Category Archives: trust
Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.
I spent plenty of time in parking lots, frustrated like the seeds pushing from underneath them.
I didn’t know that we were all struggling together, our foreheads pressed against the backside of the asphalt.
Hello and happy birthday, I am 29 years old today and would like to give each of you and your grown up friends a copy of this novel I wrote in November.Since I don’t know a lot of you yet and in one hour it won’t be a birthday present anymore, I am settling with giving you a link. Read the rest of this entry
Standing in the heat in the middle of the casino strip of Las Vegas, I stood hungry and sweating profusely. In addition to being there in the middle of a desert in the late summer, I was also surrounded by reflective surfaces that magnified the heat and my discomfort. Me and my crew had been dropped of by a ride that needed to visit his parents. They lived in the suburbs and did not want him to bring three of his closest dirtiest friends.
I asked several people if they knew where a grocery store was. Each one stood dazed by the question, hypnotized by bright lights they all answered the same, “I am not sure I know what you mean.”
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I am 28 years old and I sleep with a stuffed animal. Fortunately, I don’t have trouble sleeping without him, like if I am sleeping elsewhere or if there is an actual four year old in the house that needs him. I don’t know if he is restless when I am away, we have never talked about it.
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The feeling of being loved or not being loved is not circumstantial.
I can feel alone anywhere in the world, in any crowd, in any set of eyes or arms.
Most of the love that has been here for me in my life has not been translatable. I haven’t received it, haven’t felt it or believed in it. I am having specific kinds of memories lately, sudden flashes of times when people have been showing me they loved me and I have missed the ball completely.
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Was it the skunk spraying my dog or the dog chasing the skunk that saved my life that night?
The dreams were awful under that bridge.
We had been hitchhiking since dawn out of Portland. We were headed east, headed for Denver, for rivers and inter tubes and 40’s getting warm too fast like they aught to in the summer but never do in Washington. We barely made it 40 miles and I swear we walked most of it.
We were at four corners. Four corners is a place out of place. You can find it in any state, several times some of the time. A place where two freeways cross each other and a truck stop is sitting at each cardinal point. It’s a place made by concrete and named for how square it is. There are other types of four corners but this one is the most commonly known to many a modern american.
It had long since grown dark. We bought a couple of beers with a pile of coins that the cashier didn’t bother counting. That was good for us because it included some Canadian and at least one chucky cheese token, may have also been where my lucky bingo chip ended up.
We walked south down the smallest road leading out of there. We were looking for a nice bush, nothing fancy, just cozy. We saw a string of lights outlining a bridge not to far down the way.
Under it we found nothing too strange. There was a fire pit with the last occupants empties in it. There was a line of bushes where water used to be; the brush was thick past there. We drank and rolled out our beds. My dog, Skrap, was tied to my backpack. It wasn’t heavy enough to stop him but it slowed him to just less then my speed. This was important if a cop was to come down. I agree that it is very rude to wake people up but, in my dogs’ best interest, I still had to be able to catch him before he mauled an officer of the law.
I fell right to sleep.
The sleep was strange; something was strange.
There was something on top of me in my dream, something choking me, my eyes were open but I could not see anything but the bottom of the bridge. I couldn’t breathe. I was panicked.
I woke to Skrap taking off running faster than ever into the bushes. He was hollering loud, the kind that is reserved for real danger. The leash snapped and he was gone. My partner was sitting up, scared. I was aware of this all happening before I sat up because I couldn’t move for a little too long. I was awake but my body wasn’t responding to me telling it to get up.
He turned to me and shook me and with that stimulation my connectors kicked back in. I sat up. He said we should get out of there. I said why. The dream was already fading. He said we should get out of there.
I yelled for Skrap so much. We could hear him tearing through the bushes but he was not listening. My friend was shaken up. I was very groggy. I tried to convince him we should go back to sleep. Skrap would leave whatever it was alone eventually and we could leave at first light.
My friend was pale.
