

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