Driving Up to The Observatory

I told her

that driving up

the winding hill

makes me dizzy

so she said a prayer

and asked God

to make the road safe

and even though I know

no road is safe

I believed her

because she came

all the way

from my Homeland

just to give me

a “big hug,”

like something

my mother would do.

amour propre

I used to measure my words.  But there is nothing to talk about now. 

I'm on my second round of edits for the book.  This involves creating documents with page numbers, line numbers, words to be removed, sentences to be removed, typos, re-ordering of words in phrases, time spent looking at an advanced reader copy of my own book, time spent staring at my laptop, time spent remembering why I wrote the things I wrote.  I distance myself from the work.  It is a collection of essays now.  It is something else.

I cut something about a friend who called me once when she was abroad.  She was upset at something this guy said or did, or how he was acting in general because he loved her, just not yet, and it was the beginning time of their relationship.  I thought I had it so good, but it was just the same. 

I heard something today on a podcast about pain, how people are avoiding it, trying to get far away from it, stop it, make it go away, prevent it, ensure it doesn’t enter their lives in any way, shape, or form.  Outside of Whole Foods, a girl I sort of know is asking people for money so she can help the homeless.  She smiles in her green shirt and tells me it’s a difficult time for her, that she’s trying to figure out what she’s supposed to be doing.  And I find it funny because I'm doing the same thing.  I tell her to try and have a purpose every day, even if it’s small.  She is smiling so big, with teeth so bright and shining like the sun.

The Law of the Jungle

It’s later somewhere else.  I decide to stay in.  I measure all my furniture and list it online to sell.  I need to get rid of things.

“God’s power is made perfect in weakness,” she says, in conversation, and I write it down, to remember.  It’s from Corinthians; something about asking for your weaknesses to be taken away, but then receiving the good message that they are what make you strong, so you boast them.

Writing is a form is boasting. 

Timeline

It used to be every six weeks, then six months, then maybe more, maybe less.  I halved that time when I responded, doubled when I did not, but eventually did.  I thought about it for longer than I should have.  I gave it a lot of thought.  I dreamt about it, tried to make sense of those dreams, then went on.  Time went on.  You are not the boy on the roof.  You are not the boy who lives by the ocean.  You are not the man who needs a woman in his life.

I eat soup while I write.  Sometimes it’s cake.  Less than often it is coffee.  I am gaining weight because I am writing more.

I used to clean the house instead.  But now I ask if the raspberries are fresh, what kinds of black tea they have, if the olive loaf is better than the daily quiche.  I sit underneath a map of Southern California.  The whole place is filled with smoke.  A woman approaches the table next to me, three guys, and she knows one of the men, says hi, but it’s a very small thing, this hello.  She’s shy and thinks he doesn’t remember her.  He says he does.  The men are dressed too warmly for the day, sweaters and wool socks, soft shirts under their starched ones. 

I read somewhere today that you cannot be on fire all the time, so stop pretending.  I thought, “I don't even have the energy to pretend.”  I think people know I'm tired.  I think people know I'm perpetually ready to go home.

Every four years or so someone from a long time ago asks me how I’ve been.  It’s not that they’ve been thinking about me; they’re just bored, lonely, tired.  They’ve scoured, or happened upon, and they’re looking for something I can’t give, I don't want to give.  This thing is called availability.  This thing is also called readiness, convenience, desperation, obsession.  I do not respond because I think I am special.  I think I am special because I'm not available anymore.  I am no longer ready.

Infinity, a figure eight

Success is not a linear thing.

Why does no one care?  I'm telling you how to take care of yourself.

A crevice of the mind; a crack of thought.

You do not know the difference between motivation and being on fire.

Are you an expert, in anything?

Why is that man in the forest all by himself?  Why is he all dressed up?

Did pirates rip her arms off?

Do you even have health insurance?

Oh, people are still getting married, I didn't even realize.

Where were you when you were first offered drugs?

There’s no excuse for not living your passion. 

End of story.

