Friday, August 21, 2009

Small Gestures, Small Flowers

Mark Dixon's "Two Friends"

Clint came over for coffee yesterday morning.

I had just returned from a brief trip back to my hometown to see some old friends. Emotionally fragile, I tried my best to engage in conversation with them and listen to their stories, though my heart wasn’t in it. I’d become too accustomed to living on an island, where my emotional sores fester in peace, alone. Social interaction feels foreign and pained at times. 

When I returned, the house was a mess. My brother and my roommate had trashed it resoundingly in the few days I was gone. The tired Cinderella motif played out in my head, as I rushed around in the sweltering heat, cleaning up, trying to make my habitat feel like a home, even just a little.

Clint came over for coffee yesterday and my house smelled of rotten food. No one had taken out the trash while I was gone because apparently you need a fucking PhD to figure out how to perform this Herculean task. Putrefying bodies after a mass suicide in the tropics smelled better than my kitchen yesterday.

Clint came over for coffee yesterday and I knew he would. He looks forward to our talks and we're friends with similar "issues." Once he saw my truck pull into the driveway from my trip, I knew his arrival was imminent. I rushed around, trying to clean up. I want my friends to feel good when they enter my house, not nauseated.

But he got there too early and the scent was unbearable. I apologized, my face red with anger and mild humiliation. He tried to help but had to leave the kitchen at one point because the smell was so bad. Finally, trash was removed, coffee brewed and sanity restored.

(But was it? There's a price for constantly having to make things right when you're already busting at the seams. Needless caretaking is backbreaking and taxing. Nobody talks about the price-tag.)

Over coffee, Clint told me of a woman he had hooked up with the night before. This was a big deal. Neither of us have seen much action as of late. I gave him a high five for “taking one for the team” and asked for details.

He said it was awkward a bit, actually. He felt a little unskilled, “rusty.” His mind was whirring with a million thoughts the whole time.

“I used to be able to seduce a woman much easier. I used to stick my tongue in someone’s ear with confidence. Now…”

He trailed off and looked thoughtfully into the freshly Windexed table.

“Now my has a life of its own. I can’t control it anymore.”

His last words punched me in the gut, resonating with me too deeply. My paper-thin veneer began ripping. Tears filled my eyes as he continued his story. He looked up at some point. “Are you alright?”

I burst into tears. "No, no I’m not" I laughed, in that undoing sort of way. "I’m not even close to alright. What you said about your mind having a mind of its own. I don’t know what to do. I’m...falling down. I have been for a while.”

He reached out and held my hand on the newly Windexed table, the smell of deathrot slowly fading away with the summer breeze.

“It’s going to be alright. We’re going to be alright.”

His hand felt so warm and firm and good. All that was good was in our hands. Warmth and love and connection and friendship. Nothing felt better. He held my hand and let go of it at just the right moment, not a second too early.

Isn't it amazing, what a small gesture can do? Even old embedded pain or anger can dissipate in the soft breath of an instant. It's funny - you’re so sure those wounds are a permanent splinter in your soul - and yet one kind word or gesture can yank it out in a flash. It's almost a miracle.

I'm always waiting for flowers. Flowers from people who hurt me. A note or a box of candy. Or a word of love. A wise explanation. A touch of acknowledgment. Then I'll feel released. Then my spirit will rise again.

I'm always waiting for flowers. From the people who left me, who didn’t apologize, who disregarded my feelings, who didn't show up, who may have used me, who didn't honor me.

I don’t even like flowers that much. It’s the symbol of flowers I always await. But they don't come.
Clint came over for coffee yesterday and saved my life a little. He gave me the symbol of a flower. With a touch of his hand. It was that simple.

Clint and Beth, Long Beach Island, Summer 2009
Clint with small flower, Summer 2009

Sunday, August 09, 2009

It All Went Downhill When....

1. We Stopped Bagging our Own Groceries   
It may have been different where you came from, but where I grew up, we worked with the cashier. It was our food after all and besides, it saved time for you, the cashier and the poor sap behind you. Now people mindlessly stand there, plastic in hand, wishing she’d move a little faster. Bring your own bags people! That's the least you can do.

Implication? We’ve become spoiled, apathetic babies who will soon expect the cashier to cook our food and spoon-feed it to us.

2. Men Started Shaving their Chests   
What’s with the need to be totally hairless? I for one find chest hair on a man to be a sexy thing. Then again women have been aiming for baby-like hairlessness for quite a while so why shouldn't men experience the joy of a good hot waxing?

Implication? We’re desperately trying to escape the fact that we are, in essence, hairy beasts. Or we’re trying to become babies again. Our constant pursuit of youth affects men as well as women. Even babies are feeling ancient.

3. Vehicles Began Making Too Many Sounds
I won’t even get into the needless noise pollution created by useless car alarms or the cacophony chirps constantly going off as people try to figure out how to activate them. I’m trying to figure out when it became mandatory that all trucks go “beep beep beep” when in reverse. Why didn't we get to vote on that? Were the blind people and children getting plowed down left and right before this new form of audio torture?