I started to lie down again but Skrap came back. He had been skunked. Fuck. There was no sleeping in that smell. Even under an entire bridge it was suffocating. Not to mention the fact that we would never get a ride farther east with him like that.
We packed it up and walked back to the gas stations. We had to go back to Portland and stick Skrap in a vat of tomato juice or something. There was still something going on with my friend but he was not saying anything to me. He found a guy headed back west willing to put us in the back of his open pick up truck. The sun came up in the gorge as we rode snuggled in our sleeping bags. Bless him; he dropped us right on the doorstep of the Garfield House.
We put Skrap in the tub. There was no tomato juice but there was ten years worth of roommates leaving half full bottles of smelly shampoo. We covered him in everything. By the end of it he still smelled like a skunks ass but more like an elite skunks ass.
We stayed another night. We went to a party with all kinds of cocktails. We drank a glass of water between each of the twelve we both drank. We were pretending that would help us still get an early start.
He told me about the dream his third or fourth drink in. He had a dream that he could not tell was a dream, everything was just like it was when we went to sleep except in this dream he woke up and where I had been was only a small pool of something like water. He said it was the scariest dream he ever didn’t know he was dreaming and that is when Skrap woke him up.
The next day we left, midday and we got a few very smooth, very long rides and we were in Denver in no time.
I don’t want to know what was there besides the three of us.
Thank you Skrap. Thank you skunk. Thank you for every time a person is protected before they know well enough to protect themselves.
Whidbey Island until the End
Somewhere in there Otay had reached sexual maturity and night time cages became more necessary when we were outside or in dilapidated houses that were less like inside than a tarp. His testicles, which were as big as his torso called him to wander in a way he was less likely to return from.
We moved to Whidbey Island in the spring. Otay met a lot of goats and passed the time tearing keys off laptops that were left open and unattended. Sometimes he could get one off while a person was just a few steps away from their computer.
We hopped around to Olympia a little, and sometimes stayed over in Port Townsend, me in a bed in the back of a box truck and him leaving pee trails on the front seats.
These were the days when he took up a rather curious hobby of chasing Skrap (or any other dog I trusted not to eat him) and trying to nibble at their penises. He was dedicated and would not give up the chase until such time as I took pity on my patient dog and picked up Otay and tucked him in my shirt. Tucking Otay in my shirt was like putting a towel over a birdcage and he would go right to sleep.
Otay lived nights in a condo built from an old rabbit hutch so that Skrap could rest a few hours in the evening unmolested.
When we moved back to Olympia it was summer. We bounced around for a hot minute and then moved into a little house made of windows in a luscious backyard. It was a place I had seen in my dreams and not surprising to me that it showed up physically.
Otay took no time finding an escape under a gardening drawer; at least I think that was where the hole was. Truth be told it was months of me plugging up holes I though were ‘the one’. Eventually he could only be off me when I was right there and even then sometimes he would disappear and materialize outside in the tall grass.
Once he escaped for less than five minutes but I found him covered in leaves as though he had fashioned himself clothes chewing on the bark of a tree he was clinging to. It was as though he had been on his own, surviving in the wild for months. This was Otays only foray into re-wilding.
In October that year I put together an art instillation at a hall just outside of town. My dear friend watched Otay for a few days so I could work around the clock without him leaping off of ladders or chasing raccoons to try to taste their junk.
That was our first time apart. I would not have thought it was possible but when I would walk into a room after being separated from him for any length of time he would scamper to me as fast as his little legs would go, or he would sneeze to me where he was until I picked him up.
When we cleaned up the show we had a load for the dump. I was heaving bags of non-burnables and smashed toilets down about twenty feet into the otherwise empty bin. I was just about to throw down a very heavy object when I spotted none other than Otay at the bottom of the bin sniffing broken glass, wading in dumpster soup.
I nearly had a coronary incident. I put down the heavy object and ran to the lady in the booth where the dump handled money. Like a cartoon, 8 very buff men showed up quickly like they just hid all day, polishing their muscles, waiting for someone to rescue. They talked about trajectories and strategies and action plans. I offered that someone could put the ladder they had brought down into the bin. Then that person could climb down, pick up Otay and climb back out.