Strawberry, Lemon

Heading straight into the darkness, I drive home from the party.  Can you call a wedding a party?  Should it be more important than that?  I drive home, still in my bridesmaids dress, the pink one the color of a Starburst.  I leave the braid in my hair and my bouquet on the passenger seat.  My cousin won’t be back until Monday, so I’ve got the place to myself all weekend.  I sleep in her loft bed and make myself avocado toast.  I'm still lonely, but it’s getting better.  I still get drunk and try to call people from the past, but I didn't drink tonight, and so I drive on the 101 south, Ventura, Camarillo, Thousand Oaks, Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hollywood.  I park in the garage and take the elevator up to her apartment.  It takes four make-up wipes to take my make-up off.  They litter the garbage like silk paintings.  The only thing he asked me was where I found the cheese and crackers.  I clapped when people danced, I ate my chicken and I ate my cake.  I put on my cardigan when it got cold.  He looked happy enough.  I decided everyone should be happy, or something. 

I get into bed and look at pictures I took on my phone from the party.  I scroll through the images of girls in pink candy dresses, I think of sending one of myself to someone, but there is no one now.  Maybe it was just a party.

On the Strength of This Expectation

You stop for samples; blood oranges, Valencia, red navels, dancy tangerines, ruby red grapefruits.  The stop is halfway out of your city, the small, dreary beach town you escape often to go to Orlando.  Your mom never buys the bags, four pounds of oranges for three dollars.

Your mom drives and you listen to a CD. It spins on your lap inside the cobalt blue player; N’SYNC, the Backstreet Boys, Ricky Martin, Eminem, and the one you don’t tell people you still listen to- Britney Spears.  Your mom drives and the landscape changes fast from identical beige houses to miles and miles of highway that stretch like a scrunchie out across central Florida.  You are a kid though, and nothing is going to happen to you, or maybe everything. 

Your brother stopped coming with you on trips like this.  He wouldn’t be caught dead with his arms around Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck.  You’re still young enough to hug a character, to smile ear to ear when Pluto kisses you with his big nose.  You curtsey for Minnie, you pose and your mom takes a picture on your digital camera, and you have to wait until you’re back in the hotel room to upload them to your laptop, the one that will last you until college when it overheats and dies and you learn the importance of “backing up.” 

You watch fireworks with your mom from the balcony of your hotel room, both of you too tired to have stayed in the park, the buzz of Magic Kingdom music still ringing in your ears, and it makes it hard to sleep.  You try to tune it out with a little Everyone Loves Raymond on the TV.  

You left school early for this.  You were taken out of class and signed out in the office.  Everyone wondered where you went.  You felt special, you felt lucky, you felt happy to spend the weekend with your mom.   

It’s not until years later that you’ll realize how much this means, to both of you.  But when you’re on the way back home thinking again about some boy who will not matter, you imagine your life a thing you’re always leaving, coming back to.  You imagine a turning point, an edge.  You will not picture the edge, you will leave the edge.  It’s hard to explain, but it feels like driving home means something, maybe because you won’t always be able to do it, to drive back, to come back.

Another February Entry

Your language is a soft curtain of love coming at me.

Yesterday was the beginning of Pisces season.

Describe an important goal that you recently achieved.

Tell me about your mother.  Tell me about your suffering. 

What do you want me to say?

Recall your earliest memory. 

My last boyfriend was wrong for me all along because he was a Virgo.

Do you know about heaven?

Describe how you felt when you achieved your goal.

I want to know what Mars smells like or how Saturn’s rings feel.

Maybe this is unsettling, and I'm sorry.

Our timelines have met.

Fait Accompli

Another dream where things aren’t going well and all I can do is wait it out- an imaginary party and we’re all there, a bowl of peanuts, spicy, blackened, bad.

I used to wear contact lenses.  It was a pain getting them in and out.  In a dream, one has been stuck for eight years behind my eye and the doctor removes it with ease and laughs, as if he was amused by my obliviousness.  I cried when I saw the lens, plastic and blue, that had been floating around back there for some time.  It had been there through three heartbreaks and four houses.  It had felt tears I didn't know were coming.  It watched me promise not to go back, that one lens that lasted so long.  And now, awake, I wonder what the metaphor is, for that lens must mean something is stuck in my mind, something that is waiting to be removed.

If I could talk to you, I would tell you that I'm not mad, and that I wish you weren’t either.  I'm sorry about what happened.  I wouldn’t say, “These things happen.”  I'm not sure what I would say, but it wouldn’t be that.  No, it would have to be something much better, wouldn't it?

Neutral Buoyancy

I am now at the age I was when I met him; 29.  The way I see the world is vast and I no longer feel the need to hate everything as I did when I was 24.  “Take note of what it feels like to be alive right now.”  Sometimes the sauce does not come out right.  Sometimes you burn the pan and have to scrape it with a spatula and pour everything down the drain.  Everyone’s back on green tea, and they’re making it without caffeine now. 

