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He walks into his life with a nasty grimace on his face. He is tired of everyone already. It is all repetition with only a few beautiful moments. It is all time being traded for other things not as priceless.

He got a tattoo on his right arm near his elbow when he was about 23. It says family, even though he hates his family. He stole his mother’s jewelry and gave his sister a black eye for Thanksgiving. There’s more, but that’s all repetition and no beautiful moments.

In the Summer, in some places, there is light for 24 hours. It is hard to sleep. People get used to it. Then it changes. This is important but you can figure out for yourself why.

The man with the grimace loves me. He’s not very good at showing it. So instead we fight and give each other figurative black eyes that last for months and stop us from speaking.

My brain hates repetition. The same office chair, the same people, the same city, the same stop lights, the same food, the same love, the same words, the same good mornings, the same country, the same world. Everything gets better and then worse and never really changes. And we get used to it. The sun rises and sets. Bruises heal and we mostly forget them until the next one.

My memory is bad. Worse, I think, than most peoples. I don’t know why. It’s never been very good. Maybe my brain is bad. Too simple. It thinks simply. Uses small words. Is incapable of remembering. Doesn’t care about trying to sound impressive when the story can be told easily and simply and slowly.

I love him, I think. But we will always keep hurting each other. We don’t get used to it. We don’t have the words to get along. Most things are not tattooed and permanent. Love isn’t. People aren’t. Repetition might be.

 

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The fish is dragged from the sea in a spray of salt water and slammed onto a wooden dock. A black fishing net entangles him for a moment until he accidentally wiggles out of it. He is free. And that terrifies him more than his inability to breathe.

“She loved me once,” says a shaggy-looking man on stage at the bar built semi-parallel to the ocean. “I wrote this song about her, but I don’t listen to it anymore.” He puts bright orange earplugs into his fuzzy ears and strums his guitar.

The fish flops across the dock, grows legs, and steps wobbly up to the bar’s counter to order a glass of water. “We’re all out,” the bartender tells him, “we only have beer.”

In a corner sits a girl with hair so blonde it’s almost white. The fish sits down across from her and smiles. “I’d never thought I’d sit in a bar with someone before,” he tells her. She stares at him, mouth gaping, bubbles leaking out and floating away over her head. He likes her immediately and decides to never leave her side.

“I lost my ocean,” he tells her. “I have legs now. I can’t go back. I’ll follow you.” The girl agrees, happy to have attention, even from a fish she never wants to be friends with.

The man on stage is still playing but no one is listening to him, not even himself. He realizes this and smashes his guitar noiselessly on the ground. Then he asks the bartender for a broom and carefully sweeps up his mess. He digs the earplugs from his ears and holds them carefully in one hand as he steps over to the fish’s table.

“You’re an idiot,” he tells the fish, flicking an earplug at him. The fish doesn’t mind too much. He knows he’s an idiot, but now that he’s found the blonde girl, he doesn’t have to think about anything ever again.

The musician looks over at the girl. “I don’t know what to tell you,” he says to her, flicking the other orange earplug at her face. He turns to leave, waving happily at the pile of broken wood and string he’s left on stage.

The fish looks at the girl. She looks at him looking at her. A tsunami arrives and washes them all into the ocean.

 

 

 

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I am a fucking child of snow.

I flew into Detroit the day before Christmas eve and saw the blanket of white covering our bit of Earth. Veins of streets that had already been plowed and salted and driven over fearlessly. Strong winter people.

I had a window seat and as we landed I watched the world tilt and wrote poems in my head about the lines and the white and the snowy trees; “Thin but sturdy mother fuckers who hold their weight in frost every year.”

No wonder we are better at living our lives than those sunny Californians. Not living through seasons seems like the equivalent of being an only child.

I would like to tell him to stop listening to the songs I sent him. I would like to tell him to forget me. I would like to pretend none of it ever happened. Cover it with snow and let it melt away in the sun a few weeks from now.

I am a strong person. And weak. I am a snow-covered tree.

Seasons are reliable. Unreliable weather is reliable. My memory is bad. My sight is getting worse. I am old and still have no idea where I’m going and it’s getting harder to see.

I love you but it is cold and California is far away.

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It is dark and 1 am and the cat is sneezing somewhere in the kitchen. The blinds are slightly open and I keep seeing this ghost of light fly from the top of the doorframe to the ceiling. At first I thought it was the cat but then I realized there’s nothing there to jump on.

It’s 1 am and there’s still traffic outside; there are too many people here so they never sleep and always drive their cars. People are always busy but I never see them get anything done. Everyone says they’re creative or musical but I don’t see it. What the hell are people doing here? I look out the window to see my car parked on the road, taking up whatever piece of cement it can.

I don’t know what people are doing out there, but the blinds are closed now and the cat is sleeping on my pillow. It’s so expensive to live here I don’t think people have time to do anything but work to make money and then use the rest of their time spending their money on things that are easy to buy: fancy cars and expensive clothes and whatever health or food thing is popular. Do people even talk to each other? I don’t know. I’m remembering this one time a grown woman from here recorded herself crying on her laptop and sent it out. I don’t think that’s the way to deal with sadness but maybe it’s the easiest way. If you send picture proof you don’t have to talk about it or think about it after you push a button.