I was told to keep quiet and let the professionals do their job. Twenty minutes later one of the men put his ladder down into the bin. He then climbed down, picked up Otay and then climbed back out. The team left Hi-5’ing each other and talking about God’s grace in the face of such adversity.
It was a good summer for Otay. We did not know it would be his last. He rode with me on bicycles, went to the beach and the river, and ate everything his mouth touched. He spent more and more time on the bodies of other friends. My roommate learned the hard way about his computer key habit, three times.
We went to New Mexico in the winter for our first trip to the little round trailer I have since lived in twice a year. The folks in La Madera had never heard of a pet rat, and wanted to hurl when they saw how he drank. So Otay stayed in the trailer and ate avocados and drank water with Osha in it to fix up what seemed like a urinary tract infection. This was the only time Otay was ever sick. When he was healthy we went back north to our glass nest.
These final months he had a more active social life than myself. We would go to a party and people I had never met would stick their hands in my shirt to flirt with him and coo about some recent adventure they had shared. These people would regard me about as much as the chair a friend is sitting in gets regarded.
Otay was a man about town. He had many more girlfriends than me.
One day we went to Elma to see the horse that had recently become the newest member of our family. Otay stayed in the van because when he rode on me during manual labor, my neck would look like a scratching post afterwards.
He had never escaped from a car. After work we got back in the van and drove the 40 miles home at 65 miles per hour. I did not see Otay but there was any number of places I figured he was hiding.
When we got home there was still no sign of him. We searched and searched. I called his name 1000 times. We called Elma so they could check their own driveway.
Eventually we all sat crying on the porch, wondering if he had escaped or if he had gotten into the engine somehow and fell off on the highway. I had a strong feeling that he was alive but in danger. We went back to the van. My friend checked the back again. I sat in the drivers seat and closed my eyes. I called his name and spoke our secret clicking language and then I listened, hard.
Then suddenly, a sneeze!!!!! Halleluiah! From inside the dashboard. Behind the steering wheel, so many sneezes then. 16 screws, a lot of prayers and a dashboard removal later he was free. As near as we could figure, Otay had crawled through the gas pedal hole up to a tiny platform in the dashboard where he had clung on for dear life, surviving high speeds and bone rattling pop music.
In spring a trip to California brought Otays first stay in a five star hotel. On our way back north we were stopped at a friends place and I put a watermelon rind in his cage. In the morning he was scratching like wild at his bars. I looked and it was like a horror movie, everything in the cage was covered in ants so thick it was all you could see. There were two lines marching out of the wall right into the cage with no sign of stopping. Otay was rescued in the nick of time.
In retrospect this was the closest he ever came to being eaten.
In Portland we met a rat named Augustine Octavius who was being called Cointel-pro, living a lonely life in a basement. He was not older than Otay but he was bigger and paralyzed from the waste down. He was supposedly a biter.
We learned that Oggy (as we called him) was a sweet flower waiting to blossom with love and avocados. We adopted him as a pet for Otay who had been lonely in his cage when I found steady work.
They were quick cuddle buddies. Oggy was the only rat Otay had ever liked. Oggy thrived in Olympia. Otay on the other hand began to wither. It was too much time in his cage and not enough on my body. Even with Oggy as a pet, I believe his heart was broken.
Two weeks later he got sick. It came on fast, a matter of a day or two. By the time I noticed he was not well he was hardly moving and not eating or drinking by himself.
For two days we sat watching him. I fed him nettle tea in an eyedropper. I had seen nettle tea bring goats back from the gates of death. I also fed him pedialyte and at one point he ate applesauce and we thought he would recover.
It was not so. He passed away, cuddled between our greatest friend and me. It was the early morning of June the 8th. We wrapped him in lace like the sweetheart of Mel Gibson in Brave Heart. We had a public viewing for the entire day and then he was buried by a parade of children who loved him, in a bed of flowers and stories and a boat made of flute melodies created for his journey.
