Category Archives: blueberries

Switch (Son of a Bitch)

When he came to visit me in Olympia I was locked in a garage in my sisters backyard. I had been painting picture after picture of the same girl in a rose garden for three weeks. The song “Mt. St Helens” by Mirah had been rewound and played so many times that the tape had warped- but still I played it, warping my own voice as I sang to it.

He spent two days sitting on my cot drinking 40’s with me before he was so bored he dragged me out. Into the kitchen where I stole my sisters cheese and watched her scream at her roommate about it. She never suspected me because I was an outspoken vegan. I wrote zines about how meat eaters should burn and freegans had their own special place in hell.

Truth be told, the girl in the rose garden would not kiss anyone who was not vegan. So I was. Except now she was gone and I was here. I kept it up, the persona, in case she came back . I also ate as much cheese as my sister bought in case she came back.

I told Switch, who prided himself at being an authority in the matter of anarchism, that he was a pawn of the oppressor for eating meat and cheese. That he aught to be ashamed to kiss his lover with that mouth!

When he left I found my freezer full of frozen blueberries. He knew that blueberries were the only food I was ever turned on by. For the first two weeks he was gone I just ate blueberries and humped lampposts.

When he came back around two months later he was proud to tell me that due to my influence he was now a vegan of the most hard-core variety. Unfortunately or fortunately I had finally given up living on vegan corn dogs and soft pretzels (though to this day I find both still quite delicious). She was never coming back and if she did … she was never coming back.

For four days he followed me everywhere I went, getting especially close when I was busy in the soot stained kitchen (do not try to make popcorn with grape seed oil).He berated me, he insulted me, he did his best to shame me but I had so many better things to be ashamed of. How could I do this? How could I be an omnivore? I had sold out as far as he was concerned. Funny I never received my check.

It was the fifth day when I was driving my gigantic van through Lacey several miles from where I lived. I had probably just been in a parking related accident and was fleeing the scene. That is normally what I did in my van. I passed a 7-11 and saw Switch sitting on the curb by the front door. What was he doing in Lacey? I made a quick U-turn in 6-lane traffic. In a van that big it is easy for people to get out of the way. I pulled into the parking lot thinking I would see if he needed a ride home.

When I got out of the van and walked up to him he startled and hurried to put something behind his back. He tried to act casual as though he always spent his free time at 7-11 in Lacey. I reached behind him and took the bag of Doritos and the Slim Jim out of his hands. “Really?” I said. He had taken the bus miles from the house to try to sneak his pleasure.

I left him to find his own way home.

He arrived home four hours later with six grocery bags of very gross frozen microwave meat product. Hot pockets and bagel bites and steak TV dinners. That boy had been caught and he was making no more excuses. The smell of totchos, chili mac and little smokies never came out of the carpets after that last week he was there.

He went away and fell in love and moved to Louisville Kentucky. The story of how I arrived on his doorstep with three of my friends a year later will be told another time. However it was that we arrived, we arrived. It was evening and Switch was stressed out. His girlfriend was not home and neither was the photographer they shared the house with.

He did not want to let my dog in for fear of messing up the photo studio that the living room had been converted into. I guilt tripped him. My dog was good and he knew that. They  had shared a deep love in Eugene and then in Olympia. Had he forgotten? He let us in.

We drank and yelled and drank. Switch and I spent a long time hiding from everyone under the porch. I asked him if he was actually really in love. Because he was, we only got close a little bit. I went to bed in a sleeping bag on the floor of the guest room that was off of the kitchen.

In the morning I woke up naked, alone, on top of the covers of the guest bed. I sat up very disoriented. To my memory a couple had laid down in that bed the night before, and I had been wearing clothes last I checked.

Everyone was really mad at me, so mad that it took a long time to piece together what had happened. Apparently I had gotten up in the night and walked into the middle of the photo studio. I took down my pants and started to pee. When people yelled to try to get me to stop I just waved my hands in a “don’t worry about it, I got this” kind of way and kept right on peeing, a great box-of-wine-sized pee.

Then I walked back into the spare room, took off all my clothes and lay down in the bed. There I proceeded to push both sleeping parties onto the floor. Someone went and got Switch and, from what I gathered, he screamed at me to get up and clean it, even jabbing me with the mop, but I never so much as stirred.

My traveling companions and I didn’t stay at Switchs’ house anymore.

We always wrote letters to each other, even after that. He forgave me for not being housebroken (Louisville) like I had forgiven him for being a jack ass (Olympia).