I take Laurel Canyon all the way to West Hollywood, my favorite way, and meet C for lunch at a spot we’ve both been wanting to try.  DineL.A. is still happening, and we get a three-course meal.  It’s beginning to warm up outside.  On my hike this morning it was forty-six degrees, and now it’s seventy-four at 2:00pm.  “Things are really starting to look up,” she says, and tries three different spoons full of soup.  We are so lucky to be here. 

A year ago I was knee deep in food service.  I'm not too good for it now, but I was so in it that I did not see a way out.  I was four days a week: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, with my other weekdays spent tutoring, driving up at down the Canyon, usually around 5:00pm, the worst time to be in the Canyon.  You moved so much slower, and you lost service sometimes, the song went out on Spotify and you had to sit in silence for a while.  You had to think about what you didn't have.  I always bought iced coffee and it’d melt by the time my session was over.  I was just trying to be myself, and I spent a lot of nights reading, a lot more reading than I'm doing now.

You’ll float back up to the surface if you’re not careful.

I bought myself a Groupon to the Salt Suite.  I sat in a room covered in salt for an hour, three times a week, for a month.  They had recliner chairs and iPods with relaxing music, guided meditations, and I’d bring paperwork from my therapist, activities that were supposed to help me get over my ex.  I had to list my positive qualities, my negative ones, my hobbies, my interests, my fears.  I had to draw lines from what I thought he was doing to what I wanted to be doing.  Every so often I’d graze the floor and bring a pile of salt to my lap, feel its grit in between my fingers, release it back to the ground.  I’d come out of that place covered in white streaks.  I’d come out breathing differently, the salt still stuck in the back of my throat for hours.

Upon Receiving Instruction

I have never seen this place before.  I'm reading two books at once.  It makes for variant mornings and nights.  I do not feel terrible.  American Ninja Warrior is on TV.  I am incorporating more greens into my diet.  Green juice, green leaves.  I just realized the show is from 2015, two years behind.

Everyone is eating taro. 

Emotional Garnish

Orange glow.  Orange window glow.  Orange storefront.  Mint leaves steeped.  Steeping mint leaves.  White building, white shirt, white socks.  I feel so sick.  I feel so small and sick.  I feel like I live here.  He wants to see me later.  Teal umbrellas.  Ocher pots.  Small dog on a red leash.  The tea is warm and good.  I am okay here.

Ne Plus Ultra

In your messages, you seem sure that I will return your call.  I sit at the library and avoid writing, again.  It’s become a theme, a thing, a sure thing.  I'm supposed to say “happy holidays.”  The feeling comes over me like a medicine, no, like a syrup, thick and heavy, holds me down, lethargic, and this hour lasts forever.  I read some girl’s book who tells the reader to get over it, to quit feeling so down, to move on, do something else, and she mentions constellations and it’s clear that this stuff is garbage but she likes to rhyme her words on the ends of lines and I can’t explain to someone why that’s not okay.  I wish I were in a museum alone holding a coffee and interpreting paintings.  I got so thin after he left me, but I felt like myself.  I often sell my clothes so other people can have them, so I can pay for a car wash, so I can eat yellow lentil soup at Little Flower, where the parents don't mind their children’s chairs as they bump into mine. 

Future History

Do you remember when we walked from your house to the diner?  It was the first time I ever “went with the flow.”  We had a reading, and it went well, well enough to make you want to take a walk with me.  I was wearing a big necklace, it weighed on my neck, and my stomach kind of hurt, the way it always sort of hurt back then, a consistent bother, always upset, uneasy.  We walked and I wasn’t wearing the right shoes either, and you were, so you were happy.  You chain-smoked and pointed out landmarks.  I got to see the Checkers parking lot where you passed out and hit a cop, prompting your arrest.  I got to see the park you played basketball, where you made friends with strangers, kids, adults, anyone who wanted to play HORSE.  I saw where you had meetings on Monday nights, I saw where the city puts up Christmas decorations during holiday time and you kissed a girl by the fake presents and then never talked to her again because she was a bitch.  I saw the pet store where the red-eyed mice climbed over each other in over-crowded cages trying to get our attention, or just moving because it felt good to move.  You showed me these places and I listened, let you lead.  That was what you wanted.