In a world where complacency can take us over so quickly Otay was a living and constant reminder of lifes’ magic. Though he may be sitting on a golden throne eating dog dick in rat heaven, we are hear missing him and forever listening for his sneeze.
A day later we headed north. Grandpa left us in San Francisco and Otay, Skrap and myself moved on alone (together).
We went through Petaluma, hot tubs at parents’ houses, so much wine with so many Dads, washes, olde theatres and punk shows.
We got dropped off one afternoon at a very strange spot that was not in walking distance of food or water. It was the Y where one kind of large road became two much smaller roads. The sun set and we walked into a spooky park called ‘Organ Donors Grove’.
Skrap and I slept hard. Otay stayed by my head and kept watch. I was worried about him in my dreams but in the morning he was curled at my feet. I drank a warm beer in my backpack, the last one left and we went back out to the road.
By afternoon we had not been picked up. Otay was the only one of the three of us that had food, funny because he did not mind missing meals nearly as much as Skrap and myself.
Mixed in with Otays’ food were raw almonds in their shells. Rats have ever growing teeth and if they don’t have that sort of thing to grind on then their teeth can actually grow up into their little skulls. I picked all the almonds out. I stomped them open on the road and picked out the smushed guts. I ate some and gave some to Skrap.
Some dogs love vegetables, some love nuts and tofu and all kinds of strange things. My dog is not like that. He likes meat and butter and things that taste like meat and butter but since this day he has also loved almonds.
By the time we got picked up in a ride going clear to Oregon we had eaten all of Otays nuts.
We got another ride and made it to Olympia that night. We got to stop with each ride for soft serve. It was a good day.
Skrap is very polite when sharing ice cream. He takes small licks and never bites. Otay, on the other hand, would burrow in with his whole head leaving claw marks and head sized holes all up in your cone. I never minded because I always got the largest of the largest cone available. Next to that, his head was pretty small.
Once we got back to Olympia it took quite a while to reach Montana again. The pass snowed over, I lost three or four days here and there in a bottle and I kept ending up in Portland with my so many loves there.
My brother, from a different and so similar mother, in Portland had a house that loved Otay. There was always a bedroll for us in the basement workshop with two bowls of water beside it, one big for skrap and one teensy for Otay.
Otay had run of that workshop. He loved to chew and play in the pallets that lined the floor so that all the desks, tables, and shelves were raised up when it flooded each winter.
When I went outside Otay would make the herculean climb up the stairs to find me. I always heard him coming because on each step he would stop to sneeze and clean his face.
He was always a big sneezer, when he had play dates with other rat buddies I had to calm the minds of concerned people because sickness spreads so fast among them. Sneezing was not a symptom for Otay, but rather a lifestyle.
When we did finally make it east to the moldy teepee it had been a good while since Otay or I had taken any kind of solid poop. I quit the sauce when I got back to Montana, which is an entirely huge and different story but I will never forget what a milestone it was when me and my rat received the blessing of solid bowel movements…
48 hours later
As I balanced on top of a fence thin trail that dropped drastically several hundred feet down to a waterfall that then dropped another couple of hundred feet it dawned on me that this might be why the trail was lovingly named, ‘Dread and Terror’. Skrap had run ahead to where the road widened. Otay was perched on my shoulder, swaying along like a king on a pillow suspended between elephants.
The cage I was carrying was either helping me hold my balance or responsible for throwing it off. I guess that doesn’t matter if the decision has already been made to carry it.
There were horse prints and bicycle tracks even where the trail dropped off completely and we had to leap to pick it up again. My hat is off to you if you have ever left tracks like that on trails that dreadful or terrifying.
Otay slept the days away, waking to shift around my torso as it suited him. By night he scurried around that silly cage filled with leaves, fir bows, and a handful of morsels from the big zip lock bag I had filled before we left the ranch. We didn’t know it but Otay would never again see that place.
It was only a few weeks of me lugging that foolish cage around. Hiking, hitching, busking, begging always carrying a cage that only got used for a few hours every night. I just didn’t know Otay well enough to trust him to stay close while I was sleeping.
