One should not read Plath for their morning poem. Thank Thermador this loft doesn’t come equipped with an oven.
Before showering, I went to the closet to choose my clothes for the day; remembering my doctor’s appointment later this afternoon, my mind shifted into a gear of old - fourth - and I thought, “No, you can’t wear that ugly old shirt! There might be a hottie in the waiting room!” I suddenly remembered the doctor I am seeing is my psychiatrist. I grabbed the ugly shirt.
If, as Lord Byron said, fame is the thirst of youth…then I was one dehydrated teenager.
Buffy Holt’s writing reminds me of antiqued white tables with brassy pulls, Appalachian trees aching in winter, June Carter’s cloudy crinoline dresses and I want to laze about in the underlying skips and shades of tall bellflowers whispering their blue scents amidst it all.
Always give a knowing look. Consider your alternative.
As of now, too many of my friends and loved ones are suffering, ailing and this drives into my heart a fresh stake of pain every time I stumble an avenue of reminding. “Social networking” does not bring me close enough to them to hold their hands, brush their hair from weary brows, bring them their medications, rent them a movie, make them dinner, sit back and make them laugh, lean forward and listen, watch them sleep and cry quietly over them rather than into a pillow on my bed that I’d so much rather be bringing to them, reverently, gift-like.
For one, imagined...magical.
Did you know I am multilingual? With Becki Barnett O’Brien, I converse in Pig Latin; Heather Gilbert and I talk in Ancient Geek; Laurie Clements Lambeth shares with me in odes unbreakable; no one can decipher the Twin Speak between Beth Johnson McCormack and me. And as for I and mine little bro…mostly, it’s historically speaking.
That is to say, historically speaking, nobody's ever understood a goddamn word we’ve said.
Usually, because we're laughing too hard.
The moments that most get caught in my throat at inopportune times, choke up the works and make me laugh when, oh cripes, I need to be silent, are connected to my family. Indeed, we put the “fun” in dysfunction. If I sifter through this sugar of life into even finer grains, what shimmers through most sparkling, dizzying, buzz-inducing - those times that - just now, did it - make me snort and guffaw - all refine to little brother, RJ, and many of those crystalline memories are also favored with the winks and flavor of my father. If I tried to write out most of them for you, the humor - its taste - would be lost. We are a weird collection of variant confections, my family. I promise, however - spend ten minutes in Wonka’s factory and you, too, will be raising cane.
I am home alone on the compound for the better part of a week - until Friday. For emergencies, my mother left me her cell phone, given I am now without my own. It’s a bit of a relic, so I didn’t know how to check for messages and didn’t bother to figure out how to do so until pausing from this writing to make a nice, stiff drink. (Water, on the rocks - shaken, not stirred.) A neighbor called at 8:21 this morning, while I showered. I don’t know any neighbors out here; we’re on acreage, not in the actual suburbanized area of what’s come to be known/cordoned off as Palmer Ranch. The property my mother and stepfather so generously allow me to reside on is rather large, with a main house, mother-in-law abode (attached to the main house by a back porch/lanai) and the loft, where I stay, which is - I dunno - 30, 40 yards away from the central dwelling? In any case, the entirety of the land is surrounded by wooden fencing; the long driveway guarded by an electronic security gate. "Neighbors" aren't exactly a stone's throw away. Hell, they're not a catapult's launch away.
To the voicemail:
“Hey, Jan. I don’t know if you know about this, but there’s been another rash of burglaries - three on Kennedy Lane, one on Debrecen, and the sheriff’s office are saying these are the same guys who are responsible for the robberies over on Clark last month. They say it’s gang related, that they’re from Manatee County but…based out of...Cal-i-forn-ia…? I don’t know. Anyway, keep your eye out for a silver Ford minivan with New York plates or a metallic green Jeep Cherokee. If you see them, the tip-line number is…”
Really? Really? Are you--
Well, I’m sure the arthritic Labrador who falls into a back-legged split every time he takes more than two steps, or my 14 year-old Chihuahua with his one ferocious snaggle-tooth, will rush to protect me when the...Cal-i-forn-ia...?-based Bloods and/or Crips come to call. That, or I’ll just jump on THE HORSE and ride to safety.
Oh, but I am laughing. Maybe the neighbor’s rooster will come and peck the interlopers to death. Actually, I’d rather the interlopers shoot the rooster. I hate the noisy sonofabitch.