Now I drink coffee and orange juice and substitute teach at the college.  I am writing and these kids who are not mine are working on essays that are due today that they haven’t finished, haven’t even started, some of them.  I sit in a black leather chair and watch them work and mostly think about how different the holidays will be this year.  It is good that we are apart and don't talk anymore.  It is good that to each other, we are gone.  One of them just rolled down the shade and it got dark all of a sudden, but the sun is strong, even for November, as it always is in LA, and it made everyone get quiet.  Only two girls are talking, and it is in such a low whisper that it relaxes me, everyone it seems, and so I will let it be.

Subject to Change

I have to quit this job so bad.  It needs to be the next thing I do.  This one girl, she uses different names.  I introduced myself to her once, and she had one name, and now, she introduces herself again with another name.  This girl, she has two names.  And she put both hands on her heart and talked about how lucky she was to be alive.  I put my hands in my apron and feel someone else’s receipt paper.  They clocked in at 12:02pm.  Someone ordered a house red but we were out so they had to give them Merlot, poor suckers.  Discarded wine bottle tin foil.  Pens that don’t work.  I am briefed on my section.  We are out of octopus.  

It was the only thing that happened to me today. 

“Your paradigm gets shattered”

It’s like a geyser. 

“I want you to respond to this; deep pain allows for deep surrender.”

When you live in Los Angeles, you come to terms with meaninglessness. 

“Darling, honey, now, you weren’t crying tears of sadness, no, no, those tears, they were tears of overwhelm.”

Deracine

(n.) a person who has been or feels displaced, uprooted or displaced from one’s geographical or social environment

I tend to sleep in two parts:

Part I.  You finish the book before we see the movie.  In the car, you turn pages.  I wait for you to finish.  The movie starts soon, and we will miss the previews because you want to know how it ends before it ends.  You say the book is better, on the walk back to the car, and it is here that I begin to fester resentment.  And yes, you took me to the movies, but no, I did not have a good time.

Part II.  It snowed during class and I drove even though I could have taken the bus.  I liked the autonomy of driving myself.  In the parking lot, I listen to a message that makes me sob, burst out into a fit of crying, a tantrum, an explosion, and you don't answer when I try to call you back.  You won’t be here next week, and it’s not because of the snow.   I sit in the car for a long time until someone wants my spot.  The sky is black by the time I get home.

Perspicacious

Why am I thinking about what I didn't get? 

I came back here so I could live the life I deserved. 

A contagion of memories that is subject to erupt at any moment.

They asked me to leave due to my abhorrent behavior.

All those hollow, negative feelings.

Social outings are available to me.

I had an agenda of what to do in order to be happy.

You always responded.  You always picked up the rope.

A place I could finish my sentences, a place I could figure out my thoughts.

I was melted; I couldn’t express it.

I was allowed to fall together.

After Image

He says I need to create a gap, a void, for good things to come in.  I need to make room.  The sun is shining in our eyes and we squint at it, hoping it will get smaller or go away and not bother us.

My first boyfriend was Andy Gaffman.  I remember watching Lifesavers explode in his mouth on a camping trip.  We were partnered up; one of us had to chew on candies and the other watched.  He volunteered to chew, so I looked inside his mouth as light sprang forth, a miracle, bright and minty.  The girls on the trip thought it was romantic we shared a moment like that together.  But I didn't like him.  Only a piece of my heart felt something then, a piece that dropped to my stomach because a boy liked me and wanted me.   I had wanted him to be someone else, and that, I thought, was very romantic.

“Reclaiming Your Greatest Self”

I check the weather forecast every four hours.  There is nothing I can do from 2681.5 miles away.  But I check and check and watch the weatherman wave his hand across red band that crosses over my home in real-time news, over and over.  I look up recipes for Chicken Florentine and take my rings on and off and pick at my cuticles and bite my nails and dread work tomorrow and make phone calls and I can’t talk to you.  I take something that will make me tired and it does and I rest on the couch and imagine skies clearing.

I drink yellow Gatorade from a purple straw and set up camp in bed.  I have been here for twelve hours, but who’s counting.  It’s been such a long time since anything made sense, and the email about a potential teaching job seems like a mirage amidst the hot flashes and fever dreams of last night.  Perhaps it is a sliver of God.  I continue work on my short stories, defining an empty chapter with no strands to hold onto.  I wait for an appetite to return.