Through Eugene, Portland and Olympia we traveled and then I abandoned the cage. He stayed on me along highways, in grocery stores, at punk shows. In Olympia we stayed in rooms with my extended family of the heart. We would shut the door and Otay would rage.
Little water bottles were duct taped to the bottoms of walls for him and food dishes were kept at the end of sunken mattresses on the floor. Cat pee covered towels were shoved under doors to keep him in and other rats (not the kind that lived on a human) out.
From the time that Otay crawled up out of my collar, the first night I had him, his favorite place to be besides asleep, was my mouth. He loved to drink from it no matter what other sources of water were available to him. He loved my spittle whether it was flavored like cheap wine or cheaper smokes. We developed a lion tamer show where I was the lion and Otay the tamer. The finale was him sticking his whole head, which was growing like a weed, in my mouth.
For a while at first I thought Otay might be sickly because he slept all day. I laughed hard when I learned that rats are nocturnal, that made an awful lot of sense being as how he was very energetic and thirsty in the night.
The woman in front of me easily had thirty years on me, she had pushed her cart in front of mine in a flurry of curses and jolted motions. She threw her items onto the belt dramatically, roughly, one at a time. A pink toddler sized hat, an aerosol can of something, batteries, a couple of greeting cards, ribbon, and a measuring cup. As soon as her fit had the full attention of the clerk, who I had at least five years on, she started yelling. “You people are awful! Every time I come here you mess me up with these stupid horrible awful lines. Why can’t you just have one line and then call each person in order like at the fabric store! It’s a mess! I hate it! Never again! I always say it and then I come back and then you mess me up and I hate you!”
I got angry inside, the kind of angry I get when someone in a service industry is being shat on. The kind of angry I get when people feel like their opinions are important enough to share with innocent people. The kind of angry I get when jerks think that something like the line at a department store is a real fucking problem. I barely held onto my tongue. I wanted to defend this young cashier from the wrath of someone who in a different world would be in a position to teach me how to act right.
But the cashier listened thoughtfully with an occasional, “I am sorry you’re having a hard night.” She wrung up the lady, bagged up her goods and said genuinely, “I really hope your night gets better.” It was 8 pm on a Sunday , this person had been behind a register seeing people like this all day.
When she smiled at me I saw that not one bit of that customers rage had stuck to her. She was herself, unshaken. I said, “You handled that so much better than I would have.”
She said, “Sometimes people just need to be listened to.” I left with my scarf and a dream of who I might become.
I was leaning on a brick wall smoking a cigarette. My friends were getting a jump outside of the burger stand. I felt something at my left shoulder and when I turned a man with very big eyes and a stocking cap was walking toward me. Something was off, I couldn’t peg it but I put up a great old That-Is-Close-Enough field. He stopped and sat on a ledge some ten feet from me.
I did not want to deal with him, or speak to him or acknowledge he existed. I had just waitressed 8 hours, I was sad in love, I was about to squeeze into a car with two little kids who really like my attention, I was in no mood to find out what he was so hungry for. I had real problems.
A very old woman shuffled out of the burger place. She had condiments all down her front and a smile on her face. Her eyes met mine and she said, “Oh hallo! I always make such a mess don’t I.” She looked down and made a futile attempt to brush herself off, she looked back into my eyes, “but I guess it is worth it isn’t it?” Smile.
She walked by me and when she was about to pass the man on the ledge she paused and put her face close to his, “Are you okay?” He seemed shocked that anyone could see him. “Yeah I am fine,” he said. “Well okay then,” she didn’t move on right away. When she did he got up and followed behind her chatting.
She was not worried but I was. I watched them. He shut the door for her. She drove away slower than she walked and he left a little taller, like he was not invisible.
I was surprised to find a smile on my face and a vision again of whom I could be if I could just get out of my way.
His name was Gwar of all things. Do you know who Gwar is? They are an awful band in giant goblin type costumes with spikes and monster makeup. They throw vomit and blood and piss and semen (or rather accurate fakes) at their audience through out their shows. They have quite a following among some people.