Implication? Over-regulation rules and no one know how to use a rear-view mirror.

4. Libraries Turned Noisy

Our library in the summer makes a Chuck E. Cheese on a Saturday seem tame. What’s next? Keggers in the church? Orgies in the classroom? Is no space sacred? Libraries used to be a sanctuary – a place for the mind to settle and focus. Now children run in maniacal circles while their parents talk loudly on their cell phone (on the other side of the library. Shhh...they don't want to be disturbed!)
Implication? We’ve have no sanctity of space. The need to spill over has become so widespread...oh and many of our kids have become undisciplined monsters.

5. Antibacterial Products became Commonplace  Clean apparently wasn’t clean enough for the anal-retentive homemaker. Germs are everywhere and this is war! If she could scour her hands with bleach, she would.  These industrial strength germaphobe products will protect her from all the dirty, invisible things out to get her.

Implication? We're control freaks and spend too much time indoors. And women need to be fucked better overall.

6.  Our Workdays Went from 9 - 5 to 8 – 6 It's a little Big Brother that our 9 – 5 slowly morphed into an 8 – 6. As if we wouldn’t notice! But we didn't, really.

Implication? We're still a slave to the man.

7.  Those Stupid Blow-up Christmas Things on Lawns
Come on. They’re not cute. They’re not quaint. They’re stupid and tasteless. I don’t even think kids like them.

Implication? We are inundated with such generic nonsense that we’ve lost any sense of aesthetics or taste.

Ho, ho ho, I'm a tasteless eyesore!

8. People Stopped using their Turn Signals
What, are they too good for you? Well, then don’t trouble those tired little fingers of yours. I’ll use my telepathic skills instead.

Implication? Turn signals indicate a sense of consideration and concern for the other's safety which we've long since but a brake on. 

9. Parents Talked on Cellphones while Pushing a Baby Stroller
The child must feel a subconsciously disconnect when this happens. Even if you don't believe that, one thing is for certain: it's not quality parent/child time.

Implication? Our cell phones have a life of their own at this point. They're stuck between our legs, plastered to our face and checked maniacally. Our need for connectivity has made us extremely disconnected. And sure, kids feel that.

10. People Used Giant Plastic Wheelbarrows for a Day Trip to the Beach
Every summer I watch men and women break their backs lugging these massive plastic wheelbarrows packed to the gills. Can anybody pack light anymore? Do you really need the effin' kitchen sink with you, bloated American family?

Implication? Dependency on stuff to a gross proportion. We all need dumped in a jungle with a compass and a Swiss Army knife.

11. Food Became Too Orange
Have you seen a Cheeto lately? It’s not just orange: it’s shockingly orange. I can pig out on snack foods with the best of them but you have to wonder how you can blithely consume something that may in fact glow in your intestines.

Implication? We’re all going to hell in a neon orange hand basket.

Your intestinal tract after too many Cheetos

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Amanda Dreams

Amanda dreams of riding undulating silver worms in the desert. She is wearing ornate filigree glasses and talks with Egyptian women, somehow knowing the language. She has wild orgies with ever-changing partners. She is suddenly a man, then back to a woman, then a man again. Body parts are made of dazzling metal, hot to the touch.

I dream I have to name all the parts of a chicken in front of a small, restless group of people. When asked what a giblet is, I panic. “I don’t know. I don’t know what a giblet is!” Everyone laughs at me. "I really like chicken liver though," I mutter. But no one hears.

Amanda has a dream that she is running from rooftop to rooftop, with neon green magical sneakers made of material that allow her to make these treacherous leaps. Her laughter echoes all around her. She feels like a superhero.

I dream I'm looking for a washcloth. I forgot to wash my makeup off and look everywhere. When I do find one, it's dirty. I figure it's better than no washcloth.

I also frequently dream of bathrooms. Hideous bathrooms. I’ve had these dreams much of my adult life. I have to go and I’m forced to walk barefoot in some abysmal lavatory that hasn’t been cleaned in centuries. There are no magical sneakers or undulating silver worms. Just shit, overflowing, everywhere.

Is my psyche dull? I seem to have a deadbeat subconscious that kicks out dreams that are as fanciful as a Brillo pad. Often they are just a boring rehash of a boring day: my car isn’t starting. The cable company is calling. I try to explain that I already sent the payment, but my voice goes dead on me and I just have to hear them yammer on.

I try to find meaning in my mundane dreams. I’m sure Freud or Jung would. Or perhaps I’d bore them too. They’d ask me to discontinue therapy because my psyche just wasn’t up to par.  “You just have a boring psyche, Mizz Mann,” said in a thick German accent. “Vee cannot help you. Call us when you have a better internal life.”

This morning I dreamt I waited in long, long line at a department store, in real time. There is a girl I went to high school with in front of me. She has more clothes than me and I feel envious that I can't afford more. I don't even really like the sweater I'm buying. When I finally get to the cashier, she is sound asleep.

Vaclav Blaha, "It's Raining Red"