“He ain’t gonna diiie-ieeeeee…”
Oh, now I’m loopy. Pardon. This is just too comical. Also, the ice water’s gettin’ to me.
Speaking of hiLARious, my singular, malfunctioning ovary is going for round three in four weeks. Three. Mmm. I’m gonna punch me right in the ovary. Yep. Straight shot - right to the babymaker.
The ovary may be a female reproductive organ, but that goddamn thing is a bastard.
Really, the ovary is a funny thing, though not funny “ha-ha” - funny weird. I still haven’t finished Didion - The Year of Magical Thinking - because it is 90% detailing hospitals, procedures, surgeries, pains of physical and emotional kinds that, when I read these passages, my most sensitive areas - centers of pain response - flare up in these twinges and needlings of such refinement, it’s almost unbearable. My ovary is one of those centers; the lumbar area, knees, hands, chest (over the heart) and, for some reason, teeth, are others. The ovary, however, is always first and foremost - a torsion-like pain - I envision a translucent hand reaching seamlessly through my abdomen, grabbing the fallopian tube as stem, choking, then a sinister left, sudden, snatches at the delicate pink tulip, tears at it but the flower refuses to shed a petal and in doing, weeps bloody tears yielding the ache in my knowing gut.
Most of you are hurting right now. Physically; emotionally. Both. Most of you have thought unspeakable thoughts - or what you think are unspeakable thoughts; what others have told you are unspeakable. Committed unspeakable acts? Some. Have any of you hurt me? Have you ever lied to me, cheated me, talked behind my back? Ever said something awful to my face, torn me down? Yes. I remember. Have I ever hurt you in any of these ways? Yes. I remember. And other times, you recall in vivid detail and I...don't. I think about these moments crushing in fleeting glints, but I think of them. Sometimes, I want to discuss these awful blows but then...why? To know ourselves better? To know others better? To know we aren't so god-awful terrible? Sometimes, I want for you to speak up - show your real face, even if from behind a cloak or an identity of anonymity. Some of you do - private messages and such. But Facebook isn’t about anonymity; it’s about showing - and thereby saving - face.
Do I make you uncomfortable with all this? Do I make you uncomfortable a lot of the time?
The dogs are lying in front of the barn breezeway downstairs, alert - not lazing - as if they know they are to be on watch for something. This is uncharacteristic of both animals. Did they intuit my fear when I went outside ten minutes ago for a cigarette? No. They were already in guardian position when I walked out the door. Would they, too, struggle to read The Year of Magical Thinking? Would it pain them in their paws, their long spines, behind their sweet, upturned eyes? I think of our beloved Jack Russell, a few years passed now who, when I was in pain, would never take a step up the stairs before me; always, he’d pause on the stair with me and wait until I made the next one. Only then would he gather his four legs together - hup! - and, upon landing, roll his sweet, magical eyes up to meet mine, saying, “When you’re ready, we’ll take the next one. Only when you’re ready.”
Yet he could run faster than a goddamn greyhound.
I submit, weakly, that I am submitting, weekly. Or at least for the next few weeks. I only ever attempted journal publication once before in my life, and that came about by force - an assignment in fiction workshop at FSU - part of our grade, you see. We were even walked to the post office by our professor. She knew well, the laze and doubt of writers. I cannot tell you how loathe I am to do this. It’s like applying to grad schools all over again. What I did then was, I took my grad school applications and threw them all in the fireplace whilst screeching that I did not give one fuck of a rat’s ass about grad school, writing or the future - I’d live in a box on the street, goddammit.
Luckily, I live in Florida. The fireplace, of course, was unlit.
I scraped out my applications, chose three from the fifteen or so I’d originally intended on sending out, and finished them. One was a fallback; the other, my school of intention; the other, a cosmic joke - the school I had about as much chance of getting into as I did of becoming Queen of the Universe.
Fallback said no. I lost my shit.
School of intention said yes…but we cannot give you any money, benefits or teaching assistantship.
And then…I was Queen of the Universe.
I don’t expect not one of these journals to publish me, but this is a must-do. Like seeing the dentist. Which I haven’t done in over fifteen years. (I must do that...) All I know - writing, teaching; teaching writing. All I love. All my passion.
What else is there for me to do?
Like my Lord and Savior Peter O’Toole once said:
“...I don’t know.”