He had GWAR tattooed on his knuckles and he made sure that every person he ever met knew that he had earned that name by having the word Gwar carved into his arm by the lead singer. He claimed this happened when he was 8 years old, but I think the scar seemed fresher.
I had very recently turned 14 and very recently ran away to Portland Oregon. I was using meth, I was tasting what I thought was freedom, I was being hunted by a serial killer whose victims were all street girls between the ages of 12 and 19. My boyfriends name was Rush. Rush was my boyfriend because he was the only person I could find the morning I left Olympia who would take the bus to Portland with me. I was scared to go alone. I was disappointed that it had worked out that way. I would have rather taken his girlfriend.
While I was in Portland I met a lot of people. My name was Flame because my hair was bright red, one shade brighter than my always, even now, red cheeks. Flame and Rush and Gwar are all pretty stupid names and we were pretty stupid kids. We thought very big of ourselves and our place in the world, sometimes you have to, too survive how invisible you really are in a culture of adults who are skirting the responsibility of initiating you into something worth belonging to.
I met a lot of boys and a lot of men. They wanted to get me high, they wanted to sleep with me, they wanted to sell me or show me off to their friends. Some of them wanted to be my Dad and some of them wanted all of these things. Gwar was the only boy I met, the only person I met who was in my corner. He was my friend, and only my friend, from the gate.
He was 16 years old and 6 feet tall. He had a faded green Mohawk. He was covered in scars and track marks. He was the sort of character, in his cut off pants and stick and poke tattoos, that most people would cross the street away from after dark.
I met him and forever after every time I saw him he asked how I was and he meant it. I heard that when I got arrested he got drunk. While he was on that drunk he saw the arresting officer leaving the police station under Pioneer Square. He picked up his skateboard and ran with the intention of beating that man, it took 8 teenage tweekers to knock him over and hold him down. Fortunately the officer was a block up and didn’t notice the commotion. He got in his car and lived to arrest another day.
That was not a side of Gwar I ever saw. I only saw big blue eyes and the only safe friend I had. At punk shows he would put me on his back and spin as fast as he could in the middle of the mosh pit. I would hold around his waist tight with my legs and stick my arms, covered to the elbow in spiked bracelets, straight out and knock over anyone who came close. I would feel powerful and supported.
When I was arrested and sent back to Washington I moved in with my sister. Everyday I planned on leaving but everyday I chickened out. My brother came over once a day and made me a fried egg sandwich. My mom dropped off boxes of Cheese crackers outside the front door.
One day, months later, Gwar showed up in town looking for me. He told me that 6 people had tried to hitchhike north to find me when I had first been sent back. Some how they ended up in a ride that took them East and left them in Yakima. They were too high to know where they were. While they looked for me in a town that was several hours away from where I was, they decided to break into a house and were all arrested.
That’s when Gwar decided he would be the one to come find me. He thought about it everyday for months and one day found himself with the right combination of drugs and gusto to really do it.
I don’t remember much of his visit. I remember what he looked like skateboarding down our hill. I remember he always picked me up when we hugged. I remember him leaving when he realized I could not be convinced to come with him. I made him drink the water here everyday because it is legend that if you drink the water in Olympia, you will always come back.
Three years or so later I ran into some people in Eugene who I had known from that time and I found out why he had never come back, even for the gallons of water I watched him drink.
At 17, shortly after I had seen him, his body had been found by the edge of the freeway.
I heard a tall tale about kidnapping and drugs and important people. I don’t remember that story, it seemed like more of meth helping people make sense of senseless things. It seemed like more of those boys who never grew up finding a way to feel more important than they are.
What is true is his body was found by the side of the road and at least one person remembers his heart and how truly rare a being like that was. In a sea of manipulation and greed and addiction and distrust and violence I remember one of the best hearts I ever met. I remember when it stopped beating. I won’t forget how quiet the world is now without him. I won’t forget how relentless beauty is.
It will sprout from scars.
It will sprout from concrete.