It is not worse or better here than elsewhere, not yet. It is almost December and the tourists still come to take pictures of the palm trees. The palm trees are still lovely. And now they are covered with lights and giant decorative snowflakes hang down from them in a place where it never snows.

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I am walking around the grocery store with my little basket of harvested goods. I walk past other people with their little baskets of over-processed foods. This is how people garden in the city. This is how we gather our food. And we do it in a semi-clean grocery store in semi-silence.

I love people a lot. In general and specifically. I care about people a lot. I think people are the most interesting things on the planet. I love meeting new people, no matter how shy I am, and getting to know them, and asking them weird questions, and seeing how they respond. What I’m not very good at is losing people that I love. I haven’t lost that many people in my life. And when I have, it’s been because of their death — something permanent and impossible to change, something I had no control over, something natural and sad but simple and easy to understand. It had never been a loss like, “Fuck off, I don’t give a shit.” It had never been a loss like, “I don’t care if I’m hurting you, I’m not going to change.” It had never been hurtful, it had never been heartbreaking, not in that way.

“You have dimples!” I said, laughing at him. “I do,” and he sent me a picture later to prove it.

There are so many wonderful moments from wonderful people. But memories are from the past. People change. You’ll get over it. Yadda yadda.

I won’t. I haven’t. I’m trying, but not too hard. I keep thinking about his dimples, and the person he was when he took that picture. In a way, it is death. That person is gone, at least for me. Will they come back? I don’t know. It’s not the same as death. That’s why it’s hard. There could be changes, there could be resurrections. There could not be. I’m not going to keep checking the body, though. You can if you want.

Looking back, I should have ended it all sooner. I should have taken their word for it that they didn’t love me anymore, didn’t care, could be a person who could say such things to me. I loved them too much. I love them too much. I’m not going to change that. The world doesn’t need less love. It doesn’t need more silence in the grocery store. It doesn’t need more people dropping each other as easily as I drop bags of potato chips into my basket.

It is terrible and it is ok.  They are terrible and they are ok. I love them and it is terrible and I love them and it is ok. I don’t know how to be anything else, or how to do anything else, and it is terrible and it is ok. They are still the people they were but they are also the people they are now. They no longer exist but they still do. They are dead and alive. I still love them and I don’t love them anymore.

 

 

What the hell is his middle name? I thought, suddenly panic-stricken, elbow-deep in a filing cabinet at work. I stared blankly at the air in front of my face but couldn’t remember a thing. What does that mean? Shit! I don’t forget middle names. Middle names are my thing. That can’t be a good sign. He hates me already and now I’ve forgotten his middle name, this is not going to end well.

But later, at home, I remembered. The J name that he was embarrassed to tell me because it’s from the bible and his mom was really religious and it shouldn’t be anyone’s middle name but it is his.

Driving home I thought about brains and how it’s ridiculous for me to be upset at him because people are just lumps with electricity and heartbeats and it’s amazing we can get along at all any of the time, really.

I think about how I sent another person a song earlier this week, and he replied back that the piano player was lovely, and I think about how that made me want to be an epic piano player. I wanted to go learn the damn song by heart so I could play it just as good. And I didn’t want to learn it to make this person like me more, but because if he thinks something is wonderful then it must be. And if I want to be a wonderful person, I should try to be better. He makes me want to be a better person; whether or not he knows about it doesn’t matter. Which is a strange feeling and thought to have, and it may have made me cry in the middle of an LA traffic jam one night because it was beautiful, and I always cry, and sometimes I cry because things are beautiful.

I am almost in tears standing in the cereal aisle staring at the price tags on the granola bars. Three dollars. Three fucking dollars. I grab a box in tuck it into my basket, because everyone needs snacks. Even me, even for three dollars.

Wandering around the store, and out of it, I wonder what everyone does for a living. I want to ask them, I want to walk up to them and say, ‘excuse me, I see you’re looking very well put together, how do you manage to make money in this city?’

I don’t do it, but I keep thinking it, keep wondering. On my walk home I pass a cardboard sign that someone has taped to a streetlight. It is large and written with black marker. It says, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Some homeless man took the time, and the ink from his marker, to write this and post it up for all of us people walking by to see. 

Walking home with my granola bars stuffed into my backpack, I nervously spin my phone in circles in my hand. I need a job. I need a job. I need a job. There are so many stories of people who went to a city almost penniless and made it. But how did they make it? How do I make it? There are so many people here. There are so many people walking with me, crossing streets, running, biking, rolling along on their skateboards. Driving. They all have a place. There must be a place for me. I have to be able to contribute to this. It’s been a week of looking. A week. I can’t tell if a week is forever or no time at all. It feels like both. My phone spins in my hand as I turn the corner.

The street I’m staying on is nice. Somehow there is always parking, even in the middle of Los Angeles, and there are trees and plants along the sidewalk. A lovely place to walk, and a lovely place to be. There’s this huge, leafy palm plant that catches my eye as I walk toward it. It’s very green and calming somehow, just sitting there, growing. The trees are pushing up the sidewalks as we walk on them, going wherever it is we’re going.

I feel a little bad for being afraid or being worried, because I’m fine, really. I have friends to help me, and a family who cares about me, even if they are across the country. I have plenty of access to cardboard and markers. I have a roof to sleep under. I have time. I have some kind of place already. I have granola bars. But I no longer have that three dollars.