In Cottage Grove, in the trailer, I had split ways with an aspiring coke dealer with a temper. I wrote to him then more than ever. I was so sad. I wrote him so many letters about how much nothing there was left of me. I was twenty years old and I had to drink beers every morning on the bus on my way to pull weeds for a crazy lady because I was so scared of the world. When I would get to town I would buy a 22 ounce gut killer called Jooze and put it in my inside vest pocket with a Slurpee straw sticking up out of it so that I could drink the berry malt liquor discreetly while I walked the rest of the way to work. I would get there by 9 am and convince my boss, who liked me for some reason, that everyday I was slurring and clumsy because I was ill. I would tell her I had come to work anyways because she meant so much to me. She believed me. The days would go on and on and on like that. I cried every night that I wrote him to tell him I was washed up, finished, kaput.

Without fail he wrote back, beautiful letters with painted birds all over the envelopes. He told me that he loved me so much and that I was worth every bit of it. He told me he would love me all the way through the hurt I was having and that I did not have to worry. It was months before all those words came anywhere near my heart. When they did I had some moments or even days in a row where I felt like he may be onto something.

I finally wrote him a letter that told him things were looking up. I could not believe he had stuck it through with me and I was so grateful. I did not hear back in too long. I hadn’t really noticed because my spirits were higher but so mas my alcohol intake.

Someone I hardly knew called to tell me he was dead.

Hung in the closet of a motel room after a fight with his girlfriend. She had heard the belt snap but thought it was him having some more of his blacked out tantrum. She found him when she woke up and realized he had not come to bed in the night like he usually did.

The next day my letter was in the mailbox, beat up from its trip across the country and back with a big red stamp on the  front announcing that he would never open another letter from me again.

Everyone I knew tried to die when they drank like they wanted too, it was a wonder more of them didn’t succeed. On second thought Switch wasn’t the only one by a long shot and if he had been, it would have still been too many.


One Way that I Owe My Life to Blueberries

While William and Grandpa Core chased off the hoodlums who were trying to kill half of their cattle, my mothers grandma was hatching a plan a few states away. Her home was humble, it was not in a city and not in the country but rather in the kind of in between place that is common to Western Washington.

The children were growing and so were her tomatoes. More could not really be asked for but that didn’t seem to stop the debt collectors.

She had married as a teen to a man with fiery hair, who everyone called Red. Her parents were gentle storeowners with several daughters. They disapproved of him. His grand children describe him as stern and proud and a great lover. Paulines’ parents described him as cold and cruel and too hard on the children.

He had many rules about how things were to be in his home. His children sat quietly if he was anywhere nearby. His wife wore skirts and dresses only (he preferred the ones that showed off the legs he loved) unless they were camping. And his wife was under no condition to learn to drive or work outside the home. There was plenty of work inside after all.

She would go to bed with him each night, like he wanted, and once he was asleep sneak out of bed to complete her days work. Every member of her family had one set of clothes that needed to be washed and pressed every day. All the cleaning of the house, the making of the food, the preserving of the garden…. she slept less than 3 hours a night for 40 years.

Though Red alone worked for the income, it was Pauline who managed all the money once it got home. It became clear during the hard years of that depression that the ends were drawing farther and farther apart.

She went around the neighborhood one day, after the kids were off to school and he was off to work and found a blueberry bog looking for extra help. So it was from that day on, for as long as they needed it, she would wake up in the middle of the night to prepare for the next day. Then she would crawl back into bed and pretend to wake up with her husband. After she sent everyone off, she herself went to her secret berry-picking job.

She would work as many hours as she could before rushing home to miraculously complete an entire days worth of work in only a couple of hours. It was in this way that she kept her family from ever suspecting that their income was supplemented. Dinner was always on the table, the children never looked as poor as the world thought they were. That is how I know that stories of kidnapped women spinning barns full of golden flax in only one night are true. If she had needed too, my great grandma could have done it.

At 4 am I would stir from the couch in the trailer that Pauline had moved into to be closer to her daughter. This was years after Red and her only son were gone. I could smell the coffee and hear the birds that my mom and her grandmother had been waking up with. In the dim light I could make out the many afghans and crocheted doilies around her house.

When I was seven, my Mom taught me to crochet as Pauline had taught her. When I took the yarn and hook, it came very naturally but looked very different from the way my mother had shown me to hold my hands. She began to cry and said that the only person she had every seen who held the yarn and hook just like I did, was Pauline.

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