Whatever happens to us, beauty will keep pushing, keep breaking, keep surfacing especially where no one is looking. That’s how beauty survives. That’s how we, the ones of us who did, survived.
Thank you Gwar. I love you.
When I met her I was two years old. She let me know immediately that I had been a mistake. I was made wrong and that the way for her to love me and to protect the world would be for her to train me to be good, in spite of my wicked nature. It was going to be a hard job because even at two years old I was ripe with manipulation and greed and disrespect. She was a hero and certainly God brought us together so that she could help divert the pain that I was already bringing to the world by existing.
It was not easy for her, long hours, wooden spoons, burning water and diligence. She kept a constant watch. Even when I was in the relative safety of my mothers house during the rest of the week I could feel her with me. I could feel her watching, I could cry thinking she might find out that I wore baggy shirts she didn’t like and still rocked back and forth when I was expected to sit still. I listened to rock and roll, I masturbated.
I knew she was going to kill me. I knew it wouldn’t work. She could not get me to stop making mistakes because I WAS the mistake. Eventually she would give up, I wondered if they would find my body and if she would get in trouble or win a Peace prize.
I tried so hard. I memorized every rule she ever made and I followed them to the letter. But the rules would change and I would be in trouble again. A lot of times I was in trouble because other people loved me. Clearly I had manipulated them because they were otherwise reasonable people and I was unlovable.
Every tiny thing I did that was not to her liking was devastating. My stomach would sink when she looked at me, fire in her eyes. When she would flick me in the forehead for being the stupidest person she knew I would feel knives in every inch of my skin.
Where I was raised there was no such thing as an accident.
Where I was raised there was no forgiveness.
Whether I did not finish dinner quickly enough, or cried when shampoo got in my eyes or came inside too early because I was cold or shut the car door the wrong way… I was a criminal. It was all evidence of a larger more dangerous disease: Me.
If the stove broke we moved. If the neighbors were loud we moved. If the walls were flat we moved. If the sun came up again we moved. If her boss said she needed to work longer hours we moved. If the furniture company found us we moved. If she met a man we moved. If she left a man we moved.
If her sister snapped at me for getting finger prints on the microwave door we didn’t speak to her for five years. If her brother got bailed out by her mom again we didn’t see them for five years. If one sister owed another sister money or if one sister was caught sleeping with another woman or if one sister said the wrong thing at the wrong moment we didn’t speak to them anymore. They didn’t exist except as a cold story of how we had been done wrong.
Where I was raised, if you were uncomfortable, you ran and when you got a safe distance away, you only looked back to decide whose fault it was.
My No House
I didn’t run because of anything, I just kept a steady pace. I was the blur you saw sweeping through your living room, I was a hand in your back pocket helping myself on an Austin sidewalk. I was the beer you thought you had left in the fridge but couldn’t find when you got home. I was a warm place you lay down with in every cheap motel on I-80. I was a shadow, a deep feeling, longing, praying, wondering if anything would ever be different, shadow. I was the shine on the back of a rainbow fish that is already disappearing the split second you thought you had seen it.
I could not subject myself to people and I could not be subjected to them. Mistakes were inevitable and fatal to all the good feelings I wanted. Every relationship beginning, friend, lover, sibling, every one began with a timer being started. I was always wondering, who would fall down first? Who would we blame later when we were both alone again? Everyone would always be alone again.
Again and forever and always.
Where I raised myself you never held on and you never let go.
My New Olde House
I am tired.
I am tired of being loneliness. I just want it to be a passing feeling like the rest.
I am tired of the world I was given, where no one loves each other past and for their frailties.
I am tired of holding on so hard to what I think might make people love me.
A seed will not sprout in a freezer.
The soil is damp and warm under the surface.
All that running made a good strong heart. The beat is the sound of all those years of living when it didn’t make sense that I was.
A heart made of running….now meant for what takes more strength.
Strong enough to forgive and to see and to let go and to hold on.
The world is a lonely place when people are not allowed to make mistakes, and I am not alone anymore.
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.